Q. On the average, how long does a posthypnotic suggestion last?
A. It depends upon the posthypnotic suggestion. In the early 1930s I was doing some experimental work with a woman who had a Ph.D. in psychology. When it came time for Harriet to leave for some other part of the U.S., I asked her if we could investigate this matter of the persistence of posthypnotic suggestion. She thought it was a good idea. So I explained that I didn't know when we would meet again: "It may be next year, it may be five years, it may be 10 years, or 15, or 20 or 25. But this is the posthypnotic suggestion that I would like to give you. When we meet again, if the situation and the setting is suitable after greeting me, fall into a deep hypnotic sleep."
Fifteen years later I was attending the American Psychology Association meeting. I was in the company of Gregory Bateson, the anthropologist. We went into a restaurant for lunch and looked around for a booth that we could sit in while eating and conversing. He found only one booth available, but there was a woman sitting in it. He asked her if we could join her. I was in the front of the restaurant and not visible to her yet. She agreed, so he came down to the counter and picked up my tray and his tray and took them up to that booth.
As I entered the booth, I saw that the woman was Harriet, whom I hadn't seen for 15 years. Harriet looked at me, then looked at the man. I introduced her to Gregory Bateson. She recognized the name, acknowledged the introduction, and then went into a deep trance. The situation, the setting, was suitable. The stranger with me was obviously a friend of mine, he was obviously a student, she knew his name, knew that he had published in the field of anthropology, and therefore should be scientifically interested in hypnosis. There were only three of us in the booth, and therefore Harriet went into a trance to the astonishment of Gregory Bateson. I asked Harriet how everything was going, how her work was, and then I had her awaken, at which point she thought I had just completed the introduction to Bateson. She didn't know that she had been in a trance. Clearly, the posthypnotic suggestion had endured for 15 years! And I am certain that if I meet her again after not seeing her for quite some time, and the situation is suitable, she will go into a trance.
I've done this with quite a number of my patients that I haven't seen for years. Upon meeting them, they will readily go into a trance again, will readily carry out some posthypnotic suggestion. Usually I give to my patients some little thing to carry along in life, a good feeling, toward me and toward themselves. I can think of one patient I had in Baltimore as an example. I certainly would not think of seeing that patient without a very bright purple tie at least. That patient first came to me because of morbid fear of the color red. Our work together helped to give her a very comfortable feeling about color, so that whenever there is a chance I might meet that patient, I'll put on one of my brightest purple ties. My action shows that I have a good feeling toward color, and my patient has a good feeling toward color. That is a posthypnotic suggestion that I hope stays with her for life.
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These techniques will work for stage hypnosis or hypnotherapy, however, they are taught here for information purposes only. After reading this book you will have the knowledge and ability necessary to hypnotise people, but please do not practice hypnosis without first undergoing more intensive study.