When Hypnosis is not Hypnosis, Particularly Ericksonian

04th May 2010

Image courtesy of BigStock Photos

I have been fascinated with hypnosis from the age of about 12 when my father gave me a small thin book written by Franquin a New Zealand Hypnotist who gained some international fame as a stage hypnotist in the 40s, and 50s. It used to intrigue me how those old masters could do what they did, and to me traditional hypnosis has always hypnosis in its truest and most pure form.

In 1992 I attended my very first hypnosis workshop in Queensland. It was a five day training consisting of lectures and video on Milton Erickson and so called Ericksonian hypnosis but their was no practical component and no actual induction practice. The lecturer seemed more intent on drumming into everyone how dangerous hypnosis was, and how it was then regulated to the Psychologists, Dentists, and Doctors. With a blending of Ericksonian hypnosis and my very limited knowledge on real hypnosis I went into practice calling my modality, “Subconscious Counseling,” to get a round the legal issues that then pervaded in Queensland at that time.

From 1993 until 1996 I was a staunch Ericksonian practitioner and had a lot of success with many clients suffering all manner of maladies, but I always found Erickson’s techniques a little vague with too often short lived results and it took me another five years to realise that Erickson himself never actually taught any of his students to induce the actual trance state. Then somewhere in between it struck me that most of what is taught as Ericksonian hypnosis takes away the responsibility of whether the therapy will work or not. The classic cop out for the poorly trained or neophyte hypnotist is “Nobody can make anyone do anything they wouldn’t normally do when they are in hypnosis”. Many times I have proved that to be one of the greatest dis-empowering 'faux paus' of modern clinical hypnosis.

Personally I no longer consider Ericksonianism as hypnosis, and I believe just as what happened with Mesmer 300 years earlier. Milton Erickson either intentionally or inadvertently colluded with the AMA and the ADA in the early 1950s to take hypnosis away from the laymen, either to save professional embarrassment because of traditional hypnosis’s simplicity and remarkable effectiveness, or to move it into financial protectionism on behalf of medicine and dentistry. Erickson may have impressed his colleagues’ with his famous handshake induction, but it was no more than what any good stage hypnotist can do, his peers just didn’t realize it, and he never taught any classic hypnosis inductions to any of his students. If one of my students can’t perform a handshake induction, equally as well as Erickson could, during their training they don’t pass.

Milton Erickson was, in my opinion, a gifted observer and a far better Psychiatrist than what he was a hypnotist.This is verified by reading “The Practice of Hypnotism,” second edition, by Andre M Weitzenhoffer, and my AMA and ADA collusion theory can be significantly evidenced when one reads books by the hypnotists from the 40s and 50s, such as Harry Arons. To make my position clear, I think Erickson's techniques are brilliant and very effective once the trance state, as hypnosis, has actually been induced. I also think that the significant amount of what is taught as Ericksonian hypnosis today is more, someone elses opinion of what they thought Erickson might have meant. This has helped dis-empower our profession to the point where it is becoming common to hear the statement “I had hypnosis and its crap, nothing happened.” It has also dis-empowered the training of hypnosis into a flood of pseudo hypnosis hybrids with little or no evidence basis. Here I am referring to NLP, TLT, PSH, etc, etc, etc.

I have a passion for collecting old hypnosis books. I have more than 70 titles that pre date 1950 and even have a1938 copy of Gilbert Frankau’s translation of Mesmer's 1779 book Mesmerism by Dr Mesmer, and doesn’t that throw some light on how our craft has become distorted over the last 300 years.

Mesmer never hypnotized anyone and he said himself that the induced trance state was entirely unnecessary and that he was a magnetist. Mesmer worked with the transference of the animating energies, not by inducing a trance and offering suggestions. Known from ancient times, ecstatic catharsis engendered dramatic and empowering shifts in consciousness of the kind we would today refer to as heightened “altered states” and during which many kinds of so-called “paranormal” trance phenomena were experienced.

Such phenomena also came to light within many of Mesmer's vat participants. But a perpetual confusion has settled regarding this matter, in that Mesmerist trance phenomena have historically been confused with hypnosis.Hypnotism can also easily be confused with (fascination), since it too is a type of altered state. Modern hypnotismas such was not identified until about 1842 by the English surgeon James Braid (1795-1860), but around the same era James Esdaile, a Scottish surgeon practicing in India, was using Mesmerism to perform serious operations including limb amputations. Esdaile also wrote that he used Mesmerism and Mesmeric passes, not words, to induce the Mesmeric Sleep. Mesmer himself gave much more significance to the transference of the ethereal fluid (universal and resonating human energy) than what he did to the trance state, confirming once again thatMesmer considered himself a magnetist and not a hypnotist. Mesmerism, Magnetism, Hypnosis, Ericksonian Hypnosis, and NLP, are five entirely different things.

* Mesmer died at Meersburg on the north shore of that lake in which he must have swum when he was a boy, having moved house in the Vorbung Gasse from his summer chalet at Riedetsweiler, a village nearby. From his young friend Justinus Kerner, thanks to whose book published in Frankfurt on the Main in 1856, we know so much about Mesmers last years. Justinus tells us Mesmer died smiling. A strange thing indeed. Strange, too, is the tale of the magnetizable canary which would fly from its cage, always open, and perch on Mesmer's head to sing him awake every morning; perch on the sugar basin while he ate breakfast and anticipate his knees by pecking extra lumps into hos coffee cup. For the end of the tale as Kerner relates it, runs: “Next morning Mesmer lay as though he were still alive, but never again did the canary bird fly onto his head to wake him. It ate no more and sang no more and soon it was found dead in its cage”. * Mesmerism, by Dr Mesmer (1779) and translated into English by Gilbert Frankau (1948).

There is a great deal of difference between hypnosis and magnetism and when Mesmer spoke of animal magnetism he was, as far as my investigations have shown, referring to animating magnetism meaning the human energy field. Modern science can now measure this field via the Super Quantum Induction Device which can measure the electrical energy of thoughts and also track them moving from one energy field to another. There have been a lot of studies done with this device by respectable scientists. I think the results shake the foundations of Newtonian Physics a little too much and are shelved away as “Unexplained Science.” If you want to know more regarding this find a DVD by Dr Bruce Lipton entitled “The Biology of Belief” and it will certainly change your mind or give you a much clearer insight regarding how what we do actually works.

Now on to the topic of rapid inductions. I got hold of a transcript of a handshake induction from Marshall Sylver in about 1997. I walked up to a friend and took his hand then went through the motions only to have him jerk his hand from mine and blurt out “What are you doing you idiot”, before he turned and walked way shaking his head, leaving me to wonder why this person wasn’t now in a deep trance and putty in my hands. Still I’m a pretty persistent type and not usually easily dissuaded so off I went in search of my next victim who yielded me a very similar result.

Then I learned some rules regarding rapid inductions and they are as follows.

1: Know exactly what you are going to do before you begin.

2: Know exactly where you are going to place your hands on the subject.

3: Exude total self confidence.

4: Realize that what you are thinking, and also what you are feeling, is going to transfer straight into your subjects energy field. So any lack of confidence or any other negative feelings are going to hinder whatever you are trying to achieve.

There are still many things we do not understand about hypnosis and the human energy field, and unfortunately whenever energy transference is mentioned people tend to lump the whole subject into the new age. To clarify my position, I don’t believe in the New Age as such, and too me much of it is just rehashed ancient knowledge packaged up to make profit for those within the industry. I do know within the so-called spiritual ethos there is much hidden and/or unexplained science. Whether we have lived before? Or whether we have guides or not? And whether angels watch over us? This much I do know, we have to exist here in the 3rd dimension of solid matter, and floating around in the ether with a head full of spiritualist values doesn’t pay the rent.

When I conducted my cancer trials in Perth each participant was given five 16 minute treatments to achieve the results that became evident as reported on the EORTC quality of life monitoring forms. It was so simple it was ridiculous really. That is where I learned about the truth of transference, because both myself and my pharmacist colleague would go home on Thursdays carrying all of the symptoms and medication side effects of the volunteers until one had a shower to wash it away.

At this juncture it is important to consider that we can’t see the waves activating music in our radios or the pictures in our televisions but that doesn’t mean they are not there. As I teach my students, be focused on what you are doing whilst you are working with people in trance, and you will always get a much better result than you will by just going through the motions.

I think Medicine and Psychology have steered us away from the true essence of hypnosis and certainly killed the rapid induction almost to the point of extinction, and since the original hypnosis was always activated by either the fixed gaze or the rapid induction who among us now can really claim to be hypnotists? I have had students during trainings hooked up to a “Serenity” device that runs through a laptop via head tabs in the same fashion as an EEG, then using a handslip rapid induction, a handshake induction, a direct gaze induction, and three other various rapid inductions. In every case the predominant frequency pattern in the subjects mind instantly scrambles, resembling an epileptic fit momentarily, before the pattern settles to theta waves. If one does this and then just stands there saying nothing the theta waves will regress back to alpha in about 45 seconds and the subject will open their eyes feeling nothing more than a deep peaceful relaxation. This is indicative that once the rapid induction (theta state) has been induced then suggestion must immediately be employed to continue it on into an effective hypnotic state.

It takes confidence and practice to master rapid inductions, but they should be a significant part of what we do if we want to call ourselves hypnotists. Otherwise many of us, limited by our blind faith and belief in what is now in my opinion best termed “Academic Ericksonianism” should, if we were honest with ourselves and our clients, call ourselves ‘Eyes closed, guided imagery confusion therapists.”

I take pride in ensuring that my students are taught from backwards to forwards, and it is more than evident to me that if hypnotists are taught hypnosis from backwards to forwards (start with old) then mixed with modernist Ericksonian techniques whilst harboring an understanding of exactly what Magnetism is, then we have a pretty formidable therapy in the form of pure unadulterated hypnosis.

It is time for many of us to go back to basics, to the things that worked before hypnosis was re-packaged into half effectual hybrids, and sold in many cases as an instant and miraculous cure for anything and everything. Being the principle of one of Australia’s biggest hypnosis training academies I think the plot has become a little lost as to what is and isn’t hypnosis and what will or won’t work for various conditions. When in doubt keep it simple and go back to basics, rapid inductions are as basic as it gets. It’s what we do with them once induced that counts. Hypnosis itself is no more than an indefinable altered mind state; hypnotherapy is what we do with the undefinable altered mind state once we have induced it.

If you would like to know more about rapid inductions or learn them, you can download DVD files and training manuals of the mechanisms and wording of 8 different styles from the website.

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