Theory of Hypnosis

Mentifex mentifex at
Sat Sep 16 02:41:47 EST 2000

A theory of hypnosis is a by-product of a project in robot AI at (q.v.):

Hypnosis fits into the PD AI theory of mind in the following way.
In a dream, a mind is ensconced within an isolated brain and has
shut down the input sensorium of sensations from the external world.
A dream is an associative vortex of memories reactivated during sleep
and coagulating briefly into a novel experience which is itself
recorded as an episode in the stream of consciousness -- whether
or not the waking mind still has access to the memory of the dream
after the sleeping mind awakens.

Since the dreaming mind is dealing with its own ideas and not with
the external sensations which are often incredible and untrustworthy,
the dreamer automatically believes the dream and treats the events
in the dream as real -- unless the dreamer is an adept at lucid
dreaming and has developed the power of knowing that a dream is in
progress, without waking up.  Normally, however, we accept everything
told to us in a dream because we are the one telling it to us.
To our dreaming selves, we are the ultimate authority.

In hypnosis, however, we manage to fall asleep (or into a trance)
without shutting down the pathway of the input sensorium of strong
external sensations.  We experience a dream-like trance and we give up
our sense of discretion and trust to what we take to be our own sacred
and trustworthy consciousness but what is on the contrary another mind
alien to our own:  the mesmerizing hypnotist.  If the hypnotist tells
us that an umbrella or loaf of bread is a kitten, we conjure up from
memory all the attributes of a kitten and we perceive the kitten
because a seemingly trustworthy and ultimate authority has told us to
do so.  Since the dream-like trance is normally made up of memories
being re-activated anyway, we let the verbal suggestions of the
hypnotist override the sensations from an external world that we
exclude from our dreams during sleep.  Our dreams and trances are not
centered around external events but around the associative vortex which
turns old memories into a novel experience.  The hypnotist has snuck
in, so to speak, to our own center of control of our semi-conscious
processes and has begun to give orders as if we ourselves gave them.
Perhaps in the trance posing as a dream we think that we are deciding
to quit smoking after years of inhaling cigarette smoke, or perhaps
we have decided to remember some obscure detail of forensic information
needed in a courtroom.  For whatever reason, the hypnotist has achieved
the proverbial Vulcan mindmeld with our non-waking consciousness and
has become the proverbial homunculus orchestrating our consciousness.
Logic dictates that we are in a dream where we normally believe
everything that occurs and that therefore we will believe whatever is
suggested to us by the hypnotist.

Respectfully and sincerely submitted,

Arthur T. Murray    mentifex at
-- Robot   Theory  of    Mind

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