Within my self-hypnosis seminars and one of my books, I tell our budding self-hypnotists the value of putting an end to some suggestions that they give themselves. An ending that is. A time whereby the suggestion itself becomes null and void.

We often demonstrate hypnotic anaesthesia and analgesia within those seminars and it is important that the period of anaesthesia has an ending of some kind that is defined in my experience and opinion.

It also does tend to be one of those questions that I am asked a lot by my hypnotherapy students – that there may be problems if they forgot to put an end to certain types of suggestions that they delivered to case studies or clients (in the case of newly qualified individuals) and perhaps the suggestions could cause problems if they are not removed properly.

With newly qualified hypnotherapists or those studying to become a hypnotherapist, there can be a sense that there is so much to learn and so much to remember to do – maintain rapport, be aware of tonality and non-verbal communication, construct meaningful and beneficial suggestions, deliver them, feed in the therapeutic intervention (and remember how to structure that intervention) while all the time paying close attention to how the client is responding and reacting… “With all that going on, what if I forget to give an ending for a suggestion?”

Will my client have an anaesthetised arm for the remainder of his natural life? Never knowing if he just jabbed a fork into it at the dinner table?  Will my time distortion suggestions given to my client now result in my client waking up one morning and saying “I’m 90 years old, my life has zipped by!”?? Will my client that I just regressed to 9 years old now have to mentally go through puberty all over again? (That one is for those of you that do regression, if there are any of you that actually still read my blog and I have not totally ostracised myself from you yet!)

The answer to all of these questions is of course ‘no.’

Yet I still recommend strongly that where appropriate, an ending or a removal of the suggestion is done.

There are schools of thought that believe that any suggestion delivered has the potential to have a delayed or less obvious influence on the person it was delivered to. Therefore, if any suggestion is going to have the aim of being temporary with its effect, then offering up to the client a proper end point for that suggestion is deemed ‘good housekeeping’ and professional. I recommend people give the ending at the same time that they start it; for example “beginning now and remaining in effect for the next 3 hours…” Then you get it done right away and do not need to remember to place an ending in later on when you conclude the session. Though both might be a good idea – and remembering to do one more important thing is surely not that much of a big ask, is it?

The man who has probably explored this subject the most and published a great deal of material about it, is Andre Weitzenhoffer. In his book The practice of hypnotism, he states:

It is not well-recognized that when the response to a suggestion is not allowed to be completed or is prevented from taking place there may be a lingering effect that may unexpectedly manifest itself sometime in the future. Furthermore, while it is usually assumed that if a response does not take place, this indicates the suggestion had no effect, this can be a quite erroneous conclusion. A related effect may take place also unexpectedly at some future time. While this may not be a frequent occurrence, it does occur. For this reason, I terminate or annul any suggestion that I do not plan to have an ongoing effect. (2000, pp. 53-4)

I would not want hypnotherapists to get too pedantic and there is no need for the health and safety brgiade to insist that this is part of informed consent and needs to be taught as part of every hypnotherapists training to protect mankind from the end of the world. Weitzenhoffer himself in the same text earlier referred to does also state that it is rather rare for suggestions to carry on beyond the time they are required. Though he does recommend that hypnosis professionals give a deliberate ending to all suggestions that are temporary within the session.

There are also schools that believe in general terms, hypnotic suggestions are temporary. For example, Ernest Rossi within both his 1996 work The symptom path to enlightenment: The new dynamics or self-organization in hypnotherapy and his 2002 work A conceptual review of the psychosocial genomics of expectancy and surprise in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis he states that suggestions are “state specific.” By that he means that they are effective only while the individual is hypnotised. He states that unless a suggestion is given to keep the effects of the suggestions in place after the hypnosis session, little of the suggestion will actually carry over into our usual ‘waking state.’ of course, this all fits in with a particular paradigm of what hypnosis is and how it works.

All hypnosis professionals know that we therefore use posthypnotic suggestions which makes suggestions given in hypnosis work and be effective outside of a formalised hypnosis session and within the client’s life.  Many schools therefore believe and function with the premise in mind that if we do not use effective posthypnotic suggestion, then the hypnotic responses are minimal once the hypnosis session comes to an end. They’d suggest it would dissipate of its own accord.

If you sit in a similar camp, then you do not worry at all about giving an ending to your suggestions given in hypnosis as I earlier suggested to be a wise course of action.

If effects do occur afterwards, then is it just because the hypnosis professional accidentally gave a posthypnotic suggestion – or is the client an exception, an anomaly, a blip in the matrix? – I know, I am being facetious this morning.

Under those circumstances, the hypnotherapist or hypnosis professional would likely re-induce hypnosis and remove the suggestion and the effects that they wanted to bring to an end. Yet all that could have been avoided with the investment of a simple thought and a split second additional phrasing within the suggestion delivery – giving it a suitable and responsible end. i tend to think the human brain likes that, it likes to have some parameters and guidance, though this is just my subjective experience with no evidence to support it.

Other schools believe that responding to any suggestion whether beneficial or problematic is a choice that the client makes to accept it blindly, accept it with some consideration, accept parts of it or reject it. They tend to think that any carryover of a suggestion (even if not suggested by the hypnotherapist) is done so of their (the client) own volition and they are choosing to maintain the effects of the suggestion.

I think it comes down to having and using integrity when delivering suggestion of any kind and much potential problem can be alleviated with some common sense and forethought. Even if many do believe that unless specifically instructed, suggestion may well dissipate after the formalised hypnosis ends, it still makes sense to bear it in mind and apply due diligence when you (the hypnotherapist or hypnosis professional) deem it necessary and though I would not want anyone to worry about it, I’d suggest that those worries can be alleviated with the simplest of additions of a stipulated ending to your temporary hypnotic suggestions.