(adapted from LeCron, Hypnotism Today, 1964)
The best indicator of the level of trance a client has reached is the hypnotic phenomena they have produced at your suggestion. The table on the next page is a useful guide to stages of hypnosis and the phenomena you can usually expect to induce at those stages. You will find a detailed discussion in the text that follows the table.
Stages of Hypnosis (Adapted from LeCron, 1964)
Relaxation Eye Catalepsy
Catalepsy of Isolated Muscle Groups (Arm Catalepsy)
Heavy or Floating Feelings
Catalepsy of Complete Muscle Groups (Full Body Catalepsy)
Hypnotic Rapport Medium
Smell and Taste Changes Number Block
Glove Anesthesia Analgesia (No Pain)
Positive Hallucinations - Visual and Auditory
Bizarre Post-Hypnotic Suggestions Anesthesia (No Feelings)
Negative Hallucinations Comatose State
There are three excellent ways to understand the continuum of trance levels:
1. seeing the six stages of hypnosis demonstrated,
2. experiencing the stages yourself,
When you begin to induce trance, the client will typically start at Stage 1 of hypnosis, experiencing lethargy, then some relaxation. The first catalepsy that you induce will usually be in the eyelids. This is because the muscles controlling the eyelids form one of the smallest muscle groups in the body and are easily relaxed. Eyelid catalepsy occurs when the client's eyes are so relaxed that they cannot open them; they will seem to be stuck shut. Eyelid catalepsy is an excellent convincer to prepare the client for deeper stages of hypnosis.
As the client moves into Stage 2 of hypnosis, you can elicit catalepsy of isolated muscle groups, such as arm catalepsy. Also typical are heavy or floating feelings. This is still considered light trance. At the deep end of Stage 2, you can induce catalepsy of complete muscle groups, such as those in the legs, or even full body catalepsy. Complete muscle group catalepsy is the beginning of medium trance.
In Stage 3, the client will exhibit a specific level of rapport, called hypnotic rapport, defined as the state in which the client hears and sees only the Hypnotherapist. In this stage, you can induce dramatic smell and taste changes. You can hold fresh cookies under the client's nose and tell them that it's old cabbage, and they will say, "Yuck." Or hold some ammonia under their nose and say it's fresh cookies, and they will say, "Mmmmm." You can also elicit number block, causing a number to disappear for a client. You can say, "The number four does not exist," and when you ask the client to count something, they will count, "One... two... three... five... six " The number simply will not exist in their repertoire of numbers. (Be sure to put it back later.)
As the client moves to deeper levels of medium trance, they will be at Stage 4. At this level, you can produce amnesia, suggesting that the client forget portions of what happens in the trance This is very useful for post-hypnotic suggestions to help the client achieve desired changes without 'interference' from their Conscious Mind. You can also induce glove anesthesia, in which the hand becomes numb, as if you had put an anesthetic glove on it... or reduce sensations in some other part of the body. Just beyond glove anesthesia is analgesia, the absence of sensation of pain. When you have induced analgesia, the client can have ambiguous sensations, but no specific pain sensation. They will feel your touch, but not the pain of a needle jab.
At the deepest level of Stage 4 is automatic movement. The easiest automatic movement to initiate is with the client's hands. Simply start their hands rotating around each other in front of them, and they will automatically continue to rotate until you tell the client to stop. (Motor coordination can be imprecise during trance; you may need to guide the hands gently into the beginning of the movement.)
The client will begin to experience deep trance at the beginning of Stage 5. Common at this stage is positive hallucination, that is, seeing or hearing something that is not there. If you hold your empty hand in front of the client and tell them that you are holding a tennis ball, they will be able to tell you the color of the ball and the number that appears on it. (The opposite, negative hallucination, is not seeing or hearing something that is there. Negative hallucination comes into play in Stage 6).
A Stage 5 phenomenon familiar from stage hypnosis is bizarre post-hypnotic suggestion, which will cause the client to do something outlandish after they are out of trance, as long as it does not conflict with their values or beliefs. André Weizenhoffer tells a delightful story about post-hypnotic suggestion. Weizenhoffer said to a client in trance, "George, when you wake up, you will feel an irresistible urge to give me a dollar." George woke up and felt the urge; but he did not give Weizenhoffer the dollar. Weizenhoffer got a phone call the next morning at 2 a.m. from George, who said, "Darn it, André, I'm coming over to your house right now to give you two dollars." Weizenhoffer asked him, "Why didn't you give me a dollar at the time?" George said, "When I came out of the trance, I had this irresistible urge to give you a dollar. I knew that I would not have this urge normally, so I knew you must have given me a post-hypnotic suggestion. I said to myself, 'I'm not going to do it!' But I've been obsessing about it all night, so I'm coming over right now!"
When you give a post-hypnotic suggestion intended only for the time of the session, be sure to remove the suggestion before the client leaves!
At Stage 6 the client is reaching the deepest trance levels. At this stage, you can induce anesthesia, which would allow surgery without a chemical anesthetic or drilling of teeth without Novocaine. (If you induce anesthesia, I am not suggesting that you attempt the surgery or dentistry.) This is the level of trance that Dr James Esdaile induced by mesmerism to prepare patients for surgery in India in the 1800s. Taking the client to Stage 6 may require quite some time. They may need to go in and out of trance for an extended period in the process of deepening the hypnosis to this level.
At Stage 6, you can induce negative hallucination, or not seeing or hearing something that is there. If you are in perfect rapport, you can say to the client, "You only see me, you do not see or hear anyone else here." And if someone else were to stand in front of the client and talk, they would not have any awareness of that person.
Progressing deeper into Stage 6, the client will enter the comatose state. Dave Elman, whom we will be studying, calls this the Esdaile state. In this state, the client is sleeping deeply, yet still in hypnotic rapport with the Hypnotherapist.
At the deepest of level of Stage 6, somnambulism, or sleepwalking, can occur. In the somnambulistic state the client can rise and move about, producing behavior that looks almost as though they were awake. You would have to observe their behavior closely to notice that they were not quite moving in the way an unhypno-tized person would move.
In later chapters, we will discuss ways of inducing the hypnotic phenomena that are common to the six stages. To practise hypnosis skilfully, you need to memorize the stages and the phenomena, so that recognizing them becomes second nature.
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