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Hypnotic Induction Techniques: Suspension of Disbelief

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There are two fundamental parts to practical hypnosis: the hypnotic induction and the post-hypnotic suggestions.

The first part is the induction, and this can be done in exactly the same way no matter what the session is trying to achieve. The purpose of this first section is to induce a passive trance state in which the person is susceptible to the influence of suggestion. This is the hard part of the process, and the success or failure of a hypnotist depends largely on how good they are at inducing this trance state. Of course some people can be hypnotized easily, and for others it seems to be impossible, but there are a huge number of people in the middle who require a skilful practitioner to enter the necessary entranced state of consciousness.

The ‘suspension of disbelief’, or ‘willed belief’ technique can be a powerful tool for overcoming the barriers to trance that are present in many people and stop them from being susceptible to suggestion. It can be used on others, and it can also be used for self-hypnosis.

One of the main problems that you will have to overcome is questioning, and the tendency of a person’s inner dialogue to contradict what you are saying. You may say, for example, “you are feeling more and more relaxed”; what you want is for the person to simply accept that what you say is true automatically, because then they will notice things which confirm it more than things which contradict it, and it will gradually become true simply because they believe it, in much the same way that a placebo can influence a person’s health through the psycho-somatic connection. But if they ask themselves: ‘am I feeling more relaxed’, t hen perhaps they will feel that they are not, and it will not work. Or even worse, if they don’t really believe that you can hypnotize them then their thought process may be quite adversarial and they might think to themselves ‘no I am not’ straight away, without giving it a chance to work. The trick is to make them believe what you are suggesting to them.

One way to do this is to simply ask them to try to believe what you say, to play along with things even if they think it is pointless, and to try not to question what you tell them. This is what many practitioners do, but the problem is that many people may not be able to do what you are asking of them effectively; so here is a technique designed to help:

At the beginning of the session you should tell the person that in a few moments, when they have closed their eyes and you have begun the session, you will ask them to try to open their eyes, but that when you say this what you actually want them to do is to pretend that they are trying to open their eyes but can’t manage to do it. Ask them to try their hardest to really believe that they can’t.

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Begin with a basic relaxation exercise and then say something like: “In a moment I am going to ask you to try to open your eyes. You eyelids will feel very, very heavy and it will be very difficult. You may only be able to open your eyes slightly, or you may not be able to open them at all” (this covers you so that if they accidentally open their eyes a bit the first time it doesn’t ‘break the spell’) “now try to open your eyes”. After a couple of seconds tell them that they can stop trying.

Use whatever technique you usually use to deepen the hypnotic state, and then ask them to try again. This time tell them that they will find it impossible, and that their eyes will feel like they are glued shut. You can do it again a third time as well if you like.

By providing a simple exercise that allows anyone to control their own beliefs,  and to experience the effect of this as part of the induction, you can not only break down barriers that stand in your way but also increase the influence that your later suggestions will be able to have over the person, making the whole process more reliable and more effective.

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