The Dominant Laws of Suggestibility

Successful therapeutic application of the theory of Physical and Emotional Suggestibility requires an understanding of five dominant laws of suggestibility:

  1. The Law of Reverse Reaction
  2. The Law of Repetition
  3. The Law of Dominance
  4. The Law of Delayed Action
  5. The Law of Association

Proper application of these laws will help you to utilize man’s natural suggestibility to its fullest, by influencing him to respond to suggestions to a heightened degree. It is man’s inclination toward two emotions — fear and greed — that makes him so susceptible to the influence of these laws. Because fear suppresses the ability to make a decision, any decision made for us during a fear reaction becomes the road of least resistance, and is readily accepted. Greed brings about a feeling of urgency and causes us to react without logical thinking.

Both, fear and greed are major tools used to the advantage of the advertiser in successful advertising. They are the prime forces motivating sales companies. On the other hand, our lawmakers design laws to combat unscrupulous people, who take advantage of us by capitalizing on our tendency toward fear and greed. As we discuss the dominant laws of suggestibility, keep in mind the relationship that fear and greed have to each of them.

Law of Reverse Reaction

The most commonly used law is the Law of Reverse Reaction, also called Reverse Psychology. It is used in personal, family, and business situations, as well as in all forms of advertising, and may have either negative or positive connotations. It can be used with all types of suggestions, including command, misdirection, confusion, persuasion, and passive suggestion. The reversal is especially potent because it reaches both critical and primitive areas of the mind. For instance, it allows the subject a way out, if he is critical of a command, and also reinforces the command, if he desires it.

The law, simply stated, is that a person will respond to the stronger part of a suggestion, if the alternative is presented as considerably weaker. For example, one suggestibility test which is the eye-challenge test, the dominant suggestions are, “Your eyes are stuck. You cannot open them. The harder you try, the tighter they become.” The subject may try to open his eyes (weaker suggestion), but cannot (stronger suggestion). This is reverse reaction. It is the same principle of reverse psychology that we see when a child is told he cannot do something. If doing it is more dominant, that is, gives greater pleasure than not doing it, the child will do it. Whenever the fear of missing something that gives pleasure satisfies the ego (greed) is greater than the punishment that results from doing it, the subject will reverse the suggestions not to do it.

Law of Repetition

The Law of Repetition is illustrated by the fact that we constantly condition our minds and bodies to adapt to certain situations. If, for instance, we start playing handball once a week, in the beginning, our muscles tighten and hurt and our body feels weak after playing. With practice and conditioning, however, we gain strength and agility. When we enroll in a class to learn a new subject, we feel insignificant and mentally weak; but with constant repetition, we develop the habit of learning, and begin to react subconsciously without any conscious insecurity. Repetition of suggestions in hypnosis reinforces the new conditions, until they become subconscious habits.

Law of Dominance

The Law of Dominance can be described as as a command position and can be applied to all the other laws because of its authoritarian structure. An example of the Law of Dominance is the suggestion of deep sleep. These words, usually spoken, in an authoritative tone, represent a command, even if the induction up to the point has been maternal. The hypnotist assumes that the subject will, in fact, enter deep sleep, and this becomes a dominant thought that the subject will accept without question.

The Law of Dominance also represents the dominant approach used in some instances by the therapist in inductions where he becomes the authoritative figure, such as father, teacher, or boss, or gives the impression of being unreachable and all-knowing. This is a very effective therapeutic approach for clients who are in search of a dominant personality to guide them. It becomes a type of temporary transference that the hypnotist utilizes until the coping ability and decision-making ability of the client are improved.

Law of Delayed Action

The Law of Delayed Action is that when a suggestive idea is inferred, the subject will react to it whenever a jogging condition or situation that has been used in the original suggestive idea presents itself. Because an inference penetrates the subconscious mind slowly, due to its being unknown to the critical area of mind, it usually takes a day, two days, or even a week, before a reaction takes place. For example, if a subject is told to visualize himself in a situation where he is talking to his boss very confidently, that particular suggestion will remain in the mind of the subject until he lives out the situation he has created by his visualization in hypnosis. He may even lack confidence until he has to face the real situation (i.e., seeing his boss); but once he has, the suggestions of confidence will take hold.

One of the notable characteristics of Emotionally suggestible people is their tendency to have delayed responses to inferred suggestions. As a rule, a generalization does not work well with an Emotionally suggestible subject. For this reason, a specific suggestion must be given. Delayed action suggestions have been known to cause a reaction as long as a year after they were given.

Law of Association

Once expectation has been created in a hypnotized subject, the Law of Association can be effectively put to use. This law simply indicates that whenever we repeatedly respond to one particular stimulus in the presence of another stimulus, we will soon begin to associate the one with the other. Then, whenever either stimulus is present, the other is recalled. A good example is that of a person who is always hypnotized in the same chair. After a while, he will associate that particular chair with hypnosis, and will enter the state the moment he sits in it — even without an induction. Another example is that of a subject hypnotized by the same operator over and over again. The voice of the hypnotist ultimately becomes associated with the hypnotic state; and, many times, the subject will respond to the voice of the hypnotist even more rapidly than to a post-suggestion to re-hypnosis. The Law of Association also refers to the tendency of a subject to respond to extraverbal movements and actions that indicate authority, confidence, or a position of control.

Another application of the Law of Association is that, if a subject accepts a first suggestion, he will accept the second suggestion also. Successful salespeople make use of this law each time they face a new client. If they can get the sales prospect to agree to a series of aspect of their sales talk, the next suggestion (asking for the order) will stand a very good chance of success. This concept deals with knowns and unknowns. Know suggestions are those that subject or sales prospect has been already experienced and can relate to as facts, thereby giving him a basis for the acceptance of subsequent unknown suggestions.

Reinforcing the Law of Association over and over again will increase the probability of its effectiveness. This is how the post-suggestion to re-hypnosis works. The subject has been given many associated suggestions with repetition, in order to arrive at the end result, which is deep sleep. Later, when the words deep sleep are used, he immediately associates the words with the previous conditioning — a known fact — and reacts without critical mind and enters the hypnotic state.

Originally published at

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