Let us assume that you have tried diligently to learn self-hypnosis for a month or more but have failed. You have worked faithfully following the instructions outlined in this book and other books on self-hypnosis, but somehow the state of hypnosis eludes you. Should you give up in despair, or is there still hope for you? Let me assure you that you can still become an excellent subject. Let us examine several areas of this problem and a new approach that will help you achieve your ends.
You must, first of all, ask yourself if you are feeling better and whether you have made strides in the direction you desire while giving yourself suggestions in whatever stage of hypnosis you have achieved. If your evaluation is affirmative to any degree, you can expect even greater results. “But,” you may say, “how can I expect greater results when I haven’t achieved self-hypnosis?” My answer is you may be achieving self-hypnosis and not know it! The change to the self-hypnotic state from the waking state can be imperceptible. Many times, prior to testing subjects under hypnosis, I ask them if they think they are in the hypnotic state. The answer is invariably no. When asking the subjects for a cogent reason for this answer, they usually exclaim that they are aware of what is going on and do not feel any different than they did before I started working with them. They are amazed to find that various tests work so perfectly.
Some subjects do not respond to hypnotic tests no matter how long you work with them. For these persons, I usually de-emphasize the need for passing the tests and concentrate on the therapeutic results which are desired. This approach lessens anxiety and usually results in a deepening of the hypnotic state. It is my feeling that many subjects resist any tests as the implication is that once the tests work, the subject is under complete control of the hypnotist. The subject may fear this supposed subjection on one hand and yet want it on the other hand. These forces can work unconsciously, and thus the attainment of hypnosis becomes a very intricate, perplexing and trying procedure. Even though this may be so, I can assure you that the problem and attainment of hypnosis can be resolved. It is only a matter of motivation on the part of the subject. This is the main ingredient necessary for successful hypnosis.
Let me now explain a technique which has worked admirably for many who have been frustrated because of their inability to achieve self-hypnosis. It involves pretending you are hypnotized and going through the motions of the various tests as though you were a perfect subject. You will recall that one theory of hypnosis is that the subject behaves in a manner that he believes is in keeping with hypnotic behavior. This role playing is the basis for our unique approach. As the subject continues this procedure, he takes on the conditioned response mechanism necessary for self-hypnosis. Let us look at the following examples of role playing.
During the war, many soldiers who wanted to leave the army would pretend something was wrong with them. They would convince the authorities of the authenticity of their “illness,” and since nothing seemed to make them better, they eventually were separated from the service because of the incapacitating disorder. But what happened to many of these malingerers after they were released from the service? I’m sure you know the rest of the story. The constant malingering was transformed by this role playing into a conditioned response pattern, eventually bringing about the very undesirable condition responsible for their leaving the service. I saw some of these individuals and more than once they told me that they had unwittingly hypnotized themselves into having the ailment. They wanted me to dehypnotize them. They actually turned out to be very easy subjects as they had become highly suggestible. Unfortunately, their super-ego structure was weak, they had difficulty in identifying strongly with anyone, and the relationship in hypnosis was superficial and without depth.
I am going to relate another example which I hope will help you understand the role-playing technique for self-hypnosis. I have had the following experience many times in giving hypnotic demonstrations before various organizations. For some reason, even though I carefully ask that only those who desire to be hypnotized volunteer as subjects for the hypnotic demonstrations, an individual who has no intention of cooperating comes up on the stage to poke fun at the hypnotist. In giving public demonstrations, I usually work with about ten subjects and simultaneously give them the same suggestions and posthypnotic suggestions. Once the subjects are hypnotized, I work with them with their eyes open. Using this technique, with each subject carrying out a posthypnotic suggestion, intensifies the responses of other subjects. There is also competitiveness to become the best subject.
In the meantime, the individual who is really not under hypnosis has let the audience know about it by winking or making a grimace when I was not looking at him. Observing laughter and other audience reactions which are not in keeping with what is happening at the precise moment during my lecture is my cue that I have an egocentric person on stage. You might ask, “Can’t you tell when someone is faking?” It is extremely difficult many times to do so. Once you are aware of it, however, you give certain tests to the group. The exhibitionist doesn’t know how to respond each time and you soon pick him out.
Even when I know specifically who it is, I do not dismiss him. Interestingly, it is invariably a man. I continue with the lecture-demonstration; but I let the audience know that I am aware of the situation. This is the interesting part of this example. The bumptious subject, by giving himself autosuggestions to comply with various posthypnotic suggestions, is actually engaging in our technique of role playing. The inevitable happens. He finds himself hypnotized despite his obvious intention not to be affected in any way. Any hypnotist can recount similar incidents.
What can you learn by the example just presented? What if you purposely set about doing the same thing in your attempt to achieve self-hypnosis? The obvious answer is that the technique has a good chance of working, and as a result you will achieve self-hypnosis. This method has worked with many recalcitrant subjects. To follow this plan, go back to chapter six, “How To Attain Self-Hypnosis,” and use the role-playing technique. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how this approach will act as a catalyst. Remember, once you obtain the eye closure, give yourself whatever therapeutic suggestion you desire plus the posthypnotic suggestion that the next time you will fall into a deeper and sounder state of hypnosis at the count of three or any other cue you desire.
I know you may protest using the role-playing technique with the question, “If I’m not under hypnosis, why give myself therapeutic posthypnotic suggestions to condition myself to go under hypnosis at a specific count?” You may further protest that you are only fooling yourself. My answer is, “What if you are?” What is lost by doing it? You have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Are you not really interested in the end result and not the means? The attainment of the self-hypnotic state is not in itself the end result; it is a means to help you achieve your goal.
Don’t many people carry or wear good-luck charms of a religious or nonreligious nature? Don’t we accept these items in our society? The four-leaf clover and rabbit’s foot as symbols of good luck have been part of our culture for a long time. We are all sophisticated enough to know that they do not have an intrinsic value, but don’t they do something for our mental attitude? This same pattern is precisely what you are to follow in using the role-playing technique. If you believe, expect and imagine that you will be successful in this approach to self-hypnosis, I can assure you that you will.
May I urge you not to reject this novel and unorthodox approach. Many have had excellent results when other methods, even those of a professional hypnotist, have failed. Some of you may recognize this approach as another means of applying the visual-imagery technique. Whatever you choose to call it, I reiterate you can expect good results. It is only necessary that you follow the instructions and adopt the right attitude. By the right attitude, I mean that you should adopt the conviction that you are going to achieve self-hypnosis even though you might have experienced difficulty up to now. Hypnosis is a conviction phenomenon.
It is possible you may say you are not suggestible. Actually, your lack of response proves your suggestibility. You have been influenced by negative suggestions. Everyone is suggestible to some degree. You have become extremely suggestible to conscious or unconscious stimuli which are definitely affecting your ability to respond. You need only use this latent suggestibility and make it work for you. What would you say about the suggestibility of a person who doesn’t want to talk about hypnosis?
This person has never read a book on hypnosis and absolutely doesn’t want you or anyone else to hypnotize him. Would you believe this person is a potentially good hypnotic subject? I can tell you by practical experience that once this person allows himself to be hypnotized, he turns out to be a perfect subject. Responding to either end of the suggestibility scale is indicative of success with hypnosis. It becomes a matter of manipulating this suggestibility skillfully in order to achieve results.
Let me give you another example which may help. Which one of the two lines drawn on this page is longer? Line AB or line CD?
What is your answer? Did you think both were the same? Take a ruler and actually measure them. You’ll find line AB longer than CD. “But,” you reply, “every other time both lines were the same.” This is a familiar optical illusion which is used many times in basic courses in psychology. It is known as the Muller-Lyer illusion. My contention is that if you said, “Both are the same size,” you are potentially a good subject. You respond perfectly to previous conditioning; thus, you are responding as anticipated. If, on the other hand, you picked line AB, you are normally suggestible. If you honestly picked line CD, you are extremely cautious and respond best to “reverse psychology.” Once again you are highly suggestible, but toward one extreme.
Here’s another interesting experiment. Would you say that lines AB and CD were perfectly straight? I’ll let you figure out what your response means to this test by yourself. You can take a ruler to determine if the lines are straight.
We all respond unconsciously to stimuli of some sort. Word association tests are based on this principle. Aren’t your reactions automatic to the following terms: democratic party, republican party, communist party, mother, father, movie star? If I mention the name of a famous person, city or country, the same immediate unconscious reaction takes place. Let’s try it. Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Albert Einstein, Albert Schweitzer, Eleanor Roosevelt, Boston, New York City, Hollywood, Miami Beach, United States, England, France, Italy, Israel, Africa, Russia, China, India and South America. The response and image keep changing, don’t they?
I am trying to point out that this reaction is automatic because of previous conditioning. I could mention almost anything and the same automatic reaction would take place. The reaction would always be the same unless something had happened to change or alter your response. Let us mention the word hypnosis. Some sort of reaction must take place. This can either be positive, negative, or neutral for our purposes.
You really don’t have to think about your response as it is automatic. The point to remember is that a definite response has taken place which will either help or hinder your attainment of hypnosis. If the response should be negative, it can be changed by gaining knowledge and actual experience in hypnosis. It is natural to have a bit of uneasiness when first experiencing or thinking about being hypnotized. After all, you haven’t been exposed to hypnosis in a therapeutic setting and couldn’t have formed a favorable reaction. Your response is probably derived from a fictionization of hypnosis. The initial task of the hypnotist is to create, by educating the prospective subject, a favorable attitude so that the subject allows himself to be hypnotized.
What does this mean specifically to you if you are having difficulty learning self-hypnosis? It means that through repeated exposures, you will finally respond. You will realize there is no need for anxiety in regard to your response. This inner feeling will, in turn, have a cumulative, favorable effect upon your unconscious which will result in your finally responding to hypnosis.
Suppose you still maintain and insist that you are not suggestible and wonder if you will ever respond to hypnosis. Furthermore, the assurance I have given you up to this point doesn’t seem to convince you. If you have tried diligently to achieve self-hypnosis, you cannot be blamed, but let’s try an experiment to test your suggestibility. It is well to ponder my statement that if you do not respond, it is a sign of being suggestible, but in a negative sense. Lack of response is a manifestation of this negative suggestibility. My contention is that you are definitely suggestible. Let us see what happens to you in trying the following classical experiment. It is called the Chevreul’s Pendulum test.
Draw a circle with about a six-inch diameter and mark it as shown in the illustration.
Next, take a ring and attach a string to it. If you have a locket, it will do as well. The hypnotist uses a crystal ball and chain for this experiment. Hold the end of the string or chain and keep the ring or whatever object you are using about three inches above the center of the circle.
Now, concentrate and fix your gaze on the ring, crystal ball, or locket. Mentally suggest to yourself that the object will begin to revolve in a circular manner following the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4. Picture in your mind’s eye that this circular motion is becoming wider and wider. Work at this image for several minutes. Did the object begin turning to the right following the numbers? Did the circle become larger and larger? If it did, you are absolutely suggestible, are influenced by your own suggestions and, therefore, if you follow instructions, can learn self-hypnosis. You can be trained to acquire this skill.
If the experience did not work, try it again. Concentrate harder and try to visualize more intently the object revolving in a circular manner. You are not to rotate the object consciously or help it in any way. The action must stem from your subconscious. The thought of the crystal ball or ring revolving in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction invariably causes an involuntary muscular reflex action to take place. This phenomenon is known as an ideomotor action. Usually, as the subject concentrates more intensely, the reflex action becomes more profound, causing greater unconscious movement of the hand which, in turn, is transmitted to the object in the form of larger circles and greater momentum. The time required for the successful accomplishment of this test depends upon the degree of suggestibility of the subject. An interesting action is to see the object revolve in an opposite direction than suggested. It gives a clue to the personality structure of the individual.
The Ouija board works on the same principle as the Chevreul’s Pendulum test. Many times the aspirant will remark, “I swear I didn’t make it move!” Mentalists find hidden objects in an audience using basically the same approach, combined with clever techniques of distraction. The term given for this is “muscle reading.”
This is the point in question. If the crystal ball, ring or locket moves without conscious direction, you have successfully influenced your subconscious mind. Self-hypnosis involves the same procedure. The goal is to consciously cause a subconscious reaction. If the experiment does not work with your eyes open, try it with your eyes closed for about five minutes. You will be pleasantly surprised with the results. Should you want to prove to yourself that you are suggestible with your eyes open, practice the technique every day for a week or two. The idea of the practice sessions is to reinforce and increase the response of the unconscious movement until you develop proficiency. It follows the laws of the conditioned reflex theory expounded by Dr. Ivan P. Pavlov (1849-1936), the famous Russian psychologist. If, after several weeks, you should still not be successful, use the role-playing technique. Consciously make the object revolve. After a while, it will move automatically whenever you attempt the experiment.
When this happens you will have proof of your suggestibility. It is highly improbable that you will not be successful. It would be a rare occurrence. By the same systematic efforts, I can assure you that you can achieve self-hypnosis. If you are still not affected favorably, you might consider one of the psychological means of inducing hypnosis. The next chapter will discuss this topic.
I would recommend Pavlov’s book called Conditioned Reflexes. Pavlov’s book will further explain and clarify the concept of the conditioned response mechanism. It covers necessary conditions for the development of conditioned responses, their formation by means of conditioned and direct stimuli, plus a tremendous amount of material which will help you in your understanding of the significance of the role-playing technique in relationship to learning self-hypnosis.