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Hypnotic Suggestions

This is Amber back with another dose of hypnotic news. Suggestions are a huge part of what we do as hypnotist, but few people talk about what that means or how we use them. Today I wanted to touch on what suggestions are as well as the types. As well as the laws of suggestion. There's a lot to share so let's get started.

Language and Hypnosis

Language is a large part of our existence. Communication is symbolic and semantic. Both provoking mental, sensory, and emotional responses. Hypnotic suggestions are merely and extension of normal verbal communication. In fact, to some extent or another we all use hypnosis as suggestion relies the interplay between communication and behavior.

Think of the car salesman or that person in the mall who catches you. They pull you aside and before you know it you may have made a decision you were not planning on making that day. In many instances, these are hypnotic tricks taught to salesmen.

As we’ve mentioned in Defining Hypnosis and Your Brain On Hypnosis, hypnosis is an increased state of suggestibility. If you want to know more about how that works and what we know of why, check out the links above. And once we have achieved that state we use suggestion to create life long change. But how do suggestions work?

Types of suggestions

Suggestions can take many forms. These various types of suggestions remind us that hypnotic influence relies on more than phrasing or verbal suggestions. Hypnotist have to be very good and expressive facilitators to help other with hypnosis. Here are a number of different types of suggestions:

  • Verbal: communication by sounds and words.     
  • Nonverbal: communication with gestures and grimaces.     
  • Intraverbal: modulation of the voice.       
  • Extraverbal: implications of words and phrases
  • Post hypnotic suggestion: A suggestion carried out once hypnosis is terminated. For example, “When you come out of trance, you will feel awake and refreshed”.

Suggestion without trance

Suggestions are often delivered while in trance. However, not all forms of hypnotic suggestion rely on this. While not commonly used in clinical practice, they remain pertinent to this discussion. Suggestions without trance phenomena rely on other methods to allow the unconscious mind to come forward. This may involve indirection such as one might see in a stage show.

Suggestions without trance can also occur when the subject and the hypnotist already have a strong rapport. This brings up an important point about suggestibility. Very few people realize that it relies more on the rapport between the hypnotist and their subject than on the depth of trance. Or even the particular techniques or interventions used.

Two forms of suggestion that do not rely on trance are waking hypnosis and waking suggestion.

Waking Hypnosis

Waking hypnosis described hypnotic effects achieved without the trance phenomena. Where the critical faculty gets bypassed. If you have a child you did this often when they were little. Do you remember kissing their knee only to find they are certain that their pain has diminished or ceased? That child is experiencing waking hypnosis. They are not hypnotized, but the suggestion sticks and they are completely convinced that they are healed.

Waking hypnosis is sometimes used with difficult subjects who are resistance to trance. It can also be use when attempting to save time such as for anesthesia at the dentists office or an emergency situation where time is of the essence. It is more difficult to achieve and still is highly unlikely without rapport and acquiescence of the subject.

Waking Suggestions

Waking suggestions refer to suggestions given while in a normal state of consciousness without the bypass of the critical faculty. This can be seen when someone yawns and then everyone else begins to yawn in response. Interestingly enough, waking suggestion plays a large role in obsessive behaviors and tics.

Direct Vs Indirect

Direct and indirect suggestions do not require much explanation. When we tell someone to sleep that is a direct suggestions. Think of them like commands you would give to someone you work with. In contrast, indirect suggestions, or covert hypnosis, aim to influence the unconscous without their knowing. This is more like the salesman we talked about before. Hypnotist will use both, but an ethical hypnotist, will only use them within the realm of what you are asking them for assistance with.

Laws of suggestion

Just as there are Laws of Physics and other sciences. Some people suggest that the same is true of hypnosis. I discovered these via John Mongovi of New York. They are a practical set of laws that I have found to fairly accurately explain the rules behind suggestions.

Law of Concentrated Attention: When attention becomes centered on a single idea repeatedly, the idea manifests itself spontaneously. For as much as this is a solution, it is sadly often the cause as well. For example, have you ever practiced asking someone out? What happened when you imagined it failing? In most cases, the individual ends up setting themselves up for failure due to negative practicing of a scenario. Similar effects are what cause phobias and perpetrate fears and anxieties.

Law of Reversed Effect: Have you ever worked so hard that you failed? This is what this law is all about. When someone focuses on quitting x or avoiding y, it is a suggestion of resistance against that thing. As Carl Jung once said “What you resist persists”. Instead we should focus suggestions on the desired outcome (ex fulfillment or health)

Law of Dominant Effect: Strong emotions tend to replace weaker ones. Emotions are remembered more than neutral events. Think of any strong emotion you’ve ever had and you are likely to be able to recall far more details regarding that event. Because of this attaching an emotion to a suggestion makes it more effective. As hypnosis increases emotional response, this makes it a great tool for this very purpose.

Suggestions Anyone?

I hope this post helps you see how much more complex suggestions can be. A hypnotist takes a lot of time and training to make these come as naturally as they do. Even we take that skill for granted sometimes. Worse yet, very few of us have even studied the elements that make our clinical sessions possible. Those researching it and sharing the information are often hard to find, though that is getting better with the rise of the internet and Google.

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