Three Phrases to Avoid When Using the Language of Hypnosis


Every hypnosis word we use has meaning. It’s well known that when we describe something to a person in hypnosis, that description can become a deep suggestion: “Your hand is becoming very light, floating in the air like a balloon.” Other suggestions are powerful, “You feel very peaceful.” or “Your body is healing perfectly.” But this kind of well-known verbal skill is just the tip of the iceberg with hypnosis. Let’s dive even deeper. Let’s take a look at authoritarian vs. permissive language; at the use of negativities, and at the use of only visual language.

The “I want you to…” Conundrum

It never ceases to amaze me how many practitioners use the words, “I want you to…” when asking their clients to take the next action. It’s truly an instinctive use of language, and yet it is very significant. It, in fact, tells the client, “I’m not really interested in what you want, but here’s what I want you to do. And I’m your boss, so here’s what I want from you.” The significance of this is that the practitioner and client have a relationship that says, “I know what’s good for you, and therefore, I have one up on you.” But there’s another truth that this point of view misses; it’s that our clients have real wisdom, that they often know what is good for them, and that they are worthy of great respect. Milton Erickson knew this deeply. He rescued the old authoritarian hypnosis from its own language – and from itself. So grew the popularity of such phrases as: “Just let yourself…” or “You may find that you want to…” or “If you would, just go ahead and…” Some clients and hypnotherapists rejoiced at this. Others paid little or no attention and kept on with “I want you to…” language. The upshot of this is that sometimes clients are treated with a paternalistic attitude that implies that the hypnotherapist is a demigod. So, if that is what floats your boat, there are then all kinds of practitioners with many variations of behavior. If you are one who uses authoritarian language and would like to see what a new way might be like, I’d like to suggest just becoming aware and trying on a new hat and a new way of using language – if you like.

Negative Language and Negative States

I was taken by surprise one day when I heard a very skilled and wonderful hypnotherapist use this suggestion: “When you feel your anxiety, just breathe deeply.” That sounds innocuous, but think about it. If we use a word like “anxiety” in our positive suggestions, it may make a client anxious. Not only that, it also implies that the client will keep on feeling the fearful state. So it might have worked better if this hypnotherapist would say, “Whenever you want to or need to, you can always breathe deeply.” This doesn’t bring up the negative states, and it offers a possible action just in case the client needs to do something for healing. And yet, I’ve heard many hypnotherapists who give such suggestions as, “You don’t feel so tired anymore.” Or “Your tumors are not so painful.” Well, in addition to using the word “not” – there’s also the very negative words and concomitant images that are evoked.

It’s a well-known fact that negative language can create negative states. My dear friend Dianne Kathryn Short, a marvelous hypnotherapist, created a list of commonly used phrases that can create unwanted manifestations:

· “That eats my heart out.”

“I need a break.”

· “That’s driving me crazy.”

· “That’s to die for.”

· “It makes me sick.”

So when you listen to what your clients are saying, you may find negative words or phrases that may be contributing to their current issues. Hopefully the words you, yourself, use will contribute to the process of healing instead.

You May Not be Able to See It

It’s also good to remember that not all people are visual. Many hypnotherapists and others who do visualization assume that everyone has the ability to see things inside their minds. But as NLP so aptly taught us, only some people are visual. Others are auditory or kinesthetic or olfactory or whatever other sense is their dominant mode of experiencing.

This may sound rather basic, and yet how often do you hear an induction that starts out saying, “Just picture yourself on the beach on a beautiful day.” Not everyone can see that kind of picture. And not only that, some people don’t like the beach, so you’ve got two strikes against you if you go that route. One way to circumvent all of this is to use non-visual inductions – like counting or letters of the alphabet or progressive relaxation. Or you can ask the client to tell you their preferences before you even go into trance. Or you can use visual pictures with non-visual language: “Just imagine yourself on a beach. You may see it or feel it or just know it’s there – any way that is best for you to experience it.”

The great Walter Sichort, master of the ultra-depth trance, once told me that he never used visual inductions because they made people think too much. He said that it was good to take people to more primitive parts of their brains, and so he used numbers and letters and, of course, his voice. It’s good to be sensitive to different peoples’ varying modes of experiencing life and to choose appropriate language.


Want to learn more about life transformation, spiritual growth, hypnosis, and healing? You can download our 100 page free ebook, Extraordinary Healing at You can also subscribe to our wonderful free monthly newsletter, “The Transformation News.” Marilyn Gordon is a board certified hypnotherapist, teacher, speaker, healer, school director, and author with over thirty years of experience. Her latest book is The Wise Mind: The Brilliant Key to Life Transformation and Healing. Check out


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