The true value of hypnosis as a therapeutic tool lies in the power it gives therapists to access a client’s unconscious thoughts and hidden memories. Often the subconscious content can be elicited simply by asking the client to tell you verbally what they are experiencing or to answer questions you’ve put to them. While it’s quite convenient for the therapist to work in this way, there are at least two disadvantages:
- verbal responses tend to lighten trance
- verbal responses can be faked, either intentionally or unintentionally
It’s easy enough for a subject to give you the answer they think you want to hear. This is often done quite innocently out of a natural desire to please, but it does tend to get in the way of truth. Ideally, the therapist needs an alternative way of getting responses from a subject that cannot be faked or altered by interference from the conscious mind. This is what makes ideomotor responses such a valuable addition to the hypnotherapist’s toolbox.
What is ideomotor signaling?
The term ‘ideomotor’ links mind (ideo) and movement (motor). Quite simply, it’s the use of spontaneous physical movements – most often involving the fingers – to indicate mental positions such as yes, no, and maybe. It’s a very basic form of communication, but because it occurs below the level of speech it doesn’t cause a lifting of the trance state and it requires no conscious effort – so there’s less likelihood of a false response.
How to establish ideomotor signaling
When the subject is in trance, tell them you’re going to set up a form of communication that’s going to let them stay deeply relaxed and allow their minds to be so comfortable and lazy.
Then tell them to imagine the word ‘yes’ and to keep imagining it until a finger on one of their hands begins to rise. Keep coaxing them until one of the fingers makes an involuntary movement. It’s very important that the movement be involuntary. A conscious movement will tend to be a strong, direct movement, whereas an involuntary movement will be floaty and the finger will tend to move in a jerky fashion. You’ll get the distinct impression that the finger is moving ‘strangely’, and this will be your test of the validity of the response.
Once you’ve got a yes finger, ask the subject to concentrate on the word ‘no’ and to repeat it until another finger on the same hand begins to move. It’s a good idea to keep it on the same hand because if you allow it to appear on the opposite hand it can be quite difficult for you to observe.
Once you’ve got a yes and a no finger, tell the subject to concentrate on the thought ‘I don’t know/can’t say’. Note which finger rises.
Using the ideomotor responses
Now you can use the finger signals to get to hidden truths that the subject is not consciously aware of. Inform the subject that they shouldn’t tell you the answers to your questions but should just let them come out onto those fingers, and reassure them this will happen naturally and easily and there’s nothing they have to do.
Now it’s up to you to ask questions to start pinpointing the issue. Some typical questions include the following:
- Is it OK for us to know the cause of this emotional problem? (This is a good question to start a regression.)
- Did the problem begin before you were 3 years old? (If yes, ask if it began before 2 years, 1 years, etc, until the exact age is reached.)
- Is there a troubling event that caused this problem?
- Is it safe for you to let go of this perception?
You can keep asking yes/no/don’t know questions like these to burrow down to the truth and guide the subject to a point where they can release whatever is troubling them. Remember to observe the finger movements and make sure they are involuntary. You’ll see it immediately by the wavy, undisciplined manner in which the fingers move. If the finger shoots up very directly, chances are good your subject is controlling the response and isn’t yet ready for the truth.