I have been exploring the difference between naturally occurring light trances, trances that occur naturally and then are deepened intentionally, and hypnosis. Sometimes I explore the differences by watching or experiencing hypnosis, sometimes by reading the experts, and sometimes I just notice what happens when I am focused and pulling the people around me into that focus.
Most people are curious about what "real" trance is and how it works and even whether or not it is "real." Scientists don't seem to have a solid position on the question, although the general consensus seems to be that there is no conclusive evidence that trance is a distinct and replicable state. If I were a hypnotist, perhaps that would be important to me. But I am not a hypnotist. I am a teacher and a coach.
What matters to me is twofold: that people have more choice about where they pay attention and that I be good at recognizing when people are ready to hear suggestions. When I take someone into a trance, they teach themselves that attention is a choice. Distractions (from sirens to sharp pains) can be within their experience without disturbing their experience. They learn to have that choice. And I learn how I can support that state of relaxed focus in them so that they are able to hear positive suggestions.
I do not want to tell other people how to solve their problems, much less how to live their lives. I have no desire to control their thoughts or behaviours. I do want to see evidence that they are being influenced by me. I want to see them recognize and shape new choices. To me, it doesn't matter whether I call the state in which that happens "trance." It matters that the state can be developed reliably and that it works.
This week, I read an article that said that most of the phenomena associated with trance are produced by the expectation that they will be part of the experience. I know from my own work that talking about trance while in rapport with one or more people will begin to create a trance. It's useful in that people relax (which allows the oxygen to circulate freely through their bodies) and connect and consider new ideas with less friction and more optimism.
Hypnotists will say that trance is a healthy state, even if all that happens within trance is that awareness of pulling out of conflict and incongruence and settling into focus. Beyond that, the quality of the results may be determined by the quality of suggestions that are offered to the mind in trance. I am not sure I believe this.
I am sure that the quality of respectful connection supports and deepens trance and, in turn, that trance allows the development of a deep and respectful connection. Within that connection, suggestions may be made and accepted or modified in useful ways. There is no evidence trail in unconscious process. There is only the evidence of changes in expression or thought or action. If I make suggestions that someone find the answers they need to move ahead comfortably and ecologically, I am satisfied when they report back that they are moving ahead comfortably and ecologically.
What I like best about hypnosis is the covert suggestion it makes that effective communication depends on agreement. Anything that disturbs agreement will disrupt a trance. Hypnosis is the discipline of guiding in and through agreement. Conflict would be a friction that disturbs the work and weakens the results. All hypnosis rests on a state of relaxed, respectful connection between the hypnotist and the subject. It's not one person acting on another: it's two people collaborating in an agreement so peaceful that it looks like sleep.
Think for a moment about someone who loves you. Think of the good things that person wishes for you, things that you cannot always imagine by yourself and for yourself. Notice how it feels to hear that voice wishing those things for you. . . and you'll know more about how hypnosis really works.