Conversational hypnosis can be defined as saying the right phrases or asking the right questions to make people interact in a certain way or have them get experiences that will lead to a certain outcome.
Being equipped with some more overly hypnotic techniques gives you a roadmap for what you are trying to achieve. But once you have those, to become more covert and conversational, you need to have a way of translating this into pure language, so that people will think you are just having a chat, while things are happening inside their minds that change them in a beneficial way. One of the kings for doing this was, of course, Socrates.
Socrates was an old philosopher who was renowned for having a particular style of lecturing. He wouldn’t lecture in terms of giving long speeches, but rather just talk to people and ask a lot of questions. And by asking these carefully-crafted questions, people came to their own conclusions about life, the universe etc. becoming more enlightened and wiser as individuals. This style of questioning is known as Socratic questioning.
The secret to Socratic questioning has nothing to do with the answers you find, but rather with where the mind goes while searching for the answer. In other words, it is not about the question nor the answer, but rather about how the question AFFECTS you while trying to answer it.
Socratic questioning is a great, seemingly noninvasive method of leading someone from being disempowered (limited in their reality in terms of feelings and ideas) to an empowering place where they have more option available to them. Let’s go through a generic example of Socratic questioning. I want YOU to participate in order to grasp the power of it.
I want you to think about the problem or any issue you currently have. Now, try to REALLY consider the following questions and statements. You don’t have to give the answer out loud. It’s more about you considering the questions fully and the impact they have on you. Before moving on to the next question, take some time and think about the question and the issue involved. Do not move to the next before giving a clear mental answer to the current one. ME: So, this is the problem you are having?
ME: Was this the problem you WERE having?
ME: So, this is the problem you HAVE HAD.
ME: Now, you could consider that there is a resource that would help change things, right?
ME: I am curious as to what that resource might be? What is it?
ME: How have you experienced that resource before? And how does it feel to have that resource? How is it feeling right now?
ME: How do you feel about that old problem now that you have that resource? And how will you feel next time knowing you’ve had this resource?
ME: It really was a problem, wasn’t it? And as you think about that situation, it’s feeling different now, isn’t it?
ME: I wonder how good you will be feeling when you look back at having felt so good as you experience the situation again now in that future and think about it again later on.
These questions are crafted in such a way as to stimulate your thoughts in a very particular sequence in order to achieve something.
What we are using right now is a form of questioning known to some people as Metamodel 3 and it’s basically Socratic questioning – how to ask questions to achieve specific results.
Let's now analyse the questions I asked and what the intended effect was.
The goal of the first question was to pace the experience by affirming that this is actually happening and to associate you with the problem. I presented the question in the present tense to light up the neural net and stimulate something that is going on right now.
The purpose of the next 2 questions was to disassociate you from the problem by changing tenses. So, I first activated the neural networks, but then took you out of it so you won’t be stuck in that loop anymore.
The next segment started with the question of “you could consider that there is a resource that would help change things”. We are now presupposing that there is a resource out there that would solve the problem and that your mind should start searching for it as a result. By calling attention to it I am actually creating the search for the experience. The language is not invasive (I am using “could” so I’m not telling there IS a resource already), but it’s beginning to stimulate the search.
Now, where does the next question take the mind from the previous question?
The first 3 questions were meant to take you through the problem and guide you from being associated to disassociated so that you have some control over it. The next question was supposed to stimulate the search for the resource.
With the next question, I am beginning to ask you to drill down and specify what that resource IS.
With the question “How have you experienced that resource before?” we are getting even more specific by revivifying that resource. You cannot answer this question without actually re-experiencing it.
A popular question among hypnotists is “Have you been in a trance before?” In a similar way, you can only answer this question by going inside and checking whether or not you’ve been in a trance before. If yes, you will revivify the experience again and the hypnotist will be able to activate the trance more easily.
Now that we have fully revivified the resource, the question “How is it feeling right now?” should associate you fully with the resource. Note the use of the present progressive tense, which is to intensify the sensation even further and simultaneously set a trigger for us to use later on.
The first block of questions was meant to loosen the grip of the problem over the person by dissociation. The second block was all about finding, identifying and intensifying the resource.
With the last question, we take the resource state and we smother the problem with it so that the problem collapses. I am attaching the resource not just to the present moment, but I am also telling the unconscious mind to go into the future and make sure that resource applies to future as well as the present.
Now comes the conditioning. We are basically stimulating the problem again and seeing if the solution comes up.
“It really was a problem, wasn’t it?” activates the old problem construct, but at the same time presupposes that the problem is over now. So, I am simultaneously activating the problem and making you think about the problem only without the resource. However, I am actually applying the resource because I am applying that the problem is over.
Now I am proving to you that you are changed by making you prove it to me. How did I do that? I asked the question “And as you think about that situation, it’s feeling different now, isn’t it?”
The last question is the most powerful one. With it, I am running the entire chain again. I am running you through the whole experience again. Now it all makes sense because every little phrase within that question refers back to the experience you’ve just had.
If I were to talk to you in person, however, I would break up the sentence so that your mind can activate each part of the experience. And just when your mind begins to activate the experience I would ask the next part of the question. Here is how I would ask it, along with the pauses I would make.
I wonder how good you will be feeling…when you look back…at having felt so good…as you experience…the situation again…now…in that future…and think about it again…later on.
This is a typical hypnotherapeutic kind of process, but it sounds really innocent as if I am just asking a bunch of question. This is a kind of thing you can do in normal conversations without sounding odd.
This is a hypnotic version of Socratic questioning in action.