B Approaches to Hypnotic Induction

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It is well that we speak of "approaches" to hypnotic induction rather than "methods" or "techniques." These latter words have connotations of being mechanical, hard-and-fast procedures that one imposes on a person. Erickson imposes nothing. He simply tries to evoke the natural process within patients that will enable them to be receptive to their own inner realities and experience the possibility of new creative inner work being done to resolve a problem.

Erickson has developed a bewildering variety of "approaches" to these ends. As was illustrated in this volume he will frequently use a variety of these approaches in the same session. With each approach he learns something new about the patient's characteristic ways of responding. He accepts whatever response the patient makes as adequate. How could it be other than adequate since it is an expression of the patient's individuality? It is in this individuality that a unique solution will be found for his unique problem. These responses teach Erickson something about the patient's individual ways of responding (the patient's "behavior hierarchy"), and he uses this knowledge as a kind of feedback that allows him to modify his approaches to further fit the individuality of patients to help them achieve the inner direction and receptiveness that are so characteristic of trance.

We can in summary list some of the particular and general approaches to trance induction that are illustrated in this volume. All of these approaches can be used for either direct or indirect induction of trance, depending on how they are presented to the patient.

Particular Approaches General Approaches

Early learning set Conversational

Eye fixation Confusion

Hand levitation Pantomime

Handshake induction Conditioning

Mutual trance induction Experiential

Posthypnotic cue Introspection-imagination

Evoking previous trance associations Surprise

Rhythm induction Question

Shift in frames of reference Heightened-awareness

Most of these approaches can be described as more or less indirect because consciousness is not entirely aware of exactly what is happening. Consciousness understands something of what is happening but not all. Things soon seem to begin happening all by themselves, conscious sets are further depotentiated, and trance begins. We have described the microdynamics of trance induction and suggestion with a number of flow diagrams that could be summarized as follows:

Fixation of attention

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The amazing, unusual, standard approaches to hypnotic induction or anything that attracts and holds the subject's attention.

Depotentiating conscious sets

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Shock, surprise, distraction, dissociation, and other hypnotic forms.

Unconscious search

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Implication, questions, analogy, and other

indirect hypnotic forms.

Unconscious processes

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Summation of literal and personal associations and mental mechanisms structured by all the above.

Hypnotic response

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Expression of behavioral potentials experienced as taking place all by themselves.

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