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                                                                     Hypnotic Language Methods:

                                            Embracing Incompetence for Client Success

by C. Devin Hastings

March 2009







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Just as powerful and moving music is often influential because of the spaces between the notes, so is hypnotic language. 


Hypnotic language is not the “casting of a spell” by a canned script but rather, the guiding of a client’s unconscious toward healing.  This healing is accomplished by a variety of forces that are summoned by the hypnotist and harnessed by the client. 


With the above in mind, let’s now address the question: “What does incompetence have to do with helping a client?”


Well, as is so often the case, great discoveries are the result of incompetence or accidents.  The discovery of the 3M ‘Post It’ note is a classic example of this.


So, what I am proposing in this column is that one learns to competently master incompetence in order to help your client ‘accidentally’ discover a resolution to their challenge(s). 


Merriam Webster Online defines incompetence as “inadequate or unsuitable for a particular purpose”.  My point is that paradoxically, the more skilled and accomplished a practitioner is, the more incompetent they are because they can (and usually do) become increasingly limited by what they consciously know.


What I am incompetently trying to say is this: the more any of us thinks we know (in terms of healing methods), the more biased we are and so the more unsuitable we are for the purpose of unconsciously understanding and helping our client.  Why? Because we often lose sight of them through the lenses of our knowledge and expertise. 


Perhaps the following quote attributed to Bruce Lee, a famous martial artist, can sum up what I may or may not be trying to point out: “Learn everything you can and then forget it.”


With the above idea somewhere in mind, here is a language pattern that I often include in my communications to my clients: “Your conscious mind is very intelligent…but your unconscious is a lot smarter….and so I’m not asking you to learn any new skills…I’m only asking you to be willing to utilize the skills you already have, but do not yet fully know about.”


The idea here is the above suggestion can allow the hypnotherapist to cooperate fully with their client’s unconscious.  This means that rather than imposing programs, processes and methods on the client, they can instead utilize the client’s own patterns while also emphasizing the client’s highly underrated potentialities. 


Therefore, this enables the client to become an active participant in their change process which makes the healing work easier and more rewarding.  The beauty of this approach is that rather than becoming concerned with the exact solution the hypnotist consciously thinks a person in pain needs, they can instead unconsciously help their client. 


And speaking of consciously helping a person, have you ever noticed that when you give someone advice, it tends to be ignored?  This is why it helps to keep oneself incompetent when it comes to giving advice.


“I don’t know what you consciously need to hear but I do know that….your unconscious is capable of hearing exactly what it needs so that…you are changing in the best way possible.”


The point here is that when it comes to speaking to a client, a frequent hurdle many hypnotists face is not having enough to say, but rather, having too much to say.  Yes, it is important to know when to talk but more importantly, when to listen and how to listen.


And how to listen is the next important point to incompetently helping your client.  You must forget what you know and what you are going to say before your client is even finished.  You must turn your own unconscious mind into a ‘receive only’ instant messenger.


What this means is that you are receiving from your client what they need hear.  In essence, you are going into trance so that your conscious mind becomes utterly incompetent and incapable of interpretation or speech thus enabling your unconscious to join with theirs.


This is known as a “de-automatized experience”.  This means that you temporarily cast aside the shell of automatic perceptions and responses so that you can perceive their reality more deeply.


There are five aspects to a “de-automatized” experience:


(1) A first time realness.  This means that you are truly feeling as if you are totally new to what your client is saying.  This gives you a fresh and clear vision of what they are communicating. 


(2) Having a “fresh vision” can and often does, lead to unusual (meaning not yours) sensations internally and externally in the form of thoughts and feelings. 


(3) In so doing, you are now experiencing a sense of unity in which the usual sense of ‘separateness’ (self vs. other) dissolves. 


(4) This state of union thus leads to a state of incompetence in that you are unable to consciously describe what you are experiencing (according to your reality)

(5) You can’t consciously describe what you are experiencing because you are having experiences that are going beyond normal sensory modalities, ideas and memories.


So how do you competently experience this incompetence?  Here are 7 steps:


(1) Be sure that you and your client are comfortably seated so that you facing each other though it doesn’t have to be exactly in one in front of the other.  This is so that true (vs. artificial) matching of subconscious movements can more easily be obtained and perceived. 


(2) Quickly and effectively hypnotize yourself and then go inside and find and eliminate any sources of tension.  Any tension you experience will communicate quietly yet very loudly to your client.  You want to begin to develop a feeling of “flow” in your internal and external environment.


(3) Gently focus on your client so that you are creatively noticing their breathing patterns, body posture, muscular and emotional tension as well as when they are experiencing muscular and emotional relaxation.


(4) Make sure you are breathing comfortably.  This doesn’t mean yawning and the like. It means being able to ultimately synchronize your breathing with theirs.


(5) Connect with them using your eyes.  Make them the sole focus of your vision (without staring at them in an uncomfortable way). An effective way to do this is to focus on one of your client’s eyes as though you are looking through their eye at a point about one foot behind them.  This tends to absorb attention to the point of depotentiating both their conscious mind and yours.


(6) Flow with mental processes.  Let any and all thoughts or images effortlessly flow into and out of your mind.  Stay incompetent by avoiding logical interpretation! Avoiding logical analysis will help you to stay away from focusing on any one particular aspect that will most likely connect with your training (competence) rather than their experience.


(7) Once you have successfully done the first six steps, you can then incompetently let yourself speak freely and easily.  This means you are competently speaking unconsciously. 


Once having successfully arrived at step 7 you are now in an ‘externally oriented interpersonal trance’.  This means that you are embracing conscious incompetence so that you are unconsciously competent in summoning healing forces that will be harnessed by your client.


Non compos mentisally yours,


C. Devin Hastings





“It is through science that we prove, but through intuition that we discover."

- Henri Poincare




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