How People Unconsciously Hypnotize Family Members and Friends

Krys Call

When a friend tells us something like,"Boy, Jason and Jessica really know how to push my buttons," many of us know all to well how it feels to be in our friend's position. And, if we are highly sensitive people and our button pushers are expert technicians, our inner control panels may be consistently flashing as brightly and variously as that of a commercial jet in flight mode.

And, while our family members and friends are flicking and pressing our psychological switches and buttons, we may be having something like the jet's experience: coasting comfortably for a while on autopilot, all at once, we find that we're streaking above the clouds with elation, hardly noticing the light mist of confusion that is beginning to gather around us until we are in a zero visibility fog of disorientation. As we break through into the light, there is momentary relief until we note that the ground is straight ahead, and rapidly approaching.

How do Jessica and Jason do this to us? Knowingly or unknowingly, they are using what hypnotherapists call an "anchor." An anchor is an environmental cue, for example, a word or phrase, a smell, gesture or image that puts us back into the state of mind we were in when we habitually or first encountered the cue. This is why the smell of someone's favorite cologne can bring back memories of that person almost instantly.

This is also the "secret" that you may have seen offered for a high price, advertised as a method of "covert" hypnosis guaranteed to get you a date, or more. It's a secret that every ten year old who has gotten her mother to let her stay up late to see a movie on a school night already knows. It's also one reason that some couples who are in love stay in love. And, here it is for free:

Notice what really interests, engages or calms someone whose quality of life you would like to enhance. As the person talks about this interesting, engaging or calming topic, notice any specific words, phrases or gestures that s/he makes when s/he expresses the feeling of excitement, engagement or calmness. A real life example is the conversation that a stranger had with me about various philosophical approaches to cause and effect. When she heard an idea that excited her, she stepped forward, spread her feet, opened her eyes wider, looked slightly upward, deepened her voice and exclaimed, "That's brutally epic!"

Less obvious examples would be the person who touches the brim of her cap right after a successful golf swing or the one who jingles his keys when he is happy about where he's headed. All of these movements and expressions are anchors.

Match the stance, posture, tone of voice, facial expressions and keywords that the person uses to express a good feeling about something, and even in the absence of the cause of the good feeling, s/he will get that good feeling all over again. (It is important to downplay the expressions you are matching because a full-blown imitation can look like ridicule.)

When the ten year old who wants to stay up later than usual to watch a movie approaches her mother, she asks her how the astrophysics seminar she taught went that day, and when her mother's face lights up as she relates the contributions of her most brilliant grad student, the daughter's face lights up as well. And, the girl continues to use the same tone of voice and facial expressions her mother used to describe the grad student's contributions when she tells her mother about the good grade she got in math and the movie she wants to stay up to see. Somehow, the mother's excitement over her seminar carries over into a positive feeling towards her daughter's enjoyment of the movie.

Of course, if the mother doesn't approve of the movie, the daughter still won't get to see it. However, they will have a more enjoyable relationship because the daughter takes part in her mother's positive feelings about her own life.

People who do this for each other by unconsciously noting and mirroring each others' anchors for happiness have the feeling of effortlessly "clicking" with each other. People who consciously do this for many others gain reputations for being good listeners.

There are plenty of other specific skills that work to enhance other people's feelings of happiness, comfort and inclusion, but the gist of all of those methods is listening to someone's experience with complete acceptance for however the experience feels, looks and sounds like to him or her, or as Aretha Franklin more succinctly put it, "R-E-S-P-E-C-T."