Phrases like “you are getting very sleepy” are central to the popular image of hypnosis as an altered state of consciousness, in which the subject falls into a sleeplike trance. The popular image also includes a charismatic hypnotist with a powerful yet soothing voice, who may make mysterious motions in the air while producing the trance. Some parts of this image certainly date back to late eighteenth-century Vienna, where physician Franz Anton Mesmer ﬁrst discovered the hypnotic treatment of various ailments via mesmerism. His induction procedure was very elaborate, involving magnetized rods extending from tubs ﬁlled with iron ﬁlings, but the key element was his own physical touch. He believed that he possessed a high degree of what he called animal magnetism, which could inﬂuence the magnetic ﬂuid that ﬂows through all human beings. Upon receiving his touch after relaxing, his patients would fall into a trance, and upon coming out they would be cured. In modern hypnosis, the induction ritual is usually much simpler, involving staring at an object—a swinging pocket watch is in fact sometimes used—while receiving instructions to relax.
Under hypnosis, the subject will experience a loss of volition and become very willing to follow suggestions, along with becoming highly susceptible to hallucinations and delusions. While in the hypnotic state, a person may be able to remember things that were not remembered prior to hypnosis. Memory of what went on during the session may be gone afterwards as well, along with memories and physical urges that the subject wished to be rid of. After the hypnotic session, if the person has been given a post-hypnotic suggestion, he or she may still respond to the suggestion of the hypnotist.
The foregoing view of hypnosis is still widely accepted by the general public, but the academic and clinical communities have distanced themselves from it over the last several decades. Although some psychologists still refer to hypnosis as an altered state of consciousness, others view the hypnotic state as simply the enactment of a social role. This is often referred to as the state/non-state debate. The most popular state theory, which insists that hypnosis involves an altered state of consciousness, is Ernest Hilgard’s “neodissociation” theory. According to Hilgard, the mind contains multiple parts that are not all conscious at the same time, and which are ordinarily inﬂuenced by a centralized control structure. Under hypnosis, a dissociation, or split in consciousness, occurs in which subjects surrender to the hypnotist some of their usual control over voluntary actions, while gaining some control over normally involuntary processes, such as sensitivity to pain.
In a classic study intended to demonstrate dissociation, Hilgard had hypnotized subjects immerse one hand in ice water following a hypnotic suggestion that they would feel no pain. They were asked to press a key with the other hand if they felt any pain. Verbally, subjects typically reported almost no pain, but their key pressing indicated a substantial amount of pain. Hilgard explains that a “hidden observer” was reporting on the pain, while no pain was experienced by the part of the mind that had conscious awareness. Whether a hidden observer is involved or not, there is little question that hypnosis is sometimes useful in reducing pain, and it has been used successfully in surgery, amputations, and childbirth, as well as with chronic pain such as arthritis, nerve damage, migraines, and cancer. Some researchers have even claimed success with reduction of post-surgical bleeding.
Hilgard’s state theory, however, is rapidly being eclipsed by a non-state view variously called role theory, the cognitive-behavioral view, or the sociocognitive view. According to non-state advocates, the view of hypnosis as an altered state is simply unnecessary and somewhat misleading. Role theory maintains that hypnotic phenomena can be explained in terms of compliance with social demands and acting in accordance with a special social role. The hypnotized person does behave differently from non-hypnotized people, but this is because he or she has agreed to act out an established role, with certain expectations and rules. The hypnotized person does feel less in control and becomes far more suggestible, but it is done voluntarily, as part of a social ritual. Furthermore, there is no evidence of any changes in neurophysiological responses during hypnosis, unlike what is seen in actual altered states of consciousness, such as sleep or the effects of psychedelic drugs. Indeed, in studies where some people are hypnotized and given suggestions and other, non-hypnotized people are asked to do the same things, a typical ﬁnding is that motivated but unhypnotized volunteers can duplicate most classic hypnotic effects, including such things as limb rigidity and pain insensitivity. Non-state theorists maintain that hypnotic behaviors and experiences represent no change in cognitive processes but merely reﬂect normal cognitive processes in a special social situation.
Within psychology, the myth about hypnosis most in need of debunking is certainly the idea that it is helpful in recovering lost memories. Sometimes, for example, age-regression is used to help people recover lost memories by having the hypnotized subject return to a childhood mentality and think and behave like a child. Such age-regression is often quite dramatic, with the adult subject adopting a childlike voice and demeanor and producing childlike drawings. On closer examination, however, the drawings typically resemble what adults expect a child’s drawing to look like rather than actual children’s drawings, and the adults tend to use that childlike voice to say things in a way that an actual child wouldn’t. Furthermore, memories produced under hypnosis are less accurate than those produced by the same subjects without hypnosis; a key component of hypnosis is an increased susceptibility to suggestion and fantasy, thus making it an inappropriate tool for recovering accurate memories. Unfortunately, people who have recalled an incident under hypnosis tend to be more conﬁdent about that memory than about ordinary memories. This combination of factors has led to a huge scandal in the therapeutic world, involving a large number of criminal cases in which people have been accused of child sexual abuse solely on the basis of memories “recovered” under hypnosis (see also Memory).
- Wagstaff, G. F. “Hypnosis.” In Della Sala, S., ed. Mind Myths: Exploring Popular Assumptions about the Brain and the Mind. New York: Wiley, 1999.
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NOTE: This article was significantly updated on 29 March 2016 to include a more expansive list of hypnotic power words since its original publication in October 2014.
When it comes to hypnosis, one tool is more powerful than all the others put together.
You might even say that, without it, hypnosis would be impossible.
And that tool is: words.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
To be a hypnotist, you just need to be able to use words. Anyone can do that. So why isn’t everyone able to hypnotize everybody else?
Because they aren’t just any old words.
Hypnotists use specific words and phrases to help people imagine possibilities, which means they need to choose their words with care.
We call those choice words power words (or hypnotic power words).
But here’s the thing:
Power words aren’t really anything different than the words you use on a daily basis.
Whether you’re answering the phone, talking to a neighbor, or discussing an idea with a colleague.
They’re not secret words given to hypnotists when they reach a certain level. You don’t have to be a grand master to be able to use them.
They’re not reserved for a select few who are privileged to speak them after years of study.
What makes them power words isn’t necessarily the words themselves, but the way in which they’re used.
Yep, that’s really the secret behind making them “hypnotic.”
Which is why we decided to expand upon this original blog post (which previously only listed 3 power words) to give you a list of 15 so you can fine-tune your hypnotic language skills – regardless of whether you’re working with a hypnosis client, or you’re looking to improve your communication skills.
All Words Have Built-In Magical Power
Why are words so cool?
How is it possible to use words that everybody knows and somehow put a person into a trance?
To find out, let’s briefly look at the character of words in general.
Suppose someone told you to imagine yourself biting into a lemon. Without having a lemon in your hand, you can still do it.
You can feel yourself biting into the yellow flesh. You can feel the juice squirting out and dripping everywhere.
You can taste the bitter citrus that almost sets your teeth on edge.
You can smell the lemony scent as it tingles your taste buds and works its way up into your nostrils.
And even without holding a lemon in your hand, or biting into it, your saliva glands somehow get activated.
That’s what words can do. They’re capable of:
- Stimulating your imagination
- Distracting you
- Painting pictures in your mind
- Activating your senses
- Creating associations
- Linking two things that wouldn’t normally go together
- You’ve probably heard the expression “cool as a cucumber” – but does it make any sense?
Cucumbers aren’t particularly cool, unless they’re kept in the fridge. Go to any garden plot and touch one. Nope, no cooler than the pumpkin growing next door.
That’s what makes words so cool. Stick a couple together in an interesting phrase, and BAM! You’ve got a winner that everybody remembers. And once you know how hypnotic power words work, that’s what will make you a fantastic hypnotist.
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The Big 5 Hypnotic Power Words
There are dozens of power words you can use, so let’s start with what we’ll call the Big 5. They are:
Example: “You’re listening to me, you can relax, and because you’re relaxing, you can feel comfortable because comfort builds more relaxation, so you can relax even more comfortably and because you’re relaxing right now, you can feel more comfort developing inside you.”
Example: “You can relax and feel comfortable, and the comfort you feel will make you relax even more, and the more you feel the comfort, the more you’ll relax. And as you relax, you’ll feel more comfortable. As you feel more comfortable, you’ll relax more and more. Relaxing more and feeling comfort is important for relaxation, so as you relax and feel comfort and relax even more and feel even more comfort.”
Example: “As you listen to my voice, you can start to focus your attention inside. As your attention focuses inward, so your unconscious mind begins to take you into trance. As you breathe in and out, you will notice an ever deepening comfort starting to develop.”
Example: “Can you imagine going into trance? Imagine yourself drifting on a calm and beautiful river. Picture your muscles becoming loose and limp. See yourself feeling completely relaxed. Then imagine enjoying the most exquisite trance experience.”
5. Which Means
Example: “You have been studying these language patterns for some time now, which means that you are learning something of tremendous value. The fact that you are reading this right now means that you are learning at the unconscious level….”
You can see that these are just ordinary words, but their power comes from how you put them to use.
As a hypnotist, you might find it easier to put someone into a trance when they’re relaxed. So let’s use the idea of relaxation to demonstrate how the power words might work. Here are some examples of what you might say:
“You know you can relax your body because you’ve relaxed in the past.”
“And the more you relax, the more comfortable you feel.”
“As you feel the relaxation coursing through your body, you know that every one of your muscles can just let go and unwind completely.”
“And the more you relax the easier it is to imagine yourself in a totally comfortable and contented place.”
“And as your body continues to relax you can just let go, which means you’re so relaxed now that your mind just calms right down.”
Obviously these are just examples and you’re completely free to use your own approach. But you get the idea.
Each of these power words serves its own purpose, but their power is increased when they’re combined. By the way, you may have spotted these same power words at the beginning of this article. If not, have a look now and see if you can.
Words are particularly useful for hypnotists because they have their own hypnotic power. That’s why so many parents, even in the 21st century, still sing their babies to sleep with a lullaby. The words and rhythms have a soothing quality that nothing else can match.
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We’ll be looking at how to use these hypnotic power words in a number of different contexts later on. But first, here are a bunch of extra power words for you to get familiar with.
10 Extra Power Words To Beef Up Your Hypnosis Sessions & Conversations
You may have noticed that the Big 5 Hypnotic Power Words serve as links or linguistic bridges, joining ideas together smoothly. So it makes sense that one of the simplest and easiest ways to begin inducing a trance is just to say:
“Close your eyes and go into hypnosis.”
The word “and” links the two ideas together, closing your eyes and going into hypnosis.
But as you know, you don’t have to close your eyes to go into hypnosis. Even if you do close your eyes, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll go into hypnosis. But fortunately, your unconscious mind doesn’t know that.
And as soon as you start thinking about what the words mean, you can’t help but start imagining the possibilities.
Because words can create associations and paint pictures in the mind, they’re the fastest way to stimulate the unconscious.
And now, here are 10 more power words (or phrases) to add to your hypnosis toolkit:
Now let’s take a more detailed look at using some of these words and phrases, and how to use them together.
Starting with the power phrase “just pretend”…
Most people know how to pretend. It’s something you start doing in your first few years of life. But pretending does something almost magical. It gives you permission to switch off your conscious mind. To bypass the critical factor and let go, because that’s what pretending is all about.
So you might say something like this:
“Just pretend you’re in the most relaxing place you’ve ever been. Just pretend you’re more comfortable than you’ve ever been before. Just pretend that your breathing is slowing down and helping you enjoy deep and luxurious relaxation.”
Next, keep building that picture in their head:
“And the more you relax, the more comfortable you feel. The more comfortable you feel, the more relaxed your body becomes.”
As you can see, it doesn’t even have to make sense. Because the words have the power, you can use them in a whole heap of different ways and still get fantastic results. Let’s put a few of them together in a quick demonstration:
“Every time you take a breath, you’ll feel more and more relaxed. To feel what it’s like when every muscle in your body is completely relaxed, completely stress free. Suppose you were relaxing like that right now.”
And there’s literally no limit to what you can do with these words:
“Remember a time when you were so relaxed, so incredibly comfortable, and as you remember that feeling of total relaxation, imaginewhat it would be like if you could bring that feeling right back, right now, so you find yourself in the deepest and most tranquil state of calm imaginable. So calm that you realize you can really unwind and let go. And as that feeling of serenity washes over you, you know that sooner or later you’ll enjoy wonderfully peaceful relaxation…”
So you see, using the concept of relaxation, all you’re really doing is stringing a few words together. But when they are put together, they have a combined power that’s almost guaranteed to do what you want them to do.
And what is that exactly?
Power Words Help Put The ABS Formula Into Action
The reason for doing any of this is obvious: to put someone into a trance. It’s only when they’re in a trance that you can work with them to help solve their problems or deal with their issues.
We’re talking about a hypnotic induction, of course. And as you probably already know, a hypnotic induction follows a particular formula.
We call that formula the ABS Formula. Here’s a quick reminder of the only 3 things you need to do to induce a trance:
A: Absorb Attention
B: Bypass the Critical Factor
S: Stimulate the Unconscious
In case you haven’t guessed it yet, that’s exactly what these hypnotic power words are designed to help you achieve: all three things at once.
Like a child listening to a lullaby, your clients will be caught up in the words and phrases you use and in the repetition of themes. They won’t be able to help themselves, because the words and phrases are naturally engaging.
When people are engaged, you’ve got their attention. The power built-in to the words gives them an irresistible quality, which enables you to bypass the critical factor. And if they’re suddenly feeling more relaxed as a result of what you’ve said to them, that’s an unconscious response.
After all, they’re not doing anything, just listening to you, and yet their body is responding positively to your suggestions. Not because they’re controlling it, but because their unconscious mind is being fed with the information. So all three things are happening at the same time.
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And now, let’s find out exactly how to put these words of power to work in a variety of different situations.
Putting The Hypnotic Power Words Into Context
One thing you’ll notice about the power words in the examples above is how they make ideas flow together smoothly. That means that, if you use them properly, they can work wonders in almost any situation.
And because they’re really just plain old everyday words, no-one will suspect that anything out of the ordinary is going on.
Here are a few scenarios to demonstrate it:
Scenario 1: Controlling Exam Nerves – Hypnotic Power Word: Imagine
“Imagine yourself sitting in the exam room, knowing that you’ve done all the preparation you can. Imagine how comfortable you’ll feel when you get your hands on the paper. Imagine being so relaxed that there’s only comfort, there’s plenty of time to answer every question to the best of your ability.”
“Imagine opening the paper and seeing the familiar material you’ve been studying. Imagine how easy it is to recall all that information, able to simply breathe and relax and take your time because everything you need to know is in your head. Imagine working through each question, one at a time, knowing that you’re okay and you’re relaxed.”
The hypnotic power word imagine is so powerful because it:
Scenario 2: Improving Your Sales Technique – Hypnotic Power Word: Remember & The More
“Remember a time when you communicated with real power, and when everything you said was convincing and persuasive. The more you think about that time, the more you remember how easy it is to communicate with people. Remember how powerful you felt back then and feel that power growing inside you.”
“Remember how natural it feels to talk with other people, how effortless it is and how the words just seem to roll off your tongue. Everything you say fills the other person with confidence and assurance, and the more you speak to them the more influential you become.”
The hypnotic power word “remember” does two things:
While the word imagine literally stimulates the imagination, the word remember does something extra. It doesn’t just help you create a scene in your head – it helps you relive a time when you did something well.
Scenario 3: Influencing A Friend – Piling On The Hypnotic Power Words
“The more I think about that suit/dress/jacket/car, the more convinced I am that you would look terrific in it. Imagine the looks you’ll get everywhere you go, how amazing you’ll feel every time you wear it/drive it. And as you think about the thrill of owning it, you find yourself wishing it was yours, because you know you deserve it. Sooner or later you have to treat yourself, which means this is an ideal opportunity to do that. Just pretend for a minute that you already have it, and you’ll realize just how perfect it is for you.”
Influential enough for you? It would take someone with an iron will and skin as tough as a porcupine’s to resist. And yet, they’re all really just ordinary, run-of-the-mill words. Nothing special.
What’s perhaps more interesting is how effective these words become when you combine them. If your goal is to grab someone’s attention, stimulate their imagination and switch off the critical part of their conscious mind, then there isn’t a faster or more effective way to do it.
Hit them with half a dozen power words or so and you’ll have them eating out of your hand. Of course, in an ethical way that’s in their best interest.
Again, these are just examples of the kind of thing you should be aiming for. With practice you’ll be able to come up with lots of different ideas and scenarios that are even more powerful and irresistible.
Hypnotic, you might say.
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