Self hypnosis is just a psychological state. It is a set of perspectives typically prompted by a process known as a hypnotic induction, which is often made of a series of initial instructions, recommendations or suggestions.
Hypnotic suggestions may be delivered by a hypnotist in the presence of the subject, as is the case with hypnosis or hypnotherapy, or these suggestions may be self-administered as a form of autosuggestion or through the use of self hypnosis.
However there is some confusion about these two aspects of the hypnotic state. Really, hypnosis and self hypnosis are the same thing as the person wishing to enter trance really does the job themselves and allow themselves to lead into trance by the suggestions of either themselves or a hypnotist.
When listening to a pre-recorded hypnosis session on CD or MP3 it can be referred to as either hypnosis or self hypnosis. The name is really unimportant – it is the degree of trance and the suggestions being used that have the full power!
The use of hypnotism for healing purposes is referred to as hypnotherapy.
The words ‘hypnosis’ and ‘hypnotism’ both derive from the term “neuro-hypnotism” coined by the Scottish doctor and surgeon James Braid around 1841 to distinguish his concept and practice from those developed by Franz Anton Mesmer who founded health centres based on “animal magnetism”.
Although a favoured myth is that hypnosis is a type of unconsciousness resembling sleep, latest research means that it is essentially a wakeful state of focused attention that is very different from sleep. This state guides a person to a state where they are much more open to suggestibility.
Sceptics mention the difficulty distinguishing between hypnosis and the placebo effect. They propose that the state called hypnosis is so heavily reliant on the effect of an idea and belief that it might be tough to devise a scientific study to test its effectiveness.
However, hypnotism itself originated out of very early placebo controlled experiments, conducted by Plat and other people. Many analysts and clinicians argue therefore, that the success of post hypnotic suggestions has very little to do with the placebo effect. In fact is the placebo effect not a form of self hypnosis post hypnotic suggestion anyway!
Irving Kirsch has suggested a definition of hypnosis as a “non-deceptive mega-placebo”, i.e., a technique which brazenly makes use of suggestions and employs strategies to amplify its effects. It is therefore surprisingly difficult to distinguish between the views of sceptics and proponents regarding hypnotism as they basically believe the same thing is happening but for different reasons.
The earliest definition of hypnosis was given by Braid, who coined the term “hypnotism” as an abbreviation for “neuro-hypnotism”, which he opposed to normal sleep, and defined as: a peculiar condition of the nervous system, induced by a fixed and abstracted attention of the mental and visual eye, on one object, not of an exciting nature.
Braid elaborated upon this brief definition in a later work believing hypnotism as being engrossed solely on one idea or having fixed attention or focused concentration and is the opposite of ordinary sleep – which is much closer to the truth.
Braid thus outlined hypnotism as a state of mental concentration which regularly led on to a type of progressive relaxation. Later, in his The Physiology of Obsession (1855), Plat conceded that his original language was inaccurate and he actually disagreed with the term “hypnotism” and said that this term should be reserved for only a small minority of subjects who exhibited absentmindedness, which equated to about 10% of subjects. He replaced the term “hypnotism” with “monoideism” which means the concentration on a single idea, However, by that stage the term “hypnosis” had already taken route in the global consciousness and is still used today to refer to a trance induced state.