A trance is a state of altered consciousness in which a person’s general awareness is decreased and his/her suggestibility is increased.

What Causes Trances?
A trance can be induced in a number of ways. Normal daily activities that require repetitive movements and little awareness may induce trancelike states. For example, someone very familiar with cooking may enter a trance while cooking a simple meal, and some drivers are in trancelike states after a long drive.

Hypnosis is one of the most effective ways to induce a trance in most people. Some religions and new age practices use meditation, guided imagery, and other thought exercises to help people enter trances. During a trance, a person’s awareness is markedly decreased. He/she may, for example, be unable to open his/her eyes or walk around, or may not notice a song on the radio or that a person is talking to him/her. This decreased awareness makes people much more suggestible during trance states.

Purposes of Trances
Hypnosis and other trance-inducing procedures have been used for generations to improve memory of past events and alter habits. Some people, for example, have used hypnosis to effectively help quit smoking or get over phobias. The increased suggestiveness during a trance state makes it more likely that some people will follow through with suggestions when they exit the trance. It is generally accepted that hypnosis cannot normally be used to induce a person to do something that is against his/her moral code.

In the 1980s and 1990s, hypnosis and trance states were increasingly used to recover “repressed” memories. In many cases, these memories turned out to be false precisely because people in trances are highly suggestible. Subtle cues from a therapist could cause a person to “remember” something that never happened even after exiting the trance. Consequently, most contemporary practitioners now recommend against recovered memory therapy.


  1. Hypnotic trance states. (n.d.). Bristol Hypnotherapy, NLP & EFT. Retrieved from

Last Updated: 08-28-2015

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