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Suggestions - Direct, Indirect, Permissive

What are suggestions?

If hypnosis is guiding a subject into a desired state, then suggestions are the language of guiding. They help the hypnotist to transfer intent to the subject. Of course many factors play a role in this; language, wordplay, pacing, tone, nonverbal, the subject's state. This page will not cover them all but focus on a few basics to help out.

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What do you want to say?

Each suggestion is, in essence, an intent that is communicated from the hypnotist to the subject. An intent to relax, to feel something or more. The more you practice, the easier it becomes to phrase it in a way you want. No matter what, it helps to have an internal idea of the suggestion.

A clean delivery

While the language can be clear, the way you use your voice with suggestions matters a lot. Cultural and situational elements are also very important. Would they feel comfortable following your orders? Or would it be better to give them space?

It can be fun to experiment with tonal dissonance. Soft, sweet, almost innocent sounding words that actually use quite strict, controlling language. Or emphasizing key words while softly, almost skipping the 'vague' parts of the sentence. Making an indirect suggestion sound like a command.

Naturally, it is important to learn which language works best at which time, with which subject and state. Asking the subject how they felt about certain words can give you a lot of insight in this.

Making an effective suggestion

Regardless of the type of suggestion you give, the basic rules of thumb are:

Direct or Indirect?

How do you want to phrase your suggestion? As a command or a possibility? As a specific effect or a range?

Direct Suggestions

Suggestions without any choice in the matter. Almost worded like a command or something that will happen. The phrasing can be gentle and kind or very dominating and direct.

The advantage is that the language is very clear and direct. And some people prefer this kind of language.

The disadvantage is that the wording can also be considered authoritarian. The other disadvantage is that the suggestion could be considered "untrue" for the subject, which can pull them out of trance.

Indirect Suggestions

Suggestions where there is uncertainty in the wording. This uncertainty can be from the perspective of the hypnotist (I wonder...) or from the subject (Maybe you realize..).

The advantage of uncertainty is that there is room for interpretation. Maybe it is happening, maybe not. In both cases the statement remains true. However, it is important to still imply a direction. That something will happen.

The disadvantage is that some people prefer to be told what to rather than what could happen. And it can lack a clear goal.


Some simple examples, putting direct and indirect next to each other.

You are feeling very relaxed.
You may notice the relaxation that is happening.

Enjoy the sensation of your breathing slowing down.
At some point, your breathing will really slow down as you enjoy the sensation.

Feel how your body is getting heavier.
You can feel yourself getting heavier, or lighter or may not notice any change at all.

For you, it will feel as if no time has passed at all.
I wonder how much your sense of time is changed while in hypnosis. For some people, the whole session passes by like nothing, while for others it feels so good they want it to last forever.

Permissive language

Whether you use direct or indirect suggestions, adding permissive language to them can be very helpful. Usually this simply means adding words like: "or however you may experience it" to a suggestion. Another way is to keep certain specifics open on purpose. You see a bright color, without specifying which one or how bright.

Not Knowing and not Doing

This is a subset of indirect suggestions where you tell the subject about something that's happening that they are unaware of. This can encourage autonomous response and dissociation.

You imply that whatever is happening regardless of their participation.

You don't have to do anything at all. In fact, you don't even need to listen to what I'm saying as your unconscious mind will do all the listening for you without any effort at all.


Triggers are a subset of suggestions, and very often used within hypnosis. See Triggers

Mixing techniques for more fun!

Of course, these are just basic types. You can mix these with other techniques, like Hypnotic Language and Double Binds for even more oomph.

You don't have to do anything, I wonder if you'll even be aware of how much your body will relax as it listens to my voice. And yet the effects it has on your body can't completely have escaped your attention, because it's even obvious to me how much your body is relaxing right now.