What is hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a trance-like state of “relaxed focus”. We all experience trance-like moments from time to time, for example when we drive somewhere without being to recall the journey (as if we’re on “autopilot”).
In the hypnotic state, we’re relaxed and we’re able to draw our attention to a single focus. We can switch off from distractions around us and become aware of helpful thoughts and feelings of which we are not normally conscious. This is why hypnotherapy can be so helpful to us.
What happens in the
brain during hypnosis?
There are a huge number of scientific studies into the nature of hypnosis. There are also a number of theories. This is a complex subject and as is usual in science there is not complete agreement amongst scientists about what happens during hypnosis, how it occurs or even precisely what hypnosis is. We do know from recent studies of imaging brain activity that this changes during hypnotic states. For example areas of the brain involved in attention to our surroundings may become less active during hypnosis. In addition, if we conjure up a situation or experience in our imagination during hypnosis, the same areas of our brain are activated that would be activated if we were in that experience for real.
In the pleasant state of hypnosis, we are more open to suggestions, without our over-vigilant, conscious mind getting in the way.
What is hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis as tool to bring about changes in how we feel, react and behave that can bring benefits to our health and well-being, and the great news is, it’s drug free. During hypnosis, we may be asked to focus on specific thoughts, feelings, or tasks, and through initial guidance from the hypnotherapist, we may develop new ways of perception, such as improvements to both pain and mood.
Hypnosis works best when we believe it will.
In much the same way that if we are anticipating that something will hurt, it is more likely to hurt. This is known as stimulus expectation. If we are open to the idea of hypnosis changing our experience of pain it very likely will do just that. This is known as response expectation and it is a very powerful effect.
What does it feel like to be hypnotised?
Each of us experiences hypnosis in our own way. Some people describe hypnosis as feeling like a relaxed or detached state, enabling them to work look at scenarios in a dispassionate way. Others feel that time has become distorted, stopped, or has passed very quickly or very slowly. You may have experienced this kind of trance like state when being absorbed in a book and missing the station you were supposed to have alighted at.
The hypnotic state will usually induce bodily sensations such as deep relaxation, heaviness or lightness, and these are reflected in changes in our physiology, such as slower, relaxed breathing. If you’re hypnotised, you may experience still being aware of what is going on in the room around you but feeling detached from it at the same time.
Can anyone be hypnotised?
Hypnosis doesn’t work for everyone. During hypnosis various centres in the brain which are associated with deep and focused attention undergo a change in their activity. Research has shown that in some people these centres are connected in ways that may make them less hypnotisable. In contrast, some people are very easily hypnotised. Being willing and open to the therapeutic process of hypnosis is key, as are the practitioners’ skills and trusting in the practitioner. It’s not possible to be hypnotised if you don’t want it to happen.
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