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Module 11 -- Induction of Hypnosis 2

Advanced Techniques

Most of the innumerable induction techniques are virtually variations of the procedures we have already practiced. It would be impractical to discuss all of them and it is not necessary. There are a small number that are worth describing fully. Others of lesser value we will briefly outline. It is a good idea to try each of the methods presented in this module. The order in which you try them is unimportant, but you should master them completely in order to use them effectively.

Hand Levitation Method

This procedure was first described by M. H. Erickson, however, one of the best descriptions of it was given by L. R. Wolberg. He had this to say about the procedure: "I believe this is the best of all induction procedures. It permits of a participation in the induction process by the patient and lends itself to non-directive and analytic techniques. It is, however, the most difficult of methods and calls for greater endurance on the part of the hypnotist." Wolberg started with a brief preparatory phase and continued as follows (The suggestions are a verbatim report of a recorded induction session):

I want you to sit comfortably in your chair and relax. As you sit there, bring both hands palms down on your thigh -- just like that. Keep watching your hands, and you will notice that you are able to observe them closely.

What you will do is sit in the chair and relax. Then you will notice certain things happen in the course of relaxing. They always have happened while relaxing, but you have not noticed them so closely before. I am going to point them out to you. I'd like you to concentrate on all sensations and feelings in your hands no matter what they may be. Perhaps you may feel the heaviness of your hand as it lies on your thigh, or you may feel pressure. Perhaps you will feel the texture of your trousers as they press against the palm of your hand; or the warmth of your hand on your thigh. Perhaps you may feel tingling. No matter what sensations there are, I want you to observe them. Keep watching your hand, and you will notice how quite it is, how it remains in one position. There is motion there, but it is not yet noticeable. I want you to keep watching your hand. Your attention may wander from the hand, but it will always return back to the hand, and you keep watching the hand and wondering when the motion that is there will show itself.

At this point the patient's attention is fixed on his hand. He is curious about what will happen, and sensations such as any person might experience are suggested to him as possibilities. No attempt is being made to force any suggestions on him, and if he observes any sensations or feelings, he incorporates them as a product of his own experience. The object eventually is to get him to respond to the suggestions of the hypnotist as if these too are a part of his own experiences. A subtle attempt is being made to get him to associate his sensations with the words spoken to him so that the words or commands uttered by the hypnotist will evoke sensory or motor responses later on. Unless the patient is consciously resisting, a slight motion or jerking will develop in one of the fingers or in the hand. As soon as this happens, the hypnotist mentions it and remarks that the motion will probably increase. The hypnotist must also comment on any other objective reaction of the patient, such as motion of the legs or deep breathing. The result of this linking of the patient's reactions with comments of the hypnotist is an association of the two in the patient's mind.

It will be interesting to see which one of the fingers will move first. It may be the middle finger, or the forefinger, or the ring finger, or the thumb. One of the fingers is going to jerk or move. You don't know exactly when or in which hand. Keep watching and you will notice a slight movement, possible in the right hand. There, the thumb jerks and moves, just like that.

As the movement begins you will notice an interesting thing. Very slowly the spaces between the fingers will widen, the fingers will slowly move apart, and you'll notice that the spaces will get wider and wider and wider. They'll move apart slowly; the fingers will seem to be spreading apart, wider and wider and wider. The fingers are spreading, wider and wider apart, just like that.

As the fingers spread apart, you will notice that the fingers will soon want to arch up from the thigh, as if they wanted to lift, higher and higher. [The patient's index finger starts moving upward slightly.] Notice how the index finger lifts. As it does the other fingers want to follow -- up, up, slowly rising. [The other fingers start lifting.]

As the fingers lift you will notice a lightness in the hand. A feeling of lightness, so much so that the fingers will arch up, and the whole hand will slowly lift and rise as if it feels like a feather, as a balloon is lifting it up in the air, lifting. Lifting, -- up--up--up, pulling up higher and higher and higher, the hand is becoming very light. [The hand starts rising.] As you watch your hand rise, you'll notice that the arm comes up, up, up in the air, a little higher -- and higher -- and higher -- and higher, up -- up -- up. [The arm has lifted about five inches above the thigh and the patient is gazing at it fixedly.]

Keep watching the hand and arm as it rises straight up, and as it does you will soon become aware of how drowsy and tired your eyes become. As your arm continues to rise, you will get tired and relaxed and sleepy, very sleepy. Your eyes will get heavy and your lids may want to close. And as your arm rises higher and higher, you will want to feel more relaxed and sleepy, and you will want to enjoy the peaceful relaxed feeling of letting your eyes close and of being sleepy.

[It will be noted that as the patient executes one suggestion, his positive response is used to reinforce the next suggestion. For instance, as his arm rises, it is suggested in essence that he will get drowsy because his arm is rising.]

Your arm lifts -- up -- up -- and you are getting very drowsy; your lids get very heavy, your breathing gets slow and regular. Breathe deeply -- in and out. [The patient holds his arm stretched out directly in front of him, his eyes are blinking and his breathing is deep and regular.] As you keep watching your hand and arm and feeling more and more drowsy and relaxed, you will notice that the direction of the hand will change.

The arm will bend, and the hand will move closer and closer to your face -- up -- up -- up and as it rises you will slowly but steadily go into a deep, deep, sleep in which you relax deeply and to your satisfaction. The arm will continue to rise up -- up -- lifting, lifting, -- up in the air until it touches your face, and you will get sleeper and sleeper, but you must not go to sleep until your hand touches your face. When your hand touches your face you will be asleep, deeply asleep.

The patient here is requested to choose his own pace in falling asleep, so that when his hand touches his face, he feels himself to be asleep to his own satisfaction. Hand levitation and sleepiness continue to reinforce each other. When the patient finally does close his eyes, he will have entered a trance with his own participation. He will later be less inclined to deny that he has been in a trance.

Your hand is now changing its direction. It moves up -- up -- up -- up toward your face. Your eyelids are getting heavy. You are getting sleeper, and sleeper, and sleeper. [The patient's hand is approaching his face, his eyelids are blinking more rapidly.] Your eyes get heavy, very heavy, and your hand moves straight up toward your face. You get very tired and drowsy. Your eyes are closing, are closing. When your hand touches your face you'll be asleep, deeply asleep. You feel very drowsy. You feel drowsier and drowsier and drowsier, very sleepy, very tired. Your eyes are like lead, and your hand moves up, up, up, right toward your face, and when it touches your face, you will be asleep. [Patient's hand touches his face and his eyes close.] Go to sleep, go to sleep, just sleep. And as you sleep you feel very tired and relaxed. I want you to concentrate on relaxation, a state of tensionless relaxation. Think of nothing else, but sleep, deep sleep.

H. Arons described an interesting variation of the Wolberg technique that tends to be more rapid (probably at a cost of the percentage of successes and depth of trance). The subject is instructed to stand facing the hypnotist, stretch out his right arm and point at the hypnotist's feet while fixing his gaze on his pointing finger.

These instructions are followed by suggestions that his arm will become light and his arm will rise. He is told that his arm will rise upward toward the hypnotist's eyes and that the subject's eyes will remain focused on his finger as his arm rises. The hypnotist continues to suggest that the subject's hand will rise until his finger points at the hypnotist's eyes and when this occurs their gaze will meet. The subject is told that as soon as this happens he will instantly fall into a deep hypnotic sleep. When the subject begins to show some response to this suggestion, the hypnotist should change his suggestions accordingly. As soon as the subject's finger points at the hypnotist's eyes and their gazes meet the hypnotist should forcefully command the subject to sleep.

Folding Hand Method

F. F. Wagner first described this method. He found that it was sometimes difficult to get the subject's hand up to his face using Wolberg's technique. This was mainly do to mechanical factors and because the abnormal protracted position of the hands may become painfully tiring for some subjects. He modified the procedure so that the last phase of the trance induction is replaced by hand clasping. In this way only the forearms and hands are involved. Wagner described it as follows:

In short the method is as follows: After careful preparation, hypnosis commences as in the hand levitation method. The initial position is the same (see Figure 11-1A). First, the fingers of one hand are induced to spread out (Fig. 11-1B); secondly, the flexing of the fingers and simultaneously spreading of the fingers of the other hand. When both hands have been raised from the thigh (Fig. 11-1C), suggestions are given that the palms will turn to each other (Fig. 11-1D); and that they will be attracted to each other like opposite poles of a magnet (Fig. 11-1E). Gradually as the hands get closer together, general suggestions are given of increasing drowsiness, deeper breathing and sensations of heaviness of the eyelids. These suggestions are enforced while the fingers interlace (Fig. 11-1F). The hands are clinched simultaneously with eyelids drooping. When the clinching of the hands reaches its maximum (Fig.11-1G), general relaxation and heaviness of the whole body including arms and eyelids is suggested; the hands slip apart (Fig. 11-1H). Then the trance may be deepened in the usual manner, or the patient may be wakened if a fractional technique is preferred.

Wagner states that most people get a very intense feeling of mutual attraction of the hands. This, he says, considerably intensifies the suggestibility. He also states that anxiety that may be aroused during the hypnotic session tends to dissipate as soon as the hands are folded.
Postural Sway Methods

This can be an extraordinarily rapid method of inducing hypnosis. It can be applied when a subject responds well to the postural sway test of suggestibility. The follow procedure is a verbatim report of this procedure by J. G. Watkins:

The therapist speaks to the patient as follows: "Now Jones, I'd like you to stand here with your heels and your toes together and your body erect, shoulders back. That's right. Breathe comfortably and easily with your hands at your sides. Now close your eyes. Just imagine that your feet are hinged to the floor and your body is like a stick pointing upward in the air, free to move back and forth. You will probably feel after a while, you will become unsteady. Don't worry, if you should fall, I'll catch you." [This last remark is given in a matter-of-fact way, almost as a side comment. If previous suggestibility tests have been given, and the therapist is quite certain the patient will enter the trance, he may modify this statement by saying, "Don't worry, I will catch you when you fall."]

The therapist then continues: "Now while you are standing there, breathe very calmly and easily. Just imagine that your body is floating up into space. Don't try to do anything, and don't try not to do anything. Just stand there and let yourself drift. " The therapist is then silent for a time, perhaps fifteen seconds up to a minute. If the patient is suggestible he will sway back and forth slightly.

The therapist should place himself at the side of the patient where he can line the back of the patient's head or the tip of his nose against a mark on the opposite wall so that a slight backward or forward swaying movement can be easily detected and measured. It is even convenient to have a card against the wall on which black vertical lines have been ruled about an inch apart, thus making it easier to determine the amount of sway. Usually the therapist will soon detect the rhythm of the swaying, since it is almost impossible for anybody to stand perfectly still. There will always be some swaying, although it may be slight in the more unsuggestible patients. One will generally find that the more suggestible the patient, the greater will be the amplitude of the swaying arc.

The therapist next begins to reinforce this swaying by timing his remarks to coincide with it. As soon as the patient has reached the extreme forward part of the arc and begins to sway backward the therapist says, "Now you are drifting backward." Frequently this will cause the patient to immediately catch himself and to reverse the direction, whereupon the therapist instantly reinforces it with, "Now you are drifting forward." As the swaying continues the therapist reinforces it with "Drifting forward, drifting backward and forward, backward, forward, backward," etc. The tone is low, soft, and firm. The therapist should be about one to two feet away from the patient's ear and should repeat the suggestions in a low, soft monotone from which all harshness has been deleted. It should have an almost pleasing quality, monotonous like the drone of a bee. There should be no change in pitch, and the patter should be continued steadily. Occasionally it may be varied from "drifting forward" to "swaying forward, swaying backward, swaying forward, now swaying forward." or "leaning forward, backward, forward, backward." etc. -- on and on in a monotonous, repetitious voice.

As the therapist observes the amplitude of the swaying arc increasing, he may make the voice somewhat less pleading, less soft, and more dominant and controlling, even injecting some emotional pitch into the "forward, backward, forward, backward."

When the amplitude of the swaying arc has become quite substantial -- six or more inches -- it is probable that some light degree of trance has been induced (note that the suggestions of sleep do not come up until quite late in this procedure.). Suggestibility should then be checked by beginning a command of "forward, backward" a little before the patient has reached the maximum sway of the arc. If the patient is suggestible, and there is a degree of hypnotic trance, he will interrupt the natural sway in order to follow the therapist's suggestions. The past remarks of the therapist have so closely followed the patient's swaying behavior that the patient begins to think to himself, "What this man says is true, I am swaying backward. Then I do sway forward." Consequently, the therapist's prestige is increased, and the patient begins to follow the suggestions instead of leading them. From this point on the therapist can usually assume the more dominating role and direct rather than follow the swaying of the patient.

To induce deeper trance the voice tone is now made much firmer and the swaying suggestions are given somewhat more rapidly. "Swaying forward, swaying backward, forward, backward," the volume of the voice growing stronger and stronger. Finally, an attempt is made to induce the patient to fall over backward into a deep trance. The emphasis on the "backward" is increased, and on the "forward" diminished, and the verb is changed from "drifting" or "swaying" to "Falling, falling backward, falling forward, falling backward, falling forward, falling over backward, falling, falling, falling, falling" rather rapidly and in a higher pitched and more emotional tone. If a deep trance has been induced, the patient will increase the amplitude of his away until he can no longer stand erect. He will then fall over backward in a deep trance where he may be caught by the therapist and eased into a waiting chair.

If the patient is in a light trance he may start to fall backward, but catch himself by placing one of his feet back, or attempt to sway sideways or steady himself voluntarily in some manner. This indicates to the therapist that a deep trance has not been induced and he can then do one of two things: he may either continue the monotonous repetition of "falling forward, falling backward," etc., to induce a deeper degree of trance; or he may reassure the patient that he will not fall by placing a hand lightly behind his shoulder. This allays fears that might arise and interrupts the hypnotic process. After the patient realizes that he will not be permitted to fall and hurt himself, he tends to lose the signs of anxiety which may have begun to appear.. He may then allow himself to fall back against the therapist's arm, whereupon the therapist continues suggestions, "Falling over backward, falling backward, falling back into a deep sleep, back into a deep sleep, deep sleep, deep sleep," and then eases the patient gradually over into a chair. This, preferably an armchair, should have been placed behind the patient. He can also be gradually lowered back upon a couch that has been located conveniently near by.

If the patient is either completely limp or in a stiff catatonic state when he is placed back on the chair or cot, it is evident that a fairly deep degree of trance has been induced. If, however, he is able to help himself either by taking steps backward or by putting his hands on the arm chair and guiding himself into it, then only a light hypnoidal trance has been induced.

Watkins claims there are several advantages to this technique: It appears inoffensive to the subject, particularly since the hypnotist may present the procedure as a test of reflexes, etc. Because the method is not generally known to the public its use is not likely to cause anxiety or apprehension, as do the standard techniques.

The following method can be used to induce a trance, but it is given here primarily as an effective way of deepening the trance state. Watkins gives two variations that follow.

Metronome Method

Place a metronome, out of sight, near the subject. Watkins recommends setting the metronome to fifty beats per minute. He also suggests that the sound of the metronome be muffled by enclosing it in a box or cabinet. We now assume that the first phase of trance induction has been completed. At this point Watkins says:

He [the patient or subject] is told, "Now I am going to turn on a slow ticking sound. This will help you to go to sleep. Listen very carefully to it and to nothing else. It goes like this." The metronome is turned on. Then the therapist continues, "Just imagine each tick saying to you, 'deep -- sleep -- deep -- sleep,' and the deeper you go into sleep the deeper you will want to go. How comfortable you will feel all over. Just keep on listing to this ticking sound that says over and over again, 'deep -- sleep -- deep -- sleep.' The therapist may even continue speaking the words 'deep -- sleep' for a little while, while timing them to coincide with the ticking.

A second variation given by Watkins is: Suggest to the patient that as he listens to the ticking he will imagine himself slowly going down a ladder or stairway. "Each tick is saying "step -- down, -- step -- down," or "deep -- sleep, -- step -- down," etc. He may be told, "As you go down this ladder you will feel that you are going down into a deeper and deeper sleep."

After a few moments Watkins leaves the subject, allowing him to listen to the metronome for 10 to 30 minutes. He also outlined a number of other minor variations. In one he tell the subject that he is going to leave him for a short time while the subject listens to the ticking, and that when he comes back he will be in the deepest possible sleep. The subject may also be told that when he reaches the deepest sleep, his hand will slowly rise and touch his forehead. The hypnotist checks periodically to observe whether this has taken place. Watkins points out that the use of the metronome, coupled with the above suggestions, is less fatiguing for the hypnotist.

Fractionation Method

O. Vogt was the first to describe this method. It is probably one of the most effective methods for inducing a very deep trance state, and often succeeds when every other method has failed. It is especially indicated if you expect your subject to enter, at best, a light or medium trance. It also is an effective method for handling subjects, who at first only experience a light state of hypnosis, and doubt that they have been hypnotized. Essentially, the method consists of hypnotizing and waking the subject in rapid consecutive successions. The idea is that each hypnotization makes the subject a little more suggestible and favors the induction of deeper hypnosis on the next trial. Substantial evidence indicates that the hypnotic state continues a short time after the subject is awakened, particularly if the awaking process is sudden.

An effective use of this technique is as follow: When you are ready to awaken the subject tell him the following: "In a moment I will tell you to awaken. When I do you will awake, but you will immediately feel very sleepy again. You will find it difficult to keep your eyes open and stay awake. Your eyelids will feel very heavy, and they will get heavier and heavier until you will not be able to keep them open any longer. You will not be able to prevent yourself from blinking and closing them. You will get sleepier and drowsier with each breath you take and in a moment your eyes will close. You will go deeply asleep, deeper than ever before. I will now count to three, at the count of three you will be awake and will open your eyes. But you will be drowsy and sleepy. Your eyes will be so heavy that you will not be able to keep them open very long, and will go back to sleep...Now, one...two...three...Awake!" As a rule the subject will remain sitting rather passively. He may start to blink or appear sleepy with his eyes have closed. Ask him what is the matter with his eyes. He may tell you he feels sleepy, but more often he will appear puzzled and say he doesn't know what the trouble is. In any case, continue by saying: "You feel kind of sleepy, don't you? It is difficult to keep your eyes open. [At this point the subject almost always starts blinking before closing his eyes.

Whatever he does you should make an effort to follow it up and incorporate it your next suggestions, which might be:]
Your eyes are getting heavy, you feel drowsy and sleepy. Close your eyes you are going to sleep. Sleep! If the subject should close his eyes before this, then you should make the proper alterations in the suggestions, for example: "Your eyes are closed, sleep, deep, deep asleep!" Or as the eyes close, say commandingly "SLEEP! DEEP ASLEEP!...You are going deeply, soundly asleep."

At this point the trance can be deepened somewhat by the methods previously described, but this is usually not done because the method you are using is designed to do this. Repeat the above procedure a number of times. Following eye closure you might give a few additional suggestions to deepen the trance, then suggestions to the effect that whenever you suggest sleep or say the word sleep, he will go quickly and deeply asleep, and will not wake up until you tell him to awaken. Then instruct him again for the next waking period. This time telling him that he will be awake and will feel fine, but that as soon as you begin to talk to him, no matter what you say, he will find that his eyes are getting heavy, difficult to keep open, that he feels tired and is getting very drowsy and sleepy and that his eyes will close and he will go into a very deep sleep, much deeper than he is now.

Somewhere along the above process you can give the subject the eye catalepsy and arm rigidity suggestions, but don't challenge him. Say something like this: "You cannot open your eyes (or you cannot bend your arm). If you tried you would be unable to do so, but you have no desire to try...Now you are relaxing... relaxing more and more, drifting down into a very deep and sound sleep." Then follow with suggestions regarding waking as previously done, or tell him that you will talk to him after he wakes up and that as soon as you mention the word "sleep," or anything that has to do with sleep, he will feel an overpowering urge to close his eyes and go to sleep.

This procedure, like many others, has variations. Many hypnotists do not bother to give suggestions, but merely dehypnotize and rehypnotize the subject repeatedly. An excellent variation of the Vogt method that often succeeds with subjects who fail to attain a deep trance is to ask them to describe the sensations they experience when going into a trance. In the next induction include suggestions describing these various feelings in the order the subject gave them to you. This feedback technique is often very effective because it prevents you from suggesting experiences the subject will not have. Some hypnotists make it a practice to ask the subject for a description of his sensations after the first induction regardless of the method used. Then on subsequent inductions the subject's own experiences are suggested as part of the induction.

Continue to Module 12 Assessing Depth of Hypnosis



The instructions presented are from the personal collections and writing library of Mr. Robert E. Cutter, who died December 13, 2001, while in the process of completing the transfer of his work to the internet. These are offered as educational instruction only. The purpose of this instruction is the effective learning and use of hypnotic techniques for vocational or avocational self-improvement. This instruction is not offered as a substitute for, nor as a supplement to, any form of therapy concerned with physical, mental, nervous or emotional illness. Robert E. Cutter served as web consultant for American Psychotherapy and Medical Hypnosis Association for three years. His hypnosis education came through the training he provided at a school he owned in the 1950's in Los Angeles, California, along with his wife who preceded him in death in 1980. Robert Cutter was not a psychologist and did not practice psychotherapy, but his interest in hypnosis motivated him to provide free resources materials for others who wanted to learn to use the power of their minds to improve well being and health-related issues.
Michael A. Robinson, R.N.- BC Psychiatry
Licensed Texas State Nursing Board Registered Nurse
Texas State Nursing Board Certified in Psychiatry
In Honor and Memory of Robert E. Cutter, B.S. 1923-d.2001
From the Writings of Robert Cutter's Self Hypnosis Center
About Feelings Network
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