Whether you are totally new to hypnosis, already have some hypnotic skills, or are an experienced hypnotherapist or comedy hypnotist, there are likely to be times when you might want to hypnotise your friends or family. This might be to practice a new technique, compare different responses or even get some feedback that you might be unable to ask for with your regular hypnotherapy clients or hypnosis subjects. However, working with friends and family has some additional factors and dynamics to consider. In this blog we are going to consider some of the potential challenges of working with different types of relationships and how you, the hypnotist or hypnotherapist, can address those challenges to preserve the existing relationship whilst facilitating hypnosis opportunities.
Working hypnotically with close friendships, intimate relationships and family relationships are possibly some of the most challenging areas, as clear friendship/relationship roles will have been established. Unlike hypnotherapy clients or stage/street hypnosis volunteers who, if they know you at all, will know you as a hypnotist or hypnotherapist, your friends and family may have known you before you even became interested in hypnosis. Or, they will know a ‘different’ you, to the ‘hypnotist you’. As a result, they may find it difficult to think of you in the role of ‘hypnotist’ when there is already an existing role that you have in their life.
In addition, there will already be certain dynamics in the way that you interact with your friends and family. For example, you may be more passive in your relationship with your uncle or grandfather, but your natural style of hypnosis might be more dynamic or authoritarian in nature. Being direct with this person when you hypnotise them may seem incongruent to that existing relationship, and can negatively affect rapport/outcomes. The power dynamics within all relationships will already be established, including friendships, e.g. one friend is more outgoing or dominant, the other less so. Also, within established relationships (friends/family) over-communication can be an issue. There is already an established rapport and a trust and connection that may not even be realised. This familiarity can lead to over-sharing, whether in hypnotherapy or entertainment hypnosis scenarios, which can breach healthy boundaries and result in disagreements, tension and a sense of unease. There can also be under-communication, where they don’t want to burden you with their problems, whether that is because they love you too much, or it is just too difficult to say to someone they know well. This can also relate to a fear of being judged.
Setting up to hypnotise someone you know
When you wish to hypnotise a close friend or family member, a little extra work during the initial set up phase can reap rewards for both the hypnotist and person being hypnotised. There are some communication strategies that can be employed in advance to preserve positive relationships.
Firstly, it can help to define what the hypnosis relationship will be, and define your (and their) expectations, both in terms of what will be covered, and the roles/conduct – especially whether the person expects you to act like a friend during the hypnosis work, or expects you to step into (and maintain) a hypnotist persona. If so, then define when this will start and when it will end, and how each person will know. This is important to maintain rapport and engagement, or it could be a shock to them if you suddenly jump from cosy, chatty friend, into formal hypnotherapist or high energy comedy hypnotist. It is useful at this stage to be aware of your own hypnosis style and how you communicate your approach. It can be helpful to consider whether your hypnosis style matches your personality, or whether it will it be a surprise to them.
Secondly, it is useful to agree priorities and clarify boundaries. When you are working on experiential hypnosis (e.g. practicing rapid inductions) or fun hypnosis (e.g. practicing stage/street hypnosis routines), then it can be simple to agree what is and isn’t going to be worked on. However, when working on therapy issues which may go deeper than anticipated, it can be good to have an open discussion at the start about what is more important, preserving the relationship, or achieving therapeutic outcomes? Once you cross that friendship boundary, and transition into a ‘therapist and client’ relationship, it is almost impossible to go back. Both parties need to agree on the priority. Otherwise there can be conflict. Behaviour and focus during the session will inevitably change according to the intended direction. If one person is holding back and the other is attempting to push forward, it can cause conflict which won’t help the therapy nor the friendship/relationship.
There may also be a need, at times, to simply have a graceful exit strategy. Not every hypnotic interaction will go as planned or hoped for. If it isn’t working, for you or for them, then find a good point at which to stop. The personal relationship was there before the therapy one and it can be better to stop early and revisit later, rather than push on and have the friend/relative push back and perhaps withdraw from the relationship as a result.
When practicing hypnosis with friends and family, it is also useful to explicitly discuss confidentiality about what happens and is talked about within the session. This can be important for several reasons. From an ‘entertainment hypnosis’ perspective, it may be that you have a job or career where you don’t presently want it broadcast on social media (or anywhere else) that you are a hypnotist (or learning hypnosis). It might be that the person you are hypnotising doesn’t want their experience spread amongst your family/circle of friends, or on social media (such as a video of the hypnosis skits being performed). It is one thing to dance like Beyonce, or have a ‘hypno-orgasm’ in an experiential hypnosis session, it’s something else entirely for it to be talked about or even filmed.
From a therapy perspective, you might not want friends to know that you do hypnotherapy (and get people giving you all their problems at every subsequent meeting). Also, the person you are working with might not appreciate everyone knowing you helped them move beyond their premature ejaculation issues, or a fear of tomato ketchup. In addition, you might find it useful to keep boundaries around where/when you will talk to that person about their hypnosis experience. If it was fun and they are happy to talk with you about it in a public environment then it may be OK to discuss it at the pub with all your mates around. However, you might not be wanting to spend your relaxation time getting dragged into a spontaneous therapy session about their relationship issues halfway through a fun night out. Remember, once you move from ‘friend’ into ‘therapist’ it can be difficult for them or you to create separation.
After the hypnosis session
Whilst it is sensible to have strategies to address any foreseeable issues during the hypnosis session, it is also helpful to have strategies for dealing with good outcomes. If you both agree what to talk about and to whom, word of mouth can be a fantastic way of getting further practice opportunities and even clients. You can also ask your friend/relative to share details about you and your abilities.
If someone was a one-time volunteer for street or stage hypnosis, then there may be a little ‘awe rapport’ and there is likely to be a little power imbalance after the session, as they may perceive that you ‘made’ them do fun stuff in hypnosis. This can mean that you will be expected to ‘make’ them do stuff they are too scared or inhibited to in day to day aspects of their life. If you are happy doing so, then that is fine. If not, then it can be good to define boundaries (ideally beforehand) for when and what you will do.
If you helped someone move beyond a significant issue, such as a life-impacting phobia, or chronic pain, or a trauma, then the power dynamics can also be substantially impacted, particularly if the client or hypnotist have an external Locus of Control. In this instance, if the hypnotist is external, they may consider themselves ‘the rescuer’ and this can carry on into other aspects of the relationship, which can dis-empower the other person. If the client is external in their Locus of Control, they may think of the hypnotist as the rescuer, and this can also affect and imbalance a personal relationship.
Generally, the key to hypnotising friends and family is effective communication and having great boundaries. That way everyone knows what is expected of them, and what to do (and not do), which can go a long way to preserving friendships and relationships. With good boundaries in place, hypnotists and hypnotherapists get a wonderful opportunity to practice, explore and hone their skills, being able to ask questions and getting specific feedback, in ways not commonly acceptable with a client.
An alternative to working with friends and family
Working with ‘friends of friends’ and acquaintances offer perhaps the easiest (or least complicated) opportunities to practice your hypnosis skills. Here the people that you will hypnotise have little depth of knowledge about who you are, as you are not a direct friend/family member. Whilst that does mean that you will likely need to spend a little more time building rapport, it also means that you are not fighting against any preconceived ideas about who you are (or what you can do). Although it can be tempting to assume there is rapport because there is some knowledge of each other, it is still important to build a hypnosis-related rapport, whether that is therapy or fun focused. A great way of doing this is to have a conversation about what hypnosis is (your pre-talk). You can also use this opportunity to find out what they would like to get out of the session. Even if your intention is, for example, to practice a specific induction, routine or technique, you will often be able to give the person some positive suggestions along a theme of what they would like help with (even during a ‘fun’ session). By taking an interest in what they need, you are further building rapport. They are also more likely to co-operate and help you if they are getting something out of it. Furthermore, by giving them a good experience the first time, they will tend to be keener to participate in the future. If you are very new to hypnosis, it can be good to have some positive suggestions ‘pre-learned’ so that you can adapt them to suit each new person.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this blog on hypnotising friends and family, and 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 Dr Kate Beaven-Marks