Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What is Hypnosis Anyways? (Part 1)

You’re driving your car to the office or work. Somehow you arrive safely even though you are a bit surprised that you don’t remember much of anything that happened from the time you left your driveway to the time you pulled into your parking space. How is that possible?

You got in the car and you drove. You should be able to remember the turns you made, the signs along the way, and the exits you took to get to work, but you don’t. The reason? You were in trance. You may have always wanted to ask a hypnotist if he could make you forget what happened while you were in trance. Now you don’t have to wonder because you do it every day on your own!

There are several kinds of trance (what some people mistakenly call hypnosis). One kind of trance is what we call the dissociated trance. This means you have two very distinct “tracks” going on in your mind at the same time. In the case of driving your car to work and not remembering the commute, you don’t remember it because you were partially dissociated from the driving experience.

The unconscious part of your mind was pretty much driving the car and the conscious part of your mind was “sitting in the passenger seat,” maybe having an imaginary conversation with your boss, your spouse, a customer or your kids.

Whatever the conscious part of your mind was doing, it wasn’t driving the car or you would remember the signs, the roads, the commute and the other cars, but you don’t. The reason you don’t remember is because your conscious mind was distracted by thinking about other things it considered more important than driving.

When someone asks you what a hypnotic trance is like you can tell them, “it’s like when you are driving a car and you can’t remember how you got where you were going to.” The unconscious mind drove the car to work and your conscious mind sat in the passenger seat having conversations with others or maybe watching movies of what the day would be like.

The conscious mind was in deep thought. The unconscious mind was driving the car. We call this experience “dissociation” or “divided consciousness.” This is a common everyday trance experience that nearly everyone is familiar with. It’s that simple!

What is very interesting is that if someone had pricked you (once) with a pin, or pinched you, while you were driving, you almost certainly wouldn’t have consciously felt a thing! Most people experience these dissociated states of mind each and every day.

What are some other examples of the dissociated trance state?

Have you ever read a book or an article and at some point you realized that you didn’t remember what you had just read and had to go back and read it again...and again? (Your conscious mind was focused on something other than the book and your unconscious mind was trying to read the book!)

Can you recall a time when you were listening to someone talk to you but you were really involved inside with your own thoughts and weren’t able to keep up with the person talking to you? (Your conscious mind was busy at work and your unconscious mind was nodding your head but your attention wasn’t really “all there.”)

Have you ever cut the lawn or made dinner, only to barely remember the experience as you were busy “inside” thinking or talking to yourself? (This is like driving to work and not remembering how you got there. Two very distinct tracks going at the same time and you did a good job at both.)

It is worth noting, by the way, that in some cases the unconscious mind does a good job when the conscious mind is busy doing something else. When does this happen?

When the unconscious mind is guiding an activity that is primarily physical in nature or an activity that has been done many times, the conscious mind can attend to other more thoughtful projects on the “inside.” Unfortunately when most people try to do two different “thinking” activities at the same time, the results are usually not as good.

It is very difficult to keep track of two conversations at the same time. It’s also difficult to be “inside” talking to yourself while listening to someone talk with you and then attempt to process both sets of communication. In fact, it just doesn’t work.

The Power Trance and Other Everyday Trances

The Everyday Trance of divided consciousness is the ideal trance for managing pain and reducing the effects of symptoms. It’s necessary to experience divided consciousness if you are going to ride a bike and think about other things at the same time. There is another kind of trance that is experienced by many people everyday and it is called the “flow state” of mind or the associated trance. You might also call it the Power Trance because of the amazing things that people can do while in this state of mind.

This kind of trance happens when you are thoroughly engrossed in some activity that you obviously are challenged by or simply love to partake in. You may have found yourself reading a book and being oblivious to the world around you. Maybe you remember a time when you were watching your favorite TV show and found yourself crying because of the reality of the fictional drama. Perhaps you have played a game and lost track of everything outside of the game to the point where the rest of the world just “disappeared.”

During these kind of experiences you become completely wrapped up in whatever you are doing. What’s going on in the outside world just becomes unimportant. You lose track of anything outside of your desired experience. These periods of everyday trance remind us how easy it is to associate to, or step into, a different reality other than our own. Remember this as you read on!

Have you ever played a game or done some activity where everything else around you just seemed to disappear?

An excellent chess player will play an entire game of chess and not think of anything but that game of chess. We call this being associated. The chess player has no other thoughts, no other distractions. The chess player’s mind is only in the chess game.

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