How Exactly Does Hypnotic Suggestion Work?

Filed under: Hypnosis Training

Hypnosis is a mysterious phenomenon that causes wonder and fascination in everyone who witnesses it. The folklore that surrounds it tells stories of mind control and complete domination of one mind over another. But how does it actually work? How can a simple verbal suggestion given by a hypnotist have such a powerful effect on someone's mind?

Hypnosis is NOT Mind Control

Before explaining what hypnosis is and how it works, we first need to explain what it isn't: Hypnosis is not; in any way, shape or form; a mind control tool. In spite of what it may seem, a hypnotist does not have any form of control over anybody else's mind. 

As hypnotists, these are some of the questions we're most frequently asked:

  • "Will you make me bark like a dog or cluck like a chicken?"
  • "Will you make me eat an onion thinking it's an apple?"

The reason why these "Will you make me do X?" questions are so common is because, in popular culture, hypnosis is often understood as a sneaky little mind control trick. Of course, this couldn't be farther from the truth.

In reality, the hypnotist has little to no power over what's going on in the subject's brain while they're in trance. He's merely there as a guide - an instructor that will lead the subject's imagination toward a desired outcome. Obviously, the subject needs to cooperate. They must be willing to follow the hypnotist's instructions; and most importantly, they must want to be hypnotized.

Right about now, you may be thinking: "That's not true. I've seen those hypnosis stage shows. Don't tell me that guy wasn't controlling those people. No one in their right mind would ever do something so ridiculous."

Are you sure about that? Are you telling me you've never seen anybody doing something ridiculous on purpose?

What about improv? Or karaoke? If you've ever been to a place where people gather in order to practice a kind of performing art, you know hypnosis isn’t required to get someone to do something ridiculous.  People will do ridiculous things because it's fun, and they don't care what other people think.

Stage hypnosis volunteers willingly get up from their chairs and go up on stage to do crazy and weird things because they want to have fun. They will follow the hypnotist's instructions and allow themselves to experience these various sensations simply because they're feeling like blowing off some steam, not because someone is forcing them to.

That would make for a very serious legal case, otherwise.

Hypnotic Suggestion - Bypassing the Critical Faculty

Now that we've made clear that hypnosis isn't some evil mind bending superpower, let's get to the point of how it actually works.

How is a person able to produce such spectacular phenomena with their mind just by hearing a simple suggestion? The best way to explain it is to offer a model we like to use:

Remember: This is only a useful model. Not something we believe to be the absolute truth.

Imagine a big beach ball with a small coin on top of it.

Beach Ball Critical Faculty Hypnosis

The beach ball is the sum of everything that is happening in your brain. It's the totality of all your unconscious processes. Everything you know is stored here: all your memories, your emotions, everything you believe to be true and every dream you've ever had. The beach ball is your unconscious mind.

The coin is tiny by comparison. It represents your conscious mind: everything you're aware of at this very moment. Typically seven bits of information (plus or minus two) at any given time.

Now imagine that between the ball and the coin there is a coaster. You know the kind of coaster we’d put a coffee cup on to protect the table? Imagine that the coin sits on the coaster, and the coaster sits on the beach ball. The coaster is what we call the critical faculty.

The critical faculty's purpose is to analyse information and prevent (or permit) it to enter the unconscious mind and cause a particular response. The critical faculty is what allows us to think critically and make decisions based on our analitical thinking.

You may be wondering what all of this has to do with hypnosis. It's really simple: while in hypnosis, the critical faculty remains present, but it becomes more permeable, meaning it permits ideas through. It stops analyzing things so much and permits a greater access to the unconscious mind and all its resources.

In other words, in a hypnotic trance, suggestions are able to bypass the critical faculty and arrive at the unconscious mind, causing a temporary alteration on how that person is apprehending reality.

Nevertheless, if a suggestion is perceived as dangerous or immoral, the critical faculty will immediately reject it, possibly even terminating the hypnotic trance altogether.

This is the truth of how hypnosis works. Interested in learning more about it? The Mike Mandel Hypnosis Academy is the BEST, most thorough online hypnosis course available anywhere. Click here and claim your free trial now.