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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
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Hypnosis Learning Modules

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Module 9 -- Suggestion In General

Integrating and Combining Suggestions

Suggestions can be given individually, independently of one another, but it is often advantageous to give several suggestions sequentially as a continuous unit. It not only makes a more effective demonstration, but also often has a facilitative effect on some of the suggestions in the unit.

Preparation for Your Subject

Each individual has a maximal potentiality for response to suggestions. Part of this is innate, and part is acquired. Very few individuals initially manifest their maximal potential suggestibility. This is partly due to interfering factors such as attitudes, beliefs and anxiety.

The induction of hypnosis by the Standard method requires that a certain degree of suggestibility is present at the beginning. In a similar way, the success of each waking suggestion calls for a minimal amount of suggestibility. In both cases it may be necessary to increase the subject's initial suggestibility in order to achieve a desire effect. This preliminary step is usually referred to in hypnotic literature as "training" the subject. Homoaction and heteroaction are the two basic processes that are used for this purpose. Based on their properties the following procedural rules have been established: When you begin working with a subject, especially the first time, you should give him a number of different suggestions in rapid succession. Each should contain many repetitions of the suggested idea. If a response is weak or absent, it should be given at least once again. Always proceed from the simpler to the more complex (easier to the more difficult) suggestion. Always give motor suggestions first and sensory suggestions later. Your objective should always be for a strong, well-defined and complete response to your suggestions. For this reason it is important that you do not tax the subject's suggestibility. If you start with a suggestion that calls for greater suggestibility than the subject has, you will get neither homoaction nor heteroaction. If he responds weakly or incompletely, the heteroaction if not the homoaction will suffer. This is true even if the inadequate response occurs someplace in a sequence of successful suggestions. In fact, because of the summarized nature of heteroaction, failure to respond to a suggestion will tend to extinguish or decrease the heteroaction gained at this point.

There are other benefits from following the above rules. A successful suggestion always tends to increase the hypnotist's prestige and to create in the subject a more positive attitude toward his ability to affect the subject. A rapid succession of suggestions tends to keep the subject's attention focused upon the hypnotist.

It is possible to raise a subject's suggestibility, without taxing his responsiveness, by giving him a series of suggestions of equal difficulty or complexity. One problem with this approach is you will very quickly run out of suggestions. Also, because the goal is to increase his suggestibility, it is desirable to have an idea just what his suggestibility is at any given time. Both problems can be solved by using a set of suggestions graded in the degree of suggestibility needed to elicit a satisfactory response. Start with the suggestion having the lowest requirement and progress to the one with the highest requirement. At any time the subject should give a weak, unsatisfactory, or no response, to a suggestion, take this as an indication that his suggestibility has not or has barely reached the level needed for that suggestion. Should the response be a weak one, you can then repeat the previous suggestions or introduce new ones of similar difficulty. Eventually retest the subject with the failed suggestion.

The suggestions given in previous modules, Chevreul's pendulum, backward postural sway, hand levitation, hand clasping, and eye catalepsy constitute a set of graded suggestions in the order low to high suggestibility. The recommended procedure is to start with the Chevreul pendulum and rapidly work up through the remaining suggestions given above. Another reason for doing this is to get an idea how susceptible an individual is to hypnosis. With a little experience you will find you can skip certain suggestions when you have a subject who is obviously very suggestible. However, as a rule, unless there is evidence that a subject is very suggestible, go rapidly through the postural sway, hand clasping, and eye catalepsy suggestions, especially if you intend to induce hypnosis.

Increased Suggestibility Via Voluntary Action

There is a lot of evidence that suggests voluntarily executing a given action facilitates its subsequent re-execution. This means your suggestion is likely to be more effective if shortly before giving it, you have been able to get the subject to voluntarily perform the suggested act. This is one of the factors involved in the hand clasping experiment. Remember, we had the subject voluntarily stiffen his hands. Many hypnotists believe that getting the subject to voluntarily do a number of simple things can facilitate not only repeated responses, but also future suggestions. A simple way to do this is to move the subject about under the guise of procedure. You can ask him to stand here...or better, turn like this, etc. As soon as you are through with an experiment, you can have the subject sit down. Then shortly afterward, have him stand up for another experiment. If you are going to hypnotize him, have him move to another chair. If he crosses his legs after sitting down, you can ask him to uncross them. All of this must appear as natural and not be overdone.

The efficient use of voluntary responses can be nicely demonstrated by describing a procedure for hand clasping used by the late stage hypnotist Konradi Leitner. He used the Chinese hand clasping experiment as a group or mass suggestion. His objective was to insensibly transform voluntary responses into responses to waking suggestions and these into responses in a light to medium state of hypnosis. Leitner would start by making brief introductory remarks that were designed to create a receptive attitude and establishing rapport with the audience.

The audience was then asked to stand up. Sufficient time was allowed for everyone to stand. At the same time with the instructions to stand up, he would straighten himself, suggesting nonverbally that the audience should do the same. The audience was then instructed to remove everything from their hands and to relax. Again sufficient time was allowed for the audience to remove rings, handbags, purses, cigarettes, etc., from their hands. Leitner then instructed the audience to inhale deeply and to hold their breath for ten seconds. He would then say at the count of ten "Exhale slowly." This was repeated three times. Leitner also inhaled, held his breath in unison with the audience. In order to accentuate this procedure he would also hold his hands and arms outstretched in front of his chest, horizontal and parallel to each other, fingers spread with palms down. With each inhalation he would raise both arms slightly above the level of his forehead. They were held in this position for the duration of the ten-second pause. They were then lowered to the horizontal position in unison with the exhalation. This procedure served two purposes: it introduced a nonverbal suggestion, by example, of the voluntary act of breathing, helped to show the audience what was desired of them. The arm motion served as a suggestion and as a means of emphasizing and controlling the action asked for.

At the end of the third command to exhale, he would give the instructions for the hand clasping experiment (see module 8). He would slowly demonstrate each step. He added an additional step to the procedure that we did not use in module 8. When the audience had their arms extended with their fingers spread (Module .8, Fig. 3A) he would instruct them to breathe again deeply and then to exhale slowly. In the next step he had them again breathe deeply, but this time he would add, "as you inhale, raise your arms." At the same time he raised his. Then as soon as the audience complied, he would instruct them to lower their arms slowly and exhale.

The above procedure was repeated three times. The audience was next instructed to interlock their fingers and turn their palms outward. This was demonstrated to the audience slowly step by step. This not only makes it very clear to the audience exactly what they are expected to do, but has them perform a series of voluntary responses which serves as a foundation upon which to build up the audience's suggestibility. When properly done, it allows the hypnotist to pass insensibly from the elicitation of voluntary acts to suggestion proper.

With their fingers interlocked and their hands turned outward, the audience was instructed to take another deep breath, hold it for ten seconds, then exhale. Then they were asked, while keeping their hands interlocked, to synchronize their breathing with movements of their arms from the horizontal to above their heads. After the audience preformed this exercise a few times he would tell them in a few moments they would be asked to close their eyes. He would then in quick succession command them sharply to raise their arms overhead, breath deeply, and to close their eyes. He would then say: "Your eyes are closed. Now breath unison. Keep your hands over your head...Your hands and fingers are interlocked...Breathe deeply, in harmony...Now your hands are beginning to become tight...I shall begin to count to three. As I count your hands will get tighter and tighter and when I reach the count of three you will not be able to unlock your hands and fingers...Breathe in unison...I shall now begin to count...One...Your hands begin to feel tight...Two...Your arms and your hands are becoming stiff...Three...You cannot take your hands apart. Try. You cannot unlock your hands."

Essentially this was Leitner's way of demonstrating the hand clasping exercise. He very skillfully blended actual suggestions with other instructions. The entire procedure was designed to secure the maximum attention of the audience and to keep it focused upon the suggestions and instructions. He kept the audience executing voluntary actions (or at least what were initially voluntary actions) throughout the entire procedure. This is an excellent technique especially well suited for mass hypnosis. He usually passed from the hand clasping suggestions to the induction of hypnosis proper.

Note that Leitner extensively used deep rhythmic breathing as part of his procedure. Many hypnotists feel that deep breathing directly helps in inducing and deepening the trance state. Some experimental evidence does seem to indicate that deep breathing (hyperventilation) does have a positive affect upon a subject's suggestibility, but as a whole the available evidence is poor.

The Counting Technique

There are occasions when what appears to be a potentially good subject responds poorly. This is often the case with passive subjects (see below). In these cases the so-called "counting technique" can be very effective. We have used it in several of our previous experiments; it can be used in any situation. With very suggestible subjects it can be very effective. You only need to say: "At the count of three you will do so and so...One...Two...Three." and the suggestion takes effect. With subjects that have failed to give a response, or that have given a weak response, better results can often be obtained by stating very positively: "Now I am going to count to three and at the count of three, such and such will happen. You will not be able to prevent it. In fact if you did try, you would find it happens more strongly. Alright now, One...Two...THREE!" In some situations you may feel that a longer count is necessary. You can also add suggestions at the end of each count. Varying situations call for varying techniques.

Passive Subjects

Quite often you will encounter subjects that appear to be potentially excellent subjects, but who do poorly when given many of the suggestions. They respond well to the falling back experiment and are easily hypnotized, but in other respects they are rather unresponsive. Such individuals are known as passive subjects. They often show a disinclination to exert any muscular effort when asked to do so. When challenged, they probably will do nothing at all. For demonstrations or experimental work, it is best not to use them. However, for therapeutic purposes, these individuals can be extremely suggestible and the use of hypnosis can be very effective. How should these subjects be handled? -- I don't know. The use of a more positive, commanding, authoritarian approach will sometimes overcome their passivity to some degree. The counting technique above can be very effective. The subject may have various personal reasons for behaving the way he does which can be uncovered by questioning him. The causes can then be eliminated or circumvented. The point I wish to make is that unresponsiveness or what appears to be unresponsiveness on the part of a subject is not always an indication of low suggestibility.

Sometimes subjects react to suggestions in a way that is very perplexing for the hypnotist. One reaction that sometimes occurs with waking suggestions is that the subject smiles, often broadly, when you give your suggestions. This usually occurs when a subject finds himself responding, to his great surprise, to your suggestions. The smiling is nothing more than an expression of his surprise. Very seldom does a subject smile because the situation appears funny to him. In such an event, it is best to ignore the reaction and to continue with the suggestions as if nothing had occurred. There may be exceptions where you feel you must interrupt the proceedings. In such a case you should start over rather than continue from where you quit. If possible try to integrate the subject's actions into the procedures, else ignore them. It is always a good idea to ask the subject at the end of the experiment, why he behaved as he did (i.e., why he smiled).

Nonverbal Suggestions

Nonverbal suggestions are an important complement in giving suggestions. They vary considerably and can be anything from a facial expression, a stance, a tone of voice, to a motion of the entire body.

Although the structure and verbal content of a suggestion is of prime importance, the effectiveness of a suggestion can be greatly enhanced by a proper use of vocal expression. If there is some indication that a response to a suggestion is beginning to take place, changing to an assertive, effective, dynamic expression will increase the response. We not only tell the subject that what we have been predicting is now occurring, but the change in our vocal expression indicates to him our awareness of it, possibly making it more real to him.

Another factor that should be taken into consideration are the vocal expressions of the hypnotist that reflect his feelings, attitudes and emotions. It is important that suggestions be given in a tone of voice that projects conviction, self-assurance and confidence. Within limits, a suggestion will be effective in proportion to the degree to which the hypnotist believes in its effectiveness and the reality of the phenomena it elicited. For example, if the hypnotist wants to suggest disgust he will be more effective if he can make his tone of voice express this, along with his facial expression, posture, etc. If the hypnotist says to the subject: "You feel disgusted," and at the same time he expresses disgust in his tone of voice and shows it in his facial expression, we have three different stimuli, each of which have the power to evoke the same response in the subject. They are all working at the same time and mutually reinforcing each other.

Continuity and Discontinuity of Ideas in Suggestions

Frequently when giving suggestions we not only present the idea of the desired effect to the subject, but to precede or accompany it with one or more subsidiary ideas that suggest the effect indirectly. One of the most common ways to do this is by the use of metaphors. For example, when suggesting to a subject whose eyes are closed that he cannot open them, one could assert that his eyelids are heavy, heavy as lead, and that when he tries to open them he will find it impossible to do so because it is as if his eyes were glued tightly shut. Also, when suggesting to a subject that he is falling backward, we often tell him that he is going to fall, but this is so because some strong force is pulling him backward. There are some advantages to doing this. Because the subsidiary ideas indirectly suggest the same end result as the principal idea, it is assumed that there will be some sort of synergetic action. Also, it is possible that the subject might misinterpret what effect is expected and by stating it a variety of ways may lessen the chance of a misunderstanding. Sometimes a subject may be incapable of conceptualizing or visualizing a certain effect when it is stated in one way, but if worded in a different way he has no problem with it. Another advantage to proceeding in this way is that it gives the subject the opportunity to participate more actively in the production of the suggested effect by selecting which idea to act upon.

On the other hand, some hypnotists feel this technique is harmful because it introduces discontinuities in the subject's thoughts. If monoideaism or sustained attention is basic to the production of suggested phenomena, this is a reasonable position to take. To first call the subject's attention to the concept that his eyes are too heavy to open and then to the idea that they are glued closed does appear at first glance to be incompatible with the above conditions. In actual practice you will find that some subjects respond best to suggestions when you adhere to strict continuity of ideas, while others seem to benefit from the introduction of subsidiary ideas.

It would be nice to have some idea how individual subject might react to discontinuities of ideas. It has been my experience that people who are literal-minded, that have critical analytical minds, that place a high value on words, that are trained or prone to use a highly precise language are the one that are most frequently unable to tolerate discontinuity or will only tolerate a small amount of it. These people often seem to perceive the subsidiary ideas as being incompatible with one another as well as the central idea of the suggestion, even though no logical or linguistic incompatibility really exists. Their tendency to literalness with regard to the wording of a suggestion often shows up in a different way that is worth calling attention to. For most people it is unimportant when giving a suggestion of eye closure whether you say, "Your eyelids are heavy," or "Yours eyes are heavy." With these subjects this becomes very important. Typically they will tell you that when you tell them their eyes were heavy they found it impossible to conceive of their eyeballs being heavy. Not all individuals who perceive incompatibilities between ideas in a suggestion will react this way. Some just ignore all but the idea that appeals to them and allow it to have its effects upon them. My experience has been that the use of subsidiary ideas is most likely to cause difficulties for subjects that are professional scientists.

Continue to Module 10 - Induction of Hypnosis 1

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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