Hypnosis and Alternative Worldviews

I finally managed to find time to read Hypnosis: The Application of Ideomotor Techniques, which my wonderful wife bought me for Christmas. (It’s been a busy year.) This is the second edition of his groundbreaking book Clinical Hypnotherapy, written with the great Leslie LeCron. It’s a medical textbook. Yes, I read medical textbooks for fun. I’m weird.

While it was a really good, informative book and I recommend it, there was one thing about it which kind of surprised me. Dr. Cheek was a respected and successful surgeon, obstetrician, gynecologist, and healer. But his approach to hypnotherapy includes many considerations regarding what a charitable person would call “alternative worldviews” and what a less charitable, more skeptical person might call “woo.” (If you’re not familiar with “woo:” What is Woo?) These include telepathy, prenatal psychology, past-life regression, and spiritual possession.

Dr. Cheek provides multiple examples of cases involving each of these, especially pre- and perinatal psychology (the theory that unborn or newly born children are aware of what is happening around them, notably their mother’s emotional reaction to being pregnant and having a child.) While of course he is selecting case studies of cases where his theories met with success, this isn’t the first time (or the second, or the tenth) that I’ve heard hypnotherapists describe success with clients using these approaches to hypnotherapy. In his book, Dr. Cheek professes to believe in the objective reality, at some level, of these things, but readily admits that many of them could be symbolic or otherwise psychosomatic manifestations of things which have only subjective reality.

I was struck by this as it is in essence the reverse of my own beliefs. I find things like magnetic mesmerism (which Dr. Cheek is a big fan of,) prenatal psychology, and telepathy unlikely from an objective standpoint. I have a broad education in the sciences and if I can’t replicate an experimental finding consistently, I am dubious about the claimed effect. On the other hand, if people choose to frame their objective experiences – and I have seem some weird stuff, don’t get me wrong – in terms of alternate worldviews, it is not only uncharitable to dispute them in a therapeutic context, it’s downright foolish. If the client wants to hand you a tool to help make their lives more comfortable, why on Earth would you throw it away with a sneer? The proper response is to gratefully accept it and use that framing to encourage the client to accept beneficial suggestions.

On things like past-life regression, I tend to go with the approach one of my professors suggested, which is that if you’re not enthusiastic about it, don’t bring it up. But if the client is interested, and you have the training and understanding necessary to use that framing to help them, then do it. It’s not up to you to tell them how to make their life better, it’s up to you to help them make their life better. So long as you can do so ethically and without harm, you should do it.

Hypnosis is the Tool, Not the Goal

Sometimes beginning hypnotists get so wrapped up in the process of hypnosis – which is fun, exciting, and totally captivating – that they forget that hypnosis is a means to an end. In hypnotherapy, the end is improving the client’s satisfaction with life, making them more comfortable – whether physically, mentally, or both. The good thing is, though, that the client’s subconscious will help us find that goal if we just let it.

This is different from stage hypnotism, which is somewhere between a game, a contest, and a conspiracy. In that case, there can be a bit more of an authoritarian, directed approach. While that can be very useful with some hypnotherapy clients, a more cooperative method is usually the first and best approach to try. This approach isn’t just about the suggestions – it can extend even into the induction itself. Let me tell you about a very simple example that illustrates the principle beautifully.

I once worked with a hypnotee who was fascinated by the idea of hypnosis and wanted to learn more, but there was a problem. They had a back injury that would cause them significant pain if they let certain muscles relax too much. Until I worked with them, every time they’d tried to experience hypnosis, the hypnotist would tell them to relax, and they would… until the muscles in their back went into painful spasms. They were at their wit’s end: to be hypnotized you have to relax and if they relaxed they experienced a surge of pain which brought them out of hypnosis!

The solution was both simple and obvious… but totally counterintuitive. I just gave them permission to not relax! Specifically, I used this language in the induction:

“As you begin to go into trance, I want you to be aware of how good your body is at making you comfortable. Take a few deep breaths and think about how easy it is for your body to keep itself aligned, strong and comfortable. The muscles that keep you comfortable know what to do… and they can keep doing it even as the rest of your body relaxes. Another deep breath, and you feel relaxation spreading through your body, even as your back stays strong, aligned and comfortable. It’s amazing how easy it is when you think about it, isn’t it? No matter how deep you go, your back will keep itself comfortable, the muscles holding it in the way that lets the rest of you be comfortable and relaxed… and you’re very relaxed now, and your back is still comfortable, you’re doing great…”

And so on. It was a pretty standard progressive induction… except for that special suggestion to let their back stay as tensed as it needed to be. I didn’t even tell it to stay tense… I just told it to stay comfortable. Their subconscious did the rest, and they had a lovely, deep trance for the first time ever! When they came back to consciousness, they said that not only had their back not hurt, it was more comfortable than it had been in weeks. I hadn’t even meant to do that – they had indicated that their back was not painful so long as they didn’t relax, and I just focused on giving them a new experience with hypnosis. After that, they found entering trance quite easy, and even found their back problem easier to manage.

And all by letting their subconscious decide what to do… offering guidance, and an option, and letting it do the rest! That will so often be the best approach in using hypnosis for change: the client wants change, or they wouldn’t be seeking hypnotherapy. They just need that direction, that encouragement. If they need a more authoritarian approach, there’s always time for that. But first, try just giving them permission to be more comfortable, and see what happens!

Appointments Available

We are now taking appointments for slots on or after January 15th, 2016. Skype/Facetime, telephone, and in-person sessions are available. Unless you’d like to fly Marc to where you are, in-person sessions are available only in the greater Chicagoland area. :) If you’d like to find out how hypnotherapy can help you live better, just click here to email us at marc@hypnotherapytogo.com or call (847)-881-6396 for more information.

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This is HypnotherapyToGo, hypnotherapy that offers help and hope on your terms!

“What the Heck does that mean,” you say?

It means that we offer hypnotherapy that is…

  1. Comfortable. Marc is a trained hypnotherapist familiar with problems ranging from simple habit control to complex lifestyle issues that make it hard to be comfortable in your own shoes. With a non-judgmental approach that’s friendly but firm, you’ll want to help yourself feel better!
  2. Professional. Marc has a degree in hypnotherapy from HMI, the only accredited full-time school for hypnotherapy in the United States, and is a Certified Master Hypnotist and member of the Hypnotherapist’s Union. The nature and scope of our services will be explained in advance. Our goal is to make you as comfortable in your life as we can manage, not to keep you coming in weekly for the rest of your days.
  3. Convenient. We offer hypnotherapy via telephone, Skype, Facetime and other messaging services, and in person in the Chicagoland area. Marc can come to you or we can provide a comfortable, welcoming environment for your session.
  4. Affordable. We charge a reasonable fee for high-quality services. Your initial consultation is absolutely free, and you can learn about how hypnotherapy works and what it can do for you in a friendly, non-rushed environment. If you decide that you’d like to try hypnotherapy for yourself, sessions start at only $100.00 per hour. (Don’t worry: clock-watching isn’t our style. It takes as long as it takes.) And did we mention no upselling? Other than a nominal charge if you’d like a digital recording of the session, we will never try to sell you additional services or add additional fees without your consent.

If you’d like to find out how hypnotherapy can help you live better, just click here to email us at marc@hypnotherapytogo.com!