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RH: Michael, thank you very much for writing Chapter 4. It has triggered a lot of interest and fascination and it’s given us at The Neuropsychotherapist a really good reason to bring you in to our little neck of the woods. I’m just wondering, there are a number of aspects I want to look into this more deeply, but if you could just discuss a little bit what led you to include this chapter, The Brain, the Mind and Hypnosis in the 5th edition 

MY: Well, you know the field of hypnosis is built around the recognition that perception is subjective. As soon as you start to consider the deeper questions – what’s going on in the brains and minds of people who are able to demonstrate these remarkable hypnotic phenomena? People who are able to undergo surgery without a chemical anaesthetic; where people who are able to generate these perceptual shifts and response to suggestion, open up creative abilities and therapeutic options and all of those kinds of things. So, you really can’t study hypnosis without having some appreciation that it’s the brain and the mind that filter all the sensory data coming in from the universe around us, as well as generate their perceptions subjectively. This gave rise to many key questions. Are there morphological differences? Are there differences in the actual physiology of the brain of people who are highly responsive to hypnosis versus people who aren’t? Are there brain differences in how people process suggestions and if so what are those differences? How does the brain influence perceptual processes and vice versa? What’s been particularly interesting is over the last 10 or 12 years now because of the advances in brain scanning technologies. We’ve had the opportunity to study these mental processes, the neuroscience of hypnosis, to a degree that we never able to before. When I wrote the 1st edition of Trancework back in 1984, these technologies just didn’t exist, although some of them did in the most rudimentary of forms, but now the fact that we can watch brains respond to stimuli in real time, microsecond by microsecond, is absolutely fascinating. So, it’s really opened up two general areas of inquiry: one is the instrumental approach to neuroscience – trying to understand something about what’s going on in brains of people as they undergo therapeutic suggestions – where you’re really striving to understand something about the relationship between mental processes, perception and mental health, the use of hypnosis instrumentally to help change people therapeutically; and then the other is the intrinsic focus – trying to understand something about the limits of perception. How can we introduce shifts in perception such that a person can be given the suggestion to bite into this red juicy sweet apple, when in fact it’s an onion, then the person takes a big bite out of an onion and they tell you how sweet it is and what a great apple it is? What a fascinating thing to have people respond to these suggested realities instead of the actual realities. That’s part of the intrinsic focus: how does that happen?; when is it out the limits of perceptions?; how far can we take them?; and what does it really mean in terms of information processing and the cognitive part of this relationship between conscious and non-conscious processes? So, as you can tell we can we can go in a 1000 different directions and ask far more questions than we actually have the answers to, but I think that when you operate in the world I operate in, which is the clinical world, to be able to induce hypnosis, guide people into hypnosis, provide them with these suggestions about ways that they can experience themselves differently that will enhance their quality of life, and then see them actually do that, is fascinating. It’s been a long career for me, 45 years now, of watching people go through these procedures that we call hypnosis and generate these remarkable shifts in their experience as a result.

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