This page contains an ever-growing list of questions regarding all aspects of hypnosis.
As you will see, you have the option of viewing all of the FAQ, or filtering your results to specific categories of question, or particular inductions.
Why do you say, “Are the numbers gone?”
Some trainers teach that you should never say, “Are the numbers gone?” as this makes your client remember them again. Yet, we have said this occasionally.
The truth is, your client is forgetting certain numbers. They are not forgetting that it is numbers they are forgetting. That is, they are not forgetting the concept of Numbers themselves. So, it follows that simply using the word “numbers” should not cause you any problems.
Having said that, if you are regularly encountering problems with number amnesia, or you suspect that a particular client will, then avoiding the word might help. However, in such circumstances, you may simply find it easier to have them forget something else, like how to spell their family name backwards.
How do you awaken someone from hypnosis?
There are a number of popular approaches to emerging someone from hypnosis. Rather than limiting yourself to a specific “awakening,” we recommend respecting the flow and nature of the hypnosis that has been experienced.
That is, if you hypnotised someone by means of a rapid induction, followed by a fairly up-beat session around improving sports performance, then an awakening like the following might be appropriate:
In a moment I will count to 5 and you will be fully wide awake… I will count from one to five, and at the count of five – and only on the count of five – you will open your eyes and stretch… all normal healthy sensations restored to every part of you… and every part of you back here with me in the present… coming back with a sense of wellbeing… mental and physical wellbeing. Nod your head that you understand… / …good. So, ready… one, re-orienting to the room around you… two, becoming more alert… three, take a deep refreshing breath of air… four, as you breath out, getting ready to open your eyes… five, eyes open, wide awake, feeling good… Well done!
There are a couple of things to note from this example:
- The awakening is up-beat
As such, the hypnotist may speed-up his voice and increase his volume as he gets closer to five. After all, if you are seeking to rouse someone from what can be a fairly relaxing experience, it makes sense to speak in an increasingly un-relaxed way.
Some hypnotists like to clap their hands when they say, “five!” This is not necessary, but you may find that it suits your style and aims. It is another clear signal to the hypnotee that they are to come out of their ‘trancey’ state.
- The hypnotee is prepared to ‘wake-up’
Just as you prepared you client to go into hypnosis, it is helpful to prepare them to come out. This may not be essential, but I have known a number of people who reported that the hypnotist they saw awakened them “abruptly” and it was not a pleasant experience. (Some report headaches, other say that it simple puts them in a bad mood. At the very least, it risks undoing all of the good that was done in the session.)
Preparing to Awaken
Preparation for the awakening can look like that above. Or you might want to give a more permissive suggestion, such as:
In a few moments time, you can start to allow yourself to re-orient to the present.
If you prefer an indirect approach, you could opt for something like:
As you continue to listen to my voice, I wonder how quickly you will now start to awaken to your normal state of alertness.
To be even more permissive and indirect, you could adopt a conversational approach. That might look like this:
It is at this part of the session that people become aware that they are about to wake up, bit by bit, becoming more aware of their body and becoming more alert to what is going on around them.
Removing Hypnotic Debris
I tend to go for a more permissive approach when awakening someone. However, one of the useful elements in the first awakening above is the suggestion that everything will return to normal:
…all normal healthy sensations restored to every part of you… and every part of you back here with me in the present
This suggestion removes any hypnotic phenomena, as well as reducing the likelihood of unwanted physical sensations (such as a headache, or being overly-relaxed when they need to be alert). It also helps re-orient the client fully, as they may have dissociated somewhat during the session.
Connect awakening to Therapeutic Gain
Mark Tyrell offers the following suggestion:
What happens when… it’s almost time to come back to the room and fully awaken… is that you’ll notice you become more aware of my voice again… and start to think in more everyday ways once more… and people feel so refreshed and alert when… it’s time to come out of trance… when you are ready in a few moments…
You might notice the embedded commands in this instance, both direct and indirect. “It’s time to come out of trance” is a great example!
This type of awakening is one that I more naturally lean towards. However, I always try to honour the experience and goals of my client, rather than simply satisfy my own preferences. Nevertheless, more often than not, I might say something like:
And you can arise from this experience as soon as your conscious and subconscious are ready to work together to enact this solution….
The only thing to be aware of is the variation in how people respond. Some will awaken almost immediately. Others could take a number of minutes.
Similarly, Stephanie Conkle often uses a suggestion like:
now…when the Subconscious has done ALL of the programming at the unconscious level, wake up from hypnosis and come back to the room at the rate and pace that feels right to you….coming back…feeling wonderful…
The point of this discussion is to argue that there is no correct way to awaken someone. My suggestion is to make yourself aware of the direct example first offered at the top of the page. Consider it and take some time to explore the various elements contained within.
Then, familiarise yourself with the last two examples on this page. Understanding the essence and reason behind these differing approaches will equip you to confidently and comfortably awaken people from hypnosis in a way that matches your client’s experience, your style and the session goals.
Can I suggest inductions for this site?
We would be genuinely delighted to hear from any subscribers who have ideas for an induction, no matter how incomplete or fully formed.
Why do you now charge for membership?
In October 2020, we took the decision to begin charging a mininal fee for various levels of membership.
We hope that as each membership level costs the same, it is obvious that we are not in this for the money. If you so choose, you can pay for only the basic Bronze package and you will receive almost as much as you would from the Gold package.
We are confident that most people will agree that the cost of a Bronze membership is hardly prohibitive. Our hope is that it will not be outside of anyone’s means, but that as membership grows it will allow us to give back more.
Before we introduced these new membership levels, our books were the only resource we had to enable us to provide pro bono sessions to qualifying clients. However, by introducing a very low membership fee, we are now better equipped to offer the same pro bono option to trainees or others seeking mentorship.
We do not believe that financial cost should make therapeutic hypnosis unavailable to anyone. Now, thanks to your generosity, we are able to say the same about quality training and mentoring.
I can only get catalepsy in one arm
Sometimes, with inductions like the Modified Wicks or the Auto Wrist Lift, you may have reason to seek catalepsy in your client’s second arm. More often than not, this will be successful. However, for a whole host of reasons, some clients may not achieve catalepsy on the other side.
In these situations, I sometimes rely on pseudo-science and respond with something like:
“Ah, that’s fascinating. Thank you. So, we can see that because your right arm responded differently to your left arm, that means your right hemisphere is taking the lead in this process and responding more easily. And that makes our job SO much easier!”
I may then say that there is a specific technique we can use in situations like this and then opt to use an induction that is significantly different to the first one (i.e. not another catalepsy-based induction).
They ALWAYS end up with heavy arms!
You may find that whether you are using the Bandler or Erickson handshake, you always encounter the same problem – heavy arms! This may be down to your technique, though it is more likely to do with the level of confidence and congruence that you are projecting. Or, it may simply be a run of bad luck!
Either way, a useful way to proceed, at least until this stops being a regular problem, is to use two hands. You have no doubt seen people, usually in Business, who hold their partner’s forearm with one hand, whilst their other hand does the shaking. This is something you can utilise. In fact, with Bandler, it can be perfectly natural to end up with one hand holding their hand up, whilst your other hand is under their elbow.
It is useful not to be too constrained by instructions regarding the correct way to do these inductions (even those found in our books). That will only add pressure and make things seem forced. It is more natural to flow with what feels most natural to you. Yet, in this instance, I would recommend the two-armed approach, which can feel just as natural as a one-handed handshake.
You then gradually let go of the arm, a bit from the top, a bit from the bottom, then apply ambiguous pressure here and there, until they are left not knowing who is keeping their arm up. With practice, you will feel when they ‘take’ the arm. This is usually a subconscious decision on their part. Either way, you carry on as if everything is taking place as expected.
I am too nervous to use Erickson’s Handshake!
Erickson’s ambiguous touch does seem to generate its own unique insecurities in some hypnotists. Whether it is the direct eye-gaze, or the presumed clever patter, or the risk that their arm will just fall down, this handshake is often the least practised of the three. And that’s a real shame, because it’s a whole lot of fun!
My confidence-boosting tip – besides, “Practice! Practice! Practice!” – is a little phrase which edges the bets in your favour. Just as you are letting the arm go, simply say, “And that can just stay right there for now…” There are a number of ways to use this, depending on how the induction is proceeding:
“And that can just stay right there for now, as you take a nice deep breath and allow your eyes to close…”
“And that can just stay right there for now, as if it were floating in mid-air, fully aware that both it and you are preparing to float down into a nice hypnotic state…”
And so on!
It [whichever handshake] is still not working!
You may now want to consider your general approach. Are you setting-up a challenge, that they either resist or feel they cannot live up to? Are you being too permissive, or too direct?
You can switch to another induction, such as another handshake, or something related like the 8-word hand-drop. However, if you choose to use a non-arm-based induction (perhaps because your confidence has taken a slight temporary dip), you do not want to switch immediately as it will give the impression that things have failed irretrievably.
Instead, pick up their heavy arm by the wrist, shake it slightly and say something along the lines of:
“In a moment, I am going to let go of this heavy arm. And as I do so, I want you to allow your eyes to close as you go inside and relax.”
[Lift the arm slightly and then drop it by their side. If they do not close their eyes, go direct and say:]
“So, go ahead and close your eyes as you go inside and let go of any stress and tension.
“And just carry on breathing in that way… [said on the inhale] breathing-in peace and calm and [said on the exhale] letting go of all stress and tension…”
[If they did close their eyes, carry on by saying:]
“In a moment, not yet, but in a moment, I am going to pick-up your other arm, limp, loose and relaxed, and when I do, you can take a nice deep breath. Then, as I let go, you can go even deeper into that relaxation, letting go, floating, drifting deeper down…”
[Pick up their other arm, shaking it slightly slowly from side to side. If they do not take a breath, say, “now taking a nice deep breath.” Then let the arm go and regardless of their response, say, “That’s right…”]
“And I would like you to take a moment now to simply be. Your subconscious is learning to work in new ways, for your benefit, and there is no need for us to rush that… So, when you are ready, when your subconscious and conscious mind are ready to work together to embrace new learnings, employ fresh resources and take you to new depths of experience, you can open your eyes and we will continue…”
You are now in a better position to carry on with any induction you choose. As inductions with a strong physical element have not yet signified success to the two of you, you could carry on deepening the relaxation with a simple progressive muscle relaxation. Another way to proceed with their current level of relaxation and morph it into a hypnotic induction, would be something like Dr. Flower’s Induction.
However, my suggestion, depending on why you feel they have not responded as expected, would be to opt for an induction without any element of binary challenge or failure. I am not in your shoes, so it is difficult to judge the impact of the previous non-successes, or to ascertain how well you have re-framed them as feedback to discover the best way to work with their powerful subconscious mind. Nevertheless, if you sense any feeling of failure on their part, or scepticism of your abilities, it would be wise to avoid switching to an induction that has a succeed/fail element to it, e.g. an eye-lock or arm-levitation. An obvious example would be something like the Leisure Induction.
If you act smoothly and confidently during this entire process, then you will often find that your partner presumes all of the handshakes were merely information-gathering techniques. You, however, know that they eventually became useful pre-frames and provided you with a workable level of relaxation before you even began your ‘real’ induction.
They do not close their eyes during Elman handshake
Were you clear in your initial instructions/suggestions? It can help to get an explicit agreement from them that they have understood. Additionally, I have found that it helps to nod as you shake, to confirm what they should do.
However, there is no point carrying on to the 3rd shake, if they are clearly not even responding to the first one. In this case, you do not want to imply failure on anyone’s part. Instead, you will change your shake from single to continuous, or vice-versa as you go through the directions again. Your patter may sound something like this, as you give the impression that this is an experiment that you are both working on and with which you are both interested in the results and determined to succeed.
“Well, I can see that your subconscious is alert and active. [Smile] …And we can use that… So, I suspect that we will have more success if we do it this way…”
[Explain the process again, with an alternate type of shaking. As you state what they will do each time, nod your head. This will often elicit a nod from them, confirming that they understand.]
“You’ve got this.”
Notice that you are direct this time, even if you were permissive the first time around.
Their arm is heavy and does not stay up
Your best option here is to adjust your technique, utilising their response to opt for a different outcome.
A key-phrase to use when things do not go according to plan can empower your client, without implying that they have managed to resist you or that you cannot achieve any results with them. The phrase I commonly use is something like:
“Well, I can see that your subconscious is alert and active. [Smile] …And we can use that… So, let’s do this another way… You’ve got this.”
As you can see, I imply that we are changing approaches not because what I did failed, or because they could not do what was expected. Instead, I simply attribute it to their ‘active’ or powerful subconscious. Yet, without suggesting failure, my final three words – “You’ve got this” – could be taken to imply that success this time around depends on them responding differently.
You can then switch from one handshake induction to another, or – and this may be particularly relevant as the ‘heaviness’ of the hand was an issue – you can switch from frozen hand to falling hand. This entails ensuring that you bring their hand round high enough, so that it is above their eye-line. If you get the angle correct, then you will naturally have a float-to-the-face or fall to the side effect. Failing all else, opt for the focused hand variation.
They resist my pattern-interrupt
On occasions, you will come up against someone who intentionally resists you trying to transform a handshake into a hand up in front of their face. There are a couple of reasons why this may be.
Firstly, you are opposing their natural movement. Once again, this comes down to avoiding direct oppositional movements in favour of circular blending ones.
Additionally, someone trained in martial arts – particularly Aikido, Ju-Jitsu, Wing Chun or Tai Chi – may be highly sensitive to variations in touch, particularly around their wrist and forearm. In that case, the Bandler Handshake is not the most appropriate induction to use, unless you opt for the focused hand variation, or have a high pain threshold!
If your partner is resisting, it may be because they sense something unusual is happening – which, from your perspective, is the whole point! – and they do not realise that it is part of the hypnosis.
I see absolutely no reason to hypnotise someone without at least some level of agreement. So, a useful pre-talk can eradicate multitudes of problems that unexpected or impromptu hypnosis can cause. Part of your pre-talk can even include something like, “I may touch your hand, arm or shoulder at different points and in different ways, that’s all part of the magic. [Smile] Okay?”
You then have consent to touch them, as well as an expectation from them that if you go on to touch them on the hand/arm in strange ways, it is all part of the process.
When they agree, you can say, “Thanks, I appreciate that…” as you go to shake their hand.
Won’t they feel me pushing their hand?
The first thing to be said is that you are not looking for a direct movement. That is, the intention is not to end up with a hand in front of their face, which you simply push forward. That provides too much movement for your partner to resist against. Instead, aim for more circular movements. This is one of the reasons that we prefer the falling hand, as the hand goes up and over and then down onto their face. The less direct movement gives less cause for resistance.
Nevertheless, the second thing to note is that they will only object to you pushing their hand if they don’t want it to happen. So, if you have given them no idea that their arm will move, if they sensed you pushing their hand they might object. Or, if you have implied that their hand will move all on its own, if they feel you pushing it they may conclude that you are trying to fool them.
So, this is only an issue to be concerned about if your actions do not match your words. After all, if you look at the fast hand variation, the hand is very much pushed right up to their face. If you move smoothly, explaining what will happen – and what is happening – then this is not something you need to excessively worry about.
I sound like a robotic Parrot when I feed back!
If all you do is repeat back what is said to you – whether it is paraphrased or not – then you may well sound like a parrot. The idea is to genuinely listen and then feed-back, not merely restate what they have just said.
Before I give an example of what this may look like, it is worth bearing in mind that we are only feeding back, on average, the last 2 words said. So, it would sound nothing like this poor stereotype of a Counselling session:
Client: “I just feel so alone and depressed.”
Therapist: “So, you are feeling depressed and as if you have to face this on your own?”
You would more likely sound like this:
“Alone and depressed.”
Even though you are repeating back what is said, you can still do so creatively. The following example demonstrates this well:
Client: “I like the feeling that I’m floating.”
C: “Just dropping everything and floating off on my own.”
H: “And what is that about?”
C: “I don’t know. Maybe, the ease of it?”
H: “And what do you value about that ease?”
C: “The lack of expectation.”
C: “And, you know, just completely stress-free”
H: “So, it’s the lack of expectation…”
H: “Completely stress-free”
C: “Yeah, definitely.”
H: “And what is that like? That dropping everything and floating off on your own?”
So, as you can see, even if all you are doing is feeding back, you can mix your responses round a little, begin or end the sentence with feedback, delay feedback, feed-back partially and link responses together.
However, my experience has consistently been that if you focus more on genuinely listening and worry less about your technique, or what your client may or may not be thinking, it will invariably be welcomed.
How do you know what to feed back?
Having just mentioned feedback, it is worth remembering that you do not want to come across as someone who is simply repeating every single thing they say, not actually listening or interested in what they are saying. So, it can be tricky at first to know exactly what to feed back and what to utilise in other ways.
A helpful reminder is to keep in mind the embedded command function of some of this repetition. So, if I think repeating a word or two fulfils that function then I will almost always do so.
I also find it helpful to pick out the ‘trancey’ words that my clients use and feed them back. Words like relax, freedom, float, bliss, ease, dream and so on can be useful nominalisations to feed back.
At other times, I might want to unpack a nominalisation, if I feel that doing so will provide valuable information for me to use. For example, they may say that they like fishing because it “restores my soul”.
may want to find out what the essence of this is for them, so that I can unpack the experience of “restoring their soul”. To do this I might ask, “And what does ‘it restores my soul’ feel like?” and I may get the response “magical”. I have now encouraged them to explore the experience at greater depth, got 2 nominalisations to use and come up with the word to feed back as an embedded command: magical. So I say, “you feel magical”.
If you want someone to experience the result of their leisure activity in the here and now, why describe it as a past-tense experience at all?
This is a good question. It is true that we want to get from a recollection to a revivification. So, we could avoid the past-tense altogether.
However, I have found that if I want someone to re-experience the effect of taking part in a leisure activity, it helps to employ an actual occurrence of that activity. That is, I do not want them to merely discuss the theoretical benefits of playing Golf; I want them to actually experience them.
The most effective way to do this is by exploring a time when that has happened in reality. This then gives them the details of the experience for them to report back to me, as well as letting them know what to expect as we go deeper into the process.
What do you do if someone becomes more animated by the discussion?
This is something that you might encounter when you first begin using the Leisure Induction. So far, whenever I have come across someone who describes this ‘problem,’ the issue is that they are forgetting to feed back the answers they are getting.
However, it is not really a problem at all. In fact, it often demonstrates that your client is invested in the activity they are describing, making it an apt choice. Simply remember to pause and feed back and speak at the pace that you wish to go.
It is difficult for them to steam ahead if you keep interrupting them to calmly repeat what they have just said.
What do I do if my client doesn’t really react to their recollection?
It will happen that, at times, some people appear to keep a safe distance from anything resembling trance, whilst they tell you about their experiences. This can happen for a number of reasons.
Sometimes, they intentionally resist getting too involved in their re-telling, because they are trying hard to have a normal conversation. Other times, they may feel uneasy because they cannot make sense of what is happening to them, or they may feel nervous or scared about hypnosis. This can be particularly so if they sense that you are attempting to hypnotise them covertly.
Thankfully, neither of these reasons are insurmountable and there are a number of straightforward tactics you can employ to overcome this problem.
Firstly, you could simply ask them about something else they like to do. It could be that the initial leisure pursuit they opted for was not the most appropriate one they could have chosen. However, even if the activity chosen was less than perfect, it can still have a fractionating effect to move through a number of different choices one after another.
(In hypnosis terms, Fractionation refers to the practice of repeatedly taking someone into and out of hypnosis. The idea is that, usually, the more that someone goes in and out of trance, the deeper they descend as they go back in.)
Secondly, before moving on to a different activity, it can be useful to briefly explain the phenomenon of natural ‘trance.’ You might describe the experiences that are common every-day occurrences of something resembling hypnosis, whether that’s daydreaming, ‘highway hypnosis’ whilst driving, being ‘mesmerised’ by a log-fire, or listening to music. That way, when you move on to the next leisure pursuit to discuss, you have already seeded the idea that this experience is linked to hypnosis.
Another option, for clients who seem to avoid re-living their experience in the here and now is to go direct. You can simply say something like, “Okay, well I would like you to now imagine that you are lying in your hammock right now. Tell me what it feels like as you sink into it and the worries of the day melt away.”
It can be helpful to incorporate elements of the fake induction if this is a route you choose to go down.
The Leisure activity they chose was not a good one
I would say, if at all possible, go with the answer your client gives you. Even if all it does is allow you to ask a few questions before you move on to a more suitable answer, you do not want to give the impression that your client somehow gave you the ‘wrong’ answer. However, on the whole, if they choose a leisure activity that they find valuable it will be because they experience it in enriching and entrancing ways.
Nevertheless, on occasion you will find that you just do not know how to utilise the answer they have given you. In that case, you simply proceed just as you would in a normal conversation – “And what else do you like to do?”
They never go in to hypnosis
Some people will not go all the way in to hypnosis using My Friend John. This is usually because they are unclear on their role and are not sure what you want them to be doing. However, this is by no means insurmountable.
At times, I might use a line like:
“That’s right. And you can go inside with them, allowing yourself to enjoy that experience.”
Some client’s will require that permission, unless you have previously told them what will take place.
Other people may object to what they feel is a trick being played on them. Or they may not respond for their own reasons. This is not a problem in the slightest. Simply lead them through the induction all the way to the end and then say, “So, let’s do that…”
As far as they need to know, you have simply demonstrated how you hypnotised someone and now it is their turn. The lovely thing about such times is that the My Friend John will have prepared them and they will experience something of a fractionation as you lead them back in to hypnosis. They are likely to go quite deep in response to whatever induction you choose to use next.
They always catch me out!
I tend to describe My Friend John as conversational, rather than covert. Personally, I have no desire to practice covert hypnosis on anyone. I always tell my client’s that from the minute they enter my office, the hypnosis has begun, so I can ensure they get good value for money. That means there is no ‘catching me out,’ because I am doing precisely what I am paid to do. I was just doing it in a slightly different way.
This question seems to assume that you will be able to lead your client completely into hypnosis without them at any point registering. Now, although that can take place, at times, it is not the usual response. I would guess that most cases involve the client realising what is happening as they get closer to trance. However, by that point, they are too relaxed or invested in the process to object.
Why don’t you use embedded commands?
I would not say that we have an objection to embedded commands, as such.
There are two aspects of embedded commands that we feel merit further conversation, rather than out-right objection or promotion. The first is the version of analogue marking where individual words are highlighted in a sentence to encourage someone to, for example, scratch…their…nose. I feel that this is the least useful application of embedded commands, though it is sometimes taught as a ninja-level covert technique that only the very best will master. When I come across such teaching, I almost always feel compelled to raise my hand, not to scratch my nose, but to suggest that the Emperor has no clothes on.
Secondly, the general power of embedded commands can be exaggerated. Just because your hide a sentence within a paragraph does not guarantee that it will be acted on any more than any other sentence in the paragraph. People will vary on this, depending on their understanding of the subconscious mind, but if suggestions/commands to the subconscious were as automatic as some people believe then subliminal advertising would be more successful.
Actually, advertising provides us with a useful example of the difference between an embedded idea and an embedded command. Think of an advert for a soda drink. It might show a hot sweltering day, with sweat running down people’s necks. Linked perfectly to that will be the image of cool water dripping down the side of a cold can. We will then undoubtedly be treated to the sound of the can being opened – tisssssk – and see the relief on someone’s face as they drink it, perhaps along with the sound of them swallowing.
They can be effective adverts and even the sound of the drink being opened can be enough to make us think, “Ooh, I could really do with a drink.” Add in all of the other elements, and you have the rather unsubtle embedded ideas that you are thirsty and buy this drink now! However, some variations of embedded commands are presented as if your subconscious mind hears the tisssssk and responds like an automaton – “I MUST BUY THIS DRINK!” I would suggest that at the subconscious level, there may be thoughts like, “I’m thirsty,” or “A drink would be really refreshing right now,” but there is still no automatic guarantee of any command or suggestion being acted upon.
If this rather long-winded explanation has not defended our preference for embedded ideas, it is worth bearing in mind that this is mostly just a matter of preference and style, along with some questions about the more outlandish claims sometimes made.
It feels really obvious!
When you first start practising the My Friend John induction, you may feel like your intentions are being broadcast in bright neon lights. You might feel like your client will never fall for what you are trying to do. And that is a sign that what you are trying to do – and your reason for doing it – needs some tweaking.
I almost always use My Friend John in a clinical setting. So, people have come to see me to get hypnotised. I therefore think of it as being conversational, rather than covert. Of course, it is not initially overt, but it is not as if I would be embarrassed if I was caught out. After all, hypnosis is what they are here for!
An example I often think of is a child who is struggling to relax enough to go to sleep. You might offer to read them a story to help them sleep and no doubt your dulcet tones would have the desired effect. Yet, that is a very different scenario to one where a child does not want to go to sleep and they feel their head dropping from time to time, gradually beginning to suspect that you are attempting to trick them into sleep. If your clients feel like that after experiencing My Friend John, then I would suggest that you find a way to frame it that does not imply you are absolutely not doing anything hypnotic.
I sometimes begin by saying something like, “I’d like to try something a bit different today.” This is my way of saying that – within the context of a hypnotic encounter (e.g. in my clinic) – we are not going to proceed as usual. However, none of my clients would have objected afterwards that I had tricked them into hypnosis, as that’s why they were there.
What is the difference between Chaining Anchors, Stacking Anchors and Collapsing Anchors?
Collapsing anchors is the process of anchoring two different states – one negative and one positive. And both are fired at the same time, allowing the positive state to neutralise the negative.
Stacking anchors is the simple practice of anchoring more than one positive or resourceful state on top of another. This increases the power of the anchor.
Chaining anchors is a process whereby you create a link of anchors to move someone from an undesirable state to a distant more positive state.
Do you repeat the PHRIT process in subsequent sessions?
There is no need to repeat the whole process after it has been taught. However, if there has been some delay from the previous session, I may briefly remind the client what they learned.
Do you think Hypnosis is conditioning?
There are clearly elements of conditioning in Hypnosis, but there seems to be more involved as well. This is a current area of academic debate and if it is of interest to you, you may want to read the following works:
Conditioned Reflex Therapy by Andrew Salter
The classic book on assertiveness and conditioning that played a major role in the beginning of Behaviour Therapy.
Conditioned Reflex Therapy builds upon and expands Salter’s earlier What is Hypnosis? which Theodore Barber declared “a work of genius.” In this work, Salter further unpacks his theory that ‘Hypnosis basically involves conditioned reactions and reflexes.’
A Theory Of Hypnosis: An explanation of hypnotic induction, hypnotic phenomena, and post-hypnotic suggestion By Alfred A. Barrios
Barrios offers a theory of hypnosis based mainly on the principles of conditioning and inhibition.
The work of Dr. Barrios can be seen as a development of the Pavlovian model of Andrew Salter. Reading Barrios’ model alongside the Cold Control Theory put forward by Dienes and others is a profitable exercise sure to reward the reader.
What if they don’t go as directly the 3rd / 4th time and just stare back at me?
The very first time they don’t respond, stop and find out why. It is possible that they may be intentionally blocking the process, for some unknown reason. Yet, in my experience, it is more likely that they did not fully understand what was expected of them.
Quite often it seems this happens if you skip from permissive to direct too early in the process – and they don’t know how to do what you are asking of them.
There is no reason that you cannot repeat the first suggestion – that they take themselves back – more than once. This enables them to feel at ease with the process, ensures that they have learned what is required of them and increases the effect of the fractionation.
Why not just use rapid inductions from the very beginning?
PHRIT is an induction and then some!
If all you are only concerned with doing is getting someone into hypnosis as quickly as possible, then perhaps your time would be better spent solely concentrating on learning rapid or instant inductions. However, it is my view that an induction serves a bigger purpose.
Can you give an example of Pacing and Leading?
Pacing is when you enter the other persons model of the world on their terms. Like walking beside them at their pace. Once you have paced another person, established rapport and shown that you understand where they are coming from then you can lead them.
Leading is when you use the influence that you have built up from pacing. For example, when you scratch your nose, they go on to scratch theirs.
A common approach is to start with three pacing statements, followed by one leading suggestion. For example: “And as you sit there (P), your eyes blinking (P) and your breathing slow (P), you can begin to wonder just how much of that ‘calm peace’ you can continue to feel now (L).”
However, it can be more subtle than this. The following description is provided by Doug O’Brien:
‘I used this pattern frequently when I used to work at New York’s Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital’s Department of Complementary Medicine. I was there as a Hypnotherapist to assist people in feeling better about their operations, facilitate healing and recovery, develop new, healthier patterns of living (e.g. becoming a non-smoker) and to help manage pain. Often I would walk into the patient’s room and say, “Hello, my name is Doug (easily verifiable due to the name tag on my lapel), I’m with the Department of Surgery (also on the tag), and I’m here to help you with your pain.” The two verifiably true statements set up the following statement to be accepted as true, too.’
Anthony Jacquin does a great job of explaining pacing and leading in this video.
What is Fractionation?
In hypnosis terms, fractionation refers to the practice of repeatedly taking someone into and out of hypnosis. The idea is that, usually, the more that someone goes in and out of trance, the deeper they descend as they go back in.
Fractionation demonstrates a useful principle employed by Dave Elman. Building on the work of Hippolyte Bernheim, Elman believed that when you take a person in and out of Hypnosis, they tend to go more deeply into trance each time they return.
Richard Nongard offers, as an everyday example, those times when your alarm clock goes off and you hit the snooze button. Just do that two or three times and when you eventually get up you are more tired than when the alarm initially went off. Imagine how deeply you would sleep if someone crept-in and turned the alarm off after you’d hit snooze for the third time!
It is possible that fractionation depends, at least in part, on what Stephen Brooks refers to as “frustrating the trance.” Or we might think of this as simply delayed gratification. The client is either just about to enter into hypnosis, or is presently enjoying it, when you pull them out of it. This means that when they next sense the opportunity to go back ‘in,’ they do so quickly, eagerly and usually to a greater depth.
This is a useful principle for the hypnotist, making our task so much easier.
What is bi-lateral stimulation?
Bilateral stimulation refers to stimuli (visual, auditory or tactile) which occur in a rhythmic pattern, alternating between the left and right side.
So, visual bilateral stimulation could involve watching a hand moving from left to right and back again. Auditory bilateral stimulation might involve listening to tones that are heard alternately in the left and right ears.
Tactile bilateral stimulation takes place in the Cats Paw induction. You can also see it at work in the method known as the Butterfly Hug.
Here is how the Butterfly Hug is described in The Anxiety Guide:
• Sit with your back straight. Do abdominal breathing. Imagine you have a little balloon in your stomach that you inflate each time you inhale and deflate as you exhale – slowly, deeply, smoothly.
• Observe what is happening in your mind, emotions and body, just as impartially as you would observe clouds in the sky.
• Cross your hands over your chest so that the middle finger of each hand is placed below your collarbone. The rest of your fingers will touch your upper chest. Your hands and fingers are as vertical as possible (pointing more toward your neck than your arms. You can interlock your thumbs, if you choose.
• Alternate the movement of your hands, right, left, simulating the flapping wings of a butterfly.
• Continue to breathe slowly and deeply, observing whatever is going through your mind and body (thoughts, images, sounds, odours, emotions and physical sensations) without changing, avoiding or judging anything. Observe it like clouds passing by.
Finally, this Video demonstrates Melissa Tiers using bilateral stimulation to assist someone with their anxiety:
What induction suits this kind of person?
To match your induction to your client, you will need to think about them as a whole person and their particular issue, as well as what it is you and they want to achieve.
The most common means of deciding which induction to use is to match it to your client’s personality or place in the world.
The main problem with this approach is that it relies heavily on assumptions. For example, some people would suggest that you cannot be authoritative with someone in authority. However, it is equally true that many people in authority have a hard time respecting someone who is not. Similarly, if someone takes a generally passive role in life and their personality is quite placid, then it may seem obvious that they will respond well to an induction where the hypnotist is essentially telling them what to do. However, equally, they may react with disappointment at encountering yet another person who presumes they have the right to push them around.
The key with this kind of approach is to be flexible and respectful. Even in cases where you are taking control and performing what Charles Tebbets refers to as a ‘paternal’ induction, you can do so with respect. (In fact, it is especially necessary in such circumstances.)
The following suggestions relate to the style of the hypnotist, as much as the category of induction. However, do not get tied to such lists. Remain flexible and if it turns out that you’ve chosen the wrong induction or approach for the person in front of you, learn from it and move on. After all, that’s exactly what you would want your client to do.
Passive, Relaxed or Easy-Going People
Obviously, a progressive muscle relaxation will be well-received by such people. However, be aware that they may be expecting more, particularly if they feel like all you’ve done to them is what their Yoga instructor does every Thursday evening! Yet, on the whole, almost any induction will work here. Gerald Kein is certainly correct when he suggests sticking to a ‘maternal’ or permissive style and to keep things flowing. That is key. Anything else may appear too abrupt.
Powerful or Successful People
There are two mutually exclusive approaches to take with people who are used to being in charge. They are simply: i) take charge or ii) give permission. If you are taking charge then you need to make it very clear that they must recognise your authority. Not all hypnotists will be comfortable with this, but if you are then use rapid authoritarian inductions.
If you do not feel that such an “I’m the boss now!” approach will work for you, then take the opposite approach and use permissive or indirect language. You can still do this fairly quickly, by tweaking something like the Thain wrist-lift or using a confusion induction.
Contrary to popular opinion, people who tend towards analytical thinking are no more difficult to hypnotise, but they may require a more creative approach. There is no need to be put off by their ever active minds. Instead, take comfort from the fact that they are regularly absorbed in their own analysis.
As above, either use an authoritarian induction – to give them less time to overly critique – or, if you have to use a slower induction, use permissive language or confusion. A useful approach is to teach them the skill of going into hypnosis, perhaps utilizing fractionation. The two most important points to make are a) it is wrong to presume ‘resistance’ from such people and b) they often need convincers.
‘Subordinates,’ e.g. Police
People who are comfortable taking orders are usually straightforward to lead into hypnosis. Common wisdom recommends using rapid authoritarian inductions with them, but my earlier caveat applies. My suggestion, especially in a therapeutic setting, would be to go for an induction that crosses a number of the categories and is quick, but not abruptly so. The Elman induction, Bandler Handshake, PHRIT or Rehearsal Induction are prime examples.
This is another group who may respond well to experiencing the induction as a learning opportunity.
Metaphysical / Spiritual
People in this category will often have excellent imaginations. A good pre-talk is useful for such types as they may hold certain fears or misconceptions regarding hypnosis. Be aware, that they often also seem to suffer from the need to try to help the hypnotist.
I tend to employ themes like “the power of your subconscious” and so on. Any kind of physical phenomenon is useful, from arm drops, to relaxation, to ideomotor responses. Once again, Elman works well, as it includes so much, though I have also found that a good My Friend John tale tends to draw them in effectively.
Whilst this sort of approach to matching your induction to your client is popular, it is not the only option. In contrast to the person-centred approach, a solution-focused means to selecting an induction is possible.
This approach to selecting an induction is different to the person-centred one above and relies on a thorough commitment to the idea that inductions can be therapeutic experiences, not merely a means of getting someone into hypnosis. Essentially, you want to ask yourself the following 3 questions:
1. What skills or resources does the client have that they need to access in order to reach their goal?
2. What frame of mind does the client need to be in to utilise those resources?
3. What kind of experience is needed to bring about 1-2?
See Therapeutic Inductions for more.
Why do we need deepeners?
The truth is, we don’t need any of this. We don’t need suggestibility tests, or inductions, or deepeners. We don’t even really need “hypnosis” as such.
If the end goal is to influence someone in such a way that their experience and expectation of reality is pliable, we could start by recognising that we do that all the time without any kind of formal hypnotic rituals.
Every time we tell an engaging story that someone gets engrossed in, we could be considered to be entrancing them. Whenever we tell a chilling tale, causing someone’s heart to beat faster and the hairs on their arms to stick up, we are impacting their experience of reality through little more than our words and their imagination. Even when all we do is scratch our head – perhaps whilst talking about headlice going round our child’s school – causing someone else to instinctively scratch their own head, we could be considered as being hypnotic.
The three stages we present on this site – Preparation, Induction, Deepener – are in a sense hypnotic rituals. They are ways that allow us to structure our words and influence someone else’s experience in a way they can engage with.
Deepeners are often presented as a means of allowing someone to go ‘under’ to a deeper degree. This is sometimes spoken of as reaching deeper levels of trance. Whilst it is possible that this is what is happening, I am not convinced that the research or science conclusively supports that.
Instead, I am more interested in the experiential effect of deepeners. In my experience – well, actually the experience of my clients – a deepener helps someone to increase, intensify and expand the hypnotic event.
We can think of the Preparation stage as helping someone to open the window on their understanding of reality, to consider that something out of the norm could take place. The Induction might then be seen as allowing them to enter into a more flexible experience of reality. The Deepener extends that experience and effectively informs them that this is not a fleeting moment, but something that they can dive into and explore for as long as you or they want them to.
Another way to think of things – still keeping an experiential focus – is that the Preparation makes way for an openness to a new and flexible reality. The Induction facilitates engagement with that reality. And the Deepener intensifies and extends the whole experience.
Do we need inductions?
The late Jeff Stephens once wrote:
“There is no such thing as hypnosis without an induction. The moment I engage another person’s reality, to make it be what I want it to be, I have induced hypnosis.”
Simply put, however you begin the hypnotic process, that is your induction. So, in one sense, the answer to the question – what is an induction for? – may be, to start things off. And my feeling is that you may as well start well.
The moment you begin to engage another person’s reality, to make it be what you want it to be, you have induced – or you have begun to induce – hypnosis. So, let’s give that moment some credit. Let’s not rush it, dismiss it, or discredit it.
Now, engaging another person’s reality fits quite nicely with our reality reframe understanding of hypnosis. So, it would appear that Jeff Stephens and I may have shared a similar understanding as to the nature of hypnosis. Or it may be that we would have both stubbornly refused to give a definitive answer! Either way, the question of induction-less hypnosis seems to only come up in settings where the aim is to hypnotise someone to perform some phenomena or other. Yet, what if the induction was about more than something we did to simply get someone into hypnosis?
Some people say you need an induction to get someone into hypnosis, to follow your commands. Other people say you do not. I would say, that’s all irrelevant. What if an induction was about more than something we did to simply get someone to follow your commands?
If we took an experiential look at inductions, we would see that there are a number of things that inductions appear to achieve.
Building Rapport and Expectations
An induction can be used to ensure you are both on the same page, to increase motivation, to get their imagination running a bit, to amplify expectations, thinking outside of the box together… How you begin can achieve all of that, so you may as well do it well.
Of course, this would fit well with Sarbin’s model of hypnosis, but it also includes Anthony Jacquin’s thoughts on the role of inductions. You establish yourself as the hypnotist, but what kind? Through an induction, you can convey that you are the commanding hypnotist, to whom they will comply. Or you might demonstrate that you are a co-traveller with them, planning to explore new destinations together. However you view yourself as the hypnotist, and them as the hypnotee – and, in fact, hypnosis itself – can all be expressed through how you begin.
I won’t say too much about this here. Suffice it to say that however you begin with someone sets the frame for what is to follow. You set the boundaries, the parameters for what is to come. You express your intent and share through words and actions the kind of things that you will be doing together.
A Learning Experience
This goes back to that essential question that I would like to tattoo on the inside of your minds – what if the induction was about more than something we did to simply get someone into hypnosis? The kind of things that can be taught through an induction can be as simple as, “I have the ability to relax,” or, “I can do more than I thought I could.” Or they can be as profound as realising that you can dissociate from pain and achieve analgesia.
We have to begin somewhere
To support Jeff Stephens quote that I gave a moment ago, I would add the following observation: the early stages of any conversation sets the character of the interaction that follows. And if that is true, to put it crudely, induction-less hypnosis may be the equivalent of trying to take someone to bed without even buying them a drink. In your eagerness to get to the action, you are skipping the stuff that actually counts. And that can be disrespectful, it can be a sure-fire way of guaranteeing that the action is anti-climatic, and it doesn’t get you a second date!
Do we need inductions? We have no choice. We have to begin somewhere. So, let’s begin well and let’s begin with bigger goals than merely getting someone into hypnosis.
This video further explores this topic.
What is Hypnosis?
Well, that depends on who you ask, who you ignore and how you carry out your research.
It is not even possible to rely on something as concrete as brain-waves to help us answer the question. Brain-waves have to measure something in particular. So, we first have to decide what it is we want to measure (for example, relaxation). Yet, those from a competing school of hypnosis might suggest that all we are measuring is relaxation itself.
If hypnosis exists in correlation with other effects – be that relaxation, conditioned responses or the REM state – how can we ever really know that we are measuring hypnosis and not one of its correlates?
There are a number of “hypnotic scales” that have been offered throughout the years, to test how hypnotised – or how hypnotisable – someone may be. Yet, these tests invariably fall at the very same hurdle. Until we have first decided what it actually means to be hypnotised – which depends on an agreed definition of hypnosis itself – how are we sure we are measuring the effects of hypnosis?
Additionally, this says nothing of the skill or delivery of the operators conducting the tests.
We do not aim to answer the question, “What is hypnosis?” in a universal, binding or scientific sense. For, it seems to us increasingly unlikely that such a question could ever be conclusively answered.
After all, the question, “What is hypnosis?” means different things to different people. To the researcher, it often means, “What is happening within the physical structure of the brain?” To the hypnotist it may mean, “What is it I am aiming to do to people?” However, to the client it usually means something more like, “What will happen? What will you do and why – and what will it feel like?” And those are the questions that I believe we should be focusing on.
So, our understanding of hypnosis unashamedly speaks about what it is that will be experienced by the hypnotee. As I present it, hypnosis is not something you do to another person, or a thing that they go into. Hypnosis is an experience you share with someone.
To use our full definition, hypnosis is:
An imagination-fuelled, creatively engaged, shift in a person’s perception of the world & their relationship to it.
In other words, it is helping someone imagine (and engage with) a new reality. Essentially, what we are dealing with is a ‘reframe.’ However, it is reframing things so effectively that the client engages with it thoroughly and creates an altered perception and experience of reality.
This is a thoroughly experiential model.
Why do you not teach an arm-pull?
A somewhat popular handshake induction, which we have avoided completely, is the arm-pull. You will likely have seen this on the internet or even television. It simply involves the hypnotist pulling their ‘subject’s’ arm whilst giving the sleep command.
We have intentionally not covered this induction for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is difficult to teach such an induction safely within the confines of a website.
Secondly, related to the above, we have rarely seen this induction carried out with sufficient attention given to health and/or safety concerns. Some hypnotists will check that their subject does not have any shoulder, or back complaints, but neither they nor their subject are medical professionals. To be sure that the induction is safe, they need to ask about hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder, neck and back injuries. Additionally, they should probably enquire as to their subject’s heart condition as well!
Thirdly, an arm-pull is almost always abrasive and shocking and – as such – completely unnecessary. Surprise is enough to achieve hypnosis. Shock is not needed. Inductions of this type only serve to perpetuate the stereotype that the hypnotist is the all-powerful master and his subject is merely a pawn in his hands. We much prefer a straightforward pattern-interrupt that can convey skilful delivery if needed, but also highlights the complexity and flexibility of your partner’s mind.
They just stare at me after the pattern-interrupt
The number one reason why you may encounter little more than a bemused stare following a pattern-interrupt, is poor timing. This is not a case of being a millisecond out, or failing to flow smoothly like an aikido master. I am talking more about what you do following the pattern interrupt.
If you just stand there, waiting to see if it ‘worked,’ you will more than likely be disappointed. Your partner is looking for you to provide them with an explanation and direction. If you simply provide a look that says, “Don’t ask me, I don’t even know if I did it right!” you will soon lose your opportunity.
Just let things flow smoothly. More often than not, even if the pattern interrupt did not ‘take,’ you will manage to pace and lead your partner if your suggestions are confident and congruent.
Is My Friend John manipulative?
If you still struggle with the idea of using My Friend John, presumably because it feels too covert, you can always start with the more obvious examples like The Fake Induction.
There is no reason that you cannot be completely overt and explain that this is how you will be inducing hypnosis. That removes part of the reason for using My Friend John in the first place, but at least takes away any sense of manipulation whatsoever.
Is it genuine amnesia?
Some people may wonder if the amnesia we see in the Elman Induction is genuine amnesia. For example, it could be that the hypnotee is simply too relaxed to recall their numbers.
It is necessary to point out that being too relaxed to speak (i.e. aphasia) is not the same as being too relaxed to recall the numbers. If someone is simply so relaxed that they are ignoring the suggestion to count out-loud, then you have reached a hurdle in the Elman process. It is by no means an insurmountable barrier and there are ways to address this. However, it does demonstrate to the hypnotist that the process is not proceeding as planned. In short, your client is not following your suggestions.
However, if as a result of your suggestions, your client has become so relaxed that they cannot mentally locate which number comes next in the sequence, I would see that as a useful signal that they are following your suggestions and the process is progressing as hoped.
It may be helpful to recognise that hypnotic amnesia is rarely amnesia in the genuine sense of that word. Whether on a stage or in a therapy room, it is usually temporary amnesia, achieved by suggestion. The client manages to use their mind in such a way that it cannot – or will not – recall certain information. So, it seems something of a red herring to debate whether the amnesia seen in the Elman induction is the real thing. As long as it is as a result of suggestion – and not merely the client being too relaxed to bother opening their mouth – I would not concern yourself with whether or not they have genuinely forgotten something, or are just too relaxed to recall it. They may be one and the same thing.
Are they just too relaxed to speak?
We discussed above, the risks of mistaking aphasia for amnesia. This is particularly a risk if every part of the induction has been framed as an exercise in relaxation. In such circumstances, it can help to avoid describing the amnesia as “relaxing the numbers” away.
The issue of aphasia is the reason that you do not take your client’s silence as evidence of amnesia. You need to explicitly ask them if the numbers have gone. If, instead of saying their final number they sigh deeply, or do not respond to your question, then you are likely to be at a place of aphasia, not amnesia.
The natural way to respond in such a situation, is simply to have them forget a second item. It can be beneficial, in my experience, to incorporate a visual element to the second item, so that it is not simply a repetition of the earlier attempt at amnesia. You might have them wipe letters off of a blackboard, or see numbers floating away on a cloud.
The numbers won’t go
This is perhaps the most feared problem that comes up for people using the Elman induction, especially if they have been trained to approach it like a script. Thankfully, it is by no means insurmountable and there are a number of things that you can do if your client struggles to ‘lose the numbers.’
Firstly, you may want to explore your terminology. ‘Losing the numbers’ is not a desirable description and perhaps provokes the concern that you will not be able to find them again. Preferable language might speak of ‘letting the numbers go’ or ‘relaxing them away’.
Whilst we are talking about the numbers, when you ask your client if they have gone, it may help not to draw their attention back to them. So, instead of asking (in a voice that reveals uncertainty), “Have the numbers gone?”, you can ask, “Are they gone?” Or, even, “Have they gone yet?”
Another approach is to use something as an alternative to forgetting numbers. You can have someone forget letters from their name, or how to spell a word, for example. This may be especially useful if you are working with those for whom keeping track of the numbers is an essential task.
Having said that, this reason for failing to achieve amnesia comes up far less often than concerned hypnotists, or inexperienced trainers, may assume. More often than not, the issue is due more to the congruity and delivery of the hypnotist, than the engagement of the patient.
Nevertheless, I have found that the approach used by Elman is a reliable and effective way to address the issue of stubborn numbers:
Elman: [to doctors] Let me show you again the technique I use when the numbers don’t disappear. I lift his hand and say, “When I drop your hand the lights will go out and you won’t see any more numbers… There you are… The lights are out and all the numbers are gone…
In effect, this is a slight pattern-interrupt, followed by alternative visualisation. It is fairly common that the reason someone struggles to achieve amnesia is not so much because of a resistance to losing the numbers, but because of a failure to fully understand your directions. In such instances, a different approach to the same goal is recommended.
As well as the visualisation used by Elman, you might have them picture numbers floating away on clouds, or numbers on a TV screen getting smaller and smaller, or further and further away.
Related to the issue of not fully understanding your directions, some clients will need you to be more explicit. They may not fully appreciate how amnesia is to be reached, or what it would feel like. So, I may at times employ descriptions like, “…the way that someone’s name can be on the tip of your tongue, but you just can’t find it…” or “Like when you know that you know an actor’s name and you stumble around in your mind but you just can’t grasp it. You know you know it, but right now it is just out of your reach, just on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t quite get it…”
Finally, another approach is to adopt a more abrupt pattern-interrupt. This is especially useful if you suspect that their conscious mind has become too pre-occupied with keeping the numbers and resists letting them go. In such a situation you might choose to switch to something like a hand-drop induction, before carrying on with the Super Suggestion:
From this moment on whatever I say is your reality. What I say you hear is what you hear, what I say you feel is what you feel, what I say you see is what you see… because you have a super powerful mind…
Their arm is not heavy
Another fairly common issue when you are first learning to use the Elman induction is that when you lift up your client’s arm, it is not heavy, or does not drop down. There are a couple of ways to tackle this.
The first thing I do is tell them not to help me. I would say something like, “No, let me lift it,” or, “Don’t help me. Just relax it completely”. As I am saying that, I may gently sway their arm from side to side, by the wrist, as if I am shaking the tension out. This kinaesthetically reiterates to them what a loose and relaxed arm would feel like.
The second way to address this comes up if their arm does not drop when you let it go. This can be because they sensed a challenge in what you were saying. Alternatively, they may not be sure what was expected of them. In cases like this, you should avoid implying failure and either lower their arm and repeat the suggestion, or switch to a stiff-arm.
My preference, as their arm is already up in the air – and they may be responding to a presumed challenge – is to congratulate them and reframe the occasion into a stiff-arm catalepsy by saying something like:
Excellent. Now, I’m going to take your arm and I want you to extend it and make a fist. That’s it. [Taps end of fist.]
Now, make it rigid as I count to three. Make that so rigid you can’t bend it. One – make it rigid – two, like steel – three, solid. Now when you know that that arm is unbendable, you can’t bend it no matter how hard you try. Just go ahead and try and bend that arm and find that it just won’t bend.
Now you can stop trying… And as I shake the arm like this [shaking arm by the wrist] it just becomes limp and loose and relaxed, like a wet dishcloth… That’s it.
And as I drop your arm into your lap, you can just go even deeper… [drops arm] …all the way down.
If you find that you regularly face the issue of your client’s arm not being heavy, it is worth examining what you say before you pick their arm up. It may be that you are not clear enough in saying what you expect to happen. Remember, this is about achieving catalepsy by suggestion. So, you might want to pre-empt this stage by saying something like:
I’m now going to lift your left arm up by the wrist and if you’ve followed the instructions up to this point – and I think you have done really well – that arm will just be loose and limp like a wet dish cloth and will just drop into your lap when I let go.
What if they open their eyes?
The earliest difficulty you may encounter with the Elman induction is that you client opens their eyes following your suggestion that they stay shut. There are a number of reasons why this may happen.
Firstly, they may simply not have understood your suggestion properly. It is reasonable that they believed you expected them to try as hard as they could to open their eyes, so they did. They went right ahead and opened their eyes! This situation is easily rectified by saying something like, “Well done. You’ve demonstrated that you can open your eyes. As I said, you remain in control at all times. Now, I want you to demonstrate that you can’t open your eyes. So, go ahead and close your eyes again and relax them so well that they are just too relaxed to open. And then demonstrate to yourself that you’ve relaxed them that well by keeping hold of that relaxation whilst you try in vain to open them.”
A second reason that someone may open their eyes is fear. Despite a positive pre-talk, they may still equate not being able to open their eyes with being controlled by you. In that case, you can proceed with a more permissive version of the eye-lock, or use something other than their eyes.
Some people really benefit from being able to see their own catalepsy. So, you might choose to have them watch, whilst their finger stays glued to their leg. However, if you do move on from an eye-lock to something else, it is important not to give the impression that they have failed. Say something like, “Good. You’ve demonstrated that you are able to stay in control, just as I said you would. And now I would like to use that powerful mind of yours to show you something really interesting…”
I would argue that failure to understand and fear are the two main reasons that someone may open their eyes. Another reason this sometimes happens is that someone feels like you are challenging them and they do not like to lose. In that case, simply reframe things as above.