Hypnosis, Hypnotherapy, and Hypnotherapists

What is Hypnosis?

The brain operates in four general states determined by the frequency of the electricity generated by the exchange of chemicals in the neural pathways. The four states include Full Conscious Awareness, the Hypnotic State, the Dream State, and the Sleep State.

These four states correspond to electrical activity in the brain and are defined by frequency ranges on an EEG.  Full Conscious Awareness occurs when the majority of the electrical activity in the brain is in the beta range (14-35 Hz).  The Hypnotic State occurs when brain activity is in the alpha range (8-13 Hz).  The Dream State occurs when brain activity is in the theta range (4-7 Hz), and the Sleep State occurs when brain activity is in the delta range (.5-3 Hz).

Full Conscious Awareness is where which we spend most of our waking hours.  In this state, our mind is attentive and uses logic to reason, evaluate, assess, judge, and make decisions.  Unfortunately, when making life changes, the conscious mind often gets in the way.

In the Hypnotic State, the doorway between the conscious and the subconscious is opened, memories become easily accessible, and new information is stored.  In the Hypnotic State, you are not really “thinking” in the traditional sense.  You are “experiencing” without questioning, without critical judgment or analysis, like when you watch a movie, and the hypnotherapist can make suggestions that are very likely to “stick” – precisely because your conscious mind is not getting in the way.  You are not “judging” or being “critical” of the suggestions.

We pass through all four bands sequentially as the electrical activity decreases on our way to sleep and as it increases up on our way to total wakefulness.  Regardless of whether we are on our way to sleep or to wakefulness, when we pass through the upper theta/lower alpha range we go into hypnosis automatically.  There is no power on earth that can stop it from happening but likewise, there is no person or power on earth that can force you into it;  you must want to go into hypnosis and follow the hypnotist’s direction to the letter.

The will located in the conscious way of functioning is always present, always working.  If for some reason you will yourself not to allow the suggestions to be accepted, they won’t be.  The smoker who comes in to quit smoking but is not really committed to that goal, cannot be forced to do so.

As to the issue of the subconscious’ chief concern for the clients’ health and welfare, the subconscious function of the mind begins to operate long before the conscious mind, in early childhood.  On the level of instinct, the strategies for self-preservation and survival are irrevocably etched in the subconscious.

The conscious along with its critical faculty develops later in early childhood.  By this time, the subsconscious had firmly embedded in it the instinct to survive—to keep the organism well and healthy.

A less technical definition of hypnosis is:  A naturally occurring altered state of consciousness in which the critical faculty is bypassed (mind in the conscious mode) and acceptable selective thinking established.

This simply means that the reasoning, evaluating, judging part of your mind (conscious) is bypassed.  While we wonder how this could possibly happen, we are subject to it all the time.  The advertising industry is dedicated to bypassing our critical judgment all the time in order to influence our buying behavior.

We suspend our critical judgment other times when an authority figure makes some sort of comment;  doctors, clergy, professors, and many more fall into this category.

Children suspend their critical judgment frequently in games of “let’s pretend”.  Actors do it in playing a part;  they have to suspend their critical faculty, and they ask the audience to suspend theirs to accept them as being someone else.

With the critical faculty bypassed, specific thoughts/suggestions can be lodged in the subconscious where they can propel the client toward a desired goal or change behavior in a positive, permanent way.  Any such suggestions must be acceptable to the client, of course.  They would have no effect otherwise.

This focus on a specific goal or behavior is done with laser-like precision and intensity in hypnosis.  It’s a little like looking through a telescope from the wrong end.  You see just one tiny spec of the environment in focus though you may be aware of everything around it.

What is Hypnosis? | What is a Hypnotherapist? | Choosing a Hypnotherapist | Why does Hypnotherapy Work? | Pain Management through Hypnosis | Hypnosis and Phobias | Hypnosis and Human Memory | Hypnosis and Sports Psychology | Hypnosis and Stress Management

Referring to this article:
“Hypnosis, Hypnotherapy, and Hypnotherapists” was written by G. Edward Riley, M.Div., CH, Certified Master Hypnotherapist, and C. J. Newton, MA, and published in the Find Counseling.com (formerly TherapistFinder.net) Mental Health Journal in April, 2001.

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