Fake and the Skeptical View of Hypnosis as a Rationalization Creative Moments in Everyday Life as an Altered State

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Dr. Q: Yes, and a part of me wanted to make the conclusion that it was a fake, because that would explain it. I was faking it.

E: But how could you fake it when you did not know what was going to happen? Dr. Q: I had to have a way of understanding it.

E: The easiest way is to not understand and call it a fake. That's an avoidance of understanding.

Dr. Q: Yeah, but it satisfies my need for the meantime. If I understand it as a fake, I can drop it.

E: You can drop it and then not have to learn. Just as Dr. Harvey was called a faker when he said the blood circulated. No doctors wanted to understand. It was so much more comfortable thinking the blood did not circulate.

Dr. Q: Yes, there is an unwillingness to change a system of knowledge.

E: And a willingness to accept magic if you don't have to think about it. Hypnosis was a forbidden subject because it required understanding.

E: "Part of me wanted to make the conclusion that it was fake."

R: Yes, that is his old skeptical frame of reference. Labeling the experience as "fake" would be a safe way of rationalizing it back into his old familiar skeptical point of view.

E: But he couldn't, and he kept testing and testing.

R: So this is the problem of those who have the skeptical view about hypnotic phenomenon. They are trying to fit their new hypnotic experience into their old rationalistic frame of reference. They are denying the reality of their living experience in order to support their old views.

E: "I had to have a way of understanding it." The only view that was open to him was "fake," and so he had to test it until the fake explanation didn't fit.

R: Would you say this was the problem of many researchers of the past generation in hypnosis who were on the skeptical end of the continuum? They were trying to fit phenomena they did not understand into the typical rationalistic frames of reference of the 19th century that in essence believed hypnotic phenomena were fake: Nothing but "motivated instruction," role-playing, or what not.

They failed to understand the very real struggle we are all constantly engaged in to stabilize our world view with the familiar, which in turn must give way to the new that is constantly created within us. When the new comes forth into our consciousness (Rossi, 1972), it is frequently experienced as a threat. It is in fact a threat to our older frames of reference, which must now give way to the new. This is the essence of the constant struggle of consciousness to renew itself. The actual transformation between the old and the new usually takes in an altered state: a dream, a trance, a meditative reverie, a moment of inspiration, the creative moment in everyday life when our usual point of view is momentarily suspended so that the new can become manifest within our consciousness.

E: It ruins a magician's act if he explains to you how he did it. You've taken it out of the alien frame of reference and put it into the ordinary frame of reference.

R: It is the very fact that hypnotic phenomena are in an alien frame of reference that allows us to bypass the limitations of our ordinary frames of reference during trance so that we can do things we could not ordinarily do with our everyday ego consciousness. If you rationalize away the "alien" quality, you lose the potency of the altered state of trance. Is that right?

E: Yes. The best way to "not understand" is to call it a "fake." It is an easy way out and an avoidance of understanding.

R: So you'd say a lot of research purporting to support the skeptical view of hypnosis as an altered state is an avoidance of understanding.

E: Um-hum. It is a "fake," so I can drop it. I won't have to exercise any more intelligence.

R: This reminds me of that difficult situation in science, particularly psychology, where a fundamentally new insight can crystallize only when we are able to redefine or expand our view of what something is. Freud gave us profound insights into the dynamics of sexuality, but he could only do it by changing, broadening, our definition of what was sexual. In a similar way you can maintain the view of trance as an altered state only by expanding our definition of an altered state to include those familiar acts of daydreaming, reverie, meditation, moments of inspiration, etc., as being varieties of altered states. Even the moment of radically shifting one's point of view or frames of reference is now defined as an altered state. There is actually much justification for this, since people are momentarily frozen in cataleptic poses during such creative moments, just as they are immobilized while dreaming and hallucinating. There seems to be an inverse relationship between body activity and moments of intense inner work. That's why people are typically quiet and immobile during the deeper states of trance.

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