Hypnosis what it is and how to do it
What is hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a trance state. Trance states involve a narrowing focus of attention.
This could be:
Outwards like in an emergency.
Inwards like when daydreaming or worrying.
A trance state is when you access the Rapid Eye Movement (R.E.M) State. This state is accessed during dreaming and at times when the brain doesn’t know what is coming next, like in an emergency or with a loud noise.
The R.E.M state is the state that you go into to create or update patterns of behaviour. This is why human babies have the highest time in an R.E.M state in the three months leading up to the birth. In this last three months all of the instinctive patterns are being laid in place for life on the outside. This allows for certain behaviours to happen without being learnt, like breathing, suckling and the ability to match facial expressions which allows the baby to bond with the primary carer by building rapport.
There are a number of behaviours associated with trance states many of which are useful to be used for rapid healing.
Trance state behaviours include:
A huge increase in suggestibility & responsiveness
Increased tolerance to pain
Sudden religious conversions
Absence of blinking
Ability to change body temperature
Ability to build muscle using the imagination
Ability to alter blood pressure
Ability to change mood
Ability to rehearse new behaviours until they become instinctive
Altering immune system activity
Plus much more
Before learning how to induce a trance in yourself and others it is important to know what to look out for. If you don’t know what to look for to tell when someone is in a trance you wouldn’t know when they are hypnotised. The ability to help people into an optimum learning state, which is the same state as a hypnotic trance is one of the most important abilities that you can learn.
When you know what to look out for you can begin to utilise what you see as being an indicator that the person is entering (or is in) a trance.
different voice quality
shorter sentences and words
less body movement
economy of body movement
lack of startle reflex
takes things literally
slow or no swallowing reflex
slow or no blinking
head nodding side to side
independence from ongoing experience
breathing from stomach
less facial colour
eyes roll back
instant hypnotic phenomena
Not all of these indicators happen all of the time. Sometimes some people may show some indicators but not others or there may be a delay before some responses. This delay can often happen with hypnotic phenomena or tasks that clients are asked to carry out. This happens because often internal time distortion occurs sometimes on an unconscious level that can make the time it takes for a client to carryout a behaviour seem quicker to the client than it appears to the therapist.
How do you do hypnosis?
To do hypnotic induction’s you need to either recreate stages leading to dreaming sleep or recreate the state of not knowing what is happening next causing the reorientation response.
Recreating stages of sleep could be a relaxation induction getting the client to relax their body perhaps starting with their feet, then relaxing their mind by getting them to think of something pleasant. Or it could be getting them to imagine something relaxing. Or getting more of their attention focused inwardly in some other way.
Recreating a state of not knowing what is happening next could be done by interrupting a pattern of behaviour, or causing confusion.
Some types of induction are:
Conversational (overt & covert)
Conversational induction’s are induction’s that initially start with an ordinary conversation. They involve embedding suggestions and utilising ongoing experiences or events to induce a trance.
It could be embedding suggestions in a conversation or feeding back what a client says to deepen their experience.
An example of a conversational induction:
As you sit back and begin to feel comfortably relaxed (Embedded command), I would like you to let those eyes gently closethat’s rightrecognising that with those eyes closed you can go inside very pleasantly, accessing memories, past experiences or other meaningful events, times gone by when you felt good Now, Graham, I’d like you to take two deep, refreshing breaths and as you release that second breath you can drift even more deeply into a satisfying a pleasant state of relaxationetc
An example of a pattern interrupt induction:
(Interrupting the pattern of a handshake)
Hi, I’m Dan (hand goes out; clients hand comes to meet it. I take it with my opposite hand, raise it with palm facing clients face then slowly start it moving to their face)and as that hand continues to move closer to your face all by itself you can begin to notice the change in your visionand as the vision changes you can notice how heavy those eyelids are gettingand you won’t go all the way into a trance until that hand comfortably touches the faceetc
An example of a metaphorical induction or embedded-meaning induction would be to tell a story and use embedded commands and metaphors for going in to tranceetc
An example used in a staff meeting to get the staff working together again:
One-day snow white decided that she wanted to go on a walk, she didn’t often go out far from her home as she was unsure what she would find in the deep, dark forest. Snow white left on a path right outside her front door. The path was covered by trees arching high over head; either side of her was deep, dark forest. Snow white stuck to the path walking through the shimmering beams of light that flickered down through the trees above. As she continued tofollow this pathshe was aware of the rhythmic beat of her feet on the ground and the sounds of birds in the trees and the rustling of leaves as the wind blew a breeze. She continued to wander and at times found her mind wonder about why she set out on this journeyafter walking for a while she found herself smile as she saw a house in the distance. The house was in a clearing in the forest that was bright and cheerful. There were plants of many varieties and many flowers surrounding the house. As snow white reached the clearing she could feel the calm, warmth from the sun on her skin. Snow white could hear voices coming from the house and the closer she got the more she could tell that the people inside the house were disagreeing with each other. Snow white approached and asked one of the people what was wrong. Grumpy explained that they used to all go to work singing and dancing with enjoyment but now they seem to have forgotten how to work as a team. Grumpy explained that they used to push togetherpull togetheraxe togetherall togetherbut now they found that they couldn’t. When one pushed another pulled and no work got done. Snow white asked what they do and was told that they are the team that digs and lays the foundations for new buildings. She asked them why they decided to do that work. She was told that you see buildings standing and feel proud because you know that they are standing because you built the foundations well, it makes you proud of all that hard work you didsnow white decided to tell the little people a story about a centipede that kept falling over its legs. The centipede asked a friend how he manages to walk without falling over. He was told to justrelaxand let all the legswork togethernot keep thinking about which leg should do what and when. This made no sense to the dwarves so they decided to forget what snow white said and just enjoy her company. Before snow white left she asked who made such a lovely garden. The dwarves said they all worked at it and that many of the plants have survived some harsh winters. At the end of the day snow white said good bye to the dwarves. She got right up and left. As she left she was amazed by how much happier and healthier they were starting to become. Something had happened that they were learning from which looked like it made them healthier and made them work out their differences, sneezy had stopped sneezing, grumpy was happy, bashful had clear skin and no hint of red, and all of the others had noticed improvements too. This made snow white happy as she skipped away from the house up the path leaving her adventure behind like a dream that got more out of reach like a name on the tip of your tongue as she approached her home pleased with her mini adventure, then walked through her gate and, finding it was all a dream sheopened her eyes
A directive induction is an induction where you tell the client what to do.
An example of a directive induction:
I’m going to shake your hand three timesthe first time your eyes will get tiredlet themthe second time they’ll want to closelet themthe third time they’ll lock and you wont be able to open themwant that to happen, and watch it happennow12now close your eyesnow 3and they’re locked and you’ll find they just don’t work, no matter how hard you trythe harder you try the less they’ll worktest them and you’ll find they won’t work at all
An example of a confusion induction (used within a story):
One afternoon a woman set out looking for her friend’s house. She was feeling rather tired and sleepy, but perked up halfway there when she realised she’d forgotten the directions. She decided to check for directions anyway, and holding the wheel with her right hand she used her left hand to place a can of coke on the floor right beside her then reaching right across her side with her left hand to her right coat pocket for the directions she discovered they weren’t there so she thought maybe they were left in her left pocket so she checked right there only to discover they weren’t there either. She then checked both pockets again with alternating hands as she steadied the car steering wheel with her knees she remembered that her friend had said that it is two rights and one left. She took a right and was left with one right and a left. She took a left and was still left with one left and two rights. She tried two rights and was left with one left, and after trying just one left alone was left with two rights, and still she had not found her friend’s house, which was starting to get a bit confusing. She decided to try a bit harder which was hard as she fought off fatigue and the traffic, and the first thing she did was reverse the right-left order, which she definitely thought was the right thing to do just then. Leaving from the corner she took a hard left, leaving two rights left, and still she was not there. A right and a left, and continuing with one more right left her not there yet either, and finally in utter bewilderment and near exasperation, she pulled off the road deciding the only decision she has left must be right, she sat back behind the wheel, took one deep breath and said “I might as well just sleep”
Probably the easiest way for a beginner to induce a trance in someone else is to use a naturalistic approach. A naturalistic approach involves talking about everyday trance states. As you talk to a client about everyday trance states they will be familiar so will rapidly start to enter trance. If you do this utilising hypnotic language the effects will be even greater.
It can be useful to write out direct scripts then change it to indirect. Writing what it is that you hope to achieve and how you will achieve this. Then you can go through the script changing anything that is too direct and that might not match the client’s reality to something that will. For example, you may say ..as you approach that old wooden staircase’ which is direct and may not match the client’s view of a staircase and change it to ..as you approach that staircase’ which is more general and so it allows the client the freedom to fit this into their model of reality.
To focus attention get the client talking about something that they are interested in. in the old day’s hypnotists would tell the client what to think and what to focus on. To induce a trance you need to focus attention but it doesn’t matter what you focus that attention on. That is one of the beauties of naturalistic induction’s. Hypnotists used to use swinging watches, stroking, telling the client to look at a spot or a candle. Modern day hypnotists get clients to focus on issues, thoughts, comments, or even the process of their problem. One quick way to hypnotise a smoker is to ask them to tell you the process they go through when they smoke.
Utilise naturalistic phenomena. Anything can be used to achieve your goals. If you want to lead to a trance state you can use naturalistic phenomena leading to trance, like sleep, day-dreaming, a leisure activity. If you wanted to evoke a hypnotic phenomena then you can use examples of times that thy have happened naturally like numbness sleeping on an arm or holding snow, or amnesia forgetting someone’s name or being interrupted mid-sentence.
Creating responses this way will then come from client so they will be more powerful. It is completely different telling someone to laugh uncontrollably than reminding them of times they found themselves laughing uncontrollably, like in school in a classroom when you know you shouldn’t, and the more you try to stop the laughter the more the laughter builds up, you know that feeling?
You can get the client to talk about something they enjoy doing that makes their mind wander and as they talk about it they will begin to go back into that same state of mind again. When you hypnotise someone you want to separate the conscious and unconscious mind. You can do this by confusing the conscious or marking out different messages to the conscious and unconscious mind.
Other useful ways for beginners to induce trance and do effective therapy are:
Make someone talk about their problem without using words relating to the problem then use this to help do treatment
This can allow you to work completely metaphorically. You can use the metaphor they give for their problem and then just get them to play out the metaphor to a positive conclusion in the clients mind. This can be useful when you don’t have enough information or time to work in depth with the client.
Utilise everything don’t think of anything as failure
If a client doesn’t give the response that you expect then utilise what they do give you and acknowledge that what they are doing is what they need to do to achieve the desired goal.
If a client says that they can’t relax enough to go into a trance, then say How did you know that you needed to have a little tension there to be able to do good effective change work?’
Time your rhythm to rhythm of clients breathing
This is probably one of the easiest ways to increase your effectiveness at altering someone’s state. If you match their breathing and talk with the clients out breath you can begin to slow your breathing down and begin to slow down what you say and they will begin to relax deeper.
This is because breathing is such a fundamental part of life that if you match it you quickly begin to build rapport with the client on an unconscious level.
Fractionation is a technique developed where you take the client in and out of trance repeatedly which deepens the trance each time they go inside.
This can be done simply by asking the client to open their eyes then close their eyes again and go deeper.
Fractionation was created because hypnotists noticed that each time clients came into a session and were hypnotised they went deeper than they had done on previous sessions. It was realised that they didn’t need to have a big gap between sessions, the same thing occurred if the client was repeatedly hypnotised during one session.
Feedback what the client says as suggestions
Client: My left hand feels heavier than my right’
Therapist: Your left hand feels heavier than your right!’
By doing this you are telling the client true statements which helps to deepen their state and you are utilising on going behaviour and comments to lead to the desired outcome.
Take the client to the future to when they no longer have the problem and ask what did I do that helped you?’
The legendary late psychiatrist Milton H Erickson MD would often take clients to the future then ask what he did to help them. After he did this and they told him how he cured them he would bring them back to the present and do what they said he did to cure them.
It is a strong belief of all the top therapists in the world that people have the resources they need to heal themselves they just need guidance and assistance in accessing that healing power.
Post hypnotic suggestions
Post hypnotic suggestions are probably what hypnosis is most famous for and probably what causes the most controversy. Despite popular beliefs it isn’t possible to make someone do something against their will with hypnosis.
I don’t mean that you can’t make people do things they are not prepared to do because you can. For example, it is possible to indirectly make someone stop smoking but if it went against any of the client’s values or belief then it wouldn’t work. The unconscious mind is normally willing to do anything that will maintain self preservation so even if consciously the client wasn’t willing to stop smoking, unconsciously they can still accept the suggestions. If the client is consciously not willing to accept the suggestions and the client recognises that suggestions are being given then they can interfere and stop the suggestions from working.
To do post hypnotic suggestions effectively you want to make sure that you prime them first. By priming the suggestions with metaphors and explanations about what you are going to do you prepare the mind for carrying out the behaviour.
After you have primed the suggestions you want to leave it a little while before you give the actual suggestion. This time is given to allow the mind to absorb the priming so that it is waiting in anticipation for the suggestion. This will increase the effectiveness when it is given.
As you wait before giving the suggestion it can be useful to deepen the client’s trance and to take them into another level. For example, you could guide them down a staircase then through a door, or you could guide them along a country path then to a clearing, or simply suggest that a part of them can go to a deeper more responsive state of mind.
When you give the suggestions you want to make sure that it is worded positively saying what you want not what you don’t want. So often people know what they don’t want and then say that. The problem with this is that the unconscious mind doesn’t understand negatives. It makes images of what is said, so if you say You won’t have that pain when you sleep at night’. The unconscious mind will create an image of you being in pain when you are trying to sleep at night to know what it is not supposed to think about. The same thing happens if I ask you don’t think of a pink elephant’. You have to think of a pink elephant to know what not to think about.
When you give suggestions you want to make sure that they are easy to follow. The more complicated the post-hypnotic suggestion the more chance there is that it won’t be followed. When a suggestion is followed the client will go back into the same state that they were in when the suggestion was given. That is why Hypnotherapists often give post-hypnotic suggestions to re-enter trance with a given word or phase by the therapist because this is a quick way to re-hypnotise a client.
Say post-hypnotic suggestions three times at least, after you have done some priming and using metaphors. This helps to make sure that the suggestion is embedded in the mind. Use words like when’ and as’ to set post hypnotic suggestions and to link them to ongoing behaviour.
Presuppositions (that will be covered later) work like post-hypnotic suggestions. As you are repeatedly presupposing specific outcomes you are setting up future responses. If the responses that are being set up are associated with a behaviour that will definitely happen then this also increases the likelihood of the suggestion being followed.
Remember to cancel any post-hypnotic suggestions that are no longer required or to make them very specific so that they will only happen at required times. You don’t want a post-hypnotic suggestion to close the eyes and go into a trance each time you hear the word NOW to be active all of the time. You want it to be limited to the right context and to a specific tonality and only be the therapist.
Remember to use:
Embedded commands (messages marked out within sentences using a change in tonality or a gesture etc)
Presuppositions (using terms like as, when, after, before that all imply or presuppose that these things will happen)
Illusionary choices (offering choices that lead to the same outcome, like saying: do you want to sit in this chair or that chair to go into a trance?’ It doesn’t matter which chair is chosen the outcome is that you will go into trance)
Non-verbal behaviour like voice tonality and being congruent by exhibiting what you are trying to get. For example saying relax’ in a relaxing way etc.
For information on language patterns see my article Language patterns and their use in customer-oriented selling articles.