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Present Day Methods Of Hypnotization

Though various methods of producing the hypnotic sleep are in use, the
rule is now that, in the course of a hypnotizer's experience, less and
less external auxiliaries of any kind are needed, and more and more
dependence is placed on the bringing about of mental rapport between
the active and passive agencies in hypnotism by persuasion and
command. If the hypnotic sleep has once been obtained, usually all
that is necessary is a few gentle words, and then the command to
sleep. It is at the initial attempts to hypnotize a particular person
somewhat refractory to the condition that auxiliaries are needed. In
these cases it is often well to tire the eyes of the patient. This is
done by directing them to the fingers of the operator held well above
the patient's head. After a minute or two of effort the distinct
fatigue which occurs may induce forgetfulness of everything else and
cause absorption in the single idea of attending only to the
hypnotizer's suggestions. This constitutes the beginning of hypnotism.
Occasionally the flash of a bright object, or a revolving mirror, may
be used, but these are only adjuncts and may be dispensed with
entirely if the operator has the patience and the time to give to the

Accessories.--Some operators use a mirror on which a ray of light is
cast for the purpose of concentrating the attention and bringing about
tiredness of the eye muscles. In so far as it has a more universal
application, sight is certainly the best sense to act upon. Other
senses may be appealed to, as I suggest later. Instead of a mirror, a
polished match-box or pencil-case may be used, but as a rule the less
artificiality enters into it and the simpler the procedure, the
better. One of the inconveniences of using the flash of a bright
object is that occasionally patients who are very susceptible may,
after they have had a number of hypnotic experiences, be thrown into a
hypnotic condition by the flash of a light in the street, or by the
reflection of light from a mirror in their own homes. These conditions
of facile auto-hypnotism constitute one of the serious dangers of the
practice on susceptible subjects. Whatever good may be accomplished by
hypnotism will probably be reached during the first half dozen
seances. To proceed with the treatment beyond this, if it is employed
at regular and short intervals, is almost sure to result in harm
rather than good.

Sensations.--Besides sight, sounds have sometimes been used for the
purpose of inducing hypnotism. The ticks of a watch, for instance,
placed at a little distance and listened to very intently, have been
known to assist in securing the hypnotic state. Sometimes the sound of
a gong, or an imitation of a cathedral chime, have been used in the
same way. Soft music has also been used by operators with decided
advantage. It is necessary that the sounds should be of a kind that do
not disturb, but only attract attention to one sensation, and then, as
concentration on this is secured, the hypnotic condition results.
Practically any other sensation may be used in the same way. Touch is
often employed. Mesmer stroked his patients gently, and others have
used the same process with advantage. Some of the French workers in
hypnotism have claimed that there were special portions of the body
the stroking of which was likely to produce this favorable effect.
They have called these regions zones hypnogenes--areas that give rise
to hypnotic conditions. Strokings of the forehead, of the cheeks, of
the hands, are favorite locations for these auxiliary touches. In
this, as with regard to sound, the main thing is to concentrate
attention on some one sensation without producing disturbing thoughts.

Stroking.--Stroking seems to affect many people and to easily induce a
sort of hypnoidal condition. It is done very naturally to a child when
one wants to console or encourage or admonish slightly but kindly. In
older people it is a familiar gesture among those who think much of
one another, and represents a very natural tendency. Even in the midst
of physical discomfort its effect is quite soothing, and it is evident
that something resembling hypnotism is at work. Evidently, what really
happens is a concentration of attention on the sensation thus
produced, which concentration prevents distracting thoughts from
making themselves felt and permits the words of the one who does the
stroking to produce a deeper effect on the mind than would ordinarily
be possible. This seems to be nature's method of making suggestion
more effective. It has been adopted, quite spontaneously, by many of
the pioneers in hypnotism as the result of their observations upon its
efficacy. Lloyd Tuckey calls attention to an illustration of this
practice, which makes clear its effectiveness and at the same time
shows how naturally it suggests itself as a mode of using mental
influence. He says:

Among the medical men who have come to watch some of my cases was a
gentleman who seemed much struck at seeing the method I adopted with
a rather refractory subject. I held his hand and stroked his
forehead while at the same time suggesting the symptoms of sleep.
The gentleman told me afterward the reason why he was so interested.
It appears that he had a few months previously been in attendance on
a very severe and protracted case of delirium tremens. The patient
could get no sleep, and the doctor was afraid of death from
exhaustion. On the third evening he resolved to make a strong effort
to produce sleep, and, if necessary, to sit up all night with the
patient. He told the man that he would not leave him until he slept,
and sitting down by the bedside, he took his hand in one of his own,
and with the other gently stroked the forehead. At the same time he
talked quietly and reassuringly to him. In less than half an hour he
was rewarded by seeing the restlessness entirely cease and the man
drop off into a quiet sleep. That sleep, the doctor told me, lasted
fourteen hours, and the patient awoke out of it weak, but cured.
Manipulation about the head has in many persons a most soporific
effect, and several persons have told me that they always become
drowsy under their barber's hands.

Drugs.--A number of drugs and related substances have been used as
aids to hypnosis, but in nearly all of these cases it is doubtful
whether it is true hypnotism that results and whether the suggestions
in these states have much therapeutic value. One of the drugs most
frequently administered by hypnotists is cannabis indica, which has
long been used in the East for a similar purpose. After this,
chloroform is most popular. Schrenck-Notzing even ventured to employ
alcohol as an aid in hypnosis, and claims that he has succeeded at
times in making intoxication pass into the true hypnotic condition.
Bernheim and many others of the French school have used chloral and
morphine. These substances are, however, liable to great abuse.
Whenever they have to be employed it means that the patient is but
little susceptible to hypnotic influence. These aids are employed only
because hypnotists do not want to confess that a very considerable
portion of humanity is not directly susceptible to the hypnotic

Serious harm may be done by the employment of these drugs. A
physician, who hoped that he would be able to overcome a drug
addiction that had been the bane of his existence for a long while,
went to a well-known hypnotist physician with the idea that perhaps
the miracle of hypnotism would be worked in his case. He was one of
these flighty mortals whom it is extremely difficult to have fix their
minds upon any one idea for a definite time. As it was impossible to
bring him into anything like a hypnotic condition by ordinary means, a
large dose of chloral was administered. He already had an idea that
his heart had been affected by his previous drug-taking habit, but the
chloral was administered to him before he realized what it was. When
he came out of the sleep it induced, he was in an agony of solicitude
and anxiety lest his heart should have been further hurt by the
chloral. He went back for no more doses of that kind of hypnotism.

The use of drugs seems to be a confession of failure to secure true
hypnotism, so that it is doubtful whether their employment is
justified. Suggestions received while in the more or less comatose
state induced by drugs, instead of having a strengthening effect on
the patient's will, rather tend to produce the idea of the
impossibility of effectively using his own will, or even exercising
his will when helped, as he supposes, by the will of the operator. The
real value of hypnotism consists in the concentration of mind upon a
particular idea without any distractions, which enables the subject to
make firm resolutions and then to have his mind help his body as much
as possible by directing his energy to the accomplishment of one end.
When drugs are employed, they have a diffusive rather than a
concentrating influence, so that the real purpose of hypnotism is
entirely missed.

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