Dr John Butler explains how hypnotherapy can assist the journey of inner discovery and help us make transformational choices
In human experience, the inner journey is a concept of great transformative power. Whether they intend it or not, even those who undertake journeys in the outer world encounter not only the ‘other’, but also themselves – resources and potentials within them that are drawn out by the need to respond to something new.
Visually, we tend to see a significant learning journey, such as a pilgrimage or a quest, as lateral; our movement is ‘along’. Time, the fourth dimension, is typically represented as a horizontal line and even the least adventurous of us are nevertheless shunted along the timeline like a conveyor belt, experiencing challenge and change as a result.
Most of us cooperate with time, seeking out experiences that we need to develop and mature at different periods, from pulling ourselves upright and walking as toddlers, to seeking and making a place for ourselves in the world as young adults.
So, if the most common direction of progress is lateral, in what circumstances would we need to consider journeys of the ‘vertical’ kind, specifically delving beneath the surface?
Traditionally in human history, turning to the depths is done to access additional resources that enable us to overcome challenges and obstacles that threaten to block our lateral journey on the surface. In the outer material world, we go below to bring to the surface metals, precious stones and other substances to use for tools, fuels, weapons and trade. It is a laborious but rewarding process.
Many people who experience using hypnotherapy for in-depth inner journeys describe it as like mining underground or diving underwater. Whether we are seeking to replenish exhausted creative energies, find the stamina to motivate ourselves through challenging times such as pain, illness or loss, or to pick up the lost threads of our own story when we find ourselves somehow stranded in life, what we need is not apparent on the surface, so we dig down.
The method provided in hypnosis for this purpose is the trance. This is, of course, a natural property of the human central nervous system, and it can and does occur spontaneously. I often find that rather than introducing trance to a student as a completely new experience, I am giving a name and a structure to something with which they are already familiar to a greater or lesser extent. What is new and of great benefit to them is that the techniques of hypnosis enable them to use trance with purposeful direction, and also in a partnership.
Hypnosis can be experienced as a solo operation, as self-hypnosis. However, for most people it is much more easily developed in partnership with a co-operator, the hypnotist. Using the knowledge and skills accumulated in over 200 years of clinical and experimental hypnosis, it is exciting and illuminating for people to discover that they can gain control and direction within the trance and use it to tap resources that they need.
Trance is achieved through a combination of mental focussing and redirection of attention, with many different techniques being available which can be selected and adapted to suit the individual. When guided and directed appropriately, trance increases receptivity, so that your mind will accept communications it might otherwise block – such as positive and healing concepts which might be counteracted by doubts and negative preconceptions.
Trance also creates disinhibition, which means that you can gain access to mental resources which are present or potentially present in your mind, but are not usually active and available to you. These resources include memories, emotions, learning abilities, creative thinking and solution-finding.
The most profound activities which are facilitated by the receptivity and disinhibition in trance are the making of transformational choices. These include: choosing to let go of the past – including resentments and attachments to versions of events that might have happened but didn’t; reviewing our values and being prepared to change them; and creating inner space for voices and desires within ourselves to be heard, which may have been denied up until now.
These and other inner changes are, of course, common goals of many philosophical and self-change systems, but in trance the experience of making these choices is extremely vivid and real and so makes a deep impression.
In the creative inner space of trance, increased receptivity can be used to reinforce and stabilise change processes. Through self-hypnosis and recordings, this can be repeated and extended to support a new regime as it takes effect in our real-life environment. This is often a testing time for new insights and resolutions, when they compete with the forces of old habits.
One of the most rewarding features of teaching hypnosis is how rapidly most people learn to use it and to enter trance. I never get tired of seeing the look of amazement on people’s faces when they dive into their inner depths, and come up again having found that there is, in fact, treasure there.