Fly agaric mushrooms…  Consumed in the right quantities they can be lethal or give you a hardcore hallucinatory experience.

As well as consuming mushrooms, you can also lick the skin of some special toads that secrete powerful hallucinogens. You could also buy LSD tabs from your local dealer, or smoke salvio divinorum with a Shaman. There are many ways to ingest things that make you hallucinate.

I confess to having tried most of the afore mentioned ways in my younger years.

Though did you know that hypnosis can be used to induce hallucinatory experience and alter sensory perceptions?

Many psychiatric hospitals and institutions are filled with people having their own hallucinations, and in general we tend to consider those guys a bit scary. Many of these people are experiencing  involuntary hallucinations, some of which are considered by the medical profession as coping mechanisms.  They are the kind of hallucination that are generally also considered problematic.

Yet we are all capable of experiencing hallucinations without ingesting something in order to do it.

Using hallucinations in hypnotherapy can enable people to similarly remove themselves from their actual reality (whatever that may be) in order to have some beneficial (ideally) experience that may not otherwise happen.

Regression loving hypnotherapists often suggest that clients go back in time and imagine seeing a figure from their past that they can converse with in some way as a means of letting go and/or dealing with past experience as an adult – they are not actually going back in time and meeting that person, they can hallucinate the scenario.

The big thick dictionary in my office that I often refer to here on the blog says this about hallucination:

The alleged perception of an object when no object is present, occuring under hypnosis, in some mental disorders, etc.

Interesting that they refer to hypnosis, eh?

Hallucinations can occur in all of our senses, we can see, hear, smell, taste and feel stuff that is not necessarily there – people often query the feeling ones, yet when you ask them to imagine a scenario in a scary house at Halloween and they swear blind they were touched by someone (or something) that was not actually there, then you know what I am referring to.

Many consider hallucinations to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – the bad ones might be those involuntary ones mentioned earlier, or ones that are scary, paranoia inducing or problematic when attempting to live a regular life.

A ‘good’ one might be having a pleasant experience whereby you enjoy certain sensations; Suggesting that someone take a nice deep, relaxing breath, and as they breathe in they smell the fragrance of fresh baked bread. Which many would consider to be a good or positive hallucination.

Using hypnosis to facilitate hallucinations is not just about having people see certain things. I have had clients hypnotised and asked them to focus on imagining certain things in their mind, so much so that they experience diminished sensory awareness in how their arm is feeling to the extent where they have anaesthesia in the arm. (There is a video of me doing this in my members area at my website)

We all do experience hallucinations of varying kinds in our day-to-day experience. Loads of people negatively hallucinate that they cannot see their car keys, walk past the table they are on several times before being shown that they were there all the time. When Mrs Eason and I watch something on telly, insects can make us itchy and shuffle in our seats, or injections being administered can make us grab our own arms. Then there are those that can taste a food or smell the coffee before they have arrived at the café or restaurant.

I know that when I was a child, I rarely heard my Mum calling me for dinner when I was engrossed in a game of football in the back garden. And then there are those sites I noticed that have been in Bournemouth all the time I have lived here, that I have driven past hundreds of times, but only saw when I focused when I walked through the same streets years later.

When I was younger, my self-hypnosis teacher cracked a rotten egg into a bowl and grimaced and wretched as he held it close to me at arm’s length asking me to smell how awful it was… I smelled the foulness of it, it was horrendous.

He then told me it was fresh and I realised it had no foul smell at all. I believed it so much, that I hallucinated the negative smell.

Hallucinations are classically considered to be hypnotic phenomena, but many researchers have shown that they can be reproduced without hypnosis. In the clinical and therapeutic environment though, they can be elicited and potentially used to engage a client within a scenario or situation that they perhaps struggle to experience in the “real” world. Perhaps heping them to experience themselves in a new or different way, or having them experience potential successful outcomes for example.

When a client is immersed in a hallucinated reality within a hypnosis session, the vivid experience they have can become very real and useful for them. Some clients may hear words they needed to hear or experience sensations and feelings they missed in life, or see places and people they found to be beneficial.

In his 1997 work entitled Hypnosis as a Conversation: “Believed-in imaginings within Contemporary Hypnosis journal, Theodore Sarbin stated how powerful and potent hypnosis is when used to create “believed-in imaginings” such as these hallucinatory types of experiences in therapy.

So how do we elicit these hallucinations?

Well sometimes they happen all on their own, especially in hypnosis. I have clients tell me they felt like their arms were floating when they were not, or that their arms were heavier when they weighed the same throughout and other similar things.

In order to create hallucination deliberately and on purpose, there are a variety of approaches from various schools of hypnosis.

There are the simple, direct instructions delivered by the likes of stage hypnotists. I saw Paul mckenna on his TV show simply tell a man that he was with model (it was the 90s) Linda Lusardi when he was not. He reacted accordingly.

A direct suggestion to experience something if a good level of hypnosis is achieved can elicit hallucination very simply. Simply saying “when you open your eyes and see yourself over there achieving that desired outcome” can do the job.  If doing this in therapy, I’ll assume you have a good level of rapport, trust and responsiveness developed with the client.

If you are a progressive hypnotherapist, as I like to think I am, you might consider delivering suggestions for hallucinatory experiences in a positive way. That way the client is aiming towards something they wish. Though we know negative things can be motivational too – the Dickens Pattern used in NLP takes someone into a future moment when things have gone wrong, or badly and terrifies the client to avoid ever going in that direction, for example.

I think that if you combine the senses it tends to create a more realistic hallucination – have someone notice the smell, sound and sights of the place they are entering, for example, will make for a more real experience for them to experience.

As well as these simple direct approaches, indirect suggestions can be used just as well. Like the example I gave earlier for anaesthesia, you could suggest that the client be hyper-aware of his or her toes – which becomes an indirect suggestion to ignore his or her arm (and to lessen the sensory awareness in that arm).

To harness the indirect methodology, you can use presuppositions to create a number of hallucinatory responses:

. . . and how does it feel to notice a wise advisor from your life is over there? .. . . . . and what is it they want to say to you?…

. . . and why didn’t you notice earlier that one arm was heavier than the other and one was just floating comfortably there?…

. . . and when I am at the beach, I always notice the smell of the sea air, the crashing of the waves of the sea and the colour of the sand… I’m sure you know what I mean, don’t you? . . . .

Some have described hypnosis as imaginal absorption. Most hypnotherapists and hypnosis professionals tend to agree that hypnosis involves a lot of focus and as such, a hypnotised person e can become very absorbed in suggested realities to experience hallucination.

of course, we need to remain safe and ethical with the way we employ such hallucinatory techniques as they can potentially lead to false memory syndrome if the client is unable to distinguish them from reality. Therefore, hypnotherapists need to ensure that hypnotherapy sessions are adequately structured to ensure they do not promote or potentially amplify psychosis.

So, I am sorry if I have taken all the excitement out of hallucination and made them common hypnotic phenomena, which although not unique to hypnosis, can be developed with relative ease using hypnosis.

… And they’ll be safer than licking toads and eating mushrooms or LSD tabs from the guy on the street corner, eh?