Application of “The 48 Laws of Power” within a Hypnosis Practice

Hypnotist Steve Roh

by Steve Roh

Hello, I’m happy to offer my latest article for the Banyan Hypnosis E-Zine. This series is intended to help hypnosis professionals by briefly summarizing books from outside of the field, and describing how the information can be applied within a hypnosis practice.

In an earlier article, I summarized “The 50th Law” co-written by 50 Cent and Robert Greene. This time, we will cover an earlier book by Robert Greene: “The 48 Laws of Power”. As mentioned in the earlier article, Greene has become popular by writing a series of books that examine principles of power as they have been expressed through various historical episodes.

We will proceed with the basic assumptions that powerlessness is not a virtue, and that the study of power and manipulation has no inherent moral content. Some folks might disagree, and that’s OK.

Greene freely points out that some of the laws contradict each other, and within each chapter he also provides counter-examples where the law is not valid. This in itself is a refreshing change from the pile of personal development books which claim to reveal the unchanging laws of prosperity and health and wealth… unveiling the secret principles of the universe (now available at Barnes and Noble in paperback!), which if followed consistently and faithfully, must certainly lead to wondrous results. If we saw a client with such tendencies towards absolutist thinking, that would generally be regarded as an unhealthy and maladaptive attitude, would it not?

Greene’s work assumes that you have a brain, and other people around you have brains too, and the interaction and environment that results from each brain’s differing motives, moods and machinations towards self-interested goals are too unpredictable and ever-changing to be approached with rigid wishful thinking.

So I think this book can be valuable in helping to develop a more flexible mindset for the benefit of yourself and your clients — in one sense, to help defend against other people and power structures using these laws to manipulate you, and in another sense, so that you may use these laws as necessary to get what you want.

Of course, with limited time and space, we cannot cover all 48 Laws so we will just pick out a select few:

Law 2 – Never Put too Much Trust in Friends, Learn How to Use Enemies

A common recurring theme when working with confidence-related issues is how many clients still carry the effects of negative experiences from classrooms, schoolyards or lunchrooms. Bullying seems to come in all sizes, surprisingly often from little girls who would rival Josef Stalin in their tyranny and the fear they inspire in their social circles and classroom totem poles. Such an experience seems to aggravate the natural need for approval from others, turning it into an unhealthy underlying obsession.

As human beings and social animals, clients of course have a need to be liked and to have friends. But I think it can be healthy for clients to learn to accept that some percentage of people out there just won’t like them, and that they should not expect that people will not act in own self-interest just because they carry the label of “friend”. Then they can devote more energy to their own interests, and not on seeking conditional approval from others (unless that is what they consciously seek to get, which is a valid pursuit — example being entertainers who enjoy the attention and applause from a great performance).

Fearfulness of being disliked or making an “enemy” is debilitating. But consider Gandhi. Sure, hundreds of millions of people think he was some kind of living saint and a paragon of humanity. Others would think him a fool or worse because of his lifestyle and his philosophies and some of the controversial statements he made. Billions of people couldn’t care less about him and would probably make fun of him for being some skinny brown dude with glasses who went around wearing a sheet. And many people downright hated him… in fact, enough to murder him. So what does that say about being liked or disliked, or having friends or enemies? After all, if people react negatively to someone like Gandhi and his achievements, what the heck are our clients supposed to do in order to win approval from others?

In his efforts to liberate India from colonial rule, certainly Gandhi expected to make some people upset and make enemies. But he didn’t let that stop him. Being “liked” did not seem to be high on his list of priorities.

I think this law can also help hypnotists who are hesitant to go all-out and vigorously offer their services to the public. It seems there is quite a lot of fear out there, about offending other practitioners or making them upset by threatening them as a new competitor in the marketplace. The people who are worried about upsetting existing practitioners are probably the people who would be upset by competition. Still, it may be a good thing that timid certificate holders are unwilling to do the work, since it prevents them from working with the public.

Also, most certificate holders who continue to dither about doing the work seem focused more on expanding their circle of hypnotic friends and networking with them. That’s nice, but it is a distraction. This tendency seems to be because of a desire to be part of a supportive group of people with shared interests regarding the Subconscious Mind, inductions, language patterns, etc. Unfortunately that is not the same set of people who could be helped with hypnosis (and it is often not even the same set of people who actually DO hypnosis).

In the movie “Donnie Brasco” there is a relevant quote that goes something like “I know you like him, and you think he’s your friend, and you think he’s helping you, but he’s hurting you.” Don’t allow a desperate desire to be liked stop you from doing what’s in your best interest, and from seeing that other people have their own interests to look after.

Law 3 – Conceal Your Intentions

This is a good law to keep in mind when working with clients. It’s not about misleading or lying. It is about only revealing enough about the hypnotic process to the extent which doesn’t interfere with it, and only revealing things when the timing is right, for the benefit of the client.

In the context of hypnotic change-work, I think this law relates to the differing opinions people can have about whether or not to inform the client about the nature of some of the techniques involved. There is one specific type of technique, however, where I think it is very necessary to conceal the intent until the client is guided to the point of no return — any technique involving forgiveness.

The problem with forgiveness as a concept is that it is so overloaded and can be easily misunderstood without the proper preparation leading up to the point where the client is offered the choice of forgiving an offender. Imagine a case where the hypnotist begins the session by announcing: “Today, we are going to try to get you to forgive the person who hurt you most.” That is inviting a response like: “What??? No way… why should I do that for that jerk?” Then it turns into a conscious dialogue about trying to “convince” the client to forgive. Why make things harder for everyone? If forgiveness is presented properly at the right time, it will be the almost inevitable choice, no matter how heinous or offensive the offense.

Law 3 – Always Say Less Than Necessary

This is a law that I struggle with personally, when working with clients (and sometimes when writing e-zine articles). Good, simple work done succinctly can be of more benefit to clients than a hypnotist rambling on and possibly saying something that would undo good suggestions. There seems to be a part of the mind as a hypnotist that is needing to say something, anything… just to fill up time and space, even if it is not necessarily best for the client experience. It seems counterintuitive for a hypnotist who helps people by communication, to purposely talk less. But I do know that often I have gone further than needed and perhaps left the client with more of a confused, befuddled experience of “what the heck is he babbling on about?”, when instead the session could have been wrapped up nicely with a few short suggestions. Something to be on guard against!

Law 8 – Make Other People Come to You, Use Bait if Necessary

This is a good law for hypnotists who want to attract clients — not “get” clients. The idea of trying to get clients causes a funny feeling inside, so don’t do it. It is like fishing, you can either try to chase a fish around and hopefully grab it, or you can lay bait that is appealing to the fish and then reel them in. Forcing them to act first in order to become a client causes them to think it was their idea, and none of that icky “selling” is required.

Law 11 – Learn to Keep People Dependent on You

This is one law that I have a strong aversion to, but I understand why it is included among the laws. I cannot stand the idea of people being dependent and needy… so the last thing I want are clients who are dependent upon me. But in the personal development field it is a common theme to “sell people on the idea of independence, but covertly breed dependence”. This is just something to be aware of because I think especially in the hypnosis field, it seems people can be strung along into taking an endless series of courses or workshops, with the promise that this next course will finally lead to confidence and success.

(This of course is not a general indictment of continuing education in the form of workshops and training, etc.)

Law 19 – Know Who You’re Dealing With, Do Not Offend the Wrong Person

This law applies to the hypnotic field because the nature of the work can attract the Wrong Person. And there are definitely people who are the Wrong Person to attract. There is not enough attention given to the risks involved with carelessly taking on all clients without considering their suitability, especially for most of us who are not licensed mental-health care professionals. The problem with this line of work is that by the time a practitioner realizes they are in over their heads, then it could be too late. Extricating yourself from an unhealthy or unsuitable client relationship can be very tricky.

It is not as easy as telling a client: “Gee, I don’t think I can help you anymore. Here’s a referral to someone else.” You do not ever want to hear the response: “Oh. I guess I really am hopeless. You were my last chance. Goodbye.”

And you probably do not want to start getting calls (or visits to your home) at 3AM from clients who are freaking out.

I think this subject of client suitability is not given nearly enough attention, given the risks involved. I suspect that is because most practitioners are struggling just to find clients to work with in the first place. But it is something that should be at the front of every hypnotist’s mind when consulting with a potential new client. It would be good if training courses placed more emphasis on this issue.


Well, I am running out of time to submit this article. I hope you got something useful from this article, or at least it entertained you for a little while. “The 48 Laws of Power” is a thought-provoking book which might not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s nice to sample something other than the micro-waved fish sticks that seem form the bulk of self-development material on the bookshelves. Check it out, and you will find that many of the laws may be personally repellant, but provide interesting insight into many aspects of society.

© 2010 Steve Roh Scripts