The goal of hypnosis is to program the mind of a person with a desired belief or a suggestion or a command. This is done by inducing a highly suggestible ‘trance state’ in the person in which he becomes highly receptive to ‘suggestions’ and his conscious resistance is greatly weakened, if not entirely turned off.
Trance state can be achieved by distraction and relaxation of the conscious mind. If the conscious mind of a person is distracted by some thought or any other activity requiring conscious involvement, the suggestions that he receives directly reach his subconscious mind.
Also, if you are able to induce a deep relaxation state in a person, their conscious resistance to any outside ideas or suggestions is greatly reduced; thereby allowing you directly access their subconscious mind.
So what does this trance state look like?
Any mental state of distraction or deep relaxation is a trance state. Distraction is more powerful and time-efficient than relaxation in inducing a trance state.
We all know how deep relaxation is used to induce a trance state by therapists, psychologists, etc. You are asked to sit in a chair or lie down comfortably, and then the hypnotist slowly allows you to relax. As the hypnotist allows you to relax more and more, the closer you get to reaching the trance state.
Finally, you reach a mental state similar to the ‘half-awake half-asleep’ state you usually find yourself in when you wake up in the mornings. This is the trance state. At this point, your conscious mind is highly relaxed and almost turned off. So you become receptive to the suggestions or commands that the hypnotist gives you.
Now let’s talk about how distraction can induce a trance state…
All absent-mindedness is a state of trance. Ever done something stupid while being absent-minded? That’s the simplest example of hypnosis. To clarify the idea, let me give you an example…
You are in an elevator with a few people. You stare at the numbers and get lost in your own thoughts. This absent-mindedness is a state of trance. When people get off the elevator, you also receive a non-verbal suggestion to get off. You almost walk out of the elevator before you ‘wake up’ and realize that this is not your floor. See how you almost acted on a suggestion while being in the state of trance?
Another real-life example
There are countless everyday examples of hypnosis that you can think of which revolve around absent-mindedness. It’s amazing how the subconscious mind takes the suggestions ‘literally’ and acts on them while our conscious mind is too distracted to make sense of what’s happening.
For example, I was once observing a guy who was fixing his electric motor. Though he was fixing the motor, it was apparent to me that he was distracted. In other words, his conscious mind was busy with something else.
As he was doing the task, he whispered to himself under his breath a light warning, “Don’t join the red wire with the black one”. A red wire had to be joined with another red one and a black wire had to be joined to another black one.
In his distracted state of mind, the guy did exactly what he had told himself not to do. He joined a red wire with a black one. As soon as he noticed what he had done, he was amazed and wondered how someone could do such a stupid thing. “I did exactly what I told myself not to do”, he exclaimed. I smiled and said, “It happens” because I figured the real explanation would’ve made him give me that incredulous dude-what-the-hell-are-you-saying look.
What actually happened is that the person underwent a brief hypnosis session just like we all sometimes do when we are distracted. While his conscious mind was busy with whatever he was thinking- the latest score, last night’s dinner, the quarrel with his wife- whatever, his subconscious mind became accessible to suggestions. At the same time, he gave himself the command, “Don’t join the red wire with the black one”.
The subconscious mind, which was currently in action because the conscious mind was distracted, did not process the negative word “don’t” because to ‘choose’ not to do something requires the involvement of the conscious mind. So for the subconscious, the actual command was, “Join the red wire with the black one” and that’s exactly what the guy did!