The Art of Trance

Hypnotist Charlie Curtis

by Charles Curtis

As you know if you’ve practiced it for any length of time, inducing trance is undeniably an art. And some of the best hypnotists in the culture are not hypnotists, but artists, who en-trance us with their art.

Whether it is film, photography, music of various kinds, the spoken word, poetry, prose, dance, chanting or something else, if it engages the subconscious mind artfully, the experiencer will go into a useful trance. In fact, the deeper the trance, the more the experiencer will tell you s/he enjoyed the experience.


An Ericksonian principle is to “utilize” the client’s experience to help you create a better trance experience. What better way to do this than to use the client’s own memory of entrancing experiences s/he has had.

If you can learn what makes these cultural images so compelling, and incorporate this into your own trancework, then you, too, will be entrancing. Being an artist-of-trance pays off, in terms of success in the session, and referrals from a satisfied client.

Learning the art of trance is about learning how to master how to engage the subconscious mind artfully, that is, to absorb it by focusing its attention on something it finds interesting. And since every client finds certain cultural images interesting, when you find out what they are, and invoke them, your clients will go into trance, easily, effortlessly, quickly. Once you learn how to do this, and art-fully fill your speech full of art, your clients will go into trance easily and without a script.


The most enduring and compelling images from the popular culture are all entrancing. For example, year after year, certain Christmas images, songs and symbols never fail to take most of us into a special mood that only comes once a year. Whether our religion gives that experience a special meaning, or we respond strongly to the secular culture, whether we respond more to Silent Night or Silver Bells, in either case, we are instantly transported into a wonderful hypnotic state.

Similarly, wise utterances from Spock and Obi-Wan Kenobi are instantly recognizable, as well as ominous warnings from the Klingons or Darth Vader. The list of cultural images is endless. You only have to look at what is currently popular, and then think about what made it so attractive to so many people, and you will have an endless array of images available to en-trance anyone from those audiences.


As a hypnotist, you can learn to be art-ful, that is, full-of-art. You can utilize popular images directly to convey strong metaphorical messages to the subconscious mind. And you can also learn from observing the cultural experience how these popular images engage the subconscious so strongly, and begin to use these same en-trancing skills in your hypnosis work, so that images of your own, or those you negotiate with your client are equally compelling too.


Why are these cultural images so powerful? They are archetypal in nature, playing on universal themes. They also “paint a picture”, are “music to our ears”, and help us “feel what it’s all about” to help us “get in the mood”. And that’s what you want your client to do, get in the mood, the mood of success, of transformation, and of peace of mind.


While doing the intake, ask the client about what s/he likes in the popular culture. Providing you are familiar enough with what they mention, like “Star Wars” or “Country Line Dancing” or whatever, you will immediately have at hand sensory-images that will cause trance. All you have to ask is “What do you like?” and “Why do you like it?” and they’ll tell you everything you need to induce trance with them.

That’s because when we go into trance, we increase our sensory awareness, in both an inner and outer way. Popular songs and movies increase our sensory awareness, and people find this pleasurable, and so they listen to them over and over, because sensory awareness feels good.

You can easily incorporate this by learning to call attention to the client’s sensory experience, both in general, and in regards to cultural images they have identified as being pleasurable.

Once you learn how to do this, you don’t need scripts any more, as you will automatically know in any situation what to call the client’s attention to, to put him or her into a very nice hypnotic trance.


One of the insights of NLP/Ericksonian work is that a script is not necessary to induce trance. Once one masters basic principles of trance induction, one or two minutes of scriptless mind-flow will induce a useful hypnotic trance every time.

Mastering this skill sets you free forever from the “do I have the right script” question, and also solves the problem of “I’m half way through and this script isn’t working, they’re not in trance, what do I do?”


  1. One of the easiest ways to induce trance every single time is to simply point the client’s attention to his sensory awareness.

  2. Point out specific sensory items, with a pause to give him time to experience what you just said, e.g. “What is the temperature of the air in the room?” “How do your clothes feel against your skin?”

  3. To avoid resistance, do everything as questions, rather than declarative statements, e.g. not “Your feet are relaxing as they rest on the floor” but “How do your feet feel as they rest on the floor?”

  4. Utilize environment sounds and sensations that are peaceful in nature “Is it relaxing to listen to the gentle hum of the air conditioning gently blowing?”

  5. Pick out items your client probably wasn’t paying attention to, separated by pauses “Have you noticed the sensation of the sole of your left foot (pause) and the palm of your right hand (pause) “

  6. And as the client noticeably begins to relax, begin to mix in suggestions of relaxation, again posed as questions so they can’t resist: “And does it seem, as your body begins to relax (pause) that the chair is doing all the work?”

  7. To deepen, add the confusion induction of combinations of NLP Milton Model patterns, one of the simplest being having the end of one sentence be the beginning of another, such as “…statement from 6 (pause) that the chair is doing all the work (pause) isn’t it (pause) wonderful (pause)

  8. And then begin to embed commands in your paused statements, such as “…statement from 7 isn’t it (pause) wonderful (pause) that (pause) (slight emphasis) your body is beginning to relax”

  9. And add “tag questions”, which reduce resistance “statement from 8 “your body is beginning to relax (pause) isn’t it?”


Successful media experiences induce deep trance, without anyone having to stand up front in the theater and say for 10 minutes before the film “Your feet are relaxing…your legs are relaxing…” How can this trance be utilized in sessions?

Artistic satisfaction comes from the right-brain trance it induces. Archetypal images (that is, those that affect large segments of the population) tap into deep wells of feeling, making the resulting social trances deeply satisfying to large numbers of people. If you think back to the most deeply rooted artistic images, they are usually from film or TV, although famous paintings, poems, commercials, and books also cause social trances, especially for certain types of persons.

Because these images tap into such deep feelings, images, and satisfying thoughts, they induce pleasant trance without resistance. This causes these media images to be wildly popular, as they neutralize, at least for a time, the negative unpleasant trances in which so many spend so much time.

Just as your client will have no resistance to positively regressing back to a pleasant vacation (a technique we often use to induce trance and introduce regression in the first session), your client will have no resistance to remembering important scenes from popular films like Star Wars, Star Trek, or TV shows like Friends or Seinfeld. In fact, they will enjoy it, and will feel like they had a wonderful time in their session with you, and will send you referrals, telling friends things like “No, the session wasn’t scary at all, in fact, all we talked about were things like Star Wars, and then I was feeling so relaxed, and then we were done. I don’t even know what he did, but my problem is gone.”

By finding out, during history, what cultural images your client is attuned to, you have a ready-made mother-lode of entrancing images to use in hypnosis sessions. When you combine your client’s favorite images with sensory awareness phrases, you have a can’t-fail induction that draws the client into trance like a magnet.


  1. (What is their favorite of the arts) “What do you do to relax?”. Ex. One person will say “I head right to my nearest bookstore” whereas another will say “I love going to the movies.”

  2. (Pin down the genre) “What kinds of films do you enjoy the most? Ex: “Just about anything, but science fiction mostly.”

  3. (Get an example of the genre) “What is your favorite sci-fi film?” Ex: ” The original Star Wars.”

  4. (Find the entrancing part) “What was the thing about that original Star Wars film that you liked the most?” Ex. “It was all great, but I especially loved the music and the opening scene.”

  5. (Find how it induced trance) “What was it about the opening of that film that was absolutely perfect?” Ex. “As I heard that terrific music, and saw those words scrolling up the screen, and in an instant, it took me out of this world. In fact, I can hear that music in my head again now.”

  6. (Find how the client’s favorite character they admired) “Is there someone in that film you admired, that you wish you could be more like?” Ex: “I wish I had an Obi-Wan Kenobi I could turn to for advice.”


  1. “Think once again of that opening scene, while letting that music play through your mind.” (pause while they deepen their own trance)

  2. “What it would be like of Obi-Wan Kenobi were to be giving you advice, what do you think he would say, hear those words in your mind now.” (pause while they hear wisdom from the wise part of themselves)

  3. “And think of those words scrolling up the screen” (pause) “And as you do, can you image words there telling you of your success in achieving your goal, of how successful you are?”


(Adlibbed introduction) Allowing your eyes to close, and your body to begin to relax, (pause) letting go of anything that was on your mind, anything keeping you from doing the things you wanted to do, being the person you wanted to be, having the things you wanted to have, (pause) letting go of everything that was keeping you in bondage, (pause)

(A minute of pure sensory awareness) How do your feet feel, as they rest in a relaxed position? (Pause) And how do your clothes feel against your skin? (Pause). What is the temperature of the air in the room?

(When you notice the client relaxing, add relaxation suggestions to the mix) “And as you sit in the chair, can you notice what it’s like to let the chair do all the work (pause) of helping you to begin to relax (pause)

(Adding in Milton model patterns of run-on sentences, tag questions and embedded commands) “you can relax (pause) can’t you (pause) begin to feel better than in the past (pause) a good thing to experience (pause) wouldn’t it (pause) be wonderful (pause) to (pause, continue) be the person you want to be

(Continue this intuitively, until you notice from the body language a good trance depth, and then transitioning to the intervention) And it does feel good to relax (pause) doesn’t it (pause). And as you begin to wonder (pause) what it would be like, to become the person you want to be (pause) can you remember the beginning of Star Wars (pause) that magnificent music (pause) that wonderful scene with the words scrolling off the screen (pause) and as you remember this wonderful scene (pause) and slip into this wonderful trance (pause) that feels out of this world (pause) can you see in those words on the screen (pause) words of encouragement (pause) that you can be the person you want to be (pause) and as you hear the wise voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi (pause) telling you what you need to know (longer pause) and remember those words (pause) at every level and depth of your body and mind (pause) as you emerge into normal waking consciousness (pause) take a deep breath and open your eyes. Scripts