THE two-finger eye-closure method is the fastest technique ever devised for obtaining hypnosis. It is a development of the Doctor H. Bernheim and Doctor Liebault technique used seventy years ago. They used it in its ten-minute format, but the method is equally effective when made to work instantaneously. Because results are obtained so quickly, it might be thought that the technique produces only light hypnosis. On the contrary, there are reports by hundreds of doctors in medicine, psychiatry and dentistry who have done extended work using this technique. A better method has been devised for working with adults, as you will see, but there is no better technique for children.
I am going to show you the technique as applied to youngsters first. In this excerpt from a class recording, a woman is serving as a "child patient" for the purpose of demonstration. A dentist is practicing the induction:
Dentist: Jean, I guess you play a lot with your dolls when you're home. And you probably pretend a lot with them, isn't that right? Well, we have a little game of pretend too. And if you can learn to play this little game of pretend, nothing that happens in the dentist's office will bother or disturb. You just won't feel anything that we're doing if you learn to play this little game. Would you like to learn it?
Dentist: All right, open your eyes wide. I'm going to show you this little game. I'm going to pull your eyes shut with my forefinger and my thumb, like this. [Gently places thumb and finger on eyelids and draws them down.] Now you pretend with your whole heart and soul that you can't open your eyes. That's all you have to do. Just pretend that. Now, I will take my hand away [removes hand] and you pretend so hard that when you try to open your eyes they just won't work. Now try to make them work while you're pretending. Try hard. They just won't work, see. Now just because you're pretending like that, anything we do in this office won't bother or disturb you at all. In your mind you can be home playing with your dolls and you won't feel anything I have to do.
Elman: And now, doctor [addressing second dentist], you're in dentistry. Will you come up here please and make a test inside her mouth, and you'll find that it doesn't bother her at all. I want you to see the absolute anesthesia that you get with this technique . . . Don't be afraid to make a good substantial test. She won't feel it . . . Did you make a good test, doctor?
Elman: She has better anesthesia than any anesthesia that's ever given in a dental office because she has such a perfect state of hypnosis. . . Now [addressing patient] when I have you open your eyes, your mouth is going to feel better than it's felt all day and all week and you're going to feel so good. Open your eyes and see how good you feel. How do you feel?
Elman: What did you feel while the doctor was working in your mouth?
Patient: Nothing. Let me ask you something. Why do I remember what you said?
Elman: Because you aren't unconscious in hypnosis.
It's not sleep, you know. I must have contact with you, otherwise you couldn't follow instructions.
In the above instance, hypnosis was obtained immediately. The patient was a grown woman, acting the part of a child in a dentist's office. She had a vivid enough imagination so that she was able to see herself as a child—and could be approached at a child's level for the purpose of demonstration. The "let's-pretend" or "let's-play-a-game" approach works very well with young children. With older ones, or with adults, it is generally wise to use a more sophisticated type of indirection to bypass the critical faculty. It can be seen in another class excerpt:
Elman: [Addressing patient]: Every time you come to this office, I notice how tense you get, and if I could teach you how to relax, you wouldn't mind anything we have to do. Suppose I teach you how to relax. Would you like that?
Elman : Take a good long deep breath. Now open your eyes wide. I'm going to pull your eyelids shut with my forefinger and my thumb. Now I want you to relax the muscles that are underneath my fingers. Now I will take my hand away. Relax your eye muscles to the point where they just won't work. Then, when you're sure those eye muscles won't work, test them and make sure they won't work. Test them hard. That's right. Now let that feeling of relaxation go right down to your toes, and when I lift your hand and drop it, that hand will be so relaxed it will just plop down into your lap. And just let it plop. That's it . . . Now [addressing class], in order not to have her feel discomfort, it is necessary that you do give the proper suggestions. This is where you put in your selective thinking ... [to patient again] Any work that I do from this point on in your mouth or any other part of your body, you just won't mind. Just stay relaxed like that. Make sure at all times that your eye muscles won't work and you have relaxation all through your body and you won't feel a thing ... [to class] Now, gentlemen,
I'm going to show you the degree of anesthesia that she has already as a result of that suggestion ... [to patient] I'm going to stroke your arm in the area where I'm going to work and you just won't feel anything. You'll know I'm working there, but nothing will bother, nothing will disturb. I'm ready to do my work now and you have complete anesthesia in your right arm ... [to class] Watch me make this test . . . That was an allis clamp to the third notch ... [to patient] Now, when I have you open your eyes notice how good you feel. Open your eyes. How do you feel?
What did you feel?
Well, I felt you do something. But I didn't feel any pain.
This approach was used in East Chicago at St. Catharine's Hospital to set a compound fracture on a twelve-year-old boy. The doctor had intended to reduce this fracture with the aid of chemical anesthesia. The only anesthetist on duty, however, was working on another emergency case upstairs. Finally, the doctor couldn't stand the suffering of this boy any more, and he used the method described above to produce anesthesia. He then proceeded to reduce the compound fracture. In the midst of the work, the anesthetist came downstairs, prepared to give chemical anesthesia. He was amazed to find his services were unnecessary, and soon afterward became my student. This approach is recommended for the emergency victim because it is so fast; you generally get hypnosis within five seconds.
It should be noted that you suggest muscle relaxation only with an adult, not with a child. The child bypasses his critical faculty so quickly that usually when you use this technique with a child, you need only to say, "Pretend you can't open your eyes," and he pretends and relaxes automatically. It's just as though he went into a sound sleep. But he doesn't really sleep. This technique is often used for induction for surgical purposes.
It is, of course, important to obtain deep hypnosis. You can deepen the child's state by having him pretend to smell beautiful roses or you can say, "What's your favorite game when you're home?" or "What do you like to watch on television?" You can actually have the child watch a télévision show or play a game mentally while you're doing painful dental or medical work on him. Suppose you suggest to the child that he go on a trip to the moon in a space ship. When you're through working with him and you want to bring the child back to earth, say, "All right, you can come back from that space trip now. Come back to earth now. And when you do I want you to open your eyes and notice how good you feel. Open your eyes. How do you feel?" (Be sure to notice the redness of the eyes, the increased lacrimation and the eyelids fluttering.)
Sometimes the patient must open his eyes during an examination, perhaps to roll up his sleeve for an injection of some sort. While his eyes are still shut and he's pretending he can't open them, you say something on this order: "Anything that we do in this office from now on will not bother or disturb you at all. In a couple of seconds I'm going to have you open your eyes and get your arm ready so that I can work with it, and then we'll play this game again and you'll see that you won't feel anything that I have to do. Now, you open your eyes and get your arm ready."
To demonstrate the usefulness of this technique let me reproduce an excerpt from a letter which I have recently received from an anesthesiologist in Florida. The patient's name has been fictionalized in order to preserve ethical privacy; "Re: Patient Tommy Haines, age six. The patient was admitted to the hospital during the evening of July 27th with a broken left humerus. I sat beside the child in the operating room, never having seen him before. He was a very frightened little boy. However, he was not hysterical nor was he frantic. I talked with him and began playing pretend games. The child responded readily to the games and was shortly watching his favorite program on television. I told him that while he was watching television his mother would bring him a bowl of pretty flowers and he would be able to smell them. At this time I began blowing cyclopropane gas in his face. Frankly, this stuff stinks, though the child nodded in agreement that it smelled good. During this induction period rapid recovery suggestions were given. The child was shortly asleep and a two hour operation was completed. Everything went fine and the surgery was completed very late in the evening. I saw the child the next afternoon and he was getting along so well, and was so completely happy, that his doctor decided to let him go home. This was one to two days earlier than usual. Tommy told his parents how much he enjoyed playing games with me and made the statement, 'I played a game with Doctor Nickell and I won because I fell asleep before he did.' "
Some doctors have the impression that following the very rapid technique of two-finger eye-closure described above, the hypnosis is light. In most instances it is actually deep. To demonstrate this, I frequently hypnotize a doctor by the two-finger method, and show the class proof as follows:
Elman : [to hypnotized doctor]: When I lift your hand and drop it, I want the telephone number of your office to disappear from your mind, and you'll find that it will drop out as I drop the hand. Now when you try to think of your telephone number, it just goes further and further away and you just can't find it at all. Now when you try to find it, it just isn't there. Try to find it and you'll see that's just exactly what happens. You can't find it at all. Gone completely. Let it be gone completely. Gone, isn't it?
Elman: Now there you have somnambulism Suggested amnesia is the test for it. So you see it isn't as light hypnosis as you thought. It's much deeper ... [to patient] I'll lift your hand again and drop it and your telephone number will come right back and then you'll open your eyes and you'll feel wonderful. How do you feel?
Elman: Isn't that a nice feeling? Where'd the number go?
Doctor: I don't know. It just disappeared temporarily, that's all.
If you give your suggestions properly, you get anesthesia in somnambulism. Too many doctors are anxious to get to work before they have implanted the selective thinking. That is the reason for their many failures. They don't realize that without the implanting of selective thinking they don't have anything but deep relaxation to work with: they don't have hypnosis. Make it a rule to implant selective thinking, and at the termination of the hypnosis to leave the suggestion of a feeling of well-being.
The above description of suggested amnesia brings us to the matter of certain tests for hypnosis. Even though doctors see the five signs of hypnosis, discussed previously, they are still not always satisfied that they have a hypnotized patient. New students will sometimes ask me to prove a state of hypnosis by making the subject's arm rigid, just as they've seen it done on the stage. Regardless of the misinformation given in three-day hypnosis courses, stage hypnotists use the rigid arm technique as a deepening device, not as a test. Let me show you the way it is used in medicine today:
Elman: [to hypnotized patient] Close your eyes; just pretend you can't open them. I'm going to take your arm and I want you to extend it and make it rigid as I count to three. Make that so rigid you can't bend it. One—make it rigid —two, like steel—three, now you can't bend it no matter how hard you try. When you try, it just won't work at all. Test it. You'll find you can't bend it at all. Now you've got the rigid arm.
At this point, doctors tend to assume the patient is ready for therapy. He's not ready for therapy; he's merely got a rigid arm. It doesn't mean he'll take another suggestion. You want to get depth. That's what the stage operator used the rigid arm for. So the complete technique was used like this, and it looked dramatic on the stage:
Elman: [to patient]: Now when I have you relax the arm, you'll go much deeper . . . Now you can relax. Relax and you'll go much deeper. Can you feel that depth? Can you feel yourself going deeper? You can answer. Can you feel it?
That's the way the stage operator used it to get depth. It is not a good technique to use in a doctor's office. It is not a good test. It does not take a medical education to know the semantics of good patient relationship and having stiff arms in the office is certainly no way to handle a patient. If you want to get depth and to find out if the patient is hypnotized at the same time, do it the scientific way. You already know that the patient's eyelids should flutter, that the whites of the eyes should get red and that there should be increased lacrimation. Demonstrating on a patient again, I now say this:
Elman: [to patient]: Now, when I tell you to, I want you to open your eyes and let me look at them for a couple of seconds. When I tell you to, open your eyes, keep them open till I tell you to close them and then you'll go much deeper, and let yourself go much deeper. Now open your eyes.
When you follow this procedure, you will see the signs —the increased lacrimation, the whites of the eyes getting pink. And you say to the patient: "Now close your eyes again and notice how much deeper you go, and let yourself go deeper. Can you feel that? Now, open and close your eyes again and you'll go about ten times deeper. That's right, let yourself go. Feel that?"
When you do this, it will be obvious that the patient is immediately becoming more deeply hypnotized. It is a device to get greater depth, and you can use it again and again and again, getting greater depth as you do.
A physician often has to have the patient go from room to room for various examinations—might want to have him take x-rays in one room, putting him into some outlandish position for the x-rays, and then might want to go into some other room for something else. The doctor wants him relaxed in the second room and the third room and so on. It is therefore invaluable to know that the patient can open his eyes and, instead of losing hypnosis, will become more deeply hypnotized.
Remember at all times that you are working with a person who hears and understands everything you are saying. You are talking to a person who is perfectly conscious when he's in deep hypnosis. Therefore, don't make the mistake of the old-time practitioners and talk down to your patient. Talk across to him. He isn't beneath your dignity. He's a human being with whom you are in rapport. Therefore, do not violate his sense of dignity by being condescending or patronizing. Talk to him just as if he were not in the suggestible state; it will increase the rapport and he will be far more willing to take your suggestions. I have had doctors in my classes say, "You can't open your eyes. You can't. You can't." The usual reaction of the patient is to prove how fast he can open his eyes. You don't talk to a patient like that, any more than you use such words as hurt and pain. Stay away from all words or phrases that paint an unpleasant picture: cut, needle, knife, incision, stitches, rip out the stitches, sharp, etc. Usually, the patient knows when he's going to get an injection, stitches or an incision. Why remind him of the unpleasantness he must go through? It is a good idea to keep the patient apprised of what you are about, but you can do this with words such as procedure, treatment, etc. Also bear in mind that iatrogenic illnesses are caused by surgeons, anesthetists, assistants and nurses using the wrong words in the operating room. Remember that the patient never loses his sense of hearing. Therefore, never say anything disturbing in the operating room.
Here is another example of the importance of words: Which would you rather have—medicine or medication? Medication, I'm sure. Then why ever write out a prescription for medicine? You'll be surprised how much more effective your prescriptions will be when you say to the patient, "I'm going to write out a prescription for some medication. I want you to take it and have it filled and you're going to feel so much better as a result of it." That word medication, changed from the simple word medicine, will do your patient a vast amount of good. If you doubt it, try it.
At all times be reasonable in your suggestions, as you are in your words. Don't say anything that sounds preposterous to the patient. Don't be extravagant in your claims of what you are going to do. We're stating here elementary principles in the giving of suggestion. Throughout my teaching, in this text as well as in the classroom, reference is made to the proper method of giving more complicated suggestions. And as you learn more about semantics, you will learn how often and how much you can help your patients with your words.
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Hypnosis has been defined as a state of heightened suggestibility in which the subject is able to uncritically accept ideas for self-improvement and act on them appropriately. When a hypnotist hypnotizes his subject, it is known as hetero-hypnosis. When an individual puts himself into a state of hypnosis, it is known as self-hypnosis.