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Hypnotic induction is the process undertaken by a hypnotist to establish the state or conditions required for hypnosis to occur.
James Braid in the nineteenth century saw fixing the eyes on a bright object as the key to hypnotic induction. A century later Freud saw fixing the eyes, or listening to a monotonous sound as indirect methods of induction, as opposed to “the direct methods of influence by way of staring or stroking” - all leading however to the same result, the subject's unconscious concentration on the person of the hypnotist.
Hypnotic induction may be defined as whatever is necessary to get a person into the state of trance - a state of increased suggestibility, during which critical faculties are reduced and subjects are more prone to accept the commands and suggestions of the hypnotist.
Theodore X Barber argued however that techniques of hypnotic induction were merely empty but popularly-expected rituals, inessential for hypnosis to occur: hypnosis on this view is a process of influence, which is only enhanced (or formalized) through expected cultural rituals. Oliver Zangwill pointed out in opposition that, while cultural expectations are important in hypnotic induction, seeing hypnosis only as a conscious process of influence fails to account for such phenomena as posthypnotic amnesia or post-hypnotic suggestion. Evidence of changes in brain activity and mental processes have also been associated experimentally with hypnotic inductions.
|This article lends undue weight to certain ideas, incidents, or controversies. (April 2014)|
In early hypnotic literature a hypnosis induction was a gradual, drawn-out process. Methods such as progressive muscle relaxation were designed to relax the hypnotic subject into a state of inner focus (during which their imagination would come to the forefront) and the hypnotist would be better able to influence them and help them effect changes at the subconscious level.
Modern alternatives include the Elman Induction, introduced by Dave Elman, which involves what is known as instant (or snap) induction. Instant hypnosis inductions employ the principles of shock and surprise. A shock to the nervous system of the subject causes their conscious mind to be temporarily disengaged. During this brief window of distraction the hypnotist intervenes quickly, allowing the subject to enter the state of hyper imagination and inner focus known as hypnosis, or trance.