Using trance states to unlock your subconscious creativity

Using trance states to unlock your subconscious creativity

Creative Leadership
Genius Journey
Published On:
June 18, 2024

Have you ever had a truly outstanding idea from your subconscious mind? If so, chances are that it happened while you were in a state of trance, probably without even noticing it. At least, that’s what happened in my case. Only recently did I become aware that both of my two Eureka experiences of breakthrough creativity happened while I was in a state of trance. Today, let’s talk about trance states and how these can help you tap into sub- and superconscious levels of creativity.

Understanding trance states

Trance can be defined as a semi-conscious state characterized by an absence of response to external stimuli, typically induced by hypnosis or entered by a medium. The American psychologist Milton H. Erickson noted that “Trance is a natural everyday experience” that humans frequently experience. It is an altered state of consciousness closely associated with a deep state of relaxation involving both the mind and body, where attention is fixated either internally or externally. 

When going into a trance, our consciousness shifts gears from one moment to the next, similar to the difference in awareness when actively typing on a computer versus mindfully relaxing in a bathtub. This shift in awareness is also reflected in the frequency of our brain waves, which slow down as we descend into a trance. In normal waking consciousness, our brain oscillates at a frequency of 12-35 Hz (Beta waves) but slows down as we descend into altered states of consciousness, from light relaxation (Alpha waves, 8-12 Hz) to profound deep trance (Theta waves, 4-8). (Note: I discussed the relationship between brain waves and the various levels of human creativity extensively in an earlier article titled Shifting to the advanced states of human creativity - Part 2).

Trance states in everyday activities

Engaging in repetitive, cognitively undemanding activities like walking, running, or commuting can induce trance states. Trance can also happen when we are deeply engrossed in the moment (such as watching a football game or reading an absorbing book). Finally, trance states can be induced when we intensely concentrate on a single element (such as repeating a mantra), with other stimuli fading into the background.

Interestingly, a number of scientific studies suggest that trance-like states, such as those experienced during mind-wandering, can activate brain networks that facilitate enhanced creative thinking and subconscious problem-solving by allowing the brain to form new connections unconsciously.

For example, a study by Baird et al. (2012) found that engaging in undemanding tasks that induce mind-wandering and daydreaming can significantly increase creative solutions to problems. This effect is thought to be due to the enhancement of unconscious associative processing during mind-wandering, facilitated by the brain's default mode network, which is active when we are not focused on the outside world. Structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) studies have linked greater activity in parts of this default mode network, such as the right posterior cingulate cortex, to higher creativity scores.

“In the deepest trances of creativity, our minds find the songs of the muses.” —Anonymous

My personal experiences with trance-induced Eureka moments

In two earlier articles titled How does it feel to experience a Eureka moment? and How to beat the odds of getting a Eureka, I shared in greater detail how I was blessed with enjoying two moments of breakthrough creativity at crucial times in life. Only recently, while taking a hypnotherapy course program, I realized that in both instances, my illumination happened while I was in a deeply relaxed, altered state of trance:

  • My first Eureka happened while I was one hour into an 18 km run deep inside a magnificent German forest. It gave me the breakthrough idea of how to effectively operationalize a crucial construct in my conceptual model that I had failed to resolve for over two years — and saved my Ph.D. research project three days ahead of a critical submission deadline. 
  • The second time occurred while admiring a glowing sun setting magnificently over Bangkok's skyline following a few hours of prior reading and relaxation at a relaxing hotel pool. It provided me with total certainty about who I am and what I should do with my life—becoming a creativity expert and starting a creativity company called Thinkergy.

In both of these creative breakthrough moments, I felt deeply relaxed, at ease, and at peace, in a Theta brain wave state of “no mind” in perfect harmony with the symphony of universal existence.  

Practical tips to induce trance states for creativity

How can you cultivate your own trance states to tap into the advanced sub- and superconscious states of creativity? Here are five practical tips to get you started:

1. Move in a rhythm. Engage in repetitive physical activities such as running, walking, and Vinyasa Yoga that you enjoy and can perform without much conscious effort. Such activities are likely to induce trance moments sooner or later as your mind synchronizes and sinks deeper into the rhythm of the activity. Alternatively, perform undemanding tasks around your home (like doing dishes or washing your car) that give space for your mind to wander.

2. Meditate. Meditation is another effective practice for slowing down and synchronizing your brain waves. Nowadays, there are many different types of meditation available, one of which might resonate with you. So, experiment with different meditation types, such as Transcendental Meditation (where you repeat a word or mantra that allows your consciousness to sink deeper) or guided meditation exercises such as Headspace or Calm.

3. Breathe. Another way to calm your mind and descend into a trance is to engage in breathing exercises such as deep breathing, belly breathing, or rhythmic breathing techniques such as 4-4-4-4 (breathe in, hold, breathe out, hold, all for four seconds) or 4-7-8 (breathe in for four seconds, hold for seven seconds, breathe out for eight seconds). Again, as your mind and body begin settling into a harmonious rhythm, you are likely to go into a trance state sooner or later. 

4. Scribble. Yet another excellent practice to induce a state of trance is to engage in stream-of-consciousness writing for a longer period of time, say 30 minutes. (This creative technique has many other benefits that I explained in an earlier blog article titled Boost your creativity with stream-of-consciousness writing). Alternatively, and especially when you’re stuck in a boring meeting, experiment with drawing, sketching, and doodling in your notebook. 

5. Read. Due to its immersive nature, reading can also induce trance-like states, particularly when it deeply engages your attention and imagination. Reading can lead to a heightened focus similar to a meditative state that can cause the brain to tune out external stimuli where the reader becomes absorbed in the content.

Conclusion: Make your creativity advance by going into trance

"Creativity, an apex of consciousness, contains the altered states of a creative trance that are treasured across cultures and time,” notes Tobi Zausner in his book The Creative Trance.

To sum up, being in a state of trance is not an unusual phenomenon but rather a regular state of mind that humans frequently experience. Transcending into such an altered state of consciousness allows you to delve into your unconscious mind and perhaps even connect you to the collective unconscious, which is the realm where creative breakthrough ideas reside. So, explore trance states and welcome them into your life as a powerful device to unlock your hidden creative potential.

  • What are your experiences with trance and creativity? Feel invited to share how being in a trance state provided you with a great idea. 
  • Ready to transform your creative potential? Dive deeper into trance states with our Genius Journey method. Contact us to discover more about accessing your subconscious creativity.
  • Please like and share this article if it provides value to you. And feel invited to connect to and follow Thinkergy and me. 

© Dr. Detlef Reis 2024. This article is earmarked to be co-published in the Bangkok Post in the coming weeks.