The question as to whether hypnosis is real is asked from time to time due to the controversies surrounding it and the inability even among professionals involved in the hypnotic arena to agree upon on as to ‘what hypnosis is’. Hypnosis is often described as a process by which a person trained to practice hypnotherapy induces an altered state of awareness on his/her subjects but those who sit on the other side of the fence consider it as a product of ordinary response to suggestion and hence nothing special could be attached to it to distinguish its place in psychotherapy or clinical psychology. There are others who go to the extreme extent of condemning it for the type of abuses and repulsive action similar to some of the ones recounted below. In this article, after presenting both view points, we intend taking up a position that hypnosis is real and like any other field has got its grey side.By taking recourse scientific evidence and experts views this article validates the theme, that hypnosis is real and is a clinically useful form of treatment which is not only cost effective but also popular. Wherever relevant, the names of various experts are cited here yet they have not been given as references because this is not an academic paper. The rationale behind citing the names of the experts is to further reinforce our view point because unless or otherwise hypnosis, whether as a science or art or a combination of both has substance in it, it would not have attracted the attention of reputed specialists in the psychiatry and psychotherapy fields of practice.
Doubts as to whether hypnosis is real or not lingers in the minds of the people because of the negative legal, social and psychological implications hypnosis is reported to be producing in the context of memory distortion and false memory creation. There are several cases and or instances of daughters and sons accusing their fathers, mothers, uncles, neighbors and indeterminate number of people of sexual assault years before espeically during their childhood. This is supposed to resurge when they emerge out of psychotherapy sessions claiming that they have repressed memories which have surfaced after the hypnotic therapeutic sessions. While in the USA legal cases are fought in the civil courts for the injury suffered on the count of childhood sexual abuse supported by of the application of ‘discovery doctrine’, in other countries as Germany the accused are sought to be tried under criminal laws. A famous case which received wide coverage in Times Magazine (German-1995) related to the case of ‘ this daughter against the father’ wherein the daughter named Laura B accused her father named Joel Hungerford, molested her beginning from the age of 5 to 23, including days before her wedding. It is not relevant to go in here as to what was the outcome of the case but the point that whether hypnosis is real arises vastly out of abuses the discipline undergoes which becomes a weapon for misuse. While it is not necessary to go further deep into the issue, suffice to say the foundation for such doubts emerge from misguided studies on hypnosis.
In essence the admissibility debate as to whether hypnosis is real or not surrounds on a singular issue that precise memory recall is seldom achievable under hypnosis as a result of which most of the memories purported to be recalled by the subjects under hypnotized conditions are biased if not totally imprecise. It is for this reason The American Medical and The American Psychological Association oppose the admissibility of hypnotically refreshed memories while fighting legal battles and also advises caution against its indisciminate use.
From what has been so far presented above we need to understand that no where doubts persist as to whether ‘hypnosis is real or nor’ but concentrates on the misuses and abuses of hypnosis under various circumstances and in particular when it comes to the question of using hypnosis in the recovery of repressed memories as a tool of abuse.
Since we are focusing on the use of hypnosis in handling health problems which a vast majority of the populace want relief from , we would concentrate on this part in the rest of the article because we have already proved that hypnosis is real and these additional points are provided to reinforce out point that it can be of value in mitigating the miseries of human beings at least from a health promoting perspective.
From their study of and experiments involving hypnosis, Lynn and colleagues have come to conclusions of its positive use in:
- The treatment of pain,
- In medicine,
- In the cessation of smoking,
- in treating problems associated with children,
- In the treatment of trauma
In his book ‘Hidden Depths: The story of Hypnosis, Raj Persaud, Consultant psychiatrist of the Maudusley Hospital, London, presents a number of points which are scientific as well as informed in nature to prove by implication that hypnosis is not only real but is also useful in treating diseases.
He states that hypnosis has the ability to increase pain thresholds and the way it works braks the traditional belief of its mechanism of operation.. By this he drives at home the point that it is possible to achieve the desired outcome through hypnotic session by directly appealing to the conscious mind and not necessarily this should be done by wooing only the indirect unconscious mind. This could be considered as an advancement in the discovery of the hidden potential of hypnosis that goes further to prove that it is real and when researched in a proactive manner could bring out its unknown potential it can benefit humanity.
This can further be proved by quoting yet another point from this book which relates to the confirmation that hypnotic alteration of color perception produces blood flow changes in that part of the brain that is responsible for the processing of color vision. The inference of this is that hypnosis has the ability to alter the way in which the real brain, and not the imaginary mind, is able to process color vision.
Before concluding, It would be appropriate to quote Waterfield from the same book which runs something similar to what is summarized here: In the race between hypnosis and science, It has been the case for hypnosis to take over sceience and stated otherwise science is yet to catch up with advancement in hypnosis and more importantly at times science may not be able to explain the way hypnosis works. This is because evidence to the effect that hypnosis is working is scattered all around us, from anectodes to personal expereinces and the phenomenon is more felt as for instance when one watches stage hypnotist Paul Mckenna on the television you can relate it to your own experience but may not be able to explain as to why it happens. The short point of such expereinces is that there is no doubt that something real is going on proving the view point that hypnosis is real even under the difficulties hypnotherapists and researchers are faced in bringing out clearly as to how this takes place beecuause such happenings most of the times are inexplicable.
We can then conclude by stating that there is very little that exists in this world that can catecorgically be stated to be either true or false and for this reason human beings are vested with the sixth sense to distinguish based on their own perception of things to decide in an informed manner as to whether something is real or not. From such arguments, we beleive we have establsihed that hypnosis is real despite the controversies surrounding it. In a way it is good for the subject of hypnosis because it would help it come out more unscathed.