Today, while reading this article, you will experience a hypnotic state, if you haven’t done so already. Hypnosis is hardwired into us. You can’t get through the day without experiencing it any more than you can get through the day without experiencing some form of emotion.
The mystery, for ages, about hypnosis is what actually goes on in our head while we’re in the hypnotic state. Some believe hypnosis produces an altered state of consciousness while others believe nothing happens at all. And, there are even a few that believe they are just there to do whatever the hypnotist says (think: stage hypnosis).
Hypnosis does have a demonstrable effect on the brain. In a famous experiment at Stanford University, students were connected to a brain imaging machine while looking at a black and white picture. Under hypnosis the students were told the picture was in color and the brain scans showed the area of the brain which process color became active when that suggestion was made.
Hypnosis is really a perfectly natural state of mind. The mystery comes from applying an unusual label to something which is essentially normal.
Hypnosis is generally taken to mean the induction of a trance state. Trance has many stereotypes, but it simply means a focused state of attention (as unfocused as it appears when its in progress). You’ve been in trance if you’ve been “taken into” the scene of a great movie, lost in a good book or swept up in a symphony. You’ve also been in a trance if you’ve ever stared in fascination at a sunset or out of the window, daydreaming about something that happened 20 years ago. The rest of the world doesn’t matter and you are just focused on one thing. That is trance.
Your body is still where your feet are. You don’t vanish and if something requires your attention like a smoke detector going off, you are aware and respond to it. Your attention just locks into a particular source or thing and everything else just fades into the background for a while.
Our brains are naturally designed to go into trance about every 90 minutes. You may have noticed this yourself – there are times during the day when you feel energetic and are able to concentrate, then there are periods of feeling fuzzy and day-dream like. This is your ultradian rhythm.
What happens every 90 minutes is your brain switches from the left to the right hemisphere. As a result your focus shifts internally, as more metaphoric and pattern matching areas of the brain process everything that’s been absorbed in the last 90 minutes. This acts as a housekeeping mechanism for our brain — like a file backup sequence or as a form of stress control. The whole process lasts about 15 minutes.
Mystery aside, hypnosis is simply a method for focusing the attention and turning it inward. It is really a simple and beautiful part of our body’s rhythm that most don’t appreciate enough.
Hypnosis is our body’s way of working with and taking control of something which is happening already — we just have to turn up the volume to appreciate all it has to offer.