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What hypnosis does to the brain?

In this article you will find out about brain electricity, how hypnosis works on the brain and what hypnosis can do and help you with.

I shall start with what hypnosis is. In the quickest terms, hypnosis is a natural state of mind that occurs, for most of us, several times a day. In therapeutic terms, hypnosis is a state that is either understood as induced on the client or induced with the client. Hypnosis is a state of sharp, narrowed and deepen focus.

Let’s look at the brain now.

Brain produces electrical power that is expressed in a form of waves. There are 5 main brain waves we recognise and each of them is visible on brain scans depending of the activity we perform at any given point (there is a number of other infrequent/unstable brain waves that are yet to be understood, so I will leave these for now as for now we can’t tell, if they are relevant to hypnosis). The neuroscience is very complex and we still know only partially what is happening in our brains at any point, so the below is a very simplified version of what research suggests may be happening.

Beta waves: These are the waves that are visible when we engage with something actively. For example, when I am writing this article, I engage on beta waves, as I am actively trying to recall information, put it together and it requires a lot of focus. When you are reading this article, you are also on beta waves. This is because you are trying to understand the meaning of the letters put together and this also requires high level of focus.

Alpha waves: These are present when we are in a state of reflection or relaxation. Our attention is switched on, but on a lover level than in beta waves and we are more likely to partially engage with some floating thoughts, for example, if you were reading this article just before going to sleep and found yourself having to read it a few times cause your mind switches on and of the text. Low alpha waves can also be visible during mindfulness exercises and low level of hypnosis.

Theta waves: These are waves that are present during shallow sleep, for example during well known R.E.M phase of sleep when we experience dreaming. They are also present during advanced meditation practices and mid to deep hypnosis. In a wakening life they can be visible at the times when we ‘switch off’. If you ever noticed a person who is just looking forward and not reacting to what’s being said, as, if they were somewhere else, unless they are in a state of shock, it is very likely that they are in very low alpha or in theta waves.

Delta waves: These are present during a deep sleep. They will alternate with theta waves every about 90 minutes during the time of undisturbed sleep. This is why people often have a few dreams the same night.

Gamma waves: These are waves that are apparent when we engage in high level of information processing and in particular when we discover something or gain an insight into something (that light bulb moment). Gamma waves are also associated with learning and memory. They are present during moments of altruism, when we do something for the good of others, for example, when you feed a stray dog.

Why is hypnosis important and how it can affect the brain?

State of hypnosis produces low alpha and theta waves. You might have heard this common opinion that during sleeping and dreaming the mind is putting information into the right boxes. This is somehow true, but more complex that simply matching where things belong. A lot of information we collect is complex and does not simply fit into a specific box. Some information may fit into many boxes at the same time, depending what criteria we decide to use. So for example an object may fit into ‘round’ box and also into ‘yellow’ box. But on another level it can fit into ‘warm’, or ‘pleasant’, or ‘burning’ boxes. For others it will fit into ‘father’ box and in ancient Egypt, it would fit into ‘god’ box. During the theta waves the mind is making connections and creating new boxes that allow variety of information to be linked, even if connection wasn’t found during alpha level of engagement. For example, events from the past and events from the present, when they aren’t obvious. Accidentally, this is also what often happens in psychotherapy. Additionally, we now know, that hypnosis can change Gamma waves activity, which means that we may be able become more compassionate (also towards ourselves) or are more likely to discover something about us that we have not known before and hypnosis can be a great tool to help us to achieve this.

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