In pocket watch hypnosis, the hypnotist uses a swinging or spinning pocket watch to induce hypnosis in their subject. This is a variation on the eye fixation hypnotic induction. Pocket watch hypnosis is generally only used to meet a subject’s expectations about hypnosis or to put on a show.
Look into my eyes.
Or at least, focus on this pocket watch. As it swings in front of you. Back and forth. And as you’re doing that, you might begin to notice those eyes starting to become heavy…
You don’t have to look far to find common hypnosis themes in popular culture. Most of these are nonsense, but it turns out that some have a grain of truth.
The pocket watch hypnotic induction is one such theme with a firm basis in reality.
Why Use Pocket Watch Hypnosis
There are 3 main reasons to use pocket watch hypnosis: To help people to believe they were hypnotized, as a visual effect for an audience, and as a backup induction to use when others have failed.
There are people out in the world who believe that a swinging pocket watch is required for hypnosis. And in these cases, if the hypnotist performs any other induction, some subjects will imagine that the induction failed even while they are exhibiting very clear signs of hypnosis.
Needless to say, it’s not good for business when your customers believe they weren’t hypnotized because they have some misguided beliefs.
To work around this, always ask your subjects about their experience and expectations around hypnosis before you start the formal hypnotic induction.
Then reframe any unhelpful beliefs that do not match reality so that they know what to expect.
In short: If your subject believes a pocket watch is required for hypnosis, either use one, or reframe their beliefs around that before you begin.
Now when you are putting on a show for an audience, a pocket watch can make a useful prop. Even though many people know that a pocket watch isn’t required for hypnosis, virtually everyone knows of the association.
Since they know about this association, the mere act of pulling out a pocket watch fires up those associated patterns in their brains. This can start to lead highly suggestible people along the pathway into hypnosis before you’ve really done anything at all.
How an Eye Fixation Hypnotic Induction Works
The eye fixation hypnotic induction works primarily by giving the subject a point of focus combined with a task that is complex enough to consume their working memory.
Hypnosis relies significantly on the subject’s ability to focus on just one thing at a time. And anything that can assist that subject in doing so will help them go into hypnosis.
When we swing a pocket watch in front of someone and have them track it closely with their eyes, they will consume significant mental resources. Their eyes will naturally start to become tired because people don’t habitually move them like that for very long at all.
Since the subject’s mental resources are largely consumed by following the pocket watch, suggestions from the hypnotist can slip in unnoticed.
Add in a regular hypnotic induction in which the hypnotist talks their subject through the process of following the watch, while suggesting hypnosis, and most will drop.
If you’d like to know more about how hypnosis works in general, check out my article on that very topic.
When to Use Pocket Watch Hypnosis
As a rule, use pocket watch hypnosis either only for show, or because the subject expects it. And of course, use it if you feel an affinity for it.
The simple truth is that anything we can do will consume at least part of a subject’s attention. So while a pocket watch can be effective, it is rarely needed.
Additionally, there are many circumstances where this kind of induction may be difficult or impossible to implement. For example, it cannot be used on a phone call unless the subject has a pocket watch of their own to swing.
Naturally, as a hypnotist, you can choose to make the pocket watch induction one of your go-to inductions and use it whenever possible.
And of course, it goes without saying that if someone specifically wants to be hypnotized by pocket watch, it’s the perfect time to do so.
Pocket Watch Hypnotic Induction Step-by-Step
1. Go Into Hypnosis Yourself
As with all hypnosis, the very first step is to go into hypnosis yourself.
This gives your subject something to model, and also allows you to unconsciously match your hypnosis with them. Timing is everything in hypnosis.
2. Build Rapport With Your Subject
Talk with your subject a little and garner their agreement to build some rapport. After a little while, start asking them about hypnosis and ask if they’d like to have an experience of it.
You can word this in just about any way that fits in with the conversation.
3. Give a Simple Pre-Talk
Most people out in the world have some very odd ideas about hypnosis that are inconsistent with reality.
Ask your subject what they know about hypnosis. If they raise any misguided beliefs about it, take a few moments to reframe each one.
While these beliefs won’t prevent hypnosis from working, they will usually prevent people from believing that they are experiencing it.
Talk a little bit about the pocket watch and how people can automatically go into hypnosis when the eyes follow things.
Ask your subject if everything you’ve just gone over makes sense. If you have trouble at this point, you can either clarify further, or say something like Would it be okay if I showed you something.
4. Ask Your Subject For Permission
Ask your subject if they are ready to experience hypnosis right now. Smile and gently nod your head while you do so.
5. Introduce Your Subject to The Pocket Watch
Hold the pocket watch in front of your subject and ask them to focus on it.
Ask them if they can see it clearly, and have them move closer or further away until they can.
Ideally you want the pocket watch to be close enough to them that their eyes move quite a bit when they track it. When starting out, aim for it to be no more than a couple of feet (half a meter) in front of them.
You can reinforce the illusion that something is about to happen and build more compliance by having your subject move their feet into a stable position.
Talk about the pocket watch and draw your subject’s attention to the various details. You can go into just about anything you like here. Ornate pocket watches can be purchased online for a handful of dollars including shipping. If at all possible, make sure you have one with lots of details for your subject to pay attention to.
6. Swing the Pocket Watch And Induce Hypnosis
Start swinging the pocket watch. As you do so, switch to your hypnotic voice and tell your subject to allow their eyes to follow the watch as it swings.
Suggest that their eyelids will begin to feel heavy and that they will feel like they want to close their eyes.
Tell them even though it’s difficult when their eyelids are so heavy, you want them to keep those eyes open and follow that swinging pocket watch for as long as possible.
Riff around the basic ideas of tracking the pocket watch, noticing the details, and their eyelids becoming heavier and heavier.
After anything from a few seconds to a couple of minutes, they will start to look like they are really struggling to keep their eyes open. When this happens, tell them to close their eyes and go all the way into hypnosis.
7. Deepen the Hypnotic State
Continue on into any hypnotic deepener you like.
If in doubt, tell them to imagine a staircase in front of them leading down to a room with a chair in the middle. Describe the staircase for a sentence or two, and tell them how many stairs there are. 10 and 11 tend to be good numbers of steps, but you can choose anything you like. Tell them to imagine their hand grabbing the rail, stepping down onto the first stair, noticing the details of the staircase, textures, colors, what it’s made of, and so on.
Count them from stairs 1 to 11 (or 10), riffing around the basic ideas of paying attention to the details and going deeper into hypnosis. As they get to the last few stairs, start talking about the room and chair as they come into their imagined view.
Then tell them to imagine walking across the room and sitting down in the chair, deep in hypnosis.
8. Do Stuff in Hypnosis
Congratulations! All going well, your subject is now in hypnosis.
At this point, you can do pretty much anything that is commonly done inside hypnosis sessions.
If you’re just starting out, give them some positive suggestions around feeling good, feeling confident, and so on.
You can also create a hypnotic trigger so that you can get them back to this state with a spoken phrase or the snap of your fingers in future.
9. Bring Your Subject Out of Hypnosis
To bring your subject out of hypnosis, talk them through the deepener in reverse, then tell them to come up out of hypnosis on the count of 3, and count them up. Make positive suggestions throughout this last part, finishing up with a command something like eyes open and back in the waking world or whatever particular turn of phrase you prefer.
Spend a few moments asking your subject about the experience they just had. Tell them that they did an amazing job and keep the enthusiasm going.
If you’ve installed any triggers, you can test them at this point.
Let me ask you a question.
How does a hypnotist know when someone is in hypnosis?
It’s not uncommon when starting out with hypnosis to run into people who claim they cannot be hypnotized.
Often they will do this while they are already showing very clear signs of trance.
The truth is that most people out in the world have no idea what hypnosis feels like.
Which means that they have no way to identify when they are in hypnosis.
If someone can’t even notice they are in hypnosis themselves, how on Earth is the hypnotist supposed to be able to tell?
As it turns out, there are many things you can look out for, that with a little practice, will allow you to look at someone and simply know they are in hypnosis.
If you’d like to get rid of any doubts you may have about whether your hypnosis is working…
Or if you’d like to be able to tell whether someone is in hypnosis just by looking at them…
Or even if you just want to continue to grow your knowledge of hypnosis…