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Schneck, J.M. (1951). The Unconscious Relationship Between Hypnosis and Death. Psychoanal. Rev., 38(3):271-275.

(1951). Psychoanalytic Review, 38(3):271-275

The Unconscious Relationship Between Hypnosis and Death

Jerome M. Schneck, M.D.

Difficulties with theoretical formulations of hypnosis continue, but further investigations of the various meanings of the hypnotic state for different people may, in time, help to clarify the problem. Reviews of various theoretical considerations are readily available (1, 13). The writer has presented clinical material pertaining to various sexual implications of the hypnotic state and hypnotic relationships (5, 6). Among other questions those of omnipotence and masochism have been discussed (7, 8, 9, 10).

It appears that with some people, hypnosis is unconsciously equated with death. Recently the suggestion was offered that the concern of many people regarding possible failure in terminating hypnosis after induction may be related to this idea (3). Some unpublished clinical data in the possession of the writer confirms this (11).

Without evaluating critically his views on mesmerism, reference may be made to a comment by Poe more than one hundred years ago (4). It is sufficient to indicate his thinking about the relationship between hypnosis (mesmerism) and death. “There can be no more absolute waste of time than the attempt to prove, at the present day that man, by mere exercise of will, can so impress his fellow, as to cast him into an abnormal condition, of which the phenomena resemble very closely those of death, or at least resemble them more nearly than they do the phenomena of any other normal condition within our cognizance; … “

A patient who had been demonstrated to be hypnotizable nevertheless rejected the use of hypnosis in treatment owing to fear of it, despite acknowledgment of the apparent irrationality of this fear. No pressure was exerted toward acceptance. The topic arose again during the course of analytic work in which she was progressing.

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