How does hypnosis work? Depends on who you ask. Hypnotists share a long running joke about the question: ‘Ask two hypnotists how hypnosis works and you’ll get three answers.’ Truth is, no one knows precisely how hypnosis works. Every theory seems to explain some aspects of it, but none account for everything we know. This article discusses the three theories I’ve found most useful in producing my erotic hypnosis MP3s.
Theory 1. Conscious Overload
Milton Erickson believed that hypnosis works by overloading conscious attention. This suspends the mind’s analytical functions and critical filters. And it allows suggestions to drop into the subconscious where they can affect long-term change.1
The subconscious contains memories of sights and sounds, thoughts, associations, emotions and social interactions. All of which provide a foundation for the interpreting new experiences, constructing meaning, and determining truth. Many of the conditions that therapists treat result from conflicts between the conscious and subconscious. So Erickson’s theory provided the basis for many therapeutic techniques, including neurolinguistic programing (NLP).
The average person can hold four to seven things in their conscious [working] memory. Trying to keep track of more than seven items will overload the consciousness. A flickering candle, a swinging pendulum, an animated spiral, or a hypnodomme’s cleavage may serve as one of these items, while the hypnotist guides the subject through a progressive relaxation to overload the rest of the consciousness. NLP language patterns, like nested stories, metaphors, and reframing techniques tax conscious mind further, forcing the subject into a trance. These linguistic patterns also help the subconscious mind build context, meaning and associations that facilitate acceptance of hypnotic suggestion.
Erickson’s theory and NLP provide the basis for many approaches to erotic hypnosis. I incorporate nested stories, and reframing in many of my erotic hypnosis MP3s. The nested stories serve as an indirect induction and provide a context to support positive affirmations and post-hypnotic suggestions. I also use an NLP technique called physical anchoring to build a subconscious link between a physical sensation and a state of mind. This helps you return to a trance more easily in future sessions.
Conscious overload works well for many types of hypnotherapy and erotic hypnosis. But it doesn’t explain highway hypnosis, sexual trances (induced by the physical sensations of foreplay), or trances induced by guided imagery.
Theory 2. Inverting the image/word relationship
Another theory of how hypnosis works suggests we induce trance by inverting the relationship between words and images. Most of the time we see with our eyes and we process the sight by mentally assigning words and meaning to the image. Hypnotic suggestions invert this process. The hypnotist uses words to invoke mental images. The more vividly you visualize a suggestion, the deeper you go into trance. The deeper the trance, the more receptive you are to the next suggestion.2
Guided imagery has always been an important part of hypnosis. The most familiar example is the progressive relaxation induction. The hypnotist tells you to imagine relaxing your body, one part at a time. First your head, then your shoulders, your arms, etc. You focus on visualizing each part of your body relax. And as you see this in your mind, you go into a trance. (I use this induction in several recordings.)
Hypnotherapists also use imagery to build a mental experience in which to frame suggestions or reframe previous experiences. The imagery provides context and support for suggestions, increasing the likelihood that you will accept them. This is especially important with suggestions that are likely to encounter subconscious conflicts, like you can orgasm more easily or accept that being bi-curious is natural.
For erotic hypnosis enthusiasts, guided imagery is essential. Men and women who explore erotic hypnosis seek experiences they can’t get from any other medium. They want to experience being kidnapped, seduced, or brainwashed. They want to feel the seductive power of the vampire, the stinging lash of the whip, the helplessness of being restrained, the freedom of losing their inhibitions, or the exhilaration of being transformed.
To create this experience, hypnotists use words to invoke mental images. And in a trance, you can make these images vivid enough to invoke physical sensations (like arousal) within the listener.
The inverted image/word relationship explains how guided imagery invokes trance and creates an erotic experience for the listener. But it still doesn’t explain sexual trances (induced by the physical sensations of foreplay), or trances induced by desire.
Theory 3. Synchronized Rhythms
Spirals and swinging pendulums are popular methods for inducing trance. The prevailing theory attributes their effectiveness to conscious overload or fatigue. But my experience with erotic hypnosis suggests there may be another mechanism at work: Synchronicity.
Additional research has shown that intense rhythmic stimulation can stimulate synchronized brain activity.
This synchrony may produce such intensely focused attention that sexual activity outcompetes usual self-awareness for access to consciousness, producing a state of sensory absorption and trance.5
I have always recited my scripts as an actor, projecting calm when I want the listener to relax, desire when I want them aroused, excitement when I want them to feel anticipation, and urgency when I want them to climax. My listeners, when they allow themselves to be carried away with these emotions, have found the experience intensely erotic. When I listened femdom hypnosis, like Mona Blu’s Snake Charmer series, I found myself falling into the rhythm of her words; going into trance from her pacing rather than a formal induction. Same with Kasha Shakti‘s Intimate Confession. Her rhythm and the provocative tone of her voice draws you into a trance. When I edited Manipulations, Shibby’s arousal was apparent in her voice. And listening to her arousal, inspired my own arousal. Each of these examples describes synchronicity between the hypnotist and the listener.
Synchronicity enables us to share emotions such as feeling relaxed, aroused, or entranced. During sex, physical stimulation (kissing, caressing, stroking) creates this synchronicity. But with hypnosis audio files, it’s the mirror neurons in our brains responding to the tone and rhythm of the hypnotist’s voice.
Read more about the appeal of erotic audio.
Three theories about how hypnosis works. Other theories exist, but these are the ones that best describe my experience. Each theory explains some aspect of hypnosis, but none explain everything about it. This could be because the human mind is the most complex organisms ever to evolve. And like snow flakes, no two are exactly alike. Or it could be because hypnosis is an art, and art brings together disparate elements to create something new. In this case, an erotic experience unlike any other.
- Kappas, John (1987) Professional hypnotism manual: Introducing physical and emotional suggestibility and sexuality, Second Edition
- Lewis, Scott (2013) The Hypnosis Treatment Option: Proven Solutions for Pain, Insomnia, Stress, Obesity, and Other Common Health Problems
- Max-Planck-Gesellschaft (2012) Making music together connects brains, ScienceDaily.com
- Fuller-Wright, Liz (2020) Baby and adult brains ‘sync up’ during play, finds Princeton Baby Lab, Princeton University
- Northwestern University (2016) Getting into the flow: Sexual pleasure is a kind of trance, ScienceDaily.com