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How does hypnosis work?

16:45 Tue 01st Mar 2011 |

Hypnosis is the act of tapping into the subconscious mind by inducing the subject into a trance-like state. The subject is put into a trance state by the hypnotist, who uses a number of instructions and suggestive techniques to achieve "hypnosis".

Most people will be aware of the two type of hypnosis. One is called hypnotherapy, which is used in a therapeutic manner, and the other is stage hypnosis, used as an act in stage shows.

French Neurologist Hippolyte Bernheim described the hypnotic trance state as:

"I define hypnotism as the induction of a peculiar psychical [i.e., mental] condition which increases the susceptibility to suggestion. Often, it is true, the [hypnotic] sleep that may be induced facilitates suggestion, but it is not the necessary preliminary. It is suggestion that rules hypnotism."

Methods of suggestion can be performed verbally (questioning, rhetoric) or physically (in images, drawings etc.).

Research suggests that hypnotic subjects are fully awake and are focusing attention, with a corresponding decrease in their peripheral awareness. It was previously thought that hypnosis was a form of unconscious sleep, but recent studies show that the subjects are still very aware and far more suggestible in this state.

Hypnosis has been popularised in recent years as a method of treating odd habbits or psychological conditions, such as over-eating and irrational fears. Hypnotherapy has also been used as an alternative to chemical induced anesthesia in the UK, the a number of patients being put into a hypnotic trance while undergoing minor surgeries. Hypnotherapy is regularly used in the medical field to aid skin problems.

In the UK performer Derren Brown uses a number of suggestion techniques to perform mind-boggling feats of illusion and misdirection in his shows. This has hugely popularised hypnosis and the art of suggestion in the UK, seemingly making people more open to the idea of hypnotherapy in medicine.

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