The fact that the practice of hypnosis has existed for centuries is proof in itself that either hypnosis is a real thing or else millions of humans have been fooled for years. Many doctors, psychologists and physicians have admitted hypnosis has a strong basis in fact. However, the proper definition of hypnosis must be presented. Hypnotism isn’t some lie-detector or way to control minds. If you’ve ever been engrossed in a book or a movie, if you’ve ever been so far into a daydream that you don’t hear when somebody’s calling your name, you’ve been “hypnotized.” According to Melissa Beattie-Moss of Pennsylvania State University, Hypnotism is a state of extreme suggestibility, relaxation and heightened imagination that’s a result of being hyper-aware and hyper-reactive. Basically what happens is you become so focused on one, generally relaxing stimulus, that you tune out all other stimuli.
This isn’t the first time people have argued about hypnosis. This debate has been going on for roughly 200 years. Much of the debate has been centered on hypnotherapy–medical hypnosis. Recently tests such as electroencephalograms or EEGs have been conducted on “hypnotized” subjects. What the tests reveal is that during a session of hypnosis, subjects make connections in their brain differently from when they are in an attentive state.
An important distinction is that while hypnotized, subjects are not asleep or unconscious. They are conscious, but while their consciousness is focused on one stimulus, their subconscious is more readily open to suggestion. When you’re watching a movie, you stop thinking and worrying about things from your normal everyday life. While you’re watching, you’re not thinking about all the homework you have to do or how early you have to wake up the next morning. The same thing happens when a person is hypnotized. They’re not thinking about how what they’re doing is going to affect them, they’re totally focused on something else, and therefore are more willing to do what the “hypnotist” is telling them to. If you’re not focusing on all the people watching you, then doing the chicken dance doesn’t seem like a big deal. Recent research has revealed that during hypnosis parts of the brain that are involved in monitoring the environment and making decisions are relatively inactive, so you’ll do things, or respond to stimuli, without asking yourself why.
Medical hypnosis has become generally accepted in recent years. However, it functions through verbal guidance, not a swirly black and white circle. It has important implications in treating phobias, addictions and chronic pains.
Ultimately, there is solid scientific evidence that states the brain is functioning differently during a state of hypnosis. Hypnosis is not always the stereotypical swinging watch, but rather a state of relaxation in which all of a person’s focus is given to a single stimulus, while other environmental factors are ignored. Therefore, this real phenomenon of relaxation and suggestion can be used as a medical practice. Some forms of hypnotism may be a hoax, but when approached the right way with the right point of view, hypnotism is very much real.
Alex Houdeshell, Assistant Editor in Chief of Horizons
Junior Alex Houdeshell is the Assistant Editor-in-Chief of the 2015-2016 Horizons Yearbook. She is the president of Operation Smile and participates in Cupcakes for Causes. She is on the soccer team and she runs Indoor Track and Track and Field.