In two minds about hypnosis
Bock was kind enough to send me a preview of his post on hypnotherapy last night. While I am utterly opposed to chicanery, charlatanism and claptrap of any stripe, I can't help but remember that hypnosis (in a sense) actually works, dammit. Read on.
Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I've discovered how rarely I have a genuinely original thought. Almost everything I come up with has already been published somewhere, either last week or around the time of the fall of the Peloponnesian Empire. Usually sometime in between.
I console myself with that old chestnut: great minds think alike.
One such case of parallel thinking was my Man-With-Two-Brains theory, inspired very loosely by Steve Martin.
I'm sure you're aware of some of the peculiarities researchers come across when studying left/right brain (or lateralisation) activities. I've found Betty Edwards classic art instruction book on the subject to be the most fascinating (and fun).
We've all heard of this binary typing of various spacial, mathematical, and language awareness skills, but while there are some verifiable tendencies, the actual differences between so-called right-brain and left-brain preferences and competencies are quite minimal.
A chance nugget of trivia which I unearthed many moons ago led me to a new concept of the R/L brain relationship. Did you know that each side of the brain has its own distinct emotions and memory?
I've come to view my brain as a pair of telepathically symbiotic creatures who have developed a special rapport where each can become dominant at different times.
To me this explains why we are often so conflicted, why we regularly talk–indeed argue–with ourselves over what we believe and what we're about. It's helped me come to a greater understanding of why I do things, sometimes even when I know they're a bad idea.
When I took my theory to the net, I found and ordered a fascinating (if slightly lightweight) book by Fredric Schiffer about unorthodox brain therapies called Of Two Minds in which he details his clinical findings. While a little disappointed to be pipped at the post, I was quite happy to have my theory of the dual-brain partnership confirmed.
But how does all this relate to hypnosis?
Unlike other placebo nonsense like homeopathy, reiki and iridology, hypnosis generally wears its quackery on its sleeve, in that there is no hypnosis other that self-hypnosis. It's a state of voluntary self-delusion, perhaps one side of the brain blindfolding the other. No-one can agree on the mysterious mechanism–and that is why it is considered pseudo-science.
Unfortunately for the debunkers, the efficacy of a hypnotic state (whatever you may define that as) is incontrovertible. Dental extractions without anaesthetic being the gold standard here.
All the other alternative medicine magic tricks rely on hypnosis for their positive results to some extent. Hypnosis simply is the placebo effect.
Bearing this in mind (or minds), there may be a place for 'hypnosis' in medicine or therapy, but I'm darned if I can conceive of a protocol for its correct application. If you pull back the wizard's curtain to reveal that in the end it's just you fooling yourself, the placebo disappears!
Still, I agree with Bock in essence. There's no place for unregulated mind-meddlers in healthcare. Heal thyself, I say.