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Deep trance identification is a process where a profound hypnotic trance is induced, and, within that, a person is led to recollect everything they have ever known or seen of a person and "steps into" that person to experience and identify with their world completely. In such a state, it is said, the unconscious mind creates its own rich understandings by sidestepping the need for conscious analysis.
The term comes from the work of Milton Erickson. Erickson's protege, Stephen Gilligan, a world renowned authority on hypnotherapy in his own right, described in an interview the experience of "being in deep trance identification with Erickson":
- Q: "What is Deep Trance Identification and how did you learn to do it?"
- A: Deep trance identification is a hypnotic process wherein a person develops a deep trance, goes into a safe place, sets aside their regular personality, and assumes another personality for 30 minutes or so. The identification personality could be a person you know; your mate, a client, a mentor, or someone you don't know; a famous person or a historical figure, for example [...] Once you enter into the identification trance, you can interact and talk with others in the ritual space as that character.
- Some of the effects can be pretty amazing. A first is the freedom that one can achieve by letting go of your normal identity, the habitual, unconscious ways we think, hold our body, talk, react, etc. When you step out of your normal identity, your whole sense of self can drop to a much deeper level, one not so cluttered by idiosyncratic identity content. I think it allows a whole other level of identity consciousness, where what Bateson called "learning level III" or learning to learn to learn is now a variable [...] You can sense patterns with a different way of sensing patterns, if that makes any sense. It's a pretty amazing experience.
- These days I use identification processes when I feel really stuck with a client or with a personal relationship. It finally becomes clear to me that I don't have a deep understanding of the other person's space, so I do an identification process when I'm alone. Entering into that person's space and experiencing their way of knowing, it becomes easier to find ways to connect.
- Q: "You used Deep Trance Identification to model Milton Erickson. What was it like?"
- A: When I first opened my eyes while identifying as "Erickson", it was a pretty profound experience. Somehow I could feel so strongly that everybody in the room had an unconscious mind and everyone was longing to connect with it, and therefore everyone was just a moment away from trance. It was not a matter of some great technique on my part, but a willingness to touch the place in them that was longing for self-connection. I think in that state I was so connected to the unconscious that I could feel its presence not only within me but also within others with equal ease. From that space, the words just seemed to flow out on their own [...]
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