Hypnosis is a state of focused awareness. It is something everyone
has experienced countless times; among instances of it are waking
up or getting absorbed in a good book. The characteristics of the
state vary; it cannot be pinpointed on an EEG and the experience
is different for everyone though there are common elements. A person
can be hypnotized and while that state be having a great time at
a party; no zombie eyes no intonations of Yeesss Massterr no wandering
about with arms outstretched. Hypnosis does not have a unique and
unmistakable insignia indicating its presence.
This is generally not the case with the PROCESS of hypnosis.
Patterns of hypnosis have been written up and used for decades.
You can find books depicting the process in bookstores and libraries.
The process is intended to create that state of focused awareness.
It is this process I wish to discuss in the remainder of this post.
[Hypnosis and being hypnotized will refer to the process should
there be any confusion.]
Hypnosis can be thought of as a game that is binding. The rules
are initially defined by the expectations of the subject which encompasses
all their experiences with it everything they've seen on TV and
old movies and what the subject has been told about hypnosis. These
rules dictate what will and will not be effective; which inductions
will and will not work; and the conduct of the subject while in
the state of hypnosis. The rules are mutable. Debunking misconceptions
demonstrations and providing more information -- accurate or not
-- will affect the rules of the game. A professor at Stanford illustrated
how greatly expectations dictate results. The gentleman told one
of his introductory psychology classes that an unfailing indication
of a hypnotized subject was that their right arm would float upwards.
The professor told another class the same thing only in this case
he specified it was the left hand that would rise. When he hypnotized
members of both classes he discovered that students responded in
accord with their expectations. The right arm of the members of
the first class did indeed rise while with members of the second
class only the left hand rose. In hypnosis the subject calls the
shots. Their expectations outline the manner in which the game is
to be played. The hypnotist wields no mystical power; she and the
subject have an agreement that the process of hypnosis is conducted
in a certain manner and each player behaves in a particular way.
The level at which the game is played is defined by the rules and
the degree of trust the subject feels for the hypnotist. A mistrustful
subject will be paying far more attention to what you are doing
and what you might be scheming than to what you are saying. 667
Hypnosis is useful as a catalyst. As seen above the state itself
is not too exhilarating in and of itself. The process and the applications
are what make it fun and useful. You can call on your mind's abilities
to control pain [useful]; you can play the most intense imagination
game of D&D of your life [fun]. The function of the hypnotist
is to provide a focal point and talk their partner through evoking
the intended result. The process usually begins with a discussion
of hypnosis. This is to determine the purpose of a session debunk
misconceptions get a sense of the subject's expectations and generally
make things go easier later. The induction consists of bringing
the subject's awareness to something and keeping it focused. The
hypnotist gives suggestions to bring about the determined purpose
including any post-hypnotic suggestions. Then she guides the subject
back to a normal state of awareness.
- It is not sleep. The participant is thoroughly aware of their
surroundings. They may choose to ignore them. The hypnotist may
ask the subject to ignore things or to focus all attention on one
- You can not get stuck in hypnosis. Either you will awaken on
your own or the state will become one of natural sleep. Sometimes
a subject requires a few more moments to return. Sometimes the subject
refuses to return. This is particularly true of stage hypnosis;
if a subject feels pissed off at the hypnotist it can be mightily
gratifying to unnerve said offending hypnotist by not responding.
Even if this is the case the subject will still either return on
their own or fall asleep.
- A hypnotized person will not knowingly violate their code of
ethics. Milton Erickson messed around with this a bit and found
it to be particularly true if he made it clear that the subject
was responsible for the consequences of their actions. There are
three twists here; 1. A person may do something seemingly unethical
if it is o.k. according to their moral standards especially if they
believe being hypnotized at the time is sufficient excuse. 2. Stage
hypnotists evoke some silly behavior which might ordinarily be contrary
to the subject's code of conduct. This is a result of group pressure
of the forgivability of stage hypnosis and of the streak of hamming
it up in each of us. 3. A person can be tricked. If I am told I
am in a blazing hot desert sweating buckets and the only way to
get cool is to take my shirt off I might do that. I will not do
that because I am an exhibitionist. If I am directly told to take
off my shirt first I will snap back to the here and now and next
I will drop-kick the lech out of my house. Furthermore once such
a maneuver is recognized the hypnotist has utterly destroyed the
subject's trust and will have no further success with them. 668
First some things concerning speaking. The hypnotist ought not
speak in a monotone; not only is it unnecessary it is an annoyance.
Rather she should make her voice congruent with what she's saying.
If she is describing a soothing walk on the beach under a restful
sunset she ought not sound hyper. It is useful to use a particular
tone of voice when hypnotizing people. This is helpful because soon
there will be an association between The Voice and the state. In
addition it means you will not inadvertently trip an association
if you use your normal speaking voice with someone whom you see
primarily for hypnosis you are apt to zone them out just by saying
Howzit goin The Voice comes with practice and you can pick it out
after a while.
There are definite reasons behind word choices. Sense words make
things more vivid; describe the colors textures and sounds associated
with that soothing walk on the beach. Repeating words and phrases
helps things sink in and adds rhythm to your patter. You may opt
to say things in a permissive way [in a moment you may picture yourself
walking upon a soothing beach; perhaps there is a glorious sunset
coloring the sky crimson and purple] or in an authoritative way
[ You are walking on a beach. The beach is soothing; it makes you
more and more relaxed. Notice the glorious sunset]. The choice of
words is based on the situation the hypnotist's style and most of
all upon the personality and rules of the subject. Make them fit.
Synonyms for this word include credibility and rapport. Leverage
makes suggestions more effective. Things that generate leverage
are accurate descriptions of present experience and accurate descriptions
of future events. An accurate description of your present experience
may be that your eyes are moving across these words and you feel
the keyboard beneath your waiting fingers and you feel the chair
beneath you and you hear noises in the background that you have
not been paying much attention to until now. An accurate description
of future events can be that as you read these words you will become
aware of your left earlobe. Another is that when you take your next
really deep breath your hand may feel somewhat lighter. I base my
estimation of your awareness of your earlobe on the fact that mentioning
it almost inevitably makes you think about it. The second assertion
is much shakier in this context but stronger if you were being hypnotised.
Relax your hands on your lap for a moment and inhale deeply. Notice
how your shoulders rise a little and tug your arm up a little bit
Things that are bad for credibility are ability tests and blatant
contradictions of present experience. When you use an ability test
you run the risk of it not working. They do work for many people
and sometimes providing useful information but it is very difficult
to recover gracefully from an unsuccessful ability test. The participant
may reach the conclusion that they can not be hypnotized or that
you are incapable of hypnotizing them. Blatant contradiction of
present experience as you carefully scrutinize the upper left corner
of your monitor you can become aware of the little picture of a
pink-and-purple hippopotamus. Riiight. 669
Now to tie these together. If you have been correct in the past
few descriptions you increase the probability you will be in the
next one. As an example presume I am being hypnotized right now.
I am told about how I feel the keyboard under my hands as my fingers
dance from key to key (correct) I glance at my scribbling to help
me clarify this thought (correct) and I hear muffled music in the
background (also correct) and as I notice these things I can feel
myself becoming more and more relaxed. The last assertion is pure
speculation; there is no reason that those things should make me
feel more relaxed and no real indication that I'm mellowing out
noticing these things. However the hypnotist has been right on three
counts so far. He has acquired a little credibility. My response
is going to be Sure he's been right so far why not now This point
is somewhat esoteric; if it makes sense fine. Ifit doesn't or even
if it does read Trance-Formations listed at the end of this post.
The authors go over this in detail and in a very skillful and clear
fashion. Let this stand the more accurate you are, so much the better;
a really incorrect statement or blatant failure is apt to be disruptive.
The purpose of an induction is to focus awareness on something
and gradually move through to evoking the intended results. The
methods are many and varied. Very often the focal point is relaxation.
Progressive relaxation consists of deliberately tensing and relaxing
(sometimes just relaxing) each part of the body paying attention
to releasing every bit of tension. Descriptions of soothing surroundings
or experiences are also used to produce relaxation. Trance-Formations
describes an induction utilizing points mentioned above. It consists
of sets of six statements. The first set contains five accurate
descriptions of present experience and one abstract or unverifiable
statement (... and these things make you feel more and more relaxed
...and while you notice them you feel a sense of security ... and
strangely enough these remind you of wrecking Aunt Milllie's car).
The next set contains four present-experiences and two abstracts;
then three present-experiences and three abstracts and so on until
you're dealing with just the abstracts. Confusion inductions consist
of confusing the hell out of someone and then providing them with
an understandable option. This confusion often consists of ambiguous
statements or plays on words. Take the words right write rite and
Wright. As you right about the right brothers you realize you have
violated the rights of those whose right this is by righting with
your right instead of your left. The intended response is a huge
HUH at which point you offer an understandable option ... and that
makes you feel really silly! The option is an escape route from
all that unpleasantness and ambiguity and therefore desirable. 670
Inductions take time. It is common for an induction to take ten
or twenty minutes with a participant who has not been hypnotized
much before or is unused to your style. Signs of effectiveness the
participant's responses match your description. ... and that makes
you feel really silly may be met with a smile; depictions of relaxation
are matched with visible decreases in tension. Requests to picture
scenes usually evoke rapid eye movement. If you ask your partner
to do a lot of talking you will notice changes in their manner of
speaking; it becomes quieter slower perhaps a little less well enunciated.
Depending on what you ask them to say and how familiar you are with
their normal speech patterns you may notice differences in word
choices. Subjectively you or the participant may feel more lethargic
and may experience dissociation. For me that means that I could
do a lot of things like move my hand up a few inches but it would
require so much energy and I do not think it important enough at
the time to expend that energy. Also I tend to start loosing track
of where I left my limbs (tee hee); I know they're there somewhere
but don't think it important enough to bother to relocate them.
It is desirable to make series of suggestions flow as smoothly
as possible. Choppy sentences are more apt to create tension than
soothe them. Flowing sentences encourage relaxation have better
rhythm to them and can possess more leverage. Take these three phrases
You feel the chair beneath you. You see the text on the screen.
You are becoming more relaxed than ever before. The simplest way
to connect them is with plain old conjunctions. You feel the chair
beneath you AND you see the text on the screen AND you are becoming
more relaxed than ever before. Next step up simultaneous words.
AS you feel the chair beneath youyou see the text on the screen
AND AT THE SAME TIME you are becoming more relaxed than ever before.
The most powerful way to hook up phrases is with causal words. SINCE
you feel the chair beneath you AND BECAUSE you see the text on the
screen you are becoming more relaxed than ever before.
This is the portion of the process where you accomplish the stated
purpose; the part of the game that is binding. Suggestion styles
include the following:
- Direct suggestion. This is where you flat-out say such and
such is going to happen. When you are going to bed tonight you will
feel compelled to think of purple hippos. As soon as your head touches
the pillow purple hippos will occupy your every thought. 671
- Indirect suggestion. Comprised of visualization and storytelling.
Visualization is just mentally creating the event. It is not restricted
to just pictures; whichever senses make it more real are the ones
you should appeal to. If you know the person is oriented to one
sense more than another, describe with them. ( See the purple hippos
dancing on your quilt. Hear them thundering up the hallway. Feel
the floor shake with their every step. ) If in doubt it can't hurt
to use all of them. [ Most people favor either vision hearing or
kinesthics so you needn't necessarily go into how it tastes to chow
down on purple hippo. If you were visualizing walking in a flower
garden however it makes sense to include smell. Use what is appropriate.]
Picture yourself preparing for bed. Your teeth are brushed; the
sounds of traffic are hushed; and the pillow feels delightfully
cool against your cheek. As you snuggle down under the pillows your
mind turns to thoughts of purple hippos.
Storytelling is more subtle than both direct suggestion and visualization.
You relate an event or anecdote which provides a sort of framework
for conduct. When I was a child every night as I went to sleep I
would conjure up a rainbow zoo dancing on my bed covers. First there
would be the lions as yellow as lemons. Following them were orange
alligators... [blah blah blah through blue ostriches..] And last
and best of all were the purple hippos. They were my favorite part
of the procession; I looked forward to them as soon as my head touched
the pillow. And the last thoughts on my mind were of those purple
hippos cavorting on my quilt. If it's something really strange like
the above you probably wish to attribute it to a weird cousin or
obscure newspaper clipping. Lead into these gracefully; this example
might start off with bedtime rituals in general and in the present
then remembering back to bedtime rituals as a child then into your
story. ( How many people will think of purple hippos the night after
they read this) These should be related in an appropriately serious
manner. If it's silly sound a little silly but present it as if
it's important as if you were sharing it with a friend. If you make
it sound important it will be received as such. Go gently with them
too; don't holler PURPLE HIPPOS CAVORTING ON THE QUILT. Just weave
it into its surroundings. Storytelling is best for going sideways
at something for attending to integral corollaries of the purpose.
Their power is in subtlety.
- Subliminals. It is possible to mark out certain words as you
say them. You may make a certain unobtrusive gesture change pitch
or loudness slightly glance off in a certain direction -- something
small enough not to require the participant's full-blown attention
but designed so they will be able to perceive it. This is the hardest
thing for me to give an example of because it's something I have
not begun to master. If you could