(Photo: Geff H)

If only we could hypnotize ourselves into studying for exams instead of surfing through random websites. The strange thing is – we do. Hypnosis is a strange phenomenon that scientists still can’t explain, which may be a good thing considering the power one would wield with such knowledge. Psychiatrists have however, broken down pieces of the puzzle to explain what may be happening. Hypnosis is a combination of heightened imagination, suggestibility, and relaxation; much like day dreaming. So when you are pouring over existential philosophy, and you’re able to forget about the test in 12 hours, that is actually a form of hypnosis. The common theory of how hypnosis works has to do with the power struggles of the conscious and subconscious mind. When you read, the process of identifying letters, putting them into words, and going from one sentence to the next is subconscious. Thoughts on reasons to not kill yourself, brought on by Sartre’s essays, are conscious. If they aren’t you aren’t doing a very good job of reading. Psychiatrists theorize that the deep relaxation and focusing exercises of hypnotism work to calm and subdue the conscious mind so that it takes a less active role in your thinking process. In this state, you’re still aware of what’s going on, but your conscious mind takes a back seat to your subconscious mind. Effectively, this allows you and the hypnotist to work directly with the subconscious. Your subconscious mind does not filter through things as logically as the conscious. It is a lot like a kid, open to bizarre interpretations and easier to subdue with imaginative media.

Think back to when you were four, and you actually thought that when you grew up you would be a mermaid, or a dragon slayer. When one gets lost in thought, this is similar to someone in a hypnotic trance. Your subconscious mind reacts instantly to commands, because one is not thinking through every aspect; such as how exactly you plan on turning your legs into a tail, or the possibility of getting hurt fighting a 30 foot beast. However, due to your survival instinct, there are certain things like hurting someone else, or performing weird deeds in hypnosex, that cannot be forced. This fact isn’t usually made clear, creating a stigma for those into hypnosis. However, since the subconscious directs your sensory apparatus and your emotions; causing someone to feel cold or feel as though they are in love is possible. This is also where all your memories are stored. Psychiatrists sometime use this method to trigger repressed feelings. However, it can also be possible, to create false memories. There are many physiological signs that prove that hypnosis isn’t a large joke, like the Ouiji Board (see the ideomotor effect). Studies of the cerebral cortex have shown that there is a decrease in left hemisphere activity, while activity in the right hemisphere often increased during hypnosis. Neurologists believe that the left hemisphere of the cortex is the logical control center of the brain; it operates on deduction, reasoning and convention. The right hemisphere, in contrast, controls imagination and creativity. An examination of the electrical rhythms produced through frequency waves also show signs similar to intense relaxation, but not of sleep.

The hard part in all of this is actually getting one into this state. Three criteria need to be met, in order to make this possible. The subject must want to be hypnotized, the subject must believe he or she can be hypnotized and the subject must eventually feel comfortable and relaxed (this is also the trick to studying well). Once these prerequisites are in place there are three common methods of inducing a hypnotic state. The first is eye fixation, in which one is so focused on a moving object (not on whether they will be hypnotized or not) to the point that one actually goes into deep relaxation. This however, does not work on most people. The second method is harsh commands. When the pressure from these commands is actually induced to a point that the person gives in, one surrenders conscious control. Other forms are similar to one going to sleep, but with a second party giving you commands that you follow. Finally, a method causing one to rock back and forth creates a loss of balance. This form of being induced into strong relaxation can be felt on some twirling rides, and is similar to how adults put their babies to sleep. Due to the many physical and conscious obstacles with hypnosis, reprogramming one to stop smoking usually fails. Although hypnosis seems too good to be true, the fact is that it is simply a trance, of the same type that one falls into during intense studying, and is fragile as such.

Questions, comments and corrections can be sent to sabeen.sidiqui@yahoo.com

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