Hypnotherapy is a form of therapy where we work with trance, more precisely: with hypnotic trance phenomena. The natural ability of people to (usually) go into a trance unconsciously can be used in therapy in a conscious, healthy and safe way as a means to get in touch with our inner knowing. Turning your attention inward in trance makes it easier to discover the fundamental experiences that may underlie a problem and to find new and healthy solutions.
Each of us experiences trance phenomena in all kinds of everyday situations or contexts. Trance phenomena are characterized by a limitation or fixation of our attention. Without realizing it, you become so fascinated by a book or a film that you no longer notice the rest of your environment. And then you are actually in a trance.
Trance phenomena can have both positive and negative effects
- A positive example is “flow”, a form of concentration where you deliver a top performance effortlessly and with great skill. Flow is a state in which you forget yourself and where you are completely absorbed in what you are doing. Most people describe the experience of flow as an experience of happiness.
- However, the narrowing and fixation of your attention can also be negative. You can think of disturbing thoughts or emotions that dominate you so much that you cannot get a grip on them. We also consider these kinds of thoughts or emotions as trance phenomena.
Trance phenomena can be either voluntary or involuntary
- You can consciously evoke attention and concentration. In that case we speak of a voluntary You can get in and out as you please. Example: you can focus your attention on delivering a sports performance, your focus of attention narrows, there is concentration. After the match you can let go of that focus and concentration.
- Sometimes trance is involuntary. Then your focus of attention becomes so narrowed that it is difficult or even impossible to get out. Example: you always feel very touched by the critical words of your manager, with the tone in which they express them and how he or she views them. You feel fear and tension running through your body, you feel belittled, you cannot think of a sensible response and you withdraw more and more, which also causes your work performance to deteriorate. And that evokes even more fear … and so you end up more and more in the involuntary trance.
Such trances are created unconsciously. You end up in it automatically, as it were. Sometimes a problem feels so bad that you can no longer deal with anything else. However much you would like it to be different. At that point, there is something in you that is stronger than your conscious will. When you are so preoccupied with a problem, it seems like an involuntary trance. In other therapeutic schools and traditions of psychotherapy, “involuntary trances” are often referred to by the word “symptoms”.
Trance symptoms can be lighter and deeper
- Your attention constantly shifts over the course of a day. Without realizing it, for example, one moment you are busy in your mind with what you will cook in the future, the next moment with a party that you have next weekend and then with your annoyance about a colleague at work. So there is always a shifting focus.
- We would say: you shift from one trance into another all day long. Such a shift in focus is usually quite harmless; these are light forms of trance. You shift from one thing into the other without much emotion attached to it. For a large part of the day everything goes on automatic pilot and you actually live ‘unconsciously’. There is nothing wrong with that. Many of your habit patterns are quite helpful. It would cost you mountains of energy if you couldn’t use it.
- When you become aware that you are thinking or daydreaming, you can let go of the trance and focus your attention on what is going on right now, here-and-now. You then let go of the narrowing or fixation of your attention for a moment. This gives you a feeling of freedom and space. This is easy in the case of light trances. These can be easily stopped.
- It is different with the so-called deep trance phenomena where you have the feeling that the trance takes you along. Here the trance seems to get the better of you. You can think of things like compulsive behaviour, inevitable worrying thoughts or strong emotions that you cannot stop. Here it is not so easy to regain the feeling of freedom and space. The involuntary trance is therefore a deeper trance.
Hypnotherapy to resolve involuntary problemtrances
In hypnotherapy, we consider problems as involuntary trances that you have entered – without knowing exactly how. You notice that you keep getting caught up in certain behaviour, in worrying thoughts or in difficult emotions, but you don’t know how that happens. You can’t just break free from it either. Hypnotherapy is very helpful in getting out of those automatic patterns that are bothering you and that you have no control over, to resolve your “involuntary trance symptoms”.
An illustration: you are afraid of something that you know you do not have to be afraid of, such as an exam for which you have studied well. In short, the therapy is there to find out how you end up in those anxious feelings while you often know mentally that that fear is not necessary.
In a therapeutic trajectory, we as therapists investigate together with the client how you got into those involuntary trance and habit patterns. We walk through step-by-step what precedes your problem behaviour and how you subsequently end up in your problem. By consciously following all those steps in a therapy session, the involuntary nature of the trance is broken, so that you no longer automatically get into your problem. So we work with our clients in a sober way to figure out how they unconsciously create their problem, how they get into those unconscious patterns that cause their problematic involuntary trances.
In this way, the path you take unconsciously is made aware. That has a healing effect: if you know how you got somewhere, it is also possible to find your way back. Then you can step out of the narrowing of your attention and let go of fears and associated obstructive thoughts. Through this method you add attention and awareness to the unconscious pattern and as a result you often see a spectacular decrease in the problem.
With the help of this we have already helped many people to get rid of their problematic habits in thinking, emotion and behaviour. In our opinion, Hypnotherapy is not about bringing a client into a trance, but rather to get her or him out of the trance!