Books Are Weapons In The War of Ideas
HYPNOSIS by G.A. Estabrooks
THE INDUCTION OF HYPNOTISM
PERHAPS the best approach to an understanding of hypnotism is through the popular but somewhat unscientific idea of the unconscious mind. For example, we all have friends who walk in their sleep, in some cases performing (eats of balancing on narrow balconies which would be impossible in the waking state. When they awaken, they have no knowledge of what has happened yet their bodies were certainly under control of some directing force.
Better as an illustration is the man who talks in his sleep. At times we can enter into conversation with him. If we are careful and know how to proceed, he will talk just as sanely and often far more frankly than when awake. Yet when we do awaken him, his mind is a blank as to what has occurred. Again, it would appear that something must be guiding his thoughts during this period of conversation. We will call this “something” the unconscious mind, a very convenient name for our own ignorance, and a concept we will have to examine much more carefully in later pages.
This last example provides us with an excellent introduction to our subject, for the individual who talks in his sleep and answers questions is really hypnotized. In fact, this is one recognized method of producing the trance, namely by changing normal sleep into hypnotic sleep. The skilled hypnotist can generally take the sleep-walker or sleep-talker and shift him directly over into deep hypnotism without either the knowledge or the consent of his subject. Let us see what appears to happen in such a case. When we are in the normal waking condition, the conscious mind is run ning the body. We act, talk, and think as we please, although such a statement implies “free will,” a very controversial point which we will avoid in this book as of only theoretical interest. But in deep hypnotism this conscious mind of ours has been dethroned. Our actions are now under the will of the operator who controls our activities and deals directly with the so-called unconscious mind.
If he tells us there is a black dog standing by our chair, we will see the animal clearly and pet it. We will hear a symphony orchestra at his suggestion and describe the pieces being rendered. He may suggest we are Abraham Lincoln and we will give his Gettysburg Address or he may tell us that we have absolutely no feeling in our jaws, that the dentist is about to pull a tooth and we will feel no pain. He may even throw the whole thing into the future, saying that tomorrow at four P.m. no matter where we are, we will suddenly see a black dog at our side, will pet him and lead him home.
So the first concept we get of hypnotism is that curious picture of an unconscious mind controlled by the conscious mind of the operator. The subject will accept any suggestion the operator gives, within certain limits which we will consider in later pages.
In fact, suggestion appears to be the key of hypnotism. It is the method by which the hypnotist first gains his control and unseats the normal conscious mind. After this, he finds that his only way of controlling the subject is again through suggestion, for the subject left to himself will generally do nothing at all. He acts and behaves as if in normal sleep.
This unconscious mind is much nearer the surface in some people than in others. While the average reader thinks of hypnotism only in terms of the deepest stage or somnambulism, there are actually many degrees of the trance. Only one person in every five has the unconscious so accessible that the conscious can be completely unseated and the operator deal directly with the unconscious. Yet we find evidences of true hypnotic phenomena in almost everybody.
Let us follow the procedure of the operator as he induces hypnosis. This will serve to show all these various states and at the same time illustrate one method of inducing hypnosis, the method most in favor with the psychologist, who prefers the quiet of his laboratory to the stage of the “professional.”
Suggestion is his key and relaxation makes the subject more open to suggestion. So, first of all, he has his subject seated comfortably in a chair or reclining on a couch. Then he “talks sleep.” The subject is asked to close his eyes and the operator begins somewhat as follows.
“You are falling sound asleep. Relax all your muscles and imagine that you are going into a deep sleep. Deeper and deeper. You will not wake up until I tell you, then you will wake up quietly and you will always feel fine as a result of these suggestions. You are falling sound, sound asleep. Deeper and deeper, deeper and deeper.” The hypnotist continues this formula for about five minutes and then tries the first and simplest test.
“Listen to me. Your eyelids are locked tightly together. Tight! Tight! Tight! Your eyelids are locked tightly together and you cannot open your eyes no matter how hard you may try. Your eyelids are locked tightly together and you cannot open them. You may try. I dare you!”
Then something very curious may happen. The subject is still wide “awake” in the sense that his conscious mind hears everything and remembers everything afterward. Yet for some reason or other he cannot get those eyes open, struggle as he will. He seems to forget which muscles to use, and raises his eyebrows in hopeless efforts to succeed. The operator is getting his first control over the unconscious and this control we can see progressing in definite steps. It is much easier, for example, to influence certain small muscle groups, say the eyes or the throat, than larger muscles as those in the arms or legs, while any attempt to get hallucinations-visions-at this stage would almost certainly fail. We will find that, on this first trial, roughly one half of the subjects cannot open the eyes, while this percentage improves as we repeat attempts at hypnosis. In the long run, after, say a dozen trials, about ninety per cent of humanity will reach the stage when they cannot open their eyes.
The remaining ten per cent will generally report that they feel rested, relaxed, or sleepy, but will deny any real effects. Probably this feeling of relaxation and general sleepiness should be considered as one of the hypnotic phenomena at this very early stage, but it is hard to demonstrate, whereas eye-closure is quite definite.
However, we must note that whereas the hypnotist can get this closing of the eyes in ninety per cent of humanity, this does not necessarily mean that he can go any farther with his suggestions. He may and again he may not. That seems to depend almost entirely on the subject. There are many of these in whom it is easy to induce eye-closure, but quite impossible to get any tests which indicate a deeper stage of hypnotism. No matter how hard the hypnotist may try he can make no progress beyond this very elementary state and psychology is quite at a loss to explain why. Susceptibility to hypnosis seems to depend on certain personality traits which we do not know and cannot influence.
Should the hypnotist succeed in this first test with the eyes, he may proceed at once to one which indicates a somewhat deeper state, such as stiffening of the arm. He will end eyeclosure and continue somewhat as follows.
“Now, relax everything. Relax your eye muscles. They are returning to normal. You are sound, sound asleep and will not awaken until I tell you. Then you will awaken quietly and easily. Relax everything. I am now about to make another test. Your right arm is becoming stiff and rigid at your side. Stiff and rigid. The muscles are tightening up. It is stiff and rigid as an iron bar. Stiff and rigid. You cannot bend your right arm. It is impossible to bend your right arm. You may try. I dare you.”
Once again we may see that weird condition in which the patient is quite helpless to meet the challenge. He jerks the arm around with a curious sort of tremor and does his best, but his best produces no results. The arm remains stiff and rigid.
Or he may meet the challenge quite successfully, relax his arm and open his eyes. In this case he has broken any influence we might have had. But even if he cannot bend his arm, this fact guarantees nothing as to his going deeper. As in the case of eye-closure, he may be wide awake and remember everything perfectly after the seance. The suggestions of the hypnotist have been successful up to this point. Beyond it he may be quite unable to make further progress.
If successful, another test is in order. Various operators will use different tests in different sequences but the idea is the same at this early stage, namely to involve larger and larger groups of muscles in these induced paralyses. The next move might easily be something like this. First of all we must remove the effects of the previous test. So we say:
“Relax, relax your right arm. It is returning to normal. Your right arm is resting quietly at your side and there is no strain whatsoever. You are sound, sound asleep. Deeper and deeper. Deeper and deeper. You are losing all control over your body. Your body is floating away and you can no longer control your muscles. For example, it is quite impossible for you to stand up. You are stuck in your chair and it is quite impossible for you to stand erect. You may try but you cannot. I dare you.”
And the subject either does or he does not. He may pull himself together, even if the other tests have succeeded, open his eyes and stagger to his feet. On the other hand, he may make ineffective efforts to arise, then decide it is useless and relax in his chair.
In all these early stages of hypnotism we notice a curious lethargy, an unwillingness on the subject’s part to exert himself. Very frequently, when we dare the subject to open his eyes, bend his arm or stand up, he makes no effort whatsoever. If we question him afterward, we find that he heard the challenge, was certain that he could move the muscles in question if he wished to, but he just couldn’t be bothered to try. He was feeling quite comfortable and wished to remain so.
This must be listed as one of the earliest and best signs of success in inducing the hypnotic trance. It is a very significant cue which the experienced operator never overlooks, for it is not what one would expect if there were no influence. For example, suppose a hypnotist goes up to a gentleman sitting quietly in a hotel lobby and suddenly says:
“Mr. Smith. You cannot stand up. Your legs are paralyzed. No matter how hard you may try you cannot leave that chair.” Mr. Smith, once he had recovered from his astonishment would probably stand up immediately and call the hotel management for protection against this madman.”
But the hypnotic subject adopts an entirely different attitude. Not only does he think the operator’s actions quite reasonable, but he makes no effort at all to assert his own independence. This curious lethargy, found in many people, generally indicates that the individual will become a good subject.
Should the operator be successful up to this point, he will proceed with the next step. He has demonstrated, to his satisfaction, that he can control the voluntary muscles, small and large, but this does not necessarily mean that he is dealing with a good subject, a somnambulist. He still has several steps to make. Next he will try automatic movements, talking to the subject somewhat as follows:
“You are sound, sound asleep, going deeper and deeper. Now, listen carefully. I am about to start your hands rotating one around the other. Here they go, round and round, faster and faster. Keep them moving. They are rotating faster and faster, faster and faster. You cannot stop them. No matter how hard you try, you cannot stop your hands from going around.”
As in the previous tests we may get any one of three re actions. The subject may be able to resist the suggestion, stop his hands, and remain quiet. Or he may simply allow them to continue rotating, obviously making no effort to stop them. This is the type of reaction we mentioned in which the subject simply cannot be bothered to make the effort. Finally, he may try unsuccessfully to stop them, stiffening up the muscles in all sorts of curious ways, bumping his hands together, even gripping his coat in an unsuccessful effort to bring the movement to an end.
These automatic movements, as they are called, generally indicate a fairly deep stage of hypnotism. For some reason, they are much more difficult to obtain than mere paralysis or stiffening of any muscle or muscle group. When obtained they generally signify that the individual will be a very good subject, but this is not always the case. As before, many subjects will come to even this state of hypnosis and go no farther. The conscious mind refuses to relinquish its control and the subject will awake, quite aware of everything that has taken place. This type of enforced activity can apply to any set of muscles, even those of speech. We can say to the subject, “Repeat after me the words `Mary had a little lamb.’ Now repeat it by yourself. Keep it up. You cannot stop it. You must keep repeating that sentence.” And, in many cases, the subject will do as we have suggested.
If the operator has met with success up to this point, he will now suspect that he has a really good subject with which to deal and will try for somnambulism, the deepest form of the hypnotic trance. After he has convinced himself that the automatic movements are genuine or that the subject is too deep in hypnosis to even make the effort to resist, he may proceed somewhat as follows:
“Now I am going to ask you a few very simple questions. You are sound asleep and will answer me in your sleep, talking as you have heard many of your friends talk in their sleep. You will not wake up and will have no trouble at all in answering my questions.”
It is always well to repeat instructions several times so as to be sure that the subject understands. Then the operator will ask some very simple questions, such as:
“Tell me, what is your home address?” “Where were you on your vacation last summer?” “How many brothers and sisters have you ?”
Questions which have any emotional tone or which the subject may be unwilling to answer for any reason whatsoever should be carefully avoided at this early stage. The subject may easily awaken from this first light trance, have a vague memory of what has happened and refuse to have anything more to do with hypnotism. Even if he does not remember what has occurred, the unpleasantness of the situation may still hang over in a vague sort of way, and make it difficult to obtain full cooperation in the future.
Next, the operator may decide to have the subject stand up and walk around the room. This is accomplished by means of suggestion, which is the key to hypnotism. “You will now stand up. You will not wake up until I tell you, but will stand up, walking in your sleep as you have undoubtedly seen many sleep walkers. You will find no difficulty at all in using your muscles but will remain sound asleep. Now, stand up.” And the operator helps the subject to his feet. Should the subject not wake up under this last test, we may be pretty sure that he is now in somnambulism, although a few subjects will cooperate very nicely up to this point but awaken when asked to move about. They may even walk around, obviously in hypnotism and still retain a fairly clear memory of what has happened after the seance is completed.
In general, we accept the hallucination as the final test of hypnotism. We can hallucinate any of the senses but the most common type is that of sight, the “vision” We proceed somewhat as follows:
“Listen carefully. When I give the word you will open your eyes but you will not wake up. You are still walking in your sleep. You will not wake up. You will see standing on the table in front of you a very friendly black cat. You will go over, pet the cat, then lift it up carefully and put it on the chair in which you have been seated.” We repeat these instructions several times, then say, “Now open your eyes. Open your eyes. There is the cat.”
This test is more or less crucial. The subject must be in deep somnambulism if he is to be subject to these hallucinations or visions. Should he not see the cat, then the shock of opening his eyes will probably awaken him completely and the seance is over. Should he really have a vision of the cat, his actions will be characteristic. He will pet the animal and play with it in so convincing a fashion that the operator need have no doubt as to what has really happened. The subject is in deep somnambulism and will remember nothing on awakening.
Actually there can be many a curious twist which will deceive even a trained hypnotist. The writer was demonstrating hypnotism before a group of medical students. The time was short, so it was agreed that he would take one of the men and simply go through the motions. The subject would cooperate and take the tests to the best of his ability, simply to provide a demonstration for the others of how hypnotism was produced.
We ran through the tests rapidly right up to hallucinations. Here the writer said to the subject, “Now open your eyes. There is an apple in my hand. Take it and eat it.” The subject promptly opened his eyes, grinned, and said, “There’s a worm in it.” The operator took it for granted he was wide awake, asked him to sit down and continued his talk.
But when he dismissed the group, his demonstration subject remained seated, with his eyes wide open but unable to move. “Wake me up, will you,” he said, “I can’t move.” So the operator waked him up in proper fashion. The operator must never take anything for granted in hypnotism, but must be quite certain that his subject is wide awake before leaving.
This is a very important point in technique. Let us suppose that the subject has arrived at somnambulism and the hypnotist wishes to end the seance. He awakens the subject by some such means as the following: “I will now count to five. By the time I get to five you will be wide awake and feeling fine. Wide awake and feeling fine. One, you are waking up; two, you are waking up; three, you are almost awake; four, you are nearly awake; five, you are awake.”
Even if the subject should awaken by himself in any of the tests leading up to somnambulism, it is nevertheless a good plan, after he opens his eyes, to assure him, “All right, you’re awake now. Wide awake and feeling fine.” This very simple precaution may appear a little silly in many cases but it is always well to be sure.
We hear a great deal about the subject refusing to awaken from hypnotism. This appears to be a continual dread of people who are learning to hypnotize. What do they do if the subject will not awaken? If the operator will follow some such technique as we have outlined, this problem will never present itself. Throughout the entire seance we keep stressing the idea, “You will not wake up until you are told. Then you will awaken quietly and easily.”
Should the patient refuse to awaken-the writer has never had such a case-the proper procedure is to allow him to remain quietly in the trance. The hypnotic “sleep” will change over to natural sleep and sooner or later the subject will awaken by himself. But experience will soon teach the operator that his real problem is to get his subject into hypnotism, not get him out of it.
That is the reason we insert the phrase, “You will not wake up until you are told.” Some subjects have the habit, why we do not know, of suddenly opening their eyes in the very midst of the seance and awakening completely. They seem just as surprised as the operator, but undoubtedly there is some very good reason for this state of affairs. The following case is a good example.
The writer was hypnotizing a young man who gave all the signs of being an excellent subject. Everything went very nicely until the operator said, “I am now going to ask you a few simple questions which you will answer.” Immediately, the subject was wide awake, trembling violently with every sign of intense fear. This was odd, so the operator repeated the seance with exactly the same result. Then the explanation dawned on him. So the next time, before asking any questions, he said, “Listen carefully. There it nothing to fear. I am in no way interested in your private affairs. I wish to ask you a few very simple questions simply to show that you are in touch with me, that you are listening to me. If you do not wish to answer any particular question, just shake your head, but I assure you that I am not going to ask intentionally any question which could possibly embarrass you. Is that clear?”
He nodded his head and everything progressed in proper order from that point. Obviously it was the proverbial case of the guilty conscience. The subject feared the operator was going to pry into his secrets and awakened in order to protect himself.
The writer has described the hypnotic technique most used in the psychological laboratory but there are endless variations to this particular procedure, and several other entirely different techniques which are equally effective. With this particular attack, for example, many operators prefer to start with the subject’s eyes wide open, waiting until he closes them from natural fatigue. So far as the writer can see, it makes very little difference if we start with the eyes open or closed. He prefers to start with them closed.
Then the writer himself would not use the technique as he has outlined it. He awakens the subject after each test and starts all over again. A much slower approach, to be sure, but one which gives the operator ample opportunity to size up his subject and adopt his attack to any peculiarities the subject may have.
We will see later that, on occasion, subjects do curious things which can be very disconcerting to an operator. The writer prefers his slower, more deliberate approach because it enables him to meet these peculiarities at the earliest possible moment. But most operators would consider him overcautious. The writer also would never spend more than five minutes at any one seance in this early stage of the game, but he knows of excellent operators who will hammer right along for one hour if necessary in an effort to get somnambulism at the very first effort. And, of course, operators may vary the order of the tests and use different muscle groups. Speech muscles instead of eyes, inability to move a leg as opposed to an arm, or other substitutions.
But it all adds up to the same thing. If we use the “sleeping” technique the approach is slow, calm, and monotonous. The reader will note a complete absence of many things which popular opinion links with the hypnotist. We have described a procedure which anyone can master. There is no mention at all of “will power,” for it has nothing to do with hypnotism. The operator does not dominate the weaker will of his subject and beat him into submission with his “dark, hypnotic eye.” Quite the contrary. He does his best to persuade the subject to cooperate, making it quite ‘ clear that success is very difficult without this cooperation on the part of the individual in question. We will see later that a subject can very easily be hypnotized against his will but that this again has nothing to do with will power on the part of the operator.
We have not mentioned the famous hypnotic pass because this also is quite unnecessary, a hang-over from those early days of hypnotism during American Revolutionary times when Mesmer was passing his “magnetic fluid” into the bodies of his patients, and Benjamin Franklin with others in Paris was exposing Mesmer as a fraud.
Nor are there any special, intricate techniques which have to be mastered. Hypnotism has nothing of mystery in its nature. A small corner of science, it is open to all who are willing to use the necessary care in mastering a technique and persistence in applying the same.
In America we have been a little unfortunate in our introduction to hypnotism. Most of us have made its acquaintance via the stage and the “professional,” whereas in Europe these public exhibitions of hypnotism are generally not allowed. As a result we find there in almost every town of any size some doctor who is an authority on the subject and uses it as needed in his practice.
But with us the medical profession fights shy of hypnotism, knowing full well that any individual who starts using hypnotism in his practice becomes associated in the public’s mind with the stage artist, the quack. Even his companions in medicine look on him as a little queer, so that in America hypnotism has died a very natural death, so far as medicine is concerned. However, this very neglect on the part of the doctor has turned out for the best. It has forced hypnotism back into the psychological laboratory where the psychologist, with a much greater range of interest than his medical compatriot, has been doing some very excellent work during the past twenty years.
For the time being, however, this public prejudice is still very strong. The writer is especially anxious to present hypnotism to the reader as a branch of science quite divorced from mystery and from the supernatural. Certainly nothing we have presented in our technique for inducing hypnotism savors of the “black art” and we can assure the reader that the following pages will be just as free of any suggestion of the mystic.
There are many ways of producing the seance, so let us examine a technique at the opposite extreme from that we have described. The stage hypnotist breaks every condition which would seem to be necessary to the psychologist in his laboratory, but, strange to say, he is just as successful as is the true scientist. “The brighter the lights, the bigger the crowd, the better the success” as one professional put it. Obviously, then, quiet and relaxation are not necessary to the induction of hypnosis.
The following is fairly typical of the technique employed by the stage performer. He has the subject stand erect with his feet close together and proceeds somewhat as follows: “Stand erect and listen carefully to my voice. Close your eyes. Just imagine that you are a board standing on end. You are a board standing on end and you are falling back. You are falling backward into my arms. Falling back, back, back. Let yourself go. I will catch you. You are falling back, back, back. You are losing your balance and are falling backward.” At this point the subject generally loses his balance and does fall backward. The operator promptly stands him on his feet again and at once returns to the attack, this time standing in front of the subject. “Look into my eyes and clasp your hands together. Clasp your hands together firmly. Make an effort and put some muscle into those fingers. Clasp your hands together firmly, firmly. Your hands are locked together. Your hands are locked tightly together. You cannot take your hands apart no matter how hard you may try. Your hands are locked firmly together. I dare you. You cannot take your hands apart.”
If he is dealing with a good subject the hands will be stuck together and it will be impossible for him to take them apart. So the hypnotist proceeds at once. “All right. Relax. You can take your hands apart. Keep looking in my eyes. Now open your mouth. Stiffen up your jaw muscles. Your jaws are stiff and locked in place. It is impossible for you to close your jaws. Absolutely impossible. You cannot pronounce your own name. Your jaws are locked in place and you cannot pronounce your own name. It is impossible for you to pronounce your own name. All right. Relax.”
The hypnotist gives his subject no time to recover his poise, but returns to the attack at once. “Keep looking into my eyes. Stiffen out your right leg. Stiffen it out. Your right leg is stiff and rigid. You cannot move it. You cannot take even one step forward. Your right leg is stiff, rigid, and useless. You are rooted to the ground. You cannot move. All right, relax.”
But the operator gives him no time to relax. Immediately he begins on his next move. “Close your eyes. The lids are locked tightly together. You cannot open your eyes. They are firmly closed. You are now falling backward into my arms. Let yourself go. You are falling back into my arms.” The subject falls backward and the operator eases him down onto the floor or into a chair, and continues. “You are asleep. Sound, sound asleep, just as if you have taken chloroform or ether. You are sound, sound asleep. Deeper and deeper. Deeper and deeper. You are sound, sound asleep.” The operator continues in this vein for a minute or two, then at once shifts the subject over to active somnambulism.
“Stand up. You are sound asleep, walking in your sleep. Now open your eyes, but remain asleep. Look. There is an elephant standing over there. Here is a gun.” He hands the subject a broom. “Now, go stalk the elephant. Remember he is a dangerous beast and you must take advantage of every bit of cover.” Thereupon the subject proceeds to creep up on the supposed elephant, hiding behind chairs, tables or bits of scenery until he finally shoots the animal with a loud “bang” and proceeds to examine the corpse.
From this point the professional will probably go through the usual stage procedure, have his subject fish for whales in a goldfish jar, bark all around the stage on all fours, give a Fourth of July speech and finally awaken his very embarrassed subject just as he is about to remove most of his clothes. It is this sort of thing which has given hypnotism such a bad name with the average American, who always feels that somehow it is linked with sleight of hand and “magic” in general.
We may condemn the stage artist for bringing the subject into such disrepute, but we must admit that he gets results. The reader will also be impressed with the fact that his method of attack stands out in sharp contradiction to that previously described in almost every respect. Those conditions of quiet relaxation on which the psychologist insists are conspicuous by their absence. Nor is he in any way worried about having the cooperation of his victim. After the first half minute he runs things his own way, outraging the subject’s dignity and good taste in every possible manner.
It is well to bear this stage technique in mind when we consider the real nature of hypnotism in Chapter III. Most psychologists are either unfamiliar with his technique or ignore it completely. If they numbered one or two of these professionals among their friends, they would not fall into some very common errors as to theory.
The stage operator will vary this technique indefinitely but his underlying theme is always the same. A high pressure attack which more or less aims at throwing the subject off balance. Then a rapid and continuous follow-up which does not give the subject time to recover himself. But we should note that, for all his extravagant claims, he ends with just the same proportion of somnambulists as does the psychologist; namely, one in five.
The two techniques we have described up to the present, with their endless variations, represent those most commonly used to induce hypnotism, but there are others. One, for example, simply aims at transforming natural sleep into the hypnotic variety. The method of procedure here is somewhat as follows: The operator seats himself beside the sleeping subject and begins talking in a very low voice. “Listen to me. I am talking to you and you will answer in your sleep. You will talk to me in your sleep just as you have often heard others talk, but you will not wake up. You are sound asleep but you hear my voice clearly in your unconscious mind.” The operator gradually raises his voice, puts his hand on the subject’s head to further attract attention, and when his voice has risen to normal volume, say after five minutes, he asks the subject some very simple question, such as “Where do you live?”
In general, the operator has to press repeatedly for an answer until one of two things happen. Either the subject awakens, and this will occur in four-fifths of the cases or the subject starts talking in his sleep. When this occurs, the hypnotist proceeds as he would with any other somnambulist, has the subject stand up, walk around the room, open his eyes, see hallucinations and finally return to bed with the suggestion that he will sleep soundly until morning and awaken at the usual time. For obvious reasons, this technique is very limited in its possibilities for use, yet under certain conditions, as in a hospital, it does present very definite advantages.
At this point it would be well to mention the “disguised” technique. The reader will have noted that when the operator changes normal sleep into the hypnotic trance, the subject has nothing to say in the matter. This raises the interesting and very important question as to whether anyone can be hypnotized against his will and the answer is “certainly.” If we wished, we could quibble as to whether transfer from sleep to trance was hypnotism “against the will” or only hypnotism “without the consent” of the subject. Not a very important point because the subject may definitely refuse to have anything to do with hypnosis in his waking state yet this sleep transfer method would still work. This, it seems, would be definitely against his will.
However, there are certain places in which hypnotism might be used where it would have to be employed without the consent of the hypnotized. Such would be the use of hypnotism in the detection of crime or in warfare. A prisoner in jail or after a battle certainly would not willingly cooperate with the hypnotist if he knew the operator was after information which might send him to the electric chair or which would put him in the light of a traitor to his country. So here we employ the disguised technique. We hypnotize the subject without his realizing what is happening. We ask his cooperation in a harmless little psychological experiment using some piece of psychological apparatus as a front behind which to work. Perhaps the simplest is the device for measuring blood pressure. We explain to the subject that we wish to test his ability to relax, and we can measure this by his blood pressure. That sounds very reasonable so we fix the rubber band on his arm, tell him to close his eyes and relax all his muscles.
We further explain that, of course, the deepest form of relaxation is sleep, and that if the subject can fall asleep it will show that he has perfect control over his nervous system. Then we proceed to “talk sleep” much the same as in hypnotism, being careful to avoid any references to trances, seances or hypnotism, and omitting all tests except one. After five minutes, during which period we have checked several times on the blood pressure to keep up the delusion, we tell the subject that we would like to see if he can talk in his sleep, since this represents the very deepest form of relaxation. If he does, he is in deep hypnosis. If he does not, no one is any the wiser as to what has actually been taking place. We repeat this little experiment several times until we have obtained results or convinced ourselves that no results are to be obtained.
Should the authorities ever decide to use hypnotism extensively either in the detection of crime or in warfare, this disguised technique may prove extremely valuable. Not only is it just as effective as any other made of attack, but it is of such a nature that very few laymen would recognize it as anything other than what it purports to be; namely, an experiment to measure ability at relaxation. Moreover, the apparatus used can vary indefinitely. The so-called lie detector provides an excellent screen behind which to work. The writer finds that an ordinary watch with which to take pulse rate as a measure of relaxation is quite as satisfactory.
The previous paragraphs also illustrate another very important point in any consideration of hypnotism. Science is eternally on the move, questioning, probing, inquiring. The truth of yesterday may be false today. Many of the older hypnotists, writing around 1900 were quite definite in their assertions that no one could be hypnotized against his will. They were just as sure that hypnotism could not be used for criminal purposes, and they were quite right, in so far as they knew hypnotism.
But these early authorities were almost always medical men. Their interest lay in treating the weaknesses of the human machine. To them such questions were merely side issues, and very unpleasant side issues at that. Hypnotism was unpopular, linked in the public’s mind with black magic and mysticism. They felt it their duty to defend it at every turn. When faced with these very unpleasant possibilities they settled the issue with a few experiments which proved their own point, but which are quite worthless from the viewpoint of modern psychology.
The subject, armed with a rubber knife, would gladly murder his victim. Give him a steel knife, however, and he would recoil in horror. The subject could not be hypnotized when he made up his mind to resist, but was quite easily thrown into the trance when he cooperated with the operator.
We will see, in later pages, that all this proves very little. Hypnotism is now investigated in the laboratory by the scientist. He cares very little about the popularity of his subject and insists on a thorough investigation of every question. To be sure, the facts he unearths may be unpleasant. Hypnotism may be a very dangerous thing in the hands of the unscrupulous, but so is the aeroplane, the rifle, the disease germ. Science wishes to know the facts. Once discovered, these truths are handed over to the public. If that public uses the aeroplane to drop bombs, rather than to carry passengers, the scientist is in no way to blame. So with hypnotism. The psychologist seeks to unearth the truth. That is his problem. The use to which his discoveries may be put is something different again and something for which he has no responsibility.
Another most interesting way of inducing the trance is by means of the victrola record. The operator simply dictates his technique to the record, plays this back to the subject and the record will put the subject into hypnotism just as well as will the voice of the hypnotist. A very neat example of how little “will power,” passes, and hypnotic eyes have to do with the trance. About as nonmystic a procedure as anyone could wish.
The writer prepared one of the first of these records with the assistance of the Victor people and it is now marketed through the Marietta Apparatus Company. Many others have since made their appearance, all good and generally intended for some specific purpose. It is now so very easy to record the human voice that there will undoubtedly be a great future for this technique. The operator will prepare a definite record for a particular subject, instruct him how to use it and literally apply absent treatment in the best sense of the word.
Yet we must bear in mind that this use of hypnotic records has very definite limitations. The record is excellent for purposes of instruction, which was the reason for its first appearance. It is very useful for experimental work, where the psychologist in his laboratory wishes to be sure that his subjects are receiving exactly the same instructions as are those in the laboratory of a colleague 1,000 miles away. It can even be used to induce hypnotism the very first time.
But the operator should always be present, for very naturally no record, no matter how skillfully devised, can meet the various emergencies which arise when we induce the trance. Some subjects tend to become hysterical, some even show a disposition to go into convulsions and some others are difficult to awaken. The victrola record cannot handle these situations.
However, there may be a real use for this technique after the subject has been hypnotized several times. Then it might be very useful from the medical angle, when the subject is being treated for, say, alcoholism or stammering. The doctor might very easily prepare a record for such a subject, aimed at reinforcing and repeating suggestions already given in the hypnotic trance. Such a record would, of course, be so arranged that it would also awaken the subject from the trance.
This could very easily be arranged and would be a great convenience to both subject and doctor. Hypnotism is notoriously time consuming and any device which could meet this objection might make it far more acceptable to the average medical man. We will deal more fully with these proposals in a later chapter. There is always that very interesting possibility of hypnotism over the radio. While we do not have the slightest doubt that certain members of the radio audience could be thrown into the genuine trance by a hypnotist using such a means of contact, the whole thing is impractical. The operator is too far removed from his various subjects and should anything go amiss the chances for trouble, including lawsuits, would be infinite.
It is very possible that in future some enterprising company may devote a period to broadcasting health suggestions, which the audience will accept in the relaxed state and which might be very helpful. But this is only a possibility and something for the future. Up to the present nothing has been done. The proposal is open to many practical objections.
In future pages the writer will point out that we are often quibbling over words. Hitler is an excellent hypnotist, and we really mean that statement to be taken seriously. We will see that his technique is almost identical with that of the stage hypnotist, that the underlying psychology is the same and the results much more effective. To be sure, there are differences, but these differences are very superficial. So we do have hypnotism of a very effective type over the radio but it bears another label.
There has been a great deal of work done with drugs as an aid to hypnosis, all to practically no end. It would seem reasonable to the reader that any good anaesthetic, say ether, should make almost any person susceptible to hypnotism. The subject is “unconscious” in both states so what gives one should produce the other. Actually the subject is far from being unconscious, he is not “asleep” as so many people assume and all our work with drugs appears to have been wasted effort. Perhaps drugs may still have a use in lowering resistance discover beforehand who these very susceptible people are. The operator would then save himself much wasted effort. How does he do it? The answer is unfortunately all too definite. It cannot be done at least in the present stage of our work. We know of no tests which will foretell with any degree of accuracy which individuals will develop into really good subjects. Much work is being tried along these lines and some research is yielding promising results, as that at the Harvard Psychological Clinic. The fact remains, however, that we cannot as yet use any tests here with anything like certainty.
We can, however, save ourselves a great deal of work if we follow certain leads. In general, the individual who talks in his sleep will be a good subject. The person who walks in his sleep, the “natural” somnambulist, will almost always go into “artificial” somnambulism or deep hypnosis. The feebleminded are notoriously hard to hypnotize, as are also same classes of the insane, as the schizophrenics. But the hysteric on the contrary is generally a very good subject. Children between the ages of seven and twelve are excellent, the proportion here running as high as four in five, as opposed to the one in five average of normal adults.
This leaves us with no means at all of judging the susceptibility of the average adult. But we can still do considerable to save ourselves time and trouble. We can use some of the simplest tests of hypnosis as indicators. For example, the “sway” technique helps us. Here we really borrow from the stage hypnotist. The subject is asked to stand erect and we attach to the top of his head a system of strings and wires which measure accurately the sway of his body. Then we ask him to close his eyes, suggest to him that he is falling backward and get an accurate measurement of just how far he does sway. The speed and extent to which he accepts these suggestions give us a fairly accurate picture as to his possibilities as a subject.
Another rapid way of picking the good subject, in the absence of any equipment, is simply to use the test of clasping the hands, as mentioned previously. We begin by requesting the subject to clasp his hands firmly together, and to imagine as vividly as possible that they are locked together, that he cannot take them apart. We reinforce this by our own suggestions that the hands are locked tightly together and once again the difficulty he has in parting his hands gives us a fairly good cue as to what will happen with more advanced tests.
However, the writer finds that the best way to discover good subjects is by using group hypnotism. He takes a group of about a dozen individuals who wish to co-operate, seats them in chairs, tells them to close their eyes and proceeds to talk sleep. Then after a couple of minutes he dares them to open their eyes, and notes results. The entire group is told to awaken-just a precaution as almost never will anyone go into trance at such short notice-and next the operator asks them to clasp hands, following this by the usual challenge. Then he stiffens out the arms of the entire group and dares them to relax the arm muscles. Finally, he starts their hands rotating and defies them to stop the movement. After each test, of course, he assures himself that everyone is wide awake.
The experienced operator can easily pick the good subjects with such a technique, and have the whole thing over in ten minutes. He observes these individuals who are continually in difficulty when he challenges the group or who are too relaxed to even make an effort. These he notes as future good subjects and dismisses the group when he wishes. The only real difficulty here is one of discipline. The whole procedure is pretty certain to strike some member of the group as being very funny, but a little experience will soon enable the operator to handle these situations without offense to anyone. A lazy man’s way of handling this matter of group hypnosis when searching for subjects is to use the victrola record. The operator may either make one for himself or use one of those supplied by the houses which handle psychological apparatus.
It is very easy to get co-operation from a group with one of these records. It is impersonal and looks much more like a genuine psychological experiment, at least to the layman. Once again, with practice, it is a simple matter for the experienced hypnotist to watch the group and pick out the good subjects on the basis of how they behave to the victrola record.
Some people are so extremely susceptible to hypnotism that at times we get curious results even when using a victrola record. The writer recalls one such incident. He had a group who wished to listen to his record. They knew very little about hypnotism but had heard that this marvelous gadget, just on the market, would actually hypnotize.
They were all seated comfortably, the writer reached for the record-and it wasn’t there. A colleague was using it in another building. So he took the first record in sight, put it on the victrola and said, humorously, “Now listen to that.”
Returning five minutes later he was astonished to see that one of the group was evidently going into deep hypnosis. So he turned the record over and remarked, “That will do the trick very nicely.” And it did. The subject was deeply hypnotized and had to be awakened by the usual method. The record in question was a Swiss yodelling song! The man expected to be hypnotized, was an excellent subject, and his own imagination did the rest.
The tests which we have suggested as of aid in detecting those individuals who will go into deep hypnotism, are, however, only bits of the hypnotic technique itself. As we mentioned before, there is no way of telling the good subject, except by actually using hypnotism in some form or other. Contrary to general opinion, susceptibility has nothing to do with a “weak will.” Neither has it any relation to intelligence. In actual practice it is much better to deal with highly intelligent individuals. They will get the knack of the thing and co-operate more quickly than others.
Nor has hypnotism anything to do with the sex of the subject. Many people have the idea that women, especially young women, are much more easily put into the trance than are men. Scientific research gives no basis whatsoever for such an idea. There appears to be no difference.
We will mention here another point to which we will later return. Group hypnotism in the popular sense of the word is quite impossible. No hypnotist, no matter how good, could meet a group of, say, thirty people and hypnotize the lot, unless of course by some weird chance all thirty happened to be good subjects. The odds against such a chance are very heavy. In other words, the Hindu rope trick is not done by group hypnotism. As a matter of fact it never occurred at all in spite of a great deal of popular legend on the subject. If the reader doubts this statement, and he will, he may look up any good book on magic or any stage magician. We give some very good imitations in our modern theaters when the necessary apparatus is at hand, but this could never be duplicated in the open under the blazing Indian sun with the crowd surrounding the juggler on all sides.
The techniques we have described can be mastered by anyone, just as anyone can learn to run an automobile. To be sure, some people turn out to be much more expert drivers than others, but there is certainly no mystery connected with driving the auto. This does not mean that everyone should learn to use hypnotism or should, of necessity, be permitted to use it if he did learn. That is quite another thing. We simply say it is possible for anyone to learn and stress this point because of popular notions of will power, the dark hypnotic eye, black magic, and other weird ideas.
Finally, many readers may question the wisdom of being so very frank on this matter of inducing hypnotism. We reply that the danger is quite imaginary. The average layman cannot use hypnotism because he has neither the time nor the interest. A mastery of technique demands hard work, and the process of hypnotizing is notoriously boring and tedious. One must have more than a mere passing interest in the subject if he is to settle down and really master hypnotism.
In a later chapter we discuss the dangers of hypnotism, especially in connection with crime. Here, again, the point is largely imaginary, and the reader is asked to reserve judgment until we discuss such questions. The writer will contend that hypnotism can be used for criminal ends, but such use would demand an operator of the highest skill. For any amateur such attempts would only lead to prison. Moreover, our police are quite familiar with everything written in this book and could detect a crime involving hypnotism quite as readily as any other. This may come as a revelation to the reader but, for example, our own Federal Bureau of Investigation knows more about possible criminal uses of hypnotism than anyone in the country. So we may safely leave this aspect of our problem in the hands of the proper authorities, who are quite capable of handling it. The scientist is interested only in facts. How these facts will be used is a question which he is not called on to answer.