© 2016 E. Hitchcock Scott, PhD
LPCC917, ATR-BC, REAT
For decades I have told clients, “I am not here to hypnotize you, I am here to help you become awake”. In fact, there are people in the general public who would be surprised if they knew how much time they spend living in a trance state. Most of us have experienced, at least once, the normative phenomenon of driving up into our own driveway and wondering about how much time flew by – and so quickly – the last few blocks or miles on the way home from work. The sense of time speeding up while driving is called highway hypnosis and is considered to be experienced by most people at sometime in their lives. This is all to say that even healthy people have trance experiences and that there is a continuum of normative to severely pathological. The good news is that the techniques described in this article can be adapted to the full range of trance and identity experience.
It is completely understandable that clients arrive in therapy with conflicts about their lives, themselves, therapy, and even the goal of wellness.
Theorists Carl Jung and Marsha M. Linehan, and many others, address the inner conflicts and polarities that are able to keep us all stuck in non-productive relational and/or behavioral patterns. Yet, not all theorists deal with co-occuring aspects of inner conflict – trance and identity.
Stephen Wolinsky PhD, refers to Object Relations Theory when he speaks of the “‘false selves’ that operate autonomously”, and states that the ‘you behind the trance’, possibly the true self, is the one who creates these identities, (Wolinsky, 1991, p. 223). There are times when a false self holds negative thoughts and feelings, compartmentalized and empowered by a trance phenomenon.
One way to explain this dynamic is that there are times when clients have failed therapy or rehab over and over because the trance and identity aspects of their addiction or raging (for example) have not ever been addressed.
In his book, Trances People Live, Wolinsky gives an example of a false belief, directive or mandate – “If I don’t understand, I am dumb”. He, and other professionals suggest that when a concrete false belief system is created, then the opposite must also be present – VOILA – the polarity.
As stated above, the client creates – or created in childhood – a polarity to the original mandate. The polarity may manifest in the following behavior or presenting problem, “I am so driven to understand everything, I drive myself and everybody else crazy, I always feel like I have to know everything, even when it is completely irrelevant,” The opposing mandate to “If I don’t understand, I am dumb”, has become, “I must understand” (p. 223). This type of polarity might embody a healthy creative tension that fuels productivity, and if so, this would be a normative, healthy or functional polarity. Yet, not all polarities enhance wellness and the differential is most likely related to childhood experiences.
While this next statement is disputed in the field of mental health, (I have found it to be true),… the observer self, the true or authentic self – behind the identities – knows that he or she will be OK whether or not he or she “knows” everything. Once again, this aspect of self may be referred to as the authentic self, the true self, the observer self, the core self, or the identity free self.
Usually the false beliefs, the identities, and resultant directives attached to the identities, are born out of the pain and confusion of childhood trauma and/or abuse. Generally, these self-limiting belief systems are developed from a child’s perspective, the lack of power held at the time to change their environment, and an underdeveloped – due to childhood – analytical cognition.
For the art piece above, the client worked with the polarity of, “I must get well” and “I cannot get well”.
The therapist invites the true self or core self to observe the other two parts – the opposing belief systems they hold and to begin to explore shifting his or her experience – or – consciousness back and forth while “becoming one identity-feeling it, being it”,…. and then “un-being” it.
Just this exercise alone can begin the client empowerment process. Clients begin to grasp how differently they feel somatically when shifting their focus from one identity to another. They begin to learn that they have a point of choice, rather then feeling as if a victim of their own seemingly arbitrary shifts in mood and thought.
When Wolinsky asks a client to generate a spiritual resource for each part of self, from the position of the identity free self, he is asking for an image of a tangible object. This is the mindfulness aspect of this exercise.
I ask the observing authentic self – the one behind the trance – to take a few minutes, while visiting the states of self that hold the 1) “I must get well” and/or 2) “I cannot get well”, and wait in silence for a resource image to emerge. Then I ask for the client to do the same for the 3) identity free part, and 4) a part representing their healing community/social network. Then the client is asked to integrate the healing resource images into a part of their body. Healing images that emerge are often objects of nature, including but not limited to, butterflies, birds, wild and domestic mammals, Himalayan mountains, colored lights, rainbows, and might also include comforting objects from childhood, such as a stuffed toy.
After integrating the resource images into each part of self, and imagining their social network carrying the spiritual resource inside of their bodies, the client can make a drawing that integrates the resource images. These drawings have a surrealistic quality with various objects juxtapositioned in ways that would not happen in reality. This is just fine because the drawing is a symbol of an internal “interweaving” or integration of “oppositional identities, along with their corresponding contexts and resources”, (p. 225).
“Ultimately, the client comes to understand that he or she has created the identities and the corresponding resources that are then integrated in a no-trance or natural state”, (p. 225).
If this process or similar activities interests you, please call 310-800-9761 to discuss the possibility of setting up an appointment.
Wolinsky, S.(1991). Trances People Live: Healing Approaches in Quantum Psychology. Falls Village, CT: The Bramble Company.