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What is Hypnosis?

This article was written by William W. Hewitt on July 26, 2009
posted under Hypnosis

Hypnosis is a daydream-like state. In this state, the person’s conscious mind becomes quiet or passive. The hypnotist introduces suggestions into the powerful subconscious mind.

Let’s take a brief, slightly technical look at how the brain operates. The brain operates on measurable frequency cycles. These frequencies correspond to certain kinds of activity.

In 1929, Hans Berger used an EEG [electroencephalograph] machine to discover that when a person’s eyes were closed the brain generated regular waves in the 8 to 12 cycles per second (cps) range. He labeled these brain waves alpha waves. Subsequently, other types of brain waves were discovered and labeled theta, beta, and delta. These brain waves have been found to correlate to various mental functions, including hypnosis and psychic experience. Experts generally agree on these brain waves and their purpose, but they disagree on the exact boundaries of each kind of wave. One will define alpha as 8 to 12 cps; another as 7 to 14 cps, and so forth. The next four paragraphs present a general consensus concerning these brain waves.

Delta. The frequency range of brain activity in delta ranges from 0 to about 4 cps. This is total unconsciousness. Not much is known about the delta range.

Theta. The frequency range in theta is about 4 to 7 cps. Theta is part of the subconscious range and hypnosis can sometimes take place here. All of our emotional experiences seem to be recorded in theta. Theta is that special range that opens the door of consciousness beyond hypnosis into the world of psychic phenomena. Theta is the range where psychic experience is most likely to occur (see chapter 15 [of Hypnosis for Beginners]).

Alpha. The frequency range in alpha is about 7 to 14 cps. Alpha is usually regarded as the subconscious range. This is where dreaming (while asleep), daydreaming, and nearly all hypnosis take place. Meditation is mostly in this range (although sometimes it dips into theta). Psychic experience sometimes takes place in alpha, also. Alpha is an important region insofar as hypnosis is concerned.

Beta. This is the conscious mind region with frequency ranges from about 14 cps upward. Beta is where we do our reasoning and conduct most of our affairs while awake. For the most part, we seem to operate around 20 cps during most awake activity. At about 60 cps, a person would be in acute hysteria. Above 60 cps, I don’t know what would happen; I suspect it wouldn’t be pleasant.

When you go to sleep, you’re brain automatically cycles down from the beta range into alpha and then for brief cyclic periods into theta and delta. Most of your sleep is in alpha. Hypnosis takes advantage of this natural phenomenon—it causes the brain to cycle down into alpha without going to sleep. In alpha, the subconscious mind is open for suggestive input.

The conscious mind does not take suggestion well. It is most useful for thinking, reasoning, and putting into action those things it already knows. The subconscious mind, however, is like an obedient slave. T doesn’t think or reason. It responds to what it is told. Herein lies the value and power of hypnosis. With hypnosis, you can pump powerful suggestions directly into the subconscious. The subconscious accepts these suggestions and cause them to become reality. In part, the subconscious mind informs the conscious mind that there is new information to be acted upon. The conscious mind loves to act on what it already has, so it acts on this new information. Although no one really understands why hypnosis works and how the subconscious mind brings about results, we do know it works—and works quite well.

Suggestions
You’ll find the suggestions used in hypnosis in other chapters [of Hypnosis for Beginners]. For now, know that it is extremely important that all suggestions given are positive, constructive, and beneficial. This is because the subconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between a good suggestion and a bad one. The subconscious mind merely accepts what you give it and then acts on it.

Be careful of your wording at all times when giving suggestions. One man used a slang four-letter word for defecation hundreds of times a day in his speech. Eventually, he convinced his subconscious that he wanted to defecate, and he developed chronic diarrhea. Words are powerful, and your subconscious mind takes them literally

Myths
There are many serious misunderstandings about hypnosis. Many of these misunderstandings have been promoted by B-grade movies that depict people being transformed into zombie-like creatures by some super-powerful mystic who says, "Look into my eyes!" While this may make for an exciting movie, it is 100 percent fiction and has no resemplance to the truth. Following are some of the more common myths and their explanations.

A hypnotist has magical powers. This is completely false. A hypnotist is an ordinary human being who has mastered the skill of using the power of suggestion to bring about desired results.

A person can be hypnotized and made to do things against his or her will. Absolutely false. First, no person can be hypnotized against his or her will. The subject must be 100 percent cooperative. Second, no one under hypnosis can be made to do anything they would not freely do if not under hypnosis. During hypnosis, the subject can choose to accept or reject any suggestion given. If a suggestion is given that upsets the subject, he or she would likely come out of hypnosis immediately of their own choice.

Only weak-minded people can be hypnotized. The contrary is true. The more intelligent a person is, the easier it is to hypnotize him or her. In fact, in certain cases of mental debility, hypnosis is impossible. Nearly everyone who wants to be hypnotized can be hypnotized. Only about 1 percent of the population cannot be hypnotized either because of mental deficiencies or reasons we don’t understand.

A hypnotized person is in a trance or is unconscious. Not true at all. Under hypnosis, the subject is awake and aware—extremely so. The hypnotized subject has merely focused his or her attention to where the hypnotist directs it, and is oblivious to anything else.

A person can get stuck in hypnosis. This is completely false. Even if the operator dropped dead after putting the subject under deep hypnosis, the subject would come out of the hypnosis easily. The subject would either slip into a brief sleep and then awaken normally, or open his or her eyes when the operator’s voice had not been heard for some time.

Deep hypnosis is necessary for good results. Not true. Any level of hypnosis from light to very deep can bring good results.

Hypnotic State
Under hypnosis the person is very aware of where he or she is and what is happening. The subject hears everything and is in a daydream-like state of relaxation. Often the subject has either a numbness throughout the body or no acute awareness of having a body.

Self-Hypnosis
It is possible to hypnotize yourself. Many people do it every day to give themselves constructive suggestions. It is much easier to hypnotize yourself if you have first been hypnotized by someone else and given the suggestion and instructions to do so. [Hypnosis for Beginners]…will teach you how to hypnotize others, and you can use the same instructions to hypnotize yourself. If you work with a partner who can hypnotize you, you will speed up your progress in learning self-hypnosis.

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