Regarding “Hypnosis Reconsidered, Resituated, and Redefined”: A Commentary on Crabtree

Don Beere

Abstract


As I prepare to make comments about Crabtree’s paper, I find it difficult to know exactly where to begin. It is hard to decide whether this paper has said a lot or has, in fact, said nothing other than the most obvious, or simply used different language to state what others have said. On the other hand, perhaps my struggle is indicative of something more. Since I am struggling to figure this out and am unclear in my thinking, does this indicate Crabtree has presented something new and significant? Despite this quandary, there are a number of specific points I would like to address, and, then, later return to considering the larger questions raised by my struggles. I would like to frame the context for my Commentary. I was trained in hypnosis and hypnotherapy in 1968. I have done active clinical practice for forty years and used hypnosis in various clinical ways. For 10 years, I taught doctoral students a course in hypnotherapy. I am a practitioner and not a researcher or theorist of hypnosis. I have published a fair amount in the areas of dissociation and have a background in philosophy, in particular phenomenological philosophy. In my comments I want to be fair and balanced, but I want to address what was problematic from my point of view since in the long run that might be most useful. I would like first to applaud Crabtree’s creative and theoretical tour de force: He defines hypnosis from the inside, from the perspective of mental phenomena and not from the operational definitions of hypnotically emitted actions (his list of hypnotic phenomena) or of the behaviors of hypnotists. He has created an overarching theory that explains a range of phenomena and answers important questions. How is it that we can observe hypnosis-like behavior in people who are not in a hypnotic state? How is it possible for people in a hypnotic state to engage in hypnotic behavior? What happens when someone goes into hypnosis? What is the link between hypnosis, group trances, and other rituals seen worldwide, rituals that evoke trance-like states similar to hypnotic states? How does experience seem to flow connectedly from thing to thing? His theory answers these questions and brings them together seamlessly. Unfortunately, I believe he generalizes too broadly and has established concepts which founder when examined closely.


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