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The Hype Over Hypnosis

By Jordan Schmitt, Lifestyle Editor

We all probably associate hypnosis with a magic show portrayal; someone from the audience is randomly called onstage, and after a few moments the subject is blindly following the instructions of the performer. They might even swing a pocket watch back and forth for effect. Nevertheless, many of us are not truly aware of what is actually happening when someone is “hypnotized.” 

Hypnosis describes a specific mental state that is difficult to attain. The word hypnosis derives from the Greek word hypnos, or to sleep. This term was coined by James Braid, a 19th century Scottish surgeon who is now recognized as the “Father of Hypnotism.” 

There are accredited universities teaching hypnosis training and psychologists practicing it all over the country. Its uses as a psychological treatment and therapy device are controversial and avidly debated. I mean, if Stanford University is donating resources, time and medical imaging tools to explore the science behind hypnosis, it might be somewhat legit, right? A study led by Dr. David Spiegel, M.D., Associate Chair of Psychiatry at Stanford, found that hypnosis proved effective in treating individuals seeking clinical treatment for anxiety, pain and trauma. 

SOME COMMON USES OF HYPNOSIS: 

  1. Treating fears and phobias
  2. Relaxing and handling stress
  3. Helping with depression and anxiety 
  4. Assiting someone quit smoking 
  5. Alleviating pain
  6. Recalling a forgotten experience 
  7. Treating trauma

We also know that what occurs in the brain during a hypnosis session is a state of heightened relaxation and suggestibility. Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness. When hypnotized you are not asleep—the brain is actually fully alert and intensely concentrated. The surrounding stimuli fades out as you enter into a meditative state. The process is similar to watching a movie in the theater; you are so engrossed in the stimuli in front of you that all other worries, surroundings and thoughts are tuned out for the two hours. Consequently, the brain is expanded and open to suggestion, which is why hypnosis can prove so useful in quitting negative habits. 

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