Monday, November 29, 2010

Into trance. . . or out of it

What if trance is so relaxing precisely because it is a state in which you have no concerns for anybody else? Then you could be in trance whenever you were completely self-absorbed.

It doesn't sound particularly nice. It doesn't sound particularly ecological. It doesn't sound like a mysterious gift from your unconscious mind. It sounds - self-absorbed.

I think about this paradox whenever we are running a hypnosis course. People love taking hypnosis - they float around with smiles on their faces, convinced that something wonderful is happening. Something wonderful is happening.

It's just that something wonderful - like many gifts - is not without an edge. While you are in trance, you are completely yourself and completely separate from your environment. No one goes into trance and worries about someone else's pain. There is no jealousy in trance, but there is no compassion there either.

This week, I am reading two books that speak to each other in interesting ways. One is a course workbook called Finding True Magic: Transpersonal Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy/NLP. The other is A Theory of Everything by Ken Wilber. In interesting ways, they both make the same presupposition: that most people live their lives through trances run by other people. They are what their culture, their families, their relationships and their limitations tell them that they are. This is not truth: this is trance.

The question is how do we awake from this trance into whatever version of reality we can bear (think of T. S. Eliot and be cautious: "Mankind cannot bear too much reality."). Do we want to wake up? Training in hypnosis is a way of recognizing trance and practicing waking up from it. But only if we are willing to leave the warm and comfy self absorption trance offers.

I am not convinced by Wilber's arguments that Boomers just need to be a little less full of themselves to reach enlightenment and save the universe. It sounds to me like the kind of arguments people make who have never lived through war or disaster and are convinced, therefore, that they would handle such things with grace and courage. It sounds to me like another trance.

Which circles us back to the choice posed by hypnosis courses. Are they about going into trances - about choosing our trances - or about learning to wake all the way up - now?

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