In order to intelligently perform any action it is necessary to have an understanding of what it is proposed to do. The act of hypnotizing others is entirely a mental process; but just what that process is very few really comprehend. There is an ill-defined idea of what mental action means, but usually that idea is more confusing than elucidating.
To the practical hypnotist it matters little what theories of mental philosophy are most generally accepted. He is more concerned in fixing in his, own mind a basis of action and of placing his ideas in such a shape as will best enable him to comprehend the character of his work. This much can be clearly realized: Thought always precedes voluntary action; but there may be action without any apparent thought and thought without any apparent action. For examples:
1. A man sees an arbor well laden with grapes, the sight suggests a desire to enjoy the fruit and that desire suggests the intention to procure some of it, thus far there has been only thoughts in connection with the grapes and these thoughts then suggest the action of walking over to the arbor and picking them and eating them, which constitutes a voluntary act preceded by thought. In other words, the mental thought was conveyed to the seat of physical action and the result followed.
2. A child touches its finger to the hot stove and immediately withdraws it. Here is action without any apparent thought directing it; for the child's mind was passive and did not contemplate that when the hot stove was touched, the finger would suffer and should therefore be withdrawn. The withdrawal of it was involuntary, for he could not have continued to hold it against the stove if he had so desired. The impression made upon the brain was one of pain, which automatically suggested the physical withdrawal of the finger. This is an illustration of physical action without any apparent thought Such instances occur to everyone daily. Blinking the eyes when there is danger to them, shrinking or jumping to one side when there is an explosion near by; keeping our bodies from rolling out of bed when we are asleep, are all familiar examples of what we call involuntary actions. They are suggested to the brain and the suggestion is carried out instantly without time being taken for actual thought.
3. Examples of thought without any apparent action are familiar to everyone. Such occur constantly in every mind. Mentally we can see ourselves acting various parts in life; and in our "day dreams" we become heroes or men of note, or Napoleons of finance. But, alas! fur the most part the thoughts we entertain remain where they are conceived. They too often fail to be conveyed to the seat of physical action. We have within ourselves the power to restrain our thoughts and prevent ourselves from "carrying them out." When we do not possess that power, then we become maniacs, unable to control our physical actions, which are aroused by our thoughts.
The well balanced mind, then, may be likened to a most ingeniously contrived machine. Impressions from without produce effect upon the department of thought and this effect may be, at our pleasure, conveyed to or prevented from entering the department of physical action. At times the department of thought may be idle and impressions quickly pass from it to the seat of physical actions, then spoken of as involuntary.
In the study and practice of hypnotism it will be found useful to bear in mind the above illustrative examples as aids in comprehending what takes place during a hypnotic sitting. The subject, take it for granted, is a sane and healthy person capable of thinking for himself and of voluntarily acting upon what has been suggested by his thoughts. He is also capable of restraining his impulses to act; and, like others, his physical actions are frequently performed involuntarily, being prompted by impressions suddenly made upon his mind and instantly conveyed to the seat of physical action without being dwelt upon as thoughts.
The operator calls attention to some one object or sound or motion, with the idea of concentrating the subject's thought entirely upon it. The subject voluntarily allows his attention to be concentrated and before long the monotony of the concentration of thought makes it difficult for him to voluntarily conceive any other thoughts and consequently his mind becomes what is known as passive - a blank regarding other matters.
While the subject's mind is in this passive condition, the operator quickly and sharply utters a suggestion. It is so suddenly impressed upon his mind that without reflection it is at once conveyed to the seat of physical action and almost involuntarily the suggestion is carried out, just as the child quickly withdraws his finger from the hot stove before he has learned to think of what is necessary to do under the circumstances.
Again, as in Example 3, the subject may be induced to so completely concentrate his thoughts and refrain from all manifestations of physical action, that it will be possible for the operator to suddenly impress upon him that even all thought must cease entirely, and the profound hypnotic condition will follow.
In all hypnotic performances the subject is simply acting the part of a sane and healthy person, and exhibiting his natural capabilities. No injury has been done to him. He has concentrated his thought under influences exerted by the operator and his mind becomes passive under these same influences, just as it might be possible for it to become under certain circumstances if no operator were present. The suggestions made by the operator are received and conveyed to the seat of physical action just as sensations of pain or joy or grief are frequently impressed upon the mind and followed by appropriate demonstrations before any plan of what manifestations should be made could be planned or even thought of. It is to such conditions we refer when we say, for instance: "He involuntarily cried out," "he jumped for joy," "he writhed in agony," etc. The suggestion was made suddenly upon the mind when not expected and the result followed naturally.
Similarly the operator's suggestions are made and the subject's actions naturally follow. Let it always be borne in mind, then, that in order to "hypnotize" skill must be exerted to render the subject's mind as passive as possible. This is the first essential and cannot be disregarded. Next, it is necessary to utter introductory suggestions sharply and decisively as commands that necessitate immediate obedience. When the instant transfer of suggestions to the seat of physical action has been established, then, and then only, can suggestions be made in a less emphatic manner.
ref. Practical Lessons in Hypnotism by Wm. Wesley Cook