Hypnotically Induced Emotional States

Since an emotion is generally regarded as a combination of the activities of the ANS, the subjective perception of these activities, and the accompanying ideation, it follows that hypnotically suggested emotional states are closely related to the physiological effects of hypnosis. Because the ANS is generally not under voluntary control, many of the physiological effects producible under hypnosis may in fact be mediated by emotional states that are more directly produced by hypnotic suggestion.

Hodge and Wagner (1964) cited a collection of studies that utilized hypnotically induced emotional states to test the validity of the Rorschach test by inducing various emotional states in subjects and seeing if the resultant Rorschach protocol was changed in the predicted direction (Bergmann, Graham, and Leavitt, 1947; Counts and Mensh, 1950; Lane, 1948; Levine, Grassi, and Gerson, 1943; Mercer and Gibson, 1950; Sarbin, 1939). They then embarked on a line of inverse research designed not to demonstrate the validity of a projective technique but to show the reality of hypnotically suggested emotional states by demonstrating that these states produced appropriate changes in responses to a projective test assumed to be valid. For this purpose, the Hands Test, which consists of nine pictures of a pair of hands in ambiguous positions, was used. The subject was required to describe the activities the hands were engaged in. For a tenth card, which was blank, the subject was required to imagine a set of hands and describe their activities. In the first study, a middle-aged patient was used as the only subject. She was tested in the normal waking condition to establish a baseline and was diagnosed as a passive-dependent personality type. She was then given the test under neutral hypnosis, with remarkably similar results. She was subsequently administered this test under five different hypnotically induced emotional states (with instructions after each testing to forget the test). The five emotional states suggested were:

  1. Dwelling on a happy thought.
  2. Anticipating a pleasant sexual experience.
  3. Unhappiness over her husband leaving her.
  4. Anger over unjust criticism.
  5. Falling in love.

Hodge found that in each state, the patient's basic personality features were reflected in test results, but the effects of the suggested emotional state were also apparent.

In a follow-up study, seven subjects were tested to permit a statistical analysis of results. Only two induced emotional states, affection and aggression, were used. Responses to the Hands Test obtained in these states were compared to the results obtained from the administration of the test in the waking and neutral hypnosis conditions. In both emotions, it was found that the number of test responses appropriate to the suggested emotion increased from the baseline condition. It was also noted that responses appropriate to the noninduced emotion were lower than in the baseline condition (Hodge, Wag-ner, and Schreiner, 1966a). Hodge, Wagner, and Schreiner (1966b) con-cluded that a hypnotically induced emotion can be considered similar to a naturally occurring one, provided it can be demonstrated that the behavior and test responses of subjects are similar (under the hypnotically induced emotion) to their behavior and test responses under the naturally occurring emotion. They also found that the subject's behavior was different from that In the control state, that each test situation was perceived by the subject as a new experience, and that the effects of acting could be eliminated.