Basic Research With an Interactional Perspective on the Nature of Hypnosis
Empirical Results and Therapeutic Implications
Dr Éva Bányai
After summarizing the theoretical considerations standing in the background of the approach of hypnosis from an interactional perspective, the paper describes the complex, multidimensional experimental paradigm our research team has been using since 1982.
We have been studying the physiological, behavioural, subjective experiential, and relational characteristics of both participants (hypnotist and subject) of the hypnosis interaction simultaneously, and analyse the interrelationship of these factors that play an important role in the development of hypnosis.
The results indicate that hypnosis is especially effective in mediating social support because it develops a strong, intensive interpersonal relationship between hypnotist and hypnotized subject. The mutual archaic involvement of the participants of the hypnosis interaction and the characteristics of the different styles of hypnosis show the most important features of basic intimate relationships that have regulatory functions.
Interaction synchrony in overt movements and in covert physiological processes (e. g., breathing, electromyographic activity) in “maternal” hypnosis presumably promotes experiencing the covert inner world of the subjects with empathy. In the case of “paternal” hypnosis, by leading and directing the subjects, the hypnotist may provide safety and security for those who need authority. In the case of “friend-like” hypnosis, the more symmetric, complementary relationship between hypnotist and subject may help to increase activity and ego strength of the subjects. Our basic research suggests that hypnosis – especially in a therapeutic context – may promote mutual regulation necessary for healthy bodily and mental functioning.
Therapeutic experiences and evidence-based research with cancer patients support this view of hypnosis.
Éva I. Bányai, PhD, is a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the Department of Affective Psychology, Institute of Psychology, Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), Budapest, Hungary. After earning her doctorate in psychology at ELTE in 1973, she spent a fellowship year with E. R. Hilgard at Stanford University where she developed active-alert hypnosis. Her main research interest is studying the psychophysiological, behavioural, phenomenological, and social aspects of hypnosis from an interactional standpoint. Recently, she has been involved in developing new hypnotherapeutic methods for healing cancer patients, and in conducting research on the effect of hypnosis in treating high-risk breast cancer patients. She has been heavily engaged in teaching hypnosis research and hypnotherapeutic methods to researchers and clinicians both in Hungary and abroad. She is a Past President and an Honorary Lifetime Member of both the European Society of Hypnosis (ESH) and of the International Society of Hypnosis (ISH). She is founding secretary, a Past President and Honorary President of the Hungarian Association of Hypnosis, is a Past President of the Hungarian Psychological Association, and an Honorary Fellow of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. She is the recipient of numerous awards for her contributions in advancing the fields of hypnosis, including the “Szent-Györgyi Albert” Award, Hungarian Order of Merit, Officer’s Cross, the International “Franco Granone” Award of the Centro Italiano di Ipnosi Clinico-Sperimentale (CIICS), Torino, the Benjamin Franklin Gold Medal of ISH, and the “Living Human Treasure Award” of the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis.