Most people know hypnotism or hypnosis as a party trick or a magic trick that magicians use to control you and make you cluck like a chicken or walk like a monkey. But what is hidden behind this facade is a rich history that dates back to ancient civilizations such as Greeks, Egyptians and Romans. In this article lets look at the science behind hypnotism.

[Hypnotism] by John Adams Whipple is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

The Beginning

Hypnotism is a practice that has been around for centuries. However it was during the 18th and the 19th century that hypnosis began to be studied and developed as a formal practice. The person to thank for bringing hypnotism to mainstream medical practice is Franz Anton Mesmer. He was an Austrian physician who believed that there was a magnetic fluid or force that flowed through the body and this force could be used to treat various medical conditions. He used techniques such as magnetic passes and “mesmeric” fluids to induce a trance like state in his patients, which he believed would help heal them.

In the 19th century another Scottish surgeon James Braid coined the term “hypnotism”. He was able to develop a more scientific approach to the practice. He developed techniques like eye fixation and verbal suggestion to induce a hypnotic state, similar to what we see and use in the present day. His belief was that hypnosis is a form of self induced concentration rather than a result of external forces and influences.

The use of hypnosis continued to grow throughout the 19th and the 20th centuries ,with many physicians and psychologist studying about it’s potential and using it to treat many mental issues such as anxiety and depression. Even Sigmund Freud who is regarded as the father of psychoanalysis was initially trained in hypnosis and he was a prominent figure in the field as well. But eventually he moved away from hypnosis as a primary tool in his practice and focused on developing his own method of psychoanalysis. Nevertheless, Freud’s early work in hypnosis paved the way for the use of hypnosis psychotherapy. However during the mid 20th century partly due to the rise in psychoanalysis and behavioral therapy the prominence of hypnosis reduced.

Again the 1950s and 60s saw the resurgence of hypnosis as a tool for managing pain and anxiety during medical procedures. Today it is widely used in clinical setting for a variety of purposes including weight loss, quitting alcohol and smoking, phobias, anxiety and stress.

The Science Of Hypnosis

The science behind hypnotism has been the topic of discussion and study for centuries but the exact mechanism of how hypnotism works is not yet fully understood. There are several theories that tries to explain the mechanism of hypnotism.

One main theory is the social – cognitive theory, this theory assumes that hypnotic state is a result of , a person’s willingness to be hypnotized and their level of suggestibility which is influenced by their beliefs and expectations about hypnosis as well as the social context in which the hypnotism takes place.

Another theory of hypnotism is the dissociation theory, it suggest that hypnosis involves a split or dissociation of consciousness, in which the hypnotized person is able to separate their conscious awareness from their unconsciousness. This allows a person to address their unconscious or underlying issues.

Resent research into the neuroscience of hypnotism suggests that hypnotic states are associated with changes with brain activity and connectivity , particularly in the areas of the brain that involves attention, perception and self-awareness. Some key areas of the brain involved in hypnotism are prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for functions like planning, attention and decision making, anterior cingulate cortex which is involved in attention and emotional processing and the parietal cortex responsible for spatial awareness and sensory integration. Neuroscience is a rapidly evolving field and ongoing research is helping shed light on the brain areas and network that is involved in maintaining and inducing hypnotic states.

There you go guys, hypnotism is more than just a party trick there is a long history and a clear science behind it. Through on going studies and researches scientists continue to explore and expand the potential of hypnotism as a tool for improving health, well-being and unlocking the mysteries of the mind.