Milton Erickson’s power of influence was legendary. He was considered the greatest innovator of hypnosis and became famous for his unique hypnotic methods. He could put people into a hypnotic trance just by shaking hands.
What Erickson understood was that while speaking to a client at a conscious level, they were also listening at an unconscious level.
To illustrate the conscious mind from the unconscious mind, let’s point out your own conscious and unconscious experience. Right now your immediate conscious experience is of the words on this page and their meaning. Your unconscious experience contains your surroundings, various noises, bodily sensations, and so on (that is, they were unconscious until I brought them into your conscious experience). A good metaphor is that your conscious mind is like a marble that is floating in the ocean, which represents your unconscious mind.
So if I say to you, how soon you will fully realize that you are sitting here comfortably, reading the words on this page, and you are going into a deep trance only as quickly as your unconscious mind wants, you can understand that I may be making sense to your conscious mind, but there are parts of that sentence that are speaking directly to your unconscious mind.
Just how deep is that trance you are in? 🙂
In the language of hypnosis, the conscious mind is your critical mind. It is logical, linear, and analytical. The unconscious mind (also called the subconscious mind) is creative and non-linear. In neurophysiological terms, the conscious mind (Beta consciousness) would show up on an EEG graph as small, rapid, up-and-down lines. There is little fluctuation in the level of energy. When you alter your mental state with hypnosis, meditation, or as it happens naturally when you are crossing over into sleep, your brain wave levels shift to the unconscious (Alpha or Theta). In these states, there is a large fluctuation in the level of energy.
Large fluctuations of energy can cause your mental structure (all your past thoughts, actions, experiences, and learning) to break apart and reorganize itself. That’s why suggestions given to an individual while in an Alpha or Theta state (the unconscious mind) are so effective in creating changes in behavior. The new suggestion, dropped into the uneven Alpha rhythms like a pebble in a pond, creates a ripple effect through the stretched brain waves, tearing apart old programming and creating new behaviors and viewpoints.
OK, enough tech-talk. Simply put, our goal in Hypnotic Influence is to structure our communication to reach the listener’s unconscious mind so that we can influence behavior.
Let’s give a real world example you can sink your teeth into. As you are consciously reading these words on this page, there are various stimuli going on all around you. Your unconscious mind is recording the entire experience while your conscious mind has a very limited experience. Since language can have multiple layers of meaning, your conscious mind will respond to the surface meaning while your unconscious mind will respond to the deeper meaning.
The deeper level of language is where Hypnotic Influence takes place.