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hypnotised against their will

Hypnotised against their will

I had this enquiry today:

Is it true that people could be hypnotised against their will? Is it just a myth? And how do mentalists hypnotise people within few minutes?

I replied:

It depends what you mean by hypnotized. Hypnosis takes many forms. Hypnosis has been defined as the art of planting suggestions into someone else's mind. The most common form of this of course, is advertising. When you are watching television, you are relaxed and your mind is open. At that point advertisers push their message into your brain suggesting that you buy their product. You didn't ask for this, you didn't agree to it, and it is inserting an idea into your mind against your will. People say they don't respond to advertising, but advertisers wouldn't do it if it didn't work. So yes, people can be hypnotised against their will.

If you're thinking of formal hypnosis, then no, you cannot hypnotise anyone who knows that you are trying to hypnotise them. If I know someone is trying to hypnotise me, all I have to do is repeat "NaNaNaNa" over and over in my mind and that will blank out whatever they are saying.

Hypnosis is a normal and natural process. We all go into hypnosis many times a day. Any time you daydream, any time you drive home and can't remember how you got there, any time you are lost in a computer game or a good book, you have been hypnotised. It is actually very easy to do.

All you have to do is to get people to focus on something and suggest that they stay focused on that you suggest that they are getting relaxed and tired and sleepy. Most people will go into trance within two or three minutes. It is no big deal. It certainly is not any kind of mystery.

You can learn to hypnotise people after an hour's training and study. The simplest methods will take ten minutes to put someone into trance. Faster methods will take less than a minute. It depends what you want to do after they are hypnotised.

However, nobody can be made to do anything they wouldn't normally do. You cannot go down to the bank and tell the manager to give you all their money and forget about it. It just doesn't happen. You can't tell a girl to fall in love with you. It doesn't happen. You cannot tell a girl to take her clothes off. That doesn't work either. Millions of men have tried it, and have failed every time.

So yes, you can hypnotise people against their will. But you cannot make them do anything that they wouldn't do when fully awake.


How would you deal with this ? Share your ideas below.

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placebo effect of hypnosis

Placebo effect of hypnosis therapy

I got this email from a hypnotherapist in the UK:

Some time back I ordered the whole collection of your scripts. I find myself coming back to them over and over again because they are just so excellent. Clients have commented very favorably, which is so rewarding for me.

I wondered if I can ask you for your suggestions regarding a new client who I will see next week? He talks of having a 'low mood' most of his life. He has seen many counselors over the years and said 'counselling didn't work at all' (said he hated CBT and filling in forms). He is adamant he wants hypnotherapy this time which he hasn't tried before.

In our brief phone conversation, he mentioned the following things: general low mood as the most pressing problem, mentioned 'depression' but not diagnosed, no sleep issues, is able to function well enough in the workplace, is anxious at times as well, part of him is always thinking and analyzing everything, often has a sense of hopelessness. He felt quite depressed about a year ago when a relationship ended. However he is now in a new relationship which is going well. He wants to rid himself of the low mood once and for all. He does not want to consider taking medication. He has always been very physically active because he knows that exercise helps him.

Perhaps this is a dysthymic disorder!

Anyway I really wanted to do the best I could for this chap and am asking for advice about which of the scripts in your opinion would be most likely to benefit him to get us started.



I replied:  This guy definitely has depression. All the classic symptoms are there.

What he needs is a lifestyle change, more exercise, better diet and training in how to deal with his negative thought processes. However, he either does these already or has ruled them out so your options are limited.

The leaves the only thing you can do for him is to teach him self-hypnosis. During that teaching you can plant suggestions as to how he should deal with his negative thinking patterns.

Explain the benefits of self-hypnosis - quieting the inner voice, instilling calm into his mind, resetting his feelings etc. Then show him how to put himself into trance. Teach him a fixed routine, e.g. muscle relaxation, breathing, stairs etc.

Placebo effect of hypnosis

The idea is to make his first experience of hypnosis real and immediate. By doing that you will be able to exploit the placebo effect of hypnosis. Hypnosis is a strange experience for most people. It is so strange, so unknown, so powerful that it can fix anything, For example, many smokers stop because hypnosis felt so weird that it must have done something to them. The hypnotist just suggests that they right: now they can stop smoking. So, now that they believe they can stop, they do stop.

Take him through all the standard exercises of eye catalepsy, finger lifts, dissociation and so on. Use the whole range of hypnotic convincers. Then get him to open his eyes while in trance and leave all the rest of his body frozen. This will convince him of the power of the mind and he will follow whatever you say.

Put in some suggestions about challenging his thinking, getting out and about, recognizing his triggers, etc. Then bring him out of trance. Tell him to go back into the state all by himself. Coach him some more if necessary.

Then leave it up to him. Tell him you have provided the tools. He now knows how to hypnotize himself so he can control his anxiety. It is up to him to apply them and he can come back to see you anytime he feels he should.

That should improve the client's outlook, and do a lot of good therapeutically.


What would you recommend to help this type of client?

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three positive things

Three positive things every day for wellness

Therapists often get too involved in theory. We make things more complicated than they need to be. We tend to overthink things. It is easy to come to the conclusion that the world is full of difficult problems.

Sometimes the simplest things are the best. Your mind pays twice as much attention to negative things as it does to positive things. This is the mechanism behind gloomy thinking, pessimism and depression. Because of that, we all need to focus twice as much on the positive events in our life. Every day, make sure you see the good as well as the bad.

Three positive things to make you feel better

One of the great things we can do for clients is to give them simple rules that they can use to improve their lives. There is one simple habit that really works. Encourage the client to write down at the end of every day three things that happened to them that were good.

These do not have to be super wonderful things, anything will do. For example, seeing a lovely flower display, getting to the bus stop just as the bus arrives, a kind act by someone at work - anything. When you look out for the three things it makes you more aware of all the good things that actually happen in your life.

The simple act of writing  down three positive things seems to impress them on the brain. People who do write down the three positive things become more resilient. You get a more cheerful attitude after only a few days. And doing it for longer makes it automatic. You will learn to focus on the positive.

What do you think?

Have you tried this? What ways do you use to cheer up your clients?

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PTSD and Depression

Explanation for PTSD and depression

I am reading a book that I think might contribute the theory of how hypnosis works in therapy. The book is In an Unspoken Voice: how the body releases trauma and restores goodness by Peter Levine. It might be an explanation for PTSD and depression.

Everyone will have seen an instant induction, where the hypnotist startles the client by shouting or pulling them off balance. It has long been known that this is the result of the parasympathetic nervous system putting the client into tonic immobility. The person goes limp, their eyes roll up into their head, their breathing changes, they are impervious to pain.

Origin of PTSD and Depression

The Levine book explains this as being one of the five bodily reponds to danger. When danger appears our body first goes tense and alert, then tries to run away, or if it can't run away gets ready to fight, if that isn't possible then the body freezes motionless, and when danger is imminent the final stage is tonic immobility, the body flops and becomes helpless.

So instead the Flight or Fight responses, we should be talking about Flight, Fight or Flop. The book's argument is that when a person is frightened they go through the five stages. What is interesting is that the book claims that when the body is so frightened that we freeze, unless we are able to find a way to unfreeze the fear, the result is PTSD. According to his theory PTSD is result of not coming out of the freeze state. The therapy is therefore to help the client release the old fear.

How therapies work

This makes sense to me, and explains why relaxation, reiki, grounding, and yoga work to relieve mental stress by relaxing the body. It also offers a basis for understanding how metaphor therapy works.

Perhaps the five stage theory also gives a basis for understanding the cause of depression. Depression is triggered by learned helplessness. If the response to relentless pressure and fear is tonic immobility, then this explains where the depression comes from. I am only part way through the book and this link has not been mentioned yet, so I am reading on with anticipation.

What do you think?

How do you deal with PTSD? What do you think causes these things?

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Words Memory Trance

Words Memory Trance Cure for Boredom

Words Memory Trance

Words Memory Trance are all connected. If you focus on a word for long enough it will lead you into the depths of your unconscious mind. Try it.

I am learning Spanish and I am therefore getting to know lots of strange words. Words are funny things. They have no meaning except what people give them. There is no particular reason why thunder should be the series of sounds we have all agreed to say to represent the sound that clouds sometimes make.

And yet I am in a business that depends on using the right words, and listening intently for particular words.

Words have no meaning

You can prove that words have no meaning quite easily. All you have to do is to repeat a word, any word, over and over. Quite quickly it will cease to have any meaning at all. It will seem totally strange to you. Technically, this is called 'semanic satiation". This is the basis of mantra meditation. By repeating a word or phrase you eventually dissociate from it, the word and its meaning separate, and your mind then drifts off into trance.

Another interesting experiment to do is to try to find out what a word means to you personally, your own personal sense of it. Take an abstract word, not something definite like the word kangaroo, but something you cannot picture directly. A word such as 'towards' or 'together'' or 'apply' or something else abstract. Even the word 'abstract' itself. Meditate on that word. A word like abstract might immediately bring up an image of some crazy modern painting. But you can continue to meditate on the word, and eventually you will find that you get other images and feelings that have to do with that word. It is quite an interesting process, watching your own mind at work.

A cure for boredom

There will be some words that do not produce an immediate image, such as 'towards', or 'close'. In that case meditate on your word, keep focusing on the word. At some point you will get an image, and it will probably be something associated with your early childhood. This is because these are words that could not be shown to you in a picture. They had to be demonstrated indirectly in some way. It probably took many attempts before you understood what that word meant. And most likely, what you get from your mind will be a memory of someone or something acting out your word.

So you never need to be bored again when you are waiting in the departure lounge.

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state dependent memory

State dependent memory

How to use state dependent memory in therapy

Have you ever walked into a room and forgotten why you went in there? Newly published research has shown that moving through a door affects your memory of what you did in the room before you moved out through the door. This is an example of state dependent memory. The things you did or thought in one place are anchored to things in  that place.  When you move away from that place, you leave the anchors behind. So you cannot recall what you thought and felt when the anchors were present. This has been known for a long time. It has been proved with school children. If  you teach them in a classroom and test them on the material, they will have better recall if the exam is held in the room they were taught in, rather than an exam room.

I used to be a diver. It is common among commercial divers for them to realize that they need a certain part to get the job done. But when they come out of the water they just cannot remember what it was they needed. The moment they plunge back in, the memory is there, fresh and clear.

Clients can be fixed in state dependent memory

State dependent memory affects much of what we do, and how we feel. Many of our clients are dominated by state dependent thinking. It is quite common that when you go home and visit your mother say, you change how you talk, how you behave and even how you think. These behaviors are anchored on the place or the person. The associations can be so strong that you will agree to do things that you would never have agreed to normally. But once you get outside you start kicking yourself.

Quite a lot of therapy depends on breaking state dependent memories. Going on holiday for a few weeks is a very good way of forcing the associations to go into extinction. When the triggers are not there, the behavior fades. Doing something completely different, like mountain climbing, or spending a few days on a tall ship does the same thing. This is why delinquent teenagers are sent away on brat camps. Being in completely different environment with different rules, breaks the associations that were triggering their bad behavior.

So sometimes the best thing we can do for a client is to encourage them to get out of the environment they are in. Maybe it applies to you too?

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false memories

False Memories Sexual abuse

False memories 

 You can go through your whole life blaming your own behavior on something that is not true. But if you act on false memories, they might as well be true.

I had a client today who reminded me of how pernicious and dangerous false memories are. This client was grossly obese. She told me that she used to be an alcoholic, she had eating problems all her life, she was unhappy and didn't know why.

When I asked her what she thought the reason was, she told me that she supposed it was all because she had been sexually abused. I asked when this had happened and she told me it happened at age two. I asked her how she knew that, since no one has any memory of being age two.

She said 'Well my mother told me'. I asked her what memories she had of the incident, and she said she didn't have any. I asked her 'So how do you know you were abused?' and she thought for a minute and then said 'Well, I suppose that I don't know'.

This woman has gone through her whole life being told that she had been sexually abused. It has affected everything she has done, every thought, every action. Now, I don't know if she really was abused or not, but it doesn't matter. If you don't remember being abused then effectively you weren't abused.

False memories are just as bad as real abuse

But what has happened is that every time she felt bad, every time she felt unable to cope with something, the same old reason was trotted out - 'Oh, it's because you were abused'. This belief, put there by other people, has prevented her from ever examining her own life objectively, from seeing things as they really are. The result is that she has had a belief that her life was ruined from the beginning, that there is no point in trying to improve. She blames the 'abuse' for whatever she feels, for every reaction. That has prevented her from ever getting to grips with the real source of her unhappiness.

I personally believe that child abusers should be strangled in the town square because of the damage they cause.  But the well meaning people who convince women that they were abused when they were not, are equally guilty. They  ruin just as many lives.

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NLP fast phobia cure

Why the NLP Fast Phobia Cure works

I learned the NLP Fast Phobia Cure many years ago. I have used it a lot. But nobody knows why it works. This book gives a reason.

I am reading, and rereading, the book by Peter Levine, In an unspoken voice. In his book Levine puts forward his theory that most psychosomatic and behavioural problems are the result of unresolved trauma. I am greatly impressed by this book because of the explanatory power of its underlying theory. It does not deal with hypnotherapy directly, but everything he puts forward as theory maps exactly on to what hypnotists do to fix their clients.

Why the NLP Fast Phobia Cure works

And bearing in mind that 'there is nothing as practical as a good theory' I keep finding insights into why standard hypnotherapy techniques work. The NLP fast phobia cure consists of taking the person to the edge of distress to the moment just before they will experience what they fear. Then they are encouraged to go through the experience visually. They see it happening very fast, then run it in reverse. Then they play with the images, making them bigger, smaller, distorted and so on.

This fits in perfectly with Levine's ideas. He says that when we have a traumatic experience and we are prevented from getting out of it, we freeze and dissociate, but the trauma remains within us. The only way to get rid of the frozen trauma is to work through the whole sequence of events slowly. That way you become aware of what is happening in your body. He says 'When we are able to slow down and experience all the elements of sensation and feeling that accompany our traumatic patterns, allowing them to complete themselves before we move on, we begin to access and transform the drives and motivation that otherwise compel us to re-enact traumatic events'.

The Fast phobia cure does exactly that. It allows the sufferer to control the speed at which events are experienced. You go through it all slowly and deliberately. So the NLP Fast Phobia Cure is actually the slow phobia cure.

NLP has never been able to provide a rational explanation for why the 'cure' works. I think that the Body Sensing theory explains it completely.

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Body Language

Body Language for Hypnosis Rapport

Body Language is what your client is telling you before they speak

Body Language is important for hypnotherapy. When I meet a client for the first time, I hand them my clipboard. I ask them to write down their name and email address. And while they are doing that I inspect them minutely and try to figure out what their body language is telling me. I look at their fingernails, bitten nails are a  sign of chronic anxiety; their hair, poor grooming suggests depression; how they are dressed, all dark colors suggest lack of confidence; their jewelry, loud or excessive jewelry suggests low self esteem - and so on.

Body Language - you cannot not communicate

People are signalling how they feel all the time. If you choose to pay attention you will learn that body language doesn't lie. NLP teaches that even when you are silent, you are communicating. How you stand, how you dress, how you arrange your feet, are saying something, whether you are aware of it or not.

I have had a fascination with body language most of my life. I get as much practice as I can, and not just with clients. Every time I am in a public place - on a bus, a hotel foyer, waiting in a shop - I spent the time studying someone. I am trying to learn what their actions, posture, clothes, expression, interactions with others is signalling to the world. Sometimes you get nothing much. But now and again their body language gives you a sudden insight into that person's life, what they feel, how they see the world. It is endlessly fascinating and when it is done right you get total rapport with the other person, you really understand how they feel.

After a while, you get a sense of general categories. I can now watch people go by, and think 'Depression', or 'Anxiety' or 'Unhappy marriage' just from the signals they are giving off. After a while it becomes automatic. It also gives you a much richer understanding of what is going on around you.

I recommend studying body language as a way to increase your rapport building skill with clients.

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Nervous Bowels

Nervous Bowels

Many people have Nervous Bowels. This client was a lovely woman, elegant, composed, and with a terrible secret. She gets immediate diarrhea every time she has to meet someone.

It is not uncommon for people to get shaky bowels whenever they think they're going to be judged. It happens to sportspeople just before they have to perform. Entertainers get it before they go onto the stage. Most people feel some sort of unpleasantness in their gut in the face of a stressful situation.

Living with nervous bowels

In this case the client had been pretending for years. She had a high level position in education and was widely respected for her skills. But she had been hiding the need to rush to the toilet every time she was introduced to someone. After some questioning, it became clear that this was not a normal case of stress induced diarrhoea. This woman could happily address the groups of people. She  had no problem with public speaking. She could facilitate small group meetings, and do it very well. Interacting with two people was OK also. But the prospect of talking to just one person sent her running for the bathroom.

After some investigation I discovered it was really about the fear that she would have to leave the other person alone. In her mind, this was unacceptably rude. So her fear was that she would be called away to something else and have to leave the other person on their own. It was really about what that other person would think of her for doing that.

I tried to get to the cause of this. She said she had a great childhood. She could find no reason for this anxiety. The only worry she could find was that she was very nervous about her own parenting skills. However I could not find any direct cause for why leaving one person alone should generate these feelings.

Treating nervous bowels

I decided to use metaphor therapy on her feelings of anxiety. I asked her to put yourself into the position of being forced to speak with one person. The objective was to get her to go into the state so that I could work directly on the feeling. She tried and could not get into the feeling without being there.

So I put her into trance. I did a simple metaphor therapy about allowing her unconscious mind to search for the source of the feeling. Her unconscious mind found the source of the feeling and pulled it out of its hiding place. Then her mind took that thing and broke it open. The contents turns to liquid. I told her the liquid was pouring down inside and leaking out through the soles of her feet until it was gone.

Clearing the problem

This metaphor triggered something, because she started crying. I use that to associate into her feeling of distress. I then asked her to focus on the feeling and describe what object it most resembled. She told me it was like a brown ball full of moving clouds of black. I worked on this representation and got her to shrink it. She was able to shrink it until it was the size of a golf ball. But she was completely unable to get it to go any smaller.

From experience, I know that this is her unconscious mind resisting my attempts to get rid of it. So I changed the metaphor.  I asked her if she had ever sliced a tomato. Slicing a tomato is something that everyone has done. It is easy and familiar. The moment that I said it, she was no longer stuck. She told me that she was now able to slice the golf ball. I then told her to think about dicing vegetables or something like that, as she got rid of the thing completely and she got rid of the thing completely.

I have no idea what the origin of the problem was, and neither does she. But by using metaphor therapy we were able to get rid of it completely.

The origin of her nervous bowels

After talking about the process and the outcome for a while, I asked again about her upbringing. Now that her unconscious mind had removed whatever it was, she told me a different story about growing up. It turned out that she had a not so good childhood. She had an adopted older brother who caused problems in the family and bullied my client. Her mother expected perfection, that my client felt she could never deliver. Her mother was into Guiding, and loved rules, and discipline, and expected nothing else from her children. I suggested that she didn't have to look very far to find the source of her anxiety, and she agreed.

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