Updated: Sep 14, 2020
Choosing hypnotherapy treatment is an important step in your healing process. However, it is essential to understand why being present matters in hypnotherapy treatment. It could be said that we spend most of our lives in a trance of one sort or another. Trance is a very normal state; it could be daydreaming whilst looking out of the window, it could be thinking about dinner whilst sweeping the garden path, it could be wishing you were somewhere else whilst you scan goods at the supermarket. It is even possible to say that we are often in a negative trance. That an inner dialogue may even be saying, beyond our awareness, “oh you look awful today”, or “you are so clumsy and slow”, or worse “you are so stupid, no one else is as stupid as you are”.
Our Inner Dialogue Contribution
This inner dialogue could be positive if we were aware and had time to change it, but most of us are used to a negative internal dialogue. We just put up with it because we have always had it. We may well have listened to our parents, our friends, the news and our teachers talk negatively and internalise a kind of group negativity which is ‘normal’. In a sense, our quest for happiness is all about being free. Free from this negativity which seems to dog us as a species as a kind of evolutionary mismatch between the need to assess for danger and gloom, and our innate desire to grow and flourish.
When we are tired, we are susceptible and most likely to slip into a ‘trance’ where we are unaware of our negative inner dialogue. This negative internal dialogue is a key contributor to diminishing confidence, to creating blocks to our success or potential, in influencing weaker decisions, in fostering fear and all its associated ruminations and catastrophising. When in a negative headspace, it is extremely difficult to see any good at all, and this is where being 'present' can help.
The Importance of Being Present
Presence is the ability to note, that indeed, 'this is a negative place I am in. It is painful, and I feel bad'. In noticing this, you have gained a tiny bit of space between you and the negative process you are in. This space is so valuable because here you can interject something like:
“I may be clumsy but so are a lot of people. I am not alone”.
“Sarah has a better-paid job than I do. But, I am still doing my best, and I am grateful for that.”
“I am doing my best, and I value that about myself, and I am not my negative thoughts”.
These interruptions let you sit with the pain and allow it to be as it is. This gradually wakes you up and out of the negative trance.
Why it matters ...
Being present matters in hypnotherapy because presence is the key to enable you to note when you are in a negative trance, or about to be put into a negative trance by someone else. This can occur when a conversation takes a turn and becomes increasingly negative and filled with bleak facts or angry discourses, and we follow along with it, in an empathetic way. We may even mimic some of the negative emotions as a way of supporting the other person.
Evolutionarily we have evolved to offer support and to connect. However, if there is an imbalance, such as when a mother talks negatively to their child all the time, or we watch the news non-stop, we effectively are receiving negativity in a trance-like state with no means to filter it out or gain some perspective to see it for what it is.
In becoming aware of your trance states and noticing if they are positive, negative or neutral, you will be able to interrupt the negative states with your conscious awareness.
The Different Types of Trance
The aims of both mindfulness and meditation are to manage this mental negativity. However, it is also important to note that positive and neutral trances are very helpful.
A Positive Trance
A positive trance may be that you are imagining a holiday you wish to take and picturing it in detail and enjoying the process. Or at a sporting event, you are taking part in, and you imagine yourself in the event. These ‘inner rehearsals’ are a very crucial component to our successes. What we visualise, we can create and materialise. This kind of positive trance is very much in line with the aims of Solution Focused Hypnotherapy.
A Neutral Trance
The neutral trance is useful if we have an unresolved question. For example, “where are my car keys?” and then we go and wash up, and during this activity, the brain will come up with the answer. Again, a very typical trance and one we may not even notice.
The Absentee Trance
There is also the absentee trance where we are doing one action, for example, driving to work on autopilot. We cannot even recall what we were thinking about, but we have arrived, with virtually no present awareness of the journey. Often if we have done a task many times before we almost don't need to be 'present' for its process and here is a crucial area where negative thoughts may slip in to play. These absences of being present may involve going over an argument, imagining what may happen at our exam, wondering if we can pay the bills this month. Before we know it, we are anxious, stressed and tired as the brain is being used to sort out stuff endlessly.
By bringing our awareness back to the present moment, we are noticing our surroundings and engaging with them in real-time. Noticing the taste of the toothpaste as we brush our teeth. Noticing the sound of the tea as it falls in the cup and noticing things going on. Not assuming it is all the same, but actively noting it is not, that it is different, each and every day is unique. When we are present, we are open to 'seeing' the uniqueness of every day and also we can start to 'see' our ability to go into a trance. Trance is very natural and can remind us our brains are processing information all the time, and by being present to this process, we can gauge the nature of our trances and bring awareness back to the real moment.
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