Trance

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. Do 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. Do 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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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".
 
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?

 

 

David Mason

David Mason

Therapist at Wellington Hypnosis
David Mason is an experienced and university qualified hypnotherapist with 15 years of clinical practice. He has a PhD and a Masters degree in psychology.
He is highly regarded in the hypnotherapy community and is regularly consulted for advice by other hypnotherapists around the world. He is known for the quality of his published scripts. He presents at international hypnotherapy conferences and has published on hypnosis and advanced hypnotherapy.
He lives in Wellington New Zealand with his wife Trish and a cat called Parsnip.
email: davemason@besthypnosisscripts.com
David Mason

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