What is Hypnosis?
Hypnosis (from the Greek word hypnosis meaning "sleep") is often thought to be "a trance-like state that resembles sleep but is induced by a person whose suggestions are readily accepted by the subject."
Within science, there is no debate as to whether hypnosis exists or works. It is just that the professors cannot agree on how or why it works. It is not a sleep but more like a heightened state of awareness, similar to day-dreaming. Hypnosis is a state that a subject can be guided into either by relaxation techniques or can be induced by confusion or shock, proving that you do not have to be relaxed to be hypnotised.
A person cannot be checked if they are in hypnosis by depth alone but by testing responses to suggestions. If you are in a very deep state of relaxation that can be measured on a monitor it does not necessarily mean you are in hypnosis, you may just be deeply relaxed. You can be in what resembles a waking state (which can be observed in stage hypnosis) and be in good hypnosis. As you can imagine this is very confusing for scientific research and why the experts came up with a series of tests to see what level of hypnosis you are at when being tested.
Depths of Hypnosis
Hypnotists have been classifying the different depths of trance since the 18th century, from a light trance to somnambulism (the deepest state of hypnosis in which the subject is capable of rapid calculations and speed learning).
The Stanford Scale of Hypnotic depth is such a method and was developed by Earnest R Hilgard a professor of psychologist from Stanford University in the 1930’s. Hypnosis and hypnotic techniques can be, and have been, used for medical purposes in a variety of contexts from pain relief to inducing anesthesia in operations. The famous Irish surgeon, Dr Jack Gibson, performed over 4,000 operations during his career using only hypnosis instead of anesthetics. Valerie Austin and her husband James Pool, a celebrated author and also a specialist in hypnosis, had the unique opportunity to study with Dr Gibson and subsequently impart some of this knowledge on their Medical Hypnosis Diploma course.
Hypnosis is also used in the form of hypnotherapy to improve or alter behavior. Its effectiveness has been clinically demonstrated in many fields, most notably in the areas of stopping smoking, losing weight, phobias, accelerated learning, stress management, acute pain relief and to date is the only successful therapy for IBS. There is a clear difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy. Hypnosis can be said to be the altered state of mind and heightened awareness the subject is in, whilst hypnotherapy is the application of techniques used when the subject is in hypnosis to bring about a specific result.