Hypnotic Phenomena

Hypnotic phenomena are the actions or behaviors a hypnotist can elicit from a subject. However, we rarely discuss what these phenomena entail or how a hypnotist uses them. There are a variety of phenomena some related to suggestibility. Others to motor, sensory, and memory function to name a few. The list below contains some of the common phenomena elicited by hypnotist to enact change.

Below are the common hypnotic phenomena used by clinicians during trance to enact change.


This is probably the best known hypnotic phenomena. As noted in Your Brain On Hypnosis, suggestibility is heightened during hypnosis. Primarily due to deceases and increases in activity between different parts of the brain. However, there is more to suggestion than you might realize.

For example, did you know that your brain takes suggestions literally? This is part of the reason why we talk to you before a session. We like to makes sure that our suggestions are going to work with your modality. Modalities are visual, auditory, or kinsthetic (feeling based). We learn a lot of this just be interacting with you during the first portion of the session. Each brain is different and getting to know you allows us to create the best suggestions for you. Anyone can give a suggestion but that does not mean that any two people will interpret that suggestion the same way.

Sensory Phenomena

When in trance your brain has the capacity to create or block sensory activity. We call this sensory phenomena.

Below are some of the common sensory phenomena used in clinical hypnosis. After each phenomena there is a brief definition or example:

  • Addition of sensory information. Often used to add something to a hypnotic intervention that may change perception of an event or feeling.
  • Removal of sensory information. Used to remove something to change the perception of something.
  • Changes in sounds. Also used to change perception of events or feelings of those events.
  • Changes in taste. Often used to change dietary desires.
  • Changes in smell. Can be used in smoking cessation or weight loss.
  • Analgesia (reduction of pain)
  • Anesthesia (complete elimination of pain)

Motor Phenomena

Motor responses are automatic unconscious responses to suggestions. The muscles react instantaneously with no thought or effort. This is instigated by the parts of your brain responsible for autonomic control.

  • Automatic Writing- where the hand is disassociated from the body and writes responses from the unconscious.
  • Somnabmbulism– One of the deepest stages of hypnosis. Can be difficult to achieve. It is what sleepwalkers experience. Subject may appear awake but is actually deep in responsive trance.
  • Catalepsy– The limb will remain in a position as if frozen. Used for relaxation and to loosen muscles. Used to assist subjects recovering from an injury. Making them less likely to move that body part.

Memory Phenomena

A good deal of the phenomena we focus on in clinical hypnosis relates to the memory. The list below describes each phenomena. It also provides a description of its use in clinical hypnosis:

Each phenomena below is listed with a description as well as an example.

  • Hypermnesia. Hypnosis enables memory recall greater than at nonhypnotic levels. However, you cannot rely on this information to be perfectly accurate. Used when appropriate to recall specific memories.
    • Age Regression. A hypnotist assists a subject in experiencing a past event. Used often to address unresolved trauma and emotional distress.
  • Dissociation. The ability most commonly used to detach someone from their emotions to process them or from pain in hypnoanesthesia.
    • Pseudo-regression. Regression where the subject is watching the past event. This separates the subject from emotional content so as to see the situation objectively.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Paving The Way For Change

In addition to trance itself, hypnotist use phenomena to create powerful change. Isn’t it amazing what the mind can do with a little guidance. We like to set clear expectations for what we may do during a session. A discussion with your hypnotist will determine what interventions or processes are necessary for you specifically. In addition, we strive to help you achieve your personal goals and to give you tools to continue to do so beyond our sessions.

However, if you are seeking further information check out our Service page for more information. For more information on hypnotic phenomena check out All About Hypnosis.

Call the number above for a free consultation with a hypnotist.