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A posthypnotic suggestion refers to a suggestion which is given to a person when in a hypnotic state and which involves an action to be carried out later when
the person is in their normal waking state. It can be given in heterohypnosis and self-hypnosis. Take the following example, which is simple and of no
particular use in itself, except to demonstrate typical, posthypnotic behaviour. When in a hypnotic state, suppose you gave yourself a suggestion that when
you awoke after ve minutes you would have a tremendous desire to take o your right shoe, and that with each moment that passed this urge would become
stronger and stronger until you took o your right shoe. If you were actually carrying this out you would use repetition and imagery. Now, in all probability,
you would carry out this instruction. After ve minutes had elapsed, you would nd yourself thinking about your right shoe, your attention would more and
more be directed at your right shoe. You will probably remember the posthypnotic suggestion, but still the urge to comply will get stronger and stronger and
stronger, until you carried out what had been suggested.

If a posthypnotic suggestion is not carried out, two reasons are usually advanced to explain this. First, the person was not in a suciently deep enough
trance. Second, the instruction was ridiculous, inconsiderate or improper. Let me take each of these in turn. The rst explanation is certainly true in a number
of occasions, but it is a fallacy to conclude the depth of hypnosis from the fact of whether or not a given posthypnotic suggestion is carried out. Posthypnotic
suggestions, if reasonable, can be acted upon with the person being in a light, medium or very deep trance.

The second explanation has arisen largely from experimentation and stage shows. If you are given a ridiculous instruction, in either heterohypnosis or in self-
hypnosis, then in all likelihood you will not comply. One may consider the above suggestion to take o your right shoe after ve minutes, comes into such a
category. If you do, then you may not carry out this particular posthypnotic suggestion. The same is true if the suggestion, in some way, went against your
moral code. It appears that the super-ego, to use a Freudian concept, is always working and does not go to sleep. The point here is that these situations tend
to arise in heterohypnosis, where a ridiculous suggestion is being used in experimental work to demonstrate the existence of posthypnotic phenomenon; or
by stage hypnotists who wish to create an amusing performance (at the cost of the volunteer). In self-hypnosis this is unlikely to arise because you are
unlikely to give yourself ridiculous or improper posthypnotic suggestions.

The great importance of posthypnotic suggestions is their use in speeding up the induction process on future occasions and for deepening the trance state.

Characteristics of posthypnotic suggestions

We shall now use this posthypnotic suggestion to discuss some of their characteristics. First and foremost, posthypnotic suggestions do not occur only in
heterohypnosis. There is no more diculty in giving yourself a posthypnotic suggestion as being given one by another person. The only real dierence, if there
is one, is that human nature has a tendency to follow other peoples suggestions more readily than our own especially if the other person is someone in
authority. Second, the posthypnotic suggestion is to be carried out when you are in your normal waking state. It is an act to be carried out in the future when
you are in a normal waking state. Whether you temporarily re-enter a state of hypnosis to carry out the act we shall discuss later.

The performance of a posthypnotic suggestion needs to be activated. It can be activated by a signal, such as snapping the ngers; a phrase, when I say,
sleep you will go into a deep trance state; or some other signal, such as playing a particular piece of music (very popular with stage hypnotists). The signal
should be simple and unambiguous. It does, however, require careful consideration. The signal should not be something that a person (the hypnotist on this
occasion) does quite naturally. In other words, it should not be something that commonly occurs in everyday life. Snapping the ngers does not come into this
category. Why? The hypnotist will always say, When I snap my ngers, you will go into trance. So the signal is very explicit to the hypnotist snapping his
ngers. But even this can lead to a problem. Suppose a hypnotherapist gave this signal. Suppose that this particular hypnotherapist was being interviewed on
TV and happened to illustrate giving posthypnotic suggestions by snapping his ngers (which he does so on the programme). You happened to be watching
this programme because you heard your hypnotherapist was on TV. Lo and behold, you go into a trance! However, you would not remain in trance. Even so, it
is not something you would have preferred to do on this occasion.

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