Saturday, November 21, 2009

Can You Be Hypnotized?

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Turns Out, It Is In The Genes

When you are busily browsing through the merchandise in a store, can the salesgirl hypnotize you into buying that piece of chic fabric which had caught your fancy, but which you had consciously persuaded yourself not to buy? When you are out on your date, can the other party hypnotize you into doing things that you are going to later regret? Can a total stranger walk into your house and burgle it in broad daylight and in your presence, while you stand there, dumbfounded and mesmerized, only to wake up long after the deed has been done and the criminal has fled? Can somebody sitting next to you in a public transport hypnotize you to jump off the moving vehicle? In other words, can you be hypnotized? Are you susceptible to hypnotic suggestions?

image by saavem,

Ever since hypnosis came to be entrenched in science as a distinctive state of mind which can be induced into through specific suggestions, people have been at work trying to figure the distinctive characteristics of the populace that can be hypnotized. While some researchers came out with questionnaires which you are given to fill up, and whose responses supposedly give an indication of how susceptible you are, others have suggested that you be asked to roll your eyes upward, and the more your irises and corneas disappear into the sockets, the more gullible you would prove to be to hypnotic suggestions.

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A neuro-psycho-physiological model for hypnotic induction has been proposed that activates and inhibits different regions of the brain in stages. The first stage begins by focusing attention on the hypnotist's voice and filter out all ambient distracters. This means that, first and foremost, you need to be good at initially focusing at your attention. In the subsequent stages, interestingly, this capability of controlling one's focusing goes down because now the control is in the hands of the hypnotist's voice. Have your brain and genetics been wired so, to go through these stages with ease? Then, congratulations, you are susceptible to being hypnotized.

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Can we be more precise in measuring our susceptibility to suggestions from these trance-inducing magicians? The answer is yes, we are beginning to. A 2006 paper published in the Journal of Physiology reports that the answer lies in our genotype. Specifically, individuals who carry the valine/methionine Catechol-O-Methyltransferase (COMT) genotype are very highly gullible folks! In contrast, individuals with the valine/valine genotype and methionine / methionine genotype have been found to be relatively unaffected; all the words from the hypnotist might as well be the buzz of a pesky mosquito, to be shooed away by the dismissive wave of the hand. So, don't blame yourself if you find you get hypnotized by others' words very easily. It is all due to the genes.

image by saavem,

Before you click-open a new tab to locate an appropriate organization that offers genotyping bioassay  services where you can pay to find out your particular genotype --- know that this is still a nascent research field. Even the researchers are being cautious before they hail COMT as the "hypnotizability gene". Know also that when you use self-hypnosis techniques for your own self-growth and self-development, the auto-suggestions still seep down in the subconscious even when the brain is not able to reach the uber-groggy state of hypnosis. And finally and most importantly, know also that if you "make up" your mind and "decide" that you are not going to be hypnotized, then relax... you won't.

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[Associated with hypnosis is the ability to use the powers of the mind to perform tasks and functions that are normally considered outside the realm of the possible. There is so much brouhaha about it in fiction literature and fiction movies, that we often wonder, does a human being really have such powers? Or is it all just that: fiction to be entertained with in the present moment and forgotten afterward? Here is an article that takes a critical look at this question: "Do We Possess Psychic Powers That We Are Not Aware Of?"]

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