By Geoff Walker, MA, CHTExpression of the self through art, music, writing,
movement, and drama provides the opportunity to show others what a
person is experiencing inside by creating a tangible representation of
their internal state (i.e. a painting, a sculpture, a poem). By
bringing the inside out, the internal to the external, artistic
expression fosters greater confidence in one’s ability to describe and
explain the hopes, fears, and desires they experience.
Depth Hypnosis works similarly. It makes the underlying systems
that compose the “self” visible, and thereby describable and
malleable. By relaxing the line between consciousness and
unconsciousness, Depth Hypnosis allows people to reveal to themselves
and others what is going on inside them, and how it is manifesting in
their day-to-day lives. Again, this is bringing the internal to
the external, allowing the conscious self to see its deep internal
Expressive Arts and Depth Hypnosis share not only an ability to bring
the inside out, but are also both very effective for taking the outside
in. What I mean by “taking the outside in” is this: both approaches
allow an individual to get a clearer sense of what is happening in the
world around them and to understand its workings in a more holistic
way, through their internal lenses. They begin to see their
environment as a series of connections instead of reactions.
For instance, some people find that Depth Hypnosis presents new ways of
seeing energetic patterns between people. They have an internal
experience of their part in the external world and begin to see
themselves as a part of the whole. They can begin to see that the
external is a part of them, not apart from them.
Creative expression through various arts modalities can have a similar
effect. By taking on and enacting multiple characters in a
dramatic situation (a run in with a crabby boss, let’s say) an
individual can begin to understand the motivations of the “other” from
a personal and experiential place, and not simply from a reactionary
stance. They can begin to see the other person’s higher self and
compassionately understand where their issues are coming from.
Depth Hypnosis and Expressive Arts work tremendously well in tandem, in
large part due to the fact that both encourage people to experience and
do deep work in altered states of consciousness. Just as one’s
experience of reality shifts when in a trance state, the act of
creating art necessarily expands and contracts a person’s perspective
on the world around them. I find dramatic enactment to be
an especially useful adjunct to trance work.
Frequently, when a person feels they have reached the end of their
knowledge or insight around a specific subject their internal guides
can be called on to offer just a little bit more. This new
knowledge is then brought into external consensual reality and can be
acted out, explored, and practiced in a powerful and concretizing way.
The converse is also true. When a person has a hard time
understanding the messages they are receiving from their internal
guides and teachers it is often useful to take time to create a
dramatic enactment of the various aspects of a journey or trance
state. This leads to greater insight and poses new questions.
I recognize that this may sound circular and confusing, but it is
actually circular and illuminating! Let me clarify by creating a
Sara comes to see me hoping to mitigate feelings of anxiety.
Her partner Anna has been telling her to see a counselor to help “get
over it,” but the way Anna talks about it only makes the anxiety
worse. Anna seems resentful that Sara has a “problem,” and gets
angry and frustrated when Sara gets anxious.
I ask Sara to draw two pictures. One of her anxious self, and one
of how she would like to be. She makes one of a big multi-colored
scribble with jagged edges, and one of a serene flower by a pond.
It’s quite obvious which is which.
I suggest we do trance work to explore the situation.
She connects with her guides and they show her the origin of her
anxiety – she’s worried she’s not good enough for her partner – rooted
in feeling disregarded and verbally abused by her mother. Sara
regresses to that period of her childhood and has her adult self rescue
her, stopping the cycle of internalized abuse and committing to
protecting the child self from future trauma. Sara reclaims the
part of her self that was wounded in her right to be her own person.
After verbally processing the meaning of her internal work, we enact
her relationship with Anna. Sara acts as herself and as Anna,
with me alternating between the opposing roles. We face each
other in chairs; switching seats each time the character changes to
make sure it’s clear which character is sitting where. Next we
stand behind the chairs and enact Sara and Anna’s higher selves.
This allows Sara to “feel into” Anna’s part, and gain a greater
understanding of the fears and worries she may be covering up with her
Next I ask Sara to take on the roles of Anna’s father and mother, so
she can get an essential feeling of what messages she received as a
child and therefore get insight into her motivations; why she’s
sometimes not able to be sensitive. Sara realizes this is what
she wants from Anna but has not been able to verbalize. This
becomes our next area of focus.
Sara acts out, and thereby has the experience of, sharing her feelings
with Anna and telling her she wants her to listen. The only
problem is that she isn’t able to imbue her characterization of Anna
with any compassion. Anna just doesn’t show that side of herself
and Sara is afraid it’s not there. The work is illuminative but
frustrating. It feels like a dead end.
“What do I do with that?” she asks. “She’s not willing to come to counseling right now.”
The focus shifts again. I suggest that she journey and ask for a
specific guide to help with her relationship with Anna.
I play the drum while she journeys. At the end she tells me of a great
mountain that appeared with a flower and a pond at its peak. The
mountain told her it would be there when she talks to Anna, it would
help her explain that the way she’s been trying to help isn’t working
but making the anxiety worse, and that Sara knows Anna is capable of
the compassion Sara needs.
“Great,” she says, “can we try acting that out a couple times before I leave?”
We practice stating her needs calmly but firmly, even anticipating some
likely responses, so that she has body memory of being strong in her
relationship and patient with her partner’s current emotional state.
Before the session comes to an end Sara quietly shreds the depiction of
her anxious self and carefully rolls up the flower and pond scene,
saying “I’m going to put this on the refrigerator to remind myself what
I really am.”
Sara has created a new reality apart from the one she brought through the door; a new reality she can take home.