Recently my good friend James Brown and I ran a rapid inductions seminar for hypnotherapists (blatant plug alert! The video footage of that is soon to be made available in the hypnotic store on this website).

Those present saw James demonstrating his own version of the pattern interrupt induction which I originally delighted at watching him do during a magic demonstration. In that demonstration, he had wowed a group with a magic card trick, then he followed up with a ‘high five’ which he used for inducing hypnosis by interrupting the natural movement.

High fives are not that common in the therapy room, agreed. So today I am going to give a full explanation of the notion of pattern interruption and then the classic means of the handshake induction as pioneered by Milton Erickson and Richard Bandler after him which is much more useable and pertinent to the clinical environment. That said, the ethos and underlying theory of it means that it can be applied with many varying automated behaviours that would be appropriate to use in a hypnotherapy session. I’m going to digress slightly to illustrate some points now…

On my hypnotherapy diploma course, I tend to get very fond of my students (though don’t go telling them, eh?). On a recent training, with only a couple of modules remaining (we had been through a great deal together over the previous eight modules) they were asked to do something quite challenging by me. Up to that point, they had been doing some truly inspiring work.

As with any closely knit group of people (i.e. Family members, work colleagues, team members etc.) they also influence each other. And upon being asked to do this thing by me that is totally and completely within their abilities, one or two of them got slightly (and understandably) unsure of themselves, and it spread to a few more…  It was like a swathe of worry and uncertainty ran through them hypnotically.

Many of them naturally asked me for assurances, help and support which I usually give in abundance. You’ll note the word ‘usually.’

I did not offer the assurance they sought. Instead, I explained the virtues of self-reliance, self-assurance, and using all the great plethora of things they had learned over the previous 8 modules. I was incredibly provocative and challenging.

You know what happened?

What happened was something I was certain would happen and it delighted me.

They rose to the change in my pattern. They responded with a sense of fight and determination and assertiveness and started committing themselves to the task at hand. I was (and still am) so proud.

In our hypnotherapy rooms, us hypnotherapists and our clients can get stuck in certain states or mindsets. Or we tend to let our states get influenced and then we settle comfortably into it. What do I mean by state? Your state is your way of being at any given moment. It involves what is happening in your brain, what is going on in your body, what you are seeing, doing, feeling and what you are thinking. it is how you are – physically, psychologically, emotionally etc.

One great method of communication when engaged with people who seem to have settled into a particular state is to break patterns. To interrupt expected patterns.

When clients arrive at my consulting rooms here in Bournemouth for hypnotherapy with me, they are often optimistic and my positive way of being often influences how they react to me and the environment. I can often see the change in their physiology when they arrive.

Then what happens? They enter the consulting room and we’ll begin getting to know each other and naturally at some stage we start to discuss what they want to achieve or overcome; the main reason for being here in a hypnotherapists office.

Then it happens – they often start to morph into someone or something else. Not like the incredible Hulk, but into someone who is breathing differently, speaking with a different tone of voice, even someone who is feeling a bit sorry for themselves and they hold themselves differently to accommodate this.

One way to deal with that change in demeanour is to show how easy it is to break. What I usually do is to have a joke or make light of something and then they smile, straighten their back, resume usual breathing again and go back to feeling fine. The message comes through loud and clear, they know how to be in a good state. They also know how to choose to be in a bad one.

I have found that confusion and humour are two ways to interrupt people’s patterns. People often fall into patterns because they don’t know how to do anything else. It is often automated. This is the reason we can use automated patterns that people engage in to induce hypnosis. I have explained that we can interrupt peoples patterns to change their state and though I do not believe hypnosis to be a ‘state’ I do think it a great way to shift focus, attention and awareness to induce hypnosis rapidly.

This notion can in turn now then lead us to be aware of how to interrupt patterns when inducing hypnosis.

With my own students I was referring to earlier, I simply changed my tack, I took a different stance and it provoked the desired response. I interrupted my own usual pattern and it interrupted their pattern in turn.

When using this idea to induce hypnosis, I encourage you to go against the grain of many things that you may have done in the past. We do not have to do everything the same as we used to. The classic way of interrupting patterns to induce hypnosis is the handshake induction that follows, but as I encourage my students to do, and as James does with his ‘high five’ induction, be creative and understand the concept underpinning this notion, then utilise it if the opportunity presents itself when you need to induce hypnosis.

Handshake induction:

Milton Erickson was notorious for hypnotising people when they least expected it. The handshake induction utilises the confusion that follows when an ordinary handshake is interrupted midstream. First practice the physical gestures involved, then you can practice adding the language. The more you really practice making this fluid and natural, the more you will benefit. Here are the steps:

Step One: Go to shake someone’s hand. In your mind, you must feel as if you really were going to shake that hand. Do not pretend to shake it. Your client will notice.

Step Two: Stop purposefully  just before the hands touch. I say purposefully, because it must be noticed by your client for them to engage in the process that follows.

Step Three: Gently take a hold of the client’s wrist with your left hand (assuming you have both shaken with your right hand) and point into his/her palm with your right index finger (you may even choose to say something along the lines of “look at that!” or “look right here!” with some surprise). Use a surprised facial expression. Intently look at their hand so that they look at it too.

Step Four: When your client looks into his/her hand, you’ll notice them focusing on the hand, at which point you may choose to move it very slightly inwards and outwards so that it is harder for them to focus on and they’ll need to concentrate more and fix their attention to do what you are about to ask them. Now you say “can you see those lines and shadows over here, in that hand, as your mind relaxes now close your eyes only as quickly as you can allow that comfort to spread…”

Step Five: Continue with deepening suggestions such as – “Only allow your hand to move to your lap as fast as you go deeper and deeper into hypnosis now…aren’t you…”

There are many versions of this out there and many video clips of it, not to mention many varying opinions of it as a useful technique. Understand the purpose of the process and the ideas behind it – interrupting the usual pattern, inducing focus and using hypnotic language etc.

So I thought I’d leave you with a clip of James doing his high five pattern interrupt hypnosis induction, it is around the 50 seconds mark in this promotional video of him in action, it is just a brief moment in this clip, but James does it beautifully. Have a great weekend, I’ll be back on Monday.