Hypnosis - Chapter 7
In a world of almost 8 billions, there is at least a billion people attempting to convince others to do something, who in fact depend on it to make a living. Be it in marketing, sales, public relations etc., all are working to exert influence over our brains. In fact there is a field of marketing, that specifically works to address your unconscious mind called neuromarketing.
Hypnosis can be self-taught, but it is hard to find non-biased learning material. In respect to methodologies and theories and attempts to professionalize, fragment and commercialize the practice, there is a greater good served in making the knowledge and techniques available and understandable to all. Hypnosis can be a tool for self exploration and improvement.
Often an hypnotist will refer to himself as an operator, an operator that delivers words and ideas into a subject that has granted him his full attention, hopefully with consent.
An often missed realization is that the operator is the lesser aspect in generating hypnotism. The expectation and willingness of the subject will trump every other aspect; most of the work of the operator is in the buildup, explaining and directing of the hypnotic experience. Of course that deeper and meaningful work will require experience and knowledge of how to operate. Even though suggestions are an intrinsic part of the hypnotic process, it can not be only reduced to that.
We can look at a hypnotist as a reverse illusionist, since the functions and methodologies are extremely similar, but with opposing goals: while one tries to capture attention, the other attempts to divert it.
Since concentration is the prerequisite for producing hypnotism, one who has not the power of concentration himself, and concentration which he can perfectly control, is not likely to be able to secure it in others. Also, since belief in the phenomenon is a strong element, a person who has not perfect self-confidence should not expect to create confidence in others.
Anyone can become an hypnotist (a practitioner of hypnosis). There is not a specific qualification, except perhaps common sense and good ethics, but with a little study anyone can be a very effective hypnotist and it can indeed be a great job. Not because you will be able to control another person’s thoughts and influence them, but as a tool to help others realize their full potential, bring happiness and provide others the tools to work at it by themselves. The principal factors to be effective are self-confidence and practical experience, the more experience one has in any field the better, hypnosis is no different.
As covered in previous chapters, hypnotism has proven to be a very important tool especially in the field of medicine, because it can not only help to cure or alleviate depression and other mental sickness but it can even be used as a substitute to medical anesthesia. A tool to rebuild concepts, fix hangups and expand and clarify mind-scapes as a form of life improvement or at least permit to reinforce the power of the mind over the body, that is the power of suggestion and the spoken work, to empower ideas and permit them to be transferred across minds.
No academic title or course completion certificate, by themselves, can serve as proof of how good a hypnotist is. The best references one can have are their subjects (often clients) satisfaction and the power of word of mouth.
There is in general a global nonexistence of governmental recognized certifications on the practice of hypnosis, at best there are countries with hypnotherapy boards, but not all hypnotists work exclusive in the field of hypnotherapy and even then there these boards are often not a good source of assurance. There is also the problem that even if a hypnosis course included psychological or psychiatric formation, the mind is still a mystery, even these fields are filled much guess work that at best can be said as seeming to work. It isn't even applicable to all situations and all share the issue regarding the power of suggestibility. Experience, confidence and practice is often the only guarantees of success.
Ethics is a great preoccupation in the practice of hypnosis, especially to professional hypnotists that make a living of the practice as they have them most to lose from ethical abuses, even criminal behaviors or simple misrepresentation or anything damaging the public understanding of hypnosis.
Sessions taken by recorded media, are like canned food, it serves the purpose that it was designed to serve but is not the same as "real" food. The best work it provides is as a re-enforcement, but one should keep in mind that for most of the automated solutions (software guided sessions using biometrics or EEG reading being the exception) there will not be any interaction or monitoring of its effects.
One possible problem is that they fast become outdated. New techniques and advances are constantly being developed. By the nature of these products it is hard for an uninformed person to determine their quality.
Anyone can be hypnotized and everyone will have been in a trance before participating in any hypnotic session.
Unwilling subjects tend to belong to three type:
- Those that refuse to be hypnotized.
- Those that think that they can not be hypnotized or have already tried but it did not work on them
- Those that simply don't believe in hypnosis.
From these sets the often simpler to hypnotize is the one that does not believe in hypnosis, the prevailing reason is that their conscious mind will offer less opposition to be hypnotized, since they strongly dismiss the concept. Since entering a trance state is not predicated in believing in hypnosis, once that is established the session should flow easier.
As covered previously there are limiting factors that may prevent anyone to enter a trance state, but it they do not present a permanent situation, talking to the subject can often be the fastest method to clear any problems, and the operator should keep in mind there are various methods to archive the same goal. Remember that belief is everything...
As already covered when introducing hypnosis in regards to resistance (and hypnotic susceptibility), resistance can be addressed by selecting the right approach.
It is not uncommon that a previous failed attempt to get hypnotized or having a misunderstanding about what hypnosis is will result in an increase of the subject resistance. This is one reason why the pre-talk is important and why the operator has to be capable to shift the perception of the subject, that the process is failing, into a more positive outlook of what is happening and is expected, adapting to how the subject is reacting.
Since all hypnosis is self-hypnosis, the operator must have in mind that the same process is not always effective on the same subject, the issue is not the selected process but on the other components of a successful session, the mindset of the subject, the expectations and the trust in the operator being the most important. These variables will not always be the same. For instance having repeated, pleasant and successful experiences with an hypnotist will empower the level of trust and establish a positive outlook for the next session, especially with that same hypnotist, as any relation of trust. The reverse is also true, that is any failure or error should not be made evident to the subject. The worst that can happen is the operator to state that he can not do it or has made an error or that the subject can not be hypnotized, this will undermine any future attempts.
One can only be hypnotized if there is a believe in the process and especially as if they accept the operator as an authoritative figure in its execution, this acceptance need not be at a conscious level, most people have a tendency to accept guidance in actions they are themselves not experienced and will willingly place credence in anyone that simply reassures them along the process. Different people will accept different authority figures depending on their needs and values systems.
Pre-talk a specific stage for framing or setup the hypnotic process, often thought as pre-hypnosis process but is in fact an important part of it. Consisting in the time and directed effort to the establish the correct mood, emotions and expectations that will make the subject suggestible to the operator. This creates a pre-disposition to accept and follow instructions and a rapport with the operator. Everything you say and do before the induction is pre-talk and will have a direct impact on how well the session will proceed and its results. A subject acceptance of hypnosis in directly related to the amount of fear they have of the process. Use this time also to determine any medical history that can have an impact, and that the subject is not under the influence of any substance. This is the part of the session that interpersonal communication is important to establish a relationship of mutual trust and respect, rapport.
Determine and optimize the state of mind of the subject. So that the operator can find the right and safest approach to work with the subjective side, that the subject is attuned, and by playing upon it, awaken into activity emotions and sensibilities that otherwise would have remained dormant, unused and even unsuspected.
This is your chance to reduce uncertainty in the subject, this will be beneficial as it will reduce stress and anxiety in the subject, as he attempts to predict what is intentioned. Examine the existing expectations and create new ones about the session. Explain and clear away any misconception about relaxation, hypnoses, the words (the "deep" and "sleep" issue) and so address the problem of cognitive dissonance (a discomfort caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously).
- Body language
Has covered previously in regards to perception, one should be aware that body language accounts a great part of how we communicate, this is often disregarded, but something that is important in hypnosis. It provided a line of obtaining important feedback, being the most important the direct observation of muscular relaxation.
Most body language falls into commonsense, something that most of us learn to read without a conscious effort, but at times without a full conscious understanding of the meaning. In is not only important to understand what you read but what you transmit, confidence for instance (or lack of it) is extremely important to be transmitted by the operator.
When we examined the brain we also covered that each region has special functions general to all persons, and it is why and how we know that eye movement normally follows increased activity on one side of the brain or the other.
Normal "tells" (indications), include shifting of eyes (indicating unease, nervousness). Eye contact indicates interest and attempt to empathize, if it last longer it can be interpreted as dominance assertion (and even threatening or an indicative of deception, depending on the setting) while eye contact avoidance indicates fear or recognition of dominance.
Under trance the subject can also demonstrate several biological reaction, fluttering of the eyes (indicate the unset of a trance state or a resistance to it), deepening of breathing, salivation, eyes tears, shaking of the legs all can occur as a result of trance.
It goes beyond the scope of this book to explore the issue in much depth, it suffices to say that most body language is closely related to emotional state.
Executing susceptibility tests will also help to determine the best approach to the subject and reinforce his confidence in the power of hypnosis.
We already talked about how to use an hypnosis spiral to determine the subject's permeability. There are other methods to assert how well a subject will perform and determine any limitations.
Pacing, leading and mirroring
The concepts of pacing, leading and mirroring have received more acknowledgment after the broader visibility provided my NLP practitioners, even if the techniques predate their aggregation into NLP methodology.
They relate to establishing a mental state of trust, using non verbal body language, functioning mostly at a subconscious level, that is not only useful in conversational hypnosis (without or at a very low trance level) but conducive to a more consistent result in any directed hypnosis, if used during the pre-talk and before deepening the trance level.
This simple concepts are not in themselves hypnotic but psychological of a behavioral nature. We trust similarities and therefore they promote a greater level of unchecked empathy with the interlocutor. Using these knowledge consciously to approach a subject is useful in many situation but it can be classified as deceitful because if not in the proper context permits to simulate something that should occur naturally and take advantage of those that are unaware of the created artificiality. For example, a sales person, a politician, legal authorities or any type of social manipulator are mostly aware on how to exploit body language for their benefit.
- Pacing - Consists in mirroring speech rate and tone, but it can include words or phrasing similitude, everything said in pacing must match the mind-frame of the subject (their reality) and their belief system. Its a process of seducing the subjects mind by stating already accepted ideas.
- Leading - Should trail pacing and consists in not only in checking that the pacing was accepted, as the subject will respond by attempting to match any variation (focal change or simply show of emotional acquiescence) in his attempt to maintain synchronicity. One uses that acceptance, the state of suppression of a negative outlook on what is being said to lead the subject. For instance slower and lower, results in increased relaxation or faster or higher that promote mental confusion. One should note that changes can not become too obvious or extreme or the subject will notice and you will lose the gained rapport it is a progressive process.
- Mirroring - Consist in imitating posture and gestures but in a broader sense as used in hypnotic methodology its used for subconscious synchronization to automated behavior pattern, like hearth beat or breathing to captivate attention, as we will cover later this is a precursor to how some anchors can also be placed (but in that case you are not attempting to gain rapport but to link an action to a feeling or idea the subject is experiencing).
These techniques are used as a promoter of effect, they are not indispensable. They become more important in instant and quick inductions then in progressive relaxation. (See for instance the arm drop induction and how it is applied there.)
Susceptibility test and convincers
Hypnosis susceptibility tests serve to establish an operator's reputation to the subject and can even be fun bar or party tricks. The tests are easy to learn and safe.
Some people are more susceptible to suggestion than others. These tests is how one tells how susceptible someone is, how they will react to hypnotic suggestions. They can also be useful way to avoid the word hypnosis completely if the subject is fearful about the subject.
A convincer can be defined as the use of any intrinsically valid argument in a circular logic suggestion. That is the use of absolute evidential facts to the subject in a way that by simple logic the results become cumulative and part of that fact. The fact can be based on simple physiological response, or simply something that the subject regards as truly occurring mentally. For instance when using a spiral, pendulum or an object to focus visual attention, the operator may use the stress on the eyes to establish the trance, as a convincer. "As your eyes fallow the crystal, your eyes become more heavy" or "As you watch the image, you notice that your eyes are becoming tired", "As you blink, you become more relaxed", "More focused on the crystal"/"image", "Eyes heavy and tired", "Needing to close", "Blinks slowing down", "Eyes needing to close" (repeat). This circular pattern is self-fulfilling.
There is limit on the length of the suggestion, but it should be easy for the subject to fallow and verify and so convince him of the process that is being described. A simpler logic pattern that was extensively used by Milton Erickson was "The deeper you go, the better you feel", "The better you feel, the deeper you go", again a self-feeding loop that the subject can verify and engage.
One can use all sorts of events as convincers, from sounds to body manipulation, even turn the resistance to hypnosis into a convincer that it is working...
This is the simplest of the methods and serves to verify that the subject is willing to accept directions without thought or over analyzing the situation. It can also serve to induce mental confusion, depending on how elaborate and theatrically the test is performed.
For instance ask a subject to move from a position to another and back again to the initial location, to sit or stand and then sit again or any variations of these types of action. If the subject delays response or comments on the silliness of the tasks performed, then he is resistant to cede authority or uncomfortable with the situation, it is a display of a lack of trust.
How a subject accepts directions will indicate the level of resistance it will provide to the function of the operator that is primarily the creation, maintenance and deepening of a trance state.
The solution would be to continue to work in establishing rapport and opting for a confusion induction, since the subject will be inclined to start working overtime in evaluating each step.
This test is more for the subject resistance to suggestions than to hypnosis susceptibility or hypnotic suggestibility. This is one of the easiest tests and should works on everyone.
By holding your index finger straight, the ligaments in your hand will naturally act to contract finger upon relaxation of the muscles. So if you stretch and old both index fingers, parallel to each other, by holding you hands together, they will automatically contract and look like they are being attracted to each other.
If the test does not work, that signifies that the test subject is actively resisting the operator suggestions. This will indicate that an indirect hypnosis induction method should be used with this subject.
The resistance usually occurs, when during the test the subject after noticing their fingers moving (contract toward each-other) feels that it is a loss of control, and in response deliberately re-stretches the fingers, therefore resisting the suggestions.
Getting to the trance stage
Verify if the subject is sitting or laying down in a bed, in a restful position or depending on the method of induction you may have to provide initial support, even in the case they are in a sitting position. The objective is to get the subject able to relax comfortably an in a secure fashion.
Sometimes it can take a long time to induce trances. In this section we will cover several methods. One should note that once a trance state is experienced and the subject understands the mental process of trance, the sensation and how the body responds it should become easier to be re-induced. This can be seen as conditioning, in fact a quick succession of bringing the subject out and re-induce trance permits a fast deepening process, as we will see later called fractionation. After the subject is conditioned into the experience of trance the simple observation of someone else entering the trance state (or mimicking it) can induce it by sympathy.
Progressive Relaxation induction
Progressive relaxation (PR) can be simply defined as a slow process of mental and physical relaxation toward a trace state. There are various variations of the technique.
This was the most often used type of induction until very recently, due to its limitation in the original format (without any elaborated script changes to use other techniques that are now aggregated and streamlined as NLP) this form of induction would require default capability of the subject to enter trance, leading some hypnotists to make claims that not all subject could be hypnotized or leading to inductions of more than one hour.
Muscular and mental relaxation is a characteristic of every trance states, it is a consequence but may also often be used as a path to archive it, not only for hypnosis, this induction will not only provide time but permit to give information to the subject on how to relax and what to expect. This is also the optimal induction for the initiated subject since previous understanding about the hypnotic process by the subject has no significant effect on the outcome.
The progressive muscle relaxation(PMR) induction, can also be called the Jacobson relaxation method, it uses strictly vocalizations, favored in the psychotherapeutic and medical community (as it causes less mental confusion to the subject), is spoken in a calm, authoritative/seductive/charismatic voice, the operator after creating a meditative environment, establishing a relation of trust and mental relaxation proceeds to induces a sequence of tension and relaxation of every major muscle group, often starting by the toes (sometimes by the shoulders or harms), while suggesting deeper relaxation. By the time the operator reaches to the end, the subject will be in a deep, relaxed trance. It is simple, easy to learn and reliable, and known to every hypnotist.
With this induction it can be difficult to tell when to stop the induction. It is good for the beginner operator, as one will error on the side of caution, leaving little chance for the induction to fail.
Mostly used in re-inductions of a subject, and popular among stage hypnotists, it consists in inducing an hypnotic trance in less than 1 minute. The simplest way is to have already established a post hypnotic trigger for the subject to enter trance, but that is not a requirement.
If the subject has no experience in trance or hypnosis or there is distrust, there is a high chance of failing, in such event the quickest way to proceed is to increase efforts to establish rapport and change to another instant induction or a slower method of induction.
Eye lids flutter
Consists in inducing a hypnotic trance in less that 15 minutes, most can be done in 3–4 minutes. This induction is slowly becoming the standard in hypnotherapy. All rapid inductions can be streamlined into instant inductions, the basic. It all depends on the obtained rapport, the susceptibility of the subject and the acknowledgment of the operator as an authoritative figure. The main points are the rapid shifts of focus (confusion) and the final shock. If the setup is properly established, the simple command of "sleep" will suffice.
Arm drop induction
Also called hand drop induction at times, can be done standing or sitting down. If standing take care to provide information to the subject that he shall not collapse and be prepared to react if he does. If sitting down ask it to guarantee that he is comfortable and to uncross its legs as to promote relaxation.
The operator should be next to and facing the subject and asked to keep focus on the operator's eyes while looking into the straight into the subject eyes, and so call attention to yours. Eye contact is extremely powerful in asserting dominance. The operator takes care not to move very quickly and to provide at least enough information of what he is doing as not to cause resistance and keep its focus on your eyes.
(Variation A) The operator can ask that the subject to press down against his hand. This makes the subject to unintentionally identify the dominant arm and reducing the subject's change of focus. The tactile connection and pressing action is enough to provide mental confusion.
While doing that, start a small relaxation and reaffirmation routine, a dialog that creates expectation on the experience and outcome but provides information on how to behave and feel. Operator will use this time to mirror the subjects eyelids movement, the subject instinctively and subconsciously will reciprocates, after noticing this effect, the operator will be no longer reacting but he is leading the subject and so he can can proceed.
(Variation A induction end) Suggest the subject to close the eyes, and at the same time the hypnotist with the other hand touches the base back neck, and on the other hand, quickly raises the strength and drops the subject hand at the same time it orders "Sleep".
(Variation B) Using his free hand the operator takes hold of one of the subject's arms, preferentially the dominant one and hold its hand at chest height. Within the subject view-field, making sure that its arms is relaxed this will augment mental confusion. Discretely the operator can take notice of subject's pulse and verbally deepen the relaxation. When the operator notices a deepening of the relaxation, with the other hand takes hold of the subject's other arm and raises it in small movements fallowing the subject's pulse until the arm is perpendicular to the subjects body (this arm will tend to be rigid). Taking old of that arm hand but keeping it perpendicular, the operator then turns the subject palm toward the subjects face, and verbally moves the subject's focus toward his open palm. Continuing to fallow the subject's pulse the operator continue to move that open palm toward the face of the subjects indicating that as the palm touches his face he will enter profoundly in trance, continuing to reinforce that idea until the palm is almost touching his face. At that moment drop the other arm/hand (further confusing the subject) and suggest him to "sleep".
The Session Itself
Vocal suggestions will include lots of repetition and often clicks for reenforcement of the significative conditioning the operator wishes to pass (even if not by itself evident) to the subject. In audio tracks this can also include dialog duplication (with tonal distinctions) and reenforcement whisperings (subliminals) that will create a duality on what the subject would like to ear and suggestions (the same items already reinforced by clicks). This may also be accompanied by a isochronic tone and using breathing exercises can also be a method to cause distraction and promote relaxation of the subject.
As any information given by the operator to the subject after archiving a trance state, all are considered suggestions and should be regarded as such by the operator, this means that special care has to be given on how information is worded.
Any suggestion that promotes a deepening of the trance state is a deepener. There are various techniques that can be utilized.
- "Each and every breath you take allows you to go deeper."
Fractionation refers to getting the target up from trance to in sequence return to it, it is a deepening technique.
Suggestions while in trance are easily acceptable, the deeper the trance the stronger they will be internalized by the subject. Suggestions can alter not only how the subject acts but also the way they feel. Note that trance is not a requirement but an enabler of deeper changes, autosuggestion does not rely in trance nor does for instance suggestions given using conversational hypnosis, in a higher state of conscious they are simply harder to be internalized.
Post-hypnotic suggestions (PHS)
Anchoring can be defined as a post-hypnotic suggestion simply because under hypnosis the versatility to use the technique is larger, but anchoring is a behavioral conditioning phenomena that exists outside of hypnosis, as seen previously in Chapter 3.