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Three Firm Handshakes--Successwork Hypnosis Blog


I was chatting with a hypnotist-friend of mine the other day. The conversation got around to handshake inductions and suddenly
we couldn’t agree on anything—not even the principles that made it work. Turns out, we were talking about different handshake
inductions!

There are three main handshake inductions that I know of and have used, and each works according to different principles. They’re
all worth getting to know and practicing frequently. I’m naming them by the sources from which they come, although I can’t always
say for certain whether these were the people who originated them or only popularized them. These descriptions are my own
understanding of them, based on my experience, but I do not pretend to be an expert, by any means. Moreover, this document is
only an overview, and there are many fine resources, including the sources listed, which can supply further information.

Now, this document doesn’t teach these techniques, so if you’re not already familiar with how to hypnotize someone, and especially
how to use rapid inductions like these, chances are that this document won’t be of much use to you. But if it helps to clarify what
you already know, and possibly inspire you towards new practices and understandings, then I’ve achieved my aim.

Here they are (in a sort of historical order):


Elman’s Handshake Induction, Erickson’s Handshake Induction, Bandler’s Handshake Induction
Let’s take a closer look…

Elman’s Handshake Induction, From “Hypnotherapy,” by Dave Elman (1970)


Principle: Authoritarian (also called Prestige)

Elman is one of the big names in hypnosis for the 20th century. His methodology is authoritarian, which is to say, it relies on the client’s
firm belief in the hypnotist’s ability and authority. The client enters into it with the expectation of being put into trance rapidly.

Technique:
• Pre-talk
• Three shakes of the hand

Overview of the technique: both the client and hypnotist begin with a clear expectation of the outcome. The hypnotist offers the
client a pre-talk that outlines what will transpire: specifically, that he will shake the client’s hand three times. With each shake the
client will become more relaxed, and on the third shake, the client will drop into a deep trance state. As long as the hypnotist is
confident, the client drops into trance as expected. The hypnotist needs a strong frame/confidence to establish his authority/
prestige. It’s also a good induction for a hypnotist to develop a strong presence.

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Erickson’s Handshake Induction, From “Mind-Body Communications,” edited by Ernest Rossi (1986)
Principle: Confusion—ambiguous touch

Milton Erickson is the other big name in hypnosis for the 20th century (well, there actually are a few others, but for the sake of
brevity…). His developed a bewildering variety of different approaches to trance and hypnotic effect, often based on an amazing
sensitivity to the change in states of consciousness of his clients. The story behind this induction was that Erickson was lecturing at
a university in South America, and was presented with a volunteer who spoke no English. He took the language barrier as a challenge
and an opportunity (Erickson’s principle of Utilization, eh?)

Technique:
• Take client’s hand
• Make eye contact; apply ambiguous touch
• Go into trance yourself

Overview of the technique: This induction is done silently, without talk! Ideally, client and hypnotist are in some kind of rapport, or
at least the client has some expectation of trance. The hypnotist takes the client’s hand firmly and reassuringly, and begins to shake
it slowly and gently up and down, also making firm eye contact at the same time, to capture the client’s attention. The hypnotist
begins to go into trance himself, maintaining eye contact. The handshake gradually becomes softer and smaller, also gradually loos-
ening the grasp, but so slowly that the client can’t gauge whether or not the touch is still there. During the loosening, the hypnotist
also continually varies the pressure and touch of his fingers on different parts of the client’s hand, so that the sensory input to the
client’s hand is ambiguous and confusing—the client can’t pin down what they are feeling. The client’s attention is also split between
the touch and the eye contact. In this way, they are open to the passive suggestion to trance, which comes via the hypnotist’s own
trance state. The client will be in trance when arm-catalepsy is achieved (along with other trance analogues, like heavy, slow breathing),
although they may not close their eyes unless suggested to do so, either verbally or non-verbally.

Bandler’s Handshake Induction, From “Trance-formations,” by Bandler & Grinder (1981)


Principle: Pattern interrupt—confusion

Richard Bandler is one of the founders of Neuro Linguistic Programming and one of Erickson’s more famous students. This is a technique
is described in several of his works, both books and videos. It requires a highly developed sense of physical and verbal timing. The tech-
nique is reported to have been developed by Erickson, and modified and popularized by Richard Bandler.

Technique:
• Reach forward with right hand to shake
• As client is reaching out, expecting to clasp hypnotist’s right hand, the hypnotist takes the back of client’s hand with his
(hypnotist’s) left, and brings it rapidly up to client’s face. Hypnotist commands client to focus on his own hand, and while
doing that, to enter trance.
• Hypnotist commands client to allow his own hand to drop only as quickly as he goes into trance.
• At the end of the trance experience, hypnotist may reposition the client’s hand in front of his face, and then closes the
pattern by resuming the handshake.

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Overview of the technique: This induction uses a number of sophisticated skills. It uses a pattern interrupt to confuse the client’s
expectations—he has committed to a handshake with the hypnotist by responding to the hypnotist’s extended hand, in the way
he’s done millions of times before with other people. In a split-second, however, he suddenly finds his own hand rising up in front
of his face, being moved by the the hypnotist’s left hand, and this creates a moment of confusion. In that moment, the hypnotist
commands the client to focus his attention on his own hand. (Where the previous two techniques allow the ‘handshake pattern’
to continue as expected by the client and then lead the client’s attention into unexpected and unknown places, the pattern interrupt
is initiated before the pattern is executed. This creates a little dissonance/confusion between the client’s expectations and the
actual experience. The hypnotist’s command slips in through the “shadow” in the client’s awareness). As the client’s attention
becomes fixed, he will experience a catalepsy of the arm. The hypnotist can let go of the hand, and the client’s arm will gradually
drop of it’s own accord, or by suggestion. While client is complying with the command, the hypnotist continues to present deepening
commands, including a linguistic bind to go down into trance as the hand lowers. At the end of the trance, Bandler completes the
unfinished pattern of the handshake by taking the client’s hand and completing the hand shake, as he brings the client out of trance.

This one is very impressive to perform, but demands an excellent sense of timing, which is to say lots of practice is necessary.

As I mentioned earlier, this document is based on my understanding and practice of the techniques. What’s yours? Whether you’ve
been the hypnotist or the client, I’d love to hear your feedback!

© Jeff Sauber 2009


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