What is hypnosis? What is trance? These are the most common questions coming up in people’s minds when I use the words hypnotherapy, hypnosis, trancework and the like. More often than not they actually blend into one single question: what is this supernatural thing that makes people do things beyond their control? Indeed most people think about hypnosis and trance interchangeably. Most people also associate hypnosis with all kinds of wonderful or terrible mystical images ranging from magic shamanic healers to dark witches and all powerful mind control which is obviously a ridiculous idea, and I will hammer this home as often as I need to.
Hypnosis is not magical. Trance is not mystical. A hypnotist is not gifted with mind-bending powers. There is no such thing as the power to control someone’s will and mind. I could go on and on and on (and one day, I will!) but I’m getting distracted… let’s come back to our initial question.
Although the conception of linking trance and hypnosis together is debatable, let’s assume for now that hypnosis is a specific state of mind in which a person is singularly focused and their critical factor (our capacity to analyse and reflect rationally as human beings, our “left brain” if you life for those who like this dichotomy) is reduced or bypassed. We will, for the sake of simplicity, refer to this specific state as trance. This is the most commonly accepted definition of hypnosis (and trance), and although there are plenty of different definitions out there, the vast majority of them feature the elements above in one way or another: state shift, focus of attention, critical consciousness side-lined or bypassed.
So what is trance, and how do we achieve it? I mean this is where the magic works, right? This is the thing that makes hypnosis such a mystical phenomenon, surely we should try and explain it, find out what underpins it and how can some people access or create it! Let me tell you two quick stories…
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine escaped her house as a fire started in her kitchen. Something caught fire and as it was still early stages, she turned off the gas feed, took the dogs out of the house, and then called the emergencies. She had never experienced this before and has no particular training in health and safety, first aid or emergency situations. Yet what she was startled about afterwards, was the calm and control she felt as she did these things. No panic. No thinking. Simple instinctive behaviour. She couldn’t understand or explain why she did that but she knew that she did not think once about what she was doing, yet she did this sequence of actions in a very controlled and calm way.
Another time, I assisted to a fall out between two people I know. Most of us witnessed this kind of situation in life. They started contradicting each other about a minor thing, and a moment later they were having a heated argument until one of them started shouting and from then on, it simply went on a downward spiral. Old stories came back to life although they were completely unrelated to the current matter; reproaches flew; in a few moments everything had just turned into an emotional storm where none of the protagonists could hear reason.
Now, let’s read the definition above once again. Hypnosis is a specific state of mind (trance), in which a person is singularly focused and their critical factor is reduced or bypassed. In the two examples above, were the people involved in a specific state of mind? Yes, this is fairly unquestionable. Did they have a narrowing of attention and focus? It appears they did. Were they engaged in any conscious rational meaning-making processing? It doesn’t sound like they were… Would it be fair to conclude they were all hypnotised? According to our definition, these people were definitely in some kind of trance where selective thinking was established. But these situations probably do not correspond to the widely spread idea of a trance… Maybe they don’t correspond to your idea of what hypnosis is… Is this a surprise to you? Well, here’s the thing…
We are ALWAYS in a trance.
Our lives are just a never-ending sequence of different trances changing all the time. We are in a trance when we worry, we are in a trance when we get angry, we are in a trance when we laugh, we are in a trance when we get surprised or shocked and we are in a trance when we love. We are in a trance when we think about our future and we are in a trance when we remember our past. Everything can be labelled as a trance. For example, what has happened around you as you have been reading this article until now? Wouldn’t you say you were in some kind of trance until you were made aware of it? The truth is “trance” is just a word describing a particular subjective experience and everybody permanently experiences their own subjective reality, moment by moment by moment. Our trances shape the life we live. Our trances constantly shape our reality as it occurs to us, and therefore we could experience different realities depending on the kind of trance we engage in. Some trances create empowerment and we can refer to them as “generative” trances: they have a positive, beneficial and transformative (trance-formative) impact on our lives. Others, “toxic” trances, harm us and ultimately keep us from leading the life we want.
The question is: how can we get rid of our toxic trances and switch into generative ones which empower us and enable us to lead more fulfilling lives? Well, this is what Tranceforming Realities is about. This is what I do.