Sensory systems

At the lowest level you will be simply aiming to increase or decrease the activity of the wide range of sensory systems that the body is provided with. (Try to forget the phrase "the five senses" - it involves only a rough categorisation)

You have already done this at a simple level: you have for example aroused a sensation of touch - of a slight tickle, when there is nothing there, and in relaxing a hand or arm you will probably have reached a point where it is unable to feel whatever it is that it is resting on. In that way you will have on the one hand made the system so inactive that it is signalling nothing, or so active that it is signalling something that is not really there.

Here are just a few ideas of other goals you might have, working simply with the palm or back of a hand, with the eyes closed. Aim at getting the subject to feel the sensation of something moving on the hand. Then of fur or silk or leather or paper or metal. Then of a glove on the hand. Then heat or cold. Then pain or numbness. Strictly speaking the sensors from touch are different from those for temperature and those for pain, so you are really working with three distinct senses here, united by all relating to the hand.

Hint: A good starting point for the above is to suggest (as usual taking time), "Now in a while I am going to draw a thin thread over your hand. Just signal when you can feel it." (You will not actually draw a thread over the hand: the subject will be imagining it.)

Note that you are not then leaving the subject the question of whether or not there is a sensation, but only when it will appear. It will therefore be expected. And the expectation is always fertile ground in which the sensation itself will grow.

This principle is used quite often in hypnosis. (As it is in selling! Don't ask the customer, "Do you want to buy this or not?" but always "Would you prefer the economical model or the one with all the extras?" or "Will you be paying today or on credit?" - you don't want the customer to be wondering whether he will buy, only which or when or how.)

Once you have achieved the sensation of the thread it is that much easier to build up to the other materials. Once these sensations have been noticed you can move quite easily from a feeling of wool or leather to a glove of the same material. Once you have got the sensation of metal you can start to work on the idea that the metal is hot or cold. It has been recorded in some people that a redness will develop in the place that you suggest the heat to be. To produce the feeling of cold it might work better with some to go for the idea that there is ice on the hand. Pain can be imagined if you suggest that a needle will be used, but touch only with something like a pencil. If the person is expecting the needle then the message from the nerves will be interpreted by higher centres as the touch of a needle. And the thing can work the other way. If a light touch is firmly expected then even if you pinch quite hard it will only be felt as a light touch.

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