When we talk about hypnosis we often tend to be either talking about the relaxed, focused, absorbed feelings associated with a ‘trance state’, or we tend to be talking about the interesting things people can do when hypnotised: such as not feeling pain, or experiencing hallucinations.
Some scientists think that hypnosis is an ‘altered state of consciousness’ marked by changes in the way the brain functions. Others believe that hypnotised participants are actively motivated to behave in a hypnotic manner and are not simply passively responding to hypnotic suggestions. Therapists who use hypnosis sometimes talk about using hypnosis to access contents and resources of the unconscious / subconscious mind.
Like the story of the blind men and the elephant, it is possible that these explanations all describe different parts of the overall phenomenon of hypnosis.