In the trance state brought about by hypnosis, we are alert, conscious of what is happening and always able to swiftly come out of trance if we need to. We can never be made to do something against our wishes.
There are three specific advantages of the trance state for healing.
- We are more suggestible in this state. Positive affirmations and visualisations (sometimes as metaphors) can filter down from the conscious mind into the subconscious, where many of our deeply held patterns and beliefs lie. We can change deeply held, conditioned beliefs passed down to us through our family or society. When the beliefs in our subconscious mind start to change, we can really effect changes in our lives. Some renowned authors (e.g. Bruce Lipton, author of the Biology of Belief) believe that these beliefs shape our reality. Even if this is overstated, our beliefs profoundly impact our wellbeing, confidence, self-esteem, outlook and quality of life generally. Affirmations can be ineffective because they stay on the conscious (surface) level, but if people can absorb positive statements in a trance-like state, then they can filter down to the subconscious – the 90% of the mind that operates below the conscious level – and really make a difference.
- We can access buried and repressed memories. This is an important key to our deep healing or transformative change. Many trauma therapists and healers, see the release of trapped emotions/ energies as essential for our healing. It is as though unfelt/ unexpressed emotions became ‘stuck in the body’ during a moment of overwhelm, freeze, shock or dissociation, or from a moment when we made a choice to do something that we were not in alignment with. As we release these energies we are clearing the issue at its source. Because we have greater access to these buried emotions in a hypnosis state, we can access these memories to release the energy more easily than many talking therapies are able to. This was recognised back in the mid 1800s by a Viennese physician called Breuer. He discovered that his patients could freely recall events in hypnosis that they could not otherwise remember. As a result of releasing the repressed emotions that were associated with these events, they experienced a relief from their symptoms. Unfortunately, this tradition did not really continue in conventional hypnotherapy. Many hypnotherapists are not comfortable with or trained to hold an emotional release process so this is often an overlooked benefit of hypnosis. It is an essential part of Regression Therapy however.
- We can more easily access our intuitive wisdom. Many healing modalities are based on the notion that the body has a great inherent capacity to heal and the body ultimately knows what it needs to heal (e.g. kinesiology). In hypnosis we can enter a state where we ask questions to gain insight about what the body needs. Ancient shamanic practices can be drawn upon (such as the notion of ‘spirit guides’) as tools to access this deeper wisdom. The body or body parts can also be conversed with in a trance state. Authors such as Caroline Myss believes that illnesses may serve a purpose in our lives or represent a situation that we are unconscious of. These meanings can be revealed in a trance state (see David Quigley’s work in Alchemical Hypnotherapy).