Indirect Hypnotic Suggestions
Indirect Hypnosis Commands Stealth Covert Words
How to use Hypnosis Indirect Suggestions
Hypnotic words and phrases create compelling suggestions and hypnotic binds when they follow special patterns. The exact words for hypnotic suggestions can have a major effect on how the listener responds to the suggestion. Milton Erickson developed a technique known as the Milton Model for presenting ideas in hypnosis. This uses ambiguous words and phrases to put people into trance easily and quickly. But those words also need to be present in the framework.
The process of thinking about what the words actually mean deflects the mind away from the speaker, and causes the listener to 'go inside' briefly. The use of 'artfully vague' language causes the listener to search their mind for memories and matching experiences. This is what trance is - dissociating out of the present moment by dropping 'inside'. While in that state the listener is more receptive to the next words, and if those words do nothing to end that state then the client will quickly go into trance.
Once in trance, the unconscious mind does not analyse the words and phrases that it hears. Any consistent form of words that are presented will not be examined closely, and any suggestion is likely to be accepted and acted upon, even though an alert listener would reject the suggestion as illogical. The hypnotist can use these hypnotic words and phrases to bypass the critical faculty of the conscious mind.
Hypnosis Indirect Suggestions
In The Answer Within: a clinical framework of Ericksonian hypnotherapy Lankton and Lankton (1983) describe eleven types of indirect hypnotic suggestions that can be used in hypnosis. These are:
1. Open ended suggestions
These are vague and open to the widest range of interpretation. They are often used to prepare the client for a more specific suggestion. For example when the goal is to achieve eye closure, the open ended suggestion 'There are certain actions people do to make themselves ready' can be given. The natural response of the client is to try to make sense of the suggestion and so turn their attention inward to begin wondering what actions the hypnotist is talking about. Having induced the client to briefly enter an unconscious state, the hypnotist then has available a more receptive mind to follow up with a suggestion about eye closure.
These suggestions involve the deliberate use of presupposition, especially using time and number. 'The first thing people do when they go into trance is....' presupposes that the client will be going into trance as does 'Before you go into your trance...' does the same. 'I wonder which lesson will be the first into your conscious awareness?' To a certain extent, all indirect suggestion is based on suppositions.
3. Questions or statements that focus or reinforce awareness.
These questions operate on two different levels. Take the sentence 'I wonder whether you can feel your muscles begin to relax as you listen to my words'. On one level this can be read as a simple question, even a rhetorical question. On another level it invites the client to focus awareness on the process of relaxation. If it is followed by a statement such as 'You know, there are many ways to relax', this will reinforce the process already begun, without any direct instruction at all.
'You can take the good with the bad and learn from your mistakes'. Truisms are statements of the obvious. The are used to get the client to evaluate the truism, and to find that they agree with it. The next suggestion is then made while the agreement with the truism is still in mind, so it too will be accepted as true, even if its truth is not so obvious. Examples of truisms include 'People are happiest when they feel loved and needed'; 'There are times when everyone underestimates their own talent'.
5. Suggestions which cover all possible alternatives.
These are designed to make a suggestion with a 'fail-safe' for both client and therapist. They are a form of words where every alternative response, and even a non response, leads to an impression that the client is cooperating with the therapist. 'You can allow your mind to drift back to the age of five or six or later, or you may not be aware what age you have selected'. 'You may find your left hand starts to lift, or it may be your right hand, or your unconscious mind may decide to wait or to signal some other way'.
6. Appositions of opposites
This involves associating two actions which are changing in the opposite direction. It is normal to link one of the actions to the body and the other to the some psychological change. For example, 'As the heaviness in your body increases, the weight of your arm decreases'. 'The more tense you feel at the beginning, the deeper your level of trance will be by the end'.
7. Binds of comparable alternatives
A bind offers the client a choice between two or more essentially similar alternatives. Whatever choice the client makes leads to a therapeutic outcome. Simple binds are easily formed by posing questions that apparently give the client a free choice. 'Would you prefer to go into a trance with your eyes open or closed?'. 'I wonder if it will be your left hand that rises up towards your face, or the right hand?'. The question presupposes the action and gives the illusion of choice.
8. Conscious/Unconscious double binds
By definition, the conscious mind cannot control the unconscious mind. However, the client can be educated into believing that there are two parts to the mind, and that doing something consciously implies doing something else unconsciously. The therapist presupposes that the client has an unconscious mind and imputes powers and abilities to it. The key is for the therapist to use words which suggest that the unconscious is split from the conscious mind and thus causes the client to dissociate from the conscious mind. Erickson used the example 'If your unconscious mind wants you to enter trance, your right hand will lift. Otherwise, your left hand will lift'. In developing trance the double bind 'Your conscious mind may wonder about the right level of trance while your unconscious mind develops the depth of trance you need' allows the client to dissociate themselves into trance.
9. Double dissociative conscious/unconscious double binds
This type of bind is just a more complex version of the single bind but is easy to create since it follows a standard pattern. It uses the same conscious/unconscious distinction in the format of 'your conscious mind can X, while your unconscious mind can Y; or your unconscious mind can X while your conscious mind does Y. Converting the example above gives: 'Your conscious mind may wonder about the right level of trance while your unconscious mind develops the depth of trance you need; or you unconscious mind can decide on the level while your conscious mind thinks about how to develop the trance'. The more complex wording causes the client's mind to become confused and to more readily accept the therapeutic alternatives.
10. Reverse conscious/unconscious double binds
This category is mostly used where the client is offering resistance or presenting behaviour that is counter to the induction and requires a degree of skill to utilize in therapy. The process starts by challenging the client on their behaviour and thus defining the relationship on which the client should concentrate. This binds the client's conscious mind at one level while opening up the possibility of a response at the psychological level. Suppose a client refuses to close their eyes. The therapist could use a series of instructions such as 'I know you cannot allow you eyes to close while someone is around you. I expect you are not able to close your eyes now. You can't listen to my voice with your eyes open and you can't allow your mind to learn something useful...'. This is the basis of Erickson's famous 'use the resistance' approach to therapy.
11. Non sequitur double bind
In this bind there is a similarity in the content of the alternatives, but no logical connection. One part of the suggestion seems to imply the desired response while the other part requests the response more directly. Erickson offered the example of the type of double bind used by parents: 'Do you wish to take a bath before going to bed, or would you rather put your pajamas on in the bathroom?'
Indirect suggestions are themselves trance inducing because they force the listener to go inside to evaluate the ambiguity, so can be used as part of a formal trance or out of trance. Using these approaches helps to fixate attention, concentrate the client inward and initiate unconscious and autonomous processes. Indirect suggestion using hypnotic words and phrases is the real art or 'secret' of Ericksonian hypnotic language.