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Exercise 16

Sum up the most important points of the passage in a paragraph of around 100 words.

Hypnosis

There are many methods of producing hypnosis; indeed, almost every experienced hypnotist employs variations differing slightly from those of others. Perhaps the most common method is something along these lines. The hypnotist tries to obtain his subject’s co-operation by pointing out to him the advantages to be secured by the hypnosis, such as, for instance, the help in curing a nervous illness to be derived from the patient’s remembering in the trance certain events which otherwise are inaccessible to his memory. The patient is reassured about any possible dangers he might suspect to be present in hypnosis, and he may also be told (quite truthfully) that it is not a sign of instability or weakness to be capable of being put in a hypnotic trance, but that, quite on the contrary, a certain amount of intelligence and concentration on the part of the subject is absolutely essential.
Next, the subject is asked to lie down on a couch, or sit in an easy-chair. External stimulation is reduced to a minimum by drawing the curtains and excluding, as far as possible, all disruptive noises. It is sometimes helpful to concentrate the subject’s attention on some small bright object dangled just above eye-level, thus forcing him to look slightly upwards. This leads quickly to a fatigue of the eye-muscles, and thus facilitates his acceptance of the suggestion that he is feeling tired and that his eyes are closing. The hypnotist now begins to talk to the subject in a soft tone of voice, repeating endlessly suggestions to the effect that the subject is feeling drowsy, getting tired, that his eyes are closing, that he is falling into a deep sleep, that he cannot hear anything except the hypnotist’s voice, and so on and so forth. In a susceptible subject, a light trance is thus induced after a few minutes, and the hypnotist now begins to deepen this trance and to test the reactions of the subject by giving suggestions which are more and more difficult of execution. Thus, he will ask the subject to clasp his hands together, and tell him that it is impossible for him to separate his hands again. The subject, try as he may, finds, to his astonishment, that he cannot in actual fact pull his hands apart. Successful suggestions of this kind are instrumental in deepening the hypnotic trance until, finally, in particularly good subjects, all the phenomena which will be discussed presently can be elicited.
Having induced a reasonably deep hypnotic trance in our subject, what types of phenomena can be elicited? The first and most obvious one, which, indeed, may be responsible in large measure for all the others, is a tremendous increase in the subject’s suggestibility. He will take up any suggestion the hypnotist puts forward and act on it to the best of his ability. Suggest to him that he is a dog, and he will go down on all fours and rush around the room barking and yelping. Suggest to him that he is Hitler, and he will throw his arms about and produce an impassioned harangue in an imitation of the raucous tones of the Führer! This tremendous increase in suggestibility is often exploited on the stage to induce people to do foolish and ridiculous acts. Such practices are not to be encouraged because they go counter to the ideal of human dignity and are not the kind of way in which hypnosis ought to be used; nevertheless, they must be mentioned because it is probably phenomena such as these which are most familiar to people from vaudeville acts, from reading the papers, and so forth.
It would not be true to say, however, that all suggestions are accepted, even in the very deepest trance. This is particularly true when a suggestion is made which is contrary to the ethical and moral conceptions held by the subject. A well-known story may be quoted to illustrate this. Charcot, the great French neurologist, whose classes at one time were attended by Freud, was lecturing on hypnosis and was demonstrating the phenomena of the hypnotic trance on a young girl of eighteen. When she had been hypnotized deeply he was called away, and handed over the demonstration to one of his assistants. This young man, lacking the seriousness of purpose so desirable in students of medicine, even French ones, suggested to the young lady that she should remove her clothes. She immediately awakened from her trance, slapped his face, and flounced out of the room, very much to his discomfiture.

(Abridged from Sense and Nonsense in Psychology by H. J. Eysenck)

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