Apr 2021

The Contradiction of Subject AgencyOnly one of you

You’ve probably seen these phrases:

  • "All hypnosis is self-hypnosis"
  • "With hypnosis, the person in hypnosis is always in control, never the hypnotist.”
  • “You will only do things that you want to do.”

This isn’t quite correct. A hypnotist is like a guide. A guide can (even accidentally) lead you into danger if you don’t know the area or if they haven’t warned you of the dangers.

However, we can make it a lot more possible and safe when the person hypnotized/guided is:

  • Comfortable - to intervene
  • Aware - of their ability to change things.
  • Informed - of what's happening / the techniques/suggestions used.


You need to feel comfortable/free to say "no" (or otherwise retract/change consent). This is one of the most important and fundamental aspects of any power exchange; the ability to call a safeword or change/adjust when it goes against your limits or desired direction.

Some people feel worried that if they say no/red that they are somehow disappointing the other or have harmed the efforts of the hypnotist.

The reality is that any decent hypnotist would deeply value any kind of feedback that can improve the experience. A no, or any other safeword, is even more important than a yes.
Creating a safe environment where all parties feel comfortable to speak up is the best.


Whenever you are uncomfortable, you can safely adjust, change the suggestion, wake up and tell or respond however you would like to. It’s like adjusting your position to be more comfortable. Your comfort matters!

Those are simple yet important words. In the end, it is your mind doing all the work and as such, it can change things if it needs to. Knowing that you have this ability is very helpful and doesn’t detract from the fun of letting go if you are comfortable.

If something in a session makes you uncomfortable, it would help yourself and the hypnotist to ask for this to be changed. The more aware you are of this, the more you listen to your unconscious, the easier this becomes and the earlier you can help adjust the direction.


A thorough pre-talk or clear descriptions (or even a transcript) will allow you to be more prepared for what's coming. Even filtering out possibilities before they become an issue. Ideally, you have the opportunity to decide what is going to happen before it does.

Influence is tricky. There are whole books written on the subject (even outside of hypnosis) on how people are influenced by their nature, nurture and culture. Knowing this plays a large role in your ability to say no.

Of course there’s also a difference between direct and indirect suggestions in your need to reject them.
A direct suggestion: "Take off your clothes". - Only allows for a yes/no response.
An indirect suggestion: “It’s so nice and warm, wouldn’t it feel nice to have the sun on your skin?” - Allows any kind of response fitting your internal state.

Recognizing what’s going on helps a lot in understanding why you might feel an itch of discomfort. Always feel free to say something about it or let the hypnotist know.

The Contradiction

While everyone is, in theory, in charge of their own trance and able to change things. In reality, a fair few people struggle with it. Fortunately, the more awareness and comfort we create, the easier it becomes for everyone.

As long as you know, you have the agency. But if you don’t know, you often don’t.

While the hypnotist is often the driver/guide during a session, it’s important for the passenger to be able to adjust the direction.

Most people do have enough agency to react appropriately when something bad happens, yet not everyone does. It’s important to try and verify how able someone is to say no. Perhaps even practice.

It’s also extremely important to realize that not only is everyone different, they also respond differently from moment to moment. When you’re well-rested, it’s much easier to react than when you’re tired, stressed or otherwise.

Sometimes you don’t even recognize that you should have said no/red until much later. In the middle of something very nice, something uncomfortable can be easy to overlook. Changing your mind about something is okay! Needing time to reflect and analyze what happened is natural. It’s even nicer if you can do this together to learn what to improve.

Your mind is your responsibility

There is only one of you and only one of your mind. Be mindful of it.

As you inform yourself and become more experienced and able to say no, you’ll find that it will only improve your experiences. It’s worth it!

Maybe you want to practice saying no/red. Educate yourself about your limits and how to say them. What words are used by the community?

How can you help as a hypnotist?

Besides also saying no when appropriate, as you don’t have to do everything with everyone. You can help with informing, awareness and comfort of whomever you’re hypnotizing.

While this is a subject that would deserve a post on its own, the TLDR is:

  • Discuss subject agency - That the person hypnotized can say no.
  • Discuss safewords.
  • Discuss how important “no” is to you. - “No” is helpful feedback that improves the session!
  • Practice saying no outside of trance.
  • Check in before trance - Did I understand your limits well?
  • Check in during trance - Green? And of course looking at their expressions, body language, muscle tension, etc.
  • Check in after trance - Everything okay? Anything you need?
  • Check in a few days later - After the other feelings have had time to bubble up.