Dissociation Inductions

Dissociation is a psychological term indicating a detachment from reality. Dissociation is a common and even necessary part of human experience, and can occur during periods of boredom, engagement, or novelty. Dissociation is also a common response to traumatic experiences and can produce dissociative disorders. People with dissociative disorders are typically much easier to hypnotize, but they may also have an increased risk of abreaction in response to a disassociation induction. Interestingly, even though people with dissociative disorders are typically highly hypnotizable, hypnotizability and dissociation are minimally related. This could be explained by the theory that only highly hypnotizable individuals can develop a dissociative disorder.

Dissociation inductions attempt to stun or weaken the subject’s sense of reality by controlling the attention management framework that integrates reality from sensory and mental input. Examples of dissociation inductions are fractionation, confusion inductions, and rapid inductions such as the butterfly induction.

Dissociation inductions are extremely useful in hypnosis, as they provide an experience of derealization, a perception of the outside world that feels unreal or distorted. Your partner does not know what to expect, and so is more receptive to new suggestions rather than being sure of their own experiences. This is very useful for hypnotic phenomena like hallucinations and roleplay.

For neurodiverse hypnotees, dissociation inductions can feel more "natural" than the linear pathway of a relaxation induction. Dissociation inductions are also more interesting for hypnotists, as they are typically shorter, and depend more on the skill of timing, language, and interaction.

There are many different kinds of inductions that leverage dissociation, and there is no hard and fast line of what seperates a dissociation induction from other inductions. This page attempts to cover the most common inductions and show how they involve techniques that cause dissociation.

Fractionation Inductions

We’ve already covered fractionation, but we haven’t covered fractionation in the context of disassociation.

It may come as a surprise to see fractionation as a disassociation induction rather than a relaxation induction, since fractionation suggests sleep and relaxation quite heavily. But fractionation also tells the hypnotee to open their eyes and wake up, then sleep, then wake up, whipsawing them between different states of awareness. By repeatedly moving between wakefulness and relaxation, there’s a general sense of confusion of whether the hypnotee is awake or asleep, or somewhere in between.

Fractionation also leverages natural automaticity of response, like Simon Says. By repeatedly following the instruction to sleep, the response becomes ingrained and automatic to the point where it is an unconscious response. The hypnotee’s own awareness that they will automatically relax in response to a trigger is enough to weaken their sense of reality.

Rapid Inductions

Rapid inductions have been covered by butterfly induction, but there are many different styles, such as the eight word induction.

Rapid inductions work because being yelled at while having being pulled puts both the mind and body off-balance, producing a dissociative experience while also provoking automaticity of response. For just a moment, reality is very uncertain and the hypnotee has to decide whether they are awake or hypnotized. If there’s an unconscious response of physical relaxation and they still feel physically and mentally safe, then most hypnotees will decide they are hypnotized.

Confusion Inductions

Confusion inductions are centered around either shifting or splitting focused attention across several activities, either by focusing on sensory or interoceptive input or trying to split mental focus between several activities. From Marnathas, they can be categorized into overload inductions, mental fixations, and attention bouncing.

Overload inductions can be appealing to people with ADHD, and unwelcome to people with autism. Please read Graham Old’s discussion on rethinking confusion for more background on how confusion inductions work and their drawbacks.

Overload Inductions

Sensory overload inductions depend on drawing attention to sensory inputs, and forcing simultaneous focus on all sensory channels, rather than integrating that information unconsciously. By providing a focus for attention and drawing that focus across the senses, this induction can counter the mind’s tendency to wander or drift from following the hypnotist’s suggestions by making distracting sensory input a part of the induction itself. This can cause dissocation as the hypnotee’s mental thought patterns are being paced and led by suggestions.

There are variants of overload induction such sensory overlap that moves between different senses rather than shifting attention between senses, or the Betty Erickson induction.

Mental Fixation Inductions

Mental Fixation inductions focus on following instructions that exhaust the mind with seemingly useless and tedious tasks. One example shows up in the Elman Induction where the hypnotee is told to count down from 100 saying "deeply relaxed" but there are many variations, such as counting up or down to various sets of rules, counting every third number, or adding words whenever the number is odd, even, or prime. Here’s an example.

Mental fixation inductions work well with people who like a challenge, or need something to do. The mental exercise never ends, and the only solution and way to stop the exercise is admit mental exhaustion and accept "being hypnotized" as the escape route.

Attention Bouncing Inductions

Attention bouncing is a forced-pace march of switching focus and attention from one topic to another, relying on the confusion induced by context shifting to progressively exhaust mental resources, similar to a monotropic split.