Hypnosis has been quite a controversial topic. However, hypnosis has existed for centuries and its advocates have claimed that it can help reduce pain, stress, and anxiety. Nevertheless, hypnosis still struggles to find acceptance in the mainstream world, especially in the field of medicine. However, a study conducted by Stanford University might change it all. The study involves the use of medical imaging devices to understand the scientific aspects of hypnosis.
Definition of hypnosis
Contrary to popular understanding, hypnosis is not some kind of brain-washing mumbo-jumbo. It is definitely not about some “evil master” who drives slaves into a state of trance, so that they carry out his evil plans. Sadly, that’s how the media and a lot of the mainstream world portray it to be.
It is, in fact, a state of increased concentration and it isn’t as strange as you think. The hypnotized individual is still aware and attentive. Thankfully, research in the area has opened up more doors to understand how hypnotism actually works.
According to Stanford psychology major Katie Duchscherer, hypnosis is a state similar to that of being engrossed in music or TV to a point where everything else becomes invisible or non-existent. In fact, Katie herself uses hypnosis to manage her anxiety. During stressful situations, Katie has been known to shut herself off mentally. Katie learnt hypnosis for none other than Dr. David Spiegel, the Associate Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford.
According to doctor Spiegel, hypnosis plays the same role as a telephoto lens in a camera, with the camera being our consciousness. Actual hypnosis involves soothing the body and mind by relaxing the muscles and the non-essential areas of the brain. This is said to improve focus, allowing the hypnotized individual to exhibit enhanced concentration on the task at hand. However, hypnotism does not work on everyone.
In order to understand why hypnotism does not work on some individuals, Dr. Spiegel and his team of researchers used fMRI to identify the cause. It was observed that highly hypnotizable individuals possessed better connected brain regions. Spiegel suggests that hypnotizability may depend on childhood experiences. For example, children with abusive parents are easily hypnotized and it’s probably because they exhibit an escape mechanism in their brains.
Similarly, even individuals with highly positive childhood experiences exhibit high hypnotizability. This is because these children might have been encouraged to be imaginative, thereby, improving brain connectivity.