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A learning center for hypnosis and self hypnosis education. A resource for finding professional referrals for hypnosis treatment of medical and psychotherapeutic issues. A learning center for hypnosis and self hypnosis education. A resource for finding professional referrals for hypnosis treatment of medical and psychotherapeutic issues.
Member: American Psychotherapy and Medical Hypnosis Association
What is Hypnosis?
Hypnosis: Fact and Fiction
Is Hypnosis Dangerous?
Ideomotor Action
Semantic-Imagery Relaxation
Structuring Auto-Suggestions
Administrating Auto-Suggestions
Deepening the Hypnotic Trance
Testing the Hypnotic Trance
Emotional Behavior
Psychosomatic Disorders
Rules of the Mind
The Power of Creative Imagination
How to Set Realistic Goals
You Can Learn to Relax
Glossary of Terms
Finding a Hypnotherapist Near You
Certification: Licensed Professionals
Hypnosis Training For Professionals
Hypnosis Downloads

Hypnosis Learning Modules

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Module 2 -- Introduction to Hypnosis

This is module two in a series of modules about hetero-hypnosis. We will attempt to give a working definition of hypnotism, what it is, hypnotic techniques and methods of inducing the hypnotic trance. In modern hypnosis, suggestion plays a large part in inducing hypnosis.

Nature of Suggestion

Suggestions play a central role in the use of hypnosis and in its induction. Most suggestions are of a verbal nature. They are first of all an ideational stimulus. They are used to convey an idea from one individual to another with the objective of evoking specific responses. The person giving the suggestions is called the hypnotist (also suggester or operator). The recipient is called the subject (sometimes the suggestee).

The responses to these suggestions do not involve any conscious volitional effort on the part of the subject to carry out the suggestions. The responses are of a nonvoluntary nature. When inducing hypnosis or while a subject is in a trance, the hypnotist will sometimes give the subject instructions. For example, the hypnotist may say to the subject, "Stiffen your arm." When the subject does this, it may be that he is just following instructions, or the response may be a reflex-like action. It is difficult to tell and the subject himself may not know. In actual practice, the term "suggestion" is used in a very broad sense, which includes a combination of suggestions proper, and instructions of a nonsuggestive nature.

Responses to Suggestions

When hypnotized, the responses to suggestions by subjects will vary dramatically. Usually the suggestions given by the hypnotist are to the effect that the subjects will have certain experiences or carry out certain acts. Some individuals will not respond at all to any of the suggestions. They feel no compulsion to carry out the suggestions and have no suggested experiences. Such persons are said to be nonsuggestible. At the other extreme are people that respond fully to all or some of the suggestions. They are said to be suggestible. The suggestible group can be put into two classes. Both classes will tend to lose all awareness of themselves and their surroundings and experience what is being suggested in a very vivid way. One class will respond in an overt way, physically carrying out the suggested activity. For example, if it is suggested that they are digging a hole, they will go all through the actual motions of removing soil with an imaginary shovel. The other class will have the same experience, but will show no physical sign of it. In other words, every aspect of the suggestion is hallucinated but kept at a sensory level.

Most individuals that feel they were not influenced by suggestions and as a matter of fact show no sign of responding will say so. However, some individuals who do not feel they are responding to suggestion will not say anything but will "act out" the suggestions and instructions of the hypnotist as if they were responding. Usually with such people the suggestions do have some effect. They feel a strong compulsion to carry out the suggestions.

It should be pointed out that suggestions are effective to some degree in the waking state. Everyone with out exception (that is willing and cooperative) can be made to demonstrably respond to waking suggestions. This is usually referred to as ideomotor action. We will have much more to say about this later.

The State of Hypnosis

Hypnosis is a state of heightened suggestibility usually brought about in an individual by the use of a combination of the visual fixation upon a small object and suggestions of relaxation. There are many different ways and techniques that can be used to produce the hypnotic state. Some are very slow, taking ten to twenty minutes, while others are very rapid, taking only a few seconds. We will cover these in a later module.

As a rule the suggestions or procedures used to produce hypnosis are called trance-inducing suggestions or procedures. It is customary to use the word "trance" to describe the hypnotic state. The state of not being hypnotized is referred to as the "waking" state. Because "trance" and "waking" are polar terms, it would suggest that if a person was not in the waking state, he is asleep. This is not the case; a hypnotized person is not asleep.

Extensive experiments have demonstrated that there are no differences between the physiology of the waking state and the hypnotic trance. The electric potentials of the brain are the same. The circulation of blood through the brain is the same. Respiration and the consumption of oxygen are the same. Blood pressure, blood count, heartbeat, and blood analysis are the same.

There are various degrees of the hypnotic state. A subject is said to be in a light state of hypnosis when he becomes slightly more hypersuggestible and in a deep state when very hypersuggestible. A subject very deep in hypnosis is said to be in a "somnambulistic state."

Conditions for Hypnosis

For our purposes we will investigate four basic methods of inducing a state of hypnosis. They are: the Braid method, the Classical method, the Standard method (also known as the Modern method) and the Sensorimotor method.

Over a long period of time people that have investigated and practiced hypnosis have come to the conclusion that certain conditions and procedures are capable of producing the hypnotic state. They are:
  1. Fixation (or concentration) of attention
  2. Monotony
  3. Restricting voluntary movements
  4. Narrowing the field of consciousness
  5. Neural Inhibition
  6. Successive response to suggestions
The first of these conditions is specific to the Braid method. The first five are used in the Classical method. The Classical induction method places the subject in an environment structured to utilize one or more of the first five conditions. The Standard method makes use of all six conditions, with the sixth playing a dominant role. The Standard method is sometimes referred to as the Suggestion method. The use of condition six alone constitutes the Sensorimotor method. The Standard method is the most frequently used.

The Standard Method-- This method will be described in more detail in another module, but the general process will be presented here. Typically the subject is asked to focus his attention, by fixating on a bright object. As he does this he is presented with suggestions that tend to bring about closure of the eyelids, relaxation and conditions that are similar to natural sleep. This method initially depends upon some degree of waking suggestibility. The more responsive the subject is to waking suggestion, the more rapid the induction will be. The suggestibility of an individual depends upon three elements: Ideomotor, Semantic conditioning and dissociation.

Normally a person that has never been hypnotized or submitted to suggestion will only manifest the ideomotor element. If the other elements are present they are usually relatively inactive. The induction of hypnosis consists only of activating the other two elements, or at least conditions that favor their manifestation.

The ideomotor element is called ideomotor action. This is the tendency of thoughts or ideas to be automatically translated, reflex-like, into specific patterns of muscular activity appropriate to the thought or idea held by the individual. For example, if an individual thinks about tying his shoelaces, the muscles that would be used to perform that task will be activated to some degree and carry out the task in an aborted way. This is true of every normal individual; it is a reflex that only differs from other reflexes in that it is elicited directly by higher nerve center activity rather than by afferent peripheral impulses. Probably waking suggestions act purely through ideomotor action. An important characteristic of ideomotor action is that as it is repeatedly elicited, it tends to produce a stronger response. This is probably the main reason suggestions are repeated over and over.

When an individual is made to respond to a number of suggestions, there is an increased tendency for him to respond to other suggestions. This is thought to be due to Semantic conditioning. Semantic conditioning occurs when a person carries out an act or has an experience when another person makes a statement describing the act or experience and the two events are closely juxtaposed in time. At such a time there is created, by way of a conditioning process, a tendency for the first person to reflexively exhibit motor and sensory responses associated with the ideational content of the others statements. We will have much more to say about Semantic conditioning in later modules.

The third element of hypnotic suggestibility, dissociation of awareness, is necessary for deep hypnosis. In essence it is a selective constriction of awareness that eliminates all sources of stimuli except the suggestions of the hypnotist.

The finial result of any trance induction depends largely upon the degree to which the three elements, ideomotor, Semantic conditioning and dissociation are activated. Some subjects may develop each to a high degree; others may never go beyond heightened ideoaction, while some may only display weak ideomotor action. In addition to the basic elements, there are a number of other factors that can definitely influence the production of hypnosis. They include the attitude, experiences, needs, fears and defenses of the subject. These factors can be altered within limits in order to enhance the subject's ability to enter the hypnotic state.

What we have described so far is primarily concerned with inducing hypnosis using the Standard method. This assumes that the subject initially only shows a capacity for ideomotor action. However, some subjects will also display a certain amount of generalized suggestibility and/or a high capacity for dissociation of awareness. With such subjects a much briefer technique can be used to induce hypnosis.

In summary, the Standard method of inducing hypnosis consists of a combination of sensory fixation and sleep suggestions that activate three processes, ideomotor action, Semantic conditioning, and dissociation of awareness. The dissociation of awareness is developed largely by concentrating the subject's attention upon a fixation object, the suggestions and the hypnotist. Also the attitude, beliefs and expectancies of the subject can help or hinder the induction.

The Braid and Classical Methods-- So far we have only discussed the Standard method of inducing hypnosis. We will now turn our attention to the Braid and Classical methods. The Sensorimotor method will be discussed in a later module. James Braid found that visual fixation on a small bright object by a subject was all that was necessary to induce the so-called mesmeric trance, now called hypnosis. Braid eventually decided that it was not the visual fixation but the concentration of attention that produced the hypnosis. He found that hypnosis could be induced by using any method of focusing the subject's attention. He found that auditory and tactile methods of focusing the attention worked just as well.

Bernheim -- In later years (under the influence of Bernheim) it was decided that concentration of attention was directly responsible for hypnosis. It was assumed that suggestion was the key to hypnosis. Because people at that time believed that hypnosis could be induced by fixation, the practice of using this method acted as a suggestion that produced the desire result. Since sensory fixation leads to mental and sensory fatigue, this predisposes the subject to feeling tired and sleepy. When "sleep" is subtly suggested it usually ensues. We will go into the Braid method in greater detail in later modules. There is little question today that hypnotic, or at least hypnotic-like, phenomena can be induced without going through the typical induction procedures. The Sensorimotor method is proof of this. There is an abundance of evidence that demonstrates the potential to start with simple waking suggestions, proceed to more complex ones and without ever saying a word about sleep, relaxation or other words associated with the induction of a trance state, produce a state of deep hypnosis. The subject will gradually pass from the waking state into hypnosis with no clear transition evident.

Continue to Module 3 - Conditioning and Language

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
Texas . 78526
Phone (956) 203-0608
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