Complete this quote: “Before any attempt is made to hypnotize a Subject for the first time it is highly desirable that the Hypnotist…”

How would you complete the following quote from Eric Cuddon‘s 1938 book, Hypnosis: Its Meaning and Practice?

“Before any attempt is made to hypnotize a Subject for the first time it is highly desirable that the Hypnotist…”


Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) was the co-founder of the theory of natural selection. He was an incredible naturalist with amazing observational skills. What few people know is that Wallace also had controversial interests in hypnosis and consciousness. I believe that Wallace was a person deeply fascinated by the world and everything in it. If you would like to read some of Wallace’s works, you can link here to The Opposition to Hypnotism and Psychical Research, chapter 17 of The Wonderful Century: Its successes and failures.

“THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS HYPNOTIC POWER but only a greater or less degree of skill in applying the Art of Hypnotism.”
(Cuddon, 1938:16)

Scientists today are finding that hypnosis may be a powerful tool for neuroscience research (and no, not by hypnotizing first-year psychology students to participate in experiments). There is a great article in ScienceNews on The Mesmerized Mind and Eureka report about Hypnosis shown to reduce symptoms of Dementia. With all the potential hype though, Raz et al. (2004) in the International Journal of  Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis remind us that a responsible scientific attitude should carefully outline what hypnosis and suggestion cannot do in addition to what they can.

Hypnosis is a form of psychological dissociation. In Hypnosis: Its meaning and Practice, Cuddon comically states that “It is difficult to lay down any hard and fast rule as to the type of person who is likely to prove a good Subject, but, generally speaking, it will be found that intelligent persons are easier to influence than stupid ones” (Cuddon, 1938:9). Any correlation between intelligence and susceptibility to hypnosis is actually difficult to ascertain, but it is known that persons who have undergone catastrophic trauma are frequently susceptible to hypnosis.

“Pyschiatrist John Beahrs (1990) has proposed that the dissociative state … could well have been adaptive in ancestral times, when life was physically dangerous but culturally and environmentally more stable. The phenomenon called dissociation is a psychological defense against the immediate experience of painful, overwhelming events. One sector of the mind, associated with the traumatic feelings, ‘splits,’ psychologically isolating the otherwise unbearable emotions and memories and thereby allowing the traumatized individual to retain a sense of control… Beahrs (1992) points out that traumatization often elicits effects similar to those of the affiliative experiences of love and religious fervor: tightened bonding (even if conflicted), confusion of boundaries, and resistance to reality testing” (Dissanayake, 2000, 162). If all this is true, then what is the link between hypnotisability and religiosity? In last week’s “Complete this quote” I briefly chatted about twin studies uncovering the genetics of religiosity. With exploratory genetic data offering supplementary insights into the genetic basis of hypnotisability (Raz, Fan & Posner, 2006), I wouldn’t be surprised if the genetic cues turned out to be similar to that of religiosity. In my reading about the induction of hypnosis in Cuddon’s book, I can already see many clear examples of similar behavioural techniques employed by both religious institutions and professional hypnotists.

For neuroimaging studies such as MRI, I have always thought that hypnosis or deep meditative practices would be a simple practical measure to ensure that patients remain still while in the scanner. The first time I participated in an fMRI experiment in 2000, I was told not to swallow because the movement of swallowing would disturb my position in the scanner. Of course, as a direct consequence of these instructions, I spent the next 40mins inside the scanner with an extreme desire to swallow and the uncomfortable need to focus on not swallowing! My experiences with fMRI since have made me think that the loud rhythmic thumping noise of the scanner could actually be used as a form of entrainment.

The use of hypnosis in neuroscience can go beyond the need to relax people in the scanner. Hypnosis is a potentially valuable cognitive tool for neuroimaging studies (Oakley, Deeley & Halligan, 2007) and can be used instrumentally as a powerful tool to investigate phenomena outside its immediate domain (Cox & Barnier, 2009). Hypnosis can be used for experimental psychopathology, placebo measurements, studies of attention, research into pain and motor activity, models of culturally sanctioned disorders and for modelling cognitive disturbances. Compelling evidence has already demonstrated that subjects under post-hypnotic suggestion exhibit enhanced attentional control (Raz, Shapiro, Fan, and Posner, 2002). As objective methods to measure the degrees and depth of hypnosis become more reliable, we might even see neuroimaging studies of hypnosis overtake meditation studies where only first-person reports are available.

Hypnotists have been describing their own models of the mind for over a hundred years and it will be interesting to chart the new discoveries as hypnosis is increasingly tested in the laboratory.

There are a few excellent blog posts about hypnosis and the brain:
    Fragments of consciousness
    The Hypnosis-Consciousness Conundrum,
    Hypnosis to induce, and diagnose, childhood seizures 
    Brain Mechanisms of hypnotic paralysis.

On neuroanthropology, links to articles about hypnosis have been featured in the Wednesday Roundup #70, and I’m Not Really Running: Flow, Dissociation and Expertise as well as a discussion of trance in Get into trance: Felicitas Goodman.

Without further ado, how would you complete the following quote?

“Before any attempt is made to hypnotize a Subject for the first time it is highly desirable that the Hypnotist…”

Published by

Paul Mason

I am a biomedically trained social anthropologist interested in biological and cultural diversity.

25 thoughts on “Complete this quote: “Before any attempt is made to hypnotize a Subject for the first time it is highly desirable that the Hypnotist…”

  1. I’d complete the quote with, “…actually believes she can hypnotize someone.”

    Because hypnosis, while it is a dissociative state (AKA trance), is also a way of playing with belief. A hypnotic suggestion is a new belief; and hypnotist without a strong belief in herself as a hypnotist can’t bring someone to trance. I don’t know why it’s like that, but it is. I’ve anecdotally heard some hypnotists call this a flaw in some clinical studies that test hypnosis without recognize that there are good hypnotists and bad hypnotists (following Cuddon’s second quote)… and then they get a bad hypnotist reading an induction on a tape and test that.

    This is a great roundup of hypnosis studies; I’ve linked it on my blog for my readers.

    Great clip art, btw.

    1. Chelsea, thank you for your responses on this week’s post. Unfortunately I am unable to view your blog as it is password protected. May I ask you, what assumptions you believe have been made on this page? Also, where on this page have people been denigrated? I do not believe that I have made any comments about North American society, and I certainly am not in a position to make comments about that culture having never spent any time there. It sounds like you are someone who is deeply passionate about caring for others and I would only ever hope to encourage benevolence and compassion in a positive way.

  2. it is highly desirable that the Hypnostist comforts the audience about what is about to done to the subject…making him/her cluck like a chicken.

  3. thank you paul for speaking to me as a person. i appreciate that big time. um, i guess, the issue for me is, i was directly disenfranchised by the american health care system in many many ways, all of which i would be more than willing to share with someone if they simply asked.

    so, my concern is, how does health care contribute to an individual’s disenfranchisement at the level of person-to-person care? in many ways, it is mental, because the field of mental health allows individuals to take care of mentally unhealthy teenagers (i work at the lowest level of the mental health field, with these teenagers themselves), so as a result of this issue in mental health and the failure of the american economy to understand that direct care individuals are not always accepting or their training philosophies or what they have been taught before entering the job, there are children who are allowed to manipulate the system and not learn the lessons that they need to learn that are so essential to developing this understanding.

    it’s about america, at large, acknowledging the need for a ‘communal therapy.’ and yeah, my blog is password-protected because some of my ideas are far from conventional to the american government and other such sources that could read it. i was actually born in singapore when singapore was on the rise in the 1980s, when it was between having holes in the grounds for toilets and being heavily industrialized.

    with the present economic crash in america, i worry that the people who really need treatment won’t be able to receive it, which will contribute to further crime, homelessness, and the other issues that go along with not addressing mental health problems at an early age.

    my email is
    i would be more than willing to talk to you further about some of my ideas and my own history, i have just password-protected my blog out of concern for my own safety as a human being.

    thanks for the comment, i truly appreciate it.

  4. and you are right, this post is an excellent example of someone who clearly cares about not disenfranchising people and maintaining the ideas that they already have. so thank you, i appreciate hearing that. my assumption of disenfranchisement was rooted in the fact that i had provided a link to my blog on this community initially, which, according to WORDPRESS stats, some people explored, and now i realize, that my ideas may not be applicable or understandable to people on the individual level. so i will modify them accordingly with time and further blogging so others will understand in a more practical fashion.

    but thank you, i appreciate your time and commitment to the work that you are doing. it says a lot about you as a person in many very good ways.

  5. … practise in front of a mirror. (Sorry, couldn’t think of a wittier response).

    Very interesting post Paul. You might be interested in the article by Peter Pels (below), which looks at the widespread interest in spiritualism among nineteenth century foundational figures such as Wallace. As you say, his interests were very broad, not only including “the world and everything in it” but a few things beyond it as well.

    As coincidence would have it, I’ve just read a working paper by Peter van der Veer, who also deals a bit with Wallace’s fascination with the occult. As both papers note, certain aspects of Wallace’s research were valorised in the history of science while others were given less attention, or even written off as “aberrations”. Van der Veer argues that Wallace’s interest spiritualism didn’t fit teleological notions of science as an ongoing process of purification from illusion and was therefore elided from most accounts. However, ironically, many Victorians connected spiritualism with secularisation, as an evidence-based pursuit which signalling a move away from religion and a challenge to the authority of the Church. Presumably back then hypnotism and spiritualism were closely associated with each other, which might help to explain why Wallace’s interest in the former has remained relatively obscure till now.

    Pels, P. (2003). Spirits of Modernity: Alfred Wallace, Edward Tylor, and the Visual Politics of Fact. Magic and Modernity: Interfaces of Revelation and Concealment. B. Meyer and P. Pels. Stanford, California, Stanford University Press: 241-271.
    Van Der Veer, P., 2009. Spirituality in Modern Society. MMG-MPG working paper series. Available at:

  6. “be convinced that the subject is ready for the possible outcomes.”

    Your comments reminded me that there is a scene in the film Regeneration in which W.H.R. Rivers (played by Jonathan Pryce) hypnotizes a patient played by Jonny Lee Miller. I don’t know an enormous amount about the technique but the scene struck me as realistic and well done.

    Also somewhat related to the substance of your comments—there is a scene in the film in which Rivers tells the patient that enlisted men tend to suffer from muteness and officers from stuttering.

  7. “Scientists today are finding that hypnosis may be a powerful tool for neuroscience research (and no, not by hypnotizing first-year psychology students to participate in experiments).”

    That’s an excellent idea though…

  8. I believed it absolutely was going to be some boring previous post, but it extremely compensated for my time. I can post a link to the present page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will find that very useful.

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