Now there’s a big question. In order to make at least some sense of an answer I’d like to break it down into sections. First I’d like to talk about the hypnotic state, or the physical and mental state we’re labeling as hypnosis. Then I’d like to address frequent concerns and questions. Following on from that I’ll describe different approaches to hypnotherapy, the differences and effectiveness of each. Finally I’d like to cover what can be treated with hypnotherapy.
The Hypnotic State
Brainwaves and frequencies
At the root of all our thoughts, emotions and behaviours is the communication between neurons within our brains. Brainwaves are produced by synchronised electrical pulses from masses of neurons communicating with each other. They are divided into bands to describe their functions, but are best thought of as a continuous spectrum of consciousness.
The 4 ranges we generally associate with day to day brainwave activity are the beta, alpha, theta and delta, measured in Hertz (cycles per second). There is another range of gamma which is the fastest of the brainwaves and still remain a bit of a mystery. Our brainwaves change according to what we’re doing and feeling. When slower brainwaves dominate we feel tired, slow, sluggish, or dreamy. The higher frequencies are dominant when we feel wired, or hyper-alert. My descriptions will be in no way complete as this is a very brief overview, and will give you a platform from which to dive deeper into these areas.
Delta waves (.5 to 3 Hz)
Delta brainwaves are the slowest but loudest brainwaves generated in dreamless sleep. Healing and regeneration are stimulated in this state, and that is why deep restorative sleep is so essential to the healing process. The delta brainwave state can also be used in hypnoanalgesia, that is anaesthetic using hypnosis.
Theta waves (3 to 8 Hz)
Theta brainwaves occur most often in REM sleep and in the deep meditation or deep hypnotic state. This state is most often used as a gateway to learning and memory. In theta, senses are withdrawn from the outside world and focused within. It is the state we enter and leave naturally on a daily basis when we first wake or drift off to sleep. This is the place we mostly work with in hypnosis utilising the wonderful access you have to your unconscious mind, and the place we can make incredible change in an instant.
Alpha waves (8 to 12 Hz)
Alpha brainwaves are dominant during quietly flowing thoughts, and in some meditative states. Alpha is now state, being here, in the present, the resting state for the brain. An alpha state could be related to a light to medium hypnotic state we dip into and out of several times a day. For instance, when we daydream, or carry out a repetitive task and “lose time”, that is us dipping into this state. Alpha aids overall mental coordination, calmness, alertness, mind/body integration and learning.
Beta waves (12 to 38 Hz)
Beta brainwaves dominate our usual waking state when we’re thinking and being more aware of the outside world. Beta is a ‘fast’ activity, present when we are alert, attentive, engaged in problem solving, focused mentally and decision making. remaining in a beta state is not a very efficient way to run the brain, taking a tremendous amount of energy.
So, hypnosis is moving between these states in a more structured manner. The therapy is then applied either by direct suggestion or by indirect suggestion.