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What is Hypnosis?

    One way to look at classic clinical hypnosis is as a relaxation phenomenon.  Brain waves during wide awake consciousness occurs in a range of 14 to 20 cycles a second and is called Beta level of awareness.  We all have had an 'eureka moment' when a solution to a problem comes to us suddenly.  This creative, relaxed state is called Alpha level relaxation.  The brain waves during Alpha relaxation occur at 9 to 14 times a second.  The hallmarks of Alpha relaxation are losing track of time and creativity.  True sleep where you dream has brain waves occurring at 1.5 to 4 times a second and is called Delta sleep.

Between Alpha and Delta is Theta relaxation, 4 to 9 cycles a second.  Theta relaxation is that dreamy state while falling asleep.  During Theta relaxation, the stress hormone cortisol decreases and there is an increase in feel good, happy neurotransmitters like beta-endorphins and serotonin.  Theta relaxation also involves being more emotionally open and is the relaxation level classic clinical hypnosis occurs. 


That voice in your head that you think of as you is called your executive function.   This occurs in an area of the brain called the prefrontal areas of the frontal lobe of the brain.  This part of the brain is located just behind the forehead.  During sleep, the frontal lobe naturally goes off line.The best way to visualize this is to think of a dimmer switch dimming down a light bulb.  Classic relaxed hypnotic suggestibility is associated with frontal lobe inhibition. 


This relaxation of the frontal lobe allows hypnotic work to be done at a more emotional level, by engaging more emotional parts of the brain.  Since emotions tend to drive behavior, this relaxation creates a process of change which is more rapid and operates on a deeper level then cognitive changes.