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Erickson’s Hypnotic Patterns of Indirect Suggestion

Erickson left us with a rich variety of hypnotic patterns to use in
Trance Work. While you are developing your personal style, you
can use this section as a reference to review these patterns.
Indirect suggestions. The first major difference between
Ericksonian hypnosis and other forms of hypnosis is that
Ericksonian hypnosis is generally indirect rather than
direct. A direct suggestion appeals to the Conscious Mind
and invites evaluation. When you say, “Please close th
window,” the listener’s conscious reaction is to choose
between agreeing and disagreeing to do what you have
An indirect suggestion resonates with the Unconscious
Mind and is less likely to trigger evaluation. When you
say, “I’m wondering if you can close the window,” the lis-
tener’s unconscious reaction is to hear your ‘embedded’
suggestion and follow it. Of course, a teenager might say,
Ericksonian Methods
“Yes,” and walk away. Typically, however, “I’m wondering
if you can close the window,” will get the desired response.
2. Embedded commands. Erickson often used embedded
commands, or commands ‘hidden’ within longer sen-
tences. If he said, “You don’t need to go into trance right
now,” the client’s conscious mind would be distracted by
the surface sentence about not needing to go into trance,
while their Unconscious Mind would hear and respond to
the embedded command, “Go into trance right now.”
Sometimes Erickson would combine an embedded com-
mand with punctuation ambiguity (as described earlier in
the Milton Model) and say, “I want you to tell me only the
things you want to tell me everything.” The embedded
command, “You want to tell me everything,” would tend
to bypass the Conscious Mind.
3. Embedded descriptions. These are ways of thinking that
work like embedded commands. If you are talking to a
client about trance, you might say, “You may think that it’s
not easy to go into a trance. You may not find that trance is
delightfully relaxing. Because you’ve never been in trance
before, you don’t know what to expect. In fact, you may
not expect to feel that calming. relaxing sensation that you
are about to feel.” As the client is conscious of hearing
things that they may not do, their Unconscious Mind will
be hearing and responding to your embedded commands
and descriptions.
There is no standard way to ‘voice’ embedded commands.
In class, I often pause and change to a gravelly tone of
voice to emphasize embedded commands, so that students
can notice them easily. You may find it effective to pause
and shift to a slightly deeper tonality, which might be very
attractive to the client’s Unconscious Mind. Try embedded
commands with and without pauses just before them, with
and without a change in tonality. Develop your own style
of speaking embedded commands in any way that pro-
duces results. Hypnosis: A Comprehensive Guide
4. Yes Sets. Erickson used Yes Sets extensively to get the
agreement of the client’s Unconscious Mind. A Yes Set is a
series of statements or questions that has the client saying
or thinking, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes,” so that when the
Hypnotist adds a crucial instruction or question, the client
again responds, “Yes.”
and while you are doing that, are thinking
about certain things. Because you are interested in many
things that have led you to study this subject, aren’t you?
That means that you will be able to learn hypnosis easily.
Notice how reading that paragraph felt in your body. I
drew four automatic, effortless Yeses from your
Unconscious Mind, so that my embedded command to
learn hypnosis easily would glide smoothly into your
Unconscious and get still another yes.

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