Which would you choose if someone approached you and asked:
“Hypnosis. Threat or Menace?”
There is a good chance that you are weighing the odds of either decision in your mind right now. There is also a high likelihood of you rejecting the statement outright, especially if you are aware of the hypnosis technique this question is using.
In reality, the question is actually something called a double-bind and is set up to give something called the illusion of choice. In a past blog post, we talked about the illusion of choice that a double-bind presents. You can read that post by clicking here.
This simply means that, regardless of whatever option you choose, the answer is probably going to be the same. The asker of the question intentionally created it that way.
In this brief blog post, we’ll go over what double-binds are and the ways people use them in everyday life, so that you can be more aware and more empowered to make a choice that is right for you.
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What Is a Double Bind?
You would be surprised at just how many situations or scenarios the double-bind technique is used. In order to be more aware though, you first have to know what a double-bind is.
As it was briefly stated above, a double-bind is when a set of options are presented where the end result is the outcome the asker wants - not the person choosing the options.
What often happens is the person making the decision feels like they are in control because they are seemingly offered a choice. Somehow, their answer has meaning and weight behind it, because they, psychologically speaking, are the ones making the choice. The bad news is though, this illusion of choice will also bypass their ability to consider other options.
In truth, the person presenting the options only has their own intention in mind - which is to get the result they want for themselves, regardless of what the end-user has chosen.
Watch Out for Double Binds
Take, for example, negotiating the terms of a contract or finalizing a sale. The salesperson wanting to close the deal might ask the buyer, “Did you want to sign the contract now, or do it after lunch?”
The illusion of choice in this question is that the buyer can decide when he wants to sign the contract - either right now or after lunch. The bad news, though, is that the illusion of choice also removed all other options, including to not sign the contract at all.
Another usual place double-binds can be found are in the realm of politics. “Is candidate A a terror to society or just a harbringer of doom?” “If you don’t vote for candidate B, you either simply don’t care about your country or you’re a traitor”
You may also hear double-binds used during judicial trials, which is why it’s wise to consider having a good lawyer who understands the lingo. The witness might be asked a question such as, “And when you did XYZ, did you intend to do harm to others or just yourself?”
This question above is a little more complex because there really isn’t any other detail to go off of. You might be unsure of whether the witness did or didn’t do XYZ. One thing you can be sure of though, is the double-bind on the end.
A good lawyer might hear this statement and yell, “Objection! Leading the witness!” because that is exactly what is happening. The witness is getting asked a question that forces them to admit fault for causing harm, regardless of the intention behind the harmful behavior.
Double-Binds in Hypnosis
People misunderstand hypnosis and often think it’s some type of voodoo, mystical shamanism; where somehow the hypnotist is controlling the mind of their helpless subject!
The fact of the matter is, those beliefs about hypnosis are as far from the truth as calling an orange a potato. (We don’t know why exactly you’d call an orange a potato, unless it was an unsatisfying orange.)
Hypnosis is a self-participation activity. You are an active participant in the creation of your own hypnotic trances. This means whether you are in the zone (or in flow), experience highway hypnosis, or are working with a hypnotist, the only person who is able to create the trance is you.
In reality, you are in a trance right now reading this blog post. Whether you are on a computer, on your phone, a tablet, or some other device, the locus of your focus is on the words you are reading. This central focus is one of the key elements of creating hypnotic trances. We probably knocked you out of your “reading trance” by pointing it out. It’s OK. You can drop right back into your comfy reading trance now.
Conversation is also very hypnotic. Remember the last time you were having a great conversation with friends and suddenly hours passed by and it only felt like minutes? Time distortion (whether compression or expansion) is a hypnotic phenomena, which many people have felt in regular, everyday old conversations.
So why would you use double-binds specifically for hypnosis?
The truth is, sometimes people can feel uncertain or anxious regarding hypnosis and what going into a trance will feel like. Any worries, irrational fears, or misunderstood beliefs about hypnosis can create something called resistance.
A more resistant person might not fully understand what they will experience, how hypnosis works, what a trance is, or they might have other misrepresented opinions about hypnosis.
This distrust in the process or even the hypnotist can create a resistant wall from them being able to experience trance or not. That’s why we consider rapport the number ONE skill that any hypnotist (really, anyone in general) needs to learn and understand.
“Rapport is the glue that holds trance together.” - Mike Mandel
With rapport, you can work miracles. Without rapport, it’ll take a miracle to do anything. So in order to build rapport, a skilled hypnotist might mirror and match their subject, they might imagine and pretend their subject is the most important person in the room. They may also use double-binds in order to help the subject overcome internal barriers that would create resistance.
(Read: NLP Rapport – The Proverbial Glue To Honest Connection).
One situation might simply be asking them which chair they want to sit in to go into hypnosis.
“You can either choose the hypnosis chair or the trance chair…” Either choice means they have already made an unconscious agreement to go into hypnosis.
Another way to use double-binds is while your subject is already in trance.
Double-Binds for the Induction and Using Them During Trance
Assuming you’ve already built rapport and your subject is in trance, there are other ways you can use double-binds that will have an incredible effect on your hypnotic work.
One of our favorite hypnotists, Michael C. Anthony, uses an amazing triple-bind (3 options instead of just 2), which goes something like this:
“And in a moment, you will begin to feel the muscles in your neck and down your back completely relax. It will feel like someone flicked a light switch and your head will begin to move down - chin towards your chest. I don’t know whether you’ll notice that total relaxation in your neck and down your back in the next 10 seconds… 5 seconds… or… now.”
This triple-bind sets up the presupposed illusion of choice that eventually the client will feel this relaxation in their neck and back, but it will happen within 10 seconds, 5 seconds, or right now.
Of course, there is much more happening than just the triple-bind, but we’ll save discovering the rest for you to explore all on your own; either by checking out our Youtube channel, reading our other blog posts, or with a subscription to The Mike Mandel Hypnosis Academy.
So what about while the subject is already in trance? One instance is to provide a heavy direct suggestion toward change, where the choice that needs to be made is obvious.
“And you can either continue to live the same way you always have, doing the same unhelpful habits, being the same person you are today without any growth, and still having the same problems…or you can choose to finally start over and rebuild who you really are, can’t you? That choice starts today, doesn’t it?”
Double-Binds in Everyday Life
Outside of a hypnosis or therapeutic context, double-binds are practically everywhere. In fact, here is a small list of places where you’ll want to watch out for double-binds in everyday life:
Places to look for double-binds with examples:
- Marketing and advertising
- “Buy one - get one free - on either X or Y”
- “We can either close the deal later today or we can just do it right now..”
- Newspaper / magazine / online headlines
- “Hypnosis: Threat or Menace?!”
- Newspaper / magazine / online articles
- So one must ask, is hypnosis more of a menace than it is a threat to our society?
- Political speeches
- “Either you’re satisfied with the major problems in this country or you actually care about your fellow man and know it can be better!”
Other places to look for double-binds
- Daily conversation
- Motivational speeches
- Books and publications
- Video games
- Interview / Interrogation questions
- Court proceedings
We could go on and on. The point is, double-binds are everywhere. So the question then becomes, what can you do about it?
Challenging the Double-Bind and Closing Thoughts
So what do you do when you recognize a double-bind, especially if you notice it in your everyday conversation? The first part is to become aware that double-binds even exist. Since you are now aware of them, you are one step ahead of the game!
The next step, once you are able to recognize a double-bind, is to simply challenge it with a question. “What about X?” Where X in this case is an alternative to the choices you were given.
Another way is to simply ask, “How did you come to believe X or Y are the only options?” Based on the answer you are given, you could then follow up with “How do you know it’s true?” We call these the Jedi Questions To Challenge and Change Beliefs.
An example of this in your everyday life would be if you had a friend who is in a very toxic relationship. Let’s assume it’s one of those relationships where everyone is aware of how unhealthy it is, yet both parties still choose to stay together.
One day, this friend of yours asks if you could meet up to talk. When you do, they tell you how unhappy they are but how powerless they feel. When you ask them why they are still in the relationship, they say:
“I stay with them because I know if I left I would either be alone forever or just eventually go back because nobody wants me. I’m broken.”
One of the most powerful skills you can learn as a hypnotist, whether seasoned or brand new, is how to subtly help people make their own decisions and come to their own conclusions.
Your friend who just dumped this sad story of why she stays with her toxic partner has revealed her own inner double-bind: “I’m so broken, no matter what I choose I’ll be unhappy, so I might as well stay.”
Since you have become more aware of double-binds and now know how to challenge them, you could help your friend by empowering her to come up with her own conclusions.
“How did you come to believe you are broken?”
“How did you come to believe being alone forever or going back to your ex-partner are the only options?”
“How do you know it’s true?”
Challenge questions are a subtle way to help break apart unhelpful stories or inner dialog so that your subjects, friends, or whoever you want to subtly help, can come to their own conclusions.
Speaking of conclusions, it’s unfortunately time for us to say goodbye!
This isn’t the end, though!
You are, of course, free to choose to either check out even more of our free content, or you can claim your spot in The Mike Mandel Hypnosis Academy, and discover more helpful hypnosis techniques and tools that will help make your life awesome!