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.