What exactly is hypnosis? While definitions can vary, the American Psychological Association describes hypnosis as a cooperative interaction in which the participant responds to the suggestions of the hypnotist.1
Hypnosis has become well-known thanks to popular acts where people are prompted to perform unusual or ridiculous actions, but, it has also been clinically proven to provide medical and therapeutic benefits, most notably in the reduction of pain and anxiety. It has even been suggested that hypnosis can reduce the symptoms of dementia.
How Does Hypnosis Work?
When you hear the word hypnotist, what comes to mind? If you’re like many people, the word may conjure up images of a sinister stage-villain who brings about a hypnotic state by swinging a pocket watch back and forth.
In reality, hypnosis bears little resemblance to these stereotypical depictions. According to psychologist John Kihlstrom, “The hypnotist does not hypnotize the individual. Rather, the hypnotist serves as a sort of coach or tutor whose job is to help the person become hypnotized.”
While hypnosis is often described as a sleep-like trance state, it is better expressed as a state characterized by focused attention, heightened suggestibility, and vivid fantasies. People in a hypnotic state often seem sleepy and zoned out, but in reality, they are in a state of hyper-awareness.
In psychology, hypnosis is sometimes referred to as hypnotherapy and has been used for a number of purposes including the reduction and treatment of pain. Hypnosis is usually performed by a trained therapist who utilizes visualization and verbal repetition to induce a hypnotic state.