The Critical Factor, more correctly known as the Critical Faculty, is the part of the human mind that performs fact-checking to filter reality. In hypnosis we usually move the critical factor out of the way to prevent interference. This is achieved by lulling it into a false sense of security, overloading it, or inducing a shock to bypass it completely.
Since we hypnotists tend to refer to this as the critical factor, that’s what we’ll stick with here.
What Is The Critical Factor?
The Critical Factor functions as a filtering mechanism that prevents unwanted junk from making its way into our belief system and unconscious mind. It compares stuff coming in from our senses with our knowledge base of the universe and throws out anything that does not fit.
While our brains are powerful, they have significant processing limits which can lead to glitches. They compensate for this by having a mechanism that fact-checks incoming information.
The critical factor is important in hypnosis because most often the changes that we’re trying to lead our subjects through are inconsistent with their current beliefs about their own reality.
There’s an extremely simple reason for this: If these changes weren’t inconsistent with their current beliefs, they would probably have already solved the problem.
Most people only come to hypnotists for help when they’ve exhausted all other options.
So when we want to help someone to make some kind of change with hypnosis, it’s important to take the critical factor into account.
If we want a hypnotic change to be effective, we either have to move the critical factor to one side to prevent interference, or we have to find a way to get it fully onboard.
Luckily the critical factor suffers from the same extreme resource limitations as the rest of the brain, so it’s easy to move out of the way, when you know how.
There is a simple principle that explains the behavior of the brain that’s useful to keep in mind: Most things our brains do are there to help us to survive in the wild.
Most things our brains do are there to help us to survive in the wild.
Lull The Critical Factor To Sleep
The easiest way to knock the critical factor offline is by leading the hypnosis subject through a series of steps designed to instill a sense of safety and security.
The human brain likes to conserve resources as much as possible.
This manifests in various ways. For example, most people will never bother to fact-check things that are already inside their minds.
One of the purposes of the critical factor is keeping us safe. So whenever there is any kind of perceived threat, our brain more-or-less instantly switches it over to working on that.
If there’s no threat, and we’re not having to do anything that requires critical thinking, our brains will try to conserve energy by temporarily shutting down our fact checking.
This means that one way to get around the critical factor is by simply helping our subject to feel safe.
There are lots and lots of ways we can do this.
This is partially the basis of how things like the progressive relaxation induction work. When we build agreement and rapport, that also typically helps our subjects to feel safe.
If you like, you can use Barnum Statements to help your subjects feel good about themselves, which also helps them to feel safe.
Other options include things like using a flat, monotonous voice (I never use this one) and simple hypnotic deepeners like the staircase deepener.
The safer our subject feels, the more their critical factor will tend to not interfere.
Naturally, their environment also plays a part. Being somewhere quiet and free of interruptions helps a lot.
The Critical Factor Overload
The most reliable way to bypass the critical factor is by giving the hypnosis subject so much to do that they do not have the resources to track all of it.
Most of the time, the universe doesn’t try to deceive us very much, and our brain resources are quite limited, so our conscious minds can only check a tiny number of things at once.
Since our working memory can only handle between 5 and 9 things at most, as hypnotists it’s usually safe to assume that if we arrange things so that our subject is trying to keep track of more than 9 things, their critical factor will be safely out of the way.
In reality, we usually don’t need anything like that many things.
I’ve found that typically it’s enough to have them try to track as few as 3 or 4 things at the same time.
This is partially because in building rapport and helping them to feel safe, their critical factor has already been either partially or completely taken offline.
To overload their critical factor, all you have to do is direct their attention to various things.
I usually find it’s easiest to start off by moving their attention around their bodies, and then out into the things around them.
After a few iterations, they are typically very deep into hypnosis.
The beauty of overloading your subject’s critical factor is that you can literally just keep on doing it until they are as deep as you’d like them to be.
There are so many things in the universe that we never run out of options.
This is also how things like speaking quickly, and rapidly moving someone’s attention around works.
The Shock Bypass
The fastest way to work around the critical factor is by delivering some kind of shock to the hypnosis subject to instantly consume all of their attention.
Our brains come with a wonderful alerting system that instantly switches our attention to anything they perceive as some kind of danger.
And quite naturally, until our attention is on the thing in question, we have no way to know if it is actually a danger, or something else entirely.
This means that if we know what kinds of things will instantly grab the attention of our alerting system, we can use them to steal the attention of someone’s critical factor.
The possibilities here are near endless.
When you tell someone a joke, the punchline is exactly this kind of shock.
The surprise momentarily knocks them off kilter.
It’s the same thing with the handshake induction, in which we pretend we’re going to shake someone’s hand, then pull downwards at the last moment and give them a command like SLEEP to drop them into hypnosis while their critical factor is otherwise engaged.
To bypass the critical factor with a shock, deliver the shock by whatever means, follow up immediately with a command to go into hypnosis (usually the word sleep spoken as a command is enough), and continue on into the hypnotic deepener of your choosing.
The shock bypass is the single fastest way to get people into hypnosis.
How fast? I hear you ask.
Would you believe under a second?
It’s literally as close to instant as is possible.
There’s just one tiny problem.
Timing is everything. And you only get one shot at it.
If it fails, many people will laugh at you.
To work around that, practice with people a lot, and always flow directly into a deepener immediately afterwards.
Hook The Conscious Mind
As an alternative to knocking the critical factor offline, it’s possible to frame things in such a way to get it onboard with whatever we’re doing.
Naturally this is a lot more challenging than simply shoving the critical factor out of the way.
That said, it’s definitely a skill worth having.
Rather than having to bypass the conscious mind and critical factor, you pull in their resources to help with your hypnosis.
When we do this, we tend to get even better results.
There’s a problem though.
In order to do it, we have to frame things in a way that appeals to both the conscious mind and the unconscious mind.
At the same time.
I’ve found that the easiest way to do this is to get the conscious mind fascinated in what’s going on.
As you might imagine, there are a lot of ways to fascinate someone.
One tool that I really like for helping people to become fully absorbed is clean language.
Clean language is a simple and powerful framework that anyone can learn. It was designed to help people extract and explore their own metaphors for just about anything.
That might not sound like much.
As it turns out, when people navigate their own metaphors, a level of dissociation is introduced that makes it easier for them to implement any changes.
Not only that, but rapport and agreement become almost effortless.
Out of all the hypnosis tools and techniques I know, clean language is one that I use in just about every hypnotic interaction.