Thursday, March 5, 2009
From this page.
This site also features the complete text of James Braid's book "Neurypnology, or The rationale of nervous sleep considered in relation with animal magnetism" (Braid disputed the supernatural interpretation of mesmerism . He coined the word "hypnotism" in 1843).
Here's Richard Feynman's account of his experience with hypnosis:
He [a hypnotist] started to work on me and soon I got into a position where he said, 'You can't open your eyes.'
I said to myself, 'I bet I could open my eyes, but I don't want to disturb the situation: Let's see how much further it goes.' It was an interesting situation. You're only slightly fogged out, and although you've lost a little bit, you're pretty sure you could open your eyes. But of course, you're not opening your eyes, so in a sense you can't do it.
He went through a lot of stuff and decided that I was pretty good.
When the real demonstration came he walked on stage and he hypnotized us in front of the whole Princeton Graduate College. This time the effect was stronger; I guess I had learned how to become hypnotized. [Confirming what I have said tends to happen - there is learning with practice and experience.] The hypnotist made various demonstrations, having me do things I couldn't normally do, and at the end he said that after I came out of hypnosis, instead of returning to my seat directly, which was the natural way to go, I would walk all the way around the room and go to my seat from the back.
All through the demonstration I was vaguely aware of what was going on, and cooperating with the things the hypnotist said, but this time I decided, 'Damn it, enough is enough! I'm gonna go straight to my seat.'
When it was time to get up and go off the stage, I started to walk straight to my seat. But then an annoying feeling came over me: I felt so uncomfortable that I couldn't continue. I walked all the way around the hall.
Dylan Morgan, a Braid enthusiast, has a rather charming book here, in which he describes hypnotic induction as a state of focused rapport. In his explanation, hypnosis is achieved by inducing a series of "yes moments".
I'm reminded of the "yes, and..." rule of improvisational theater. I wonder if there is a connection.