The triune model describes the human brain as like an onion. The earliest part to evolve lies at the centre, with new layers emerging around it. The features that many animals share – fear, perception, memory and learning – rest at the core. More specialised adaptations, like social instincts, sit in the newer layers. All of these are relevant to hypnosis, as it influences and relies on them.
This brings us to the neocortex. This isn’t the part that makes us, us. So much of our mental processing happens outside the neocortex. And even outside the brain – the nerves in our body do more than just relay instructions, as it turns out. But the neocortex provides some uniquely human experiences. Its size in humans, relative to the rest of the brain, is enormous. It must do something important.
If you look up what the neocortex does, you read references to learning and memory. Learning and memory? Come on, triune brain model – that’s what you said about the reptilian brain (the basal ganglia). And the mammalian brain (the limbic system). What’s going on?
Well, part of it is that ‘learning’ and ‘memory’ are complex, sophisticated processes. The human brain is not a computer. It doesn’t store memories like how a video camera stores film. And it doesn’t learn by loading new software. These sophisticated, multilayered processes use the entire brain.
Sometimes, you learn the way your cat does. Other times, you use completely different processes. Maybe that’s what intelligence is – more options in how to think.
The neocortex also handles language processing. I wonder how what happens when you enter a trance state. You know – that strange hypnotic twilight where you hear words but you can’t follow their meaning. Does that experience engage the neocortex? Bypass it? Isolate it? I don’t know.
And people say ‘I don’t know’ a lot with the neocortex. It’s mysterious. Research continues, so any facts I write down will be out of date by the time you read them. If you’re interested, do your own investigating. Prepare to be wrong, as you stand upon shifting sands of knowledge.
Will future revelations in the brain give us new ways to work with subjects? Will it validate old hypnotic traditions? I’d be surprised if both didn’t happen. This is likely the seat of what we call the conscious mind. It decides the subject wants to change, it demands results and it gets out of the way to let trance work. The hypnotic experience is tightly bound with each part of the brain. Exactly how it works with the neocortex is as mysterious as everything else in hypnosis.
One thing you can say is that hypnosis gets results. Ancient societies didn’t know much about the inner workings of the brain. That didn’t stop them from using words, gestures and a subject’s entire experience to work with the mind. This is hypnosis – it works whether you know how or not.
The solution must come from, and go into, your own mind. If a problem is gnawing away at your psyche, then tolerate it no more. See what the other side of success and resolution looks like: