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August 12, 2003 7:23 PM   Subscribe

It "...has no side effects, causes no allergic reactions, is not addictive" and patients can even be taught how to administer it to themselves, yet hypnosis isn't used as widely as pain drugs, anitdepressants and pharmaceuticals. (More inside.)
posted by emelenjr (26 comments total)

 
(Sorry, that should have read other pharmaceuticals.)

"Indeed, in this era of molecular biology, when powerful magnetic fields can shed light on the complex workings of the brain, the very notion of hypnotism seems antiquated, a carnival throwback to the days of crystal balls and Ouija boards. But doctors say hypnotism not only works, it often succeeds when modern medicine fails."
posted by emelenjr at 7:24 PM on August 12, 2003


Gah, antidepressants.

I'm packing up and going home.
posted by emelenjr at 7:26 PM on August 12, 2003


No side effects? Never heard of 'post-hypnotic suggestion'? ;-P
posted by mischief at 7:54 PM on August 12, 2003


The very idea of *cluck* post-hypnotic side effects is *cluck* ludicrous.

As far as hypnosis goes, I was hypnotized once. The suggestions made didn't really stick, but I was amazed afterwards to discovered that what seemed like a 15-minute session was in fact two and a half hours long. I'm sure there's something to hypnosis, but it's certainly not a replacement for most other medical venues.
posted by Hildago at 8:11 PM on August 12, 2003


yet hypnosis isn't used as widely as pain drugs

That's because it's fake, right?
posted by wfrgms at 8:36 PM on August 12, 2003


I don't know wether it's fake or not, but I have seen it in action - it's remarkable. The funny thing about post-hypnotic suggestions is that the subject will always rationalize it to herself, no matter how ridiculous it is.

It's also taught in respected medical colleges.
posted by spazzm at 8:48 PM on August 12, 2003


I've come to see hypnosis as fraudelent as chiropractics and phrenology.

It's also taught in respected medical colleges.

Which ones?
posted by the fire you left me at 8:53 PM on August 12, 2003


Off the top of my head.
posted by spazzm at 9:00 PM on August 12, 2003


that handshake trick to tell who's hypnotizable is really interesting. I wonder how hypnotizable I am.

I remember a really interesting section in a book on consciousness by I think Charles Tart, about hypnotizing different people to perceive the world just slightly differently - more 3 dimensional, more 2 dimensional, more colorful, less colorful - I think some subjects were hypnotized to view the world as if it were an expressionist painting, etc. All the subjects wrote about their experiences, and were also interviewed, I think by double blind interviewers, and the ones taught to see the world as flatter or greyer were all more depressive during the interviews... It's a really interesting area, actually.

It's a bit scary to use it for pain management, but if it works - well, that's pretty cool. On the other hand, surprising that it wasn't more widely used instead of alcohol or biting the bullet back in pre-anesthetic days, if it really is that effective...

I've come to see hypnosis as fraudelent as chiropractics and phrenology.

did you have some experience with it that led you to that conclusion?

Anyone else have experience with it? Hildago, what were you hypnotized for?
posted by mdn at 9:00 PM on August 12, 2003


Regarding clinical certification, there's also this group, and these folks.
posted by dejah420 at 9:08 PM on August 12, 2003


My father, a retired dentist, used to use hypnosis for patients allergic to novocaine. It works. BTW, great title for the post, emelnjr.
posted by machaus at 9:10 PM on August 12, 2003


Hoping I can get through this comment without a mistake, since I wasn't able to do it in the FPP or the first comment in the thread.

I don't have any firsthand experience with hypnosis and, like the article suggests, it might be due to my background in journalism. I think in my second or third year of college, a "hypnotist" (huh, what do you know: Google "hypnotist college Dan" and here he is) came one weekend evening to put on a show in the student center. About ten people volunteered to sit on stage in chairs facing the audience, and I was one of them. He had told us he would try to hypnotize as many of us as he could at once, since his shtick involved getting two or more people to do crazy things together while hypnotized.

After telling us all to take deep relaxing breaths, closing our eyes and letting our minds begin to wander or some such thing, he went around and tapped volunteers on the shoulder if he got the impression he wouldn't be able to hypnotize them. About half of us were tapped, and I was one of them.

All I remember from watching the show that night was how he took two friends of mine back to when they were five years old and asked them both to draw pictures of themselves. It was pretty convincing five-year-old artwork, but I guess it wouldn't be too hard to fake that if the whole performance was staged.
posted by emelenjr at 9:32 PM on August 12, 2003


I'm using it right now to make my penis larger.

Actually I find this interesting. There is a dentist here in town that uses hypnosis for his patients. The way I look at it, if it works, I think it would be fantastic. After all, there is a pretty well documented placebo effect.
posted by Eekacat at 9:54 PM on August 12, 2003


Hypnotism fascinates me. I read about stuff like this and I wonder where it comes from. At first it seems like just a side effect of human cognitive development. But maybe it isn't so simple, maybe a certain amount of selection went into it. And this thought makes me think weird things, like why crowds and mobs happen or about the true nature of the gods, demons, and wizards of mythology.

Who here has not felt the urge to fall asleep during the service at church? I think the 25% figure might be on the low side.
posted by wobh at 10:25 PM on August 12, 2003


A few years back there was a major surgery broadcast on TV using only hypnosis. It involved a young man's "knee replacement" (my term) from a football injury (his third surgery). Filleted for several hours, replacements were drilled into place while the man was "coherent," if you will. Fascinating stuff. It got me interested in the use of hypnosis specifically for burn victim treatment/therapy.
posted by G_Ask at 11:32 PM on August 12, 2003


causes no allergic reactions

Horsefeathers. I got hypnotized and broke out in hives. Sure, it happened a week later when someone mentioned Chester Nimitz, and sure, nobody else could see them, but still.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:45 PM on August 12, 2003


I learned hypnosis in high school by downloading a "how to" manual from a BBS. Really. (the file was a lot like this but better written) I ran the script and figured out what it was trying to do: relax the subject so they become (or believed) they were suggestible.

Yes, it works well but not quite as well as you see on TV and the movies. Also, it takes about 20 times longer. A typical session was at least half an hour and the first few times I rarely got them deep enough to do anything fun or their brain would switch circuits and either alert them or put them to sleep. Sorry, but that hypnocoin isn't going to do you any good. I just used an ordinary candle in a dark room for them to focus on.

After hours of work a typical person can be put under to the point of accepting a mild post-hypnotic suggestion. Don't expect anything before the third session with the exception of "seeing stars" or something else that tends to happen naturally when you're trying to relax with your eyes closed. If you're going to do it you better have a pal who is really interested in doing it right because you simply wont get results the first time. The only exception I can think of is drugs, pot can help or hinder depending on the person I guess. I used to know a very suggestible girl and with the aid of a little herb I could get her to see David Bowie walking into the room.

Other than the time investment the downside is the half-life of the suggestion. In a couple days it simply will wear off. Them's the breaks.

I think dentistry moved away from hypnosis because the needle is much more efficient than the hypnosis sessions and a bad hypnotist or a loud noise could equal someone bleeding to death.

In psychiatry its even more controversial. Do you really want patients jonsing for their hypnotist? I don't think many doctors want to achieve the status of cult leader or personal messiah. A bottle of pills is a lot more efficient than twice-weekly hypnosis sessions, not to mention a lot more affordable.

From what I can tell, the mind-body connection (as new agers like to call it) is real, but its extremely weak, unpredictable, and most likely a stage we've long evolved out of. The more in tune your perceptions are with the outside world the better chance you have of survival. I would argue that the suggestible are at a social disadvantage even today simply because they're easier to manipulate.

Now that I think about it, I really wish I was still doing hypnosis and still had friends who were really excited about it. I never got to try out some ideas like a D&D game where everyone believes they are their own characters, hypno sex-play, etc. Three or four people really interested in hypnosis could have a lot of fun if done right.
posted by skallas at 12:28 AM on August 13, 2003 [1 favorite]


Also see this past mefi post on hypnosis.

I almost posted the exact same thing.
posted by skallas at 12:41 AM on August 13, 2003


Actually, Hypno sex-play is a lot of fun. I run this website that has about 25 hours of streaming video that demonstrates it. I also run this website that is a news and community board for the erotic hypnosis fetish, and this website that was my first, but is currently pretty much duplicated by the first link.

The cool thing about hypnotism is that there are both common factors that seem to apply regardless of the individual details of the individual, but really the bulk of it is dependent on the individual. That means everyone is different. Of course, whether or not a hypnotic experience will work depends a little on acid head theory. It really depends on the set and the setting for the subject, but also the set and the setting for the hypnotist as well.

Preconceptions and expectations play into it, so that's why most hypnotists will prepare the subject and actually start the induction process long before the subject has viewed it as having "started."

As far as why is it a feature of humanity to be hypnotizable? Well, I've got a theory that I'm working on that has no scientific rigor to back it up... it's just speculation at this point. But the idea is that there's an evoluationary explanation that our primitive ancestors who were suggestible were able to form groups and exchange skills easier than those who weren't. The ones who did had an evolutionary advantage and were able to survive. That's my theory anyways. (It's late in my time zone :-) )
posted by severed at 12:44 AM on August 13, 2003


I had two sessions hypnotherapy to quit smoking and quit after the first one. During the second session the therapist left me with a post-hypnotic suggestion in order to help induce a state of self-hypnosis which I don't particularly use but when I repeat a certain word in my head, it makes my entire body relax - useful for getting to sleep quickly.

If you want it to work, it probably will. Eekacat mentioned the placebo aspect of hypnosis and this very much part of the process. I wouldn't venture to say that hypnotherapy cured my addiction to smoking but whether it was the price I paid (which I see as being part of the placebo effect), the hypnotherapy itself or the fact that I wanted it to work, I'm not bothered.

I can see Skallas's point regarding a person being disadvantaged for their susceptibility to suggestion. The flipside is that a person who is easily hypnotised has (regardless of hypnosis) a more malleable mind that can be trained, developed, adapted and focused.
posted by Kiell at 4:20 AM on August 13, 2003


One could argue that the placebo effect is a form of self-induced hypnosis rather than the other way around. Given that hypnosis is shown to influence brain activity, I would certainly ague exactly that.
posted by Cerebus at 5:36 AM on August 13, 2003


Incidentally, self-hypnosis is doable, and in fact is in many ways easier. (you obey yourself more readily that you do somebody else) I've actually played around a bit with hypnosis, and it can be fun. Side effects, however, do exist. Often you can affect your subject in ways you don't intend.

For example, a psych professor did a study on how hypnosis helped people remember things. He had them hypnotized, and asked them questions about birthday parties they had had as children. He then looked at old videos of the parties, and checked to see how much they remembered. What he found was that the subjects remembered quite a bit, but it wasn't right. All the impressive details that the subjects came up with under hypnosis were all imagined as a side effect of the hypnosis. (Which is something to be remembered when people, under hypnosis, "remember" alien abductions)

There can also be side effects which can be persistent, and not always pleasant. The upshot is that although hypnosis is real, it's not a cure-all, and shouldn't be used without caution.
posted by unreason at 5:55 AM on August 13, 2003


Two things: is there much difference between the hypnotic state and a meditative state? I mean from a physiological standpoint. Because meditation has been used for years (and years, and years) with demonstrated effects on stress and mental fatique.

Also, if you're ever in Boston, be sure to check out Frank Santos, the R-Rated Hypnotist. Funny stuff, but don't go onstage unless you're very brave or have no concept of shame.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:28 AM on August 13, 2003


unreason: there was a Penn & Teller: Bull***t! episode that mentioned exactly that, in regards to alien abductions and hypnotic recollection. What one of the doctors said in regards to the hypnosis is that while it does allow strong recollection of memory, the subject under hypnosis is still very much suggestable. So in this case, the simple act of asking "is there anything alien about the light coming in from the window" would plant a suggestion and the person would be likely to say yes even if there wasn't in reality. As you can guess, enough questions like this from the wrong hypnotist and you get a branching tree that results in some wild alien abduction story.
posted by teradome at 6:32 AM on August 13, 2003


I have had some experience with hypnosis, and one of the first things to remember is that stage hypnosis and clinical hypnosis are two different things. Two of my classmates were hypnotized at a big party and later admitted they just went along with it for fun (they were both something of class clowns). Later I was hypnotized as part of a psychiatry class and found it to be very pleasant and relaxing as well as a very focused state as described above. At no time did I lose control of my behavior or experience any sort of amnesia.

This is a pretty good article about the state of medical hypnosis; it makes the point that much surgery done under hypnosis tends to be minor surgery and that the hypnosis is supplemented by local anesthetics and sedation. I have seen brain surgery done with local anesthesia and (a lot of) sedation, so this is not exactly a ringing endorsement of hypnosis in place of anesthesia. Having said that, many physicians (especially anesthesiologists), use these techniques in practice. For example, I talk to patients in a low, relaxed voice as they are drifting off, telling them that they will do fine, asking them to visualize something pleasant, and so on. I then repeat the process as they wake up, telling them everything went well and that they are doing fine, just take some slow deep breaths and so on in a relaxed voice.

On the other hand, some hypnosis claims are just pure nonsense. Although Quackwatch mentions a number of questionable claims made for hypnosis, they also list some hypnosis organizations under their list of reputable sources of information, so even skeptics (and I am one) see some medical value in hypnosis.
posted by TedW at 10:10 AM on August 13, 2003


I've been hypnotized twice. The first time I went into it determined to resist, and the hypnosis had no effect whatsoever. The second time I decided to go with it and reserve judgement until afterwards, and I had a wonderful experience. This article has made me think about going to see a hypnotist to get rid of my sugar cravings. Come to think of it, there are a number of healthy suggestions I'd love to plant in myself. Hmmm.
posted by widdershins at 10:52 AM on August 13, 2003


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