This blog post evolved into a direction that is mainly aimed at helping hypnotists understand why confusion inductions are not always necessary – or indeed appropriate – for trancing analytical subjects, but I hope hypnosis subjects also find the information useful/insightful. If, after reading, you have any questions or thoughts please leave comments below. Thank you!
Speak to your average hypnotist about analytical people and you tend to get one or a variety of the following comments: that they’re “bad” or “difficult” subjects and that the only way you can successfully trance them is with the use of confusion inductions.
Those comments? They’re all absolute rubbish. Those of you who know me know that I absolutely love working with analytical subjects and years of hypnosis experience has consistently shown me how amazing and capable analytical subjects can be. I have written plenty of blog posts on the subject to date.
In my many years (going on for a decade now) of being a hypnotist I also rarely use confusion inductions and yet have successfully hypnotised hundreds (I stopped counting years ago) of analytical subjects. How do I achieve that? Why do I go against the widely held/accepted belief that confusion inductions are the only reliable way to hypnotise analytical subjects?
Well, again, to be blunt – because it’s nonsense. Confusion inductions can be useful for trancing analytical people but so can many others. It’s most certainly not the only way to successfully trance analytical subjects. Far from it!
So – why don’t I tend to use confusion inductions if they are so popular? The main reason is that analytical people are usually also dealing with varying degrees of anxiety and confusion inductions can be overwhelming and/or uncomfortable in such situations. Of course some subjects will really enjoy confusion inductions but to me they often feel like beating the conscious mind into submission by overwhelming the mind of a subject who, if analytical is likely already prone to overthinking. Sending an overthinking brain into meltdown isn’t the most pleasurable way of inducing trance and as pleasure is a priority for me, I tend to turn to other ways of inducing trance.
This brings us to the million dollar question – how exactly do I trance analytical subjects? Unfortunately there is no clear cut simple answer as I tailor every induction to the individual subject but I can offer some general pointers. Firstly, and I cannot emphasize this enough the pre talk is important. I’m generalizing here but for the most part, analytical subjects like structure. They like to know what to expect. And even if it’s not “necessary” it’s good practice in general for all kinds of subjects to prepare them and let them know what will happen as well as dispelling some common myths (e.g. the myth that trance is like sleep to give one example). If the subject has an idea of what to expect then it helps to keep them focused and their mind is less likely to wander.
Secondly, never tell an analytical subject to “relax” and “not think about anything”. That is one of the worst things you can say to an analytical subject. It’s akin to telling someone not to think of a pink elephant. What’s the first thing you think about?
Finally, it’s okay if analytical people want to analyse their trance experience. Doing so won’t distract them or hinder the process in any way (assuming of course the hypnotist is competent and used to working with analytical subjects).
There are many different types of inductions you can use, and there’s no “one size fits all” approach. The induction is less important than the subject and what they need to enjoy a successful trance. If you go into a session determined to use a particular induction then you’re limiting your success rate (and potentially traumatizing the subject) whereas if you go in with an open mind, speak with your subject/client about what they need (they may not know how to articulate it, but again, a competent, experienced hypnotist will know what questions to ask to get the answers they need) then your success rate potentially skyrockets as you’re tailoring the induction to your client, and not trying to force your client to engage in a particular induction.
As I said before, some clients will respond well to confusion inductions and I am not dismissing such inductions out of hand. They remain a potentially fun and useful tools (I use confusion inductions with some of my regular clients for fun because I know how to do so in a more light-hearted way and I also know they trust me). What I am suggesting is that confusion inductions are not a blunt tool that can/should be applied to all analytical subjects. Get creative, have fun with inductions, experiment and learn to tailor your approach as a hypnotist to what your client actually needs, not what you assume they need.
Hypnosis not being effective (for whatever reason) is a common worry/concern that I see regularly voiced by hypnotists and subjects alike. Sometimes it’s because a specific suggestion hasn’t worked. Other times the subject simply doesn’t trance at all.
With this in mind I wanted to offer some advice and reassurance to both hypnotists and subjects based on my years of experience. Most of the advice is aimed at hypnotists as it is hypnotists who need to take the responsibility for ensuring that hypnosis is successful. It still holds value for subjects, however, as it gives you an insight into hypnotists behavior and what is/isn’t appropriate when it comes to handling unexpected situations.
I hope you find it useful.
If you’re a subject:
The most important thing is not to panic. I can promise you that you’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve been hypnotising people for many years and I’ve yet to come across a “bad” subject so I can say with a fair amount of confidence that you’re a good subject. “But!” I can hear you cry “If I am a good subject, why can’t I be hypnotised?”. The answer is you can be, but just like learning any new skill, different people learn in different ways. The reasons for your past difficulties may simply be that the induction/hypnosis techniques that your hypnotist was using aren’t effective for you. It doesn’t make you a bad subject, nor does it mean that the techniques are bad – all it means is that they weren’t the right techniques for you. There is no one single technique that is effective on 100% of people. Think of techniques like keys – all we need to do is find the right key to unlock your potential to enjoy trance.
Do me a favor – if a hypnotist ever tells you (or even implies) that it’s somehow your fault and that you are a bad subject then ditch them immediately! They’re simply trying to cover up their own shortcomings by blaming you.
If things aren’t progressing as you expected then don’t be afraid to communicate this. A good hypnotist will be able to reassure you and utilise other induction/hypnosis techniques to achieve the desired results.
If you’re a hypnotist:
Again, my primary advice is do not panic. Things don’t always go to plan and that is okay. If you panic you’ll panic/unsettle your subject and you don’t want that. Instead, look at it as an opportunity for you to flex your hypnotic muscles and find a creative way to problem solve.
A friend of mine likened being a hypnotist to being a swan – on the surface you look graceful, smooth and composed but under the surface you can be paddling like a crazy thing. Good news for you is that people only see what’s above. Maintain your composure and even if you do make a mistake, odds are most people won’t notice/it will be overlooked. I’ve been hypnotising people for years and my mistakes are part of what has made me a great hypnotist because I learned from them. I also learned how to not let on that things hadn’t gone as planned and the vast majority of times nobody noticed because I was able to brush it off and divert effectively. Your confidence is just as effective at allowing people to trance as any technique you use.
If something doesn’t work then there will be a reason. Stay calm, remain composed and appreciate that this can be resolved but that it is your responsibility to do so. Don’t you dare try and blame your subject/client when things don’t go to plan. Instead, outwardly suggest to the client that the outcome was expected/intended whilst internally working out what didn’t go to plan, why and what you can do to remedy the matter or if it was minor brush over it and move on and/or go back to basics and explain/demonstrate in a different way.
Knowing the best way to respond to an unexpected situation comes with experience so don’t beat yourself up if with hindsight you feel you could have responded better – it’s a learning experience and longer term, as long as you take on board the lessons, will make you a better hypnotist. No one is perfect. No one. Doesn’t matter how experienced they are. Even the most experienced hypnotists have moments where things don’t go to plan. What you learn with time, however, is that how you respond is far more important than what initially happened.
Focus on what the client needs from you to help them experience trance. Guide them from their understanding and shape your approach to what they need rather than what you want. You can also set yourself up for success by utilising proper planning and preparation. Minimise opportunities for things to go awry by spending adequate time on the pre-talk, ensuring that the subject understands what to expect. Also use this as an opportunity to build genuine rapport and establish trust. This may well be a new experience for your subject and this may well be accompanied by some level of anxiety. Taking the time to answer questions and explain what to expect will make the subject more comfortable and reduce the opportunity for unplanned outcomes during the session.
Another thing to note – If you’re used to simply reading from scripts then you’re severely limiting yourself and likely also doing a disservice to your subject/client. Reading off a script won’t equip you with the skills or confidence to handle situations appropriately when things inevitably don’t quite go to plan.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Literally anything has the potential to be turned into an induction. If something you try doesn’t work then it’s not a failure – it’s a valuable lesson and learning experience. I know I touched on this earlier but it’s worth emphasizing again. Analyse what didn’t go to plan and why and how you can improve for next time.
Any thoughts, questions or comments? Please do share them below.
I wanted to give you all a “peek behind the curtain” as it were. Hypnosis may seem magical (and in many ways it is), but it isn’t magic. You don’t need to believe in it for it to work (just ask the *many* skeptics I’ve tranced over the years). If anything being better informed can allow you to relax and enjoy the experience more. So – I’ve listed some common induction techniques (techniques that induce trance) with explanations of how they work and pros and cons.
This list is compiled through a combination of personal experience and research. I don’t personally use many of these techniques for various reasons (e.g. I specialise in working with analytical people many of whom would find a relaxation induction boring and uneffective, and the handshake technique I find ethically dubious so have deliberately avoided it) but they are all useful to know. I primarily use a conversational induction (I will be writing a separate blog about this so keep an eye out) as a base and then “freestyle”, tailoring my approach specifically to the individual I am working with. I can incorporate standard techniques or develop new ones on the fly based on my years of experience and understanding of how the underpinning principles of hypnosis work and how I can use them to my advantage. It’s liberating, great fun, and best of all – very effective!
This is a simple, straightforward and commonly used technique where the hypnotist encourages the subject to relax, often via a variation of the “progressive relaxation induction” which is basically exactly what it sounds like. Often the hypnotist will suggest that the subject relaxes each part of their body independently – talking them through systematically relaxing their head, jaw, shoulders…and so on and so forth until every part of their body is relaxed. Hypnotists often suggest that subjects relax their minds and try not to think.
Pros: Very popular technique that works well with the majority of people. Gentle and unrushed.
Cons: Doesn’t work well with analytical people as they tend to find it boring and predictable. Can take a long time.
- Handshake Technique
This rapid induction technique was made famous by Milton Erikson. It uses a “pattern interrupt” technique by disrupting what is considered a common social norm (in this case a handshake). The idea is that by interrupting a social action so common it’s practically automatic/muscle memory (usually by tugging the subjects hand as they reach out to shake hands), the subconscious is shocked/knocked off balance and momentarily more vulnerable/open to suggestion, giving the hypnotist an opening to give suggestions to direct the mind in the desired direction (e.g. a suggestion issued in a commanding voice to trance, followed up with softer repetitive guidance and reassurance).
Pros: Works incredibly quickly; very dramatic so great for performances.
Cons: Some hypnotists attempt without obtaining prior consent; the “shock” of the induction can be uncomfortable for some people.
This is another commonly used technique for inductions. The idea is that you get the client to visualise a safe, peaceful place and focus on the details. Some hypnotists will use guided imagery to reinforce the trance – e.g. descending a staircase. Typically the hypnotist will describe the scenario that the subject is to imagine (e.g. a beach, walking through a forest, floating in a sea…whatever it is) and the subject is expected to follow along and immerse themselves in the visualisation. The idea is that the subject will become more relaxed and will begin to enter trance as they follow the hypnotists guidance and immerse themselves in the scene they are being encouraged to visualise.
Pros: A gentle, relaxing technique;Easy to learn the basics from a hypnotists perspective; works well with the majority of people.
Cons: Inexperienced hypnotists can get overly confident and reliant on the technique without fully understanding or appreciating how or why it works; hypnotist could inadvertently use imagery that is uncomfortable for the client (e.g. talking about water and sinking when the client has a fear of drowning); often a boring technique for analytical people as it’s predictable and slow.
- Arm Levitation Technique
A classic Ericksonian technique. You begin by asking the client to close their eyes and then ask them to allow themselves to become aware of a difference in feeling between their arms. Some hypnotists will direct and use/incorporate visualisation techniques (e.g. “imagine a red helium balloon tied to your right arm, lifting it higher”). Others are more permissive (e.g. “I want you to allow yourself to become aware of one arm feeling lighter than the other. Allow your mind to focus on how light that arm feels. I don’t know if it is your left arm or your right arm that is feeling lighter and lighter, but I know you know which arm it is, don’t you?”). Either way, the end result is that the arm lifts. You can also incorporate the dropping of the arm as a deepener (as the arm drops you will go deeper into trance. Once your arm settles in your lap you will be deep in trance).
Pros: Technique is a good “convincer” (proof to client that they are in trance); tried and tested technique developed by a true pro.
Cons: Tricky balance for new hypnotists between being confident and over-confident; takes skill and experience to not panic if client doesn’t respond as anticipated – can catch out inexperienced hypnotists.
- Eye Fixation
The client is encouraged to focus their attention solely on a particular object/point (either asked by hypnotist to choose themselves – e.g. a particular spot on the wall – or directed to focus on something specific either static or moving). A common example would be a pocket watch. The swinging watch keeps the conscious mind occupied, leaving the conscious mind open to suggestion (there are also other techniques that can be incorporated into swinging objects that can encourage trance but I don’t want to destroy all the mystery!).
Pros: Very common technique – well known and works for a lot of people purely because they associate hypnosis with swinging watches. The power of the mind at work!; Easy to master for the hypnotist – a very simple induction that plays a lot on people’s assumptions of hypnosis and how it works.
Cons: Not enough to always appropriately engage an analytical mind; can perpetuate common misconceptions about hypnosis and how it works.
What are your thoughts on the list I’ve compiled? Any favorites? Techniques I’ve missed out? I’d love to hear what you think so share your comments below.