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“What is hypnosis?” Describe the physical and psychological aspects of hypnosis and discuss the role of relaxation in hypnotherapy.
Hypnosis is a very natural state of consciousness in which we are able to completely relax our mind and body, it is not in any way a magic spell that has been put on a person, nor does it hold any mystical powers or is it supernatural in anyway. Hypnosis causes the person hypnotised to display and experience both physical and psychological changes. Relaxation is the key to hypnosis it is also a direct result of being hypnotised.
When we are hypnotised we experience many different physical and psychological phenomena many of which aren’t anything out of the ordinary and can be experienced in everyday life, some others are slightly more unusual and are usually only experienced when hypnotised.
Hypnosis has come a long way from the days of Franz Anton Mesmer in the late 18th century, Mesmer believed in a magnetic fluid which passed through the body when the person to be ‘mesmerised’ would hold metal rods which had been submerged in a large tub of magnetised water, the person would experience convulsions and fall to the floor to be cured of the symptoms affecting them.
The modern day the hypnotist does not bear any resemblance to the mystical character we have seen in the past, it is unlikely you will ever find hypnotist like Mesmer in this day and age or even Svengali, who was a fictional character depicted by George Du Maurier in the 1894 novel Trilby. Svengali with his pointed beard and dark piercing eyes used his evil influence for personal gain. People like Mesmer and the character Svengali have become the ideal that many people relate to hypnotism.
Many people throughout the years have followed the path created by Mesmer, developing techniques along the way. It was James Braid a Scottish physician who coined the term ‘hypnosis’ which came from the name for the Greek god of sleep Hypnos. Braid later regretted this as hypnosis is not actually sleep it is a different state of consciousness to sleep, he then tried to use the word monoideism in its place but this never caught on.
Hypnosis is now known to be a deep state of relaxation or trance like state, using the repetition and tone in the hypnotists voice we can allow ourselves to relax deeply into this trance like state, opening our powerful subconscious mind and letting it take over the conscious.
When in this deeply relaxed state the brain actually changes the frequency of brainwaves as we become more relaxed both physically and mentally, as we gently ease into this hypnotic trance we can easily accept suggestion whilst all the time being completely in control of our own mind and body.
We can measure the frequency of these brainwaves using electroencephalography or EEG as it is more widely known, using EEG and understanding the way brainwaves work we can get a better understanding of how we come to enter a hypnotic trance, There are four main types of brain wave.
Beta are the fastest of all the brain waves at 15 to 40 cycles per second, usually Beta waves occur while we are focussed and thinking logically for example when engaging in conversation, holding a debate and actively taking in information on a daily basis, these waves are produced in abundance.
Alpha waves are the second type they are slower than Beta at 9 to 14 cycles per second and occur whilst we are relaxed and maybe resting after using the Beta waves during intense conversation, the relaxed state we enter when in Alpha waves can come and go and are not always present in the brain. Alpha waves are not present at times when we are angry experiencing fear or are in a deep sleep. They are present during the lighter stages of hypnosis.
Theta waves have a pace of 4 to 8 cycles per second and are considerably slower present at times of sleep usually whilst dreaming,...
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