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A hypnotic spiral
Tell me about
your mother

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For our next session...
Popping into your mind
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Hypnosis could use some help. Please research the article's assertions. Whatever is credible should be sourced, and what is not should be removed.

Hypnosis is a mental state of relaxed consciousness, a splitting of consciousness, a role enactment, a nondeceptive placebo or something else;[1] there is no scientific consensus yet. This means that it can be a bit hard to talk about hypnosis, as it almost has no solid definition. Some people have taken this to mean that they can apply any whack explanations or functions to hypnosis, such as mind control, recovering memories or access to "higher mental states".


Hypnosis is usually defined as an altered state of consciousness, although some scientists reject this notion and it has been criticized on the grounds that no markers for a hypnotic state have been found.[2] There is also question whether hypnosis exists at all.[3]


Hypnotherapy refers to a variety of therapeutic disciplines involving hypnosis. While some forms of hypnotherapy are regulated by professional bodies and qualifications[citation needed], the use of the term "hypnotherapy" itself is not fully regulated. Thus, in many countries, anybody who can hypnotise clients (which is a fairly simple skill to learn) and who claims to offer some form of therapy, can concatenate those two words together and call themselves a hypnotherapist. Hypnotherapy is generally considered complementary/alternative therapy and is not widely endorsed by the medical and psychiatric community as a primary therapy. It can also be used successfully as a complement to other forms of therapy as it can make the patient feel more relaxed and open.[4]

Analytical hypnotherapy[edit]

This is a form of psychoanalysis using hypnosis, in which the client explores their thoughts, emotions and memories under hypnosis. In many cases this involves the retrieval of supposedly repressed memories of traumatic experiences, usually from childhood.

Hypnosis for pain relief[edit]

Hypnosis may sometimes be used to relieve pain, or enable patients to overcome pain — for example, for cancer sufferers. In rarer and more controversial cases, it has been used as an alternative to anaesthesia for surgery.[5]

Recovered memory therapy[edit]

Hypnosis used for retrieving memories. The practice has been criticized for having a false model of how memory works.[6]

Another problem (as with any form of regression therapy) is that the "repressed" memories which come to light may often not be conclusively proven. In some cases genuine memories are discovered (though hypnotherapy is not necessary for old memories to be rediscovered). In some cases, however, the recovered memories are questionable and may be a creation of the client's own imagination, or confabulations. Sometimes the client may have been guided towards certain kinds of 'memories' by the suggestions of an eager therapist. Controversial cases include clients' claims to have recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse, and these have sometimes been used as testimony in court cases, although their validity as legal evidence remains disputed.[7][8] Many innocent people have been convicted and family relationships have been ruined due to this.[9]

Past life regression therapy[edit]

Hypnotic séance by Richard Bergh (1887)

In this dubious 'therapy', clients are also encouraged to retrieve repressed memories while under hypnosis, but the memories are ostensibly from a 'past life'. This may be undertaken on the pseudotherapeutical basis that events in a former life are influencing patterns in the client's current life. Or the client may just be curious about who they were before they were themselves, as it were. Memories of past lives can never be conclusively proven or disproven, and claims made about past life regressive rest heavily on clients' convictions that what they have 'remembered' is real. Similar to hypnotic regression that reveals details of alleged alien abductions, these therapies rely heavily on suggestions by the hypnotist, who can prompt the subject. Critics have pointed out how it's interesting that almost everyone who has undergone such therapy turn out to have led interesting lives, often at the sides of famous historical figures, completely ignoring any relatively boring or unglamorous cases where they find themselves dying of plague in a gutter. This may just be a response to the selective reporting of "interesting" regressions, however. In an episode of Penn & Teller: Bullshit! where this sort of hypnotherapy was shown, Penn Jillette thoroughly mocked the bad French accent by a subject who was claiming to be in the court of Marie Antoinette.[10]

Other claims[edit]

Hypnotic breast/penis enlargement[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Hypnotic breast enlargement

Woo-meisters have been known to hypnotize women to make their breasts larger and some believe that you can make your penis larger with hypnosis. Seriously.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]