Hypnotism has intrigued humans for countless generations.
We’ve all heard stories of people falling under the strange spell. They are plunged into a suggested state of trance and liable to feel, think, and do what the hypnotists tell them.
But, the key question many of us pose is: can everyone be hypnotized?
Well, the topic has been shrouded in layers of mystery up until recent scientific breakthroughs. Today, cutting-edge brain imaging technology reveals exactly what is happening “under the hood”. We’re growing ever closer to fully grasping the highly complex mechanism and that is our brain.
So, let’s dive right into the fascinating world of hypnosis.
Can Everyone Be Hypnotized: Taking a Closer Look
Discernible effects of hypnosis have been well-documented.
Consumed by the external stimuli, subjects lose track of time and reality. They access a different state of flow that bypasses the ordinary critical mind (conscious thoughts) and blocks out surroundings. Moreover, they gain extreme mental focus, remaining neither asleep nor fully awake.
Here, we’re already dwelling deep into the realm of altered states of consciousness. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, we have an understanding of mechanics that underpin hypnotic state.
Namely, the key to answering the titular question lies in the brain and its neural processes. We need to examine how hypnosis alters or suspends them. There’s certainly no need to meddle with any mumbo-jumbo, anecdotal evidence, and hearsay.
What science tells us is that some people are more susceptible than others. A Stanford University professor argues 25% of people are immune to this technique. He also claims only 5-10% of us are highly susceptible, while up 79% fall into the category of moderately susceptible.
The distinguished institution also developed a Stanford Scale. It’s a reliable method for measuring “hypnotizability”, which is still in use today. So, we are going to see what explains variations among different people.
The Crux of the Matter
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) offers us direct insights into mind under hypnosis.
The scientists monitored clear signatures in three areas:
- Default-mode network
- Executive-control network
- Salience network
Default-mode network is active both in hypnotizable participants and those who aren’t. The former, however, displayed greater connections between the executive control network and the salience network. Likewise, MRI reveals heightened activity in these areas of the brain.
The modulations give them a stronger inclination to experience immersion and keep distractions at bay. In the process, the sensory data becomes detached from top-down and bottom-up thinking.
That is why the mind doesn’t interpret the surroundings like it usually does. Preconditions beliefs and stored memories seize to inform the perception of reality. Behavior and mood change as a result.
On the other hand, people who are less susceptible to hypnosis undergo a radically different experience. They have less activity in the executive control network and the salience network. This kind of mental wiring makes them quite resistant to suggestion.
Other Moving Parts
There are some other factors at play that help us paint the full picture.
First off, people who’ve been exposed to hypnosis have higher chances of being hypnotized again. Simply put, they know the drill and what it entails.
A similar thing can be said about yoga and meditation practitioners. They are in touch with spiritual realms that lie beyond material reality. That is to say, they are bound to be more open to the prospect of hypnotic experience.
Furthermore, there’s a tendency of young adults and children to be more receptive to hypnosis as well. Their imagination still has a habit of running wild and leads them to accept suggestion without questioning it.
As for personality traits and IQ, they have been rejected as relevant variables. It’s all about cognitive factors. In particular, consent and belief play a vital role.
This brings us back to the point that hypnosis is both a deeply internal and cooperative endeavor. If you decide to resist and defy the process, it will probably fail. Do the opposite and relax your mind and you’re in for a ride.
Among other things, this proves just how important attitude is and emphasizes its link to the placebo effect. According to neuroscience, its influence is so profound that it alters our body’s chemistry.
One can even undergo hypnosis and enter trance-like states naturally, without suggestive intervention. Most people go into several such states every day, often without realizing it.
And during meditation, more powerful changes occur. EEG detects alpha brain waves that mimic those that occur under hypnosis. They are known to be conducive to spiritual experiences.
A Lot of Untapped Potential
Nowadays, hypnosis is popular as a means of entertainment.
One can easily find hypnotist shows and other events. The tricky thing is it isn’t easy to predetermine who is likely to be influenced by hypnotic suggestion. Hypnotists cannot rely on foolproof methods that do the trick in all situations.
They have to try and see what happens.
Unlike street hypnosis, though, clinical settings minimize the chances of anything bad happening. People skilled in the art of suggestion expose subjects to fewer risks.
And owing to recent strides we’ve made in understanding hypnosis, we expect to see a widespread medical application.
Hypnosis is already successfully used to treat anxiety, pain, stress, depression, and phobias. There are also hypnotherapies for combating smoking and substance abuse.
The list goes on and encompasses many other complementary medical services. And just so there’s no mistake: we’re talking about some renowned facilities championing hypnosis.
Thus, believe it or not, this technique is a powerful tool for self-improvement. It overrides automatic though loops we repeat every day. In many cases, this mental rewiring leads to updated thinking and belief system.
Ultimately, it supports modified behavior and improved lifestyle.
The Power Within
Equipped with the scientific method, we no longer have to guess about the effects of hypnosis.
There’s a growing body of evidence explaining the workings behind the trance-like state of mind. We explored the question “can everyone be hypnotized?” and gave you some answers.
And as it turns out, most people are susceptible to it. Some are naturally more likely to be influenced than others. They are simply more open to the possibility and the experience materializes as a result.
When that takes place, hypnosis modulates activities in certain areas of the brain. It creates new connections and links, leaving our mind open to suggestion. This altered functional connectivity also gives rise to exiting medical opportunities.
Therefore, if you believe something will happen, it most probably will. On the other hand, skeptics and doubter may not feel anything at all. Either way, the main lesson we draw is that the mind is an immensely powerful and intricate thing.
Feel free to ask me anything you want to know about hypnosis. You can also attend the show and see it all in practice.