A New Approach To Self-hypnosis When All Else Fails

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


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


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


Draw a circle with about a six-inch diameter and mark it as shown in the


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


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


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.