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Merkur, D. (1984). The Nature of the Hypnotic State: A Psychoanalytic Approach. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 11:345-354.

(1984). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 11:345-354

The Nature of the Hypnotic State: A Psychoanalytic Approach

Daniel Merkur


The fallacy of reifying consciousness informs views denying hypnosis to be a discrete state. Hypnosis may be described phenomenologically as a state in which ideation replaces conation as the variety of conscious mentation that results in sensori-motor response. The unconscious superego is implicated as the agency that effects ideations as suggestions. Because the superego possesses a capacity for intelligent reasoning, objection to the term 'automatism' collapses. The extent of superego activity is the degree of suggestibility. The ego's credence in superego automatisms is the variable of psychic depth. Trance, a third variable factor, is a mild variant of shock, induced by internal abuse of the psychic apparatus rather than external trauma. Trance involves isolation of perceptions, followed by repression of their memories. With most of the ego isolated or repressed, the executive function of the psyche falls to the superego, which implements ideas as suggestions and establishes the hypnotic rapport as emergency measures that fulfil the executive function for which it is inadequate. In sum, suggestibility is a defence mechanism against the psychic paralysis of trance. Because repressed suggestions are egosyntonic, they are able immediately to manifest consciously as automatisms, providing that they do so through the medium of the superego, which has access to betranced consciousness as the ego does not.

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