In the Know

Pe­ople in the know today recognize that the fear of marijuana, as manifested in its “Schedule 1” categorization, is not only irrational, but results in untold harm to people living in countries that ban the plant. The harm is most evident when one realizes that marijuana contains multiple chemicals that have extremely effective medical properties in combating cancer, epilepsy, and numerous other serious ailments and their symptoms.

The other important characteristic of marijuana, from a medical perspective, is the fact that no one has ever died of an overdose – a claim that can rarely be made for any product of the pharmaceutical industry, whose profits are consistently protected by the demonization of naturally occurring nutrients that happen to have medicinal properties.

It is my contention, in writing this article, that the “reefer madness” marijuana meme applies equally to the practice of hypnosis and the nature of trance – phenomena that have been similarly vilified by some, for similar reasons.

Trance History

It was Franz Anton Mesmer who, around 1767, first began exploring the possibilities of using hypnosis therapeutically, although it had been employed previously in other ways, mostly religious ritual, for thousands of years. Unfortunately, his understanding of the nature of trance was very poor and his explanations were conducive to a variety of profound misconceptions – not the least of which was the notion that trance is something to which the hypnotist subjects the person hypnotized – rather than something the person hypnotized does.

This misconception was further reinforced subsequently by a cadre of stage hypnotists who actively misled the public into thinking that hypnotists possess some kind of occult power that enables them to control the minds of their hypnotic “subjects”. As persistent as this belief has proven, it is nonetheless false.

Pretty soon then, the Catholic Church, in its ignorant, but infallible, wisdom decided that hypnosis is tantamount to “Satanic possession”, and advised its adherents accordingly to avoid anything to do with hypnosis. So the stage was set for a lot of painful misunderstandings as to the reality of hypnotic trance.

Fortunately for the practice of personal growth counseling, psychiatrist Milton Erickson (1901 – 1980) spent some 68 years of his life developing modern hypnosis, a methodology that made obsolete much of previous hypnotic lore. In the course of his research he wrote 4 massive volumes of technical papers exploring almost every conceivable aspect of hypnotic technique, the trance phenomenon, and the use of hypnotic trance in psychotherapeutic intervention. Some of the results of his research turned out to be completely at odds with the beliefs of earlier practitioners.

What is Trance?

Every person having more awareness than those who are comatose has “perceptual experience” – which is to say vision, hearing, and touch. And every person has their own way of paying attention to their experience – including a normal way that they utilize most of their waking hours – and a variety of “altered states” that are different from our normal state and which we use for special purposes. It is these altered states that comprise trances. For instance, every skilled driver can manifest a driving trance in which most of the decisions made are made by the subconscious – which allows us to drive down the road “on automatic”, without having to think (consciously) about the task of driving.

When watching a movie or TV show, we will usually enter a “movie trance” that allows us to respond emotionally to the show’s content, as if the actors, whose images we are watching on the screen, were real and physically present. In fact, every high-level skill comes with a corresponding trance state that allows the subconscious mind to achieve the highest level of competence. Accordingly, the ability to create and enter trance states “at will” is a valuable skill in itself – and hypnosis is simply the teaching of this skill.

Fictions vs. Facts

Fiction: A hypnotic trance is something the hypnotist does to the hypnotic subject.

Fact: Not so. Entering a trance state is a voluntary behavior of the subconscious mind.The act cannot happen unless the subconscious decides to do it. Most human decisions share this trait – and the conscious mind rationalizes the decisions after the subconscious makes the commitment.

Fiction: A trance state can be induced by a hypnotist against the will of the subject being hypnotized.

Fact: Since entering trance is something the subject does voluntarily, the statement above is patently false. The subject is always in control, and the subconscious is the gatekeeper, deciding what responses to make to the incoming sensory data.

Fiction: Only certain people can be hypnotized – others not.

Fact: Anyone that is not in a coma can learn to enter trance states – even schizophrenics and those who are catatonic…providing the hypnotic operator is sufficiently skilled, patient, and flexible in their behavior.

Fiction: Under hypnosis, a hypnotist can read your mind, invade your mind, control your mind, and force you to say or do things you would not ordinarily be willing to do – things that are against your moral judgement.

Fact: The statement above is false. The hypnotic subject has built in safe- guards against exploitation, and in a trance state is perfectly capable of withholding information, lying, refusing to comply, or exiting the trance when a hypnotic command or suggestion runs contrary to the subject’s moral code.

Erickson did extensive research on this question, and his results were quite conclusive. In fact I’m pretty sure that when government agencies have attempted to use hypnosis to initiate immoral behavior, they found they could not do so with hypnosis alone, requiring the use of psychotropic drugs and other forms of conditioning – unless the subject was a psychopath to begin with.


As Milton Erickson proved through the effectiveness of his methods, hypnotic therapy isn’t just for smoking cessation and weight loss – the areas to which the mental health cartels have relegated it. Academic-based mental health organizations still deprecate hypnosis and sneer at it as an “alternative therapy”, but they refrain from attempting to “regulate”, control, or monopolize it, as they have other “clinical” methods. I’m guessing, because the four fictions or myths that I described above have limited public interest in hypnosis without their having to do anything.

But those in the know about the facts concerning hypnosis, can now be unaffected by those myths, and can enjoy the enormous benefits available by becoming “best friends” with their own subconscious mind – via hypnotic or neurolinguistic education.