What You Should Know About Becoming An Excellent Subject

Becoming an excellent subject follows the same general rules for

becoming proficient in any other endeavor. It depends upon your

motivation, persistence and willingness to devote time and study to the

subject. Let us agree that most individuals can learn to play a musical

instrument to some degree. This degree is usually sufficient for their

own needs. To become a virtuoso, however, it is necessary to study the

nt and devote a great deal of energy and time to practice. The

same example could be given for most undertakings. Anyone can learn to

hit a golf ball, but being able to control the direction and distance

and become a skilled golfer is quite another matter.

If you have been successful in accomplishing the first five tests, you

can consider yourself a good hypnotic subject. Becoming an excellent

subject entails following the same procedure used in accomplishing the

first five tests. Some may proceed very easily into the somnambulistic

state, and others may have a difficult time reaching this deepest stage.

Understanding some of the psychology involved and assuming the right

psychological frame of mind for the attainment of the somnambulistic

state is more important than just working blindly in an attempt to get

the somnambulistic tests to work. Being irritable, disgusted and

despondent because of your inability to go further into hypnosis is not

the answer and will only lead to frustration and failure. The reader is

not to assume he will be a difficult subject. If you have come this far,

you'll be able to continue in the same manner. The topic under

discussion now is brought up to prepare readers for any contingency that

may arise. It's like having a life preserver on a boat. You hope you

never need it, but you should be prepared to use it in case of an


It is natural to assume that if you are willing and trying to go into

the lethargic, cataleptic or somnambulistic state, you will be able to

do so in a relatively short period of time. Unfortunately, this is by no

means the case. Many of the principles of learning and conditioning can

be applied to hypnosis, but with many subjects these laws do not seem

applicable. Let us assume you wanted to learn to become an excellent

typist. This is a reasonable goal and all that is necessary is to

continue practicing until you have reached the proficiency you set out

to achieve. This proficiency would, as a rule, follow application of the

laws of learning and conditioning.

This isn't always so in a subject's attempt to become somnambulistic.

When the subject progresses from one stage to another in a classical

manner, the theory works admirably, but what happens when a subject

cannot seem to progress any further? He has reached a plateau and is

unable to climb higher. He seems to have reached a psychological

impasse or stalemate. It is easy to say that the subject is thwarted by

a subconscious block and let it go at that. This, however, doesn't help

him in his dilemma. It's like telling the stranded motorist that the

reason his car has stalled is because the motor isn't running. The

following information will be helpful to those who haven't been able to

reach the first stages of hypnosis, as well as those who apparently can

go only so far. Actually, the same principles are involved.

If the subject doesn't respond or responds to a limited degree, there

evidently is a cause or reason for this poor response. In order to

continue this discussion, it will be necessary for us to agree that the

resistance can be either conscious or unconscious. If the subject

insists that he is trying to "let go," has nothing to hide, is not

afraid of hypnosis, understands what is involved and has strong

motivation, we can only assume that the resistance must be unconscious.

Usually, it will be necessary to work through this unconscious

resistance before the subject responds. If the subject is conditioning

himself, this will involve a great deal of introspection, and even then

it is an extremely difficult job. One doesn't usually have proper

insight into one's own emotional make-up. The end result is that one can

only rationalize about his behavior.

Let us explore some interesting aspects of hypnosis with a view toward

helping you if you are having difficulty responding the way you desire.

I have had the following paradoxical situation happen many times. A

subject calls my office, requesting to be conditioned for self-hypnosis.

He further requests that he be allowed to bring along a member of his

family or a friend for the hypnotic session. These individuals usually

ask if I object to this procedure. I interpreted this request as a sign

of distrust during my early career as a professional hypnotist. I was

affronted by the idea of the unspoken insinuation verbalized by this

request. Didn't they trust me? Between trying to defend myself and

assuring them that there was no need for another person being present,

since my secretary could observe the procedure, I usually "won" the

argument but lost the client. As I developed understanding into the

needs of these persons, I began to realize that the request was not

directed at my integrity, but was a safeguard for their ego.

Here is an interesting sidelight that has happened frequently in regard

to the foregoing situation. I would request the subject to sit near my

desk and tell the onlooker to sit in back and to the side of the

subject, away from the subject's view so as not to distract him. In this

situation, I invariably place the hypnodisc on a spinning, portable

phonograph turntable and turn it upright for the subject to look at. The

hypnodisc, which is made of stiff cardboard, looks like a 12-inch

phonograph record and has concentric heavy lines drawn on it. As it

spins, the subject feels he is being pulled toward the center. At the

same time, it causes his eyes to become very tired. I have included a

drawing of it on this page for those who are not familiar with this

hypnotic device. The revolving hypnodisc causes a physiological

reaction and must work with everyone. You feed back certain known

physiological responses for the successful attainment of hypnosis.

The onlooker has no choice but to look at the hypnodisc as well. As I

suggest to the subject that his eyes are becoming heavy and tired and

that soon he'll have an irresistible impulse to close them, the onlooker

is naturally hearing the same suggestion. Because this person feels

apart from the hypnotic situation, there can be no conscious resistance.

Since these defenses are not hampering the attainment of hypnosis, the

onlooker may readily fall under hypnosis. More than once, the onlooker

has confided to me that he was getting a better night's sleep, was

feeling wonderfully well or had derived other benefits since coming to

my office as an "observer." The exact situation happens when the stage

hypnotist is hypnotizing subjects on the stage. Many times a person in

the audience who had no intention of becoming hypnotized becomes

influenced in the same manner. Incidentally, these individuals make the

best subjects.

There are interesting theories as to why a subject responds or does not

respond to hypnosis. I think the reader would find some of these

theories interesting and perhaps gain some insight into his own hypnotic

behavior. These theories are based primarily on a psychoanalytical

approach to hypnosis.

The most prevalent theory is that the hypnotist represents either the

father image (paternal or fear hypnosis) or the mother image (maternal

or love hypnosis). The father usually represents an authoritarian

figure. The subject's identification can be on a conscious or

subconscious level. Let us suppose the subject has ambivalent feelings

toward his father. Because of this, he may not respond. Here is an

opportunity to frustrate the authoritative (father) figure. The only

trouble with this theory is that if there is an excellent relationship

between the father and subject, it doesn't necessarily mean that the

subject will respond easily. The stage hypnotist invariably uses a

strong, authoritative approach with a great deal of success, but this

approach generally does not work best in private practice.

I have found that for the majority of subjects the maternal approach

works best. Perhaps the process of hypnosis awakens early unconscious

memories of being put to sleep as a child. Some techniques that are used

in hypnosis are quite similar to this. The subject, who is lying down,

is told to close his eyes and is spoken to in a quiet, reassuring,

monotonous tone of voice. The hypnotist is seated near him. The

hypnotist even uses the same words that the subject has heard as a

child: "Sleep. Go to sleep. When you awaken, you'll feel wonderfully

well." In fact, I use some special music that I had recorded for

inducing hypnosis. The first musical selection is Brahms' "Lullaby."

Children's music boxes invariably contain this selection, and the melody

cannot help but activate a pleasant nostalgia. It is a memory associated

with love and tenderness. This brings us to the fact that hypnosis may

offer the subject a chance to escape from the reality of pressing

problems into a state of complete irresponsibility. In fact, one theory

of hypnosis equates the hypnotic state as a form of unconscious

regression and need for submission.

The male subject may have a strong, positive identification with his

mother rather than his father. It is part of the unresolved Oedipus

complex. He sees his mother as a kind, loving individual, always ready

to help. Even if the mother did something socially unacceptable, the

individual would defend her vehemently. The father who might do

something wrong would rarely be excused. Just the opposite is true with

the female subject. When asking the female child, "Whose girl are you?",

the answer is invariably, "Daddy's girl." When asking the male child,

"Whose boy are you?", the answer is invariably, "Momma's boy." We accept

this transference of identification as a normal process of growing up.

When it isn't normally resolved, it can account for severe personality

problems. One might assume, therefore, that a woman hypnotist could

better hypnotize a male subject, and a male hypnotist could better

hypnotize a female subject, but this is not true except for cases such

as we have just mentioned.

One school of thought feels that there is a strong submissive tendency

in all of us and hypnosis gratifies this wish. The individual's need for

dependence is also met. In this case, the hypnotist becomes omnipotent,

being able to alter feelings that ordinarily distress the individual.

Normally, adults, when confronted by a particularly upsetting

experience, might want to be held closely by an intimate friend or

member of the family. Don't we frequently put our arm around a friend in

grief trying to comfort him? The inner strength which is created by

hypnosis within the total personality structure of the subject lessens

dependency upon the hypnotist, much in the same fashion that we need the

doctor less as we start to recover from an illness. Self-hypnosis

further lessens dependency for no authoritarian figure is used.

The subject's attitude towards authority is important to know. It is

well-known that officers in the army are more difficult to hypnotize

than noncommissioned men. The enlisted man, by a process of

indoctrination and conditioning, is taught to obey and follow orders

without reasoning. The transference of authority to the hypnotist is

readily accomplished because of this conditioning process. The army

doctor, when treating patients psychologically, replaces his army jacket

with a regular white medical jacket to increase rapport.

One interesting theory is that the subject responds as he thinks the

hypnotist would like him to. This is termed "role playing." When asking

a subject under hypnosis his name, you usually get a very slow,

deliberate answer, as though the subject were in a trance. You tell him

that he can answer in a normal speaking voice and tempo and his further

replies are to be in the same manner as his waking state.

Another theory along these lines is that the subject acts as he believes

a hypnotized person would act. This, too, is role playing, but it does

not explain analgesia, such as when the dentist hypnotizes the patient

and proceeds to drill a tooth. No one (with the possible exception of a

highly neurotic psychic masochist) is going to endure excruciating pain

just to please the doctor.

One theory about hypnosis states that it allows the subject an

opportunity of identifying with the hypnotist, whom he sees as a

powerful figure. Through this identification, the subject is able to

gain inner strength. On the other hand, the subject might rebel against

the submissive nature of the hypnotic setting. This could easily create

anxiety which, in turn, could create hostility resulting in resistance

of various kinds. As a result of this, the subject might begin to

criticize the hypnotist, find fault with the way he (the subject) is

being handled, question the judgment of the hypnotist, or doubt the

effectiveness of the hypnotic procedure.

Many investigators assert that the "rapport," meaning the relationship

between the subject and hypnotist, is all important. This is true and

the relationship can and does have many ramifications. In psychotherapy,

the term "transference" is used to denote this relationship. The

relationship is further described as a good or bad transference. There

is also a countertransference which indicates the reaction of the

therapist to the patient. Naturally, in order for the subject to

respond, there must be good rapport.

I have tried to indicate that there are complexities that may arise in

the hypnotic setting. There are many conflicting theories as to why a

subject does or does not respond. There are no set rules to follow, and

one's intuition, experience and judgment help solve any problem that


Let me relate another frequent incident. I have had subjects come to me

after they were unable to be hypnotized by several other professional

hypnotists. They have complained that the hypnotists weren't "good

hypnotists" because they couldn't hypnotize them. After all, they ask,

hadn't they been willing subjects? My usual answer is that the fault, if

there is one, is not with the hypnotists and really not with the

subjects. It is a matter of exploring what has happened and then

deciding on a course of action to insure success.

I am firmly convinced that the subject responds when he is positively,

without equivocation, ready to do so. He keeps testing the response to

make sure he is in control. He fears a reduction in his voluntary level

of reality attachment and control. Unresponsiveness proves to him that

he has this control. As long as he does this, which is a natural

response, he never lets go sufficiently to attain hypnosis. Hypnosis,

as we know, is a very sensitive state. It requires complete faith and

trust in the hypnotist. If it is lacking, the subject never does

respond. The phenomenon of hypnosis is entirely subjective in nature,

and its success lies within the total personality structure of the

subject. If there is resistance to hypnosis itself or to deepening the

state, the subject by his own honest evaluation and verbalization of his

resistance can do much to become a better subject. Hypnosis must begin

with the acceptance by the subject of certain basic fundamentals that we

have already discussed rather than of the forcefulness of the hypnotist.

The deepening of the hypnotic state lies in the intensification of the

conditioned response mechanism once it has been initiated.

You should not expect to achieve immediate results although sometimes

this does happen. As you continue to work with perseverance,

intelligence and enthusiasm, you will definitely achieve the goals that

you have set for yourself. It is well to remember that you guide

yourself toward the somnambulistic state, depending upon your belief and

acceptance of those principles that have been outlined for you.

I have attempted to point out some of the salient points and theories to

keep in mind in your attempt to develop into an excellent hypnotic

subject. Some of these only pertain to the situations where the

hypnotist works with the subject. Many of the problems inherent in this

setting are not applicable to the situation where the subject is

hypnotizing himself. Both settings have their advantages and

disadvantages. As long as you proceed to follow the instructions given

you, you can feel assured that you will finally achieve self-hypnosis.

It should be emphasized that it is vital to adopt the right frame of

mind in your attempt to achieve self-hypnosis, particularly a deep

state. If you approach hypnosis with a "prove-it-to-me" attitude,

nothing is going to happen. Self-hypnosis requires practicing a set of

mental exercises or mental gymnastics. To acquire the ultimate from this

training requires systematic conditioning. The word "training" is used

quite extensively in hypnotic literature. The use of the word implies

that hypnosis can be attained by a training period. The literature

speaks frequently of a subject being trained to respond in a certain

way. Obviously, this means over a certain period of time. It also means

you train yourself to become a good hypnotic subject. It is a skill that

all can acquire.

There are four books dealing specifically with self-hypnosis that I

would recommend to you for further reading. They are: What is Hypnosis

by Andrew Salter, Hypnosis and Self-Hypnosis by Bernard Hollander,

M.D., Autogenic Training by Johannes H. Schultz, M.D., and

Self-Hypnosis--Its Theory, Technique and Application by Melvin