Although hypnotists and hypnotherapists can often be found ‘telling people what to do whilst in hypnosis’, it’s not all about directly suggesting a desired result. In fact, imagination-based suggestions feature highly in a hypnotist’s arsenal of potential approaches. Now, ‘imagine’ is a seemingly simple, innocuous word, but when used by a hypnotist, it opens up a whole realm of possibilities. If there’s a single word that should be in every hypnotist’s toolbox, and used daily, it’s certainly this one! Here are some brief examples where you might want to directly engage a subject’s imagination:
“Imagine what it would be like to have success in the areas where you’re currently struggling… Really imagine that now…”
“Imagine as if your foot was stuck to the floor, as if you were rooted to the spot, welded to the spot like a statue… And imagine how funny it will be when you realise you can’t even try to lift that foot…”
“Think about a confident person, and now imagine exactly how it would feel to be that confident… Imagine where in your body would feel most confident…”
“Raise your hands in the air and imagine that you’re a tree blowing in the wind, Your arms are the branches, your fingers are the leaves… Imagine that wind getting stronger now… beginning to move and sway…”
“Imagine what it would be like to go into hypnosis now… How would you feel?”
By engaging the imagination, people are able to do/think things without the pressure of having to ‘make something happen’. You don’t have to fully believe in something in order to imagine it, however by imagining something, you are able to connect to it as if it were actually real/true/happening.
Some hypnotists use the word ‘pretend’ instead of imagine, however this (we think) lacks a little potency. It seems a bit like ‘faking it’, whereas the word imagine slips under the radar, and is a great way of bypassing resistance and getting your hypnotic subjects doing whatever it is that you’d like them to do. It also allows people to take credit for their own creativity, as to imagine directly implies the use of their powerful imagination…
Consider what it would be like if the people you’re hypnotising could create their own amazingly personal and vivid mental imagery that truly resonated with them. Rather than being prescriptive with pre-set ‘visualisation exercises’ or simply using ‘direct suggestions’ all the time, allowing a hypnotic subject to take the reins and semi-direct their own internal experience can lead to fantastic results. A danger with being too prescriptive with suggestions and what you ask people to do in hypnosis, is that you can end up going off in a direction that doesn’t quite ‘fit’ with what the subjects might imagine if they were given the opportunity to do it for themselves. It’s kind of like when Hollywood takes one of your favourite novels and turns it into a movie. Most of the time, that story isn’t going to be how you personally imagined it. The main character will often look/sound/behave differently to your imagined protagonist, the clothing that the characters wear is likely to appear different, the buildings and scenery aren’t quite how you pictured them whilst reading the book, and bits that you thought were important may even get left out completely. A story that we imagine vividly for ourselves will almost always be more powerful and more memorable than the same story being shown or described to us after having already been ‘interpreted’ by someone else (be that a movie director or a hypnotist).
Here’s a little exercise for you. I’d like you to explore how differently you feel about the following two paragraphs (purple, then green). The topic is ‘eating a meal’. Aim to connect as thoroughly as possible to what is suggested:
The next time you go to eat a nice meal, you will find that you truly enjoy it, the food will taste absolutely amazing, and you may even order something that you don’t normally have in order to explore new and exciting flavours and textures. Picture yourself there, in the restaurant, sitting happily, eating and talking with your fellow diners, knowing that you can truly enjoy eating in this, and any situation. Beginning to feel really good, better and better with every mouthful that you chew. Having a fantastic dining experience overall, knowing that you made a great food choice. This wonderful feeling is becoming so strong it is beginning to permeate every part of your body and mind, this meal making you feel so, so good. Everything about the meal is perfect, the textures, the temperature, even the feeling of being sat there in the comfy chair, eating without care, savouring every morsel of this wonderful delicious food. You feel so good…
Now, clear your mind for a moment.
Take a breath in… then exhale (seriously, do it).
Now, when you’ve taken a moment to clear your mind, read the next paragraph:
Imagine being in a place where you are likely to eat a good meal in the future. Imagine yourself there now. Notice what’s happening around you as you imagine finding a comfortable place to settle for your meal. Get a sense of what is happening around you as you settle in, are there any sounds, is it warm or cool, what do you smell? Imagine the menu, and what you might pick from it, imagine the texture of the menu in your hand as you perhaps allow yourself to choose your food in a different way so that you might experience something new. Now imagine moving forwards to the point where you have received your chosen meal, you have it there now. How does it look? Does it smell good? Perhaps imagine beginning to eat it now, and notice the sensations that occur throughout mouth, your throat, and all throughout the rest of your body as you eat. You might also notice that you’re beginning to feel a sense of happiness and contentment with each chew, chew and swallow. As you continue to imagine enjoying eating your meal now, you might allow this wonderful feeling to exude from you, creating a positive mood both inside and out. Noticing in full detail how this experience can make you feel so good…
So, which paragraph could you connect to the most? Which one gave you a more powerful feeling? Which one seemed more realistic and engaging? Both paragraphs focused on a fairly similar concept, however the first was delivered more directly and prescriptively, and gave less options for you, the reader, to imagine. The latter was designed to allow you to create the scene in your own mind, with the only truly ‘direct suggestions’ being that you’d experience a sense of happiness and contentment (close to the end). In reality, you might use a combination of both of these approaches, as either one without the other can be limiting. However, knowing when to take a more imagination-based approached in favour of a direct suggestion approach (or vice-versa) can dramatically increase your overall effectiveness as a hypnotist.
So, imagine just how good you’ll feel when you start to incorporate this concept of ‘imagination’ into your own hypnotic approach, perhaps endeavouring to use it even more than you already are right now… get a sense of what you will notice as you start to experience people responding even better to your hypnotic suggestions than before… because by engaging the imaginations of all your hypnotic subjects, this entire imagination process will become almost second nature to you…
We hope you’ve enjoyed this blog on ‘hypnosis and the imagination‘. 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