Pausing thought

In Solution Focused Hypnotherapy we talk about how frequently we experience some form of trance in our everyday lives. Some of this daydream-like thinking can be positive. We can lose ourselves in memories of entertaining times we have spent with our friends. We become absorbed by the imagined reality of a holiday we’re looking forward to.

But unless we practice otherwise, most of us spend most of the time in negative trance. In negative trance we are criticising ourselves for something we did or didn’t do or say; or we are criticising someone else for something they did or didn’t do or say. In negative trance we are plotting, scheming, just-in-case-ing, imagining the worst and mapping out possible ways around it.

This negative inner dialogue comes with a heaped side order of anxiety, frustration, guilt, anger, and a bunch of other unpleasant emotions that spike our body’s natural stress response. When this happens our brain pumps our bodies full of stress hormones like adrenalin and cortisol, which in turn serve to maximise both our mental and our physical discomfort. The gates to our intellectual brains slam shut and we get locked inside our emotional primitive minds where every negative thought becomes absolutely, irrationally, unbearably, horrendous.

In his book Waking Up, neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris refers to this rumination, both positive and negative, as “the trance of discursive thinking“, to which the antidote is meditation.

In Solution Focused Hypnotherapy we combine solution focused therapy and hypnotic trance to reassure and guide our conscious minds towards a place of peace, where, just for a little while, they let go of their grip, and the inner dialogue quietens, the never-ending thought train draws to a temporary halt.

It is in this meditative state of trance that we can enjoy, as Harris describes “a mind undisturbed by worry, merely open like the sky.”

And with our minds open, as Psychiatrist and Clinical Hypnotherapist Milton Erickson pointed out, we become much more receptive to ideas and understanding. We are more able to accept positive suggestions without our conscious minds jumping in to disagree.

When we press pause on the overwhelming blare of constant thought, especially the criticism, judgements, assumptions, and fears, we allow our minds space to breathe. To relax. To reduce our stress levels enough to unlock the door back into our intellectual minds where we can find perspective, reason, rationale and balance.



In Solution Focused Hypnotherapy, we strive to break through inaccurate and media-fuelled misunderstandings of what trance is. We emphasise its normalcy, its ordinariness, as something fundamentally, and very basically, human. We talk about how we experience trance every day, several times a day, when we daydream while doing something relatively monotonous that doesn’t occupy much brain space, like washing up, or driving somewhere very familiar.

And yet, daydreaming itself is something that has been scorned, ridiculed, and undervalued, almost as much as trance. The unreachable windows of Victorian school buildings are monuments to education’s efforts to drill out our natural inclination to daydream. Society teaches us from a young age that daydreaming is inconvenient, a waste of time, something we are reprimanded for doing.

So we train ourselves to measure our day by its productivity and shake off our reveries as quickly as we can. We get increasingly good at doing this, so that by the time we are adults we inevitably feel lost, out of touch with our inner self, at a loss as to who we are, because we have spent so little time stopping to listen, to process, to understand.

In The School of Life: An Emotional Education (2019), Alain de Botton eloquently captures with his words, both the unfortunate reputation, and the significant value, of daydreaming:


We tend to reproach ourselves for staring out of the window. Most of the time we are supposed to be working, or studying , or ticking things off a to-do-list. It can seem almost the definition of wasted time, It appears to produce nothing, to serve no purpose. We equate it with boredom, distraction, futility. The act of cupping our chin in our hands near a pane of glass and letting our eyes drift in the middle distance does not enjoy high prestige. We don’t go around saying, ‘I had a great day today. The high point was staring out of the window.’ But maybe, in a better society, this is exactly what people would quietly say to one another.
The point of staring out of a window is, paradoxically, not to find out what is going on outside. It is, rather, an exercise in discovering the contents of our own minds. It is easy to imagine we know what we think, what we feel and what’s going on in our heads. But we rarely do entirely. There’s a huge amount of what makes us who we are that circulates unexplored and unused. It’s potential lies untapped. It is shy and doesn’t emerge under the pressure of direct questioning. If we do it right, staring out of the window offers a way for us to be alert to the quieter suggestions and perspectives of our deeper selves.”