How to Know if You Can be Hypnotized w/Andrew Huberman


3 years ago



Andrew Huberman

4 appearances

Andrew Huberman, PhD, is a neuroscientist and tenured professor at Stanford University’s School of Medicine. Andrew is also the host of the Huberman Lab podcast, which aims to help viewers and listeners improve their health with science and science-based tools. New episodes air every Monday on YouTube and all podcast platforms.


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? Maybe not. Maybe not. Hypnosis is powerful and I think stage hypnosis has done a great disservice, no disrespect to the stage hypnosis out there, to detract from the power of hypnosis as a medical tool and a high performance tool. Yeah, my own personal experience is that I didn't understand what hypnosis was. My first experiences with hypnosis were there was a guy named Frank Santos, it's a famous in the Boston area who's a very famous comedy hypnotist and he was an actual hypnotist who would hypnotize people and get them to quit smoking and things along those lines but then would do this comedy hypnotism show where he would get people on stage and man, like we would watch, me and a bunch of other comedians would go and watch it every week because it was crazy. He would put them under, they would definitely be under and they would think they were having sex, they would think they'd be in a boat, they'd think they'd be in the water. It was weird, it was really weird to watch and I always just thought it was like really weak minded people. My thought was, and obviously I'm 21 at the time, I didn't know anything, but my thought at the time was, okay, there's certain people that are just, they have nine volt brains and you can trick them into doing anything and that explains cults and a lot of other shit and televangelists and all sorts of nonsense that should be like really obviously fake to people but they fall into it anyway and so that's what I thought. I thought it was just really dumb people that he was tricking. Well, some people are more easily hypnotized than others and it's actually pretty predictable. There's actually a test that we could do right now that- Really? Yeah. Can you do it to me? Yeah, I can use the one that Spiegel taught me which is, so you look up at the ceiling and you're going to look and now try and close your eyelids, you're not very hypnotizable. How's that? Look up one more time and then close. Yeah, so probably not as hypnotizable. Why? So for people that are very hypnotizable- Is that a word? Yes, it is. Hypnotizable. At least if it's not, then I'm stamping it in. Nowadays, I'll put a Wikipedia entry. It'll be there. No, I don't know. I've heard Spiegel use it before. Susceptible to hypnosis. Susceptible to hypnosis. I asked Spiegel how you measure this kind of back of the envelope, curbside consult as they call it and people who are more hypnotizable, their eyelids will flutter in an attempt to go down. The reason is that a lot of hypnosis is anchored on the ability to go into these deeply relaxed states. And some people's autonomic nervous system gets locked in a state of more attention and kind of higher levels of alertness or levels of sleepiness. So think about like a seesaw. So you can either be really stressed. So when you're really stressed, like you're analyzing time, you're analyzing space differently, duration path outcome, what's going to happen? When is it going to happen? Real emergency. The other state would be sleep, right? That's the other extreme duration path and outcome are essentially non-existent. Space and time are fluid, whatever. The hinge in the middle of that seesaw for some people is very tight. They get locked over here or locked over there. They can't get the energy or they can't de-stress. Hypnosis involves taking somebody from a state of alertness like you and I are in now and bringing them into a almost sleep-like state. Now for some people, their autonomic nervous system isn't that willing to do that. It's almost like the hinge on that seesaw is locked. It doesn't want to budge. And this fluttering of the eyelids is reflective of a peripheral nerve, believe it or not, that originates in the brainstem. That's a central part of the autonomic nervous system. The other thing that they'll do, you ever see on the stage hypnosis where they'll have people look up at the ceiling and then they'll sometimes shine a light in their eyes or they'll like have them look at a light? I haven't seen that. They're looking at how we call it labile, but how rigid or labile, how willing to move the pupils are because autonomic arousal impacts the pupils of the eyes. So it's an external read of what's going on in the brain. A lot of people don't know this, but your eyes are not connected to your brain. Your eyes are brain. They are central nervous system and their brain. Your neural retinas that you use for seeing things around you are part of the central nervous system. They are the way that you know when to be alert and to be asleep. And they are two pieces of brain that during development got squeezed out of the skull and placed outside the skull. Whoa. Yeah. They're the only two pieces of your brain that are outside your skull, assuming that you don't have some sort of damage. That is fucking crazy. Your eyes are a part of your brain. Yeah. And that's why when people tell me, oh, you know, the eyes are the window to the soul, I'm like, well, look, I don't know about souls, but they are definitely your brain. So when I look at you and now it's weird because I'm looking at, you know, we're not looking at other pupils, right? But when the hypnotist, I should say, looks at the pupils, they're saying, you know, the pupil size is a direct readout of that, of how loose that hinge is. So when they shine light in someone's eyes and they take it away and they go, that's so weird that you can look in someone's eyes and there's something about like you can kind of tell what kind of a person they are in some ways, or at least tell how they're thinking. Like if someone's uncomfortable being around you like, you could see it in their eyes. If you tried to write that down, like what are you seeing? You try to explain it to someone, good luck. Good luck writing that down. I don't know what that is. Like, but I know when someone's full of shit, like if someone's lying to me or bullshitting me, I'm not always aware, but I'm aware a lot. You know, well, and it's not just their individual eyes, but it's also the way that they focus their eyes. So you know the myth of the cyclops, right? One eye in the middle of the head. That myth has origins in the fact that the cyclop was one dimensional anger. And it turns out that when we are experienced an increase in autonomic arousal, so let's say we decide we're going to fight, we decide we're going to learn, or maybe we're just, we're going to write something important. Something's important. Our eyes, the pupils change shape, but because our eyes don't really move in our skull, they actually do what's called foveate in a little bit. There's an eye musculature reflex that gets triggered in. And so you can see that sometimes in people that are getting ready to fight, their eyes are actually brought inward. That triggers another neural circuit to increase levels of autonomic arousal and starts deploying resources internally, fuel resources, fuel for, you know, bouts of intense stuff, whatever that intense thing is going to be. When we're relaxed, like we view a horizon or we're just walking or we're in what's called optic flow when things are flowing past us, we go into panoramic vision. So in panoramic vision, you go out of that soda straw view of the world and you start being able to see the corners of the room, the ceiling, the floor, and that's a relaxed state. So sometimes we're even subconsciously perceiving how stressed or relaxed somebody is, not by necessarily their pupils, although that might play into it. It certainly has a role, but whether or not based on your prior kind of intuitive knowledge about that person, whether or not they're like cyclops or whether or not they're in panoramic vision. And this is important because it changes the way we perceive time. If we are in cyclops vision, soda straw view, that high intensity, we tend to do two things. One is we tend to be more in tune with what's going on inside us. We start, you know, the brain does this other thing, which is called interoception. It's like paying attention to what's going on inside us versus outside us. And when we're stressed, time outside us seems to go really slowly. It's like you're in the security line at the airport and you need to get your flight. It's a very different perception of the person in front of you and what they're doing than when you're relaxed and you've got plenty of time. And that's because outside events start to feel slower. This is why after a car crash, people will say, you know, oh, everything was in slow motion or I've never actually looked at fighters, but I visited the UFC training center, Duncan French. I went out there and talked to him about this. Shout out to Duncan. Yeah, he's done some, his graduate thesis is like this beautiful work related to this, although not directly, has important implications for this, which is when you're in these high adrenaline states, you parse time differently. And when I hear about fighters, you know, say like being able to time the fight or they, it's almost like they can see things coming in slow motion. That's because their internal level of arousal is really, really high. But it feels like relaxation. So there's like sleepy, not feeling so good. Everything feels like it's going on really fast. I can't deal with life. Then you ramp up your level of intensity and everything outside you feels like it's going a little slower or maybe you're matched to that. Like I'm a pretty high intensity guy when I'm in New York. I feel great, at least before the COVID thing, people walking down the street, I finally feel like the tempo is kind of matched between internal and external. But that was that why like those high functioning people enjoy Manhattan. Yeah, there's a wide neurotic people like Manhattan. Yeah. So I say, you take a neurotic person, you put them in Manhattan, they're like, oh, yeah. They love it. Yeah. A lot of my friends that are neurotic, they love it there. Yeah. I come from neurotic lineage. I'm constantly trying to get to the other part of the seesaw. But I get it. You know, I get out of the subway in New York and I'm like the walking speed, the speed of everything, it just, I finally feel like internal to external match. Does this thing that connects the fluttering of the eyelids to being able to be hypnotized more easily, does that coincide with a personality variable? Not that I'm aware of. I'd have to ask David, I don't want to throw something out there that's wrong. I'd have to ask him there. There's a whole set of personality traits and coping traits that relate to hypnotize ability. There's a small subset of people that just cannot be hypnotized. Really? You can't really force hypnotism on people. But is it they cannot or they are not willing to let themselves be? Because I've been hypnotized. My friend Vinnie Shorman, he works with fighters. He's hypnotized. He calls it mental coaching. And I was like, I want to know what you're doing. He's been on my podcast before. I'm like, do it to me. Let's see what's up. It was very weird. Did you find it beneficial? I think I did. I only did it once. But I was kind of stunned by it. I'm like, oh, this is a weird state where you're kind of there but not there. It's not like you don't know what's going on. You do know what's going on. But you're in this weird sort of quasi relaxed sleepy thing. It's a very unusual state. This match of high focus, deep relaxation is not a brain state that we can access very easily without a hypnotist. I mean, there are other ways to do it. But that state would be super beneficial for people wanting to learn something because it would relax them much more deeply than it would just ordinarily everyday life while you're conscious. That's right. It's taking the two pieces of the plasticity puzzle and putting them in the same event. So I don't think it should be the only way to learn new things because there are things you can't do in hypnosis like like roll jiu-jitsu, I mean, for instance. But as a tool for accessing faster learning, it's quite powerful. Just like sleep. I mean, I think the work of Matt Walker and Bill Dement at Stanford and others has just shown like if you want to pull someone apart, you want to just make them insane and unable to do these duration path outcome, mental operations, you sleep to path them.