The goals of the beginner stage are to establish the steps in a session, do an induction that can be done while referring to notes, and have an experience what it’s like to hypnotize someone and be hypnotized. It’s deliberately slow and simple.
For this stage, we’ll follow the session structure exactly.
The induction is something you can print out and read through. Using a script is perfectly fine to start with, but as you get more experience you’ll start to internalize the mechanisms behind hypnosis, and you won’t need them eventually.
The important bit here is not the induction, but the process. This is a warmup session that focuses on getting familiar with session structure and provides a "toe in the water" experience.
This is because hypnotizing someone for the first time is like the first time you get behind the wheel of a car. It’s perfectly normal to feel nervous or awkward the first time you do anything, and you should know that this is something that absolutely everyone goes through. As Jake the Dog says, "sucking at something is the first step to being sorta good at something."
If you want to dive in, you can do the beginner stage once or even skip it completely and move ahead to Journeyman stage.
There are some things that you pick up as you get into a routine that you may not know to do immediately. Here’s a checklist.
Pick a place you feel comfortable staying for a good hour or so without being interrupted. The bedroom or couch is fine, but the subject should be propped up with pillows. Avoid lying fully prone unless you’re doing a massage.
Put the pets out of the room.
Turn your cellphone to vibrate.
Go to the bathroom and take care of business.
Close any windows and minimize background noise and street traffic as much as you can. Consider a white noise generator if you can’t filter things out.
Reduce lighting to a comfortable level, but keep enough light to be able to see facial expressions.
If using a blanket, make sure the subject’s hands are still available (for arm drops)
For the subject, there are couple of extra things.
Change into comfy clothes.
Make sure you are warm and comfortable. Get a blanket if need be.
Avoid stimulants, notably coffee.
Sit in a chair or a couch that can support your back, and is facing the hypnotist.
You may want ambient music for the PMR, especially if your partner is used to yoga or guided meditation.
Do a pretalk, and establish what you’re going to do in this session. Make it clear you’ve heard and understood everything you discussed during negotiation. You should negotiate and get informed consent for everything you intend to do in this session before you start the induction. This is especially important when using suggestions or triggers, as we’ll discuss in the Journeyman stage. If your partner has any questions about hypnosis, you should go over it here.
It’s not uncommon for new subjects to have giggles or nervous laughter during the initial induction. Nervousness and discomfort are usually the underlying cause. Nervousness may come from the fact that it’s working; they are aware that their mental state is changing and they are vulnerable. Discomfort may come from the induction; the hypnotist may be awkward and they are picking up on that, the language used may seem cheesy, or they may not know how to react or keep up with a complicated induction. Talk to your partner about what they can do if they giggle or feel nervous: breathing and focusing on following suggestions will let nervousness go.
Talk to your partner about taking an active role in the induction and engaging their imagination. If they have a background in focused-attention meditation or mantras, that’s ideal, otherwise you can talk about suspension of disbelief in movies and TV.
So an example for the first session would be as follows.
So here’s what I think we’ve agreed on. We’re going to do a progressive muscle relaxation. I’ll be giving you suggestions, and for every suggestion, I want you to follow it by engaging your imagination and making it real in your mind. I’ll check in with you and ask you how you feel after the induction, give you a suggestion to feel so relaxed that you can’t move, and then I’ll wake you up and the session will be over. We’ll have some quiet time until you’re ready to talk, and then we’ll discuss how it felt for you and how you liked it. If you’re uncomfortable at any point, please let me know and we can pause or end the session as is comfortable for you. If you have giggles or moments of nervousness as you relax, don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal and part of relaxing deeper. Is there anything you want to change or talk about more?
This is also a good time to discuss safeties, which are a set of suggestions that limit the risk of other suggestions. You should discuss this in pretalk, and also reinforce this after the induction.
Interruptions - If there is an unanticipated interruption, you may need to have a suggestion end without your explicit involvement. Telling the subject they can easily shift out of the suggestions to deal with the issue or person is the best way to cover this.
Time Limits. Some suggestions may be interpreted as permanent. You can say that any and all hypnotic suggestions will only be in effect for a specific interval, such as the next hour or day.
Space Limits. Some suggestions may not be appropriate outside of the environment you’re in. You can say that any and all hypnotic suggestions will only be in effect in a safe space.
The process of producing a hypnotic trance is called an induction.
New hypnotists have a tendency to speak very fast and be very nervous, without pacing themselves, and to forget things in the moment. Also, new hypnotists don’t know what hypnotized people look like, and tend to get hung up on details.
For these reasons, I recommend that newbies begin with a progressive muscle relaxation.
The PMR is familiar. It is very close to well known yoga, guided meditation, and visualization exercises.
The PMR is safe. It does not rely on authority, physical contact, or deliberately confusing input.
The PMR is long, because it relies on repetition and monotony. This means that it’s good practice.
It is homogenous; the last five minutes of a PMR are the same as the first five minutes. It tracks the physical body exactly; you can look at the feet, go onto the legs, go through the chest… you will never get lost and you’ll be saying the same things throughout.
The PMR is very script friendly, since you can afford to look down over the course of the induction and don’t have to concentrate as much on your partner.
The PMR simply "feels good" for subjects, as it’s a very friendly and undemanding mental exercise.
Put it all together, and reading a PMR from a script is the least amount of mental work necessary for an induction. Even after you learn other inductions, the PMR is worthwhile, as the PMR is so comfortable and low stress that your partner may specifically request it if coming home after a stressful day, or unable to fall asleep. PMR also works very well with a full body massage, for obvious reasons.
Print out the induction, and read through it a couple of times. Keep the printout with you, and read through it. Don’t worry about reading through it word for word, it’s all about the intent. You can fill in with hypnotic patter.
Some phrases that should be part of your patter are suggestions that normalizes sounds in the room and ties them into trance. "Every sound in the room, every shift, every space between my words can just help you fall more deeply and more completely into this wonderful experience."
Likewise, your partner may be concerned that they still feel conscious and have thoughts even while they are being hypnotized. This is completely normal, and they’ll find that "any thought that drifts into your mind can drift out again, and as they drift out you go deeper and they lead you back to exactly what is happening right now."
There are a couple of arguments against scripts. The most common argument is that scripts tend to foster a belief that an induction consists of incantations and magic words that must be followed exactly. I think scripts are fine as training wheels, but I personally believe the best argument against scripts is that while you’re reading, you’re not looking and thinking about your partner, and you lose rapport. Even if their eyes are closed, they can tell from the sound of your voice that your head is down and you’re reading out loud.
Now that you’ve hypnotized someone, the most important thing you can do is nothing. Literally, say nothing and do nothing. Your partner will be experiencing trance for the first time, so give them the time to do that and see how it feels for them. Give them at least a minute or two of silence, and pay attention.
The way you do this is to tell them you’re going to stop talking now, so they can take some time to notice and feel the difference in experience, and when they’re ready, they can nod their head or make a sound to indicate that they’re ready to move on. Ask them to nod if they understand. Get into the habit of asking them to nod or indicate that they’re involved; this is part of feedback and interaction.
Now your partner is hypnotized, take a good look. Even in trance, your partner is constantly communicating with you non-verbally. You should be looking at your partner all the way through a session.
Ensure that they are comfortable. If their head is lolling, that is uncomfortable after a period of time. Wiseguy adds suggestions to keep the head stable on the neck while the neck still remains relaxed.
Pay attention to your partner’s face, the way they are breathing:
Are they breathing deeply?
Are they a little bit pale or a little bit red?
Are they breathing through their nose more?
Has the size of their lips changed slightly?
Have they completely stopped moving, not even the minor movements that happen in sleep?
Did they twitch or grimace in response to something you said, a suggestion or phrase?
Pay attention to their eyes.
Do their eyes seem red or watery?
Are their eyes fluttering or moving rapidly?
Have their eyes rolled up into their head?
Some people will lift up the eyeball on a subject to check that they are deep enough. I recommend not doing that, as the best (and more polite) way to check depth is to simply ask during check in.
When they’ve nodded their head, or if they’re starting to show signs of restlessness or discomfort, then you should move on to the check in.
"Checking in" is a useful habit to get into when you’re not sure what’s happening. Hypnotized people are perfectly capable of speech. They just have no interest in talking. There is a caveat, which is that some people are too quiet to be heard, but most people can nod or lift a finger even if they’re too relaxed to speak clearly.
It’s normal for there to be a notable psychomotor retardation, which is a lag between you asking a question, and their response, especially in deep trance. Give them a few seconds before repeating and checking if they’re responsive.
Because your partner may not feel like talking (or may be too deep to take the hint), give your partner the following suggestion:
"Whenever you’re in this state and you have something to say to check in, or I ask you to check in by saying `it’s time to check in,' you may find it easy to speak, and easy to articulate what you would like to say. It will seem perfectly automatic and easy to respond to the questions that I ask that you want to answer. This will be true whenever you are in trance, and, in fact, it seems so natural that it may seem like this has always been the case."
Then ask "How do you feel?" and "Is there anything you think I should know?" If your partner seems in distress or you’ve been going on for a while, it’s a good idea to check in to see if there’s something you should be aware of.
This is a good time to add a hypnotic suggestion. There are some broadly useful and harmless suggestions called "convincers" that are enough to let your partner know they’re having an experience they would not normally have.
If you have agreed on safeties in the pretalk, you should reinforce them now before giving suggestions.
The PMR encourages stasis and produces subjects who are not going to want to do very much. The natural convincer for PMR is a feeling of hypnotic lethargy, where they’re just too relaxed to move.
Because it’s relaxation based, I use a heavy-arm convincer that’s a paraphrasing of a Sean Michael Andrews bit, and this has worked for me whether they’re lying down or sitting in a chair that has arms on it for them to rest upon - using their non-dominant hand, and using dissociative terms like `that arm' instead of `your arm'. you do a slow, ratcheting process: have them focus on the sensations in that arm, tell them that the next time you snap your fingers, that arm will feel just a little bit heavier, a little more relaxed, and when they feel that, have them tell you by saying `I feel it'. Then add a little, and repeat. After 2-3 increases, you tell them that after the next snap it’ll be so heavy that it won’t move, and the harder they try, the more it won’t do anything, and the deeper into trance it will take them.
Now here’s the fun part - you tell them to give it a try, and after they struggle to lift for a couple seconds, tell them it’s ok, and that next time you snap your fingers, their arm will be perfectly normal and mobile. Then snap your fingers, watch them lift their arm easily.
Finally, finish up with a suggestion to set them up for the next session.
Suggest to your partner that they since they’ve relaxed and gone deep into trance for this session, for the next session, they’ll drop down at least as deep, and it will feel so good and so relaxing. Ask them to nod once they’ve accepted this suggestion.
This is often used just prior to the "wake up" stage as suggestions that are always given just before being brought out of hypnosis.
If you have any suggestions you want cancelled, you do it here. This is commonly called a "wiper" or a "reset". "When you wake up, all the suggestions I’ve given you will be cancelled and the session will be over."
If you have any triggers or post hypnotic suggestions that you placed earlier in the session, you reinforce them here. "There is one exception, the suggestion I’ve given you to feel happy and calm will still affect you and you can just enjoy feeling wonderful for the rest of the evening. Nod your head when you understand."
Thank your partner when concluding a session and point out what they did well.
One - muscles becoming awake and aware
Two - feel energy go through
Three - deep breath of clean cool air
Four - Head clearing, eyes starting to blink, stretch
Five - Wide awake!
The session is over. Stretch out and get a glass of water.
After a session, your partner may still be fairly suggestible, very relaxed, and will need time to collect their thoughts. Spending some quiet time focusing on your partner after a session is commonly referred to as aftercare.
You can ask them questions, but that can be a jarring transition from trance to alertness for some people. Just sitting there and being with them while they blink and check the time is fine.
Talk about it how it felt for you both, and the sensations experienced. What language worked? What didn’t work? Faster or slower? It’s normal and encouraging if something didn’t work because it’s an opportunity to learn and do things better. Your partner may have been bored or found themselves coming out of trance when you stopped talking. That is something you should know about, because keeping your partner involved means knowing how to pace the scene.
Make a note of the language that your partner uses here. The language you use in inductions and the phrases should match what your partner is saying and thinking. The more that your language matches your partner’s thoughts, the more effective your suggestions will be.
Recognize any complaints in the spirit of constructive criticism and leave any hurt feelings you may have until later. Make it clear you can take it impersonally. A good debriefing is a way for you to get better at being a hypnotist.