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The National Council of Psychotherapists

Est. 1971

Contextualising trance phenomena




Asaf Rolef Ben-Shahar


‘Without context, there is no communication’ Gregory Bateson (1972).


If magic is about transcending natural forces and the accessible realities then hypnosis and trance are definitely non-magical. However, if magic is about applying ‘one map’ in a new context; if magic is about creating a seemingly unfathomable experience by utilizing forces, which are natural but usually inaccessible - then trancework has everything to do with magic.


Because all trance phenomena use naturalistic events and experiences that we are all, by virtue of being human beings, bound to experience.


The same physiological and psychological patterns occur within us all, only that trancework, by amplifying certain aspects of our experiences, utilizes them in specific contexts. I enjoy likening it to the star-trek ‘holodeck’, a holographic platform for the practicing and accessing of previously unavailable skills and information.


When the person is attentionally absorbed (in a state of ‘focused relaxation’) the experiential and experimental element of this natural psychological make-up are much easier. The therapist encourages the accessing and developing of unconscious processes while bypassing and depotentiating trance-inhibiting behaviours and cognitive/conscious processes.


Yesterday there was a power cut in my clinic. It was dark and cold, so I’ve lit many tea-lights. I was immediately flooded with memories, and the longer I spent in the candle-lit room, the deeper these associations became and I started daydreaming of my childhood neighbourhood (experiential absorption). When my clients arrived, the effects of the candle-lit room with each of them were indeed different but they have all responded with their own idiosyncratic and unique memory patterns, which could then be utilized into various therapeutic means. Funnily, many of the clients I saw yesterday seemed to ‘bring up’ early childhood, regressive and ‘inner child’ work.


Unlike traditional or procedural hypnosis, where the facilitator ‘plants’ suggestion or ‘creates situations’ for the client, the Ericksonian therapist endeavours to use the natural, unique experiences of the client and just contextualise them in an experiential, absorbing manner, with the intention of using them therapeutically.

Author contact Details:

Asaf Rolef Ben-Shahar

London:  Bliss, 333 Portobello Road, W10 5SA  Tel: 020 8969 3331

St. Albans:  The Bassett Clinic, Aberfoyle House, Stapley Road, Herts AL3 5EP

01727 856687


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