What You Should Know About Self-hypnosis

Hypnosis has been defined as a state of heightened suggestibility in

which the subject is able to uncritically accept ideas for

self-improvement and act on them appropriately. When a hypnotist

hypnotizes his subject, it is known as hetero-hypnosis. When an

individual puts himself into a state of hypnosis, it is known as

self-hypnosis. In both cases, the subject has achieved a heightened

state of suggestibility. Even in
hetero-hypnosis, the subject really

controls the response to suggestions. Actually, all hypnosis is really a

matter of self-hypnosis. The subject enters into the hypnotic state when

he is completely ready to do so. This may require from one to many

attempts before it is achieved. Even if the subject insists that he

wants to be hypnotized immediately, he may be resisting hypnosis


In self-hypnosis the same thing usually takes place. The subject is

anxious to achieve self-hypnosis, but somehow the state eludes him.

What's wrong? It may be that he is unconsciously resisting it, hasn't

conditioned himself sufficiently, or has achieved the hypnotic state and

doesn't know he is in the state. This last statement may be surprising,

but we will examine it in detail a little later on.

Most experts agree that about 90 percent of the population can be

hypnotized. My own feeling is that probably 99 percent can be

hypnotized. Who among us is not influenced by suggestion? Aren't we all,

as we have seen, influenced by the suggestions of advertising? Don't we

all have a tendency to believe what we read in the paper, hear on the

radio or see on television? Aren't we all convinced that a name-brand

article is better than one that is not so well-known?

Suggestion plays a tremendously important role in our daily lives. It

begins from naming the baby with an appropriate name to securing a

suitable place for interment. I would like to call the reader's

attention to a fascinating book dealing with the unconscious reasons why

we do many of the things that we do. You will be intrigued with every

page of the book. It is called The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard.

My contention is that we are all suggestible and, therefore, being

hypnotized or hypnotizing ourselves is just a matter of increasing the

suggestibility that we already possess. Doesn't the hypnotist begin by

suggesting relaxation? Doesn't he usually begin by requesting the

subject to fix his attention on a particular object? Next, he suggests

to the subject that his eyes are becoming heavy and tired. As soon as

the subject closes his eyes, he suggests that he will be in a deep

hypnotic state. I am sure that you are familiar with this procedure.

With each step, the hypnotist is guiding the subject along directed

lines to get him to accept further suggestions without question or

doubt. When the subject achieves the ultimate state in this procedure,

he has been hypnotized. He then accepts suggestions without


Let us continue with this same thought. Suppose I say to you, "I'm going

to stick you with this pin. It won't hurt." Would you let me stick you

with the pin? Obviously not. Let us suppose that you have been

hypnotized and I repeat the same suggestion. What happens then? You

readily accept the suggestion as being factual. Should I proceed to

stick you with the pin, you do not even flinch. In fact, you do not even

feel the pain. Does this sound incredible? Isn't this exactly the same

procedure that the dentist uses with his patient when he has hypnotized

him for the purpose of painless dentistry?

Achieving hypnosis, therefore, is a matter of directing this

suggestibility that we all possess into the channels that will finally

produce the hypnotic state. It can be much more complicated than this

explanation in many cases, but let us use this as a working premise.

Everyone can be hypnotized. The time required for achieving hypnosis

will vary from subject to subject. We will discuss some of the reasons

for this in a subsequent chapter, but for our discussion at this time we

need to understand this point. I have encountered numerous individuals

who were extremely disappointed because they did not respond to hypnosis

immediately or after several attempts. They wanted to know "what was

wrong." An explanation that nothing was wrong somehow did not satisfy

these individuals. "After all," they argued, "didn't I go to a hypnotist

especially to be hypnotized?" Some insinuated that perhaps the hypnotist

wasn't too good.

Let me explain that most subjects need to be conditioned for hypnosis,

and this conditioning is helped when the subject practices certain

conditioning exercises that I shall discuss in detail in chapter six,

titled "How To Attain Self-Hypnosis." In my teaching, I have found that

about one out of ten subjects responds to the first attempt at hypnosis.

One cannot make a definite statement as to the length of time necessary

to learn self-hypnosis, but it is my experience that this usually takes

about one month. I have had subjects learn self-hypnosis in about 30

minutes, but I must also relate that I have worked with subjects for one

year before they achieved it.

For the most part, the laws of learning apply to self-hypnosis as with

anything else that one would want to learn. It can be a relatively

simple procedure, or it can be very perplexing. The answer lies not so

much with the hypnotist as with the subject.

One question that arises is: "If I'm under hypnosis, how can I give

myself suggestions?" During the hypnotic state, it must be remembered,

the subject is always aware of what is going on. He hears what is said,

follows directions and terminates the state when told to do so. In the

self-hypnotic state, the subject is in full control. Therefore, he can

think, reason, act, criticize, suggest or do whatever he desires. He can

audibly give himself suggestions, or he can mentally give himself

suggestions. In either case, he does not rouse from the hypnotic state

until he gives himself specific suggestions to do so. Many feel if they

audibly give themselves suggestions, they will "awaken." In

hypno-analysis, the subject answers questions during the hypnotic state.

Having the subject talk does not terminate the state. You can keep the

talkative subject under hypnosis as long as you want. Furthermore, the

subject can be sitting erect with his eyes open and still be under

hypnosis. Carrying this further, the subject may not even be aware that

he is under hypnosis. He can be given a cue not to remember when the

therapist makes a certain motion or says a certain word that he will go

back into the hypnotic state but still keep his eyes open. Only an

experienced hypnotist could detect the change.

Another frequent question is: "How do I arouse myself from the

self-hypnotic state?" You merely say to yourself that upon counting to

five you will open your eyes and wake up feeling fine. Many times the

subject falls asleep while giving himself posthypnotic suggestions. This

is not undesirable since the suggestions will spill over into the

subconscious mind as he goes from consciousness to unconsciousness.

A popular opinion about hypnosis is that the subject surrenders his will

to the hypnotist in the process of being hypnotized. Furthermore, many

believe that once the subject is hypnotized, the hypnotist has complete

control of the subject and the subject is powerless to resist

suggestion. Both beliefs are erroneous. I believe the first

misconception comes from seeing techniques where the hypnotist requests

the subject to look into his eyes. The hypnotist suggests to the subject

that as he continues to look into his eyes he will fall into a deep

hypnotic state. This, then, becomes a matter of who can outstare whom.

The subject usually begins to blink his eyes and the hypnotist follows

this up with rapid suggestions that the subject's eyes are becoming

watery and heavy and that the subject will fall into a deep hypnotic

sleep just as soon as he (the subject) closes his eyes. This procedure

gives the impression to the observer that the subject is "willed" to go

under hypnosis. It appears that once the hypnotist concentrates or wills

sufficiently, the subject succumbs. Actually, the hypnotist in this

technique is not looking into the eyes of the subject. He fixes his

attention on the bridge of the nose of the subject.

The concept that the subject is a helpless automaton stems from the

weird movies where the "mad scientist" has hypnotized subjects into

behaving like zombies. Naturally, there is usually a beautiful girl in

the movie and she, too, has been hypnotized. Even though the audience is

sophisticated enough to realize that this science-fiction drama is

purely entertainment, the theme is repeated sufficiently in novels,

comics, and television to make an indelible impression on the

subconscious mind. It's the technique of telling the "big lie" so many

times that it becomes believable. We are all influenced by this

procedure. There is an excellent book explaining this very premise. It

is called Battle For The Mind by William Sargent. It describes in

detail the technique by which evangelists, psychiatrists, politicians

and advertising men can change your beliefs and behavior.

Following the reasoning that the subconscious mind can be affected, you

can see that a problem could present itself even though the subject

consciously wishes to be hypnotized. Unconsciously, there may be a poor

interrelationship with the hypnotist which can create an unfavorable

climate for hypnosis. When this is the case, the subject doesn't respond

until such time that he relates well to the hypnotist. Even the most

calculated procedures will fail until a positive transference

relationship is established. I am sure that you sometimes have said,

"For some reason I don't like that person." If pressed for an answer,

you'll usually reply, "I can't explain it, but I just have a feeling

about him." Actually, your subconscious reactions are influencing your

thinking and you "feel" a certain way. The same thing takes place in

business transactions. You either like or dislike the proposition

presented to you. You may say, "I have a certain feeling about this

deal." You may not be conscious of the reasons, but your subconscious

has reacted automatically because of previous experience along similar


In giving you some insight into the hypnotic procedure, I am trying to

point out certain problems in regard to acquiring self-hypnosis. For the

most part, it is not a simple procedure that is accomplished

immediately. You can't just will it. It requires working toward a

specific goal and following definite procedures which eventually lead to


The hypnotist is usually endowed by the subject with an omniscience and

infallibility which logically is unjustified. The subject is naturally

extremely disappointed if he doesn't respond immediately. If he loses

confidence in the hypnotist, he may never achieve hypnosis with this

particular hypnotist. I have hypnotized subjects who have been to

several other hypnotists without success, and I have had some of my

unsuccessful subjects hypnotized by other hypnotists. How and why does

it happen? I believe that some of the reasons are so intangible that it

would be impossible to explain all of them with any degree of


I once saw an individual about 12 times who wanted to learn

self-hypnosis and had been unsuccessful in every approach. I asked him

if he would volunteer as a subject for a class in techniques of hypnosis

that I was teaching for nurses. He readily volunteered and showed up at

the designated time. Much to my amazement as well as his own, he

responded within a relatively short time as one of the nurses hypnotized

him before the group. She had used a standard eye closure technique,

requesting him to look at a spinning hypnodisc that I had previously

used with him every time he was in the office. Her manner was extremely

affable, she had used the identical technique I had used unsuccessfully,

and the subject responded excellently to cap the climax. He was the

first subject the nurse had ever hypnotized, since this was only her

third lesson.

How would you account for it? Here was one of my students with two

weeks' experience hypnotizing a subject where I had failed while using

every procedure that I felt would work. Was it because she was a better

hypnotist? Perhaps! However, I'd like to recall at this time our

discussion about subconscious responses. I'm inclined to feel that being

hypnotized by a middle-aged female nurse created certain favorable

unconscious responses which accounted for his going under hypnosis at

that time. It created the initial break-through which was needed. I was

able to hypnotize him easily at his next appointment, and he acquired

self-hypnosis readily from that time on.

I have tried the same approach with other subjects who did not respond

favorably and have failed to attain the success that I did in the above

case. Why the impasse? It is one of the difficulties that we encounter

in hypnosis, and as yet it has not been resolved.

We know that the easiest way to achieve self-hypnosis is to be

hypnotized and given a posthypnotic suggestion that you will respond to

hypnosis by a key word, phrase or gesture. I have tried to point out

some problems that can arise. Needless to say, these problems do not

always arise, and the attainment of self-hypnosis can be a relatively

simple procedure. There is usually some way of reaching a subject who

does not respond in a reasonable length of time.

Now we come to the point where the subject wishes to hypnotize himself.

What happens in this situation? It would appear that the subject would

go under hypnosis immediately. After all, isn't he controlling the

hypnotic session? Of course, this does happen time and time again, and

the results seem miraculous. I receive mail constantly from readers of

several of my other books on hypnosis telling me how they were able to

achieve certain goals that they never dreamed possible. They write that

they have achieved self-confidence and complete self-mastery and have

been able to overcome problems that have plagued them for many years.

These problems not only include strictly psychological troubles but many

psychosomatic symptoms as well. Many have remarked at the ease in which

they were able to achieve self-hypnosis and the results they wanted. For

them it was as simple as following a do-it-yourself book.

Others write about the difficulty they encounter and ask what to do

about it. It is my hope that this book will shed some light for those

who have experienced difficulty in learning self-hypnosis. We shall

discuss many phases of hypnosis with the emphasis on self-hypnosis.

We'll discuss its many ramifications and try not to leave out anything

helpful in our discussion.

If you follow the instructions and exercises that I give you

assiduously, you should be able to achieve a depth of self-hypnosis

suitable for solving many of your personal problems.