A mischievous student approaches a venerable professor who has a magnificent beard.
“Excuse me, professor, I am very curious. When you go to bed do you put your beard over the blanket or under the blanket?”
Two weeks later the furious professor grabs the student by the shirt and growls, “What have you done? Now every night I put my beard under the blanket…Then I put it over the blanket…Then under the blanket…Over the blanket…And it feels terribly uncomfortable either way!”
Most of the time our mind relies on a set of automatic programs, which run outside of our conscious. Trains of thoughts are real - one thought is linked to another, just as one feeling is linked to another and one action is linked to another. Most of the time this system works just fine and saves us quite a lot of energy. Except of the times it doesn't.
Each and everyone of us has a set unconscious programs, which were installed when we were very young. And they never have been updated.
A man or a woman entering a new situation with the anxiety chemicals of a frightened infant coursing through the brain stem is not going to be able to observe, judge or decide anything very accurately.
Hinterberger et al. in 2011 article published by The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis writes: “ Hypnosis can be seen as a guided induction of various states of consciousness.” Think about it. Hypnosis allows you to guide someone or yourself into various states of consciousness. If your current state is a state of depression, fear, loneliness or any other variety of emotional pain, would it be nice to be guided out of it and into something more pleasant?
Thanks to the modern science we also know now that hypnosis is a measurable physiological state. This means that there is no longer any need to argue if there is such thing as hypnosis. In some aspects, neuroscience may define hypnosis somewhat differently than practical hypnotherapists would, however, here is the fact – you can put someone in a hypnotic trance and measure changes in their brain.
For example, Jiang H. et al (2016) demonstrated that while in a hypnotic trance the brain lowers activity of the default neural networks, which among other things is responsible for habitual thoughts, such as self-talk.
Another effect of hypnosis, according to the same study, is improved connectivity between the executive networks and salient networks. The executive network is responsible for executing various tasks and the salient network determines, which task should be given attention and energy. For example, if a hungry tiger enters your room, while you are reading this book, your brain will redirect your attention and energy from sitting and reading to running and screaming.
Let’s say a person typically spends an evening watching TV and eating chips, but her goal is to start exercising and eating healthy. As she goes through her everyday activities, her default network is humming quietly, linking one thought to another, one after another, moment by moment, until they, just like any train, inevitably arrive to the final evening destination - a bag of chips and a TV remote. At some point her executive network may say, “Hey, you wanted to exercise! Get off the couch!”. However, it will be up to the salient network to decide, whether she’ll have the energy to get off the couch. By weakening default programs and coupling willpower with energy, hypnosis makes it easy for you to change habits and invest energy into achieving your goals.
Other authors report that hypnosis increases imagination, improves control over one’s emotional states and increases activity in the right hemisphere. So, when a hypnotist says, “And now imagine a wonderful feeling of relaxation flowing through your body” a state of hypnosis allows you to feel a wonderful feeling of relaxation or vividly imagine that you feel it. But not because a hypnotist controlled your brain. You made a choice to be relaxed. You went inside and changed the settings. You allowed the changes to develop. The hypnotherapist just showed you the way into the control room. You opened the door and walked right through.
Curious about hypnosis? Follow this link to schedule your free Skype consultation with Dr. Anna Margolina.