Progressive Muscle Relaxation Induction (PMR)
C Michael Brannan
C Michael Brannan
Progressive Relaxation (or Progressive Muscle Relaxation) inductions are a mainstay of therapeutic and stage hypnosis. It is also what most people think of when they think of a hypnotic induction. When you learn hypnosis, a progressive relaxation induction will likely be among the first inductions you learn. Many people associate hypnosis with relaxation, and that association helps to make the induction more effective: hypnosis is relaxation, I'm becoming more and more relaxed, so I must be getting hypnotized.
There are some disadvantages to a progressive muscle relaxation induction. When you get hypnosis training, you will pretty quickly discover some of the drawbacks: it is slow and can be cumbersome. Its slowness can be a drawback for use on the stage. On the other hand, many find the experience of a progressive relaxation induction very satisfying. They just enjoy the experience of going into trance. And, of course, everyone enjoys being in trance.
There are innumerable variations of the progressive relaxation induction, and I will discuss some of the most common ones after giving you one example. Here is an example of this kind of induction that you can use on others, or record and take yourself into a nice, deep hypnotic trance. This is one of my own versions of the induction.
Progressive Relaxation Induction
C. Michael Brannan
Take a nice deep breath in...hold for a moment...and exhale. Another nice deep breath in...hold it for a moment...and exhale. One last nice deep breath in...hold it for a moment...and exhale...close your eyes down. Notice how your breath relaxes you, and as you continue to take nice, deep breaths you relax more and more with each breath you take.
Now, just focus on your left foot. Let every muscle in your left foot relax completely..every toe..your instep...that's right..relax your ankle. Completely relaxed, feeling comfortable, secure...totally relaxed. Now, just focus on your right foot, relax every muscle in your right foot completely. Notice how good it feels to just let go, relax and feel comfortable. Every breath you take relaxes you even deeper because it feels so good to just relax. And you know that relaxation is the key, and as you relax you begin to realize that you can achieve anything.
Relax your calves...the left and the right. Just let them relax, floating...feeling so comfortable. You know you could move them if you wanted, but they are so wonderfully relaxed that you want them to relax even more. Calf muscles so completely relaxed. No cares, no worries, just you and your relaxation.
Let your knees become wonderfully comfortable, relaxed. Notice how quickly they relax because you already know how to relax your body completely and totally. Every breath you take, every thought, every feeling only allows you to realize how comfortable, how relaxed you are, and that relaxes you even more. That's right...just relax, the more you relax, the more comfortable you feel, and the more comfortable you feel, the more deeply you relax.
And relax your thighs and your legs...all of your legs...from your hip all the way down, just relaxing even more. Feel your body drift more and more deeply into this relaxation, into this deep feeling of comfort, knowing that this comfort, this relaxation makes all things possible. Your mind reaches out, feeling that relaxation and comfort in your entire body. Notice how much more relaxed your toes, your feet, your ankle, calves and knees have become now that you have relaxed your thighs so completely.
Focus that relaxation on your hips now...both hips relaxing completely. Notice how good it feels to just relax...to just let go...to just feel comfortable. Your hips, so completely relaxed. Each breath you take, each passing moment, only serves to you relax more. Yesterday is gone...tomorrow is a million miles away...all there is, in this time, in this space, is you and your relaxation. Each gentle, relaxing breath takes you even deeper. All the way down...all the way down.
As you have already relaxed your hips, you feel even greater relaxation in your toes...your feet...your ankles...your calves...your knees...your thighs....relaxing even more deeply, feeling even more comfortable.
Relax your stomach now…just let your breathing, soft, even comfortable breathing relax your stomach even more. Feel your body drop down, relax and feel more comfortable as you relax every muscle, every fiber and every nerve drops you down deeper. And your chest and your back…just relax your back...feel your whole body just relax down, feeling comfortable, knowing that when you relax all things are possible in the mind. And it feels good to know that, does it not. Notice how all your body relaxes more and more deeply each time you relax down more.
All the way down your arms...letting your arms relax completely, totally and completely. Feeling all those sensations that tell you just how deeply your arms have already relaxed. All the way down, spreading that complete relaxation like warm waves of comfort through your arms...through your body...waves of comfort and relaxation...all the way down...your fingers, completely relaxed...comfortable and relaxed.
Now, letting that same quality of relaxation move into your neck. As you breathe easily and comfortably, your neck and all the muscles simply relax...deeply...profoundly...with every breath you take, relaxing more. You're concentrating perfectly only on those things that relax you even more.
You notice how much more deeply that relaxation has taken you already...fingers...arms...shoulders...chest...back...stomach...hips...legs...knees...calves...ankles...feet...toes all so wonderfully relaxed.
Relaxing all the muscles in your face...just relax...eyes shut...closed...feeling so good to just let them rest and relax. There is only your body and mind...and relaxation.
You have completely relaxed your body and now it's time to relax your mind. Letting go of all thought...letting go...as your unconscious...mind simply allows comfort and relaxation. Your mind grows quiet like the sound of a falling snowflake...quiet...still and quiet...like the surface...of a...still lake. All the way.
That is one version of a progressive relaxation that I have written. One unique aspect to this induction is the relaxation of the mind. It is unique to this version, though it appears, of course, in the Elman induction. Here are some variations:
It is usual to have the subject breathe through his nose and out through his mouth. One variation is to have him visualize his breath as he breathes out (breathing away all the tensions...breathing in relaxation...). Visualize it as a soft colored "smoke" kind of like breathing when the air is cold. Watch the subject's breathing. It should be slow, yet be steady and rhythmic.
Order of Relaxation:
You will find that some progressive relaxation scripts start at the head and move down. It works, too. I prefer going the other way and ending with a complete relaxation of the mind (as with the Elman induction). But nearly all will start at at either the head or the feet.
The specific language isn't excessively important, though keep it positive and on hypnotic themes such as relaxation, comfort, security and so forth. You want to use language that not only encourages trance but also assumes trance. One example of assuming trance in this induction is the connection between relaxation of one part of your body and another part of your body. Many progressive relaxation inductions will spend a long time relaxing each body part. It is up to you to watch your subject so you do enough, but you don't overdo it.
How many more things can you see in this induction?
The Elman Induction: Take a long deep breath, fill up your lungs real good and hold it for a second. Now when you exhale, close your eyes down... And let yourself relax. Get rid of that surface tension in your body, let your shoulders relax. It's ok to relax today.
Now put your awareness on your eyelids. You know that you can relax those eyes beautifully. You know that you can relax those eyes so deeply, that as long as you choose to hold on to that relaxation, those eyelids just remain closed.... And when you know that you've done that, hold on to that relaxation, give them a good test, make sure they remain closed.... And notice how good it feels. Test them hard, it's ok. [pause] that's good. Stop testing let yourself relax much more.
That quality of relaxation you are allowing in your eyes is the quality of relaxation I'd like you to let yourself have throughout your entire body. So take that same quality, bring it up to the top of your head... And send it down through your body from the top of your head to the tip of your toes. Let go of every muscle. Let go of every nerve. Let go of every fiber... And let yourself drift much, deeper, relaxed. You got it.
Now let's really deepen this state. In a moment I'll ask you to open and close your eyes. When you close your eyes, send a wave of relaxation through your body, so very quickly, you'll allow this physical part of you to relax... Ten times deeper. Just want it and you can have it.
Let your eyes become open... Close your eyes... And really... Let go. Feel your body relax, much more. You're doing fine.
In a moment I'll ask you to open and close your eyes again. This time when you close your eyes, double this physical relaxation... Really let it grow twice as deep. Let your eyes become open... Way down... Deeper... Deeper... Relaxed.
In a moment we'll do it one more time... And notice how well it comes in this time as you learn how simple it is... At least double it. All right let your eyes become open... Way down... really let go. That's good. That's good.
In a moment I'm going to lift your right arm and drop it. Don't help me lift that arm... And when it drops down, just notice how much more, your body can relax very easily. [arm drop] perfect. Way down. Great...
In a moment I'm going to lift your right arm again and drop it. ... And when it drops down, just notice how much more, your body can relax very easily. [arm drop] perfect. Way down. Excellent...
In a moment I'm going to lift your right arm one more time and drop it. ... And when it drops down, just notice how much more, your body can relax very easily. [arm drop] perfect. Way down. Excellent...
Now the body's relaxed... so let's get the mind relaxed, that's really what we want to do. When your mind's relaxed you really can achieve anything you can think of, within certain restrictions of course.
In a moment I'll ask you to slowly begin counting out loud, backwards, starting with the number 100. After each number, simply say the words, 'deeper relaxed'. After each number double your mental relaxation, let your mind grow twice as calm and still and serene. Now if you do this, you'll discover by the time you just say a couple numbers, doesn't take long, you've relaxed your mind so beautifully and so completely, you've actually relaxed all the rest of the numbers out. Want that... And you can have it quickly.
Slowly begin counting out loud, backwards, starting with the number 100. Saying the words, deeper relaxed... And relax those numbers right out of your mind. "100 deeper relaxed" That's good.
"98 deeper relaxed" That's fine.
"97 deeper relaxed." Now you can let those numbers grow dim and distant, they're not important.
"96 deeper relaxed." And when you're ready just push them out. "96 deeper relaxed." Now push them on out, just tell them to leave and they will go. Just let them go... And let them be gone. ...Numbers all gone ? "yes."[Or, continue until yes is the reply]
That's the induction. It seems very simple and straightforward, yet there is a lot of hypnosis going on the few minutes it takes to go through the induction.
That's the original induction, and there are many, many slight variants of it. Most hypnotists change it to synch with their own style even as they keep the basic structure intact.
Here Are Some Key Elements:
All hypnosis is self-hypnosis, it is said. Notice how Elman entices cooperation from the subject right at the start. You "can relax those eyes." He leaves total control over the process to the subject. Throughout the induction, Elman simply asks the client to produce hypnotic phenomena: He invites them to produce eye closure, deep relaxation and eventually, number amnesia. It goes step by step from the easier hypnotic phenomena to the more difficult.
There is a cooperation element in the eye closure as well. The words of the induction tell the client to test the eyes only when he knows that he has relaxed them to the point where the eyes stay closed as long as he holds on to that relaxation. If the subject actually opens his eyes, he didn't follow the instructions; that is, he isn't cooperating with the hypnotist.
This is one of the keys of the induction and you can apply it to any induction and many other things as well. Elman noticed in his practice that people went deeper and deeper into trance with each trance experience. The opening and closing of eyes is a way to take the subject up from trance, and then back down. Each time you do this, you take them deeper into trance. You see stage hypnotists do this kind of thing all night long, and by the end of the show, all the subjects are in a quite deep hypnotic trance.
Hypnotic Suggestion (Arm Drop)
The subject is tested for depth of trance and taken deeper into trance with the hypnotic suggestion that dropping their arm will take them deeper into hypnotic trance. If the person is already in some level of trance and the suggestion is accepted, the arm drops take them deeper and deeper into hypnotic trance. You see stage hypnotists use this effect all the time: in a band skit, the hypnotist may say something like, "the louder you player, the deeper you go and the better you feel." This is a way to "pyramid suggestions." Use one success to create additional hypnotic successes.
Amnesia is one of the tests for Somnambulism, a deep hypnotic state. Yet, notice how Elman here asks the subject to create the phenomena for himself. Let the numbers go, tell the numbers to leave and they will go.
Elman attaches a motivation to each of the hypnotic phenomena that he wants the client to create. At first, it's relaxation and feeling good. For number amnesia, he tells the client that when they relax their mind in the way he is asking them to, they can achieve anything they want to. A pretty big motivator to do that, is it not?
When Things Go Wrong
Not everything works perfectly 100% of the time. A couple common things that can happen are:
They open their eyesNot a big deal, but it suggests the client is not fully cooperative. Ask them to just close their eyes down again, tell them that they are fully in control of the process, and the more they are able to do what you ask them to do, the more able they will be able to make the changes they want. Do not redo the test.
Their arm is not relaxed during the arm drop
Once again, this is a cooperation issue. We all can relax our arms completely. You will need to give the instructions again, and retest. "Just relax your arms completely, so they are loose and limp, like a wet dish rag…" If they still are not relaxing, you may need to have them open their eyes and talk to determine how they are stopping themselves from going into a nice deep trance. Remember, give them a motivation for cooperating with you…"It just feels so good to let your arm relax," or "the more you relax, the easier it is to get all the things you want."
That's it, just practice, practice, practice, and notice how quickly you can take people into trance with this incredibly powerful induction.
Stage and Demonstration Hypnosis
Most of the induction can be used as is for stage shows or for group demonstrations. There are just a couple of places where you will have to modify the induction.
You won't be able to guide each person in a group to open their eyes/close them (Fractionation), so you have them open the eyes, looking at some particular place (such as yourself), and then close their eyes. That way, they won't be distracted by anything they see when they open their eyes. It's an easy enough adjustment.
If the size of the demonstration crowd is too large or too far apart, you may not be able to do the arm drop for each person. You can substitute something else, such as a "nice deep breath," and when you release that breath, you'll go much deeper.
You may not want everyone counting out loud in a group, so do the counting for them. After a few numbers, say "that's right, the numbers are disappearing, just finish letting them go…" And then go on with whatever you wanted to do.
That's about all you need to do to use this induction for groups.