Let's perform a thought experiment. Imagine that I am giving the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Suggestibility, which is the most widely known scientific measure of individual hypnotic responsiveness, to a class of introductory psychology students, when someone bursts into the room dressed in a police uniform and shouts that there is an active shooter on campus and orders everybody to take immediate cover under their desks and await further instructions. Everyone, including the instructor, promptly cowersunder their desk for an indeterminate time until it gradually becomes clear that this was a hoax, i.e., a cleverly designed suggestion on the part of a disgruntled student who was intent upon disrupting the smooth operation of the school.
What happened to the individual differences suggestibility that the test was supposed to measure, and what happened to the individual differences in trance depth that had actually been achieved? They all disappeared! In other words, under the right conditions everybody is totally suggestible, and in practically no time at all.
So how does hypnosis really work? Here is Steve Lynn's excellent summary of our induction chapter in the American Psychological Association's Handbook of Clinical Hypnosis:
. . .how clients respond to suggestions depends less on the nature and success of a particular induction than on the following variables: (a) clients' prehypnotic attitudes, beliefs, intentions, and expectations about hypnosis; (b) their ability to think, fantasize, and absorb themselves in suggestions; (c) their ability to form a trusting relationship with the hypnotist; (d) their ability to interpret suggestions appropriately and view their responses as successful; (e) their ability to discern task demands and cues; (f) their ongoing interaction with the hypnotist; and (g) the appropriateness of the therapeutic methods and suggestions to treating the presenting problem. . . . Accordingly, clinicians should devise inductions and suggestions with these variables in mind and tailor their approach to the unique personal characteristics and agenda of each client they encounter" (Gibbons & Lynn, 2010, p. 289).
Gibbons, D. E., & Lynn, S. J. (2008). Hypnotic inductions: A primer. In Ruhe, J. W., Lynn, S. J., & Kirsch, I. (Eds.) Handbook of Clinical Hypnosis, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Assn.
updated by @don-g: 04/18/19 02:40:57PM
I agree with most of that except the languaging of , (c) their ability to form a trusting relationship with the hypnotist;
The word that is open to question is the word "trusting". Some therapists will take this as they have to be in deep rapport or have empathy with their clients. I think this misses the point.
I think that in order for hypnosis to work the client needs to trust that the hypnotist absolutely means what they say and are congruent with their actions.
Using your example of the person in the police officer entering the room there was no rapport, no empathy but the students trusted (based on their beliefs, memories and experience) that he meant what he said and that's what caused the acceptance of the suggestion.
Your luck, one of those students is doubling in law! Principals in Florida have been hung up for less...
And to add to this idea of trust not meaning rapport/empathy but rather trust that the person means what they say AND can do what they say they can do, I am reminded of an old concept that used to be in all the old time hypnosis books but never seems to get a mention these days.
And that is the concept of "prestige". In all the old time books they use to go on about the importance of prestige of the hypnotist. This is something that is missing from modern day teachings but I think it is very important and in some ways rather than utilise this we seem to try to lessen the effect by trying to explain that we can't make people do what they don't want to do etc.
This is same powerful effect that shaman throughout the world have used to heal people but it seems, for some reason hypnotherapists want to shy away from this powerful tool to help their clients change.
updated by @don-g: 04/18/19 10:43:24AM
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