4 Essential Levels of Hypnotic Trance

Hypnosis is a concept which raises curiosity among us, and this article on levels of hypnotic trance1 will ease your curious minds a little.

James Braid popularized hypnosis and hypnotism2 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.

1. 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. 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 3can 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:

1.1. Gamma (38-42Hz) Waves

Gamma waves are the fastest of all brain waves. It can be observed in people who are deeply engaged in their current situation. It can be seen in people who are in universal love and altruism. These waves can oscillate to 100Hz.

1.2. Beta (13-30Hz) Waves

These brain waves are when people do their daily routine work with their conscious minds. It sometimes accompanies anxiety, panic, and stress. These waves are when an individual is engaged consciously in their mental activities.

1.3. Alpha (8-12Hz) Waves

These brain waves occur when an individual is calm and relaxed, like in meditation. The individual doesn’t pay attention to anything in particular. It is known as the resting state of the brain. People tend to learn in this state.

1.4. 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 beyond your consciousness and opens the way to your unconscious mind.

1.5. Delta (0.5-3Hz)

These wave patterns are the slowest brain wave patterns. You’ll no longer be aware of your external surroundings. You enter your unconscious mind and are open to healing and self-improvement. This can be attained in one of the stages of hypnosis.4

2. Is Self-Hypnosis True?

According to Michael Ericson, we achieve a trance-like state every day without even realizing it. Interesting, isn’t it?

However, 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.

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.

Can hypnosis work?

So trance isn’t magical, uncanny knack because we enter in and out of the trance state without even realizing it.

To give you an example – being so 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.

3. Levels of Hypnotic Trance

So as we just understood exactly what trance is and what hypnosis is, let’s check the different levels of this hypnotic trance below.

3.1. Hypnoidal State or the Waking State

The hypnoidal state relating to a state of sleep or hypnosis is the first of the trance states. This state is the absence of consciousness.5 The hypnosis session of this level gives an inner focus.

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. You feel so drowsy that it brings eye catalepsy and arm catalepsy.

Any individual can voluntarily enter into this state through self-hypnosis. Self-hypnosis helps in making yourself more self-aware and conscious of your inner activities.

The hypnotic susceptibility of your self-hypnosis can be measured using the Stanford or Harvard group scales.

trance
By fizkes from Shutterstock

3.2. Light Trance

The second in the levels of hypnotic trance, which brings lethargy, is known as a 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 want to pick up your colleagues 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 forget 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.

3.3. 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.

Soon enough, there will be a number block, making all of those thoughts drift away, also called spontaneous amnesia. This leads 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 distortion6. Sometimes there is complete body catalepsy, known as analgesia, which helps in pain control.

In a medium trance, you use your human mind’s imagination more freely, and partial age regression is also possible. You even lose focus on your surroundings as you feel like falling asleep.

In clinical hypnosis, this hypnotic state can help individuals with fears by placing them in a cataleptic trance to help manage their pain. 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.

3.4. Somnambulistic State or Deep Trance

Deep Trance Meditation Guided - hypnosis for beginners

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 deep trance state 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, accepting all the post-hypnotic suggestions without critical evaluation.

People would sleepwalk in a deep trance state, which is the last level of a 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 you haven’t thought you remembered.

They also experience ideomotor behaviour, wherein they 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 need pain relief.

And yes, the hypnotized individual wouldn’t feel a single sensation throughout the surgery. This state is characterized by rolling eyes upward and having positive or negative hallucinations. This last state of hypnotic depth can be obtained better under the supervision of a skilled hypnotist.

Name – Suvangi Chanda
Qualification – MBBS Student
Instagram handle – https://instagram.com/_suvangi._?igshid=NTdlMDg3MTY=

  1. Sachar, Edward J., Jeremy C. Cobb, and Ronald E. Shor. “Plasma cortisol changes during hypnotic trance: Relation to depth of hypnosis.” Archives of General Psychiatry 14.5 (1966): 482-490. ↩︎
  2. Kubie, Lawrence S., and Sydney Margolin. “The process of hypnotism and the nature of the hypnotic state.” American Journal of Psychiatry 100.5 (1944): 611-622. ↩︎
  3. Thakor, Nitish V., and Shanbao Tong. “Advances in quantitative electroencephalogram analysis methods.” Annu. Rev. Biomed. Eng. 6 (2004): 453-495. ↩︎
  4. Bechterew, W. V. “What is hypnosis?.” The Journal of Abnormal Psychology 1.1 (1906): 18. ↩︎
  5. Mole, Christopher. “Attention in the absence of consciousness?.” Trends in cognitive sciences 12.2 (2008): 44. ↩︎
  6. Rau, Pei-Luen Patrick, Shu-Yun Peng, and Chin-Chow Yang. “Time distortion for expert and novice online game players.” CyberPsychology & Behavior 9.4 (2006): 396-403. ↩︎

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