Given how elusive, abstract and even subjective hypnosis is, you’d be right to think you can’t measure it.
You can’t point to any part of the brain and say that’s the trance lobe, just give it a tickle.
And you wouldn’t be able to see it in action within the brain.
Except… you kinda can.
When you go from your normal waking state to a hypnotic trance, your brain changes in drastic ways.
Even in the moment.
Hypnosis can get pretty intense. Blood flows away from the prefrontal cortex, which explains the dreamlike quality is sometimes has.
Your brainwaves and neural activity begin to sync up – between your lobes and between the hemispheres. This can happen naturally, but not easily and not often. It happens during times of peak clarity and creativity, where you seem better connected to yourself and the world around you.
You could call it the flow state, or something else.
Like so many other definitions, this one has fuzzy boundaries. You can have this physiological shift without hypnosis, and you can go into a trance without your brainwaves doing this.
Still, it’s common enough that this, more than anything, convinced scientists hypnosis is real.
Plenty of things change the brain’s state. When you think about a loved one, your religion or a moment you’re proud of, your brain lights up like a Christmas tree. But what hypnosis does is so much more dramatic.
This proved something real, strange and powerful was happening.
In many ways, this is what it’s all about. Sure, hypnosis is vastly more than tweaking your brain… but even this simple and mechanistic explanation covers so much of hypnosis’ power.
When your lobes sync up like this, they communicate better.
When that happens, it feels like you’re in touch with your true self… and more of your mental power. Memories flow clearer, your thoughts run smoothly and your emotions become a lot healthier.
The more you do this, the more natural this state of mind becomes.
Problems simply fall away as more of your mind comes online.
If you’ve tried to ‘think’ or ‘force’ or ‘reason’ your way through a challenge, only to not get too far with it… well, that’s only using your prefrontal cortex. When your mind enters this state, it can bring its full resources against a challenge.
Like I say, this isn’t the full hypnotic experience.
But even if it was, this makes it better than just talking your way through it.
If you’re curious what this whole-brain approach feels like, you can experience hypnosis right now: