Nowadays we prefer to talk about an “altered state of consciousness”. By this, in general terms, is meant; a more intent and intense preoccupation with; a “focus” (if you prefer it). At this point, other thoughts and events might well be temporarily suspended but for no other reason than because at that precise moment in time, they seem unimportant to us and irrelevant to our present pursuits’. Nor – as hopefully we are about to witness in the brief account immediately to follow – is this in any way a ‘long headed’ or obscure point, which is difficult to appreciate.
One day, some years ago, I was driving friends, to view and enjoy a well-known stretch of scenery in the southern uplands of Scotland known as “the Dalveen Pass”. As we passed through Thornhill in Dumfriesshire at its southerly end, several memories associated with that little town simply flooded back, generating and inspiring an animated conversation. Believe it or not, we were approaching Elvanfoot at the northern end, before, to our frustration and disappointment,, it dawned on us that we had not so much as for a moment actually ‘clapped eyes’ on the truly spectacular scenery through which we had just passed and which at that part of the outing was the point of the journey just undertaken. For not dissimilar reasons of focus and concentration, a boxer will tell you that during the rounds of a fight he feels no pain; and “daydreaming” possesses a ‘pedigree’ such as to inspire those well known ripostes, i.e. “a penny for them” and “he’s/she’s in another world”.
Just in case you still remain unconvinced, think of the last time you watched your favourite “soap opera” or a gripping movie on television. At the level of objective reality, you knew then as you know now, i.e. that they amount to little more than “a roll of film in a can”, tied to a story-line, often of an entirely fictitious nature. You knew then, as you know now, i.e. that it did not in the past possess any basis in objective reality, any more than it does today. Even in a film portraying and reliving some actual historical event or possessing a historical background e.g. “Elizabeth 1st”, “The Dam Busters” or “The Big Country”, (I fear I am showing my age) you are aware at the time of viewing that it isn’t happening; that actors featured were/are now doing something very different with their lives and (as in films actually referred to above) some may not even be around anymore.
Yet have you ever stopped to think about the effect that such drama can and does exert upon us? It can and it does change heart- and pulse-rate. It can and not infrequently does increase respiration rate and raise blood pressure. It can influence feelings and overall mood, making us happy, sad, angry, tender-hearted, tearful even: all stemming from interests and concerns, which are entirely fictitious. They never happened, nor do they possess a basis set in any kind in objective reality of the moment. More than that, it can and not infrequently does interfere with – and even suspend altogether for a time – awareness or relevance of what is actually transpiring. The doorbell may ring but we do not respond to it. Or one may be preparing dinner and the potatoes consigned to a pan of water on the kitchen stove are boiling over…you know the sort of thing. Could you…or anyone else for that matter, produce a more convincing account of what I have referred to above as an “altered perceptual but entirely conscious state?” Thus you can readily see that at least the vast majority of us use what is entailed in hypnosis almost on a daily basis. (C)SB