Fractionation in hypnosis helps solve one of the ongoing challenges with hypnosis and hypnotherapy. And that is the ability to guide someone into a deep enough state to be open to suggestion and to be relaxed enough to not fight the process.
This does not mean that a trance state needs to be deep to be effective. Because it’s possible to do great work with most people in even a very light trance. Sometimes though, a persons conscious thoughts and tension can interfere with an effective hypnotherapy session. And this causes it to take longer, or for more sessions to be needed. So it is useful to have ways to help the person let go at a deeper level.
There are many techniques for hypnotic inductions, and I’m not going to get into them here. However, I would like to point out this one because it’s used surprisingly little. Used correctly is a very powerful technique. And not just for hypnotherapy sessions as you will learn later.
I think some hypnotherapists avoid it partly because it is counter intuitive and takes confidence in abilities. But it’s hard to get it wrong. With the right relaxation techniques fractionation is not needed. But having it as an option can help you get past some potential challenges when helping someone relax.
What is fractionation in hypnosis and how does it work
Fractionation in hypnosis is the practice of bringing someone out of the trance state for a very short period of time before putting them back in again.
Literally you would say something like… “In a moment I’m going to count to five and on the number five you will open your eyes and be awake and alert. And when I say the words ‘close your eyes and relax deeper now’ your eyes will close and you will go even deeper into a trance than you were before”.
So what is the purpose of doing this?
Bringing the person slightly out of trance and then putting them back in again has the effect of deepening the trance in most people.
The body and mind have what might be considered a working memory. Working memory is defined as a temporary storage of information to facilitate decision making and behaviour. And this is often referred to when talking about an active mind but the reference to the body is less common. The easiest way to describe this is to use a physical example…
Fractionation and the body
Fractionation in the body is similar to what people do with body movements to stretch a body part further. This is known in fitness circles as PNF stretching or Proprioceptive Neuromusclar Facilitation.
PNF stretching is where you:
- Stretch a body part as far as it is comfortable to go (usually with someone else’s help).
- Then that other person pushes (with safety and awareness in mind) in the same direction to stretch you further.
- And while they do that., you tense your muscles to push back against the further stretch.
- Then both you and your helper (if using one) stop pushing and relax, before repeating doing the same thing again.
The effect of PNF stretching is each time you can stretch slightly further as muscles and ligaments go back and forth in a stretch, tense and relax fashion. This works through part muscular adaption and part neuromuscular adaption. The tension against stretching resistance causes an interruption and cessation of the pain signals in the brain. And those sugnals normally cause the muscles to stop earlier than your actual ability. Needless to say this should only be done with experience and care but the results can be dramatic.
Can hypnosis clients get better at going into trance in one session
Metaphorically, hypnotic fractionation is similar to the PNF stretching described above. Fractionation in hypnosis has the mind and body going into an altered state and then back again. This is repeated in quick succession. And you get that same effect of going further each time. A type of back and forward between mental tension/arousal and relaxation.
It’s almost like getting multiple trances into one session. And we all know that the more you practice something the better you get at it. IE: Every time a client goes to a hypnotherapist for a session, they will usually find it easier to go into trance. And often also go deeper. By using fractionation in hypnosis, you are building hypnotic experience in your very first session.
Again this is part adaption to physical relaxation and part adaption to mental resistance of something unusual or unknown. Each time you or they relax, you/they will be more familiar with what to expect and will likely have less resistance to the process.
How often should you use fractionation in hypnosis
You can use fractionation as often as you like. And I would suggest you experiment with about 3 times as being a good number. This technique can be combined with asking a person a question during the awake and alert phase as well. And then getting them to go deeper again.
For this same reason don’t worry if someone spontaneously opens their eyes during a session either. Just use that as a chance to do this technique. Remember the power of utilisation in trance work. Whatever happens, use it as if you were expecting it and as a way to add to your session.
Like I said, this fractionation idea seems counter-intuitive. Because you would think that bringing someone out of trance would ruin all the effort you’ve just made to get them into it. But trust me, it’s worth having a go with.
Remember that people who come to you for hypnotherapy are in a very suggestible state. And so use that to your advantage and pre-frame what you are going to do so they are ready for it. That is unless you are planning to use a different strategy of induction. An example being a pattern interrupt where a slight shock to the mental system can induce trance very quickly. But that is beyond the scope of this article.
When does fractionation in hypnosis not work
Like anything that is a tool for change, flexibility is key as a change agent or hypnotherapist.
Some people will very easily go into a hypnotic trance state. Even just asking the person to close their eyes and relax is sometimes enough and they will be ‘off with the fairies’ (technical term). Clinical studies on fractionation and indeed any hypnosis technique tend to not allow for this flexibility. They try to isolate one aspect of a hypnosis session and study that with understandably varied results.
Despite this, studies show fractionation as a stand alone technique to be effective in inducing alterations in brain activity and relaxation. The study linked below is an example of this incomplete but still promising scientific basis for the use of fractionation.
Speak to any hypnotist who combines fractionation with other deepening hypnosis techniques however, and you will hear that the effect is greater than the sum of it’s parts.
Using fractionation outside of hypnosis
This idea of deepening or intensifying a state of mind and/or body by using this back and forward technique is not limited to hypnosis.
And in fact in some cases it’s used unethically to influence people by taking them on an emotional roller coaster. And this is done by giving and taking positive or negative emotions in a similar pattern that intensifies the experience. Giving a prisoner for example a brief reward before then taking it away again a few times can have the effect of sinking the person deeper into despair.
The technique of fractionation in hypnosis can be applied to other forms of relaxation. Any form of mental state that has periods of interruption within a short amount of time has the potential to create a deeper sense of that beneficial state. Emotional or physical state intensity being one example where the strength of the state is built and then eased off before building again.
Or a longer meditation or breathwork sessions where through use of music and/or instruction people are taken on a journey. And this journey alternates between a more intentional aroused state and a more allowing relaxing one.
Fractionation and meditation
Experiment with using this knowledge to your advantage in your meditation sessions. This can be done by purposely meditating in an environment where you may be distracted. Either by a voice or a noise or by setting an alarm that you then turn off and go straight back into your practice. You may find it deepens your practice in ways that just meditating for longer cannot do.
And learning to be OK with being interrupted without getting annoyed with the interruption will serve you in many positive ways. Most teachers of meditation would say that multiple shorter meditations are better long term for your emotional intelligence and mindset than one long meditation. And so have a play with the idea and see what works for you.
If you work with clients either hypnotically or in meditative way and you’ve never tried using this technique I suggest you give it go. It goes without saying that rapport and trust need to be in place before any such technique will have any beneficial effect.
Using technology to induce hypnotic fractionation
The roXiva audio visual brainwave entrainment device featured on this website uses this fractionation technique frequently. The combination of stroboscopic light effects and custom made music create profoundly deep trance states.
Some of our users are hypnotherapists and use roXiva to create reliable and repeatable trance at the push of a button.
By using specific frequencies of light and sound, the brain can be guided into altered states of consciousness. And the experience is so unique and enjoyable that clients return again and again. You can learn how it works here.
The humorous side of me considered inserting contradictory thoughts in a few places in this article to see if fractionation in writing works too. 🙂