After my previous blog posts where I mentioned natural trance states (“What is Hypnosis?” and “What is a Trance State?”), many people have asked me about naturally occurring trance states in day to day life. I thought rather than focus on these day-to-day activities, however, that I’d write about hypnotic phenomena as coping mechanisms to show that not only are these phenomena natural, but are ways anyone can respond to similar phenomena.
So, today, we’re going to talk about trauma-related symptoms.
Many survivors of trauma are able to disassociate incredibly well. This is a learned ability that allowed them to go through the experience or whatever residual traumas they had to deal with afterward. It’s particularly prevalent in adults who were abused or abandoned as children.
Not all people who can disassociate are trauma victims, however.
But people with this kind of ability can easily slide off into “other worlds” to escape things. Sometimes, they’ll have problems in their relationships because they’ll just disappear: space out, hyper-focused on their own issues, etc.
These are also hypnotic phenomena in their own right that are correlated with and often constitute this disassociation. First, time distortion: reliving traumatic memories/experiences as if they were happening.
Next, time expansion: feeling like something horrible is about to happen and feeling helpless to change.
Third, positive hallucination: negativity and projections of past in future.
Fourth, amnesia/negative hallucination: forgetting things that happened at any time, forgetting positive things (as part of negative narrative) or forgetting bad things from past.
Fifth, obsessive focus: being hyperfocused on bad things that happened, revenge, or future escape.
Sixth, hypnotic anchoring: tokens/items that fix it (“emotional crutches”) and things that pull you back to the memories (e.g. a black leather belt and child abuse).
Seventh, anesthesia: emotional numbing, inability to recall emotional memories, and inability to feel physical pain in emotionally intense situations.
Each of these (and a few others) are a window into the world of someone with trauma in their lives. And it shows how their minds utilized natural hypnotic phenomena as a means to cope with their life experiences–to make their lives livable. This is a really important thing for both a client and a therapist to realize: symptoms arise to help, not to harm. So, the key is to work it out from there: how can the mind help you in better ways?