Definition An ideomotor signal is a subcortical response that comes from the patient’s subconscious. “let your head nod when ______” It is a simple ideomotor response.
Definition (Cont.) Ideomotor signaling can be used very effectively as a way to communicate with the patient in trance. It can also be used to uncover material that may not be available to the patient on a conscious level.
History The first mention of ideomotor movements were in 1833 by Michel Eugene Chevreul, the French chemist, who investigated the “occult” pendulum phenomenon and again in his book in The Chevreul’s pendulum named after him that is suspened and held up by the hand has its directions of swing or rotation controlled by ideomotor movements responding to “Yes or No” questions.
Ideomotor Signaling History (cont.) In more modern times, Erickson did a litte, but Cheek and LeCron began using it for unconscious exploration in the 1950’s (Hammond,C., 2010)
Dabney M. Ewin, MD Dabney M. Ewin, MD, a New Orleans surgeon who became a renowned psychiatrist to specialize in hypnotherapy has been the foremost proponent of the multi-uses of ideomotor signaling.
Dabney M. Ewin, MD (Cont.) The following materials are excerpted from several of his lectures and books – he is a very able communicator and therefore, it is his exact words that are included here in the Hypnovations: Intermediate Clinical Hypnosis workshop presentation in Ideomotor Signaling and are also incorporated in the lecture on Age Regression & Working through Trauma.
Ideomotor Signals: Their Value in Hypnotherapy Dabney M. Ewin, M.D. One of the casualties of the limited time in our basic workshops is that we must gloss over the remarkable value of ideomotor (IM) signals, noting only that they can be useful, giving a short demonstration, and admonishing participants to read about the details of the technique. It is easy, the uses are many, and the time use is efficient.
Ideomotor Signals: Their Value in Hypnotherapy (2.) IM signals are body language, and anyone can read the “yes” and “no” language of ideomotor signals, as opposed to the complicated art of reading body language in general, which is a science unto itself. In the diagnosis and treatment of nearly every patient, there is a place for this form of nonverbal communication.
Insight Oriented Therapy Insight Oriented Therapy is often much more effective and permanent that direct or indirect suggestion. We know that when we can change an idea, we change an illness. But what is the fixed idea that the patient clings to that makes him sick? Often, it is NOT what seems apparent to the therapist or the patient’s family, and it is not consciously available to the patient.
Ideomotor Response Repeating for emphasis what we said before, our first request for an ideomotor response is to ask, Is it all right with your deepest feeling mind for me to help you with this problem? The usual (sometimes hesitant) ‘yes’ response to this seems to seal the therapeutic alliance, and in our experience, therapy goes more easily than it did before we started using this as an opening question.
Seven Causes of Psychosomatic Illness After this, we can start right into questioning about the seven common causes of psychosomatic illness so well described by Cheek and LeCron (1968). These are: conflict, organ language, motivation, past experience, identification, self-punishment, and suggestion. The optimum time to reframe the idea is when it is first identified – it is most pliable at the moment of insight!
Deepening Trance. Deepening trance with these signals saves valuable treatment time. While we are setting up each signal, we add: And every time your feelings answer a question you will become more aware of your deepest, most heartfelt feelings. It is unnecessary to spend further time on deepening, because deepening progresses with each answer about the seven common causes.
Repetitive Subconscious Review Repetitive subconscious review of a memory occurs when searching for the date of origin of a fixed idea. In order to give an ideomotor answer “yes” to the question, Did it happen before age 20? The patient must first do a subconscious review of some sort.
Repetitive Subconscious Review (Cont.) Then, Before 10? And Before 5? to the “no” at age 4, means the patient has done four subconscious review of the experience before even focusing in on what happened at age 4. This makes the subsequent regression to age four much easier for the patient. Note that numbers are emotionally neutral and are not repressed.
Confirming Depth of Trance Confirming depth of trance is useful. If therapy has been going slowly, we may open a session with an eye-roll induction and the suggestion, Each breath you take, you will go deeper and deeper, and when you are deep enough to solve this problem, your “yes” finger will rise. It may take two or three minutes of silence before the ‘yes finger rises, and the patient is often in such a deep trance, that her or she is unaware that it rose.
Confirming Depth of Trance (Cont.) For that reason, we always touch the finger and push it back down so the patient gets both tactile and verbal feedback from the therapist. That’s right, you know that you are deep enough to solve this problem, and as we approach it together, I’ll make sure that you are safe.
Incomplete Therapy Incomplete therapy can result in apparent failure (erroneous). When we think we have solved the problem, we need agreement from the patient and wholehearted acceptance of the new idea. Before alerting, we ask, Is there any other problem you feel we should deal with that might keep you from getting well? A ‘yes’ signal to this requires attention.
Incomplete Therapy (Cont.) Most often the last sticking point is a reservation or fear of expecting good things because of previous disappointments. We counter this by pointing out that there’s no need to be optimistic or pessimistic. We ask, Would it be all right to just be neutral, and see what happens? A ‘yes’ signal to this question lets therapy end on a good note.
Regression to Preverbal Memories Regression to preverbal memories cannot be done in the waking state, but subconscious ideomotor review will bring to consciousness what the patient believes happened. We know that if a person believes something to be true, it IS true for him/her, and he/she will behave as if it were true.
Regression to Preverbal Memories (Cont,) It is depressing for a girl to be born believing that her parents wanted a boy. An unwanted child often suffers, even if adopted at birth. The human personality is molded during the first few years of life, and hurtful ideas from those early years can be explored and reframed after identifying them with ideomotor review.
Hearing Under Anesthesia Hearing Under Anesthesia. Hearing under general anesthesia has been confirmed experimentally to the satisfaction of all of us who do not belong to the flat earth society. Bennett’s (1988) human studies with blinded tape recordings of recordings of operating room sounds for verification are seminal. Weinberger et al (1984) demonstrated that one can do Pavlovian conditioning of rats to a sound heard under general anesthesia.
Hearing Under Anesthesia (Cont.) Skeptics attribute recall to insufficient anesthesthetic, and that is plausible in the cases where what was heard can be recalled verbally in or out of trance. Experimenters who fail to get recall in hypnosis simply ask for verbal responses, and do not use ideomotor review.
Ideomotor Technique For Recall David Cheek developed the ideomotor technique for recall ( Cheek, 1959, 1960c, 1962a, 1962b, 1962c, 1962d, 1964, 19661, 1981, 1994) and I (DME) wrote it up in detail (Ewin, 1990). If you’re having a hernia operation and hear your surgeon say “Uh oh!” can you imagine ignoring that as meaningless (even though he may have simply dropped a hemostat)?
Need for Ideomotor Recall When an otherwise good and supposedly curative operation leaves a patient with a painful scar, post-operative depression, or other unexpected residual symptoms, it is appropriate to do an ideomotor review for sounds heard under anesthesia that might have left an imprint.
Dream Interpretation Dream interpretation can be enhanced nicely with ideomotor signals when the meaning is not readily apparent. By asking for ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers about the emotional tone – is it fear, anger, sadness, frustration, etc. the stae is set. Who are the people in the dream – self, father, mother, spouse, God, etc. What triggered the dream? Is it something current, or was it from long ago?
Dream Interpretation (Cont.) One of the most valuable uses is for self- analysis. We find it easy to set up our own ideomotor signals and use them to analyze our own dreams. If a dream wakes one in the morning, one can use ideomotor signals while it’s fresh and one is still half asleep, and should not leave it until he feels he understands the message the dream was imparting (sometimes not much of anything).
Suicide Prevention Suicide prevention may help the therapist more than the patient. We don’t treat patients who are clearly suicidal. We refer them to a hospital- based psychiatrist. But some patients worry us. They’re not sick enough to make a big deal over sending them to the hospital, but they seem fragile enough that some untoward event might push them over the edge.
Suicide Prevention (Cont.) We dread getting a phone call that the worst has happened. If a patient starts talking about “ending it all,” but has no plan of action and is not really convincing, we can induce a good trance and ask for ideomotor assent to the question.
Suicide Prevention (Cont.) No matter how bad you may feel, will you agree to let it be IMPOSSIBLE to take action against yourself without first contacting me or whoever is on call for me? If we cannot get a ‘yes’ to that question, we must refer. If we get a clear ‘yes’, we can sleep well. In our combined 65 years of practice, neither of us has lost a patient to suicide (to our knowledge).
References All this is detailed in: Ewin, DM and Elmer, BN.(2006) Ideomotor Signals for Rapid Hypnoanalysis: a how-to manual. Charles Thomas: (Excerpts from ASCH 2008 Annual Conference, Advanced Workshop on Using Ideomotor Signals for Rapid Hypnoanalysis by Dabney M. Ewin, MD,ABMH and Bruce N. Eimer, PhD. Hammond, C.(3/29/2010) on ASCH ListServ, Subject: Re: Ideomotor Signalling.
IDEOMOTOR FINGER SIGNAL SET-UP DABNEY M. EWIN, MD BRUCE N. EIMER, PhD “What do you LIKE for your friends to call you?” (gives name) “May I call you that?” “I am going to teach you a way to signal how you feel without even talking – please close your eyes.”
IDEOMOTOR FINGER SIGNAL SET-UP (2.) SETTING UP “YES.” You know that if we were just having a conversation, and I asked “Is your name [say patient’s name], you could simply nod your head up and down without talking, and I would know you were saying “yes.”
IDEOMOTOR FINGER SIGNAL SET-UP (3.) If I ask you a question, and you feel the answer is “YES” – you have a “yes” feeling about it – you agree – this finger (Lift the index finger slowly as this is said.) will slowly rise to signal that you agree, that it feels okay, that it feels “yes.”
IDEOMOTOR FINGER SIGNAL SET-UP (4.) (TEST QUESTION) “Do you like for your friends to call you (name)? That’s right. (Gently pushing index finger back down) Of course – you’ve already told me that you like for your friends to call you (name.” Deepener: “Every time your feelings answer a question, you’ll go deeper and deeper and get more in touch with your deepest and most heartfelt feelings.”
IDEOMOTOR FINGER SIGNAL SET-UP (5) (SETTING UP “NO.”) “If I ask you a question and you disagree – you have a “NO” feeling about it – it just doesn’t feel right, this finger (gently lift the long finger) will slowly rise to signal that you disagree. You don’t have to know why, it just doesn’t feel right, the answer is “no.” [Now ask a question you know is “NO”].
IDEOMOTOR FINGER SIGNAL SET-UP (6) (SETTING UP “NOT READY”) “If I should ask a question that you’re not ready to answer YET – or don’t want to answer, just signal with your thumb (gently lift thumb), and that’s all right.”
IDEOMOTOR FINGER SIGNAL SET-UP (7) (SETTING UP “NEED TO TALK.”) “If something crosses your mind that you want to tell me, or you want to ask a question, just raise your hand [gently lift the patient’s hand and let it fall back] and we’ll talk.” [If the patient raises the hand during the session, say] “Speak to me and tell me what’s on your mind.”
IDEOMOTOR FINGER SIGNAL SET-UP (8.) (SEALING THE CONTRACT.) “My first question to your feeling mind is – “Is it all right for me to help you with this problem?”
References Ewin, DM and Elmer, BN.(2006) Ideomotor Signals for Rapid Hypnoanalysis: a how-to manual. Charles Thomas: