Hypnotist Shaun Brookhouse

by Shaun Brookhouse

“Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot, but the Grinch who lived just north of Whoville did not…”(Seuss, 1957)

For most of you who read this offering should recognise the above quote. Why? Because it is one of the most famous introductions to one of the most famous modern Christmas stories. Christmas, for many of us holds certain fond memories from our childhood. Christmas is anchored in many of us as a pleasant time to just enjoy family and fun. This anchoring makes the use of metaphors completely relevant in the hypnotic context. Metaphors are a key component to Ericksonian Hypnotism and in my view one of the most creative parts of all hypnotism.

Often with hypnosis we attempt to elicit a variety of states in our clients; more often than not these are positive states. Metaphors assist the hypnotist to elicit these states in a way that we are all accustomed to. Remember, for many clients there is a natural concern or fear relating to hypnosis; metaphors make it easier to guide the client into hypnosis.

Metaphors are not just stories for the sake of it. There are two different types of metaphors that can be used effectively by hypnotists: deep structure and surface structure.

Deep structure metaphors are stories which are told in which the meaning and purpose of the story is not obvious based on the plot. An example of this is the story of the Wizard of Oz. I often tell this story to explain the hypnotic process in that the hypnotist is an ordinary man who had insight which made it possible for him to assist Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion to achieve their goals. Now the beauty of deep structure metaphor is that everyone can take whatever meaning they wish from it. In that, the hypnotist is not trying to direct the client, but is letting the client make his or her own way, based on their own cognitive process.

Surface structure metaphors are useful as well. These stories tend to have an obvious point. Case studies tend to be a common example of this; “A client of mine had a similar issue……..” This helps to foster both rapport as well as allows the client to ease into the hypnotic experience as others have done previously.

Whilst metaphor is an effective way of inducing/deepening a trance, it can also be an effective way to deliver helpful suggestions. This method of delivery is referred to as indirect suggestion. This means that the suggestions are implied rather than stated absolutely. This method of trance was favoured by Erickson in the later part of his life. The following is a reasonable formula which should help you to design metaphors which are unique to the client:

The major purpose of a metaphor is to pace and lead a client’s behavior through a story. The basic steps to generate a metaphor are as follows:

  1. Identify the client’s issues

  2. How does the client manifest their issue

  3. What choices andor resources are needed

  4. Establish appropriate resources which a client can utilise throughout the story


  1. Remove personal references to the client. The client should not appear in the story, but have a character represent him/her and others relevant to their issues

  2. Create a story which mirrors the client’s situation without making a direct link

  3. Have a way for the client to access the resources he/she might need.

  4. Finish the story so that the characters in the story come up with an effective resolution, in other words give the client a happy ending.

  5. Keep your resolution as ambiguous as necessary or be specifically vague, it is not the hypnotist’s responsibility to tell the client what to do, only to make the space necessary for the client to come up with their own resolution.

Metaphors bridge the gap to new resources and choices. Metaphors allow clients to move from present state to desired state seemlessly. Both clients and hypnotists need to realise that there is a difference between the client’s present state and desired state. Metaphors facilitate the necessary movement for the client to self actualise. Scripts