A number of years ago in the popular BBC TV soap opera Eastenders, when there was a proliferation of Fowlers living in Albert Square, the youngest of the fowlers, Martin Fowler, owner of the fruit and Veg stall, son of Pauline and Arthur, father to Sonia’s baby etc, etc… Well he had a best friend for a number of years, whose name was Asif Malik.

The reason I mention this is that whenever martin hailed his friend in the square or anywhere else in public, he called out “oi, Asif” and it made me partially regress to the school playground, whereby if anyone mentioned anything remotely impressive (such as their Dad playing for Manchester United or owning a race car from the weekend’s televised Grand prix) then the audience of children would all say “oh yeah, as if…”

So you’ll understand why I childishly smirk whenever trainers or therapists or anyone else in the hypnosis or hypnotherapy fields talks or writes about the power of “as if.”

*Holds back nasal sounding smirk, just*

On to relevance and back on topic then… often seen as good way of inducing hypnosis, or at least developing a hypnosis session with an individual is to use a method called the “as if” pattern. The way of doing things does not involve any direct suggestion as such. There is no expected response to suggestions.

Instead, the client is asked to act ‘as if’ they were responding in the correct way.

This is seen mainly as an NLP or even Ericksonian way of inducing hypnosis usually as it tends to be in a lot of that sort of literature. However, Cognitive Behavioural hypnotherapists have delighted in this type of notion too. Simply asking someone to behave ‘as if’ they are in hypnosis, and think the same way they would ‘as if’ they were in hypnosis, and going deeper, etc is using behavioural and cognitive means of enhancing the hypnosis.

This is illustrated beautifully in The handbook of hypnotic phenomena in psychotherapy by Edgette and Edgette (1995) and was supported by other prominent cognitive behavioural hypnotherapists and researchers such as Sarbin in 1997 (in Contemporary Hypnosis, Hypnosis as a conversation) and Spanos and Coe in 1992 (As cited in Contemporary hypnosis research by Fromm and Nash pp.102-30).

The notion here is that according to nonstate theorists of hypnosis in particular, where the acting ‘as if’ ends and the reality of hypnosis begins is ambiguous due to the responses being so similar (and considered by many as identical).

Co-creators of NLP Bandler and Grinder refer to Milton Erickson using this ‘as if’ notion in their early work “Frogs into Princes” (1979, p. 136) and here is what they stated:

Milton said to me “You don’t consider yourself to be a therapist, but youa re a therapist” And I said, “Well, not really.” He said “Well, let’s pretend… that you’re a therapist who works with people. The most important thing… when you’re pretending this… is to understand… that you are really not… You are just pretending… and if you pretend really well, the people that you work with will pretend to make changes. And they will forget that they are pretending… for the rest of their lives. But don’t you be fooled by it.”

I really rather like that.

So we can then suggest to a client that they act ‘as if’ they are profoundly relaxed prior to hypnosis, or act ‘as if’ they are in deep hypnosis, or whatever else may be deemed pertinent to experience the actual effects of what you are suggesting without having to react or respond to any direct suggestions being made by the hypnotist or hypnotherapist.

So it could be seen as cognitive behavioural, it could be seen as Ericksonian, it could be classified as indirect… but regardless, it is a simple and effective means of inducing hypnosis.