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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