Sigmund Freud, when he started taking interest in the functioning of the human mind, studied hypnosis. Back in the 1800s, it was the most sophisticated technology to work on one’s mental issues. After watching what his master, Josef Breuer, could achieve with hypnosis, he started using it himself with his patients, but shortly after he found out that what really worked for his purposes was a free association and not that much the hypnosis trance.
Even though the father of psychoanalysis and one of the most influential figures of the 20th century left hypnosis behind, that doesn’t mean that is a forgotten practice. It existed prior to Freud and still exists today.
Is Hypnosis Real?
Media and pop culture have shown us a version of hypnosis that seems supernatural or straight-up false. They portray it as if the hypnotherapist has absolute control of our mind, body, and emotions for an undefined period of time in which we can do things without our permission. But that’s really far from what hypnosis really is.
Hypnosis, hypnotherapy, or hypnotic suggestion is a trance-like state in which you usually feel calm and relaxed and more open to suggestions. In that state, you have heightened concentration and focus. Despite all its detractors, studies have backed the efficiency of its use in treatments to, for example, control pain or weight. It is also used as a complement for cognitive therapy.
Obviously, that’s not something that anyone can do. It has to be guided by a trained hypnotherapist that will induce you into a state of intense concentration or focused attention. This process is based on verbal cues and repetition. This trance-like state is very similar in many ways to sleep, but the difference is that you are fully aware of what’s going on outside and inside your mind.
What this state does is make you more open to advise or proposals. The hypnotherapist uses that opportunity to make guided suggestions that have the intention of helping you achieve your therapeutic goals, whatever they are. In theory, you can leave the state of hypnosis anytime you want to, because you don’t lose control of yourself during the session.
Like the placebo effect, hypnosis is heavily driven by suggestion. This means, in the first place, that the person being hypnotized has to want to be hypnotized in order to allow themselves to enter the specific state of mind needed for hypnotherapy to work. It may sound like a matter of faith, but it is what is needed for the brain to cooperate in the process.
Nowadays doctors are not fully convinced about this practice, its use, or its benefits, but still appears as an alternative for those who need another tool to cope with the illnesses they’re facing.