Thursday, November 17, 2011

From the inside

If you're expecting hypnosis to be sleep, or a magical "state", or "free will destroying mind control", then you're not going to realize when it works, and you might not know how to make it work. People frequently come out of hypnosis thinking "I wasn't hypnotized". Okay, crazy lady...

Hypnotherapists like saying "All hypnosis is self hypnosis. You can't be hypnotized to do anything against your will". There is an interpretation under which that statement is correct, but it is highly misleading.

Hypnosis is how your brain interprets things, not a mystical magic force from the hypnotist. So in that sense all hypnosis is self hypnosis. Of course, that says nothing about whether you have to give informed consent, whether you can "choose to resist", or, in fact, anything interesting. It just draws the line around "not magic" - in other words, "everything".

Similarly, everything you do, you choose to do, even under hypnosis. By definition. Hypnosis can get you to choose very odd things sometimes. But hey, if you choose it, its not "mind control", right?

So why do I bring this up now? I bring it up to point out that absent any (possibly implicit) suggestions to interpret it as different, it'll feel like things you normally do. Absent any suggestions to interpret otherwise, acting on hypnotic suggestion feels like deciding to do it.

You might ask "Was I hypnotized, or did I just do it?". Um.... you were given a suggestion, and you did what you were suggested to do. What is left?

Say we give someone arm catalepsy. That is, we convinced the part of the brain that controls arm movement not move it, even when there are other competing reasons to move it. Since introspection is just reverse engineering yourself, if you don't interpret it as "freaky hypnosis stuff", you notice that (part of) you told the arm to move and it didn't move, so it must be that you didn't want to move it. It's not until pushing them to really try that they realize how stuck it is (That is, unless they know how to tell that part of their brain "ok, you can move my arm when I tell you to move my arm" and not just "move my arm").

 If you give a suggestion to do something and they don't resist, it's interpreted as "I dunno, I just did it", or "I wanted to".  If they decide to resist, it shows up as an OCD like compulsion to do what you say. Now, maybe they'll do it, and maybe they won't, but the point is that it feels like "I want to comply".

That all is pretty straight forward, but the interesting part is what happens when you get to suggestions like name amnesia. Successful amnesia is real amnesia. They can't remember and of course, it feels like they cant remember. The interesting bit is when the suggestion doesn't *quite* take. It can feel like "I don't want to say my name". Parkey talks about his experience with what he calls "the acting dilemma". It's real inhibition, just perhaps not quite strong enough to hold up to willpower, or perhaps it was Parkey and Liz were just reluctant to relinquish control of undoing suggestions. But if you can't choose to not act, then what's the difference.

This suggests all sorts of fun ways to help suggestions stick. If the feeling of a successful suggestion is that of "wanting" something, then suggest that. They'll understand that.

If you say "Don't help me. Your fingers are moving all on their own!", and it doesn't work, then maybe this person has a wide locus of control and makes sure their brain doesn't move their fingers, and perhaps are just waiting for something that feels like mysterious hypnotic powers or something. In that case, just suggest that they do it themselves, but that they do it automatically in response to your cue - like a reaction time test or responding "I'm fine, how are you?". Do it and do it without thinking. Then notice that you don't have to think about it and in fact, you can absolutely interpret the part of your brain doing it as "not you" and dissociate from it. A common trick is to tell people to do things and then only after they're complying, start shifting the frame to "aaaand, its not you doing it".

If you're going for name amnesia, then suggest that while of course they can remember their name, they can imagine that they don't. It can feel so good to forget that they don't want to remember. Got that? Their name doesn't come up? Okay, now notice that even as you try to remember it doesn't come back. Almost like you're subconsciously not trying. As Joe Fobes would say, lead them in and then close the door behind them.

If you're trying to be a good subject, make the suggestions work. If the hypnotist says to move, move automatically. Interpret it as "not me doing it". If the hypnotist says you can't remember, want to not remember, and want to not be able to remember even if you try to remember (but do honestly try). Don't "try" to "will" yourself to do it, just feel like you want to interpret things in the way for the suggestion to genuinely work.

1 comment:

  1. a very enjoyable read thanks for the advice on hypnosis