Last Updated: November 8th, 2018

States of consciousness

Human experience occurs on many levels—physical, emotional, mental and spiritual—with or without our being consciously aware of it. In fact, we’re normally unaware of most of our physical experience, such as our heartbeat, digestion and breathing. Similarly, we may be more or less aware of our emotional and mental states. Just think about driving on the freeway.

When necessary, and with practice, we can focus our attention on most of these aspects of our experience, though even then our brain filters out much of the raw information. On the other hand, when we’re day dreaming, remembering the past, or worrying about the future, we’re often unaware of much of our everyday experience.

We may think in terms of being “asleep” or “awake,” but there are actually a whole range of levels of awareness, from completely present and alert, to comatose. In the extremes of danger or being in love, time may slow down and we may have a detailed and heightened awareness of all our senses, whereas when watching TV we may feel that we are “awake,” but be quite unresponsive to someone calling our name.

The full palette of conscious states depends on many variables: intensity of attention, breadth of awareness, level of attention (physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual). Our life experience flows over this palette, focused here, relaxed there, as our need, circumstances, ability, and intention vary. In practice we mix and match, our moment-to-moment awareness being stitched together from bits and pieces across all these variables.

This is only the flow and thread of our conscious awareness. Our being is experiencing a wider range of sensory and other input all the time. Contrary to past belief we’re affected by all of our experience, conscious or otherwise. Moreover there are often memories, experiences, or states of being that have become “unconscious,” through denial, imposed unconsciousness, or lack of use. These are places our attention has trouble going, or can go to, but which we cannot bring back into “normal” waking consciousness, such as sleep or deep trance, where we have trouble remembering what has occurred afterwards.

Although these aspects are “out of sight,” they are not “out of mind”, often having a major influence on our life experience. With practice and help we can learn to open up our states of consciousness, to learn to steer the vessel of our awareness over more of the palette of possible states. This allows us to learn to live consciously in a wider range of circumstances, to step out of habits, patterns, and dynamics that don’t serve us, to step up to fuller, freer, experiences of our own choosing.

Hypnosis and trance

Hypnosis is a process that uses deep physical and mental relaxation to allow us to journey into areas we normally don’t remember (the subconscious/unconscious) in a way that we can connect these levels with the conscious awareness, the personality level of ourselves. We learn to let the conscious waking mind either wander off or step back into a witnessing role that allows direct communication with our subconscious and higher conscious aspects.

It’s part of the spectrum that includes daydreams, nodding off in class, TV daze, guided relaxation and meditation, storytelling and other common experiences. There are a wide range of levels of trance within the realm of hypnosis. Just as the anesthetist learns that there are 100 levels of “unconsciousness,” trances can be so light that you aren’t aware of them, deep enough that we know we’re “out” but can follow everything, or so deep that we may not recall what has occurred.

This full spectrum may be called trance states. We’re nearly always in some level of trance—from light “cruise mode” to deep sleep. Some trance states, such as daydreaming, are common to us all, while others, such as meditative or religious experiences, may be less common. With practice you can go deeper while still being aware and remembering what has happened, which is similar to learning to remember your dreams.

Subconscious and hypnotic suggestions

Hypnotic suggestions bypass the conscious mind, and lodge directly in the subconscious. When given a new suggestion that’s within the bounds of a person’s belief system and moral orientation, the subconscious mind accepts the suggestion literally as new reality.

It’s possible to receive suggestions from a therapist, suggestions created by you in order to move towards your goals. You can also learn the process of self-hypnosis, in which you take yourself into a light trance and give suggestions to yourself, “the power of positive thinking.”

If you’ve ever been “talked into” something by TV commercials, your boss, friends or family, and then gone ahead and done it, you’ve been through this process. It’s something that we’re all familiar with; we do it all the time. In hypnotherapy you work with the programming of the subconscious consciously, for your highest good. Rather than being “programmed,” you learn to program yourself for success, as you define it.

The power of the influence is not limited to words. A friend once went furniture shopping for her new apartment, taking along a good friend. She was excited about finding the perfect pieces for her new place, but several days later when it was all in place, she realized that somehow she hadn’t bought her own furniture. She’d come home with the things her friend liked instead!

Guided trance work

The mind is somewhat like an iceberg, with the bulk of it submerged below the surface of the water. We’re taught that the small part above water is who we are and that our conscious mind is in charge of our life. However, the truth is that most of our mind, who we are, our experience, is under the surface of the ocean of consciousness.

With guided trance work, or interactive hypnosis, you’re able to access this larger portion of the mind which strongly influences who you are and what you experience in your life. This subconscious mind has often been viewed as a source of problems or difficulties for us since it contains content that we’ve chosen to forget. However, it’s also a great resource. The subconscious/unconscious mind contributes largely to intuition, creativity, health and well-being on all levels. It can control our lives, and if we make it our friend it can do so with wonderful results.

Guided trance work is an interactive process, in which we use various techniques, including regressions and journey work of many sorts, to meet your spiritual guides, inner aspects of yourself, work on relationships with others and more. It’s a co-creative process in which you experience elements from both the conscious and unconscious minds, input from your guidance and Spirit, producing powerful and transformative sessions. The therapist serves as a guide and facilitator through this inner world of story and metaphor.

We write the story of our life or allow circumstance to write it for us. In this arena you can learn to write it yourself, rewriting the old scripts where desirable, learning new tools for managing emotional and mental energies, both internally and in relationships. You can learn new emotional states, clear old ones, and transform your experience. This is a space for going from the difficult to ease, and from ease to great joy.

If you choose to, trance work and training offers a path into spirit and your essential Self, which is often as unconscious as our lower self. Past life and karmic clearing, energy balancing and soul retrieval are aspects of this work. It’s an unfolding journey that we’re all undergoing, learning who we truly are as souls and spiritual beings.

From programming yourself to sleep better, lose weight and reform habits to exploring the deeper levels of who you are (why certain dramas or dynamics repeat in your life) to realizing new levels of joy and enthusiasm, hypnosis and trance work is a great way to make use of the power of your own mind to create the life you want to live now!

By Alan McAllister. Reprinted with kind permission of Whole Being Explorations. Visit their website
image: iceberg via Shutterstock