Hypnosis, OBE’s, and More…
A few months ago I read an interesting peer-reviewed article (obe-hyp) discussing the possibility of having an Out of Body Experience (OBE) while being under hypnotic suggestion. The article described the patients grading the experience as more substantially real in sensations than those who describe spontaneously (OBEs) and close to those have experienced near death OBEs. This raised my eyebrow because if one could obtain an OBE state of this degree through hypnosis, then that would mean one could have an OBE at will.
In order to understand the process better, I contacted the author of the article, Dr. Patrizio Tressoldi to discuss a few things about the experience to see if I could recreate the experience. He explained that in the document itself it had a script used as instructions in order to induce the hypnotic state, as well as statistical data on the ability for those patients to see or remote view data that they wanted to test. The data showed that statistically, these patients were able to obtain information in the OBE states that would normally not be available to them, in other words, be able to travel outside their bodies in reality and see real data in reality outside their bodies! Pretty awesome stuff. Again I would like to explain that this is peer-reviewed and in a lab setting, showing more credibility than just a blog post on someone’s website.
After the discussion with Dr. Tressoldi, I begin to wonder if I could recreate his findings with the help of a local hypnotherapist. I wanted to see if this could be something that I could do, and if so what were the differences between what I normally felt as an OBE and that of which was produced by hypnosis.
I first reached out to a number of therapists in the area and to my surprise, no one really wanted to be involved in my “research”. I guess no one really took me seriously. I happened to be reaching more and more out of my local area and found one therapist that would help me out. I set up an appointment and spoke with him about the research as well as the script that they followed in order to get to the OBE state. He knew everything that I was talking about and eventually took over the conversation describing more details about remote viewings and the additional altered states found in hypnosis.
After our discussion, I decided to set up a number of sessions with him to see if I would be hypnotizable as well as reach these altered states with his guidance.
The very next day I showed up in his office ready to go. He sat me down and lead me through a series of practices which involved me listening to his voice with my eyes close, doing tasks that he had asked me to do and to answer questions using my fingers. During the process, I didn’t feel very altered, maybe more relaxed, and remember telling myself that I could easily not do what he wanted me to do, but felt that I had no reason not to do so. I did, however, feel let down because I had been expecting something more dramatic in changes, such as that I experience in sleep paralysis or the use of ayahuasca. What I felt was nothing at all, just maybe a little more relaxed than normal.
After some discussion, I was kind of more embarrassed at my letdown and unable to perform what I wanted to happen than to his ability and felt that I had failed myself. I went home and started to practice. At the end of the session, the therapist had provided me an audio guided therapy session so that I could practice my ability to relax and use keywords in order to get to those states faster and faster each time I played the recording. After about a week or listening to the recording, I noticed that whenever I said the keywords that sure enough I would get deeply relaxed and in a type of trance. It seemed to be working. But why?
I decided to search for my answers online and that brought me to Reddit where a lot of great discussions take place. On Reddit, I found a suggestion to read the book, Reality is Plastic. The Art of Impromptu Hypnosis, which discussed how hypnosis isn’t something that you really feel different doing, it’s more of a type of role-playing where you the patient give up control to the hypnotherapist of your conscious thought. This made more sense to me as the therapist believed I was hypnotized as I was doing what he wanted me to do, but I didn’t think I was. I was still, however, role-playing with him. If you read and listen to other peoples accounts of being hypnotized my description of my experience is pretty spot on to theirs, the acting of being hypnotized and doing what the hypnotherapist wants them to do even though they could not at will.
There are of course some people when hypnotized are so deeply playing that role that they lose the ability to remember as well as loose “control” over some of their senses. For instance, the hypnotist may tell them that they cant see someone, and that person is removed from their visual field. This is role-playing to the degree of it affecting our sense of reality. If you have ever been in a movie and the movie moves you so much that you start to cry for the characters, this is the same effect. It feels real because we imagine it so, we are lost in the story of playing the characters.
Active imagination is also an aspect of hypnosis. When the therapist was asking me to imagine specific things, I could see them in my mind, I could feel them or hear them. Giving up control over my imagination to the therapist was also allowing him to guide me deeper into hypnosis as well as improving the visuals and physical sensations from the imagination into my reality. The imagination and reality started to cross lines.
Me reading that book ultimately gave me a better understanding of the process and allowed me to understand that giving up control over my imagination and was key in order to reach deeper states. I ended up doing that more and more with the audio file allowing me to dive deeper into hypnosis. The real question I had was could I go deep enough to separate from my body?
At the current relaxation state, I was in I didn’t see how this could be possible through hypnosis. I felt relaxed and maybe more relaxed than I have ever felt before, but having an OBE to me isn’t all about relaxation, often its a pretty traumatic and life-shaking experience. I often feel extreme vibrations as well as auditory hallucinations and ultimately end up popping out of my physical body. I didn’t see the connection between hypnosis relaxation techniques and OBEs, or if there was one I was not nearly relaxed enough to trick my body into being asleep which I have described seems to be key in OBEs.
Thinking about this process I managed to do some research into some peoples accounts of OBEs which brought up the idea of what an OBE is to some people, there seem to be three types:
- Physical exiting the body and have the sensation of a more real than real experience (Sleep Induced OBE)
- Having control over the dream and experiencing the concept of controlling the dream (Lucid dream)
- Imagine yourself leaving your body, imagining the sensations of visiting another place (Daydream OBE)
I have experienced all of these experiences before and have always defined and OBE as the first one, induced by sleep either from intense vibrations and separating or by waking up and being outside my body floating around my room. I have read many accounts of people who claim they can have OBEs at will, anytime through just relaxing. I believe those are more like number 3, where they are daydreaming and imagine themselves traveling outside their body, but still, have the sensation of being outside their bodies. I also had the feeling the hypnosis process would create a situation much like number 3 as well.
In the next session, the hypnotherapist discussed what he called spiritual journeys. Spiritual journeys as I was described is when I am brought down to the more relaxed state, Esdaile state in hypnosis, and then brought up to the more higher frequencies to the G state (I am still unsure what the G state states for). When doing so I was told I could experience an OBE as well as channel spiritual guides through me to discuss a way to improve my ability to have more OBEs in the future. I decided to give it a try.
The therapist first put me into a deeply relaxed state and then put me into the G state after a number of protection type practices so that I wouldn’t be worried about things happening or attract the wrong type of guides. The whole time I was aware and again more role-playing the events. I figured why not, I have nothing to lose from all of this. After a good hour of discussing topics that I had long forgotten about through my life and reflecting on memories that in the past seemed to not be important to my life but now were, I came back to normal consciousness. The whole process felt like a great game of Dungeons and Dragons with a lot more active imagination involved. It seemed that the hypnosis greatly improved on my ability to imagine.
Much like in session two we went through the same process to see how deep I could go. I noticed substantial deepening as well as the spinning effect that I sometimes get when in a lucid dream and try to turn it into an OBE. After I reached a deepening level that seemed acceptable the hypnotherapist took me back to the higher state (G state) and then proceeded to ask me about past lives as well as spiritual guides. I can’t say that much was experienced that stood out from this session, but it was interesting.
The end result of all the sessions I think that I now processed and overcame some things that were keeping me back in my normal waking life as well as new tools to use in order to reach higher states of consciousness more easily. The real question as did the experience work?
Did I Have an OBE?
Coming out of the experience if it was a number of months ago and I was asked if I had a real OBE I would answer back saying, “no I did not have an OBE.” However, my view on OBEs and consciousness have greatly changed since then.
I now understand that the patients in the paper discussing OBEs were not having an OBE like in example 1, but more like example 3. They were daydreaming themselves being outside of their bodies and obtaining information that way. They were, however, able to obtain statistically important information and describing the experience as being very real feeling by answering the questions from the practitioners. I think the reason that they described it as being so real, was not because of it is as quality as a spontaneous OBE but because of how the questions were asked in the experiment creating confusion between what was graded as a daydream OBE and spontaneous OBE. Also, the definition of spontaneous OBEs is very broad and could be defined as something other than the experiences people have while sleeping and being in a more real than real, state. This, of course, doesn’t mean that the OBEs experienced during the sessions were not “real” as those subjects could have been more susceptible to hypnosis than I was. I don’t believe that the majority of the subjects were having OBEs in the same context as those who have them during sleep.
My experience was much like a daydream type OBE. It had a lot of the same experiences that I would have with a guided meditation as well as dreaming where I can remember thoughts that were forgotten or dreams that I could not remember when waking but later recalled. I also had very vivid visuals and were able to create things in my mind (places and people) very easily but they were much like a hypnogogic type visual rather than a real person or place.
I ended my sessions with the hypnotherapist not because I wasn’t getting anything out of it, but rather I found what I was searching for. I still continue to search for ways to control the OBE experience, and hypnotherapy is simply not the answer for me.
Lee Adams is a Ph.D. candidate in Jungian Psychology and Archetypal Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute and host of Cosmic Echo, a lucid dreaming podcast, and creator of taileaters.com, an online community of lucid dreamers and psychonauts. Lee has been actively researching, practicing, and teaching lucid dreaming for over twenty years.
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