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"what Is Hypnosis?" Describe the Psychological and Physical Aspects of Hypnosis and Discuss the Role of Relaxation in Hypnotherapy.

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"What is Hypnosis?" this is a question that we will begin to explore, looking at the differing aspects of this often misreported, misunderstood and mystifying state of mind and why it is often so closely linked with relaxation.

Hypnosis is often associated with witchdoctors and ancient medicine men and in many respects this is probably a correct association although the actual term hypnosis was not in existence until many years after such people existed. The first credible and notable recorded theory of trance like behaviour was documented by an Austrian, Doctor Franz Mesmer (1733-1815) around the 1700's who believed it was "connected to animal magnetism". (Hadley & Staudacher, 1996:14) Sigmund Freud however (1856-1939) was the first recognised figure from the past to note the existence of the unconscious mind. (Hadley & Staudacher, 1996:16) He spent many years developing Freudian therapy, psychoanalysis and documented the idea of bringing repressed thoughts from the subconscious to the conscious mind, using free association. Prior to Freud there were many influential figures who discussed aspects of the subconscious mind but without knowingly establishing this link such as James Braid (1795-1860), Jean Martin Charcot (1825-1893) and Liebeaut (1823-1904). (Hadley & Staudacher, 1996:4) Although in modern day terms Pierre Janet (1859-1947) and Milton Erickson (1901-1980) are thought of as the fore fathers of hypnosis as we know it today. With the assistance of modern science we now understand this mystifying practice slightly better and research has shown how it links into brain waves, so we can now surmise that Hypnosis is simply the name of an intentional technique for accessing natural brain waves and the sub conscious mind at will.

The brain has four noted brain waves or levels of activity, varying in frequency all of which manifest themselves in very different physical and psychological ways. The first type of brain wave, or Beta waves, are produced at 15 -40 waves per second and are associated with the active or assertive side of our personality. When we are feeling alert, engaged and ready for action, an example is someone trying to get their point across during a debate both listening but waiting for their chance to speak and engage. High Beta waves are over 40Hz per second and manifests themselves like bursts of higher consciousness, or higher cognitive abilities. The Beta Mind is also noted as the protector of our reality, the conscious mind.

The second brain wave patterns are referred to as the Alpha brain waves, produced at around 9 -14 cycles per second. In this state the body is less aroused, for example when we are in a state of relaxation, resting and or light sleep. A predominance of Alpha waves in the brain is often associated with creativity, accelerated learning and a state of well being. It is thought that these attributes will increase your productivity and enhance your experience no matter what the task at hand. Many artists and musicians crave these creative waves to get them in a productive zone. This brain pattern is the most commonly aspired pattern for hypnotherapist to treat their subject in as the subject is open to persuasion and inspired thought.

Theta brain waves are the third recognised brain wave pattern and are present during deeper meditative states of mind, and are deeply linked to our subconscious mind where we hold past experiences. Theta waves produce highly creative states of awareness which can be very receptive to new ideas, thoughts, dreams or symbology. As this wave pattern reaches into the sub conscious, emotionally painful past experiences can sometimes come to the surface, which often need careful management by the subject or hypnotherapist. (Karle & Boys. 1987:6) On an EEG-test Theta waves are produced at 4 -7 Hz waves per second, and can produce a feeling of detaching from your physical body, letting go of sensations or thoughts from your mind and moving to an inner focus or a state of relaxation, which is frequently linked with our intuition. This can often happen when driving along a well know route as our mind wanders from the task in hand and delves deeper, which is often where bright ideas or "brain waves" come from.( Hadley & Staudacher, 1996:11. Karle & Boys. 1987:10)

The last known brain wave, Delta, is the wave pattern that is the side of us that energizes and heals our physical body, mind and spirit. During sleep when no other waves are active the delta brain waves create restorative energy throughout our body. These waves relate to the quieter and subdued aspect of who we are, the subconscious mind. Delta waves vibrate from 1 - 4 Hz waves per second, less than that and there is no functioning, brain death has occurred.

These different brain waves do not rise and fall independently of physical function, but link into our daily tasks; an example would be when we go to bed and read for a short while before attempting to sleep, we are likely to produce lower beta waves; then when we put the book down, switch off the light and close our eyes our brains descend from beta, to alpha, theta and finally when we fall into a deep sleep, delta waves occur. These are obviously reversed in order as we wake.

Now that we understand brain waves and how the body changes with them it can be clearly seen that specific brain wave patterns need to be established in order for hypnosis to be effective. The two most commonly associated with hypnotic states of mind are alpha and theta waves. It is the hypnotherapist's role to help their client relax in order to reach these wave patterns so that there can be access via these wave patterns to the subconscious mind, to allow persuasion and suggestion to be readily received. (Heap & Dryden. 1991:2/3)

A hypnotherapist entices their subject into the correct brain wave pattern by getting them to totally relax which then, as we have already discussed, by default slows their brain waves down. The slowing down of brain waves means that the subject is open to manipulation of current thinking, open to receiving new ideas and guidance with current difficulties or problems, whilst being in touch with their sub-conscious mind. It is apparent that hypnosis, brain waves and relaxation will always happen together and be associated with each other.

Relaxation and techniques associated with it have been recorded for many years, but to begin to understand relaxation and its links into hypnosis we must firstly understand our bodies. We have over 600 muscles in our bodies. Four hundred voluntary muscles, which we can move at any time we choose

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