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Elman Methods

Elman Methods
Dave Elman was one of the first people to propose that all hypno-
sis is self hypnosis. In his book Hypnotherapy in 1964, Elman said,
“I have been teaching hypnosis … for years, and have
found that many [people] seem to think that they can
become expert hypnotists after a few classroom and
practice sessions. Since there is really no such thing as a
hypnotist, this is obviously impossible. As a practitioner
employing this tool, all you can ever do is show a patient
how to go over the hurdle from a normal waking or
sleeping state into that peculiar state of mind known as
hypnosis. You won’t hypnotize them; they will hypnotize
themselves. This means that all of us using suggestion
wield no ‘power’ over any subject. It means that there is
nothing that I can do that you can’t learn to do in hypnosis.”
Elman was born in Fargo, North Dakota in 1890. His father did stage
hypnosis and owned a general store in North Dakota, where he kept
a collection of books on hypnosis. Dave Elman mastered these
books. He learned hypnosis so well that he had to drop it for a while
when he went off to school, because it scared some of his classmates.
In his later years Elman taught hypnosis to medical doctors.
Dave Elman proposed a model of hypnosis that was clearly dif-
ferent from earlier models. In watching his father perform, Elman
noticed that a stage hypnotist had to put people in trance a lot
more quickly than a Hypnotherapist, in the interests of show-
manship. He was fascinated by the ability of a stage hypnotist to
hypnotize a large group in a short time. And the trances his father
induced were deep enough to produce hypnotic phenomena very
quickly. Elman developed
duce a deep trance as qui
To better understand what is different about Elman’s method, let
us compare it with other methods we have discussed. Traditional
hypnosis is generally authoritarian, using a direct induction to
achieve a sleeping trance. Ericksonian hypnosis is permissive and
indirect, leading more often to waking trance than to sleeping.
Neuro Linguistic Programming interventions (which are a strong
resource for a hypnotherapist) are authoritarian and indirect, with
the client almost always in a waking state.
Elman techniques do not fit any of these models. His inductions
could be authoritarian or permissive, direct or indirect, leading to
waking or sleeping trance! The chart below summarizes these
I Type of Hypnosis
~NLP Intervention
Elman’s Hypnosis
Approach to Client Style of Induction Type of Trance
Authoritarian Direct Sleeping
Authoritarian I Indirect I Waking
Waking or
Authoritarian or
The greatest defining characteristic of Elman’s technique is that it
induces trance almost instantaneously by setting up a dissociation
between the Conscious and Unconscious Minds. The hypnotist is
thus able to speak more directly with the Unconscious Mind, with
minimal filtering by the Conscious. In Elman hypnosis, the thera-
pist says, “Close your eyes and pretend you can’t open them,
knowing full well that you can.” According to Elman, creating that
paradox at once sets up the conditions in which hypnosis can
Waking or
Direct or
Elman’s second principal innovation was to give the client the
responsibility for going into trance. He said, “When a person
rejects hypnosis, it simply means he has refused to bypass his
critical faculty and [so has made] the implanting of selective thinking
impossible. It doesn’t mean he can’t be hypnotized or won’t be hyp-
notized, but simply that he refused to follow instructions. If he
does follow properly given instructions, hypnosis is possible for
him just as it is for everyone.” (Italics added.)
In other words, the percentage of people who can be hypnotized is
one hundred per cent. Elman says that everyone can be hypno-
tized and everyone can achieve a deep level of trance easily, if they
follow instructions.
Elman also had a resourceful approach to obtaining eye closure:
“Practically all textbooks declare that you must first obtain
eye closure if you wish to obtain hypnosis, and that eye
closure can usually be obtained by the methods called fix-
ation, monotony, rhythm, imitation or levitation. I will
obtain eye closure without these methods. ‘Close your
eyes and pretend you can’t open them. Keep on pretend-
ing, and while you are pretending, try to open your eyes.’
You’ll find that it is impossible, if you are concentrating
hard on the pretence. Now you know very well that you
can open your eyes any time that you change your mind
and stop pretending. All the time you were pretending
that you could not open your eyes, your sense of judg-
ment was completely suspended concerning that particu-
lar action. We obtained the same eye closure we would if
we used the techniques of fixation, monotony, rhythm,
imitation, or levitation. This can be done instantaneously.”
Elman continues:
“But does it mean that you are hypnotized? Indeed it does
not. It is merely the entering wedge and hypnosis is not
obtained until selective thinking is firmly established.
Selective thinking is whatever you believe wholeheartedly.
For example, if you are led to believe that you will feel no
pain, and you believe it completely, you will feel no pain.
Let the slightest doubt come in and the selective thinking
vanishes; the critical faculty is no longer bypassed.. . . The
introduction of fear causes a defensive reaction that
brings the critical faculty back into focus.”

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