Hypnosis in its various forms often occurs in unexpected places in which a person may be led into a trance state without realizing that it is hypnosis. Our book Hypnosis: Medical, Scientific, or Occultic? includes a chapter titled “Hypnosis in Unexpected Places.” The following is excerpted from that chapter to alert our readers to the widespread use of hypnotic induction in settings and situations not identified with the word hypnosis.

Regressive Therapy and Inner Healing

Therapists who attempt to help clients remember events and feelings from their childhood often use hypnotic techniques that actually move clients into a trance state. They may deny using hypnosis, but guided imagery and other techniques used in leading a person back into the past are hypnotic induction devices. Dr. Michael Yapko, author of Trancework, says:

Many times therapists aren’t even aware that they’re doing hypnosis. They’re doing what they call guided imagery or guided meditation, which are all very mainstream hypnotic techniques.

The suggestions, the emotions, and the focus on feelings in the past rarely produce true memories. In various forms of regressive therapy the therapist attempts to convince the client that present problems are from past hurtful events and then proceeds to help the client remember and re-experience hurtful events in the past. However, rather than positive change, many false memories are produced.

Some writers, such as Campbell Perry, indicate that such techniques as the eliciting of memories, relaxation, and regression work are often disguised forms of hypnosis. In introducing his paper on controversies regarding the False Memory Syndrome (FMS), Perry describes some of the procedures that:

. . . appear to be strongly linked with the development of a subjectively convincing memory that a person (usually a woman) was sexually abused during childhood by (usually) her father, that the putative memory has been repressed, only to seemingly resurface during the course of “recovered memory” therapy. Special emphasis is placed upon the role of “disguised” hypnosis in eliciting such memories—that is, upon procedures that are characterized by such terms as guided imagery, “relaxation,” dream analysis, regression work and sodium amytal represented as “truth serum.” All of these appear to tap into the mechanisms thought to underly the experience of hypnosis.

Leading questions, direct guidance, and voice intonation are enough to serve as an induction into the trance state for many individuals. Mark Pendergrast says:

The “guided imagery” exercises that trauma therapists employ to gain access to buried memories can be enormously convincing, whether we choose to call the process hypnosis or not. When someone is relaxed, willing to suspend critical judgment, engage in fantasy, and place ultimate faith in an authority figure using ritualistic methods, deceptive scenes from the past can easily be induced.

Various forms of regressive psychotherapy and inner healing with the use of visualization, guided imagery, powerful suggestion, and intense concentration can very easily result in inducing a hypnotic state.

Large Group Awareness Training

The Forum (formerly est), Life Spring, and Momentus are the names of some of the more well-known large-group training seminars that promise life-transforming results. Using many of the ideas and techniques of the encounter movement, such group sessions attempt to alter participants’ present way of thinking (mind set, world view, personal faith, etc.) through intense personal and group experiences. Some have marathon meetings that last numerous hours and take advantage of fatigue working together with much repetition, group pressure and various psychological techniques, some of which attack personal belief systems and cause mental confusion.

The confusion technique, which is also a hypnotic device, may be used to disorient the subject to make him more responsive to cues. Michael Yapko says:

In the confusion technique, you give a person more information than they could possibly keep up with, you get them to question everything, you make them feel uncertain as a way of building up their motivation to attain certainty.

While hypnosis may not be intended or admitted in such large group training sessions, the possibility is very strong for participants to experience hypnotic suggestion, dissociation, and impaired personal judgment.

Other Settings and Situations

Other activities and settings where hypnosis may occur also include:

  • Music
  • Church Services
  • Prayer and Meditation
  • Medical Offices
  • Self-Help Tapes

In today’s landscape of promises for self-fulfillment, self-mastery, personal well-being, and quick fixes for problems of living, one could easily find oneself in an environment conducive to hypnosis. You may recognize some of the inductive techniques described in this book being used innocently or purposefully and therefore be forewarned.

Note: Quotation references may be found in the book Hypnosis: Medical, Scientific, or Occultic?

PAL V9N4 (July-August 2001)