Top 10 Terms Every Hypnotist Needs to Know

Top 10 Terms Every Hypnotist Needs to Know

After 40 years of full-time hypnosis, I am continuously amazed by the widespread hypnotic illiteracy I encounter among many people who have chosen hypnosis as a profession. It’s akin to a chef not knowing what a beurre blanc is, or a chemist who’s never heard of phosphorus. Regardless of one’s practical skills in a given field of endeavor, there is still a requisite lexicon to learn, so that hypnotists can speak clearly to each other. Words mean things. To that end I offer the following Top 10 List without apology:

1. Critical Faculty – Not “Critical Factor”. The Critical Faculty acts as the firewall of the mind, either permitting or preventing us from acting in response to suggestion, but many hypnotists persist in misnaming it. This is a very common error, and if your hypnosis trainer insists on saying “Critical Factor” you might want to jump ship and study somewhere else (hyperbole alert!)  Think of how you’d feel if your cardiologist kept referring to your left ventricle as your “left Volkswagen”, because that’s just what he likes to call it. This is an important and fundamental distinction. I can insist on calling a bull terrier a poodle, but I’ll look like an idiot, because it’s still a bull terrier. It’s a faculty not a factor.

2. Somnambulism and Somnambulistic – Somnambulism comes from Marquis de Puységur, and is the working state of hypnosis. Somnambulistic is an adjective, and pertains to that particular depth of trance, where the subject sometimes resembles a sleepwalker. The terms are not “Samuelism” or “Sumnablistic” both of which I have heard spoken by typically illiterate hypnotists of high reputation. This is the state in which you are able to cause the maximum response onstage or in the street, or the maximum change in therapy.Somnambulism

3. Fractionation Not “Refractionation” or “Fractionalization” – Fractionation is connected to heteroaction and homoaction. Since hypnosis is a learning state, one can go deeper into trance with practice and through experience. To fractionate someone is to hypnotize them repeatedly in a short period of time, or simply have them rise to the surface by opening their eyes and then closing them again, plunging back into hypnosis. It’s one of the most dependable trance deepeners you can use.

4. Heteroaction – Andre Weitzenhoffer spoke extensively about this subject, and it’s a good word to know. Basically, anytime you pass a hypnotic task, it increases your predisposition to pass another entirely different one, thus increasing hypnotic response. It’s why suggestibility tests can be useful in some settings. Heteroaction paves the way to trance. It’s also why stage hypnotists can cause stronger and stranger responses as the show develops. It’s shocking that most hypnotists (who didn’t study with us) do not seem to know about this important hypnosis term.Suggestibility Tests

5. Homoaction – Another excellent term from Weitzenhoffer. Homoaction basically states that each time you repeat a hypnotic activity (including trance itself) the response will be stronger, up to a point. It’s the reason fractionation works. We also see homoaction onstage. If subjects feel a pinch when you snap your fingers, it will be stronger the second time, and even stronger the third, etc., until eventually the response levels out when the law of diminishing returns kicks in.

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6. Convincers – Convincers are among the least understood hypnotic phenomena, and are often confused with suggestibility tests. A convincer is a suggestion (catalepsy, time distortion, etc.) given during trance that you can point back to later, to prove to the subject that she was hypnotized, i.e., Remember how you couldn’t open your eyes? Convincers ratify trance, making it real for the subject, after the fact. Contrast this with suggestibility tests, which are pre-hypnotic, and designed to create heteroaction.

7. External Trance Indicators  – ETIs are the analog phenomena that you calibrate, in order to gauge the subject’s response. Examples include facial flaccidity, eyelid fluttering, hypnotic rash, shifts in breathing, head tilt, muscle twitches, blood to extremities, etc. They show you on the outside, that something’s happening on the inside, and are the antidote to archaic digital hypnotic depth scales. Learn to recognize trance through adequate calibration of the subject, and depth scales can be thrown in the garbage, along with your hypnotic scripts.

8. Catalepsy – A waxy flexibility of the limbs that is often concomitant with trance. The creation of catalepsy is a great inroad to hypnosis, and will leave hyper-analytical subjects wondering what happened when you awaken them. There’s nothing quite like eyes that won’t open or a floating arm to get your subject’s attention. Catalepsy often occurs spontaneously, so it’s very easy to create.Catalepsy

9. Calibration – Also known as: That which most hypnotists fail to do. To calibrate is to observe your subject, whether onstage or in a therapeutic setting. You notice how they look, sound, breathe, etc. To fail to calibrate is to miss all sorts of useful information – like whether or not your subject is in a trance. I saw a hypnosis trainer put a woman in and out of hypnosis 3 times, and he was still doing his induction! He was so absorbed in his own brilliance, he didn’t glance at her even once. Remember: You can’t see what you’re not looking for…

10. Blanket Release – You’re not done until you remove all test suggestions in a therapy session, and entertainment suggestions onstage or in the street. Never let someone leave your presence without a blanket release, even if the suggestions did not seem to work! It can be as simple as saying: All testing suggestions (or entertainment suggestions) are canceled and removed NOW! Your subject’s safety and comfort is always the Prime Directive.

The Ultimate Guide to Power Inductions

Mike Mandel explains exactly how rapid and instant hypnotic inductions work. Understanding this will dramatically improve your hypnosis work. Watch this tutorial now.

40 Responses to Top 10 Terms Every Hypnotist Needs to Know

  1. Jon Jo Gill July 24, 2015 at 6:24 pm #

    Fantastic set of educational tutorials, very helpful many thanks.

  2. Derry Cooke July 25, 2015 at 3:21 am #

    Mike, I agree with you on this one 90% so I guess that’s still an A plus!
    The concepts here are important for every hypnotist to know and understand. Where I disagree with you is on the Critical Factor vs Critical Faculty point.
    I trained with Igor Ledochowski’s HTA (which -I agree- is not only redundantly named, it is also redundantly named) and we were taught the term “critical factor”.
    I know that Elman and others use the term ‘critical faculty’ but as far as I can tell -and please correct me if I’m wrong- the two terms refer to the same thing. They both describe the gatekeeper (if I can use that metaphor) that must be bypassed to gain access to the hypnotee’s unconscious mind. The Critical F Issue is not really deserving of debate, let alone proscription. It’s “to-may-to” vs “to-mah-to”.
    As you have said many times, the value of a model is in its usefulness. I fail to see how using one term over the other makes any practical difference… (…and for the record: I say ‘Critical Faculty’!)
    I think there are much more important issues you could address such as ‘hypnosis’ vs ‘trance’. I would love to read what you might add to *that* debate.

    • Mike Mandel July 25, 2015 at 1:59 pm #

      Thanks for your comment. Igor is simply incorrect, as I have pointed out numerous times. He is now in a double-bind. He either accepts my correction or keeps saying it wrong. He has chosen the latter alternative. The fact that the two terms “refer to the same thing” is irrelevant, as is the tomato example. It’s not a matter of pronunciation, it’s the wrong word entirely. I recommend you look up “factor” and “faculty” in a good dictionary. I think we do our art and science a disservice when we are slipshod in a way we would never accept from auto-mechanics, mathematicians, pilots, chefs, dentists, or most other professions.

    • Chris Thompson July 25, 2015 at 2:07 pm #

      Hi Derry – I hear you regarding the notion that both Critical F terms refer to the same model. That’s true. But that’s where it ends. I was discussing this with my wife this morning. She’s not a hypnotist so she doesn’t understand any of this. She asked me if this is comparable to people who say “Nucular” instead of “Nuclear”.

      Yes. It is. One is the correct word. The other is not just an alternative way to say it … it’s wrong. Just like when you hear someone say “sumnablistic” instead of “somnambulistic”. Critical factor is wrong. It’s popular, but still wrong.

    • Mike Mandel July 27, 2015 at 2:40 pm #

      Thanks for your response. Listen what happens when we are slack and lazy communicators:

      1. My friend is a professor on the factor of a large university.

      2. Mathematically speaking, 5 is a faculty of 20.

      3. My uncle has Alzheimer’s and is losing his factors.

      4. The police said the subject’s obsession with guns was a faculty in the crime.

      Also, it is clearly worthy of debate, based on the number of responses I get when I raise the issue. You are correct about a model’s usefulness, and I respond that removing the precision of language creates a less-useful model. On the other hand, the hypnosis vs. trance discussion is of no interest to me. More to come…

    • David July 28, 2015 at 8:57 pm #


      I am little disappointed with your comments about the critical faculty but I am a big fan and I think you’re one of the best out there.

      I’ve gone through your course and Igor’s live course, bandler’s course, overdurf’s course as well. i think you’re all great in your field. To say to “jump ship” if a hypnotist is using the term “critical factor” is a little childish and I know that Igor uses that term and having done his course I can honestly say he is extremely talented in teaching and facilitating hypnosis. His work is exceptional.

      I am a big fan of your work and I think your very general comment is somewhat misplaced.

      • Chris Thompson July 28, 2015 at 9:18 pm #

        David – you’re misquoting Mike slightly here. He said “if your hypnosis trainer insists on saying Critical Factor”, which is obviously much worse than saying it out of pure ignorance. He also said you “might want to jump ship”, rather than saying you absolutely should. We hear you regarding feedback on the quality of other trainers and thanks for the kind words about Mike’s training. It would be great to have you back in class sometime! And if I get up to Montreal anytime soon let’s grab a drink!

  3. Sir Shakeel Ghaziani July 25, 2015 at 5:40 am #


  4. James Hazlerig July 25, 2015 at 7:24 pm #

    Good article. I agree with you that, as professionals, we should pay attention to knowing our terminology–and in a profession based largely on precise and careful language, that holds doubly so.

    Concerning “Critical Faculty”–I concur that “Faculty” is the term to use. “Factor” is not accurate from either the standpoint of meaning or history. On the other hand, it’s short-sighted to suppose that one can’t get good training from a hypnotist who uses the wrong term. Indeed, at this point, the principles of descriptive grammar dictate that we recognize that “Critical Factor,” though originating as a mangling of the original term, has come to have the same meaning. (An analogous case is the redefinition of “literally” to include the meaning of “figuratively.” Even though that change drives language buffs like me crazy, it is descriptively accurate.)

    (BTW, Igor Ledochowski consistently mispronounces “riff” as “rift.” That irks me considerably more than his misuse of “factor.” However, neither keeps me from benefiting from his teaching.)

    Concerning Heteroaction and Homoaction–The concepts are useful and familiar to many hypnotists, but it’s far more important that we recognize the concepts than that we use the same terminology to describe them. When I’m playing the violin, no one listening cares whether I think of the notes as A,B,C, and D or Do, Re, Mi, and Fa. Likewise, my clients don’t really care if I don’t know every term used by every hypnosis researcher, as long as I’m effective.

    At the same time, I’d want to slap any hypnotist who can’t pronounce “somnambulist.” That’s just sloppy.

    I would add the homophone pair “complimentary/complementary” to the list. One means it’s free and the other means it completes something else. It’s especially important to know this distinction when addressing medical professionals and offering services you plan to get paid for.



    • Mike Mandel July 27, 2015 at 2:44 pm #

      In total agreement regarding complimentary/complementary. The “literally” and “figuratively” confusion is something I was unaware of, but it’s very cringe worthy. Fairly typically post-modern, and indicative of a progressively more illiterate population.

    • Chris Thompson July 27, 2015 at 4:55 pm #

      Hi James – nice to have you commenting here, and hope to meet you at HTLive next month. Come hang out with us in the bar and we’ll show you how to properly use combative techniques to slap the next hypnotist who says “sumnablism” 🙂

      I hear you regarding the possibility of learning good quality from hypnosis teachers even if they may use the wrong term. I’m going to guess that what Mike means is if the instructor literally INSISTS on using the wrong word it’s unforgivable. If someone is not willing or able to accept correction it’s just not cool. I say this only to clarify, not to debate. I think your comment was well written and makes sense.

    • Chris Thompson July 27, 2015 at 4:59 pm #

      Oh, also wanted to add (for those reading), James is well known for teaching on the history of hypnosis. If he says the correct word is Critical Faculty, people should take notice.

  5. Jay Tee July 26, 2015 at 2:38 am #

    Sounds like a debate of English teachers.

    Some of these terms were plagiarized from the NLP model anyway, but it’s all the same thing to me, so who cares where you got them. 🙂 Except maybe the NLP people.

    Heteroaction and homoaction are simple compounds to make, so perhaps they are your own created terms, as I have never read them in any of the classic works, by Milton Erickson, Dave Elman, Ormond McGill, etc.
    Knowing the words and walking the walk are two very different animals to get confused.

    Although you may confuse enough beginners to get more students, which is probably the reason for this article, unfairly and ignorantly maligning “unknowledgeable hypnotists.” (Read section number 1 for this push.)
    Good luck getting students this way.

    Although I did get a good chuckle out of number 2. The meaning of the word somnambulist has changed historically, and now you are using it incorrectly, compared to past hypnotists. It used to refer -only- to those who had a natural tendency to go into deep hypnosis easily or even spontaneously.

    • Mike Mandel July 27, 2015 at 2:49 pm #

      Jay Tee,

      You might want to read more carefully. You say:

      “Although I did get a good chuckle out of number 2. The meaning of the word somnambulist has changed historically, and now you are using it incorrectly, compared to past hypnotists.”

      Where did I ever say somnambulist?

    • Chris Thompson July 27, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

      The word “somnambulist” appears nowhere in this article. Funny way of quoting someone, Jay. You’re just wrong.

  6. Jay Tee July 26, 2015 at 2:42 am #

    My bad, You said Andre Weitzenhoffer made those two up. My apologies to you, they just didn’t seem necessary except as a convincer that someone has hypnosis knowledge…

    • Mike Mandel July 27, 2015 at 2:33 pm #

      Perhaps we should drop terminology entirely. Then we can speak along the lines of “You know that thing that happens when you hypnotize someone and then they come back to your office and the next time it’s easier…” I prefer using proper terminology. It astounds me how many people have resisted being accurate and succinct.

  7. Old Brasso July 26, 2015 at 7:45 pm #

    Language is mutable and misuse will inevitably cause change. I was forced to attend a university accredited course in the UK where every dictionary definition of the word “customer” was ignored. Anyone in receipt of services in any context became a “customer”. The corollary is that since the prison officer provides a service, the prisoner is his “customer”. There is a political agenda behind this but academia in the UK is now big business eager to tow the governmental line and effectively dumb down society in order to effect complience.

    • Mike Mandel July 27, 2015 at 2:44 pm #

      Thanks. I am in total agreement with you. Postmodern nonsense at its finest.

  8. Don Simon July 29, 2015 at 12:15 am #

    Using factor instead of faculty isn’t really like a chef not knowing what a beurre blanc is at all is it? Lack of knowledge isn’t the same thing as a popular malaprop. Not that I want to join the pedantry party. It may be ‘wrong’, but it’s not like ‘factor’ is a ridiculously ill-fitting or typically comical world-stopper of a malaprop. I think people should chill their beans a little on this one. In any case, since the so called F word is not science fact, but a metaphor of the mind, I’d suggest you can really call it what you please. Critical junction, element, section, area, wall, zone, or banana.

    • Mike Mandel July 29, 2015 at 1:12 am #

      “I’d suggest you can really call it what you please.”

      Reductionist lamb stew in vitro syllabus tree snake consummate deportment.

      Read Orwell on language. He was right.

  9. Elliott July 29, 2015 at 1:13 am #

    I see in the feedback, Mike, you allude to your disinterest to comparing hypnosis with trance. I hope you write about it to explain your disinterest but more importantly because it is very misunderstood by the general public and more hypnotists should be able to explain it. It’s also another hot button which makes it even more fun to discuss.

    • Mike Mandel July 29, 2015 at 9:44 pm #

      Hi Elliott,

      I’m disinterested in writing about it to explain my disinterest.

  10. Derry Cooke July 29, 2015 at 3:34 am #

    Point taken. While the map is not the territory, it is *still* the map and different maps have different levels of precision and accuracy.
    One *could* travel to Istanbul using an old map that called it Constantinople. One could even, like Yeats, sail to Byzantium! The fact would still remain that the people there call it Istanbul.
    Of course the F word doesn’t index a place or a tangible thing, it is just a nominalisation; but to say faculty not only honours Elman but also locates the thing amongst the ‘mental faculties’. ‘Factor’ may have the useful implication of being an element in a greater entity or process but I prefer ‘faculty’ and just mentally edit/hallucinate all of Igor’s “factor”s into “faculty”s.

    Still… what a pretty hornet’s nest, how sweet the buzzing!

    Here’s another one: is there such a thing as “the unconscious mind”? There seem to be a vocal subset of hypnotists who deny there is any such thing and that all hypnotic change can be somehow explained by role expectations and ‘normal cognitive behavioural processes’ whatever those might be! Ah the joys of lively debate!

    • Chris Thompson July 30, 2015 at 6:15 pm #

      Hi Derry – Yes that sure is another one for lively debate. I always laugh at the folks obsessed with this notion that there is no unconscious mind. Ok. Whatever. I guess we consciously control our heart beating and blood glucose levels. They miss the point. It’s another model. It’s not a real thing. If they don’t like the model they don’t have to use it. Models should be measured by their usefulness. This particular model served Milton Erickson quite well, and it’s serving our clients well.

      The whole “there is no unconscious mind” discussion is a terrible straw man. Of course we can’t go cut the unconscious mind away from the conscious mind. So to say it doesn’t exist is a useless comment, probably made by the same people who say “critical factor” 🙂

  11. Josh July 29, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

    I agree that using language in adherence to a single, unified lexicon is important in any profession, let alone one that faces the sort of public discrimination that hypnosis does.

    However, Mike, yours is a niche industry with a comparatively small customer base. So when you start suggesting people may want to consider dropping any teacher who uses a single incorrect term, and one of your key competitors happens to do just that, it seems a little underhanded.

    Perhaps you didn’t mean it that way, but it could explain why everyone is so riled up.

    • Mike Mandel July 29, 2015 at 2:41 pm #

      Hi Josh, and thanks for your comment. My point is hyperbole, akin to saying “If your wife won’t let you watch football, divorce her!”
      I am astounded as to how many toes have been crushed by this. Hypnotists seem to take themselves way too seriously, and need to lighten up.

      Best regards,


      • Josh July 29, 2015 at 9:46 pm #

        Fair enough. It’s hard as a layman to identify the hyperbole, but at least that means I can’t fall under your umbrella of hypnotists taking themselves too seriously (;

        This November’s Architecture will be my first hypnosis training, and I couldn’t be looking forward to it more!

        • Chris Thompson July 30, 2015 at 6:16 pm #

          We’ll see you there in November! Looking forward to meeting you, Josh!

  12. Jonny July 29, 2015 at 9:28 pm #

    Great post for a novice like myself, thanks Mike.

    To weigh in on the critical faculty/factor debate, I would like to point out that a faculty (ie a power related to the mind) falls into the category of a factor (an element). Calling it a critical factor is less descriptive, but if we accept the nominalization of critical thinking as related to suggestion at all, we have to accept that both terms are valid. Therefore, it’s not like saying nucular, or somnablism (if that’s what it was), more like saying ‘did you see that thing on television last night?’ instead of ‘did you see that programme?’. This in my opinion is not an infraction worth blowing up about, even if it is vague.

    In saying that, when Igor says rift instead of riff, I want to scream…..

    • Mike Mandel July 29, 2015 at 9:41 pm #

      Well put, Jonny!Thanks for the comment. I’m amazed at how much response this has gotten.

    • Derry Cooke July 30, 2015 at 1:20 am #

      Jonny, there’s this thing called hypnosis that could help you with your IRTS (Igor’s ‘Rift’ Trauma Syndrome). 🙂

  13. Ellen August 16, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

    I find this discussion very interesting and while we are discussing the importance of words and, given I am new to the industry, I would love to know what other’s opinions are on the terms “Hypnotist” and “Hypnotherapist”.

    I recently started a Counselling course and was corrected in front of the class for saying I was training and passionate about being a Clinical Hypnotherapist. I was immediately corrected in that we no longer use that term and I should be saying Hypnotist.

    Not only did I find this embarrassing and belittling but in my mind my thought was immediately, “well YOU may be afraid of using therapy with your hypnosis but that is where I want to work!” I was quite upset really. To me, a Hypnotist is somebody who works with Hypnosis for smoking, weight loss, PLR etc. but may also be a stage Hypnotist, but Hypnotherapist uses therapy, eg: age regression, fears and phobias etc.

    Am I wrong in my perceptions? I look forward to hearing from others who are much more advanced in this wonderful industry.

    • Chris Thompson August 17, 2015 at 3:12 pm #

      Hi Ellen – I think you’re correct in saying a hypnotist may be someone who does stage shows, street hypnosis AND may be someone who helps people therapeutically. The term “hypnotherapist” is more likely to be regulated depending on where you live, so it’s important to use that term only if you are legally allowed. If you know you’re doing training that will permit the use of that term then by all means use it.

  14. Nigel Ball August 19, 2015 at 4:02 am #

    A very educational article and some good points raised in the comments.

    I have studied Mike Mandel’s excellent online course and I can recommend the content.

    There’s also an easy payment plan by monthly subscription, which I found a lot easier to faculty into my budget.

  15. Steven Blake mba August 21, 2015 at 12:28 pm #

    Hi Mike, a great article. Thank you. It shows how good it was that people have only got hung up on the correct usage of words, because there really is nothing else to debate! I love your work and it fits my style, that it is straight to the point and cuts out the bullshit. I bought your rapid inductions recently and think they are awesome. I’m so pleased I downloaded the audio files because although I expected them to be just the straight audio from the video they were so much more. Your explanation of the principles were so clear and memorable. Thanks again, Steven

    • Chris Thompson August 27, 2015 at 6:12 pm #

      Thanks you Steven! We look forward to having you in the Academy or coming to Toronto one day soon.

  16. Steven Blake mba August 21, 2015 at 12:35 pm #

    Sorry just one more thing, I normally suggest a setting for someone to enjoy being in whilst sending them into trance (woods, beach etc. – their choice).

    Now I know I could do the same after using one of your rapid induction methods, but is this redundant with them already being in a deep trance?

    If this is not the right forum to ask this type of thing, could you direct me to a more appropriate place. Regards, Steven

    • Chris Thompson August 27, 2015 at 6:16 pm #

      Hi Steven – this is a fine place for questions, we’re just a bit slow to deal with blog comments. There’s nothing wrong with suggesting a preferred setting. It can be highly effective when you are using guided imagery (i.e. specific type of metaphor where you’re there with them, guiding them through a situation). Perhaps I can add this to our next podcast.

  17. Melinda September 19, 2016 at 8:57 am #

    I enjoyed the article. I was trained by Dr. John Kappas at HMI and found some of these terms never revealed. I value the ability to tell if a person is left or right brained in speaking , and pattern my speech so that is it readily received. i find the suggested directive is almost always best received if you can get the verbology (strength of wording) as close to their acceptance as possible. ex-left brains require inferences and right brains respond to direct statements best.