testing for depth of trance

Testing for Depth of Trance

How do you know when you’ve got a good level of trance to work with? One way to find out is to test your subjects. In testing for depth of trance a hypnotist might ask a subject to concentrate on their arm being so heavy that they couldn’t move it. If the subject couldn’t move the arm then they would have “passed” the test.

So, should you test your subject to find out how deep they are?  The answer depends on what school of thought you follow with regards to hypnosis. Most hypnotherapist hold one of three opinions on the subject of testing.

  1. Test your client to find out how deep they are.
  2. Do not test your clients – If they fail a test for depth, they may believe they’re not a good subject and/or they’ll think you’re a bad hypnotherapist.
  3. Level of trance is not important. A client can create change at any level of trance.


If your subject believes that they are experiencing hypnosis, it can help. The reason has to do with the internal suggestions your subject gives themselves. If, while you are giving suggestions, your subject is thinking “Wow, I’m really experiencing trance here – these suggestions are going to work great,” then they’re giving themselves suggestions that increase the power of what you are saying. If your subject is thinking “I’m not in trance, this isn’t working for me,” then the suggestions they are giving themselves run counter to what you are trying to do.

It’s for this reason that I find testing extremely useful. Not only does it give me an idea of how the client is progressing, but it is a “convincer” for the client. The Modified Dave Elman induction contains tests along the way for catalepsy of the eyelids, catalepsy of an arm and amnesia. When people experience these things they usually have the feeling that something is happening that is different than their normal experience. That, coupled with a good pre-induction talk helps the majority of people you’ll work with to understand when they’re experiencing trance and accept it.

I like disguised testing such as in The Modified Dave Elman Induction. If we give a test without saying we’re giving a test, we overcome the objections of people who are afraid to test (it’s kind of a wimpy objection anyway – mostly put forward by hypnotherapists who are not confident). The testing is also used as a deepening procedure.

Testing As A Convincer

There are tests they can be used as what we call a “convincer.”  A convincer is something that helps people begin to believe that they are experiencing something unusual. You can use these tests as a convincer during trance, as a demonstration of “waking hypnosis,” or even as an induction. The language for some of these convincers is presented as if you are working with a group. It can work just as well for an individual, of course. Here are some examples…

The Lemon Slice Test

“You see, when the mind concentrates fully enough on a thought, the body automatically acts as if that idea is true. Let’s find out just how well you can concentrate and imagine.

Everyone, close your eyes if you want to participate, and imagine there is a lemon slice in your hand. See the way the light glints off the lemon slice and notice the color. Pretend you can feel the weight of it in your hand – and feel the texture. As you squeeze the lemon slice, listen to the sound and feel the juice on your fingers. (Continue on for a moment or two asking them to see, hear and feel the lemon. Don’t get too specific – their lemon might not look like the one in your imagination)  Notice the details as you bring the lemon up closer to your mouth and take a big, juicy bite out of it…”

(Notice those who are puckering up and look like they’re biting into something sour. Keep track of those folks; they may be your best hypnotic subjects). Ask them to try and whistle. Ask how many people salivated at the thought of the lemon or puckered up at the thought of a sour taste. Congratulate those who did. Comment that those who were able to concentrate sufficiently found out how the mind and the imagination, when properly focused, can cause the body to react automatically.

Book And Balloon

“Next comes an oldie but goodie – the ‘book and balloon.’ Are you ready?  OK, everyone please hold out both of your arms straight in front of you, parallel to the floor. Now, make sure one of your palms is facing the floor and the other toward the ceiling. Close your eyes and begin to imagine that the palm up hand has a heavy book in it. Imagine that you can feel the texture of the cover as the weight presses down on your hand. As heavy things do, the book seems to grow heavier with each passing moment. In your mind’s eye you can see the color of the book and almost smell it as it grows heavier. Now for the palm down hand, imagine there is a bunch of various colored helium filled balloons tied to your wrist. They want to lift that arm upward pulling it higher as the other arm grows heavier. The balloon arm gets lighter and lighter as the book arm gets heavier and heavier.”

(By this time you’ll probably already see people with the book arm moving toward the floor and the other arm moving upward. Keep going, alternately suggesting that the palm up hand with the book in it is growing heavier and heavier and that the balloons are lifting up the light hand. When you talk about the heavy hand speak in a deeper heavier voice. When you talk about the light hand speak in a higher, lifting voice. At a point where you feel you’ve gotten a good result, notice who is responding the best and say…)

“Keep your arms where they are and open your eyes.”  Many people will be surprised that their arms have moved. “You see, that’s how powerful the mind is when you can concentrate strongly enough on an idea.”

Hand Clasp

Pick out a subject who has been performing well and ask them to help you find out how strong their powers of imagination and concentration are. Stand, facing your subject and ask them to look you directly in the eyes and concentrate completely on the ideas behind your words. If at any time they begin to look away, command them to look directly into your eyes (point to your eyes) and concentrate completely and fully on your words.

“Put your arms straight out in front of you, parallel to the floor, put your palms together and interlock your fingers. Push your hands together as tightly as you can and concentrate on the idea  ‘My hands are stuck together, my hands are stuck together.’  As you push your hands together, sticking them together, your arms grow stiff and rigid, stiff and rigid as your hands lock more tightly together as if they’re made of one solid piece of granite. (Continue to look them straight in the eye). Now, as you fully and completely concentrate on the idea that your hands are one solid piece of granite try in vain to pull them apart and find that they are stuck together, stiff and rigid, stuck together.”  (Let them try for two or three seconds – no more). Good. Stop trying and now allow those hands to become loose and limp and release easily. (Occasionally people still have a problem getting their hands apart. Just grab them and gently shake them loose saying “They can relax now and let go.”)

Steel Arm

Explain to your subject that you are going to “borrow their arm” for a moment. Take your subject’s arm and hold it out at right angles to their body. Suggest that their arm is growing stiff and rigid like a steel bar and no matter how hard they try to bend it will remain straight like a steel bar. Tell them to try and bend it and find that it remains stiff and rigid like a steel bar. After a few seconds of trying, remove the suggestion. “In a moment I will count to three and snap my fingers. Your muscles will relax and you will easily be able to bend your arm. On the number three your arm will drop down to your side and you will go deeper. One, more relaxed, two, nice and easy, three (snap fingers). Drop your arm and go deeper.”

Unable To Stand/Sit

Tell your subject that his/her muscles are becoming so stiff and rigid that soon he/she will be unable to get out of the chair. “Your legs are growing stiff and rigid, stiff and rigid. Your legs are locked into position and growing more stiff and rigid with each passing moment. Soon it will be as if you are unable to stand up. Stiff and rigid, stiff and rigid. Try to stand and find that it is as if you are stuck to the chair, stuck to the chair, stiff and rigid.”  After a moment remove the suggestion in this way; “In a moment I will count to three and snap my fingers. Your muscles will relax and you will easily be able to stand up. One, more relaxed, two, nice and easy, three (snap fingers). Stand up (help them stand up).”

(For this next portion, make sure that you are in a position to keep your subject safe. Don’t do this with anyone who you are not strong enough to help hold up.)

“Your legs are straight and strong beneath you; in fact your legs are becoming stiff and rigid again. Stiff and rigid, stiff and rigid. Your legs and hips are so stiff and rigid that it is as if you cannot sit down. Try to, and find that you are unable because you are so stiff and rigid. In a moment I will count to three and snap my fingers. Your muscles will relax and you will easily be able to sit down. One, more relaxed, two, nice and easy, three (snap fingers). Sit down and go deeper.”  Help them sit down safely.

That’s it for this Hypnosis Tip. More good stuff is coming later!

Keith Livingston

About The Author:

Keith Livingston is the main instructor for Hypnosis 101. Keith has been studying hypnosis since he was a boy and doing hypnosis & NLP training since 1997.

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  1. Many thanks for all of these nuggets of information which I have found really informative and useful. I have sent to my hypnotherapy supervision group of peers too!

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