Lyn W. Freeman
Hypnosis presents us with some of the most dramatic examples of the power of the mind to affect the body. When hypnotic procedures are specialized to the needs, personality, and motivations of the individual, hypnosis can be a powerful and effective complementary intervention—one that can succeed where traditional approaches have failed.
Pain, duodenal ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and nausea—especially chemotherapy‐ induced and conditioned nausea—have been effectively treated with hypnosis. Hypnosis is on underused intervention that can, for the appropriate populations, improve the quality of life while reducing health care costs. Health care providers and decision makers need to contemplate the expanded use of hypnosis in hospital settings and as outpatient treatment.
Hypnosis is a state of attentive, focused concentration with suspension of some peripheral awareness. Components of the hypnotic state include absorption, alteration of attention, dissociation, and suggestibility.
The phenomenon of hypnosis has a long history of discovery and rediscovery that predates the written language. Hypnotic phenomena have varied from trance states of mysticism and shamanic practices to the imagery and healing techniques used by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks in their healing temples.
Hypnosis as a clinical discipline was unknown until the eighteenth century when Franz Anton Mesmer defined a discipline he called "animal magnetism." This was the beginning of hypnosis as we know it today. Other individuals soon began to practice hypnotic techniques and mode new and interesting discoveries about this unique state of mind. James Esdaile, a surgeon, performed more than 3000 surgical procedures without pain. At that time, the mortality rate after surgery was typically at high 50% and death was mostly caused by neurogenic shock. Esdaile reduced the surgical death rate to 5%.
The best-known hypnotherapist of the twentieth century was Milton Erickson, a psychiatrist who altered the face of hypnosis by his experimental studies of special phenomena encountered in hypnosis. One of the first persons to be certified in psychiatry and neurology, Erickson emphasized the necessity for studying the process, state, and products of hypnosis.
The philosophies used to explain hypnotic effects are from two camps: the neodissociation model and the social psychologic model. The neodissociation model suggests that hypnosis activotes subsystems of control; these subsystems have psychologic and physiologic counterparts, which result in an altered state of consciousness. The social psychologic model suggests that hypnosis is not an altered state of consciousness; rather, it is explained by suggestibility, positive attitudes, and expectations.
Some persons are more susceptible to hypnosis than others. Therefore individuals can be categorized as low, moderate, or high hypnotizables. It is hypothesized that this differences can be explained by changes in brain wave patterns, reflected by electroencephalographic (EEG) readings. Both alpha and theta wave changes have been implicated as markers of hypnotizability. One school of thought hypothesizes that there is a hemispheric shift of alpha waves from the left to the right hemisphere in