From the old days of watch swinging to modern day hypnotherapy, going into hypnosis has proven effective in alleviating many problem states. People who have experienced hypnosis say they find a freedom from previously imprisoning thoughts and behaviour.
Hypnotized people report that their compulsion to addictive substances looses its grip. Others find their freedom from negative patterns of emotions such as anger, jealousy and low mood. And the effectiveness of hypnosis doesn’t stop there as doctors have performed operations without anaesthetic whilst their patients have been in hypnosis.
Throughout time hypnosis and how it facilitates change has been shrouded in mystery. That is until the last couple of decades when science has given us a bigger picture of what happens in the brain.
To understand hypnosis you need to have a mini brain science lesson; and I promise it will be short!
Your brain emits frequencies that have been picked up by Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging scans (MRI).
BETA BRAINWAVES – 13 – 40Hz – You would be awake and doing normal activity.
ALPHA BRAINWAVES 7 – 13 Hz – When you are relaxed, in light meditation or hypnosis. Alpha is associated with super learning and creativity.
THETA BRAINWAVES 4 – 7 Hz – When extremely relaxed in deeper hypnosis and deeper meditation. The theta state produces profound relaxation; however, clients in hypnosis do not need to reach the theta state to make significant improvements in their lives.
DELTA BRAINWAVES less than 4 Hz – You will be fast asleep or unconscious.
GAMMA BRAINWAVES 40+ – A state of hyper alertness, sensory integration and perception described as a blissful state by people who regularly practice meditation.
Another aspect to note here is the presence of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) observed in the Theta state and when dreaming.
During hypnosis your brain will be largely in alpha and theta. If you were watching someone in hypnosis you would see their eyes moving very quickly underneath their closed eyelids.
Whilst in alpha and theta you are in a more suggestible state, so this is why people can make changes when in hypnosis.
But lets continue to build your knowledge, as there are other forces at play.
We spend the most time in the theta state during the last trimester of gestation. During this time you are laying down new instinctive patterns that will help you bond with caregivers and negotiate your environment when born. During the first eight years of life you would have been largely in theta/alpha, enabling you to learn quickly and retain so much from those early years.
You naturally lay down new instinctive patterns when in the theta state. And one important addition here is that you can also update existing habits and thoughts here too.
So it makes sense doesn’t it to go to the theta alpha state when we are naturally geared to initiate and update from that state.
Can you see now why logic and will power are often crushed by a strong habit? This is because the patterns of the habit are coded into instinct and lay beyond what the logical part of the brain can access.
Your imagination is a powerful tool in deliberate hypnosis, as when it is focused on a story or healing journey the mind doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what isn’t. So when a hypnotherapist helps you to focus your mind and you vividly imagine a scenario like going out for coffee and not having a cake, or being calmer at work. Here you are laying down the new neural patterns for that behaviour.
So using hypnosis to lift problems can be seen as the deliberate focusing of the mind to enter an alpha/theta state and use the imagination to facilitate a dream like process to form a new neural network or path for the more helpful emotions or behaviours.
Written by Jill Wootton, August 2015.