Almost everyone has some knowledge of hypnosis--through theatrical demonstrations, in reference to its uses by medical doctors, dentists, and psychotherapists, from university classes in psychology or medicine; or maybe even as a result of actual participation in experiments designed to unravel its mysteries.
Nevertheless, knowledge about hypnosis is very elusive. So what is hypnosis?
1. Hypnoticlike states were described by the ancients, and they can be found within the ceremonies of nonliterate cultures today.
2. Mesmer--a Viennese physician working in France. He believed that hypnotic trances were induced by animal magnetism--a force he believed to be emanating from his own hands. Used to be called Mesmerism. This was thoroughly discredited.
3. For a time, Freud believed that hypnosis would be a good therapeutic technique. But he later abandoned it in favor of his method of psychoanalysis.
4. Today there are a number of scientific societies that publish journals and have international affiliations--the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis and the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis.
5. But despite this long history, it is hard to specify just what hypnosis is. Many psychological states are difficult to define without pointing to familiar examples of them. It's not easy to provide a precise definition of an alert state, a drowsy state, a sober state, an intoxicated state, an elated state, or a depressed state. Our language is not good for specifying states of awareness.
6. Moreover, there is so much public attention to hypnosis that our descriptions sometimes border on the bizarre. Should try to disentangle our definitions from the pop expectations of what hypnosis can make you do.
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