How does Hypnosis Work?
- Chris Harrison
- 10th January 2009
Well, the simple answer to the question 'How does Hypnosis Work?' is that nobody knows.
Mesmer, who is considered by many to be the first hypnotist, believed that hypnosis was caused by magnetic fluid that flowed around the body and used iron filings in water to help with his healing.
A Portuguese priest Di Faria, discredited Mesmer by using suggestion and a form of a simple relaxation induction rather than an elaborate magnet setup, so we can probably discount Mesmer's explanation now!
Since Milton Erickson came to prominence, it has become clear that many of the hypnotic techniques are based around the way in which people communicate, specifically how they receive and process information from others and how they develop a meaning for it. Much of this element of hypnosis is covered in the milton model.
Another interesting concept is that of rapport, whereby people can be 'pulled' into the same state of mind as the hypnotist. Perhaps this kind of 'sensitivity' had some evolutionary advantage in the past or as part of a child's development that we haven't figured out yet. Certainly it is important for children to use mimicry in their early learning, and maybe a side effect of this is the unconscious behavior of copying the states of those around us. Perhaps this answers the question 'How does Hypnosis work?'
Also, the human brain is an incredibly complex device, and many of our little quirks may simply be leftovers from our complex evolution. In the same way that evolution scientists wondered about the purpose of the human chin until they decided it hadn't evolved for a specific reason but was what was left due to another change in our face shape, maybe our ability to enter trance states and react to others hypnotic techniques is also a side effect of brain evolution. Is this another possible answer to the question 'How does Hypnosis work?' ?
There is also a theory that the hypnotic effect is related to a change in the balance of the use of our brain hemispheres, where by the logical left side becomes less dominant, but more work needs to be done to show if there is anything in this.
Considering the number of different effects and skills that are covered by the single word 'hypnosis', one thing that is clear is that the question 'How does Hypnosis Work?' is going to have to have more than one answer.