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Glossary of hypnosis vocabulary, written by The Paradox Agency for Hypnosis


ABH:  American Board of Hypnotherapy.  A well-respected, international organization that is considered an authority for conferring hypnosis certifications.

Abreaction:  (1) Catharsis. (2) The process of becoming consciously aware of repressed psychologically painful events.

Abstraction:  The mental means of developing concepts by grouping objects in sets that share distinguishing common properties.

Age Regression:  Establishing a state of mind in which a person perceives that he/she is re-experiencing, re-examining, or remembering an earlier time of life—often childhood.  See REGRESSION

Amnesia:  Loss of memory usually due to brain injury, shock, fatigue, repression, or illness. See INDUCED AMNESIA and SPONTANEOUS AMNESIA.

Induced Amnesia:  Establishing the inability (or perception of the inability) to recall information in response to a hypnotic suggestion.  See AMNESIA and SPONTANEOUS AMNESIA

Spontaneous Amnesia:  Inability to recall events occurring while hypnotized due to an individual’s natural response to the state of hypnosis.  See AMNESIA and INDUCED AMNESIA.

Anesthesia (Analgesia):  Absence of the sense of pain

Animal Magnetism:  A phrase coined by Franz Anton Mesmer to describe what he believed to be a fluid or ethereal element in the human body that responds to magnets and, when unequally distributed, causes illness.

Arm Levitation:  Raising one’s arm in response to a hypnotic suggestion, usually accompanied by the perception that the motion of the arm is involuntary.

Autohypnosis:  Self-hypnosis.  The process of guiding oneself into the state of hypnosis without external, hypnotically suggestive stimuli.

Autosuggestion:  The process of giving oneself positive or negative suggestion.


Behavior:  Observable action, activity or series of movements.

Belief: An idea (content of cognition) perceived as truth or fact.

Belief System:  A group interrelated beliefs that define the way one perceives and relates to one’s environment


Catalepsy:  A state in which a hypnotized person cannot voluntary move the entire body or portions of it, usually induced by suggestion and marked by muscle tension or rigidity.

Certified Hypnotist:  A hypnotist that has been officially endorsed by an authority as having met certain requirements of study, demonstration of skill and ethical behavior.  Three of the largest and most well-respected authorities conferring hypnosis certifications are: American Board of Hypnotherapy (ABH), International Association of Counselors and Therapists (IACT), and National Guild of Hypnotists (NGH).

Chevreul's Pendulum:  A hand-held apparatus used to demonstrate ideomotor effect, consisting of a small weight attached to the end of light chain or string that is able to swing freely when held properly—pinched between the thumb and index finger at the top of the chain or string.  See IDEOMOTOR EFFECT.

Command:  An archaic term now considered having negative connotations; its synonym “direct suggestion” is the preferred term.  See DIRECT SUGGESTION

Conditioned Reflex/Response (CR):  A learned response to a stimulus that, before the conditioning, did not originally evoke the response/reflex

Conditioning:  Establishing an association between a stimulus and a response that had not previously existed.

Conditioning, Classical:  A stimulus that elicits an emotional response is repeatedly experienced with a neutral stimulus until the neutral stimulus acquires the emotional properties of the initial stimulus.

Conscious Mind:  The portion of the mind where thought processes associated with self awareness, analysis, and perception take place.

Consciousness:  A state of being characterized by volition, self-awareness, analytical thought, perception of emotion and perception of general sensation.

Conversational Hypnosis:  A covert means of inducing hypnosis by using persuasive/suggestive language patterns, gestures, changes in physical orientation and facial expressions that appear to be normal conversation and body language.

Convincer:  A demonstration of hypnotic phenomena (often presented in the form of a suggestibility test) cued by suggestion and designed to help a hypnotized person or an observer realize that the state of hypnosis has been reached.  See SUGGESTIBILITY TEST

Covert Hypnosis:  A subtle means of inducing hypnosis without the hypnotized person being aware of the process. 


Davis-Husband Scale:  A scale of 0 to 30 used to determine the depth of hypnosis a person is experiencing based on which hypnotic phenomena are producible by suggestion.

Defense Mechanism:  An unconscious reflex that attempts to protect the ego from emotional conflict or external stressors by repressing them from conscious awareness.

Direct Suggestion:  A statement or series of statements designed to elicit a behavioral response from a person (usually one that is hypnotized) by clearly and succinctly describing the behavior that is desired while implying expectation that the behavior is to occur.  Most commonly used in the authoritative style of hypnosis.  An archaic and no longer acceptable synonym for this term is “command.”  See COMMAND.

Dissociation:  The elimination or modification of a previously established association between stimuli, acts, thoughts or responses due to hypnotic suggestion or defense mechanism.

Double-bind: (1—Hypnosis and NLP): A message that gives the recipient the impression of choice, but where each option is designed to have the same outcome (often positive motivational and/or therapeutic) at higher level of intention. (2—Psych.):  A series of messages or demands that create irresolvable or paradoxical situations.

Dream Logic: is a system of principals that guides reasoning and is bound only by the limits of imagination as opposed to the limits set by conscious perception of truth (beliefs).  Some beliefs might be based on misinformation or unhealthy limitations that block a person from reaching his or her potential.  Using dream logic, where seemingly incongruous ideas can coexist without clashing, a person can move beyond imposed limitations into healthy thought patterns and behavior.


Ericksonian Hypnosis:  A permissive style of hypnosis credited to American Psychologist, Milton Hyland Erickson, who used naturally occurring states of wonderment, engrossment and confusion to illicit hypnotic responses.  Ericksonian Hypnosis is characterized by verbal and non-verbal suggestions presented in the form of ambiguous metaphors, symbols and contradictions.

Eye Fixation:  Training the eyes on a single point in order to focus concentration by reducing visual stimuli.


Focus:  (1) To concentrate. (2)  An object, idea, action or sensation upon which one fixes his or her attention while reducing awareness of all other objects, ideas, actions or sensations.

Fractionation:  The process of repeatedly hypnotizing and re-hypnotizing a person usually to deepen the state of hypnosis.


Glove Anesthesia:  The loss of feeling throughout the entire hand, from the wrist to the finger tips, as though a glove were placed over the hand that blocks internal and external sensation.

Group Hypnosis:  Inducing the state of hypnosis in more than one person, simultaneously.


Hallucination:  A sensory experience perceived to be real in the absence of actual external stimulus. These sensory experiences can affect any of the 5 senses in the form of visions, voices/sounds, tactile feelings (haptic hallucinations), smells, or tastes.  See POSITIVE HALLUCINATION and NEGATIVE HALLUCINATION.

Hetero-hypnosis:  The process of being guided into the state of hypnosis by external, hypnotically suggestive stimuli (usually in form of suggestions given by a hypnotist that is not oneself).  See SELF-HYPNOSIS.

Homeostasis:  The state of equilibrium.

Hypnosis:  The process of by-passing the critical factor of the conscious mind while simultaneously establishing an acceptable mode of selective thinking.


IACT:  International Association of Counselors and Therapists.  A well-respected, international organization that is considered an authority for conferring hypnosis certifications.

Ideomotor Effect:  (1) Reflexive motion that occurs purely in response to a thought of the same motion.  (2) A phrase coined by psychologist/physiologist William B. Carpenter in 1852 and widely publicized by psychologist William James who concluded that all mental representations of body motion will cause some degree of actual motion depending only on whether there is a simultaneously occurring antagonistic thought that represses the full manifestation of the motion.  Often this concept is associated with French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul.  See CHEVREUL’S PENDULUM.

Indirect Suggestion:  A statement or series of statements and non-verbal communication presented in the form of subtle inference, ambiguous metaphors, symbols and contradictions designed to elicit a behavioral response from a person (usually one that is hypnotized). Most commonly used in the permissive style of hypnosis.

Induction:  A method of establishing the state of hypnosis.




Levels of Hypnosis:  Various states of hypnosis that are measured in terms of depth based on which hypnotic responses can be reliably elicited by suggestion.  Some scales assign numeric scores to the various levels of hypnosis (See DAVIS-HUSBAND SCALE).  Other scales use labels (e.g. hypnoidal, light, medium, deep/heavy somnambulistic, and coma).

Levitation:  Raising a body part (usually an arm) in response to a hypnotic suggestion, often accompanied by the perception that the motion is involuntary.


Mass Hypnosis:  See GROUP HYPNOSIS


NGHNational Guild of Hypnotists.  A well-respected, international organization that is considered an authority for conferring hypnosis certifications.

NLP:  Neuro-Linguistic Programming.  A model of interpersonal communication used to describe how the neurological system (neuro) and use language (linguistic) affect mental representations of experience (programming).

Negative Hallucination:  The omission of a sensory experience from conscious awareness (e.g. not perceiving an object that actually is present).  See HALLUCINATION.


Overt Hypnosis:  Using open and observable methods (as opposed to covert means) to hypnotize a person who is fully aware that hypnotic techniques are being used.


Perception:  The process of interpreting sensation and determining relationships between the events that stimulate sensory receptors.

Positive Hallucination: 
A perception of a sensory experience in the absence of actual external stimulus (e.g. perceiving the existence an object that actually is not present).  See HALLUCINATION.

Post-hypnotic Suggestion: 
A suggestion that is acted on after a person has emerged from the state of hypnosis.



Rapport:  A relationship between people marked by mutual affinity, trust, conformity, understanding and accord.

Recreational Hypnosis:  Informal hypnosis demonstrations (planned or impromptu) done for entertainment purposes.

Regression:  (1) Reversion to an earlier stage of psychological development.  (2) A defense mechanism by which a person reverts to an earlier stage of development in the face of unacceptable impulses.

Resistant Subject:  A person who harbors an issue (usually a misunderstanding of the process of hypnosis, a belief based on misinformation, or a life event) that temporarily interrupts the process of hypnosis, but is easily resolved by a skilled hypnotist.


Self-hypnosis:  Autohypnosis.  The process of guiding oneself into the state of hypnosis without external, hypnotically suggestive stimuli.

Sleep:  (1) A metaphorical term used to indicate the profound relaxation one experiences when in non-waking states of hypnosis.  (2) A single-word statement used as a direct suggestion for a hypnotized person to immediately enter a profound state of relaxation that externally resembles, but is not, actual sleep.

Somnambulism: (1—General) Sleepwalking.  (2—Hypnosis) A deep state of hypnosis marked by profound relaxation and reliable responses to suggestions such as positive/negative hallucination that correspond to high numeric values on standard scales used to measure the depth of hypnosis (i.e., score 23-30 on the Davis-Husband Scale, weight 28-49 on the LeCron-Bordeaux Scale, and stage 5 on the Arons Scale; whose highest values are 30, 50 and 6, respectively).

Stage Hypnosis:  Planned demonstrations of group hypnosis set in front of an audience and marketed as an entertainment event.

Stimulus:  A change in environment that directly influences a living organism by exciting a sensory receptor

Street Hypnosis:  A hybrid of stage hypnosis.  Impromptu demonstrations of hypnosis performed for educational, recreational or (rarely) emergency purposes.

Subconscious (Unconscious) Mind:  The portion of the mind where thought processes associated with memory storage, thought and experience organization, imagination and visualization occur mostly outside the range of conscious awareness.

Subject:  An archaic term, increasingly viewed as derogatory, used to describe person who is hypnotized by a hypnotist.

Suggestibility Test:  A suggestion or series of suggestions used to determine how a person reacts to various forms of suggestion.

Suggestion:  A combination of verbal and/or non-verbal communication designed to elicit a response from person (usually one that is hypnotized) while inferring an expectation that the behavior is to occur. 

Symbol:  Something (e.g. an object, image, or action) that represents something else due to relationship, convention, association or resemblance.


Time Distortion:  A modification of how the passing of time is perceived while in the state of hypnosis either due to an individual’s natural response to the state of hypnosis or due to hypnotic suggestion.

Trance:  The state of hypnosis.


Unconscious (Subconscious) Mind:  The portion of the mind where thought processes associated with memory storage, thought and experience organization, imagination and visualization occur mostly outside the range of conscious awareness.



Waking Hypnosis:  A heightened state of suggestibility that occurs without manifestations of profound physical relaxation and often externally appears no different than a non-hypnotic state.




The definitions in this glossary were originally composed by The Paradox Agency for Hypnosis.  Duplication of this glossary (in whole or in part) without written permission from The Paradox Agency for Hypnosis is a breach of the Terms of Use Agreement of this site and a violation of copyright law.

Free hypnosis information:  Facts, FAQs and Opinions

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Questions and Answers with KC Johnson, C.H.
Vol. 01, Issue 02
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In this issue:

  • Recommended reading for learning hypnosis
  • Lucid dreaming and hypnosis
  • Self-hypnosis
  • Fear and pain management


I have been fascinated by hypnosis for quite some time now and I was wondering if you could give me any starting tips or any way to help me become a professional like you.

Start by reading The New Encyclopedia of Stage Hypnotism by Ormond McGill (ISBN: 1899836020). Next, practice as much as possible. Then, take a class from a teacher with whom you have chatted and feel comfortable. Get certified (I suggest the ABH, NGH or IACT). Again, practice as much as possible while continuing to study. Finally, start your own business or immerse yourself in whatever way you plan to use hypnosis (safely and ethically). Best of luck! Keep me posted.


I'm interested in lucid dreaming (because it's just so cool :D), and I was wondering: could one use self hypnosis to relax deep enough, and then instruct yourself to enter a dream state? I tried it, and it semi-worked; in the sense that I felt weird and slightly disconnected for a few seconds. Is it possible?

Yes, you can use hypnosis to help you experience lucid dreaming. You can also use MILD (Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams) and "Reality Testing" techniques.

It sounds like you're going to have fun with this. Let me know how it goes.


Can everyone be hypnotized? Is there a way I can tell if I am a good candidate for hypnosis?

If you can concentrate, imagine and follow directions, then you can be hypnotized.

With the exception of approximately 5% of the population that is either severely mentally or emotionally challenged, when first introduced to hypnosis, approximately 20% of the population easily will achieve a deep (somnambulistic) state of hypnosis, 60% will achieve a medium to deep state of hypnosis and 20% will achieve a light state of hypnosis--all of whom can be taught to reach a deep state of hypnosis.


Can hypnosis be effective in one session or does it require multiple sessions to set ground work before results can be acknowledged?

I have been asked this question many times and I'm always glad when it comes up because it gives me the chance to remind people that hypnosis is not mind control or the magical, mysterious force that the movie and entertainment industry would have you believe.

Can it be profoundly and immediately affective?  Absolutely.  Does it require more than one session to reach a goal?  That fully depends on the following (which is not an exhaustive list):
1.  The complexity of the goal
2.  What misconceptions and/or belief systems already exist to HELP a person BELIEVE s/he can or cannot reach a goal
3.  What is required to change those misconceptions and belief systems
4.  How important is the goal to the person
5.  The person's current problem solving skill set

Some people ask this question because they are hoping to find that hypnosis can be "done to them" and all their problems will be solved magically.  It can appear to happen like that to people watching from the outside.  However, hypnosis--or any therapy/coaching--will be effective only with your dedication and work.  Sometimes that work is just as easy as imagining (guided imagery).  Sometimes the work is relearning ways to view yourself, other people and situations.  Sometimes the work is letting go of and permanently saying good-bye to old habits that may feel comfortable but are hindrances to your success.  Sometimes that work is very easy, sometimes it's challenging, but it's always "do-able." 

Sometimes changes will happen suddenly, but this is observed by you during your normal day to day activities.  Sometimes you'll begin changing habits and won't notice until someone close to you mentions how different you've handled something or how you've changed.  Sometimes you'll launch into an activity and realize only hours or days later how easy it was for you to do what seemed to have been difficult in the past. 

Your motivation builds on these findings--they are not always glaringly obvious.  Some things are utterly subtle; some are not.


I realize everyone’s experiences and results are different, however can you give me some idea of what to expect from a session? 

Sessions are expected to last an hour, but can go longer (Fees are charged per session, not per hour).  I pace myself according to each person and do not like to cut off sessions just because one hour has ended.  I am mindful of the work you're accomplishing.  I take time to stretch you, without overextending you.

Sessions begin with talking about what has been going on, what changes you've noticed, accomplishments/milestones you've reached--essentially what's on your mind. Questions are answered during this time.  Then the hypnosis begins.

Sometimes a session may seem very structured; other times, very conversational and open.  I use various hypnotic and subliminal methods during a session.  Sometimes there will be a distinct beginning and end to each portion of the session.  For example:
A.  Now we're talking 
B.  Now you're hypnotized and quiet, listening
C.  Now were talking while you're hypnotized
D.  Now you're hypnotized and quiet, listening
E.  Now you're awakened from hypnosis and talking/concluding session
F.  Now the session is over

However, other times--depending on the person I work with--the sessions may be far more subtle.  I may talk with you the entire time and guide you gently into various states of receptivity to subliminal suggestion and problem solving.  You may feel awake and very focused yet not aware that you're in various states of light hypnosis.  IMPORTANT:  This isn't done surreptitiously.  I let people know what's happening or what to expect during various sessions.

My techniques change depending on the person and situation.


Any advice or guidance you can provide to help me over the final “suspicious” hump would be greatly appreciated.

If you are "suspicious," then ask questions and get them answered, so you feel comfortable.  Read about hypnosis.  Call other hypnotists and hypnocounselors.  Write emails to other hypnocounselors and hypnotists with the same questions and see what answers you get.  Educating yourself will help you understand what hypnosis is AND is not.  The more you understand, the more we can spend quality time working together to get you to where you want to be.  As you can tell by this email, I have no problem answering questions.  I will not always have the time to write long email responses, but I will make sure your questions are answered either by voice or by written word.

Just as you have the power (obviously the ability) to create positive changes in your life, you also have the power (of course the ability) to address your concerns, to calm yourself, to turn suspicion to act on using and learning skills to grow.  Hypnosis helps you tap into the parts of your mind that will help you make advances and effective changes.


Does a subject remember what happened under hypnosis? Do they ever come completely out of it, or can you at any time hereafter suggest for him to sleep and he will?

Some clients forget what happened during hypnosis. Others do not. Whether this spontaneous amnesia occurs depends on many factors, including (but not limited to) the client's expectations and how the hypnotist decides to use the various states of hypnosis.

After a hypnosis session, the client will return to a waking state, but will be positively affected by the hypnosis session.

Generally, once hypnotized, it becomes easier for a person to be hypnotized again—especially by the original hypnotist—if the hypnotist and client maintain rapport.


Hi KC... I'm just curious about something: have you ever been hypnotized?

Yes, I have been hypnotized.  It's important for a hypnotist to experience it:
(1) In order to be able to accurately describe the state of hypnosis beyond just reciting what one has been taught.
(2) In order to more effectively guide others through a hypnosis session by understanding what a client/volunteer is experiencing while hypnotized.


KC - Is it possible to self-hypnotize oneself? Is it safe and to what extent can one do it?

1. Yes, you can hypnotize yourself (a process which is commonly known as self-hypnosis).
2. Self-hypnosis is generally considered safe. However, before using self-hypnosis, you should consult your physician or a qualified professional who is familiar with your medical history.
3. Self-hypnosis can be effective if done properly. To what extent self-hypnosis is successful depends on the level of knowledge (about hypnosis) and tenacity of the person using it.

You can learn self-hypnosis by reading about it. But, I recommend that you learn how to use it properly and effectively from a good hypnotherapist or hypnocounselor, who first will help you experience/recognize the state of hypnosis, then will teach you how to reach and to use that state on your own.


OK I know this is probably silly, but I really want to find out.  Is it possibly to hypnotize someone with just your eyes?

Yours is not a silly question. It's a good one that requires a detailed response to fully explain. But, I'll simplify it as much as possible here:

On one hand if a person's expectation is high enough he/she can move into a hypnotic state via almost any stimulus including looking into a hypnotist's eyes. However—on the other hand—in the exaggerated ways hypnosis is usually represented on TV and in the movies, a person is not magically (or supernaturally) hypnotized by someone's eyes.


I have what is perhaps a subconscious phobia of blood. Personally I don't mind the stuff, but if I see it or get a needle I go into a seizure. Can I be hypnotized for this? Many thanks!

Yes, you can eliminate or mitigate phobias using hypnosis. Generally, it requires only one hypnosis session to address it to the client's satisfaction. (Some take more depending on various factors).


I've heard rumors of you creating a set of instructional videos on hypnosis. Any truth to this? When would they be out?

Yes, there's truth to what you've heard. However, I will be doing a few things before releasing a video series, such as teaching formal classes, leading seminars and lectures throughout the USA.


Are there any signs to look out for that indicate the person is actually hypnotized? I don't really want to look like any idiot by asking someone to do something when they open there eyes when there not actually hypnotized.

Although not everyone exhibits the same signs, for the traditional hypnotic state you should look for profound relaxation, fluttering eyelids, swallowing repeatedly, and stillness (this is not an exhaustive list). Remember, someone can seem wide awake and be in a state of hypnosis.

I recommend that you study the Davis-Husband Scale for test suggestion and response correlation to depth of hypnosis. The D-H Scale is not absolute, but it's a good reference to use when learning hypnosis.


KC - can suggestions be made to train harder, change attitude or stop feeling depressed or even feel no back pain if one has back pain?

Yes, suggestions can be made for all of what you mentioned. When dealing with pain management, a hypnotist must get a formal, written release from both the client and the client's treating physician.


What is hypnosis?

Hypnosis is a naturally occurring state of mind in which the brain responds to information (stimuli) with a similar set of open rules that apply to dream logic.

Think of hypnosis as a gym or fitness center for the brain. Once hypnotized, the unhealthy limits of the conscious mind are reduced, so the unconscious mind can easily learn healthy, new thought patterns. Each hypnosis session intensifies your concentration and strengthens your ability to function well every day, even in difficult situations--the way exercise helps the body grow stronger, healthier and prepares it for peak performance in competition.

For those studying hypnosis, you might be aware of this more technical definition of hypnosis: The process of by-passing the critical factor of the conscious mind while simultaneously establishing an acceptable mode of selective thinking.


How does hypnosis feel?

In the following video, a client of KC Johnson describes his experience with sports hypnosis:

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