so on. These risks seem small relative to the gains some of these
attitudes might yield.
Self-Hypnosis and Mental Imagery
With a little practice, most people can be hypnotized and can use
self-hypnosis. Hypnosis allows us to experience thoughts, fantasies
and images as almost real (Soskis, 1986). The hypnotized person
knows the experience is not real, however, because he/she doesn't act
like it is real. Under hypnosis we may vividly imagine being at the
beach but we don't take off our clothes and try to jump into the water.
Yet, by experiencing a situation differently, e.g. seeing public speaking
as a way of influencing minds, we may act and feel differently (more
positive, less scared).
The mental scenes can seem very real to us but we know it is all
just in our head. It is the same experience as watching a film and
feeling we are there, we really get "into it" and become afraid,
inspired, sexually aroused, very sad and so on. This imagery is
something we do, not something done to us. It used to be thought
that the hypnotist gained power over the subject through "animal
magnetism." Actually, there can be no hypnotic experience without the
subject's agreement and participation. Thus, all hypnosis is in a sense
self-hypnosis. Could anyone force you against your will to get deeply
emotionally involved in a good book or movie? No. But you can do it
by yourself...and feel wonderful.
No one knows who discovered hypnosis. No doubt a storyteller
thousands of years ago. We do know that hypnosis was used to treat
illness long before Christ. During the Middle Ages, priests used self-
hypnosis to make God more real to them and to intensify their
relationship with God. Hypnosis has been used by physicians and faith
healing by preachers to cure people. In the early part of this century, a
Frenchman, Emile Coue' (1922), popularized the idea of auto-
suggestion. His most famous self-instruction was, "Every day in every
way I'm getting better and better."
At first, you are likely to believe that an experienced hypnotist
could perform impressive feats but you couldn't possibly do much.
That is a reflection of the stories you have read and movies you have
seen. Research has shown (Fromm, 1975) that some people reach
deeper trance states in self-hypnosis than with a hypnotist. They have
more vivid, richer imagery. Self-hypnosis costs nothing, is easy to
produce, and allows the person to make changes in the procedures so
that they work best for him/her. So, again, an old therapy technique
may become even more effective in the hands of an informed self-
helper (Fisher, 1991). Alman & Lambrou (1991) also provide a self-