Essay: Coping With Trance States
Volume 10, No. 3, 1993
The following, which first appeared in the Summer 1992 issue of TM EX NEWS,
was written by former followers of the
Meditation (TM) guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
TM-EX is a nonprofit, educational
and research organization.
Trance states, derealization, dissociation,
spaceyness. What are they? What strategies can we use to cope with them? By
trance states we mean dissociation, depersonalization, and derealization. In the
group we called it spacing out or higher/altered states of consciousness. All
humans have some propensity to have moments of dissociation. However, certain
practices (meditation, chanting, learned processes of speaking in tongues,
prolonged guided imagery, etc.) appear to have ingrained in many former members
a reflexive response to involuntarily enter altered states of consciousness.
(These altered states are defined fully in The Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM III]).
Even after leaving the group and ceasing its consciousness altering
practices, this habitual, learned response tends to recur under stress. For some
former members this can be distressing and affect their functioning. When this
happens, it tends to impair oneís concentration, attention, memory, and coping
Many former members coming from groups practicing prolonged consciousness
altering find that the intensity, frequency, and duration of the episodes
decrease when they deliberately and consistently use the strategies outlined
It is important to note that when one is tired, ill, or under stress, the
feelings of spaceyness, dissociation, depersonalization, and derealization may
temporarily return. By developing the ability to immediately label these states
and attempting the following strategies, one can return to a consistent state of
- Maintain a routine.
- Make change slowly, physically, emotionally, nutritionally,
- Monitor health, watch nutrition, get medical checkups. Avoid drugs and
- Take daily exercise to reduce dissociation (spaceyness, anxiety, and
- Avoid sensory overload. Avoid crowds or large spaces without boundaries
(shopping malls, video arcades, etc.) Drive consciously without music.
- Reality orientation
- Establish time end place landmarks such as calendars and clocks.
- Make lists of activities in advance. Update lists daily or weekly.
Difficult tasks and large projects should be kept on separate lists.
- Before going on errands, review lists of planned activities, purchases,
and projects. Mark items off as you complete them.
- Keep updated on current news. News shows (CNN, Headline News, talk
radio) are helpful because they repeat, especially if you have memory and
- Try to read one complete news article daily to increase comprehension.
- Develop reading "stamina" with the aid of a timer, and increase reading
- Sleep interruptions
- Leave talk radio/television and news programs (not music) on all night.
- Donít push yourself. After years or months, dissociation is a habit that
takes time to break.