An Introduction to Hypnosis

Society of Psychological Hypnosis Division 30 – American Psychological Association

An Introduction to Hypnosis
I. II. III. IV. IV. VI. What is Hypnosis ? Common Myths about Hypnosis Theories of Hypnotic Responding Key Theoretical Controversies in Hypnosis Hypnotic Suggestibility Hypnosis as a Clinical Tool

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I. What is Hypnosis ?
A. Defining Hypnosis B. Components of a Hypnotic Procedure

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A. Defining Hypnosis

Hypnosis is a procedure involving cognitive processes (like imagination) in which a subject is guided by a hypnotist to respond to suggestions for changes in sensations, perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Sometimes, people are trained in self-hypnosis, in which they learn to guide themselves through a hypnotic procedure. Psychologists hold a wide variety of opinions on how to define hypnosis and on how hypnosis works.

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B. Two Components of a Hypnotic Procedure

It is useful to think of a hypnotic procedure as consisting of two phases or components:
• • Hypnotic Induction Hypnotic Suggestions

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What is a Hypnotic Induction ?

An introduction to hypnosis in which the subject is guided through suggestion to relax, concentrate, and/or to focus his or her attention on some particular thing. Some hypnotists believe the purpose of the induction is to induce an altered state of consciousness. Other hypnotists believe the induction is a social cue that prompts the subject to engage in hypnotic behaviors.

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What is a Hypnotic Suggestion ?
• •

The subject is guided to undergo changes in experience. Types of Hypnotic Suggestions: • Ideomotor Suggestions – experience a motor movement. • Challenge Suggestions – subject is told he or she will not be able to do some particular thing and then is asked to perform the prohibited behavior. • Cognitive Suggestions – experience changes in sensations, perceptions, thoughts or feelings.
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II. Common Myths about Hypnosis

People in hypnosis lose control and can be made to say or do whatever the hypnotist wants. People may not be able to come out of hypnosis. Hypnosis only affects weak-willed or gullible people. Hypnosis reliably enhances the accuracy of memory. Hypnosis enables people to re-experience a past life. Hypnosis depends primarily on the skill of the hypnotist.

• • • • •

NONE OF THESE ARE TRUE
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III. Important Theories of Hypnotic Responding
A. B. C. D.

Psychoanalytic Approach Neodissociation Approach Socio-Cognitive Approach Transpersonal Approach

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A. Psychoanalytic Approach: Freud’s Model of Hypnosis

Freud initially utilized hypnosis to help remove psychosomatic symptoms from patients who suffered from what we would now call a somatoform disorder. These patients suffered from medical complaints like seizures, muscular spasms, and paralysis of their limbs that was transient and/or was not thought to be the entirely the result of a general medical condition. Freud learned that he could temporarily or permanently reduce many of these symptoms using direct hypnotic suggestions for the symptoms to be reversed. (e.g.,: “Your arm is calm again and will no longer spasm.”) Freud also believed that Hypnosis allowed him access to memories within the patient’s unconscious mind which had been previously repressed. Eventually, Freud began using free association instead of hypnosis as a way of accessing the unconscious.
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B. The Neodissociation Approach
• • •

A more recent psychoanalytically-oriented theory. Developed by Ernest Hilgard. Under hypnosis, part of the mind enters an altered state of consciousness. A second dissociated part of the mind, later designated as the “Hidden Observer”, remains aware of what is going on during a hypnotic session. The part of the mind in an altered state of consciousness is very open to hypnotic suggestions.
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B. Neodissociation

The Hidden Observer Experiments
• Discovered in highly hypnotizable subjects during dissociative tasks such as hypnotic deafness and hypnotic pain analgesia. • If queried, some subjects could nevertheless give realistic accounts of the dissociated experience as if a hidden observer was present within the person.

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B. Neodissociation

Hilgard’s Neodissociation theory
• These dissociations were evidence of separate cognitive subsystems that were operating during the experiment. • “The concept of a totally unified consciousness is an attractive one, but does not hold up under examination.” • Ernest R. Hilgard (1994)
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A Sociocognitive take on Neodissociation

The hidden observer is created and enacted by the subject in response to the hypnotic instructions given by the experimenter. (Spanos & Burgess, 1994) The self or “identity is constructed, role-governed, and performed” (Lynn et al., 1994) as a kind of “narrative process” in which we come to construct our experience as that identity as a “believed-in imagining” (Sarbin, 1998).

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C. The Sociocognitive Approach

Contends that the principles of social psychology explain behavior during hypnosis. Not a single theory, but a group of theories. Examples: • Role Theory – people naturally adopt the role behaviors of a hypnotized person. • Response Expectancy Theory – hypnotic suggestions alter expectations for nonvolitional outcomes (e.g., pain). Such expectations , in turn, then contribute to the experience of those outcomes (Kirsch, 1990).
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D. A Transpersonal Approach

Many of humanity’s earliest views of hypnotic phenomena are described by various religious and spiritual traditions in the world. (Krippner, 2005). • Shamanistic Healing Rituals • Exorcism and Demonology • Advanced meditative practices to achieve Mind/Body Unity within Mystical Christianity, Tibetan Buddhism, Native American, Islamic Sufism, Jewish Kabbalah, and Hindu Tantra. This is an important diversity issue since many people around the world hold these beliefs.
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Class Demonstration

Chevreul Pendulum

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IV. Two Key Theoretical Controversies in Hypnosis
A. B.

The State Controversy The Trait Controversy

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A. The State Controversy

Do people enter an altered state of consciousness during hypnosis ? The essence of the dispute between the Neodissociation and Sociocognitive approaches. This remains a hotly debated issue.
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B. The Trait Controversy

Is there a trait that accounts for how much or how little people respond to hypnosis ? One’s position on the Trait Controversy is unrelated to one’s position on the State Controversy. They are NOT opposite poles of a single dimension or question. The research evidence strongly suggests that there is a trait that explains how much people respond to hypnosis.

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V. Hypnotic Suggestibility – The Individual Difference Variable

Hypnotic suggestibility is the general tendency to respond to hypnotic suggestions. It can be measured with scales typically consisting of a hypnotic induction and a series of behavioral test suggestions. The number of test suggestions that an individual responds to or passes indicates the person’s level of suggestibility. It is a trait-like, individual difference variable – people differ in terms of how high or low they fall on suggestibility. Scores in the population are arrayed in a bell-shaped curve. Suggestibility tends to be very stable over time – some researchers found that scores taken 25 years apart were correlated at r = .71.
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VII. Hypnosis as a Clinical Tool

Hypnosis is generally used in two ways as a clinical tool:
A. Making Direct Suggestions for Symptom Reduction B. Using hypnosis as an adjunct to other forms of psychotherapy (e.g., CBT).

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A. Making Direct Suggestions for Symptom Reduction

Example – A hypnotist suggests to a patient undergoing a painful medical procedure (e.g., surgery, a lumbar puncture, spinal tap) that the affected body part (i.e., the back) is numb and insensitive to pain. This is a classic use of hypnosis.

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Example: Hypnotic Analgesia

• •

Hypnosis can alter and eliminate the psychological experience of pain and also the brain’s neurophysiological processing of pain. Data indicates that the sensory aspect of pain is diminished at the somatosensory cortex. The meaning or suffering component of pain is diminished at the anterior cingulate cortex.

B. Presenting Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy plus Hypnosis

Research suggests that using a combination of hypnosis and CBT improves outcomes for about 70% of patients relative to using CBT alone (Kirsch et al., 1995). Additionally, standard CBT techniques can be presented in a hypnotic context by preceding the CBT technique with a hypnotic induction, delivered with the unique tone and cadence of hypnosis, and described as being hypnotic in nature. Examples: • • • • Progressive Muscle Relaxation becomes hypnotic relaxation. Guided Imagery becomes hypnotic imagery. Systematic Desensitization becomes hypnotic desensitization. Coping self-statements become coping self-suggestions.
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Some Clinical Problems Thought to Be Responsive to Hypnosis
• • • • • • • • •

Acute and Chronic Pain Phobias Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Acute Stress Disorder Performance Anxiety Depression Eating Disorders Dissociative Identity Disorder Smoking Obesity
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Conclusion

Once associated with fringe psychology and the supernatural, hypnosis is now accepted as the valid subject of scientific research and as a useful clinical tool. Psychologists hold a wide variety of opinions on how to define hypnosis and on how hypnosis works. Research strongly suggests that hypnotic suggestibility is a trait that accounts for a portion of how much or how little people respond to hypnosis. However, research strongly indicates that the vast majority of people can benefit from hypnosis interventions. Research indicates that hypnosis is very effective for treating a wide range of clinical problems and symptoms, including pain, anxiety, depression, obesity, and smoking.27

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Instructions for Chevreul Pendulum Demonstration
1. 2. 3. 4.

5. 6.

7. 8. 9.

Obtain scissors, string, and ½ inch washers at a hardware store. At the beginning of the presentation, distribute these materials to the class. Have students cut a 6-inch length of string and tie it to the washer. Explain that you will be doing a demonstration in which students will have an opportunity to experience an imaginative suggestion. Have students place their right elbow on their right thigh and hold the string between their right thumb and index finger so the washer is suspended beneath. Have students hold their hand as still as possible. Ask students to imagine that the washer is beginning to move from left to right. Continue repeating the suggestion until some washers begin to move. There will be a range of responses. Some students will show no response at all. Others will find that their washer moves quite a bit. Cancel the suggestion by telling students their hands are back to normal. Ask students what this has to do with what you were just discussing. This should lead naturally to the next topic – hypnotic suggestibility.
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