Visual van suggesties

The abc-d of modern suggestion

Cartoon drawing
Power of suggestion pen drawing of two people looking at gripper

The word suggestion is disappearing. When hypnosis was propagated in the Netherlands and Belgium in the early part of the last century, it was explained in its wake that doctors and hypnotists worked from the school of Nancy who explained hypnosis by suggestion. That convinced people that there were no occult or other supernatural things attached to hypnosis.
On stage, in newspapers and movies, the word suggestion was used and everyone understood what was meant by it

Suggestion was studied and defined and used for positive changes.
There even appeared to be different types of suggestion. Émile Coué introduced self-suggestion in the early 20th century with his famous maxim “Every day, in every way, I get better and better.” This idea of self-improvement through positive affirmations demonstrated the power of suggestion for personal development.
There was also the hetero-suggestion. The direct suggestion, where an idea or action is explicitly suggested. This is the most obvious type of suggestion, encouraging someone to try a new product.
The opposite was also possible. Indirect suggestion, where ideas or actions are subtly woven into stories, associations or the way information is presented. This can be done by linking a lifestyle or values to a brand, without directly saying you should buy that brand.

Meanwhile, knowledge of the concept of suggestion has become atrophied to the idea that suggestion is really “just” a clever way to get people to do or think something without them really realizing it. Self-suggestion is “mere suggestion,” or something a person merely deludes himself into thinking.
With others, it works by planting a little idea in someone’s head so that they think, “Hey, that sounds like a good plan,” without really asking why they think that. This can be very direct, such as someone saying, “You really should read this book, it’s great!”

Yet it can also be more subtle, for example, by telling a story that gently nudges someone in a certain direction without directly telling them what to think or do. We see this all around us, for example, when you walk into a store and see a big sign that says “Most sold!” That’s a way of saying, “Everyone is buying this, so it must be good, right?” Scientifically this is called “social proof,” in plain Dutch, “if the neighbor has it, I must have it too.”
Then there are the sales pitches where the seller first mentions (“anchors”) a high price so that the final price seems a lot more attractive, even though you might not have wanted to spend that much at all.
And what about “limited time” offers? Those use “scarcity” to make you decide quickly. The idea is that if something is only available for a limited time, we suddenly want it a lot more.
There is also a trick where you feel like there are only two choices, when there are actually more options. Then you have to choose from a “sham choice” to make your decision easier (or to steer you toward what the seller wants you to choose).
Furthermore, there is the “slippery slope,” with someone outlining a doomsday scenario: “If you don’t choose green energy now, we will ruin the planet for our children.” That’s a way of saying that if we don’t do something small now, something very bad is going to happen later, with no real evidence that that small step of yours will lead to that big disaster.
All of these techniques play with suggestion. They use our psychological tendencies, such as following the crowd or being afraid of missing something, to push us in a certain direction. It is all around us, from the advertisements we see to the conversations we have. And while it’s not necessarily bad, it’s good to know when someone is trying to control your opinion or behavior. That way you can decide whether or not to go along with that.
The ethics of suggestion depend on the intentions behind it and the impact on the recipient. While it can be a valuable tool in therapy, education, and even marketing, its use without consent or for manipulative purposes raises ethical questions.

The history of suggestion shows how deeply rooted this technique is in human nature and communication. It emphasizes our susceptibility to influences and the importance of awareness of how our perceptions and choices can be shaped.
Hypnotherapists, because of their knowledge and experience with suggestion, are probably the most appropriate profession to unravel the complexities of suggestion, self-suggestion, and hypnosis and reveal their impact on individuals and society. Perhaps they can also provide tips on how to protect yourself from undesirable suggestions.

As the knowledge of suggestion wears off, the number of tools increases. Computers television, radio, artificial intelligence incl. artificial photos, and so on make suggestions more and more efficient.
Precisely all kinds of technical inventions are the link between traditional psychological manipulation techniques and their modern applications in therapy, marketing and daily life. More than ever, technical inventions are an enabler and tool of suggestions and people who want to play others.
There is a range of influencing techniques that are often revived with modern tools.

Photo Ingrid Bergman from film gaslighting
Gaslight 1944, Dit screenshot laat zien hoe Ingrid Bergman wordt vergast. Bron: Wikimedia Commons
One of them is Gaslighting.
Gaslighting is a manipulation in which a person or group casts doubt on an individual or group in a hidden way, causing them to doubt their own memory, perception or judgment. It often leads to the point where the victim begins to doubt his or her own sanity.

To learn it

Those who want to see how to manipulate need only watch a few films. The term “gaslighting” comes from the 1938 play Gas Light by Patrick Hamilton and later film adaptations that included Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, and Angela Lansbury. In this story, a man deliberately dims the light. When his wife says something about this, he denies that he changed anything. This causes the woman to doubt her own perception and her sanity.
Gaslighting is a technique used to gain power over someone by portraying that person as unstable or unable to accurately interpret reality, undermining their confidence and self-esteem.
It happens in a variety of contexts and by a variety of people. In addition to gaslighting, there are numerous other manipulation techniques used in romantic relationships as well as in friendships and family relationships.

People with narcissistic personalities, in particular, are known for their manipulations to dominate and control their environment. They consider themselves overly important and worthy. It takes a lot of effort for them to sympathize which allows them to manipulate relentlessly to satisfy their ongoing need for admiration and attention. These characteristics and behaviors occur in different contexts and degrees and not everyone who behaves in this way is a narcissist making it difficult to recognize the manipulations.
Another suggestion we are also familiar with through the loverboy phenomenon is “love bombing. With overwhelmingly positive attention and affection, the manipulator tries to win someone over. Just at the moment when the latter imagines himself to be the most important person in the world and is totally committed to the narcissist, he suddenly withdraws or behaves negatively, making the victim feel insecure and inclined to conform even more to the manipulator’s wishes. One film that features aspects of love bombing is “You Get Me” (2017), in which an intense and obsessive relationship quickly escalates to dangerous levels of jealousy and control.
Another film that shows love bombing in a more subtle way is “Phantom Thread” (2017). Although this film focuses primarily on the complex dynamic between a renowned fashion designer, Reynolds Woodcock and his muse Alma, the story contains elements of love bombing. Alma is initially showered with attention and love by Reynolds, who quickly integrates her into his world and life. This period of intense courtship and affection resembles love bombing, with Reynolds using Alma to fuel his creative inspiration and personal desire. But as their relationship progresses, the manipulative aspects of Reynolds’ behavior become clearer and it becomes a complex game of power and control, where love is used as both a weapon and a drug.
What is interesting about “Phantom Thread,” is that the dynamics of love and power in relationships are shown without explicitly naming it as love bombing so that the viewer can reflect for themselves on the nature of the relationship between the characters and determine the line between love and manipulation.


Sometimes the manipulator involves a third person in the relationship to put himself in a better light, to make the other partner jealous, or to sow doubt and uncertainty.
This can be done by complimenting a friend in front of his or her partner to make those jaoers. Or they share information or secrets with a third person, of whom the partner knows nothing, thus creating an exclusive bond
making the partner feel left out.
Through triangulation, the manipulator can involve other people in relationship conflicts to garner support and weaken his partner’s self-image. This makes the latter feel isolated, and the manipulator gains more influence and power in the relationship.

Ignore or the silence treatment

To manipulate the victim into working harder for approval, the manipulator may choose to ignore or the silence treatment
The manipulator ignores the victim and does not respond to the victim’s communication attempts. This ignoring, including not replying to messages and pretending the victim is not there, causes insecurity and encourages the victim to work harder for attention and approval

In what circumstances are these techniques used? These techniques are applied not only in friendly, romantic or family relationships, but also in broader contexts such as the workplace. They can be used to isolate, pressure or undermine a colleague or supervisor for personal gain.

Guilt and Shame

Guilt and shame are powerful means of gaining control over someone. By regularly highlighting real or invented faults and shortcomings, a person starts to feel bad about his actions or identity and the manipulator can make his demands. For example, a parent who tells a child, “Look how much I sacrifice for you, and you can’t even clean your room,” is using guilt to motivate the child to change his behavior.


Following on from guilt and shame, the manipulator may choose victim blaming. Convincing victims that they themselves are to blame for their abuse or problems causes insecurity and less willingness to seek help or resist the manipulator.
A film that demonstrates the concept of victim blaming – blaming the victim – is 1988’s “The Accused,” starring Jodie Foster. This film deals with the aftermath of a rape and shows how Sarah Tobias’ behavior, such as her presence in a bar, drinking alcohol, and her general lifestyle, leads to victim blaming during her trial. The defense and even some members of the community try to use these aspects of her behavior to declare her guilty of her own rape, suggesting that by her actions she somehow “provoked” or “deserved” what happened to her. These elements are critically examined in the film, which highlights the injustice and harmfulness of such accusations against victims of sexual violence.
“The Accused” is particularly relevant because it not only underscores the victim’s struggle for justice, but also challenges the idea that victims are somehow responsible for the violence done to them. It describes the ways that victims of sexual violence are stigmatized and blamed, and how difficult it can be for them to move forward and seek justice. The Accused” highlights the struggle for justice and breaking stigma surrounding sexual violence. The film was a turning point in the way sexual violence was depicted in Hollywood films.

Flying Monkeys

drawing of monkeys with wings
The flying monkeys from “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), Source: Wikipedia
The term “flying monkeys” originated in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), where the wicked witch uses her flying monkeys to carry out her nefarious plans. This metaphor describes how manipulators often use third parties to spread rumors, gather information or perform direct manipulation on the victim. These unwitting helpers, or “human monkeys,” are often not or not fully aware of the whole context or do not realize that they are being used to support someone’s manipulative agenda. They function as human pawns in a larger game of slander, defamation and abuse of power, deployed to spread lies that discredit the victim and benefit the perpetrator.
This mechanism is characteristic of narcissistic abuse, in which the narcissist mobilizes friends, family members, colleagues, or even strangers to put pressure on the victim, isolate them or damage their reputation.
This technique lends itself particularly well to in a larger context such as organizations or a work environment


Projection is a manipulation technique in which a person attributes their own negative traits or behaviors to another while denying their own faults. “Gone Girl” (2014), directed by David Fincher, offers a penetrating example of this technique. In the film, Amy Dunne, devises an ingenious plan to falsely accuse her husband Nick, of her own murder in retaliation for his infidelity. Amy’s strategy of projection involves projecting her manipulative nature onto Nick, falsely portraying him as the perpetrator of never committed abuse. By projecting her own negative traits onto another, Amy manages to construct a convincing narrative about herself as a victim, while simultaneously marginalizing and compromising Nick. “Gone Girl” explores the impact of projection within relationships and demonstrates how it can be used to shift blame and fabricate untrue representations.
This shows how projection can also be used to overturn others’ opinions and paint a false picture of someone.

These techniques can vary in intensity and are often subtle, making them difficult to recognize and resist. However, being aware of these methods can help identify and prevent manipulation in relationships and interactions.
As the movie “Gone Girl” shows, the possibilities of manipulation are not limited to two or a few people. The film shows how the media and through the media large groups can be played and public opinion manipulated.


Currently, framing is perhaps the most widely used suggestive manipulation technique in everyday conversations and discussions as well as in media and politics. Framing is one of the most powerful communication strategies because it can not only influence the way people interpret information, but also guide their attitudes and behaviors toward that information.
Unlike techniques such as gaslighting, which focus only on undermining the victim’s self-image, framing is meant to direct perception without necessarily distorting reality. However, it can still be used in manipulative contexts, depending on the intent of the framing. For example, a politician may “frame” the issue of tax increases as necessary to fund essential public services, while an opponent may “frame” the same tax increase as an unnecessary burden on hard-working citizens. Both sides present the facts in a way that best supports their own goals.
In emotional framing, you use emotionally charged language to elicit an emotional response. A politician can talk about “protecting our beloved traditions and values from the dark forces that want to change us.” By using words like “beloved” and “dark forces,” he arouses strong emotions in his audience, such as pride, fear and a sense of urgency, to rally support for his cause.
Framing conflict highlights a conflict or struggle between parties or ideas. When a news channel reports on a political debate by highlighting that: “Party A is attacking Party B hard on its failing policies, sparking a battle over the future of our country.” the focus is on the conflict and struggle between the parties. This prompts the viewer or reader to choose a side or intensify existing beliefs.
With moral framing, an issue is presented in terms of moral rightness or wrongness. As when an environmentalist states, “It is our moral duty to protect the planet for future generations, ignoring climate change is simply unethical.” By presenting the issue in terms of moral rightness or wrongness, the speaker attempts to convince the audience of the need to take action on climate change based on moral considerations.
Economic framing emphasizes the economic sides or consequences of a situation or decision. When a policymaker argues, “Investing in renewable energy is not only good for the environment, it will also boost our economy by creating thousands of jobs and reducing our dependence on imported oil.” By emphasizing the economic benefits and impacts, the speaker attempts to garner support for renewable energy from an economic perspective, making it attractive to a broader audience that may have less interest in the environmental aspects.
In addition to the manipulation techniques mentioned, there are many other tactics people use to influence, direct, or manipulate. Anchoring is the psychological effect in which initial information influences our judgment. For example, during a negotiation, the car salesman says as his first offer: “This car costs €20,000.” That amount becomes your “anchor. When the seller later says he can lower the price to €18,000, it feels like a good deal, even though you might have only wanted to spend €15,000. Your assessment of what is a “good price” is now based on that first quoted amount. This happens because the first amount becomes your frame of reference that unconsciously influences you.
So this anchoring is different from what is called anchoring in NLP. NLP anchoring uses specific stimuli, such as a touch, to link an emotional state to that stimulus. Someone who squeezes their hand every time they encourage themselves can, over time, summon that courage just by squeezing their hand. Then that feeling is “anchored” to that action.

Belonging: follower behavior

Visualisation of the bandwagon effect with a car and many people aroundThe bandwagon effect plays on the desire to be part of the majority or to go along with popular trends. The idea is simple: if something is widely accepted or popular, it must be worthwhile. The term comes from “music wagon” or “advertising wagon” from parades, where people literally and figuratively “jump on the wagon” that is most noticeable or popular. This psychological phenomenon shows how people tend to align themselves with trends, beliefs or movements simply because they see others doing the same. In essence, it means “going along with the crowd,” often without deep conviction or research of their own, driven by the desire to belong or be accepted by others. Politicians emphasize their popularity by suggesting that “everyone votes for them” which makes even more people vote for them. Opinion polls are good tools in this regard.
Other suggestive techniques include fear-mongering: Generating fear in people about potential dangers or threats, often exaggerated or taken out of context, to induce them to act or think in a certain way. With the sunk cost fallacy (the pitfall of investments made), people are persuaded to continue with an action or investment because of investments (time, money, resources) already made, even if continuing it is not in their best interest.
Information overload (information indigestion) occurs when you are overwhelmed with too much information, making it too difficult to decide or prioritize. This sometimes leads to passivity or procrastination.
social proof (peer pressure testimony): The use of testimonials, reviews, expert opinions, or popularity indicators to increase the credibility or attractiveness of something. Scarcity plays on fomo (fear of missing out) or fear of missing out. Here it is suggested that and only a limited offer, opportunity, or product is available, to create a sense of urgency and encourage people to act quickly.
In a false dilemma / false dichotomy, the victim is presented with a situation as if there are only two choices, often with one clearly more favorable than the other, when in reality more options are available.

From bad to worse

Slippery slope is what Americans call it: It uses the argument that a relatively small first step will inevitably lead to a chain of related negative events, without necessarily supporting it with evidence.
These days we are also hearing more and more about the echo chamber. Creating media environments where only one perspective is presented reinforce existing beliefs. Such an “echo chamber” can be seen in the movie “The Truman Show” (1998). This film follows the life of Truman Burbank (played by Jim Carrey), who unknowingly is the star of a reality TV show. His entire life, including the people around him and the events he experiences, are carefully orchestrated by the show’s director, Christof to create and maintain a certain reality.
“The Truman Show” is an allegory of an echo chamber in which Truman lives in a world designed entirely to reinforce his existing beliefs and perceptions. All the information he receives is filtered and manipulated to maintain a coherent worldview, free of conflicting opinions or challenges.
It is an extreme, fictional representation of how media and technology can be used to construct realities that reinforce our worldview, often without our knowledge or consent. Especially in this age when algorithms flawlessly record our likes and dislikes, the echo chamber is a real danger.
Divide and conquer is dividing the population into groups with conflicting interests to sow weakness and strengthen one’s own power.
The Americans call it whataboutism. The Dutch and Belgians know it as jij-bakken: Deflecting criticism by pointing out the mistakes of others, avoiding taking responsibility for one’s own actions. For example, if you point out to someone that she is speeding in a residential area. Instead of admitting that this is dangerous and promising to be more careful, that person responds with: “But what about all those people who throw their trash on the street? That’s bad too, isn’t it?” Instead of addressing the original point (speeding), the person tries to shift attention to a completely different issue (throwing trash on the street), without actually taking responsibility for their own behavior.

These techniques play on emotions, cognitive biases and social dynamics to influence public opinion and behavior.
Are they types of suggestion?
Many of the suggestion techniques mentioned are designed to influence people’s perceptions, attitudes, decisions or behaviors, often in subtle or indirect ways. Suggestion works by offering ideas, thoughts or actions in a way that encourages the recipient to accept them without critical analysis or resistance. This can be done through language, images, the context of information presentation, or by exploiting certain psychological tendencies.
They play on cognitive biases, emotional triggers, and social influences, making people more likely to accept certain information or act in a certain way. While suggestion need not be negative in itself, its ethics depend on the intentions behind its use and the degree to which it respects the autonomy or well-being of the recipient.

©2024 J.W.Eland