Sunday, January 22, 2012

Different Theories

As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of different theories of hypnosis, and they're not all mutually exclusive. Sometimes I find it more helpful to look at if from one angle over another, as they suggest different strategies, and more naturally explain different aspects.
  • Dissociation
  • Cold control/empty heat
  • Expectation
  • Classical conditioning
  • Imagination
  • Social role
Dissociation based theories state things like "The part of the brain that does X is dissociated from (not talking to/hearing from) the part of the brain that does Y". This is functionally true for at least some phenomena, but not super useful for me. It does make some good predictions though. Maybe "dissociative" drugs would help for these phenomena? (at least partially true, N2O helps) Maybe people that are good at dissociating from things are good subjects (PTSD make good subjects? Yes it does) . Maybe you should phrase it "look at that hand - as if if that hand is not yours".

Cold control/empty heat theories look at it from a more computational point of view. Cold control is named because it describes hypnotic phenomena as the lack of Higher Order Thoughts (HOT). Cold control/empty heat seems much like a "mere" description of what specific thoughts you might have for various phenomena. That's not to say it isn't useful - having ways to describe things is a prerequisite for really digging in, and often is all you need to make some good progress.  It's very similar to dissociation, but with emphasis on the individual thoughts, not the class of thoughts. While the dissociative theorist might say "the part of the brain that does X isn't talking to the part of the brain that does Y", a cold control theorist would just say "thought x happened without thought y". Use the same process of moving your arm without meta thoughts about moving your arm to get ideomotor.

Expectation theories basically say that "you make them expect it to happen, then it happens". This view is helpful in that anything that makes them anticipate it more strongly makes it more likely to work. Of course, there's approaches that make a person look like they're not 'expecting' anything, but this still gives a lot of good suggestions - especially once you realize that it is the alief level that matters. Probably my favorite application is to get them to imagine that they expect it. "Can you imagine that it's going to work? Can you imagine its going to work and that you're not even imagining it? Is it gonna work? <cue>" is amazingly effective. It suggests that "placebo hypnosis" can work by saying "hypnosis works super good", doing a bunch of meaningless nonsense, and then getting results. Of course, if you replace the meaningless nonsense with techniques designed to increase expectation/imagination/etc you get better results.

The classical conditioning view looks at a very low level. In the past, neuron X fired simultaneously with neuron Y, so now neuron X firing causes neuron Y to fire. A lot of the other theories are simply built on top of this, but it still suggests approaches. It suggests repetition and salience, and it suggests simultaneity. Simple classical conditioning can be quite useful as well (this is what NLP "anchoring" is). 

Imagination based theory is fairly high level.  It suggests framing things as imagination, though it's the same shit as expectation at the core. Framing as imagination is a great way to get rid of blocks (checking to see if its not working - "just imagine!", or worrying about bad effects - "you're just imagining it, you can stop whenever!")

Social role theory is even higher level. This is not to be confused with play acting (although it very frequently is). The role applies to the elephant, and the rider just comes along for the ride  - not the other way around. You can get profound and interesting effects by leading the elephant. This point of view suggests a lot of helpful stuff.  Give someone an excuse to get better and sometimes that's all it takes. If the subject thinks being a good subject will make them look good, they'll be a good subject, but if they think it'd make them look bad, they'll be a bad subject. This also suggests all the compliance tricks, provocative therapy etc.

So you might say that you should create a social role in which they're expected to imagine or expect the kinds of things you want them to in order to get the right neurons firing simultanously - perhaps the kind of things that dissociate parts of their mind and end up with meta levels of thoughts being not tied well to lower level thoughts, but perhaps not.

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