Hypnotic Responsiveness Definition


Many people tend to associate hypnosis with a man who waves around a clock subjecting the patient to slavery to the master (hypnotizer). However, modern hypnosis is anything but. Subjects are lured into a trance like state. This sub-conscious state drives the patient being hypnotized towards a point of extreme suggestibility, relaxation and heightened imagination. The subject is not sleeping and is alert all the time (Yapko, 1994). One can compare it to day dreaming if anything. The whole point of the exercise is to tune the patients stimuli towards one single point rather than having his or her thoughts wander aimlessly. All other thoughts are automatically subdued in this state and focus is intently held on the subject at hand.

Discussing the three main states a person is in; suggestibility, relaxation and heightened imagination, we notice a few common traits (Yapko, 1994). When a person is extremely suggestible, this means that when the hypnotist tells the patient something, that patient will be most likely to accept the idea immediately and completely. Because the patient’s worries seem to go away for the time being, the patient feels relaxed and calm throughout the experience.

Finally, the heightened imagination is like playing pretend. Except at an entirely new and higher level. The day dreaming experience is so intense, that imagination of the patient seems to take control. A person can end up feeling his or her day dream (Hewwit, 2002).

Hypnotherapy is used to help people psychologically. The conscious mind is easy to cure than the sub conscious. A lot of our psychological problems exist in our subconscious that is difficult to infiltrate. Hypnosis subdues the conscious and awakens the sub conscious. This allows hypnotists to peer into the deep workings of a brain of the patient involved (Yapko 1994). Through this method, many patients come to peace with worries, or other traumatic experiences that they once experience in their lives that left a scar in their personalities. It helps people over come fears, mental disease and allows them to be more focused in reality. Removal of critical faculty that separates the conscious and unconscious minds so that a person has access to their full mental capacity is known has Hypnosis.

Difference between authoritarian and permissive styles

The authoritarian approach is the induction of the trance like state on any individual by someone else. So to call, a hypnotist. The subject willfully allows the hypnotist to drive the subjects into a state of he or she desires. The subject simply responds to the suggestions of the hypnotist. It is also referred to as the stage approach (Olness, 1996).

The other approach used is the standardized approach. One set method of hypnosis is used on all subjects to measure levels of hypnotizability (Hewwit, 2002). This approach uses the permissive style of hypnotic suggestion.

The difference between the two techniques is that authoritarian is more commanding. The permissive style gives suggestions to the subject in a covert way so that the subject can choose the intended response, unlike that with the authoritarian approach (Hewwit, 2002).

Practice of authoritarian style

I had an opportunity to apply the authoritarian style on one of my friends a few days back. I felt in control of the situation because I was the one directing the subject towards the point that he wanted to be. His state of mind was directly under my influence but I felt I could not make him do anything he did not want to.

He was in control but was being led by me towards the point that he wanted to be at. I directed the conversation entirely (Olness, 1996). For instance, when I wanted him to relax, I would comment like;

“Let your arms freely glide against the air. Now hold them still as if they do not exist”.

Such commands were directly followed by my subjects. The responses I received were limited in the sense that the subject was being directed towards something (Sommers, 1992). The number of outcomes of his responses was limited by my questions and there was little room for improvisation. When I told the subject;

“Imagine you are running down a green hill, dropping towards the bottom, how do you feel?”

The response was very simple. The subject responded to the question with the same thought that I was influencing. He referred to his state as relaxation and carefree. The subject could not divulge further or discuss anything else as he was only liable to entertain the situation I had created for him.

Practice of permissive style

When I practiced the permissive style on another subject, she was particularly responsive. I could tell the difference easily because the range of responses she had to offer was far more different and diverse as compared to my experience with the authoritarian style.

Instead of directing the subject towards one particular area, I would leave room for options. For instance, when I said;

“You will feel our arm getting lighter. Which one is it, the left or the right?”

This allowed me a bit more freedom to experience the reaction of the subject because I gave her a choice.

Furthermore, when I asked “why” to the above question, the respondent varied her response greatly. She was free to answer in whichever way she wanted. When in a deep trance, I tried to explore the depth of the subject. I asked questions as to what was keeping her from being relaxed. Instead of telling her to relax, I asked her why she was relaxed or why not. This allowed me to gain deep insight as my subject revealed to me how her grandfather had died while she was out of country in the summer. She could not get over the death because she could not meet him before he died, nor on the funeral. Through a deeper state of trance, I allowed her to experience a moment with her grandfather which she particularly enjoyed and then could relax.

Strategies of induction

The two subjects that I had had one phenomenal difference. The male subject was resistant to hypnotization. He refused to accept my directions a lot of the times and I had to induce him keeping in mind the “resistance” strategy (Hammond, 1990).

The female patient was more confused and wanted to find a way out. With a lot of anguish, pain and fear in her subconscious, it was hard for her to divert attention to where I wanted to bring her. Therefore, with her I used the “confusion” concept.


The male subject was hard to direct towards hypnotization. In such a situation, I understood that I had to bring my subject to agree on something before the others (Olness 1996). With subjects like these, it is imperative to find a suggestion that they will most likely agree on and then take it from there to the next level. With this subject, he was particularly afraid of falling. I convinced him that a child learns to crawl before he can walk. And while crawling a child falls many times. At this point, he agreed. He agreed that falling comes before getting up, rather than after. After this level, I asked him a simple question;

“Why do we fall? (Hammond, 1990)”

He simply replied, “So we can learn to pick ourselves up”.

My experiences with this form of strategy were difficult. It was hard to find a point where a person would agree with you on given the level of susceptibility in his or her mind. After thoroughly examining my patient, I realized what his real fear was. Until that revelation, I had no clue as to how I would get him to agree and on what.


In the midst of anguish, pain and suffering, many people fail to reach the hypnotized state. As with my girl subject, the fact that she could not get over her grandfathers death would not allow her to move on. She was hung up on that issue subconsciously and failed to experience life. Isolated with her immediate family, she refused to do anything or experience anything new that would lead to her being away from her loved ones. This had led her into a life of self confinement and solitude.

The problem I was facing was how to get her into a trance. I realized that I had to use the pattern breaking technique. I shook her hand gently and broke off in between. In such circumstances where an event has no middle and the subject is accustomed to it deeply, such mid way interruptions can leave the subjects in a state of suspension (Sommers, 1992). The mind fails to recognize the new behavior for a moment and waits for new direction and continuation. Instead of telling her what was happening, I let her experience the broken handshake to induce her into a moment of self recollection. My subject was forced to go into a trance to identify the new type of behavior.

This led me to peer into her sub conscious mind far more easily than I would have been able to do otherwise. The experience was excellent. I experienced how habitual and unnoticeable our daily actions are. However, the slight change in them causes us to wonder and ponder deeply.

Through this technique, every time she would enter a trance, I would begin diverting her attention towards her past. By creating a situation in which I could easily influence her to remember the exact time she met her grandfather last, I could fix her longing that she felt to meet her grandfather.

Upon leading her towards a point where she could recollect memories of her last experience with her grandfather, she started speaking as if she was speaking to him. Explaining herself and the circumstance that led her to miss her funeral. As if she was talking to herself. At this point I let her diverge into her own thoughts and experience her recollection as vividly as she could.


Hammond, D. C. (1990). Handbook of Hypnotic Suggestions and Metaphors. W.W. Norton & Co.

Hewwit, W. (2002). Hypnosis for Beginners: Reach New Levels of Awareness & Achievement. Llewellyn Publications.

Olness, K.(1996). Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy with Children. The Guilford Press.

Sommers, C.(1992). Conversational Hypnosis: A Manual of Indirect Suggestion. Sommer Solutions.

Yapko, M. D.(1994). Essentials Of Hypnosis. Routledge.