One of my hypnosis clients told me to use the most powerful suggestions possible to help him stop smoking. He had been trying to stop smoking for a while, and thought of himself as a difficult case. And, then I broke the bad news to him.
There is no such thing as a powerful hypnotic suggestion.
That is not the common belief about hypnosis, of course. After all, hypnosis can be effective in helping people stop smoking, lose weight, and lessen or eliminate acute or chronic pain. That seems pretty doggone powerful. And, it is. But, the power does not come from the suggestions themselves, with some being more powerful than others.
If hypnotic suggestions had power, with some being extremely powerful and others less so, those of us in the hypnosis business would have put together a power list years ago. The most powerful hypnotist in the world would have made a recording with all the power suggestions, and, hypnotherapists would only use suggestions from the the power list with our clients.
And if the power was in the suggestions, people would respond to a suggestion the same way every time. But, that is not the case. For example the suggestion, “Fresh fruit is much better than candy for satisfying your desire for sweets” may result in one hypnotized person completely eliminating candy from her diet, and another will continue eating just as much candy as before. The reason for this will be clear soon.
All hypnotherapists go through a “magic words” phase early in our training. We want to learn the special words or suggestions that create the most potent effects in clients. I once saw Richard Bandler demonstrate hypnosis at a workshop. He had a woman in deep trance lean to the side, bending at her ankles at an impossible angle. She stayed that way, completely unmoving, for over five minutes. Much to my frustration Richard whispered his suggestions to her, and we could not hear what he said that got her to lean that way.
I thought that if I said the same words as Richard, that I could get someone to do exactly what that woman did. And, I was wrong.
All hypnosis professionals are disappointed when they realize that although words can bring out the magic and power in our clients, it is not the words themselves that are magic or powerful. So, just where does the power come from for someone in hypnosis to turn off long term pain or get rid of a tobacco addiction in an hour?
The power is in the response of the person to the suggestion.
It is the job of the hypnotherapist to present ideas to the unconscious mind of the hypnotized person, in the form of suggestions. To be effective those suggestions must be constructed a way that meets the unique personality and needs of the person. And, putting together those suggestions is the way in which the hypnotherapist takes part in creating the powerful responses of the person.
Although the hypnotherapist’s suggestions are a necessary part of the process, the power ultimately comes from the ways in which the person in hypnosis responds. And, each person will respond in ways that are uniquely their own.