I’m going to do something foolish: I’m going to talk about the left hemisphere of the brain. Why is this risky? Well, if you go out into the world, you’ll find people who describe themselves as left-brain dominant or right-brain thinkers. Then you find people who sneer at the first group, saying that the left-brain-right-brain thing is a myth.
It is a myth. And it isn’t.
People aren’t dominant in one half over the other. If you’re creative, then you use both sides of the brain. If you’re analytical, it’s the same story. Any category of mental tasks, like language processing or perception, uses both hemispheres. They work together.
But a car’s engine and wheels work together to get you somewhere. You wouldn’t call them the same thing, though.
It’s a mistake to say that only the right hemisphere is creative. It’s also a mistake to say that the two hemispheres are identical.
We often see personality changes when someone experiences brain damage. That isn’t surprising. What’s interesting, though, is that when the damage is localised to one hemisphere, it leads to reasonably predictable changes. A healthy left brain, for example, notices detail in the environment. A healthy right brain sees the bigger picture and how all these elements come together to create a cohesive scene.
Damage one hemisphere and perception changes.
The left hemisphere favours precision and other times, while the right deals with generalisations and the present moment. Language processing straddles both hemispheres but the left tends to handle most of it.
Of course, the brain is complicated. If nothing else, then neuroplasticity can alter this balance. Still, it’s an interesting generalisation.
Viewed through the lens of hypnosis, we can see a pattern between the hemispheres. Hypnotic inductions often use language and focused attention to encourage trance. The subject might pay attention to a specific sensation. Like all activities, it uses both hemispheres, though the induction favours the left.
What about the trance itself? As you move deeper into the hypnotic state, the details fade. You gain a sense that everything connects. Ideas form, following bizarre chains of associations.
The big picture. The right brain.
And from these ideas, you notice the finer aspects. Things crystallise into specific, glorious clarity.
The details. The left brain.
Is this why hypnosis is such a powerful workout for your brain? Shifting back and forth between the two hemispheres must strengthen the connections between them. Using the strengths of one to prompt a response from the other, practicing the art of shifting between them, as you rewire the neural highways into denser, richer patterns.
If true, it gives you a template for your own hypnotic experiences. Whether self-guided or induced in another, you’ll see stronger results by using this idea. Either dive deep into one style of thinking or switch between the two. How you combine these processes is unique to you – a fingerprint that identifies your style, or a dance with two moves. Embrace it. Experiment with it. You might just notice your hypnotic experiences enrich in strange and unusual ways.
It’s not as though you need a neuroscientific basis for hypnosis. After all, the evidence is that it works. But this model gives clues as to how the trance state evolves over time.
Get a taste of it yourself with more than guided meditations.