Second, although some people are far more responsive to hypnosis than others, generally most people can be hypnotised to some degree if willing. Hypnosis is a naturally occurring state which most people enter spontaneously on a regular basis – eg “daydreaming”, when absorbed in a book, movie or piece of music, or when performing a tedious, repetitive task. Hypnotising someone simply means deliberately inducing this state for some purpose – entertainment or therapy etc..
Assuming someone wants to be hypnotised, the simplest methods involve distracting their attention/ breaking their normal thought pattern; getting the person to focus on a single point or idea, and then suggesting in a very repetitive manner that they’re very relaxed, and don’t want to move or do anything other than listen to further instructions/ suggestions. Methods may be direct or indirect; authoritarian or permissive… much depends on aforementioned variables. No-one can be hypnotised against their will per se, but in certain circumstances someone having the right personality traits/ disposition, and who feels secure, may be hypnotised without realising it, even if sceptical about hypnosis.
For example, at university, for a social psychology & communication class, I watched a demonstration in which a woman who insisted she could not be hypnotised entered trance in about three minutes. The hypnotherapist running the workshop simply talked to her about not being hypnotised; stating over and over that he understood fully why she could not be hypnotised, and explaining in great detail why it could never happen to her. After about a minute of this “patter” he asked her to put her hand on her head if she was not hypnotised (which she did, laughing), and told her to remove it if she felt hypnotised…
He continued talking, and it was soon obvious that she was totally hypnotised – eyes glazed, staring straight ahead, jaw slack, mouth drooling, and when she spoke her speech was slow, ponderous, and slightly slurred. When asked if she was hypnotised she denied it, but when told her hand was stuck to her head/ paralysed, she could not move it. The hypnotherapist then reversed that instruction, at which point she removed her hand from her head to signal that she felt hypnotised. She was amazed and amused by the experience, and most impressed.
Having brought her out of trance, the hypnotherapist explained how it had been done. When talking to her he’d focused his gaze on her left eye (thus encouraging her brain to switch to a “right hemisphere dominant state” in which emotion, intuition etc predominate over logic and analysis) whilst confusing her/ confounding her expectations by agreeing totally with her that she could not be hypnotised. He’d deliberately repeated certain things over and over to her thus producing a state of “monoideism” in which she was only focused on one idea/ thought, and… she’d become hypnotised by the very thought of not being hypnotised! Importantly, it had all been done in a very calm, reassuring, and humorous way so she never felt threatened, and eventually her natural curiosity had rendered her so completely fascinated by the whole process that she then willingly went along with it to find out what would happen next.
Finally, but by no means least, he explained that he’d reckoned she’d be very responsive because, despite her belief she could not be hypnotised, she’d been notably attentive throughout his introductory lecture; had displayed natural curiosity by asking many well founded questions, and was clearly an intelligent, stable, confident, and well balanced extrovert.
Hypnotism is really no more than a highly personalised and focused form of interpersonal communication, and if someone trusts you, is interested in what you’re saying, and is not a “control freak”, then it’s very easy to hypnotise them by fixing their attention and guiding them into a relaxed state in which they’ll tend to be very responsive to further suggestion.