Can you really hypnotize someone from a handshake? Milton Erickson was famous for it.
In this blog post, we’ll talk all about the Milton Erickson handshake interrupt induction including:
- How to do Milton Erickson's handshake interrupt rapid induction
- What a TOTE is, and why this matters in a hypnotic induction such as this one
- Where to learn even more AWESOME hypnosis techniques
Commonly attributed to the greatest hypnotist of all time, Milton H. Erickson, the handshake interrupt is one of those inductions that seem almost magical to onlookers. It does wonders to increase the hypnotist’s prestige and the audience’s expectation.
It has this effect because, from a layman’s perspective, it seems to not require any preparation. A hypnotist should, of course, be aware that’s not the case.
The handshake interrupt works within a context in which people are readily susceptible to hypnosis. In other words, you can’t just walk up to a random person, pretend to shake their hand to attempt this induction and expect them to follow.
That’s not possible because hypnosis isn’t mind control. Any hypnotic induction requires a willing subject to work. With this one, it’s of course no different.
However, this is still one of those inductions with an aesthetic appeal. Hypnotists and audiences with a taste for the theatrical will love it. You’ll reap great benefits if you calibrate your environment and notice whether that’s the kind of induction that will spark the interest of those around you.
Our head instructor Mike Mandel used this induction for the first time after a hypnosis stage show in Ontario, Canada. He was approached by a reporter who was accompanied by his girlfriend shortly after the end of the show. The reporter asked Mike a question about how he got the volunteers into hypnosis. Instead of answering the question, he did the handshake interrupt on the reporter. It worked blissfully.
His girlfriend kept looking at him with shock and surprise. This kind of reaction is exactly what we aim to achieve in hypnosis demonstrations if we can handle them properly.
After coming out of trance, the reporter asked him the exact same question as before, as though nothing had happened. The question itself isn’t important. The real takeaway is the reporter had amnesia for the entire interaction. That’s one possible result of TOTE’s, which this the process this induction is based upon.
To the reporter’s girlfriend, it must have looked like magic or mind control, but it was neither. A closer inspection helps us understand what really happened:
The man had just seen Mike’s entire show. He had rapport with him, saw him with prestige and thought of him a powerful hypnotist. He wanted to ask Mike various questions about hypnosis and was eager to hear what he had to say.
Given the context of the situation, we can assume the reporter was in trance before their interaction. Long before he approached Mike, the induction was already set out to work.
Let’s break down this induction, step by step.
In a context where you have rapport and prestige working in your favor:
- Do a Yes Set to get the momentum going.
- Extend your hand as if to shake the other person’s.
- As the person goes to shake your hand, gently direct his arm to the position shown in the image below.
4. Draw the person’s attention to that hand and the lines on their palm.
5. Tell them to permit the hand to shift towards their face.
6. Use permissive language, pacing and leading and gentle touches to get the hand motion going.
7. As soon as the hand touches the person’s face, tell them to “let it drop and drop into a deep trance.” If he’s standing up, tell him to “sleep standing” and suggest he’ll maintain his balance throughout the entire process.
As we discussed in a recent Youtube video, you don’t have to start with a yes set every time, but there’s no harm in doing it.
The working principle behind this induction is what we call TOTE’s, also known as pattern interrupts.
TOTE’s and How To Use Them in Hypnosis
TOTE is short for Test. Operate. Test. Exit.
Stemming from cybernetic theory, TOTE’s are the idea that our minds operate little programs to run automatic processes. These programs make our lives easier by replaying behaviors and other patterns we’ve done before, saving us the trouble of having to consciously go through them again.
For example, when you’re in front of a closed door that you want to get through, you automatically look for the door knob. You don’t spend any time trying to figure out how doors work each time. You open it intuitively and without having to run the entire process through your conscious awareness. That’s a TOTE.
We can interrupt a TOTE as a hypnotic induction because these TOTEs are unconscious processes. When we interrupt such a process the brain temporarily scrambles and is looking for resolution. If we have rapport, and offer any direct suggestion, it has a good chance of slipping past the subject’s critical faculty and rapidly leading them into trance.
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