3 ways to ask powerful healing questions
By Mark Tyrrell
"The wise man doesn't give the right answers, he poses the right questions." Claude Levi-Strauss
There are all kinds of fancy hypnotic inductions out there, but what is the simplest way to put someone on the fast train to trance?
I'm not talking about the sort of simple questions you get asked by a border official: "What's your name? Where do you live?" I mean the kind of questions that require you to do some inner work to answer. The kind of questions that send people on an inner search.
A wise teacher's students once asked him, "What is the meaning of life?" He replied: "Rather than asking life its meaning, realize that life is asking you. You need to answer life's question - 'What is the meaning of your life?'"
Hypnosis is a journey, and to get people started on that journey we need to encourage them to move inward.
Hypnosis the inner search
When someone tells you a gentle, rich and spell-binding story, they have invited you along on a journey in which you are 'searching', with their help, for the 'answer' to the problems posed by the story.
It's the same if someone tells you a joke. Or when you are baffled or amazed. At some point you will focus inwards to try to make sense of the 'question' posed by the baffling situation. Hypnosis serves many functions, and one of them is to enable us to delve inward to make sense of new information, new ideas or other phenomena that have impinged upon us.
Even the placebo response is your mind and body answering the question: "How are you going to get well now this (what you believe to be) medicine has been given you?"
You don't know consciously that you are trying to answer this question, but you are. And the form of your 'answer' is experience, not words.
People learn most powerfully not when they are told something but when they are asked something - and then allowed to see the truth becoming clear in their own minds.
The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates was famous for teaching complex ideas and mathematics purely by asking questions. (1)
So how can we help people move into hypnotic reflective mode through emulating Socrates and asking questions?
Ask questions that are 'strange'
You can warm someone up for their upcoming hypnotic experience by beginning to ask questions that demand a little more reflection and inner absorption. A question can be more than just a question - it can present a new perspective. So even just hearing the question can help someone focus on some part of their lives in a new fresh way.
"I really need to come off drugs!" you hear them say. And you might respond:
And what will be the very first awareness you'll have that you can now fly comfortably in that plane, that it's going to be okay, I wonder?
And what do you suppose will be the best thing for your family once you've started to leave that depression behind?
Such questions, which presume an obvious connection between the client's problem as stated and the content of the question, can jolt people into a new perspective, loosening up their often very fixed idea of what their problem is 'about'.
If you choose your metaphorical simile carefully (you need to be able to articulate, if necessary, how a drug problem is like fear of flying, or like depression), you can 'jump start' therapy.
Ask questions only the unconscious mind can answer
These are rhetorical questions in that they don't require a verbal answer but are 'answered' through a specific experience, sense or intuition.
And I wonder whether you'll drift into a deep comfortable hypnotic trance now or in a few moments... ?
Now we really don't know... yet... whether you'll hypnotically dream of being on a beautiful beach or some other wonderful calming place as you go deeper into trance... but you can find yourself becoming so curious about just how you are going to relax deeper...
You can't possibly know just how it's going to feel... to be free of that old phobia... like an old jacket that no longer really fits who you are... but a part of you that's not the conscious part already knows... and it's that part that can give you just a little hint... in a few moments... as to what that is going to feel like... just a little preview... maybe you'll feel that sense of soothing encouragement in your hands first... or maybe your feet... and you can just wait and see... as you close your eyes...
Ask questions that demand a feeling response, not a thinking one
We all get used to focussing outwardly on others and the world, and sometimes your client will answer a question that you intended as an 'inner search question' as if it was a normal kind of question.
So, for example, you might ask, "And how are those feet going to feel as you drift into hypnosis?" And they might respond: "Err ... probably relaxed, I should think!"
But what we really want is to mobilise their unconscious responses and resources. We want them to answer the questions through an experience.
So it helps to let them know howwe want them to respond.
I sometimes say:
Now this might sound a little strange... but for the next little while I'm going to be talking to your unconscious mind... and we can wait... and let that part of you answer... in its own way...
or I might say:
You don't have to answer me in words... but you might just close you eyes now as you begin to rest there... and just notice what comes to mind... as a result of the questions I'm going to ask you... without having to try to force an answer consciously...
When your unconscious mind lets you know that it's done all it needs... to make the necessary changes... you can notice a heavy feeling in those eyelids... almost as if they are temporarily glued together with deep deep comfort...
In effect, in this last example, we are asking the question "Have you made those inner changes?" and getting their unconscious mind to answer the question by developing eyelid catalepsy.
"How?", "Why?", "What?" and "When?" are powerful tools - and also keys -used since the dawn of humankind to develop, learn, and move forward. We, as therapists, can use them to enable our clients to fully access their own vast storehouses of unconscious potential.
(1) See: The Socratic Method
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