Why does a hypnotherapist have a client close his or her eyes, relax and go inside? Why the “induction” to put a client in a state of trance?
Hypnotherapy is based upon the use of the state called trance. A trance is a state of heightened relaxation and inwardly focused attention. But why trance?
In fact, many systems and philosophies preach the virtues of a state of relaxation and inwardly focused attention.
NLP: Trance is the basis of nearly every NLP technique. NLP techniques guide a person into a light trance as part of the process.
Meditation: The practice of meditation is all about turning inward and relaxing the body and mind.
Yoga, Massage and Acupuncture: Yoga, massage and acupuncture all put the client in various states of light to deep relaxation.
EFT: EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) also puts a client into a state of relaxed inner focus.
Shamanism: To perform healing ceremonies, shamans in tribal cultures around the world and throughout history have entered altered states of consciousness in which they tune out the outside world and “trance out”.
Esotericism: Study any form of esotericism, such as Wicca or Ceremonial magick, and you’ll consistently find that every system teaches a method for entering a light state of relaxation to perform ritual work (typically called the “Relaxation Ritual”).
But why trance? Why do so many approaches center around the trance state?
On many occasions while coaching clients, I was confused as to why they might defend a belief or behaviour that clearly wasn’t working for them, why they seemed unable to understand something we were exploring or why they seemed unable to make a change.
What was I doing wrong?
Well, nothing and something. The key was the state the client was in.
To Trance or Not to Trance
Most of the time, we try to solve problems with our logical, rational mind. Our conscious mind tries to figure out what is going on and find a solution. But it doesn’t always work, and rarely works when we’re faced with some kind of emotional or psychological problem.
When we’re in a state of eagerness or urgency about change, the sympathetic nervous system is activated. This is the stress response, and it’s not effective in helping us change. Effort usually gets in the way. What’s more is that in a state of conscious awareness, consciousness is not malleable. Instead, we need to be able to let go, activate the parasympathetic nervous system, the relaxation response, so we can learn and change. Trance makes consciousness plastic and changeable.
When I’d get stuck with clients, I kept having a sneaking suspicion that what was missing was trance.
What would happen right now if the client was in a light state of trance?
For most people in out society, its the rational and analytical side of us thats most developed. But theres so much more to human experience than logic! In sessions, When I sensed that a client’s conscious, rational side was keeping them stuck, I’d have them do something simple: I’d have them close their eyes.
Many times, asking clients to close their eyes and go inside would lead to almost magical changes and realizations. It was as if we had done and explored what we needed to do and explore consciously, and now it was time for the next step. Having clients enter trance led to the next step in the process of change.
Why would trance have this effect?
When people have problems, what they usually don’t do is slow down enough to understand what the problem really is. They are so eager to change that they rush and hurry… and miss the real issue. Add to that that they’re trying to change and exerting effort, and that effort prevents change from happening. Trying to change is about as effective as trying to sleep: the more you try to sleep, the more you stay awake.
Trance helps us slow down enough to decipher what’s really going on, and trance also puts us in a comfortable state of letting go. Relaxed letting go makes consciousness malleable and creates space for us to learn and change.
One of the basic tenets of NLP is this:
All learning, behaviour and change is unconscious.
What does this mean? It means that to learn and change, we must get the conscious mind out of the way and let the unconscious do its thing. And this is just what many systems do by putting a person in a state of trance.