Hypnosis is often associated with witchdoctors and ancient medicine men and in many respects this is probably a correct association although the actual term hypnosis was not in existence until many years after such people existed. The first credible and notable recorded theory of trance like behaviour was documented by an Austrian, Doctor Franz Mesmer (1733-1815) around the 1700's who believed it was "connected to animal magnetism". (Hadley & Staudacher, 1996:14) Sigmund Freud however (1856-1939) was the first recognised figure from the past to note the existence of the unconscious mind. (Hadley & Staudacher, 1996:16) He spent many years developing Freudian therapy, psychoanalysis and documented the idea of bringing repressed thoughts from the subconscious to the conscious mind, using free association. Prior to Freud there were many influential figures who discussed aspects of the subconscious mind but without knowingly establishing this link such as James Braid (1795-1860), Jean Martin Charcot (1825-1893) and Liebeaut (1823-1904). (Hadley & Staudacher, 1996:4) Although in modern day terms Pierre Janet (1859-1947) and Milton Erickson (1901-1980) are thought of as the fore fathers of hypnosis as we know it today. With the assistance of modern science we now understand this mystifying practice slightly better and research has shown how it links into brain waves, so we can now surmise that Hypnosis is simply the name of an intentional technique for accessing natural brain waves and the sub conscious mind at will.
The brain has four noted brain waves or levels of activity, varying in frequency all of which manifest themselves in very different physical and psychological ways. The first type of brain wave, or Beta waves, are produced at 15 -40 waves per second and are associated with the active or assertive side of our personality. When we are feeling alert, engaged and ready for action, an example is someone trying to get their point across during a debate both listening but waiting for their chance to speak and engage. High Beta waves are over 40Hz per second and manifests themselves like bursts of higher consciousness, or higher cognitive abilities. The Beta Mind is also noted as the protector of our reality, the conscious mind.
The second brain wave patterns are referred to as the Alpha brain waves, produced at around 9 -14 cycles per second. In this state the body is less aroused, for example when we are in a state of relaxation, resting and or light sleep. A predominance of Alpha waves in the brain is often associated with creativity, accelerated learning and a state of well being. It is thought that these attributes will increase your productivity and enhance your experience no matter what the task at hand. Many artists and musicians crave these creative waves to get them in a productive zone. This brain pattern is the most commonly aspired pattern for hypnotherapist to treat their subject in as the subject is open to persuasion and inspired thought.
Theta brain waves are the third recognised brain wave pattern and are present during deeper meditative states of mind, and are deeply linked to our subconscious mind where we hold past experiences. Theta waves produce highly creative states of awareness which can be very receptive to new ideas, thoughts, dreams or symbology. As this wave pattern reaches into the sub conscious, emotionally painful past experiences can sometimes come to the surface, which often need careful management by the subject or hypnotherapist. (Karle & Boys. 1987:6) On an EEG-test Theta waves are produced at 4 -7 Hz waves per second, and can produce a feeling of detaching from your physical body, letting go of sensations or thoughts from your mind and moving to an inner focus or a state of relaxation, which is frequently linked with our intuition. This can often happen when driving along a well know route as our mind wanders from the task in hand and delves deeper, which is often where bright ideas or "brain waves" come from.( Hadley & Staudacher, 1996:11. Karle & Boys. 1987:10)