The hypnotist looms before you. Maybe you are lucky and you have been given a few pointers on how to relax or maybe you are still a bit jittery with nervous energy. Maybe you are even wondering why you are here. You have been given instructions to hold your head straight and level. You are then asked to move only your eyes so that they are looking up toward your eyebrows. Now take it a step farther and roll your eyes up even more, as though you are looking up into the crown of your head. Perhaps your eyes are now feeling tired, maybe even slightly strained, but you must keep your eyes in that position for a few more moments and there is one last thing you must do before this hypnotic eye torture is over. With your eyes in that same position, begin to close your eyes. No, do not lower your eye balls. They must remain looking up as you close your eyes.
Okay, take a break for a moment. This little exercise is one that some hypnotist use to get an idea about your hypnotizability. My own training did not cover this approach, but it appears in various hypnosis text and is apparently still used by a few people. I was reminded of it several Mondays ago when reading an interview about another hypnotist who uses it. So, it seemed like a good idea to really look at it.
This hypnosis susceptibility test was created by Herbert Spiegel, MD, a clinical professor at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. Basically, a hypnotist will look at the white area (sclera) of the eye between the lower eyelid and the cornea that can be seen at the end of the process described above. According to Spiegel, the more white space, judged on a scale between one and four (if there is a squint involved this is evaluated and the points added to the score), the more susceptible a person is to hypnosis. This method works 75% of the time, he said in an article in Time Magazine (1977).
I am not sure why I did not learn this little bit of historic hypnosis susceptibility (does anyone teach it now?), but I suspect there were some issues to it. There is the whole you-cannot-be-hypnotized-if-you-do-not-want-to-be thing, so even if you do well with the eye test and do not want to be hypnotized, well, this test is meaningless. And even if you do not do well on the eye roll test, but want to be hypnotized you will still get positive results.
Whether you use this tool as a hypnotist, it does show up in various inductions (very clever). There is a particularly nice one mentioned in Kaplan and Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry. Hypnotists, you should check it out.
So, have you just asked someone in your vicinity to watch you do this and look at the white space? What are the results?
The Transparent Hypnotist blog: