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 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.