Monday, August 1, 2011

On Hypnosis (Part 12/20)

Views of Suggestibility

The degree to which a person responds to suggestions is variously termed suggestibility, hypnotizability, hypnotic responsiveness, and hypnotic susceptibility. Research in this area has gone in two particular directions: attempts to develop scales that reliably "measure" hypnotizability, and attempts to correlate degree of hypnotizability with specific personality traits and characteristics (such as intelligence, mental status, and imagination). Interestingly enough, there has been some success in developing reliable measurement scales but almost no success in correlating personality characteristics with hypnotizability.

Measurements on the scales that have been developed to measure “hypnotizability” – The Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scale, and the Barber Suggestibility Scale – seem to indicate that most people are susceptible to minor hypnotic phenomena, while about 1 out of every 4 persons is capable of a profound hypnotic response. Gender makes no difference in responsiveness, but age does. Apparently we are most hypnotizable when children, so surely characteristics particular to childhood (such as an active fantasy life and a willingness to follow directions) must play a role in hypnotizability. According to Hilgard, this is true. Although the evidence is sketchy and contradictory, it seems that the factor of imagination can be correlated with hypnotizability: people who were highly imaginative as children are more easily hypnotized as adults.[1] Hilgard explains:

The hypnotizable person is one who has rich subjective experiences in which he can become deeply involved...He is interested in the life of the mind...He is willing to accept impulses from within and is not afraid to relinquish reality testing for a time. He does not appear to be a weak or dependent person; evidence indicates that more troubled, withdrawn, or neurotic individuals do not generally make as good subjects as normal outgoing individuals.
...Interviews with hundreds of subjects, before and after induction of hypnosis, have pointed to the importance of early childhood experiences. Experiences of a particular kind appear to either generate or maintain the abilities that enter into hypnotizability. A capacity to become deeply involved in imaginative experiences derives from parents who are themselves deeply involved in such areas as reading, music, religion, or the aesthetic appreciation of nature.[2]

But that's not all. Hilgard goes on to mention (and "mention" is all) that adults who were abused as children are also more hypnotizable:

A history of punishment may produce hypnotizability in either (or both) of two ways: first, through instilling a habit of automatic and unquestioned obedience; second, through a tendency to escape the harassment by moving off into a realm of imagination, thus practicing the dissociations that are later to be used in hypnosis.[3] [Italics added]

Hilgard's point of view here provides a very interesting polarity regarding hypnotizability. On one hand there is the very healthy individual who "has rich subjective experiences in which he can become deeply involved." On the other hand is the severely abused individual who allows hypnosis out of the habit of "unquestioned obedience" and dissociative responses still lingering from childhood.

Barber's views on hypnotizability are quite different from Hilgard's. He points out that of the 60 or more studies that have investigated personality characteristics in relation to hypnotizability, the results are either negative (no relationship between personality and hypnotizability) or conflicting (one study finds a relationship, another does not). For example, one study found a positive correlation between "neuroticism" and hypnotizability (i.e., the more neurotic, the more hypnotizable), while another study found a negative correlation (i.e., the more neurotic, the less hypnotizable). Several other studies found no relationship whatsoever (i.e., neurosis does not affect hypnotizability in either direction).[4] Moreover, Barber does not agree with Hilgard that imagination or any other personality characteristic contributes to hypnotizability. For Barber, the research indicates only that (1) two people with very different personalities may be equally hypnotizable, and (2) two people with very similar personalities may vary drastically in their susceptibility to hypnosis. To explain this dilemma Barber suggests that either we don't yet have the tools to tap the aspects of personality related to hypnosis, or personality plays only a very minor role in it. Perhaps, he suggests, it is the situation rather than the personality that ultimately determines degree of hypnotic responsiveness.

It seems that Hilgard and Barber are presenting opposite viewpoints. Hilgard's view of hypnotizability is an intradynamic, static one: the person's internal imaginative capacities largely determine a degree of hypnotic responsiveness that remains fairly constant over time. Barber's view, on the other hand, is an interdynamic, fluctuational one: the hypnotic situation, together with what the person wants, feels, and expects in that situation, determines a responsiveness that varies from one situation and time to the next.

Erickson's view of hypnotizability combined some of both. Although he stated that "anyone who can be socialized can be hypnotized," he also believed that external factors such as the skill of the hypnotist and the amount of time taken for hypnotic "training" were important considerations. More important, however, was the subject's own willingness to experience hypnosis. This willingness constituted the single most important factor in the acceptance of suggestion. In fact, willingness was more important than trance in the matter of suggestibility. "Trance," wrote Erickson, "does not ensure the acceptance of suggestion"[5] – but willingness does.

Yapko discusses a related factor: the relationship between self-esteem and hypnotizability. In his view a person with low self-esteem is more likely than someone with high self-esteem to give another person power to influence him, such as through the use of suggestion. Lacking a strong sense of self, this individual's high suggestibility makes it easy for him to be strongly influenced by someone else's values or dictates.[6] Yapko also mentions the "need for acceptance," which may be particularly strong among those with low self-esteem and which may predispose them to be good (suggestible) hypnosis subjects. The subject has sought the hypnotist's help and implicitly believes that hypnosis can be helpful. Since he views the hypnotist as an authoritative individual who can offer perspective, advice, and possibly solutions for what ails him or her, he is predisposed to accept the hypnotist's suggestions.

Also to be taken into account is the hypnotist's reputation, which can contribute to suggestibility. People would come from all over the world to be hypnotized by Milton Erickson, for instance. According to Yapko, "Many of them came thousands of miles to be put in a trance by him, and into a trance they went!" Furthermore, there is an emotional component to an individual's expectations regarding hypnosis. "The more emotional investment the person has in that expectation," writes Yapko, "the less likely he is to experience anything that contradicts it...When people invest money, hope, and time in something, they desperately want it to work, even if 'only a little.'"[7]

[1]Lynn and Nash (Jan. 1994) maintain that "increased fantasy and decreased objectivity" underlie suggestibility. ("Truth in memory: ramifications for psychotherapy and hypnotherapy." American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 36(3), 194-208.) In a study by Segal and Lynn (1992-93), it was asserted that a link exists between imagination, fantasy, and dissociation. ("Predicting dissociative experiences: imagination, hypnotizability, psychopathology, and alcohol use." Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 12, 287-300.) According to Lynn and Rhue (1988), the majority of fantasy-prone persons are highly hypnotizable." ("Fantasy proneness: hypnosis, developmental antecedents, and psychopathology." American Psychologist, 43, 35-44.
[2]Hilgard, et al., Introduction to Psychology, pp. 175-176.
[3]Ibid., p. 176.
[4]Barber, Hypnosis, p. 93.
[5]Erickson, et al., Hypnotic Realities, p. 228.
[6]In some instances, responding to suggestions (while hypnotized or awake), people have even confessed to crimes they did not commit. "When persons are uncertain about what they did or did not do and come to distrust their memories," write Lynn and Nash, "they are particularly vulnerable to suggestive and coercive influences." ("Truth in memory: ramifications for psychotherapy and hypnotherapy." American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 36(3), Jan. 1994, 194-208. Edwin adds: "It is well known that people are suggestible in the waking state and more so in hypnosis, and alert or in trance they can produce a "memory" that is called for or suggested by an authority figure. This is suggestion, not therapy." ("Many memories retrieved with hypnosis are accurate." American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 36(3), Jan. 1994, 174-176.)
[7]Trancework, pp. 127-128, pp. 91-98.


  1. >>A history of punishment may produce hypnotizability in either (or both) of two ways: first, through instilling a habit of automatic and unquestioned obedience; second, through a tendency to escape the harassment by moving off into a realm of imagination, thus practicing the dissociations that are later to be used in hypnosis.[3] [Italics added]<<

    This sounds like what I have read on programmed mind control.

    >>On the other hand is the severely abused individual who allows hypnosis out of the habit of "unquestioned obedience" and dissociative responses still lingering from childhood.<<

    I say that Barber was lying or misdirecting while Hilgard was far more honest and revealing. Those who disseminate dis-info to mislead and confuse like to release contradictory statements or findings so that the reader does not know what to believe. This allows plausible denial while still revealing some truth, mixed among lies. By putting our all kinds of conflicting propaganda, they can make our minds spin. But I say, if you study it all, in time, you can separate fact from fiction or deception.

    And there is more than one type of hypnosis. One is the general willing submission to non-threatening hypnosis such as stage acts. But some forms of hypnosis, suggests I, is not so benign or voluntary. It is enforced by conditioning and programming. Torture is a very good way to either break and ruin a person or . . . make them easy prey to control and manipulate, as they lose self-control and submit to whatever. Just a crazy theory you understand. We mad men often fantasize crazy things. We have lots of imagination, ya know ;-)

    >> Yapko discusses a related factor: the relationship between self-esteem and hypnotizability.
    Lacking a strong sense of self, this individual's high suggestibility makes it easy for him to be strongly influenced by someone else's values or dictates.<<

    I agree with Yapko.

    >>The more emotional investment the person has in that expectation," writes Yapko, "the less likely he is to experience anything that contradicts it...When people invest money, hope, and time in something, they desperately want it to work, even if 'only a little.'"[7]<<

    Imagine spending 4 to 8 years of college and maybe more than $100,000! Shall you then say, it was all for nothing? That would be hard to do, given the loss of $100,000 investment. So you defend it and support it and the authority behind it.

    If you accepted it blindly as many accept a religion or sect of one, then you might not want to admit you were gullible and unquestioning so you do into denial and continue to “believe.” It hard to admit we were once so easily misled and did so little thinking of our own. No one likes to look silly!

    I love these articles on hypnosis. Absolutely wonderful expose in so many ways.

  2. There must also be the factor of trust. When I imagine myself being hypotised I think the biggest barrier for me personally would be my lack of trust in the hypnotist. You are putting yourself in a vulnerable position. To say, I do think that lack of trust is exaggerated by my particular neurosis.

    Andrew Atkin


Review of "Beyond Belief"

This thought-provoking and important book shows how people are drawn toward dangerous beliefs.
“Belief can manifest itself in world-changing ways—and did, in some of history’s ugliest moments, from the rise of Adolf Hitler to the Jonestown mass suicide in 1979. Arthur Janov, a renowned psychologist who penned The Primal Scream, fearlessly tackles the subject of why and how strong believers willingly embrace even the most deranged leaders.
Beyond Belief begins with a lucid explanation of belief systems that, writes Janov, “are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively.” While belief systems are not presented as inherently bad, the author concentrates not just on why people adopt belief systems, but why “alienated individuals” in particular seek out “belief systems on the fringes.” The result is a book that is both illuminating and sobering. It explores, for example, how a strongly-held belief can lead radical Islamist jihadists to murder others in suicide acts. Janov writes, “I believe if people had more love in this life, they would not be so anxious to end it in favor of some imaginary existence.”
One of the most compelling aspects of Beyond Belief is the author’s liberal use of case studies, most of which are related in the first person by individuals whose lives were dramatically affected by their involvement in cults. These stories offer an exceptional perspective on the manner in which belief systems can take hold and shape one’s experiences. Joan’s tale, for instance, both engaging and disturbing, describes what it was like to join the Hare Krishnas. Even though she left the sect, observing that participants “are stunted in spiritual awareness,” Joan considers returning someday because “there’s a certain protection there.”
Janov’s great insight into cultish leaders is particularly interesting; he believes such people have had childhoods in which they were “rejected and unloved,” because “only unloved people want to become the wise man or woman (although it is usually male) imparting words of wisdom to others.” This is just one reason why Beyond Belief is such a thought-provoking, important book.”
Barry Silverstein, Freelance Writer

Quotes for "Life Before Birth"

“Life Before Birth is a thrilling journey of discovery, a real joy to read. Janov writes like no one else on the human mind—engaging, brilliant, passionate, and honest.
He is the best writer today on what makes us human—he shows us how the mind works, how it goes wrong, and how to put it right . . . He presents a brand-new approach to dealing with depression, emotional pain, anxiety, and addiction.”
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Art Janov, one of the pioneers of fetal and early infant experiences and future mental health issues, offers a robust vision of how the earliest traumas of life can percolate through the brains, minds and lives of individuals. He focuses on both the shifting tides of brain emotional systems and the life-long consequences that can result, as well as the novel interventions, and clinical understanding, that need to be implemented in order to bring about the brain-mind changes that can restore affective equanimity. The transitions from feelings of persistent affective turmoil to psychological wholeness, requires both an understanding of the brain changes and a therapist that can work with the affective mind at primary-process levels. Life Before Birth, is a manifesto that provides a robust argument for increasing attention to the neuro-mental lives of fetuses and infants, and the widespread ramifications on mental health if we do not. Without an accurate developmental history of troubled minds, coordinated with a recognition of the primal emotional powers of the lowest ancestral regions of the human brain, therapists will be lost in their attempt to restore psychological balance.
Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.
Bailey Endowed Chair of Animal Well Being Science
Washington State University

Dr. Janov’s essential insight—that our earliest experiences strongly influence later well being—is no longer in doubt. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, immunology, and epigenetics, we can now see some of the mechanisms of action at the heart of these developmental processes. His long-held belief that the brain, human development, and psychological well being need to studied in the context of evolution—from the brainstem up—now lies at the heart of the integration of neuroscience and psychotherapy.
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An expansive analysis! This book attempts to explain the impact of critical developmental windows in the past, implores us to improve the lives of pregnant women in the present, and has implications for understanding our children, ourselves, and our collective future. I’m not sure whether primal therapy works or not, but it certainly deserves systematic testing in well-designed, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled clinical trials.
K.J.S. Anand, MBBS, D. Phil, FAACP, FCCM, FRCPCH, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Senior Scholar, Center for Excellence in Faith and Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System

A baby's brain grows more while in the womb than at any time in a child's life. Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script That Rules Our Lives is a valuable guide to creating healthier babies and offers insight into healing our early primal wounds. Dr. Janov integrates the most recent scientific research about prenatal development with the psychobiological reality that these early experiences do cast a long shadow over our entire lifespan. With a wealth of experience and a history of successful psychotherapeutic treatment, Dr. Janov is well positioned to speak with clarity and precision on a topic that remains critically important.
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His new book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” shows that primal therapy, the lower-brain therapeutic method popularized in the 1970’s international bestseller “Primal Scream” and his early work with John Lennon, may help alleviate depression and anxiety disorders, normalize blood pressure and serotonin levels, and improve the functioning of the immune system.
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“Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” is scheduled to be published by NTI Upstream in October 2011, and has tremendous implications for the future of modern psychology, pediatrics, pregnancy, and women’s health.