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What is Hypnosis?
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Ideomotor Action
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Module 14 -- Induction of Hypnosis 4

Miscellaneous Methods
Counting Methods

Seat the subject comfortably and ask him to fixate upon some object held up in front of him or have him look straight ahead at a wall. Then tell him:

I am going to begin counting and as I do I want you to follow me closely. When I say 'one' you will close your eyes and keep them closed until I say 'two.' At the count of 'two' you will open your eyes. As I say 'three' you will close them again and keep them closed until I say 'four.' Do you understand these instructions? [If the subject seems to show some confusion, demonstrate for him what you want him to do. Many hypnotists make it standard practice to demonstrate these instructions as they are given.] As I count you will continue opening and closing your eyes until they get very tired. You will find it increasingly difficult to open your eyes. They will get heavier and heavier. You will find yourself becoming more and more drowsy and sleepy. After a while your eyes will feel so heavy and you will feel so sleepy that your eyes will close and remain closed and you will go into a deep sound sleep. You will have no desire to open your eyes, you will only want to sleep, sleep deeply and soundly.

At this point begin to count in a monotonous voice, pausing after each count. Watch the subject's reactions closely. If he consistently anticipates your count, especially when opening his eyes, you may suspect he is either not paying close attention or that he is resisting. If he has difficulty opening his eyes or keeping them open, he may be entering a hypnotic state. Although it is possible to produce hypnosis by using only the counting part of the procedure, it will probably be more effective to use suggestions of heaviness of the eyelids, drowsiness, etc. These suggestions can be interjected between counts. It is a good idea to continue counting for a short time after the subject's eyes remain closed. At first, the subject may raise and lower his eyebrows in time with the count while his eyes remain close.

There are cases where a subject will continue to open and close his eyes despite becoming deeply hypnotized. This can happen if the subject does not clearly understand the instructions, or from the fact that each count acts through association as a command-suggestion. In such cases it should not be too difficult to determine if the subject is hypnotized or not. Usually he will have a fixed and blank stare if in a trance. Also his posture will assume a rigid appearance, and the motion of his eyes becomes typically automatic. Another way of determining his condition is to alter the rate of counting. If he follows these changes faithfully you can be pretty sure he is hypnotized, probably deeply. Once you have decided the subject is hypnotized, wait until he closes his eyes again, and then stop counting and say something like the following: "Now your eyes are closed and you are deep asleep. Your eyelids are very heavy...just like lead. They are stuck tightly stuck together you cannot open them."

Note in the above procedure that the subject is told not to open his eyes until the next count, but is not told not to close them before the next count. This is because he may go into a deep hypnotic state and his eyes may close any time in the induction.

Metronome and Allied Methods

This method, which is closely related to the previous one, consists of having the subject listen to a metronome, a clock, watch, or a steady tone. Typically the subject is comfortably seated in a dimly lit room with his eyes closed. Having his eyes closed can be a disadvantage because there will be no way of knowing when he passes in to the hypnotic state. However, even with his eyes open, you cannot tell for sure. Because the time required for induction by this method is extremely variably, you may assume when time is at a premium that if the subject has not passed into hypnosis with in 5 to 10 minutes, he will not respond or will require much more time. For this reason, you should begin making suggestions after 5 or 10 minutes. If you have lots of time, you can allow 30 minutes to pass before starting to make suggestions. The main difficulty with this technique is that the subject may fall into a natural sleep. Often subjects who are potentially hypnotizable by this method fail to go into a trance in a short time because they do not concentrate on the sound. Sometimes it is helpful to have the subject alternately close and open his eyes with consecutive beats of the metronome.

In the classically metronome method it was assumed the subject had no knowledge of what was going to happen as he concentrated on the beats. Most hypnotists today find it more advantageous to give suggestions regarding the effects of the metronome prior to using it. Some also instruct the subjects to repeat to themselves the word "sleep" every time they hear a beat. The most effective use of the metronome seems to be in combination with suggestions. Usually an initial period of about 10 minutes is allowed without suggestions. If the subject should be responsive to the metronome alone, he will have time to manifest it.

One variation on this method consists of using a microphone to amplify the subject's heart beat or respiratory sounds. This technique makes use of two separate effects. A monotonous rhythm as a fixating stimulus. Also the rhythm of respiration acts as a conditioned stimulus for sleep. Many hypnotists believe that the metronome method works best when the rate is adjusted to some body rhythm (i.e., heart beat, respiration -- about 2 beats per second). If respiration is used, a responsive subject will adjust his rhythm to the beat of the metronome. A way to use this for the induction of hypnosis is start out with a metronome beating at a rate slightly lower than the subject's normal breathing. Ask him to breathe in unison with the metronome and pay close attention to it. This instruction should be repeated a number of times. After a few moments imperceptibly decrease the rate of the metronome. If the subject's breathing coincides with the metronome, change it back to the original rhythm and then increase the rhythm. If properly done, you will find that the subject adjusts his breathing to the metronome. Once this pattern has been established, suggestions of sleep can be given.

It is also possible to use a "visual metronome" (flashing light) that the subject fixates on. Actually, a combination of the two, auditory and visual stimuli can be used to an advantage.

Pendulum and Rotating Mirror Method -These are related procedures. The pendulum method makes use of a bright object attached to a chain or string. Some older hypnotists used their pocket watches which were carried at the end of a chain. The bob is held in front of the subject, slightly above eye level, and allowed to slowly swing back and forth. Suggestions as well as the beating of a metronome can be combined with this method.

The original rotating mirror method was developed by Luys. He used an old fashioned lure for meadowlarks, consisting of vertical wooden supports with many small mirrors imbedded in the surface. The device revolved about a central axis at a slow rate. Subjects were instructed to concentrate on the lure.

There have been many variations made of this device. One consists of one or more small glass spheres on one or more rotating arms. The subject is asked to fixate upon and follow the spheres with his eyes. As with previous techniques, suggestions can be combined with this method.

Hypnodisks and Other Devices

From the beginning of the history of hypnotism, hypnotists have tried to find some automatic and easy method of inducing hypnosis. This hope has been supported by the fact that Braid and Charcot had recourse to purely physical means to produce hypnosis. As a consequence of this search for more productive techniques, a rash of gadgets and gimmicks have been devised. Many of them have been sold (and are still being sold) as sure-fire methods of producing hypnosis. It is very doubtful any device exists that will facilitate the induction of hypnosis in every use. The existence of any device that induces hypnosis by a purely physical means, without the conscious participation and cooperation of the subject is very, very unlikely.

It is possible that as our knowledge of hypnotism and the nervous system increases such a device may eventually be invented or discovered, but it has not been as of this time. The fact that the alpha wave can be influenced by intermittent photic and auditory stimulation and that slowing down of the alpha rhythm is symptomatic of the appearance of sleep might be used as a bases for such a device. It has been found that a flickering light can induce mental confusion, hallucinations and various other disturbed states in many people, and that in every case the disturbances were associated with specific electrical response patterns in the brain. It is conceivable that the effects of such devices as whirling spirals create similar phenomenon. If we assume that focusing of attention is an essential factor in the induction of hypnosis, it is theoretically possible that some fixation stimuli are more effective than others, because of their greater attention-catching or compelling power.

There are many such devices. For example, one device, called a hypnosphere or hypnoscope, consists of a small polished metal sphere enclosed within a larger hollow glass sphere. The presence of multiple spherical surfaces theoretically causes light placed anywhere in the room to be reflected in the subject's eyes. Also, the spherical nature of the reflecting surfaces allows the reflected lights to appear steady and relatively undisturbed by movements of the person holding the device.

Another device, called a hypnodisk or hypnotron, is a disk with a spiral (or spirals) drawn from the center. The disk is mounted on a turntable or on a shaft and rotated at a moderate speed. The subject is asked to look at the disk as he is given suggestions designed to induce hypnosis. The rational is that the apparent contracting and expanding movement gives an illusion of an axial flow which is very attention compelling. Often subjects claim that watching the disk makes them dizzy which some hypnotist capitalize on. In any event, this device appears to be one of the more effective ones. Wolberg recommends it when dealing with refractory subjects. He recommends repeating the following suggestions until the subject's eyes are closed. "Keep your eyes fastened on the wheel. As you watch it, you will notice that it vibrates. The white circles become prominent, then the black. Then it seems to recede in the distance and you feel as if you are drawn into it. Your breathing becomes deep and regular. You get drowsy, very drowsy. Soon you will be asleep."

There are several variations of the disk. One has a number of concentric rings drawn on it. The subject is requested to fixate upon it as the hypnotist rotates it. It results in an illusion that the concentric rings are turning. Another variation consists of a background of spirals covered by a piece of plastic molded so that its surface consists of a large number of tiny parallel semi cylindrical lenses. Any slight movement of the disk causes the spirals to shimmer and change.

The Use of Candles: Another method often found in book for beginners is the "candle method." The subject is required to watch the flame of a candle. Probably it effectiveness is due to the mysterious and dramatic effect of the ever changing shape of the flame. It is said that dancing flames exert a peculiar fascination on people.

It is doubtful that any of these devices are superior in speed, depth of hypnosis, or the percentage of subjects successfully hypnotized. They are also bulky to carry around. However, a professional hypnotist should avail himself of such devices because when other methods fail one of these devices may succeed.

Hypnosis by Passes

Passes are movements of the hands made by the hypnotist over the subject's body. The hands may or may not touch the body. They were originally introduced by the mesmerists on the assumption that the motions directed, concentrated or dispersed the animal magnetism upon and within the subject. Today they are used almost entirely for theatrical effect. However, if a subject believes in their effectiveness, there is a certain value in using them. According to the mesmerists passes are very important and must be used correctly or not at all. This involves special ways of holding the hands and fingers, certain mental attitudes, certain ways of moving the hands etc. There are six major types of passes:

  1. Longitudinal passes are made head to foot with the hands a few inches from the surface of the body. Their objective is to dissipate the magnetic fluid throughout the body. They are extensively used to induce "magnetic sleep."
  2. Passes "a grand courant." These are similar to the above but made more rapidly, with wider motions and at a greater distance from the body. They are said to have a greater effect on the subject than the longitudinal passes.
  3. Oblique passes are a variation of (2). They differ in that the two arms describe arcs of circles in front of the subject. The object is to remove or dissipate whatever animal magnetism is present in the chest and head. They are used to awaken the subject from induced magnetic somnambulism.
  4. Transverse passes. The arms are crossed in front of the hypnotist's chest, the palms forward facing the subject. Then the arms are rapidly stretched forward and outward. These passes are supposedly the most radical method of dissipating any magnetism accumulated at any point in the subject's body. The mesmerists consider these passes an excellent way to awaken the subject.
  5. Vibratory passes are supposed to be the magnetizer's most powerful pass in regard to his emission of animal magnetism. They are made in a variety of ways. Different parts of the hand come into contact with the subject, with the hands stationary in one position or moving in one of the ways described above. At the same time the hands are given a continuous vibratory motion.
  6. Circular passes are made with short or large circular motions of the hands and arms and have different qualities depending upon whether done clockwise or counterclockwise.

There is no evidence to indicate that passes have any special properties. Whether one uses them is a matter of personal choice, belief, and showmanship. Judging by past records they can be very effective.


Voluntary hyperventilation (forced deep breathing without forced expiration) appears to raise a subject's suggestibility. Many hypnotists do use it to facilitate the induction of hypnosis. However, to be effective it must be maintained over a period of time and not limited to a few deep breaths. There are a number of ways of proceeding. The induction of hypnosis can be preceded by two to four minutes of hyperventilation and then followed by suggestions. Another good method is to have the subject concentrate on his breathing and take rhythmic breaths as deeply as possible in regular, rapid succession. Probably the hypnotist should set the pace at first by indicating the rhythm with movements of his hands or by saying in a monotonous voice, "in -- out," or "breathe in -- breathe out." This not only sets the pace, but getting the subject to voluntarily respond to the words of the hypnotist adds to his suggestibility. After a rhythm has been established, standard suggestions can be integrated with the breathing.

If hyperventilation is carried out to long unconsciousness can occur. This is not particularly dangerous because when the subject loses consciousness he automatically stops hyperventilating and will regain consciousness. However, this would certainly interfere with attempts at hypnotization. Normally, you may expect subjects to enter a state of hypnosis before hyperventilation causes them to lose consciousness, however, some people are particularly susceptible to the effects of hyperventilation and may faint before hypnosis has been induced. It is actually an easy matter to check on the subject's state of awareness and the suggestibility of the subject and discontinue hyperventilation with the onset of hypnosis.

What do you do if a subject should faint? Nothing, he will shortly recover alone because fainting automatically brings an end to hyperventilation. Besides fainting, a number of other effects may be observed during hyperventilation; Sweating, cold, clammy skin, more rapid heart beat, muscular weakness and fatigue. These are normal reactions and you should not be concerned about them. However, the subject may be concerned and you may have to assure him that they are normal reactions.

The Carotid Sinus Method

High in the neck each of the major arteries (carotids) supplying blood to the brain divides into two smaller arteries. At this bifurcation, the wall of the artery is thinner than usual and contains a large number of branching, vine like nerve endings. This small portion of the artery is called the carotid sinus. These nerve endings are highly sensitive to stretch and distortion.

Applying pressure to them can trigger a syndrome that affects the flow of blood, oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood, heart rate, blood pressure and other functions.

One of the main attractions of the carotid sinus method is it great speed of action, its apparent simplicity and the false assumption that it is a sure fire technique requiring little skill on the part of the hypnotist. The carotid sinus technique is based on a known physiologic phenomenon that often results in a state of unconsciousness when carried to completion. Warning: This procedure is very dangerous and has no place in the practices of a reputable hypnotist. This procedure triggers an entire syndrome, which among other things can cause the heart to stop. There are numerous records of instantaneous deaths caused through the elicitation of the carotid sinus reflexes. Also it is difficult to use these reflexes to produce hypnosis because their action is often to rapid, variable, and difficult to control. It is doubtful, even when used by an expert, that it has anything but "show" value. One thing is certain; the collapse of the subject following the elicitation of the syndrome is not hypnosis, although some less than honest stage hypnotists have often indicated otherwise.

The actual production of hypnosis using this technique involves giving the subject proper suggestions while he is passing from consciousness to unconsciousness. With many subjects this in-between state can be fairly easily maintained. With others it is extremely brief in time.

Rapid Methods

In modern times stage hypnotists have placed much emphasis upon "rapid hypnosis" and particularly "instantaneous hypnosis." An example of the instantaneous method is the triggering of the hypnotic state by the use of a posthypnotic signal. This will produce hypnosis in a fraction of a second. Many of the other so-called "instantaneous" methods are better described as rapid techniques that require at best a minute or more. In many cases the claims of rapid hypnosis are deceptive because they neglect to take into account the time used to prepare the subject or to "set the stage." With the exception of hypnosis produced by a posthypnotic signal, the best you can say for the rapid methods is that they very fast, when they work. When they fail, you are probably worse off than if you had tried a slower technique in the first place. However, there is no question that under the proper conditions rapid hypnosis is possible.

If a person has a high suggestibility quotient, and feels you are a "powerful" hypnotist, a sudden look from you with a firm command of "sleep!" will sometimes be sufficient to induce a state of hypnosis. This is particularly successful if he has just witnessed the induction of hypnosis in others at a signal or command by you.

Sometimes when a subject appears a little dazed, eyes glazed, and unstable on his feet after responding well to a few waking suggestions will go into a hypnotic state if you suddenly look at him and command, "sleep." This is especially true after a good response to the postural sway experiment. A simple but effective technique is to quickly extend your hand toward the subject's face; snap your fingers near his eyes and at the same time command "Sleep! Deep asleep!" If done properly, the eyelids will close due to a reflex if not as the result of hypnosis and will remain closed if the subject is sufficiently suggestible. Another technique is to watch nearby people in an audience while giving a demonstration of hypnosis. It is not uncommon to find someone in the audience showing evidence of being influenced by the proceedings. Very often if you turn toward him and command sleep, he will be deeply hypnotized.

One very effective method used by many stage hypnotists is to start giving the postural sway suggestions and as the subject begins to fall, step back so that their chest will support the head and shoulders of the subject when he is caught. As he comes to rest against the hypnotist's chest the hypnotist slides one hand over the subject's eyes, forcing him to close them. At the same time the command "Sleep! Deep, deep sleep!" is given. Then suggestions to deepen the trance are given before the subject is helped back to a normal standing position.

Even the Chevreul pendulum demonstration can be used to induce hypnosis. The subject is asked to concentrate on the bob and its motion. When movement is obtained, he is told he cannot stop it and is challenged to do so. Depending on his reaction, you can command sleep or begin a slower induction of hypnosis. With a subject that fails to meet the challenge, a trance can often be induced by stating in a positive manner "All right, now you can stop it if you wish, but you are getting very sleepy. Sleep! DEEP ASLEEP!" This command can be emphasized by snapping your fingers next to his eyes.

he problem with all of these methods is that they are very uncertain. Their success depends too much on the hypnotist's ability to pick the proper subjects and to adequately set the stage. The ability to detect if a subject is ready for these techniques is somewhat of an art. A tense, fixed expression, bodily tenseness, expectancy and glazed eyes are among the cues an experienced hypnotist looks for.

These methods are rarely recommended for the beginner's use. The only true method of instantaneous hypnosis is the use of a posthypnotic signal. While the subject is hypnotized you suggest to him that the next time you give a particular signal he will immediately go into a deep sleep. Any signal will do. It is a good idea to suggest that he will not recall this. While this is a simple and effective technique, it is not foolproof. Of course, the subject has to be hypnotized the first time before it can be used. Although posthypnotic suggestions can be effective with a light trance, to be fully effective and lasting, the subject should be in a deep hypnotic state, or at least in moderately deep hypnosis. When using this technique, you should be very careful to not use a word as a signal that you would use in an ordinary conversation with the subject. If you do not observe this rule, you may find your subject falling into a trance when it is not intended. Also it should be made clear that he will only respond to the signal if it is given by an authorized person. Never say, "Anytime you hear the word 'rosebud' you will go into a trance," or even "Anytime someone says 'rosebud' to you."

Continue to Module 15 - Induction of Hypnosis 5

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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