The Scientific Nature of Hypnosis

Until about 1952 hypnosis was thought to be a type or form of sleep. It was not possible to get any concrete evidence as to what went on in the human brain during hypnosis until the electroencephalograph, or EEG for short, was used in research.

What an EEG does is record the regular electrical pulses emanating from the brain on a graph. Research into the nature of sleep has shown that we each go through five main stages of sleep.

When we start to doze off to sleep we emit high amplitude waves from between eight or twelve cycles every second known as alpha waves or alpha rhythms. These rhythms are also present when we are deeply relaxed and quiet. When dozing off our eyes make smooth rolling movements. After a few minutes we reach the second stage. At this stage the alpha rhythms are replaced with slower low voltage waves. After a few more minutes the third stage is reached and the waves slow a little more and the eye movements reduce and disappear. In the fourth stage the waves are even slower but the voltage increases. During the fifth stage we emit a low frequency high voltage rhythm around one cycle each second.

Now during our sleep we often have periods where our eyes move more quickly. This stage became known as "Rapid Eye Movement" or REM sleep. At this time our brains emit very fast waves of up to twenty cycles each second known as beta waves. During this period a number of very important things are happening within our bodies. It is at this time that we dream and if awakened we could give accurate descriptions of our dreams. The eye movements are very similar to those that might be made by someone who is awake and is looking about them. When REM sleep stops the first stage of sleep starts over again.

When a reading is made of a person who is in a hypnotic trance however they do not give the same results. They appear to show that the person is simply relaxed. They will show very similar readings to those given by someone in the first stages of sleep, alpha waves, but when a suggestion is made by the hypnotist these diminish because his mind is alerted. However if the hypnotist gives the suggestion to sleep while under hypnosis the EEG recording will show a reading virtually the same as someone who is asleep.

When readings are taken of a subject while they are being induced to a deeper level of trance the alpha waves maintain their frequency but there is a big reduction in the voltage. The voltage, however, increases if the subject is told to sleep. What this research suggested was that when a person in is hypnosis they are in a very special state of deep relaxation. This would explain why meditation so good for us because in this state our bodies are truly rested. So while in hypnosis we are neither conscious in the normal sense neither are we asleep.

When very sensitive apparatus is used to measure the brains electrical variations there are some very interesting changes that occur while in hypnosis. This is particularly true if a subject is asked to imagine a scene or perhaps imagines he can smell a the scent of a flower. Curiously these changes within the brain do not occur if the person actually smells a flower in a normal waking state. So there is strong physical evidence that hypnosis is an altered state of the mind and brain.

The Central Nervous System :-

Our central nervous system consists of the spinal cord which is connected to the brain. It contains nerve cells and nerve fibres which transmit information to and from our cells. Our central nervous system balances all the other systems within our bodies and will under normal circumstances keeps things in harmony. Most nerve connections within the body are transmitted to and from the brain via the spinal cord, some other connections are made direct to the brain like sight, hearing, and smell.

Our brains have evolved and developed over many thousands of years. The outer area of the brain is called the cortex and this is the most advanced area. The way in which our brains obtain information from the body is incredibly complex and it is filtered and processed in the oldest area of the brain called the Ascending Reticular Activating System, or RA. This cluster of nerve fibres comes up from the lower part of the brain known as the fourth ventricle. After the RA it moves on into the thalamus which is situated in the front of the brain with the hypothalamus beneath it. The RA also connects to the limbic system, which is one of our most primitive areas of development, and this in turn is connected to the cortex. The limbic system is thought to be mainly concerned with our human emotions.

The electrical activity within our brain relies on the stimuli it receives from the RA system. Our awareness of our surroundings and our reactions to it are modified via this system and this is why we produce variations on the EEG.

In normal waking consciousness our RA system will register activity on the EEG but if we are very relaxed, sitting quietly in darkness with little or no outside stimuli, or drifting off to sleep, it virtually closes down. When you are awake the RA constantly feeds a steady stream of reminders through to the brain. Like everything else to do with the functioning of the brain this is a very complex area.

The emphasis of one kind of stimuli over another is regulated via the RA system. If you are concentrating on something like a good book or watching a gripping programme on the TV our other conscious senses are overridden and we become unaware of them. If some one speaks to us we may not hear them, we block it out. The RA system can be effected by illness and drugs which reduces awareness.

During a hypnotic induction it is thought that words spoken by the hypnotist passes along the RA's network of nerve fibres and the attention of the subject is totally focused on them. In a state of deep relaxation the RA dampens down all the other stimuli which would otherwise flow through to the central nervous system. Once information is passed in to the limbic system it is then carried on to the appropriate area of the brain. Emotions like excitement, anxiety, among others, are dampened down and so we pass into the state of hypnosis.

Some patients suffering from very aggressive and often dangerous behaviour have undergone small operations to the limbic area. As a result they go through a drastic change in behaviour, most notable of which, is that they no longer show any signs of fear or anger.

Some interesting experiments have shown that different emotions can be triggered by passing a small electrical current into a part of the brain known as the temporal lobe cortex. Sometimes subjects can remember events from their past which they thought they had long since forgotten. Significantly they not only remembered those events but all the emotions that went with them at the time those events took place.

Apparently these subjects recall events every bit as accurately as other subjects do under hypnosis! Not only do they remember the events and their emotions to them but they also retain their impressions or interpretations of those events whether they were true or false. As we know regressing people under hypnosis is a very useful tool in correcting there present behaviour.

Stages Of Hypnotic Induction:-

To try and fathom all the different stages of hypnosis as a subject undergoes induction is rather like peeling away the layers of an onion. There are obviously some very subtle changes that take place as they drift from one state of hypnosis into another, it is not really possible to be too dogmatic. The following however will give you a general idea as to what takes place when someone is being hypnotised.

Hypnoidal Condition:-

This is the first quiet state you achieve while you start to relax and get comfortable. Your eyes are normally closed and you are aware of things going on around you but you slowly concentrate on the sound of the hypnotist's voice, whether it be on a tape or in real life, and you begin to forget your surroundings. In this stage you are not yet receptive to any detailed affirmations, your conscious mind or critical factor has not been distracted. From this state you drift into a deeper state of light trance.

Light Trance:-

In this state you are more relaxed and your body will appear still and quiet. There is sometimes a slight movement of the eye lids at this stage. After a time the complexion of the face becomes more ruddy as the blood vessels enlarge to allow the circulation to move freely. In a light trance simple suggestions like hand levitation can be attempted. Simple imaginary scenes can be given but the degree to which these scenes can be visualised are often limited at this stage. Some people who are new to hypnosis find it difficult to progress to the next stage at first, however if the relaxation continues a medium state of trance can be achieved.

Medium Trance:-

It is at this stage that your breathing slows markedly as your conscious mind quietens down. The colour of your cheeks will become redder as your blood vessels dilate a little more. Your ability to visualise things will be stronger in this state as your conscious mind lets go. In this state mild suggestions to null the bodies sensitivity to pain can often be attempted for things like dentistry. It is also possible to ask a subject to forget things, amnesia, and also to test for catalepsy. What a hypnotist will do is suggest that your arm feels rigid and cannot move even if you tried to. The same sort of thing can be suggested concerning the eye lids by suggesting they cannot open because they are glued together etc. As you try to open them you are told to drift even deeper into hypnosis.

Of course since you are co-operating with the hypnotist you cannot open your eyes because you don't really want to open them. By accepting this state of affairs you are happy to go even deeper in to trance. If you do open them then you either wish to come out of trance or the hypnotist has misjudged the level of trance you have reached.

Deep Trance:-

As you relax even more you will drift deeper and deeper into deep trance.

Your breathing will slow down even more and this is very restful for your brain and the rest of the body. In deep trance most of the therapeutic techniques can be used like regression, more advanced and complex forms of analgesia. Most hypnotists do not feel the need to go any deeper than a deep trance.

Somnambulistic Trance:-

This is the state whereby a hypnotised person can be given instructions to open their eyes and move around the room, talk, carry out various tasks, hallucinate etc. The term is derived from Latin somnus, which means sleep, and ambulare, which means walk. The most common example of a somnambulistic trance is a person hypnotised by a stage hypnotist. A person can be regressed to an earlier age and talk and behave as a small child. In this state some therapists from earlier time produced enough analgesia to open up the abdomen to allow major surgery!

Stuporous Trance:-

There is another very special, and relatively, unknown state of hypnosis which some subjects are able to enter known as the "Stuporous Trance". Anyone in this state shows an inability to appreciate the "Self. They lose a total awareness of themselves as individual persons with there own unique characters and reactions. It has been known for medical personnel called in to examine someone in such a trance without being told the subject has been hypnotised, think that they have been drugged or are in some kind of narcotic state. It is comparatively difficult to get someone to enter this state because there is an in-built objection to losing oneself so completely into the control of someone else.

In the East highly trained adepts are able to reach similar deep levels of trance. The loss of "ego" and the concept of "sell" is the aim of their meditations in order to reach some deeper meaning of their existence. However these people are experts trained by masters who have in turn being trained by masters throughout the centuries.

Delving into the truly deeper levels of trance and consciousness we are entering the murky areas of "Mind Control" or "Brain Washing" techniques.

In part one I explained that there had not been a case of anyone being harmed by the therapeutic use of Hypnosis and I stand by this statement. I also said that it was not possible to force someone to act against their will simple by putting them in a trance and giving them suggestions. You might recall that I mentioned the Social Compliance Theory. This basically states that the subject under Hypnosis is basically co-operating with the Hypnotist mainly because it suits him to do so

It has long been thought that it was not possible to make someone act in a way which would go against their normal beliefs, morals, or wishes etc.. Most hypnotists believe that a hypnotised person would not behave in way that would normally appear out of character unless that person is predisposed to do so!

There is a prevailing idea the hypnosis can only be used for positive effects. People often ask me can hypnosis be used to control someone's mind against their will?

I am also asked if hypnosis is so powerful a tool for good can it not also be used by unscrupulous people to do harm. Many practitioners answer this sort of question with an emphatic NO. The usual procedure is to say that under hypnosis you cannot force a person to act in away that is against his or her character.

Although this answer is perfectly correct as far as it goes, it is however simplistic. It is true in the main that you cannot force someone to act in a way that is alien to their true character however how do you know what that person's true character is?

Hypnosis is dealing with the subconscious or unconscious mind. A person's subconscious mind may hold all sorts of aims, desires, wants, character traits which the conscious mind keeps back or holds in check because of the restrictions and demands society puts on all of us. In other words we simply cannot just behave exactly as we might wish.

Who really knows what our true character is anyway?

Hypnosis has been around since the dawn of time. It has been used by our ancestors for thousands of years. Everyone has experienced some form of hypnotic trance whether they were aware of it or not. In fact everyone probably experiences something very similar at least twice a day.

Ignorance of the nature and power of hypnosis is probably potentially more harmful or dangerous. Its power for good in our lives vastly out ways any harm that could befall you from using it.

I remember reading about a demonstration of hypnosis where a young male doctor had placed an attractive young lady in a deep trance and had had her carry out various tasks and tests to show the extent of her trance. Someone in the audience asked the very question as to what extent does the therapist have control over the actions of the subject. The hypnotist explained that the therapist does not in actual fact have control over the subject and explained that if he asked the girl to do anything which would be against her normal behaviour or beliefs she would refuse. To prove his point he asked the girl, still in deep trance, to remove her clothes whereupon she awakened from her trance and slapped the young doctor around the face!

Now this impressed the audience. It seemed to prove the doctor's point that he was unable to force his subject into doing something against her will. Deep down she still knew that she was involved in a demonstration of hypnosis and that there was an almost exclusively male audience watching her.

However the situation might have backfired if the girl had some deep routed desires to remove her clothes in company. Also there are ways an unscrupulous hypnotist can engineer the situation to meet his own ends!

Suppose the girl had been given suggestions that she was all alone in her home. If the suggestion was then made that she was now in her bathroom and about to undress in order to take a bath she might well have obliged. This would involve inducing a state of hallucination and amnesia. I have no doubt that in this way it is possible to degrade a person and possibly harm them particularly if the hypnotist is inexperienced.

I would like to stress once again that you must not use the information contained in this course to gain control or gain some advantage over others.

This information is for your own use only and I am giving it to you so that you can achieve a better understanding of how your own mind works and how others might try and use this knowledge against you.

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