Hypnotic Language Patterns | NeuroLinguistic Programming
SCIENCE OF SUCCESS
HYPNOTIC LANGUAGE PATTERNS
I USED TO AVOID THE TERM “HYPNOSIS”
Why would any well-educated Linguist, Life Coach, or NLP Practitioner be afraid to use a standard term that has a long and studied history? Well, maybe a caretaker or mentor (with no education or research on the subject) insinuated that the skill might have something to do with dark magic or a sinister art, a super-power, gift or as something only heavyweight linguists can comprehend and practice, hypnotic language is actually very straightforward & doesn’t take a brilliant mind to uncover.
By definition, hypnotic language causes the human mind to experience a hypnotic “trance,” sometimes referred to as a focused mental state and often accompanied by behavioral compliance, but a “trance” is simply a highly focused state of attention, hypnotic language is basically a pattern of language which focuses the attention and turns it inward into the imagination.
So, as a Linguist, NLP Practitioner, & Life Coach, I no longer shy away from the term “Hypnosis,” but I rarely ever practice the theatrical type of hypnotic entertainment that seems to permeate the industry and draws negative attention and scrutiny.
Most people don’t need the theatrics for Hypnosis to be highly effective in connecting them with the outcomes and positive emotions they truly desire, and for the most part it is just as fast and effective without the entertainment aspect.
ASKING PERMISSION & GETTING CONSENT
Asking permission in order for hypnosis to be effective depends upon the amount of trust that the audience has in the Practitioner. Interest in hypnotic language patterns has grown alongside interest in the work of Milton H. Erickson, who pioneered the “indirect” or permissive approach to hypnosis, and it is not only a good practice to always ask for permission before beginning to use the Hypnotic Language Patterns below, it is also an ethical necessity.
Before Erickson, subjects were basically told what to do, ie
“you are feeling sleepy.”
Whilst this approach works for some people (around 30% of the population,) Erickson realized that the majority of us dislike being told what to do, and will tend to resist any suggestions that are made to us in a forceful manner.
Additionally, the internal, imaginative reality of the listener is unlikely to match what is being said to them if the suggestions are too specific or controversial. A hypnotist or NLP Practitioner might suggest that the listener is relaxing on a beautiful beach with golden sand, but perhaps the beach in their imagination is a shingle beach, or perhaps they got lost on a beach as a child and have hated beaches ever since. Regardless of whether or not it works in this case, the discrepancy between what’s being said and what’s going on inside the head of the listener will disrupt the hypnotic trance and any useful suggestions the hypnotist might make will be lost, ignored or refused.
INDIRECT LANGUAGE PATTERNS
Indirect language patterns get around this issue in two ways. Firstly by structuring language in such a way that your attention is focused and turned inwards, where it will search for meaning. The Ericksonian equivalent of
“you are feeling sleepy”
would be something like
“and perhaps, as you sit there now, listening to the sound of my voice, here, you might begin to notice a pleasant feeling of drowsiness.”
It doesn’t seem necessary or productive to argue with a statement like that. At no point during that snatch of words are you being told that you’re experiencing something nor are you commanded to do something; in other words, you might notice something, or you might not, and the brain begins seeking ways to first understand what is being said due to the Causal Phrases being introduced, (for example: If there is an “either” at the beginning of a thought, we instinctively seek the “or” which will be following) and then turns the cognitive attention inward to see what feelings are being noticed which, of course, is inherently trance inducing.
Secondly, indirect hypnotic language is permissive, which means that you are given maximum freedom to interpret what is being said to you in a way that makes sense to you personally. So the Ericksonian equivalent of
“you can imagine relaxing on a beautiful golden beach”
“now, as you may have already noticed, there will have been a time and a place in your life, where you’ve felt perfectly relaxed, and completely at ease, and I wonder if you’re able to get a sense of that right now?”
As with the previous example, at no point with the Erickson Pattern are you directly instructed to experience something specific inside your imagination. The Practitioner has just introduced a fairly safe assumption. Most people can honestly admit to having felt perfectly relaxed at some point in their lives, even if it was only for five minutes, some fifteen years ago.
By subtly and strategically stringing together Causal Phrases with an ambiguous or vague outline of a
“time and a place”
when this has happened, the listener is left to fill in the details themselves which most of us are happy to do.
Attention is focused inward as the listener sorts through their own experiences to find a memory of a time when they did feel perfectly relaxed. By focusing and remembering that time, of course, the limbic system and mirror neurons generate the feelings they had at that time, reproducing that sense of relaxation in the present moment, now.
THE LINGUISTIC TOOLS OF THE TRADE
There are a number of “tools of the trade” that hypnotists use to produce this permissive, attention-focusing effect, together and in conjunction with specific language patterns. Examples include the “yes set”, a series of statements which you can’t help but agree with, since they’re self-evidently true, so that you’re more likely to agree with whatever comes next. An example might be
“so, you’ve come here this morning, and you’re sitting in that chair now, listening to the sound of my voice, and already beginning to get a sense of how deeply you can relax here today.”
Closely related to that are the use of Truisms, aspects of behavior or experience which cannot reasonably be denied
“you already know how to relax, don’t you?”
That “don’t you?” at the end is another favorite hypnotic language pattern, a “tag question” also known as a Presuppostion, which presupposes or assumes that any vague or ambiguous statement before it or after it is a true fact making the suggestions less direct and easier to accept, “And it does, doesn’t it?”
Similarly, suggestions are more likely to be accepted if they’re added to a truism, even if the two things don’t necessarily follow
“and because you already know how to relax, you can relax even deeper here today as you listen to the sound of my voice.”
Finally, Hypnotists also offer illusory choices or “double binds” to achieve desired outcomes.
“Now, I don’t know whether you will relax now or in a moment. . .”
presupposes that you will relax, the only question being “when?”
Another popular use is that of nominalizations, or words that have no intrinsic meaning in themselves, but they are being used as Nouns such as
and words like
mean different things to different people, and although they are being used as Nouns, you can’t put them in a wheelbarrow and that is a good test of whether or not the Noun being used is a Nominalization or just a noun. Once again, the mind of the listener naturally turns inward when it hears words like these to attach individual meaning to them, which produces a trance-like state.
These techniques, and others like them, are designed to create the trance or hypnotic state, which makes the unconscious mind more readily available to receive new information. Hypnotic language also involves delivering that information in a form which the unconscious mind is more likely to accept.
Deliberate confusion and ambiguity, metaphors, puns, analogies, stories and so on are all ways of smuggling the message in past the conscious mind, which tends to be more critical and analytical.
THE DARK SIDE
Finally, it’s worth bearing in mind and discussing the dark side of Persuasive & Hypnotic Language Patterns in that
- advertisers and
are all well aware of hypnotic language patterns, although it takes real determination to become skilled, deliberate, and masterful, a basic familiarity with these patterns can help you to defend yourself against those who don’t necessarily have your best interests at heart.
As a Practitioner, or someone interested in learning how to use Language Patterns to better communicate with children, colleagues, romantic partners, you must understand how to develop Well-Formed Outcomes, so chances are you won’t be causing anyone to cluck like a chicken anytime soon. If you are interested, however, in discovering more then it might be time to hire me as a Coach.
JAMES PESCH WELCOMES YOU BACK!
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