How the mind works with trance
This series of articles continues to explore the ways in which the brain (which for the writer is the neurobiology) and the mind (the way we pay attention and respond to our environment) work within the framework of the trance, sometimes called, the hypnotic state.
In order to expand on that further it is useful to be able to simply explain how the mind works. The ICH (2011, pp2-3) provides a useful model to do so. This model draws down on (and maybe simplifies) some of the work of Sigmund Freud, whose work Kerry (1990, p132) claims has significantly influenced psychology, of which his concept of Goal-directed dynamics, whereby “all behaviour is motivated and goal directed” (Kerry, 1990, p137) seems to be the most relevant in considering how hypnosis and the trance state can influence that motivation and therefore the learning/programmable state.
Bateman (2008, p28) is clear in stating that there are various models and theories of the mind, that are constantly amalgamating and developing. He also stresses how important it is for the trance therapist to have in place a model in order to practice effectively. A discussion follows on the ICH model.
Kerry (1990, P138) describes the topography of Freud’s mind as having three different qualities:
- The conscious – those aspects of our mental life that we are aware of
- The preconscious – those aspects of the unconscious that can be recalled easily
- The unconscious – hold material that can be accessed through effort and often involves over coming some resistance.
Keane, perhaps summarising the ICH model, summaries the above into two sections by amalgamating the conscious and pre-conscious, calling this the “conscious” stating that it is that “aspect of our mental processing that we can think and talk about rationally” and includes those parts of memory “which are not always part of consciousness but can be retrieved easily at any time and brought into awareness”. Keane describes the unconscious mind as a “reservoir of feelings, thoughts, urges and memories that lay outside of our conscious awareness” which he argues influences the individual’s behaviour even if they are not aware of it.
The ICH model calls this the Subconscious and describes the Conscious as containing contains three critical aspects:
- Will power
- Temporary Memory
According to Wikipedia, Willpower is the self-discipline (of training and control of oneself and ones conduct) and self-control (the ability of a person to exert their will over the inhibitions of their body or self), so it is that part of the individual that, seemingly decides what will be enacted). This suggests to me that it is about the thoughts that we hold in our mind. The writers personal observation is that the strength of will power not only varies between individuals, within individuals according to the subject and from time to time. This is important because Murphy (2000, p9) states that the “subconscious is subject to the conscious mind” and further that the law of the mind is that “The reaction or response you get from your subconscious mind will be determined be the nature of the thought or idea you have in your conscious mind.
Those thoughts/ideas are normally held in the temporary memory which Reisberg (2001, p142) terms the “Working Memory”, which he defines as those memories held within long-term memory storage (ICH definition “Permanent Memory – which model considers stored in the subconscious) that are currently activated and being worked with. He then goes on to explain (p143) that the working memory is constantly, not only accessing and retrieving data/memories from the permanent storage, but is also attending to stimuli from the environment through the bodies senses.
The ICH model holds that these stimuli influence the Reticular Activating System RAS), which Rossi (1993, pp31-43) explains in detail is “in the brain stem, which projects its nerve connections” through the central nervous system in order to fire the neurons and “stimulate the brain into wakefulness”. In paying attention to these messages, he goes on to explain that this stimulation leads to an increase responsiveness that integrates memory with the pleasure/reward system, and therefore, presumably, activates processing, recall and the responses considered relevant to those stimuli.
From the ICH model perspective, the conscious mind is then analysing, that is attempting to process, order or discover the meaning about the stimuli data that is presented to it. During the course of this process the mind may draw on its experience (from the pre-conscious) that is readily available to it in order to make a decision about its responses/actions to the stimuli. The ICH model also assumes that the individual, after processing will respond rationally. Defining rational behaviour could be incredibly problematic and lengthy, so I find the definition by Dryden (1999, p7) that “ the term ‘rational’ means that which helps people achieve their basic goals and purposes” echoing the goal directed behaviour mentioned above.
In deciding how to take action the individual will use their imagination (it was once said to the writer that before we can take any action, we have to imagine it – after much empirical testing, the writer now personally agrees.) Griffin et al (2003, p14) liken the imagination to the “dreaming brain” arguing that the imagination is used to create options for new futures; enabling faster and greater learning. The ICH consider that imagination forms a critical aspect of the long term memory, and because of its abilities to aid learning and responses, the hypnotherapist should take an active interest in how to help their clients access it beneficially and efficiently.
It is the ways of accessing that dreaming brain that are of particular interest to the work that can be done to help clients develop and heal.
- Bateman, A et al (2008) “Introduction to psychoanalysis; Contemporary Theory and Practice” Routledge, Hove, UK.
- Carlson, N (1994) “Physiology of Behaviour”. Allyn and Bacon, Needham Heights, MA, USA.
- Davy, J et al (2004). “Concepts in therapy; Barriers, Defences and Resistance”. Open University Press, Maidenhead, Berks, UK.
- Deikman, A (1982). “The Observing Self”. Beacon Press, Boston, USA.
- Dryden, W. (1999). “Counselling Individuals: A Rational Emotive Behavioural Handbook”. Athenaeum Press Ltd, Gateshead, UK.
- ICH F1, Foundation Course (F1) 2011. Institute of Clinical Hypnosis (ICH)
- James, U (2005). “Clinical Hypnosis Textbook; A guide for practical intervention”. Radcliff Publishing, Oxford, UK.
- Griffin et al (2003), “Human Givens; A new approach to emotional health and clear thinking”. HG Publishing Ltd, Chalvington, Sussex, UK.
- Keane, T http://ezinearticles.com/model-of-the-mind as at 5.40am, 20/11/2011.
- Murphy, J (2000) “The Power of the Subconscious Mind”. Simon & Schuster Ltd, London, UK.
- Reisberg, D.(2001) “Cognition; Exploring the Science of the Mind”. Norton & Company, London, UK.
- Rossi, E. (1993) “The Psychobiology of Mind-Body Healing; New Concepts of Therapeutic Hypnosis”. Norton & Company, London, UK.
- Thomas, K. “Psychodynamics: The Freudian Approach” in Roth, I. (1990), “Introduction to Psychology Volume 1”. Psychology Press Ltd, Hove, UK.
- Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willpower as at 6.26am, 20/11/2011.
- Wolinsky, S. et al (1991), “Trances People Live; Healing Approaches in Quantum Psychology”. Bramble Books, USA.
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