Review of Related Literature
This chapter provides a review of the literature concerning hypnosis, Eastern Meditation, Chi Kung, and Nei Kung and how these methods are used to treat various ailments and improve physical and mental functioning. A summary of the review concludes the chapter.
In his study, “Cognitive Hypnotherapy in the Management of Pain,” Dowd (2001) reports that, “Several theories have been proposed to account for the effect of hypnosis. State theories assume that the hypnotic trance is qualitatively different from all other human experiences. From this perspective, trance capacity is supposedly a fairly stable trait that exhibits substantial individual differences. Nonstate theories, often referred to as social learning, social psychological or cognitive-behavioral theories of hypnosis propose that hypnotic phenomena are related to social and psychological characteristics such as hope, motivation, expectancy, belief in the therapist, desire to please the therapist, a positive initial trance experience, and the definition of the situation as hypnosis” (p. 87). According to Baker (1990), “Modern research has contributed very little new to our understanding or utilization of hypnosis…. Today, some 200 years after the discovery of artificial somnambulism, researchers are divided on even such basic issues as the veridicality of hypnotic phenomena and whether or not hypnosis exists as a state. About the only point on which there seems to be a general consensus is that, if it exists, hypnosis is not sleep” (p. 37).
According to Cavendish (1970), hypnosis is “The inducing of a sleep-like trance by repeated commands and mental concentration in which the subject acts only on the suggestion of the hypnotist: in such a trance state subjects are able to recall long-forgotten experiences: from the Greek hypnos meaning ‘sleep’; it is also termed mesmerism after F.A. Mesmer (1734-1815), an early pioneer of hypnotism. Hypnotism is often used therapeutically to treat nervous disorders” (p. 1379). Likewise, Brown and Fromm (1986) report that, “The historical roots of hypnotherapy reach back to tribal rites and the ancient practices of witch doctors. Its scientific history begins at the end of the 18th century, with Mesmer” (p. 3). Other practitioners besides Mesmer have been credited with the development of modern hypnosis, including Sigmund Freud in his development of psychoanalytic theory (Zahourek, 2001). Indeed, clinicians during Freud’s period in history employed hypnosis to provide surgical anesthesia, a period when chemical anesthesia was not yet available (Zahourek, 2001). In addition, hypnosis was also effectively used during both world wars to treat what was termed “battle fatigue” at the time, a mental disorder that is typically referred to as post-traumatic stress disorder today (Zahourek, 2001). An extension of hypnosis, hypnotherapy is a form of therapy that incorporates hypnosis into the treatment protocol but the applicability of this technique is typically restricted to certain types of patients and requires specialized training on the part of the clinician. In this regard, Kelly, Kress and Mccormick (2004) report that, “Researchers have speculated that hypnotherapy may only be useful with highly suggestible clients. Furthermore, the use of hypnotherapy requires specialized training for the counselor to ensure competent practice” (p. 185).
In his book, They Call It Hypnosis, Baker (1990) notes that, “In many ways the concept of hypnosis is analogous to some other mysteries that have confused and confounded scientists in the past — such as phlogiston, the ether wind, and ‘N-rays'” (p. 12).
In this regard, Baker adds that, “For any graduate student assigned the subject of hypnosis for his thesis or dissertation, one can only feel pity. The research literature surrounding the topic is a veritable quagmire of disagreements, pro and con experimental results, claims and counterclaims. If there is any path leading out of the current swamp it is difficult to find. Much of what has been published on the subject is neither reliable nor valid” (1990, p. 15).
As Baker points out, perhaps the only real issue concerning hypnosis that has gained a consensus among practitioners and researchers is that the hypnotic state is not the same thing as sleep. “Curiously enough, the word itself is derived from the Greek word hypnos, meaning sleep. If one has had a little personal experience with hypnosis, it is easy to understand why sleep and the behavior called hypnosis are associated. On numerous occasions in my practice as a professional psychologist, when working with clients who have not had enough sleep the night before or who are not overstimulated with caffeine, the instant I suggested slow deep breathing and muscle relaxation, they fell asleep. Some even snored. To communicate with a client — and communication is the essence of the hypnotic relationship — quite frequently the hypnotist must insure that the client is awake and is attending to the therapeutic or experimental message. When people are asleep they are beyond the hypnotist’s reach” (p. 15).
One of the ways hypnoanalysis differs from the orthodox use of hypnosis in psychotherapy is that the relationship with the hypnotist is subjected to analysis. In palliative psychotherapy no attempt is made to analyze the transference. Rather, efforts are extended toward expanding the illusion of power and invincibility inherent in the hypnotist. Therapeutic benefits are often effected in the medium of such an interpersonal relationship, and suggestive, reassuring, persuasive and reeducational arguments may be absorbed by the patient. Unfortunately, no real dynamic change occurs in the patient’s psyche, nor does he ever get to understand his deepest dynamic trends. The ego is not strengthened to a point where the person can achieve security and self-esteem without exploiting neurotic impulses. Consequently, when hypnotic therapy is terminated and the relationship with the hypnotist is brought to a halt, the patient may experience a relapse of his illness. In hypnoanalysis an effort is made to produce a real change in the strength of the ego, and to effect a reorganization of the patient’s basic character structure. These aims are attempted through an analysis of the interpersonal relationship (Wolberg, 1996, p. 394).
Because hypnotic therapy has traditionally been so rooted in an authoritarian relationship to the hypnosist, an analysis of the relationship may occasion some surprise, since it would seem to jeopardize the very foundations on which hypnosis depends. Nevertheless, such an analysis does not interfere with hypnotizability even though the motivations which condition hypnotizability may be subjected to investigation. Hypnosis is an intimate interpersonal relationship and is bound to incite profound emotional feelings in the patient. At the start the latter will display his customary demands, expectations and fears which he habitually demonstrates in his relationships with people. In addition to these habitual responses, he will experience an onrush of irrational transference feelings which frighten him and which he will strive to repress. The latter are the product of past experiences and conditionings so anxiety laden that they have been relegated to unconscious oblivion. In his ordinary interpersonal contacts he is able to throw up various defenses against such feelings, to detach himself or to replace his strivings with those of a more acceptable nature. Resistance against these feelings is intense. In psychoanalysis a main task is dissipation of transference resistances. Many months may pass before the patient permits himself to come sufficiently close to the analyst to experience irrational attitudes and impulses. (Wolberg, 1996, p. 394).
Hypnotherapy is a quick, inexpensive and proven method for helping people stop smoking, lose weight, get rid of warts and eczema, reduce the length and pain of childbirth, cope with medical procedures and recover from surgery a whole lot faster. Yet hypnosis is still the stuff of raised eyebrows and skeptical comments and, all too often, a source of dread. “When I tell people what I do, some of them are afraid of looking into my eyes,” says Caroline Miller, Ph.D., dean of academic studies at the American Institute of Hypnotherapy in Irvine, Calif., and editor of the American Board of Hypnotherapy Journal. “In our experience, and according to certain studies, the more intelligent and imaginative a person is, the easier it is for him or her to be hypnotized. However, many people still believe that only weak-willed, compliant people ‘let’ themselves be hypnotized.” (Sandroff, 1999a, p. 73).
The fear and distrust of hypnosis is, in part, the legacy of Austrian doctor Franz Anton Mesmer (1733-1815), the flamboyant pioneer of hypnosis who believed in so-called animal magnetism and “mesmerized” the flocks of patients who sought his cures for nervous disorders. His work was condemned by the medical establishment and served as a model for several Svengali characters in popular fiction. The more neutral term hypnosis, derived from Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep, was coined by the English physician James Braid in 1843. The most impressive early work in hypnosis was done in the mid-1800s, when leading London physician John Elliston and Scottish surgeon James Esdaile, who worked in India, performed 1,800 operations on hypnotized patients in the days before chemical anesthesia. In the early 20th century, Sigmund Freud used hypnosis with…