As indicated in the last chapter, the attainment of the somnambulistic stage of hypnosis can represent an extremely intricate procedure. Because of certain inherent characteristics of this stage, it is easier to attain by hetero-hypnosis. However, this does not preclude the fact that it can be reached without the aid of a hypnotist. More important than the testing and deepening procedures that I shall outline for you in this chapter are an understanding and an awareness of some of the complexities involved, first in achieving the hypnotic state, then deepening, and, finally, reaching somnambulism. There are no absolute or final answers to many of the problems that can arise. You can become entangled with rationalization so easily when you want the facts to fit a particular theory. I point this out to the reader because, as the subject goes deeper, the procedure can become more complicated.
There are many interesting phenomena which can be elicited in the somnambulistic state. They are of interest for the most part, to students of abnormal behavior and are pertinent from an academic viewpoint. They do not fall within the province of this book or of hypnosis for therapeutic purposes and might lead the reader astray. Should readers be interested in further hypnotic phenomena, I refer them to Modern Hypnosis by Leslie Kuhn and Salvadore Russo, Ph.D., Experimental Hypnosis by Leslie LeCron, Time Distortion in Hypnosis by Milton Erickson, M.D. and Lynn F. Cooper, M.D., and Hypnotism—An Objective Study in Suggestibility by André M. Weitzenhoffer, Ph.D.
As discussed previously, some individuals experience difficulty in attaining the deeper hypnotic states. My advice is to be patient and to continue working with yourself. It is not imperative or vital to reach the somnambulistic stage for therapeutic results. It is a misconception on the part of many students that they must go into the deepest state possible to obtain results. Dramatic changes can come about at all levels of hypnosis. The somnambulistic state is necessary in hypnotherapy when there is a need for the patient to relive some traumatic episode. It is also useful when the patient is reluctant to consciously discuss certain aspects of his problem.
Many hypnotherapeutic techniques such as amnesia, hypermnesia, progression, paramnesia, automatic writing, dream induction, regression, production of experimental conflicts and crystal or mirror gazing require a somnambulistic state. For those of you interested in hypnotherapy, I can recommend no finer book than Hypnotherapy of War Neuroses by John G. Watkins, Ph.D. In this book, the theory of hypnotherapy has been diagramatically presented for easy comprehension and shown to be an amalgamation of concepts and practices from various schools of thought.
Most students of hypnosis equate the phenomenon of amnesia with the somnambulistic state. The mistake they make is in trying to achieve amnesia. It’s similar to the dog trying to catch his tail. It is impossible for the subject to effectively suggest amnesia to himself. If he remembers what he was supposed to forget, he has failed. If he truly doesn’t remember what he was supposed to forget, he doesn’t even remember the amnesia suggestion and can take no satisfaction from his success because he is not aware that he has accomplished the posthypnotic suggestion. Unless an elaborate set of posthypnotic suggestions are worked out, it is an impossible test for self-hypnosis.
I know the reader is anxious to begin his conditioning for the somnambulistic state, but there are still a few pertinent remarks which should be remembered before proceeding further. The reader should not memorize verbatim any of the tests involved in proving the somnambulistic state. All that is necessary to remember is the general form and the goal you seek. The goal is to increase your suggestibility which, in turn, means deepening of the hypnotic state. After each step, you are to give yourself suggestions that you will go still deeper the next time. You should also designate a specific length of time to work with self-hypnosis. The suggestions are as follows: “I shall work with self-hypnosis for 15 minutes. At the end of that time, I shall open my eyes and wake up feeling wonderfully well. I’ll be wide awake and refreshed. In case of any danger, I’ll be able to awaken immediately and act accordingly.”
Some hypnotists tell their subjects to “make your mind a blank.” I suppose what they really mean is that you must try to think of only what the hypnotist is saying. Have you ever tried to make your mind a blank? Try it for a moment. It’s an impossibility. Should the hypnotist persist along these lines, he’ll never be successful. It is the wrong approach. The subject, because of his inability to comply with this suggestion, is fighting a losing battle. It is also almost impossible for the subject to concentrate only on what the hypnotist is saying. Any word the hypnotist says can start a conscious as well as unconscious train of thought. Therefore, in reality, this, too, is impossible. However, it really isn’t necessary that the subject keep his thoughts concentrated solely on what is being said so long as they are kept in the general area. At times, the more you try to concentrate, the more your thoughts become scattered. Suppose I say to you, “Forget the address 8721 Sunset Boulevard.”
What happens? The more you try to forget it, the more you remember it. Therefore, don’t be concerned if you experience stray thoughts during the induction and deepening of hypnosis. You are now ready to continue with further tests. The first five tests should be mastered before continuing.
Test No. 6 is referred to as the “fly” test. In this test, once under hypnosis, you picture that a fly is crawling on the back of your right or left hand. Once you feel the fly, you know you are deeply hypnotized. You might even get an urge to move your hand and flick the fly off your hand. When this happens, you know, of course, that you are deeply hypnotized. Here is a sample of the type of suggestions to give:
“As I count to ten and even before I reach the count of ten, I shall feel a fly crawling on the back of my right hand. This illusion will seem very real to me. One … My right hand is completely relaxed. Two … I feel completely at ease. Three … I am beginning to feel a pleasant tingling feeling on the back of my right hand. Four … This feeling is becoming strong. Five … It feels as though a fly is moving on the back of my hand. Six … I have had this same feeling before. Seven … I can feel the fly. Eight … The feeling is very definite. Nine … As I flick my hand the fly will disappear (If you have felt the fly, move your hand). Ten … It is gone.”
Test No. 7 is known as the “cigarette” test and naturally is only for those of you who smoke. In this test, you give yourself posthypnotic suggestions during the hypnotic state, awaken yourself, and then note the effects of the posthypnotic suggestions. If the cigarette tastes bitter or has a repugnant taste or odor, and if you furthermore find it impossible to smoke more than three puffs, necessitating your putting out the cigarette, you know the posthypnotic suggestions are working perfectly and that you are an excellent hypnotic subject. Here are the suggestions to give yourself while you are under hypnosis:
“When I count to three, I shall open my eyes and wake up feeling wonderfully well and shall have a strong desire to smoke a cigarette. Upon lighting the cigarette, I shall notice that there is a very bitter, strong and repugnant taste to the cigarette. As I continue to smoke the cigarette, the distasteful effect will become stronger and stronger. Even though I realize that I have given myself these posthypnotic suggestions, they will exert a strong force outside of my conscious control, and I shall find it necessary to extinguish the cigarette after three puffs. As I now count to three, I shall open my eyes and wake up feeling fine. One, two, three.”
Test No. 8 is called the “sun” test. In this test, you picture yourself in a bathing suit, shorts or playsuit at the beach or some other familiar place taking a sunbath. You imagine that it is a beautiful summer day. As you see yourself relaxed, you imagine that a cloud is blocking out the sun, but as you count to three, the cloud will move away and you will feel the warm, pleasant glow of the sun’s rays on your face and hands. Here are the suggestions you can use:
“As I count to three, I shall feel the warm, pleasant rays of the sun on my face and hands. One … The cloud is moving, and I can begin to feel the warm, pleasant rays of the sun. Two … The cloud is moving more and more, exposing more and more of the sun. I can feel the warmth of the sun’s rays. Three … The cloud has moved away from the sun, and I can feel the full, warm strength of the sun. It is a pleasant feeling, but as I continue to count to five, the warm feeling will dissipate. Four … The warm feeling is leaving. Five … The warm feeling has left, and I feel perfectly normal in every respect.”
A variation of this test is to see yourself lying comfortably in front of a fireplace. In this instance, you imagine someone is adding wood to the fire. As this is done, you feel the warm glow of the fire more and more. Should you use the fireplace technique, try to incorporate the sound of rain into the picture. If you “hear” rain you have created a positive auditory hallucination and can consider yourself an excellent subject.
You can also visualize a situation where you would be cold. This is not as pleasant as the picture that one can conjure up about a fireplace and thus creates a bit more resistance since no one wants to feel uncomfortable.
Test No. 9 is the “breeze” test. It can be combined with the previous test. After you attain the feeling of warmth, you give yourself a count of three (or whatever number you want), suggesting that you will feel the cool ocean breeze (if you are at the beach) on your face and hands. You can even carry this step further, suggesting that you’ll even smell the odor of the salt water. This is known as an olfactory illusion and should you be able to create this effect, you can be sure that you are a somnambulistic subject. Here are suggestions you can use:
“As I count to three, I shall gradually feel the cool ocean breeze coming over the waves. It will be a very pleasant feeling. One … I am beginning to feel the cool ocean breeze, especially on my face and hands. Two … The breeze is becoming stronger and stronger. Three … I can definitely feel the cool ocean breeze. As I continue to count to five, I shall smell the pleasant, healthy aroma of the salt water. Four … I am beginning to smell the salt water. Five … I can definitely smell the salt water.”
Now you give yourself appropriate suggestions that the feeling (illusion) will vanish as you awaken or at a specific count. It can be as simple as this: “As I count to three, I shall open my eyes and awaken feeling very refreshed. The feeling of the cool ocean breeze and smell of the salt air will have vanished completely.” At this point you count to three and open your eyes.
Test No. 10 is the “handclasp” test. This is used frequently to test the depth of hypnosis. You fold your hands with your fingers tightly interlocked and place your palms together. You then give yourself a hypnotic suggestion that at the count of three, it will be impossible for you to unlock your hands. After you try and are unable to unlock your hands, you continue counting to five, suggesting that you will be able to do so when you reach the count of five. Incidentally, you should remove any ring you may be wearing before trying this test. Here are the suggestions you can follow:
“As I complete the count of three, I shall try to unlock my hands but will be unable to do so until I count to five. One … My hands are locked tightly together. Two … My fingers are locked tighter and tighter. Three … It is impossible for me to unlock my hands until I count to five. Four … As I reach the count of five, I shall be able to unlock my hands very easily. Five … I can now unlock my hands very easily.”
Test No. 11 is the “arm” test. Here is another test used frequently to test the receptiveness to hypnosis. Make a tight fist and extend your arm in front of you as far as possible. Visualize your arm as one solid mass, as stiff and rigid as a bar of steel. After your arm is extended, give yourself a hypnotic suggestion that you will be unable to bend your arm when you complete the count of three. As you continue to count to five, you will be able to bend your arm very easily. Here is a form of suggestion you can use:
“As I reach the count of three, I shall try to bend my arm, but it will be impossible to do so until I count to five. No matter how hard I try, it will be absolutely impossible. One … My arm is stiff and rigid as a bar of steel. Two … I can feel the rigidity in my arm. Three … It is impossible for me to bend my arm until I count to five. Four … I can feel the stiffness slowly leaving. Five … I can now bend my arm easily and it feels normal in every respect.”
Test No. 12 is the “eye” test. This is probably the most widely used test in hypnosis. Many subjects equate the inability to open the eyes with hypnosis. Many assume that if they can open their eyes, they have not been hypnotized. I must emphatically point out that this is not true. The subject can fail the eye test and yet have been under hypnosis. In the deep, somnambulistic state, the subject can open his eyes without affecting the depth of the hypnotic state. In fact, this is done many times in getting the subject to do automatic writing, crystal gazing, mirror gazing, hypnodrama and revivification. In carrying out posthypnotic suggestions in any state, the subject is frequently told that he will open his eyes and carry out the suggestion.
I have found that there is more anxiety connected with the eye test than with any other test. I feel that it is a normal reaction and one that must be anticipated by the hypnotist as well as the subject. Occasionally, while hypnotizing a new subject, he will open his eyes. This can happen when the subject feels he is losing consciousness. His ability to open his eyes proves to him that he is in control. One of the main fears that the subject has is his belief that he will lose voluntary control of himself. The fact that he can open his eyes lessens his anxiety.
If there seems to be too much threat to the individual, I use a method that you can follow. Instead of suggesting that the subject will be unable to open his eyes at a specific count, I suggest that he will be so relaxed that it will be too much effort to open his eyes until a further count is given. Actually, what could take less effort? Here are suggestions you can use:
“As I count to three, I shall try to open my eyes, but I shall be unable to do so because I feel so relaxed. It will just take too much effort to open my eyes until I reach the count of five or tell myself to awaken. One … My eyes are closed, and I am in a very deep state of hypnosis. Two … My eyelids are stuck tightly together. Three … It is now impossible for me to open my eyes. I shall be able to open them though at the count of five. Four … I shall be able to open my eyes very easily at the count of five. Five … can now open my eyes and wake up feeling alert and fully refreshed.”
In accomplishing the eye test, you try to create a vivid picture of yourself being completely and fully relaxed. If you really exerted a great deal of effort, you could open your eyes, but because of the pleasantness of the completely relaxed state, you prefer not to do so. It can be likened to your enduring the cold winter air when you are half asleep in bed instead of getting up to close the window which has been left open too much. You can, of course, get up and close the window, but it becomes a matter of expending too much energy. Instead, you choose to endure the discomfort or suggest that your spouse close the window.
For the following three tests, you give yourself the suggestions as outlined in the previous tests. It should be pointed out again that at the conclusion of the test, you give yourself a suggestion that you will feel normal in every respect.
Test No. 13 is the “music” test. This test involves creating an auditory hallucination. Give yourself the suggestion that at a specific count you will hear your favorite song. It will last for one minute and then fade out.
Test No. 14 is the “dream” test. It is incorporated in a great deal of hypnotherapy. The subject is told that as the hypnotist counts to three, the subject will have a dream lasting for several minutes which he will remember. This dream, furthermore, will call his attention to an important incident that he has long forgotten, yet which will be relevant to his problem. In self-hypnosis, you suggest to yourself that at a specific count you will have a very pleasant dream lasting for several minutes, at the end of which time you will awaken feeling refreshed. For those readers further interested in producing dreams, I can highly recommend a very fascinating book called The Experimental Production of Dreams During Hypnosis by Professor David Ballin Klein.
Test No. 15 is the “anesthesia” test. This is conducted by telling yourself that you will not feel the pain associated with the act of pinching yourself. You suggest that you will feel the pressure of your fingers but will not feel the pain involved. I urge the reader not to stick pins in himself to test the anesthesia. This can be dangerous, lead to infection and cause other harmful results. You should also not dig your nails into your skin to make sure that you don’t feel pain.