For many, hypnosis is the domain of stage artists who make people cluck like chickens. As with the feats of stage magicians, few give much consideration to wherein the trick lies, but they assume there’s a trick. In scholarly circles, hypnotic practices have been on a roller-coaster ride. Hypnosis was once mainstream psychology but then fell into disrepute but now there’s a resurgence of interest as neuroscience answers questions about what is happening in the brain during a trance state. Doctor Fisher’s book is an attempt to demystify the subject, and to explain how a personal practice can be used to achieve a wide range of benefits.
Fisher’s book culminates in a description of how to build one’s own self-hypnosis exercise to work toward change in one’s own life. However, there’s a lot of track that needs to be laid in anticipation of that final chapter (Ch. 9.) The first chapter counters seven of the most common myths about hypnosis. Given the aforementioned misapprehensions about hypnosis, this seems like a wise place to start to get readers on board. Chapter 2 starts where Fisher’s personal involvement with self-hypnosis began, with the use of it to prepare patients for surgery and surgical recovery. Here we get our first look at the technique of self-hypnosis as well as a discussion of cases of self-hypnosis used for surgical patients. Cases are central to Fisher’s approach, and are used throughout the book to inform the reader about how self-hypnotic methods worked for particular individuals in the pursuit of various goals. Chapter 3 explains what the trance state is and how it’s achieved.
Chapter 4 explains the process by which we make choices with an eye toward helping to disrupt destructive impulse behavior. In the next chapter the reader learns about how the state of mind can contribute to physical illnesses, and how changing the state of mind can help improve one’s health. Chapter 6 is about reevaluating ingrained beliefs that don’t serve us well. This includes the notion that one can’t change one’s behavior because it’s just how one feels, as well as the belief that one can simply quash one’s emotions through force of will. Chapter 7 examines cases involving a number of common problems resulting from stress and the pressures of everyday life.
The penultimate chapter offers comparison and contrast with a range of alternative methods that are used to achieve the same goals—some more advisable than others. The alternatives include: therapy, meditation, biofeedback, exercise, somatic desensitization, and drug use.
As indicated, the final chapter offers an outline for building one’s personal self-hypnosis practice to achieve one’s own goal. There are three sections to this chapter. The first is a simplified set of exercises to evaluate one’s capacity to enter a trance—including both a survey and physical methods (e.g. degree of eye roll.) Susceptibility to hypnosis varies widely. The subjects one sees at a stage show tend to be those rare specimens who are highly suggestible. Often, part of the act is separating them from the crowd. There are also those who can’t be hypnotized under any circumstance. Most of us are in the meaty middle, having some, limited capacity to be hypnotized. The second section offers advice about how one might go about setting up the suggestive part of one’s exercise, i.e. the core of the exercise carried out once one has induced a trance. The final section lays out three different methods of inducing a trance. The first of these is the eye roll-based method one is introduced to in Chapter 2, and the others are variants that may work better for some.
I found this book to be informative and useful. It gives the reader both the necessary background to understand how one’s subconscious mind can influence one’s life and how positive ideas are introduced through it, as well as a practical guide to setting up one’s own personal practice.
I’d recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn about self-hypnosis.