What are the Different Levels of Hypnosis?

The altered state of consciousness we call a trance is what defines hypnosis and makes it both special and powerful. But not every trance is the same, and one of the ways they differ has to do with depth. The altered state can range anywhere from so light you hardly notice it, to a trance so deep that you are in a different universe.

The main thing to understand is that different levels of trance are useful for different things.

You can split trance states into four different levels—wide awake, alert, dissociated, and somnambulistic. These labels are not, by the way, used by all hypnotists, but the states they describe are recognised universally.

The wide-awake trance. The very lightest level. You can talk. You can look at the things around you. You can sit, or stand, or move around at will. You are aware of your surroundings, but still able to focus your attention tightly. If you are asked to listen to the hypnotist’s voice, or watch a pendulum swinging in front of your eyes, you can do that to the exclusion of everything else, but still be aware of those other things in the background. A lot of self-hypnosis functions at this level, for such things as learning a new motor skill, or studying a text.

The alert trance. Now the focus is more inward. Your awareness of your surroundings is greatly diminished. You can still hear and respond to the hypnotist, but you are more aware of how your body feels. You are more responsive to the hypnotist’s suggestions, like feeling heavy, or sleepy, or your arm deciding to float up with no effort from you. This level of trance is useful for things like reducing tension, relieving anxiety, and blocking pain.

The dissociated trance. At this level your mind is active, but you surrender awareness of your body. You are no longer in the room, but somewhere else—a different where and a different when. This is a level where much effective hypnotherapy works to help you deal with trauma, for instance. In this state, you can remember, and even re-experience, bad events, but do that calmly and without pain or fear. Sometimes it can seem as if you were watching the traumatic event happen to someone else. In everyday life, this is the trance you experience when you are at a movie, or listening to powerful music, and are mentally out of your body.

The somnambulistic trance. This is the deep one. You have no conscious awareness of anything at all, inside you or outside you. You have opened a door into your unconscious and gone through it into a place where time and physical space have no meaning. This state allows you go get back in touch with old memories, and to connect with the most creative parts of you.

All of these levels are available to you, and a skilled hypnotist will work with you at the level that is best for what you need to accomplish.

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