It is virtually impossible for me to put into words here just how truly remarkable and incredible the brain is. That pink squishy thing resting inside our head does things and enables us to be utterly amazing living inhabitants of this planet that we are. Yet many believe we do not use a fraction of it’s capabilities and for many others, the brain is shrouded in mystery.

The speed of out brain and its functions seems to defy belief and the things we are capable of doing as a result… Again, there are not the words really, and there are others who have written and talked far more eloquently on the brilliance of the human brain.

We have been lucky enough to live in an age where a vast amount of research is going on with regards to the brain and the technological advancements in relation to study of the brain have been huge in the past decade.

Due to these technological breakthroughs in the way we can research the brain, we can understand more about how the brain functions, we can look at the physical mechanics of psychological processes and what goes one when we behave, think and feel. We can examine what people’s brains do nanosecond by nanosecond when they are engaged in activities – including what goes on within the brain when someone is hypnotised. Maybe even look at what hypnosis registers as.

Back in 2009, I wrote about a piece of research conducted by Hull University that showed us that hypnosis had a real brain effect. Most of the research to date in the field of brain studies and hypnosis has focused on this type of research question.

Although many of us got excited at the research findings, they were interpreted in a number of ways and nearly asked more questions than were answered. How do we know that the people whose brains were measured were actually hypnotised and is this definitely the same thing that goes on hypnotherapy rooms, on stages and in hypnosis classrooms every day?

There is so much to consider with hypnosis; there is an interpersonal context in which hypnosis occurs usually and that tends to be varying and different for each individual, there are cognitive, physical, and behavioural aspects that are all associated with hypnosis, there are things which many believe and have proven to effect hypnotisability and responsiveness, and not everyone is considered as responsive as each other.

Lots of the big debates that rumble on consistently in forums and among hypnosis professionals often end with someone saying “well, until we know more about the brain and hypnosis, we’ll have to remain at odds in this regard.”

In recent times, researchers have started to look at using studies of the brain to see if hypnosis is actually an altered state,  if there is something occurring physiologically within everyone deemed as hypnotised,  and if so, how it is measured,  and so on.

Many continue to believe that the only way we’ll learn about hypnosis for sure, is to adopt a more scientific and less disputable understanding about what actually goes on in the brain during hypnosis, especially with the brain being the orchestrator of all things hypnotic.

Or put better by leading neuropsychophysiology  researcher, Dr Helen J. Crawford, of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, the reason for looking at the brain when it comes to hypnosis:

I want to take hypnosis out of the realm of mysticism and bring it into the realm of science, and I want to reduce the myths and misunderstandings about hypnosis” As cited in Trancework by Michael Yapko in a personal communication.

Naturally, I never cease to be amazed when I hypnotise someone and can put a pin through their arm without them feeling pain and without bleeding as suggested… What is it that makes such a thing possible?

There are a huge number of questions hypnosis professionals would similarly love to have the definitive answers to. I thought I’d explore what findings and research there is available here on the blog this week and see what we do know already.

Tune in for more this week, I hope you enjoy it.