We have all seen those cartoons where the crazy scientists hypnotises someone with a swinging watch and their eyes become strange and they do anything the scientist tells them to do. But that’s not how hypnotism really works. Doctors now use hypnotism to help people with problems, like giving up smoking.
Franz Mesmer, an Austrian scientist, first introduced the idea of hypnotism. He believed that a hypnotist had special powers that could be used to control other people. This effect was called mesmerism. Early ideas about magicians, swinging watches, and hypnotism probably came from him, because he had a very active imagination, and he saw himself as a magician.
Today, scientists see hypnotism in a different way. They think it’s a natural state of deep focus and relaxation. During hypnosis, someone shuts out other things, focusing intently only on one thing. When we read a book, watch a movie, or drive a car, we’re in a sort of hypnosis, because we concentrate strongly on that activity.
During hypnosis, people are usually more relaxed and more creative. It is also very easy to convince them to do something. That means, they are more open to ideas and requests, but only if they are happy with the requests. The mind avoids all other things and the person can focus completely on what the scientist is asking them to do.
Doctors use hypnosis to help people deal with pain, or if they have had an accident. Women have used it while having their babies, to help them to control the pain. People have found that it helps to stop bad habits, such as smoking, or to get a better night’s sleep.
There are a lot of ideas about hypnotism which are not correct. Some people think you can get a person to do anything when they are hypnotized, but that is not true. During hypnosis, people are more willing to listen and respond to ideas, but they still have control over their actions. They won’t do something that they really don’t want to do, because their brain will not let them be controlled.