Hypnosis is a mental state of highly focused concentration, diminished peripheral awareness, and heightened suggestibility. There are numerous techniques that experts employ for inducing such a state. Capitalizing on the power of suggestion, hypnosis is often used to help people relax, to diminish the sensation of pain, or to facilitate some desired behavioral change.
Therapists bring about hypnosis (also referred to as hypnotherapy or hypnotic suggestion) with the help of mental imagery and soothing verbal repetition that ease the patient into a trance-like state. Once relaxed, patients’ minds are more open to transformative messages.
Not everyone is equally hypnotizable. Using brain imaging techniques, researchers have found differences in patterns of brain connectivity between those who respond to hypnotic induction and those who do not. The distinction shows up in the hypnotizable as heightened co-activation between the executive control center in the prefrontal cortex and another part of the prefrontal cortex that flags the importance, or salience, of events.
The Uses of Hypnosis
Contrary to popular belief, humans stay completely awake during hypnosis and generally recall their experiences. Under the guidance of a trained health care professional, hypnosis can be used to ease pain, treat autoimmune disease, combat phobias, and break bad habits, such as drinking, smoking, gambling and overeating. Hypnosis can also help people cope with negative emotional states, like stress and anxiety, as well as pain, fatigue, insomnia, mood disorders, and more.
The Ethics of Hypnosis
Many people wonder whether a hypnotist will be able to control their mind, a feat that is not possible. Individuals who are hypnotized still have free will, and while they’re more open to suggestion, they won’t act in ways they would ordinarily find morally repugnant.