You know how it looks when someone is hypnotised don’t you? Their eyes go like this:
This is often accompanied by arms outstretched resembling something like a zombie from a film.
I hope you realise I am kidding.
When anyone is hypnotised, how do you know they are?
For the record, I tend to think that the most important thing from a therapeutic perspective is the client’s experience, but that is tough for us to observe and recognise, so this blog entry is about physical and behavioural signs that can be observed by a hypnotist or hypnotherapist.
Experience can be measured afterwards, but that is a discussion for another day.
If you look through the literature on hypnosis, from dictionary definitions to text books, to legal statutes and subjective experience of millions of professionals and clients, there is not really one single, agreed upon definition of what “hypnosis” actually is. So how on earth do we go about knowing if someone is hypnotised?
My perspective is flavoured by the perspective of a hypnotherapist, working with hypnosis in a clinical setting. In that environment, there are some classic, much observed and referred to observations that clients demonstrate, and that is what this entry on the blog is about.
It is these physical, observable signs of hypnosis that give us any clear indication at all without testing or asking for feedback from the client. Both of which I recommend hypnotherapists do.
Being aware of these signs within the client can be used to help feedback and ratify the hypnosis experience too, as discussed previously here on this blog.
The typical an classic signs of hypnosis tend to be as follows:
Eyelids Fluttering – The client is not always aware this is happening, but as they start to get absorbed in the process and in particular when they initially close their eyes to start the formal hypnosis, the eyelids often flutter very quickly. At the same time or as a separate sign altogether, the eyes moving rapidly beneath the eyelids (i.e. when closed) can often be seen too.
This eye movement is also very common in individuals when they are hypnotised and asked to imagine certain visual things in their mind.
Physical Relaxation – of course, anyone can be hypnotised without being relaxed, but the quality of relaxation tends to be a characteristic many people have come to associate with being hypnotised.
Very notable are the releasing of facial muscles, which I often think makes the individual look incredibly different. The jaw may hang lower too, for example. This kind of relaxation could well be a sign that some sort of shift is occurring internally. If you observe the client’s facial muscles and posture etc before, during and after hypnosis, it’ll give you (and ideally them) a clear demonstration that something was going on within them.
Pulse Rate Changing – Sometimes at the beginning of a session, a client’s pulse may speed up as they enter the unknown (for first time hypnotised individuals) with some level of apprehension. Though mostly, once the process of hypnosis is underway, you’ll notice it often slows right down.
In particular when I do demonstrations in class, I notice (and the students often notice) the change in pulse rate from the start of the session to the end of it, in the neck area where it is very visible.
Breathing Pace Change – As with the pulse, the breathing can fluctuate in the same way.
Often breathing is used as part of deepening the hypnosis, so it may not be an accurate measure of any change occurring solely as a result of the hypnosis.
Subtle Twitching – I say subtle, though it is not always subtle. If the body is relaxed, there may well be tiny involuntary spasms. I have seen these occur with people that did not appear to be relaxed when hypnotised also
Eyes Watering – This happened to me the first time I experienced hypnosis. The hypnotherapist told me it was a metaphor for a ‘release’ which I did not understand at all at the time.
A hypnotised person may experience their eyes watering a little bit. it is not necessarily that they are crying and it is wrong to assume such. You can simply ask for feedback from the client as to how they feel to check that it is not them crying, especially if you are not conducting anything that would stir an abreaction.
Catalepsy – I wrote about this phenomena in depth here at this website.
Here, we are referring to the inability to voluntary move the body or parts of it as a result of being so absorbed in the hypnosis process and experience. it is very rare for hypnotised people to move very much if at all while they remain hypnotised. For some, it is just too much effort!
Some clients become dissociated from the body while immersed in the hypnosis and so it remains very still and lacking in conscious involvement.
Altered Senses – A lot of my clients report that they felt a heaviness in their limbs, or similarly, a lightness.
Many say that although they could hear my voice, it was like background noise rather than something they were listening to intensely. Many state that they felt like they were leaning right over, when actually they were only leaning a fraction to one side.
Some people become highly sensitive, and others the opposite. This is not really observable by the hypnotherapist, but if you are gaining feedback, it’ll be a good indicator that something is happening, that they are hypnotised if there are some notable shifts with the senses.
These physical signs stated here are generalised and there are many other things an individual may display that could demonstrate a shift and indicate hypnosis. The hypnotherapist is wise to look at a collection of factors and connect with the individual while observing in order to get a true reflection of what is happening with that individual.
I know hypnotherapists who often tell people before the hypnosis begins that some of these things may occur… and you know what? Once they have suggested it, they mostly increase the chances of it happening. Though the client may think that they have failed if they did not experience that. I tend to tell the client that I notice it happening when it happens to ratify and deepen their experience.
Anyhow, there are some basic stuff that often indicates hypnosis… Though is not exhaustive and is not the law…