by Jon Atack

Guided Imagination

Hypnosis means “guided imagination”. It describes the altered states of mind that occur when an outsider controls what we perceive and believe by manipulating our imagination.

Hypnosis - Exploitative Techniques

Creative Types Easier to Hypnotize

Highly imaginative people are usually more easily hypnotized: such people have a more intense experience of both art and nature. It may be that phlegmatic people and psychopaths are immune to hypnosis, because they have restricted feelings, but most people can be hypnotized, and hypnotic states are a normal part of human life. Indeed, creative people use guided imagination on a daily basis without necessarily realizing it is a hypnotic tool.

Hypnosis is an ability, rather than a disadvantage, unless you are hypnotically controlled by an outsider. The word usually conjures up images of a swinging watch and profound or “deep” trance states, but this is not the everyday experience of hypnosis.

Hypnosis by Degree

“Light trance” or “reverie” is a dreamlike state, in which the subject remains conscious but susceptible to suggestion. Most hypnotherapists use this state to help their clients to overcome unwanted behaviors and to instill desired behaviors. The master of this technique was Dr Milton Ericson, though he relied upon his preternatural perception to influence his clients, which probably cannot be taught.


Beyond light trance is “everyday suggestibility”, which is the normal state of almost everyone. We are “primed” by our surroundings, and most of our thoughts are influenced by unregistered sensory cues.

The English showman Derren Brown demonstrated the effect of everyday suggestibility by asking two graphic designers to make a poster advertising a pet cemetery. They were surprised when he showed them that he had sketched the design they eventually came up with, before they even began. He then showed them the images they had been exposed to on their way to the studio, which led them to make their “own” design.


Visualization is a hypnotic method believed in by many athletes to enhance performance. Many creative artists use guided imagination to produce new work. For instance, the novelist Aldous Huxley withdrew into a fantasy world to create new stories. He called this “deep reflection”.

It is a very good idea to understand the basics of hypnosis, so that the ability is not used against us, and so that we can make positive use of it in our lives.

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