On the efficacy of authoritative suggestions

Authoritative suggestions in hypnosis

Is it enough to simply put someone into a trance and then provide them with positive suggestions? Here’s a perspective from Milton Erickson (Quoted in Cheek & Rossi: Mind Body Therapy, p. 14):

The induction and maintenance of a trance serves to provide a special psychological state in which patients can reassociate and reorganize their inner psychological complexities and utilize their own capacities in a manner in accord with their own experiential life. Hypnosis does not change people nor does it alter their past experiential life …

Erickson maintains that direct, or authoritarian, suggestion is based primarily on the assumption that whatever develops in hypnosis derives from the suggestions given:

It implies that the therapist has the miraculous power of effecting therapeutic changes in the patient, and disregards the fact that therapy results from an inner resynthesis of the patient’s behaviour achieved by the patient himself.

It is true, admits Erickson, that direct suggestion can result in a change in the patient’s behaviour and result in a symptomatic cure, at least temporarily. “However, such a ‘cure’ is simply a response to the suggestion and does not entail that reassociation and reorganization of ideas, understanding, and memories so essential for an actual cure.”

For Erickson, the important thing was getting the patient to do their own work – reassociating and reorganizing their inner material in more beneficial ways. Direct, authoritarian suggestions, in which the patient is simply expected to listen and passively absorb new information, is thus seen as having a limited effect.

On the other hand …

It should be noted that Erickson’s comments refer to the use of direct suggestion in the context of attempting to suppress unwanted characteristics. Erickson himself often gave very direct commands, and most hypnotherapists do so as well. There is a time and a place for the direct suggestion, and it would be counter-productive to try and phrase everything in an artfully vague and indirect fashion. The main point of this is that the use of direct suggestion specifically in an attempt to suppress an unwanted characteristic is bound to have limited success. You can’t just put a smoker into a trance and suggest that from now on cigarettes will taste like horse manure. They simply won’t buy it, or if they do it will only be for a few days.

For a helpful discussion on “The myth of the inherent superiority of indirect suggestions”, see Randal Churchill’s excellent Regression Hypnotherapy: Transcripts of Transformation, v.1


References: Mind-Body Therapy: Methods of Ideodynamic Healing in Hypnosis, 1st ed, by Ernest Rossi and David Cheek, W.W. Norton & Company, 1994.

Article source: Editor

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2 Responses to On the efficacy of authoritative suggestions

  1. James October 17, 2015 at 8:49 am #

    I can tell you about the brain as well as what you see what you have in this part about the function of the single electrical signals that goes into the brain I seen those things without even having any kind of machineryI seen the bring light up like a light bulb and I seen all the electrical currents going from one direction to another all through an hour and then and under and all around the brain as of electrical currents electrical lightning a little bit of sparkling intergenic lights off good is just amazing and it came out of my face and my eyes and I can see behind my eyes my school and my face as it was completely a skeletonI was just flabbergasted over all that and I told doctor about it is when you kind of weirdI also know my left eye has a problem with it with the black specks call floatersin a little bit lights of flashessometimes they become like flash bulbsI like to call it sometimes paparazzismy doctor has told me that I have seen quite a lot of good things over my past I’m on my lifeanswer my head by my left ear I have like a buzzing so I have like a buzz going on all the timedoctor said I have to get used to itbut like I said about the brain that was amazing that one night and it was not too long but it was amazing thing.to see that from inside it was somethinghave any other electrical current things like that no but had few other kind of things that happen in stages that was somethingunusualit was like electrical current was going from top my head to the soles of my feet back up all through my body and up to my head and just continuously giving me such a electrical current of energy I could not move I could not do anything but I have a clear conscience of what was everything around me and my eyes were just light it up like lightswhen I have read a lot of yogis have tried get to that area but for me it just happened I’ve had all kinds of things happen to me in different wayscan like your stuff about this Auto something other suggestion is it can Ihow to that,psycho commandpowerif you haventhe book page 98 will tell you rest of storyI had that booklike that great acactorsaid I’m not a freak but I like the freakdennis

  2. James October 17, 2015 at 8:56 am #

    hey so much words in that is not even right I did not say that kind of word skullit’s not schoolyour part when I told the doctor he looked at me kind of weird

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