Relationship Dynamics Between
Altered States and Waking States of Consciousness

By: Mark Bancroft, MA


The normal waking state of consciousness offers the very real experience of existing among two worlds/domains, the subjective and objective. Definite boundaries between Self and World become solidified. The normal waking state unifies the physical and inner realities which, if one is attentive, allows for the direct experience of events. Physically giving a speech before an audience is typically more challenging than doing so through visualization. Unfortunately, the process of automization accompanies the waking state and causes limited awareness and decreased experience of the world. Also, the waking state is highly effected by past programming. Cultural expectations, inhibitions, negative experiences, the adoption of a self-image (persona) become so real in the waking state that they become difficult to transcend.

Altered states of consciousness provide a fertile ground for subjective exploration and experience. The constraints of the physical world quickly diminish. Altered states can be used for deep inquiry leading to personal understanding. They allow us to access and experience aspects of ourselves which is not possible in the waking state. Fascinating, interesting, and intriguing experiences unfold. Relaxation, peace, calmness, and centeredness are also offered. Sometimes these experiences are used to escape the burdens of physical existence. Rather than dealing with relationship problems, career/ money issues, depression, etc., altered states become a means to escape "reality". Or, altered state experiences can be so compelling people begin to view physical reality as illusionary to the point bodily survival is put in jeopardy.

Altered states and the waking state compliment each other. Typically, when one is exclusively identified with the waking state there results a loss creativity and a greater affect upon the individual by outside stressors accompanying the person's daily life. Respectively, over-identification with altered states generally decreases one's ability to function wisely in the world. Exclusive identification with either results in difficulties; integration promotes psychological development and conscious being.

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Mark Bancroft, MA, CHT
Nevada City, CA