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What is a trance?

Posted: Sunday, September 15, 2013

We spend half our lives in trance - we just don't call it that!  Daydreaming is a trance state.  We drift in and out of daydreams without even noticing sometimes.  It is such an ordinary thing.

In truth, the word 'hypnosis' doesn't mean anything.  Hypnos was the Greek God of Sleep, and there isn't any sleep in hypnosis.  If you are asleep, you are not in a trance, you're asleep.  It is a different state.  If my client falls asleep I have to wake them up, I can't work with someone who is asleep. (Well, I can, but it takes much longer!)

The difference between counselling and hypnotherapy

When we're chatting, we are not in trance.  In non-trance states, the Subconscious mind pays little or no attention to what is going on around us.  So the counsellor's conscious mind is talking to the client's conscious mind, and nobody's Subconscious mind is involved.  The same goes for a session with the psychiatrist, the psychotherapist, the CBT counsellor or the psychoanalyst.  When you meet with your dietician, your doctor, the consultant, your personal trainer or the woman who runs the Weight Watchers group, your Subconscious mind ain't listing to a word of it.  So whatever guidance or fine advice any of these worthy persons has to offer, only your conscious mind will hear about it.


Why is that a problem, Chris?

I'm glad you asked me that, because this goes to the heart of what nearly everyone out there is doing wrong!  This is exactly why eveybody thinks it is so hard to lose weight, stop smoking or drinking, quit gambling or get off the cocaine.  This is exactly why people think they are "addicted" to sugar or chocolate, "hooked" on cannabis or ketamine or whatever. 

You see, none of those behaviours are outside your control.  At first, they are under conscious control - you can take it or leave it.  If you don't do it very often, and there is no regular pattern to the behaviour, it will remain under conscious control, and everybody knows somebody who only has a cigarette every now and then, eats a bit of chocolate occasionally, has been known to do a line of coke on a special occasion but never buys any, has a flutter every now and then or only ever bets on the Grand National.  It is common enough.

Not a problem.  Voluntary.  But how come, if cocaine is addictive, if nicotine is truly "the most addictive drug in the world", if gambling is an addiction... how come most people never become addicts?

Simple: they didn't do it often enough for the Subconscious mind to notice. 

More than just a little helper

Your Subconscious mind does an awful lot for you, every day.  And one of the things it is very good at is spotting a behaviour that has become regular and predictable and then taking over the running of it for you, so you no longer have to think about it in order to do it.  Instead, you get an impulse that prompts you to repeat that behaviour in the typical situations in which you did it before.  That impulse is the craving system in action, and it drives a lot of our routine behaviour for us.  So that we don't have to think consciously about every little thing we do, the brain 'reminds' us with a nudge - a little helpful 'shove' in that direction.  This reminds us when to eat, drink, light up, and if it becomes habitual, gamble, buy more cocaine, comfort eat, buy yet another handbag... and if you don't respond, you get another shove!

Believe it or not, your brain is just trying to be helpful!  But if a problem arises with the behaviour, it will be the conscious mind that notices, not the Subconscious.  And that's when you start making conscious decisions and conscious efforts (willpower) to change it, and guess what?  It doesn't change - if anything you feel even stronger impulses to do it!  This is because cravings are 'reminder' signals, so if you don't respond, you get another, stronger signal: the brain assumes you didn't notice the previous shove so it shoves you again, but harder.  Pretty soon this drives you up the wall and willpower is rarely sufficient to override this.


The Solution

The useful thing about trance - the only useful thing about it, actually - is that whenever we drift into trance, for any reason, the Subconscious mind does something it doesn't usually bother to do: pay close attention to what is going on around us.  So if you are talking to a person who happens to be in a trance, their Subconscious mind will hear what you are saying.  Now, this does NOT give you any influence over that person: that is a very common myth.  It is often said (wrongly) that if a person is in a trance, they are more suggestible than a person who is not in a trance.  This is a misunderstanding.  If the person is not in a trance, their Subconscious wouldn't hear the suggestion at all, so of course it wouldn't respond!  If they are in a trance, their Subconscious mind will hear the suggestion.

Then it will do whatever it likes!  Fortunately, the Subconscious mind is generally inclined to be helpful, as long as we ask nicely.  In fact, knowing how best to talk to the Subconscious mind is very important, because it doesn't have to do a damn thing.  But you can leave that to me, I've been doing this a long time now!

Now: if there is a hard way to do something (willpower) and an easy way to do it (hypnotherapy), which is the more intelligent choice?  Well exactly, so if you have a habit you'd like to change, or indeed any other problem you don't seem to be able to fix yourself, why not call me and find out more?  0161 474 8120 Office Hours, or call/text 07748 838 644 any time, any day including evenings and weekends, I don't mind.  You'll be glad you did!


Chris Holmes is Director of Central Hypnotherapy and has been helping the people of Stockport, Cheshire, Manchester and Tameside get rid of all sorts of problems since August 2000 
















Categories for this article

  • Hypnotherapy