Hypnosis is what happens when a person’s conscious awareness stops paying attention enough that things start to fall out of their awareness and as a result they cannot fact-check the incoming information. If this information is structured correctly, it flows into their mind unimpeded.
The hypnotized person is known as a subject or hypnotee.
Hypnosis happens automatically as a part of day-to-day life, and can be induced by a hypnotist with a hypnotic induction.
What is a trance?
Trance is a set of mental states that hypnosis subjects sometimes go into in which they are focused on just one thing. Deeper trance states may be characterized by things like feeling zoned out, an altered perception of time and reality, and a sense that the body and mind are operating outside of the subject’s control.
Hypnosis subjects may be led into trance states through various hypnotic inductions.
Generally speaking, subjects tend to only notice the deeper trance states brought on by overt hypnosis. Most subjects do not notice light trances or those induced through covert hypnosis.
Hypnosis in day-to-day life
Hypnosis is all around us all the time.
Whenever we become caught up in a task, or daydream and lose track of where we are, that’s hypnosis.
Some forms of day-to-day hypnosis are so common and well-recognized that they have names, such as highway hypnosis, daydreaming, and advertising.
Types of hypnosis
Broadly speaking, hypnosis can be classified into four categories: Overt, covert, direct and indirect.
When most people think of hypnosis, they are thinking of direct, overt hypnosis.
Overt hypnosis happens when the hypnotist engages in a form of hypnosis that a regular person can clearly identify as hypnosis.
It is typically comprised of a hypnotic induction, hypnotic suggestions, and bringing the subject back out again.
When a regular non-hypnotist would be unable to identify that what is happening is hypnosis, this is covert hypnosis.
There are countless ways to carry out covert hypnosis, including sales and marketing, storytelling, novels, movies, and TV shows.
Direct hypnotic suggestions
A direct hypnotic suggestion occurs when the hypnotist gives clear instructions, the intent of which a regular person would be able to understand.
Examples of direct hypnotic suggestions include:
Every time you hear me say the word HYPNOSIS, you will stand up and shout HYPNOSIS IS FAKE as loud as you can.
You will find that it’s easier to focus and think clearly now.
When you think back to this session, you will find that the beneficial changes we’ve made will only get better.
The key characteristic here is that the subject is given a very clear instruction as to what will happen. Sometimes conditions are imposed about when and where it will happen.
Indirect hypnotic suggestions
An indirect hypnotic suggestion is one where the suggestion is implied rather than stated clearly.
Most hypnotic change work is carried out using indirect hypnotic suggestions, because it’s believed that this makes it more difficult for the subject to undo the changes they’ve asked for.
Formal hypnosis sessions
A formal hypnotic induction is comprised of a pre-talk, building rapport, the hypnosis induction, changes to the unconscious mind, bringing the subject back out again, and testing.
The hypnotic pre-talk and building rapport
The hypnotic pre-talk is designed to build confidence in the hypnosis subject that hypnosis is real and that the session is going to be successful, and to remove any fears the subject may have around being hypnotized.
Many people have beliefs around hypnosis that are completely inconsistent with reality. A lot of people are also afraid of hypnosis.
Because of the way that hypnosis works, many hypnotists believe that it’s important to repair at least some of these beliefs before the session even begins.
In the pre-talk, the hypnotist asks the subject about their experience with hypnosis, reframes any unhelpful beliefs that the subject may have, explains how the process works and what will happen in the session, and builds their confidence that the session is going to work effectively.
Many hypnotists will also use covert hypnosis to carry out much of the change work itself inside the pre-talk.
The pre-talk is also useful for building rapport, which is critical for a successful session.
By the end of the pre-talk, the subject should be convinced that hypnosis is real, should have any fears and doubts minimized, and should be ready to begin the formal induction.
The hypnosis induction
The hypnosis induction is where the subject believes that the hypnosis part of the session begins.
There are countless hypnotic inductions currently in use, ranging from very obvious overt inductions such as progressive relaxation, all the way through to covert inductions such as those found embedded within stories.
The purpose of the induction is to help the subject to put aside their ability to critically think about new information.
This is helpful because most problems that people have inside their minds are caused by inconsistencies between what they believe to be true and their perception of reality.
Depending on the hypnotist, the induction may include a separate deepener designed to intensify the trance state, or induction and deepener may be fully integrated.
Changes to the unconscious mind
Once hypnosis has been induced, the subject can more easily take on new information. This allows them to make changes to their own mind at the unconscious level.
The changes that are made can be anything from simple direct suggestions, through to more complex indirect suggestions, new behaviors (for example, not automatically going for a cigarette with coffee), and even changed memories of the past.
Bringing the subject out of hypnosis
The subject is usually brought out of hypnosis by working through a shorter version of the induction in reverse.
Many hypnotists will wake up the subject by counting them up at the end to ensure that they are wide awake and fully out of hypnosis.
When changes have been made, it is critical to test these changes as soon as the subject is out of hypnosis.
This serves 2 purposes: It reinforces the changes, and it gives the hypnotist a chance to fix anything that didn’t quite work before the subject leaves. Both of these lead to significant increases in success rates.