Tuesday 13 October 2009

Analytical Subjects II

In part 1 I talked a bit about why I think it is that analytical subjects have trouble with hypnosis. In this post I will talk about where I think most hypnotists go wrong in trying to hypnotise them and what the most common mistakes are.

Hypnotists who understand the issue with analytical subjects least fall broadly into two categories.

Firstly there are the hypnotists who are good subjects themselves and thus have difficulty comprehending how anybody could find trance difficult, which is quite understandable. In this case it is not so much a case of the blind leading the blind, rather a case of the sighted teaching the blind to play darts.

Actually no, that's an awful analogy but I'm sure you get the point. People who find it easy to be hypnotised often find it hard to explain just how they do it because they take so much of what they do for granted, like knowing where the target is.

Secondly there are the hypnotists who are not themselves good subjects or who are unwilling to even be subjects. These are often the worst offenders, because they have little or no understanding of what the experience of trance is really like and develop all kinds of misconceptions based on the reactions of their subjects. Don't get me wrong, some of the world's best hypnotists are no doubt poor subjects themselves, but it can lead to a complete lack of understanding about what the subject is experiencing.

Hypnotists who have themselves never been hypnotised will see subjects appear to fall like dominoes in their wake and think they're dealing out dynamite. Perhaps they are, but the point here is that that it doesn't always feel like that for the subject; as a general rule I think the subject nearly always underestimates how much hypnosis is really affecting them.

So the hypnotist will think that trance is this magic state and all that they have to do is get the subject there, get the subject into it and they've onto a winner. This is often a reason why such individuals have trouble experiencing hypnosis themselves; they go into a light trance with no trouble at all, but it feels so distinctly unimpressive that they believe it hasn't worked. The experience doesn't meet the expectation.

Mistake 1 - Trance or bust

Mistake, or indeed major misconception, number 1 is the nature of trance as an experience for the subject. Both of the above types of hypnotists expect trance to have some profound and, frankly, incapacitating effect on their subjects. Not only that, this expectation is picked up upon by the subject. Both parties in the hypnotic contract, hypnotist and subject, expect something astounding to happen when the word "sleep" is said.

Analytical subjects "don't get" hypnosis. They think critically by nature, thinking uncritically does not come naturally to them and especially not when they are required to do it on demand. However, having said that like anyone they do actually enter trance; they will have their eyes closed with their attention completely focused on the hypnotist, which is more than what's needed for trance. The important thing to understand though is that don't realise they're entering trance. Analytical subjects only go into a very light trance so they will not see or feel any evidence of anything unusual going on, and so they won't believe anything has happened.

This is where I think the build up of anticipation, which is usually very important for hypnotists, actually works against them when working with an analytical subject. The experience doesn't meet the expectation.

If the hypnotist expects trance incapacitate or at least impress their subject and it doesn't they will believe that they have failed to induce it. They don't recognise that, although the subject may not be convinced, trance is happening nonetheless and give up.

The hypnotist gives up, and of course that is the point at which they fail.

Mistake 2 - Special inductions

Mistake number 2 is what seems to come naturally after mistake number 1; the idea that there is a special induction out there that will work. They think their first induction failed to produce hypnosis, but if they use the right induction the magic will happen.

Many hypnotists will at this point start trying all sorts of special inductions. I lose count of all the times that I've heard of hypnotists saying words to the effect that "Oh, an analytical subject eh? You need an instant/confusion/overload induction for them!" Sure enough, the hypnotist will soon have the poor subject hopping up and down on one foot singing the national anthem backward whilst balancing a fish on their head, all so that this time when they say "sleep!" it will work!

As a subject I went through a phase of trying all sorts of inductions in the hope that something would work on me and a number of hypnotists, most notably Darren, have performed many instant and confusion inductions on me. Anyone who knows Darren will know how good he is at these, and when he demonstrated them on me he executed them flawlessly. However, none of these inductions produced a trance that was different to any of the others I'd already experienced, and as I didn't recognise that I really was in a trance I thought they hadn't worked.

If the subject didn't feel as though they were in a trance the first time they are much less likely to believe it a second time with an even bigger build up to the same thing. Trust me, the momentary confusion passes leaving the subject sat there with the same feeling they had before and when nothing appears to have happened this is when the hypnotist's credibility crumbles into dust.

Don't get me wrong, these inductions do work and they can be a lot of fun but in my personal experience they are less than useless with an analytical subject without also having the right attitude to the rest of the process. I cannot stress enough that to an analytical subject trance simply feels like the unremarkable feeling that they're sat there with their eyes closed. The more dramatic the fashion in which they are put there the more underwhelming the experience will seem to them when they arrive.

I call this approach to hypnotising an analytical subject the search for the "magic bullet" induction. This is the idea that for everybody there is a special induction that will put them in very deep instantaneously, if only it could be found. It is usually touted by hypnotists with little or no experience of trance themselves. It is impossible to disprove this assertion, as one can always insist that the magic bullet simply hasn't been found yet, however I am extremely skeptical.

In my experience if a willing subject is with a hypnotist whose approach they're comfortable with any induction is as good as any other; the subject will perform within the bounds of their abilities, perhaps pushing that envelope outwards in the process. I assert that trance is a skill; everybody has a latent ability when they start out, everybody gets better with practice, and everybody learns at a different rate. A good and experienced teacher with a good understanding of what the subject is experiencing can help this process, but I have seen and heard of nothing that will produce the step change needed to turn an analytical subject into a somnambulist in an instant.

I should stress that it is in my own best interests to be disproved on this point, but sadly so far I have not.

Mistake 3 - Trying to be clever

This mistake is less serious but definitely worth mentioning because it is more common.

The worst offender as far as this is concerned is the hypnotist that's got all the language patterns, all the clever syntax, all the textbooks, and thus all the answers they think they need. "Just say this, because it distracts the critical faculty away from the first statement and then you can confuse them with the next statement which is compounded and forced through by this particular adjective, and then hey presto!" etc etc. Then they pat themselves on the back for being so clever.

If analytical subjects are good at anything it is analysing what's going on. Foremost in their mind is always a sense of wanting to understand what's happening, the process, what the rules are and how things work. If they get the slightest impression that the hypnotist is withholding anything from them, or trying to trick or lead them blindly in any way, they get defensive until they have their answer. "What's the scam here?" sums it up nicely.

This is why overload or diversion tactics are not necessarily a good idea for analytical subject in my opinion. Far from having the desired effect the subject will in fact realise what's happening and instinctively put their attention where it's not being directed to try to understand the nature of the trick being pulled on them.

Analytical individuals do not take anything for granted, may have read up on hypnosis beforehand and faced with the usual pre-talk "lies to children" may also decide to ask difficult questions like "why?". They become suspicious if they believe the hypnotist isn't being sincere, or is unable or unwilling to answer their questions.

A lot of hypnotists simply like to aid the process of hypnosis by setting up a positive context with their subject by selective use of the information, and this isn't a bad thing at all. In such a case it's fair enough and the mistake isn't being too clever, the mistake is not being clever or subtle enough and getting caught out.

There is no need to lie to or patronise an analytical subject, and the hypnotist who does immediately loses all credibility.

Mistake 4 - Giving up

Mistake number 4 is the worst. This is giving up on the subject and writing them off as a lost cause. The belief that a number of hypnotists have is that some people cannot be hypnotised, and that some people simply aren't worth working with because they "won't go". There are some otherwise very talented hypnotists who are included in this number.

What happens is that the hypnotist, having tried and failed with everything they can think of, comes to the conclusion that the willing individual in front of them cannot be hypnotised. There are a number of rationalisations commonly used, one is to believe that some people simply can't be hypnotised, and another is believing that some fear or other form of reluctance on the part of the subject is preventing the hypnosis from working.

This is nonsense. I know this because I was once told such things myself.

There are some people who cannot be hypnotised but these are not intelligent and willing individuals. People with diminished mental abilities cannot be hypnotised. There are people who are simply unwilling to be hypnotised in a formal context, which is fair enough. I am firmly of the belief that anybody who wants to be hypnotised and puts their mind to it can do so.

Something that is worth considering is the question of what the objective of the hypnosis is, and whether can a particular subject be hypnotised to achieve the right sort of phenomena within a useful timescale. Analytical subjects don't usually give good results straight away and if the purpose of the demonstration is to entertain a group of people it is understandable if a hypnotist concludes that it's not worth the effort and moves on. Stage hypnotists have no use at all for analytical subjects because they are in the business of entertainment, they only want the best subjects they can find, and a stage hypnosis show with poor subjects too dull for words. This is of course entirely different to a one-on-one context where the focus can be focused solely on the subject's needs.

In the event that the hypnotist is having no success it is better for them to explain to the subject that perhaps a different time, a different place, and possibly a different hypnotist might be better for them, than to tell them that they can't be hypnotised. If they are willing, they can be.

...and next...

In my third and final installment I will explain how I would go about hypnotising an analytical subject.


BlackCat said...

This is nonsense. I know this because I was once told such things myself.

I understand that's what you've chosen to believe, however that doesn't mean it's actually true. I don't think anyone knows how the mind works, so to assert that something is or isn't true is simply an act of faith not logic.

All I know is I can't control my mind very well, and so it will wander in different directions while I am trying to concentrate on what the hypnotist is saying, or just being fully present, or what not. Maybe it just finds those things boring, but I believe there's a good chance the unconscious mind is trying to be protective which is one of its main functions. And I know of no way of telling it that its idea of how I need to be protected is slightly imperfect and ask it to do what I want it to do. But I'll keep trying.

As for confusion and overload inductions, maybe you just haven't ran into a good enough hypnotist yet, particularly one that won't let that "momentary confusion" just pass without being able to utilize it. There's not that many really good hypnotists out there.

Necktieknot said...

Thanks, Parkey, and I'm looking forward to Part III.

Parkey said...

BlackCat, are you saying that you're trying to be hypnotised but you think you're having trouble?

What I read from your post is that you seem to think hypnosis isn't working for you because your mind keeps wandering off? Am I right?

If that's the case I should ask why you think that's a problem for you? What are you you expecting that will confirm to you that it is working?

Cufflink said...

Excellent post, Parkey--in my estimation, your best yet. I'm eagerly awaiting part 3.

BTW, have you seen this article that appeared in Scientific American in 2001?

The scientific community apparently believes that hypnotizability is an immutable characteristic of one's personality, remaining stable over a lifetime. I wonder if they've done any research to explore the idea that people can in fact learn to become better subjects.

BlackCat said...

Ultimately the goal is to get the unconscious to accept and act on the suggestions. I have no doubt that I go into light or sometimes even medium trance, but as far as taking the critical factor offline and letting the suggestions take effect, or experiencing any deep trance phenomena, I've had no luck so far.

I do notice the mind trying to analyze the patter when it doesn't wander away, but I think it may be only part of the problem, or may not even be a part at all. So I'm just looking for ideas on how to get the unconscious to accept the suggestions. Maintaining a very positive attitude is one thing of course, but that alone doesn't seem to be enough.

Like the others I am looking forward to part III too, although I suspect I know what the main line is going to be. Even so your blog is always a very enjoyable read.

BlackCat said...

The scientific community apparently believes that hypnotizability is an immutable characteristic of one's personality, remaining stable over a lifetime.

Yeah, they are also still using the Stanford research of hypnotizability that Bandler keeps ridiculing.

The full article is at

Anonymous said...

One thing that seems to be taken for granted is the assumption that hypnosis and trance are the same thing. This simply isn't so. Yes, they CAN both be present at the same time. However, I often do hypnosis with no trance at all in place.

Some call this 'waking hypnosis' but I am not altogether sure that I like that moniker either. I just find that this distinction can make all the difference in the world. I am rapidly moving into the area that goes so far as to say that "bypassing the critical factor" is completely unnecessary.

And, BlackCat, I must agree with you; there's not that many really good hypnotists out there. I am a hypnosis teacher (I have a NYC workshop coming up) and I find that even some who have been doing hypnosis for a long time are astounded by some of the things I teach. Usually, it has to do with just how simple hypnosis really is.

heshbonhasui10 said...

wow !

all the time hypnotists told me i can't visualise , or i can't concetrate, or i am not smart , or i am resisting or i don't want or i afraid, and all this i know not true, also i have 126 iq , i searched the best hypnotists, and they told me this bulshit , i thought that a mentalist that put people hand stuck to table will prove me i can be hypnotised , but same excuses he said , i know its not true , and i knew all the thing he told about me not correct, i readed what you wrote, and its exactly describing what happend to me all the time, i remember , because i many times wanted this proof and tried to make my hand stuck myself , and yes what you said is exactly what correct, i expect how it should be , and i don't see it , and think this not make sense its will not work , and this why its not worked for me, i always tried to belive it will work and tried everything, to concetrate very much and relax good and imagine good and change the belive good, and my hand not stuck , but i can concetrate very good and relax very good and imagine very good, but not hypnotised because i expect it to succeeded and its not happend exactly how i thought it will happend, and then i too much thought , i tried to hard, and then relaxation went, and i understood its not happening, and i know i am smart, and its not related to my imagine and to my concetration, the hypnotists just fed me leyes ,because they didn't succeeded, so i too analytical , this the real explanation , and not related to smartness or concetration or imagine, just to if i think and suspect , or flow and belive everything he said without suspect.