By Clifford Sawhney
Despite misty origins, hypnotism and hypnosis is increasingly being used as a tool in healing, entertainment and self-improvement
10 STEPS TO SELF HYPNOSIS
Self-hypnosis allows one to communicate with the subconscious mind and reprogram it for positive and permanent changes and even self-healing.
Here are the elementary steps:
1. Ensure that you are alone in a quiet room. Wear comfortable clothes. Lie back in a reclining chair.
2. Place a picture of concentric circles a few feet away and stare at it.
3. Repeat slowly: ‘As I stare at this picture, I am going deeper and deeper into a trance. Deeper and deeper, deeper and deeper. My eyelids are getting heavier and heavier, heavier and heavier. My eyes are closing slowly as I fall into a d-e-e-e-e-e-e-p trance.’
4. ‘As I slowly count backward from ten to one, I will go deeper and deeper into a trance. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one…’
5. ‘In body and mind, I am totally relaxed, relaxed.’ Repeat.
6. Repeat positive affirmations. For example, if you are nervous and edgy, keep saying: ”At all times, I am totally calm, cool and in control.” Never use negative affirmations like: ”I am never nervous and edgy.” The mind will concentrate on ‘nervous and edgy’ and you will be just that.
7. Now say: ”My body is getting lighter and lighter, lighter and lighter. Waves of relaxing cosmic energy are now entering my body, spreading from the toes upwards. A light, tingling, relaxing, energizing sensation is now flooding me.”
8. Give a post-hypnotic suggestion that the desired response occur even after you come out of the trance. This will deepen the beneficial effects by subconsciously inducing the desired behavior.
9. Give yourself another post-hypnotic suggestion: ”Hereafter, each time I induce self-hypnosis, I will be able to do so easily and faster.”
10. You can then come out of the trance by counting from 10 to 1, having affirmed that after the count of each digit you will awaken gradually. On reaching one, open your eyes slowly.
The leopard stalked the chital on silken paws. The herd fled, except for a sub-adult who stood transfixed. As their eyes met, the chital froze. It was hypnotized with fear. Within seconds, the leopard sank its teeth into her jugular. In her anaesthetized state, the chital felt nothing. Death in a trance was painless.
Shikar (hunting) books are replete with such narratives wherein the hunted are paralyzed with fear. As for human beings, the first recorded hypnotic ‘performances’ were held over 5,000 years ago at the court of King Khufu in ancient Egypt. The ancient Greeks used hypnosis to cure their sick. Seers at the Greek oracle of Delphi used self-hypnosis.
In India, too, yogis and rishis utilized self-hypnosis during meditation to still their minds. The Indian equivalent of hypnosis is sammohan. Says Dr Ramesh Paramahamsa, head of Delhi’s Institute of Psychic and Spiritual Research: ‘Sammohan shakti has been practised in India since Vedic times. It can be defined as the power of attraction. Sammohan is inborn in every human being. Even while I talk to you, there is a kind of hypnosis where I try to attract and hold your attention, planting subtle suggestions. No yoga and meditation is possible without self-hypnosis. They are inseparable.’
In the West, it was in the 18th century that hypnotism took the first step towards evolving into a scientific discipline. The credit goes to Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), a German healer whose technique of laying hands on patients and imparting suggestions had therapeutic benefits.
Mesmer visited a French Jesuit priest, Father Maximilian Hehl, who cured people by laying hands on them. As the priest stroked each patient, Mesmer noticed that they went into a trance. On waking up, they were free of their ailments. Mesmer deduced that some form of energy passed from the hands of the priest to the patients.
A few years later, Mesmer began transmitting his healing energy through touch or iron rods using the methods of an exorcist, Father Johann Gassner. Mesmer called this ‘animal magnetism’. Although popular with patients, Mesmer’s unorthodox methods earned the ire of the medical community. He left Vienna for Paris in 1778 to escape harassment. There, he moved on to inducing trance by staring fixedly into the patients’ eyes and making slow passes over them with his hands or a wand.
Others took up the practice, keeping the embers alive. Dr Jean Martin Charcot (1825-1893), a French neurologist who treated mentally ill patients, used hypnosis successfully and maintained a diary of his cases.
Charcot classified hypnotic trance into three stages: lethargy (physical relaxation), catalepsy (wherein the limbs could be placed in any position and made to stay rigid) and somnambulism (the deepest state wherein patients talked, walked or become anaesthetized). Charcot began giving lectures on hypnosis, one of which was attended by a young Vienna physician, Sigmund Freud, who later used it to treat his patients.
The year 1821, however, saw the world’s first surgery being performed on a patient put into a deep trance. With anesthetics like ether or chloroform yet to be introduced, this was a breakthrough. Soon, word of this ‘magical’ cure spread to other countries, notably England, where Dr John Elliotson, who had perfected the stethoscope, began using it.
The gradual spread of the discipline in England led to its emergence in India through Scottish surgeon Dr James Esdaile (1808-1859), who worked in Calcutta, India. He began using mesmerism to anaesthetize patients during surgery. While other physicians handling scrotal tumors had a death rate of 50 per cent, Esdaile’s mortality rate for over 200 surgeries of the same ailment was just 5 per cent.
The risk of ridicule did not deter the truly adventurous, though. In 1842, Dr James Braid of Scotland coined the term ‘hypnosis’ from the Greek hypnos (sleep). He used verbal suggestions on hypnotized patients with remarkable effect, calling it ‘hypnotherapy’.
MYTHS VS FACTS
Hypnotism then had new protagonists—stage magicians. Although this kept it alive, many charlatans used hypnosis to dupe people. That’s when myths began arising. In the words of Santhosh Babu, who does stage hypnosis: ‘People think the hypnotist can hypnotize anyone. And the subject will reveal all secrets and do anything that the hypnotist says. This is not true.’
Hypnotherapist Dr Vanit Nalwa concurs: ‘In the past, hypnosis had negative connotations. To a large extent, the technique has been demystified and is understood to be a natural state achievable by most.’
But, she admits, myths still abound: ‘I once got a call from an MP who wanted to know how hypnosis could be used to sway the electorate! People think the hypnotist can control their mind. I help people gain greater control over their own minds. People also fear they will end up revealing their dark secrets. This is irrelevant, because they anyway come to me to discuss their secret problems.’
Hypnosis is not a state of deep sleep but one of altered consciousness. There is a feeling of well being, a higher threshold of pain, an ability to recall past events and the acceptance of new ideas that are not in conflict with personal values. The hypnotic state is like meditation, where the body is relaxed but the mind has heightened awareness. The ability to vocalise is limited, the limbs feel either leaden or light, tingly and numb. The perception of time is also distorted-an hour might seem like 10 minutes.
Although most people go into some state of hypnosis, some do not. Opines Babu: ‘Some may not trust the hypnotist or the process or may take more time to go into a trance.’
There is a notion that those with ‘strong will-power’ cannot be hypnotized. Actually, left-brain people go into hypnosis faster than right-brain ones. In Dr Nalwa’s experience: ‘Contrary to popular myth, intelligent people can be hypnotized faster. The only prerequisite is the subject’s willingness.’
People fear hypnosis because they feel they are surrendering their ‘will’—a feeling reinforced by stage hypnotists. Dr Nalwa says: ‘This is because stage hypnotists show subjects doing strange things. What people don’t realize is that the stage hypnotist chooses only those who are highly suggestible. Illusionists like Paul McKenna and David Copperfield do such things too, but for entertainment.’
About hypnotizing people on stage, Santhosh Babu says: ‘In a stage show, I put around 30 people into a trance. As long as they are willing and can hear the hypnotist, it could be any number.’ Mumbai psychiatrist Dr Dayal Mirchandani also says it is possible to hypnotize groups.
Is hypnosis dangerous? Yes, admits Dr Mirchandani. ‘It could be dangerous with patients who are severely depressed or suffer from psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, hence it should only be used by trained persons.’
But according to Dr Nalwa: ‘Hypnosis is not harmful in any way. There have been cases abroad where women have made allegations of rape against male hypnotherapists. This is only possible if the subject lets it happen. No hypnotherapist can get a subject to do anything that s/he would not normally do.’
Could false memories trigger such allegations? ”It’s possible if a subject is asked leading questions that suggest the answer,” Dr Nalwa stresses. Babu feels hypnosis is ‘never dangerous’. Which is why the art was recognized by the British Government through the Hypnotism Act in 1952. The American Medical Association sanctioned the official use of hypnosis by physicians in 1958.
Another unfounded fear is that once put into a trance, there is a possibility of not coming out of it. The truth is, a person can always come out of a trance at will.
There are numerous ways of inducing hypnosis, including the fixed gaze, progressive relaxation, mental misdirection and oral commands. On induction techniques, Dr Mirchandani says: ‘Each therapist uses his favorite technique or one according to the client’s personality. I generally use story-telling.’ Dr Nalwa says: ‘I use talking to induct subjects into a trance.’
According to Santhosh Babu: ‘In traditional hypnosis, it is focusing on an object or a voice intensely. In modern hypnosis, it is creating a relaxed feeling or using indirect suggestions.’
USES AND BENEFITS
Hypnotism has found a place in medicine, psychology, entertainment and even dentistry. The benefits are-self-improvement, curing mental, emotional and physical ailments, controlling weight, past life regression and anesthetic benefits during surgery. Says Dr Mirchandani: ‘Self-hypnosis is useful for certain problems, while others need hypnotherapy.’
Clinical hypnotherapy only works when the patient believes s/he can change. Says Dr Nalwa: ‘Hypnosis helps change attitudes, the key to changing behavior. A person is made independent enough to solve his problems. But the primary aim is healing. If you can think yourself sick, you can think yourself well too.’
About past life regression (PLT), Dr Mirchandani voices caution: ‘Sometimes there is PLT, though the veracity of the recall is often questionable as the person can be guided to imagine things.’
For learning the art, Santhosh Babu attended workshops at the Atheist Association in Kerala. Dr Nalwa learned it in England. Doctors and psychologists can learn it at the Indian Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis.
Hypnosis is especially useful in tapping the awesome power of the human mind. In 1901, Edgar Cayce found that while hypnotized, he could diagnose physical ailments and recommend treatments, either not well known or long forgotten. How? Cayce’s answer-he was in touch with the subconscious minds of the patients, besides having access to the superconscious.
Like meditation, hypnosis then could be another way of attaining cosmic consciousness. Hypnotherapist Irene Hickman agrees in her book, Mind Probe Hypnosis: ‘The proper use of hypnosis can demonstrate that we are indeed more than just physical-that we are truly an immortal soul or spirit clothed in and operating through a physical body.’
It is about time we stopped ignoring hypnosis-and, thereby, cosmic consciousness.
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