Describe what happens to the body during a trance state from a physical standpoint. (minimum 300 words)
When I started trying to research the physiological aspects of trance, I began to realize something strange. Most people in the scientific community seemed to avoid the term trances more in favor for the use of meditation or hypnosis. I wonder if this has to do more with the ‘stigma’ of trance being associated with ‘occult’ practices of Pagans and primitive cultural beliefs in magic or shamanism. The work what seemed to closely align with what I feel are part of this requirement are the studies performed by Dr. Felicitas D. Goodman as well as the work done by British psychologists Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell.
Dr. Felicitas’ work centered more on trance states obtained through rhythmical and ecstatic means. Much of what I found also related to body postures in ritual. With that said, her work revealed that many of the ‘stress’ hormones such as adrenalin, noradrenalin, and cortisol “… tend to decrease, while simultaneously the brain releases the body’s own opiates, called Beta-Endorphins, into the bloodstream.” (Nauwald) Beta-Endorphins are an opiate protein that is found to be released naturally in our bodies inducing a natural ‘high’ reducing both physical and emotional pain. They can also cause a sense of euphoria and contentment when pain is not present in the body. Much of Dr. Felicitas’ work showed us that much of the changes occur on a chemical level within the brain.
Through the work of Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell, as well as others, we find close to the same findings. Griffin and Ivan had their focus more on hypnosis, which, like meditation, is a form of trance. “Researchers found no significant physical change associated with the trance state… subject’s heart rate and respiration may slow down, but this is due to the relaxation involved in the hypnotism process, not the hypnotic state itself” (HowStuffWorks). What have researchers found is that “…EEGs from subjects under hypnosis showed a boost in the lower frequency waves associated with dreaming and sleep, and a drop in the higher frequency waves associated with full wakefulness.” What they also found is that there was a drop of activity in the left-hemisphere of the cerebral cortex, which is thought to be the logic center of our brains. There was an increase in the right-hemisphere, which is thought to be our more creative and impulsive subconscious mind.
What does all this mean? Well first is that we still have a great deal to learn about our brains, our minds, and how they work. Second it tells us that there are some kinds of physiological changes that do take place, even if they are subtle ones. And third, it tells us that perhaps there is some kind of link between what we call lucid dreaming and the trance state. If they are linked, perhaps we could term trance states as the wakeup state of lucid dreaming.