Covert Hypnosis includes messages (environmental, nonverbal and verbal) that create change in the mind of another or a group without the awareness of the other person or group. These messages can be sent with intention or accidentally but the unconscious mind responds regardless of intention. Three quick examples will help you understand what covert hypnosis before discussing how to use covert hypnosis for mind body healing.
Environmental: All behavior is contextual to some point. We behave differently in a church (reverently) than a library (quietly). We behave differently in a class room (studiously) than we do at a football game (boisterously). Our emotions are different at a funeral parlor (grief) than they are at a baby shower (joyous). You are far more likely to speak out in a group of five people, for example, than a group of 500 people. Behaviors can be influenced by the setting and/or context in which they are taking place.
Verbal: All behavior is influenced by spoken communication to some point. People respond to the words we say in some fashion. The response differs from person to person and context to context and is also influenced by the nonverbal communication of the sender and receiver. (This is why the results of using scripts in therapy are so across the board from client to client for therapists who use such tools. They only account for verbal communication.) The language we use, the intonation of our voice, the pace of our communication and the actual word choices all cause some experience in your clients. The experience could be heightened resistance or increased probability of compliance depending on all of the other variables mentioned here.
Nonverbal: All behavior is influenced by nonverbal communication to some point. The client’s nonverbal behavior influences himself and the therapist in ways that are rarely noted consciously by the therapist. For example: The client may have a very closed body posture and the therapist picks up on this at the unconscious level. The therapist processes this information unconsciously as a sign of the client not liking the therapist. The astute therapist could pursue this nonverbal information. The distracted therapist will never know the difference. Additionally and probably more importantly is the effect of the therapist’s nonverbal behavior on the client. Does the therapist smile at the client? Does the therapist have an open posture toward the client? Does the therapist nod in affirmation of the client’s presenting issues? Is the eye contact appropriate to the setting? These are all basic examples of how communication is altered by the covert nonverbal messages of the therapist.
Mind Body Connection: The mind body connection is now a simple fact of life. There are thousands of studies that show that the brain influences the body and the body influences the brain. Here are some examples of the thousands of examples that are in the Mind Body Home Study Course:
- Exercise improves some kinds of depression.
- The number of friends a person has can lengthen life of some cancer patients, reduce depression, and lengthen life of people without current health issues.
- When people are consciously aware of what they are eating they tend to eat less and thus reduce risk for diabetes, depression and obesity.
- Hostility increases the risk of heart disease.
- Meditation increases the immune response.
- SSRI medications decrease and regularly cure depression in the majority of individuals.
- The more control a person believes they have in the healing process the more likely they are to improve from some kinds of illnesses.
- Individuals who are assigned a friend in research on depression find that mild depression is alleviated in 12 weeks when the sufferer meets with her new friend each week for one hour. (Note this is mild and not severe depression.)
As you can see the brain doesn’t cure the body in all cases. Nor does the body mend the brain in all cases, but the influence of each on the other is clear. The connection between mind and body is a fact.
As a therapist there is no doubt in my mind that there is little you can do that is more important than becoming a new “rock” in a person’s life. In the era of brief therapy (6-12 sessions) it is certainly difficult for therapists to establish the true long term relationship that is so helpful in creating permanent change in people’s hearts and minds. Nevertheless, people suffering from chronic pain, chronic illness, depression, anxiety and a host of diseases can still benefit from your love and compassion on a short term basis.
Becoming a rock in someone’s life means that you are a stabilizing influence to them. You listen to their problems and help them talk about their issues. You accept them without judging their plight, their decisions and who they are. You do not judge or try to change their spiritual beliefs. You do not interject your beliefs into their lives. You simply listen…which is virtually synonymous with love.
The human animal has evolved to NEED physical and emotional connection with others. Although society has all but taken away our right to touch our clients (sexual misconduct, etc.) it has not taken away our right to emotionally connect with our clients and it is here that we can create fundamental long term change in our client. The compassionate practitioner is the successful practitioner. Greater than any technique or tool, the therapist who truly creates an atmosphere of loving understanding with their clients is the one who is most likely to gain the greatest long term results. In fact, I often speculate to my advanced certification course participants whether our jobs would be necessary if friends and family of our clients listened with love to our clients.
How do you use covert hypnosis to help the mind heal the body and the body heal the mind?
Covert hypnosis is subtle influence. I suggest you subtly create pre hypnotic suggestions that encourage the client to make critical changes in their life which will optimize their chances for healing. I also suggest you utilize some of these covert suggestions after any trance that is done in your office. Two or three suggestions per session are all it takes to make a difference if you are perceived as an authority in your field. If you are not, no amount of suggestion will significantly impact your client to any significant degree.
“I can see you walking one or two miles per day but I’m not sure I can see you in the gym, at least not yet.” The covert suggestion for light exercise like walking will add years to your client’s life and when suffering from some kinds of depression may just save your clients life. A few subtle covert hints at walking could just change the quality of your clients life forever. Walking as noted earlier can help reduce the effects of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, not to mention lower blood pressure and, well, you get the idea.
“Not only do I see you feeling less depressed in the future, I see someone who sticks to their medication religiously, takes walks and begins reconnecting with old friends and loved ones that make you feel good…” As you can see, in one simple suggestion we touch on the three most likely things to help a person resume a normal life from depression. (Medication, exercise and heart connections) The key is to phrase that last part correctly. You don’t want your client spending time with just anyone. You want your client investing their life-time with people who MAKE THEM FEEL GOOD inside. This is the great healing force. The love of other people, of a person’s friends literally creates longer life spans and reduces the devastation of many major illnesses of the body and brain.
“I’m not sure I can see you giving up donuts and rolls forever or entirely, but I do see you beginning to eat foods that will make you feel better BEFORE you eat the rolls and donuts…” People will not respond well to you taking away their favorite foods and in fact it isn’t legal for you to prescribe such a course of action without a medical degree. However, to covertly suggest eating foods like cantaloupe, spinach and healthy alternatives before eating their daily regiment of junk food will probably be enough to start a person on a healthy habit that could completely change their life in just a few months!
In the Covert Hypnosis Manual, you learn hundreds of questions with embedded suggestions on how to sell the unconscious mind of others on just what it is they need. Ethically utilized covert hypnosis is far more powerful than suggestive therapeutics because of the total sum of positive signals received environmentally, verbally and nonverbally on the part of the client combined with the fact that almost all covert strategies encourage the client to tell you the solution to their own challenges.
Covert strategies are not a cure all in and of themselves but they are among the most powerful ways to create long term change in the context of brief therapy, not to mention the obvious benefits in business and ethical selling practices. The mind body connection benefits most from covert work because the client is continually involved in the process giving the client back control of their own life ultimately free to find a new rock to replace you!
If you could give one covert message to your clients that will be appreciated for a lifetime it’s this: “And you know, whenever you need someone to listen to you, someone who really wants you better now, it’s me and I care and understand. Until you are comfortable and feel healed, I will be here for you.”
The covert and overt messages of compassion and understanding are those that we have all wanted for millennia. Forego the “5 minute cure” for the 12 week healing of a lifetime.
Adapted from: The Covert Hypnosis Operators Manual by Kevin Hogan
Covert hypnosis has been used for millennia but only in the last 60 years has it been refined. During these last six decades covert hypnosis has been used to help athletes run faster, hit more home-runs and catch more touchdown passes. Covert hypnosis has been utilized to create conformity-thinking in everyone from military personnel to corporate employees to church-goers. Covert hypnosis is a powerful skill in the therapist’s office as well. This article is adapted from my latest work called The Covert Hypnosis Operations Manual. You will read non-directive and non-suggestive examples of covert hypnosis in the Journal of Hypnotism.
(25 minutes after my client first walked in the door, it became apparent that a little covert hypnosis should precede our case analysis and trance-work. This conversation recently took place in a slightly more expanded form. )
KH: What will happen if you continue to yell at your husband?
Client: I suppose he will leave me.
KH: What would that be like?
Client: It wouldn’t be any fun.
KH: What would that look like?
Client: Well, I suppose I would be alone with the kids and there would be no one there to help out.
KH: What else would it look like?
Client: I think I’d be pretty depressed.
KH: What do you feel like?
Client: I think… I feel sad…I cry a lot…I’m really very sad.
As you can see, the client has gone into trance as she talks with me. Her eyes were wide open…in apparent every day conversation. Notice that I suggested almost nothing to the client. The client suggests to me what it will look and feel like. (My predictions of what her life will be like are not important at this time.) What she visualizes as the continuation of this particular target behavior is very important. By the way, the client was seeing me for anxiety and depression. The anger she was experiencing with her husband was significant and probably relevant to her long-term improvement. Notice what we do next.
KH: I understand. (Pause) And if you stopped yelling at your husband, what would that look like?
Client: (She looks away.) I think that he would want to spend more time with me.
KH: And what does that look like?
Client: We’d have more time to talk and be with the kids…more cuddle time.
KH: And are those all things you want to see in your life?
KH: And how do you feel?
Client: I feel good.
KH: Do you see any bad things about not yelling at your husband anymore?
Client: (Pause) No. I don’t think so.
KH: Are you certain?
Client: Yes. I really have to stop screaming at him.
KH: OK. So the next time you feel like you are going to scream at your husband are you going to go inside and say to yourself, “STOP! Do something else?”
Client: Yes, I can do that.
KH: What will you do instead of screaming at your husband?
Client: I can just shut up.
KH: What else can you do instead of screaming at your husband?
Client: I could just go do something else.
KH: What else can you see yourself doing instead of screaming at your husband?
Client: (she looks away) Take a breath and tell him what I feel instead of yelling at him.
KH: Are you sure that is a good thing?
Client: Yes. (she looks back at me) I can take a breath and quietly tell him what I’m feeling and what I need him to do.
KH: Let’s just pause for a minute here. See what that looks like. Pause, take a breath and quietly tell him what you need him to do.
Client: (Long pause as she looks away) OK
KH: How does that look?
Client: He listens.
KH: Do you like that?
Client: (grins) Yes. I like that.
KH: And how do you feel as you say to yourself, “STOP! Do something else?”
Client: (smile) I feel good.
As you can see, several things happen here covertly. First we find the target behavior (screaming at her husband) and we have the client ultimately identify what they would prefer to do instead of the behavior we are targeting to extinguish. We do this before regression hypnosis and before parts therapy. A critical element is to have the client tell you in this light trance state what they want to experience instead of the target behavior. They must see this behavior not just verbalize it. They must see the consequences of this new behavior just like they did of the actual target behavior.
Covert techniques of hypnosis are among the most useful in trance if you utilize them correctly.
Here is what we have learned so far:
- Identify a target behavior. This is a behavior they no longer want to experience. It could be anxiety, hair pulling, swearing, anything.
- Have the client see what the continuation of the behavior will ultimately mean.
- Have the client identify a preferred behavior.
- Have the client identify the consequences of this new behavior.
- Be certain that the behavior is REALLY the behavior they want to experience. (Sometimes a client will tell you what they think you want to hear instead of what they want to do.)
- You as the therapist need to be certain the behavior is ecological. (That means that it is going to be good for the client and others in the environment.)
- Do not judge what you perceive to be inappropriate responses by the client.
- Never tell a client they are wrong.
Covert Conversational Hypnosis
Everyone knows you are a hypnotherapist. They know you get paid to help people change their frame of mind! Therefore you can assume that people are going to be more sensitive and aware of your communications than that of the average person. This means that to create change in apparently resistant clients you will need to utilize this awareness in effective ways. What is the difference between covert hypnosis and covert conversational hypnosis then? The distinction is a fine but specific one. Covert hypnosis is the act of directing a person’s mind to outcomes when they are seeing you as a professional. Covert conversational hypnosis is utilizing hypnosis covertly in everyday conversation. In other words, with covert conversational hypnosis, you are not acting in a professional capacity.
Immediately a flag should be raised.
Is this ethical?
My answer: Absolutely. Millions of communication messages are wittingly or unwittingly exchanged every single day. These messages often contain trance inductions and persuade people to take some action, or not. The difference between covert conversational hypnosis and conversation is that of intention. In everyday conversation we tend to communicate without conscious awareness of our unconscious intentions. In covert conversational hypnosis we tend to operate with full awareness of our intention and that of the person we are communicating with.
Imagine (note the hypnotic word induction) that you are a parent and you don’t know how the unconscious mind acts and reacts.
“Don’t put your fingers into the outlet son!”
The son immediately moves to the outlet and places his fingers in the outlet. Why? The parent clearly ordered the child NOT to do that behavior. The reason is multi-fold. First, the child (in all probability) didn’t know it was an outlet. It is a child’s (people’s) innate programming to be curious and explore that which is novel. Second, there is no unconscious or conscious representation of the word “don’t.” In fact, the word “don’t” is what I call a “directive.” This word is useful because we tend to have a polarity response to this word. In fact, in most people, the polarity response is quite strong.
The unwitting child was put into trance and told to place his fingers in the outlet. That was not the intention of the loving parent, of course. This was a trance inducing conversation where the result was negative…and examples of these conversational hypnosis are endless.
Covert hypnosis is not only powerful it is very real. We accomplished getting the son to put his fingers into the outlet with hypnosis. Now that we know what we are doing we can use covert conversational hypnosis appropriately and make sure his fingers stay occupied with more appropriate behaviors!
Covert Hypnosis for Sports Enhancement
Specific types of self talk and imagery have been scientifically shown to improve sports performance. Other strategies fail to help individuals perform optimally. Covert hypnosis can be used in many effective ways. What follows is an abridged and edited dialogue of a client I saw this summer. The dialogue takes place in the first of three meeting we had together.
Client: …it just always seems that I blow it. I shoot five holes perfectly then I go to pieces on one hole. Then I shoot perfectly for awhile. Then blow it again.
KH: What would you like to see happen?
Client: I’d like to shoot like Tiger Woods.
KH: What would have to happen for that to occur?
Whenever someone wants to have the same results as the one professional at the top of their profession a bit of re-direction is critical. People like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, Chris Carter, etc. spent their entire lives on developing a set of very specific skills which they practiced for tens of thousands of hours. Therefore the client must see that while possible to replicate such a set of skills, it is unlikely to occur if the same recipe of success is not followed. In other words, if the client is willing to quit their job, leave their family and friends, yes it is possible that if they are young enough and in the proper physical shape, that they possibly could accomplish the success of Tiger Woods. They will have about the same chances as winning a lottery. It is never ecological for a therapist to assist the client in the decision making process of making such a move.
Client: I’d have to play a lot.
KH: And how many years did Tiger play before he achieved his results?
Client: 20 or so I guess.
KH: And are you willing to dedicate 5-7 hours every day for the next 20 years to achieve the same results?
Client: Well of course not.
(Had the client answered this question with a “yes” response, we would have had some problems!)
KH: So what would you like to see happen in your golf game?
Client: I’d like to shoot my best on all the holes on any given day, not just 15 of them.
KH: If you shot that well on every hole would you be a par golfer?
Client: Just about.
KH: What does that look like?
Client: (Laughs) That looks good.
KH: Tell me, what does it look like to you?
Client: Well, I see myself finishing a round happy for a change and not all pissed off because I blew it again.
KH: And what does it feel like to be happy?
Client: It feels good. It just never happens.
KH: Does Tiger Woods know that visualizing his shots before he makes them helps him be a superstar?
Client: No question.
KH: He still occasionally shoots a bad hole.
Client: Of course. Everyone does.
KH: So you would be happy about what?
Client: Shooting my best on each hole.
KH: And what if you blow the 4th hole at Valley Wood. You shoot the next six well. Do you need to blow the 11th as well?
Client: (Looks at me) Of course.
KH: What usually happens when you blow a hole?
Client: I get too excited that I’m doing good. I say to myself that “this can’t last” and I’m always right. It doesn’t. (laughs)
KH: (laughs) I understand. Now, when you hear yourself say, “this can’t last” can you say to yourself, “STOP! It can last…and it will this time because it can last.”
Client: (looking a bit confused) I suppose.
KH: OK, let’s look at that. Hear that. Walk up to a familiar tee thinking that “this can’t last” and then say to yourself, “STOP! It can last…and it will this time because it can last.”
Client: (Pause) OK. I did it.
KH: How does that feel?
Client: Good I guess.
(Good I guess, is not a response I settle for.)
KH: Great, now in your mind, tee off and tell me what happens.
Client: (Looks away) OK, I’m on the fairway.
KH: Is that good?
Client: Yeah, absolutely.
KH: Great, now what happens next?
Client: (pause) I walk up to the ball and I hit it perfectly. Right onto the green.
KH: Excellent. Now what happens.
Client: (pause) I sink a long putt.
KH: Fantastic. How do you feel inside?
Client: I feel great. (Big smile)
The client has no idea he has been in trance for five minutes. He is totally unaware consciously that he perfectly visualized the experience and had a very positive emotional response. That sets us up perfectly for the balance of our work. There will be no resistance because he now has a wonderful goal in mind. He feels good inside! The client is ready to begin more formal trancework.
Kevin Hogan is the author of The Covert Hypnosis Operators Manual, The Hypnotherapy Handbook and Through the Open Door.
COVERT HYPNOSIS: An Operators Manual for Influential Unconscious Communication in Selling, Business, Relationships and Hypnosis by: Kevin Hogan
Covert Hypnosis is the utilization of techniques and strategies to change the perception and behavior of others in a completely unconscious way. The optimal applications for covert hypnosis are in the fields of selling, advertising, marketing, relationships and of course, therapy.
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- Covert techniques for sports performance.
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Learn More About Covert Hypnosis or Order the E-book