Waking Hypnosis

Waking HypnosisYou can get just about any hypnotic phenomena without a formal hypnotic trance. I’m just going to come right out and say that. It’s called “waking hypnosis” (among other things) and it’s a powerful set of tools if you’re a pro and a lot of fun if you’re not.

What Is Waking Hypnosis?

Waking hypnosis can be defined as eliciting hypnotic responses without a formal induction. Often, people say it’s hypnosis without the whole relaxation aspect. How is that possible? The answer is that the reason people think it’s not possible is a misunderstanding about what hypnosis is. For many folks, hypnosis is linked in their minds to relaxation. We’ve probably all seen the stereotypical hypnotist waving a pocket watch and saying “Your eyes are getting heavy, very heavy…”

But we can define hypnosis as a bypass of the logical part of the mind that judges our experiences and wrapping the mind around an idea. Let’s take the first part first.

Critical Factor Bypass

Part of our mind does its best to make sure we’re tracking reality. If someone told us that pigs can fly because it’s Tuesday, we would probably reject that idea. It doesn’t match our experience. That’s the mind’s critical factor (or critical faculty). But if we were to watch a film about pigs that can fly on Tuesday, we might be willing to accept the premise in order to enjoy the movie. We give our minds a message, “Let’s just ignore this obvious untruth for a while, while we watch.”

That’s a critical factor bypass.

Once, a friend and I were talking about some cartoon characters from “King Of The Hill”. We were riffing on what they might say in a particular situation. My friend wondered what they might say off stage, when the cameras weren’t rolling. I pointed out to her that these were cartoon characters — there is no “off stage.” She’d done a critical factor bypass and accepted the characters as real in that moment.

Now, the way some hypnotists get a critical factor bypass is to suggest relaxation and activate the imagination as fully as possible. “Imagine you’re on a beach. You can feel the warmth of the sun on your body and hear the sounds of the water.” The person being hypnotized knows they’re not actually on a beach but to the extent they imagine themselves there, they have a critical factor bypass.

This relaxation approach is not the only way to get a critical factor bypass. It’s a nice one though.

Wrapping The Mind Around An Idea

In either therapeutic hypnosis or stage hypnosis, the mind is concentrated on an idea. That’s the point. In a session with a hypnotist, the idea might be achieving some goal or breaking some habit. Or it could be a smaller chunk — an arm floating up of its own accord or amnesia for something. In stage hypnosis, the idea could be that they see something hilarious or feel compelled to act a certain way.

The idea is that, combined with a critical factor bypass, wrapping the mind around an idea programs us to enact that idea. Of course, there are lots of factors involved. How “bypassed” is the critical factor? Would the hypnotized person be going against their ethical or moral framework in carrying out the suggestion? Do they have beliefs that run counter to the suggestion? Do they feel good about following the suggestion of the hypnotist?

The general idea is that when you get critical factor bypass and the mind wrapped around an idea, you have hypnosis. And you don’t need relaxation or a formal induction to do it.

Why Do We Need Formal Hypnosis?

If you are a hypnotist, hypnotherapist or NLP practitioner, you are (hopefully) an expert on at least a few ways to help someone program themselves. Formal hypnotic inductions are one approach. Some people like the ritual. Some people have expectations and if you meet those expectations, they’ll find it more compelling. But the short answer is that we don’t need a formal induction. Sometimes it’s the best choice but it’s not the only choice.


I once gave a presentation where I asked people to imagine that one of their arms wasn’t actually theirs. I spent a few minutes talking about what that would be like, asking them to imagine it. I used language which helped them dissociate from the idea that their arm was theirs (for instance, I said “that arm” rather than “your arm”). After a few minutes, I asked them what their experience was. I got answers ranging from “I felt a tingling and coolness in my arm” to “nothing happened” to “my arm disappeared.” The person whose arm disappeared, literally could no longer see their arm. That was from just a few minutes of talking with no formal induction.

Can you guess why the different responses (and different levels of response)? Well, part of it has to do wth ability and training. People have different levels of ability to bypass their critical factor and wrap their mind around an idea. Some people don’t know how to concentrate on an idea, for instance. If you don’t know how, practice helps. Hypnosis is a skill. Hypnotists help people build that skill.

Also, people are individuals. People respond differently. So, they responded differently

I think the main factor in the different responses though was willingness. How willing was each person to follow my suggestions and really put their hearts into it. If you’re willing and want to experience hypnosis, it’s usually pretty easy.

Fun Waking Hypnosis Experiment

So, that being said, here’s a fun waking hypnosis experiment…

Sit down, with your hand resting on your thigh. Now imagine that your thigh and your leg are one, solid piece. It’s as if they’re carved from one block of wood. They are the same. If it’s better for you to close your eyes, you can, but you don’t need to. Spend 30 seconds or so imagining this. If you don’t imagine well, just pretend. Now, while maintaining the idea that your hand and your thigh are one solid piece, try to move your hand.

What happens?


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Keith Livingston

Keith Livingston is the main instructor for Hypnosis 101. Keith has been studying hypnosis since he was a boy and doing hypnosis & NLP training since 1997. Read More....


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