The reasons why this is important will become clearer later. Briefly it is because the other use conjures up a picture of a subject in a unique "state of hypnosis". Detailed experiments have failed to establish any way of defining such a state or distinguishing it from other, "non-hypnotic states". For the same reason the phrase "an hypnotic trance" will not be used.
On the other hand a field of knowledge is comparatively easy to define. It is characterised by an interest in a certain class of phenomena. The field defined by interest in the weather can be labelled "meteorology", of interest in the past, "history", in books, "literature", in the nerves, "neurology" and so on. Notice that it is the phenomena that define the subject and not the theories or the practices. For example, the techniques used in chemistry have varied enormously over time. Modern equipment is vastly different from nineteenth century equipment: Bunsen didn't start using his burner until 1855! Chemical theories have also changed enormously over time: Dalton's atomic theory only goes back to the beginning of the nineteenth century. In a similar way both the ideas that people have had about the field of Hypnosis and the methods they have used have changed considerably, but the phenomena of interest have remained relatively fixed.
What the Hypnotist is interested in is a certain class of changes in the functioning of the mind and body brought about in a non-physical and naturalistic way. Later on we will list in more detail most of the common such changes, but here we will note a few such things: analgesia - a loss of a sense of pain;
amnesia -an induced forgetfulness; involuntary movements induced by suggestion alone; and distortion of the messages of the senses, in which a lemon may be made to taste like an apple, a clearly visible object may not be perceived, or an object may be "seen" though not present.
The Hypnotherapist is more interested in a rather different class of changes, such as recovery of lost memories, removal of old habits or patterns of thought, elimination of tensions, changes in perceptions to bring them more in line with reality, changes in mood and so on: in brief to change things which are perceived as "problems".
When we say that these changes are to be produced in a non-physical way, it implies that the changes are NOT produced by the application of drugs, electricity, magnetism or other physical agency. To say that the changes are produced in a naturalistic way implies that neither are they produced by some strange or unnatural force, power or phenomenon. Hypnotic phenomena are a result of using the natural modes of functioning of the mind and body, but in focused or particular or unusual ways, to produce the desired changes.
It is because we are using only modes of functioning which can exist naturally that no hard line can be drawn between a "state of hypnosis" and any other "state" or mode of functioning of a person. For many people this point cannot be emphasised too much. In the uninformed mind there is a simple picture that being "under hypnosis" is rather like going "under" an anaesthetic: a sudden and dramatic departure of consciousness. While the stage Hypnotist will at times work (with his better Subjects) to approximate to this state of affairs, it has been found by careful experiment that the same phenomena which can be produced under those conditions can also be produced under conditions where there is no such dramatic change.
A related error can be typified by a recent enquiry to me: "Can Hypnosis be used to improve my memory, so that I could pick up and learn a telephone directory?" This is effectively equivalent to being able effortlessly to be a chess Master, a scratch golfer, etc. The normal rules of functioning of the mind and body demand that practice, and a lot of it, is necessary to develop such skills. Hypnotic techniques may be used to increase motivation, to reduce distracting thoughts and to optimise the results of practice, but they are always working on natural systems which have their own rules and therefore limitations. You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
There is a lot of power and potential in Hypnotic techniques, but they are not magic: not contrary to the laws of physics, chemistry or neurology. It is easily possible to get a person to feel themselves too heavy to get off a chair. But it will not result in any extra pressure on the chair.
Two other words that will be used in this book are Subject and Client. The former will normally refer to a person whose functioning is being changed by a Hypnotist, and the latter by a Hypnotherapist. Some Hypnotherapists use the term Patient in place of Client.
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Hypnosis is a capital instrument for relaxation and alleviating stress. It helps calm down both the brain and body, giving a useful rest. All the same it can be rather costly to hire a clinical hypnotherapist, and we might not always want one around when we would like to destress.