I bet the first thing that came into your mind when you read the word hypnotism was a picture of a strange spooky man swinging a pocket watch from side to side who’d make you carry out all his evil little deeds for him.
Forget about that because, in reality, a person is never a slave; they always have the free will to not act upon a command. Whilst it is also perceived that the pocket watch is supposed to cause you to fall into a dream-like condition, the person is even more alert now.
How a person scientifically goes into a trance-like state is via the subconscious part of the brain. This is the part which is always awake, even when you’re sleeping (which is when it dominates the conscious part). It does the “behind the scenes” work, like controlling all the activities done automatically (breathing, habits etc).
This is when the pocket watch finally begins to make sense: it makes you focus all your attention onto one object so that everything else is tuned out which relaxes you, allowing the conscious mind to be less active so the subconscious part takes over. This means the hypnotist deals with just the subconscious which contains all your memories meaning they can pull out ones you didn’t even think you had and also create new ones. This also helps to explain why hypnotised people are prepared to act silly; the conscious mind is the one which is in charge of restriction and holds the fear and embarrassment whereas the subconscious is full of creativity and spontaneity. Why a hypnotist has power over your senses and emotions is also because the subconscious manages these so they can activate any sensations, for example the experience of having ice cream. In this way, hypnotism was used in early days to cure mental disorders and ease pain.
The physiological evidence can be seen in the measurements of the electrical activity in the brain via electroencephalographs (EEGs); these show waves similar to those of sleeping/dreaming. Moreover, there is a lower activity in the left side of your brain than your right when hypnotised which makes sense as the left regulates reason whilst the right controls imagination.
Everyday uses of these include psychiatrists and even putting your baby to sleep with the regular rocking; who knew we’d all been hypnotised at least once in our life!