Inductions a’la Tebbetts 2010

Hypnotist C, Roy Hunter

by C. Roy Hunter

Charles Tebbetts, referred to as a “Grand Master” teacher of hypnosis, taught that we can categorize virtually all hypnotic inductions into six basic induction types.

These are: eye fixation, progressive relaxation (or fatigue of nervous system),mental confusion, mental misdirection, loss of equilibrium, and shock tonervous system. He taught various induction techniques for all the categories, requiring his students to practice all of them in order to fit the technique tothe client.

I’ll summarize them here as described in Chapter 5 of my text, The Art of Hypnosis (Crown House Publishing, 3rd ed., 2010):eye fixation, relaxation and imagery, mental confusion, mental misdirection, loss of equilibrium, and shock to nervous system. Let’s overview each one…

Induction Type #1: Eye Fixation

Most hypnotic inductions portrayed by Hollywood show some method of eye fixation. Any induction which has someone staring at a candle, gazing at a spoton the wall, or following a moving object such as a swinging watch or spinning crystal or spiral, etc., is an example of eye fixation. The fixed-gaze inductions so popular in the 19th Century were examples of eye fixation.

Tebbetts taught that induction sdepending solely on eye fixation or eye fascination had a higher than average failure rate. My personal experience is that I fail to respond to eye fixation methods myself, as I am auditory and kinesthetic, but not very visual.

Some people have wrongly been told that they are “insusceptible” because they resist eye fixation techniques the same way I do. (I can go very deep with some techniques and be unresponsive with others.)

Tebbetts still, nonetheless, used to give his students an induction utilizing eye fixation along with eye-closure suggestions on their first night in Basic Hypnosis. He felt that every hypnotist should at least know how to use eye-fixation techniques for the benefit of clients who respond to them. His original script is reproduced in The Art of Hypnosis.

Type #2: Relaxation and Imagery

All induction techniques which simply have the client physically and mentally relax with his/her eyes closed use relaxation as one of the building blocks.

Tebbetts referred to this asprogressive relaxation (or fatigue of nervous system). He considered it to be aslow, boring induction; but I prefer to call it relaxation and imagery, becausemany hypnosis professionals use imagery along with a relaxing induction.

All progressive (or fractional) relaxation techniques fit into this category, as well as guided imagery inductions requiring no physical response on the part of the client during the induction(other than to breathe slowly and relax). Successful use of an induction using relaxation alone normally requires both client cooperation and artistic use of your voice.

Most everyone acquainted with hypnosis or meditation has heard a variation of progressive (or fractional)relaxation at one time or another. It is a matter of personal preference whether you start from the feet up, or from the head down. Guided imagery is frequently used by facilitators of group meditations. Often such meditations, whether used privately or in groups, rely heavily on visualizing, making the false assumption that everyone will find it easy to imagine seeing a stream ora beach, etc. If you use guided imagery, it’s a good idea to find out first whether or not your client is visual, auditory, or kinesthetic, so that you may structure your guided imagery accordingly.

When I use imagery with a group, I include sights, sounds and feelings in the imagery. For example, while a visual person could visualize the beach, an auditory person might find it much easier to imagine the sound of ocean waves; and someone who is kinesthetic would most likely feel the breeze and/or the sand beneath bare feet, and so on.

Type #3: Mental Confusion

Any technique designed to confuse the conscious mind can induce the hypnotic state once the critical faculty is bypassed, or the moment of passivity occurs. This type of inductionis called mental confusion. While the conscious mind is trying to find thelogic in what is being said or done, suggestions are given to the subconscious mind to deepen the state of hypnosis.

Tebbetts taught two examples ofmental confusion, and I’ll discuss both…

The first involved instructing the client to close his/her eyes on even numbers and open them on odd numbers(or vice versa) as the hypnotist counts either forwards or backwards. As you start counting, watch for watering or redness in the whites of the eyes. When either of these begins, start pausing longer when the eyes are closed, and hastening when the eyes should be open. You may add words such as, “It becomes easy to forget, difficult to remember, whether your eyes should be open or closed…and as you remember to forget to remember, or remember to forget,open or closed, odd or even, you just find yourself going deeper intohypnosis…” At the first sign of hesitation, start skipping some numbers. This helps create more mental confusion, as in the first example:

The other mental confusion technique that Charlie taught involved having the client count out loud backwards from 100, one number per breath. We may then suggest that the client simply”relax the numbers right out of your mind.” The client’s conscious mind gets occupied with saying the numbers verbally while the subconscious is simultaneously hearing hypnotic suggestions. “Any time you forget a number, or repeat a number, or skip a number, or say two numbers in thesame breath, you DOUBLE the hypnosis or TRIPLE the trance…” etc.

Also, it’s quite probable thatthe above technique evolved from a similar technique described by Dr. JohnHughes as “John Hartland’s Eye-Fixation with Distraction Induction”(pages 74 – 75 of Hypnosis: the Induction of Conviction), which incorporates eye-fixation as well.

Drake Eastburn wrote his own creation of a mental confusion induction, which he calls the “Chaos Induction,”and it is a classic!

Type #4: Mental Misdirection

Mental misdirection is hypnotizing by conviction with use of any suggestibility test or a hypnotic “convincer” involving dramatic use of the imagination.

While mental confusion is designed to confuse the conscious mind until it becomes easier to just relax and let go, mental misdirection is any technique which incorporates a physical response as a result of something that is suggested and imagined.

The only example of mental misdirection that Charles Tebbetts taught was a simple eye catalepsy technique which has the client close his/her eyes and roll the eyeballs upwards underclosed eyelids, looking at an imaginary moon through an open window in the top of the forehead. Then the client is told, “Try to open your eyes and find they just want to stay closed, and this is hypnosis coming on…” If the client successfully opens the eyes, then another technique should be used immediately without any conversation or obvious concern on your part.

My personal experience with this technique is that it is acceptable for most people who are visual; but it is not very effective with people who are primarily auditory, nor is it wise to use with a client who has sensitive eyes. (I personally found myself experiencing a headache after this technique was used on me when I was in training!)

I created my own example of mental misdirection using a suggestibility test which incorporates suggestions that one can respond to whether he/she is visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. It involves having the client imagine holding an imaginary bucket in one hand(filling up with water), and holding 100 helium balloons with the other hand. I give suggestions for the clients to release themselves into hypnosis when they release the bucket or the balloons.

Type #5: Loss of Equilibrium

Mothers use this method to rock their children to sleep. This built-in desire to rock never seems to leave many of us, as is evidenced by the frequent desire to rock when we sit in a rocking chair. Charles Tebbetts did not teach any induction technique that incorporated only loss of equilibrium, but he frequently used this induction type as one oftwo building blocks for what he called the rapid induction.

Type #6: Shock to Nervous System

If a person imagines he/she canbe hypnotized, believes he/she can be hypnotized, and expects to be hypnotized,and is convinced that you will induce hypnosis, then a sudden surprise commandgiven in a paternal manner will result in instant hypnosis.

Tebbetts taught two “rapid induction” techniques that he learned from Gil Boyne, which combined eyefixation, loss of equilibrium and shock to the nervous system. One of them had the client standing up during the actual induction. I discarded this technique altogether before 1990. The second Tebbetts rapid induction technique involves gently swaying the client by the shoulders while giving suggestions to relax; then dropping the client backwards into a recliner while giving a sudden “SLEEP” command.

I normally reserve this rapid induction method only for a client who is resistant to most other inductions but has convinced me of his/her sincerity in wanting to be hypnotized. I have also used this a few times with children who have short attention spans, as well as with the occasional client who requests a quick induction.

Another one I occasionally useis to hand a client a 1-ounce silver coin and have him/her hold the coin in the palm of the hand, with the arm stretched out from the arm of the chair. Th eclient imagines the coin getting colder or heavier as I count backwards, with the idea of dropping into instant hypnosis when the coin drops to the floor. At the precise moment the coin drops, I say, “DEEP HYPNOSIS…” and follow up immediatel ywith deepening techniques.

Someone previously hypnotizedmay be given a post-hypnotic suggestion for an instant induction. This could be considered a unique technique that does not fit into any of the six basic types described in this chapter, thus making it virtually a seventh type of and by itself. However, my own opinion is that we may also consider ita “sudden surprise” and therefore categorized this as shock to the nervous system. Since I teach hypnosis as an art more than a science, it makes no difference to me how this technique is categorized. You decide.

VOICE: Your Greatest Tool

In virtually every hypnotic induction the hypnotist uses, voice is the single most important tool. Some researchers advocate speaking in a monotone voice, but I usually vary my voice in pitch and volume, and emphasize certain words with feeling. Since hypnosis is at least as much an art as it is a science, I believe that puttingartistic feeling into both voice and style can make a big difference in the degree of client enjoyment, responsiveness, and appreciation of the trance experience. I save the monotone for rare occasions calling for it, such as when asking finger response questions.


Whenever you intend to use touch techniques at ANY time during hypnosis, ask permission before you ever begin the induction. The easiest way to ask, keeping it positive, is by saying,”Are you comfortable being touched?” If the client grants permission, make certain to avoid touching in a way that could in any way be misconstruedas sensual. If you begin the induction without asking that question, avoid the use of any touch techniques through out the entire session!

What Induction Is Best Most of the Time?

Thisbrings us to a question often asked over the years: what induction is best formost of the people most of the time? The answer is simple: the one you like best.

I practice and teach diversified client-centered hypnosis. This means that Inormally fit the technique to the client rather than vice versa. Occasionally aclient requests a particular type of induction, and I honor that client’s wish.However, most clients are willing to respond to whatever induction is used, sowhy not use the one you like best?

If you master your favorite induction with competence and confidence, it will beconveyed to your client both consciously and subconsciously. Sometimes I’veactually witnessed clients entering hypnosis spontaneously just listening to mypreinduction talk. That being said, there will always be the occasional clientwho fails to respond to your normal induction, so it is wise to master severaldifferent ones. My advice to my students is to master their favorite inductionPLUS one rapid induction as well as one mental confusion induction. If yourfavorite induction is a rapid one or a mental confusion technique, then masteran additional one for occasional use.

In my professional opinion, every hypnotist should master at least one rapid induction, because you never know when it might become useful.

Improve Your Skills

When I studied under Tebbetts in 1983, we often practiced various induction techniques in the classroom and in the halls outside the classroom. Charlie (ashe wished to be called) normally walked around observing us as we hypnotized each other, and his observations often influenced the next class. He said something that I repeat to all my hypnosis students: If you wish to master an art, there is no substitute for practice!

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