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Post Hypnotic Suggestions and Hypnotic Anchoring

One of our TRANCED OUT coaching clients recently wrote us this e-mail:

During the third call, Taylor was explaining the difference between post-hypnotic suggestions and anchors. A trigger was compared to a computer program – “When X happens, Y follows after”. He talked about anchors being something learned at the neurological level. The example given seemed more like a non-verbal trigger, he referenced the process of getting Oleg to smile (Y) when Taylor touched his knee (X).

Given these definitions do all anchors begin as triggers? Are triggers “upgraded” to anchors due to repetition or compounding?
How does learning at the neurological level compare to the stimulus/response cycle of classical conditioning?

This is a fascinating topic to explore, and a great distinction to make as a hypnotist. The question is:

What is the difference in the MECHANISM and the EFFECT of a Post Hypnotic Suggestion versus Hypnotic Anchoring?

Here is my answer…

Hypnotic Anchoring

An anchor is the process of classical conditioning (AKA Pavlov).  The dog salivates and Pavlov rings a bell. The dog salivates, and Pavlov rings a bell. Pavlov rings a bell, and the dog salivates!

What we are doing with a hypnotic anchor is pairing two stimuli together — and we’re training the brain to neurologically connect them. What makes them hypnotic, of course, is the suggestion, which we will get to in a moment.

Now for those of you who know a thing or two about anchoring, you know that the intensity of the stimulus (feeling) that you attach the anchor to, the moment in time at which you attach the anchor, and the uniqueness of the “trigger” are all important facts.

So an anchor works by one thing happening, and then another thing being triggered, as a “knee jerk” response. It is a below conscious response, and in fact happens at the level of the neurology.

Post Hypnotic Suggestions

Now, a suggestion on the other hand works primarily in a psychological way. It involves the mind, not the brain. Whereas an anchor is a one-way set of events (X trigger -> Y event), we can actually give two contrasting suggestions only a few seconds apart from each other and switch the direction of the effect.

Confused yet? What I am saying is that we can give a suggestion to a hypnotized person that “You have now forgotten your first name.”  And then, seconds later, we can tap them on the head and say, “Now you remember! What’s your name?” And the second they remember we can say “Oops, it’s gone again! Where did your name go?”

And the suggestions will tend to be taken literally.

But with an anchor, there is no “literal” or “not literal.” It is kind of like getting a dog to salivate. It happens, and it happens, and it happens, but it never goes through the mind in order to work. It works below the mind.

What I advocate to hypnotists is that if something happens automatically at the neurological level, you are set for a much more powerful mechanism… Rather than having the pesky analytical side of the mind come in and mess up all your good work.

My Reply!

I thought it would be useful to include a segment of my reply to our coaching client. Here it is:

Now one way to examine this is what would happen if we needed to change these anchors/suggestions. If we needed to change an anchor, we would either need to nullify it’s effects by doing something like collapsing anchors, or we would need to re-pair the stimulus to do something else. With a suggestion, we don’t need to do all that, we just remove the suggestion.

So in a practical sense, it’s like how I compare/contrast direct suggestion with regression work. This is a discussion I have with a lot of clients. Most hypnosis tries to re-arrange the subconscious programming without regard to the feelings. If you follow the analogy, the effects of a direct suggestion results from the following of post-hypnotic suggestions, whereas regression work deals with changing/releasing the anchors involved (in an emotional sense) for the person’s issue.

Hypnotic Anchoring == emotional / neurological.  A post-hypnotic suggestion = Almost feeling-less at the core, unless following the suggestion also involves invoking feelings.

Comments? Do you have a different view on the workings of these two techniques?

I’ll leave you with a thought:  One of the marks of a professional hypnotist is being able to set an anchor… and make it look like a post-hypnotic suggestion. Hint, hint. Until next time!


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Helen Sweet December 21 at 3:00 pm

Thank you!!! I’ve been searching everywhere to understand how post-hypnotic suggestions work and alas this has provided me with a straightforward nutshell understanding.

Please tell me how one might set an anchor and make it look like a post-hypnotic suggestion! (I’m intreagued)

Helen Sweet
NLP Master Practitioner (but not a hypnotist!)

Marilyn July 30 at 7:18 pm

I am a counsellor, and have a client who has been severely emotionally, psychologically abused, and involved in a cultish group. This woman has been isolated and alienated from her family (who were quite ok), she developed a habit of puking if she heard her mothers voice, and more recently when she saw a photo of her mother, she felt how much she missed her, then hate, then puked. This was after four years of not having seen her family. I enquired if she had ever been hypnotised, and she had been, by her husband and another man for fun, she said. It seems that during this session, she was told later that she went into a regression back to around 8 months old. Is this possible? Could an anchor have been sown into her mind, against her mum, as part of the abusive husband’s control methods? Marilyn

Sally September 24 at 7:38 pm

I am a mother of 12 years old girl and experiencing very interesting situation with my daughter. I suspected for a long time that hypnosis was used on me as well on her by her father who I have very difficult relationship with.
I was stay at home mom all 13 years since she was born and separated from her father on several occasions through out that time.
Since I discovered some hard evidence on his sexual behaviour with other men that would be very damaging to his reputation, he seems to be on a mission to destroy me in every way possible and using our daughter along the way as a weapon. I am noticing for quite some time now, few years, that our daughter acts like she is in a trance, her pupils are very dilated, she is becoming increasingly disassociated from her body and is very uncoordinated, her memory of past events is very distorted and she seems to associate me with anger, frustration, and him with pleasant feelings even the reality is just the opposite! I suspected and have some evidence of him using Pavlov Conditioning methods on her early on starting with loud noise, anchoring believes about me, then soothing with sugary food and anchoring believes about him. I was able to figure that out even I am not a therapist since our daughter was acting very strange. This situation only progressed to the point that she is using his exact words to communicate to me “her frustration about the way I clean the house” for example, even though she is never home when I do that work and has nothing to do with her…There is so much I could write about strange behaviour that has nothing to do with puberty or anything else but manipulative tecniques he is using on her all the time. She seems to be “removed” from her reasoning when in his proximity and accepts everything he says as her truth to the point of being ridiculous.
Do I have to mention that he is very controlling. He wouldn’t let me go see my family that lives in Europe, always having excuses ready. I visited my family only once since I got married to him, and that was 2003.
My point is, yes, there are psychos out there and it is possible they did that to her. I would like to find some help for my daughter and myself since I am convinced that lot of my “health problems” are coming from hypnosis too. Doctors cannot find anything wrong with me and I am constantly exhausted. Sure enough, that keeps me at home, financially dependant on him and still married to him. On occasions when we were separated, my energy level would improve within weeks, I would regain focus and enthusiasm for life…
If anybody out there can direct me where to go and what to do to help my daughter and myself, it would be greatly appreciated.
Desperate in Toronto

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