Hypnosis and Its Uses
Hypnosis is a procedure in which a hypnotist suggests changes in the feelings, perceptions, thoughts, or behavior of the subject. Many consider a hypnotized person to be experiencing an altered state of consciousness. Those under hypnosis are open to the suggestions of the hypnotist but are not under the hypnotist's control. In other words, hypnosis is not a form of mind control, regardless of what you may have seen in the movies. The subject is nearly always fully aware of what is happening and cannot be forced to do anything against his will.
Not all people can be hypnotized. Even the best of hypnotists cannot hypnotize a subject if he doesn't want to be hypnotized. Whether or not a subject enters a hypnotic state is dependent upon the subject more than on the hypnotist. People vary in degrees of hypnotic responsiveness. Those who are able to lose themselves in books and movies, or have active imaginations, are good candidates for hypnosis. Those who are grounded in the real world at all times are not likely to be nearly as responsive to hypnosis. This susceptibility is in no way tied to personality traits such as gullibility or submissiveness.
Uses for Hypnosis
Contrary to popular belief, hypnosis is not a guaranteed way to bring to the surface suppressed memories, not even of alien abductions or childhood abuse. Because the subject is highly responsive to the hypnotist's suggestions, she may be led to answer questions or recall “memories” in a particular way depending on how the suggestion is given. Or perhaps the subject has a vivid imagination and plays out a role from that imagined state. She may believe that the experience is real, when in actuality it is merely a product of her imagination.
If you ever get the chance, check out a stage hypnotist's show in an entertainment venue. It can be very entertaining. You may even choose to become a participant and experience it for yourself — all in the name of research, of course!
Of course, hypnosis can sometimes successfully stimulate a memory, though the results aren't 100 percent error-proof. For instance, a crime victim may be able to recall the image of the perpetrator's tattoo under hypnosis while in a conscious state she could not. However, if she had an imagined perception of that image, then she may recall it during hypnosis with complete conviction though it may be in error.
Studies have shown, however, that hypnosis can be quite effective in the medical arena. Hypnosis has been used to alleviate chronic pain, stress, and anxiety, to reduce nausea in chemotherapy patients, and to help women manage pain during childbirth. It has even been used to anesthetize patients who are undergoing surgery. Some psychologists are able to use hypnosis to break unwanted habits such as nail biting or to increase selfesteem by boosting a subject's confidence in herself and her abilities.