Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Book Report: Fundamentals of Psychology in Context, Third Edition by Kosslyn and Rosenburg (c) 2007


Fundamentals of Psychology in Context, Third Edition
by Kosslyn and Rosenburg (c) 2007

I don't know how you spent your lockdown, but (after a long period of doing not very much) I decided to use the time to take some on-line classes, and one of them was revisiting Psych 101, and this was the textbook. Right from the top, it should be noted that this is the third edition. There is a more recent fourth edition, renamed Introducing Psychology: Brain, Person, Group. 

When I took classes like this on college, textbooks were a source of dread. They were heavy, expensive, boring, and for all of that, never seemed to provide answers so much as confusion, since they never quite agreed with what the teachers taught, leading us to wonder if they even read these things themselves. Well, times change, and now I'm an old weirdo who actually likes to read textbooks and academic materials, no matter how dry they might seem. And so, as soon as I got the book, I started from page one and read the whole thing. 

A great deal of thought seems to have gone into the structure of this book. Every Intro to Psychology course outlines the basics of this discipline, including history, neurology, and different theories, and this book is no different. To it's credit, it's written in a very readable style. Each chapter explores an element of the mind sciences, and each chapter builds on the information in the chapter before it, so it's very logical, and the examples of behavior are taken from examples we all know about including sports movies and public figures, like Tiger Woods and Jackie Chan. Starting with chapters on basic neurology, there are chapters which attempt to clearly define and explain sensation and perception, memory, motivation and emotion, etc. At the end of each chapter there's a 15 question multiple choice quiz (with answers) as well as some topics to inspire further discussion. I probably would have hated that in college, but I found the quizzes very helpful for reviewing the information. on top of that, the publisher offers additional, downloadable material on MP3 to listen to on the go (I have not accessed any of that). every page also highlights key phrases, and marginal notes synopsize important points to make studying easy.

A novel approach (as far as I know) is the book's stress on evaluating ever element of mind and behavior from The Three Levels of Analysis-- brain, person, and group. It's an excellent way of analysis because most things work on all three of these levels at the same time. The level of the Brain is or course neurological and neurochemical, the level of the Person deals with, of course, the person, their behaviors and feelings, and the level of the Group, which involves how those psychological elements help (or hurt) the individual interact with the society around them. Too often we can develop a microscopic or macroscopic view and lose sight of the whole picture, so the frequent use of this model through the chapters is excellent training for thinking in this discipline. 

The authors have extensive credits and credentials in their field both in neurology and psychology on staff at Harvard and several others Ivy League institutions. They also have extensive book credits for psych text books.

A few gripes: As a hypnotist, I'm always a little disappointed at how dismissive, if not actually hostile, many psychologists are (except the ones who have learned hypnosis. They usually love it). This book touches on hypnosis only very lightly and in an off hand way. They mention that it might help with memory, it might help with sports performance. No serious discussion of it as a scientific therapeutic modality (though in fairness, that may be more appropriate for a more advanced course).

While the various principles and studies the authors give are all extensively backed by scientific data, as you would expect for a science text, some of it seems a bit.. rushed? Remember when you had a deadline for a paper and you threw in a bunch of examples but didn't really document or explain them them clearly? I kind of got the feeling the authors were working against a deadline. with the advent of Google and the internet, I, or you, can now fact check for inaccuracies (for example getting the dates wrong for Kohlberg's Dilemma, a study of morality and emotional development. They reference related data from 1969 and 1994, while the actual study was from the mid 50s, and that one decade is makes a huge difference. The 1950s was for the most part still the paleolithic era, and it is apparent in some of the roughness of the way the data was organized. The following decade or so would be literally revolutionary, in the sciences as elsewhere). There are minor things and probably corrected in the more recent edition of a book that covers a lot of ground.

A more general gripe, is not with the book but with the standard "academic" way this subject is taught. Looking back at it now, and with years of experience tiptoeing through people psychs, as well as years of experience trying to appeal to people's feelings when working in advertising, I'd much rather hav a class that explored the concepts first, and left all that history and mechanics to more advanced classes. For one thing, the history is a lot more interesting when you have a firm grasp of where the practice is today. For another a person has better retention of the facts when they can fit all that into a fleshed out concept. Save the history and the minutia for later.

Monday, March 7, 2022

Book Report: The Invisible Gorilla by Chabris and Simons (c)2009

The Invisible Gorilla by Chabris and Simons (c)2009

The famous Invisible Gorilla video has been a favorite of people studying cognitive behaviors, as well as just a really fun and interesting video to share with your friends. If you haven't seen the video, or if you want to watch it again, I've embedded it below. There's also a second, follow up video, in case you'd like to see the effect applied with some variation, or if the first video didn't work for you. Go ahead and click on it now, and then I'll continue the discussion below. It's short, so be sure to give it your full attention and follow the directions for best results.



There you go. Were you surprised, or did you catch it? In a nutshell, we are always presented with more data than our mind can consciously process. Nevertheless, we always think we can catch it all.

(I have to say I had some frustrations with this book, but I'll get to those later in this article. First let's explore what the book covers). 

The gist of the book is that we can fall victims to various "illusions" that compromise our ability to make good decisions, and we don't even know it. Just as many people fail to see the gorilla, many people are unaware of the illusions that affect our judgement, and these illusions actually make us think we're making better decisions than we are. (Fans of the mental sciences know of these as "cognitive biases" and there are over 200, but the authors only deal with the most prevalent ones). 
The Gorilla video, introduces us to what they call the Illusion of Attention. We assume the more closely we pay attention, the more accurate our perceptions will be, but the videos demonstrate that close attention can actually foil our complete perceptions of a situation.  

There are several of these "illusions" that are explored very thoroughly, with historical cases and experimental data to illustrate how these illusions are responsible for making us deviate from the right decisions while believing we are correct. We learn about the Illusion of Memory, whereby we assume the more detailed our memories are, the more accurate we think they are, the Illusion of Confidence, whereby we assume the more confident person to be the more correct one, when in fact, sometimes the less correct a person is, the more confident they are, and several other cognitive illusions which are good to know. The book concludes with presentations of situations where we are encouraged to spot the illusions at work and a strong case for making deliberate, well thought out, scientifically based decisions in our everyday life.

My Issues with This Book
There were three big klinkers that stuck out about this book:
--Denial of the Existence of the Subconscious Mind
--Reduction of All Decisions into Right and Wrong
--Overemphasis of Experimental Procedures

Denial of the Way The Subconscious Works
This is a book that, like a number of other popular books (including Vedantam's The Hidden Brain and Malcolm Gladwell's Blink covered elsewhere in this blog) uses elements of cognitive sciences shine a light on our everyday thinking. 
 But while the other two books seek to shine a light on the sometime mysterious processes of the subconscious mind, the authors of these book really deny the existence of the subconscious entirely, and, in a manner which reminded me of several of my older, stuffier, college professors, insist that any decision that is not made with slow, conscious deliberation, is simply wrong, and for me, as a hypnotist runs counter to what I know to be demonstrably true. 

When I picked up this book, I expected to be reading a rather dry examination of cognitive and perceptual sciences, perhaps with a dose of neurology thrown in, so I was surprised that they used the "invisible gorilla" as a metaphor for several cognitive biases. Moreover, Malcolm Gladwell, and his books are mentioned a number of times, and by the end of the book, it seems that at least one of the purposes of this book is a refutation of Gladwell's Blink. (In a nutshell, Blink examined how those instantaneous, subconscious decisions are made. Gladwell, is a careful, insightful writer, and researches and explains everything. There is nothing we have to take on faith. His book offers both situations where these fast decisions work when even science has failed, and also cases where intuitive decisions failed badly. (Gladwell's examples include the Getty Kouros, a celebrated "ancient" work of art discovered to be a fraud based on one expert's intuition, as well as the tragic case of Amadou Diallo, shot 40+ times by undercover cops whose instincts went horribly wrong). The book Blink explains the mental mechanics behind these and other situations, what works, what doesn't and how they can be improved. 

The Invisible Gorilla keeps stressing that any quick, intuitive decision is going to be less accurate, but they don't really explore why in any great depth. We are led to understand that conscious, well deliberated, decisions are reliable when nothing else is.

Why is this problematic? In a perfect (may I even say, academic?) world, we could deliberate on every decision before committing to action, but in real life, we'd never survive. So many of our most necessary decisions have to be fast, and are often done under stress. Imagine you're driving on a busy street and a child darts out in front of you. Do you hit the breaks and risk the car behind you smashing into your rear, or turn your car into another lane and possibly collide with another car? There's no time to evaluate the options! 

The Invisible Gorilla dismisses unconscious decision as baseless, emotional or the result of an unconscious bias, but in fact, subconscious functions of the mind are very specific and have their own logic, different from the conscious mind. Most pertinent, the subconscious mind can maintain and process and enormous amount of simple data at the same time without the conscious mind being aware of it (right now, your subconscious is monitoring all kinds of environmental data, like room temperature, the feeling of the chair you're sitting on, the things around you, etc. It's also aware of internal things, like the operation of your internal organs, but won't bring that information to your conscious mind until something needs attention, like your stomach needing filling or your bladder needing emptying. On top of that, it also maintains all kinds of thoughts and memories and the associations between them). The subconscious mind doesn't handle many complicated or abstract thoughts, but it does compile sets instantaneous behaviors based on conscious behaviors and their results. Going back to our example of driving, a beginning driver has to consciously deliberate on everything he does behind the wheel, from parking brake to steering wheel, but with practice, all those behaviors and their results get compiled into instantaneous actions that most experienced drivers never really even think about anymore. 

Reduction of All Results Into Right or Wrong
Since instinctive decisions are short and fast, they can't be as all-encompassing as a consciously deliberated decision. They may not always be the best possible decision, but many times, we don't need the perfect solution, just good enough. The book tends to view all outcomes as either right or wrong (like a professor grading exams!) even when the data they quote shows a broader range of results. In my earlier example of the child running out in front of your car, lets suppose you were afraid there was a car behind you, so you turned into the next lane and had a minor collision. Not a good outcome, but you avoided hitting the little kid in front of you, so you still achieved your goal, albeit at the cost of your fender. Even when you reexamined the scene and discovered there was actually no car behind you, and you would probably have been better off stopping short, you still didn't make the wrong decision, just the best possible one in the time alloted. The only wrong decision would have been to hold off making a decision while you examined all the possibilities. 

Overemphasis of The Experimental Method
Fairly early in the book, they compare data collected from actual events ("empirical") versus data taken from controlled experiments, and decree that only experimental data is reliable and valuable due to the controls scientists have in the lab. HUH? Experiments are usually based on empirical data. If you can't observe something already extant (or at least hypothesize it), you cant set up an experiment to examine it further. It's generally accepted that both are important sources of information and both have a certain value, and each has it's limits. For me, this idea was the most unexpected and questionable part of the whole book, and smacks of academic ideology as opposed to science.The authors are correct when they say that experimental data can be very accurate, since the experimenters can control all the elements of the experiment. But one of the most obvious failings of the experimental method is that the researchers can't factor in any element that they're not aware of, even if it's a major influence (For example, once upon a time, scientists didn't even know of the existence of germs. Scientists like Pasteur, Lister and Semmelweis experienced a lot of condemnation from their scientific peers for trying to justify basic sanitary practices). Weirdly, later in the book, they offer several other situations where experiments would be impossible to construct, wither due to ethical reason, magnitude, or the number of variables. 

This all comes around the the finale of the book where they advise that the only sensible decisions we should make in our lives are the fully thought out sort. Sure, but when the traffic is bad, we don't always have that opportunity.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Book Report: Psychonavigation Techniques for Travel Beyond Time by John Perkins (c) 1990

Psychonavigation: Techniques for Travel Beyond Time, by John Perkins (c) 1990

Background Information: Many of the books on this blog are a bit unusual. Many of the authors of these books are a bit unusual. The author of this book may be a bit more unusual than most of those. Many of John Perkins' books discuss metaphysical traditions and the indigenous cultures he learned them from. But his main claim to fame is his book "Confessions of an Economic Hitman," in which he describes his rise from a Peace Corps dropout and butterfly collector to an agent of the NSA utilizing economic incentives to manipulate third-world leaders. It's a fascinating and thought provoking book, even if the NSA has denied a lot of his claims. He has founded several non-profits devoted to environmental issues and indigenous cultures, and offers speaking engagements around the world.

 The core of this slim book is a meditational method to move around in your imagination in order to reach and communicate with some sort of a spirit or ancestral guide. It's a fun and potentially useful practice. But just as engaging is the story of the cultures from which the author has learned these methods. They include South American Tribal cultures and East Asian societies.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Book Report: Mental Dominance by Julien Ochorowicz (c)1990-1887

Mental Dominance by Julien Ochorowicz (c)1990-1887

Background information: This was originally published in 1887 as "La Suggestion Mental" ("Mental Suggestion").
The author, Julien Ochorowicz, was a leading psychologist, inventor and philosopher of his day. At the time, psychology was a budding science, and included more philosophy and spiritualism than what we think of as psychology today.

If you have an interest in telepathy this will offer both some interesting scientific discussions and also practical theories and exercises to try for yourself. It's also very interesting a a view into a slice of hypnosis history when "modern" Braid-style hypnosis was taking over from Mesmerism.

The current edition (1990) mentions that it's been "updated," so I can't say for sure how much of the book is the original, and how much has been "updated." (There are a few references to telephones and television which made me highly skeptical of it's authenticity, but according to the Ochorowicz Wiki page, he experimented with early forms of telephone and television in the late 1800s!). 

Before we go farther, it's useful to get the historical context in which the author was working. More modern, suggestion-based hypnosis was beginning to dominate the psychology world, but older Mesmerism would still have been very common. What that means is that while there was more of an acknowledgement that trance and other mental states could be brought about by verbal suggestions as is practiced with hypnosis.. Mesmerism, the older science, believed that the trance was produced in the subject by the force of the Mesmerist's will which was projected into the subject's body via a magnetic fluid that was a kind of invisible psychic energy. Telepathy and other forms of psychic communication and healing were common parts of Mesmeristic belief and practice.

According to the author's Wiki bio, he worked with a number of the members of the Society for Psychical Research, which included some of the top scientists and thinkers of the day, and seems to have been a mix of skeptics and true-believers, united in applying the latest scientific methods to psychic phenomena. So it's presumable that he pulled his data from a fairly large and well documented pool of information and experiments. 

A big part of this book, or this edition, since I don;t know how closely it relates to the 1887 edition, is to identify a working methodology for mind-to-mind communication. It's pretty thorough, and offers plenty of exercises to experiment with. 

From the top, it's interesting that, presumably after experimentation, he identifies the ideal mental state as a "monomaniacal trance" which is a trance state resulting from focusing on a single thing to the exclusion of all else. This would be the kind of "modern" hypnotic trance that was used by James Braid (who suggested the term "monoideaism" --focusing on a single-- as a better name for hypnosis). Orochowicz further designates two degrees of this monomaniacal trance-- a slightly deeper, more passive one for recieving, and a slightly more active one for transmitting. 

Different scenarios are described, but it is particularly interesting that he observes that while a suggestion may be received, it may take some time for it to emerge from the subconscious of the receiver and be perceived or acted upon. He feels that a strong, persistent suggestion will be transmitted more effe3ctively than an overly intense one, and that combining the mental suggestion with some kind of physical action will be more effective than the mental suggestion alone. 

The Fourth part of the book offers exercises to strengthen one's "Animal Magnetism," which include things like visualizing and moving energy through the body, controlling your sensations of cold and heat, self-discipline and controlling emotions, etc. 

In an interesting procedure for psychic persuasion of others, the author distinguishes two parts of persuasion: Preparation and Ultimatum. (The procedure involves preparing by cultivating one's energy for a long time before your expected encounter with the person you want to persuade. When you meet them, hold overwhelmingly positive feelings, and hold your desired idea in your mind the entire time, and even imagine hugging them in you mind. Finally you make a definitive statement (mental, presumably) and they should be persuaded!). 

Another interesting observation is that these kinds of suggestions can take a longer amount of time than most other authors indicate. For a simple suggestion, this author advises 3-4 weeks of preparation, while a meaningful change of behavior may take 6 months of daily hour-long suggestions. Presumably this was backed up by some experimental data(?). 

There's a big section on finding and influencing your soulmate. I find it rather hard to believe that this was part of Ochorowicz' original manuscript, but most likely a contribution of the 1990 edition. Still, it is an interesting discussion and follows the Authors basic methodology. And again, a much longer commitment is recommended-- 40 daily sessions, with a minimum of 15!

Finally, there are a number of visualization exercises to strengthen focus and imagination, and, hopefully, one's psychic abilities. 

I can't say I've had the level of discipline to try these techniques as recommended, but if you have had results, I'd love to hear about them!

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Almost Everything You Have to Know About SELF HYPNOSIS

So many people are curious about self hypnosis that I figured I'd put down some of the things I always tell people, and I hope I cover all the basic questions that you have. If there's more you'd like to know, please comment or email me. 

If you've ever been formally hypnotized, self-hypnosis is just a matter of reaching that same mental state by yourself. Easy! But if you've never been formally hypnotized, you might not have a clear idea of exactly what hypnosis is, so the first thing we should do is get clear on what hypnosis is. 

We probably all agree that when we think of a hypnotized person, we imagine someone who has been talked into a state of deep relaxation by a hypnotist, and then given some suggestions that will affect them when they wake up. 

It's worth noting that there are TWO important elements to consider: the trance state that the subject goes into, and the suggestions that are given while he's in the trance state. Trance without suggestion is deep relaxation, suggestions without trance are affirmations

Even though the hypnotist's client looks like they may be fast asleep, the hypnotist is very particular to help them maintain their mental focus throughout the session. If a subject is not mentally focused, how can they be given effective suggestions? (James Braid, one of the 19th century pioneers of hypnosis, preferred to use the term "Monoideaism" indicating that the hypnotized subject is focused on a single idea). They may look asleep on the outside, but they're still mentally focused on the inside. In fact, one of the definitions hypnotists like to use to describe hypnosis is: Physical Relaxation combined with Mental Focus to bypass the Conscious Mind. Mental focus? YES! For this reason, it's virtually impossible to give someone a suggestion that they don't want to accept. You can't sneak much past a hypnotized client. 

The deeply relaxed trance state is useful for delivering suggestions into a person's mind because they're very relaxed and emotionally neutral, and the conscious mind isn't occupied with any thoughts, so they're open to suggestions (as long as they don't conflict with a person's beliefs or morality). 

Typically, a person goes to a hypnotist because they want to change their habits or feelings in some way, get rid of some behaviors or improve others. Sometimes instead of going and having a live session in a hypnotist's office, they'll do a session over the internet or phone, or even listen to prerecorded hypnotic sessions on MP3, CD or cassette (if they still use cassettes!). There is some very good recorded material available on line. The one advantage of a one-on-one session with a  hypnotist is that the practitioner can customize the session to the client's specific needs. Recordings tend to be a little more generalized, but people can get good results from both.

In brief:
A hypnotist CAN:
--Make you feel deeply relaxed
--Relieve Stress
--Engage your mental focus
--Give you suggestions to make the changes you want

A hypnotists CAN'T:
--Compel you to do anything you don't want to do
--Force you to go into an unconscious state
--Make you accept suggestions you don't want to accept
--Make you do things against your will
--Force you to expose your secrets
--Read your mind

Well, that's hypnosis. What about Self-Hypnosis? 

Self-Hypnosis is very similar, but you do it yourself. A lot of people are drawn to the idea of self-hypnosis because they may be shy of committing to a session with a professional, or they may be curious, but not quite yet curious enough to seek out a professional, or maybe they're just do-it-yourselfers. These are all very acceptable reasons. Self-hypnosis can be a very useful and fun activity, and it's possible to get very good results on your own with a little practice. 

With a professional hypnotist, the advantage is that they're like your personal Uber driver-- you can sit in the back seat and they will "drive" your mind to wherever you want to go. With self hypnosis, at first, it's a bit like sitting in the back seat and still trying to drive the car yourself. It feels awkward, but once you get the knack of it you can get very good results.

There are a lot of great resources on self hypnosis. You can find a lot on the web, and there are a lot of good books available (check out the Book Reports section of this blog for some suggestions). Just as with other forms of hypnosis, you're going to want to achieve a state of deep Physical Relaxation combines with Mental Focus. The simplest way is to follow a recorded hypnosis session or a guided meditation. After using it a few times, you'll probably pick up the knack without  needing the recording. 

The most difficult part of self-hypnosis, for most people, is maintaining their mental focus when they start to get relaxed. Another pitfall is that people don't always relax very deeply just because they're not aware of how deep they can go. The third big pitfall is not composing suggestions in the best possible way. This third one can be a bit trickier, since it takes a lot of skill and experience to compose suggestions that are just right for each person.

Physical relaxation can be achieved in a number of ways. Hypnotists sometimes call these deepeners. Here are a few of the common ones:
--Focusing on relaxing every part of your body, one at a time, from the toes up. Especially focus on relaxing the face.
--Count backwards from 100, exhaling and focusing on relaxation with every number.
--Focus on an object like a coin or a spot, a sound (like a word or the sound of a bell) or a feeling in your body, and gradually let go of your awareness of the environment outside your body.
--Repeating a word, poem, prayer or mantra, slowly, to the exclusion of everything else.
--Imagining sinking deeply down into a comfortable feather bed. Alternatively, imagine flying upwards into the fluffy clouds if you're not comfortable with "sinking."

You can also combine several different deepeners, one after another. This is exactly what a lot of hypnotists would do if they were hypnotizing you. These should be able to get you into a very relaxed state, and by itself, that can be a very useful thing, A state of deep relaxation is great for beating stress, and it's often given credit for all kinds of health benefits. With practice, you'll be able to both achieve deeper, more relaxing states and do it faster and more reliably. (When I was learning hypnosis, I used to challenge myself to slipping into a ten minute trance in on my lunch hour, and I would do it sitting on a bench in the noisiest, most crowded place I could find, which was Rockefeller Center in New York). When you're finished, you can count yourself back from 5 to 1 like a rocket taking off, or just gradually wake up normally. Take a deep breath, wiggle your toes and your fingers and blink your eyes. Because hypnosis is a state of focused attention, you can't "get stuck" in trance, although beginners or people who are overtired might occasionally slip into sleep.

Being able to achieve a controlled state of deep relaxation any time you want it is a terrific accomplishment all by itself, but if you're trying to make very specific changes and improvements to your habits, you're going to want to be able to give yourself suggestions that will work directly with your subconscious. Crafting effective suggestions can be a much more complicated thing than hypnosis or self-hypnosis. A good suggestion is easily accepted by the subconscious without resistance. If a suggestion makes you feel uncomfortable, that can be a sign to reexamine both your desired goal and the kind of suggestion you''re using. You can't force your subconscious mind to accept a suggestion it doesn't like. For example, a lot of people who want to lose weight will tell themselves "I am now at my desired weight and size." If that feels good, it'll work, but if it doesn't quite feel right, that the subconscious mind saying it can't work with that suggestion. The subconscious mind is very literal, and if a person is unhappy with their weight, just trying to accept that they're now at the desired weight obviously won't do the trick. It may be better to work with a suggestion like, "I am now able to easily changing my habits to lose weight and look better." Do you see the difference? The second suggestion does not ask the subconscious mind to accept anything it feels is untrue. 

My feeling about effective suggestion is that it should encompass as many different kinds of sensation as possible, and be as dynamic as possible. So if I were creating a suggestion to stop myself from smoking, I might say "I feel great about giving up cigarettes!" But I'd go a little farther. I'd think about all those times and places that I usually smoked and then envision myself doing all those things and enjoying them more without the bitter, smelly, dirty taste and smell of the smoke. I'd feel how proud I was that the people around me didn't have to suffer my smoke, and look forward to my lungs feeling strong and clear. You'll notice all the bold, italicized words are dynamic ones. They have emotional power, and words like that really resonate with the subconscious mind.  

How to put it all together-- Practice the deep relaxation work for at least a week or two before trying to add the suggestions, just so you can achieve the trance state reliably. When you're ready to try a little "changework" and you're pretty good at the trance, prepare your suggestions in advance. Write them down, make it as dynamic as possible, and be sure you feel good about them and there's no internal resistance..
Close your eyes and begin your trance process. Go as deep as you are comfortable going, into a safe and neutral state of relaxation where you no longer notice much of the outside world. Enjoy the feeling for a few moments. When you're ready, repeat your suggestion mentally or aloud, and actually imagine living out the suggestion-- feel how it feels, hear how it goes, see yourself and your surroundings. The more vivid it is in your imagination, the stronger it's effect. (If you you feel any inner resistance at this point, make a mental note of it, so you can adjust your suggestion for next time). When you've done it to your satisfaction, and you're feeling good about it, you can come back out of trance. Count yourself back as we described above, or just gradually wake yourself up. Take a deep breath, wiggle your toes and fingers and feel fantastic!

Sometimes people have amazing, immediate results, but just as often it's a gradual process. Most people will require a few weeks of daily practice to make the changes they want.

I hope that provides a clearer view of what goes into self-hypnosis, and even some things you can experiment with yourself. If you have any further questions, don't hesitate to ask me, or your local hypnotists.


Monday, January 3, 2022

Book Report: Getting What You Want by. J.H. Brennan (c) 1982

Getting What You Want by. J.H. Brennan (c) 1982

Background Information: J.H. "Herbie" Brennan is a prolific New York Times bestselling author and occultist. He has written over 100 books, including children's books, young adult, fiction and history as well as various occult subjects. 

This is a fun and practical little book about achieving your goals, the kind of thing very popular in the 70s and 80s, and again today. It's well written and well structured, and the author is an excellent and witty story teller, so the book flows. It's worth noting that this book is particularly geared towards jobseekers, but it can be applied to all kinds of things. Every self help book seems to have a guiding principle that the author sets out early, and for this book, the author not only sets it out right at the beginning of the book, but also right on the back page: "Your limitations are imaginary." It may sound kind of airy-fairy, but he very practically approaches how we too-readily accept obstacles that are self imposed and also external barriers that may not be as unyielding as we assume them to be. Part of the aim of the first part of the book is changing your attitudes and your subconscious. Of the subconscious mind, the author says "it's like having Superman for a partner, except that most of the time you don't talk to him, so he lets you go your own way."

The first part of the book includes stories to illustrate the concepts clearly to the reader, and there are several in-depth quizzes to help you self-evaluate strengths and weaknesses you may not even know you had, and to help you more clearly define your goals, so that you can adapt the principles on the book to your specific needs. 

The second part of the book offers the techniques of that the author calls "Power Play." These are various attitudes and approaches for controlling and dominating not only one's own obstacles, but situations too, like job interviews. "Power Play" includes business psychology to position yourself optimally, as well as techniques to fire up your confidence and initiative, including reframes and breathing techniques.

It's a very useful and practical little book and I'm actually surprised that after it's initial 1977 printing, it was only reprinted once in the 80s. If you come across a copy, I'm sure you'll find it a useful!

Friday, December 31, 2021

Book Report: Mesmerism Unveiled! by Leslie J. Gee (c)1885

Mesmerism Unveiled!
by Leslie J. Gee (c)1885

Background information: From what is inferred in the book, the author was a popular stage performer of mesmerism, although I was unable to find anything about his performances on line.  He seems to speak with a great deal of experience and the same kind of passion for his art that most hypnotists have today. This little book (approx 50 pages) was likely an item that he sold at his shows to those interested in learning for themselves.

While I was unable to find any information about his performances, he does include his home address (circa 1885) in order for readers to contact him if they had any questions. There is currently a somewhat rundown single-family house on the site (thanks, Google maps!) that was built in 1890. No record that I could find of the previous house or landowner.

The subtitle of this book is "The Only Work Ever Published Giving Full Instructions How to Practice and Master the Art of Psychology, or Mesmerism" and, indeed, there seems to be material that I have not seen in any other books of Mesmerism, so for novelty value alone, it's a worthwhile little volume.

Today we think of Mesmerism as a primitive kind of hypnosis, but that is not exactly the case. While is did utilize trance and suggestion to effect changes in the client, Mesmerism was based on the idea that there was an actual "magnetic fluid," an invisible energy, that ran through the nervous system, and which, with practice, could be projected to people and things to effect certain kinds of results. While mesmerism is a thing of the past, we find similar concepts surviving in Christian Science, Polarity, Laying on of Hands, Chinese Chi Gung and Indian Pranic healing, and so forth. A Mesmerist would typically wave his hands over his subject, utilizing "magnetic passes" to affect the energy flow of the subject. Because there was a direct exchange of energy between Magnetizer and subject, it was assumed there was some kind of telepathic connection at work, and indeed, the usual expected results that could be achieved from this art included the same that hypnotism is known for, like smoking, drinking, weight management, etc., it was also commonly believed that mesmerism could produce clairvoyance, telepathy and other exotic phenomena. 

The book is written in an easy conversational style (albeit a very 19th century style). The most notable thing about this book is that it offers a rapid method of Mesmerism, utilizing touches on certain parts of the subject's head, in addition to the usual magnetic passes. Another thing is that he doesn't dwell on practice and exercises for projecting one's magnetic energy. (many of the books that I've read offer exercises for beginning Mesmerists like pointing your fingers at an empty chair to learn to project energy, or meditative energy gathering exercises). Typically mesmerism is a very slow process of making magnetic passes in front of the subject for at least half an hour, until trance is achieved (L.E.Young actually advised people to use hypnosis and not Mesmerism for stage shows because the Magnetic method was so slow and boring). 

The author attempts to demonstrate that Mesmerism is a common phenomenon, and uses the examples of rapport between animals and trainers. He then goes on to describe the science behind it, which is primarily Phrenology (a debunked science of how different parts of the mind work), and a version of neurology which little resembles what we know today. 

In addition to his own method, he presents three methods which he describes as being very popular (in his day). One is the slow method of magnetic passes, one is a kind of Mesmerism utilizing eye fixation that is called "Hypnotism" (that was probably brand new at the time!), and a kind of group operation. 

For his own method, he goes into depth, including the attitude and emotion the Magnetizer should be using, the importance of will power and persistence, the specific touches and passes he employs on stage for rapid Mesmerism, and how to chose the most responsive subjects (several times in the book he reminds us that while everyone can be mesmerized, only 40 people in 1000 will be really easily brought into trance).
He gives directions on the way a beginner should start, and what to expect, and also some effects that can be done with a subject that are still common today, like spinning hand, acting out suggestions, singing, etc., and some suggestions we wouldn't use today, like pushing sewing needles into their cheek, convincing them to eat candles like candy, making them believe they're chased by snakes or that their house is on fire, etc. Suggestions that are not at all common today but were part and parcel of the Mesmerism were the development of psychic skills like clairvoyance and telepathy, though he does warn that it may take a hundred sessions before some people will develop these abilities. He even offers instruction on "charging" a glass of water in order to bring the magnetic power right to the internal organs.

Overall, the author is very encouraging and stresses persistence and patience in developing this ability. He advises beginners who may have questions to consult their local Mesmerist or Clairvoyant, or even send letters to his home. He even offers some herbal substances that he feels may strengthen the beginner's performance, including quinine and a tonic made of Valerian, Catnip, Skullcap, Coriander and Capsicum (the first three herbs are known for their calming, anti-stress qualities).

I have never had any experience performing Mesmerism, so I can't discuss the efficacy of the book, but as a nice addition to a library of this kind of ephemera. I couldn't even fins an image of the original printing, but the book can be found on the web in PDF form, and facsimile editions can be got from https://www.forgottenbooks.com/en/books/MesmerismUnveiled_10834811