Achieving a trance state in self hypnosis
Hypnosis can be described as a state of deep relaxation where the hypnotized subject experiences a heightened level of awareness coupled with a narrowing of their focus of attention. This hypnotic state is called trance and is a perfectly safe state which often occurs naturally in everyday life. In self hypnosis, we aim to deliberately put ourselves into a hypnotic trance.
What is a trance state like?
To be in a trance doesn't mean to be asleep, although it can sometimes look that way, but in fact the opposite is true. Studies of the brain activity of people in trance have revealed that "the cortical electrical activity recorded from the brain of a person in a hypnotic trance shows no resemblance to the electroencephalographic tracings taken from the brain of a sleeping person"1.
Hypnosis is a very personal experience and it should be remembered that each individual will experience trance in his or her own way.
Steps to putting yourself into a trance state
First, find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed, and begin by getting comfortable and relaxed. Use deep breathing and progressive relaxation techniques to get as deeply relaxed as you can.
There's no fixed method for trance induction, in fact there are many hundreds of different techniques which have been used effectively. The following are some common and proven examples of techniques and any combination can be used to enter trance, whichever you find works best for you. You will find more in our free online self hypnosis course.
With your eyes open, focus your attention on any small spot or object in front of you and above your line of sight. Keep focussing on the spot and direct all your attention towards it, clearing your mind of all other thoughts and distractions. Continue breathing deeply and slowly, and begin suggesting to yourself how relaxed you feel, and how tired your eyes are becoming. Allow yourself to keep relaxing more and more and eventually, when your eyes become tired and heavy, you can close them.
It's possible to enter a trance state even when you find it impossible to relax. If you're finding it difficult to let go of tension or anxiety, psychologist Michael Yapko in his book 'Trancework' (1990) describes how you can utilize your current stressed, anxious or tense state as a focus for entering trance.
You simply allow and accept your present state of mind, whilst beginning to think back to a time when you were involved in an experience of calmness, comfort, or relaxation and absorption, such that you didn't pay any attention to things going on around you. In doing this you can allow your feelings and responses to move towards those remembered from this past experience.
Visualization is one of the most powerful tools in self hypnosis. Use visualization and imagery to create images in your mind that suggest relaxation, for example, lying on a beach or walking in a forest. Allow your imagination to flow naturally and let yourself become absorbed by your mental images as you enter trance.
Stairway to relaxation
This is another example of imagery, and one that is often used to deepen the level of relaxation. Imagine yourself at the top of a beautiful staircase, there may be 10 steps to the bottom. The stairs lead to the most beautiful, wonderful and relaxing place you can imagine, which may be real or fantasized. Imagine descending the staircase, counting down the steps as you descend, and with each step suggesting to yourself an increased feeling of relaxation and a deepening of the hypnotic trance. As you reach the bottom you will be as deeply relaxed as you can be.
Creating a perceived physical response to hypnosis is a way to focus your attention inwards even further. Use suggestions and imagination to create a physical feeling or sensation in your body. For example, imagine warmth, or numbness, or heaviness, or lightness in your hand. Feeling the physical response occurring will indicate achieving a level of self hypnosis.
Where possible, incorporate distracting sounds in your suggestions, rather than trying to fight them. Notice any external sounds that you can hear and then allow them to be included in your suggestions for relaxation.
Of course, some distractions will require your attention immediately, such as the doorbell ringing or a child requiring attention. In these cases deal with the distraction and then return to your self hypnosis.
Self hypnosis is a very personal and individual experience and different methods will feel more comfortable for different people. Techniques such as those above can be changed and adapted to suit the individual. self hypnosis is a natural skill which can be developed and made easier with practice.
You can also learn self hypnosis with our free online course.