“Down, down, deeper and down”
The Deep Trance myth
“You’re relaxing even more deeply…
…with each breath in…
…letting all that tension go…
…as you breathe out…
And there I was, Status Quo’s only UK number 1 strumming away in my head. Looking back, I suspect this might be one of the reasons my very first hypnosis experience didn’t go so well. Instead of easing me into the required deep trance state, I was suppressing a giggle at the absurdity of this quiet mid-atlantic voice spouting pop-rock lyrics from my youth.
There’s something about these so-called ‘deepeners’ that I find hard to take seriously. Essentially a ‘deepener’ is a form of words that encourages your mind to become ever more relaxed and induces a deep trance state. For me, they always seem so obvious I guess I find it difficult to believe people react so well to them. And that’s the thing. They really do work. (To be fair, the one I’ve quoted above is a pretty obvious and literal version from the 1980’s. There are many others that are far more subtle and skillful).
So what’s the myth, I hear you ask?
This is where the debate opens about how hypnotic trance is used in therapy. Broadly speaking, there are two schools of thought when it comes to trance. Traditional hypnotherapy models use induced trance together with deepeners to put you into a deeply relaxed state. The therapist then uses overt or subtle therapeutic suggestions to re-programme your now highly suggestible subconscious. It’s been done for many, many years. It works.
I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with induced trance. You might think that’d make being a professional hypnotherapist a little awkward. In fact, for me and my clients, it’s proved to be quite the opposite.
Here’s the second school of thought: I prefer to leave the trances up to you.
The myth: you have to be put into a trance state by the hypnotherapist
You see, trance states are a normal part of the everyday experience of being human. Anytime you’re not fully present in the moment, you’re in some form of trance. We daydream. We zone out. Time speeds up when we’re having fun and slows down when we’re bored. We let unseen triggers control our behaviour – a look from the boss makes you feel like you’re being told off by a teacher. If that certain someone’s in the room, you giggle like a child or get so tongue-tied you can’t speak. And every time you think about presenting to those clients, you break into a sweat and your heart races.
These are all trance states. We do them every day. Mostly they work well for us. But sometimes they’re counter-productive and we suffer with stress, anxiety, phobias, self-worth issues, imposter syndrome and countless other labels and symptoms.
Just by being human, you’re already a master of trance.
How does this help you?
This means that you and I can concentrate on therapy.
We just need to find the right way for you to be able to think in both conscious and unconscious mode. We need to blur the lines between critical, deliberate thinking and automatic ‘click-whirr’ responses. What Daniel Kahneman, (Nobel prize-winning psychologist), calls System 1 and System 2 in his excellent book Thinking, Fast and Slow.
You and I simply have conversations that allow you to bring your own trance to the table. It might be so light you don’t notice or so deep you feel like you’re in another world. Whatever it is, it’s yours. It’s the way your mind needs to be in that moment to do the work we’re asking it to do.
And the real advantage?
You become your own hypnotherapist.
But that’s a whole new topic: See you next week?
Daniel Kahneman’s: Thinking, Fast and Slow