What the heck is the critical faculty and what does it have to do with hypnosis? That's what we'll teach you in this brief article.
If you want to be a hypnotic communicator, or a successful hypnotherapist, you'll have to be skilled at causing other people to do something Dave Elman called "selective thinking", which bypasses the critical faculty of the mind.
Before we move on let me make two things very clear.
- There is no such thing as an actual "critical faculty". It's not a physical part of the brain. Your local brain surgeon wouldn't be able to remove the critical faculty and show it to you. It's a model. And as John Grinder said, the test of a model is it's usefulness. We find this to be a very useful model in hypnosis and hypnotic communication.
- The correct term is indeed CRITICAL FACULTY and not CRITICAL FACTOR. If you hear someone say "factor" please correct them. Words mean things, and proper use of language matters. Someone can insist that it's the same thing ... but that same person will also insist that a French Poodle is the same as a Bull Terrier. No. Just no.
In hypnosis we think of the Critical Faculty as a firewall in the mind between the conscious mind and the unconscious mind. It stops messages from automatically being accepted by the unconscious. It gives the conscious mind an opportunity to evaluate and, possibly reject, the message.
By the way, "conscious" and "unconscious" is another useful model. There is no actual conscious mind or unconscious mind. But it is a useful way to think about how the brain works with respect to communication and processes.
But back to hypnosis and hypnotic communication ...
To hypnotize a person and have them accept hypnotic suggestion, we have to "bypass" that critical faculty.
Hypnotists have a few ways to do this.
- Instant inductions make use of a PGO spike from shock or surprise. This creates a short window where the critical faculty is bypassed, and it can lead to a robust trance if the hypnotist is in rapport with the subject/client.
- Formal hypnotic inductions using focussed attention are designed to bypass the critical faculty. Even a verbal (conversational) induction using pacing and leading will occupy the limit of a person's conscious attention, and enable hypnotic suggestions to slip in more easily.
- Stories (or hypnotic metaphors) can bypass the critical faculty without the other person even being aware that it is happening. This happens all the time during TV shows and movies, for example. Hypnotists can craft stories that are hypnotic, on purpose, to achieve specific outcomes.
Once you have bypassed a person's critical faculty and built rapport, you can sit in the director's chair with respect to the other person's experience. You can use this to shift their emotions, behaviours or even beliefs.
Here's a video of Mike Mandel and Chris Thompson discussing the critical faculty in hypnosis.