By Susanna Sweeney, MSC, MBACP, CHT
The hypnosis- or self hypnosis trance is probably the element of hypnosis that is causing the most misunderstandings and is the most shrouded in mystery. I have compiled this article to give you a good idea of what to expect, who trance is suitable for and what you can do with it.
The only difference between hypnosis and self hypnosis trance lies in having- versus not having, a hypnotist present.
people find it easier to let go into trance when they can ‘hand over’
their mind to a hypnotist. If this is an issue for you and you would
like to learn how to work with self hypnosis trance, you can find a
hypnotist to tutor you in self hypnosis.
Other people choose self
hypnosis over hypnosis because they don't feel uncomfortable ‘handing over’
their minds- they are afraid they may lose their willpower or even their
self control. (Check out my article on hypnosis myths to clarify this
myth and many others.)
Whichever method you choose, it’s important to note that there is no difference in the nature of trance whether you are using hypnosis or self hypnosis. You will find a section below that discusses in-depth what that trance feels like.
For the first stage of relaxation, your hypnotist will typically talk you through a relaxation protocol that relaxes your body.If you use self hypnosis, you will do this by yourself.
Very often, a progressive relaxation is used that relaxes parts of the body one after the other, from head to toe, or the other way around. You may experience an awareness of tension you are holding in different body parts before your body will let go.
For the second stage of relaxation, you will need to relax your mind as well as your body. This means inducing a slight state of confusion. There are special protocols used to achieve this, which again can be used to induce either hypnosis or self hypnosis trance.
The trance can be deepened further after this if required with so called deepeners. Often, that won't be necessary as a light or medium level of trance will be sufficient.
As you sink deeper, and as the hypnotist brings you further into hypnosis by giving you a protocol that helps to relax your mind you may experience some body sensations.
Throughout the session, the depth of hypnosis or self hypnosis trance will fluctuate.
You may be very aware of your surroundings at the
start but without you noticing, this awareness will become much less. You may notice just a couple of things such as the therapist's voice or the sensation of your back touching the chair.
You may even lose
awareness altogether for a part of the session, drifting into a very
deep place that is not quite like sleep. You won't have a memory of this part of the session.Don't worry though, your mind is still listening to the suggestions.
You may then come back to a more shallow place where you notice some more body sensations, and sometime later you may go deeper again. These variations are a natural part of the process.
At the end of the session, whether
this is self hypnosis or hypnosis, there will be a protocol for calling
you back into ordinary awareness. This is typically done by counting,
say from one to three, instructing you to open your eyes. This so called
“waking up” (which isn’t really waking up because you weren’t actually
asleep)- contrary to public belief- is very easy.
You will become aware of your body once more, you will find you eye lids becoming lighter, you will feel a desire to stretch out, and you will feel ready to go about your day.
An important point to be made here is that the benefits of hypnotic trance are open to everyone.
Recent research from Stanford shows that most people are easily hypnotizable, as in able to enter a light to medium trance.
A light to medium trance
is enough depth to successfully work on most issues. From clinical
practice I know that the remaining 4.6% who find it hard to go into
trance can learn, or teach themselves, how to.
A 2016 study from Stanford which used brain imaging techniques tells us more about what actually happens in the brain during hypnosis or self hypnosis trance.
In those parts of the brain that are associated with recognizing your surroundings and in those associated with taking action activity was much reduced, but parts associated with communication between the mind and body were more active.
This would lead to being able to be highly focused. It also opens the door to being better able to process the impact of stress without experiencing the usual negative physical symptoms associated with stress.
While most people can achieve at
least a light to medium depth of trance very easily and while the rest
can be taught how to go there, reality is that people are susceptible to
trance states to different degrees.
There are a number of
susceptibility scales in use which measure how susceptible individuals
are to hypnotic trance. Two examples for such scales are the Stanford susceptibility scale
and the Harvard susceptibility scale.
Different scales use different
criteria for susceptibility, so there is no standard agreed upon
measure which has been accepted across the board, but at least those
scales give a general idea of individual differences which are important
to establish in any research on hypnosis.
For all intents and purposes as far as hypnotherapy for change in your life is concerned, for most uses of hypnosis you are going to work on, achieving a light to medium depth of trance is sufficient. For pain hypnosis or childbirth hypnosis, to achieve complete freedom from pain, you need a deep trance state. Achieving this takes practice for most people, and not everyone may get there- but some people clearly do.
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