The Mysteries From Our Ancestory – What causes Hypnosis?

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What causes hypnotic experiences?

Historically, in human history, there are many theories on our ethno-biological civilisation and the importance of ritual, trance and the origins of shamanistic and religious practice, that have meant trance is an integral part of human experience and cross culturally has been and continues to be utilised for healing purposes (Krippner 1993). In an ancestry of Shamanic worship and induced trance, to the magic and mythology, worship and prayer rituals of ancient civilisations, where visions were induced, where chants were made, in the “sleep temples” of Ancient Greece and where other sacred places of pilgrimage were sought for healing: Will and can study ever reveal some of the secrets of hypnosis and the human mind? Anthropologists have theorised on the wondrous beginnings of trance, language, ritual and evolution for some time (McClenon & Guthrie 1997).

Developmentally, hypnosis is though to be important in early childhood by many theorists, for its mixture of imagination and history and the personal identity and inner fantasies. Vandeburg (2005) discusses “the too-long-overlooked relation between hypnosis and human development, aiming to understand hidden, yet powerful sociogenetic processes in development that are exposed in hypnosis”.

A movement is beginning where neurologists, psychiatrists and philosophers are researching and discussing the development of individual repeats the evolution of human consciousness and early childhood. Vandleburg (2005) suggests in early development, children spend considerable amounts of time in semitrance where the right brain hemisphere programs and codes the individual and collective consciousness formed by the parents and family.

The neuro-linguistic structure of language and the interaction with the ways we communicate with children, through fairy tales, metaphors, stories, play, games, instruction, values and fantasy, lead the semitranced child to develop the neurological foundations of their identity and perceptions of the world. Thus, trance and hypnotic experience are important in development and the formation of unconscious and unconscious identities. This is perhaps why interest in hypnotherapy is resurging and viewing psychotherapies that utilise trance as a valid option for therapy and entering deeper and more instinctual levels of consciousness.

A theory based on neurological research in hemispheric functioning (Erickson & Rossi 1979) suggested that the right hemisphere is activated in processing metaphorical and imaginary types of communication. They suggested this part of the brain is also involved in mediating emotional and imagistic processes as well as changes in internal perception. It is only now that evidence is coming to the forefront of the hypothesised structure of hypnosis.

In searching for the neurological “existence” of hypnotic phenomena, neuropsychologists are beginning to find there are changes in the brain chemistry in specific brain structures when people are experiencing hypnosis or other altered states of consciousness. This suggests that hypnosis is a distinct state experience (Oakley et al 2007). More evidence is beginning to support a distinct state of pattern of the brain under hypnosis, whereas other theorists have suggested in the past, hypnosis is social play-acting and simple submission to authority.

There is also great interest in the neurological pathways of hypnotic activity. Increasingly there is evidence to suggest that hypnotic states have a significant impact on brainwaves (Fingelkurts et al 2007). It is thought that Alpha, Theta, Delta and Gamma brainwaves have distinct patterns in hypnotic experiences depending on the emotional content of those hypnotic sessions and are distinct from ‘normal’ patterns. These brainwaves are associated with deep relaxation, visualisation and absorption.

In summary from the developmental, sociogenetic, to the neurological; hypnosis is gaining momentum in a variety of psychological research and is gaining credibility across psychotherapeutic practice. There are many theories of hypnotherapy and I have highlighted only a few. Ultimately the experience is unique and practitioners should strive to meet their client’s needs, respond carefully to their personal experiences and work closely with their clients’ direction. This is so the therapist can find the artistry of suitable methods and requirements of their clients, whilst understanding and working closely with their client to maximise the benefits of the hypnotherapy and its meaning of “what hypnotherapy is” for that individual.


Erickson M. Rossi E. 1976. Hypnotic realities, New York, Irvington.

Fingelkurts, A; Fingelkurts, AA; Kallio, S & Revonsuo, A. 2007. Cortex functional connectivity as a neurophysiological correlate of hypnosis: An EEG case study. Neuropsychologia Volume 45, Issue 7, Pages 1452-1462.

Krippner, S. 1993. Cross-cultural perspectives of hypnotic-like procedures used by native healing practitioners. In J. W. Rhue, S. J. Lynn, & I. Kirsch, (Eds.), Handbook of Clinical Hypnosis, 691-717. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

McClenon J & Gutherie, S. 1997. Shamanic healing, human evolution, and the origin of religion. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. vol. 36, no. 3, pp. 345-357.

Oakley, DA, Deeley; Q & Halligan, P.W. 2007. Hypnotic Depth and Response to Suggestion Under Standardized Conditions and During fMRI Scanning International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Volume 55, Issue 1 February, pages 32 – 58.

Vandenberg, B. 2005. Hypnosis and sociogenetic influences in human development. New Ideas in Psychology Volume 23, Issue 1, Pages 33-48

Adam Prince | Counselling | Psychotherapy | Hypnotherapy | Manchester | 0161 2355187 | 07722405823 |

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