Stop me if you’ve heard this riddle before:
You move to a small town with two barbers. One has immaculate hair – perfectly trimmed, styled, coloured, greased and plucked.
The other looks like he picked a fight with a lawnmower, then picked a fight with a flamethrower.
Who do you go to for your haircuts?
The answer to the riddle is to pick the one with the awful hair. Since barbers don’t cut their own hair, they must have been the one behind the amazing haircut.
Now, is this just a toy scenario?
Can you apply this in real life or is it too simplistic?
I don’t know.
All I know is even if it makes sense, folk won’t follow this tactic. They’ll go for the well-groomed barber nine times out of ten.
Seeing is believing. Thinking about who cuts whose hair is too abstract to influence gut reactions. All he see is nice hair, so they must be skilled.
Think about how this applies to your career and lifestyle.
If you’re a financial planner, do you look like you have your finances together? Or do you look poor?
If you’re a personal trainer, do you look lean, strong and flexible? Or sickly, unfit and stiff?
When you try to have a sense of confidence, do your hands secretly quiver?
It’s not fair, I know. The portly personal trainer might be a genius in physiology and motivation. Maybe they’re out of shape because they’re recovering from an injury. Or, you know, lockdown.
Doesn’t matter though. Folk’ll see a lack of fitness and that’s about it.
There’s only so much you can control about how you look.
But it’s way more than you might think.
Even a financial desperate person can exude an aura of wealth.
Even a sickly dude can appear strong and energetic.
There are tactics you can learn to fake it. Then all you have to do is simultaneously monitor and adjust a thousand techniques while somehow having a conversation. And doing your job.
Then I guess the only option is to learn these things unconsciously.
But if it’s unconscious, then where do you begin?
Why, you begin right here. And once you know how to do this, everything will be different for you.
Keep reading to see how:
Given how elusive, abstract and even subjective hypnosis is, you’d be right to think you can’t measure it.
You can’t point to any part of the brain and say that’s the trance lobe, just give it a tickle.
And you wouldn’t be able to see it in action within the brain.
Except… you kinda can.
When you go from your normal waking state to a hypnotic trance, your brain changes in drastic ways.
Even in the moment.
Hypnosis can get pretty intense. Blood flows away from the prefrontal cortex, which explains the dreamlike quality is sometimes has.
Your brainwaves and neural activity begin to sync up – between your lobes and between the hemispheres. This can happen naturally, but not easily and not often. It happens during times of peak clarity and creativity, where you seem better connected to yourself and the world around you.
You could call it the flow state, or something else.
Like so many other definitions, this one has fuzzy boundaries. You can have this physiological shift without hypnosis, and you can go into a trance without your brainwaves doing this.
Still, it’s common enough that this, more than anything, convinced scientists hypnosis is real.
Plenty of things change the brain’s state. When you think about a loved one, your religion or a moment you’re proud of, your brain lights up like a Christmas tree. But what hypnosis does is so much more dramatic.
This proved something real, strange and powerful was happening.
In many ways, this is what it’s all about. Sure, hypnosis is vastly more than tweaking your brain… but even this simple and mechanistic explanation covers so much of hypnosis’ power.
When your lobes sync up like this, they communicate better.
When that happens, it feels like you’re in touch with your true self… and more of your mental power. Memories flow clearer, your thoughts run smoothly and your emotions become a lot healthier.
The more you do this, the more natural this state of mind becomes.
Problems simply fall away as more of your mind comes online.
If you’ve tried to ‘think’ or ‘force’ or ‘reason’ your way through a challenge, only to not get too far with it… well, that’s only using your prefrontal cortex. When your mind enters this state, it can bring its full resources against a challenge.
Like I say, this isn’t the full hypnotic experience.
But even if it was, this makes it better than just talking your way through it.
If you’re curious what this whole-brain approach feels like, you can experience hypnosis right now:
The classic way to boost your meditation skills is to meditate for longer.
A 50-minute meditation session – no matter your school or practice – is leagues ahead of a 20-minute one.
(Which is already amazing, given what even five minutes can do for you.)
So there you go. Meditate for longer.
Okay, okay… maybe not.
Not everyone has time to sit around all day. Yes, I know the Gandhi quote about not having time to meditate, so meditate more. That’s good advice, but it’s also a little unrealistic at times.
Also: how does it help you when you struggle to meditate for even two minutes?
That’s where a trick out of exercise comes in:
Although to be honest, I lifted this from hypnosis. I’m much more than a hypnotist than an athlete.
Anyway, the trick:
Meditate for a little while. If you can only handle a minute, go for a minute.
Then stop, open your eyes, reset and get back to it.
It’s the same as with high intensity interval training – you don’t have to go long. Pressing forward then taking a break can help you reach new heights.
Or new depths of trance.
So there’s a meditation technique for free. If it’s useful to you, I’m happy to part with it.
Mostly because the principles are more valuable, interesting and fun.
I doubt I’m the first person to develop this technique, but I didn’t learn it from anyone. I created it from what I know.
Once you understand the ‘how’, you can figure out the ‘what’.
But it’s not easy. Despite piloting a mind all your life, it’s tough to really grok it. That’s why so many folks fall prey to misinformation. It sounds right enough but it isn’t.
And that’s the funny thing about the truth:
Sometimes it sounds impossible but isn’t.
Lies are comfortable and safe. But reality, though? Well, reality does what it wants.
That’s not to say you should doubt sensible things and embrace the absurd.
What I’m saying is you should embrace the absurd that you end up being able to do.
Like meditate more deeply in less time.
Or learn from anyone – even dead folks and fictional characters.
Or fashion masks that let you become anyone you want.
What about learning, in your own time, a style of meditation so advanced that it scares plenty of monks?
You can experience the absurd truth of all that right here:
Sometimes the simplest explanations turn out to be the most complex.
Happiness is a tricky topic. Psychologists have studied it for decades.
They know some things about it – like how woeful folks are at self-reporting their happiness. Leaving some loose change in a vending machine’s coin return makes people thrilled.
Thrilled enough to rate their total life happiness about a point higher out of ten.
So either this is a cheap and easy remedy to all the world’s miseries… or recent happy surprises skew everything.
And psychologists know some tricks that boost happiness in most people. Things like having a rich social life.
But it’s rarely as simple as “do more X to be happy”.
Let’s say I told you happiness is all about smiles.
If you want to be happy, smile more.
And you can measure someone’s happiness by how easily they smile.
Well, that sure sounds simple. And it’s probably true, even if it’s not the whole truth.
But there’s a lot of hidden complexity there.
How does smiling create happiness?
Happiness seems to come from living a fulfilling life. Is that not the case? Could you do nothing but smile all day and feel the same?
What about folks who are so sad, they’ve mastered the art of faking smiles?
And so on…
It’s similar with this simple, true, yet surprisingly complex definition for hypnosis:
Hypnosis is a process that puts you in an altered state of consciousness, which we call a trance.
Again, that sounds simple and is mostly true, but it masks a lot of complexity.
Is hypnosis the only thing that can alter your state of consciousness? Clearly not. Falling asleep does that far more drastically than your typical trance.
Is hypnosis the only thing that can put you in a trance? I guess that depends on your definitions. But I’ll say this – you can enter a hypnotic trance without a hypnotist around and without meaning to. In fact, it probably happens more often than you realise.
Can you hypnotise someone without putting them in a trance? Again, that depends on your definitions. But you can definitely hypnotise someone without them closing their eyes or even noticing anything different is happening.
Right or wrong, this definition of hypnosis has problems. It doesn’t tell you how to use it or what you could do with it. It somehow creates ‘trance’ – whatever that is – which is not even unique to the hypnotic arts.
It’s the sort of definition you find in a dictionary – accurate yet, by itself, unusable.
Definitions are funny things. They’re the conscious mind’s attempt to separate, label and categorise the world.
It’s a uniquely human power – and a big part of our success story.
But definitions can distract you. You can know the name of every step, yet still not know how to dance. Or you can label every organ in the body, yet still not know how to do surgery.
You might even know what’s holding you back… but that’s not the same as moving forward.
That’s where you need experiences for your unconscious mind to learn.
Try to overpower your problems and you’ll always have them.
Experience freedom from your challenges and you will be free of them.
Sign up for a session and let you experience that now:
Back before the world fell apart, you’d have been mad to live without insurance.
Assuming you could afford it, of course.
Forget the amount of money it could save you, should disaster strike. Even forget that it’s a legal requirement in many circumstances. The peace of mind it buys you is worth it.
Then disaster did indeed strike. If nothing else, it’s a reminder how delicate everything truly is.
But let’s consider what insurance is for a moment:
You make an investment to hedge against problems. Most days, weeks, even years, you don’t use it. When you do, you’re grateful to have had it.
What if we flip some of those properties?
Let’s keep the investment part… and where you’re grateful for it.
What if instead of insulating you from crisis, it unlocks opportunities.
And instead of rarely using it, you use it every day.
Now, you have something that’s the opposite of insurance. Rather than helping you maintain your circumstances, it pushes you forward to great better ones.
That’s what regular coaching and hypnosis does for you.
It’s the anti-insurance.
And while folks see insurance as being practically essential…
Investing in yourself is seen as optional. A luxury – something for the high-flying executives to play around with.
I get why some of you would think this. If you’re happy with things as they are, why change? Why bother with trying to make the world and your family’s situation even better?
Then again, if you’re hungry for change, you know why.
Now’s the time to put your coin where your mouth is.
Book yourself in for a consultation and we’ll talk about your next steps. With everything else flipped upside-down, you can only rely on yourself more than ever.
So let’s see how you can become your best self:
If you’re after another definition of hypnosis, here’s a more niche one.
I think it’s less mainstream because it’s harder to argue. I mean, it may or may not be true… but even if it is, it doesn’t seem true.
Here we go:
Hypnosis is a process where the subject exhibits involuntary physical responses.
In other words, you lose control of your body.
That might sound more dramatic than it is. You don’t lose control in the sense you become an automaton, watching helplessly as your body, I don’t know, robs banks or something.
Nah – it’s more like what you see in stage hypnosis shows.
The hypnotist yells ‘freeze!’ and the subjects freeze in place.
Or they glue their feet to the floor using nothing but suggestion.
Or one I like – one I’ve been on both the giving and receiving side many times – your arm locks in place, so you can’t bend or even lower it.
Then again, it might be less obvious than that.
Your eyes close and your body deeply relaxes, whether you want it to or not.
This is a kind of suggestibility – a physical suggestibility, where your body does strange things.
Even impossible things. How long could you keep one arm raised above your head before it gets tired? Probably a few minutes. In a trance, I once locked my arm in that position and it stayed there for around an hour after I came out of the trance.
It wasn’t a strain to keep it up there – in fact, it was pleasant and comfortable.
But there’s no way I could have done that simply by choosing to.
Another fun example, this time from a street hypnotist. Using the power of suggestion, he stuck a woman’s hands to a wall. Okay, okay, maybe she was just playing along… until he held out $50 and said it’s hers if she could take it. She started trying to bite the bill, because – try as she might – she couldn’t move her hands.
This is a handy hypnosis definition because it’s clear and visible. Even if it’s as subtle as someone relaxing, you can see that in their face and body.
But it’s not a great definition for a few reasons:
Other things lead to involuntary reactions. Is blushing when you see your crush hypnosis? What about mindlessly fidgeting? Or recoiling your hand when it brushes something hot?
Also, not all trances lead to that. In fact, you can experience greater control in a trance.
Still, these involuntary responses are a common feature of trances.
By the way, if you’re curious:
I didn’t freeze my arm about my head just because I could
Although that was part of it – a nice demonstration of the power of my unconscious.
Instead, I did it to resolve a problem my conscious mind had given up on.
Sounds strange, right? How can your arm think better than your brain?
It makes sense when you understand your unconscious on a deep and powerful level. And you get there by running through this – the most comprehensive guide to your own inner power on the planet:
You can start by bringing your attention into the present moment. You let go of other thoughts and feelings, as you tune in to what your senses tell you.
There’s something in the environment catching your attention. You notice it, before letting your attention go.
Here’s your body – feeling however it feels, except now you’re paying attention to it. You simply breathe as you feel everything relax and go softer.
And you focus inward.
It might remind you of meditation – if you’re good at meditation, that is. But it also feels easier, simpler. You’re not having to do anything special with your mind. All you need to do is what comes naturally, only guided towards an inwardly focused trance experience.
As with your body, now with your mind.
You notice what’s going on inside your own thinking. And, as usual, you notice something intriguing. How can you be intrigued by your own thinking – aren’t you the one thinking it?
In a way, that’s true.
You notice something in your mind that you didn’t notice before. Maybe it just popped into your mind, though. Maybe you’re creating it and thinking you’re discovering it.
This new experience seems familiar. It’s kind of like suddenly noticing a song that’s been stuck in your head all day. It’s the first time you notice it… so what was thinking about it when you weren’t? It’s like that, only with an emotion.
Probably something too wriggly to label.
The normal words don’t do it justice. It might be a calmness, yes. Maybe anticipation. Perhaps that particular kind of joy that only comes round during spring or autumn.
Or maybe it’s less pleasant.
Either way, you can study the experience from afar. You’re curious about it, not invested in it changing any particularly way. Even so, it begins to change for the better.
That’s when you realise you feel something familiar.
You’re in a trance.
And now the real fun can begin.
This was an accurate description of what happened to me. I entered a trance with a keyboard in front of me, allowing me to capture it for you.
Which means you can do this yourself when you have me as your teacher.
Here’s how you begin:
The social compliance theory of hypnosis says your expectations matter.
How you expect hypnosis to work influences it.
What’s strange is your conscious expectations don’t matter as much. You might think you’re too mentally strong to be hypnotised. If so, that thought won’t protect you.
Partly because you’ve seen hypnotists hypnotise people before – at least on TV.
Partly because the social compliance side isn’t the full picture.
But even if it was…
Well, some of you would see that as proof against hypnosis. “It only works because you believe it does!”
If you think like that, let me ask you this:
Do you believe in drunkenness?
Folk from different cultures get drunk in different ways. If your culture links alcohol to violence and sadness, that’s what it does to you. If it sees alcohol as a social tool for joy and expression, that’s what it does to you.
Alcohol changes your behaviour and mental state, whether you believe it will or not.
And it changes it in some consistent ways.
Yet the finer details depend entirely on your unconscious expectations.
Hypnosis is the same. You will go into a trance and I could describe, in broad terms, what that trance will be like.
But I have no idea just how relaxing and unusual you’ll find it. That’s up to your unconscious.
(At least, at first. Over time, your hypnotist can train you to enter more useful trance states more easily. That’s a case of your unconscious updating its expectations through the best learning method around: direct experience.)
These unconscious expectations don’t just control what the trance experience is like.
They control how you enter the trance.
I hypnotise most of my clients the same way: I tell them to close their eyes, relax, and focus on the sound of my voice. There’s a lot that happens before and after that which I tailor to them. But, at some stage, I usually go through that process.
I do it because folk expect it.
Even if you’re only vaguely familiar with hypnosis, that sounds right.
But you might have different expectations.
For someone with strong New Age beliefs, I might use a different induction. I might tell them to focus until they become aware of their spirit animal. Or I might use tarot cards.
For certain Christians, I might summon or commune with their guardian angel.
And I’m sure plenty of folk connect best with their inner mind when they push their bodies to the limits – like a runner’s high, only more intense. I wouldn’t get them to close their eyes and relax – I’d get them to jog and lift weights.
That last approach ‘doesn’t work!’ according to some people. They have their scripts and their theories, none of which allow a trance like that. I wish them well, but they’re wrong.
You can do an induction ‘wrong’ – backwards, upside down, the opposite of what the textbooks say – and still put someone in a trance.
It doesn’t have to ‘work’ to work. The mind doesn’t play by our simplistic rules.
My attitude is more flexible than some hypnotists.
And that’s how I get results they can’t.
If you have an unusual challenge or a different approach you want to try, why don’t you book yourself in for a consultation and we can talk it through:
One of the more intriguing theories of hypnosis is it’s all in your head.
That’s not to say it isn’t real. Sure, some folks (who’ve never spent ten minutes looking into the literature) don’t believe it exists. That’s fine, though not what I’m talking about.
Scientists know hypnosis is real.
It’s a well-researched area of psychology.
And it leads to things that would otherwise be impossible – like doing major surgery without anaesthetics.
Even so, some of these researchers say it’s all in the subject’s head.
There’s some evidence for this – and some of the more compelling demonstrations come from an unlikely source:
If you’ve never seen a stage hypnosis show, I recommend it. Even better, volunteer to be on-stage. As long as the hypnotist is classy, respectful and skilled, you’ll have a blast.
If you’ve never seen a show… well, each is different. But many shows get a group of volunteers – maybe six, maybe over a dozen – line them up and hypnotise them, one by one.
Now, when someone enters a hypnotic trance, they don’t always do the same thing.
Somewhere between the hypnotist yelling ‘sleep!’ and then telling them to sing like a pop star, the subject will probably do one of the following:
They’ll close their eyes but, otherwise, it won’t be much different.
Or they might sit or stand upright, their head slumped forward.
Or their legs might stay upright, while their entire torso flops.
And then you get the rare person whose entire body goes limp. If they’re standing, they collapse to the floor. If they’re in a chair, they’ll fall off it.
Stage hypnotists love these volunteers. It looks dramatic, even a little dangerous (although it’s safer than it looks). They’re rare, though. Only a few percent of the population respond this strongly.
And many stage hypnotists have a story similar to this:
They line up their eight or so volunteers.
They tell the first to ‘sleep!’…
… and they fall out of their chair.
Then the hypnotist yells ‘sleep!’ to the second… and they flop to the floor too.
Then the third.
Then the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, then eighth. Every one of them softly plops to the floor.
It’s not impossible for all these folks to be natural floppers. But you hear this happen so many times, it’s statistically impossible for it to be chance for all of them.
Which brings me to a model of hypnosis:
It’s all social compliance.
Hypnosis is a real process. Trance states are real mental phenomena. But, so this theory goes, hypnosis only puts people into a trance because they expect it to.
The volunteers see the first subject collapse, so they think that’s what hypnosis does.
Likewise, someone sits on a therapist’s couch, closes their eyes and counts backwards from ten… and that puts them in a trance because they think it will.
It’s not that these people are faking it. They aren’t playing the role of a hypnotic subject. It’s that they’re unconsciously following expectations.
According to the social compliance theory, if you thought eating an apple would put you in a trance, then it will.
And hypnotists can only hypnotise people because they say, with perfect conviction, “when I snap my fingers, you will enter a trance”.
The snap is nothing, but the instruction is everything.
I think there’s a lot to this model of hypnosis. And I think you could hypnotise thousands of people using this idea and nothing else.
People all over the world enter hypnotic trances all the time.
And, yes, sometimes they do it because they expect to. They expect to ‘enter the dreamlands’ when they hear ‘the magic flute’, where the same sound would do nothing for you and I.
But they also enter a trance from other triggers. The right combination of surprise and curiosity will put you in a trance – no matter your background, and even if you expect it won’t.
Besides, there are plenty of folks who are convinced they’re ‘immune’ to hypnosis… or it isn’t real in the first place. Not only can you hypnotise them anyway, it’s usually easy. If it were purely social compliance, then their belief would shut down the trance before it starts.
Social compliance explains a lot… but there’s something universal about the hypnotic experience too. Something that doesn’t care about who you are… just that you’re here, now, and fully human.
Now, social compliance only explains how people enter a trance.
It doesn’t cover what makes people want to.
So I can’t tell you to sign up for a session with me, and expect you to do it.
Not without some convincing first.
That’s why I wrote all about what working with me can do for you. If you want to learn how to quit smoking guaranteed, beat anxiety, or simply use more of your body and mind, then you might want to check this link:
The joke is a pretty standard one:
Ask ten hypnotists what ‘hypnosis’ means and you get 12 answers.
It gets worse than “you know it when you see it”. Folks can’t even agree if hypnosis is a process or a state.
Some folks talk about how clients enter a state of hypnosis.
Others insist that isn’t how it works. Trance is a state… hypnosis is how you get there.
Most of us shrug and say it doesn’t matter. Precise definitions are for academics, teasing apart the irrelevant distinctions. Practitioners solve problems first and wonder about how later.
There’s one thing at least nine of those 12 definitions will have in common:
It’s one of the key ingredients in a hypnotic trance. Some folks go as far as saying it’s the only feature. In fact, that’s the entire definition: hypnosis is putting someone in a more suggestible state, end of story.
If you want to mess with a group of hypnotist, ask them if you can be in a trance and not be more suggestible. They’ll argue back and forth all day if you give them the chance.
My take on it?
The human condition is full of fuzzy states and overlapping boundaries.
Can you feel happy but not smile?
Sad but not cry?
Nostalgic without a sense of loss?
Saying that hypnotic trances always include heightened suggestibility is drawing a firm line in the sand. Scholars love definitive boundaries, but the mind doesn’t really have them.
But, hey, maybe I’m wrong.
And if ‘trance=suggestibility’ is useful to you, that’s better than getting all philosophical about the mind.
Because it’s right, in practice. The way folks use hypnosis is by that sheer power of suggestion.
Now, you might think being suggestible isn’t great. It conjures up all sorts of associations, like naiveté and gullibility.
Put those thoughts to one side, because being suggestible is a superpower.
How many times has someone told you the answer to a major problem in your life… and you ignored them? Then weeks, years or decades later, you stumble onto that truth again and it changes everything.
And how handy would it be to tell yourself what’s what… and for you to listen?
If you could simply believe you’re more confident, no longer a smoker and bursting with energy… doesn’t that make you unstoppable?
Suggestibility isn’t gullibility – a lack of it is stubbornness, rigidity and stagnation.
Of course, it doesn’t pay to believe everything you hear. And that’s the beauty of trance – once it’s over, it’s over. You can go back to listening to the pundits without getting suckered in.
You can enjoy belief when you need it, scepticism when you don’t.
Speaking of, what could you believe more in?
See what hypnosis can do for your world right here: