Like all hypnotherapists, I have had clients who did not respond to the first four or five methods that I used to guide them into hypnosis. In many schools of hypnosis the client would be considered to be “resistant” if he or she did not respond to their initial hypnosis induction techniques. My response to those clients who did not respond to the first five methods was to simply try additional and creative approaches until one of them worked. It was simply a matter of finding a way of communicating hypnotic ideas that suited the particular personality needs of the individual.
Sometimes, it is necessary to create an approach that is unique to the individual. For example, one of my clients told me that he thought that he was too tense to go into hypnosis. He seemed to think that he had to relax to be hypnotized. I simply told him to stay just as tense as he needed to to go into trance, and he did. He even relaxed quite a bit as we went along. Another client asked me, in a very meek, quiet voice, to be gentle, because it was his first time going into hypnosis. So, I spoke to him very meekly, and quietly. He went into a very nice trance as well.
Milton Erickson, MD was one of the great innovators of hypnotherapy. He used to teach his students to use whatever the client presented to assist them in achieving their goals for therapy. One of Erickson’s patients who had been overweight for years, came to Erickson in desperation for help. She told Erickson that she would diet for one week, two weeks, as long as she could stand it, and then she would binge terribly. So Erickson had her diet for one week, two weeks, as long as she could stand it, and then binge for one whole day. Then she was to diet again for as long as she could stand it again, and then binge for one whole day. The woman took seven steps forward and one step back again and again, and she did lose the excess weight. Erickson used the woman’s own pattern of dieting and binging to help her gain control of her weight.
One way of thinking about “resistant” behaviors, is that they are simply a message from the person’s unconscious mind that it needs a different approach. As I was using guided relaxation imagery on a client’s first visit, she started to move in large, broad uncontrolled movements. This was odd, and so I mentioned them as they occurred. “And, you moved your right leg. You lifted your left shoulder. You moved your right hand…” There was no change in her movements.
Then I changed what I said just a little bit, “And, I don’t know if your are going to move your left elbow next. I don’t know if your are going to lift your left knee, etc.” listing all the sections of her body. Apparently, I left out one section, however. She lifted up her hips from the chair, and then became completely relaxed and still. She then went into a deep state of hypnosis, and had an excellent session. I have no idea why my client needed me to notice and comment on those body movements in the way that I did, or why the slight change in what I said made a difference.
Considering “resistance” as simply another message from a client’s unconscious mind is an extremely powerful way to increase the effectiveness of hypnosis. From the hypnotherapist’s perspective it is also a lot of fun, because it is such a creative approach to helping clients.