Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

“Trances People Live,” by Stephen Wolinsky

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I suddenly recalled the book Trances People Live, by Stephen Wolinsky, and I’m adding it to my list of recommended books:

Trances People Live, by Stephen Wolinksy, PhD. Slipping into a trance is not unusual, and a trance can last a long time — a person in a cult may be living in a trance for years and even decades. Being in a trance goes unrecognized by the person in the trance until they emerge from it — because it is a trance, one is as unconscious of it as the proverbial fish is of water because being always immersed in it makes it “just the way things are.” Inveterate gamblers are an example: they just find themselves in the casino again, doing things without really thinking about why or about alternatives. (Indeed, slot machines in particular are designed to trigger a trance.) Many people eat in a trance, consuming foods without conscious thought, but just in a sense drifting from bite to bite (and the goal of “intuitive eating” is to break the trance). Many spend money in a trance (for things in general or for specific types of things), as a compulsive habit done without thinking or being truly conscious of the full action (for example, what the effect will be on their overall budget). The trance becomes noticed only as one starts to break free of it. As that happens, one stops and suddenly (and consciously) thinks, “No. Why am I doing this? I don’t want to do it.” and feels some confusion about the source of the interrupted impulse.

The book came to mind as The Wife and I were talking about our own recent emergence from some long-lived trances we’ve inhabited, and how we are now surprised by being conscious of things we previously did automatically.

It’s a very interesting book with many useful insights. I doubt that one can completely escape trances, but it’s useful to know that they exist and to become conscious of those whose effects on us are detrimental to our well-being. Doing an inventory of one’s trances is naturally difficult but can be rewarding — and just knowing about trances and how they affect one’s behavior increases one’s awareness of them.

Update: I think one reason people fail to listen is that they are in a sort of trance that disables their attention to (and consciousness of) what the other is saying — not just the words, but what the other is trying to communicate. See this post.

Written by Leisureguy

6 June 2022 at 11:47 am

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