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Trance and Hypnosis

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

Trance is another word for being in the hypnotised state. It obviously forms an important part of the hypnotherapy process. Neuroscientists are discovering that we actually go in and out of trance far more frequently than previously thought. We previously believed that when we are in trance and when we are “daydreaming” our brains are inactive, quite the opposite they are actually using a lot of energy. The most obvious examples of trance include, the one I have already mentioned, daydreaming and what often happens when we drive a car. You know that feeling you get when you get out of the car and can’t remember the specifics of a journey? Or even when you are driving along and you suddenly become consciously aware that you are driving and feel like you should be paying more attention? This shows that you have gone into trance. Lost in a reverie of your own thoughts as your mind moves around processing experiences, memories and thoughts while carrying out the pretty much automatic action of driving the car.

When we are in trance our concentration actually heightens and we become more focussed. We become more aware. Not as many would be led to believe, less aware. On the surface looking at someone in trance looks very much like sleep, especially if they have their eyes closed. However with the advent of electroencephalograms,EEGs, neuroscientists have been able to measure brain activity and what they have learned is that the brain is actually incredibly active. The brain waves have indeed slowed down but this is anything but a sleep state. There are four main brainwave patterns that are relevant here. Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta. In our “normal” conscious state the brain will display Beta wave patterns which vary from 15 to 40 cycles per second. As we move into a more relaxed state these will slow down to an Alpha wave pattern of 9 to 14 cycles per second. Now, in a state where we enter hypnosis, which is akin to dreaming, the brain moves into a meditative state and shows Theta wave patterns of 4 to 8 cycles per second. In a deeper state of hypnosis this will then change to Delta waves which, again, is like a deep sleep. The comparisons with sleep are dangerous though as they always imply that the person is not aware. The trance like state of hypnosis does much of the restorative work that REM sleep does. Allowing the brain to process and ‘digest”, to sort and order, to file and organise our thoughts, experiences and ideas. One of the reasons hypnotherapy is so effective at dealing with anxiety is that this deep relaxed state is the opposite of the agitated anxious state. It is almost like a reset for the brain. A metaphorical turning off and on again, the brain rebooting without the additional noise that anxiety so often generates.

So this is the measurable science behind the trance, or the hypnotised, state, but what does that actually feel like? This is an endless source of fascination to me as different people experience trance in many, many different ways. There is no correct or better way to experience it either. We can labour under the misconception that it has to be done in a certain way and that we must concentrate. Quite the opposite, the best thing to do is to simply relax and let go and enjoy the ride. Let your mind drift to wherever it needs to go, then it can do the work that is required from the therapeutic process.

I had a client recently who exclaimed loudly after slowly coming out of trance “What was that?” He went to say that it was like an out of body experience and had a spiritual element to it. Not everyone, of course, experiences it like that. It could be that they see a variety of colours, it could be that they experience a blank state or a richly visual set of imagery. Again, there is no right or wrong here just the mind doing its amazing work.

The best way to understand trance is to experience it. Get in touch with me at to find out how hypnotherapy can help you achieve your goals.


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