Senior Mindset Coach at Samuel and Co Trading. While studying and practising many energy healing systems spanning 40 years (EFT, TAT, TCM, Yuen Method, NLP, Applied Kinesiology, Qigong etc). He gained qualifications in Massage, Reflexology, Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy. His goal is to continue to help his clients experience freedom from life’s emotional trauma, stress, negativity, limiting beliefs and to holistically balance the Mind, Body and Spirit.
Hi everyone, welcome back to my weekly article. In this article, I want to delve into the area of hypnosis. I have been a qualified hypnotherapist for the last 20 years and have used it to help many, many people overcome a variety of problems. People have a strange curiosity for hypnotist’s and hypnosis in general, while being sceptical at one level and scared at another, and that is the typical response of someone that hasn’t experienced hypnosis.
Comments like: ‘can you really do hypnosis’, ‘can you hypnotise me now,’ ‘I bet that you can’t hypnotise me’, ‘can you really make me cluck like a chicken’, or ‘they’re not really hypnotised are they, they’re just pretending’ Or, and here’s the best so far, ‘what happens if you (Adrian) die while I’m in a trance’…
Let’s look at hypnosis: what it is, what it’s not, what can be experienced, who can or can’t be hypnotised?
Generally, most people are aware of only two areas of hypnosis. One that deals with peoples’ fears, cravings, stop smoking, weight loss etc, and the other is stage hypnosis. One is for practical, beneficial purposes while the other is stage show for entertainment where people are made to do silly things that make the audience laugh. While this aspect of hypnosis is entertaining, it is also the cause for a lot of doubt and questions regarding the validity of hypnosis.
Let’s begin with the word ‘hypnosis.’ The word came from Greek mythology, Hypnos was the God of sleep. So, in the early days, it was assumed that when a ‘subject’ was experiencing hypnosis and in a trance with their eyes are closed, they were asleep. This is not true and couldn’t be further from the truth. While in a trance, in a typical therapy session, your senses are heightened and you’re aware of what is going on around you. However, depending on the depth of the relaxation, it is very common to not hear what the therapist is saying. That’s okay because the subconscious mind can and does hear every positive suggestion. This scenario is advantageous for the therapist because the conscious, analytical thinking mind is out of the way, so to speak, and cannot interfere with the suggestions.
Is hypnosis safe? Yes – absolutely, because it’s a natural function of the brain and one that every person experiences at some point. All that is happening is the brain wave frequencies are changing, slowing down, as I mentioned in article 11.
Brainwaves are a normal function of the brain and are produced by the electrical pulses from the billions of neurons communicating with each other. Brainwaves are divided into bandwidths which change according to what we’re doing and feeling. There are five bandwidths which are measured in Hertz (cycles per second).
Gamma Waves (38+ Hz): Gamma brainwave activity is the most recently discovered and fastest frequency. Gamma waves integrate information from all parts of the brain producing bursts of insight, higher IQ, more compassion, increased memory recall, sensory perception and focus. People who generate higher gamma frequencies are generally happier, calmer and more at peace. The mind has to be calm to access gamma waves, and meditation is one of the best ways to achieve this.
Beta Waves (12-38 Hz): Beta brainwave activity is consistent with our daily life when we are fully alert, attentive and focused on problem-solving or focused mental activity. Beta waves improve concentration, logic, reasoning and critical thinking. It is also the frequency for the fight-flight response when we’re agitated, tense and afraid that triggers the Amygdala.
Alpha Waves (8-12 Hz): Alpha brainwaves are produced when we’re in a state of physical and mental relaxation. Alpha waves are beneficial for having a clearer, calmer mind, reducing tension and nervousness. It increases creativity, problem-solving abilities, mood and stabilises the emotions. Alpha waves are associated with “peak” performance and getting in the “zone,” ideal for athletes and traders. Other benefits for those spending time in the alpha brainwave state include “super learning,” and “genius states,” and, enhanced immune system function. Meditation, yoga, saunas, steam rooms and massages are all beneficial in producing alpha brainwave frequencies.
Theta Waves (3-8 Hz): Theta brainwaves are experienced during deep meditation and sleep and is where we experience daydreaming. In Theta our external senses are shut down and we focus internally where we experience a dream-like state, vivid imagery, intuition and can access information beyond our normal conscious level of awareness as well as learning, memory and intuition. Theta wave is the realm of creative imagination and daydreaming where anything is possible and inventions are created. It is also the best level for re-programming ourselves and imprint new ideas and beliefs into our subconscious mind by shutting down the critical, analytical left-side of the brain.
Delta Waves (0.5-3 Hz): Delta waves are generated during deep meditation and dreamless sleep, slowing our metabolism and regulating our unconscious bodily processes including the heart, breathing, kidney function, digestion etc. while healing and regeneration are stimulated at this level to ensure that our bodies are in good working order. Delta waves play a huge role in strengthening the immune system function. Delta waves are typically found in the right brain hemisphere where our spatial awareness, artistic and creative talents are found. During sleep, delta waves help the body produce Human Growth Hormones (HGH) which maintain body strength and help to decrease body fat.
Let’s look at four common examples of where you may have experienced a trance-like state, even though only briefly. 1st, when you’re lying in bed at night and you feel really warm and cosy, and you just don’t want to move and then you fall asleep. That, in hypnotic terms, is called the ‘Hypnogogic state’. 2nd, when you notice that you’re dreaming, and then you suddenly wake up and can’t remember the dream, that is called the ‘Hypnopompic state’. 3rd, you suddenly open your eyes and realise that you were daydreaming, and then you look around to see if anyone noticed that you were daydreaming because you might have been at work and should have been working. What is interesting about the daydreaming experience is that you weren’t even aware of doing it until you opened your eyes and had stopped daydreaming. You certainly weren’t aware of how long you were like that or that all your senses had shut down as well. The 4th example, if you’re a driver, have you ever been driving a familiar route, got to your destination, and then realised that you couldn’t remember going through the traffic lights or around the roundabouts?
In all four examples, you were perfectly safe, and no harm came to you. Why? Because your brain naturally passes through these different frequency levels on a daily basis, it’s just that you’re not consciously aware of them. When you relax your body, your mind relaxes. When you relax your mind, your body relaxes, it’s a two-way relationship. In fact, homo sapiens, our ancestors have been experiencing hypnosis for hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years, right back to the early caveman. What happens when you stare into a log fire at night? When all is quiet around you, and you stare into the centre of a big log fire, you become fixated with the redness, and the flames flickering. You become mesmerised, in a trance-like state. The fire is warming, we can cook on it, it’s a form of safety which was certainly the case for our ancestors. Yet, it is such a simple thing that touches us deeply. When we enter this trance-like state, we start to focus inwardly on our feelings and emotions. Our external senses start to shut down, to a point where we may not hear someone talking to us. Just like reading a book, you become so engrossed in the book that you may not hear the phone ring or someone calling your name.
Even the term mesmerised, used in our vocabulary comes from a famous hypnotherapist Franz Mesmer 1734-1850. Mesmer was a German doctor who theorised that there was a natural energy transference that occurred between all animate and inanimate objects that he called ‘animal magnetism’, later referred to as mesmerism. Mesmer’s theory continued until 1843, when a Scottish doctor, James Braid proposed the term hypnosis for a technique derived from animal magnetism; this is the usual meaning of mesmerism.
So why do we become mesmerised when we look into a log fire for a period of time? It all has to do with our eyes. For hundreds of thousands of years, mankind were hunters. Our eyes have developed to constantly scan the environment for potential prey and predators. This continuous scanning process from left to right engages our left and right brain hemispheres, which is termed as ‘whole brain integration.’ Even today, walking down the road, our eyes continually scan our environment. They are not fixated onto one particular spot or object. So, when we gaze into a fire, we stop tracking with our eyes. When we do that, the part of the brain responsible for assessing our environment for danger (our Amygdala) shuts down and is not required. When that happens our brain wave frequencies start to slow down and we begin to experience a hypnotic trance-like state. Something that is normal, natural and safe. Something we’ve been experiencing for thousands of years.
A hypnotherapist utilises these natural phenomena and gets you to purposely focus on an object, a single point of focus. While giving you suggestions that your eyes are getting tired and that you’ll want to close them. Again, a natural experience. This whole process of getting you to relax changes the brain wave frequencies, the more you relax the deeper you go into a relaxed, trance-like state (frame of mind). What is important and really interesting, is that the deeper you relax and the slower the brain wave frequencies become, it is possible to experience certain phenomena by suggestion. Amnesia, where the client ‘forgets’ their name. Analgesia, a reduction of pain in a specific part of the body or Anaesthesia, removal of all pain and sensation in the body, where major surgical operations have been performed. Catalepsy, rigidity or immobility of muscles, where a limb (arm or leg) can be positioned and remains locked in that position. Dissociation, where the client is separated or removed from a traumatic event. Regression/revivication, this phenomena allows the client to go back in time to a past event. There are more phenomena to be experienced including positive and negative hallucinations with all the senses.
Who can be hypnotised? Generally, everyone can be hypnotised if they are willing to experience the trance state and follow some suggestions. Remember, that this is a two-way relationship between the client and therapist. This is not something that is done to you without your consent. You are in control of the experience, and if you wanted to open your eyes you can.
Who can’t be hypnotised? There are two types that fall into this category, the very old and the very young. Both have the same issue that prevents them from being hypnotised and that is their focus of attention, they have a short attention span. During hypnosis, clients are asked to do certain things; open your eyes, answer a question etc. The questions are tests, just so the therapist can gauge at what level of trance the client is in. Certain depths elicit certain responses and an inability to respond usually dictates the appropriate depth. Working with these two types of client usually takes much longer.
I hope that this article has answered your questions? As always, I hope you have enjoyed the input. I look forward to seeing any discussions and interaction from the community – more next week…