Recent experimental and theoretical work on the nature of emotion suggests a new theory for hypnosis. The emotion system is inherently complex, involving a wide range of neurological systems including what are described here as structural effectors and chemical mediators affecting specific sites of action. The nine innate affects elucidated by Tomkins are considered as organizers of the other moieties, genetically determined prewritten subcortical programs that convert quantitative stimuli into qualitative experience. Emotion in the adult involves subtle and complex combinations of innate affect with associations to previous experiences of affect provided by neocortical mechanisms. The infant initially expresses affect in an all-or-none fashion, while the caregiver, usually mother, acts as an external modulator of infantile affect display. All the techniques by which the mother learns to achieve affect mutualization and interaffectivity are analogues of what later may be seen as the techniques of hypnotic induction. Hypnosis may be viewed as the intentional alteration of neocortical cognition made possible by the state of primitive interaffectivity achieved when the hypnotic operator enters the central assembly system of the adult by techniques reminiscent of maternal modulation of infantile affect display.