Review of Medical Hypnosis. By Lewis R. Wolberg, M.D. (Volume 1: pp. 449; $5.50. Volume 2: pp. 513; $6.50.) New York: Grune and Stratton. 1948.
These handsomely produced volumes provide an account of theory and practice in hypnosis which has been largely oriented by psycho-analytic teaching. Thus, in his interesting chapter on the nature of hypnosis the author rejects one by one theories of a neuro-physiological kind; and though he finds points of criticism in the usual psycho-analytic theory of hypnosis he finally adopts a theory which is little removed from it. Those who are not analysts will be inclined to criticize this critique. The psycho-analytic theory places great importance on the personal relationship between the hypnotist and the subject; the hypnotist becomes the "intrapsychic representative of the parent or superego." This would seem to be altogether too narrow a conception. The phenomena of hypnosis will be unintelligible until they are brought into relation with a very wide class of observations on both human and animal behaviour. The hypnosis of animals has been a frequent subject of experiment, and certainly cannot be accounted for by explanations involving the fabulous superego. Any satisfactory theory would have to be applicable to the phenomena of psychic shock, hysterical conversion symptoms, normal dissociative processes such as are seen in sleep-walking, the "miracle" cures of religious conversion, and many others, besides hypnosis itself.
In the author's view the applications of hypnosis in treatment are wide and varied, but they should always be a part of a consistent scheme of psychotherapy. He discusses the use of hypnosis for the simple removal of a symptom, as a part of non-analytic types of psychotherapy, reassurance, and persuasion, and as a technique to aid progress in psycho-analysis. Nearly every chapter of the second volume is profusely illustrated with recorded conversations between doctor and patient which effectively display the author's methods. In a final note the use of hypnosis for public displays is deplored, and the author demands protective laws which would confine the use of hypnosis to the medical profession.