Catalepsy in Hypnotic Induction and Therapy

Catalepsy, the suspension of voluntary movement, is generally recognized as one of the most characteristic phenomena of trance and hypnosis. Because its significance and meaning have changed over the generations, we will begin this section with an overview of catalepsy in historical perspective. Since we regard all hypnotic phenomena as aspects or derivatives of normal behavior, we will then outline some of the spontaneous forms of catalepsy we can observe in everyday life. When these spontaneous catalepsies are seen in the consulting room, they become important cues regarding the patient's inner state and offer an important avenue for inducing therapeutic trance in the most natural manner. As we can infer from the previous section, a simple discussion of these everyday occurrences of catalepsy could be an excellent way of beginning an hypnotic induction, evoking ideodynamic aspects of catalepsy and trance before the patient even realizes it.

We will then present some of the senior author's approaches to facilitating catalepsy in a formal process of trance induction. Since it is essentially a nonverbal process, catalepsy becomes an unusually effective means of bypassing the learned limitations of many of our typically modern and overintellectualized patients, who want to experience therapeutic trance but have misunderstandings that interfere with its development. Catalepsy can then be used as a means of sensitizing a patient's receptivity to the nuances of inner and outer stimuli so he or she can more readily accept and carry out processes of therapeutic change.

While it may be interesting for professionals to receive these new conceptions of the utilization of catalepsy on an intellectual level, it can become truly effective therapeutically only when the hypnotherapist has developed a facility in coordinating the observational and performance skills in evoking catalepsy in a practical manner in the consulting room. Because of this, we end this discussion with a number of exercises to guide the practitioner's acquisition of these skills.

We will then provide an extended demonstration of the use of catalepsy by the senior author. This demonstration was recorded recently (1976), when the junior author had the opportunity of tape-recording the senior author's efforts to induce hypnosis in a blind subject by the hand-levitation approach. Erickson failed in this demonstration; that is, the subject responded in such a minimal manner that Erickson was challenged to use a vast repertory of his approaches. Because of this the demonstration is an excellent vehicle for studying his work.

An audio-visual record of Erickson's approaches to catalepsy that emphasize processes of dissociation is available for his demonstration with Ruth, which is presented in Section III under the title An Audio-Visual Demonstration of Ideomotor Movements and Catalepsy: The Reverse Set to Facilitate Hypnotic Induction. In the fourth section is another recent demonstration of catalepsy with particular reference to how it is experienced subjectively by a skeptical consciousness that is in the process of learning to experience altered states.

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