Mastering Suggestion technique in Mentalism


Mastering the Power of Suggestion for Mentalism


Mentalism, the art of creating illusionistic displays of mind-reading and psychic abilities, relies heavily on the power of suggestion. Subtly planting ideas and impressions in the minds of participants or audience members is a fundamental technique used by magicians and mentalists to guide thoughts and influence behavior. Mastering the nuances of verbal and non-verbal suggestion is key to performing convincing feats of mind control and mentalism.  


What is Suggestion?


In the context of mentalism, suggestion refers to the act of implanting an idea, thought or impression in someone's mind. Using specific words, phrases, body language and props, the mentalist gives gentle commands or makes insightful statements that shape the inner experience of the participant. This causes them to think of specific things, make certain choices or arrive at particular conclusions, which the mentalist then appears to have predicted using psychic abilities.


For example, asking someone to "think of a number between 1 and 10" automatically plants the range of numbers in their mind and limits their choice. Similarly, telling someone "you are feeling very relaxed" during hypnosis can actually induce that state in them. In both cases, the mentalist uses verbal suggestion to elicit specific responses.


Examples of Suggestion in Mentalism


Some examples of how suggestion is skillfully used in the art of mentalism are:


- A mentalist asks someone to name a random city, and whatever they say, the mentalist has a matching airline ticket printed for that destination. The idea of naming a city is subtly planted.


- During a psychic card trick, the mentalist repeatedly states that "you almost chose the Queen of Hearts" while shuffling. When the participant chooses that card, it appears the mentalist predicted it.


- A hypnotist repeatedly tells his subject they are feeling heavier and sinking into the chair. The hypnotic suggestion causes the physical response of relaxed muscles.


- A magician asks an audience member to think of a memory from childhood. Later in the act the magician describes a vivid childhood memory as if reading their mind. The idea of recalling a memory was suggested earlier.


Origins of Suggestion


The use of suggestion has its roots in hypnosis and evidence from ancient cultures indicates it was used by priests and shamans in spiritual rituals. In the 19th century, hypnosis came into mainstream focus and suggestive techniques were studied. Stage magicians and mentalists began adopting these suggestion skills for entertainment. In the 20th century, mentalism fully embraced the power of suggestion to astonish audiences. 


Types of Suggestion

Here are more detailed explanations of the types of suggestion in mentalism with examples:


Ideomotor response: 

This involves making subtle suggestions that cause involuntary muscular movements, which the participant perceives as happening spontaneously. For example, a mentalist may suggest to a participant sitting with arms extended that one hand is becoming lighter and rising up. The ideomotor effect causes almost imperceptible motions that make the hand slowly lift as they believe it is outside their control. This can be used to answer the mentalist's questions, with different finger or hand motions representing yes/no or other meanings assigned to them.


Ideosensory response:

This is suggesting sensory experiences like smells, tastes and physical sensations that the participant then perceives as real. A mentalist may verbally guide someone to imagine biting into a juicy lemon wedge, causing them to salivate and pucker as if actually tasting it. Or they may be guided to feel an imaginary gentle breeze across their face, resulting in tactile sensations. Using vivid sensory imagery allows the mentalist to seemingly alter perceptions.


Positive and negative hallucination: 

Leading the participant to perceive sensory inputs that are not actually present, or ignore real sensory stimuli, is possible through suggestion. A mentalist may eliminate background sounds to create negative hallucination, then replace them with non-existent voices or music through positive hallucination. This demonstrates the apparent ability to manipulate their reality.


Guided imagery:

Vividly imagining scenarios, objects or processes is possible through guided verbal depictions. A mentalist may describe a detailed forest setting and journey along a path leading to some revelation. The participant's imaginative experience then feels like a real glimpse into their psyche. Moving imagery can seem like visions.


Time distortion:

Suggestion can expand or condense the perception of time passing. Describing time slowing down when a hypnotist counts down from 10 to 1, stretching it out, creates subjective time expansion. Or time can be shrunk by suggesting 10 minutes quickly passed in the blink of an eye during a trance. This demonstrates apparent control over perception.


Amnesia and hypermnesia:

Forgetting or suddenly recalling information can be guided through suggestion. A mentalist may have a participant forget their own name briefly, then remember it through "psychic" guidance. Or buried memories may suddenly surface through prompted hypermnesia. This allows impressive displays of apparent mental manipulation.


Mastering Verbal Suggestion 


Specific verbal techniques are very effective for implanting ideas and eliciting the mentalist's desired response:


- Use statements over questions: Saying “you are holding your arm up” causes it to happen. Asking if they are lifting their arm gives them a choice.


- Use present and future tense: “Your eyes are feeling heavy” and “You will fall into a deep sleep” are more direct.


- Repeat suggestions: Repetition implants the idea firmly. “Your arms are feeling heavy...so heavy...deeply heavy...”


- Link suggestions: “As you breathe out, your eyes close shut”. Linking two actions causes both to happen.


- Indirect suggestions: Instead of ordering them to sleep, say “You may begin to feel drowsy”. It's less demanding but still effective.


- Emphasize key aspects: Stress certain words or phases by tone: “You are feeling very RELAXED”. This accentuates the suggestion.


- Use imagery: Have them vividly imagine what you describe to make it feel real, like tasting a lemon.


With practice, the mentalist can get highly adept at dropping subtle verbal suggestions during an act to steer thoughts and reactions. A skilled hypnotist can place participants into a trance-like state just by speaking. Mastering the exact nuances of influential suggestion is powerful skill for controlling responses.


Training Non-Verbal Suggestion


Suggestion need not be verbal. The mentalist can also convey ideas non-verbally:


- Gestures and facial expressions: Pointing or nodding towards specific objects/actions. Looking upward when mentioning “float away”.


- Props as visual anchors: A pocket watch swinging can suggest sleepiness. Holding an object implies focusing on it. 


- Breathing patterns: Slow, steady breathing encourages copied relaxation and trance states.


- Pacing and leading: Matching and then changing body language, vocal tonality or breathing tempos builds trust and influences subject.


- Environment: Low lighting, soft music and cozy furniture help create an atmosphere conducive to acceptance of suggestions.


With practice, combinations of subtle non-verbal suggestion can be very effective. A hand gesture paired with certain music and low lighting sets the stage for participants' minds to be influenced.


What to avoid while making suggestions

Here are some things to avoid when giving suggestions in mentalism:


Don't make demands. Use gentle, permissive language. Say "you may start to feel sleepy" rather than "you will go into a deep sleep now".

Avoid negatives. Say what TO do rather than what not to do. For example, say "remain still" rather than "don't move". The mind focuses on the action word.

Don't overwhelm. Keep suggestions simple and space them out. Too many simultaneous suggestions can confuse.

Avoid contradictory suggestions. Don't say "you are relaxing more and more" while also saying "you are energized". Conflicting messages compete.

Prevent analysis. If subject starts overthinking, quickly distract their mind before doubt sets in. Keep them focused on emotions, not rationale.

Reframe resistance. If suggestions meet resistance, pivot to a new approach. Say "you are reluctant, but perhaps we could..." rather than forcing it.

Limit questions. Asking questions gives subjects a choice. Make statements like "you are enjoying this".

Skip assumptions. Don't assume it's working or failing. Pay close attention and adjust suggestions based on reactions.

Speak confidently and make eye contact. Displaying conviction strengthens the impact of suggestions.

Time suggestions well. Know when the subject is most receptive to different suggestions and synchronize for maximum effect.

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