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A New Approach To Self-hypnosis When All Else Fails
Deepening The Self-hypnotic State
How Does Self-hypnosis Work?
How To Arouse Yourself From The Self-hypnotic State
How To Attain Self-hypnosis
Is Hypnosis The Answer?
Practical Applications Of Self-hypnosis
Psychological Aids And Their Function
Techniques For Reaching The Somnambulistic State
The Nature Of Hypnosis
What About The Dangers Of Hypnosis?
What You Should Know About Becoming An Excellent Subject
What You Should Know About Self-hypnosis

The Nature Of Hypnosis

Although the nature and phenomena of hypnosis are still incompletely
understood, there are a multitude of theories which attempt to explain
its mechanism and results. The most that can be done at this time is to
explore various views which are held by leading authorities at present.
It can be said, however, that a majority of authorities agree that
hypnosis ensues as a result of natural laws which have been incorporated
in the human organism since the beginning of man as he is today.

The older theories show almost as much disparity as today, but for the
purposes of history it is probably necessary to enumerate only the
"animal magnetism" of Frederick Anton Mesmer, and a mention of the
"hysteria syndrome" of Jean Martin Charcot. Both names loom large in the
history of hypnosis. Mesmer, an 18th century physician, believed that
hypnosis occurred as a result of "vital fluids" drawn from a magnet or
lodestone and which drew their unique qualities from the sun, moon and
stars. Charcot, as well as Pierre Janet and others, was convinced that
hypnosis was a form of hysteria and that only hysterics could be
hypnotized. The former (Mesmer) thought further that metal became imbued
by the solar qualities, and his system is also known as metalogy by
which he meant the proper application of metals. Naturally, these
theories have been largely abandoned today, although there are still a
few who think that hypnosis is a form of hysteria.

Some pioneers, notably Dr. William S. Kroger, a psychiatrically-oriented
obstetrician and gynecologist who limits his practice to hypnotherapy,
believe hypnosis is a conviction phenomenon which produces results that
parallel the phenomena produced at Lourdes and other religious healing
shrines. His formula is that faith, hope, belief and expectation, all
catalyzed by the imagination, lead inevitably to hypnosis. He, like
Emile Coue before him, is convinced that you cannot "will" yourself to
be hypnotized, and that whenever the will and the imagination come into
conflict, the imagination wins out. This fits in perfectly, of course,
with the author's already discussed visual-imagery technique which
requires a high degree of imagination. Dr. Kroger, like a few others,
has proved to his own satisfaction that all hypnotic phenomena can be
produced at a non-hypnotic level.

A large number of hypnotists, including the author, has come to believe
that hypnosis is a semantic problem in which words are the building
blocks to success. Not just any words, but words which "ring a bell" or
tap the experiential background of the subject. This is why "sleep"
continues to be in the lexicon of the hypnotist even though hypnosis is
the antithesis of sleep. The word is used because hypnosis superficially
resembles sleep inasmuch as the eyes usually are closed, the body in a
posture of complete relaxation. Actually, the mind is hyperacute.
Pavlov, however, believed that there was an analogy between sleep and
hypnosis in that each involved cerebral inhibition. Words, of course,
would be of little use without the added effect of his conditioned

Probably the most widely held theory is that hypnosis is a transference
phenomenon in which the prestige of the hypnotist and his relationship
to the subject plays an important role. This theory is bolstered by the
fact that all schools of psychotherapy yield approximately the same
results even though the methods differ. This would logically indicate
that the relationship between the therapist and the subject was the
determining factor. The only trouble with this theory is that it does
not explain self-hypnosis. On the other hand, we know that a strong
interpersonal relationship is necessary for hypnosis.

In the opening chapter of the book, I explained that hypnosis was a
state of heightened suggestion in which the subject adopted an
uncritical attitude, allowing him to accept suggestions and to take
appropriate action. This is excellent as far as it goes, but it does not
explain how suggestion works. This is the crux of the hypnotic dilemma
and the answer is far from solved. Hypnotists are much like those who
use electricity every day of their lives, but have no idea of the nature
of electricity. It is enough for them to know it has been harnessed for
their use.

If there is one thing virtually certain about hypnosis it is that some
parts of the brain are inhibited and other parts expanded by the
process. Pin-point concentration is given as the reason for this
selective procedure which narrows the horizon of the subject to what the
hypnotist (or he, himself) is saying, screening out all other stimuli.
But why is this high order of concentration so easy under hypnosis when
Asians, notably the Chinese, have been trying for centuries to
concentrate on one subject for as long as four or five seconds. We do
not know the mechanics of this metamorphosis of an ordinary brain into
an organ of concentrated power. According to Janet, this is accomplished
through the formation of a group of unconscious memories and activities
which takes over the usual stream-of-consciousness type of thinking. It
is implied that the process may be atavistic.

One of the newer theories--one held by Dr. Lewis R. Wolberg, a
psychoanalyst--is that hypnosis is a psychosomatic process in that it is
both physiological and psychological in character. Physiologically,
Wolberg believes that hypnosis represents an inhibition of the higher
cortical centers, and a limitation of sensory channels such as takes
place in sleep. He also believes that the psychological process operates
through transference. Others agree that it is a transference process,
but that it is more of an extension of the subject's own psychic
processes which is enlarged to include the voice of the hypnotist or his
own thoughts or voice. Incidentally, an excellent book along these
theoretical lines is Hypnotism--An Objective Study in Suggestibility
by Andre M. Weitzenhoffer, Ph.D.

The newest theory in the field is of particular interest to those
reading this book inasmuch as it postulates that all hypnosis is
self-hypnosis, that the patient always hypnotizes himself and that it is
a wise hypnotist who knows who is hypnotizing whom. This is a logical
conclusion and it disperses any ideas that hypnotic patients become
dependent on their therapists. Actually, hypnotists today always teach
their subjects self-hypnosis so that any chance of dependency is

Milton V. Kline, professor of psychology at Long Island University,
postulates that hypnosis is primarily retrogressive. He has written that
the organism functions differently on various levels of behavior
(regression), and that the behavior breaks down into component parts.
The theory that regression can spotlight personality disorders found in
more infantile states is also widely held. He also is a proponent of the
idea that hypnosis is an abnormal manifestation of a normal process, an
opinion he shares with many.

Dr. Kline thinks that retrogression and regression alter perceptions and
feelings, and, in the case of the latter, causes us to go backward in
time to the point where re-education may be employed. This is a
legitimate use of regression although it is not used so much these days
to uncover past traumatic incidents. Actually, regression, by
duplicating the exact earlier age, manner of speech and thought, etc.,
makes us once more as little children, a condition to be desired for
certain forms of therapy.

An atavistic theory, held to some extent by Dr. Jerome M. Schneck,
clinical associate professor of psychiatry, State University of New York
College of Medicine, is that hypnosis should be equated with states of
immobilization on the basis of his observation that some subjects equate
hypnosis with "death." He suggests this is comparable to the
"death-feint" of animals to avoid danger. Others, primarily Europeans,
have pointed out the analogy between the hypnotic state of animals and

Another widely-held theory is that hypnosis is a state of dissociation,
meaning that it constitutes a group of unconscious memories and
activities which may be dredged up to replace the stream of
consciousness. Automaticism, of course, is inherently part of this view,
and is presumed to negate volition. Activity of the cerebrum, which
controls the conscious and voluntary system, is rendered

My own thoughts on the matter are that hypnosis results from, first of
all, a good transference; secondly, from a conditioned reflex; thirdly,
from the person acting as a hypnotized person (role playing), and,
fourthly, from a suspension of the critical faculties. Along the
last-named line, I believe that hypnotic suggestions have an autonomy of
their own which supersede all else in the hypnotic situation. There are
many more theories I believe are partially correct, but the ones named
will do for the purposes of this volume. Incidentally, all the hypnosis
theories presented are equally applicable to self-hypnosis except where,
as in transference, it is obvious a therapist is needed.

In conclusion, the author would like to take issue with those who
believe that it is the monotonous intonations of the therapist that
cause the subject to lapse from the deeply relaxed state into true
sleep. I have observed many times, by comparing verbalization with
silence, that the former gives the subject's mind a focal point of
attention which prevents him from entering a sleep state where
hypnotherapy is impossible. Like the man who cannot sleep because of an
active mind, sleep and myriad thoughts and suggestions are incompatible,
and I believe, once a hypnotic state has been attained, that the subject
is kept awake (unless definite sleep suggestions are given) by the
therapist's series of suggestions. We have discussed the effect of the
experiential background at length, and surely nothing connotates sleep
more than closing one's eyes--test No. 1. And so, in my view, you are
doing two things when you talk to the subject; you are giving him
helpful suggestions, but you are also keeping him awake and hyperacute
so that these suggestions will sink in.

Next: Practical Applications Of Self-hypnosis

Previous: Psychological Aids And Their Function

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