In this article we talk about hypnotic suggestion. Its definition and techniques.
The human mind is capable of a great many things, Inventions, art, music and literature are all manifestations of its power, The human mind’s chief purpose is to create, not only useful, tangible things; but also intangible things that can only exist within the confines of one’s own perception, and only for a fleeting while: an illusion.
The purposeful creation and employment of these illusions on one’s self and on other individuals is called Hypnosis, Hypnosis is the use of suggestions to alter a person’s state of mind, exploiting gaps in the mind’s cognitive integrity (such as lack of awareness and its tendency to alter memories) to delude a person into thinking that he or she is perceiving something that is not there.
Uses of Hypnotism
Hypnotism has been a medical tool for a very long time, chiefly before the rise of anesthetics such as morphine. For example, in psychological scenarios, it is done to make a patient stop doing a certain unconscious habit or to bring up something that the patient cannot currently bring to mind, other uses for it include:
- Management of addiction
- Management of depression and other mental disorders
- Short-term relief for certain pains such as migraines, broken bones and ulcer pains
- Amplifying concentration for a short time
- Accessing repressed memories caused by trauma
- Is used as a substitute for morphine to prevent dependency
Hypnosis, simply put, is the agreement of a subject to a suggestion, it is a form of concentration (rather than lack thereof, contrary to popular belief) that involves bypassing the conscious brain’s critical thinking to analyze the underlying subconscious brain functions. As such, it is important to note that subjects with more susceptibility to be absorbed in things such as movies or TV shows — those who can easily block off everything else and lucidly perceive the events on screen as if they were actually happening — are more likely to be hypnotized, Knowing this, it is also given that children are more susceptible to hypnotism as well.
That being said, Hypnosis does not necessarily cancel out critical thinking, but rather sets it aside and prohibits the conscious brain from acting upon it. This happens everyday in activities we are greatly absorbed in: watching a football game, reading, playing sports and video games, and other activities that require ample concentration. However those activities rely on such “safety nets” as foresight, planning, other people’s feedback, and other forms of knowledge and judgement. Hypnotism, on the other hand, does away with those safety nets for a while in order to achieve its goal.
How Hypnotic Suggestion Exploits the Subconscious
The act of Hypnotic Suggestion involves guiding the subject to a particular notion, and reinforcing it with plausible supporting elements that would lead him to believe that it is true. All of this must be done in a discreet way, so as to bypass the conscious mind’s critical faculty. Done right, and you can effectively convince a person to do a certain thing without explicitly telling them to.
Hypnotic Suggestion works because of the way the subconscious part of the mind functions. For example, to read the phrase ” Don’t think of a brick wall” would inevitably have you violate its imperative. This is because the subconscious mind comprehends words individually, accessing memories pertaining to those words to make sense of them, and pieces them together to form a coherent string of words some time later. Therefore, at least subconsciously, you will have thought of a brick wall upon reading or hearing that sentence.
Knowing that, it comes to mind that to make a person do a specific thing using Hypnotic Suggestion is by using positive suggestions. Imperatives like “Hit your mark” rather than “Don’t miss” are more effective in getting a person to perform a suggested action. Adversely, this is also how reverse psychology works: Saying on’t be late” to a person can actually make him late, as every word of that imperative echoes inside his subconscious repeatedly, including the word “late”.
How to Get Past the Conscious Brain into the Subconscious: Hypnotic Suggestion Techniques
The subconscious is relatively easy to dupe, once you get past the overlying layer of critical consciousness. This makes for a bit of a challenge, seeing as the job of the conscious brain is to be constantly on guard for changes in the environment and lapses in plausibility. However, there are quite a few methods that help Hypnotic Suggestion get through to the subconsciousness.
1.) Repetition. This is the technique that advertisers and other people who promote things use. By drilling the notion into the subconscious brain with sheer brute force, regardless of the subject’s annoyance, it is sure to yield results. Repeating suggestions without any lapse in tone of voice or enthusiasm, within reason, is greatly effective.
For example: Repeatedly hearing a certain jingle in a cereal commercial that was composed to be catchy and easy to remember will definitely pique the interest of those who have heard it and compel them to try out the cereal.
2.) Embedded Commands – is the covert insertion of commands in regular speech directed towards the subject. This is the method described in the previous section,.This includes sprinkling reverse psychology and positive imperatives in speech to persuade a person into doing something. These embedded commands are further reinforce by changing the tone of voice and subtle changes in body language, which the subconscious mind will register but the conscious mind won’t.
For example: “Here, eat this chocolate. See? Doesn’t that make you calm down? Have another bite. You feel a little relaxed now, don’t you?” In that series of sentences, embedded commands were used twice, once as “calm down”, and another as “feel a little relaxed”. Because the subconscious brain processes these words by accessing memories associated with being “calm” and “relaxed”, subtly tilting their mood in that direction.
3.) Implication – Saying things outright is a rather ineffective way of convincing someone, because critical thinking automatically pounces upon these explicit statements and checks them for disagreements and discrepancies. Hence, to implicitly state something would allow you to bypass these critical defenses and influence the subconscious freely.
Implication involves creating expectations. for example, when a teacher asks a class if they have any questions, and one raises their hand, others will usually follow suit. it also involves setting up environmental details that deliver vital information to people without explicitly telling them, like diplomas, awards and citations in law firms or medical clinics.
4.) Distraction – it is common knowledge that the human mind very easily falls prey to distractions. Hypnosis makes use of this easy-to-exploit flaw to inject suggestions by diverting a person’s attention to another thing. A good example would be car dealers talking up the speed and aesthetic appeal of a car, drawing attention away from its reliability.
5.) Metaphor – One can argue that we dream in metaphors representing our real lives. Since dreams are the subconscious brain’s domain, we can derive that the language of the subconscious mind is metaphor. Since metaphor is understood by the conscious brain to be different from things literally meant, it relaxes, allowing the subconscious to do its thing, scanning its associations and stockpiles of knowledge to decode the metaphor.
A good example of this is the approach psychologists take when helping say, a cigarette junkie kick the habit. They ask for certain personal details, like an athletic interest such as golf, and they liken the aspects of the addiction to elements found in golf. This effective use of metaphor speaks to the subconscious mind and embeds the ideas the psychologist wants to stick to the patient.
These five chief techniques are what Hypnotic Suggestion revolves upon. For any of these to be effective, the subject must be placed in a comfortable hypnotic state in which the conscious mind and the subconscious mind exchange information freely, rather than the conscious mind screening off any suggestive notion through critical thinking.
Even a while after Hypnotic Suggestion has been performed on a person, its effects still linger after quite a while. This phenomenon is called Post-Hypnotic Suggestion, it is an instruction or set of actions programmed in the subconscious whilst hypnotized, which the subject acts upon after leaving the hypnotized state, or having ‘woken up”. This lingering hypnotic effect that requires no active hypnotism has been the subject of moral and ethical debate, and has been used as a manipulative tool for centuries.
Post-Hypnotic Suggestion causes affected individuals to behave a certain way or feel a certain emotion or stimulus for a long period of time from the moment the hypnosis wears off, onwards, it operates by an intrusion of the subconscious powerful enough to influence a person’s daily habits. This makes the action or feeling undetectable by the conscious brain, since it’s already incorporated into the person’s routine and personality.
This type of Hypnotic Suggestion can only be undone by once again entering into a hypnotic state. Occasionally, when exposed to another similar suggestion it may latch onto the Post-Hypnotic Suggestion and intensity it. Adversely, another suggestion that stirs up stronger emotions in the subject may supersede the Post-Hypnotic Suggestion, but only in the duration it is in effect.
Post-Hypnotic Suggestion in Everyday Life
The effectiveness of Post-Hypnotic Suggestions have led many Politicians and Corporations to use it as a tactic to gain public approval and other things. Advertisement is a prime example; it introduces a product to consumers, and eventually the product finds its way into that person’s weekly shopping list. included also are methods of indoctrination, such as those found in bad educational systems where children are required to memorize rather than learn; and mantras and chants used by cults to draw in followers. Influence from social groups about the conduct protocols — how to act, what to eat, what to wear — are also examples of Post-Hypnotic Suggestion.
Examples of Post-Hypnotic Suggestion
Post-Hypnotic Suggestion employs all the techniques of Hypnotic Suggestion but with the aim of effecting upon the subject sometime in the future. This can be for myriad things, like to build up confidence in social situations or to eliminate the fear of undergoing surgery (The latter shows just how vital Post-Hypnotic Suggestion can be to medicine, as the psychological trauma brought about by fear can cause shock in the operating room).
For example, take this statement a hypnotist made to his client, who was a budding actor suffering from stage fright: “The moment you walk on that stage. and every other time you do so again. You’re doing to feel a wellspring of confidence inside your stomach and coursing all through your body, a torrent of warm liquid filling you with more confidence you thought you had. Just picture it: as the curtains draw apart and you say those first few lines, the audience becomes transfixed upon you. You’ll be the star”
Notice how the statement illustrates in detail exactly how the actor is supposed to feel as he steps onto the stage. The first part makes heavy use of metaphor to get through to the subject’s subconscious, and it contains little ambiguity that may be the cause of misunderstanding and cause the message to not get across as desired.
The above statement also makes use of the Hypnotic Trigger, evidenced by the phrase, “The moment you walk on that stage”. This is an event that normally occurs in the duration of the event or activity the hypnotist wishes to influence. The Trigger helps the subject to access the needed confidence to properly act onstage. Because of the normality of the event that the trigger is assigned to, the conscious brain doesn’t feel like it needs to challenge it, making the unconscious brain accept it willingly.
As long as the suggestion is plausible and not too extreme, the trigger will work without question from the subconscious. The kickoff provided by the trigger is read by the subconscious as the correct way to do something; say, the proper, confident way to act onstage. Hence it urges the conscious brain to keep doing said action in that way since it is correct, and from then on it takes care of itself.
For such a long time, Post-Hypnotic Suggestion has been used for the advancement of personal gain by taking advantage of the psychological weaknesses inherent in humans. Like any powerful tool, while it can be used for evil ends, it can also be a source of benefit for both parties.