8. Conclusion

As we now leave the first decade of the twenty-first century, we have come a great deal closer to understanding hypnosis than in the days of Mesmer. But the mystery of hypnosis is far from being solved, and more often than not the answers we have acquired have served as nothing more than a generator of additional questions.

We now know that hypnotizability is an innate ability that each subject is born with, but that the ability to attain hypnosis-as-product still depends on several adaptive intrapersonal and interpersonal characteristics. We know that hypnosis-as-product is a truly unique experience to those fortunate enough to attain it, but that any event called for by hypnotic suggestions can be replicated, at least to a certain extent, outside the confines of hypnosis. And we know that subjects under the influence of hypnosis are unable to tell the difference between the response of a hypnotic suggestion and the truly involuntary counterpart, but that the subjects, at least on a certain level, are still aware that the response is a result of the suggestions offered.

In this respect, the big question as to whether it is dissociation theories or whether it is social cognitive theories that hold the truth about the mechanism of hypnosis has never been further away from conclusion. There is implausibly strong evidence that hypnosis-as-product is truly a unique state of mind, and there is just as strong evidence that hypnosis-as-product is nothing more than a complex social behavior. As such, both dissociation theorists and social cognitive theorists now try their very best to assimilate their theories to better cope with the overwhelming evidence both parties have brought to the table in recent years. At the current moment it is impossible to come to an agreement on this matter, and one can only hope that the future will bring us closer to the answer.

As to the utilization of hypnosis as a viable treatment modality, there still exists a larger than acceptable discrepancy between the disorders against which hypnosis is being used as a treatment and the disorders against which hypnosis has been empirically proven beneficial. This discrepancy is partly due to the relative lack of standardized algorithms in the clinical research of hypnosis, partly due to the lack of adoption of valid findings by medical professionals practicing the discipline, and partly due to the unverified practice of hypnosis outside the confines of psychology and psychiatry.

As hypnosis has matured to become both a viable treatment option for many medical conditions as well as an important research tool in our quest to understand the human mind and human cognition, it is of paramount importance that both the theory and practice of hypnosis are aligned as to finally relieve it from its age-old curse of being considered a pseudoscience.

And it is the responsibility of us as medical professionals to address these problems before hypnosis, once again, loses its place amongst the medical sciences.

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