So I have been reading what many consider to be a seminal work and great contribution to the field of clinical hypnosis. It is a paper entitled “The nature of hypnosis: Artifact and essence” which was published in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology in 1959 and was written by Martin Orne.

It is important because it is a very early publication claiming that the hypnotised individual will overlook certain issues within suggestions being delivered by the hypnotist, that in their ‘usual waking state’ may well be disturbing or problematic for them.

Orne referred to a situation whereby the hypnotised person was given suggestions to make a person sat opposite them become transparent. The person then stated that they knew the person was there, could see the person, but also was seeing the entire chair that the person was sitting on.

It is this kind of hypnotic experience that Orne termed “trance logic.”

To examine this notion in relation to the therapeutic context in the modern day, knowing what we know today and how much the field has developed since, this kind of “trance logic” notion may seem dated and obvious to some.

This trance logic notion refers to the idea that the hypnotised individual can respond to a suggested reality, regardless of it seeming illogical or somewhat incorrect in real life when not hypnotised. When hypnotised, that individual comes to believe the suggested reality is in fact, real.

They may come to imagine themselves being in a totally different reality, relating to it in a very different way than they usually would, according to this notion…

An extreme version of this is when people conduct regression sessions in hypnosis and individuals are encouraged to behave as if they have gone back in time. Maybe even imagine speaking to a relative who has been dead for a number of years, for example. If some is asked to imagine a future occasion of an event when they have made a progressive change in their life, this is similar, though not as dramatic.

Many would suggest that there is an element of role-play involved in these kinds of scenarios, and there are many other modern and investigated theories to explain away this notion of “trance logic.”

Yet, the notion of trance logic and any practitioners belief in it, means they allow themselves and the client to react and respond to an entirely different reality whilst the client is hypnotised and thus remove themselves from certain intellectualising that they may do in other talk therapies.

Then we develop the idea that something which may not make any logical sense in real-life, can become understandable, relevant and even useful when hypnotised and experiencing trance logic. The therapist can utilise this for therapeutic gain and benefit as a result.

Orne referred to the notion of trance logic as being a voluntary acceptance of a suggestion (or suggestions) by the client, but without the usual real-life critical evaluation that would usually render the notion useless. I have written about the notion of behaving “as if” many times previously here on the blog and this is really a very early version of that idea in relation to hypnosis, and being advanced and enhanced by hypnosis. Some even suggest this is a hypnotic phenomena, but that’ll be a discussion for another day.

There you have it, trance logic, as explained by Orne back in the 1950s.