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Truth and myths about hypnosis
Truth and myths about hypnosis

In deep hypnotic sleep, a person completely obeys the will of the hypnotist … Stop! There are two fundamental mistakes in this short phrase.

For a long time, hypnosis was really considered a special form of sleep. From the beginning to the middle of the twentieth century, it was generally accepted that the great Russian physiologist I.P. Pavlov's explanation of the mechanism of hypnosis: monotonous stimuli - visual, sound, tactile (heat from passes - movements of the hypnotist's hands) - create a focus of inhibition in the cerebral cortex, which, in accordance with the long-known and still generally accepted laws of neurophysiology, radiates (spreads) to others departments, and the brain, together with its carrier, falls asleep. Only the "watchpoint" does not sleep, which provides rapport - a connection with the hypnotist (about the same as that allows the mother to sleep with any noise, but instantly wake up with the quiet whimpering of the baby).

But with the advent of electroencephalographs, it became clear that no inhibition occurs during hypnosis, and the bioelectric activity of the brain of a somnambulist (a person in a state of deep hypnosis) practically does not differ from an EEG during wakefulness.

Studies of recent years using functional magnetic resonance imaging did not add clarity to the question of the physiological mechanisms of hypnosis: the work of individual brain structures differs both from sleep and from wakefulness, but what these differences mean is still unclear.

Radio hypnosis

The famous Soviet hypnologist, Pavel Ignatievich Buhl, once delivered a lecture on hypnosis on the Leningrad radio. After numerous calls from alarmed listeners (or rather, their relatives), they drove him all night in an editorial car around the city - to "disenchant" especially suggestible people who fell asleep just by describing the technique of introducing patients into a hypnotic trance. After Kashpirovsky's sessions, they say there were much more such incidents - fortunately, the audience was all-Union. Fortunately, hypnotic sleep, after the termination of rapport, in the overwhelming majority of cases turns into normal sleep. But group hypnosis without direct contact with each of the patients is a flagrant violation of generally accepted rules.

The currently generally accepted definition of hypnosis looks streamlined: “A temporary state of consciousness characterized by a narrowing of its volume and a sharp focus on the content of suggestion, which is associated with a change in the function of individual control and self-awareness. The state of hypnosis occurs as a result of special effects of a hypnotist or purposeful self-hypnosis "(BD Karvasarsky. Psychotherapeutic encyclopedia).

But although in theory hypnosis is not a dream, in practice, in classical hypnosis sessions, doctors use the same techniques as their colleagues 100, 200, and even thousands of years ago: focusing their gaze on a shiny object, lulling monotonous stimuli and monotonous speech with an emphasis on key points: "You sleep deeper and deeper" and "You hear my voice, my suggestions."

From the Stone Age to …

The oldest papyrus, describing the way of talking with the gods through a boy, who was put to sleep with the help of monotonous spells and fixing his gaze on a lamp, dates back to the third century AD.

How many thousands of years ago shamans learned to kamlata in a state of self-hypnosis and damage their fellow tribesmen is unknown, but in the descriptions of the customs of modern primitive tribes there are a lot of stories about how a brave warrior died, inadvertently breaking a taboo or learning that a sorcerer made him a deadly mumbo-jumbo … In this case, hypnosis itself is not needed: faith and self-hypnosis are enough.

In Europe, scientific hypnology began in the second half of the 18th century, when the Austrian Franz Anton Mesmer, doctor of medicine, philosophy and law, practicing as a doctor in his free time from secular life, discovered that he could treat patients not only by applying a magnet to a sore spot, but also with a simple touch. After the "crisis" - convulsions, sobbing and loss of consciousness, turning into sleep, healed from a variety of diseases. Did you treat special design tanks "charged" by Mesmer, and a whole tree in the middle of Paris, and bottles with "charged" water (does this remind you of anything)?

The theory of "animal magnetism" for that time was no less scientific than the theory of the world ether and phlogiston, but in 1774 a commission of the French Academy and the Royal Society of Medicine, headed by Benjamin Franklin, declared Mesmer a charlatan, decreeing that "imagination without magnetism produces convulsions, and magnetism without imagination does nothing at all."

Despite this, numerous followers of Mesmer continued to use his method and eventually found out that no magnetism really exists, convulsions and other painful phenomena are completely unnecessary, and patients can be treated in a state of somnambulism caused by monotonous stimuli and verbal suggestions.

In a state of deep hypnotic sleep (a generally accepted incorrect but convenient term even among professionals), all those miracles take place, from which the impression was formed that under hypnosis people lose free will. The last, somnambulistic stage of hypnosis, even under the guidance of an experienced hypnotist, can be reached by about one person in five to seven.

But he can already jump around the stage like a frog, jump away from a scarf, sincerely believing that it is a snake, lie for a long time in the so-called cataleptic bridge, leaning on the backs of chairs only with the back of his head and heels, with pleasure gnawing a vigorous onion, without crying and feeling the taste of an instilled apple … Variety magicians and early researchers of the phenomenon of hypnotic suggestion tried everything that came into their heads - and indeed, under hypnosis, a person can carry out any order of the hypnotist. Almost anyone.


Crime and Punishment

Under no hypnosis can a person be forced to do something that is at odds with his sense of self-preservation or moral principles. For example, you can inspire the somnambulist that he (s) does not see anyone present. If this invisible person picks up a vase standing on the table, the hypnotist will be sincerely surprised that it took off by itself and hangs in the air. He will also "believe" that the room is completely empty, but after being ordered to walk in a straight line, he will neatly walk around tables and chairs.

He can sincerely agree that in front of him is not a window on … the eleventh floor, but a door, "to see" people (or, if you like, unseen animals) entering through it, but he will categorically refuse to go through this "door". And if the somnambulist agrees to harm his neighbor (for example, to pour “acid” on the hypnologist's assistant), there is never any certainty that he does not understand, out of the corner of his consciousness, that this is pretend.

True, in one of the old books, a case is described when a subject, having struck with a dagger an "enemy" lying on the couch, after coming out of a trance, did not remember anything that happened to him, as expected, but fell into depression, lost his appetite and sleep … and he stopped drying only after, in a state of hypnosis, they showed him a scarecrow pierced with a dagger and suggested that he had not killed anyone.

Programs to create "zombies", most likely, were really carried out in the NKVD-MGB-KGB, and in the CIA, and in similar institutions in other countries. But rumors about the mysterious suicides of everyone involved in the information about the "gold of the party", that the assassins of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King acted under the influence of suggestion, etc., look like sheer fiction.

Moreover, hundreds of attempts by criminals, known in the history of forensic science, to justify themselves by the fact that they acted not of their own free will, but under hypnosis, have not been confirmed. Only in a few cases were hypnotists really inspiring crimes (and even that of property), but the perpetrators could clearly have been incited to do the same in reality.


Post-hypnotic suggestion is quite possible, but the less bizarre the task is, the more likely it will be completed. An hour after the end of the session, take a certain book from the shelf, open it on a given page and read a passage aloud - please!

Why he was drawn to do this, the subject will not be able to explain or come up with something plausible. And to the reminder “don't you want, my friend, to crawl under the table and cough three times”, even an ideally hypnotizable subject will most likely admit that this stupid thought had just occurred to him, but he immediately discarded it.

Are you suggestible?

Suggestibility (or rather, hypnotizability) can be determined using dozens of different tests.

The most widespread is the finger sticking test, which is especially convenient for choosing from a whole hall of people who can be brought onto the stage and demonstrated on them “miracles of hypnosis” (in the USSR, hypnosis on the stage was banned in 1984, but free ecological the niche was immediately occupied by psychics).

It sounds something like this: “Sit comfortably … Clasp your fingers and put them on your knees … I will count to ten, and for each count you will squeeze your fingers a little harder … Your hands are heavy and warm … One … Squeeze your fingers a little … Hands they fill with warmth and grow heavy … "And so on - the most suggestible after counting" ten "will not be able to open their fingers without the permission of the hypnotist. With them, you can show another trick: “I put my hands to the back of your head. When I remove them, you will be pulled back, you will start to fall - but do not worry, I will pick you up …"

At the same time, such tests also work as preparation for the actual euthanasia.

How street crooks define suggestible people is difficult to describe in words. In about the same way as any of you can understand that if a poorly shaven man in a rumpled suit, with shifting eyes and a puffy face offers you to buy a diamond ring for a thousand rubles, you have to, holding your pocket with a wallet with your hand, silently and quickly walk away from it away.

Can hypnosis be resisted? If you know that they are going to hypnotize you, but for some reason you don’t want to, it’s elementary. Just don't follow the instructions, sing out loud songs, dance (unless you are tied up, of course), etc. It is not possible to hypnotize a person who knows that they are going to put him to sleep without his consent! And if you start to speak your teeth on the street - keep in mind that all sorts of suspicious persons who stop you under some dubious pretext can not only (and not so much) hypnotize you, but simply snatch out your wallet when you start exchanging money for them. or slip a "doll", etc.

And no street hypnosis works instantly: the target has enough time to understand that they are not just starting a conversation with you, but trying to foist some product on you or simply unobtrusively seize your money. And if you get a call with an offer to buy a miracle cure (a fairly common way of fooling, especially for the elderly, in which hypnosis is not required, pure suggestion with a completely clear mind of the person being fooled also works) - just hang up.

Hypnosis is of no use to detectives either. Attempts to obtain testimony under hypnosis from suspects in crimes led to the fact that the person under investigation invented what, as it seemed to him, the hypnotist wanted from him, or continued to insist on his innocence, and with insistent demands for confession, he began to fight in a hysterical fit.

In most countries, including Russia, such methods of investigation are prohibited. From time to time, lawyers try again and again with the help of hypnosis to help witnesses remember forgotten details, but it is never known whether he remembered them or imagined them. In any case, only operational information can be obtained this way, and the evidence obtained in any altered state of consciousness has no legal force.

But to powder the brains in order to seize material values, you can use the methods of hypnotic influence (although not as effectively as the authors of the horror stories describe it).


Speak teeth

Verbal suggestion acts not only on thoughts and feelings, but also on such physiological functions that are absolutely not amenable to conscious control. The most striking example of this is the inhuman experiment described in many books on hypnosis and suggestion on a criminal sentenced to death, who was announced that he would be executed by bleeding from his veins, blindfolded, scratched his wrist with something sharp and sent a stream of warm water down his arm. …

Subject died shortly afterward with all external symptoms of blood loss. The original source of this story was lost in the retellings - maybe this is a story, but it is quite plausible. Blisters, indistinguishable from real burns, also appeared in volunteers who, in deep hypnosis, were taught that a "hot iron" (in fact, a pencil) was applied to their skin.

In less dangerous experiments, hypnologists have studied the effect of suggestion on a variety of physiological functions. In a person who has "drunk" a liter of the suggested water, urine excretion increases, and it is light and with a low density. And from an imaginary sweet syrup, the concentration of sugar in the blood increases, and in proportion to the amount drunk.

Suggestion even affects unconditioned reflexes - for example, pupillary: if a somnambulist in a semi-dark room is told that he sees a bright light, his pupils will narrow (and vice versa, expand in the light when darkness is suggested). The number of leukocytes in the blood changes in accordance with the instilled feeling of satiety or hunger - and so on: in thousands of articles and books, dozens of studied physiological and biochemical effects of suggestion and autosuggestion are described.

One of the effects of suggestion, well known to specialists, is to stop bleeding due to spasm of smooth (not under the control of consciousness!) Muscles of blood vessels and a rapid increase in the number of platelets in the blood. Hypnotic anesthesia is quite commonplace: complex operations, including abdominal operations under hypnosis, were performed a century and a half ago, at the dawn of scientific hypnology. True, "chemistry" turned out to be more reliable and simpler.


The expression "speak your teeth" was once used in the direct (and quite positive!) Sense. And the word "doctor" goes back to the Old Church Slavonic "lie" - "speak": from time immemorial, conspiracies and incantations have been mandatory for all peoples, if not the only method of treatment.

Suggestion and self-hypnosis help to cure not only neuroses and more serious diseases from the section "nervous and mental", but also those that, it would seem, have nothing to do with the state of mind. No miracles: almost half of all bodily ailments are fully or partially psychosomatic, and many organic diseases, especially severe ones, lead to depression. Suggestion can break the vicious circle of mutually supportive and mutually reinforcing painful states of body and soul.

It is suggestion (and not at all biofields, qi energy and chakra cleansing) that explains the results of healings with the help of psychics, hereditary magicians, charged newspapers, amulets, absolutely useless, and even clearly harmful drugs, etc. Quite often, especially with purely psychosomatic diseases, all this really helps.

But being treated by charlatans is about the same as downloading hacked programs from suspicious sites.It is much easier for a layperson to get some kind of complication like hypnosis (and many healers deliberately induce it in patients). And most importantly, a psychotherapist with a medical diploma is unlikely to miss the disease with which one has to run to surgeons, oncologists, cardiologists, etc. During the "treatment" of charlatans, this happens all the time: subjectively, the patient feels an improvement, and the disease progresses to death. outcome.

Hypnosis myths


There are a number of serious misconceptions about hypnosis. Many of these misconceptions have been replicated in films, and although they tickle the nerves of the viewer, they are pure inventions, not related to the truth.

The hypnotist has magical powers or supernatural powers

A hypnotist is an ordinary person who has mastered the necessary knowledge and skills (of course, talent is also needed in this matter). It only helps the patient to throw off the psychological shackles, relax as much as possible and achieve a state of trance.

The hypnotized person is not aware of their actions

The subject under hypnosis is capable of sufficient control over his actions. He simply focuses his attention on the hypnotist's instructions and ignores everything else.

Not all people succumb to hypnosis

A qualified hypnotist will sooner or later be able to put into hypnosis almost any person who agrees to this. However, this process is influenced by many factors: the motivation and mood of a person, the state of his nervous system, the ability (or inability) to quickly relax, the authority of the hypnotist, the environment, etc. …

Only weak-willed and incapable of concentration are susceptible to hypnosis

Rather, the opposite is true. Will is the ability of a person to purposefully concentrate on performing specific tasks, so strong-willed people can force themselves to quickly relax, concentrate on the words of the hypnotist and enter a state of hypnosis. In the book of the psychophysiologist Leonid Pavlovich Grimak "Modeling states in hypnosis" it is described how a group of test pilots (people of clearly strong-willed) successfully entered the deepest phases of hypnosis. But people with dispersed attention, incapable of concentration (including on the content of suggestion), do not lend themselves well to hypnosis.

Hypnosis is hazardous to health

No. The hypnotic state is a natural state of harmony, calmness and relaxation caused by suggestions. During the day, a person repeatedly falls into a state of short-term trance. Thus, the psyche protects itself from overload. How can a natural and necessary condition for a person be dangerous?

There is nothing new under the sun

By the end of the 19th century, hypnosis had become a generally accepted method of psychotherapy, and for a hundred years nothing extraordinary happened in this area. A revolution in hypnology almost happened in the 1980s: all over the world (and in the USSR that had just peeped out from behind the "Iron Curtain") there was a clamor about neurolinguistic programming.

In fact, NLP is nothing more than another psychological theory, no worse, but no better than a couple of dozen others. It grew out of attempts to decompose the methodology of the American psychotherapist Milton Erickson - a truly brilliant doctor who could achieve in one session the same thing that in classical psychoanalysis required several years of weekly lying on the couch. Cases from his practice are no less exciting reading than the most twisted detective.


The fact that the therapeutic effect of suggestion can be achieved not in a somnambulistic state, but in the earliest stages of hypnotic trance, has been known for a long time.

Erickson used a superficial trance as the only method of hypnosis, and also generalized the known and developed a number of new techniques that allow the patient to quickly and effectively "speak his teeth" and unobtrusively introduce the necessary thoughts and actions into his head.Another secret of Ericksonian hypnosis is the personality of Erickson himself.

The pills prescribed by the Luminary of Medicine work much better than those prescribed by the GP. And in such a shaky and inaccurate field as psychotherapy, this "brand effect" is much more noticeable, so that the rays of the Founder-Father's glory continue to warm his followers a quarter of a century after his death. But, as in any other art, in order to achieve at least something similar to what Erickson was able to do, in addition to talent, years of study and work are also needed.

Psychotherapists apply the theoretical provisions of NLP and Ericksonian hypnosis with the same, no more and no less, success than other theories and classical methods of hypnotization: the effect here does not depend on the specific school, but on the art of the doctor.

Ordinary Soviet people perform miracles everywhere

Professor L.L. Vasiliev, Corresponding Member Academy of Medical Sciences of the USSR and head. Department of Human and Animal Physiology, Leningrad State University, became interested in telepathy as a student - shortly before the First World War. And all his life he studied "Suggestion at a distance" and other "Mysterious phenomena of the human psyche" (this is the name of two of his popular books, published in the middle of the last century).

For which he regularly got the full program. No, not for the seditious topic of research, but because every one of them is telepathic, telekinetics and other paranormals - or people, to put it delicately, with an unhealthy psyche, or scammers. Or both at the same time. Leonid Leonidovich appointed one lady with an absolutely phenomenal talent for suggestion to the department as a laboratory assistant to search for "brain radio".

In her free time from research, the lady sold at the gallery of Gostiny Dvor ("Galera" was a favorite habitat of blacksmiths, speculators and scammers) … telephone booths. Having convinced the buyer that this was a refrigerator (they were in great shortage in the Soviet Union), she managed to disappear along with the money, while the loaders called by the lucky loader were puzzled by the explanation with the customer. They took it on the creative handwriting …

Surely in various "secret centers" training in NLP methods is included in the curriculum, but it is unlikely that the most trained agent will be able to fool anyone he meets better than a skilled gypsy. And short-term courses for everyone … Would you go for a two-month violin course with the guarantee of Paganini's mastery? Many people have attended similar NLP classes …


No hypnosis

Have you noticed that the terms "hypnosis" and "suggestion" are used almost interchangeably here? For suggestion - an uncritical perception of other people's ideas as their own - hypnosis, by and large, is not needed.

And this, too, is not news at all: it is impossible to say better about everyday suggestion than the famous Russian psychiatrist and neurologist V.M. Bekhterev: “Suggestion is reduced to the direct grafting of certain mental states from one person to another … which occurs without the participation of the will (and attention) of the perceiving person and often even without a clear consciousness on his part …

At the present time, so much is generally spoken about physical infection through … microbes that, in my opinion, it is worth remembering … a psychic infection, the microbes of which, although invisible under a microscope, nevertheless, like real physical microbes, act everywhere and everywhere and are transmitted through words, gestures and movements of those around us, through books, newspapers, etc., in a word, wherever we are, in the society around us we are already exposed to the action of psychic microbes and, therefore, are in danger of being mentally infected."

In the second edition (1908) of the brochure, Bekhterev quotes the book “The Psychology of Suggestion” by the American philosopher Boris Sidis, translated into Russian in 1902: “In the middle of the street … a merchant stops and starts pouring out streams of chatter … praising his goods … A few more minutes - and the crowd begins to buy things about which the merchant instills that they are "beautiful, cheap" … His proofs are absurd, his motives are despicable, and yet he usually carries the masses with him …"

Perhaps the invention of television did not greatly enhance the role of suggestion in public life.And the saying "he who is forewarned is armed" was invented in ancient Rome.

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