Trance Phenomena

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In my free ebook I try to clear up some of the mystery surrounding the subject of hypnosis. On this page I want to delve into the subject of trance phenomena, the things that actually occur in trance.

We’ll look at questions like…

What happens when I go into trance?

What kind of things will I experience?

And why does it happen anyway?

Let’s get started…

Defining trance

Before we go on to explore trance phenomena, it makes sense to describe the word ‘trance’. It remains a mystery to most people…

I’m not talking about trance mediums, seances or whirling dervishes. No, what I’m talking about is every-day trance states, those that we all go into naturally.

Trance can occur from anything that engages your attention: playing sport, a computer game, or musical instrument; reading, listening to music, daydreaming; hearing a story or doing a hobby such as gardening or painting etc.

kids listening to a story

And, of course, you can easily become entranced by your emotions, such as anxiety, fear, anger, depression, love, and the like.

So, trance can be described as a state of mind or focus of attention where everything else recedes into the background; one thing becomes the predominant focus.

Going in and out of these focused states is completely natural. Thus, trance itself is completely natural.

But the thing is this…

Whenever your attention mechanism is focused for a minute or two your brain will assume you’re in some kind of dream state, handing over control to the unconscious mind.

Yes, we now know that going into the REM state happens not just when asleep but also during waking hours.

And sometimes it goes horribly wrong…

Early childhood trances

Much of the work I do is in helping people de-hypnotize themselves from old trance states, those that were established years ago.

The thing is that all trance states are comprised of a variety of phenomena that have been repeated so often that they now occur autonomously.

Most trances are learned in childhood and each trance phenomenon was an attempt to deal with a difficult and/or confusing situation.

For example, if you’ve ever been in a trauma situation it’s normal to consciously choose to dissociate from it to alleviate the suffering. This was a perfectly good defence strategy at the time.

However, as you grew up, if certain situations kept being repeated (i.e. ongoing sexual abuse) your response to it became automatic.

In other words, at some point there was no longer a conscious choice; the trance phenomena (i.e. dissociation) began to happen automatically.

List of common trance phemonena

Below is a list of common phenomena, those things that can occur when you go into trance.

Remember, with trance what we are really using is the REM state – nature’s optimal programming state. This is why hypnotherapy – when performed competently – works so well. We work with the REM state to make modifications to your internal ‘software’, changing the trance phenomena.

Some trance phenomena can be wonderful, of course, such as being regressed to a positive memory. However, much of the time the trance phenomena is negative. This is where the problem lies.

As a hypnotherapist, one of the main things I’ll do is to help you master your own trance phenomena.

So, let’s look at the list. I wonder what you already experience?


This occurs in nearly all symptoms that people bring to me: depression, anxiety, phobias, addiction etc. Most problems have a long history to them.

Indeed, much of our lives are not lived as adults; we remain stuck in childhood modes of feeling, thinking, and behaving. Because of this, age regression seems to be an inevitable part of trance because the brain is always pattern-matching, using the past as a reference point.

Current problems are matched to what happened before and if there are unresolved memories we can all too easily become hypnotized by the resulting emotions, feeling like a little kid again.


Whenever we’re focusing on the future – in a negative or positive way – we are projecting ourselves forward in time. The ‘What if…’ trance can be a common cause of worry and subsequent depression and anxiety.

Our imaginations get so involved in these future scenarios that they seem to take on a reality of their own. This is why it’s so important to be careful about the way you use your imagination. It really can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven.


Losing ‘presence’, disconnecting from our bodies, floating away in our imaginations, lost in fantasy, are all attempts by the young child to deal with difficult, confusing, and traumatic situations.

Dissociation was learned as a way to cope with uncomfortable feelings but has now become an automatic response.

It can feel as if you are living like a ghost to yourself, never fully embodied, never fully present, never fully alive.

shadow with hands on window


These are words and phrases we hear from others – usually parents – or our own internal commentaries that co-exist with other trance phenomena.

For instance, in a trauma scenario – where you are already in trance – you hear words or tell yourself something (as you try to make sense of what’s happening) that becomes absorbed by the unconscious mind.

We are meaning-making creatures and how we make sense of life situations can determine their after-effects, i.e. trauma or no trauma.

This highlights the need to be very careful about what you say to yourself when in trance. Remember, trance (the REM state) is nature’s optimal programming state. What you say can stick like glue.


A positive hallucination is when you see something that isn’t really there. This happens a lot in stage hypnosis where the participant, for instance, imagines he’s dancing with a beautiful woman when in reality he’s holding a broomstick.

A negative hallucination is when you don’t see what is really there. We’ve all experienced looking for something but only later, when we go back to look again, do we see it right in front of us. Think car keys! That’s negative hallucination – not seeing what is really there.

Both positive and negative hallucinations are common in trance because we are locked in our own version of reality, unable to see a different perspective.

This is why it’s pointless trying to argue with someone who is angry. They won’t be able to see your point of view because their anger trance blinds them to a different opinion.

fractal optical illusion image with Buddha shape in centre


Along with both positive and negative hallucinations, it is common for your other senses to become distorted when in trance…

A mild ache can become an excruciating pain. A gentle hum in the ears can sound like a jet-aeroplane.

Your hands, arms, and legs can feel very heavy and yet, at other times, you can feel very light, as if you’re floating in space. Catalepsy can occur, where the body or limbs remain in a fixed position.

In stage hypnosis we’ve all seen the guy eating an onion but believing it is an apple. And Derren Brown showed a good example of creating a drunken state in a sober student

The good news is that through the correct use of trance the distortions can also be undone – pain can be alleviated or even removed entirely. Indeed, there are many instances of trance being used as a natural anaesthesia (which is another trance phenomenon) to perform operations.


When we’re entranced, time distorts.

An embarrassing moment can seem to last forever as we long for the ground to swallow us up. Watching sport or a movie will distort time, depending on the quality of what we’re observing. 

A good game or movie will seem to pass very quickly whereas a 0-0 at the football will have us looking at our watches, longing for the final whistle as time drags agonisingly slowly.


When in trance, especially when age-regression is involved – and it nearly always is – we tend to forget some things, especially our skills and resources.

All our acquired knowledge and wisdom gets buried somewhere, and we can appear foolish when, say, giving a presentation or making a speech. Of course, forgetting some things can be very useful, allowing you to move on in your life.

Remember, these trance phenomena happen autonomously, and amnesia can be very confusing when it happens all by itself. Indeed, it is my belief that trance phenomena plays a significant role in dementia.


We all daydream and, indeed, used in the right way this can be very good for us. The imagination is one of our most powerful resources when used correctly.

Daydreams and fantasies, however, can be used as escape clauses, taking us away from what we should be doing. They can be seen as a form of denial where we lose ourselves in imaginary worlds rather than dealing with life here and now.

Such activity usually starts in childhood in the form of imaginary friends or dreaming of a time when things will be better or imagining we are super heroes or someone famous.

In time, the fantasizing takes on a reality of its own and we lose the ability to clearly discern the difference between what is real and what is purely imaginary. I’ve seen this a lot in things like insecurity in relationships.


And several steps further along the ‘fantasy spectrum’ we get into psychotic states, where the boundaries between reality and imagination are very much blurred.

The person suffering from psychosis lives much of their waking hours in the REM state – in a waking dream – unable to know what is real and what is imaginary.

But even psychosis – which is a deep trance state – can be alleviated with the skilled use of hypnotic techniques and a healthy therapeutic relationship. Milton Erickson, one of the pioneers of the use of therapeutic hypnosis talks of this in Uncommon Therapy…

I really hope that this article helps you identify the trance phenomena you are already experiencing in your life, those times when you ‘zone out’ (dissociate) or forget something (amnesia) for example.

Remember, it is you that created these trance phenomena, albeit unconsciously, many years ago. It had a purpose back then, but has since stuck.

The reassuring thing is that, used differently, trance (The REM state) can help you develop a better reality for yourself, free from any negative trance phenomena.

This is what hypnotherapy aims to do and I speak more about this in my free ebook.

And one of the best books on the market I’ve found on trance phenomena is Stephen Wolinsky’s, ‘Trances People Live‘. An excellent read!

If you have any questions please contact me here or if you’re interested in one-to-one online hypnotherapy click the link for more info.

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