Hypnosis is nothing to fear or mistrust. This post is a general overview of the 5 basic steps for hypnotizing anyone.
Full disclosure: I’m not yet an expert. I was first exposed to hypnosis about a year ago through Inspire3’s Hypnosis Bootcamp, and Hypnosis Live offerings. I found hypnosis profoundly helpful. That’s why I’m currently studying and becoming certified in hypnosis. Today, I want to share what I’m learning with you.
Step 1 : Pre-Talk
The pre-talk stage of hypnosis is like an introduction to hypnosis and how the process works. The pre-talk helps to build rapport, if you are hypnotizing someone else. The pre-talk stage is especially important for people who are new to hypnosis, and my have some worries or questions about the process. Someone who has experienced hypnosis before will not need a long pre-talk.
Points to Raise in a Good Hypnosis Pre-Talk
- Never listen to any hypnotic recording while driving a vehicle or operating machinery.
- Hypnosis is not a substitute for medical help our counselling. Please see your doctor, and discuss any health concerns you may have.
- Hypnosis is a 100% natural phenomenon that everyone experiences throughout the day when “zoning out.”
- Hypnosis is a state of profound relaxation that helps you learn and locate resources to help you achieve a desired outcome.
For more info, feel free to read this post.
Step 2: Induction
The induction stage of hypnosis is where relaxation begins. In this stage, the person being hypnotized starts to “zone out.” There are many ways to induce a trance state, and I’ll share some of my faves below.
Best Hypnotic Trance Inducers
- eye fatigue – pick a point on a far wall, or the ceiling to stare at. Staring at a single space for even a short length of time can induce trance
- breathing – take a deep breath in, and then release the breath slowly. Work on taking smooth breaths in and out, perhaps breathing a little more deeply than you normally would, but still at a comfortable rhythm can cause profound relaxation, and can induce trance
- visualization – close your eyes, and imagine a beautiful day, just the right temperature, and very comfortable. Up in the sky, notice a puffy, white cloud. You will find that the cloud moves slowly across the sky. Follow it with your eyes as it moves farther, and farther away, and finally disappears beyond the horizon.
- confusion – certain words or phrases can help induce trance, and verbal confusion is a fun one to play with “It’s interesting to begin to wonder whether your mind will wander, and you will discover that you relax deeply, and deeply relaxed, aren’t you?” You can use confusion by mashing sentences together, skipping or confusing numbers, etc.
- language patterns – some words, “notice” “as if” “find” “discover” “imagine” etc encourage trance. The simple act of repeating some simple suggestions can also be powerful, “take a deep breath in, and let your eyes drift shut as you exhale, feeling deeply relaxed, comfortable and at peace. Breathing in, and out, deeper and deeper relaxed, comfortable and secure. Relaxing deeper, breathing comfortably”
There is so much to be said about hypnotic language patterns, and the purpose of this post is not to explore hypnotic language patterns, but rather to get a general overview of the hypnotic process. However, if you want more information on hypnotic language, start by searching for info on Milton Erikson. Enough said there for now.
There are other induction techniques,but as this is a simple overview of the hypnotic process, I’ll leave it there for now. Next, we go beyond the induction, and into the deepener.
Step 3: Deepening Trance
In the deepening stage of hypnosis, a person has already relaxed, and has already entered a light hypnotic trance state. Some people may be in deeper trance or lighter trance. During hypnosis it’s normal for people to go into deeper and lighter trance states that can alter and cycle, like a wave.
Despite the name, deepening trance is not about the depth of the trance state, as much as it is about locking in the trance state. The deepener just takes the initial relaxation, and increases it.
Common Hypnotic Trance Deepeners
- Number count deepener – the number count deepener is an easy, intuitive deepener. Counting backwards from 10 or 5, or whatever number you choose, encourages deeper relaxation because counting backwards, a descending number pattern, is a great metaphor for deepening trance, or becoming more deeply relaxed
- Visual deepener – stairs/escalator/elevator – this deepener combines the number count deepener with visualization to make it more powerful. In a staircase deepener, for example, “Imagine standing at the top a a grand staircase. Feel the texture of the stairs below your feet. With each step you take down the staircase, you relax more and more deeply, doubling your relaxation with each step.”
- Visualization – visualizing is a great way to deepen a trance because it reminds your brain of dreaming. A lot of people think in pictures, so it’s excellent to use this, and particularly, to use imagery that evokes or is a metaphor for the deepening trance state, as in the staircase deepener. It doesn’t have to be falling. It can be a walk along a beach towards a beach hut, and once you enter the hut, you are in a deep state of relaxation. It can be a body suit of invisibility that It can be virtually anything.
What’s the difference between hypnosis and meditation?
Hypnosis and meditation are very similar in most respects. Up until this point (step 3), hypnosis and a guided meditation both focus on relaxation and inducing a trance state. The techniques for inducing trance: progressive muscle relaxation, visualization etc. are common components to both meditation ad hypnosis.
Suggestions are where hypnosis differs from meditation, in my opinion. Suggestions are designed to directly influence the subconscious mind and steer, or alter behavioural habits in a particular way. Meditation relaxes the conscious mind, but it doesn’t seek to influence it. The influencing power of hypnotic suggestions is THE crucial difference, in my opinion. It’s really where the rubber meets the road, so we’ll look at that next.
Step 4: Suggestions
Hypnotic suggestions are short statements designed to help the person being hypnotized more easily accomplish their goals. By first entering a trance state, a person’s critical, conscious mind can be bypassed, and the suggestions can go directly into the subconscious mind. This minimizes resistance to suggestions.
The depth of the trance is not supremely important. It is normal for trance depth to vary. Suggestibility is heightened even in lighter trance states.
Suggestions can be either direct, or indirect. One is not necessarily better than the other. Using one or the other is often a matter of the therapists preference. A direct suggestion is just what it sounds like. An indirect suggestion uses parables, metaphors, imagery, and stories to make suggestions in a less obvious way.
I like direct suggestions for their ease of use. However, indirect suggestions align more neatly with the natural human love of storytelling. There’s a reason stories are used in marketing and advertising. They naturally draw attention and focus. Indirect suggestions also typically create less resistance.
Key Components of Good Hypnotic Suggestions
- Hypnotic suggestions should be phrased positively. Telling someone they will no longer want to smoke or eat junk food might cause internal resistance, and make the hypnosis less effective. Telling someone they will enjoy breathing fresh air, or feeling energetic and healthy is far more constructive and beneficial.
- 3 suggestions, 3 ways: this technique involves picking 3 suggestions to help a person reach their stated goal. Each of the 3 suggestions need to be phrased in 3 different ways. Therefore, a person being hypnotized will receive 9 suggestions (three times three). This is important because people experience the world through their 5 senses. Some people are very visual, others are more auditory, and still others are kinesthetic and “feel” their way through the world. This tendency to prefer a particular sense is known as a primary representational system. You want to phrase each suggestion in 3 ways so that no matter which representation system a person favours (visual, auditory or kinesthetic), you are sure to communicate in a way that will have great impact or resonance.
- This last point should go without saying, but the suggestion must be relevant to a person’s stated goal or desired outcome. If a person is wanting to decrease their anxiety, then suggestions around quitting smoking or weight loss are inappropriate.
- Be ethical. While you cannot hypnotize someone against their will, please respect the trust being shown, and act accordingly.
Step 5: Awakening
Awakening is where a person is brought out of their trance state, and back to normal consciousness. Though a hypnotist may be tempted to rush the awakening because the suggestions are done, I believe the awakening is a vital part of the hypnosis process.
Some people, particularly if they enter a very deep trance state, are harder to awaken than others. If a person is pulled too quickly from a trance state, they can feel groggy, disoriented, or even panicked. It’s like the difference between being jolted out of a sound sleep, and waking naturally. A person will feel more refreshed, relaxed, and ready to take on the rest of the day if they awaken from a trance state slowly and comfortably.
Most deepeners can be reversed and used as awakeners. I personally love the symmetry of this technique. I believe it is more effective because the mind has already accepted the deepener, so reversing it is a very natural and coherent way to bring someone out of a trance.
Some Great Hypnosis Awakening Techniques
- Number count awakener. Where you likely count backwards to induce or deepen a trance, you can also count forwards to gently awaken someone from a trance
- visualization awakener –> if you used descending (going down) imagery (ie – going down a flight of stairs, or an escalator, or an elevator) then you can easily reverse the direction, and use ascending (going up) imagery as an awakener
- General visualization –> if you use something like beach scenery visualization as a deepener, or trance inducer, then bringing someone back where they began their hypnosis session is a natural awakener
- how you speak is as important as what you say. When you induce a trance, you use pauses, slow your speech, and soften your tone. When you awaken someone, speaking in a more natural rhythm and tone, (i.e. – a little faster and louder) is a great awakening prompt. Keep it subtle. You’re not trying to yell and scream. Rather, you’re re-adopting more natural speech patterns. This awakening technique can and should be used in combination with any other awakening technique
Now you know the 5 basic steps of the hypnosis process:
There’s way more that can be said. For example, I didn’t get into hypnotic convincers. This article is meant to be a general overview of hypnosis procedure. It is accurate, but incomplete.
If you’re interested, you CAN do hypnosis on yourself. There are free scripts online that are not restricted for personal use. (If you want to use the scripts commercially, there may be copyright issues, so be very careful!)
I have found that even reading a hypnosis script can have hypnotic benefits. In fact, getting lost in a good book is, in itself, a form of hypnotic trance. However, I prefer to sit back comfortably, close my eyes and drift away. Therefore, if you do use a script, I strongly suggest you record it using a voice note app of some kind on your smartphone.
If you want to experience hypnosis without the hassle of tracking down, and recording, or writing a script, then recordings are available online. Some hypnotists in your area might have a free download on their webpage. Alternatively, you can do what I did, and check out Inspire3’s Hypnosis Bootcamp, and Hypnosis Live offerings.
It is not exaggerating to say that hypnosis has been life-changing for me. I strongly encourage you to test it out for yourself. If you do, please let me know how it all shook out for you. I look forward to hearing from you!