When you hear the word hypnosis, you may picture the mysterious hypnotist figure popularized in movies, comic books and television. This ominous, goateed man waves a pocket watch back and forth, guiding his subject into a semi-sleep, zombie-like state. Once hypnotized, the subject is compelled to obey, no matter how strange or immoral the request. Muttering “Yes, master,” the subject does the hypnotist’s evil bidding.
This popular representation bears little resemblance to actual hypnotism, of course. In fact, modern understanding of hypnosis contradicts this conception on several key points. Subjects in a hypnotic trance are not slaves to their “masters” — they have absolute free will. And they’re not really in a semi-sleep state — they’re actually hyper-attentive.
Hypnosis is a therapeutic technique in which clinicians make suggestions to individuals who have undergone a procedure designed to relax them and focus their minds.
Although hypnosis has been controversial, most clinicians now agree it can be a powerful, effective therapeutic technique for a wide range of conditions, including pain, anxiety and mood disorders. Hypnosis can also help people change their habits, such as quitting smoking.