02 September 2012

The Waking Trance

Human consciousness is an odd pickle. We all experience it every waking day, but no one understands it well enough to build a good imitation. What are we missing?

Quite a lot, actually. For example, why are we so changeable from day to day or moment to moment? Is it possible that much of what we call ordinary consciousness is simply the slipping from one state of automatic trance into another?

Let's try to define "trance:"
To many psychologists a trance is a state of limited awareness. Some psychologists would also characterize trance as a form of sleep, or dreamlike awareness or a kind of altered state of consciousness.

... it is relatively easy to hypnotize a person and to keep that person in a trance state without their being aware that they are in fact in a trance. The technique of pacing and leading a subject from a rich or varied set of thoughts to a limited or impoverished set of thoughts is a technique used consciously by hypnotists, advertisers, sales people, preachers and politicians.

...how can you tell if you are in one of these ordinary, unconscious trances? You are in a trance when your attention is limited and there is a certain repetition of thoughts. In an extreme case, your attention is so limited that it feels like "tunnel vision."... Concentration, when the mind is focused on a specific problem or thought, is also a form of trance. You could characterize trance cybernetically as an awareness loop, or a circular flow of consciousness. _Unconscious Trance

Most of us spend most of our time in one type of trance or another. Even the experience of unconscious mastery is a type of trance.

In general this is fine, if we are in control of which trance we choose to be immersed within -- and if we can exit the trance whenever we wanted.

Almost every human being on Earth will revert back to what is known as "the consensual trance," the limited world of the particular social consensus within which the person happens to be immersed. It is a trance into which we are born and to which we are conditioned. Later, when we enter -- or are close to -- adulthood, we may be presented with a choice as to whether we wish to move into a different consensual trance. Very few discover the ability to experience large portions of their lives outside of the consensual trance. Even fewer make the choice to step outside the consensual trance into a greater freedom of the mind.


It is possible to move other persons into a trance, shift them from one trance state to another, or to help them emerge -- temporarily -- from a typical trance state. It is worth learning how to manipulate other persons' trance experiences in order to better apprehend when someone is attempting to do the same to you, typically in an attempt to enlist you into some kind of mass movement or ideology:
1. Build Rapport with the Listener

Your first task is to gain rapport with the listener. Rapport is simply put that feeling of connection and trust between two people. It doesn’t have to be too deep. You already have a rapport with your friends, parents and others. You can easily gain rapport with other people just by making compliment, laughing at their jokes etc.

2. Switch off the Critical Mind

After building rapport, you can now use covert hypnosis techniques to switch off the critical mind of the listener.

One of the ways to do this is to use the words “Imagine”, “What if” etc. When you use these words, the critical mind immediately shuts off, thus making the imagination work. This is very important, because we are only doing the things that we could imagine before, so invoking the mind’s eye of the listener will help you to send commands to his (her) subconscious.

3. Make Irresistible Hypnotic Commands

After bypassing the critical mind of the listener, you can now make your irresistible commands and describe the things you want a person to do.

Covert hypnosis is that simple. In covert hypnosis, your success will depend on the depth of rapport, your hypnotic language and how you follow the covert hypnosis technology. _Covert Hypnosis

It is no accident that these are simultaneously the tools of sexual seduction, religious conversion, and political enlistment and indoctrination. These are tools that are used in government and religious school classes, sports team pep talks, pick-up bars, cathedrals and mosques, clubs, associations, gangs, and mass movements of all kinds.

The tools of conversational trance manipulation have been perfected by ethical persons such as Milton Erickson, and by unethical persons such as your charismatic politician of choice.

But no one needs to put you into a trance. You do that every day, all by yourself. It is possible to go through days, weeks, months, and years without ever truly emerging from the waking trance, the consensual trance. In general, the possibility that one may emerge from such a trance is so disturbing that it can lead to psychic trauma, drug addiction, membership in a cult, or worse.

But just in case one wished to experience a different state of existence, how would he go about emerging from the waking, consensual trance?
How can anybody distinguish, then, between dream, hypnotic trance, and reality? Dehypnotization, the procedure of breaking out of the normal human state of awareness, according to both mystics and hypnotists, is a matter of direct mental experience. The method can be learned... _Howard Rheingold on Charles Tart

Maybe, maybe not. A lot depends upon the person's experience up to the point when he tries to break free. If the person were raised to be a dangerous child, he will likely have already learned ways of breaking out of the consensual trance -- at least temporarily, for specific purposes. But if the person were raised to be a psychological neotenate -- like most modern children -- his chances of learning to break free of the waking consensus will depend upon his strength of character and his motivation.

Human societies are moving toward a point where it becomes more crucial for persons to wake up. Whether this will involve waking up into yet a higher trance, or waking up outside of trance altogether, may be more a matter of semantics than we would like to think.

If a person wants you to "wake up" to his way of thinking, that is a clue that he wants you to share his trance. This is a typical experience for university students in the modern classroom of indoctrination, and for consumers of mainstream media news and commentary.

But if you want to wake up outside the consensual trance -- and perhaps into your own trance -- you will need to do some creative thinking and experimenting.

If it seems like I am trying to "dumb down" and generalise the definition of trance to the point that it encompasses all experience and consciousness, that is not my intent. I am leaving room for several types of consciousness outside of trance states.

But it takes work to reach them, and even more work to stay in them for any appreciable period of time.

Most people will never wake from the consensual trance, and that is just how they want it. But as push comes to shove, and shove comes to strike, someone will have to devise some workable alternatives. Hopefully, at least some of these alternatives will involve a larger scale emergence from the limited consensus.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Sojka's Call said...

Excellent post - thank you for the link to Charles Tart. His writings deserve serious attention from me. I have mused to myself the differences between friends and the labels I put on them such as "sleep walking", awakened (not the woo-woo new-age def), clear thinker, brainwashed, etc. I realize it was my rudimentary attempt at quantifying the trance state they inhabited. The Tart material will provide (hopefully) better descriptors and ways of seeing where someone's particular state of mind is at the moment I see and talk with them. And, I can only hope - a better way to see my own trance states.

Tuesday, 04 September, 2012  
Blogger al fin said...

Thanks for the comment.

For a long time neuroscientists doubted whether hypnosis and trance were real phenomena, but it seems that the trance metaphor may become an extremely fruitful one for cognitive science -- and eventually for neuroscience as well.

Personally, I see the conceptual cluster of "trance" as a bombshell for all branches of the cognitive sciences -- both research and clinical -- once the ramifications become clearer to those who frame the agenda in those fields.

Tuesday, 04 September, 2012  

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