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How To Perform Hypnosis
This article was written by William Hewitt on May 29, 2002
posted under Hypnosis
First you must either have the hypnosis routines memorized or have them typed and handy so you can easily read them.
Next come a myriad of things to consider: tone of voice; pace of speech; where to position yourself and your subject; lighting conditions; noise conditions; background sounds; where to do it; should any sessions be recorded on tape; use of external equipment; what to observe in your subject; testing for results.
Tone and Pace
Just use the voice you were born with. That may sound like a stupid statement, but it really isn’t. I have seen many beginning hypnotists deliberately try to alter their voices when performing, to try to have a more resonant, deep, theatrical sound. This is nonsense. Your normal speaking voice is just fine. A beautiful, melodic, resonant voice is certainly an asset, but it is by no means necessary. It is far more important that you know what you are doing and that you have a good rapport with and respect for your subject.
You do need to give some thought and practice to the pace of your speech. The speech pattern needs to be slow enough to give the subject time to respond to your directions and yet fast enough to retain his or her attention and interest. If you go too slow, the subject’s mind will most likely wander to other thoughts. You want to maintain the subject’s attention to your voice. You will find that some people need a faster pace while others need a slower pace. Experience will help you find just the right pace.
A pause of two to five seconds is a good average. For example: "Relax your knees" (two second pause). "Relax your calves" (two second pause). "And now relax your toes" (one second pause). "Relax your toes" (two second pause).
In some visualization routines, you may need longer pauses. For example: "I want you to imagine now that you are standing at the top of a spiral staircase" (three second pause). "Create the staircase" (three second pause). "It is carpeted. Create the carpet" (three second pause). You get the idea.
Do not use your watch for timing these pauses. If you do, you probably will get so concerned with time that you will lose track of what you are doing. Just develop a feel for the timing. When I conduct hypnosis, I perform the instructions myself as I give them, thereby keeping a comfortable pace.
Speak in a rather dull, monotonous voice. The idea is to bore the subject’s conscious mind to the point that it stops being active, allowing the subconscious mind to be accessible and receptive to your suggestions. If there is too much inflection or drama in your voice, the subject’s conscious mind tends to retain interest, thus remaining active and thwarting your goal of deep relaxation and susceptibility to suggestion.
I have performed hypnosis while sitting and while standing. I have had subjects who were reclining in recliner chairs, sitting in straight-backed chairs, lying in bed, lying on the floor, sitting cross-legged on the floor, sitting in the front passenger seat of a car while I sat in the back seat, and even while they were standing. All positions work fine, but not necessarily for all situations. For example, a quick two-minute procedure to relieve pain works fine on a person who is standing up. But a thirty minute procedure for diet control is out of the question for a person who is standing up.
Given a choice, the recliner chair or straight-backed, armless chair are the best for the subject. They are equally good. Both offer sufficient comfort and support, and the subject will rarely drift into sleep in either of these.
However, for self-hypnosis, I much prefer to be in a straight-backed, armless chair. These are my personal preferences. As the operator, I also prefer a straight-backed, armless chair.
Lying in bed also offers comfort and support for the subject. The drawback here is that the subject might easily drift into sleep. This is because the body and mind have been conditioned every day that when you lie down, and your brain reaches alpha, you go to sleep. This is the normal sleep process we all go through every night. A skilled operator can usually avoid this situation. When you are working with bedridden people, this is the physical position you must deal with.
Lying on the floor has the same drawback as lying in bed. The subject is more likely to fall asleep. In addition, the floor tends to become uncomfortable rather quickly, so I do not recommend it for lengthy procedures.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor also tends to become uncomfortable rather quickly, so I do not recommend it for lengthy procedures. I use this position quite often for myself for meditation—a form of self-hypnosis—and have had excellent results. I once was in deep meditation for one and half hours in this position without having any physical discomfort. I doubt that an untrained, unskilled person could do that and still be able to get up, much less walk.
Typically, my subject will be in a recliner chair. I will be sitting in a straight-backed chair facing the subject. The distance between us might be from two to six feet. There may or may not be a table or desk between us; this isn’t important one way or the other. I need to be close enough so I can speak normally and be easily heard, yet far enough away to not intimidate the subject. There are some procedures I use for special occasions that require me to stand immediately in front of the subject. These are the exception, not the rule.
Ideally, the subject’s chair should be placed so no bright light falls on his or her eyes. Have windows, unless heavily draped, to the subject’s back. The same for electric lights…to the back. This makes it easier for the subject to relax and be comfortable.
Where to Conduct Hypnosis
Most anywhere works fine. I’ve operated in dimly lit rooms and in bright sunlight outdoors. I’ve operated in quiet and in noise. The ideal is a quiet, comfortable room with subdued lighting.
If unplanned distractions occur, use them to your advantage. Once I had just begun the hypnosis induction, when a carpenter in the adjacent office began hammering nails in the wall right by my subject’s head. It was a staccato bang, bang, bang, bang. I quickly abandoned my usual induction routine and improvised. I said, "Outside noises will not distract you. In fact outside noises will help you to reach a deeper, healthier state of relaxation.’’ Then as each bang occurred I said, "Go deeper" (bang) "deeper" (bang) "deeper and deeper" (bang), etc. My subject went into deep relaxation as though she was on a fast downward elevator. I didn’t even need to continue with the remainder of my planned routines. I immediately began giving the suggestions and then brought her out. The results were excellent.
What About Background Music?
Many hypnotists regularly have soothing music or a special tape of the ocean’s surf playing in the background while they perform the induction. I have tried both sounds and found them to be satisfactory. However, I have just as satisfactory results without the background sound and I rarely use it. It is just a personal preference. Try it both ways and see which you prefer.
All you really need is an inexpensive, portable, AC/DC cassette recorder. I use this only to record one of the induction procedures while I am giving it. I then give the tape to the subject to keep.
Observing the Subject
The key items you look for are breathing patterns and muscle tone. As the subject slips into deep relaxation, breathing will be easy and rhythmic. There will be an occasional very deep breath with easy exhaling.
Watch the hands of your subject. Are they gripping the arms of the lounger…fidgeting…twitching? Or are they resting without apparent tenseness?
The head should droop as the neck muscles relax. The jaw should slacken. There should be no signs of muscle strain or tenseness.
The eyelids may flutter. This is not tenseness but rather an indication that the subject is in a state called R.E.M., or rapid eye movement. This state occurs at about ten cycles per second of brain activity, which is well within the alpha range. So if you observe R.E.M., you know for sure that your subject is in hypnosis. The subject can be in hypnosis without R.E.M., so don’t be concerned if you do not observe R.E.M.
In general, look for signs of relaxation to indicate that the subject is in hypnosis. Signs of nervousness or tenseness indicate the subject probably is not in hypnosis, or at most only on the edge of hypnosis.
Do not get overly concerned if a subject doesn’t appear to be relaxing very much. No two people react exactly the same way to hypnosis. Just keep on executing your hypnosis routines; they will work in all but a few cases.
I have had subjects who became as limp as wet dish rags within moments after I’ve started the induction. Others have fidgeted through most of the first session before relaxing only slightly. A few didn’t really start to relax until the second session.
I have had only one subject that I was unable to hypnotize. After three sessions, she was still as tense and high strung as a mouse walking through a room filled with hungry cats. I gave her a complete refund and sent her to a colleague. My colleague had the same unsatisfactory results.
The best indicator of responsiveness to hypnosis is to question the subject about it after you have brought them out of hypnosis. The subject will tell you whether he or she was relaxed or not and exactly what was experienced. Of course, final results are the absolute indicator. If you are hypnotizing to stop smoking, and the subject stops, you know you performed your skill correctly and the subject was responsive.
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