Generative Trance

The experience of creative flow

By: Stephen Gilligan, PhD


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Size: 234 x 156mm
Pages : 308
ISBN : 9781785833885
Format: Paperback
Published: January 2019

Stephen Gilligan’s Generative Trance offers a framework for developing a more creative consciousness and lays out the step-by-step processes by which this can be done.

William James used to say that ‘the unconscious mind is the horse and the conscious mind is the rider: it’s the relationship between the two that is most important.’ In Generative Trance renowned trainer Stephen Gilligan shows you how to harness this relationship for a much more powerful and effective therapeutic intervention, and reveals how life can be lived as a great journey of consciousness.

Emphasizing that reality and identity are constructed by ourselves, Gilligan explains how generative trance is crucial in creating new realities and possibilities for clients. It is a view that differs markedly from the traditional hypnosis ideas of a client losing control, as well as from Ericksonian approaches that feature a benevolent hypnotist who bypasses the conscious mind to work with a client’s unconscious mind. Instead, generative trance stresses a ‘disciplined flow’ process in which a person’s conscious and unconscious minds cooperate to weave a higher consciousness capable of transformational change.

Suitable for individuals who want to live life as a creative journey, as well as for professionals working with clients in such ventures.

Previously published in hardback format ISBN 9781845907815.

Picture for author Stephen Gilligan, PhD

Stephen Gilligan, PhD

Stephen Gilligan PhD, has become a leading figure in Ericksonian hypnotherapy. He is the developer of the Generative Self approach to personal growth. A licensed psychologist, Stephen maintains a private practice in Encinitas, California.

Click here to read Stephen Gilligan’s blog.


  1. As the book takes a reader on a journey many things can be new and renewing-¦particularly when one can call it a journey of life for renewal and accessing a field of resources not limited to the individual constructed reality.

    Part one prepares the reader with information on a theory of mind, concepts as -˜pure consciousness', -˜the creative unconscious or quantum field', and the classical world of the -˜conscious mind' where time, space and matter reign.

    Reality filters constructing the border between the conscious mind and the creative unconscious can be rigid with neuromuscular locks and stagnation. Generative trance, to create something new, is based on an opening to the field to stimulate a creative flow and a generative living.

    Step-by-step the reader is guided on his journey by many reformulations of the concepts, illustrations, references to work from Jung, Reich, Gestalt, Eastern practices to become familiar with the author's view of the mind, creative flow, field connections.

    Generative trance is a third generation hypnosis approach: it rejects old-fashioned views of hypnosis, and emphasizes “a creative consciousness that emerges from a cooperative relationship of mutual influence and respect between the conscious and unconscious minds, one that can either occur intra-or interpersonally”(p. 31).

    In generative trance a creative flow between the three minds (somatic, field and cognitive) promotes change, solutions, creating possibilities instead of being stuck. The 4 steps in generative trance - preparation (positive intention, centering and resources), welcoming and weaving identity parts into generative trance, integration and transformation, and transfer of learning into real life - are clearly described and serve as a compass that forms the basis for further work and chapters.

    Part II -˜The methods of generative trance' gives a detailed outline about how to creatively work, respecting some structure -” not free floating, but entering a structured flow with clear goals and outcome. Isn't it inviting to -˜drop into center' as a way to start from somatic attunement to reach the higher state of consciousness and practice different methods of centering as somatic attunement, accessing positive memories or negative experiences, and to learn about the -˜somatic mixer' model with self-scaling? Readers find how well different Eastern and Western practices are brought together in “Open Beyond” and elevate field consciousness to a generative level. One can feel invited to work with the energy ball, and discover how deeper change to the core issues of a problem can find solutions in an easy going way, and further elaborate the method by adding archetypal resources. A second skin as a generative field, and the Celtic Cross are further ways to work integrative with access to as many forces as possible. The guiding principle for bringing the cognitive mind to a generative level is by creative acceptance.

    Chapter 8 on the principle of complementarity reaches the heart of common therapeutic work that often has to deal with inner conflicts. Reviewing and accessing these in a generative state bring surprising resolutions at a deeper level. A suggestion loop, mutual trance, working with “good self/bad self” and reconciling opposites initiate creative solutions as one can find more inspiration from a meta-position and get support in/ from the generative trance. Those who go with the flow of the book and are open-minded can even fully enjoy and discover how to integrate somatic trance dance or somatic modeling of problem patterns into daily work and bring that as well to another level!

    Although at first sight some clinicians may feel reluctant to some concepts, progressively they can discover how some exercises are familiar for seasoned therapists working in/with hypnosis and can be integrated in their practice. Those who want to transcend the limitations of the classical world of reality can find ways to help clients access fields of unlimited possibilities, naming it the creative unconscious or -˜quantum field' or -˜archetypes' promoting intrapersonal as well as interpersonal work. Talking about generative trance can sound renewing, stimulating curiosity and prevent or circumvent misconceptions associated to the word “hypnosis”.

    The whole book demonstrates how with deep respect the author talks about his teacher Milton Erickson, and how from there he continued his own development to serve clients and humanity with the best from different worlds of experience. Many examples of how to work with clients and participants in workshops speak for themselves on the efficiency and changes generated by the offered methods.

    I can highly recommend the book for advanced therapists familiar with hypnosis and trance-work to enrich their work with clients, to practice some of the exercises in training in trance-work or hypnosis, to use it as a self-help book and renew and enrich them self for the daily, hopefully not -˜routine' practice. The way methods are poetically described is helping to upgrade trance work to an art, aesthetically balanced, with a touch of some musicality, integrating aspects from different sources and fields.
  2. Incredibly thought provoking. If you are trained as a hypnoanalyst perhaps, this could be a useful book and is full of ideas, partial scripts and case studies. It is certainly a new and different approach to the kind of work most therapists are faced with.
  3. I really loved this book. Generative Trance teaches you how to access the power and insight within our mind for change and benefit. But this isn't just another -˜how to' book, instead the pages take you on a journey of discovery and challenge you to use your own mind to make the connections and understandings for yourself. You can use this book to help your clients but you can also use it to develop yourself -” or both. And that is one of the treasures of this book by Stephen Gilligan. Its Ericksonian leanings are coupled with the new generation of trancework in a beautiful way and it is hard to put the book down. I wholeheartedly recommend Generative Trance.
  4. This important new book by Stephen Gilligan goes far beyond the generally accepted concept of trance and of its value as a means of improving lives. Generative trance stresses the efficacy and benefits experienced when the conscious and unconscious mind are encouraged to work together in a creative way.

    The contents of the book will be of great value to individuals wishing to improve their own lives as well as to professional therapists wishing to help others to do the same. It deserves a place on every bookshelf.
  5. Written from a truly holistic perspective with professional wisdom and sensitivity this book offers a fresh and practical view of the connection between therapy and healing. The author explores the nature of trance states and the development of self-awareness as applied to practice by combining theoretical and practical approaches. Readers are encouraged to use their own personality as a therapeutic tool to enhance their effectiveness when interacting with clients.

    The book includes innovative, creative exercises and useful suggestions to challenge the reader and promote further discussion. Most refreshing is the willingness to step outside accepted logic and examine creative solutions to emotional disconnection - this is courageous as the suggested answers are located in the nexus between mind and body and integrate aspects of Western and Eastern thinking.

    References to the human spirit may unsettle some practitioners, but offer hope to others, particularly those who have exhausted scientific solutions in their quest to heal and transform difficult to reach clients.
  6. This latest book by Steve Gilligan puts into practice the Ericksonian principles he has taught brilliantly for decades. He extends his self-relations model in several ways especially in the memorable sections on welcoming and weaving the identity parts into generative trance in order to allow new parts of the self to be born through generative transformation.

    Though not a simple book, Generative Trance provides several easy-to-follow frameworks, including the four steps of generative trance and five key generative methods presented in a second section. Specific scripts are offered to help the reader learn to language hypnotic suggestions to help listeners connect with their positive intentions, with the five somatic dimensions of generative trance, and to explore and engage with generative fields where creative acceptance and transformation can take place.

    If you want to learn deeply from a true hypnotic artist, don't miss this book!
  7. “Generative Trance; The experience of creative flow” Stephen Gilligan's newest book is not only exciting to read, it gives new ways of looking at already-known information and adds whole new dimensions of different perspectives. Firmly built on his mentoring by Milton Erickson, Gilligan did what Erickson urged all his students to do-took ideas from him and made them applicable to new and different circumstances.

    Beginning with understandable definitions, Gilligan lays out his own framework. The reader is captured with new ideas for hypnosis-and “up-dating” so to speak of what hypnosis is. Generative trance is the “real” communication. It is not a place where the therapist provides answers and techniques for change, but where the client can have experiential learning, a reconfiguration of his own unconscious or forgotten resources. This, as evidenced by Erickson's work, is how lasting and sometimes remarkable and quick changes are achieved.

    Under this umbrella of generative trance, he breaks his ideas into separate pieces. He discusses the familiar situation of a client “frozen” and seemingly unable to act explaining how this is part of what he refers to as the neuromuscular lock and literally takes apart what is happening. Then he provides clear methods of using generative trance, how client resources can be accessed and different more productive responses can be learned and practiced. His approach is convincing, intriguing and eminently do-able.

    His idea of centering is inclusive of what most people understand this term to mean. But typical of all of his writing, he uses words so precisely and carefully, that the reader stops to absorb his more expansive definition fully. Some of his phrases he are immediately transferable to any therapeutic sessions-“ you (can) feel both a part of and apart from an experience-¦be with something without becoming it-¦ “ He points out that when people learn to be centered, they can be vulnerable. Then with generative trance states, they can provide new and safe places within themselves and then new learning and the transformation of dysfunctions can more easily occur.

    Gilligan believes, as Erickson did, that people's realities and fixed meanings have to be broadened. A change in perspective allows people to respond differently-each person can create a different sense of self- a different “identity” as all of us have done since childhood. Generative trance allows this easily and naturally.

    He goes into detail with some of the ideas-as an example “Creative Acceptance” which redefines acceptance not as passivity but as an active curiosity about what something might be if it were accepted. This counter-intuitive idea-accept something to change it-is detailed in one of Erickson's cases-the girl with the gap between her two front teeth. Gilligan connects this to the first part of his book seamlessly.

    A reasonable part of the book holds case examples in script form. This clarifies and demonstrates the uses of generative trance states. He gives explanations of what he was doing and even little easy-for-all to do ideas such as various phrases to insert in any hypnotic work-”-“trance is a learning place” and the words Erickson used so often, “trust your unconscious.” Each script is primarily aimed one of the points Gilligan has made early in the book and the how-and why-is explained. Additionally, as he points out, shorter versions of the scripts are useful to all in everyday life-we all need to be able to become more centered, to be in touch with our bodies and relax comfortably while maintaining alertness.

    One of the “bonuses” always present in Gilligan's writing is his use of meaningful, often beautifully poetic quotations from a huge variety of sources which begin every chapter. And it's in this book too.

    “Generative Trance” is an extraordinary book-¦. filled with different and new perspectives, captivating, and most important-valuable. My father would be so proud!
  8. Steve Gilligan says we are on a journey -” a journey of infinite possibilities -” but only if we are open and aware. Generative Trance is not another cognitive change process. It is about using trance to learn how to love and access the wisdom of your deeper mind so that new awareness and choice can emerge. Whether you read this exceptional book for your personal development or you facilitate others in theirs, you will discover that Generative Trance leads to a kind of sacred sight, after which your world will never look quite the same again. What a journey!
  9. There is a revolution taking place in psychotherapy that sheds the limitations of naive models of therapy and change. Stephen Gilligan is one of the most important leaders in this transformation of practice, particularly as it applies to hypnosis. His “generative trance” marks a major advance in helping us resourcefully relate to all that clients and therapists bring to a session. We enthusiastically recommend it to both your conscious and unconscious mind!
  10. Steve Gilligan is the closest I've ever experienced to being with Milton Erickson since Erickson's death in 1980. His new book Generative Trance delivers a tour-de-force of the latest thinking of third-generation hypnosis in a charming and organized way. This is the definitive overview of a new approach in psychotherapy and change work. I continue to learn from Gilligan and look forward to returning to this book again and again to gain even deeper insights.

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