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Hypnotic Phenomena: All About Hypnosis Part 4

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Hypnotic phenomena
Hypnotic Phenomena

We’ve all seen a stage show or heard someone tell funny stories about someone who has. Today We’re going to talk about the different hypnotic phenomena that occurs for both recreational and clinical hypnotists. Understanding the different phenomena caused by hypnosis only makes it that much easier to see how beneficial it may be to you or someone else you know.

If you missed the first three installments you can also check out part 1, part 2, and part 3.


This is probably the best known phenomena related to hypnosis. We know from previous articles that suggestibility is heightened during hypnosis due to deceases and increases in activity between different parts of the brain . But there is more to suggestion than you might realize. Did you know that your unconscious hears and accepts words literally? This means that as hypnotist we have to be very careful what we instruct you to do. A misspoken instruction can lead to confusion or failure to comply with the given directive.

This also means that we have to get to know the client a little better. Hence why we talk to you before we begin a session. We get an idea of your prime modality such as motion, verbal, or visual. You can often determine this by how someone talks. For example if someone says “I feel…” then they are likely kinesthetic or motion based. I would then use more descriptions about feeling, knowing, or sensing instead of saying seeing or hearing.

It also means that implications are important. Everyone is going to take suggestions differently. You hypnotize the same two people and it make take a different phrasing to get the desired results. We have to seek out phrasing that matches your perception of the world. The same is true of our tone, cadence, and rhythm when we speak to you both inside and sometimes outside of trance.

People can also be suggestible outside of trance. We call this a waking suggestion. Other methods that heighten suggestibility are:

  • reflex conditioning (such as in sniper training)
  • Abstract Conditioning (compounding suggestions)
  • Repetitive Sensory Stimulation (background sounds like ocean waves)
  • Rapport (connection between hypnotist and subject)
  • The use of imagination
  • Misdirection of attention

Post-hypnotic Suggestion

A post-hypnotic suggestion is a suggestion delivered in hypnosis that is carried out afterward. While much of what we do during sessions is in trance suggestion some of what we do may take place after a session ends. For example, if I give you a coping mechanism for stress during your smoking session, that is a suggestion you would complete outside of trance. Some complete these actions as a conscious action while others do so automatically. I recently helped a friend quit smoking. One of his unconscious coping mechanisms ended up being twirling something between his fingers. Periodic reinforcement increases the effectiveness of posthypnotic suggestions.

Sensory Phenomena

When in trance your brain has the capacity to create or block sensory activity. We call this ideosensory hypnotic phenomena. Some people may experience imagery with their eyes closed. Some are capable of positive and negative hallucinations meaning that a visual is either added or subtracted from their view. We often don’t do this so much in clinical practice, but you may see that in a stage show. The closest we may come to doing that is making you less aware of something you wish to avoid. Say for example you struggle with sweets. We may be able to make them less noticeable in comparison to other foods you enjoy that are healthy for you.

People can also experience other sensory additions such as:

  • Tactile
  • Olfactory
  • Auditory
  • Taste

Or subtractions such as:

  • Analgesia (reduction of pain)
  • Anesthesia (complete elimination of pain)

Motor Phenomena

Ideomotor responses refer to sensory experience in response to hypnosis. With ideomotor hypnotic phenomena, the muscles react instantaneously to thoughts and feelings. These are involuntary reflexes instigated by the subcortical structures of the brain (the parts responsible for unconscious automatic control). For example, when someone begins to go into trance their eyes may being to flutter or flit about.

Other Ideomotor Phenomena

  • Automatic Writing- where the hand is dissociated from the body and writes responses from the unconscious.
  • Somnabmbulism– One of the deepest stages of hypnosis. It is what sleepwalkers experience. Generally, the individual has not recollection of it afterwards. Suggestions given in this state are automatic. Fairly rare. Subject may appear awake but is actually deep in responsive trance.
  • Catalepsy- The rigidity of the muscles induced by trance. The limb will remain in a position as if frozen.

Memory Phenomena

There are many forms of hypnotic phenomena that involve memory. The first of which is amnesia. Some individuals do not remember parts or sections of trance. While it can be suggested that someone will not remember something, this will not occur unless your mind is okay with that suggestion. This is not something that happens commonly or often unless dealing with a traumatic past history and even then it does not happen to everyone. Stage hypnotist may cause you to forget something temporarily, but it is just that temporary.

Other Memory Phenomena

  • Hypermnesia (Memory Recall). Hypnosis enables memory recall greater than at non-hypnotic levels. However, you cannot rely on this information to be perfectly accurate.
  • Age Regression. Age regression is a form of hyper-amnesia. A subject is assisted to experience events as past, but to identify with them in the first person. The recall is greatly improved, but has strong emotional content. This is not something that we do lightly or often and is usually related to trauma of some sort.
  • Pseudo-regression. Regression where the subject is watching the past event. As if you are watching something on tv from a different perspective. We use this to dissociate you from strong feelings so that you can face them without being overwhelmed by them.
  • Age Progression. This is a phenomena in which the subject imagines what some event, thought or action may look like in the future. Used as a tool to understand how a person may respond or wishes to respond to situations in the future.
  • Dissociation. The ability most commonly used to detach someone from their emotions to process them or from pain in hypno-anesthesia.
  • Time distortion. A sense of time being longer or shorter than it actually is. We often use this in practicing new coping mechanisms or replacement behaviors. Our unconscious can practice things over and over again more quickly than we can consciously.

Powerful Tools

As you can see there are a lot of phenomena associated with hypnosis. Some of it is easy to see how it might be used with a stage show. Nearly all of it can be used therapeutically. Hypnosis involves many complex aspects of human experience, including the senses, thoughts, actions, memories, sleep, emotions, and even the perception of time and space. Hypnosis just shows us the capability and power of the mind is far stronger than we could ever realize.


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