Active Alert Hypnosis

Brought to you by Creative Healing for Youth in Pain's Parenting Blog

Rebecca Cherry, MD
July 28, 2022 / 5 mins read

"Yoooouuuuu are getting veeeeery sleeeeepy…."

That kind of direction, along with a swinging pocket watch, is what many people associate with the state of hypnosis. And in fact, much of the time, clinical hypnosis has the effect of being very relaxing.

People get comfortable, close their eyes, and may appear to be napping, even though they are awake. On the outside, they look drowsy. On the inside, they are having a lively mental experience.

But not everyone gets physically relaxed during hypnosis. The opposite can actually be true: people can be active and alert during hypnosis. This description often applies to children, who (for better or worse) do not always sit still when adults expect them to.

Aside from any formal techniques, children are often in movement during hypnosis, whether petting a stuffed animal, drawing, moving around the room to point out different objects, or just bouncing in their seats. Parents sometimes feel that they need to apologize for a child not sitting still -- but actually, the movement can be very helpful.

Active-Alert Hypnosis

"Active-alert hypnosis" was first formally studied at Stanford University's Laboratory of Hypnosis Research. Study subjects at the lab typically entered hypnotic states while riding stationary bikes, and then continued to pedal during the entire hypnotic experience.

Active-alert hypnosis has been found to have the same EEG (brain wave) pattern as more traditional relaxation hypnosis. Both kinds of hypnosis also have the same effects when it comes to visual imagery, memory, and physical responses -- including a decrease in pain.

So, what are the differences between active and relaxed hypnosis? With active hypnosis, people tend to feel more engaged in the process. They are also more likely to report positive and even joyful emotions, to have a feeling of freshness, and might even appreciate music differently. They also do not feel the same fatigue as when they exercise in a "normal" state, feeling that they quickly catch a "second wind." Pedaling speed may increase by 32%!

It's likely that many people go into trance-like states while doing rhythmic activities like running, riding bikes, swinging, and swimming. Perhaps you have noticed this kind of experience yourself, or when observing your children.

Imaginary Active-Alert Hypnosis

How can active-alert hypnosis be used in an office setting? It might help to have a stationary bike, treadmill, or rocker in the room -- but it can even be done without any equipment, and even with people who might be physically injured or unwell. This is called the "imaginary active-alert hypnosis" technique. It does not involve any actual pedaling, but includes suggestions referring to imagined movements. From the outside, this approach may look like traditional relaxation hypnosis, and in some ways is a merger of the two.

There does not need to be any conflict between movement and hypnosis, and they may even enhance each other.