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Covert hypnosis refers to an attempt to communicate with another person's unconscious mind without informing the subject that they will be "hypnotized". As it often takes place in the course of a seemingly regular conversation, it is also known as conversational hypnosis or sleight of mouth. The objective is to change the person’s behavior subconsciously so that the target believes that they changed their mind of their own volition. When or if performed successfully, the target is unaware that they have been hypnotized or that anything unusual has occurred. Arguably there is a debate about what hypnosis is, and how covert hypnosis should be classified. "Standard" hypnosis requires the focus and attention of the subject, while covert hypnosis seems to focus on "softening" the subject by using confusion, fatigue, directed attention, and interrupted sentences. This is most similar to salesmen talking to customers when they are tired. Critical thinking and questioning of statements likely requires mental effort. The theme of "covert hypnosis" appears to be along the lines of causing the subject to enter "down time". Regardless of if "covert hypnosis" is "hypnosis" by a standard definition, fatigue does appear to make critically thinking more difficult. This might explain why interrogation and cult-recuruitment practices prefer to deprive their new-recruits of sleep.
Covert hypnosis is a phenomenon not too different from indirect hypnosis, as derived from Milton H. Erickson and popularized as "The Milton Model" in style, but the defining feature is that the hypnotized individual subsequently engages in hypnotic phenomena without conscious effort or choice. Covert hypnosis, like "Ericksonian Hypnosis",[clarification needed] "operates through covert and subtle means... to reach deeper levels of consciousness than are touched by the surface structure of language". It is the concept that an individual, 'the hypnotist,' can control another individual's behavior via gaining rapport. During hypnosis, the operator or hypnotist makes suggestions. The subject is intended to not be completely aware, on a conscious level, of the manipulation.
The hypnotist gains rapport with the listener(s) and the hypnotist maintains psychological congruency (the act of truly acting towards your goals without hesitation[clarification needed]), both linguistically and in one's nonverbal communication. As the subject listens while feeling a psychological connection with the hypnotist and the hypnotist displaying behaviors such as confidence and understanding, the hypnotist then presents linguistic data in the form of metaphor:
The Metaphor presents a surface structure of meaning in the actual words of the story, which activates an associated deep structure of meaning that is indirectly relevant to the listener, which activates a recovered deep structure of meaning that is directly relevant to the listener.
In other words, this process builds most likely unconscious states within the listener, and then associates those states through covert conditioning, also known as covert anchoring, thereby forming unconsciously controlled behaviors and thoughts. Often methods of tricking the listener to believe that the hypnotist is talking about something else other than the subject are employed, for instance, by shifting use of time and use of identity in language. One famous example is employed by Milton H. Erickson "and a tomato can be happy".
A state of forgetfulness may be elicited by talking about what it feels like to be in that state in a manner that implies the other person is currently experiencing it. Once this state is at a heightened peak the hypnotist can then talk about that state, relating to a concept like the unsuspecting subject's name (a phenomenon called name amnesia), and the subject will suddenly be unaware of his/her name on questioning (provided the suggestions implied immediate effect and the reader is suggestible enough to be influenced in this way). The purpose of covert hypnosis is to shut down or at least reduce the use of analytical mind in a person. This may be achieved fairly quickly by someone with practice.
In the media
Real estate trainer Glenn Twiddle in June 2010, appeared on the Australian television show A Current Affair. The segment explains how he teaches real-estate agents these techniques to use on unsuspecting buyers of property.
In fiction "covert hypnosis" has been featured in television series such as The Mentalist, although rather over-represented, the most notable representation of covert hypnosis was in the episode Russet Potatoes in which a perpetrator uses covert hypnosis to control characters in the episode and attempts to kill her employer. Another representation of covert hypnosis was in the X-Files in which a man with a tumor in his brain gains additional skill in hypnosis, and utilizes it to escape police captivity.
- Dilts, Robert (1999). Sleight of Mouth: The Magic of Conversational Belief Change. ISBN 0-916990-43-5.
- Burkley, E. (2008). The role of self-control in resistance to persuasion. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 419–431.
- O'Connor, Joseph (2002). Introducing Neuro Linguistic Programming. Harper Element.
- Robert B. Dilts; Judith A. Delozier (2000). "776 MiltonModel" (Online encyclopedia). Encyclopedia of Systemic Neuro-Linguistic Programming and NLP New Coding. NLP University Press. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
- Erickson, Milton H. (December 1976). Hypnotic Realities: The Induction of Clinical Hypnosis and Forms of Indirect Suggestion.
- Cohen, Michael H. A Question of Time. p. 8.
- Trancework: An Introduction to the Practice of Clinical Hypnosis. p. 37.
- Haley, Jay. Uncommon Therapy. ISBN 0-393-31031-0.
- Gavin, James. Lifestyle Fitness Coaching. p. 41.
- Norton, Robert; Brenders, David. Communication and Consequences: Laws of Interaction. p. 207.
- Geoff Shearer (9 June 2010). "Real estate agents use hypnosis to seal property deals". The Courier Mail. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
- "Russet Potatoes". The Mentalist Wiki. Retrieved 2017-02-23.
- "Top 15 Episodes of The X-Files". Listverse. 2011-11-25. Retrieved 2017-02-23.
- Nathan Blaszak (2004). How To Hypnotize Anyone Without Getting Caught. Life Tricks Inc. pp. 1–250.
- Kevin Hogan (2006). Covert Hypnosis: An Operator's Manual. Network 3000 Publishing. p. 232. ISBN 0-9709321-4-6.
- Kevin Hogan and James Speakman (2006). Covert Persuasion: Psychological Tactics and Tricks to Win the Game. Wiley. p. 223. ISBN 0-470-05141-8.
- Glenn Twiddle (2010). Advanced Hypnotic Selling. Glenn Twiddle Publishing. p. 136. ISBN 978-0-9807711-0-7.
- Steven Peliari (2009). The Art Of Covert Hypnosis.