It is too easy to convince yourself that a quiet client is a good client. But when the client is lying there with his eyes closed and you are talking away at him, how do you know that your client hasn't just gone to sleep? And does it matter? Can you learn in your sleep?
Can you learn in your sleep?
Many hypnotists have been persuaded that even if the client is asleep, their unconscious mind is still awake, and is still taking in whatever is being said. This is based on analogies with the 'cocktail party effect'. This says that even if you are talking to someone at a party, and focusing on what is being said, if your name is mentioned at another table, you will instantly recognize this. The belief is that your unconscious mind is monitoring your environment all the time and never shuts down.
I am convinced that this is nonsense. If it was true, then all we would have to do is to record textbooks and play them to students while they were sleeping and we could close all the universities tomorrow. The fact is that there is no evidence whatsoever that people can learn while they are asleep. It has been tested hundreds of times and the outcome is always nil. You cannot learn while you are sleeping.
Therefore trying to do therapy while the client is asleep is also a waste of time. If your client is sleeping then you are just talking to yourself. No one else is listening.
The difference between trance and sleeping
So how do you tell the difference between a sleeping client and a hypnotized client?
This is all part of the philosophy of constantly interacting with your client in hypnosis. Hypnotherapy is not a one way process, the client has to be actively engaged all during the session. If you are constantly engaging with your client, he won't go to sleep.
The easiest way to test whether the client is still listening to you is to ask for a response. At the end of each section I say to the client 'Now take a deep breath, and allow your mind to clear'. If you get a deep breath, then your client is still responding, if not they are either deep in trance, or asleep.
If I don't get a response I repeat the instruction, a little more firmly 'Now I want you to take a deep breath, take a deep breath now and let it out... Ahhhh'. This usually produces a definite deep breath and I know I can carry on.
If it doesn't, then I have to wake the client. The first thing I try is to get them to move. 'I want you now to move into a more comfortable position, move your body so you are more comfortable'. I will repeat this possibly several times more forcefully and louder until the client moves and I know I am getting through.
If the request to move doesn't work then I say in a loud voice... 'I am going to count from Five up to One, when you get to one your eyes will open'. Even in deep somnambulism this will rouse the client. If the client is very tired then I might have to repeat it, almost shouting until the client responds. I never, never touch or shake the client.
Ensure trance by re-induction
When the client opens his eyes, I act as if this is a normal part of the session. I say something like 'That's very good. You are a very good subject. Now I want you to close your eyes again, and then try to open them. As you try to open them you will find it gets harder and harder to open those eyes. Try it now and you might be able to open them a bit, but the harder you try the harder they will want to stay closed, until you just can't open them at all'.
That will put them right back into trance and they are ready to continue. You might have to repeat parts of what you covered already, but that's OK. Repetition leads to a more definite effect anyway, and the client won't know the difference.
Then as you progress through the session keep testing with deep breath instructions, or asking the client to describe what he is experiencing and you will be sure that his unconscious mind really is listening.
What do you think?
What do you say after hypnosis? Have you developed something to say that makes a difference? Or is it quite unnecessary?