Trance States in Meditation and Life

By George A. Boyd © 2014

A state of hypnotic trance can occur during meditation, or it can be induced during your everyday life. This article will briefly discuss what occurs during a trance state, what is the difference between an involuntary or induced hypnotic state and a voluntary trance, and how you can break out from a hypnotic spell.

In a state of trance:

  • You are highly suggestible, and the suggestions of other people can readily influence you or shape your behavior.
  • You have a narrowed attentional focus; your attention is focused on a narrow range of content.
  • You are not aware of thoughts; you may experience a state in which your mind seems empty of thoughts and you are simply observing in the stillness and silence.
  • You may experience that your emotions become suspended, and you feel an inner numbness. This is called dissociation; in this state, you no longer feel your emotions.
  • You experience a vivid interaction with the content suggested to you with rich sensory detail. This imaginary world becomes alive and real to you.
  • You can readily become convinced that statements made to you while you are in this altered state of consciousness are true; you may tenaciously hold on to these truths despite evidence to the contrary. Many ideological political and religious beliefs are shaped while people are in a trance state, and they hold on to these beliefs zealously.
  • When you are in a trance, you revert to automatic or habitual behavior. You can also act out suggested ideas using ideomotor behavior. People in a trance can seem like zombies or robots.

You can readily enter a hypnotic trance when the correct conditions are present. Some types of hypnotic trance operate involuntarily, in that you do not consciously choose to enter this state, but physiological, psychological, and group dynamics influence you to fall into the trance state. Here are some examples of these involuntary trance states:

  • Trances arising from physiological deprivation or ordeal – these trance states arise after long fasting, sleeplessness, or extreme physical exertion. These methods are commonly used in torture and brainwashing to make prisoners susceptible to their captors’ control.
  • Trances arising from subliminal cues in the environment – These types of cues, commonly used in advertising, associate something you subconsciously desire with their product, so you are influenced to want it and to purchase it. These subliminal cues shape consumers’ brand loyalty and purchasing preferences, and they are skillfully used to similarly influence voting decisions in political contests.
  • Trauma-induced trance – Some individuals who do not have a response when trauma or catastrophe occurs “freeze” instead of fleeing or fighting. They remain in a state of immobile, frozen terror and shock.
  • Possession trance – In some religions, believers participate in dancing and singing that puts them into a state of trance, and then the “spirits,” “gods” or “goddesses” of their faith “possess” them. While in this trance state, they may communicate a message from this entity [channeling or prophecy], or they may perform actions under the influence of this entity’s suggestion. This type of religious trance is also seen in so-called charismatic groups that invite the Holy Spirit to possess them, and channel through them as the “gifts of the Spirit.”
  • Sustained altered state of consciousness (Mystic trance) – in certain spiritual and cultic groups, the spiritual teacher or leader encourages their followers to remain continuously in an altered state of consciousness. This continual absorption becomes involuntary when spiritual practices used in these groups move the essences of consciousness out of alignment with the personality and the axis of being. This produces a state of consciousness where attention becomes fixed in this spiritual essence, and those in this state cannot bring their attention back to normal grounded awareness again.
  • Drug induced trance – In a variety of groups, people ingest alcohol and drugs to enter a relaxed, uninhibited trance state. Social pressures may influence people to partake of these psychoactive drugs, and to participate with them in a communal trance state.
  • Addiction – Addiction is a form of trance where a powerful craving in the unconscious mind forces the addict to seek out alcohol, drugs, sex, food, gambling, or other objects associated with reward, pleasure, ecstasy, or cessation of pain and suffering. This powerful craving operates outside the ability of the addict’s will to control it. If it continues to control the addict’s thinking and behavior, it progressively leads to deterioration, destitution, disease, despair, and death.

You enter a voluntary state of trance when you receive hypnotherapy to help you make changes you want in your life. You also voluntary initiate a state of trance when you practice self-hypnosis, or when you do a meditation in which you specify the meditation objective you wish to achieve by entering this altered state of consciousness.

We teach auto-hypnosis in our intermediate classes, the in-person Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation and the by-mail and online Accelerated Meditation Program.

We teach several hypnotic methods that show you how to help others work with their stress in our Stress Reduction Consultant Certification Course, which is now available to the general public. We suggest that this course may not be appropriate for everyone; it helps if you have a background in a helping modality—healing, counseling, coaching, psychotherapy, hypnotherapist, or minister. If you are not sure, we invite your to schedule a spiritual discovery session with us and we can help you discover if this training is resonant for you and is genuinely aligned with your next step in growth.

If you are in an involuntary hypnotic trance, others are controlling your behavior, your belief, your values, your life, and even your perspective. If you wish to take back control of your own life from this environing spell, here are some things you can do:

  1. Recognize you are in a state of trance. This is the first step to freeing yourself from this spell.
  2. Identify the mechanisms or methods through which others are trying to control you.
  3. Determine how these mechanisms trigger your emotions, your beliefs, or your behavior. Train yourself to not respond to these attempts to influence you.
  4. Empower yourself by defining what are your beliefs, your values, what is important to you, what you want your life to become, and who you are as a person and who you are spiritually. Train yourself to resist the pressure of others to have you conform to their desires and values.
  5. Stop going to places where others influence you negatively, or that trigger your bad habits or addictions. Select new friends that support yourself in actualizing your potential and fulfilling your dreams.
  6. Get help for patterns that are now out of your control. See a psychotherapist, counselor, or addictions professional to help you.
  7. When you enter an altered state of consciousness, always bring your attention back to the waking state of awareness, and take time to reflect upon and integrate the experience you have had while you were in this state of meditation.

By better understanding what occurs in the trance state, and how you can free yourself from these influences that attempt to control you, you can begin to take back your own life, and begin to fulfill your unique purpose and achieve your dreams.