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.