Diane and 'GMA' Staff Prepare for Their Dare

The mind holds untapped power, and many try to use this intense mental potential to control pain, fear and anxiety.

With the help of hypnosis, "Good Morning America" anchor Diane Sawyer hopes to tap into the deepest part of her mind to walk on fire. Wednesday she and other "GMA" staff members attempt to walk over hot coals that burn at more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Watch 'GMA' Wednesday when Diane Sawyer Walks Over Hot Coals, Live

The Benefits of Mental Focus

To learn more about the power of the mind, Diane Sawyer and the "GMA" staff studied how self-hypnosis could help them not only meet this dare but handle everyday complaints and stresses.


"Hypnosis has been called 'believed in imagination.' It's a form of highly focused attention," said Dr. David Spiegel, a psychiatrist at Stanford University. "You control what you focus on and what effect it has on you and your body."

Deep mental focus has been credited with helping free divers hold their breath for up to eight minutes and for getting women through childbirth without pain. In 1961, a hypnotized woman had a Caesarean section without anesthetics.

She simply sung the song her hypnotist suggested she sing.

"We hear all the time about the incredible ways in which monks and yogis are able to rewire their brains through intense practice," said Anne Harrington, who wrote "The Cure Within." "Maybe one important thing we should be doing more of is trying to discover the extraordinary in our own world," said Harrington.

'GMA' Gets Focused

So how would self-hypnosis work for the "GMA" staff members?

First, Spiegel met individually with the firewalkers to determine who was more, or less, susceptible to hypnosis.

Afterward the group gathered and Spiegel asked them to remember funny things to relax their minds. Then Diane and the others were told to imagine two screens. On the left side they envisioned a specific problem, and on the right they visualized a pleasurable place where they imagined a solution.

During the exercise, Diane kept peeking, and Spiegel caught her.

"You were observing, Diane. I noticed that," Spiegel said.

"I cheated," Diane confessed.

Of the group, Diane was ranked one of the least likely to be hypnotized.

But "you can get a lot of benefit even if you're just moderately hypnotizable if you use it," Spiegel said.

Before hypnosis, the pain centers of the brain are very bright, but during hypnosis, they're almost inactive.

"Your performance and efficiency will improve when you do this. So what it's doing is maximizing your potential," said Dr. Herbert Benson at the Harvard Medical School, who is studying how people gain control over their lives through a form of meditation.

For the "GMA" group, many felt a definite difference following the session.

"I thought it was really great how it was just so easy to float from one screen to the next," said producer Maureen White.

"It was just like the sensation of comfort there," said Anthony Underwood, another producer.

In Times Square Wednesday, viewers can see just how harnessing their minds might help Diane Sawyer and the "GMA" team cross those scalding hot coals.