3 Hypnosis Inductions To Try At Home

I have a problem with the term “hypnosis”. It still conjures up too many negative ideas and images for too many people. Visions of swinging watches; people making fools of themselves for stage hypnotists;
Svengali-type characters controlling poor vulnerable innocents.

I often wish we could choose a new name for what hypnotherapists do, to help move past the negative associations. 200 years ago the term hypnosis didn’t even exist, although the idea of putting people into a “trance” had been around for thousands of years. For many years, what we now call hypnotism was called Mesmerism, after Franz Mesmer, a German physician. However, the term Mesmerism fell out of favour once the underlying theories behind it, of all objects possessing a special energy called animal magnetism, was debunked.

In 1842, the father of modern hypnosis, James Braid, first used the term “Neurohypnology”. This was the first time that “Hypno”, from the Greek for sleep, was used to describe the phenomenon. Although Braid used the term metaphorically, the idea that hypnosis is a form of sleep has stuck ever since.

Personally, I prefer the term that Braid developed later in his career, “monoideism”, which simply means a state of prolonged absorption in a single idea. That’s all hypnosis really is, focused attention. By engaging fully with the suggestions or ideas that are made (either by yourself, the hypnotist or on a hypnosis recording) those suggestions are more easily accepted and personal transformation is more likely to take place. By focusing on those suggestions, to the exclusion of all other distractions, a client can utilise their imagination or creativity in more positive ways.

Most hypnotherapists are keen on the phrase “all hypnosis is self-hypnosis”, meaning it’s not really the hypnotherapist who is creating a hypnotic state in the client, but rather it is the client doing it for themselves. As hypnotherapists, it might be us saying the words, but it is actually the client who chooses to focus their attention, engage their imagination and go into hypnosis.

So, to start a hypnosis session we always conduct a hypnotic induction. This is just a process to allow you to focus your attention more easily. Below are 3 simple inductions that you can try at home to create a pleasant, relaxing state really quickly. Although these inductions focus on creating relaxation there are hundreds of other inductions that don’t. However, for many clients I work with, particularly those dealing with stress, anxiety, panic attacks or phobias, learning to relax is very beneficial. It is also a good “convincer” for new clients, proof that something different and interesting is happening.

I always explain to clients that hypnosis feels no different to sitting in a room with your eyes closed – unless I give suggestions for them to feel different. The inductions below include suggestions to feel more relaxed or heavier. The key to a successful induction is to follow the instructions, to act “as if”, to imagine or simply pretend that the suggestions are happening. Therefore, if the suggestion is for your eyes to become heavy, just act “as if” your eyes are becoming heavy – imagine what it would be like to have eyes that were really heavy!!!

If you are interested in trying out these inductions then find somewhere quiet, where you won’t be disturbed for 5 minutes. Sit or lie in a comfortable position and keep your arms and legs uncrossed. Make sure you understand the process you are going to follow before you start, or make a recording beforehand.

There is no right way or wrong way of doing hypnosis – just have a try and see what happens. Please let me know how you get on.


Mindfulness Breathing Induction

This hypnotic induction is based on a simple mindfulness technique. By taking your attention to your breathing for just a few moments you are learning to become more present and less focused on negative thoughts.

  1. Take a nice deep breath, hold it for a moment, and as you breathe out, close your eyes
  2. Take a few moments to make yourself comfortable and settle down into your seat
  3. Take your attention to your breathing for about 8 breaths. Don’t change your breathing patterns, just breathe gently and easily. Become aware of the sensation of the air coming in through your mouth or nose and the feeling of your chest as it gently rises and falls.
  4. With each breath that you take allow yourself to become more deeply relaxed. Becoming more relaxed with each breath that you take.
  5. Sense your muscles becoming warm, comfortable and heavy as they all switch off. Sense your breathing slowing down and becoming more gentle.
  6. Once you’ve completed about 8 breaths take your attention to your hands. Imagine your hands becoming so relaxed and heavy and comfortable that you can’t lift them. If they aren’t heavy just act “as if” they were. Imagine having hands that are so heavy you couldn’t lift them.
  7. Take that feeling of heaviness and let it spread throughout your body.
  8. Take a few moments to scan your body for any tension, releasing any that you find.
  9. When you are ready, slowly orientate yourself back to the room you are in and then gently open your eyes.


Triple Eye Lock Induction

This induction is based on a very famous one called the Elman Induction. It uses an example of hypnotic phenomena – the eye lock – to induce hypnosis.

  1. Make yourself comfortable, settle down and close your eyes
  2. Take your attention to your eyelids. Relax your eyelids completely so that you simply can’t open them.
  3. Once you are certain they are completely relaxed, gently test your eyelids to make sure they don’t work. Remember, you are acting “as if” your eyelids can’t open. You are testing your eyelids to make sure that they are so relaxed they don’t open – if you can open them then they are not totally relaxed!!! Even though you know you can open your eyes you can use your imagination to pretend that you can’t open them.
  4. Once you’ve tested them allow the feeling of relaxation in your eyelids to spread throughout your body.
  5. Take your attention back to your eyelids, as well as all the muscles around your eyelids, your brow and cheeks. This time relax all those muscles so much that your eyelids won’t open. Test your eyelids again to make sure they won’t open and then take that feeling of relaxation and allow that to spread throughout your body.
  6. For the third time take your attention to the muscles in your eyelids as well as all the muscles in your face. Relax your face muscles completely and once again test your eyelids. Finally take that feeling of relaxation and allow it to spread across your body, becoming even deeper relaxed.
  7. Take a few moments to scan your body for any tension, releasing any that you find.
  8. When you are ready, slowly orientate yourself back to the room you are in and then gently open your eyes.


Eye Fixation Induction

James Braid devised the original version of this induction more than 150 years ago and it is still being used by hypnotherapists across the globe. I remember my first attempt at being hypnotised, staring at a spot on a wall and not understanding why nothing was happening. Of course, for this induction to be successful you need to engage your imagination and act “as if” your eyes are getting heavy. The induction is set up in such as a way that it also starts to put a slight strain on the eyes, making them naturally start to feel heavy and tired.

  1. Sit upright in a chair, make yourself comfortable and look straight ahead at a wall about 8 feet away.
  2. Without tilting your head upwards, gently turn your eyes upwards and focus on a spot at the top of the wall or on the ceiling.
  3. Focus on the spot intently, give it your full attention.
  4. As you feel the slight strain in your eyes really engage with the idea of how pleasant it would be to relax your eyes and let them close.
  5. Slowly give in to that feeling of needing to close your eyes. Allow your eyelids to become heavier. Enjoy that feeling of letting go of that tension.
  6. You might start to feel your eyelids flutter as they become heavier. Don’t fight that feeling, allow it to grow until you must close them. It should only take about 1-2 minutes at most for your eyes to become so heavy that you must close them.
  7. As you close your eyes embrace that sense of relaxation, let it flow through your body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.
  8. Take a few moments to scan your body for any tension, releasing any that you find.
  9. When you are ready, slowly orientate yourself back to the room you are in and then gently open your eyes.

photo credit: 466708_10151701301630501_897570500_24260581_980763887_o via photopin (license)

Don’t Believe In Hypnosis? 3 Studies To Change Your Mind

I get it. I understand why people are cynical about hypnosis. In my last blog I discussed stage hypnosis, and the tricks used to convince an audience. Hypnotising dogs on Britain’s Got Talent don’t help its image and the portrayal of hypnosis in films and television usually just confirms people’s suspicions that it is all a con.

I’ll admit that when I first started my training 5 years ago, even though I entered with an open mind, I still had nagging doubts. During the initial training sessions as the tutor talked about “altered states of consciousness” and the brain entering an “alpha” brain state (now proven to be wrong anyway), a little bit of me still thought it all sounded a bit dodgy.

As time went on and I gained more experience working with clients I started to see the benefits that hypnosis had on individuals. Clients who came to see me who were overwhelmed by their feelings and emotions were able, through hypnosis, to take back control of their life. They were able to gain a better perspective about their problems and very quickly became more optimistic about the future. Unhelpful habits that they had developed became easier to let go of and replace with healthier behaviours.

I still don’t know if hypnosis is a unique “state”. Even recent research using the most high tech brain scanning equipment can’t categorically prove that it is either. The truth is that hypnosis isn’t a unitary state anyway, but is very task specific. Therefore, you would expect to see differences between a person who is hypnotised and instructed to relax deeply compared to one who is asked to hallucinate (for example to imagine that they see an object in front of them).

However, gathered below are 3 studies which throw up some interesting results. They don’t prove conclusively that hypnosis exists but go some way to showing that it is worthy of further research and a reappraisal from the media and the general public.

Hypnotic inductions can change affect activity in the brain

It might come as a surprise, but when we are at rest, parts of our brain actually become more active. The default mode network, as it is called, includes large areas of the brain which paradoxically are more active when we’re at rest compared with when we’re engaged in a taxing, externally focused task.

As part of one experiment, researchers assessed brain activity of participants while resting in an fMRI scanner and also while engaged in visual tasks, both in and out of hypnosis. Participants, who were already identified as highly suggestible, whilst in hypnosis showed decreased brain activity in the parts of the default mode circuit. In low suggestible participants, hypnotic inductions produced no detectable changes in these regions, but instead deactivated areas involved in alertness. The findings indicated that hypnotic inductions create a distinctive and unique pattern of brain activation in highly suggestible subjects. Interestingly, the parts of the brain that showed decreased activity in the hypnotised participants included those responsible for daydreaming and letting the mind wander. This might support the idea that hypnosis creates a heightened increase in focused attention.

Hypnosis changes colour perceptions in the brain

A study conducted at Harvard University was designed to show whether hypnosis could affect colour perceptions. Using a positron emission tomography (PET) scan, eight highly suggestible subjects were asked, both in and out of hypnosis, to view a colourful Mondrian style pattern, in different ways:

  • The original version in colour
  • A similar grayscale version in colour
  • The colour version as grayscale
  • The grayscale version as grayscale

When subjects were hypnotised, parts of the brain responsible for colour perception were activated when they were asked to perceive colour, whether they were actually shown the colour or the grayscale version. However, those same brain regions had decreased activation when subjects were told to see grayscale, whether they were actually shown the colour or grayscale version. In other words the brain responded “as if” they were seeing a colour image (whether or not they were in reality), rather than just imagining they were. In the same way, they responded “as if” the image was grayscale even if it was really in colour. The conclusion of the researchers was that the subjective changes that the subjects experienced were reflected by the changes in the brain.

Hypnotic suggestions eliminate Stroop effect

You may have already seen the classic experiment into the Stroop Effect. A list of random words for colours are presented. Each word is printed in the same colour as the word it represents. The participant is asked to read out the words and are timed doing so. A second list of words is then produced, but each word is printed in a different colour to the one it represents. Upon the second attempt to name the words, most participants will take longer to name the words (you can try the experiment here https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/java/ready.html ).

The Stroop Effect is a demonstration of interference in the reaction time of a task. It’s difficult to name the colour because our autonomic processes want us to read the words, rather than naming the colour. However, if the words were in a different language, such as Polish, you would have no problem naming the colour because the words have no meaning to you (unless you speak Polish).

In a study in 2002, a group of 16 high suggestible subjects as well as a group of 16 lower suggestible subjects were given hypnotic suggestions that they only attend to the font colour and ignore the meaning of the word. The results of the experiment were that posthypnotic suggestions eliminated Stroop interference for highly suggestible subjects. Studies using an fMRI showed changes in the brain including  lower activation in the anterior cingulate cortex, an area involved in resolving conflict and competing demands. There was also a reduction in activity in the visual cortex, which is important for recognising words.



Hypnotic induction decreases anterior default mode activity (2009) 

Hypnotic Visual Illusion Alters Colour Processing in the Brain (2000) 

Hypnotic suggestion and the modulation of Stroop interference (2000)