10 Rules for Hypnosis Practice

woman listening to Dr. Henderson's recorded hypnotic induction talk.

Self-hypnosis is an immensely powerful and positive force for achieving anything that depends on your own efforts. That is, it (probably) won’t help you win the lottery, but it can help you do things like stick to a diet and lose weight, quit using substances like drugs or tobacco, or improve your concentration and memory. Here, then, are ten things you should know about self-hypnosis.

Rule 1. Hypnosis is a skill.

It is important for you to understand that hypnosis is a skill, not something you have to be born with. Anyone can use it to achieve personal, social and professional goals. Some people are better at it than others. This has some effect on the speed of results, but everyone who is fundamentally normal can use hypnosis to do astounding things. It just takes some people longer than others.

Rule 2. Practice makes permanent.

Practice right to get it right. To say that practice makes perfect is not always true. Practice just makes permanent. So if you practice wrong you will develop the wrong skills. I recommend you get your hands on a good, reliable book written by a professional.

Here’s the good side of Rule 2. With practice you will develop an ability to use self-hypnosis in almost any situation. After some practice you will be able to do this in a matter of seconds. You will have internalized the procedure to the point that it is almost automatic. (You might not fully grasp the meaning of this if you are a novice. But it will become apparent to you after you have been practicing self-hypnosis for awhile.)

Rule 3. All hypnosis is self-hypnosis.

Let me repeat that. All hypnosis is self-hypnosis. You can never truly be hypnotized against your will (without the use of drugs), nor can you ever be made to do something in hypnosis that you would not want to do otherwise. It also means that as you listen to my induction and you become hypnotized, you are actually doing it yourself. I’m just the guide here. Once you have the procedure down pat and you feel ready, quit listening to me.

Rule 4. Hypnosis requires practice.

How often should you practice? You might be an exception but most people make about as much progress as they are going to in a day with 2 or 3 practices, and you generally need at least an hour or so between practices.

That answer is for really eager people who have a lot of time on their hands. For the rest of us who struggle every day just to squeeze in the things we must do, one practice a day is a good objective.

If you can’t practice every day, or if you miss a day, try not to go more than a couple of days without practicing. Eventually you will get good enough to put yourself into a hypnotic state in a matter of seconds, and you may find yourself using it several times a day, but for most people that takes time to develop. For now, try to practice about 20 minutes every day.

Once you are good enough to practice on your own, you should still listen to my taped induction once in a while to keep you from drifting too far off course on your own. At this point you can think of me as your coach helping you correct any drift away from good technique.

A practice schedule is important, but it should also be realistic, one that you can stick with. Make a commitment to practice regularly. Otherwise you will end up putting it off with the slightest excuse. Practicing when you “get a chance” is usually not good enough.

Practice once a day for three weeks and you will probably never want to stop using self-hypnosis.

Rule 5. Hypnosis is not sleep.

Pick a good time of day to practice. That is, a time when you are good and alert, at your best. If you wait to practice until after you get home from a hard day at work, you might not do anything but practice going to sleep.

Sometimes this surprises people because they think it would be helpful to already be a little sleepy when they practice. Not so. Sleep and hypnosis are quite different. If you go to sleep, that’s all you’ll be: asleep, and that’s not hypnosis.

In my recorded inductions I give you instructions that refer to “sleep.” That’s just because it is a convenient shorthand. It is easier to say “sleep” than “hypnose.”

Rule 6. Hypnosis doesn’t have to feel like anything.

What’s it like to be hypnotized? There is no good, universal answer. Different people experience different things. The most common report is that it is pleasant, sort of like floating. Frequently there is little sense anything is happening the first few times. Eventually pleasant, noticeable things begin to happen.

By the way, if you cannot remember what happened during a hypnotic practice, you were probably asleep. There are exceptions to this, but they are rare.

Rule 7. Hypnosis enhances suggestibility.

Suggestion is the engine of change and it works at all levels of awareness. It is much more quickly and deeply effective when applied during hypnosis. Without suggestion – that is, if you practice hypnosis by itself – hypnosis is little different from meditation. That can have its uses but it is not goal directed. “Suggestion” in the context of hypnosis is communication intended to bring about a physical or mental change. Hypnosis prepares the subconscious mind to receive instruction, and suggestion is the instruction.

No matter the depth of your hypnotic state, suggestions will still be effective if they are reasonably well formulated and applied.

Rule 8. There is no “best position” for practicing hypnosis.

You can practice either seated or lying down. The important thing is to be comfortable and in a position that you can maintain for about 20 minutes without getting uncomfortable. Eliminate as many sources of distraction as you can and make your surroundings as quiet and peaceful as possible.

Start with your eyes open or closed as you like. Don’t try to make your mind a complete blank because that is not possible, but do try to avoid thinking about distracting things like work, politics, love life, bills, etc.

Rule 9. Let hypnosis happen.

Don’t try to make anything happen. Be as casual and relaxed about the whole process as you can be, and just let things take their own course. If you try to “will” yourself into a state of hypnosis you will only impede your progress.

Another common pitfall for beginners is their constant alertness to anything that might feel like hypnosis. They are so busy watching for the hypnotic trance experience they prevent themselves from achieving anything. Try not to do that.

Remember, you should not try to make anything happen, and you shouldn’t try to keep anything from happening as you practice.

Rule 10. You can never not wake up from hypnosis.

A question that often comes up is, “What if I can’t wake up?” That will never be a problem. You will always be able to terminate the state at any time you want or need to. Dedicate your thought and energy to getting into a hypnotic state, not out of it.

If you somehow end up spending significantly more than about 20 minutes practicing, you probably fell asleep. If you are sleep deprived and worried about drifting off to sleep and missing an appointment or something, set an alarm clock.

If you find yourself repeatedly falling asleep when you practice, change the time of day that you do it. If that doesn’t work, progressively make yourself less comfortable when you practice until you can practice without falling asleep. Practice that way for a while, then gradually move back to being more comfortable. Sometimes it is just a matter of breaking the habit of falling asleep when you practice.

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There is of course considerably more to an hypnotic induction. If you need to know more get your hands on a good book. You could use some of the video induction talks that are around, but I don’t recommend that approach. there are just too many ways that can go wrong, especially considering that most of the induction videos are done by amateurs. Caveat emptor.

charles e. henderson, ph.d.


By Charles E. Henderson, PhD

Charles E. “Chuck” Henderson PhD has had three careers. As a professional woodwind musician he worked with a number of well-known groups and musicians in America and Europe. When CTS ended his musical career he went into sales where for 16 years he broke numerous national sales records. He retired from sales to earn three college degrees (BA, MA, PhD) in communication and psychology. His research and clinical specialty has focused on subliminal communication and he has been a leader in the research and development of self-hypnosis techniques and applications. The author of nine books and numerous articles and audio recordings, he lives with his wife in Madison. Wisconsin.

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