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What Is Hypnosis - Describe the Physical and Psychological Aspects of Hypnosis

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We now know that Hypnosis can have significant measurable psychological and physically positive effects on both the mind and body which can support improved health and wellbeing outcomes. These effects will be discussed during this course of this assignment. By way of an introduction to the essay subject it is useful to first look at a definition for the process of hypnosis.

There are a huge range of definitions and statements used by varying medical bodies, individuals, and societies to describe 'Hypnosis' or the 'Hypnotic State'. The British Society of Clinical Hypnosis defines it simply and effectively as 'a different state of consciousness which you can naturally enter so that, for therapeutic purposes, beneficial corrections may be given directly to your unconscious mind'.

How hypnosis manifests itself can be very different from one individual to another. The personnel experience of hypnosis is a unique one, and it is important to remember this aspect when considering the known psychological and physical aspects of the process.

Due to the advances in scientific research it is now much easier than it was in the early studies of Mesmer, Braid and Elliotson, to examine aspects of brain activity and the physical response to the hypnotic state. The deeply relaxed feeling achieved via the hypnotic process can provide a significant beneficial state of quiet and calm which may offer an effective antidote to the stresses of a modern society and help to reduce individuals limiting negative behaviours in favour of more positive ones.

Hypnosis can be defined as a complex process as it involves the coming together of a number of psychological processes. The theoretical basis of hypnosis lies within the human brain. The brain is composed of two halves the right and left. The right side of the brain controls the subconscious mind full of feelings, dreams and imagination, and the left side of the brain, the conscious mind of logic, reason and order. The subconscious mind stores all of our memories, reactions, including everything that has ever happened to us, even if we do not have any conscious recollection of it. It also controls our bodily functions such as breathing, heart rate, digestion and body temperature.

Whilst we are awake and fully alert our left side is processing and censoring all information before allowing our right side to accept it. According to Wheeler et al 'positive and pleasurable emotions are aroused and active in the left hemisphere, whilst negative emotions originate largely in the right' . Through medical science, and the work of Hans Berger circa 1929 we are able to effectively measure the electrical activity of the brain via electroencephalography (EEG). There are 4 main types of brain waves. Beta waves are the fastest and are indicative of a person who is fully engaged and focused on their daily tasks. Alpha waves are slower than beta waves and are present in a subject who is becoming more relaxed, experiencing a general feeling of well being.

Theta waves are those displayed during the dream state, which can also indicate a state of medium to deep hypnosis, and delta waves are produced by our subconscious mind indicating that we are in our deepest state of rest. In the delta state there is no activity present from any of the other waves described above. The waves identified via clinical research in hypnotic clients are predominantly those of theta and delta.

During hypnosis the psychological changes which occur allow us to access the mind and facilitate the subject to remove themselves from every day thoughts worries and concerns, moving from the beta and alpha brain waves to those of theta and delta.

Studies have been conducted in which scientists, such as Jansen using EEG's, have compared the physiological and physical signs of hypnosis in subjects to those who have not been hypnotised and have been able to confirm the significant differences. Such research has confirmed that the brain produces differing wave's dependant on the mental state of the subject. Waves of a highly alert individual will differ significantly from those of a person who is deeply relaxed. EEG's taken from individuals who are hypnotised show a higher level of lower frequency waves such as those that are associated with dreaming or sleeping, and a drop in the higher frequency waves that are seen in those subjects that are fully awake. In addition Jansen demonstrated that hypnotised subjects produced a reduced activity in the left hemisphere of the cerebral cortex and increasing activity in the right hemisphere.

Initially hypnosis involves focusing and concentrating attention on pleasant feelings and imagery, and then through deep relaxation, the subject moves into theta and delta brain activity which allows for the suggestion of more positive images and messages via the subconscious mind. Through the process the participant's concentration and attention is narrowed and focused on the hypnotherapist. The subject generally becomes less aware and distracted by surroundings and becomes more aware of what is being said resulting in a desire and willingness to change feelings and behaviours.

Hypnosis therefore is a state of mind which as has the ability to focus our concentration and heighten our responsiveness to positive suggestion. As individuals some of us are more susceptible to psychological suggestion than others and this can be sometimes influenced by our strong desire to conform. It is a human nature to want to largely conform as we are all social animals, keen to be accepted by the wider group, and this should be considered when assessing and summarising the psychological aspects of hypnosis.

This aspect of human nature was demonstrated in a well published study by Solomon Asch . Solomon undertook a series of studies in which a subject was asked to match the length of a parallel line on one sheet of paper to a number of parallel lines on another sheet. Only one participant in each experiment was 'legitimate'



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