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NLP and Hypnosis

Open the doors to your unconscious potential by learning to know and apply the milton model of language. Hypnotic speech patterns allow you access to trance states and thus to levels of consciousness that are otherwise closed to you.

A word before we begin

Whenever John Grinder and Richard Bandler team-taught a hypnosis seminar, at some point one of them would say, "Actually, all communication is hypnosis," and the other would reply, "I have to disagree. Nothing is hypnosis – there is no such thing as hypnosis." In a sense, both meant the same thing, and both of them were right. If you consider hypnosis as something that changes the state of consciousness, then every successful communication is hypnosis.


Prejudices and objections to hypnosis

The topic of "hypnosis" provokes reactions like no other. Numerous prejudices and objections to hypnosis are mentioned by laymen who have already seen so-called “show hypnosis” on television and whose imagines run wild as a result.

  • The hypnotist exercises control over a person who has become unwilling (puppet theory). Hypnosis is to be understood as an imaginative therapy process in which the subject's ability and willingness to imagine matters. The subject always has insight into his behavior and determines the events within the communication by reporting on his imaginations or perceptions. The will is by no means switched off.
  • Myth of the Magical. Most people are unaware of the phenomena that arise under hypnosis and their explanation. Therefore, they are attributed by the ignorant to magic. In fact, however, there are now many scientific studies on the different hypnosis phenomena.
  • I can’t be hypnotized. In principle, anyone who wants to be hypnotized can be hypnotized. It only requires the right induction method. As a hypnotist, your main task is to find out how someone can be naturally addressed.
  • I was still fully awake and could hear everything. When you do not hear and see anything anymore, you are dead. Under hypnosis, all seeing and feeling is usually more intense.
  • Hypnotizability has something to do with strength of character (weak willed and easily influenced). However, there is no empirical evidence for this. The degree of intelligence also has no influence on hypnotizability. Research shows, however, that hypnosis is associated with certain mental abilities such as absorbency (the ability to fully engage in an activity), imagination and, presumably, creative ability.

Why learn hypnosis?

This section describes the benefits hypnosis can bring us and why it makes sense to address it.

  • Hypnosis and hypnotic language can be used in any part of everyday life and at any time.
  • Development of one's own personality, flexibility, expanding life’s possibilities, in play, at work, in love, in sales.
  • We understand more about our everyday experiences of altered states of consciousness, e.g. sleeping, automatic bike riding, going to the basement and no longer knowing what you wanted.
  • Hypnosis complements NLP very well. Most NLP techniques work very well in hypnosis and often have an even more intense effect.
  • Therapeutic application to, e.g., quitting smoking, losing weight, pulling wisdom teeth, anxiety management, pain reduction.
  • If it is true that unconscious processes essentially follow learned and automated patterns, then of course it makes perfect sense to strive for change directly at this level.

Explanation of terms

The terms hypnosis and trance are defined and explained in more detail.

  • A Trance State is a state of consciousness different from the usual one. Usually, the client tends to be immobile, focusing inward on an inwardly recalled or generated experience. The trance state has nothing to do with sleep, but physiologically it cannot be segregated from meditation and relaxation. However, hypnosis is not synonymous with relaxation, since trance phenomena can be generated without physical relaxation, and hypnotic ability is, in contrast to relaxation, not trainable. Nevertheless, the trance state is not unique and does not completely differ from everyday waking states, such as highway hypnosis or getting absorbed by a good book.
  • Hypnosis is the art or science of helping another person (or yourself) achieve an altered state of consciousness.
    We do this all the time, but the systematics of the method is crucial. One of the main tools is language.
  • Transderivational search is the process in which one searches for meaning content in something said, heard or seen from one's own memory and imagination, e.g. "Everybody knows those times when he feels that all the things he's been working for are worthless, all that in which he has so far believed..."

Definitions of "altered states of consciousness"

  1. Any state of consciousness that is different from your usual state.
  2. A state of consciousness in which your attention is focused so intensely on an object or process that any other perception is ignored.
  3. Activity of the non-dominant brain hemisphere
  4. A state of consciousness in which attention is directed inward

History of hypnosis

In this section we will make a brief journey through the history of hypnosis. Hypnosis is one of the oldest rituals of humanity. It was practiced many thousands of years ago.

  • Early cultures
    Hypnosis has been used for thousands of years in different cultures and for different purposes. Example: temple sleep in ancient Egypt.
  • Exorcism
    The Catholic priest Johann Joseph Gassner (1727-1779) believed one day that the devil wanted to take possession of him and then applied the exorcism rites of the Catholic Church - similar to hypnotic suggestions - with success for himself and later for others.
  • Animal Magnetism
    The German Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) is considered the pioneer of modern hypnotherapy. According to his theory, diseases are caused by an animal magnetism in the organism. A commission could not confirm this claim. His great treatment successes, however, are undisputed and are attributed to suggestive influence. Although he was incorrect, this approach represents the first scientific approach to hypnosis.
  • James Braid
    (Scottish physician and surgeon, 1795-1860) coined the term "hypnosis". Since his time, the cause of healing is no longer sought in the person of the magnetizer and his magnetic forces, but in the patient.
  • Charcot
    (French neurologist 1825-1893) applied hypnosis in patients suffering from hysteria with good success.
  • Sigmund Freud
    was opposed to hypnosis in later years, which is why hypnosis was less popular during Freud's creative period.

Principles of hypnosis

Presentation of the principles of the indirect form of hypnosis represented by Milton H. Erickson. The principles typical of hypnosis according to Erickson are:

1. Utilization

Hypnotic suggestions should not be imposed on the client or force him to do something. Instead, they should activate or modify the modes of functioning of the natural mental mechanisms and associations that already exist in the patient (Erickson, Rossi & Rossi, 1978). This means that a client who is believed to want to move is actually allowed to move, or that existing fears are included in the process. The aim of the utilization is to achieve a "yes" attitude in the client and thus to avoid resistance or even to use it for the sake of therapy. Utilization is a powerful tool to build a trusting rapport relationship.

2. Indirect suggestions

This stifles resistances before they even arise. "The verbalizations for induction and during therapy are not given directly in the sense of an instruction, but in a special form of communication. The patient always receives recognition and can continue to develop or maintain a yes attitude." (Kossak, 1989, page 134). Behind the indirect forms of suggestion is the idea of facilitating the client's experience of new possibilities for reaction and initiating automatic, unconscious searches independently of the conscious will (Erickson & Rossi, 1981). The indirectness of Erickson was the novelty, but Erickson could do anything: direct or indirect, helpless or authoritarian, as he saw fit.

3. Pacing and Leading

Pacing consists of (inter alia) of describing or even copying exactly the client's specifically displayed behaviors (sitting position): "You are sitting comfortably in your chair, have crossed your legs and are waiting ...". This in turn builds up a yes attitude. After a certain time spent pacing, the therapist may proceed to lead. The therapist now uses the interventions and intentions he has planned, always in accordance with the patient's pacing: at induction, the therapist initially paces the patient's breathing rate by adjusting to his own breathing during communication / suggestion. As soon as the patient shows signs of relaxation (calmer and deeper breathing), the therapist slightly slows down his own breathing rhythm. This causes the patient to breathe even more slowly and calmly and then relax even more deeply.

4. Metaphors

with many levels of meaning. By telling a complex story or metaphor, the mind is distracted and an unconscious search for meaning and resources is activated. In an effective metaphor that shows a solution to the problem, the relationships between elements of the story are the same as the relationships between the elements of the problem. If this is the case, a metaphor can be understood and implemented in the unconscious (O'Connor & Seymour, 1994).

He took great care that the client not be aware of the analogy. Noticing that a client was on the trail of the true meaning of his words, he quickly changed the subject. So, he created amnesia by distraction.

The benefits of metaphorical communication are obvious: stories are not threatening. They capture the conscious attention and promote the client’s independence. They can give a specific meaning to the message contained in an anecdote. The conclusions they draw depend largely on their personal background. Sometimes stories can also cause confusion and promote a person's readiness for hypnosis.

The nature of the invitation is only implicit, so resistance to change can be avoided.

Basic principles of hypnosis

Possible perceptions of altered states of consciousness:

  1. Feeling of lightness in the head, neck, in the whole body
  2. A calm, pleasant feeling
  3. Reduced heartbeat and rate of breathing
  4. Tingling or pulsing in fingers / toes
  5. Dissociated body sensation

Possible external signs of altered states of consciousness (trance signals):

  1. Muscle tone:
    Relaxation of the muscles; especially in the face, neck, shoulders, hands.
  2. Dilation of the pupils ("rigid" gaze)
  3. Breathing: growing slower, calmer and more even, more stomach breathing
  4. Pulse: slowing (perhaps visible on the throat or temples)
  5. Reflexes like eye blinking and swallowing become less frequent or cease
  6. Eyes water
  7. Change of skin color on cheeks and neck
  8. Body movements slow down; body appears immobile.

Internal signs of altered states of consciousness are:

  1. Reduction of stress hormones
  2. Decrease in respiratory and heart rate as well as blood pressure and metabolic rate
  3. More alpha waves in the right hemisphere
  4. Change in blood count
  5. Restriction of attention
  6. Change in perception of the body
  7. Visual thinking
  8. Trance logic

Biography of Milton Erickson

Dr. Milton Erickson was probably the most significant hypnotherapist of the last century. From an early age he was marked by serious illnesses and had to hypnotize himself against his pain. He hypnotized thousands of people in his life and achieved unusual success.

Milton H. Erickson (1901-1980) was probably the most important hypnotist of the 20th century. Erickson used language in an artfully vague manner so that his clients could accept the meaning most appropriate to them. He induced trance states and made them useful them, empowering people to overcome their problems and discover their own resources. His revolutionary views on change-effective communication marked a milestone in the genesis of this young discipline. Many NLP assumptions come from his work. He coined short-term therapeutic strategies developed at the Palo Alto Mental Research Institute. His life and therapy style are very closely interwoven.

In 1919, Milton Erickson graduated from high school and contracted polio. He fell into a coma, and at first it looked as if he would not survive the disease. But after three days of complete unconsciousness, he awoke. He had survived the infection. He was now completely paralyzed and had lost all awareness of his body. He still saw and heard but could only partially move his eyes. He could only talk with great difficulty. The physicians said he would require nursing the rest of his life. Since he now had a lot of time, he trained his remaining areas of perception. He devoted himself to ever finer nuances.

In the second year of study, he encountered hypnosis and immediately began to hypnotize subjects. Fascinated by the possibilities, he hypnotized anyone who got near him. He explored various techniques to induce people to do certain things. He began to report to his doctors and professors about his techniques and to carry out laboratory experiments. Hull was interested in more standardized techniques - Erickson was interested in customizable methods that made a good therapeutic relationship possible on a case-by-case basis. He exhibited willpower and moral courage.

By way of various research projects, he became Senior Psychiatrist of the Research Department of Worchester State Hospital in Massachusetts. The application of hypnosis was banned at this time - disreputable. Within the department, Erickson was still doing intensive research. He then changed jobs and worked with many thousands of patients.

After a serious accident in 1947, the following 15 months were marked by joint and muscle pain and frequent sudden collapses. In addition, Erickson developed a severe pollen allergy. Several times he had to be hospitalized in very serious condition. The allergy finally forced a move to another climate - Phoenix / Arizona. There Erickson opened a private practice.

In 1953 Erickson again fell seriously ill. On the advice of a friend, he went to Maryland. He was to undergo extensive testing at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. But it took three months for a neurologist to make the right diagnosis: Erickson was once again suffering from polio. Such a two-fold infection was uncommon and extremely rare, but the increased loss of muscle soon made the dreadful conjecture a certainty. For the rest of his life Erickson suffered from recurrent episodes of illness.

In 1957 he founded the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis, of which he became president. He initiated the journal The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis and was its editor for ten years.

In 1969 - he was now 68 years old - Erickson gave up his extensive travel. For health reasons, five years later, he also had to stop working with patients in his private practice. Through Jay Haley's publications, his approach to psychotherapy had become so well-known that many students and practitioners visited him. So, in the ‘70s he taught entire groups of students at home. His teaching courses were usually booked up to a year in advance. As mentioned above, the hypnotherapeutic training of Richard Bandler, John Grinder and other members of the NLP development groups occurred as part of these courses.

Toward the end of his life, he had become an old, frail man. The increasingly frequent muscular atrophy and paralysis had progressed so far that he could only speak with difficulty. He was barely able to read and write. Starting in 1976, he was completely confined to wheelchairs. Each case of illness had resulted in a further reduction of his physical ability and in increasing pain. The cramps were sometimes so severe that some muscles just tore.

In addition to his co-authorship of five books, Erickson could look back at the end of his life on the publication of more than 130 essays. This busy activity earned him the joke name "Mr. Hypnosis." He estimated that he had hypnotized more than 30,000 people during his lifetime. It's amazing that nobody ever managed to put Erickson into a trance himself. He was, however, a master of auto-hypnosis. In the last years of his life, he spent many hours trying to control his severe pain. If one considers the extent of the physical suffering that Erickson had to endure throughout his life, it becomes clear what strength and endurance it must have cost him to become the most famous clinician of the 20th century.

Erickson died on March 25, 1980. A counterpoint as to why hypnosis was less popular during Freud's creative period.

Erickson’s goals

Presentation of the goals that Erickson pursues with his hypnotic style:

  • Responding to the patient’s level:
    The therapist always focuses on the patient's own expressed verbal and non-verbal level of thinking and acting. Erickson explains things to engineers using technology examples, to gardeners using plants. In this way, he can best encounter the patient and build a trusting relationship (rapport). He goes completely into the client's model instead of being an objective adviser. Erickson himself regarded himself as the cause and responsible for the change in the client; if there was no success, then he had failed, not the client.
  • Taking over the patient’s system:
    By responding strongly to the patient, the therapist becomes part of his thinking and imagination system. In this way, the therapist can do something quite unexpected and thereby cause uncertainty, as well as destabilize the patient’s mental attitude. This forms the basis for modifying the patient's actions.
  • Utilization:
    The overall situation is now structured so that the changes that occur in the desired manner and direction are made usable in such a way that they are congruent with the wishes and intentions of the patient. Also, the belief system and values, everything the client brings to the treatment is used. Even acts of resistance are being used.
  • Protection:
    " The basic component of any therapy is to protect the patient and provide him with security during treatment." (Kossak, 1989, p.132).