First, I want to suggest to you that all hypnosis is fundamentally self hypnosis. This idea is not new from me, for one of the real pioneers of modern hypnosis, Dr. Milton Ericcson made this statement many years ago. The fact is, hypnosis is based on suggestibility and you must be willing to accept the suggestions or their is no so-called trance state to follow. Now, that is not to say that gifted hypnotists are not able to disarm defenses one might have, but it is to say that YOU are the key to a successful hypnotic session. The common fear of hypnosis, that someone else has control over you, has no place in a self-hypnosis session, for you are both the hypnotist and the subject–and just to be clear, the fear is mislaid and false to fact.
You will learn that hypnosis is a natural state that can be objectified by brain wave activity. This special brain wave state known as alpha and theta (we’ll look at those more closely later in this text) is not only a powerful state for mind training, deep relaxation, accelerated learning opportunities and so forth, but a state that most move through several times each day. All of this and more is covered in these programs, so let’s get into some important matters that are not discussed there.
Self Hypnosis to Condition Belief
Not long ago I was preparing a literature review of hypnosis. One of the texts I used is written by two scholars with impeccable credentials. The book is called “Hypnosis, Will and Memory” (Laurence and Campbell, 1988). It is essentially a psycho-legal history of hypnosis. Repeatedly the text cites a time when hypnosis was believed to be either of the devil or pure unmitigated fakery. Finally, the scientific community investigated hypnosis. Scientists who doubted hypnosis used a test to determine true hypnosis from fakery. The test was largely based on body levitation evidence. In other words, it was assumed as a result of direct observation that a subject truly in hypnosis could and would levitate!Now skeptics tested for fakery and often reported finding hidden wires and ropes and pulleys. However, these same skeptics reported true unfaked levitation on many occasions. Not only did they report it, the evidence was sometimes offered in the courts. Okay, levitation was not such an unnatural act until the laws of Newton became popularly known. Suddenly, everyone knew that the human body was heavier than air and could not float. Levitation suddenly disappeared from the scene and the literature. Prior to that, levitation was often witnessed by the most reliable of even the skeptics in instances of hypnosis, spiritual enlightenment and so-called demonic possession. Indeed, levitation was one of the criteria for determining the guilt or innocence of a witch.
It would appear that belief, individual and collective, directly influences the physical world. Physicists have often reported the role of the “observer” in influencing the outcome of physical measurement and observation. Indeed, many physicists believe that consciousness interacts with matter. A recent study employed some sophisticated statistical measurements to evaluate the mind’s interaction with matter. The data clearly suggested an information exchange between mind and matter.
Belief in ourselves, abilities, powers, and the influence over our own lives and the world around us, is at the crux of what each and every one of us experiences in life. Belief literally may define and delimit our every experience. Eroding belief is doubt. Self doubt is the most personally damaging belief we can hold.
Regaining our inherent self-confidence, self-belief, self-respect, and self power is relatively easy, if we’re willing to make the proper choices. The difficulty is in the choices. Humans can behave very much like the conditioned animal. It is for this reason that Classical Behaviorism gained such popularity in psychological schools of thought. Behaviorism essentially argues that the human condition is entirely a product of nature/nurture and is conditioned to believe, behave and otherwise execute life. There is no such thing as a higher principle or a need for self-actualization. The human is but a shabby animal with higher cerebral processing mechanisms than other animals. It behaves in habitual patterns and treatment consists chiefly of changing the patterns. The assertion seems simple, change behavior and you change the person. This assertion has some very pragmatic applications and we’ll use it as we progress with the material at hand. However, just so there is no ambiguity, the underlying hypothesis which asserts no higher principle is as false a notion as any one will ever encounter! In fact, it is my opinion that only one with true cognitive dissonance and/or absolute ignorance of the world around us would hold such a view.
Altered States Of Consciousness
For some, an altered state of consciousness is a taboo. It portends to “mess” with the mind. The mind is not to be messed with. I have always found this assertion naive for the reason that every human being experiences various states of altered consciousness daily. When the typical person turns on the television, an altered state generally ensues. Indeed, children become conditioned to enter an altered state within minutes after beginning to view TV. Studies have demonstrated that even when children are hooked up to brain wave monitoring devices such as electro encephalographic feedback and given substantial reward motivation to remain in fully alert states of consciousness, that in under five minutes they will fail to maintain ordinary wakeful consciousness. The child will slip into what is commonly termed alpha consciousness (more on this in a moment). When a person day dreams, falls into a light sleep or state of reverie, slowly wakes from a deep sleep, or fixates on almost anything, they are almost always in an altered state of consciousness. So what is an altered state of consciousness?Typically, consciousness is divided into four categories. Normal consciousness is called “beta,” lightly modified consciousness “alpha,” deep sleep “theta,” and comatose states “delta.” States of consciousness are thought of in terms of brain wave rates (cycles per second). Beta consciousness is normally 15 to 30 cycles per second, alpha is 8 to 14 cycles per second, theta is 4 to 8 cycles per second and delta is less than 4. Now let’s translate this schema into something meaningful outside the realm of definition.
BetaIn normal ordinary wakeful states of consciousness, the mind operates from its most critical platform. It constantly judges input from self (inner talk) and others. It evaluates and reacts. Indeed, it chiefly reacts. For even when one believes they are evaluating, more often than not, the evaluation is settled before it begins. The belief system of the unconscious not only places a lens through which all matters will be disputed, but it also hides behind a protective veil the information that may give rise to mistaken decisions. That is, the unconscious mind during normal wakeful states is operating as a software program feeding the flow of everyday life through a mosaic of interpretations that are written chiefly upon avoidance and attraction principles (experienced and imagined). Therefore, when the conscious mind says something like, “I can do this. I’m good enough to excel and succeed,” the unconscious (subconscious if you prefer) sends some inner talk message like, “Really, good enough for what? How about? Do you remember?” etc.
Now, maybe the reason the unconscious sends the negative message is due to some fear from the past, or some fear projected through imagination. Perhaps the negative feedback is due to negative input from peers, parents, and so forth. It is also possible that the negative is due to some deep sense of unworthiness that is the result of a need to punish oneself. It could also be the result of some deep belief that conflicts with our desire, such as the desire to become successful and an inner belief that sorts along a line of logic that goes something like this, “If I want to be saved in Heaven, I must sacrifice here and now. Further, money is the source of all evil.” There could also be a myriad of other reasons and a virtual labrynth of entanglement between them all. The fact is, in ordinary beta consciousness very little new information can really get in. Now, “very little” in this reference is by comparison to alpha consciousness. In fact, just as an aside before going further, the methods of Superlearning and Suggestopedia (Ostrander) clearly demonstrate the advantage of learning school room information such as language, math, science, and so forth, in alpha consciousness states.
Alpha consciousness is the state most refer to as the primary state experienced in hypnosis. Hypnosis has been viewed from many perspectives and historically has held more than one definition. However, the agreed upon definition today is a heightened state of suggestibility. This heightened state of suggestibility is just what the title implies. In alpha consciousness one is particularly prone to the acceptance of skillful suggestion. The nature of suggestion depends on who is suggesting. A hypnotherapist will make healthy and positive suggestions while a sales person trained in the art of hypnotic selling may give personally self-serving suggestions (Moine, Lloyd). The power of suggestion and the psychology of compliance, mentioned in further detail in the next chapter, are used every day in mass marketing strategies to sell everything from illness to religion (Taylor).
When one is in an alpha state, whether naturally or artificially induced, their inner talk tends to slow down and become image oriented and/or guided as opposed to constantly self-initiated, albeit often unconsciously. Since we live in a modern society we are exposed to a variety of stimuli that our forefathers never knew. Let me provide a couple of examples.
Much of the television, radio and print media programming of today dwells on violence, sex and so-called taboo issues. The word is sensationalism. The more sensational, the better the reviews, the more money, the larger the audience and so on. Rather systematically over the past twenty to thirty years, the threshold of arousal has increased in the population, forcing an ever increasing thrust into areas of an explicit nature in order to maintain the sensational. Consequently, our inner talk, our fantasies, our very ideation has been influenced. This new tolerance for vengeance, anger, fear, violence, sexuality and so forth has tilted our society. Values have diminished to the point that we have younger generations without the proverbial “clue” as to what life is about. The world is for living and taking and minimizing pain while maximizing pleasure. Twelve-year-old children walk into school and gun down their teachers and school mates. Drugs, child prostitution, gang violence, drive-by shootings, and so forth are the chief worries of parents today. How did our society degenerate to this point?Many psychologists and psychiatrists, sociologists and anthropologists, and for that matter, political scientists, have made vociferous outcries asserting the neurotic nature of our times and are lining up in an attempt to end the media management of arousal thresholds and value orientation. Television has probably the single largest impact on people today. It guides our purchases, the information most have about their world or any single issue/event, merchandises everything from wearing apparel, hair style, fashion in general to wholesaling the common cold. “It’s the flu season and it’s coming to your town! Everyone will get it! You can relax and baby yourself, pamper your whims and take some needed time off, maybe even cement your relationships, if you have XYZ on hand.” How much sickness do you think is vended in the same way attitudes and beliefs are sold through our media?Some of you may want to say, “Taylor, you’re nuts. Television doesn’t make anyone sick. You don’t get the flu from a TV!” Fair enough. Let’s look a little deeper. When a person is in a state of alpha, such as hypnosis, the science and literature show us clearly, without doubt, that the body can be suggested to health or illness. A hypnotist can suggest a burn, place an ice cube on the arm, and a blister will almost immediately appear. As a practicing hypnotherapist, I personally witnessed phenomena that illustrates the mind’s control over the body to the degree that suggesting a simple runny nose is, as Sherlock would say, “Elementary!” But in order to tie this suggestibility of alpha states in to the problems posed by television viewing, we should also take a look at another area of scientific enquiry that may surprise you.
Studies have shown that the average individual will enter alpha brain wave states within four minutes of being engaged by television (Taylor). If you think about it, this should not come as any surprise. How many times have each of us seen someone, or been that someone, who appeared so engrossed in television that it required yelling at the person to get their attention?Okay, alpha consciousness and “cold season”I ask you again, how much illness do you think is sold in order to create the market that sells the cure?It should be obvious that the state of alpha consciousness is not only natural but can be a beneficial time to put positive information into our bio computing brain/mind. The essential use of alpha can also either be a matter of choice or a matter of habituation. Recently I saw a sign in the supermarket selling the publication: TV Guide. The sign underneath the current issue said, “Check Out.” A picture of a television with the initials TV within it was all that accompanied the sign. How many times have you heard or used the phrase, “I’ll watch television and check out”? Check out, vacuum the mind, and so on; these are the terms we all naturally think of when we think of TV. Turn our minds over, let go of our concerns, ohand let someone else program them. Why “check out”? In alpha states of consciousness endorphin levels increase. Endorphin is the body’s natural opiate system. It feels good. Sometimes, perhaps too good.
Before we continue with our discussion of brain states, let me provide a visual analogy that may be helpful. If you think of brain wave activity as the number of lines on an inch of graph paper, then you have a visual image of mental activity at least as we measure it with electro-encephalographic instrumentation. Instead of thinking of the lines on paper, think in terms of the size of fencing. The closer the lines are to each other, the smaller the fencing material. The smaller the fencing, the more restrictive it is to both incoming and outgoing “stuff;” in our analogy, let’s say birds. The mind is very much like this. The tighter the wire enclosure, the less information (stimulus) we can process and remember. This is why superlearning states use alpha consciousness. As the brain wave activity slows down, the holes in our fencing material become large and more information can get it. (See the illustration below).
In future chapters we’ll examine in more detail some of the powers and practical applications of altered states of consciousness. For the purposes of this chapter, our introduction is only intended to serve as groundwork.
Theta consciousness is often associated with deep sleep and very deep levels of hypnosis or meditation. It is generally believed that the so-called super human feats of the many spiritual masters, such as those reported eating hot coals, controlling body functions, and so forth, are achieved while in theta consciousness. Indeed, mystics tend to teach that as the brain wave patterns slow, the vibration of the body alters. By allegedly changing the vibration of the body, many things thought to be impossible become possible. The rate of vibration is seen analogically as light vibrating at a rate much faster thanglass, therefore it passes through the glass. A stone, however, vibrates much slower than glass, consequently preventing it from passing through without breaking the glass. Thus, there is an arguable inverse proportion to brain wave activity and body vibration. As the brain wave activity slows, the body vibration rate is said to increase.
Delta consciousness is ordinarily thought of as comatose. For years this state of consciousness was believed to be so turned in on itself that outside stimuli went totally unnoticed, perhaps even unrecognized at any level of registration. However, the work of Oliver Sacks showed the world that even in this state of consciousness, there is awareness. In his work with patients (see his book Awakenings), he used massive doses of dopamine, and literally awakened (at least for a short time) most of the patients. Stranger than fiction, these patients reported their various records and sensitivities to the history of their treatment, the hospital protocol, their environment and so forth.
This has just been a short introduction to hypnosis. The bottom line is one that you may want to check out for yourself. My suggestion, try it. If you still want to know more first, then you will want to read the story in the July 2001 issue of Scientific America. The article shatters many common myths including those that attempt to debunk hypnosis as either fakery, pleasing the hypnotist or imagination. The hypnotic subject experiences a state of consciousness that is independent from so-called ordinary consciousness. It is not about compliance or imagination, nor is it about placebo responsiveness, low intelligence or the weak minded. Hypnosis is a safe state where many wonderful insights and healings can and do take place.