It is well known that dips into the deeper life, by another name, the unconscious, ultimately has great beneficial and creative effects. More restorative than a holiday, a visit to this country reunites us with the original source of our imaginative and spiritual life. It's as if we were a human paintbrush, dipped into nature's own immeasurably varied store of colours, and we emerge revitalized, replenished, ready to make our unique mark on the world.
As reported in the previous article, A Visitor's Guide to the Unconscious, the language of the unconscious realm is symbolic, like that of dreams and mythologies, which are two of thousands of ways that unconscious material emerges into conscious awareness. Although hypnotic language can at times be directive, it is also symbolic, or dream-like, and as such, can access information that predates thought, that can speak directly with levels of the unconscious that are deeper than our critical and linear mental processes. Not only that, but when we receive images and symbolic messages from the unconscious during hypnotic journeys, we can with the help of the accompanying hypnotist, remember them and then consciously interpret and further explore them. What we are interested in during hypnotic journeys is a two-way communication, whereby we may with our consciousness seek and dip into the unconscious and then bring it's healing, creativity and wisdom back into our everyday life.
There are a lot of misconceptions of hypnosis, and a lot of misrepresentations, so most people don't realize that hypnosis is a natural occurence. When we say during a hypnotic session that hypnosis starts here and ends here, it looks artificial, it looks like something being 'done', but in actuality we go in and out of hypnosis many times a day, we just usually call it 'daydreaming'.
When we do it with a hypnotist, however, hypnosis has many observable benefits, and one of the most consistent I've found in the more than 20 years since I first studied hypnosis is how much people enjoy it. From the 'subjects' who participated in my university studies, to the individuals who consult me privately, to the groups of teenagers who learned self-hypnosis, - invariably people looked forward to being hypnotized, enjoyed the experience, and emerged from it relaxed and happy. Hypnosis is very enjoyable, even for the hypnotist who must also relax yet remain alert while accompanying the hypnotic journey.
Hypnosis has a resemblance to other 'non-wakeful' practices such as meditation, lucid dreaming, creative visualization, and natural trancing. These phenomena appear very similar in several ways - they all induce relaxation, they all appear to be like sleep but are not, they all access other levels of awareness - yet their differences, although subtle, result in very different subjective experiences. I will describe these differences next, because it will give a good introduction to what hypnosis is and some of what it is not.
To begin, although it appears very similar, meditation is different to hypnosis and even self-hypnosis in terms of the focus of concentration. The aim of meditation is a pin-point focus, whereas in hypnosis, although concentration is focussed, it is also somewhat broader, and includes an alertness and awareness of what is being said by the hypnotist, and an ability to respond to questions or suggestions (or to choose not to, if that should be the case). In this way, the hypnotized person can communicate what is being experienced in the trance state, which later provides fertile substance for conscious interpretation and understanding.
Another phenomenon worth contrasting is lucid dreaming. 'Lucid dreaming' is the term referring to the experience of being aware or 'awake' while dreaming during normal sleep. This experience can be conceived of as inverted to that of hypnotic journeys. Although lucid dreams usually happen by accident - without planning or intention - there are several exercises that can increase the chances of having and maintaining a lucid dream. Hypnosis also benefits from repeated practice, but, unlike lucid dreams, hypnosis does not interfere with the mysterious process of night-time dreaming. Also, effort is required to achieve and maintain awareness during lucid dreams, whereas, in hypnosis, a letting go of effort and a willingness to allow images to emerge results in the most meaning-rich experiences. Whereas lucid dreaming is being aware while asleep, hypnotic journeys are more like dreaming while not asleep.
Such dream images can be planned and worded, as in creative visualisation, to achieve a specific goal. Creative visualisation can certainly be incorporated into hypnotic sessions, but my preference is only to initiate the hypnotic journey through scripted imagery, but then be guided by spontaneous communication from the unconscious.
Another phenomenon worth discussing is natural trance. We naturally go into trance, many times during the day, sometimes when we are bored, or hurt or tired. This too we usually call daydreaming, but we can also call it hypnosis - it is a trance state, we are usually somewhat aware of our surroundings, and can certainly snap out of trance should we need to, and we are engaged in some fantasizing or other imaginative goings-on. Usually, however, we are entirely immersed in our experience, and have a hard time remembering 'where' we were or what we were imagining. In other words, the unconscious was the entire experience of our natural trance. During the type of hypnotic journeys which we are now discussing, on the other hand, the unconscious is consciously sought and engaged by hypnotic suggestions, and the entire session has a distinct beginning and end. In such a hypnotic session, the hypnotist is in verbal communication, so that when the unconscious is entered into, it is with a conscious connection that helps to remind us of and decipher unconscious messages and symbology.
In this way, hypnosis is unique because it allows communication with the unconscious to take place within a safe and consciously guided situation. The vast reservoir of creative resources, wisdom and healing that are contained within the unconscious can be engaged with or tapped into and brought to the light of awareness. The effects of relaxation and gazing within also are immeasureable and beneficial to health and wellbeing, to heart, body and soul. The wisdom of our ancient unconscious can only be wondered at, the channels to hear what we need to hear is opened by seeking in hypnosis.
Does it sound like I love hypnosis?
It should, because I do. I also believe that we are innately more connected to the unconscious than we know and that the silence of hypnosis helps to reveal this communication that is always there yet glossed over.
I'd like to share more about this profound and enriching phenomenon with my community, so please have a look for upcoming workshops through EldersTeach, or contact me personally for one-on-ones.
And now, ...just take a deep breath in,... and ... relax completely..