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Nervous Bowels

Nervous Bowels

Many people have Nervous Bowels. This client was a lovely woman, elegant, composed, and with a terrible secret. She gets immediate diarrhea every time she has to meet someone.

It is not uncommon for people to get shaky bowels whenever they think they're going to be judged. It happens to sportspeople just before they have to perform. Entertainers get it before they go onto the stage. Most people feel some sort of unpleasantness in their gut in the face of a stressful situation.

Living with nervous bowels

In this case the client had been pretending for years. She had a high level position in education and was widely respected for her skills. But she had been hiding the need to rush to the toilet every time she was introduced to someone. After some questioning, it became clear that this was not a normal case of stress induced diarrhoea. This woman could happily address the groups of people. She  had no problem with public speaking. She could facilitate small group meetings, and do it very well. Interacting with two people was OK also. But the prospect of talking to just one person sent her running for the bathroom.

After some investigation I discovered it was really about the fear that she would have to leave the other person alone. In her mind, this was unacceptably rude. So her fear was that she would be called away to something else and have to leave the other person on their own. It was really about what that other person would think of her for doing that.

I tried to get to the cause of this. She said she had a great childhood. She could find no reason for this anxiety. The only worry she could find was that she was very nervous about her own parenting skills. However I could not find any direct cause for why leaving one person alone should generate these feelings.

Treating nervous bowels

I decided to use metaphor therapy on her feelings of anxiety. I asked her to put yourself into the position of being forced to speak with one person. The objective was to get her to go into the state so that I could work directly on the feeling. She tried and could not get into the feeling without being there.

So I put her into trance. I did a simple metaphor therapy about allowing her unconscious mind to search for the source of the feeling. Her unconscious mind found the source of the feeling and pulled it out of its hiding place. Then her mind took that thing and broke it open. The contents turns to liquid. I told her the liquid was pouring down inside and leaking out through the soles of her feet until it was gone.

Clearing the problem

This metaphor triggered something, because she started crying. I use that to associate into her feeling of distress. I then asked her to focus on the feeling and describe what object it most resembled. She told me it was like a brown ball full of moving clouds of black. I worked on this representation and got her to shrink it. She was able to shrink it until it was the size of a golf ball. But she was completely unable to get it to go any smaller.

From experience, I know that this is her unconscious mind resisting my attempts to get rid of it. So I changed the metaphor.  I asked her if she had ever sliced a tomato. Slicing a tomato is something that everyone has done. It is easy and familiar. The moment that I said it, she was no longer stuck. She told me that she was now able to slice the golf ball. I then told her to think about dicing vegetables or something like that, as she got rid of the thing completely and she got rid of the thing completely.

I have no idea what the origin of the problem was, and neither does she. But by using metaphor therapy we were able to get rid of it completely.

The origin of her nervous bowels

After talking about the process and the outcome for a while, I asked again about her upbringing. Now that her unconscious mind had removed whatever it was, she told me a different story about growing up. It turned out that she had a not so good childhood. She had an adopted older brother who caused problems in the family and bullied my client. Her mother expected perfection, that my client felt she could never deliver. Her mother was into Guiding, and loved rules, and discipline, and expected nothing else from her children. I suggested that she didn't have to look very far to find the source of her anxiety, and she agreed.

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Retraining unconscious beliefs

I had an email from a therapist about retraining unconscious beliefs.

I have a client who is limited movement in her left side from some childhood illness, yet when I do ideomotor questions she always responds with her left hand. She has shown me out of trance how little she can move her finger....basically she can't.

What can I do with this, what does it mean?

Retraining unconscious beliefs

If I understand you correctly, the client has limited voluntary use of her left hand but can use it in trance. I believe this means that she has been told by somebody long ago that she is not able to move that hand. She has believed that, and still beliefs it. Therefore she has not been able to move it.

Put her into trance and get the bad hand working with ideomotor suggestions, just as you have been doing. Then, still in trance, get her to open her eyes and see the hand moving. Ask her to confirm that it is moving, that it can move. This should be a revelation to her unconscious mind. It will cause her mind to rethink what it can do with her left side.   Suggest to her that because she has witnessed this, it means that she can now begin to exercise that hand until it becomes fully functional again.

Other techniques for Retraining unconscious beliefs

You can also use other techniques. For example, when she in trance and after moving the finger, ask her if you can talk to the unconscious mind. If she agrees, ask her unconscious mind if it will agree to giver her back the power of movement. Stress that this has to be done gradually and carefully, at the right pace for her. If not, ask the unconscious mind why it it is restricting her movement. You should be able to persuade it to allow her to get back full movement.

Another technique would be to take her back to the initial event. Find the scene where she it told or concluded that she cannot move that side. Then use Inner Child work to re-imagine the event and give her a way to be able to recover the movement she lost.

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Perfect childhood problems

Perfect Childhood problems

Yo-Yo Dieting

I had another interesting client at the weekend. She told me "I am tired of sabotaging myself". This woman was heavily overweight. She told a familiar story. She could not control her intake of food. For years she had been yo-yo dieting. Her weight drops by ten kilos, and then thinks that she can now do what she wants to do, and goes back to eating.

Eating problems are always due to unhappiness, so I always start by asking about the client's upbringing. This client said that she had been spoilt and gets on really well with her parents. Every time a client tells me they had an idyllic childhood, my heart sinks. I hear warning bells go off in my head. Anyone who had a perfect childhood would not be sitting in my office. I know they are lying to themselves, so I start probing.

Perfect Childhood Problems

Soon the client was telling me that her strongest memory from childhood was her brother going away to boarding school. She was left feeling devastated, empty and lonely. Then it turns out he went to boarding school because their parents went overseas for three months. Oh, and she was placed with a couple who mistreated her and she was terrified her parents were never coming back. Oh, and yes, the parents went overseas nearly every year, and parked the kids with couples they hired to look after them.

And when they were home, the parents had freezing silences and sulks that lasted for days. And her sister has anorexia. And her brother was always the favorite until he stopped doing so well at school and he got rejected. And she was sent away to boarding school. And she is terrified to this day of being abandoned, of not having anyone, of not being good enough. She has to be constantly pleasing people, making other people happy. Apart from that it was a perfect childhood!

It is always amazing how people can refuse to examine their own life. It is so easy to convince themselves that everything was lovely, because the truth is too painful to contemplate.

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affirmations suggestions emile coue

Affirmations Suggestions Emile Coue

I have been thinking about the use of suggestion in therapy. This arose from having a discussion with someone over 'suggestion therapy'. We were arguing about what exactly is 'a suggestion?' And that got me to thinking about all the different forms of suggestion. There are direct suggestion, indirect suggestions, stories, sayings, covert hypnosis, stealth hypnosis and all the rest. 

One of the most commonly used is self-suggestion, or affirmation. Affirmations have been around since Antiquity: Aristotle said 'A vivid imagination compels the body to obey it'.

Affirmations suggestions and Emile Coue

Modern affirmations started with Emile Coue (photo above). He was French pharmacist (1857-1926) who noticed that his customers got better the more he puffed up the power of the medicine they bought from him.  The same medicine sold without his praise didn't seem to work so well.  He believed that when willpower and the imagination were combined the results were unstoppable. He believed that conscious auto-suggestion was superior to hypnosis. He was the first person to state that "you are what you think". When you think about something, your mind forms an image of it, and your unconscious mind will strive to achieve that image. If your thoughts are always dark and negative and self-critical, then your mind will tend to dwell on that, and make you unhappy. He developed the famous affirmation 'Every day in every way I am getting better and better'. This affirmation was designed to counteract negative thinking.

Suggestion can work with the conscious mind

Coue's work showed that you don't have to access the unconscious mind to make changes, you can also make changes through the conscious mind. With affirmations, people are giving themselves suggestions while fully conscious of what they are doing. Coue taught that willpower is not enough. No amount of willpower is going to overcome negative thinking. He emphasized the need to imagine what it is that you want first. Then think of ways you can achieve that. Finally you reinforce it with an affirmation.

There is an extensive list of affirmations on this site. 

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hypnosis hypervigilance

Hypnosis Hypervigilance Induction

I had a challenging client yesterday.

They say that everyone can be hypnotized but this client did her best to prove it wrong. She was very nervous about trance but started willingly enough.

I started the standard induction and when we got the 'now close your eyes' bit, she closed them, and five seconds later, opened them again. She was constantly fidgetty, touching her face, moving around, not settling down. I told her to close her eyes again, she did so and opened them again two seconds later. But I was determined to get this client into trance. I like to think I know what I am doing and at the very minimum I should be able to get anyone into trance. So I persevered.

Challenging clients don't relax

She just would not relax. She kept opening her eyes. I used the stairs induction, but she opened her eyes on the last step. I then used a beach induction with her lying on a beach relaxing and willing the clouds to disappear. Still opening her eyes. Then I did a long gentle breathing induction, and began to get some response and signs of going into trance. I then did a shortened progressive muscle relaxation and finally got her relax. I then tested with an eye catalepsy.

Hypnosis Hypervigilance

I think that the problem with this client was really hypervigilance, a fear of losing control. For people like this, the idea of me saying 'Now just close your eyes and trust me' triggers immediate defence responses that you have to work hard to overcome.

However the lesson from this is that if you keep at it, eventually everyone will go into trance.

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Improve your induction success by personalizing

Get the client to design their own induction.

There is a simple way to improve your induction success when doing hypnotic trance. Before the hypnosis session starts, ask your client to describe some outdoor place where they might relax while watching some clouds. It can be a real place they remember, or some imaginary place where they could really relax totally. They might be lying, or sitting, or even steering a boat. Leave it open to them, as long as it is a place where they can imagine relaxing easily and deeply. You can ask them for it during the interview, or you can give them some notice and get them to write it out and bring it with them to your session. The idea is to get something that is unique to each client, and to match the induction to exactly how they would like it to be.

Use that special location to personalize the experience

You can then use that as the core of your induction. Get the client to close their eyes and talk them through relaxing their arms and legs. As they relax their body, do a count down and take them down stairs, suggesting that with each step they are relaxing more and more. Finally, suggest that at the bottom of the steps there is a way out and they are in their favourite relaxing place. They are watching the clouds go by and letting go of all tensions and worries.

Then tell them to focus on one particular cloud. That cloud will slowly descend and surround them. They will begin to feel themselves becoming absorbed into the cloud, becoming weightless, and losing all connection with the earth around them. Embellish and expand on the idea depending on what their chosen relaxing place offers.

Then you can suggest that they are transported in the cloud to wherever you want to start the therapy. Or simply state that now they can see a screen showing them doing something, or some other visualization.

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put myself into trance

How does an experienced hypnotist do self hypnosis?

I was recently asked what I thought was the best way of going into trance, and how I put myself into trance.

I find that my preferred method is simple bio-feedback.

I sit in a quiet place and focus on my breathing. Then I imagine relaxing my arms, my legs, etc. I very quickly (not more than ten seconds) go into a deeply relaxed state.

Then I just allow my mind to ‘open’. If nothing comes, then I focus on enabling a finger life. This usually opens things up as well making me even more relaxed.

I tried it just a moment ago so that I could check what I do do. Initially it was like a whole jumble of things came into my mind. After a few seconds, one or two of them in particular began to emerge and fade. While this was happening I felt my body relaxing more and more, my head began to fall back. Then I got an image, something like a roiling cloud, with something like an elephant’s trunk coming out of it. This then turned into something more like an atomic mushroom cloud. Then the important part became the two areas on each side of the “trunk”. And then I became aware of a feeling. I realized I was worried about money. (I have recently retired from my university lecturing post and my university income will stop at the end of next month. Clearly this has been weighing on my mind unconsciously.) I waited a few moments to see what would develop from that, I got the feeling that this would take a long time, but several solutions began to suggest themselves to me.
Because I was writing this blog post I chose to come out of trance. I still feel a bit spacey. But I have no doubt that I was in trance and beginning to go into my unconscious mind. The whole process probably took less than a minute.

I’m sure that everyone has their own way of going into trance, and mine is not necessarily the best, but that’s how I do it.

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Does every trance change you?

There are essentially four ways that I judge whether or not I am hypnotised:

1. Have I achieved Effortless Selective Thinking? I.e. Can I easily focus on one specific idea to the exclusion of all others, or does my mind wander when I don't want it to?
2.  I completely lose awareness of my immediate environment, and the noises and distractions it generates?
3. Do my limbs feel so heavy that they are almost impossible to move?
4. Do I visualise moving patterns under my eyelids? This is very much a feature of hypnosis for me.

I know that I do not necessarily need to go very deep to do useful work on myself, but if my mind wanders I do not feel that I am deep enough.

The very first time I tried the Dave Elman technique on myself I went so deep it took me 90 minutes to get out of it, despite the fact that I had slumped forward into a very uncomfortable position! I have never got that deep with it since.

Twice, using a different technique, but on consecutive days, I went so deep that I had the sensation of leaving my body, everything going white, and feeling a Nirvana-like state where I had a direct line to God. I really thought I had cracked it, but have never achieved it since!

What you say is very interesting, because despite having sometimes gone very deep, there are plenty of times when I fail to even get close to Effortless Selective Thinking.

I am hoping to find something in your collection that will assist me to achieve a reasonable trance state more reliably.

Thank you again for your help.

I replied:

I am not sure that I agree with your measures of how to know when you're in hypnosis or not. I am certainly not a world expert on these things, but it does seem to me that some of the indicators you are using are contradictory. Others are not good predictors of the presence of trance.

You listed:

1. Have I achieved Effortless Selective Thinking? I.e. Can I easily focus on one specific idea to the exclusion of all others, or does my mind wander when I don't want it to?
2.  I completely lose awareness of my immediate environment, and the noises and distractions it generates?
3. Do my limbs feel so heavy that they are almost impossible to move?
4. Do I visualise moving patterns under my eyelids? This is very much a feature of hypnosis for me.

Effortless Selective Thinking

Number one is not something I would associate with being in trance. Does the "Effortless Selective Thinking" refer to some specific thing, or something you picked from a  training course? I have never come across this before.
Almost by definition, if you can focus on something, then you are not in trance. Focusing on something is certainly a very good way to get into trance, but is not itself trance. Once you enter trance, you have no idea whether you're focusing or not, because you have lost conscious control. For me, the essence of the unconscious is that it does go off in random directions. When I enter my unconscious I enjoy the unpredictability of it. I love the images that morph from one into another. It is rather like a dream. I would actually feel cheated if my mind did not wander. It is the wandering away into the realms of the subconscious which lets me know that I am actually in trance.

Completely lose awareness

Number two does seem to me to be a legitimate indicator of trance in some instances, but not in others. If you are totally lost in a TV show you may very well be unaware of your surroundings, and in trance, but you are completely aware of what's going on in the plot and hearing the actors speak, etc.

Limbs feel so heavy

Number three is definitely not an indicator of trance. You can be totally relaxed, and not be in trance. You can be totally in trance, and not relaxed. Relaxation is used to help to get into trance, but it is not itself trance.
I personally often find I'm lying in bed, every muscle relaxed, feeling the weight of my body, not wanting to move, hearing myself snoring, but still being aware that I am aware of my body and that I am actively thinking. The opposite is also true. Bandler reports that people have been hypnotised while pedalling on an exercycle.
So relaxation is not a necessary part of trance. The same is true of highway hypnosis where a driver loses all consciousness of driving. Definitely in trance, but is still guiding the car through a changing landscape. The Benson Relaxation Response will put most people into trance, and leave them totally relaxed. But the trance is the result of the repetition, not of the relaxation.

Visualise moving patterns

Number four, the patterns under the eyelids, is not trance either. When you close your eyes in a quiet place you are depriving your mind of external sensory stimulation. Your mind is still very active. And it searches for things to work on. What it finds is random firings of the optical nerves and interprets these as external stimulus, and tries to make sense of them. These are often mapped onto images of parts of faces, or other familiar things. This is close to trance, and often experience on the way into trance, but again, this is not itself trance. It is a purely physical phenomenon.  It can be used as an induction. After a while, the conscious mind gets bored with it, and allows the subconscious mind to wander off to wherever it wants to go, which is the definition of "being in trance".

Deep Trance

You mentioned several times the importance of being in a deep trance. It might be useful to remind yourself that there is no such thing as a "deep" trance. Trance does not have levels. "Deep" is a metaphor, an attempt to explain something that we do not understand in terms of something else that we do understand. There are no gradations of "deep". No one has ever successfully measured trance, in any meaningful way. There is no dipstick to the unconscious. There are certainly many different trance phenomena, but they are not connected to any sense of "deep". They are what they are, independent of each other, and no one has so far found any way of explaining and predicting when and how they arise in the mind.
I think you should try to suspend judgement. I admire the successes you have had so far. Well done.
However, you might want to consider that every time you go into your own unconscious mind you are inevitably causing changes to happen. After you come out of a vivid trance, you have caused or encouraged changes in your own psyche, and you will no longer be the same person. That is the essence of what we as hypnotherapists do in our therapy. That is why we lead our clients into trance.
So perhaps the person who had the "deep" trance with the Elman induction can not repeat it because they are not the same person?
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Problems with self hypnosis

Problems with self hypnosis

A reader wrote to me about Problems with self hypnosis

As a therapist of the Resolute Organisational personality type, I do not find it easy to hypnotise myself. I have used various techniques with mixed success - sometimes going deep, but often not. Strangely, I find Dave Elman's technique has worked quite well at times.

I replied...

I find your comments about putting yourself into trance quite interesting. My experience of hypnotising people is that people are only resistant until they have been successfully hypnotised. Once their subconscious mind realises that they can give up control and nothing terrible happens, then they are as susceptible to hypnosis as anyone else. A resistant person does not stay resistant.
If you have been successfully hypnotised to a deep state, then your mind should have no problems with allowing you to go back to that deep state easily and quickly. After a bit of practice, the very simplest induction should put you back into that state.

Personal Experience of Trance

I know that when I was in training many years ago, the instructor said that I was the hardest person he had ever come across to get into a trance. If he used an instant induction, I would drop into trance just like everyone else, but immediately come out of it again. My mind totally did not want to give up control and in fact would not. It took quite a few sessions, and many different approaches, before I finally slid into trance and experienced the magic of accessing my unconscious mind.
When I have a resistant client, I usually fall back on the My Friend John technique. That usually succeeds in slipping past the person's self-preservation control mechanisms and drops them into trance quite nicely. Because I am a working hypnotherapist I do not usually see people more than twice, three times. So I have very little experience of inducing other people over and over again. I do have 20 years experience of inducing myself.

Problems with self hypnosis changing effects

I notice in myself that after the initial period when hypnosis was mysterious and deeply satisfying, the quality of my trances changed. I spent many years experimenting on myself. In one of those sessions I was trying to give myself a finger lift instruction while in trance. What I ended doing was accidentally anchoring my hand on being in trance. Now, every time I go into trance, I hand twitches. For example, whenever I start to lead a client into trance, I start going into trance myself, and I notice that my fingers are twitching and my hand is lifting. This tells me that I am entering trance, even though I am fully alert and talking to a client.
I also notice that, distressingly often, when I think I'm working on my computer, I find my fingers moving. This tells me that part of my mind has actually gone into trance and I am not nearly as focussed as I think I am. Even as I write this, thinking about what to say next, and remembering  the experiences, the process of visualising or accessing those memories is putting me into a trance because my fingers are twitching.

Maybe you don't really have Problems with self hypnosis

Perhaps you are expecting too much from self hypnosis? I believe that once you are adept at going from fully conscious into your subconscious that you slip in and out of it constantly.
My theory is that when you first start playing around with hypnosis there is a very clear difference between being in trance and not being in trance. But once you are skilled at it then you get additional abilities. One of them is the ability to "work" in trance. You can be in trance and still be conscious of what is happening.
On the other hand, a beginner trance takes up all your attention and you are quite clear that you're in that state. It's clear because it's so different. But once your mind is happy about slipping in and out, it becomes standard. Nobody notices at what point they slip into a daydream. A daydream is simply being in your unconscious mind and allowing it to wander where it will. It is a form of hypnosis.

Perception is everything

So what I'm thinking is, that you are actually succeeding and going into trance with these various inductions. I suspect you are getting a more noticeable result from the Elman induction because it is long and repetitive and emphasises bodily responses. Trying to open your eyes, trying to lift your fingers, and so on gives you immediate feedback on how you are feeling, and emphasises that the feeling is in fact different from your normal control of your muscles.
I wonder if it is the case that when doing the Elman you are not just in trance, but noticing that you are in trance. It is quite possible that you are going into trance with those other inductions very quickly and easily, and just not being aware that you are in trance because being in trance has become such a normal experience.
I find that after years and years of being comfortable with being in my unconscious mind, I have literally become unconscious of it. It does not seem strange or in any way odd, and therefore I cannot tell when I'm in trance and when not. My only indicator is that when I am going into trance my fingers twitch. Otherwise I would have no idea it was happening.
I can in fact put myself into trance simply by willing it. I can slide my attention down to my left hand side... and even as I think about telling you how I do it I find my fingers curling up. The whole process takes less than three seconds.

Problems with self hypnosis

If I deliberately want to put myself into a deep trance, I lie down in my favourite chair and do a quick count down. Sometimes I am so worked up about whatever problem I'm working on that I just can't let go. But most of the time I feel myself relaxing, going into trance, my mind wanders off somewhere random, then I suddenly find myself back in the present after some long period of being unaware of where I am and what's been happening. I'm not really sure whether I remember what I was thinking about or not. I might have been asleep. I might have been daydreaming. But I certainly feel a great deal more refreshed but I do have the feeling that I get on my lips after I have been hypnotised by someone else. So my best guess is that I was in deep trance.
I can only speak from my own experience, but I do think that the personal experience of going into trance changes over time and becomes much less noticeable.
Perhaps that is what you are experiencing? Perhaps there is nothing wrong with the way you are going into trance?
Have you read the book  Trances People Live by Stephen H. Wolinsky? 
It has some very interesting things to say about when we are, and are not, in trance in our daily lives, and how to tell the difference.
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Analytic self-hypnosis

Trance for analytic self-hypnosis?

Analytic self-hypnosis

What would you propose as a good way for an analytic to do self-hypnosis? I’ve tried lots of ways and hypnotists but have not had success.

I replied:

Keep in mind everyone can be hypnotized. Start from there. The trick is let your mind analyse the thing until it gets fed up with analysing the same thing and your mind switches off and you drift into trance without realizing you are doing it.

What I recommend is that people get a well made hypno recording and play it over and over until it becomes so familiar your mind gets bored. At some point in the umpteenth listening your mind will forget about analysing what is being said and while the mind is distracted the instructions in the recording will be heard by the unconscious mind without filtering and you will fall into trance. After that, once your mind accepts that you can let go of control and you don't die, then you will be able to go into trance easily anytime.

Or use Benson's Relaxation Response for analytic self-hypnosis

Alternatively, if you want to do self hypnosis, do Benson's Relaxation Response. Sit somewhere without distractions and repeat a word or phrase over and over, either aloud or in your mind. You might have to have several goes at it. But at some point you will lose contact with the meaning of the word and you will realize that you are actually in trance. This is the basis of all mantra based meditation routines - it will work, eventually.

I have spent months on end listening to good hypnosis tapes and I am likely going into hypnosis but I am not getting any of the benefits. It could be that I am just falling asleep but I come back on que so I think not.

I will try repeating a phrase as you suggest. I have not heard of this before. Will see if I will do better with it.

My response was

I wonder if you are expecting too much from hypnosis? It is likely that you are actually going into trance. But because you are expecting something more, you are feeling disappointed. 

You might be better to read up on some metaphor therapy techniques, or visualization techniques and let them guide you. It is quite possible to direct your thoughts while in trance. It takes a bit of practice, but it can be done.

Alternately, get an experienced hypnotist to take you into trance. Then you will know that your entrance. You can arrange for the hypnotist to bring you in and out of trance so that you can feel the difference. A good hypnotist will also be able to teach you, or show you, various things that you can do while in trance. Once you're aware of the feeling you will be able to go into it anytime you want, and be free to explore your own unconscious. It is definitely worth continuing with this. Exploring in trance is almost magical.

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