What’s so important about hypnotic language? If you browse the internet for info, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there are special words and phrases which compel others to do what you want.
There are a lot of myths about hypnosis, but this is something of a biggie – and even some hypnotists buy into this one!
Let’s look at the facts:
• There are special words and phrases used by hypnotists
• It’s possible to hypnotise people without using any words at all
In that case, what do the so-called ‘hypnotic words’ actually do?
Hypnotic language makes it easier to achieve certain effects in the hypnotic process.
By itself, with no hypnotic process in place behind it, it doesn’t do anything in particular.
It’s the icing on the cake, not the substance of the cake itself. But like little kids in Mom’s kitchen, the icing tastes so good – much better than the cake itself.
That’s why we hear so much about hypnotic language – and so little about the hypnotic process.
There are three other reasons hypnotic language is so popular:
- it’s “high tech” and makes you feel clever
- It’s the easiest bit of hypnosis to get across in a book
- you can give it away without actually giving away any ‘hypnotic secrets’
Where did it come from anyway?
The main source of hypnotic language is Milton Erickson – and the models of his language created by Bandler, Grinder, Haley and a whole host of other folks who studied his ground-breaking approach.
Before Erickson, hypnotists believed that it was necessary to put the hypnotic subject into a special state of mind where they will do what you tell them to.
In that way of thinking, anyone who doesn’t follow your direct commands is resistant to hypnosis.
Erickson’s approach to hypnosis is a way of circumventing that resistance. By artful use of language, he made suggestions while generally avoiding direct commands.
No direct commands? No resistance. Simple and effective.
For example, one pattern in language that Milton Erickson used is called an ’embedded command’.
An embedded command is a phrase within a conversation which acts as a hypnotic instruction because it is subtly highlighted – usually by a variation in voice tone.
When your voice tone goes up at the end of a phrase, it sounds like a question. If the tone is level, that is a statement. When the tone drops at the end, it sounds like a command.
Embedded commands are usually “marked out” by using the tone pattern of a command for that phrase.
Simple, yes? High-tech sneaky stuff? You can understand the appeal.
However, most people that attempt to use embedded commands completely misunderstand how they work.
Many people just issue commands instead of embedding them subtly:
- I’d like you to feel very relaxed
- Relax only as deeply as you’re comfortable doing that.
The first example above is just a command. It isn’t embedded in anything. You might as well say “I’d like you to give me your money“. Not going to happen.
In the second example, the surface meaning is to relax only as deeply as their sense of comfort will allow. The command is essentially to feel comfortable relaxing deeply.
It’s interpreted only by the unconscious mind because it isn’t explicit.
Secondly, many people think single suggestions will work:
- What’s it like when you begin to relax?
- What do you think of when your mind decides to let go of all tension? You might decide to relax only as deeply as you’re comfortable doing that, because you know deep down inside that it’s okay.
In the first example, the command “begin to relax” is hidden within a question. But, it’s only one suggestion.
In the second example there are four suggestions, all of which move the subject in a similar direction. They act as a second level of communication and set up a sub-context for the unconscious mind to follow.
And it works really well as a form of hypnotic suggestion when used artfully and with skill. It does take some practice to make this approach your own. Consequently, the two misuses of this technique I’ve shown you are usually a result of laziness or poor understanding of the purpose of the tool.
These are examples drawn from a “formal” hypnotic context. And it is possible to use these patterns of suggestion in a more “conversational” context.
Now you can see how this stuff comes across as clever ‘high tech’ hypnotic language.
The icing on that cake tastes good, doesn’t it? What would you do though, if you cut into a cake and found out it was just a hollow shell?
What about the rest of it then? Is hypnosis just a case of putting together vast streams of hidden commands?
Not really. As I said earlier, hypnosis is a set of behaviours, guided by a few simple principles. When you know the rules, you can learn to do hypnosis in any context – piece by piece.
If you’ve fallen in love with embedded commands, just remember – however effective they can be, it’s hard work when compared to the methods I show you in my book – Hypnotic Conversations: The Secret Structure Behind Everyday Hypnosis.
Or if you want to know more first, watch my next video on How to get started with conversational hypnosis.