Hypnosis Psychology: Definition and Meaning

Hypnosis is an artificial created state of a human being in which, a person's attention is highly focused, and he or she may experience a state of deep relaxation and a heightened state of suggestibility. This can make it easier for the therapist to communicate with the person's unconscious mind and make suggestions for positive change. Furthermore, hypnosis technique has been used for a variety of purposes, including reducing anxiety and stress, helping people overcome phobias and addictions, and managing chronic pain. It is often used in conjunction with other forms of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or psychotherapy, to help people make lasting changes in their lives.

What is Hypnosis?

A mental condition known as hypnosis is characterized by intense concentration, decreased peripheral awareness, and increased suggestibility. The professionals use a wide range of methods to induce this condition. Hypnosis is frequently used to aid in relaxation, to lessen the perception of pain, or to induce some desired behavioral change by capitalizing on the power of suggestion.

With the use of soothing verbal repetition and mental images, therapists can induce hypnosis, also known as hypnotherapy or hypnotic suggestion, and assist the patient into a trance-like condition. After calming down, patients' minds are more receptive to life-changing information. It's important to note that hypnosis is not a form of mind control, and people remain in control of their actions and decisions while in a hypnotic state. Some people may be more receptive to hypnosis than others, and the effectiveness of hypnosis can vary from person to person.

History of Hypnosis

The history of hypnosis is as old as the history of magic, sorcery, and medicine; in fact, all three have employed hypnosis as a method. However, the credit of incorporation of hypnosis in psychological study is goes to Franz Mesmer, a German doctor. Mesmer utilized the technique of hypnosis in the treatment of patients in Vienna and Paris during the later half of the 18th century. Mesmer was quickly teased for his false assertion that hypnotism relied on an occult power (which he called "animal magnetism") that passed through the hypnotist and into the victim, but Mesmer's technique, also known as mesmerism after its inventor, continued to fascinate many psychologists as well as medical professionals. In the middle of the 19th century, when the English physician James Braid studied the phenomena and developed the labels hypnotism and hypnosis, after the Greek deity of sleep, Hypnos, the technique became very popular and lots of physicians used it even without completely understanding its nature.

In the 1880s, hypnosis gathered significant scientific attention from all around. Hippolyte Bernheim, a professor of medicine at Strasbourg, supported Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault, an unknown French rural doctor who employed mesmeric methods. They had independently said that hypnosis technique was a mix of psychologically mediated reactions to suggestion rather than involving any physical forces or physiological processes.

Furthermore, the therapeutic promise of hypnosis for neurotic diseases intrigued Austrian physician Sigmund Freud on a trip to France during the same period. He employed hypnosis to aid neurotics in remembering upsetting memories that they had apparently forgotten after returning to Vienna. However, when he started to formulate his theory of psychoanalysis, Freud abandoned hypnosis in favor of free association due to theoretical reasons and the difficulties he had in hypnotizing some of his patients. Moreover, in today’s contest, the psychoanalysts see hypnosis as only a supplementary tool to the free-associative methods employed in psychoanalytic treatment.

Despite Freud's influential use of hypnosis and subsequent rejection of it, the practice was occasionally used in the psychoanalytic therapy of soldiers who suffered battle neuroses in World Wars I and II. Later, hypnosis gained a few more restricted medical applications. Although several scholars have proposed various hypotheses about what hypnosis is and how it may be understood, the phenomena currently lack a widely recognized explanatory framework.

Types of Hypnosis

The process of inducing hypnosis can be done in a number of different ways−

  • Guided hypnosis − In order to create a hypnotic state, this type of hypnosis uses instruments like music and recorded instructions. This kind of hypnosis is frequently used in websites and applications for mobile devices.

  • Hypnotherapy − To treat illnesses including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders, qualified doctors and psychologists utilize hypnotherapy, which is the use of hypnosis in psychotherapy.

  • Self-hypnosis − When a person generates a hypnotic state within himself, self-hypnosis takes place. It is frequently used as a self-help strategy to manage stress or control discomfort.

Myths About Hypnosis

It includes −

Can someone behave against their will when under hypnosis?

Through a sociological experiment, researchers Martin Orne and Frederich Evans sought to provide an answer to this query. The control group in this experiment was not hypnotized (which was not shared with the laboratory assistants). The hypnotized and unhypnotized groups received the same treatment. What was the outcome, then? The non-hypnotized individuals behaved in the same ways as their hypnotized counterparts.

Can hypnosis be used therapeutically?

The emphasis in this instance is on posthypnotic ideas. Asthma, headaches, and stress have all been proven to improve with posthypnotic recommendations. According to statistical research, there is a positive link between treatment patients who also received hypnosis. Comparing these individuals to other treatment patients, their benefits were up to 70% greater (Meyers, 2014). Hypnosis has also been advocated by the Mayo Clinic as a beneficial tool for treating anxiety and its symptoms in therapeutic settings (mayoclinic.org, 2020). Hypnotherapy is frequently used to treat anxiety and depression as well as undesired behaviors and stress-related responses.

Can hypnosis aid in the treatment of pain?

Yes, it can, in a nutshell. It has been demonstrated that hypnosis has the power to stop the brain's processing of pain. Previous studies on surgical procedures have revealed that hypnotic patients recovered more rapidly, used less pain medication, and even left the hospital sooner than those who weren't hypnotized. According to research, 10% of people are capable of being hypnotized to such a degree that significant procedures can even be carried out without anesthetic (Myers, 2014).

The Effect of Hypnosis

Hypnosis experiences might differ greatly from person to person. Researcher Ernest Hilgard's experiments showed how hypnosis may be used to significantly change perceptions. The participant's arm was then submerged in freezing water after the hypnotized person was told not to experience discomfort in it. The hypnotized people were able to leave their arms in the chilly water for a number of minutes without feeling any discomfort, however, the non-hypnotized people had to take their arms from the water after a few seconds owing to the agony.


Hypnosis, which is one of the well accepted techniques of treatment of many psychological disorders, is the process of altering a person's level of awareness, and it can change how feelings, actions, or ideas are perceived. Hypnotherapy is frequently used to treat anxiety and depression as well as undesired behaviors and stress-related responses.

Updated on: 28-Apr-2023


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