Talking about the trance phenomena, the first thing to get out of the way is the names. They could be considered unfortunate. Hands up anyone who ever wanted to experience the power of the imagination to make a reality so real they could touch and smell and taste it?
Ok. Now hands up if you want to experience a hallucination?
Doesn’t sound as good, right? :)
But hallucination is normal. All ‘trance phenomena’ are actually totally normal ways in which the subconscious mind organises the human world. Anyone on a quest for a deeper experience of that mind and that world can use trance as a method of reorganising these phenomena. We can revisit those two women I used as examples a couple of posts ago, each of whom walked into stores on different occasions and behaved in ways they didn’t expect. One of them was a bulimic who went in to buy junk food. She came out without having bought any. (She had recently gone through a session of hypnosis with Steve and Carol Lankton, and her internal maps had changed quite a bit.) The second woman was grieving, and went into the store for something or other, then ‘woke up’ in the checkout queue in tears, holding a birthday card for her daughter, who had died months before.
With that second woman, a part of herself was hallucinating a world where her daughter was still alive. A totally natural process, but being used very counterproductively. She was hallucinating a world contrary to one in which she could really live and actualise. Whereas the first woman was doing what is called ‘negative hallucination’, a very common trance phenomenon in which someone can’t see something that is actually there. In this case the woman couldn’t see the junk food. And that was quite useful, because then she didn’t buy it, binge it, and throw it up. These phenomena can be used positively or negatively. People use them all the time anyhow; with a way to use them positively, a life can be actualised.
Everyone has an inner picturing faculty with which to think. It’s very important in some forms of spiritual training — Bardon’s trains you to use this faculty in all five senses, but personally I think it does so a little stiffly. Trancework is a much more fun way, and will also get rid of the blocks if a person happens to get stuck. I wrote and recorded a hypnosis script, which shucked off some bad habits and attitudes I wanted to get rid of. One part of it had me standing in a waterfall. When I listened to the recording, I went deeply into trance, and in this trance I could see the waterfall exactly. I could see the sun glinting through it exactly, I could see the wet rocks. I could hear the rush of water. I could feel the difference between the cold water and the hotter water that lay in thin puddles on the boulders. I could taste the air and feel it moving past my body. I could see the trees and smell them. It was fun!
But I wasn’t “doing” anything; it just happened naturally as I listened in trance. I realised at that moment that in writing the script I could already ‘see’ all this. I just wasn’t actually ‘looking at’ the ‘seeing place’ while I wrote. In trance, I recognised everything was just as I’d put it in.
I thought, let’s experiment with this. I lay and listened to an audiobook of Over Sea, Under Stone (of which more later), until I was mildly in trance, then looked at the seeing place. Sure enough I could see everything in the book as if it were happening. I had first read that book decades previously, and my inner pictures seemed to remind me of that earlier reading. They hadn’t changed very much. I could see all the places, pristine. Meditation makes inner picturing very strong against a background of enormously deep silence, which totally removes attention from the regular senses.
This powerful inner picturing facility also allows anyone to re-experience anything from the past, whether good (to reinforce) or bad (to get over). That’s another trance phenomenon called ‘age regression’, and everything is seen with the same crystal clarity. Again, people age-regress all the time unconsciously, but the hypnosis technique can put the experience to work in a positive manner. A mind can also be orientated to some future, putative time and see that just as clearly. A classic use of that is to see the result of some decisions taken now. Or to go ahead in time to an achieved goal, then look back at the road there. NLPers do quite a lot of that.
How about ‘dissociation’? Dissociation is a trance phenomenon of major importance, but it doesn’t exactly sound positive! It sounds like being cut off — but being cut off in a certain sense or context can be a very good thing. Dissociation can induce a feeling of separation from the body. This can be the start of an out of body experience. It can also be a way to see oneself objectively, which is extremely useful. A classic way to use dissociation is to see a replay of life events as they occur to a child, but not realising who the child is. It turns out to be actually an age-regressed version of the person in the trance, who learns they survived and are ok. Gradually trauma heals.
Again, dissociation is a natural phenomenon. Everyone has memories of spacing out, looking at the scenery as it flicks past the train window, then seeing their transparent reflection looking back. William Fezler describes getting a woman to be ok on a flight by dissociating her from her flight phobia. He also uses an additional trance phenomenon, time distortion, to make the flight seem like it took hardly any time at all. That’s another perfectly normal one. We’ve all had the experience of becoming very engrossed and then suddenly realising three hours have gone by. With hypnosis, that experience is simply used as a resource, and applied where it will do some good for the situation in hand.
But the neutrality of dissociation is far more than that, since it can function as the beginning of much spiritual experience too. Deep spiritual ‘enlightenment’ experiences are dissociated from the normal personality and from the normal sensoria. Maslow mentions that the ‘Peak Experience’ tends to perceive the world in a more detached, neutral manner, and that there is a characteristic disorientation in time and space in which a day can seem like minutes or minutes like a day. He isn’t talking about hypnotic trance, but these are the same phenomena. The subconscious can lead to the superconscious.
Hypnosis isn’t usually seen as a training discipline to develop actualisation, but certainly it can be used it that way. (More of that as we go.) Its mundane and clinical uses are great too, though, because they’re a ready-made system that works. Sorting out the life patterns and actualising a bit on the earthly level is a good preparation for kundalini. There will be less difficulty when the energy really gets strong. Besides, there are other more mundane uses that never go away. If people are in physical pain, dissociation can produce anaesthesia, and that’s pretty cool in itself. Again quite natural. Everyone has had the experience of not really noticing the sensations that happen to be going on in their foot, say; one simply harnesses that. Negative hallucination can be used too, equivalent to not experiencing the foot. Or else positive hallucination, getting the foot numb by visualising plunging it in snow for example.
One of the most important trance phenomena is simply the relaxation and comfort of trance itself. The sheer calm. Using it alone has cured fear of public speaking. It’s cured pain, because being relaxed raises the pain threshold. It’s cured stuttering and skin disorders in and of itself. Tao Semko points out that relaxation alone has awakened kundalini. It is a major part of Glenn Morris’s approach, via the all-important ‘Secret Smile’.
The subconscious mind is incredibly smart. It learns incredibly quickly from all these experiences, and it knows much more than the conscious mind realises. It’s a vast storehouse of experience and learning that perceives things the conscious mind ignores. It has a childlike brilliance and creativity, and it’s this which comes to full actualisation and fruition at kundalini. Creativity goes through the roof.
A question some might ask is: can we be absolutely sure that the trances obtained from these modern methods are as much trances as, say, shamanic dancing and drumming? The answer is they are; it’s a little like that magical rite in Terry Pratchett which uses masses of candles, octograms and thuribles, when all you actually need is three little sticks and 4cc of mouse blood. William Buhlman has included an OBE hypnosis script in Adventures Beyond the Body since 1996; trance, whether shamanic or clinical, naturally tends towards OBE.
People often begin with everyday stuff, quitting smoking etc., but will start to encroach on deeper things naturally if doing a lot of this. William Fezler’s Creative Imagery — How to Visualize in All Five Senses begins with simple self-hypnosis and works on the inner visualising faculty, clearing up everyday life problems such as pain or phobia. But as he goes on, things naturally move in the direction of spiritual phenomena and OBE, because Fezler is basically making a programme of steady experiment with trance and visualisation, and when that is done, spirituality is where it goes. His patients would have spontaneous OBEs and Extraordinary Knowings as a natural outgrowth of longstanding work and practice. I mentioned in an earlier post my own experience that ordinary clinical trancework will activate spiritual awareness and energy just fine.
I’ve experimented on combining this with ch’i kung. I recommend that; more detail another time! The methods supercharge each other, actualising at the level of ordinary life before moving beyond.
In sum, I like to remember this stuff is in everyone. We all experience all the trance phenomena constantly, because they are simply the natural grammar of the subconscious. In just the same way, we all have that sexual energy that rises at kundalini and we all have spiritual magic inside us. We all have the creativity to live closer to actualisation. We just need ways to get at it. Lots of people are on a quest; maybe everyone is. Certainly people who think there is ‘more to life’ are easy to meet. I think for many, some sort of hypnosis will turn out to be a valuable tool in the kit.
Lorna Channon surveyed the Australian Society of Hypnosis and found that a quarter of them had experienced ESP whilst using ordinary clinical hypnosis. As a skeptic herself she was rather taken aback. But these are simply the normal dance steps of the mind. For human beings the extraordinary is actually quite normal, at times, but recognising it and turning it to some advantage is a different matter.
Next week, I’ll be looking over some eye-popping results from the casebook of that genius of clinical hypnotherapy, Milton Erickson.
EDIT: Just noticed that Glenn Morris’s long-time associate Dr. Susan Carlson, who knows plenty about kundalini energy and ch’i, is also highly qualified in a number of hypnosis fields.