Focus on my lips as I speak. Watch my lips in motion. Your eyelids feel heavier and heavier. You're sinking into deep sleep. I've been told that this happens to most of my listeners. They fall asleep to the sound of my voice, unbeknownst to them. I'm hypnotizing them, and I'm hypnotizing them for nefarious purposes, of course. Don't take me seriously, at least not in the beginning.
Now, today's topic is hypnosis. Can we use hypnosis to cure all kinds of conditions, physical and mental? And more importantly, what is hypnosis? How is it connected to empathy? And can narcissism be hypnotized?
Do narcissists hypnotize you?
Stay awake and listen.
Clinically, the narcissist hypnotizes you. He puts you in a state of trance.
I have discussed in previous videos the phenomenon of entraining. Entraining is when two physical brains synchronize. They display the same wavelengths and wave patterns.
Entraining was first discovered about ten years ago among musicians. Musicians in a common jig, musicians in a rock band, synchronize their brainwaves as they play music.
Similarly, the narcissist uses speech. Speech patterns, repeated sentences, kind of mantras to brainwash you and synchronize your brain with his brain.
There are several videos on this channel that I've dedicated to the phenomenon of entraining. Some of them are dialogues with Richard Grannon. Some of them stand alone and therefore less interesting videos.
Entraining is of course a subspecies of hypnosis.
And so today I would like to discuss a third possible explanation for hypnosis.
Later in the video, I will describe to you previous attempts at trying to understand this amazing phenomenon.
The trance, the hypnotic state. What are they? How do they come about? Can they cure? Can we use hypnosis to cure? Can we use hypnosis to explore the unconscious, buried and hidden treasures of memory?
No, I will not go there. Can you use hypnosis to go to previous lives?
Because I don't believe there are any previous lives.
Only believe that.
And I'm not a without.
But I will discuss all the other uses of hypnosis and the proposed explanations for it.
However, before I do that, I would like to present to you my thoughts about this phenomenon.
I think hypnosis is an extreme form of empathy. I think hypnosis is a state very much like highly sensitive people.
Hypnosis is when the subject of the hypnosis and the hypnotist synchronize. They become one. And the subject of the hypnosis, the person being hypnotized, seems to be obeying the demands and dictates and commands of the hypnotist.
But actually, I don't think there's a question of obeying here. There's no question of obeisance. There's no question of dominant and submissive. There's no question of hierarchy.
I think what happens is the two minds synchronize. The subject of the hypnosis perceives the hypnotist as an extension of himself or herself. They become one. They merge and fuse in the most profound sense.
Via heightened empathy, the subject to hypnosis actually empathizes with the hypnotist, seeks to please the hypnotist, adopts the hypnotist's preferences and desires and wishes as his or her own. The subject and the hypnotist become one for all practical purposes.
And so the subject of the hypnosis becomes an extension of the hypnotist. He follows the hypnotist's commands, instructions, wishes. He even emulates and emulates physical conditions. For example, the hypnotist can put a cold object on the subject's skin and tell him that it's very hot and then the subject will develop a physical burn.
Subjects could become inordinately rigid. They can control autonomous functions like heartbeat. This is the power of hypnosis. It's a mind melt.
They create a hive mind, the hypnotist and the subject of hypnosis.
And in this sense, I don't believe that hypnosis is unidirectional. I don't believe that it goes only from the hypnotist to the hypnotized.
I don't think there's a transfer of some mysterious energy or some mysterious quality, for example, like the one between me and me.
I believe that hypnosis is a reciprocal state. The hypnotist focuses on specific cognitions and specific emotions and then shares them with the subject of hypnosis verbally.
But in a way, both of them are hypnotized. Both of them are subject to suggestion.
So this is my theory of hypnosis. It's a heightened state of empathy, a heightened state of empathy, leading to a mind melt, to a merging of the minds, to fusion and therefore becoming at least temporarily a single cognitive emotional entity, if not organism.
But these are not the accepted theories about hypnosis.
In order to survey the literature and go there, we need to start with the origins of hypnosis.
My name is Sam Vaknin. I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, and a professor of psychology.
Up until the end of the 19th century, hypnosis was regarded as a parlor trick, something magicians do on stage.
The basis of mind-boggling shows when volunteers seem to enter a special state of mind, a trance, and in this trance start to behave in bizarre or embarrassing or comic ways.
Freud, Sigmund Freud himself, travelled all the way to Paris and actually spent three years there studying under hypnosis, such as Charcot and others.
Hypnosis was a big thing in the psychology of the late 19th century. People like Mesmer, Charcot and others used hypnosis to unveil the mysteries of the unconscious to somehow reach unreachable or inaccessible patients to ameliorate and mitigate states of anxiety, depression and psychosis.
And of course, they did all this with a flair for the spectacular and the ostentatious.
And so hypnosis started as a state show. It started as a form of circus performance.
You go to a holiday resort and people go on stage and then obediently follow orders and they start to act as a baby, or they become super rigid, poised onto chairs, or they display burns when they shouldn't have, or they do crazy things.
And so how to explain this?
There is a recent rise in interest in hypnosis, psychedelics, an alternative means of treating mental illness.
And the reason is, of course, because we have failed, we have failed. Psychiatry and psychology are failed disciplines. We do not provide the appropriate support and healing to those in need.
I will deal with this in another video where I will discuss the P-factor, the newest theory about mental illness. But take it for granted at this stage or take it from me, that psychology and psychiatry are in a bad state.
So the profession is very interested in alternatives.
Psychedelics is one direction and hypnosis is another.
Hypnosis clearly has some medical value. For example, recently there have been amazing results with irritable bowel syndrome and the use of hypnosis.
In various medical settings, hypnosis helps. It helps people to stop smoking, to lose weight, to give birth without pain killing drugs and so on and so forth.
And yet we don't have a clue how hypnosis works.
My suggested theory or hypothesis that hypnosis is a form of entraining, a form of synchronizing of brains, a form of heightened empathy is number three. It's the third theory.
And none of these theories, myself included, can account or does account for the majority of phenomena associated with hypnosis.
We don't understand what's going on. We don't understand how hypnosis benefits people. We don't understand the concept or the mechanism of suggestion, let alone auto suggestion or post suggestion.
Suggestion is actually the verbalized command given by the hypnotist to the hypnotized. And suggestion can be auto administered.
In other words, you could administer suggestions to yourself.
You can self hypnotize.
There's also something called post suggestion where you are subject to a suggestion while you're hypnotized and then you act out the suggestion after you've woken up from the hypnosis.
No one knows how these things work. We do know, however, that narcissists and psychopaths are less amenable to hypnosis. They are less suggestible.
And so this seems to indicate some affinity or some correlation between empathy or empathic skills and hypnosis.
But on the other hand, people with histrionic personality disorder and people with borderline personality disorder are more suggestible than the general population. They are more amenable to hypnosis.
And in both these disorders, especially in histrionic personality disorder, empathy is impaired.
So this seems to contradict my hypothesis, seems to falsify it.
Anyhow, it's one thing that is known is that to derive any long term benefit from hypnosis, you need several sessions.
And another thing we know for sure is that hypnosis doesn't work with everyone. Not everyone can be hypnotized. There are many people who are resistant to hypnosis.
Are they control freaks? Possibly. Do they lack empathy?
Yes, in the case of narcissists and psychopaths.
Is there another problem, perhaps? Should there be a match in personalities between the hypnotist and the subject of hypnosis? Is it a form of bonding or attachment?
We simply don't know. It's not that we haven't been trying to understand hypnosis for the last 150 years. It's not that there is a shortage of ideas on how to explain hypnosis.
I counted in the preparation for this video. Minnie and I counted at least 30 different theories of hypnosis.
Generally speaking, there are two types of theories.
The first idea is that when people are hypnotized, their brains enter a special state where they become unusually suggestible or more likely to follow instructions.
My theory of hypnosis is an offshoot of this idea. In my theory, people do enter a special state. A state of synchronization. The brain of the hypnotist and the brain of the hypnotized become one. Their waves and frequencies are synchronized. It's a process of entraining via empathy.
And then the hypnotized becomes an extension of the hypnotist. They merge and fuse the boundaries, blur, and they become a single mind, mind-meld or mind-high.
So this is one form of thinking about hypnosis. It seems to be a state of focused attention coupled with relaxation and loss of awareness of other external influences, kind of blocking out the world.
But this is one group of ideas.
The other group of ideas is that during hypnosis, people don't enter any special state. There's no special state. They behave as they do because of simple societal pressures, social expectations to follow the hypnotist's request.
It is simply more awkward, less pleasant, and more embarrassing to disobey the suggestions, the requests, the wishes, and the commands of the hypnotist.
In other words, the second group of ideas attempting to explain hypnosis actually say that hypnosis is a people-pleasing experience.
The hypnotized person tries to people-please. He tries to please the hypnotist.
So these are the two battling or conflicting groups of ideas.
Special state of mind or it's a social people-pleasing behavior.
It's very difficult, as far as I'm concerned at least, it's very difficult to accept the idea that hypnosis is an exercise of people-pleasing.
We don't feel the slightest desire to obey other people. If you were to be approached by a random person in the street and he started barking orders at you, you are not likely to obey, on the contrary, likely to develop defiance or reactance.
But it is true that there are specific situations where we do start to behave in ways that other people want us to or ways that other people expect us to.
There are special social situations where we do tend to people-please, even if we are not people-pleasers by nature.
For example, how many times were you approached by a waiter after a meal in a restaurant and asked, did you like the food? Many times. How many times did you tell the truth? No, I did not like the food, it sucked. Very few times.
So you were trying to people-please, you were trying to please the waiter. You were telling the waiter, I love the food even though you hated it. How many times at the end of a theatre show or a concert or a play, everyone stood up and there was a standing ovation. How many times did you remain seated? How many times did you defy the audience, the behavior of the audience? Not many times.
Peer pressure does alter behavior and peer pressure is a form of people-pleasing. It is nearly impossible to defy the combined societal and cultural pressure emanating from the audience in a stage show of the hypnotism. The audience expects the hypnotized subject to collaborate with the hypnotist and to deliver entertainment. This is huge pressure.
British illusionist Darren Brown, who used to be a hypnotist himself, has written a book called Tricks of the Mind published in 2006, an amazing book in which he explains this dynamic. Same with magicians, by the way. Magic, stage magic, I mean, relies a lot on peer pressure expectations and a modification of a state of mind to cohere with the ambience.
So I think that both camps actually agree that there is an altered state of mind.
Only they disagree on the nature of the change.
The first camp believe that the hypnotized mind takes over the hypnotized mind. The hypnotist takes over the subject. I believe it's done via entraining the synchronization of the wave function of the two brains. They become one. They merge and fuse.
Others believe that the suggestion itself creates a special state of mind where a person is more amenable to following and obeying instructions. And yet others believe that peer pressure, expectations, and context, and the need to perform, they all collude to produce a people-pleasing state of mind.
Peer pressure cannot explain all the strange things that people do under hypnosis. I describe, for example, the case of a burn manifesting suddenly on the skin having been touched by a cold object. I describe people who are rigid enough to support enormous weight become they become rigid enough to support enormous weight or regulate their heartbeat.
So this is very difficult to explain these feats and accomplishments only via the construct of peer pressure. But it's not impossible because non-hypnotized people actually replicated all these things. They were not subject to suggestion, but they were subject to peer audience public expectations. They had to perform somehow. They had to be pleased even though they have not been hypnotized and they were not exposed to a suggestion by a hypnotist.
And yet they replicated all these things. It is possible to act like a baby, for example. If you're in a social situation where this is expected, for example, you're an actor in a play or during certain sex practices. So it's very difficult to work out which of these competing ideas is correct.
Because when you question people after they have been hypnotized, they say that they felt compelled to obey the instructions, but they can't tell you why.
Some researchers, of course, subjected hypnotized people to brain scans and they compared these scans to the brain scans of those carrying the same tasks while merely pretending to be hypnotized. So there were studies where there was one group of people pretending to be hypnotized, carrying out all these functions, doing all these things, replicating all these acts, but they were not actually hypnotized. They were never exposed to hypnotist.
And there are a second group of people who were subject to suggestions by a hypnotist and did the very same things.
And so they scan the brains of these two groups and they did find differences in brain activity.
These studies are relatively new and they're not conclusive. The samples are too small and so on and so forth.
And there's also a bigger problem.
There is the growing realization that brain scanning research in general is unreliable. And I'm going to discuss it in a separate video.
Brain scanning, MRIs, FMRI, falling out of favor.
So how could we investigate hypnosis?
If you can't use brain scans, it if you can't ask the hypnotized person directly, if hypnotist themselves don't know what they're doing and can't explain how they hypnotize. If the theories are unfalsifiable, non-verifiable, if they are not replicable experiments, is this a science? How can we ever say anything meaningful about hypnosis?
And on the other hand, can we deny the existence of hypnosis?
Over the last 150 years, there have been millions of documented cases in support of the contention that hypnosis is unusual behavior and an unusual state of mind.
What is it? We are not sure.
But we are sure that it is.
There was a study in 2017 which supported the special state idea. And this is the first, I think, pretty conclusive study to have emerged.
And so it seems that we are veering towards, we're gravitating towards a special state of mind explanation of hypnosis.
Hypnotherapy is not a medical panacea. Only a small fraction of people, perhaps 10%, are highly hypnotizable. And you need to be highly hypnotizable to react to medical suggestions.
Similarly, hypnosis or hypnotherapy did not prove to be very useful in the treatment of numerous mental health conditions and that includes anxiety and depression where hypnosis is the most efficacious and still not very efficacious.
Hypnosis, of course, may not be used to treat complex or hyper-complex conditions like personality disorders.
And there is also a question of whether hypnosis is a proxy.
Take, for example, irritable bowel syndrome. We know that there is a strong connection between IBS and stress. We also know that in a state of hypnosis, there is a relaxation of the stress. It's a little like meditation. All these are allied conditions. They are all somehow interconnected in training, trance, meditation, hypnosis. They all have something in common, a factor in common, which we should find one day. Maybe we will call it the H-factor.
So hypnosis reduces stress.
Perhaps in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, it's not the hypnosis that is helpful. It's the reduction in stress that is a prerequisite for hypnosis, the relaxation that accompanies hypnosis.
Hypnotherapy is a much neglected area and medical doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists even prefer mindfulness relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga to hypnotherapy or listening to relaxation techniques.
There isn't a version to hypnotherapy because there is a relinquishing of control to an outside agent.
Hypnosis sounds a little sinister, a little wrong. Same with psychedelics. Psychedelics trigger in us the association of drugs and so psychedelics strike us as illegal somehow or dark.
But both hypnotherapy and psychedelics are at the frontiers of treating mental illness and they should be treated with respect, investigated thoroughly and put to use.
Now, I hope I haven't hypnotized you with this lecture, but let me tell you something you never know.