If you’re reading this, and you like weed, you probably already know a little bit about what it feels like to experience altered states of consciousness. But have you ever wondered what it feels like to be hypnotized? Ever thought about trying it while high?
I’m a hypnotherapist and although I don’t work with patients who are under the influence (i.e. I won’t take money from patients who are high), my friends have always been willing to act as lab rats!
In this article, we’ll explore a bit about your brainwaves on weed, your brainwaves during hypnosis, and what happens if you get hypnotized while high. This way, you can decide for yourself whether or not it’s worth trying.
How Weed and Hypnosis Influence Your Brainwaves
Depending on our level of relaxation, concentration, or stimulation, brain wave activity changes and can be measured by neuroscientists using devices like Electroencephalography (EEG) machines. Brainwaves are usually categorized into the following 4 states:
- Beta | Awake, alert, logical, with a high degree of critical reasoning.
This is the state where our brain is chatting away at us about everything. As grown-ups with jobs and responsibilities, we have to live a good amount of our lives in this brainwave state but if we overdo it, it leads to stress and anxiety.
- Alpha | Deep relaxation, creativity, and openness.
In an alpha state, your body is relaxed, the eyes are closed and/or have a very soft focus. The “chatter” of the mind is minimized and you are free to daydream, use your imagination and access your intuition. This state affects the body and the mind in very positive ways: reducing stress and pain, and increasing happiness.
- Theta — Light sleep
Theta brain waves are mostly present during REM sleep. You can have some awareness of your surroundings and your body may still move and twitch, but you are generally still. This is the state in which we dream.
- Delta | Deep sleep
This is the state where we are completely still and heavy, sleeping with no dreams. The body releases several hormones in this state, and this is where most of our physiological growth and repair takes place.
- Gamma | Does it exist?
This one’s a “wild card” on the list as there’s an ongoing debate as to whether or not gamma brainwaves even exist. If they do, they would actually come before Beta as being very high frequency. Gamma waves are said to produce the highest level of information processing, visual processing, and hyper-alertness. It has been suggested that this brain wave state is active during bursts of insight, like the type of experience that monks get during transcendental meditation.
In Terms of Meditation, Which Brainwaves are Affected When We Get High?
For the purposes of exploring what happens if you get hypnotized while high, we are going to focus on Alpha brainwaves — my preferred state for hypnosis. Some hypnosis works in the Theta brainwave state, but scientifically it’s hard to distinguish this state from sleep and it’s really only used for things like deep trauma work (where the patient doesn’t want to be aware of anything they’re dealing with).
The Alpha brainwave state is believed to be the most relaxed and creative state we can get to without falling asleep. In this state we are conscious enough to direct changes in our thoughts and behaviors, but “checked out” enough to not put up resistance or over think it. It’s generally a really nice zone to be in. When observing the hypnotized brain, we usually see a significant increase in Alpha brainwave activity.
It used to be thought THC decreased brain activity, but we are now seeing more and more evidence that it does the opposite; increasing activity across all brainwave frequencies, excluding Delta (deep sleep).
In fact, an interesting Vice article was recently published on the topic, and it highlighted an important question: since chaotic brainwave activity is bad and inefficient, what if “efficient” cognition is not the goal at all, but rather to experience greater freedom from the conscious brain? In other words, brainwaves are going to look different depending on the experience you are having while high, and also what you’re doing.
For example, while tripping, we would be sure to see a big spike in Beta activity (or Gamma activity if you subscribe to the above theory). However, the old news that weed increases Alpha brainwaves seems to be ever present whenever you look at any EEG scans (including those referenced in the Vice article). As a hypnotherapist, this is the kind of stuff I’m most interested in as a greater amount of Alpha brain wave activity gives us more Alpha brain activity to work with.
Can Weed and Hypnosis Work?
Ultimately, hypnosis is based on the understanding that we have a conscious and subconscious mind. The conscious mind consists of our sensory experiences and the thoughts and feelings that we are aware of, while our subconscious mind is the vast store of everything else below the surface.
To put it into context, the conscious mind processes around 2,000 bits per second compared with the subconscious mind, which processes around 4,000,000,000 bits per second. When we talk about enhancing Alpha brainwave activity, we are also decreasing the dominance of the conscious mind and increasing the connection to the subconscious mind.
For centuries weed has been used to facilitate trance states, such as the Thracian Kapnobatai shamans who used cannabis to alter their state of mind. But when it comes to hypnosis, there has traditionally been the perception that it wouldn’t really work while under the influence of marijuana.
The main reason being is that in order to induce a hypnotic trance, the subject must be able to concentrate and focus on hypnotists directions – one of the most common of which is to ask subjects to listen intently on the hypnotists’ voice while counting backward from 200. This could be a tricky task while high!
The purpose of techniques such as counting backward from 200 is to keep the conscious mind busy, if not a little confused. Without the noise of the conscious mind chattering away, communication with the subconscious mind is easier.
In some ways, when someone is high, half the hypnosis work is already done. So for it to be effective in any way, we just can’t use the basic concentration tricks – the hypnotic induction has to be far more creative right from the start. It has to engage the right side of the brain, which is the “creative” side that is more engaged when someone is high (compared to the left/logic side).
There are countless visual and other sensory ways into trance. At university, I studied one that relies on focusing on the palm of the hand until the colors and lines blur and the mind becomes lost in wonder. I’m pretty sure anyone that enjoys weed has experienced something similar to this at one point.
The main difficulty – even for a creative hypnotist – is that we are not controlling the state — the weed is. As such, it can be a pretty unpredictable experience. The subject is much more likely to lose focus, drift off on tangents, or drift away into other brain wave states that would be less advantageous (i.e. Theta), or be spiked up into Beta by sensory distractions.
Using self-hypnosis is an even harder task. It’s pretty difficult to be relaxed and detached enough from thinking, but also maintain the level of alertness needed to direct the practice and navigate the high. At this point, it really stops being hypnosis and just becomes a meditative journey where you’re just “going with the flow” of your marijuana-induced high (which to be sure is not necessarily a bad thing).
So unless you’re paying money for a particular experience or outcome (which is unlikely given hypnotherapists’ reluctance to work with patients who don’t have full capacity to consent), we really can’t offer many practical guidelines in terms of what will happen if you try to become hypnotized while high.
How to Use Weed with Self-Hypnosis
If you do want to try weed and hypnosis, however, here are my tips:
- Try both things on their own first – i.e. being hypnotized and getting high.
- Set aside a good amount of time to play around with your level of high, and progress slowly.
- Stick to less hallucinogenic strains.
- Take precautions for if you do drift into sleep (no food in the oven, lit candles etc). Ideally, have a friend or someone with you that can nudge you if you “go too deep.”
- Listen to a hypnotist’s recording. Do this while fully alert first to find a recording that works for you, or use it as a template to record your own. Pick one that is more creative and doesn’t rely too heavily on concentrating on logic-based tasks.
- Be kind to yourself. Losing and regaining focus and drifting down and waking up a bit is all part of the experience and each time you come back to it, you go a little deeper. So remember this.
- Be prepared for frustration or hilarity if it’s just not working, and have a contingency plan of some other way to spend your time.
Final Thoughts on Getting High While Being Hypnotized
All things considered, I’ve seen people come up with some really interesting solutions to problems and make huge leaps in their self-development practice being hypnotized while high. I have seen people overcome blocks and seen creativity flow, and have also witnessed some hilarious failures to remain focused — and even had a few people fall asleep!
I wouldn’t say that being hypnotized while high is necessarily any better than being hypnotized while not high, but for sure it would probably off a different experience. In some ways, it is easier, and in other ways more challenging. I’m slightly biased, but I do think it’s worth trying if you have the ambition.