If you were to study hypnosis, you would be trained to produce a number of hypnotic phenomena in clients: amnesia, age regression, identification, ideosensory behaviour and dissociation among others.
What is fascinating about this list of hypnotic phenomena is that these are precisely the phenomena required to create and experience psychological problems.
Any psychological problem, be it anxiety, panic, depression, more severe types of psychosis, is created in the mind through the combination of various hypnotic phenomena.
Each of us has moments where we forget something or our mind goes blank. In cases of hypnotic amnesia, a person forgets or is mentally “cut off” from certain experiences, states and resources. In states of depression, a person will have amnesia for everything good in their life. When depressed, it is as if they are cut off from positive resourceful memories and happy times and as a result will even revise history: “I’ve never been happy. Things never work out.”
Just this morning I spoke to a client on the phone who said, “I’m sure nothing is going to work out.” As we spoke and I asked her some questions, she stepped out of this trance and into another where she said, “Ya, just the other day I was on the phone with someone about a new job. I felt fine, like things were really going to work out.” She then became aware of how she was mentally cutting herself of from certain information to put herself in a state.
In ideosensory trance, a person vividly experiences sights and sounds in their mind. What is known as ideosensory behaviour occurs as someone thinks about a sensory response, creating vivid mental imagery, and then experiences the imagined response.
An anxious person thinks, “What if I panic?”, then imagines panicking and feels feelings of panic and anxiety. By creating a mental movie of panic, they give a powerful signal to their mind and body of how to feel and respond. The mental experience is so powerful it creates an actual emotional experience the person will feel is out of their control.
In many cases, the person with the psychological problem has, without knowing it, regressed into a younger self. Suddenly, without knowing why, they feel helpless and powerless. In my work with clients, some have even spoken about feeling like a child, not wanting to take responsibility, not wanting to face reality and merely wanting someone to take care of them.
At certain times when working with clients, suddenly their voice tone will change to that of a young child, or they will begin to make childlike movements like swinging their feet. At moments like these I have simply asked the direct question: “How old are you right now?” Each time I do this, I get an immediate an automatic answer of an age. When recently one client’s voice tone suddenly shifted, I asked this question. “7,” he said. At that point, when this occurs in a session we then dialogue together. From here, we can explore the thoughts and feelings that come up so the person can make new learnings and evolve that younger self.
As we progress through the states of childhood development, we learn through role-modeling. In a way, we mentally become like others as we learn patterns of thinking and behaviour.
In his book “Beliefs: Pathways to Healing,” Robert Dilts tells the story of a woman talking about how her mother would grab her by the neck and shake her violently. As she gives the details, she reaches out her hands as if she were strangling someone. She is not remembering the event as the little girl that she was, rather, she has switched places with her mother. She has identified with her mother and thus repeats a behavioural pattern that is not hers.
We are all master hypnotists and our problems are trance states. To resolve psychological problems, we must move from one trance to another; we must unhypnotize ourselves from our depressed and anxious trances so we can step into trances of joy, peace and power.
What we have never learned is to use our mental abilities in ways that give us a better quality of life instead of ways that undermine our best efforts.