Welcome back to Hypnotic News. Your weekly dose of the weird, fun, and fantastic developments coming from the hypnotic world. Today we talk about healing. Both body and mind. How it happens through hypnosis and how it can benefit you.
The Past Is Prologue
James Esdaile was a Scottish doctor living in India in the 1840’s. Frequently visited by men with large tumors caused by mosquitoes, he used hypnosis to help them with the surgery. At the time the drugs used for anesthesia were very dangerous. Many times resulting in death. Esdaile was one of the few people doing something different. He was using hypnosis as an anesthetic.
Originally, his plan was simply to use hypnosis to relax them. Over time this would turn into a much greater resource for Esadile. He quickly found that not only did they feel relaxed during trance, many of them under his care felt no pain as well. Which got Esdaile thinking about how he could leverage that state in his practice.
Now, I say “depth” because there really isn’t a sense of depth to hypnosis. It’s just a term we use to explain something we don’t have better words for. At the time we theorist believed that different phenomena happened at these different depths. Even if no one could agree on what those were. Today we know that there is no perfect depth for any one phenomena. Instead, we know that it mostly depends on the individual and their perception of how hypnosis works.
Good News Spreads Fast
Regardless, it didn’t take long for word to spread regarding Esdaile. No one else could boast massive tumor removal in 20 minutes. Especially without pain and the use of anesthesia. People flocked to his clinic. Eventually he began to use it in all his other procedures. By the time he stopped practicing he was using it to do: eye surgery, tonsils, breast tumors, and even childbirth. He was sure of its efficacy as his clients not only described little to no pain but also showed no physiological signs of pain!
At the time of his practice, mortality rates for operations were a big deal. Nearly half of the patients treated would die during or after them. However, with Esdaile’s procedures the mortality rate was only 5%. The reasons behind that are still unclear, but it was impressive for the time. Esdaile believed it was due to “vital mesmeric fluids” passing from him to the patient. Which is somewhat similar to how Reiki practitioners describe their energy healing practices. However, it was actually likely due to the reduced loss of blood and perhaps, in part, the placebo effect.
The Hypnotic State
While we have learned a lot about hypnosis, there remains no clear explanation of how, or exactly why it works. However, we do know that the mind becomes hyper focused. So focused that the part of our brain that works autonomous from our conscious is the part focusing on making the changes. Making changes far more quickly and efficiently than we could with our conscious mind.
Esdaile was not the first, nor the last, physician to use hypnosis. However, training was not easy to come by, and by the mid 19th century the practice was superseded by the use of chemical anesthetics. Hypnosis only persisted within a few areas of medicine, including dentistry. It was still in use by early 20th century as the main method of pain management. It was almost universally used during the World Wars when chemical anesthetics were scarce and facial trauma was common.
Very Interesting Data
Even today some dentist employ hypnosis in their practice. Especially if their history precludes the use of them. Research with patients who have had teeth extracted with hypnosis showed that hypnotic analgesia can increase pain thresholds by up to 220%. The research additionally found that 93% of patients had reduced post-op pain and hemorrhage. Reinforcing the idea that hypnosis slows blood loss.
Even beyond its analgesic properties, there is a good deal of research showing the powerful healing effects of hypnosis. During the 19th century, hypnosis was used by physicians as an effective treatment against conditions such as epilepsy, neuralgia, and rheumatism. In addition, it was found to be particularly effective in skin conditions. In highly suggestible clients hypnosis has been used to rapidly heal wounds and burns, to dissipate warts and blisters, and to control bleeding in hemophiliacs.
Beyond its analgesic properties, there is a great deal of evidence that hypnosis can have a powerful healing effect. During the early to mid-nineteenth century, hypnotic healing was used by physicians as a treatment and found to be effective against conditions such as epilepsy, neuralgia, and rheumatism. However, hypnosis appears to be particularly effective with skin conditions. In highly suggestible people, hypnosis has been used to rapidly heal wounds and burns, to make warts and blisters disappear and to control the bleeding of hemophiliacs. Conversely the same subjects are susceptible to suggestions that such wounds are being inflicted on them showing the power of the mind to influence physiological experience.
While we do not know everything about the brain or how it works. Current research indicates that hypnosis does effect physiological change. Research has not concluded if this is wholly due to placebo effect or if other factors come into play. Even if we look at it as placebo effect, the research is still very clear that placebo isn’t just mind over matter. Real physiological and neurological changes take place. Real healing occurs. In fact, a Harvard study found that placebos can have a significant effect even if people know they are taking them!
Regardless of the mechanism, placebo or a particular hypnotic effect, the research indicates that our thoughts have a much greater effect on our physiological functioning than we usually realize. Our thoughts and beliefs appear to be capable of activating naturally occurring self-healing powers. A hypnotist acts as a guide, activating these innate abilities and functions.
Isn’t It Odd?
The big mystery remains why we can’t do this in our normal conscious state. We can’t just tell ourselves to numb the pain, but a hypnotist can guide a willing subject to that point. We can only use theses abilities unconsciously or through the intervention someone able to induce these effects. Often a hypnotist.
The big take away for me however, and the most important implication of this information, is about the relationship between the mind and the body. I have long believed that it takes all three aspects of the self: intellect, body and emotions to make someone whole. This is also the belief of most Eastern medicine practices. In Western medicine however, we often see the mind as if it is a shadow of the brain.
Current medical practice equates all things mental and emotional with chemical and electrical activity. With no further application, explanation, or understanding. The research, on the other hand, implies that while this is true, it may not be the whole picture. Mental activity is far more complicated than that.
Big Phenomena, Big Results
If Western medicine is correct and our mind is just an phenomenon of the brain, the powerful effects of hypnotic healing don’t make a lick of sense. How could an phenomenon bring about such powerful changes to the thing it is a byproduct or shadow of? It would be like suggesting that what we see on the screen of a computer could change the software. Anyone in IT can tell you that simply isn’t how that works.
In fact, i would argue that hypnosis and other similar phenomena (such as placebo, psychosomatic illness, and psychogenesis) preclude the suggestion that the mind is a byproduct of the brain. It could even lead someone to the idea that the brain, in some aspects, is more fundamental than the material stuff in our bodies. When what we put into our mind and our physical selves is good for us, we get a healthy body.
I’m not advocating that hypnosis is a cure all for all things. Only that it can assist in a variety of symptoms and healing practices. Whether used concurrently with another treatment or not, it is a powerful tool for efficient life long change. What I am advocating is that we look back to our ancestors and present practitioners of Eastern medicine practice and see the mind body connection. We are more than our bodies and I think it will take an integration of these two perspectives to truly research and understand phenomena behind hypnotic healing.
For more information on hypnotic healing check out All About Hypnosis. An epicenter for learning the who, what, and why of hypnosis. As well as our services sections to see what hypnotic healing practices can do for you.