James Braid popularized hypnosis and hypnotism by masking an end to magnetic fluid, mesmerism, or animal magnetism. Hypnosis is an induced state of consciousness where an individual loses the ability to act voluntarily and becomes highly responsive to external suggestions.
Levels of hypnotic trance
What is a hypnotic trance?
People in a hypnotic or altered state might be sleepy, but they experience a higher level of awareness that they cannot achieve in a normal state. And a trance is that semi-conscious state where an individual cannot respond to external stimuli. So, the scientific study made it easy, and a hypnotic trance is nothing but the trance induced by hypnosis.
So how can we know whether the brain is conscious, semi-conscious, or unconscious?
An electroencephalogram can measure an individual’s state of awareness. Also known as EEG, this device detects the electrical activity in our brain.
Below is the range of frequencies of your brain waves depending on the state you are in
Gamma (38-42Hz) waves:
Gamma waves are the fastest of all brain waves. It can be observed in people who’re deeply engaged in their current situation. It can be seen in people who’re in universal love and altruism. These waves can oscillate to 100Hz.
Beta (13-30Hz) waves:
These brain waves are when people do their daily routine work with their conscious mind. It sometimes accompanies anxiety, panic, and stress. These waves are when an individual is engaged consciously in their mental activities.
Alpha (8-12Hz) waves:
These brain waves occur when an individual is calm and is relaxed, like in meditation. The individual doesn’t pay attention to anything in particular. It is known as the resting state for the brain. People tend to learn in this state.
Theta (4-7Hz) waves:
It is a state of deep relaxation, like when you are about to sleep or about to wake up. It gives access to information that is beyond your consciousness and opens the way to your unconscious mind.
These wave patterns are the slowest brain wave patterns. You’ll no longer be aware of your external surroundings. You enter into your unconscious mind, and you are open to healing and self-improvement. This can be attained in one of the stages of hypnosis.
Is self-hypnosis true?
According to Michael Ericson, we achieve a trance-like state every single day without even realizing it. Interesting, isn’t it?
But the hypnotic susceptibility of a person depends only on that person. An individual can be hypnotized and not be in a trance state. Or, they can be in a trance state without being hypnotized. And the experience of trance is different for every individual. Every experience is different, even with the same person, as it is a subjective experience.
The hypnotic effect empowers the infinite potential of the unconscious mind to act beyond the perceived domains of the conscious and subconscious mind. In a trance state or a hypnotherapy session, one slowly drifts away from their conscious mind and gets access to their unconscious mind with a heightened focus.
So trance isn’t any magical, uncanny knack kind of a state because we enter in and out of the trance state without even realizing it. To give you an example – being too engrossed in something that when somebody comes to you, puts their hand on your shoulder and you’re very startled not knowing how or when they got there! Has that ever happened to you? If yes, then you know what falling into a trance is like.
So as we just understood exactly what trance is and what hypnosis is, let’s check the different levels of this hypnotic trance below.
To make a list, there are 4 different stages of hypnotic trance.
1. Hypnoidal state or the waking state:
Hypnoidal state relating to a state of sleep or hypnosis is the first of the trance states. This state is the absence of consciousness. The hypnosis session of this level gives an inner focus. In the light trance, you’ll feel relaxed with regular breathing. This level of trance feels exactly like it would when you are about to sleep or when you just woke up after a night’s sleep. And they feel so drowsy that it brings eye catalepsy and arm catalepsy.
And this light trance state gives you a floating feeling. This will make you feel relaxed, and you’ll slowly lose consciousness of your surroundings. This level of relaxation is ideal for meditating and visualizing as you gain focused attention and focused concentration. Any individual can voluntarily enter into this state through self-hypnosis. Self-hypnosis helps in making yourself more self-aware and be conscious of your inner activities.
The hypnotic susceptibility of your self-hypnosis can be measured using the Stanford scale or Harvard group scale.
2. Light trance
The second in the levels of hypnotic trance, which brings lethargy, is known as light trance. This light state makes you feel even more relaxed than in a hypnoidal state. You’ll feel heavy, lethargic, and unusually sleepy simultaneously. This level of trance can be characterized by fluttering eyes, making eyeball movements under your eyelids that look transparent! This hypnosis session level will help you understand that you’ve reached a deeper level of hypnotic trance.
To let you understand, consider this example. You take the same route to drive to your office every day. And one day, you wanted to pick up your colleague only to surprise them. But on your way to the office, you didn’t stop by at any junctions! You’re so used to that journey that you forgot about picking them up. Ever met this kind of situation? Yes? So, this makes it clear that you’ve been into the light trance of hypnosis.
Individual gets more aware of their altered states of consciousness. Like in the example, they get more absorbed into work that they don’t even know why they’re doing it!
3. Cataleptic state or the medium state
Catalepsy is that state characterized by a loss of consciousness accompanied by the rigidity of the body. In this level of trance, breathing becomes deeper, and there is a sense of detachment towards your surroundings, and at this stage, nothing else matters. And soon enough, there will be a number block, making all of those thoughts drift away, also called spontaneous amnesia. Leading to glove anesthesia, which is to feel numb from your fingertips to the wrist of your hands.
The individual loses track of time, known as time distortion. Sometimes there is complete body catalepsy, known as analgesia, helping in pain control. In a medium trance, they use their human mind imaginations more freely and, partial age regression is also possible. You even lose focus on your surroundings as you feel falling asleep.
In clinical hypnosis, this hypnotic state can help individuals with fears by placing them in a cataleptic trance to help in their pain management. The individual’s body is taken over in these hypnotherapy sessions by a trained hypnotist and is used as a medium to speak and act.
Observed effects in this level are a side-to-side movement of the eyes.
4. Somnambulistic state or Deep Trance
Somnambulism refers to sleepwalking while fast asleep or in a further state of hypnosis. In this level of hypnotic trance, breathing and heartbeat are slow and steady. Individuals experience positive or negative hallucinations in deep trance. People in this state of deep trance will not want to speak at all. And they follow bizarre post-hypnotic suggestions because commands at this unconscious level can be very effective. The individual stays in a trance logic state, where the person accepts all the post-hypnotic suggestions without any critical evaluation.
People would sleepwalk in a deep trance state, which is the last in levels of hypnotic trance. And some also go into a state of comatose in this deep trance, where they feel extremely lethargic. This level of trance leads to age regression, and a loss of awareness of present identity is called revivification. This deep level of trance can lead to hypermnesia, where you can remember things that you haven’t thought you remembered.
They also experience ideomotor behavior, wherein you think of a sensory response you experience. You might not even remember anything you hear in this hypnotic state as it occurs at the unconscious level. This state is the last state that you can reach in hypnosis. Individuals respond very actively to suggestions given at this level of a hypnotherapy session, and the conscious mind is muted.
A good example in clinical hypnosis is when a person afraid of taking anesthesia might be taken into this state of hypnosis by a skilled hypnotist when they have to undergo any major surgery or needs pain relief. And yes, the hypnotized individual wouldn’t feel a single sensation throughout the surgery. This state is characterized by rolling eyes upwards and having positive or negative hallucinations. This last state of hypnotic depth can be obtained better under the supervision of a skilled hypnotist.
Content is medically reviewed periodically by professionals for accuracy and relevance. Reviewers include doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, and even medical students.