What Makes Hypnosis Interesting?
From the Hypnosis FAQ by Todd I. Stark
Web version, revision 2. Last update: February 16, 1997.
For researchers, hypnosis remains interesting because it is so
resistant to comprehensive theoretical understanding, and because
many of the basic hypnotic phenomena seem to challenge our understanding
of how central neurological mechanisms are organized. For example,
it has long been observed that hypnotic suggestion for anesthesia
actually blocks conditioned responses, a finding whose mechanism
remains puzzling (Lundholm, 1928 and Erickson, 1938).
Aside from morbid curiosity derived from the mystique, hypnosis
is interesting for the rest of us mainly because for at least
some people, it provides a controlled way of guiding vivid fantasy
and facilitating dramatic role playing. This allows us to reproduce
a wide variety of different psychological conditions, and to explore
the range of human experience in a controlled way. It also provides
optimum conditions for some kinds of deep communication and psychological
healing to take place in the context of psychotherapy. Skillfully
applied in the larger context of competent psychotherapy, hypnosis
can at least temporarily increase cognitive and behavioral flexibility
in some people, in order to help them find new options and new
resources that can be integrated into their lives outside of hypnosis.
As far as the often advertised use of direct suggestions to make
symptoms go away, hypnosis is of some temporary value, but is
only about as effective as other behavior modification techniques.
Its real potential value psychologically lies in its systematic
use over time to help build and utilize trust in the larger context
of therapy. Hypnosis is no magic bullet to create instant cures.
Rapid cures for various addictions or other psychological problems
are sometimes seen in various forms of therapy, including hypnosis,
but hypnosis is not unique in this regard (Capafons & Amigo,
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