“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
– Albert Einstein
We humans are so swamped by metaphors (yep, I just used one) that we often don’t even notice when we use them.
Take the word ‘deep’ for example. Literally it means ‘extending far down from the top or a surface’, as with a deep well, ocean or wound.
But ‘deep’, though originally intended to describe a physical reality, is also used metaphorically to denote, for example, financial wealth: “Ruth has deep pockets!”
Or psychological complexity: “Rex’s emotional issues run deep.” (And therefore will require prolonged and expensive therapy!)
Or profundity: “Man, that episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians was really deep!” (Okay, pseudo-profundity!)
But I’ll tell you who also likes to use the ‘deep’ metaphor.
So who else likes using the metaphor ‘deep’?
Hypnotherapists. I use metaphor all the time. And, whether you realize it or not, so do you! Every word we speak is a representation of some parallel reality, not the thing itself. And our use of the word ‘deep’ to refer to hypnotic depth is the perfect example.
So what do hypnotherapists mean by a ‘deep trance’ or indeed ‘hypnotic deepeners’?
We use the word ‘deep’ to describe a state with a greater degree of perceptual abstraction, and ‘light’ for a lesser degree of dissociation (though if we wanted to use a proper counterpoint we should probably use the word ‘shallow’.)
Recently during a teleconference Q&A, someone asked me:
I’m a newly qualified hypnotherapist. During our training and in my reading, there is a lot of emphasis on inductions, deepening, etc., which you don’t seem to bother with in any formal style (which I like). Any comment on this for me please. Thanks.
Here’s what I replied. (I’m sorry about the Hitler reference! But as we who use hypnosis know, dramatic examples can focus the attention more energetically.)
My thoughts on hypnotic deepeners
Hi, and thanks for your question.
Well, I could say I don’t use formal hypnotic deepeners for the same reason that Adolf Hitler didn’t when he hypnotized the masses during the Nuremberg rallies. He didn’t need to use formal hypnotic deepeners, because he knew how to do it… naturalistically. (Hypnosis can be used for ill as well as good of course.)
Children experience hypnotic deepening during a mesmeric story, even though the person reading it probably has no such intentions. The deepening happens as a consequence of the story and the way it is told.
I don’t tend to use too much psychobabble with my clients either, unless they talk like that naturally and my talking like that will actually build better rapport with them.
When we watch a movie, we don’t want to see the cameras, the director, or bored extras standing around. We want to experience the movie without the clunky workings of the movie being too obvious. Clunky ‘convincers’ or obvious deepening techniques can mess with the immediacy of the hypnotic experience.
I don’t want to be too clunky with clients. I want them to feel as if we’ve simply had a conversation, part of which may have involved them relaxing deeper than ever before or even switching off sensation to control pain.
But I think it can be really useful to learn deepeners and lots of very formal hypnotic inductions. And having an air of the dramatic can be useful for some clients.
If we can assimilate that kind of training into a conversational, natural and naturalistic communication with the client and tailor our inductions to match their specific and maybe unique interests, then we are being respectful of them as a person.
Even with a very methodical protocol like the Rewind technique, to some extent we can match the method to the interests and pre-existing resources of the unique client.
Many hypnotic inductions are one-size-fits-all, and many of them still work, but if we understand the components of trance induction then we can tailor an induction to suit the needs of the unique client in front of us, and this makes therapy more creative for us and more special for them.
Many other practitioners have commented on my UPTV videos of treating clients, amazed at how I seem to help my clients go into deep trance just by continuing our natural conversation. I don’t seem to be applying ‘hypnotic techniques’.
Certainly, I sometimes like to have a client become more profoundly abstracted, to forget me and the room consciously and to travel further inward, to ‘go deeper’. But I like to do this seamlessly.
And generally speaking, just as people allowed to sleep will naturally go through the phases of sleep, letting someone spend some time in trance will also encourage a deepening of that trance simply because they have the space to find that depth of trance. To use another metaphor, water will find its way down the mountain side if allowed to do so.
Likewise, taking someone in and out of mini-trance many times simply by using conversational hypnosis means that when they do go into hypnosis proper they tend to go deeper – just as frustrating someone’s desire to go into deep sleep increases their desire and need to sleep when they are finally allowed to slumber.
But more specifically, here are three ways we can help our clients go deeper into trance naturalistically.
Deepener One: Ask them to (hypnotically)
Or better still, imply through presuppositional language that they will go deeper into trance:
“In a few moments, as you go deeper into hypnotic trance, you can notice what pleasant images and ideas come to mind.”
The suggestion to go deeper is taken as read whilst you have them focus on the benefits of doing so. We haven’t directly asked them to go deeper, but the message is there and presumed.
As we know, many client problems are, or feel to the client as if they are, catch-22 or double-bind situations: ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’. Of course, this attitude is not at all helpful in itself, but we can use it as a basis to instead pose a ‘blessed if you do, blessed if you don’t’ situation.
That is, along with the usual hypnotic presuppositions, we can use that other staple of hypnotic communication: illusory choice. You give your client a ‘choice’, but both responses lead to the same therapeutic outcome.
“In five or ten seconds or so you can… just notice how you can relax deeper into trance… or maybe just become more fully immersed in your calm and tranquil inner experience… as you relax deeper to each word… or space between each word…”
What kind of a (real) choice is that? “Relax deeper into trance” or “become more fully immersed in your calm and tranquil inner experience”. Of course it’s the same thing, but the client has a sense of having been given a choice, and the conscious mind rarely dissects communication enough to pick up this kind of subtlety.
And of course, “relax deeper into trance” is a direct suggestion to go deeper embedded within a permissive framework. These four words can be distinguished by saying them slightly slower or deeper. The unconscious mind gets the message.
But we can go even further with some clients.
Deepener Two: Make going deeper contingent upon physical phenomena
Rather than employing obvious deepening techniques, we can link the suggestion of going deeper into hypnosis to an inevitable or already-present phenomenon. For example:
“In a few moments, as you breathe out, notice how much deeper into lovely hypnotic trance you can go.”
We have simply linked something we want to have them experience – going deeper into hypnosis – with something that will definitely happen – them breathing out.
If someone is a talented hypnotic subject, we might even link a suggestion for going deeper with some hypnotic phenomenon that is already happening. For example, if your client is experiencing hypnotic arm levitation, you can use this phenomenon to help them go deeper:
“As that are arm continues to lift higher, all by itself, you can really enjoy going deeper and deeper into hypnotic trance.”
If and when the arm begins to drift down, we might say:
“And I really don’t want you to go twice as deeply into trance until that hand drifts all the way back down again…”
Here the pressure is totally off the client. You’ve told them you really don’t want them to go deeper into trance… that is, until something happens that was always going to happen anyway.
But there is one more deepening technique I want to share with you – an ancient technique that is absorbing and fun to use, yet often overlooked.
Deepener Three: Worlds within worlds
If we see hypnotic ‘depth’ as a kind of layering of consciousness, then we can adapt our technique to this idea. For example, one layer might be very light trance – trances occurring for a few seconds at a time, or everyday trance states.
Another layer might be that of parallel awareness, in which you are focusing equally externally and internally. This might happen when you close your eyes in the presence of a hypnotherapist and follow and respond to their ideas and suggestions, but are also aware of your surroundings and still consciously processing information. A fine level for therapy.
A deeper level or layer might be the ‘somnambulistic trance’ state, in which focus is almost exclusively directed inwards, and external reality is temporarily almost entirely forgotten. Some people experience this during hypnosis. We all experience this level of inner absorption when we dream at night.
We are metaphorical creatures. Therefore these layers of inner absorption can be accessed via metaphorical storytelling. Telling a story in which one of the characters then tells a further story, which in turn contains another story, and so forth is a way of suggesting someone take a parallel journey by going progressively deeper into hypnosis through these layers of meaning.
In Human Givens (HG) psychology this is called the ‘Arabian Nights’ technique. In Neuro-Linguistic Programming, it is given the breakfast-cereal-sounding name of ‘nested loops’. But it’s not just a modern psychotherapeutic method. Indeed, the HG moniker is a clue to its ancient usage.
Stories within stories are found in the ancient Hindu and Buddhist tales of the Panchatantra, the enchanting tales of Scheherazade in the 1001 nights (Arabian nights), the teaching tales of the Sufis, and other mystical traditions.
So we can tell a client a story which really absorbs them, then within that story tell them another story, then another. Each level of the story can correspond to a deeper level of trance quite naturally without us having to overtly suggest this.
Hypnotherapists, remember, know how to suggest experiences in ways that appeal to the unconscious mind but bypass conscious analysis.
We might also use pictures within pictures by suggesting our client inwardly observe a wonderfully calming and encouraging image, perhaps a photo or painting of a beautiful, tranquil place.
We could ask them to imagine how wonderful it might feel to be in such a place, then ask them to actually glide through the surface of the image and be in that place, relishing its incredibly calming effects.
After a while we might ask them to then observe a new painting within that first place, of an even more amazing place… and so they continue to ‘go deeper’ into the experience.
In the deepest painting or story we can do our therapeutic work, with our client wrapped, as they are, in the secure, calm comfort of the inner sanctum of their trance.
There are ways of taking people deeper into the hypnotic experience that are seamless and naturalistic, and appeal to the unconscious mind (the part that does the deepening).
Ultimately, deepening hypnosis can be done artfully. In fact, it needs to be done in this way. I say this because hypnosis is a right-brain experience. You do it, you experience it, but what you don’t want to do is think about it.
Clunky, over-obvious attempts to deepen hypnosis fail to recognize the very nature of hypnotic experience. They may work for some people, but they’re certainly not the best way.
The client can enjoy the gliding of the swan without having to see, or be distracted by, the frantic workings of its feet beneath the calm waters.
You can learn more advanced hypnotic techniques with our online course Precision Hypnosis.
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