Somnambulism: Is It Needed? Somnambulism: Is It Needed? — Hypnosis and NLP Blog: Hypnosis Training and Self-Hypnosis Techniques
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Somnambulism: Is It Needed?

If you have been around old-school hypnotists for any length of time, you have certainly heard about the different levels of hypnosis.

The logic starts out that first you are “awake” and then you go through processively deeper levels until you are in “deep hypnosis” and while you are there, you are in a state called somnambulism.

Well, for all of the talk about somnambulism, I have found this term to be thrown around loosely and not very well defined. Many people know how I am a fan of the Dave Elman Induction, and how if someone completes the induction, the last step is a test for amnesia, which would show they have achieved somnambulism.

If we are going to use the term I figure we ought to define it.

Here Is How I Define Somnambulism

First of all, somnambulism is an outside-directed state. You don’t go into self-hypnosis somnambulism. It just doesn’t exist.

What I found is that the “following instructions” part of hypnosis is actually the most useful.

The second criteria, then, for somnambulism, is that it is a state where we uncritically accept suggestions, and where we are not checking them against previously held ideas or belief systems.

Now before we move on, lets acknowledge that this is useful!

Yes, Somnambulism Is Useful. But Is It Needed?

Many hypnotists claim that they have been able to do significant work in a “light” trance. In case you couldn’t tell by my quote marks, I don’t believe any trance is lighter than another one. Someone can go very deep while their arm is getting lighter and lighter.

However, some trance states are certainly more “profound,” and that is to say that the degree of critical factor bypass is more significant.

Old-school models believe that if someone is in a “deep trance” that the critical factor bypass is pretty much 100%. However we know that this isn’t true because there are things the person would not do even in a state where it looks like they’re about to fall off the chair.

Hypnosis is a Trance State

What I’ve been teaching for many years now is that the act of going into hypnosis is in itself a trance state. There is a process, a procedure, a ritual … which results in a certain outcome.

Now given that the ritual is a large part of this, why are so many hypnotists shooting for distinct “relaxation states”? Yes, there are many people who still believe that hypnosis is a “state of relaxation.”

The real question we should be asking ourselves is, do we absolutely NEED a critical factor bypass in order to make the changes we need to make?

And the answer is clearly … No. Not in every circumstance, anyway.

Are some people going to be satisfied with a simple visualization that they themselves create, and the conscious mind is agreeing on? Yes, of course.

Is that “hypnosis”? Is that “somnambulism”?

Absolutely not.

And many working professionals are basically doing conscious mind work, and spreading the word that visualizing itself constitutes somnambulistic trance.

I don’t agree — but do you know what the crazy thing is? They still get OK results! In fact some of these people have pretty good businesses going.

Also, I’d like to include here that you can do some very strong emotional releasement work, without having to have a “willing, obedient subject” who is participating fully.

Discussion Questions

Now this is a very deep topic that could be talked about for pages more, but for right now I’d like to open this up to discussion.

So think about this:

  • What does a hypnotized subject expect to happen, and what can we do to meet those expectations?  Moreover, how does this factor into rapport in general? (Think: Match/Mismatch)
  • How much critical factor bypass is needed to solve various issues?
  • Can we ever really get 100% critical factor bypass? And if so, how?

The ball is in your court! Comment below.


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Doc Anderson July 10 at 4:20 pm

Great way of looking at it, but I don’t know how what the answer is to any of your questions.

April July 13 at 11:28 pm

Yes of course you can get 100% bypass. That’s what is done on stage.

Aino Welch July 19 at 6:37 pm

One of my very first mentors used to say “Ascertain what the client expects and then create that experience. It will powerfully increase your success rate. If they expect one thing and you do something different, the rapport between you and the client drops. They may even believe that they were not hypnotized ( even though you know better ) and that may sabotage the change work.

One need only enough bypass as to convince the SC that it is a better option for the whole situation to follow the suggestions given. The bypass would be issue specific is my thought. I would not worry about bypassing in other areas, because some areas are not affected by work done in other areas.

“I do not think that it is possible to get 100% bypass of the critical factor. There may be a high level of bypass as long as we are faring in certain areas of work, but stray into an area where the client does not want to go, I think the protection mechanics are there. I think my experience with Taylor a few years ago , was at a very deep somnambulistic level, yet if something had happened around us that needed my attention it would have brought me right out. Had Taylor strayed into an area that I had not given permission to approach, I am convinced I would have stopped him, instantly. So, we may do some very clever tricks, totally brainwash, or the client totally gives up the part of control they naturally have, I still believe that 100% can not be reached as our self preservation still exists.
Just my few cents worth, good stuff Taylor makes us think!

Kai Mott July 25 at 3:17 am

Awesome Sauce.
“What does a hypnotized subject expect to happen, and what can we do to meet those expectations? Moreover, how does this factor into rapport in general? (Think: Match/Mismatch)”

Normally the subject expect a bug change in his life of course.
But, we all know that there are still chances they wont acive what they want to happen after the hypnotherapy.

Christopher Boswell September 13 at 3:54 pm

Some studies of ‘hypnotic virtuosos’ have shown that they use trance logic even in regards to how deep in trance/intensified they go — so if the critical factor is not 100% bypassed, they don’t worry about it, they just go intensely hypnotized just the same. The recent ‘Automatic Imagination’ theories are coming to the same conclusion: just have them imagine they aren’t imagining and it is happening automatically (if you know it isn’t, that’s ok, just imagine it anyway).

Barry Pierce January 28 at 7:07 am

The critical factor is there in some subjects … they’re analyzing what the hypnotherapist is saying. It’s the therapists job to bypass the critical factor and offer the subconscious the solutions. That’s why Ericksonian techniques work so well

Jaronda January 26 at 11:25 pm

I like to include the counting from 300 to zero backwards at a comfortable speed of concentration, challenging them not to make any mistakes whilst holding some chalk in one hand and writing large numbers on an imaginery blackboard in the sky.

A high achiever will forget about the world around him and not want to make a mistake, and will focus intently on co-ordinating the numbers he says with the numbers he writes.

It can be the perfect distraction for the gatekeeper, and your suggestions while this is happening can be sown deeply into the “soil of the mind garden”.

Of course counting down from 300 to zero is just part of a successful induction, and won’t be necessary for all subjects, but I keep it in my bag of tricks for anyone who has an inflexible EGO or is quite convinced they are too intelligent to be put into a hypnotic state.

A challenge can be a powerful tool.

Walter Luffman July 13 at 8:39 pm

I think I will include an expectation of profound (rather than deep) trance in my pre-talks, inductions and deepeners (is this term even still appropriate?), explaining that as the hypnotic trance becomes more powerful the hypnotee will feel even better and more able to let my suggestions work even more effectively.

While somnambulism has its uses, there are times when I’d prefer to make my hypnosis more effective without it.

Robert January 26 at 5:12 pm

Came across your website looking for a better understanding of the use of the word somnambulism. As I understand it, it’s a state where the person by all appearances is asleep but has full motor control, albeit often in a halting or ratcheting level at times. Carry that through to the Esdaile state and motor movements are gone.

Reading your site I was rather distracted by your repeated incorrect usage of the term for critical faculty which you seem to have renamed, critical factor. Many sites also use the term incorrectly however your site seems to delve more into the science behind it vs show people how to do it so I feel compelled to point this out in the desire you correct it.

Taylor Sherman January 29 at 10:15 pm

Hi Robert,

The critical faculty / critical factor is a model, and is not meant as a scientific term. Any resemblance to Science is purely coincidental.

Which term to use? What I teach my students is that if you want to sound sophisticated and are talking to someone who needs you to be sophisticated, you say critical faculty. I feel very high-society with a British accent, and require a fancy cup of tea when I say it that way. To sound more common-sense and layman termed, just call it the “Critical Factor,” it’s easier, and people understand factors.

Now if there is some definitive source I am unaware of that states the correct usage of the term, please post it (or e-mail me and I’ll post it), and I’ll adjust my view accordingly.

Regarding being asleep – somnambulism as used in the hypnosis context does not mean they are asleep. They may “look” asleep but are still able to respond with all of their faculties. The contrast between somnambulism and Esdaile being mostly about motor movements, is interesting! Thanks for the comment.

WILL August 29 at 11:42 pm

It is my understanding that whenever you achieve “bypass”, it is 100% ,UNTIL, hypnotic rapport is broken. So the operative word here is TIME not “unbreakable compliance” nor “mind control”. If you only bypass the critical aspect for 20 seconds, you still have 100% bypass for that 20 seconds. Of course , if you give a command that contradicts their core principles… yes, the critical mind will resurface but, you, caused that. if you are consistent in creating plausible patterns that keep the pathway to the subconscious unobstructed, then you can maintain bypass for prolonged periods which will average 100% one-hundred-percent of the time.

Lastly, If you can solve a problem without bypassing the critical faculty, then by definition, it is not a subconscious habit nor behavior. So no “problem” pertaining to habits and behaviors actually exist in someone who can easily and consciously change. The subject is merely being stubborn until they are ready to act.

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