There is no legal definition of hypnosis anywhere in the world.
Below, I have included quotes from many experts who have achieved reputation with their practice and writings on hypnotism. Each of them has attempted to define hypnotism and none of them agree.
Hypnosis is a natural state of mind, there is nothing unnatural or supernatural about it. Every person has a natural capacity for response to hypnosis, which means that there is no such thing as a good subject or a bad subject. Even those who believe “I’m a poor subject,” can learn that they can go into a trance easily and quickly when consulting a well-trained and experienced Hypnotherapist.
Hypnotherapy is unique, because there is no other known way in which you can actually observe, in an age regression, how a person acquired the ideas that became fixed in the mind and how these ideas were reinforced and eventually became dominant ideas that controlled feelings and behaviour. Now, many years after the original sensitising event, that person always acts the same way in the same situation, like a player on a stage. The curtain goes up—they know one set of lines, only one character to play. Hypnotherapy is the original holistic system and once you master it, you will be riding on the crest of a great wave of complimentary systems that are sweeping across the world.
Nothing can touch it, or even come close to it for effectiveness, no matter how lengthy and convoluted the theories may be. Our continued disappointment with traditional systems of treatment and healing has turned us towards ‘alternative methods’.
Definitions of Hypnosis
Hypnosis is the term applied to a unique, complex form of unusual but normal behaviour which can probably be induced in all normal persons under suitable conditions and also in many persons suffering from various types of abnormality. It is primarily a special psychological state with certain physiological attributes, resembling sleep only superficially and marked by a functioning of the individual at a level of awareness other than the ordinary conscious state… when hypnotized, or in the hypnotic trance, the subject can think, act and behave in relationship to either ideas or reality objects as adequately as, and usually better than, he can in the ordinary state of awareness. In all probability, this ability derives from intensity and restriction of attention to the task in hand, and the consequent freedom from the ordinary conscious tendency to orient constantly to distracting, even irrelevant, reality considerations.
Hypnotism is simply exaggerated suggestibility.
George H. Estabrooks
All of the various mesmeric, hypnotic, and verbal suggestive induction procedures have only one objective: To help promote this state of single-mindedness, of exclusively concentrated attention, letting other ideas pass into torpid oblivion. Because the monoideised attention has heightened the intensity of the one focal or dominant idea, the power of the imagination on mind and body is considerably greater than in the ordinary waking state, and thus suggestions are likely to initiate correspondingly greater influence.
Ronald E. Shor
A state of intensified attention and receptiveness, and an increased responsiveness to an idea or to a set of ideas.
Milton H. Erickson
Nothing but an aspect of conditioning.
Hypnosis is largely a question of your willingness to be receptive and responsive to ideas, and to allow these ideas to act upon you without interference. These ideas we call suggestions.
Andre M. Weitzenhoffer and Ernest R. Hilgard
Hypnosis is not sleep. Whatever sleep is, hypnosis is not. In an operational sense, hypnosis is a response to a signal from another or to an inner signal, which activates a capacity for a shift of awareness in the subject and permits a more intensive concentration upon a designated goal direction… to put it succinctly, hypnosis is an altered state of attention which approaches peak concentration capacity.
An altered state of the organism originally produced by a repetition of stimuli in which suggestion (no matter how defined) is more effective than usual.
Such a definition as this is admittedly ringed with ifs and buts and questions of how, what and why, and is more descriptive than explanatory.
F. L. Marcuse
It is recognized that there is no generally accepted definition of hypnosis, though considerable consensus exists at a descriptive level.
Martin T. Orne
It is a somewhat altered state of consciousness and altered awareness, although the conscious mind is still present. We might compare it to a teeter-totter. In the waking state the conscious mind is at the high end of the teeter-totter and the subconscious mind at the low end. Under hypnosis they reverse and the subconscious is at the high end and the conscious part at the low end, but it is still present. Thoughts rise from the inner mind into consciousness.
Leslie M. LeCron
Hypnosis is a natural state of mind with special identifying characteristics:
- An extraordinary quality of relaxation.
- An emotionalised desire to satisfy the suggested behaviour: The person feels like doing what the hypnotist suggests, provided that what is suggested does not generate conflict with his belief system.
- The organism becomes self-regulating and produces normalization of the central nervous system.
- Heightened and selective sensitivity to stimuli perceived by the five senses and four basic perceptions.
- Immediate softening of psychic defences.
- Lack of response to irrelevant external stimuli.