Despite the continued debate and lack of a clear consensus about the true nature of the hypnotic phenomenon, hypnosis is increasingly being utilized successfully in many medical, health, and psychological spheres as a research method, motivational tool, and therapeutic modality. Significantly, however, although hypnotherapy is widely advertised, advocated, and employed in the private medical arena for the management and treatment of many physical and emotional disorders, too little appears to be being done to integrate hypnosis into primary care and national health medical services. This article discusses some of the reasons for the apparent reluctance of medical and scientific health professionals to consider incorporating hypnosis into their medical practice, including the practical problems inherent in using hypnosis in a medical context and some possible solutions.
Hypnosis has been shown to alleviate symptoms and side effects of cancer and its treatment. However, less is known about the use of hypnosis at the end of life in individuals with cancer. Our goal was to systematically review the literature on the use of hypnosis to manage the most common symptoms of end-of-life cancer patients: fatigue, sleep disturbances, pain, appetite loss, and dyspnea. EMBASE, MEDLINE, COCHRANE, PsychINFO, and SCOPUS databases were searched from inception through November 7, 2016. No studies met the inclusion criteria. It appears that hypnosis has never been rigorously tested as a means to ameliorate the most common symptoms in individuals with cancer at the end of their lives. This finding is troubling, as it strongly implies that a population most in need has been largely neglected. However, a clear future research direction is revealed that may have significant clinical impact.
The author explores the nature of hypnosis, which he characterizes as a motivated mode of information processing that enables most humans to alter, to varying degrees, their experience of body, self, actions, and world. The essence of hypnosis is not to be found in heterohypnosis; instead, it lies in the spontaneous self-activation of that mode of information processing. The hypnosis field has substantially lost sight of spontaneous self-activation, because the word hypnosis is usually used to mean heterohypnosis. Self-activation of the hypnotic mode of information processing is the necessary sine qua non of hypnotic psychopathology. Moreover, self-activation of trance is the characteristic hypnotic behavior of a distinct subset of highly hypnotizable individuals.
Hypnosis and meditation, as a whole, form a heterogeneous complex of psychosomatic techniques able to control mind and body regulation. Hypnosis has been pragmatically used for limited therapeutic targets, while eastern meditation has much wider philosophical and existential implications, aiming for a radical liberation from all illusions, attachments, suffering and pain. The available data on the history, phenomenology, and neuropsychology of hypnosis and meditation show several common features, such as: (a) induction based on focused attention; (b) capability to reach an intentional control of both vegetative-somatic activities and conscious-unconscious processes; (c) activation/deactivation of several brain areas and circuits (e.g., the default modality network and pain neuromatrix) with a relevant overlapping between the two.
In my opinion, the previously unpublished papers of Jay Haley presented in this special issue of the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis are nothing less than a treasure. I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to work on this project, not only because of the content of these wonderful historical gems but also because it has given me the chance to collaborate with a long-time friend, Peter B. Bloom, MD, and to meet for the first time Jay’s wife, Madeleine Richeport-Haley, PhD. The three of us were able to meet and begin discussion of this project while attending the European Hypnosis Society’s International Congress in Sorrento, Italy, an excellent location to begin any endeavor!
In this special issue of the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Jay Douglas Haley is being celebrated worldwide by his friends and family. He shared his ideas and experiences over many years in his writings, his teaching, and most importantly in his relationships with all of us. Jay was a unique, vibrant, and benevolent iconoclast. He challenged us to see things differently and to enjoy a creative freedom in our caring of patients and clients. Recently, Jay’s wife, Madeleine Richeport-Haley, PhD, found a treasure from his past—seven unpublished papers about applying and teaching hypnosis from his early and later years. They form the basis of this special issue.
Written in 1957, this paper was Jay Haley’s first attempt to organize his impressions of Milton Erickson. The article captures the essence of Erickson: the man, his early concepts of the trance state, his flexibility in trance induction, and his delight in working with those considered “resistant subjects.” In this early paper, Jay Haley clearly recognizes Erickson’s potential impact on therapy and clinicians around the world. This paper reminds readers of the importance of therapeutic relationship and the power of effective communication.
A classic paper in intellect and argument, this article contains a transcript of a conversation between Jay Haley, John Weakland, and Milton Erickson as they discuss the role of communication in hypnosis and schizophrenia. In 1955, schizophrenia was considered primarily a psychological disorder. Whereas today schizophrenia is mostly considered a biological disorder, this very early, unpublished paper still gives much food for thought and a further glimpse into Haley and Erickson’s thinking and intellect at a fervent time in schizophrenia research.
In this paper, the author offers what he sees as a new approach to understanding or defining hypnosis. Drawing from his work with Gregory Bateson, John Weakland, Don Jackson, and Bill Fry, Haley emphasizes the relational communicative aspect of trance. Noting the inherent difficulty of studying subjective experience, Haley highlights again the importance of communication and the therapist-patient relationship.
In this transcription of a lecture given in 2000, Jay Haley begins by answering the question, “What is hypnosis?” Haley reviews the circumstances of Gregory Bateson encouraging him to meet with Milton Erickson to discuss the history of hypnosis and the paradoxical nature of trance induction. Haley expresses many original thoughts about multiple personalities, regression to past lives, and how to handle memories that historically may be false. Sophisticated and subtle, this is Haley at his best.