Hypnotic Metaphors and How To Use Them

Filed under: Hypnosis Training

Did you know that metaphors can be used effectively as a hypnotic tool? Read on to learn more.

First, let’s dive into what a metaphor really means in a hypnosis context.

Youtube Video: Ericksonian Hypnosis - What is a Hypnotic Metaphor?

A Metaphor is a story that you tell someone using symbolism in order to convey a message; resulting in a positive change in their attitudes, beliefs, or even their whole lives. This is because our brains have the innate ability to match patterns, and understand the message behind the words. When you tell a story, it activates the brain’s pattern matching system, and the person listening tends to automatically connect it to something, in the context of their own life.

Since this works below conscious awareness, most people listening to a story do not have any resistance to the words. After all, it’s just a story about something else. It’s a very smart technique to help someone get the outcome they desire, without them being consciously aware of what you are doing. That’s because It sinks directly into their unconscious mind.

There are essentially three kinds of metaphors that you can use:

GENERAL METAPHOR – This is a story you can tell almost anyone in any context, and it will have a beneficial effect on the person listening to you. It may give them an "Aha!" moment, teach them a life lesson, or provide direction.

For example – A man walking on a beach one day notices a boy on the distant horizon, throwing rocks into the ocean. When he gets closer, he realizes the boy is tossing stranded starfish into the ocean. He tells the boy that he won’t be able to help all the starfish. The boy responds by tossing another one in the ocean, and says ‘I just helped that one.’

This story has an unconscious message on many levels, and anyone listening to it can apply it to their own lives.

ISOMORPHIC METAPHOR – These stories are a little more specific, and cannot be used under all circumstances like the general metaphor. For example, let’s imagine you have someone who is working themselves into the ground, without taking the time to ‘smell the roses’ (Yup, I just used a metaphor, but more on that later). The example below could be a great metaphor to help them.

Two lumberjacks have a competition, to see who can cut down the most trees in a day. The younger one harnesses all the energy of youth and chops trees relentlessly, while the old man takes breaks from time to time. This goes on for an entire day. By the end of it, the young lumberjack realizes in dismay that the old man has cut down nearly twice as many trees as he did, despite taking frequent breaks. The old man explains ‘When you saw me take a break, I went off to sharpen my axe.’

This story will teach your overworked client that taking power breaks will help them sharpen their skills, regroup and come at their work with new vigor, and a sharper mind. It teaches the importance of a reset. The story maps across to the client’s real-life situation.

NESTED LOOP METAPHOR – Also referred to as Stacking Realities or Multiple Embedded Loops, these metaphors are a brilliant way to cause change. Simply put, they are stories within stories within stories. You get the drift. You can freely add direct suggestions just below the last story, as you make your way up to close each story seamlessly. This alllows direct suggestions to be embedded in their unconscious mind.

This can be a little difficult to understand at first, so here's an example of how it works in practice. Watch this Key Note that Mike gave at Hypnothoughts Live in 2019 that is a masterclass on Nested Loops.
Mike Mandel's Keynote Speech at Hypnothoughts Live 2019

This kind of metaphor is so powerful it works as a hypnotic induction, causing a trance by itself as you tell it.

Side Bar: A very important aspect to remember though, is to NEVER EVER explain a metaphor to someone, no matter how great the temptation. It defeats the purpose of using symbolism, and unravels the work you just did in narrating the story. The content keeps the conscious mind occupied, and the structure of the story is what percolates into the mind for the actual change to take place.

Now that we have explained the various types of metaphors, let’s see where we can use them.

Youtube Video: Ericksonian Hypnosis - Where Should You Use Hypnotic Metaphors?

CASUAL SETTING - We use metaphors in our daily lives without even realizing it.

‘He missed the bus’

‘Music to my ears’

‘Light of my life’

‘Apple of my eye’

Do they all sound familiar? Although we are already using them, the key is to use them in the context of a story - strategically and purposefully, to generate change in another person.

We all narrate events in our lives to the people around us, but these are not relayed with an intention to cause any change in the other person. When we talk about hypnotic metaphors, they are told with a specific intent and purpose. That’s how they are different from a regular account of something that happened to us. With practice, you can become a natural at telling a story with a hidden message, therefore hypnotizing your subject effortlessly.

WORKING WITH A CLIENT - There are two ways this can be accomplished. Right at the beginning, before the client is aware you are using hypnosis, and at the end of the session, just after awakening them from a trance, to cement in the change. By this point, their unconscious minds are very receptive to anything you say, making your suggestions extremely effective.

The best thing about metaphors is that you don’t need to be a hypnotist to use them. If you are a life coach, an NLP practitioner, or any other helping profession, metaphors can be a handy tool.

If you wish to learn how to craft the best hypnotic metaphors and other hypnosis techniques, join our awesome hypnosis learning community by clicking on the link below:

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