There are two general types of inductions used in hypnosis: authoritative inductions and permissive inductions. Authoritative inductions are what people usually think of when they think of hypnotherapy or hypnosis, especially stage hypnosis. The hypnotist uses statements like, “you are relaxed,” “you feel good,” or “your eyelids are growing heavy.” Some people respond to this better than others, for example, people in very ordered professions, members of the clergy, the military, the police force, or people in business often respond very well to authoritative inductions because they are used to receiving straightforward instructions. It is also partly because authority bypasses the critical faculty.
When you accept someone as being in a position of authority, you will generally do as they say. For example, you’re walking down the street while you and a friend are talking. A police officer directs you down another path. Even though you are preoccupied with your conversation, your feet seem to automatically take you where the officer directs you. You don’t question his instructions because you’re preoccupied and there is nothing objectionable about walking down another path.
To many clients, there is nothing objectionable about what the hypnotist suggests. The suggestions make sense, and the client wants to follow them because he or she knows they will lead to a better life. So, they do as the hypnotist says.
Permissive and Authoritative Suggestions
With a permissive induction, the hypnotist doesn’t use direct statements as suggestions, but rather gives permission to the client to go into hypnosis and explore how they feel. Rather than saying “You are relaxed,” the hypnotist says, “As you listen to the sound of my voice, you might find that the sound of my voice can relax you.” These suggestions are gentler and more subtle than those used in authoritative inductions and can be more effective for many people.
Permissive and authoritative inductions fall on a continuous scale. The examples given above are two extremes of the spectrum, to emphasize the differences between the two styles. Most inductions are usually somewhere in between the extremes of permissive and authoritative. It’s always important, of course, to adjust the induction depending on how the client is responding and what makes him or her most comfortable.
Neither style of induction is perfect. One downside of the authoritative induction is that it allows opportunities for the client to think that hypnosis isn’t working. If a hypnotist says, “You are now relaxed” and the client is still thinking about their stressful day, it may lead them to question the hypnotist’s abilities. It is better to begin with a permissive induction and know that the client is responding to suggestion before moving to the authoritative approach.
The permissive style of induction has its flaws as well, one of them being that it is not what people expect from a hypnotist. If the client expects that the hypnotist will give straightforward, authoritative commands, meeting this expectation will lead to hypnosis, while using a gentler, more permissive induction might not. If the client wholeheartedly believes that a pendulum, for example, will put them into hypnosis because he or she has seen inductions performed this way in movies or on stage, it is fine for the hypnotist to use a pendulum. If a client’s expectations aren’t met, he or she may question the hypnotist’s skills or experience. Belief and trust play a major role in how successfully a person may be hypnotized.