Altered states of consciousness meaning and definition

Altered states of consciousness meaning and definition

An altered states of consciousness (EMC) is characterized by a different frequency of brain waves than an ordinary waking state. It allows us to create another relationship with ourselves, our identity and the world around us. Generated in particular during hypnosis sessions, it constitutes an opening to an infinity of possibilities, a source of lasting fulfillment.

Definition of altered states of consciousness 

An altered states of consciousness (EMC), also called hypnotic trance, corresponds, as its name suggests, to a modification of the ordinary state of consciousness. It corresponds to a slowing down of our brain waves compared to those of the waking state, that of our daily and rational functioning. EMC is quite natural and can occur when we dream or practice an artistic activity for example. It can also be provoked in meditation or through specific methods used in the context of hypnotherapy. It appears to be an intermediate state between wakefulness and sleep. 

What is an altered states of consciousness for?

Some natural altered states of consciousness can represent a psychological barrier to protect us during a traumatic experience. This is the case of the NDE (near death experience) which can in particular be the cause of dissociation. The altered states of consciousness provoked, as in meditation or hypnosis, have other virtues. For example, EMC makes it possible to modulate the cerebral circuits of the perception of pain, thus being able to cause a light sedation. This is why hypnosis is now increasingly used in operating theaters, in combination with conventional anesthesia. 

The altered state of consciousness can also occur when we sleep (during REM sleep), for example in the case of lucid dreams (when we are aware that we are dreaming). The sleeper is then no longer aware of his environment, on the other hand, he realizes his state of reverie, which can allow him to influence his dreams. 

Altered state of consciousness in hypnosis 

EMC in hypnosis creates a balance between the two hemispheres of our brain, that is, between our logical/rational mind and our intuitive/creative mind. The induction of the modified state of consciousness allows a hypnotherapist to facilitate access to the patient’s unconscious and thus make available to him the many untapped resources of his brain.

Through their suggestions, the practitioner can activate the individual’s inherent self-healing abilities while working their way toward identifying those elements of their life that are important to therapy. The trance state in hypnosis is somewhat different from other CMEs because it separates the conscious and the unconscious. This makes it possible to overcome the blockages of consciousness in order to be able to easily access the hidden potential that we all hold. 

How is EMC induced in hypnosis? 

Induction is an essential tool in hypnosis, it allows to generate the modified state of consciousness favoring change. To achieve this during a session, the therapist must encourage his patient to let go while channeling his vigilance in order to make his sliding towards EMC easier. The goal is to create a dissociative state so that the person distances themselves from themselves and their environment. Several techniques can be used to induce EMC.

Among them, we find the stimulation of one of the patient’s senses: vision, hearing, kinesthetic (touch), smell or taste. These constitute the system of sensory channels called “VAKOG”. Each person tends to favor one of these channels in order to analyze the information coming from his environment. Thus, the hypnotherapist first determines the preferential sensory channel of the subject in order to be able to adjust his induction technique. For example, if hearing is the person’s dominant sense, the practitioner will prefer to modulate their voice and use suggestions to induce the altered states of consciousness. 

Read Also: Hypnotherapy near me: How does it work?

CME and the expanded state of consciousness

Somewhat different from other forms of hypnotherapy in its methods, humanistic hypnosis uses a particular state: that of “expanded consciousness”. Here, the classic method is reversed and the therapist begins the session with a technique generally used at the end of the consultation, which would allow the patient to come out of the trance state. Strangely, using this awakening process while the patient is already awake also creates a hypnotic trance, though different from the altered state of consciousness usually achieved in hypnosis. Here we find an “augmented consciousness”, without the person being entirely immersed in their unconscious. The patient then seems more dynamic and awake while feeling a certain lightness on the physical level. 

This can be like breaking the barrier between the unconscious and the conscious mind, without “erasing” the latter as in other forms of hypnosis, thus creating a perfect synergy. The humanist approach banishes any manipulation or direct intervention by the therapist, giving the latter instead the role of a pedagogue. Indeed, the expanded state of consciousness allows the patient to realize the origin of his difficulties in order to then be able to remedy them by himself, without any real interference from the therapist, unlike the modified state of consciousness of other types of hypnosis.

Altered states of consciousness can also be experienced online

This is an example of online sophrology. It is possible to find more or less explicit sophrology sessions (sophro, visualization, relaxation) on applications such as Insight Timer (IT) or Petit Bambou.

Mindfulness in the Plum Village tradition has an English app, with some meditations in French and Spanish. For example, Sister Dao Nghiem’s ​​”mindfulness of sensory contacts” is a root practice of sophrology. Natalia Caycedo, the daughter of the founder of sophrology, offers videos on YouTube. His accent and energy are communicative and lead to the EMC conducive to work, here called “sophropresence”. This presence creates a modified space of consciousness, echoing the sophronized person who arrives there at their own pace and who is supported by the state of the practitioner who guides. It is the living matter of work. 

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