Hypnosis and Meditation
When you think of hypnosis you might think of the typical Hollywood depiction of some creepy guy, who swings a pocket watch in front of people's faces, and then gets them to start clucking like a chicken or something else they would never do normally. But, don't worry, no one can actually do that do you without your consent.
With hypnosis the power rests completely in how open you, or the person being hypnotized, are to suggestion.
And most people are open to some degree of suggestion at least.
For example, try this with someone.
Get them to stand up, and close their eyes,and then tell them that they're swaying back and forth. So don't tell them to sway back and forth, just tell them that that's what they're doing. And most people, when they hear you tell them that they're swaying, will actually start swaying,if they weren't before.
But if they know what's coming, and don't want to be swayed, then this won't work.
It's the same with hypnosis.
Hypnosis usually involves getting people to relax, and focus on a particular spot, or internal function, like breathing, and people become more susceptible to suggestion in this state, but only if they want to. So, as you enter into that state of hypnosis, an EEG would pick up more Alpha waves in your brain, indicating an awake, but relaxed state.
And some people use hypnosis to try to retrieve memories, which is kind of dangerous,and not scientific. 'Cause memory is very malleable,and since we don't record events in our head like a video camera does, sometimes people who supposedly retrieve memories during hypnosis, can actually create false memories, that incorporate hypnotizers, leading questions, or expectations, even if they don't intend to.
And some people also think that hypnosis helps them refocus their attention, which is why it can be used to treat pain.
For example, there is some evidence that people under hypnosis have reduced brain activity, in areas that process sensory input, even though the areas that receive the sensory input, the sensory cortex, are functioning normally. So this could mean, that although hypnosis doesn't completely block out sensory input, it might help inhibit our attention to that input, which enables some people to deal with more painful stimuli than they normally would.
But, again, the bottom line is, that if you think it will work, it has a good chance of working, but if you think it won't work, then you're stuck with the more traditional pain-killing techniques.
And another induced state of consciousness is meditation.
There are a lot of definitions of "mediation," but we're gonna focus on the type that involves training people to self-regulate their attention and awareness. So, meditation can be guided,and focused on something in particular, like breathing often times, or relaxing muscles or something like that. But meditation can also be unfocused, when you let the mind wander freely.
During light meditation, people experience more Alpha waves than during normal relaxation. And then during deep meditation, this is the type that usually only experts achieve, like Tibetan monks, but they have increased Theta waves in the brain, which also happens during some sleep stages, but you're still awake.
There aren't very many scientific studies on long-term effects of meditation, but some studies do indicate that in people who regularly get into deep meditation, there's increased activity when they're not meditating, increased activity in their prefrontal cortex, right hippocampus and right anterior insula suggesting that those people have an increased ability to control their attention, which is the goal of meditation, so that's good.
This ability to control your attention could have important implications for people with attention-related disorders, such as ADHD or even people who want to avoid some of the attentional deficits associated with natural aging.