The whole idea of eye fixation has some merit. It’s true that concentration and focus are key ingredients in achieving hypnosis. And eye fixation was in fact used commonly, decades ago, in inducing hypnosis. The desired state of a hypnotic subject is to have them completely relaxed, eyes closed, so that their focus is internal, rather than external. To really shut out the external channels, you need to eliminate your visual sense temporarily, your external visual sense that is. Eliminate what you see on the outside, so that you can focus on what you see inside your own psyche.
So that means having your eyes closed. Eye fixation achieves this. It helps someone’s eyes to become tired, and eventually close. A hypnotist might ask a client to focus on any specific object or point in the room. Obviously something above eye level will tire the eyes more quickly, and that’s the whole point of using eye fixation.
Some clients expect that I will ask them to look straight into my eyes during an induction, or that I will produce some sort of visual tool like a swinging watch to induce hypnosis and begin their therapy session. I personally do not usually employ this method of induction. The theory that there needs to be complete visual focus in order to achieve hypnosis is essentially false. It doesn’t get you there any faster nor does it induce a deeper state of trance. In the event a client expects to be subjected to that visual focus, or believes it will help in some way, I do carry around something in my briefcase, which I have in fact used once or twice.
The image of the swinging watch is a visual reference that most people readily associate with hypnotic induction. It’s a pop culture classic, really. That’s because it’s been frequently used in television and movies, and for many people who’ve never experienced hypnosis or self-hypnosis, they know only what they’ve seen or been exposed to.
Watching an induction on television would be rather boring if it didn’t have some sort of visual element for the audience to witness and capture. Watching someone lying silently on a sofa with their eyes closed is not nearly as engaging as the image of the swinging watch. A viewer almost feels like he is part of the experience too. There have been many variations represented as well, it’s not always a watch or pendulum, but all have the same basic premise, which is that eye fixation is the route to achieving that hypnotic state. In the movies it’s always done in such a way that it suggests an element of strangeness, or mystery, almost fear.
I personally believe that there is a strong connection between the eyes and the brain. But I don’t think eye fixation is necessary to induce hypnosis. In fact I know that it is not. I’ve induced hundreds of clients to various levels of hypnotic depth without the use of any visual concentration off the top.
None of our recordings dictate any kind of eye fixation, either. It’s a method that hasn’t been used in years. In fact, rather than advancing the hypnotic state, it actually takes longer to achieve it when you use eye fixation because you are starting with the eyes open. Most current methods of induction simply require that the client start by closing their eyes. This essentially bypasses that whole stage, the whole process of getting the eyes to shut. We skip right over that and go straight to vocal induction with eyes already closed, thereby achieving hypnosis much more quickly and deeply.
There are many different methods of induction. Verbal induction can sometimes include what I call the internal external experience, to help with hypnosis. This is where I might suggest to my client during induction that he should concentrate on how the palm of his hand feels, for example, as he listens to my voice. No matter the approach, the common practice in inducing hypnosis is progressive relaxation. The more relaxed your subject becomes, the deeper the hypnotic state they will achieve. And progressive relaxation can be achieved in different ways, including with the use of eye fixation.
When someone asks me about eye fixation or the swinging pendulum, I just tell them what I truly believe: that it’s an old fashioned approach, and that it takes time, and has no benefit in terms of improving the outcome. It may have been thought to be necessary at one time, but it isn’t so in modern times, and can be bypassed in favor of a simpler and more rapid execution. There is absolutely no benefit to the results in using eye fixation, nor is there any compromise in not using it.
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