Is Hypnotism Humbug?
( Originally Published 1936 )
A number of inquiries about hypnotism which have been coming to this desk, indicate that interest in the subject is reviving. They can perhaps best be answered in the form of a questionnaire.
Is there such a thing as hypnotism or is it humbug?
Certainly hypnotism is real, not humbug. A trance state, hypnosis, can be induced in nearly any person, the subject, by any experienced hypnotist (operator).
What induces hypnotic trances?
The commonest method is by the rhythmic stimulation of a single sense—as the regular flashing of a mirror in the eyes, or the regular sound of a melodious gong—with the body relaxed and the other senses at rest.
In the recent revival of "The Witching Hour" on the screen, the lawyer flashed his diamond studded cigaret case in the juryman's eyes and so hypnotized him: This was an authentic scene. The English physician, Braid, used to induce hypnosis by fixing his patient's eyes on the reflected light from the surface of his lancet-case.
Experienced hypnotists have, however, abandoned these "mechanical" methods, and rely largely on suggestion. The patient is convinced that the hypnotic state is going to occur, he sits in a relaxed condition, and the operator strokes the skin of the face a few times, suggests "Sleep" in an earnest voice, with the desired result.
Can a person be hypnotized against his will?
Seldom, if ever. This idea, upon which so many stories, including "Trilby" is based, is erroneous.
What percentage of people cannot be hypnotized?
Much smaller than is generally supposed. At least 80 per cent of an average group are easily hypnotized. Children are more easily hypnotized than adults. The higher the intelligence the more susceptible the subject. The insane, idiots, imbeciles, morons and unintelligent stupid people cannot be hypnotized. Mild examples of mental derangement, such as melancholia, can, however, be hypnotized.
What is the nature of the hypnotic state?
Neither sleep nor waking. The eyes are closed, the muscles often stiffened, the subject responds to questions sensibly, remembers much of events which belong to the waking state, but almost never remembers what occurred during hypnosis.
What the state of the personality is during hypnosis has never been satisfactorily explained. I have stated merely objective facts. The essential character of the hypnotic state is the subject's far-reaching power over his own organism. Will is increased and the moral standard raised.
Will a person perform an act suggested during the hypnotic state, at a definite time after waking?
Yes, in 60 per cent of instances. The French physician, Delboeuf, discovered this and employed it in treatment. One instance:
Mr. J. hypnotized at 6:30 a. m. Suggestion at the end of 30 hours was to pull the cook's nose. Result: Suggestion carried out one hour too soon.
Is a person who has been hypnotized under the will of the operator forever afterwards?
No, certainly not. Hypnosis cannot be induced at a distance—e., in the absence of the operator. Although self-hypnosis is frequently performed by subjects who have once been hypnotized.