What is hypnosis Part 4, Trance and Hypnosis

Lets talk about trance and hypnosis now.

I mentioned earlier that sensory deprivation tanks help enhance imagination. I also theorized that this is the basis of dreaming (we are disociated from external reality much like in a sensory deprivation tank).

And it’s quite simple. The less external input someone has, the more they can respond to other input.

And so based on that, let’s give a very simple definition of hypnosis.

Hypnosis is when the subject checks out of other stimulus and checks in to the hypnotist.

And it’s not about conscious concentration… it’s about focus below the level of consciousness. All those automatic patterns and responsiveness, thats what we want focused and responsive to us.

There are a few ways of creating that. One obviously is when they respond to your suggestion. That creates a forward momentum of them checking in to you and checking out of other stuff.

Another way is by ‘deepening’. As a good subject once mentioned in an online discussion group, that can often creates a stronger and more absolute focus/fascination/responsiveness on the hypnotist.

Focus/fascination/absorption/responsiveness is a zero sum game. When two stimuli conflict (the physical heaviness of the arm vs the suggested lightness) one will win. The more we can dissociate the subject from external reality and stimuli, the more ‘space’ there is for the hypnotist to take over.

And so dissociation from external stimuli (trance) and association to the hypnotist (‘hypnotic’ trance) CREATES higher responsiveness to suggestion.

And thats why a lot of subjects get very still. Very not-smooth in their speech and behavior as well. All of those automatic and not-conscious response patterns are now dissociated to the normal external reality they usually respond to and are now responding to the hypnotist.

This is what the old time hypnotists called rapport. Responsiveness to the hypnotist to the detriment of other responsiveness.

And thats why emotion is so useful. When we are emotionally aroused, all of our responsiveness (the not-conscious patterns as well) become focused. And so it’s quite easy to hijack that focus and responsiveness and place it on the hypnotist.

Your thoughts?

What is Hypnosis Part 3, James Tripp Responds

Here is a recent discussion James Tripp and I had via email.

James is a master hypnotist and changework artist. Go check out his work. It will be well worth your time and money.

What do you think?

James Tripp:

OK, I think we are on a similar page (maybe).

I would agree that state shifts are part of hypnosis… that state shifts must happen, otherwise NOTHING has happened! For me, hypnosis is the process of shifting/attenuating/amplifying ‘state’… although it is really the experienced reality that is my focus rather than the state.

I totally agree that that dissociation thing just isn’t it. If anything, ASSOCIATION is what is more important! How richly the subject associates into the experience.

I agree also that dreams are not a special thing – IMO they are our brain doing what it does all day long, shaping our experience. When we ‘dream’ the external data-feed is switched off so we can spin out more creatively. In hypnosis the external data-feed is not always switched off, but we do get to influence what data is paid attention to, and also how it is interpreted. We can utilise it and make it part of a new experience of reality. So state shifts as attention shifts.

Al the very best


My response:


It’s dissociation from one stimulus and association into another. Responsiveness is a zero sum game.

The thing is that dissociation from external experience (while maintaining awareness) IS a special state (measurable on a brain scan) sometimes. It’s called REM and hypnogogia.

And so it’s entirely possible that using suggestion and relaxation we can is some cases put someone into that measurable state. Hence they tune out unimportant external stimulus (anything but the hypnotist), and the hypnotist becomes their reality.

You (James) do it primarily by increasing association to the hypnotist. As a side effect they dissociate from external things. Awareness is a zero sum game. Jon (Chase) however goes the other way. He dissociates them from external things. Then there is the space for the hypnotist to be reality.

As REM is a special state, Jon sees this level of dissociation from external reality to also be a special state. A bit ‘lighter’ then sleep, but quite close. As Elman says.

And so realize that relaxation helps you! It dissociates them from external stuff and therefore they can associate into you the hypnotist. Thats also the idea of ‘deeper deeper’. It means ‘deeper inside and away from regular external existence’. That creates space for the hypnotist.

And so we’re all one happy family!


Hypnosis Against Someones Will

Perhaps one of the most asked questions that I get as a hypnotist is “can you hypnotize someone to so something against their own will?”

It’s a good question, an important question, but a very poorly worded question.

Here’s why. Hypnotists are very good with words, frames, and manipulating your perception of reality. And so once you ask a question that leaves certain abstract concepts like ‘hypnosis’ ‘will’ ‘against’ and ‘do’ open, that leaves space for the hypnotist to manipulate the answer to imply what he wants you to believe and still say ‘the truth’.

And so here is the question reworded. Without any wiggle room. If you want to know the answer to that big question, here is how you ask it…

-Say it’s 1980 and the USA and the USSR and at war. You live in Moscow. You are Russian, but you love the good ‘ol USA. You have just secretly found out that Colonel Alex (a committed Russian patriot who believe the USA is the root of all evil and must be destroyed) has punched in the launch codes to nuke the USA. The nukes will launch tomorrow at 12PM unless you get the redirect codes out of him. If you do punch in the redirect codes, the nukes will be rerouted to Colonel Alex’s home town and will kill his family. It’s your only option.

Here are 3 scenarios.

1. Colonel Alex has come to you the hypnotist for nail biting. You have just tested for name amnesia and it has worked as far as you can tell.

2. Colonel Alex has come to you the hypnotist for nail biting. It’s the beginning of the session, and you have no idea as to his level of commitment, his capability as a subject, or his ability to follow instructions.

3. You meet Colonel Alex in a bar. You can’t mention hypnosis, mentalism, or magic, as Alex has been warned to never speak to a hypnotist, mentalist, or magician.

In each scenario, out of 10 random times, in how many would you be able to get the launch codes out of Alex? You have no knives or guns with which to threaten him. You also are a lot weaker then him physically. He also knows that you aren’t authorized to get the codes no matter what you tell him.

Here are my answers.

Scenario 1 9/10
Scenario 2 6/10
Scenario 3 2/10

What are yours?

Comment and share.

What is Hypnosis Part 2, De-constructing Heap

Michael Heap has written a wonderful article on hypnosis. You can find it here.

I think that it’s a wonderful article. Heap comes very very close to understanding hypnosis.

In light of my recent understandings I’ll now show where he’s wrong.

Read the Heap article first. Without it you won’t quite understand what I’m talking about here.


Heap talks about the importance of automaticity. And thats great. However he struggles to understand how that automaticity is created. Here is a quote

“There appears to be a consensus amongst academic psychologists who study hypnosis that any theory of hypnosis must account for the subjective experiences of involuntariness and realism that the suggestible subject finds so powerful.

One line of approach that is now popular is to consider that when responding to suggestion, the highly suggestible person is able to exclude from conscious awareness elements of the experience that would normally be available to consciousness. For example, when I raise my arm I am conscious of my arm lifting up and my intention to lift my arm. If however I am able to exclude from conscious representation my intention to lift my arm, it will seem to me that my arm is “lifting on its own”, i.e. involuntarily.

Similarly, if I am given the suggestion that my best friend is standing in front of me, I may make the effort to imagine him, to think of his voice, to imagine my feelings on seeing him, and so on. If I can remove from consciousness awareness the effort and intention that I make in creating this experience, then it will seem more like my friend is really there. To develop these ideas we can and indeed must – use models and theories from mainstream cognitive psychology and neuroscience.”

So Heaps solution to automaticity is the exclusion from awareness that I am choosing to do the act.

I find this absurd.

Classic conditioning has long ago proven that we can condition a reflex. And so if I hit your knee with a hammer a few times and at the same time I ring a bell, and then I only ring the bell, it will automatically and involuntarily twitch (Twitmyer, E. B. (1905). Knee jerks without simulation of the patellar tendon. Psychological Bulletin2, 43.)! In that case you don’t postulate that the person has decided to twitch the knee but has excluded that knowledge from awareness. Salter (1941) talks about using classical conditioning to condition pupil dilation. Would Heap argue that this is also voluntary but excluded from conscious awareness?!

And so once we have shown true automaticity, let me give you another example. One which Heap brings earlier in the paper.

The lemon test. If you imagine a lemon vividly enough you start to salivate.

I once again ask, is the secretion of saliva a voluntary act which you excluding from conscious awareness?!

Now of course you voluntarily imagined the lemon which then led to the saliva, but the saliva itself is involuntary. Salivating is something you can’t do it voluntarily and on command!

And so we have proven a key key point. And that is “If I imagine a context for which there is an appropriate response, that response will involuntarily be elicited”. And so you can’t vividly imagine the lemon without salivating. And therefore, so long as you imagine the lemon, the saliva is involuntary.

With that in mind, explaining an arm lift that happens without effort is rather simple. So long as you imagine a context in which that response is appropriate (helium balloons), the arm will respond with true automaticity.

Now lets take it further. Let’s say you imagine a context in which every response happens. Like the idea that the hypnotists is in full control. In that case, so long as you continued to imagine that, then responding to the hypnotist would be genuine, automatic, and involuntary. The only solution you would have would be to stop imagining that the hypnotist was in control.

And so here is the final step. Lets say you imagined that the hypnotist is in control, and you also imagined that you have no control over any of your imagining. In that case, there would be an automatic response of being unable to stop imagining this reality! And so you are genuinely and truly stuck! We have closed the door or stopping to imagine via imagination! We have closed the loop!

THAT is what hypnosis is. True honest automaticity.

Lets move on in Heaps words.

“Let me now describe three experiments and challenge you to think about the possible explanations in terms similar to those I have just described.

Hypnotically suggestible subjects when given the suggestion that they cannot see a chair in front of them may report convincingly that they cannot see anything. Yet when asked to walk across to the other side of the room they walk around the chair. People who are told that they must only ‘pretend to be hypnotised’ usually bump into the chair (Orne, 1962).

Secondly we suggest to some very suggestible subjects that they can no longer hear their own voices. In the case of those who respond to this suggestion we then ask them to speak into a microphone that is connected to an amplifier and a pair of headphones that the subject wears. The amplifier causes a delay of say half a second in the subject’s speech that he hears through the headphones. This is called ‘delayed auditory feedback’ and it is very difficult for people to speak coherently when at the same time they are hearing their voices delayed for a fraction of a second

What happens to those subjects who insist that they cannot hear their voice? With delayed auditory feedback their speech is disrupted as under normal conditions (Barber & Calverley, 1964)!

Finally, subjects learn a list of words and are then told that they cannot remember any of these words until a signal is given. Some very suggestible subjects may report complete or almost complete amnesia for the words. However they still show a characteristic electroencephalographic response when presented with words that appeared on the list Allen, Iacono, Laravuso, & Dunn, 1995; Schnyer & Allen, 1995) and this material still interferes with the subjects’ recall of another list of words that was not included in the amnesia suggestion (Coe, Basden, Basden & Graham, 1976).

Some people think that the results of these experiments indicate that these very suggestible subjects are simply pretending. With no other evidence this is the best explanation. However, the further evidence that has accumulated has led most researchers to reject this explanation, although it is still entirely possible that some subjects may be pretending.

What seems to be happening in each of these experiments is that very suggestible subjects have the ability to exclude from consciousness awareness the explicit representation of the stimulus – hearing their voice, seeing the chair, or recalling the list of words. However, these stimuli are still implicitly registered in their behaviour and thinking in the usual way – their speech is affected by delayed auditory feedback, they avoid bumping into the chair, and the ‘forgotten’ material still interferes with new learning. This is a plausible way of understanding what is happening.”

Powerful stuff!

But there is a solution…

Here it is.

In every example he gives a suggestion presupposes awareness that contradicts the suggestion itself. If you tell me not to see a specific chair, then at some level I need to be aware of the chair in order not to see it! If I wasn’t aware of the chair at all, then how would I know what not to see? It’s like most of my clients who want their problem gone. But so long as that is their goal, they presuppose having the problem for eternity! You can’t know something is gone unless it exists at a minimum as an idea.

The same is true in the other 2 examples. In order for the subjects mind to process the suggestion, it has to be aware of what it’s supposed to be unaware of. Hence the ‘hidden observer’. The suggestion itself builds in that hidden observer!!

Here is how to really test it. Suggest that a subject is completely blind. Then see what happens.

Salter (1941 “What is Hypnosis”) talks about suggesting deafness and then firing a gun next to the subjects ear. The subject didn’t flinch.

Now if I’m correct (as the lemon test proves without doubt), that means we simply need to imagine a context vividly and the resulting response will be a hypnotic one.

This depends on 2 things.
1. A subject with a good imagination.
2. A hypnotist who gives good suggestions. Most hypnotists say ‘your arm is stuck’. Thats a bad suggestion (unless the subject has responded to that type of suggestion already). In that suggestion you hope the subject imagines your command to be true and therefore you get the result.
A good suggestion is one where you tell the subject to imagine the context “Imagine I’m in control of your reality”, and then ‘closes the door’ via imagination “imagine you are unable to control your imaginings, even this one”.

The rest is simple. The more we are dissociated from external reality, the better we imagine. As in a sensory deprivation tank, as in REM sleep. In hypnosis the subject is dissociated from external reality and very strongly associated to the reality of the hypnotist creating reality. Hence the zombie look you often see. It’s dissociation from external reality (excluding the hypnotist and what he suggests). And so an as I proved in Part 1.

Your thoughts?

Making your suggestions work

So you’re getting some simple trance effects like arm levitation and catalepsy. You’re even getting partial amnesia. But it seems like some suggestions just wont stick! What do you do now?

Well, it seems you’ve discovered a very very important thing. And that is that even after they are hypnotized, unless they are in somnambulism, you still have to give suggestions properly. Thats because they don’t fully understand what you want. However when they are in somnambulism they become very literal minded and so they take what you say at face value without needing to understand what you want.

Here are 3 key things you can do before they are in somnambulism so that they understand what you mean on all levels and your suggestions work even better.

1. Visualize the effect working and then describe what you see to them. This is crucial. If you want an arm stuck using glue, visualize and imagine completely that your arm is stuck with actual glue, and describe how that looks and feels to them. Describe how it feels to try to lift it. Describe it in the here and now. This is the most important thing in hypnosis.

2. Fit the suggestion into their world. If you have someone who has experienced real glue, the suggestion will work much better. If you get a stuck arm, then suggesting a stuck name will work much better. See where you can use what preexists to slot your suggestion in as a seamless extension of that. Use everything. Their past experiences in life, their experiences with what has worked. Don’t suggest new things, simply extend what already exists. Put some thought into that and how you can make that work. Leverage everything.

3. Say these magical words after you give a suggestion “if you understand that nod your head”. It really does work wonders.

Do these three simple things and you will find that your success with suggestions increases exponentially.

Happy trancing!



Just a few things we all know, and maybe organized a bit differently….

How is it that some of us think that all and any effects we get are voluntary and that our subject can remove his response to the suggestion at will , yet others seem to feel that once a suggestion has been accepted then we can create a situation where the subject has no choice but to follow?

How is it that many times our subjects say “yeah I was playing along”, when we fully know that not the the case?

The key here is somnambulism. If you don’t have it, then your subjects might get control over their responses. They might feel that their responses are voluntary. If you do have it, unless you suggest something that is a really bad idea, your subject will go along and have no conscious control over their actions. You can create a bulletproof PHS and have it work regardless of the subjects willingness.

If you aren’t getting somnambulism you’re missing the boat.

What is somnambulism?
I understand it to be full bypass of the critical factor. So a light or medium state of hypnosis would be where the subject has reduced his critical thinking and analysis of your suggestions. Somnambulism is where there is zero critical factor and analytical interference.

How do we get it?
Some people (20%) will go there by themselves on the first go around. Those are the times we get some new dude who tries hypnosis and come back reporting that they got immediate invisibility and freeze effects. The lucky guy got one of those magic 20%.
For the other 80% we have to TRAIN them how to get to that state. It’s not a state that many of us are used to hanging out in, although it is extremely useful for learning new things. When you learn a new skill from an expert it is very helpful to put that analysis on hold completely until you have the skill down well.
How do we train them? Ah! This is the key question. The Elman induction is a great tool for this. The disappearing numbers are a state of blank non critical analysis. When we get them to the point where the #’s are gone they are by definition in somnambulism.

Remember to always go for somnambulism and you’ll find that it’s rather simple and well well worth the effort.