Can I get stuck in trance?
If you put me into a trance, can I get stuck?
The short answer to this is no, but I do understand why many of my clients want this question answered, as the prospect of going into trance, or hypnosis, can feel so different from everyday life that it can be a bit scary.
Actually, the first point to make is that trance isn't something I do 'to' you. It's something you do for yourself, with my guidance. Think of it as a bit like learning to drive. The instructor sits next to you and talks you through using the controls but you are in charge of the car. Most clients go more easily and deeply into a trance each time we work together because they get more skilled at knowing how to do this.
Trance is much more of an everyday experience than you might suppose and you may well have been there before you arrive at our session. If you are sat by the pool on your holiday and drift into a lovely daydream, that's one version of it. 'Zoning out' whilst driving a familiar route is another, as is letting your mind wander during a boring meeting at work. What they have in common is being engrossed in what's going on in your own mind, so that although you are aware of what's going on around you, you pay less attention than usual to your surroundings.
When it's the end of the session and time to ask you to come out of trance I generally use a counting technique to bring you back to ordinary awareness. For example, I might say 'I’m going to count from 1 to 5 and with every number, you will become more aware of your surroundings, so that by the time I get to 5 you will be fully awake.' I'll count up slowly, asking you to open your eyes on the final number. I like this method because it's gentle and natural, gives you plenty of time to re-orient to the here and now, and will leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed.
Or occasionally I may use the story I have been telling you and by bringing it to a natural end encourage you to open your eyes and be fully aware of your surroundings. An example might be - you have experienced a strong visualisation where you walked through a wood and stopped at a stream. By looking into that stream, and perhaps even changing it in some way, you have gently released some of the issues which have been holding you back or upsetting you. You are now ready to return to everyday reality.
I might ask you to imagine that you stand up, walk alongside the stream and notice the wood beginning to thin out. Everything is getting brighter and the trees are getting fewer, and you are coming out of your trance. By the time you are out of the wood, you are fully aware of your everyday surroundings again.
Now and then someone doesn't open their eyes immediately I ask them to. There are a couple of reasons this might happen.
When you are in hypnosis, it generally feels very relaxing and pleasant. For some clients, it feels so pleasant that they do not want it to end. Well, that’s OK by me, I’ll teach you how to do this for yourself and then you can experience this lovely state as often as you want. A very small number of clients might doze off during the session because they are tired, and feel safe and secure.
In either case, these clients might not open their eyes the first time I ask them to but they are not 'stuck'. They are choosing to stay immersed in a pleasant experience or they are asleep. They will open their eyes when they choose to do so, or when they wake up both perfectly natural events. As I usually have another client coming in after you (or need to lock up and go home!) I will generally remind you that it's time the session ends, and count again a bit louder or more firmly, maybe using your name. This does the trick.
I hope this has given you some information to put your mind at rest. If you are thinking of seeing a hypnotherapist and worry about being stuck in trance (or anything else), it is a good idea to raise your questions with them before committing yourself to sessions. An experienced therapist will make you feel secure on any point and should be happy to answer whatever you ask without being judgmental. If they do not do this, shop around until you find someone who does.
Debbie Waller is a professional hypnotherapist, specialising in stress, anxiety and related issues. She also offers EMDR which is used for trauma, PTSD, phobias and OCD and publishes hypnotherapy-for-ibs.co.uk for those interested in using hypnotherapy to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Debbie owns a multi-accredited hypnotherapy school, Yorkshire Hypnotherapy Training and offers further training for qualified therapists via CPD Expert. She is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words, editor and contributor to the online magazine Hypnotherapy Training & Practitioner, and co-author of The Hypnotherapy Handbook.
For more information on any of these services, phone 01977 678593.
Researcher & drafter: Rachel Waller.