I was going to title todays small blog entry “does hypnosis exist?” but some may find that title too provocative and people have asked that question long before me. I was not scheduled to actually write a blog entry today as I have a packed diary today, but I thought I’d share another snippet with you today.
Having this week read Hypnosis and suggestibility: An experimental approach by Clark Hull, written way, way back in 1933, I thought I’d share with you a conclusion he arrived at within that work:
“No phenomenon whatever can be produced in hypnosis that cannot be produced to lesser degrees by suggestions given in the normal waking condition. The essence of hypnosis lies in the fact of change in suggestibility” (Hull, 1933, p.391).
This was the start of the end for state theorists (those that think hypnosis is an altered state). Later on in the 1960s Ernest Hilgard and André Weitzenhoffer developed the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scales which became central to much research on suggestibility over the years. Funnily enough, Hilgard initially believed in hypnosis being an altered state and was greatly interested in how people responded to hypnosis as an altered state.
However, working with the scales over the years and within much research, it became known that all the phenomenon that individuals were tested for within the Stanford Scales tests, could be achieved without hypnosis – therefore hypnosis could not be the means by which they were produced.
Yet Hull had already covered this back in 1933. At the time he also stated that when a formal hypnotic induction was used to hypnotise individuals, the increase in the level of suggestibility was actually negligible and certainly far less than people would expect. This was supported by Barber in the 1960s where he showed again that suggestions for altered experience and behaviour were just as effectively produced by nonhypnotic instructions.
No big exploration today, no conclusions, just an observation and fabulously forward thinking quote.
So if you ever want to really know who slayed hypnosis inductions… Look no further than Clark Hull.
Have a great weekend.
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I think that so much of it is relative to the individuals talking part in the process. Namely, the hypnotist – their reputation, their level of congruence, their beliefs in their abilities etc, and then the subject – their beliefs, expectations, prior knowledge and experiences etc.
I tend to lean towards the idea that if a therapist has a solid reputation, and really does believe in his ability to induce change in subjects, then this will likely be communicated unconsciously with the subject. This could serve to enhance responsiveness and susceptibility, and then therapy can be administered successfully without any induction at all.
Apparently Clark Hull could induce hypnosis just by staring into subjects eyes until they ‘went under’ so to speak. For a guy to do this he must clearly have had confidence, respect and power, all drawn from his education and reputation. It therefore does not surprise me that his experiments showed powerful responses from people even when they were not induced into hypnosis.
So, with that in mind, now take a therapist with less confidence, and no real reputation who is working with a client that is of the impression for the therapy to work then there must be some kind of hypnotic technique utilised. The subject would probably then need to experience a formal induction to increase their expectations and responsiveness, because without it they might feel ‘let down’ or like that had wasted their money.
Essentially, the formal induction sometimes plays an important part in the ‘role play’ or negotiation of therapy between client and therapist which may be crucial to success, not because it generates a shift in state, but a shift in expectations and beliefs.
So the point of this post is to say – despite Mr Hulls findings, lets not underestimate what a powerful tool an induction can be!
Thanks for that Matt, some fabulous thoughts there and you are quite right in many respects.
I would hasten to add, regardless of reputation and confidence levels, the individual (client) is still aware that therapy is going to be done and that the modality used is hypnotherapy, so will have some expectation helping them move forward, they are not wholly naíve.
The research conducted by Hull, then subsequently Barber and co, was not always done by them personally. That is, just because they organised and set up the research, they did not always conduct the hypnosis sessions themselves, and they would offer up some standardised processes so that every person got dealt with in the same manner, tone and with the same words being used each time. This tended to remove as much of the individual’s confidence levels and other variables as possible – therefore, it was hypnosis being measured and not the hypnotist.
All that you say is absolutely applicable in our therapy rooms, absolutely. But in a lot of the research, the types of questions you pose here were considered and dealt with as much as possible.
I think induction has a very important place in our work, though many do disagree with me and there is indeed a wide variety of reasons for their use in my own work for sure.
Thanks Matt, thoroughly enjoyed reading that response.
Thanks Adam, I feel I have been educated by this blog today, and in particular with your response to my reply. It just opens up my mind to really think and become aware of these ideas. Its like my brain is constantly trying to find the right shaped peg to fit in the right shaped hole, and every now and then i hear a ‘click’ as another one falls in place. Its a good feeling 🙂
I read this post with some interest and in particular, the fact that an induction is not always necessary to create effective changework. However, I do agree with the comments from Matt in relation to congruency and client expectation.
I know from my own experience that when I give my clients an in-depth explanation of the hypnotic process and link the process to real brain physiology, the effect de-mystifies hypnosis and gives them insight into what is really going on inside. When the client sees that what is occurring in their life is because they are “human” and not broken and beyond repair, that will often create “lightbulb moments” for them. It also demonstrates that they can move forward and have more choices.
I believe that even though a competent therapist will have completed a lot of the changework with clients during the intake session before the formal induction. The therapist may have used questioning techniques such as the meta model or even ericksonian patterns to create that transderivational search, the client still expects (most of the time) to be hypnotised to overcome the presenting issues. I think that for most clients this is an expectation and as therapists we should respect that.
In my own work I will use NLP language patterns a lot of the time before engaging in the formal induction. In fact I think that this make the trancework even more effective.
As a therapist, I believe we need a number of things in place before inducing trance, such as:
Belief in self and client
The above is not exhaustive, however it is a good start to put clients at ease and facilitate a smooth transition to hypnosis.
These are just the ramblings of an old therapist.. 🙂
Only just started reading your posts Adam, just joined your plantinum club and enjoying it.
Thanks Pete, great to hear from you and I look forward to developing your acquaintance in the Platinum members area 🙂
There are entire books written on the subject of how we go about making sure that someone responds to our suggestions, but your list is a very good place to start.
Thank you, Adam
Strangely, I have just this minute taken delivery of “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind” by Joseph Murphy. Another one to add to the vast collection.