How To Have Music Playing In The Background On Twitch Early Efforts to Understand Hypnosis

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Early Efforts to Understand Hypnosis

Hypnosis for most people means a process in which one person called a hypnotist influences the behaviour and experience of another referred to as the subject. The subject to all appearances becomes a kind of puppet of the hypnotist. Also common, is the idea that subject is in a kind of sleep. However, the only one of these statements that is unequivocally true is the first sentence.

No one doubts that people can influence each other. The statement that hypnosis is a kind of sleep is unequivocally false as it is known beyond all doubt that a hypnotised person is no more asleep than someone involved in reading a book or absorbed in solving a problem. The other statement, that the subject is a puppet of the hypnotist is definitely not true. In fact, for hundreds of years psychologists and other academic specialists have been ‘arguing’ over whether or not there is really any scientific or logical reason for a concept of “hypnosis” at all. That is, it is argued by many that there is no evidence providing support for some special state of mind called hypnosis because in reality it does not make anything possible that cannot be done without it. These points will be further amplified below.

One thing about which no one disagrees is the fact that the human imagination can exert enormous power over our behaviour, what we believe, what we perceive, our emotional experience, our physiology or the balance of processes going on in our bodies and even what we can achieve. Further there is no disagreement that one person’s “imaginings” can be influenced by the suggestions of another, whether given directly and verbally or via the media of books, theatre, radio or movies. There is no disagreement about the fact that some persons have imaginations that are more easily influenced than others. Some people have an ability to create more ‘life like’ or real ideas and images in their minds than others, to become more totally absorbed in those ideas and images and shut out what is going on around them. There is no disagreement that there are certain well established techniques and “laws” concerning how people’s imagination is influenced. These are the laws of suggestion.

‘Hypnosis” is the art of influencing another person’s imagination and hence potentially, that person’s behaviour and experience. And so it is argued that “hypnosis” is what we all perform (and are subjected to) every day as in the course of communicating with others we either seek to influence them or unwittingly influence them. As an example of unwitting influence in everyday life, I have had clients visit me in a state of anxiety because their doctor had told them, “hmm, your blood pressure is quite low”. The doctor had thought he was complimenting his patient but had inadvertently triggered the patient’s imagination in a negative way.

People in professional positions, such as lawyers and doctors, need to be careful about their choice of words and the care with which they explain things because their utterings have considerable suggestive power and their clients, being often in an anxious state of mind are particularly susceptible to suggestions (ideas) related to the source of their anxiety, e.g., the letter from the taxation office or the recurrent chest pains etc. This problem is amplified by the fact that people do not always fully understand what their professional consultants tell them. Further, when people are anxious their minds are “overloaded” and they listen selectively to what they are told, often ignoring or not absorbing important contextual material. Thus, they misinterpret what they are told, or in popular language, “go off half cocked”.

The background to hypnosis.

I want this manual to be concise and free from longwinded historical padding and referencing. However, some knowledge of the history of “hypnosis” concept is necessary to its understanding. One can trace the use of suggestion back into the history of the healing arts and religions in many ancient cultures. The European history of hypnosis as we understand it, however, begins with Anton Mesmer (1734-1831). He held that all space was permeated by an invisible fluid called animal gravity or animal magnetism. Our nervous systems, he thought were channels for this substance. Illness was caused by blockages in the nerve channels and cures required that the channels be unblocked. The way to free up these blockages Mesmer thought was to use magnets. Mesmer believed the metal nickel was especially good for concentrating magnetism and he used it in his treatments. The freeing up of a nervous system blockage by the use of magnetism, Mesmer claimed, would cause a “crisis”. Thus his patients upon being treated with magnets would fall down and begin to twitch and convulse. They would then get up claiming to be cured of whatever ailed them.

Mesmer’s reputation was such that the French government set up a Commission to investigate the reality of his cures. The Commission included some of the greatest intellectuals in modern history – Benjamin Franklin, Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, biologist de Jussieu and Joseph Ignace Guillatin (who invented the guillatine as a more humane way of dispatching criminals). This commission performed its work so thoroughly that its findings have never been effectively challenged. It found that whether or not people had this “crisis” would depend on whether or not they believed they had been treated with objects “magnetised” by Mesmer. A lump of lead was just as good as nickel if the subject was told it was nickel. Crises could be induced in subjects by having them touch a tree they were told was magentised by Mesmer – even though Mesmer had been nowhere near the tree. In other words the process depended on Mesmer’s reputation and the imaginations of the subjects.

The commission concluded, quite correctly that Mesmer’s “cures’ were the work of the imagination. Dr. Mesmer was deemed to be discredited and he ended his days breeding canaries. The French investigating team missed something very important, specifically that the cause of the dramatic phenomena should not logically diminish them. It was apparently outside the team’s brief to investigate further into what feats precisely the imagination is capable of producing. We now know that in sports for example it can be the difference between success and failure and that the imagination can be used to train us to consciously control autonomic nervous functions, like heart rate as just one very simple, non-dramatic example.

It is worth noting that Mesmer used showmanship in his treatments. He was flamboyant. In his group healing sessions he would use mirrors, music (he was a personal friend of Mozart) and when he judged the group mood had reached an appropriate stage he would appear dressed in lilac robes carrying a glass wand. The patients would draw metal rods, like wands, from his “baquet”, a tub of water containing glass and iron filings.They would touch themselves and each other with the rods. Then they’d fall down twitching in a “crisis’, (like the teenagers at big-name rock concerts). before getting up and claiming to be cured.

The Abbe’ (A French priest’s title of respect) Joseph Faria (1756-1819), recognised that the all important fact was the desperation of the patients or subjects. (The great importance of the subjects’ needs and motivation is reinforced throughout this manual.) Dr. A. A. Liebeault (1823-1904) recognised that “Mesmeric phenomena” or hypnosis was the result of suggestion and psychological factors. Subjects had “crises” or convulsions because this is what the publicity surrounding Mesmer had lead them to expect. Today, we know we don’t need any hardware such as nickel, magnets or iron rods (although physical gimmicks can still be useful tools, and modern practitioners have found it more convenient to use the term “hypnosis” and to condition the public to an expectation of hypnosis as being something like sleep which is far less disruptive than a convulsion and less likely to encounter emotional and intellectual resistance. Would you the reader, sooner be given a convulsion or put into a “harmless sleep”?

The special state controversy.

As stated above, there is an academic controversy concerning the scientific justification for a concept of “hypnosis”. This is not a formal academic treatise but for purposes of practical education something more must be said about this. A great many experiments have demonstrated that anything that can be done with hypnosis can be done just as well without it. In reality hypnosis cannot reduce the pain threshold any more than in someone who is simply using his imagination without the direction of a hypnotist. It is known beyond doubt that hypnosis cannot improve one’s memory, and even the demonstrations of hypnotic regression (having the subject “become a child again”) are not in reality, accurate representations of what that person was like as a child. Claims that infantile regression can reinstate physiological reflexes only found in babies and childhood handwriting have not stood up to close scrutiny. The fact that hypnosis does not make possible anything that cannot be done equally as well without hypnosis has given rise to the “non-special state theory” which holds that there is no scientific reason for a concept of “hypnosis”

This point of view does not deny the power of imagination when used in a methodical fashion but merely says that the use of the full power of the imagination does not require any “special” state of mind or any particular ritual. The most well known proponent of this point of view is T. X. Barber.

The opposing point of view is that there is sufficient reason for a concept of “hypnosis” as a special state of mind. A major problem for the “special state” theorists is the difficulty of distinguishing between “hypnotised” persons and persons who have not been subjected to any particular ritual but have been asked to pretend to be hypnotised. The pretenders are able to perform all perceptual, memory and pain resisting tasks as well as the “hypnotised” subjects. One leading American special state theorist, Martin Orne proposed a concept of “trance logic” which he said distinguished “hypnotised” persons from the pretending control persons. According to Orne if “genuinely hypnotised” persons are told to hallucinate a double of themselves, and subsequently receive instructions such as, “would the “hallucinated you” raise his hand please”, the subjects raise their hands. When pretenders are treated in the same way, Orne said, they do not raise their hand. However other investigators have found that Orne’s experiments with trance logic are not reliably replicable. My own experiments in a clinical setting have failed to replicate Orne’s findings.

Professor Peter Sheehan (one of my lecturers at UNE) had 2 groups, a “hypnotised’ group and a group of pretenders both following tape recorded instructions. One group was “hypnotised” and obeying the hypnotic instructions of a voice from a tape recorder. The control group of pretenders were following the same tape recording of instructions but were told to pretend to be hypnotised. After the sessions had been in progress for some time the tape recorder was made to “break down” so the instructions suddenly ceased. According to Sheehan the ‘hypnotised” group continued for some time to behave as if hypnotised and in a trance, gradually arousing themselves, whereas the pretenders almost immediately dropped the pretense.

A problem in interpreting this ingenious experiment lies in the fact that the hypnotised group was selected in the first place for their “hypnotic susceptibility” meaning they had already been tested and had displayed the characteristics of people who are commonly said to be ” very hypnotizable”. In other words they were selected in the first place because they behave differently from most people, to commands and ideas issued in a particular way, and further were operating under a totally different set of instructions. Therefore the fact that they behaved differently from other people when the tape recorder “broke down” should not surprise anyone. One group was concerned that they should be obeying the tape recorder and the other group was less concerned.

Some successful “special state” theorists nevertheless, to my mind, behave as if they were “non-special state” theorists. For example, the late Milton Erickson, an American psychiatrist who was acquiring virtually cult leader status amongst young psychotherapists even before his death, believed that hypnosis involves a special “state”. His technique however, seemed to me from watching videos of his sessions, to suggest otherwise. Erickson, like most good hypnotherapists saw no need to make any special mention of “hypnosis” to his patients or go through any dramatic rituals. He simply capitalised on his patients’ needs and expectations about which he was quite intuitive and he engaged their imaginations with colourful word pictures and stories. He was noted for getting ideas and suggestions across to his patients by means of metaphor or parables, fictitious stories that make points in subtle and yet easy to digest ways, even “subliminal” ways.

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