Hypnosis & Altered States of Consciousness

Updated: May 18, 2021

Neuroscience tells us there are 4 states of altered consciousness, do all these apply while in a hypnotic state?

There are 4 categories of consciousness, as measured by EEG (electroencephalographic) feedback. Our normal waking state is beta, lightly modified is alpha, deep sleep is theta and a comatose state is delta. These levels are thought of in terms of brain-wave rates (cycles per second). Beta consciousness is normally 15 to 30, alpha is 8 to 14, theta is 4 to 8 and delta is less than 4.

Beta Consciousness

During wakeful state, the mind operates from a protective perspective. It constantly evaluates input based on past learnings & experiences & then feeds back emotions, self talk & behaviors. These learnings & experiences are stored in our subconscious mind

This prevents the unconscious mind from being ‘over written

Your belief system - experiences, values & cultural learnings - works as a lens through which all matters are viewed. It also hides the stored information that it bases its judgements on, so that all decisions or behaviours are initiated from a place of secrecy – from behind this protective veil.

Think of your subconscious as a database

with a software program attached, feeding the conscious mind with a mosaic of interpretations based on stored data – both experienced and imagined. The software programme is the search engine, finding similar experiences & learnings, then extracting the stored emotions which in turn influence our judgement and consequent behaviours.

Alpha Consciousness

Changing stored learnings and emotions requires reaching into the subconscious. The way to do this is by changing the brain-wave state. In ordinary beta consciousness, very little new information can be stored or updated.

This is a self protection & security mechanism that protects the non-conscious.

When we experience hypnosis we move into the alpha state. The scientific definition of hypnosis is a “heightened state of suggestibility”. In this state we are particularly prone to accept a skillfully placed positive suggestion – if placed by someone we trust. In this alpha state, our inner talk tends to slow down, and instead becomes guided by the hypnotherapist, rather than self-initiated.

Unfortunately, it is also shown that we go in and out of this alpha state at other times, such as when watching TV or playing computer games. In this state our non-conscious is vulnerable to undesirable messages or experiences that can be stored, along with undesirable emotions and behaviours.

The Subconscious Database

Memories, learnings & experiences are like records in this huge database. Each record contains many fields. The primary field is the Experience, while secondary fields include: What I am like, The Feeling & Defensive Behaviour.

For example: Experience might be “my parent/s made me feel that I was never good enough”. What I’m Like might be “I am no good”, The Feeling is one of “inferiority/low self esteem” & the Defensive Behaviour - “control others at all costs, continually seek approval, be a high achiever, etc”.

Then, when someone behaves towards you in a certain way, this acts as a trigger for your subconscious to execute a database search. It will find “matching” records, and then extract feelings, emotions and defensive behaviours.

Every milli-second of the day, our conscious mind is perceiving the world around us, and sending requests to the subconscious to make sense of it.

The problem is, the original record was created from a child’s perspective, with no idea of the bigger picture. E.g. a parent wanting you to do better does not mean you are no good, but rather could be “I love you, you are great, but I will help you be even better”.

All that happens under hypnosis is that you update negative records from your wise, adult perspective, changing the learnings and the emotions to how YOU want them to be.

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