INCEPTION Part 2: The Power of Hypnotic Images
By Jacob Krueger
As I discussed in last week’s article, the organizing principles of Inception’s dream within a dream within a dream structure almost perfectly mirror the classical hypnosis training one receives at a weekend certification class in hypnosis. To understand how a movie can be built from this kind of organizing principle, you first need to know a little about hypnosis.
The Standard Three Step Hypnotic Technique
Weekend certifications in hypnosis generally teach a three step technique which corresponds almost perfectly with the “three dream” technique the characters in Inception are using to convince their subject, Robert Fischer, to break up his father’s company. Just as the architecture of Robert’s dream sequence in Inception is built around around the people, image systems, and beliefs Robert holds most dear, so too is a three step hypnotic technique built around the most resonant images for the person being hypnotized.
Dream Research and Hypnotic Research
A hypnotic session using this approach begins with an interview, during which the hypnotist gathers images that have emotional power to the person being hypnotized. For example, if you were using this method to help a blocked writer pick up the pen after a long period of procrastination, you might begin with images that are not even related to writing, but which capture some of the emotions the person wishes they had when they were writing. The hypnotist would then induce a trance in the person, creating a dream like journey– a series of three images down into hypnosis, and three images back up– in which each image leads them deeper into trance, and closer to the transformation they are searching for, just like a dream within a dream.
With each step down, the value of the image is established, and with each step back up, the meaning of each image is deepened and adapted, associating that image with the change the person is seeking, and anchoring that change on a deep subconscious level– as if it had already happened.
The Power of Images
Movies are built around images, because movies are hypnotic. They carry us out of our own world, and transport us into the dream world of the writer. Each sequence of images leads us deeper into trance, until we begin to respond to the movie as if it were real, feeling real emotions for characters we know don’t actually exist. We cry for losses that never happened, feel embarrassed for social gaffs that never actually occurred. Our hearts race as if we were standing in the character’s shoes– as if their fear was our fear, or their love our love. We root for them, we care about them. And we begin to care about their images systems as if they were our own.
When Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Cobb, sees his children but cannot see their faces, we begin to long for their reunion just as he does. And when those children turn around and reveal their faces to him, it’s hard to fight the rush of emotion.
Are You Getting The Most Out Of Your Images?
As a writer, you can use the three step hypnotic process to craft a profound journey for your character. Think about the images that most powerfully capture your character’s experience on the way down toward the heart of their journey, and how you can return to those images in new ways on the way back up in order to anchor and deepen the change your character is experiencing. And while your at it, think about the hypnotic images that play in your own head as a writer. What images do you chose to focus on? What images are holding you back? And how can you revisit, deepen, and adapt those images in order to anchor the future that you are seeking? Whatever images you choose, if you get them right your subconscious mind will respond to them as if they were real– just like you do at the movies. Perhaps it’s time to create some new variations.
Stay tuned next week for my most exciting Inception article yet– a powerful hypnotic script that uses the principles behind Inception to help you overcome your own creative blocks.