Principles of Hypnosis

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The Principles of Hypnosis: CONTENTS Dylan Morgan THE BOOK is arranged in three parts: A, B and C. Part A, like the root system of a plant, is a foundation. It brings into mind some of the materials that will be needed for the remainder of the book. These chapters are only loosely connected to each other. Part B, like the stem of a plant, develops the central theme of the book, which is the key processes involved in Hypnotherapy. These chapters are strongly connected and should be read in order. Part C, like the leaves or fruit of a plant, spreads out again.
These chapters are all developments from the ideas of Part B, but are not otherwise connected strongly. They can be read in almost any order, and are intended to stimulate thought in a variety of new directions. PART A Introduction. This describes the kind of book you are reading. It is a book which is devoted to presenting a unified theoretical view of the subject. In this way it is new and unique. It does not present any new facts, but rather arranges the facts in a new light. It presents a new paradigm for Hypnosis. Chapter 1: Clearing the Ground.
Here we make sure that we know what certain key words will mean in this book. The word Hypnosis will refer ONLY to the subject and not to some hypothetical state or condition. Chapter 2: Hypnotic Phenomena. Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy are particular fields of human knowledge. We may delimit such fields of knowledge by their subject matter: the phenomena they deal with. A brief overview of some of the standard phenomena of Hypnosis is given to remind the reader of what the subjects involve. Chapter 3: Introducing Systems.

A very important idea which is central to future development is that of systems, and particularly organic systems. This chapter introduces some of the basic properties of systems which will recur throughout the book, primarily their level of activity, and the most basic ways in which they might affect each other. An important shorthand notation is also presented. Chapter 4: Other Theoretical Approaches. It is useful then to examine various other theoretical approaches which have been taken to the subject. This overview will deepen the understanding of the newcomer.
The range of theories is classified with an eye on the way in which they can be related to particular organic systems. It will be seen that the systems approach gives a way of unifying discussion and analysis of the whole field. The primary conclusion is that previous theoretical models have been based on noticing that Hypnotic techniques change the functioning of one particular system of the mind or body and then extrapolating to the idea that this particular system or change is the key or definitive feature of Hypnosis.
Each theory therefore has some truth to teach, but none provides a complete picture. Chapter 5: Interlude - Analogous Processes. In this chapter the reader is reminded of many other organic systems with which he or she is familiar, such as organisations, ecosystems, economies and families. The purpose is to activate in the mind certain patterns of organised thought; certain dynamic images; a certain organic approach to a subject which is a useful one when we develop the "Morganic" approach to Hypnotherapy. Chapter 6: A First Order Classification of Subsystems useful in Hypnotherapy.
In this chapter we take a rather closer look at the central systems with which we deal in Hypnosis, in order to perform a rough classification. There are those subsystems which interface with the external environment, which can be classified into active, e. g. muscular, vocal; and responsive, e. g. vision, hearing. Then there are those subsystems which deal with the internal environment, e. g. emotions, internalised speech, visualisation and a variety of maintenance and defence systems. Important among this last class is the "flight or fight" process.
This elementary classification is then used to illustrate the principles along which Hypnotherapy can proceed. Chapter 7: Processes. This brief chapter takes a closer look at the matter of distinguishing processes as opposed to distinguishing structures. It also considers yet another complex system as an example of an organic system: an orchestra. The particular virtue of this example is that it provides us with a concrete image of what we mean by a process of a system: it is akin to the score of an orchestral work.
Another very important point made, which is neatly illustrated by this example, is the distinction between the kinematics of a process - how a thing proceeds - and the dynamics - why it proceeds as it does. No amount of analysis of subsystems will in principle enable us fully to understand an organic process by merely analysing its subprocesses: we must also always be aware of the influence of larger systems and processes of which it is in turn a subprocess. Chapter 8: Tests. Anyone familiar with Hypnosis will know many "tests" of Hypnotic responsiveness.
These are used in an attempt to determine how readily a potential subject will respond. The purpose of this chapter is to re-evaluate such tests within a systems framework as follows. The tests remain tests, but tests not of Hypnotic responsiveness but of how readily one system of the brain or body activates another in a given individual. Chapter 9: Inductions. "Hypnotic inductions" are traditionally thought of as processes that the Hypnotist goes through in order to "Hypnotise" the Subject.
But they are mostly presented with little or no explanation of how they work, or of what is the purpose of their various parts. From a systems point of view it becomes much easier to see what the purpose of an induction is, and examples are given to illustrate this way of thinking. The result is a more precise, flexible and accurate approach to this area within the field of Hypnotherapy. PART B This central part of the book takes a very close look at the process of Hypnotherapy, in more or less the order that it arises in real life, starting with the initial diagnosis.
In doing this the value of the systems approach and the notation we have outlined in Part A become more apparent and develop real strength, throwing further light on how a variety of Hypnotic phenomena are produced. Chapter 10: The Process of Hypnotherapy. Stage 1: Elements of Diagnosis. This chapter starts to look at the process of diagnosis by looking at the presented symptom. It then describes the first step in a process of diagnosis which involves looking at precursors and resultants of the presented symptom. A precursor is a system, a change in the activity of which produces the symptom.
A resultant is a system whose activity changes as a direct result of the symptom. In this way we build up a clear picture of the dynamics of the problem. The typical picture is a chain of systems each affecting the next, with the problem symptom somewhere in the middle. A situation of considerable importance arises if the chain forms a loop, colloquially termed a vicious circle. Chapter 11: Feedback Loops - an Introduction. The notion of a vicious circle is part of a more general set of ideas which deal with what are known as feedback loops. These are of enormous importance in organic systems, and this chapter outlines their principles.
We distinguish positive feedback loops from negative feedback loops, and increasing from decreasing feedback loops. Any of these can at times create the problem we are supposed to be resolving, or prevent a change we want to make, or, on the other hand, be the means by which we are removing a problem or ensuring that the changes we make are permanent. Chapter 12: The Process of Hypnotherapy. Stage 2: Consequences of Symptom Reduction. The next step in diagnosis involves looking at the question of what would happen if the problem symptom were to be removed.
The importance of this comes from the observation that the problem may well only remain in existence because of a negative feedback loop which ensures that any reduction in the problem leads to consequences which start it up again. It is essential in successful therapy that such situations be recognised. Chapter 13: Making Changes in Hypnosis. As a preliminary to deciding what to do to change things for the better this very important chapter builds on the analysis of cybernetic processes to emphasise a general and very central technique of Hypnotherapy.
We start from the general principle that amplification is involved and the observation that organic systems are typically provided with a multitude of increasing positive feedback loops which act precisely like amplifiers. Many Hypnotic phenomena are shown to centre around the principle of deliberately creating and activating such loops. As a secondary but still important principle we note that in many other cases a pre-existent loop of this nature is present but is held in check by the activity of another system.
In such cases it is enough to inactivate the controlling system in order to tap into the activating power of the loop. But even then the inactivation is likely to be achievable by means of establishing a positive feedback loop. Chapter 14: The Process of Hypnotherapy. Stage 3: Planning a Change. In this chapter attention is focused on the process of deciding a strategy in Hypnotherapy for reducing the problem symptom. There is no one way of tackling a given symptom, or helping a given person. But there is a strategy which has a good chance of producing a short list of the most effective and efficient ways.
Chapter 15: Reinforcing Changes. In the context of Hypnotherapy it is important to ensure that changes to the Client are reinforced by factors in the environment. This amounts to ensuring that there will be an increasing positive feedback loop to make the change grow in strength. This is contrasted with a form of therapy in which any new behaviour is reinforced only by the therapist, which can result in undue dependence. The principle is that "Life must provide the reinforcer". PART C In this third part of the book each chapter is relatively independent.
Each takes up one particular aspect of our subject and looks at it from the perspective of the principles that have been developed. Chapter 16: Dynamic Rebound and Paired Systems. In this chapter we focus on a particular and very important principle of organic systems. This is the fact that to maintain homeostasis - a reasonable equilibrium - there evolve pairs of systems which act in opposite directions to maintain any important parameter within range. If one increases, then the other decreases. This is coupled to the principle that if we attempt to over-ride a system it will tend, over a few cycles, to strengthen.
We may then often find that the most effective strategy in dealing with a problem is analogous to vaccination: we act in the short term to produce the very thing which we are trying to prevent in the long term, with the aim of strengthening a natural system which will produce the required change. The converse of this is that a direct attempt to change a system is more analogous to drug therapy: it can be very effective in the short term, but in the long term weakens a natural system which would do the same job, thus creating potential long-term problems.
Chapter 17: Dissociation. This chapter draws attention to the general point that in any complex system there are subsystems which may or may not affect each other. If two have no direct effect on each other they may be called totally dissociated. If the effect is only one way we may call it a partial dissociation. The dissociation may also be weak or strong - in the latter case there will be some third or higher system which acts so as to prevent the strongly dissociated systems from affecting each other.
Examples are given of these phenomena and an interesting point is made regarding the difference in emphasis between Hypnotists, who tend to create dissociation, and Hypnotherapists, who tend to eliminate it. Chapter 18: Indirect Questions. The asking of appropriate questions is a theme which runs through the whole book. One particular aspect of this is asking questions of the Client. Problems can arise when we want to know things about subsystems of which there is no conscious awareness. This chapter deals with some of the techniques specific to Hypnotherapy which deal with such a situation.
In brief they involve bypassing the verbal system and connecting the system of interest to some other system (using the characteristic Hypnotic techniques of eliminating distractions, amplifying responses by means of feedback loops, etc. ). The alternative systems are usually the visual imagination or the motor or emotional systems. Examples are given to illustrate this. Chapter 19: Experimental Hypnotherapy. This chapter underlines the value of the very clear theoretical structure presented in this book when it comes to making meaningful experiments.
Since it has proved impossible to find an agreed objective answer to the question, "When is a person Hypnotised? " the experimentalist who wishes to be scientific is working on shaky foundations. Within our framework, however, the basic question as to whether a particular system is active or not is much more tractable and answerable. It should then be possible to build a strong experimental structure on the basis of clearly defined experiments on the component parts of Hypnotic procedures. Chapter 20: Family Therapy.
Family therapy is an area of human psychology which has already incorporated to some extent a systems way of thinking. The background to this is presented for the sake of its similarities to our systematic approach to Hypnotherapy. Some examples are used to illustrate the fact that the approach and notation developed in earlier chapters continue to be precisely as valuable when the primary system is a family and not an individual. The general point is made that the practice of a therapist is characterised by the choice of systems he recognises as important.
The different fields of family therapy are associated with different assumptions as to the subsystems of importance. The same holds for Hypnotherapists: the subsystems they regard as important characterise and at times limit them. Chapter 21: Schools of Psychotherapy. Different schools of psychotherapy tend to focus their attention on different subsystems of the human mind, and apply different techniques to them. This chapter very briefly outlines some of the major approaches in order to provide an idea of the context of Hypnotherapy.
It is concluded that Hypnotherapy, in the sense of this book, is broader than most forms of psychotherapy as it may deal with systems of many kinds and all levels from the comparatively simple reflexes of the nervous system up to social systems. It involves a prescriptive diagnostic process, a crisp theoretical framework, a sense of the dynamics of feedback systems and a wide variety of procedures to change them. Chapter 22: Activity. This chapter presents a precise scientific definition of the key notion of activity which has run through this book.
The activity of a system is defined as the rate at which it increases the entropy of the universe - a quantity which is in principle always measurable or calculable. It also has the property of always being positive. It is approximately proportional to the power output of the system in watts. If we wish to extrapolate the notion of activity to socio-economic systems (which are also organic) then a more useful measure will be the rate at which money is spent: ? /sec. Chapter 23: Analogies and Metaphors The use of analogies or metaphors in Hypnotherapy is common and important.
In this chapter their use is related to the general principles running through the book. The key idea is that the principles allow us to uncover the abstract dynamic pattern of the problem and solution. The same abstract pattern may be embodied in many particular forms, each of which thereby provides an analogy for all the others. In helping a Client we generate an analogy which draws on his or her experience, and present the change that is required to resolve the problem in terms of the related change in the analogy.
These ideas also throw some further light onto the nature of the theory of this book: although many analogies have been presented for Hypnotic phenomena, their purpose is to enable the reader to grasp the general or abstract principles which are involved in both Hypnosis and the other fields from which the examples or analogies are drawn. Chapter 24: Consciousness. This brief chapter gives an outline of an approach to the very difficult question of consciousness.
The essence of the approach is the theme, which runs through this book, of the twin perspective on any system both as being part of a larger system or systems and also as containing subsystems. The point is made that when we ask of a system a question based on "How? ", then we are looking for an answer in terms of its subsystems. On the other hand when we ask a question based on "What? " we are looking for answers in terms of its supersystem or supersystems. Anything like a full understanding of a system can only be obtained by answering both the "How? " and the "What? " questions.
Applying these principles to human consciousness, which is taken to involve the highest order of systems within the individual brain, leads inevitably to the conclusion that although research has gone a long (though not the whole) way towards answering the "How? " questions, the answers to the "What? " questions must lie in a higher system, which must at least include very many other human beings. The fact that traditionally the "What? " questions regarding human life have been answered in terms of higher systems than the individual human being is therefore accepted to be the right approach in principle.
Chapter 25: Mathematics. This brief chapter points towards the way in which the analysis of Hypnotic phenomena promoted in the body of the book could be developed in such a way that it would connect up with the large existing body of mathematical theory of cybernetic and biological systems. A single very small example of mathematical modelling is given in the hope that even the non-mathematician may get an idea of the potential of such an approach. CONCLUSION BIBLIOGRAPHY Home | Principles | Top of page PART A The Principles of Hypnosis: INTRODUCTION
This describes the kind of book you are reading. It is a book which is devoted to presenting a unified theoretical view of the subject. In this way it is new and unique. It does not present any new facts, but rather arranges the facts in a new light. It presents a new paradigm for Hypnosis. WHAT KIND of book is this? This question is an important one. In order to get the best out of a book we need to approach it with the right mind-set. This book is a paradigm-changing book: it aims to present a fresh way of looking at the field of Hypnotherapy.
It was in 1962 that Kuhn introduced the notion of a paradigm shift to describe a process that has happened in many fields of science at many times. The second edition of his book will be found in the list of References under Kuhn (1970)Bib. It concerns a fundamental change in the way in which the phenomena of the field are viewed, and consequently in the way things are done. In Kuhn's view such a change has the nature of a revolution. His book itself introduced a paradigm shift in the field of the theory of scientific ideas.
A good survey of his ideas and of those of others who do not agree with him is given by Casti (1989)Bib. Since this book presents a paradigm shift it is a book of ideas. It will therefore stand or fall on the success of these ideas. They will be a success if they help others to make sense of Hypnotherapy. We may contrast this with some books which it is NOT. It is NOT a book which claims to present any new FACTS about Hypnosis. If it were it would contain a number of detailed accounts of specific new experiments and their results: it does not. It is NOT a compendium or encyclopaedia of known facts about Hypnotherapy.
If it were, it would contain thousands of references to the work of thousands of other workers and what they have discovered: it does not. It would also be a great deal thicker. It is NOT a history. If it were it would deal exclusively with ideas and practices from the past. It does not. It is NOT a handbook of techniques. Although various techniques will be mentioned, they are there only to illustrate and illuminate the theory. A handbook would aim to give extensive lists of techniques. This does not. It is NOT a "Teach yourself Hypnotherapy" book.
Although you will learn a lot about Hypnotherapy, this book will not, in itself, qualify you to be a Hypnotherapist. That requires in addition a lot of practical experience and a lot of detailed information that you would need to acquire from the kinds of books mentioned above. It is NOT one of those Elixir of Life books which claims to have found some totally new and remarkably simple method of solving all human ills. It is none of those things. It IS a book which aims to change in a fundamental and useful way the manner in which we think about the subjects of Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy.
Books of this nature are rare - and they are exciting. Not only does it give a new perspective, it generates new insights into the processes used. Furthermore it leads to a clear and original description of the process of diagnosis in Hypnotherapy - something which is notably absent in other books on the subject. The association of Hypnosis with therapy is not new. By that name it was first used by the Scottish doctor, James Braid, then practising in Manchester, in the 1840s. Related practices, under other names, were used in healing by Mesmer and his ollowers in the 17th century and by priest and shaman as far back as the dawn of recorded history. Over the centuries many books have been written about Hypnosis in the context of therapy. The common characteristic of all these books is that they deal extensively with HOW to create the many phenomena we associate with Hypnotism but give very little idea of WHY the methods work. There is very little theory. They are therefore of little help when a method does NOT work, which is a matter of some importance to the practitioner of Hypnotherapy. The early days of most sciences are marked by this same feature.
Early chemistry consisted of a collection of recipes, "If you add this to that then the following happens... " There was no real understanding of WHY or HOW it happened. Early medicine was the same. It had a large collection of procedures and treatments, but only vague ideas as to HOW they worked (when they did). In the light of our present understanding, moreover, we can see that the theoretical ideas they did have - such as the Hippocratic idea of Humours - were inadequate and faulty in the extreme, leading for example to quite unnecessary and potentially dangerous bloodletting on a massive scale.
When a science has reached a certain degree of maturity, as a result of the accumulated experiences of many workers, there comes a stage in which partial, and hard-won, experiences may coalesce to form one uniform picture which makes sense of a whole field. An example of this was the introduction into chemistry of the atomic theory by Dalton (1808)Bib, which was a big paradigm shift and the foundation of all subsequent understanding in the field.
It is the contention of this book that Hypnotherapy has come of age, and that it is now possible to describe in some detail a theoretical framework within which Hypnotic phenomena can be produced and understood in a systematic way. This book is written with three classes of readers in mind. The central class consists of students: people who are learning the skills of Hypnotherapy. There are increasing numbers of these as this form of therapy becomes more popular. They can expect to find this book a unique aid to understanding what it is that they are learning to do.
On one side of these are individuals who already have an extensive understanding of Hypnotherapy, whether as practitioners or as experimentalists. For these individuals this book may be seen as a codification of ideas that are floating in the pool of common consciousness of Hypnotherapists in this day and age: it crystallises these ideas; it makes them more definite and clear; it unites them in a common pattern. Some of the ideas presented here have already been published in journals read by professionals and found a ready response.
The paradigm shift involved does not involve the shattering of existing ideas for most professionals. It is more a matter of drawing together all that we know and do in a systematic way and then building on that foundation a strong new understanding. On the other side of the centre is the group of intelligent readers who want to know what Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy are all about, though with no intention of using them in person. This will include students of psychology and medicine, but also many of the millions of people who like to know "how things work", and in particular "how people work".
Hypnotherapy is intimately involved with the ways in which people's minds and bodies work: arguably the most fascinating subject for everyone outside their own speciality. With this readership in mind the language has been kept comparatively simple. A minimum level of specialised vocabulary is used, and a minimum amount of prior knowledge assumed. Having said that, it has been my experience that the concepts are grasped most readily by men and women who are working at the higher levels of many fields such as management, education or consultancy.
They seem naturally to think in terms of systems and processes: an ability that I suppose is correlated with degree of intelligence. It may well be then that a certain level of intelligence is a prerequisite to grasping the ideas in their abstract form. However, I have supplied many concrete examples to minimise this problem. The theoretical framework described here, although proposed as a basis for understanding Hypnotherapy, is in fact rich and powerful enough also to provide a fresh perspective on a very much wider arena of human behaviour, whether individual or in groups such as families or organisations.
It is hoped that it will open up new ways of thinking to others as it has to the author. It will seem to outsiders that the Hypnotherapist does not hold a central position in the world of ideas: I certainly thought so myself at one time. But I have gradually come to realise that in terms of understanding how people work it is a position second to none. This is because it combines the maximum opportunity for observation with the maximum opportunity for making changes and seeing the results. The Hypnotherapist sees people from all ranks of life. People open up and disclose their innermost feelings and houghts to the Hypnotherapist, so that a full picture emerges of the entire course of people's lives. The Hypnotherapist is not restricted to working with people in whom there is a severe mental malfunction as are Psychiatrists for the most part. He or she is instead often working with healthy and typical people who want help with a single problem in an otherwise satisfactory life or to improve their performance in some way. Consequently the Hypnotherapist can form a clear idea of the range of ways that people normally deal with life: there is not the Psychiatrist's exclusive emphasis on severe malfunction.
Compared with many other related fields such as counselling or psychoanalysis, the Hypnotherapist is expected to a far greater degree actively to change things: a variety of things in a variety of people. This seems to me to be of far-reaching importance. The scientific revolution which began around the seventeenth century was a result of men who were not, in the Greek tradition, restricted to contemplation and reflection in the pursuit of truth, but who had hands-on experience.
There is nothing like trying to make a change and failing, to drive home the fact that you do not understand what you are doing. When your livelihood depends on making successful changes it concentrates the mind still better. If, on the other hand, it is possible to take an ivory-tower approach and to build a theory on the basis of what has been merely read, then there is little chance of any immediate feedback to prove the theory wrong. Later on in this book we will find much on the importance of feedback loops.
In the present context I will observe that improvement in any skill or ability depends on a feedback loop in which execution is followed by an assessment of how successful that execution has been, which is followed by an appropriate modification and further executions. That is how the Wright brothers learned to fly. That is how anyone learns to play golf. That is how babies learn to co-ordinate their limbs. That is how science has grown. The Hypnotherapist is in the position of having immediate feedback, perhaps within minutes, quite usually within an hour and always within days to test how successful he or she has been in effecting a change.
As a matter of contrast, many Psychoanalysts work over periods of years with a Client. The feedback is so slow, I wonder it can ever have any effect on practice. Research Psychologists are disciplined to work with a very small area of human psychology; each experiment can take months or years, and can lead only to knowing a lot about very little. Psychologists who build theories on the results of the work of such painstaking research inevitably spend most of their lives in libraries and laboratories: they have little chance to get any feedback by putting their ideas into any kind of practice.
Many counsellors are constrained by present conventions to be non-directive: that is to say they are supposed NOT to make direct changes, but rather to somehow create an environment in which the Clients will make changes for themselves. Since there is so little action, there is limited scope for feedback also. In addition, many such professionals are working in salaried positions: which has two drawbacks.
One is that they involve extensive costs in terms of the time that has to be spent on the organisation - the committees, the paperwork, the administration, etc. - which reduces either or both of the time available for original thought and the time spent dealing with clients or patients. The second is that since the salary cheque is only very, very loosely connected with success at helping people as contrasted with making a good impression on the System, there is not the same direct and immediate incentive to improve at the cutting edge of the work.
The Professional Hypnotherapist - by which I mean an intelligent man or woman who devotes his or her whole life to the field, not someone who is a professional in some other field like medicine and does a little Hypnosis on the side - is, by contrast, in a perfect position to devote ALL his or her time to studying and changing the functioning of other people with ample and immediate feedback available. This is the optimum position to be in in any field.
I, personally, have adopted and then discarded because they failed me in practice, hundreds of different partial theoretical structures before finally evolving that which is presented in this book, which has passed the hard test of day-to-day work and also exposure to my professional peers. My initial training and doctorate were in Mathematics with a strong leaning to Theoretical Physics. These force you to think clearly and deeply and honestly about the structures and dynamics of things. Ideas must be as crisp as possible: woolliness of thought is a sin.
When I plunged into the world of Hypnotherapy, I found none of the precision of thought I was used to, no systematic approach, no theory worthy of the name. I also found my ego very badly hit every time I failed to help someone. Furthermore I had no salary: Clients are not reimbursed by Health Insurance Policies for Hypnotherapy as yet; neither can they get it free on the National Health Service. When Clients are paying with their own money, they require evidence that the service is worth it. And this is even more true in Yorkshire.
The fact that if you make no progress then you make no money concentrates the mind wonderfully, I find. If an idea does not work you reject it at once. Those that survive and evolve in this tough environment are fit and strong and lean and healthy. I hope you will find these qualities throughout this book. Finally I come to a small matter of how to refer to the approach to Hypnotherapy which has evolved in this way. In my first articles for the European Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, I referred to it as a "Systems-oriented Paradigm for Hypnotic Phenomena".
This is a bit of a mouthful, and the Journal used, as a more useful label, the phrase, "the Morgan Proposition". Neither of these lends itself to the formation of a useful adjective: "systematic" is a possible one, but this is too general a word. As you read the book, you will find that central to the approach is the notion of the functioning of complex organic systems. An alternative adjective could therefore be "organic", but this again is too general. Finally I stumbled on an adjective which is concise, reminds us of this aspect of the theory, is specific and easily memorable: "Morganic".
So when, from time to time, it is necessary to distinguish between the approach of this book and other approaches I will use this coined word as a convenient shorthand. Home | Contents | Next Chapter CHAPTER 1 Clearing the Ground Here we make sure that we know what certain key words will mean in this book. The word Hypnosis will refer ONLY to the subject and not to some hypothetical state or condition. OUR TOOLS for understanding are ideas and words. To do a good job tools must be clean and clear. This short chapter does some of this necessary preparation.
Let us begin with the word "hypnosis". It has been used in a number of senses. It is sometimes said that a person is "in hypnosis". Or it might be used in a phrase such as "experimental hypnosis" to mean a field of expertise. In this book the words "hypnosis" and "hypnotherapy" will refer ONLY to fields of knowledge and skill. They are in the same class as the words "chemistry", "medicine" (as a discipline), "physics", etc. The reasons why this is important will become clearer later. Briefly it is because the other use conjures up a picture of a subject in a unique "state of hypnosis".
Detailed experiments have failed to establish any way of defining such a state or distinguishing it from other, "non-hypnotic states". For the same reason the phrase "an hypnotic trance" will not be used. On the other hand a field of knowledge is comparatively easy to define. It is characterised by an interest in a certain class of phenomena. The field defined by interest in the weather can be labelled "meteorology", of interest in the past, "history", in books, "literature", in the nerves, "neurology" and so on. Notice that it is the phenomena that define the subject and not the theories or the practices.
For example, the techniques used in chemistry have varied enormously over time. Modern equipment is vastly different from nineteenth century equipment: Bunsen didn't start using his burner until 1855! Chemical theories have also changed enormously over time: Dalton's atomic theory only goes back to the beginning of the nineteenth century. In a similar way both the ideas that people have had about the field of Hypnosis and the methods they have used have changed considerably, but the phenomena of interest have remained relatively fixed.
What the Hypnotist is interested in is a certain class of changes in the functioning of the mind and body brought about in a non-physical and naturalistic way. Later on we will list in more detail most of the common such changes, but here we will note a few such things: analgesia - a loss of a sense of pain; amnesia -an induced forgetfulness; involuntary movements induced by suggestion alone; and distortion of the messages of the senses, in which a lemon may be made to taste like an apple, a clearly visible object may not be perceived, or an object may be "seen" though not present.
The Hypnotherapist is more interested in a rather different class of changes, such as recovery of lost memories, removal of old habits or patterns of thought, elimination of tensions, changes in perceptions to bring them more in line with reality, changes in mood and so on: in brief to change things which are perceived as "problems". When we say that these changes are to be produced in a non-physical way, it implies that the changes are NOT produced by the application of drugs, electricity, magnetism or other physical agency.
To say that the changes are produced in a naturalistic way implies that neither are they produced by some strange or unnatural force, power or phenomenon. Hypnotic phenomena are a result of using the natural modes of functioning of the mind and body, but in focused or particular or unusual ways, to produce the desired changes. It is because we are using only modes of functioning which can exist naturally that no hard line can be drawn between a "state of hypnosis" and any other "state" or mode of functioning of a person. For many people this point cannot be emphasised too much.
In the uninformed mind there is a simple picture that being "under hypnosis" is rather like going "under" an anaesthetic: a sudden and dramatic departure of consciousness. While the stage Hypnotist will at times work (with his better Subjects) to approximate to this state of affairs, it has been found by careful experiment that the same phenomena which can be produced under those conditions can also be produced under conditions where there is no such dramatic change. A related error can be typified by a recent enquiry to me: "Can Hypnosis be used to improve my memory, so that I could pick up and learn a telephone directory? This is effectively equivalent to being able effortlessly to be a chess Master, a scratch golfer, etc. The normal rules of functioning of the mind and body demand that practice, and a lot of it, is necessary to develop such skills. Hypnotic techniques may be used to increase motivation, to reduce distracting thoughts and to optimise the results of practice, but they are always working on natural systems which have their own rules and therefore limitations. You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
There is a lot of power and potential in Hypnotic techniques, but they are not magic: not contrary to the laws of physics, chemistry or neurology. It is easily possible to get a person to feel themselves too heavy to get off a chair. But it will not result in any extra pressure on the chair. Two other words that will be used in this book are Subject and Client. The former will normally refer to a person whose functioning is being changed by a Hypnotist, and the latter by a Hypnotherapist. Some Hypnotherapists use the term Patient in place of Client. SUMMARY
HYPNOSIS is the area of knowledge concerned with certain naturalistic changes in the functioning of the mind and nervous system. HYPNOTHERAPY is the application of such knowledge to help individuals with a related class of problems. We will not use the concept of a "state of hypnosis" in this book. Home | Contents | Introduction | Next Chapter CHAPTER 2 Hypnotic Phenomena IN ORDER TO GET a clearer view of the Subject matter of Hypnosis we will next look at some of the more common phenomena which have been reliably produced in certain people in an experimental setting as well as by Hypnotherapists or stage Hypnotists.
There is no real disagreement about the existence of these phenomena. Others may be added to the list below and there can be disagreement over the precise nature of what is happening in them and also about theories designed to explain how they are happening. But there is general agreement that the phenomena do characterise the field of Hypnosis. In each of these examples it must be remembered that no claim is made that the particular phenomenon can be produced with equal ease in everyone, nor that it will be possible in everyone.
Remember that we are dealing with naturalistic phenomena. The fact that some individuals are colour blind does not invalidate the phenomenon of full colour vision in others. The fact that some individuals have poor memories and take a lot of time to learn things does not negate the achievements of certain individuals who can memorise enormous amounts quickly. The fact that not everybody can run a mile in under 6 minutes does not affect the fact that a great number could, with practice, or that there are many who can run it in under 4 minutes.
Neither does the fact that the world record time has been reducing allow us to deduce that a 2 minute mile will some day be possible. The general principles of ALL human behaviour or achievement are that there is a range in the capacity of different individuals to produce certain behaviour; that anyone's capacity can be improved by proper practice; and that there are natural limits to what can be done. If Hypnosis dealt with phenomena which did NOT obey these principles it would be a very strange Subject indeed.
Consequently in reading the following, remember always that each example is something that can be produced to a high degree quite easily in some people, to a lesser degree and/or in more time in others, and finally to no significant extent in any reasonable time with yet others. It is also a fact that there is only a loose correlation between an individual's capacity to produce one phenomenon and another, rather in the way that if you are very good at geography there is a better than average chance that you will also be good at history, but it is far from certain.
The stage Hypnotist works within these constraints of nature by selecting from the audience, by means of various tests, those individuals in which the phenomena of interest can be produced most easily. The Hypnotherapist, who has to work with a wider range of individuals, will tend to use more time and a variety of methods in order to offset the limitations that may arise in a particular individual. Some Hypnotic Phenomena In the following list the phenomena are grouped into those areas of the brain or nervous system or body which they involve.
VOLUNTARY MUSCULAR SYSTEM At one time it was a popular part of a demonstration of stage Hypnotism for the Hypnotist to get a Subject to go completely rigid. So great was this rigidity that the Subject could be supported on two chairs by his head and heels alone. And as if this were not enough the Hypnotist would be able to sit or stand on the supported body with no complaint from the Subject or yielding of his body! This has now been banned in the UK by the Hypnotism Act of 1952, as it could lead to physical damage.
At the opposite extreme from this, it is comparatively easy to induce in those same large muscles of the body an extreme limpness or relaxation which is so great that the Subject feels unable to move them. In between these extremes there are a variety of phenomena in which a large group of muscles - those of an arm, perhaps - will move in response not to the perceived will of the Subject, but rather in response to verbal suggestions from the Hypnotist. INVOLUNTARY MUSCULAR SYSTEM There are many muscles in the body which we do not normally expect to be able to control at will.
These include the heart, which is one big muscle, the small muscles which expand and contract to control the flow of blood through veins and arteries, and the muscles of the stomach and alimentary system which push the food along its way. Hypnotic techniques have been shown to be able to affect these. Heart rate may be increased quite a lot, and reduced to a lesser extent. The flow of blood can be altered so that, for example, it can be increased to warm the feet or decreased to cool them. The flow of blood to the face can be altered in order to induce or reduce blushing. And so on. SENSORY SYSTEMS
Another popular phenomenon for the stage Hypnotist is to get a Subject to eat an onion under the impression that it is an apple. In order for this to be possible - and with every indication of enjoyment - there must have been changes in that person's perception of taste, smell and also vision. In general it is possible to change the messages from any sense. The sense of touch can be altered either so that a certain kind of numbness results in which a touch cannot be felt at all, or, conversely, so that it reports the presence of a stimulus which has no basis in reality - for example, that an insect is crawling over the skin.
Glove anaesthesia is a term often used in Hypnotherapy to describe a situation in which nothing is felt in one or both hands up to the wrist - as if a thick glove is being worn which makes it impossible to feel things. The related sense of pressure can likewise be affected, all the way from feeling no sensation of the pressure of the body on the chair to a great sensation of pressure on the chest which has no outward cause, for example. The sense of smell may be affected either to produce anosmia - the absence of all sensation of smell - or to change the perceptions so that one smell becomes interpreted as another.
A pleasant scent can be made to smell like hydrogen sulphide - rotten eggs - or ammonia like a rose. The related sense of taste can likewise be affected to change either the quality of the taste or its intensity. Sweet can turn to sour and vice versa, or can simply vanish. The sense of hearing can be affected so that the Subject fails to respond at all to a certain class of sounds, while remaining aware of others - for example, he may remain aware of the Hypnotist's voice, but unaware of anyone else or any background noise.
The sense of sight can be affected in a similar way so that things which are there may not be noticed and things which are not present are visualised as vividly as if they were there. A popular stage trick is to give the Subject "X-ray glasses" which seem to be able to see through the clothes of anyone looked at. The sense of orientation may be altered so that, for example, a feeling of lying at a steep angle can be induced in a person lying horizontally, or a feeling of falling in someone who is standing vertically.
The sense of temperature may be affected so that a part or whole of the body is perceived as being either hotter or colder than it is in reality, though there is no change measurable by a thermometer. The sense of pain, though it is so much more acute than the other senses, follows the same pattern. Because of its importance it has received a great deal of experimental attention and the basic facts have been established conclusively. It is indeed true that a person can be induced by Hypnotic procedures to be consciously aware of less pain in a given circumstance, or, on the other hand, of more.
HABITUAL SYSTEMS A typical habit is a complex pattern of behaviour which is carried out automatically with little or no conscious thought. Although it may involve the same groups of muscles that are involved in the phenomena mentioned above, it is really a higher order phenomenon of the nervous system. Such habits are regulated primarily by a part of the brain called the cerebellum - and altering habits is therefore altering the functioning of a part of the brain.
For the stage Hypnotist the task is often to establish a new habit, such as standing and declaiming something when a certain piece of music plays. For a Hypnotherapist the task is the more difficult one of preventing a long-established habit, such as smoking or nail-biting, from continuing. EMOTIONAL SYSTEMS The emotions tend to shade into each other more gradually than do the senses: it is hard to put a clear line between a pleasure and happiness in the way that we can distinguish touch and pain, for example.
But the principles we have seen above in the senses continue to hold in the sphere of the emotions. Whether we consider love, liking, excitement, pleasure, happiness, or fear, anger, grief, guilt, depression or any other shade of feeling, it is true that they can be induced or suppressed or altered in quality. Although feelings do not seem to us to be localised, in terms of our physiology they are primarily a function of a certain structure in the brain called the limbic system. So in altering emotions we are again dealing with a part of the brain.
This part is in direct contact with a small gland in the brain called the thalamus, which produces hormones which in turn affect other endocrine glands in the body. The best known of these are the adrenal gland and the ovaries or testes. If a person is induced by some Hypnotic technique to feel fear or excitement then the adrenal glands respond as a part of the process. This underlines the fact that Hypnotic techniques can also affect the functioning of the endocrine system. Another example might be the arousal or suppression of sexual feelings, which would be accompanied by changes in the level of sexual hormones.
RELATIONSHIPS Of very great importance to most people are their relationships with others. A relationship is a complex pattern of feelings and habitual actions and responses in two or more people, so it involves systems which have been mentioned above. Very often the problem presented to the Hypnotherapist lies in this area, and the task is to sort out what parts of the complex pattern it is best to change in order to improve matters. Insofar as it is possible to alter feelings and actions by Hypnotic techniques, it is by the same token possible to alter the course of a relationship.
IMMUNE SYSTEM Scattered through the literature on the subject there are accounts of the use of Hypnotic techniques to influence the body's ability to react to a wide range of illnesses, including cancer. Perhaps the best evidence underpinning the validity of these reports is the very well-attested fact of the Placebo Response. This simply says that for virtually any illness there will be a certain proportion of sufferers who will recover significantly better if they are given something that they believe will work, even if it is totally neutral medicinally.
Insofar as Hypnotic techniques can evidently change an individual's belief about all manner of things, as we have seen, there is every reason to suppose that it can act as well as, if not better than the beliefs involved in the Placebo Response to help people's bodies to heal themselves. MENTAL SYSTEMS We have seen that emotions and habits are both properly seen to be functions of the brain, though they may not be thought to be so by the man in the street. We will now consider a few more functions of the brain which are more obviously so.
Memory is a particular function of the brain which has also been demonstrably affected by Hypnotic procedures. It, also, can be enhanced, inhibited, made selective or falsified. On the stage a popular alteration is to make the Subject forget some quite simple thing, like the name of a colour or the number 7. The Subject may struggle very hard to recall the missing fact but fail totally. An alternative is to get him to believe that something is true or has happened which has not. If a Subject is induced to "remember" that another person has cheated him in some way, he will start to act in a way which is amusing to the audience.
But the serious side to this is that certain individuals can be influenced to believe that they have remembered episodes or early sexual abuse which never in fact happened. The problems that can arise from this are termed the False Memory Syndrome. Concentration is another high-order mental faculty which can be intimately affected by Hypnotic techniques. It is not uncommon to come across cases in which the Subject responds exclusively to the voice of the Hypnotist, and seems totally oblivious to all else. This is a particular case of total concentration.
Equally it can be possible to make concentration on any subject very difficult. More generally the entire mental framework can be altered, as when a Subject can be induced to imagine himself to be Elvis Presley, or some other person, and act, respond and answer questions from the viewpoint of that person. Since this book is not encyclopaedic there is no need to list ALL possibilities. Enough has now been said to indicate something of the range of changes that have been recorded. SUMMARY Hypnotic procedures have been demonstrated in laboratories and elsewhere to produce a wide range of changes in the functioning of human beings.
Something of the range has been listed above. Home | Contents | Previous Chapter | Next Chapter Principles of Hypnosis: CHAPTER 3 Introducing Systems A very important idea which is central to future development is that of systems, and particularly organic systems. This chapter introduces some of the basic properties of systems which will recur throughout the book, primarily their level of activity, and the most basic ways in which they might affect each other. An important shorthand notation is also presented. IN THE LAST CHAPTER the word "system" frequently arose.
In our growing understanding of the functioning of body and brain, scientists have come to recognise the nature and modes of functioning of many systems in the body. There are the nervous system, the digestive system, the cardiovascular system, the limbic system, the endocrine system, the immune system, the muscular system and so on. Each of these systems has an identifiable structure. The nerves are the physical structure of the nervous system; the heart plus veins and arteries and their associated small muscles form the structure of the cardiovascular system, and so on.
But equally, if not more, important are the processes which the system undergoes. The existence of the heart has been known since prehistoric time. But the fact that it circulates the blood only became understood with William Harvey (1578-1637) in the early seventeenth century. The existence of the major planets of our solar system was also known from prehistoric times, but the principles of their movements were only properly described by Newton (1642-1727) in the latter half of the seventeenth century.
To get any proper idea of a system we must know how it works; what kinds of processes it undergoes; what are the principles governing those processes. The difference is related to the difference between seeing a thing in static terms and dynamic terms. This great change has taken place in a multitude of sciences, and each time has heralded a great increase in understanding. Darwin's Theory of Evolution is an example of a change from a view which held that species were fixed to one in which they changed in certain ways for specific reasons.
The theory of continental drift has similarly transformed geology. As a simple analogy illustrating this matter from another angle, consider the position of a car mechanic. He might well be able to put quite a few things right by following a few tried and tested procedures that he has found to be effective in some instances. But unless he understands the principles governing the function of the various parts of the machine, his ability is going to be strictly limited: he will have no real idea of why the changes he makes are effective, and so his work will remain rather hit and miss.
He has to know how and why the parts move or operate in order to understand things properly. It will be clear from the last chapter that the field of interest of Hypnotherapy is intimately involved with the functioning of effectively all the major systems of the mind and body. In order to understand what we are doing we are therefore forced to give thought to understanding the nature of these organic systems, and in particular to understanding their modes of functioning and interacting. There is no option. The phenomena are clear. That they involve changes to systems of the body is clear.
That the changes are not to their structure (we are not surgeons) is clear. That we change the behaviour is clear. Consequently we are dealing with the dynamics of complex organic systems. If we are to form an idea of the principles of Hypnosis we are therefore forced to start with a picture, however simple, of the dynamics of the organic or biological subsystems of human beings. The study of the dynamics of organic systems in general is a growth area: it is highly relevant to economics, ecology, sociology and biology, and has been approached from all those areas.
I have not been able to find an existing approach, however, which is well-adapted to the kinds of systems and dynamics involved in Hypnosis. The following language and methodology is therefore designed specifically to be useful in our field, though it can be generalised to others. How does one start to design a dynamical theory? It is a tried and trusted principle that one should as far as possible work with observables. To base a theory on unobservables is to be working in the dark: there is no way of verifying if the theory is right or wrong and no way of refining it.
What observables therefore can we say are applicable to all the systems of mind and body in which we are interested? The answer which I will adopt is: the level of activity. It is possible, by means of very fine electrodes, to measure quite precisely the level of activity of a single neuron (nerve cell). It is easily possible to measure the mean activity of the heart - the heart rate. It is possible to get a good measure of the level of activity of a muscle by means of seeing what force it can resist, or by its oxygen consumption.
The overall level of activity of a region of the brain can be estimated by measuring the rise in temperature of that region (a method used over a century ago) or more modern methods involving measuring electrical activity (EEG) or local blood flow and metabolism - positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The activity of various glands can be estimated by measuring the concentration of the hormones they produce in the blood. And so on.
Although the functions of the various systems are of course distinct, we can in each case form at last a qualitative and very often a precise quantitative measure of its activity at a given time, and hence how its activity is changing with time. Later, in Part C, we will discuss a more exact definition of activity, applicable to all systems, but at this introductory level it is enough to note that the intuitively clear notion of activity is something that is in principle observable for systems of the body. We will therefore base our theory on the notion of the activity of a system.
Let us now take a very brief look at a simple Hypnotic process with this idea in mind. A fairly typical Hypnotic induction as used by a Hypnotherapist today may proceed as follows. First of all the Subject's eyes may be induced to close, by one of a number of methods which usually involve fixing the gaze on some point, and some form of verbal suggestion that eyes will get tired until they close. However it is done, it is clear that the result must be a great reduction in the activity of the whole of the part of the visual system involved in viewing the external world.
With the eyes closed all the nerves from the retinas to the visual cortex will become quiescent. A typical second step is to encourage physical relaxation. This again may be accomplished in a variety of ways: each group of muscles may first be tensed so that there will be a natural rebound into a more relaxed state; there may simply be a focus of attention on groups of muscles and a suggestion of relaxation; there may be the creation of an imaginary scenario such as a warm beach, which is designed to induce relaxed feelings.
But however it is done the result is a great reduction of the activity of the main voluntary muscles, and very often the involuntary ones as well. It will be noticed that a typical induction process is a one-way affair. Unless a question is asked, the Client does not talk. This is usually accomplished by the Hypnotist maintaining a steady flow of speech in which there are no cues for the Subject to respond verbally. But however it is done, the result is that the active speech-producing system often becomes very inactive. The pattern is clear.
The Hypnotherapist is reducing the activity of nearly all systems one by one. Higher-order faculties which are harder to observe, such as an internal verbal analysis of what is going on and a critical analysis of its content, are typically also reduced. There is, however, at least one exception to the general rule that systems are inactivated: and that is the aural system. The Subject must continue to be able to hear the Hypnotherapist. Ideally this system should become more active than usual: the intention is for the listener to respond more than usual to what is said by the Hypnotherapist.
This may be accompanied by a reduction of attention to other sounds. Another possible exception will be a partic

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