Post Hypnotic Suggestions

Illustration to represent post hypnotic suggestion

Hypnotic suggestions are those that are intended to have an effect while an individual is in a state of hypnosis. Whereas post-hypnotic suggestions, as the name suggests, are intended to have an effect later on, outside of the hypnotic state. We use both suggestion and post-hypnotic suggestion within each of our self-hypnosis CDs and MP3 downloads.

The five criteria of hypnotic suggestion

There are five things that must be achieved if suggestion, including post-hypnotic suggestions, are to even have a chance of being accepted. They are as follows:

  • Positive phrasing
  • Absence of ambiguity
  • The presence of emotion
  • An intensity of interest
  • No conscious disagreement

For hypnotic suggestion to take effect a person must be in a comfortable state of hypnosis, wherein there is the capacity for a fluid interchange of information from conscious to subconscious and the other way about. But it’s important to understand that although that interchange can take place, suggestion will only be accepted by the subconscious if, first of all, it does not conflict with other more powerful concepts that are already established there, and secondly, there is nothing else that is preventing the change from taking place.

The construction of post-hypnotic suggestions

Post hypnotic suggestions should always be written down before they are used. Obviously, we write down everything in a script prior to making a self hypnosis recording – and each and every word within a script is checked and re-checked many times. But even hypnotherapists, when working one to one in the consulting room, must also write down any post hypnotic suggestions prior to any therapy taking place. It is a cardinal sin for a hypnotherapist to just make something up as they go along.

It is vaguely possible, after 5000 hours or more of experience with hypnosis that a therapist won’t actually need to write down post hypnotic suggestions any more. But that will simply be because the hypnotherapist has got more than enough already stored up in their mental database so that whatever they need is readily available to them, just at the moment it’s needed. If that’s not the case, though, post hypnotic suggestions must be written down before being delivered.

It’s not sufficient for a hypnotherapist to hastily scribble them down on a scrap of paper five minutes before a client arrives, either. Nor is it any good jotting down a few outline ideas at some point and trusting to luck that they’ll fill in the gaps during a session. It’s not even okay when they write down something that gets close to what they want, to then leave it on their desk until a client arrives.

The only thing that is okay is to write down post hypnotic suggestion in full, exactly as they are intended to be used and then examine them with a fine toothed comb. I have seen and heard some thoroughly dreadful examples of suggestion on professional self hypnosis recordings by eminent names. To repeat, we always check and re-check our scripts. We look for ambiguity and any possible negative statement. We throw out unnecessary wordiness or complexity – the subconscious hates complexity. And when we’re certain that we’ve written something that is as good as it can get… we have another look at it and see if we can do better.

The problem is, if suggestion can be taken to mean two different things, then we can have no idea whatsoever just what the mind of the individual is going to make of it. It might react in exactly the way that we had in mind – but that would be luck and if we rely on luck then we won’t have much success. A good post hypnotic suggestion must be as simple as it can be, and totally devoid of ambiguity. Without this it is distinctly probable that it will fail on at least one of those criteria mentioned above.

An example of post hypnotic suggestion

Each suggestion that follows is based upon the same developing concept, the final one carrying a delivery that would be almost guaranteed to work superbly.

“The next time you find yourself in a social situation, you’re going to feel confident and relaxed.”

“The very next time you are in a social situation, you’ll feel wonderfully confident and totally at ease… and find yourself looking perfectly relaxed.”

“From this day forward, every time you are in a social situation, wonderful feelings of confidence will seem to fill every pore of your body… see yourself in your mind’s eye, looking totally at ease and thoroughly enjoying yourself.”

“From now on, every single time you’re in any social situation, you’re going to discover wonderful feelings of confidence radiating from somewhere deep inside you… just see yourself now as you walk through the door… it’s written all over your face… you’re having the time of your life.”

The first one, of course, was just a single statement. There is nothing wrong with it, but it is very basic. The last, on the other hand, has a lot going on and is actually two suggestions, one of them for visualization. They are both simple enough and carries no ambiguity, so the subconscious cannot misunderstand what is required. Also, there is the reference to a specific action – walking through the door, which will act as a trigger to the desired behaviour. There is also an indirect suggestion of feeling calm on the inside, with that statement ‘confidence radiating from somewhere deep inside you.’ That will help someone to overcome the internal shaking and quaking that anxious individuals sometimes feel. So it is a good suggestion.

To make it even more effective we need to apply some tonality, as follows:

“From now on, every single time you’re in any social situation, you’re going to discover wonderful feelings of confidence radiating from somewhere deep inside you… just see yourself now as you walk through the door… it’s written all over your face… you’re having the time of your life.”

Hypnotic triggers

A hypnotic trigger can be used to help someone access resources that they need for a given situation. For instance, for driving test fear, we could install this trigger:

“And at the moment you take the steering wheel in your hands… at that very moment… you will feel a surge of confidence reaching into every pore, every fibre, every cell of your entire body…”

As you can observe, a trigger is nothing more complicated than a post-hypnotic suggestion and its construction follows exactly the same rules. It is easier to bypass the Conscious Critical Faculty with this sort of work, since a trigger will normally comprise some action or event which in itself is so totally normal that there is no reason to challenge it. This normality will usually allow the subconscious to readily accept the trigger work without question, unless what we suggest will happen is too outlandish or extreme.

When we do our job properly, which we always aim to do, such suggestions will be accepted into the subconscious to be later discharged, at the appropriate time, as motor action. In this example the motor action is of driving confidently, of course.

The power of suggestion deserves total respect. There are other methods of using hypnosis, but when suggestion is used cleverly and carefully it can and does produce major and lasting change.