Sometimes people won’t go into hypnosis. That’s just a fact. However, there are many reasons that this can happen. In this blog, I’m going to let you know seven of the main reasons why some people don’t go into hypnosis, and what you, the hypnotist, can do to improve your overall hypnotic success.
Reason 1: They don’t want to be hypnotised
Sure, sometimes people say they want to be hypnotised, but on some level they actually don’t. It could be that they have worries and concerns about the hypnosis process that you haven’t addressed. Now, if you think that’s the case, then it’s quite easy to remedy. Simply ask the person if they have any concerns, and if they do, you can address them there and then. Generally, by addressing a person’s initial concerns, you will help them to move forwards and more easily go into hypnosis.
It could be that someone else sent them for a hypnotherapy session or volunteered them for a show, but they don’t actually want to do it. If that’s the case, then you’re out of luck, because it’s very rare that you will be able to hypnotise someone that really doesn’t want to be hypnotised. Remember; ‘all hypnosis is self-hypnosis’… This means you cannot force someone into hypnosis if they don’t want to be hypnotised (even if they’re a really good subject…most of the time, lol). That said, you might still be able to ‘sell’ hypnosis to them. You can let them know how good they’ll feel in hypnosis, and how they’ll learn to access their powerful subconscious mind, meaning they can make positive changes in their lives. Also, if someone has been ‘made’ to come for a therapy session, you might ask them if there’s anything that they would like to work on for themselves (saves having a wasted session).
Finally, on the topic of not wanting to be hypnotised, and relating specifically to hypnotherapy, some people may come for a therapy session and tell you they want to change, but in reality, they may not be ready to change. If this is the case, they may resist the hypnosis process entirely (whether consciously or subconsciously), due to the fear of change. A good ‘intake process’ and questioning around their issue will generally let you know if this is likely to be a problem or not.
Reason 2: They don’t believe hypnosis is real
This is another common reason people may resist going into hypnosis. Sometimes people need ‘proof’ that hypnosis is real before they commit to the process. This is where ‘suggestibility tests’ come in really handy, because they ARE proof, and will easily let a subject know that they are able to respond to hypnotic suggestion (…and even if they only respond a little bit, they won’t know the difference). If a subject doesn’t respond to a suggestibility test at all, you might suggest that for many people hypnosis is merely a focused state of attention and imagination that happens entirely in their head and by choice. So, if they can choose to use their imagination and follow your instructions, they will be able to experience what it’s like to be hypnotised, even though they might not end up doing the ‘outrageous stuff’ you see on stage.
Finally, on that note, I’m not personally a fan of hypnotherapists who tell all of their clients to ‘just pretend to go into hypnosis’ (yes, it is a fairly common approach for some). However, the ‘pretend’ approach might be a useful fallback plan to use with a ‘non-believer’ or highly resistant subject. A good analogy that helps people to understand why this works is to ask them what happens when they ‘pretend to feel confident’. Yes, they actually feel confident just by pretending. The same can be true for pretending to go into hypnosis (however, it definitely lacks ‘prestige’ and can negatively affect rapport).
Reason 3: Post-hypnotic doubt
Occasionally, especially in a therapy environment, clients will appear to respond well to suggestions throughout an entire session. Then at the end of the session after the awakening they may say ‘well, I didn’t really feel like I was hypnotised, I just kind of went along with it’. This comes down to your pre-talk and explanation of what hypnosis is and how it feels (as well as what the client’s beliefs about hypnosis are, after your explanation). In this case, to manage ‘hypnotic doubt’ at the end of a session, I might suggest that some people don’t always feel ‘deeply hypnotised’ during the session, but simply feel like they’re sat with their eyes closed, relaxing and focusing, and that the work we did today is done most effectively that way. In fact, a deeper state of hypnosis might have actually been less helpful, as they may have been less consciously engaged. This simple reframe lets the client know that their experience was a positive one, and will stop them from ‘overthinking it’ and potentially ‘unpicking’ the therapy work.
That said, it is a better idea to address a client’s expectations and beliefs about hypnosis proactively before the session, rather than reactively afterwards.
Reason 4: They might be distracted
Hypnosis is a state of focused attention (at least initially), so if you don’t have their attention, you need to get it. If someone is unable or unwilling to pay attention to you, you’re highly unlikely to hypnotise them. Get their attention in order to manage their state, beliefs and expectations before the hypnosis process, so that it’s more likely they’ll pay attention and go into hypnosis when it is suggested. This is why trying to hypnotise people who’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs is generally not as effective as with people who’re able to focus completely.
Reason 5: They might be trying to prove hypnosis doesn’t work
True story. Some people will ask to be hypnotised to ‘prove’ it doesn’t work. Yes, even in paid hypnotherapy sessions (people can be weird). Whether trying to prove it to themselves, or, more commonly in stage/street hypnosis, prove to their friends that they can’t be hypnotised, this will generally result in them being correct, as they won’t allow themselves to go into hypnosis. So, if you get this impression from someone during your pre-talk conversation, advise them that if they believe hypnosis doesn’t work, then it definitely won’t work for them (yes, it’s the ‘all hypnosis is self-hypnosis’ thing again). So, you might tell them not to waste their time and yours trying not to go into hypnosis. You may also let them know that their limiting beliefs about hypnosis mean they’re going to miss out on something awesome that feels great. I, and many professional hypnotists and hypnotherapists, personally won’t hypnotise anyone that challenges me to ‘prove it’ or to ‘make them XYZ’, because hypnosis is a collaborative process, so they need to be in the right mindset to engage with your suggestions and to allow themselves to go into hypnosis.
Reason 6: It might be you
If your subject doesn’t feel comfortable with you, or you don’t have good rapport with them, this can negatively affect the hypnosis process. Some subjects simply prefer a ‘certain type of hypnotist’. I know lots of people who prefer a hypnotist of a specific gender (whether for safety/comfort or for the sound of their voice), or hypnotherapists that have a certain delivery style. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do about your gender (well, I mean surgery’s a bit drastic in this case), but you can definitely work on the rapport side of things. Check out this blog on rapport and hypnosis for more information.
Reason 7: You might be using the wrong induction/technique
Sometimes people just won’t like specific hypnosis techniques. I mean, try using a ‘staircase visualisation’ deepener with someone who has a fear of staircases (yes, that’s a real fear and more common than you might think). But long story short, the staircase deepener won’t work, because they’ll be too busy being terrified to follow your deepening suggestions. Similarly, if you tried using a rapid ‘shock’ induction with someone who has vertigo, the ‘falling forward sensation’ could potentially bring them right back to full alertness, and convince them that ‘hypnosis is actually scary and unsafe’, at which point you’d then be fighting an uphill battle to get them to re-engage. It’s important to gauge your approach and make it specific to your subject and their own abilities and any individual peculiarities. Again, a good pre-talk/intake process can help with this, and your hypnotic suggestibility tests will give you a great deal of information to move forwards with too.
At the end of the day, it’s worth remembering that the majority of people can be hypnotised (yes, almost 100% of people). However, getting a high rate of hypnotic success is all about making sure that each person you hypnotise is in the right mindset and that they’re comfortable allowing themselves to go into hypnosis with your guidance. One size doesn’t always fit all, so ensure that you tailor your hypnosis process to each individual that you hypnotise. Your clients and volunteers will be glad you did!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this blog about what happens if someone doesn’t go into hypnosis, 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 Rory Z Fulcher