Suggestions are the fundamental tool of the professional hypnotist or hypnotherapist. Although many hypnotherapists and hypnotists use ‘hypnosis scripts’ and ‘hypnotherapy techniques’, the majority of what a hypnotist does during a hypnosis session (whether for therapy or entertainment) relies solely on hypnotic suggestion. So, what is hypnotic suggestion? How does it work? What does it need to include? How long or short should a hypnotic suggestion be? How should it be phrased? How many ’embedded commands’ should be used? When are metaphorical suggestion approaches appropriate? These are just a few of the questions that are asked by people who’re looking to get better at using hypnotic suggestion. However, it’s a good idea to get a grasp of the basics of suggestion first, rather than ‘learning to run before you can walk’. So, when you’re starting to familiarise yourself with suggestions, keep it simple. You don’t always need to include high-level hypnotic language patterns in your initial suggestion work. Sure, those types of suggestions offer you masses of flexibility and they enable you to more indirectly influence people, but if you don’t first learn how to develop and deliver simple direct hypnotic suggestions, then you’ll be less able to effectively use more advanced hypnotic suggestion techniques (as it works best when you use a combination of both approaches)! So, keep it simple to start with, and a great way to do that is with direct suggestions…
Direct hypnotic suggestions
What is a direct suggestion? Well, the clue is in the name. You directly suggest what you want someone to do, using direct language. For example, ‘continue reading this blog now’. Well, that worked, right? (lol). As a more hypno-specific example, ‘close your eyes now and relax your entire body’. Yes, it really can be as simple as that. Now, obviously those were just a couple of very brief direct suggestions, however you could create an entire hypnotherapy session or hypnosis show using just direct suggestions. But how do you get good enough to start doing that? Well, practice.
Think about what you want your subject to do (whether an action or a thought), and consider how best to directly suggest said result to them, in a way that’s easy to understand and compelling enough for them to follow. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to start ‘paraphrasing’. By taking a simple suggestion and finding several different ways to say the same thing (or to convey a very similar meaning), you’re going to get a lot more experience in formulating and adapting your suggestions. An added bonus here is, that repetition is a highly effective tool of the hypnotist. By repeating your suggestions a few times, in slightly different ways, it’s a lot more likely that your subject will understand and respond to your suggestions than they would if you just repeated the exact same thing over and over. So, as an example, you might want to suggest to a weight loss client that they will make healthier food choices and be more active. You could suggest:
‘From this point onwards, you are going to make healthier food choices and be more active in your day to day life…’
‘Every time you choose a meal, you will aim to include healthier foods. Each day you will strive to move your body and engage in exercise…’
‘As you start exercising more, your body will begin to crave healthier, more nutritious food choices in order to fuel that activity…’
‘Healthy, non-processed food and daily exercise is exactly what’s right for the new, healthier you…’
‘You love to eat fresh, healthy food, including vegetables, lean meats and drink lots of life-giving water. You also find great pleasure in moving your body, upping your heart rate and becoming fitter and healthier as you exercise every day…’
All of the above examples are just telling the client to eat healthier and exercise. Simple, right? You can create an entire weight management script (or script for anything else, for that matter), using direct hypnotic suggestions like these. Though it may not be the only approach in your hypnotherapy session, it will be a welcome addition, and will help a great many clients better connect to their therapy goal. Similarly, with stage & street hypnosis, direct suggestions are your key tool, and paraphrasing will definitely get you better results from your subjects. For example, ‘when you open your eyes, your foot will be stuck to the floor… It’s as if your foot has been super-glued to the ground with the worlds strongest superglue… If you were to try and move your foot, the more you try, the harder it will stick…’ I just pretty much said your foot is stuck in three different ways, but the compounding effect of these direct suggestions becomes stronger and stronger with each addition.
So, to start you off easily, take some time to think about what you might tell different clients/subjects, depending on what you want them to do, and write those suggestions down in a list (you’re effectively creating your own ‘scripts’). Here are a couple of examples to get you started; what would you say to a client to make them begin to dislike smoking? What about someone who has a phobia of spiders? How about getting someone to believe they are a musician, playing a musical instrument? Or that the person next to them smells absolutely gross?
Once you have something listed for each of your examples, think of one key direct suggestion that would work for that particular issue/goal. So, following on using the examples mentioned above; ‘The smell of cigarette smoke makes you feel physically sick…’ / ‘You will pay no attention to spiders, and if you notice one you will remain relaxed and at ease…’ / ‘You’re now a world famous rock star, pick up your imaginary instrument and begin playing!’ / ‘There’s a terrible smell coming from somewhere nearby… In fact, I think it’s coming from the person sat next to you…’ then take those direct hypnotic suggestions and paraphrase them. Think of a whole bunch of different ways to tell them the same thing (or something similar). Always keep in your mind the question, ‘what can I say in order to get this person to do what I want them to do, in as few words as possible, without waffling and going off on a tangent?’. The more you practice this, the easier it will naturally become a part of the way in which you communicate.
Becoming proficient at creating simple direct hypnotic suggestions will set you up for moving onto the more complex types of hypnotic suggestion. As well as that, when your hypnotic suggestion skills improve, you will find that you become more adept at communicating in general. This ability to convey your meaning in a simple, easy to understand way is an invaluable tool that will help you in and out of your career as a hypnotist. So, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, whether you’re in a hypnotherapy session, performing an impromptu hypnosis demonstration, or even just having conversations with your friends, aim to practice using direct suggestions as much as you can. This will definitely set you up to become a hypnotic suggestion pro!
After you’ve found that you are becoming proficient at using direct hypnotic suggestions, it’s then worth branching out and moving onto more ‘indirect’ and conversational hypnosis methods. One really simple way to start this process is to check out our Hypnotic Language Cards, which include over 50+ different indirect language patterns and a whole bunch of activities and games you can play in order to easily integrate the language patterns into your communications, whether with clients, volunteers or even in day-to-day conversations, without needing to think about it! Based on the hypnotic language patterns of Dr Milton Erickson and adapted by Hypnosis Courses trainers, these cards are a great introduction to becoming a master of hypnotic suggestions, and an all round influential communicator!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this blog on creating effective hypnotic suggestions. If you have any more questions about this topic or anything else for that matter, do please get in touch, because we’re always happy to help!
– written by Rory Z Fulcher