What is Hypnotic Suggestion?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
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A hypnotic suggestion is a particular idea that can be placed into the subconscious of a person who is hypnotized, which can then be activated once the person is no longer under hypnosis. This can be used for a number of different reasons, from gags and entertainment to assistance in overcoming phobias or addictions. For this type of suggestion to be utilized, someone must first be hypnotized by another person. A hypnotic suggestion can then be planted into the subconscious mind of the hypnotized person, which can also include a trigger to activate the suggestion, and then the person brought out of hypnosis.

Also called a post-hypnotic suggestion, a hypnotic suggestion begins with a person being hypnotized. While classic depictions of hypnosis include a person viewing a pocket watch being swung back and forth before his or her eyes, this is not typically utilized in modern hypnotism. Hypnosis simply involves one person focusing on the words another person is saying, though a visual aid can be used to help the person being hypnotized avoid visual distraction. The spoken words guide a person from the normal, conscious state of mind to an altered state in which his or her subconscious is dominant.


Once someone is properly hypnotized, then a hypnotic suggestion can be planted. While a hypnotic suggestion can take a number of different forms, it is usually either a triggered concept or a general concept. A triggered concept is one in which a person views the world a certain way or has a particular reaction when confronted with a triggering mechanism. This trigger is typically a particular phrase or image, and once confronted with that trigger, he or she is almost incapable of doing anything other than following the suggestion planted in his or her mind.

Someone can be given a hypnotic suggestion to no longer see or think about the color green, for example. Once the trigger is used to activate the suggestion, then he or she might say that grass is yellow and not properly recognize the colors of objects that are shown to him or her. This can also be used to prevent a person from properly recognizing a particular item or to begin acting a certain way when confronted with the trigger.

A general hypnotic suggestion is one that may be untriggered, or is left to continue for a long time after triggering. This type of suggestion is often used to assist someone in dealing with a phobia or an addiction. Someone who is attempting to quit smoking cigarettes, for example, might have a suggestion placed in his or her subconscious that causes him or her to feel discomfort when breathing cigarette smoke. This would create a physical sensation that could ultimately make the cessation of smoking easier.


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