Trained Hypnotists and students of hypnosis often ask us how to write (or structure) hypnotic suggestions for maximum effect. We have some magical advice that will forever improve your work….
Don’t suggest. Direct.
If this seems strange, or doesn’t make sense then keep reading. It’s all about to make so much sense. It just may change the way you do hypnosis forever.
Hypnotism is a remarkable field of study, and is undergoing its greatest surge of interest in history; even surpassing the Hypnotic Golden Age of the 1880s. It seems like everyone has an induction or a therapy or a way of working with subjects onstage, that’s the latest and the greatest, and this is a good thing.
Free discourse blows the doors of learning wide open. We all benefit from it. And in that spirit I offer the following …
Too many hypnotists are still attempting to “suggest” subjects into trance.
I come at this issue from the following foundation: I’m a Neo-Ericksonian. I refuse to be polarized, and draw from both ends of the hypnotic spectrum. This means I use both direct and indirect hypnosis. I see a continuum between them and I recognize the value in both.
I’ve been a professional hypnotist for over 40 years. My style is to be as subtle and gentle as possible while also being as direct and paternal as necessary. I say this because some of you readers will think that what I’m going to tell you won’t work with your style of hypnosis. Set aside that worry for the time being.
So here it is…
If you want to consistently get people into trance and to do excellent hypnotic work, regardless of your methodology, you need to stop making suggestion the foundation of your induction. I’ve observed that many hypnotists are stuck on variations of the following mental (or written) script:
Your eyelids are getting very tired…you are relaxing and sinking into that chair…my voice is fading into the background…you are so very sleepy…you can feel your eyes closing…your arms are getting heavy…
Although there’s nothing actually wrong with proceeding in this manner, there are problems inherent in the method itself.
First of all, if you’re dealing with a hyper-analytical client, it probably won’t work because he’ll be checking to see if what you’re suggesting is true. He’ll then internally disagree with you. This will be the client who tells everyone “He tried to hypnotize me, but it didn’t work.”
The session will be proclaimed a failure, you’ll tell your colleagues you had a “bad subject” and you’ll lose a bit of confidence with your next hypnosis client.
Two Other Essential Reasons Why Suggestion is Not The Best Approach:
- It attempts to apply suggestions to a person who’s critical faculty is still largely present and active.
- It puts the responsibility on the hypnotist to create the trance, thus making the subject a passive observer.
Basically, you wind up with a relaxed subject, analyzing what you’re saying and waiting for something to happen.
The Solution To This Problem:
The solution is a simple key that will dramatically increase your ability to induce trance, whatever your method. The magic key goes back to something professor Clark Hull of Yale University said in 1933:
Anything that assumes trance, causes trance.
This means that if I need a so-called light trance to make someone’s eyelids stick shut, I can do it the other way around. I can stick someone’s eyelids shut, and get a light trance by default. This opens the door to some really interesting ways of improving our hypnotic work. The simple version being, tell the subject to build the components of a trance intentionally, and you’ll get a trance automatically. So instead of running your script and saying …
Your eyelids are getting very tired…your eyes are starting to close…
Close your eyes.
The end result is more certain, and will save you a lot of time. By directing the subject to do certain things, rather than telling him they’re happening (when they’re not) you’ll be far more effective. This also puts the locus of responsibility of trance creation and maintenance where it belongs: On the subject, not on the hypnotist.
This now enables you to use Hull’s insight easily. Simply switch from suggesting trance to directing toward trance.
Here are some examples:
- Allow yourself to sink into the couch
- Take a deep breath and relax…even more
- Enjoy a profound sense of relaxation
- Let your head fall forward and your jaw relax
- Permit your arms to go limp
- Feel the weight of your body in that chair
- Notice the pinpoints of light…inside your eyelids
- Go into an even deeper state of hypnosis
If you pre-frame your session so that the subject understands that she’s the one who has to create the trance, not you, then you won’t have someone sitting there passively, waiting for something to occur.
Some of the more astute students out there will realize that this is the heart of many of the late Dave Elman’s brilliant methods. Elman would get a subject to pretend they couldn’t open their eyes, and would seamlessly and rapidly cascade the person into a deep trance.
Note that the Ericksonian style of hypnosis gets around this essential problem by offering options. For example “Your hand may rise…or fall…or just stay right where it is…” That’s beyond the scope of this article. We teach this thoroughly in our world class online hypnosis academy
When Should You Use Hypnotic Suggestion?
Am I saying we should never suggest? Of course not. But save your suggestions for when your subject is safely in trance and the critical faculty is out of the way. Until then, stop suggesting. Direct the subject with clear instructions. Tell him what to do to make it work, rather than telling a skeptical subject that it’s already happening.
The results will amaze you.