Comprehensive List of Hypnosis Terms

Abreaction: The vivid recollection of repressed material accompanied by emotion. Breuer and Freud originally thought that abreaction induced under hypnosis would lead to therapeutic catharsis, the purification of the unconscious by release of repressed emotion. Freud abandoned this model of repression in the early stages of his development of psychoanalytic theory.

Under hypnosis, abreaction may occasionally occur spontaneously.

Age progression: The use of imaginary progression to allow the subject to experience their future, older self. Also called ‘time projection’.

Age regression: The psychological reversion back to psychological tendencies or memories characteristic of a period in the subject’s past, usually in childhood. Age regression is typically used as a means of facilitating abreaction and catharsis in hypnoanalysis. Age regression may be ‘real’ or ‘imaginary’, i.e., the subject may regress to experiences which actually occurred in their past, or may simply imagine experiences which are attributed to the past.

Amnesia: Amnesia may be a characteristic of the hypnotic trance for certain subjects. It is sometimes induced by suggestion to aid the therapeutic process, some therapists believe it is essential.

Anaesthesia: Partial or complete loss of sensation (cf. analgesia).

Analgesia: Partial or complete loss of feelings of pain.
Apposition of opposites: A modern term for the juxtaposition of polar opposites, a technique of hypnotic language used to deepen trance and circumvent the ego’s resistance to suggestion. For example, “As your hand feels lighter and drifts ever higher, the rest of your body may begin to feel heavier allowing you to sink deeper, down into trance.”

Autohypnosis: The techniques of hypnosis applied to oneself.
Automatic sketches: Automatic drawing or hypnopictography, the act of sketching images without conscious control. Once a popular technique with artists, but also used in hypnoanalysis.

Automatic writing: Hypno Graphology: The act of writing words or sentences without conscious control. Once a popular technique with artists and poets, but also used in hypnoanalysis.

Bind of comparable alternatives: A modern technique of hypnotic language in which an illusion of choice is created by offering options which are equivalent for the purposes of hypnosis. For example, “Perhaps you will go into a much deeper trance today, or one that is only a little bit deeper than last time.”

Catalepsy: The rigidity of limbs, used as a deepening technique or as a test of trance depth.

Catharsis: See abreaction.

Chevreul’s Pendulum: A technique involving the use of a pendulum either as a test of suggestibility or as a method of eliciting responses from the unconscious for questioning. There are several variations but essentially the hand controlling the pendulum makes imperceptible movements as a result of dissociation and suggestion, it is therefore a form of the ideomotor response.

Coma: The name given to an uncommonly deep level of trance in which subjects generally become oblivious to everything including the hypnotist’s suggestions.

Commitment: Some modern therapists believe that if a client explicitly communicates either conscious or unconscious commitment to some therapeutic change, they will be more likely to comply with suggestions. For example, “So if you’re ready to become a non-smoker for good that’s something your unconscious can confirm by signaling ‘yes’ with your finger now.” This is similar to the use of promises and therapeutic contracts.

Confusion: Modern hypnotherapists believe that if a client is confronted by confusing statements or requests, the unconscious, in its desperation for a clear meaning, will be made more open to suggestion. Many different forms of confusional techniques exist, for example, “It’s important for your unconscious to remember to forget the things it’s supposed to let your conscious mind remember and that your conscious mind remembers to forget the things that your unconscious mind remembers. And your unconscious mind should forget to remember…”

Conscious-unconscious bind: A limited choice between changes originating in the unconscious or consciousness; a particularly useful form of the ‘bind of comparable alternatives’. “When your conscious mind is ready to provide some useful information about this problem, you will experience a peculiar sensation in your right hand. If such information comes from your unconscious mind, the sensation will be in your left hand.”

Displacement: In hypnosis, this usually refers to the transference of a sensation from one part of the body to another, e.g., the displacement of a headache into the little finger.

Dissociation: Often considered a characteristic of trance states, dissociation refers to a temporary split between different parts of the mind, or parts of the body. Common experiences in trance involve feelings of being distant to or detached from the body which is then thought to be more easily affected by suggestion, as in the ideomotor response. On Hilgard’s model of the ‘hidden observer’ trance is understood primarily in terms of dissociation between the ‘observing’ and ‘experiencing ego’. Sometimes impersonal language will be used to describe parts of the body in order to induce dissociation as a technique of hypnotic language. E.g., “Your eyes are becoming tired; in a moment those eyelids there will close.” (As opposed to “your” eyelids).

Dream induction: The use of suggestion to generate a dream (sometimes about a specific issue) either during the hypnotic trance itself or, by post-hypnotic suggestion, during sleep at night.

Drug hypnosis: The use of narcotics to induce hypnotic trance, sometimes called narco analysis. This approach was mainly used by psychiatrists during the Second World War to deal with shell shock victims.

Embedded suggestion: A form of hypnotic language in which a suggestion is concealed within the structure of a sentence or a story which has a different meaning when taken as a whole. E.g., “Yesterday I asked a client to relax straight away…”

Hetero Hypnosis: The techniques of hypnosis employed by one person on another. It is debatable whether or not there is such a thing as pure hetero hypnosis, but most practitioners now agree that hetero hypnosis generally involves some degree of self-hypnosis.

Hyperaesthesia: Increased sensory acuity, supposedly a spontaneous feature of trance.

Hypnoanalysis: The use of hypnosis as a medium for psychodynamic psychotherapy. The trance state is used primarily to generate material of unconscious significance, and to facilitate therapeutic insight.
Hypnogenesis: The induction of hypnotic trance.

Hypno Graphology: See automatic writing.

Hypnopictography: See automatic sketches.

Hypno-psychotherapy: The use of hypnosis as an adjunct to or medium for some other form of psychotherapy.

Hypnosis: State of trance in which suggestibility is heightened. The phenomenology of the trance state can vary greatly depending on the mind of the subject and the techniques employed. However typical experiences are disorientation in space and time, drowsiness, dissociation, profound physical relaxation and mental calm, etc. (The term was first used by James Braid in 1841, derived from Greek words hypnos and sleep)

Hypnotherapy: The therapeutic use of hypnosis for the treatment of either physical or psychological symptoms.

Hypnotic: An old term for the hypnotic subject.

Ideomotor response (IMR): Physical movement without conscious control, achieved by dissociation and suggestion. Usually this involves making a finger twitch or move by suggestions of lightness and floating.

Ideo-sensory response (ISR): The subjective experience of physical reaction to suggestion, which may or may not correspond with an IMR. Often clients with their eyes closed will report that they felt their finger lift an inch or two from their lap even though the hypnotist witnesses no movement, or else they will report little or no sense of movement but open their eyes to find that they have raised a finger.
Incorporation of distractions: Technique by which subjects are encouraged to accept potentially distracting experiences as a normal part of the hypnotic process. “You will notice sounds coming from outside the window, people talking and walking by in the corridor, perhaps curious new sensations in the body… and you can allow all these sounds and sensations to pass you by as you drift deeper and deeper into trance, or oblivious, not notice them at all.”

Interim phenomenon: A term used by the psychoanalyst Lindner to describe his hypothesis that the abrupt lifting of repression under hypnosis, followed by amnesia (so it is again repressed) will tend to alter the structure of psychological defenses so that unconscious material can be more easily assimilated by the waking ego in its own time.

Law of concentrated attention: Principle of suggestion which holds that the more absorbed the mind becomes in a particular idea, the more likely it is to be realized. Bernheim, e.g., used to ask his subject’s to think of sleep and absolutely nothing else, in an attempt to induce a sleep-like trance.

Law of reversed effect: Principle of suggestion which holds that, in a certain frame of mind, the more effort is exercised to achieve a specific goal the more the opposite effect results. This notion is used, e.g., in arm rigidity tests, “the more you try to bend your arm the more rigid it will become…”

Law of dominant effect: Principle of suggestion which holds that more powerful emotions will tend to overcome and replace weaker ones, and that suggestions linked to strong emotions will therefore tend to be more effective.

Monoideism: The absorption of the mind in a single idea or stimulus. Commonly used as a means of hypnotic induction.

Pacing and leading: Principle of suggestion which holds that suggestions are more likely to be accepted if they follow on from, or are coupled with, statements which tend to describe experiences which the subject is already having. “You’re becoming more aware of your body resting heavily on the chair, and of your mind relaxing and drifting gently down into a light trance.”

Past-life regression: The reversion of the subject back to the experiences of a former life. This may be regarded as real regression (presumably entailing a commitment to belief in reincarnation) or as fantasies projected onto an imaginary past-life.

Post-hypnotic suggestion: Suggestions which continue to be effective after the subject has left the trance state and returned to waking consciousness.

Progression: The opposite of regression, progression is used to allow the client to experience themselves in the future, either older than they are now or (very rarely) in a future life.

Regression: The psychological reversion back to memories, experiences, attitudes or desires derived in some way from the past. Regression can be to childhood (age regression) a former life (past-life regression) or to an earlier evolutionary state of the species (atavistic regression).

Somnambulist: A person who can enter so deeply into hypnosis that they can be instructed to open their eyes and walk around without leaving the trance. The term is derived from the superficial similarity to sleepwalking.

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