Hypnosis and Brain Waves

By Charles Wm. Skillas, PhD, DD, BCH, CI, FNGH, MCCHt

For the past 14 years, during the summer, I lecture to the students at Emory University Medical School. I talk to them about hypnosis and the effect of different levels of hypnosis on the brain waves of clients. One of the things I show them that blows them away is the Elman Arm Drop in which I can drop the subject's arm and double their relaxation. Under hypnosis I give the subject the subconscious command to do just that and the young doctors don't think it's possible. They then wire up a number of students with electroencephalographs (EEGs) and look at the brain waves of the students as I drop their arms. The brain waves show that the relaxation does indeed double as indicated on the EEG with each arm drop. What really blows their minds is that I can do this 20 times and the relaxation doubles each time. I then go into a discussion of hypnosis and how it affects brain waves and I'm presenting it here now because it's not commonly understood.

Brain function is a very complex structure and has awesome abilities. It has been studied by chemical analysis, electronic measurements, direct electrical stimulation, imaging procedures and dissection. An average brain is estimated to contain approximately ten billion neurons or cells (10 with 9 zeros after it). The number of possible interconnections has been estimated at 10 with 800 zeros. For comparison purposes, it is interesting to note an estimate of the number of atoms in the Universe is 10 with 100 zeros!

The electronic measurement of brain wave activity (EEG) is useful to enhance our understanding of hypnosis and meditation. Frequency measurements tend to range between .5 and 30 cycles per second. This range has been divided into four octaves, which have e relationship to mental activities. The Beta Range, 14-28 cps, is associated with outer conscious functions like problem solving, worry, fear and processing visual information. The Alpha range, 7- 14 cps, relates to prayer, reverie, relaxation, meditation and light hypnosis The Theta frequencies, 4-7 cps, are associated with visual reverie, deep hypnosis. These levels are capable of anesthesia and perceptual changes. Delta frequencies, .5 to 4 cps, are associated primarily with awareness (alarm clock awakening).

This information can help us hypnotize our clients better. It can help us understand the "unhypnotizable"client who may be stuck at a Beta level due to fear, worry or an analytic mind trying to understand the hypnotic process instead of just letting it happen. We can help our clients get out of Beta by a good pre-hypnotic interview, allaying fears, explaining the process and insisting on eyes closed induction to limit external visual processing which is a Beta activity. If the client has ever been instructed in meditation the induction can consist of a request to remember the last meditation and experience it again, and they will immediately go to an Alpha level, ready for deepening. Also, we can understand the process of attaching hypnosis to the sleep state. The client is at a Delta level, and our suggestion can be "you hear my voice but you won't wake up". This will have the effect of lightening the trance to the Theta level, for any purpose we want.

EEG studies show the Alpha and Theta waves to be the most powerful, with higher peaks of voltage combined with longer duration. We may speculate that information is being impressed on brain cells in a stronger, more effective manner. If this is true, it may explain the powerful changes that may be effective under deep hypnosis in a brief time.

We can make some associations regarding brain wave development and hypnotizability as a person develops from infancy to adulthood. Infants are mostly in the Delta state brain wave activity so they sleep a lot: good for mothers, not good for our purposes. Children ages 5 to 14 are increasingly good subjects, with lots ol spontaneous Alpha and Theta activity, excellent imaginations, and information can be strongly impressed on their brain cells. Children are often our best clients! Adults 14 years and up have increasing Beta activity with more problem solving, less imaginative (may be affected by our Beta oriented, left brain oriented school environments), yet we can be most helpful with this group which needs us the most.

The hypnotist must keep in mind the adaptability of the human mind, and understand that our brain is constantly shifting and adapting to function appropriately: Beta for problem-solving, shifting to Alpha or Theta to access memory. The generalizations about brain function must be tempered with the realization that even the EEG is a crude approximation of the electrical activity of the brain, with the cortex always represented in the data due to its location near the surface. Yet, the trends mentioned are helpful in our understanding of our techniques and problems.


This article is intended for general informational purposes
and does not provide medical, psychological, or other professional advice.


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