No – I didn’t see You’re Back in the Room. Personally, I find stage hypnosis at best boring and at worst deeply irritating. Maybe I’m an old stick-in-the-mud but I take very little pleasure when people are made to look foolish for the entertainment of others. To me, it seems to represent one of the lowest traits of human nature. Stage hypnosis is rather like my other bête noire, the prank phone call. I detest these with a passion, especially if the prank caller is some smug radio DJ. But it is just harmless fun, isn’t it? Tell that to the family of Jacintha Saldanha. Read the rest of this entry »

Oh dear! The upcoming TV program using hypnosis as “entertainment” continues to cause alarm. Personally, I’m not over-concerned. People will always abuse hypnosis in order to make money make themselves well-known. The “master hypnotist” in the forthcoming program is only filling the gap left by Paul McKenna, who presumably has now made enough money and can put his feet up. Read the rest of this entry »

I learn to my dismay that a television program will be broadcast this weekend which presents hypnosis as means by which hypnotists can “hack into” the minds of hypnotic subjects. The person who brought this to my attention was Shaun Brookhouse, the Principal of the National College of Hypnosis and Psychotherapy, the establishment which provided me with my very thorough basic training. Shaun has written a short article which he has asked any of us who are concerned for the future of hypnosis and hypnotherapy to re-post.

The article which follows is the work of Shaun Brookhouse MA PGCert(ClinSup) CertEd ADHP(NC) ECP FNSHPM(Hon) CNHC UKCP(Accred) Read the rest of this entry »

Music can put you in hypnosis, at least in my experience. When I listen to certain pieces I experience all the phenomena of light hypnotic trance, such as inner absorption, lower awareness of my surroundings and unawareness of the passage of time.

Of course, this only happens when I listen properly. If I happen to hear one of the pieces in question when I’m busy doing other things then I don’t suddenly go into hypnosis, anymore than I would if I happened to hear someone reading a hypnotic induction script out loud. One must be in the mood!

Does this have any therapeutic value? Can one use music as a session of hypnotherapy? Yes and no. Yes, because if music (or some pieces of music) induces hypnosis then all you need to do is to administer (or self-administer) positive therapeutic suggestions and you have a session of hypnotherapy. No, because music tends to carry its own associations with it. This can be due to the “meaning” of the piece of music itself or due to personal associations. The piece might bring back memories or remind you of things which have nothing to do with therapeutic suggestions. And if you start listening to a piece of music and drift off into hypnosis and then start giving yourself suggestions the chances are that the spell of the music will quickly be broken and you will quickly return to full waking consciousness.

I’m sure that it must be possible to harness the hypnotic power of music to good therapeutic ends. But I haven’t figured out the best way to do it yet! In the meantime, here is a piece which never fails to put me in hypnosis. It is by George Gershwin, of all people.

Although I have loved all sorts of music throughout my life, the popular music of the early 20th century was always a bit of a blind spot. However, when I was at university I fell in love with Gershwin’s music. It happened by accident. I listened to the second movement of the Piano Concerto, and that was that – I was hooked! When I was a student, Gershwin wasn’t very hip and trendy but I didn’t care. Gershwin was held in high regard by people such as Ravel and Stravinsky. If he’s good enough for them, he’s good enough for me!

The hypnotic piece by Gershwin is his Lullaby, written in 1919. Unbelievably, this work (in its original form) was written as an academic exercise. It doesn’t sound like it! Try it and see for yourself…

Hypnosis and Hypnoidal

March 6th, 2015

I began my hypnotherapy training twenty years ago this year. When I turned up at the National College training centre in London my first question was: what actually is hypnosis? It is a question I have been asked many times over the years and my answers to that question have changed over time. The definition offered by the National College of Hypnosis and Psychotherapy on my very first day of training was along the following lines: hypnosis is a state of relaxation, which you allow yourself to enter and which produces a change of consciousness which allows suggestions to penetrate down to the unconscious mind.

Over the years I have agreed with that definition and disagreed with it. I have agreed with it because it describes much of what I do in actual hypnotherapy sessions. I have disagreed with it because there are many states of mind in which one can enter a state of heightened suggestibility. We become more suggestible when we are relaxed. But we can also become highly suggestible when we are in a conscious but totally absorbed state of mind, or when we are in a state of ecstasy or a state of panic. Therefore I have often thought that the National College definition was too narrow.

Definitions are useful things, and as the best place to find definitions is in a dictionary, let’s take a look at the Oxford English Dictionary definition of “hypnosis”. The OED actually offers two definitions:


  1. The inducement or the gradual approach of sleep
  2. Artificially produced sleep: esp. that induced by hypnotism; the hypnotic state.


You will notice the emphasis on sleep in both definitions. This is because the word “hypnosis” is derived from the Greek word “hupnos” meaning “sleep” and its cognate verb “hupnōssō” meaning “to be sleepy”. And yet neither of these definitions are totally satisfactory.Take the first definition: I agree that to enter what we call a “trance” state you need to move nearer to sleep. But this first definition is really defining the induction of hypnosis rather than the state itself. To define hypnosis as the approach of sleep is to suggest that hypnosis is something dynamic – a movement towards, rather than a stable or consistent state of consciousness.

The second definition simply begs the question. To define “hypnosis” as “that which is induced by hypnotism” or “the hypnotic state” doesn’t really tell us anything at all.

Another word I often use to denote states of suggestibility is “hypnoidal”. The adjective “hypnoid” (and, presumably, the cognate adverb “hypnoidal”) was first coined by Siegmund Freud and Josef Breuer in an article published in 1893. Here, the OED definition is a little more helpful. The adjective “hypnoid” is “applied to a state of consciousness characterized by heightened suggestibility or dissociation, such as occurs in hysterical conditions”. The OED also offer a quotation from a scholarly article published in 1921 which states that “a [half-waking] state can be produced artificially and is called light hypnosis or the hypnoidal state”.

“Hypnoidal” is therefore such a useful word because it can be used to denote any state of heightened suggestibility, not just trance states induced for the purpose of administering therapeutic suggestions. So, these days, I tend to use the word “hypnoidal” to mean any state, whether involving relaxation or not, which is conducive to higher suggestibility. As for “hypnosis”, I find myself once again returning to the National College definition – a state of mind, induced by relaxation, in which the unconscious mind becomes more responsive to positive and therapeutic suggestion.

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