Here’s a question that is asked by a LOT of people new to hypnosis.
As a hypnotist how do you know someone is hypnotized?
It’s a good question on several levels.
The preconception some people have about hypnosis is that if hypnotized they will lose complete awareness and hear and remember nothing of the hypnosis session. This is usually a result of watching hypnosis shows on TV.
Many people associate hypnosis with sleep because the hypnotized person usually is unmoving and have their eyes closed so it looks like sleep.
Another reason people think of hypnosis as sleep is because most hypnotists use the word “sleep” as a trigger word to induce hypnosis. So, by default, most observers will simply say the hypnotized person looked asleep.
Some people are so convinced that hypnotized people are “faking it” because they don’t understand what’s truly taking place during hypnosis.
As a hypnotist there are a lot of ways to tell if someone is in hypnosis. Here is my list that I use to determine who is responding well to my instruction and who is responding REALLY WELL.
- They follow instruction in hypnosis. That is the most overt sign of hypnosis. There is a point just before the hypnosis session begin where our students are are told to say “All you have to do is follow my instructions EXACTLY….” if they follow that instruction, they are in hypnosis. So if you say “Your hand is stuck to the table.” they may realize that they could move their hand but don’t or decide not to, or they simply can’t move it. It doesn’t matter if they think they can move their hand, as long as they are following the instruction THEY ARE HYPNOTIZED.
- Economy of Motion. You’ll notice that the hypnotized person doesn’t move much, in fact they stay almost perfectly still unless asked to move. All their movements are minimal. Even a head nod may seem so faint that it may go unrecognized by someone who is inexperienced. For me that is one of the best and most visible determiners that someone is hypnotized because in order for most people to fake it they have to go into hypnosis. Another example of economy of motion would be when you instruct a hypnotized person to look at their hand. They may not lift or move their hand unlike an un-hypnotized person. They focus will also be completely on the hand, not looking away. The blink rate of the eyes will slow or halt altogether.
- Literal Execution of Instructions. In normal conversation when saying “I don’t know your first name.” the typical response would be to give them your first name. In hypnosis the the statement is not likely to be interpreted as a request and any response at all is unlikely. Only when the hypnotist says “Tell me your first name” is the answer given. In hypnosis the subject will best respond to instructions that are short, simple and unambiguous.
- The Hypnotic Mask. If you look a persons face who is deeply hypnotized there is almost no tension in the face. The only exception to that is the eyebrow may be scrunched together as if concentrating. Why? Because part of the instructions given is to “concentrate ONLY on my voice…” and that demands concentration.
- Overt tests. There are plenty of tests to make sure a person is hypnotized. The overt test are instructions that are used to demonstrate hypnotic phenomena like amnesia and catalepsy, etc.. There are some overt tests of hypnosis that would be VERY hard to fake specifically anesthesia. Immersion of an arm in ice cold water will create intense pain with minimal harm but it could be faked. Immersion of the whole person in the same water would be very difficult to fake because the unconscious response of shivering would begin almost instantly. In fact, this test was used by Derren Brown to help him select the right person to train as a hypnotic assassin.
- Covert tests. These are tests which the the subject doesn’t know is taking place. The simplest examples is during the induction when the hypnotist says “From this point on every breath takes you deeper … and the deeper you go the better you feel and the better you feel the deeper you go.” When the subject is hypnotized you’ll notice that their breathing changes because they are focusing more on it as you mentioned it.
For most new hypnotists learning these signs of hypnosis happen by experience. Both Jeff Stephens and I are working on regular hypnosis trainings where you will learn AND WITNESS these subtle distinctions of hypnosis.