Learn How Hypnosis Works

Listening to hypnosisHypnosis works by first achieving a certain state of mind. The best brain wave state of mind for hypnosis is the alpha state. In this section, you'll learn how to generate an alpha brain wave state which opens the bridge to the subconscious mind where powerful changes can be made.

Hypnosis induces a natural, relaxed state of mind (alpha), of body, and of the emotions. Alpha is the brain wave state of mind associated with beginning hypnosis. It's a simple, natural state of mind we are in every day. Whenever you close your eyes and take a deep breath, you're beginning to generate alpha brain waves.

Brain Waves

There are four brainwave states: beta, alpha, theta, and delta. Beta is the normal walking around, conscious state we are in every day; alpha is a relaxed, drowsy state; theta is the light sleep state or deep meditative state; and delta is the deep sleep or coma state. Below is a brief explanation of the different brain wave states of mind:

Beta--Beta is our normal, walking around awake state with brain waves in the 14-30 Hz range. We generate beta brain waves by moving around and thinking.

Alpha--Alpha is a lightly relaxed state; a beginning hypnosis and visualization state; a daydreaming state in which our brain is operating in the 7-14 Hz range. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and relax. 

Theta--The theta state is the meditation, deep hypnosis, and light sleep state. This is also the lucid dreaming state and OBE state (out of body experience) in which our brain is operating in the 3-7 Hz range. We get there through guided meditations that take us on a journey deep within ourselves. We also, of course, can get there by simply going to sleep.

Delta--Delta is the deep sleep, healing state, generating brain waves in the 0.5-3 Hz range. This occurs during our sleep cycles at night.

Alpha is an important state of mind for a number of reasons. Alpha operates as a bridge between the conscious mind (beta state) and the subconscious mind (theta state). The alpha state allows us conscious access to the unconscious material located in our subconscious mind. When in a hypnotic state, this "alpha bridge" affords us the opportunity to reprogram our subconscious mind. We can access information in the unconscious part of our mind to help us better understand our actions and motivations, and we can change our habits and belief systems.

It's important to understand that brain wave states are not exclusive. You can be in the beta state of mind (walking and talking) but still be producing some alpha waves. And if you begin to relax a little bit, you might start generating more alpha waves than beta waves. Close your eyes and take a deep breath and you'll likely deepen your alpha state further. But you'll probably be generating some theta waves too. If you're daydreaming, you'll likely have a mixture of alpha and theta waves and a few beta waves. Keep in mind that you are the one who generates these different brain wave states. And by learning to manipulate your brain waves just a little, you can learn how to generate the brain wave state necessary for effective self-hypnosis.

Getting into the Alpha State

It all begins with relaxation. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, and you're already generating some alpha waves. To deepen the alpha state, sometimes a fractional relaxation is used. A fractional relaxation is an induction method that directs a subject to relax different areas of the body one area at a time, usually starting at the top of the head and moving downward. By focusing the mind on relaxing specific areas of the body, three things are accomplished. First, the subject moves into an even more deeply relaxed state. Second, the subject's awareness becomes focused on the process of relaxing the body to the exclusion of all else (the mind becomes highly focused). And thirdly, the conscious mind begins to take a backseat to the subconscious mind which comes to the forefront of the mind.

How to Effectively Communicate with the Subconscious Mind

Now that the subject is in an alpha state and maybe even generating a few theta waves, the subconscious mind is ready to be programmed. At this point, suggestions and visualizations are used to send effective messages to the subject's subconscious mind to facilitate the desired change. In some cases, old belief systems may need to be let go of or core issues may need to be dealt with. If the old belief systems are left intact, our mind may be conflicted trying to reconcile two opposing beliefs systems and our results will likely reflect that. So it's important to bring the beliefs held in our subconscious mind into alignment with the desires of our conscious mind. First, we let go of beliefs or core issues that created the unwanted behavior in the first place, and then we go about the task of influencing our subconscious mind to help us create the desired behavior.

The most effective way to influence our subconscious is to utilize the emotional motivation behind our desire to change. For instance, let’s say we have a strong desire to quit smoking. Let's say we have an emotional desire to be a good role model for our children. Visualizing ourselves interacting with our children, sans cigarettes, is one way to get that message across to our subconscious. Imagining our children telling us how proud they are of us for quitting would also send a powerful message to our inner mind. Our subconscious mind works best with images and symbols, so a good visualization is always a powerful and effective tool for creating change.

A Quick Summary

So again, hypnosis is a natural state characterized by an extraordinary state of relaxation in which there is a heightened awareness and focus and an increased responsiveness to suggestion. First a relaxed state of mind (an alpha state) needs to be induced. This is usually accomplished during an induction where suggestions are given to relax. The simple act of following the given suggestions helps to focus the mind. Once a deep state of relaxation and focus is achieved, the mind is ready to accept suggestions. Metaphors, direct suggestions, and visualizations are used to communicate with the subconscious to help create the desired change. Sometimes old belief systems need to be discarded or core issues need to be resolved in order for the desired change to be effective. That's it in a nutshell.

To simplify it even further, here are the basic keys to hypnosis:

  1. Breath is the key to relaxation.
  2. Relaxation is the key to suggestion.
  3. Suggestion is the key to hypnosis.

Take a few deep breaths, relax and focus your mind. That's the hypnotic state. Now, if you'd like to get an even deeper understanding of how hypnosis works, check out our section on the subconscious mind.

To go back to the index page for the Learn Hypnosis section, click here.

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