Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dealing with Bullies (of the mind)

"The Bully of the Neighborhood" John George Brown (1866)
In the movies, there's always one sure way to deal with a bully. After he's tormented the (usually reluctant) hero for most of the movie, our hero finally calls him out in the playground, and by dint of willpower, and the might of the moral upper hand, he trounces that bully, and the bully slinks off to be heard from no more.
The end.
Roll credits,
fade to black.
Real life never fades to black so conveniently. In real life, after he's been overpowered, the bully is often even more motivated than ever. He may come back more prepared, more well armed, he may catch the hero when he least expects it, or find a sneakier way to strike at our hero. Maybe he comes back with his big brother, or a gang, but one way or another, the bully will be back.

Everybody wants to be able to put the bully in his place with one solid punch to the jaw, like John Wayne would. It just seems right, feels's just so appealing on a gut level. Can't we solve everything like that? A problem pops up, so we hammer it down. Sometimes it is just that simple, but just as often that solution is temporary and the bully comes back, maybe in another way, stronger and more intimidating, or disguised.

It's also true with the bullies of the mind. Sometimes a simple, direct post-hypnotic suggestion, the hypno-equivalent of a punch to the jaw, commanding the client's psyche to "knock it off" is all that it takes for permanent change. I'm a pretty firm believer in the idea that you should always start with the simplest solution first, so I would never discount the direct suggestion. This is especially the case if the client has outgrown whatever is bullying him, and may just need an affirmation that it's time to change.

But it's important to have a clear appraisal of the client's problem. Very often, both hypnotist and client make too much of the healing powers of the hypnosis itself, and assume that a direct command issued to someone while in a trance is all it takes to do the trick. A simple, direct command can work, but it can be hit-or-miss. Think about it. How many people have "tried" hypnosis but didn't get the results they expected?

Since a direct command is an authoritarian approach, it's important to understand how most people's minds deal with authority. Some people like to think that authority can simply compel people to change their behavior, either in waking life or under trance. It often appears that it can, but the mechanics behind what's happening are a little more complex than it would appear. People also tend to categorize adherence to authority as "good" and simply dismiss non-adherent behaviors as "bad", without taking time to examine these alternatives.When faced with authority, people and bullies alike generally respond in one of 3 ways: They comply, rebel or surrender. You've probably observed some or all of them in school when you and the other kids in your class were faced with the authority of the teacher (remember the "teacher's pets", the "rebels", "trouble makers", and the "quiet ones" from school?)

Here how they break down:

-- When faced with an authoritarian command, many will comply. A lot of people consider this to be the "right" way things go. A teacher, a boss, or other figure says, "do it!" and (many) people do it. Here's the catch most people don't know: people, and people's minds, will obey authority as long as there's an advantage in it for them as well.
Rebel-- Not everyone obeys an authority. If the command runs counter to a person's own interests, or sense of identity, or offers no advantage, they may refuse to comply. If the authority presses more force, the mind might resist it with more force, or run away.
Surrender-- What if he won't comply but can't rebel or escape authority? Maybe there's no escape, or the force of authority is too strong. A lot of people like to think that a person will eventually "learn" to conform, and sometimes it appears to be the case. The individual might decide not to invest effort in resisting even though there's no advantage in complying, but focus on other, more positive things in his life, and just "go with the flow." But if the person really doesn't want to comply, but feels helpless to resist, he may only give the appearance of compliance by surrendering. Surrender is usually a weak compliance, and the frustration of not having any control may cause the individual to rebel in other ways and places, which is to say, the problem will manifest in other ways.

  • So, if we apply the above to the construction of an hypnotic command, and to beating the bullies of the mind, we can see that a direct command will get the client's subconscious to comply IF it can be perceived to have some advantage to the client (albeit probably perceived by his subconscious mind). In other words, we have beaten the bully. 
  • The mind will likely rebel against the suggestion if it seems like an imposition that has no advantage to the client, or if it runs against the client's grain. In this case, we took the wrong approach, and the bully won. 
  • Finally, the client's mind may surrender to the given suggestion, and will, for a time, present signs of acceptance and compliance, but, feeling helpless, allow the problem to express itself in other ways. In this final scenario, the bully comes back for another fight at another time.  

Of course this is a highly simplified examination, but hopefully one that is immediately practical. What do you think?

Monday, June 11, 2012

What Hypnotists Can Learn From Bad Music

"The Singer" by Edouard Manet (1861)
In the little theater, a guy with a guitar stepped into the spotlight. The crowd grew quiet. He adjusted his guitar strap, fumbled with the strings, and dug through his pockets for the guitar pick. After a minute he held it up to the audience, "got it!" A little nervous laughter flutters through the crowd. He starts to sing and he's not too bad, maybe singing a folky love song or an old soft rock favorite, doesn't matter. The audience is starting to get into it, beginning to feel that feeling a good song makes you feel. After about 40 seconds, his voice changed a bit, he ran out of breath and the last two words of a stanza were undervoiced and indistinct. He took a deeper breath and continued, but it threw off the rhythm of the song a little bit, an for a few seconds, the tempo had gotten slower. Then he caught up with the original pace. Getting close to the end of the song his eyes darted around and he blinked rapidly, a really nervous smile crept across his mug, and he started to stammer as he tried to remember the last of the lyrics. His eyes suddenly lit up--he's remembered--and he plowed through the rest of the song. At the end, he mumbled a quick "thank you" to the audience and darted off stage before the audience's polite applause had even finished.Was he bad? Yes and no. He certainly wasn't playing at a professional level, but you gotta give anyone a lot of credit for just getting up in front of people and doing his best.

Now compare him to a seasoned professional. There are singers who's first note entrances an audience, and as soon as they have that audience, never let go. They take their audience on an emotional trip, one that can change and inspire an audience, never to be forgotten, and do it in 3 minutes!

Music is one of the most hypnotic things in our everyday life, and something that just about anyone with ears can relate to. For their skill, musicians can win fame and fortune and the undying love of their fans, so they have to be doing something right.

As hypnotists, we want to be able to touch our clients as deeply and make inspirational changes, so music should be able to teach us a lot. If you listen to your favorite musician to try to analyze what he's doing, it's too easy to get lost and swept away by the music you like, unless you're very disciplined. So lets have a look at a musician who's not quite there yet, like the performer in our example.

But first, let's take a quick peek at the powerful elements of a song that give it it's amazing effects:
Rhythm --
We pick up the tempo of a piece of music quickly, and it sets the emotional tone. A slow pace might be considered somber, sad or serious, possibly relaxing, while a faster pace might be considered lively, cheerful, perky, passionate or exciting. The tempo also controls the speed at which we absorb the other elements of the music. Notice that a piece of music that changes tempo too quickly can have a disturbing effect on the listener, as was famously used for effect in The Beatles' "I am the Walrus."

Melody -- Every melody is unique, and is the "identity" of the piece of music. Even without words, a melody can inspire strong, even specific, emotional messages merely by it's juxtaposition of individual notes, one after the other. Some melodies are "unforgettable" and really "speak" to certain listeners ,so much so that there are even people who will claim some piece of music as part of their own identity "That's my song!"

Lyrics -- The specific verbal message or story of the music. Some lyrics are funny, some are serious, some seem to have little to do with the rest of the music, or even sound like gibberish. They can be fact or fiction, a coherent narrative, or a moment-by-moment commentary. When a song "works, usually, the melody, lyrics and rhythm all work together, or "compound" each other, as a hypnotist might say.

Here's what our singer has taught us not to do:
He came on the stag unprepared and unaware of the first impression he was going to make.
2. He didn't pay attention to his phrasing, and he ran out of breath.
3. His words weren't clear.
4. He messed up the tempo.
5. He forgot the words, or wasn't thinking about what came next.
6. He expressed his insecurity in his exit by running off the stage.

Here's what hypnotists can learn from our example:
1. As with any kind of presentation, and this includes a one-on-one session with a client, the first and the last few seconds are the "packaging" of everything you have to give. Just as with any product, a well considered, well designed package will do more to impress than a raw, rough-around the edges wrapping. The first moment of an interaction will be the first information someone gets about you, and that first impression will color most of whatever else they learn about you. So, before you meet with a client, or give a presentation, how you plan to present yourself and what kind of impression you'll make. Take a moment to gather yourself mentally and put your BEST SELF forward.

2. Be aware of your verbal skills. Be sure to enunciate slowly and clearly, sometimes even more slowly than you think you should. Be sure you are using your breath properly, and your voice is solid and clear. Many people under-voice, which is to say, they don't have enough breath behind their speech, so the sound has a wiry,gravelly quality. A client can't follow your commands if they can't understand what you're saying. Get used to listening to yourself on recordings, and notice if there's anything that needs improvement, and work on it. There are even books, CDs, videos and coaching available to give you really great speech. Develop a special "hypnotic voice" and make it amazing and powerful.

3. Speak clearly! As with the above point, be aware your words have to have power. You should wield them just as a good singer wields his singing voice. Just as a song delivers it's emotional message with melody and rhythm as much as with lyrics, when you speak, you deliver you hypnotic message with voice quality, intonation, and tempo, as much as with the words themselves. You can add important emphasis to specific messages by careful use of pauses, change in tone and pacing. (also known as "analog marking"). Both on stage an in a hypnotic session, it can be very helpful to speak a little more slowly than you normally would. Every letter should be clear and distinct, even if it sounds a bit odd at first. With practice you can do it comfortably and naturally.

4. Develop a good hypnotic tempo. Remember when we were talking about the attributes of a song, how the rhythm controls the speed at which the listener absorbs the message, and that it also carries a message itself? A change in tempo is a great way to distinguish between everyday input and  hypnotic speech, something special. Think about the way people read a story to children--slowly and with exaggerated emphasis, and the effect it has to entrance the kids. Works the same way with people. For the common kind of "relaxation trance," speaking slowly helps the client to relax, and relaxation opens up the mind to more suggestion. The slower speed also gives their mind more time for each word to resonate, as well as creating greater expectation for the very next word, and that creates "compliance."
Wait! What about those stage hypnotists? they speak pretty quickly, but they drop people into trance like a sack of brinks in a minute or two. What's up there? Good question. Rapid inductions work well with a quick tempo because, instead of opening up the mind with relaxation, they are using "confusion." In a confusion induction, you are overloading the client's mind so the suggestions will slip through before he can sort out everything you've said. But even with this kind of hypnotic induction, clear diction and steady pacing is very important.

5. Be clear in your own mind about what you're going to say before you say it. Whether you're following a script or creating your own induction, know where each step is leading, and have a good idea of the step that should come next. Even if you do forget something, or mess something up, there's no reason for the client to know that, and many reason for them not to. Lets say you usually do three deepeners before you begin to give suggestions, but you forgot to do one. Don't exclaim "Whoopsie! What am I doing?" That will spoil your client's confidence in you. Instead repeat another deepener, or use verbal commands to go deeper, or improvise something else. What's important is you get your client comfortably in trance and give them good, effective suggestions. If you had to do a little course-correction on the way, that's OK, just don't fall off the road.

Even more importantly, sometimes a client may give you an unexpected response during a session, and it's vital not only to not let it throw you off. Instead, find a way to use what you have constructively to your advantage. This is Milton Erickson's "Utilization" principle. Use whatever they give you.

Several times before, I've mentioned the values of speaking more slowly than you might normally do. Here's another advantage. Speaking more slowly gives you more time to think about your next move. Don't rush.

6. Have a confident and polished finish. Have you ever had a conversation with someone, maybe a boss or a teacher, and it seemed to be going well, but as they walkaway, you suddenly have doubts: Did they understand me? What did he mean by that? What's she really thinking? If a client is paying for a session, or you're giving a presentation, the way you finish has as much influence on the outcome as the first impression. If you leave a client with a doubt, it can sabotage the whole session and possibly the outcomes. Finish on a solid, well thought out, note, and if there's a moment or two of silence afterwards, be comfortable with it. The confidence you have in yourself will equal the confidence other have in you.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

All Hypnosis is Authoritarian!

Some people study Ericksonian hypnosis' "permissive" techniques to make themselves a better salesman, presenter, representative, romantic, or even just to improve their conversational skills. There are even courses in "covert hypnosis" geared towards putting more power in the words. For some people it works, others just find a lot of frustration in their study. What's missing?

The a commonly quoted division in modern hypnosis is "authoritarian" vs. "permissive." Alternatively, that distinction is described as  "Elman" vs. "Ericksonian" hypnosis.

Certainly, we'd all agree that Dave Elman and Milton Erickson are two of the most influential people in 20th century hypnosis  (I'd also add George Esterbrook to the list, but he's not really pertinent to the discussion). They both expertly developed very different approaches to hypnosis. And I think everyone agrees that Dave Elman brilliantly codified, explained and taught, a scientific and effective method of hypnotic induction that relies on the hypnotic subject's confidence in the authority of the hypnotist. In practice, this means that a subject who wants to be hypnotized goes to the hypnotist because he has faith in the hypnotist's abilities, and that hypnotist strongly and effectively guides the subject into the trance he wants.

We'd also probably agree that Milton Erickson pioneered methods of getting hypnotic change in his clients utilizing whatever traits the clients presented, since some of his clients were resistant to hypnosis and other forms of therapy, He frequently used casual and conversational methods, and had excellent results with even the most resistant clients. In a nutshell, it might be said that Erickson utilized a non-authoritarian approach: the client has a feeling of control and choice as to how and when to enter trance and make the changes they wanted. A client approached this way never feels dominated by the authority of the hypnotist.

Nowadays a lot of people are interested in using hypnotic methods for reasons other than hypnosis: things like salesmanship, business persuasion, dating, self-confidence issues and other things. Since the authoritarian Elman method is mostly concerned with inducing a clinical kind of trance, it would seem that the Ericksonian techniques, with their use of language and other subtle methods would be ideal. And in fact, a lot of people DO employ Ericksonian and other similar methods with degrees of success.

An equal number of people struggle to employ these things, studying, practicing, but at the end of the day, feel frustrated and unsure if they're getting any results at all. What's wrong?

All hypnosis is, ultimately authoritarian! Whether you want someone to stop smoking, experience painless dentistry, be happy with what you're selling them, or see your best qualities when they meet you, it's up to you to steer the course of the interaction to the target. Even if you're not using an authoritarian approach, you still have to take them where you want them to go. Otherwise, it's easy to lose direction, so keep that goal in mind as you work with them. Sometimes it's like driving a sports car, other times it's like driving a herd of weasels, but in either case, always keep your eye on the finish line. You have to be the driver. Hypnosis is only a tool to help a client get past his own limitations and not the goal itself.

Have a clearly defined goal for your client. Have a solid idea of what you want them to get out of it. For a formal client, that's pretty easy since it's what they're seeing you for. Very often it's a behavioral change. In the case of sales or social situations it's more likely to be an emotional outcome, being delighted or fascinated, for example. Be persistent in moving the interaction in that direction.

Take your time. Be persistent, but don't rush! The road isn't always straight. It can take twists and turns, and your client or customer may not be able to process as fast as you'd like. In a professional hypnotic situation, even though clients want magic results, it may take multiple sessions to get them to where they want to be. Milton Erickson often spent months, including nights and weekends, working with his clients to get the results that they needed . In sales, especially if it's a big ticket item like a car or  house, it's not uncommon for people to spend a long time before they make up their mind. Sometimes the issue is simply getting them to make the decision, but just as often, the time they're taking is just right for them to make the right decisions. Trying to force the outcome too early can have the opposite result. As the old saying goes: "You never fail 'till you stop trying."

Be ethical and ecological. Remember that the goal is NOT just what you want for your client, it has to be a goal the client wants for himself, AND one that is good and sound for the client. Nothing will spoil your outcome, and your reputation, than persuading someone to do something they didn't really want to do. Hypnosis doesn't change that. A professional hypnotist has to do what's right for the client. A salesman stands a better chance of business success by selling good products than by persuading people to accept bad ones. And if  person feels they have to hypnotize someone to go out with them, it's probably a better idea for them to take stock of their good traits, and have faith in those. Hypnosis is a much better tool to help people get past their resistance to new and delightful things than to accept  something they don't really want. If you believe in the goal, the product or the "you" that you're putting forth, the strength of your convictions will make a real difference!

In hypnosis and other kinds of changework "ecology" refers to the client's environment and lifestyle. Whatever changes you make to a persona's decisions and behaviors should not put them into conflict with their environment, nor should the changes be in conflict with the client himself. (There are of course, exceptions to this, but it's a good general rule). If the results you facilitate in your client come into conflict with their environment, it can cause them other problems. Conflict with a client's environment can also undo what you've done with them. If the changes you've effected in a person come into conflict with their own interests and needs, it's unlikely that the results will last, and you could cause unexpected difficulties for the client as well.

To recap:
Have a clearly defined goal
Take your time

Be ethical and ecological
All these things require a hypnotist to have confidence in their skills, clarity in their goals and a strong awareness of the client's feelings. There are a million techniques around to achieve these things.Where do you start? Confidence in yourself, confidence in your abilities and confidence in your goals. In other words, be the authority. For what it's worth, when you have this kind of confident authority in the things you do, the techniques are much less important to getting results. Remember that Erickson, and the others who have added to this body of knowledge, developed the techniques as a way to achieve the goals they know they wanted to achieve.

If you're just starting out, some rules always hold true: Be curious, Be adventurous, Don't be afraid to fail, Have fun, and Never stop practicing! Imagine that you never reach authority as a goal, but it's something you always have to some degree and that, with exercise, continually increases.

Saturday, January 28, 2012 -- Brainwave Entrainment, Free Online!

A lot of people have been interested in exploring brainwave entrainment audios, also known as isochronic or binaural beats (those are actually two different but similar types of entrainment tracks, BTW). These are audios that will guide your brain to function at a certain frequency, whether a meditative frequency (Alpha rate), a deeply contemplative state (Theta), a sleepy state (Delta), an alert state (Beta). Such recordings can quickly and easily get you into the kind of mind-state that you want to be in, a sort of a tuning fork from the brain. They can be great resources, and they can be a lot of fun.
In a nutshell, they are recordings with sounds that oscillate at the same frequency that you'd like your mind to be functioning at. As you listen to them, your brain begins to alter it's rhythm to match the audio, in much the same way that a headbanger kid will swing his head in time to the beat of a favorite band, or a cowboy may tap his toe to the sound of a banjo. The effect is even more powerful when combined with similarly oscillating visuals, and there are even expensive devices with headphones and goggles that flash, that will play entrainment audio and video for you. Expensive devices. Well, Here's a chance to explore these things for free! offers a number of carefully crafted audio AND video tracks right on their website for you to enjoy. Just click on the square that entices you and go! These things have been called electronic drugs. They aren't, though that's a good selling talk, but they are fun, and very trancey. Obviously, do not use them while driving, operating heavy machinery or tattooing bikers, and do not use them if you have a risk or a history of seizures.