Hypnosis is a mental state (state theory) or set of attitudes and beliefs (non-state theory) usually induced by a procedure known as a hypnotic induction, which is commonly composed of a series of preliminary instructions and suggestions. The hypnotic state also occurs naturally for a few seconds before going to sleep and when waking up in the morning. Hypnotic suggestions may be delivered by a hypnotist in the presence of the subject, or may be self-administered (“self-suggestion” or “autosuggestion”). The use of hypnotism for therapeutic purposes is referred to as “hypnotherapy”.

The words ‘hypnosis’ and ‘hypnotism’ both derive from the term “neuro-hypnotism” (nervous sleep) coined by the Scottish surgeon James Braid around 1841. He also referred to the hypnotic state as “double consciousness” indicating that far from being a state of sleep it is a state of increased alertness.

Contrary to a popular misconception – that hypnosis is a form of unconsciousness resembling sleep – research suggests that it is actually a wakeful state of focused attention and heightened suggestibility, with diminished peripheral awareness. In the first book on the subject, Neurypnology (1843), Braid described “hypnotism” as a state of physical relaxation accompanied and induced by mental concentration (“abstraction”).

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