Theoretical Explanations of Hypnosis

There is something somewhat confusing about this topic. The reason why this chapter is confusing is that the human brain has a complex structure as well as hypnosis itself has a complex structure. All of the hypnosis theories you will read below represent only one aspect of hypnosis, which is a multifaceted concept.

Dissociation Theory

A person in a state of hypnosis often expresses dissociation to the hypnotherapist as follows: “While one part of my mind was aware of you and what you were saying, the other part of my mind was elsewhere (on the beach, in the woods, etc.).”

Dissociation is such an important issue when it comes to hypnosis that it is difficult to have a hypnotic state without a certain degree of dissociation. As the hypnotist’s capacity to dissociate increases, so does the depth of hypnosis. At the same time, the dissociation of the conscious and unconscious mind in hypnosis is the backbone of hypnosis practices (Yapko,2003)

When some of your feelings, thoughts and behaviors start to act independently of your personality and other thoughts and behaviors, you have become dissociated. This theory treats hypnosis as a dissociation. He also treats people in hypnosis as dissociated individuals.

According to Ernest Hilgardı’s theory of Neodissociation, humans have multiple cognitive systems that can work simultaneously. These systems are controlled by the executive ego when not in hypnosis. The content of the cognitive system includes habits, attitudes, prejudices, interests, and other latent abilities. In the state of hypnosis, many sub-cognitive systems are out of the control of the executive ego, and as a result, the sub-cognitive systems act in an automatic and dissociated state (independent and unaware of each other).

According to this theory, a dissociation occurs between the conscious and unconscious mental states during hypnosis, and as a result, the unconscious mind accepts suggestions.

Correlations to be found between hypnotizability and dissociative capacity will reveal the accuracy of this theory to a large extent. This theory can explain some of the characteristics of hypnosis, but there are many issues that it cannot explain.


People who are in a state of hypnosis often go into a more passive state. In this theory, he explains hypnosis as a special mental state in which people can go into a passive state. However, this theory cannot explain how a person who can remain passive in a hypnotic state can go into an active (arousal) state without deteriorating the hypnotic state. The person in hypnosis goes into a more passive psychophysiological state. This time, however, the hypnotherapist takes an active role. The client leaves the active duty to the therapist, and he or she lies passively comfortably. In this case, the question to be answered is: When you go into a passive state and give the activation task to someone else, are you really passive at the time?


This theory was put forward by Dr. Theodore Sarbin from the University of California. The main premise of the advocates of the role-playing theory is that there is no psychological, biochemical or neurophysiological change that occurs only and only in the state of hypnosis. Proponents of this theory therefore argue that the changes that can be brought about by the application of the hypnotic state can be brought about without the hypnotic state (when the client is sufficiently motivated). According to the advocates of this theory, hypnosis is only possible when the person accepts to pretend to be a hypnotized person. To put the argument of these theorists more clearly, the state of hypnosis consists of merely playing a role.

Ordinaryus, who wanted to test this theory, Prof.Dr. Martin Orne (professor of psychology and psychiatry) organizes an experiment (1959, 1971). In this experiment, a group of people were actually put into a room in hypnosis. Another group of people were put in the same room, instructed to pretend they were in hypnosis. They then asked some experienced hypnotists to determine who was in hypnosis and who was just pretending to be in hypnosis. Experienced hypnotists have had a hard time distinguishing who is pretending and who is actually in hypnosis. However, the point here is very important that a person can actually go into hypnosis only if he pretends to be in hypnosis. So those who thought they were acting, maybe they weren’t acting, they were actually in hypnosis.

One of the techniques used to initiate hypnosis is called the “as if” technique. In this technique, people are asked to pretend they are in a hypnotic trance to bring them into a state of hypnotic trance, and people actually go into hypnosis.

Researchers have shown that it is possible to distinguish between the behavior of someone who is actually hypnotized and someone who is merely pretending to be hypnotized. Subjects who were highly hypnotizable behaved naturally, while subjects with proven low hypnotizability were asked to pretend to be hypnotizable. In the meantime, it is not known to which group the subject belongs to, by the person who made the subject. Subjects pretending to be hypnotized fulfilled the requirements of hypnosis as expected. However, there were significant differences between what they said about their subjective experiences and what people who were truly hypnotized said (Zamansky, Bartis, Hillgard, 1978)

Pupil movements were observed when people in hypnosis were suggested to look at a light. However, if people pretending to be in hypnosis (simulations) are told that they are looking at a light, no response will be received.

William James, a psychologist and philosopher, asks: “Does a person smile because he is happy, or is he happy because he smiles?”

As a result, role-playing theorists say that there really is no such thing as hypnosis, it’s all just people conforming to a scenario called hypnosis. However, the experimental results show that it plays the role of hypnosis, no different than being in real hypnosis. You’re pretty confused, aren’t you? Confusing. A technique used for hypnosis by the famous Hypnotherapist Milton Erickson. If you are too confused, you can go to hypnosis. Do not go into hypnosis until you have finished reading this book.


According to this theory, hypnosis creates a state of consciousness different from the normal state of consciousness by applying some induction methods and narrowing the attention to a focus. In this altered state of consciousness, access to one’s unconscious processes and emotional world is much easier.

This theory conceptualizes hypnosis as altered consciousness. But what is consciousness? Shouldn’t we first grasp consciousness before we can grasp the altered state of consciousness? While reading these texts, your state of consciousness is changing every moment. How possible is it to explain another concept (hypnosis) over a concept that can change at any time and is uncertain?


This theory is also known as the physical theory. According to this theory, during the application of formal hypnosis, the client’s connection with the outside world is gradually reduced to a minimum. The client begins to reduce contact with the outside world by closing their eyes. It begins to focus towards the inner senses. The person going towards hypnosis first closes their eyes. Then he slowly begins to ignore the traffic sounds coming from the main street. The person’s attention begins to turn from the outside to the inside. We can exemplify this as follows. If you want the sencak coming from the surrounding right now, you can pay close attention to the sounds around. If you do this, you will be testing the reality around you. So what happens if a person is prevented from testing reality in a private setting? In the event of such an obstruction, the reality that that person perceives around him, whether right or wrong, begins to turn into real reality. According to these theorists, this is what happens in hypnosis. In hypnosis, we reduce the sensations and stimuli from the outside world, and the internal perception process begins. Whatever we perceive at that time tends to become our reality. It is this feature of hypnosis that facilitates the transformation of suggestions into reality in hypnosis.

Australian psychologists Peter Sheehan and Kevin McConkey have found a very different way of applying hypnosis. In this method, the client is taken to a room where he can isolate the most from the outside world and he is prevented from receiving feedback from the outside world as much as possible. Thus, the subjects are compelled to perceive their inner lives. These subjects experience states very similar to those in hypnosis. According to this theory, what creates the state of hypnosis is the directing of attention from the outer world to the inner world by giving the five senses the least task, and as a result, the suggestions of the hypnotherapist at that time are accepted as reality because the person is already very far from the realities of the outer world at that time.

It is easy to test how true or false this theory is. If a person can go into a state of hypnosis when he minimizes the stimuli from the five senses, then this theory is correct.

The isolation of the clients from the external environment during hypnosis practices facilitates and deepens the hypnotic trance. However, the fact that a person experienced in self-hypnosis can apply self-hypnosis even in Taksim Square shows that this theory is not fully valid.

Behavioral Theories

Behavioral approaches argue that hypnotic phenomena induced by hypnosis can also be produced in the normal state of people. According to them, people in hypnosis only act as if they are in hypnosis. However, this theory, of course, cannot explain how severe surgeries that can take 4-5 hours can be performed only with hypnoanesthesia without anesthesia. At the same time, this theory cannot explain the Babinski reflex that we observe during regression and the hallucinations that can be suggested to the subjects.

Hemispheric Theory

The left brain is usually responsible for meaningful speech, syntax, writing, reading, arithmetic, and rhythm.

The right brain is effective in processing visual, spatial configuration, holistic analysis, melody, imagination, interpretation and figurative meanings. According to this theory, the left brain is inhibited during hypnosis. According to this theory, resistance to hypnosis is a manifestation of the left brain. This is the theory I feel closest to.

You can find a broader explanation of this theory on the member pages.

Theories of Sleep (Pavlov’s and Ancient Magnetists’ Theory)

According to this theory, hypnosis, like sleep, consists of inhibition of the cerebral cortex. In hypnosis this inhibition is more limited, in sleep it is deeper. Since recent scientific research and EEG studies have shown that hypnosis is a special state in which consciousness does not disappear except during sleep and wakefulness, theories claiming that hypnosis is sleep have lost their validity, but the following reasons are shown as evidence of the distant relationship between hypnosis and sleep.

1) Putting people in hypnosis to sleep with appropriate suggestions

2) People who are in a light sleep can be more easily hypnotized with suggestions.

Psychoanalytic Theories

In psychoanalytic theories, the hypnotist is assumed to play a parental role. According to Freud, in hypnosis the operator plays the role of the subject’s authoritarian father in childhood. In hypnosis, the hypnotist assumes an omniponent role, like the father. If this theory were true, those with an authoritarian father should have been more easily hypnotized by authoritarian approaches. If this theory were true, men would be better hypnotists. However, studies show that being male and female is not a determinant.

All psychoanalytic theories of hypnosis center around the problem of satisfying the subject’s instinctive desires. According to psychoanalysts, a kind of transformation occurs in the hypnotic state as well.


No single theory of hypnosis is insufficient to explain hypnosis.

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