For Beth, like many of us, the holidays are a mix of emotions. While she looks forward to the holiday cheer, parties, and gift giving, she dreads the family gatherings. They bring out her feelings of difference and even inadequacy compared to and fostered by her relatives. Unlike her sisters and female cousins, Beth has chosen to forego having children, and she has a career that keeps her constantly on the go.

In addition to the emotional roller coaster that the holidays often seem to evoke, they can also trigger trance states in many of us where we get “lost” in a feeling or memory. Some trances are a pleasant daydream of childhood holidays, complete with details like the smell of turkey and pumpkin pie, while others are uncomfortable experiences during which we identify with our negative thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Trances involve a narrowing, fixating of attention and a loss of focus on the broader aspects of the situation we truly are in. For example, while driving on a highway have you ever “spaced out” on a certain train of thought only to discover that you’ve completely missed your exit? This experience has been named the “common every day trance” by Milton Erikson, MD, one of the key forces in modern hypnosis. We go in and out of these light trances during the course of every day. These are times when we become so absorbed in something that we shift our attention and awareness from our outer environment to our inner reverie. These experiences usually have no significant negative consequences and may even be pleasurable or good for us. Other beneficial trances include the induced trance of meditation aimed at relaxation, altered states of consciousness or spiritual connectedness, and trance states used, via hypnosis, to break a habit, reduce pain, or increase creativity.

Less often, we think of trances as those emotional states where we are stuck in old patterns, repetitive or addictive behaviors, or limiting thoughts and feelings. The holidays often trigger and intensify our “nobody loves me” trances, “I’m all alone” trances, “I’ll never get it all done” trances, and “nothing I do is good enough” trances. Stephen Wolinsky, Ph.D., a pioneer in Quantum Psychology, describes these trances as the “glue” that holds our problems in the present moment. He explains that by learning to step out of our dysfunctional trances, we can step into the present, free of the baggage of our past.

Negative trance states are a reaction to a number of conscious and non-conscious factors, including emotionally charged situations earlier in our lives. They say a great deal about what we believe about ourselves, and what is possible or impossible in life.

Most of us assume that trances are states not of our making. In fact, all trance states share the sense that it is happening to us. Our narrowed focus traps us into automatic responses, rendering us less able to draw on our resources. Yet, despite the frequent origin of our problematic trances in childhood, we are active creators and perpetuators of our current trances.

What better time than the holidays, with their accompanying heightened sensitivity, stress, and focus on relationships to bring our trance states into direct awareness and offer an opportunity for growth and transformation?

From childhood on, Beth felt different than her family members. She remembers her relatives’ comments at holiday gatherings about her inclination for study rather than fashion, and her “out there” ideas, and interpreted them as criticism – evidence that perhaps there was something wrong with her interests, her appearance and her deepest self. As an adult she still carried the feeling around her family that she was inadequate, different from the clan. Despite friends and success, she avoided creating a family of her own. She also guarded against letting anyone get too close, or even allowing herself to come face to face with her own sense that there is something wrong with her.

Unconsciously, Beth accepted at some level this negative view of herself. She carried the vibrational patterns of her fears of difference, inadequacy, and separation in her energetic field. This not only reinforced her own negative feelings about herself, but in this quantum universe, where like energies attract, she invited experiences that confirmed her worst fears.

Most problematic trances are in part a coping mechanism to deal with the sense of being threatened or fear of rejection. Family gatherings for Beth led to age regression. She felt once again like a criticized, inadequate child. She experienced time distortions, feeling like negative comments dominated the evening, and perceiving that the gathering was far longer than it actually was.

Beth fed herself post-hypnotic suggestions — “it will always be like this with my family, I’ll never be able to please them, families are a source of pain and belittlement.” Most significantly, Beth adopted the trance identity and believed herself to be, in fact, inadequate and thus vulnerable to censure.

Beth became aware of the trances that she consistently experienced but felt helpless to control. Among these were — “there is something a little off with me, I’m not very attractive, and it’s better to keep some distance.“ She began to examine the reality of these perceptions and realized that she actually liked her quirkiness and valued the ways she was different. She became aware of how she had created experiences to reinforce her feelings of being unattractive despite her exotic beauty, including her unwillingness to be noticed. Further, her guardedness had contributed to others feeling uncomfortable around her, and reinforced her feelings of separation and loneliness.

Beth learned to create a new reality for herself. In addition to cognitively reevaluating fundamental assumptions about herself and the world, she began to consciously shift her energetic patterns to support the life she wanted. After years of carrying the vibration of being embarrassed by her differences, she started to embody the feeling of self-acceptance and appreciation. She put her attention on the things SHE likes about herself and tuned into what that felt like in her body. As she focused on what she desired — instead of what she didn’t, Beth began to allow greater intimacy and connection in her life. Her field shifted so strongly that not only did Beth feel better about herself, she began to look forward to being with her family. An added bonus was that the family’s perception — and treatment — of her changed as well.

For most of us the holidays stir many feelings and activate a range of trances that operate more subtly throughout the year. You can take this opportunity to come into alignment with what you want in your life. Begin to notice the thoughts and feelings — the reactions — that you go into automatically in a way that doesn’t feel good, such as negative self-perception or feelings of helplessness. This is a good indicator that something isn’t in alignment. Look at what’s going on — this is especially important for fear-based trances. Question the reality of your fear. Shift your attention to what you want to create.

Take an inventory of the trances you are living. You can reduce your negative trances and create positive ones such as feel-good trances and trances of joy and abundance. Each negative trance you eliminate brings you closer to the person you wish to be.

Instead of using your willpower in the new year to create resolutions that you are unlikely to keep, take advantage of the end-of-year holidays. With awareness and attention, give yourself the gift of eliminating negative trances and taking back your power. With love and acceptance, create the life you want.