The Hypnotic Trance
The Society of Psychological Hypnosis, a division of the American Psychological Association, defines hypnosis as “a procedure during which a health professional or researcher suggests that a client, patient, or subject experience changes in sensations, perceptions, thoughts, or behavior. The hypnotic context is generally established by an induction procedure. Although there are many different hypnotic inductions, most include suggestions for relaxation, calmness, and well-being.”
This rather clinical, boring description is actually quite exciting when you unpack it. Imagine the power to change what someone thinks or how they behave? Almost anyone is excited by the idea of hypnosis. It sounds fun – and once they are interested in playing along, they have given you a very unusual opportunity: a willingness to let you influence them: their sensations, perceptions, thoughts or behavior.
Hypnosis begins with an induction procedure where a subject is lulled into a trance, a state of heightened mental alertness. The subject limits all physical movement and becomes especially susceptible to suggestion. This is accomplished by gradually stripping the subject of the use of their senses. First, the sense of sight is lost as the subject is requested to close their eyes. Then the body is commanded to rest immobile; after a little while it is not uncommon for the subject to lose complete awareness of their body. While most of the senses are neutralized throughout the process, the sense of hearing actually is accentuated. A hypnotized subject can often hear distant sounds that they would not be able to hear in the normal waking state, assuming the subject is able to hear the practitioner’s suggestions. Often, subjects, waking from hypnosis do not believe they have been in a trance at all because the entire time they were able to hear the hypnotist’s voice clearly.