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Hypnosis depth scale

Hypnosis depth scale

The first hypnosis depth scale was developed by Theodore Sabin.  He was a social psychologist who developed a theory called role theory. The basic idea is that we all live out a number of well-defined roles. These roles are socially constructed. That means that we learn them from other people and we behave in certain ways depending upon what other people expect us to do. Each of these roles comprises of a consistent and repeatable cluster of behaviors, ideas, beliefs and attitudes.  Who we want the world to believe we are is the result of the learned roles we choose to play.

Each person has family roles, social roles, business roles, public roles and private roles. For example, I may have a father role, a husband role, a different role when interacting with my dog, another set of behaviors when I’m in the pub, and another role in the cinema. The role may be automatic, or I may be putting it on, pretending to be angry with a late employee. In all of these situations I behave according to a set of unwritten rules.  And so does everyone else. As long as we all play our roles, and we all do what’s expected of us, everything is fine. There are policeman roles, teacher roles, pastor roles, etc., which are actually different from the private values of the people carrying out those roles.

Role-playing and role taking are two different things. Role taking is where you knowingly take on another role and act it out. It is done deliberately in order to influence other people, usually so they will approve of you. Teenagers do it all the time. Go to any concert and you will see people taking on the role of a fan of a particular type of music and trying to behave as they believe real dedicated fan would. The difference is that the real fans are not acting.

The hypnosis depth scale

Most students of hypnosis will recognise something called the hypnotic depth scale, although few will know the origin of it. This was published by Friedlander and Sabin in 1938. It used a standard text that was delivered in a standard way under standard conditions. The idea was that some people would be hypnotised some people would not, and by using a standard text the only difference would be the susceptibility of the people being hypnotised.

People were classified according to whether hearing the suggestions in the text would induce eye catalepsy, muscle paralysis, finger lock, post hypnotic suggestions and so on. The more things that you showed under hypnosis was a measure of the depth to which you were hypnotised. This scale was later further developed into the Stanford scale.

Sabin believed that everyone acted out roles, consciously or unconsciously. His theory of hypnosis was that every person who was being hypnotized was actually choosing a role. You could choose the role of being highly susceptible, or you could choose the role of being unhypnotizable. Neither were true: they were both roles. So a person on stage being hypnotized would react in the way that they imagined someone on stage being hypnotized would act, and they would act accordingly. This became known as the Role Theory of hypnosis.

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Self diagnosis

Self-diagnosis technique

I think I may have discovered a new self-diagnosis technique. My client yesterday was overweight. Overeating in my experience is normally associated with some sort of childhood trauma. However, after much questioning this client said that she could not remember anything about her childhood that was bad. She did say that she had lots of feelings but for the whole of her life she has just pushed them back, refused to deal with them.

I decided that the best approach would be to do Gestalt metaphor therapy. I used a breathing induction with her, and gently lead her into trance. As soon as I was sure that she was in trance, I began fishing for the dominant feeling in her unconscious mind. This involved suggestions such as  "There is a feeling that you get, a feeling you have had many times". "It is a feeling about not being good enough, a feeling of being worthless, no good". "A feeling from long ago, and as you think about that feeling, as you get that feeling, this something will come into your mind about that feeling".

And sure enough, she immediately began to cry as the memory that she had tried to push back began to emerge. Gestalt metaphor technique is a way of dealing with the feeling in terms of a metaphor. It is a safe way of dealing with trauma, because you don't have to access the memory directly.

So I got her to express her feeling as an object. She told me it was like a white ball, then it turned into a jelly bean-shaped thing,  hard and smooth and lodged somewhere in her chest. I then started the process of suggesting to her that it might change. Eventually it shrank and wrinkled and ended up like a deflated balloon. The next step was to ask if she had ever used a chopping board. That prompted her to imagine chopping up the limp balloon. Whatever that feeling or memory was it was now gone, for ever.

A self-diagnosis technique?

After she came out of trance, we discussed the nature of metaphor healing therapies. She is an intelligent woman, and is very interested in the process. So I decided to do an experiment. I told her I was going to teach her self hypnosis, so that when she was in trance in her own time she could explore her own subconscious mind.

I used a progressive muscle relaxation induction, followed by an eye catalepsy test. She, like many overweight people, had a rapid, shallow breathing pattern. So I deepened her until her breathing became regular and slow.

In this induction, I spent some time emphasizing the power of her own mind, and how strong it was. I told her that in trance her mind would open up to a large empty space and in that space perhaps her mind would show her something. Something to do with the feeling that she gets, something to do with that need to eat, something to do with why she is unhappy. This was something I had not done before. I really wasn't sure what to expect. My hope was that her mind would reveal to her something that she had spent a lifetime trying to hide, but who knows?

 

She came out of trance, telling me she felt a very profound feeling, unlike anything she had ever experienced before. We wound up the session and she still didn't say anything about seeing something or not. So I asked her if she had seen something. She said "Yes I did, but I'm not telling you what it was", and laughed.

It seems it did work. And I will be exploring this technique in future.

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Smoking alters your DNA

Smoking alters your DNA

Smokers have just had a new worry added to their fears. Smoking alters your DNA. A recently published study demonstrates that cigarette smoking not only damages your health while you are smoking, it also causes mutations in the tissues which last forever.

Smoking alters your DNA

Smokers create permanent changes to the DNA of cells in their lungs, throat, mouth and liver. Although the smoker's health improves when they stop smoking, the damage to the cells is permanent. There is a direct link between the number of cigarettes smoked and the number of mutations found.

This means that even long after you stop smoking the potential for cancer is still lurking deep inside the cells of your body. It really is true that every time you light up it's like pushing the button on a slot machine. Every turn of the wheels makes it more likely that you'll hit a jackpot you don't want.

The problem of course is that the more mutations there are, the more likely it is that one of them will turn into cancer. The more you smoke the more mutations you have, so the more chance you have of developing a life-threatening cancer.

Smoking affects distant organs too

Smoking doesn't just affect the tissues that come into contact directly with the smoke inhaled. Traces of smoking linked mutations are found in organs such as the bladder. Exactly how this link is established is not known but there is a clear link.

Smokers are well aware that they are damaging their health. Perhaps now that they know they're not merely damaging their health right now, they are actually altering the DNA inside the cells of their body, they will be more motivated to stop smoking.

It is quite horrifying that scientists are now able to examine your DNA, and like an archaeologist, trace your bad behavior from long ago.

 

 

Source: Science 04 Nov 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6312, pp. 618-622
DOI: 10.1126/science.aag0299

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Representational systems

Do representational systems matter in hypnosis?

Do you need to pay attention to the representational systems that clients use? I was asked this by a newbie the other evening. He had recently finished a hypnosis training course, and was full of enthusiasm about NLP, wordplay, and the scientific approach to hypnosis.

Representational systems theory

What he was talking about was the old NLP belief that people tend to represent the world using one dominant representational system. These are generally known as VAK, standing for visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (feeling).
I was rather surprised that this is still being taught, or rather that it was being given so much importance. Even the founders of NLP have said publicly that is perhaps a little overdone.

Representational systems reality

When I started my hypnosis practice I was fully convinced that VAK was important to success. I used to start every session by asking the client to close their eyes and imagine a horse. Then I would ask them to describe their horse and note the type of words they use to describe it. I did this hundreds of times. Eventually I concluded that it was a waste of time. I could find no evidence for consistent VAK.  Dominant primary representational systems do not exist.

I did get some very interesting answers. One woman told me that her representation was in fact auditory. What she was getting was something like a race caller's patter "and now the leader is rounding the bend, and the second favourite is coming up the outside…". Another woman told me that she could feel the horse. I said so you can feel what? Its back, its legs? "No, I can feel this much". And she demonstrated with her hands that she could feel about two palms width on any part of the horse she chose to. Another told me that what she got was patches of random colour in her mind.

Now these were all very interesting, in fact fascinating, but not really useful in therapy.
What I found much more useful was listening carefully for the metaphors that the client uses. In my opinion, these give a much more accurate representation of how the client is feeling and where their problems lie. And unlike VAK, they also give you a very good idea of where to direct your therapy.

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organ language

Organ Language

Organ Language in the treatment of pain

I was asked recently about the use of organ language for the treatment of pain. This is something I had heard of but never used. The person asking had no idea what it was.

Theory of organ language

Organ language is a concept introduced by Leslie LeCron in his writings in the 1920s. The basic idea is that the language that you use, the words that you say, can affect the organs you talk about. NLP uses similar ideas about the power of words to influence feeling.
According to LeCron, if you repeatedly use a phrase such as "this guy is a pain in the neck" then saying the phrase over and over will actually give you a pain in the neck.

The theory is that constantly mentioning the organ in everyday phrases focuses attention on that organ. That causes it to malfunction. If your illness is being caused by the overuse of a metaphor such as "I'm sick of seeing my team lose every Saturday" then the answer is to stop saying it. If you change your language to something different such as "I'm really looking forward to our next win" then that will keep you healthy.

Overused Metaphors

Personally, I just don't believe this simplistic logic. Most of us use metaphors all the time, and we don't know the origins of them. These are known as lost metaphors and are basically a lazy way of speaking. These metaphors used to be bright and fresh and colourful but overuse has dulled them to the point where they lose all their force. Telling someone "I was taken aback" nowadays simply means that the speaker was surprised.

The phrase "taken aback" originally referred to a sailing ship. Sailing ships are designed to take the wind from behind. If the wind suddenly 'backs' to come over the bow then the masts get pressed backwards instead of forwards. Masts are not designed for that. They can snap. Being "taken aback" is very dangerous. The image is of immediate panic and the crew running around to save the ship. But that original colourful meaning of the phrase has been lost through time.  

 I suspect that someone saying "it's a pain in the neck" really is not thinking about the neck or anything else. All they're doing is substituting an overused phrase in place of original thinking. To suggest that someone using the phrase "I was taken aback" has in mind an image of a sailing ship suddenly plunged into danger is just not believable. Our minds are not as literal LeCron suggests.

Treatment

I think the truth is more straightforward. When someone says "I feel stabbed in the back", then they probably do feel that. It's not the metaphor that is causing the pain, is the pain that is causing the metaphor. And therefore the correct course is to use the metaphor to alert you to their pain.

Simply telling the person not to use the phrase again is not going to work.

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Hypnosis aversion

Why hypnosis aversion works

Hypnosis aversion works

Hypnosis aversion works.

All psychotherapy is aimed at changing behaviour.  Hypnosis aversion is a very powerful technique for changing behaviour.

The basic theory of behaviour change is that people will stop doing things they get punished for but will do things they get rewarded for. This is the basis of behavioural therapy.

However, behaviour can only be changed while it's happening. For example, suppose you have a situation where a child is constantly interrupting adults while they talk. If your response is to remove the child from the room, then the behaviour is no longer happening. Problem solved.

But the child is learning nothing. The child may in fact be learning resentment or hatred towards you, which is not actually what you want. The child may in fact be reinforced by the bad behaviour. There might be things to do outside the room which are just as enjoyable. What the child is not getting is any instruction on how to behave while adults are speaking. You can only change behaviour during the behaviour.

External punishment doesn't work

That is why punishment seldom works. The first response to any kind of unwanted behaviour is to punish the person doing it. If that doesn't work then you punish them some more. If that doesn't work punish harder. However the basic problem with that approach is that the punishment is applied after the behaviour has finished. It is too late then. In the criminal justice system people are often punished long after the crime. The criminal may in fact have forgotten the crime by the time they get to court. It is the time difference between the behaviour and the punishment which is crucial. If your finger broke every time you stole something there would be a lot less theft. If your car refused to start after being illegally parked, illegal parking would soon die out. 
It is the immediate link between the behaviour and the punishment which is critical. And the punishment has to happen at the exact time that the behaviour is happening.
That is the critical difference between hypnosis and behavioural approaches. When a bad habit is treated with Hypnosis Aversion a link is formed in the unconscious mind between the behaviour and a feeling. The feeling is usually disgust or fear or some other negative thing. The critical difference is that as soon as the behaviour starts the unconscious mind brings out that horrible taste or fear or whatever it is immediately. There is no delay. There is no gap between the behaviour and the punishment.

And that is why hypnosis aversion works.

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funeral depression

Funeral Depression Case Study

Funeral Depression

I had an interesting client this morning. An older woman who came to see me because she feels that she has no motivation to go out. She has lost interest in life. In fact she is afraid to go out.  She is afraid of seeing old friends and feels that nobody likes her.

Over the last year she has had to go to funeral after funeral as all the people of her generation and her mother's generation are dying. She  got so tired of going to funerals that she just didn't want to go to any more. So she made excuses to not go. And now she is afraid to face the people who did go to the funerals. She thinks that they will all think badly of her. They might not say anything to her face, but she just knows that they think that she is putting herself above them. They will think that she is arrogant and won’t want to be with her.

I spent a long time talking with her, about her feelings, about her beliefs of what other people think of her. She is really driving herself to stay home because she's afraid that if she goes out she could meet one of her friends, one of her friends who went to the funerals. Her fear is that that friend will reject her because she didn't go to the funeral.

I tried to explore around this irrational belief and finally realized that she is actually suffering from black and white thinking. She has a form of depression. She has allowed her thoughts to run away with her. Her black and white thinking is dictating to her that people will either accept her totally reject her totally. And because she has guilt about not going to the funerals, it can only be that they would reject her.

Finding the caused of her funeral depression

I therefore spent the rest of the session exploring how she can change her thinking. We discussed rational emotive therapy, challenging her thinking, and other forms of cognitive behavioral therapy.

I think she has now come to appreciate that what she believes about her friends is just not true. The reality is that her friends understand perfectly why she didn't go to the funerals and they do not think less of her because of that. I think it is also likely that the reason she didn’t go the funerals in the first place had nothing to do with being tired of them. It was actually the onset of her funeral depression.

The job now is to get her to accept that and to change how she thinks. Then she can begin to live life again and get back to a healthy relationship with her friends.

 

How would you deal with a case like this? Leave a comment. 

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chinese restaurant phobia

Chinese Restaurant Phobia

Chinese Restaurant Phobia

I saw a client today with Chinese Restaurant phobia. This is one of the more unusual phobias I have come across. My client went to a Thai restaurant about two weeks ago and was enjoying the meal. But something in the ingredients set off an extreme allergic reaction. He ended up being stretchered out of the restaurant barely breathing and into hospital dangerously ill.

He was discharged two days later and swore to avoid Thai restaurants in future. However this week, when he went into a Chinese restaurant he immediately felt dizzy and frightened and had to go outside again. After ten minutes we went back in to join his friends. But again he was seized with an overwhelming fear and actually vomited when he ran outside.

It is interesting to see so clearly the process of how a phobia forms.  His unconscious mind has identified something in the Thai restaurant as being associated with the sudden onset of a dangerous illness. It is therefore primed to protect him  by forcing him out of any place where he might get harmed. It is now in the process of broadening out the possible indicators to include other types of Asian 'things'.  Over time, if left untreated, his unconscious will start to include an ever wider range of possible indicators. It may eventually end up as a full size fear of any restaurant, or even of food.

Treating the phobia

I like to treat phobias by going directly for the feeling. I ask the client to think about the feared situation and feel the fear. If they can get the fear as a feeling in their body I can clear it immediately using Gestalt Metaphor Therapy.

In this case the client could not summon up the feeling, probably because it has not had time to create a strong repeatable feeling.

So I put him into trance and tested to make sure he was under. Then I suggested he think about the Thai restaurant and the Chinese restaurant and the feeling that he got there. The client turned to be one of these people who go corpse-like in trance, and give no indication of what is going on inside. I therefore could not do a question and answer session with him.

All I could do then was assume he had the feeling and try to remodel it without feedback. I suggested that the feeling could become an object, that it  had a shape, a size, a color and so on. Then in several different ways I suggested  that the object was changing, shrinking, changing color and transforming itself in ways it wanted to. I really had no idea what was going in his mind or whether he was experiencing anything at all.

I brought him out of trance and asked, a bit nervously, what object had looked like. "Oh, a big concrete square," he said, "and I crushed it".

Looks like the job got done.

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Bored

Bored – a special word in hypnotherapy

Bored is a special word in hypnotherapy. When a client says to me "I  [do something] when I am bored" this immediately sets off a warning signal in my mind. Then I know I am dealing with a case of anxiety.

Boredom is better defined as a lack of stimulation. When you lack stimulation one of two things happens. You either get up and seek external stimulation, or you allow your inner thoughts to come out. Both of these alternatives have good and bad aspects. 

Seeking external stimulation is least bad of the outcomes. Some people get motivated to do useful things. Others just go aimlessly looking for something, anything, to do. The old saying 'the devil finds work for idle hands' applies here. Much petty crime is the result of too much time and not enough planned activity. 

Allowing inner thoughts to intrude also has several outcomes. Some client are so afraid of their inner thoughts that they spend their life in frantic activity, keeping busy all the time. Other people so hate the thoughts that they play music all day and keep the radio on all night. Having an external noise drowns out the the disturbing internal thoughts. 

Most people do not go to such extremes. But the fact that they are having these thoughts is disturbing, and makes them feel anxious. So they do something to fill the void. When things get quiet is often when people start on their bad habits. Snacking is a classic response to boredom. Smoking is another. As is hair pulling. 

So when the client tells me that they do it when they are bored, I start seeking the cause of their anxiety.  Fix that and you fix the behavior. 

 

 

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ethical

Is it ethical to give the customer what they want?

Is it ethical to do what the client needs, rather than what they came for? The customer is not always right, especially in the hypnotherapy business. In fact, in hypnotherapy, the customer is usually wrong. When a client comes in and asks for say, Gastric Band Hypnotherapy, or Past Life Regression, that is what they want, but it is not usually what they need.

The fact is, if the client knew what they actually needed, they would do it themselves, and they wouldn't need a therapist at all. The client therefore seeks  a solution based on faulty reasoning. They decide what it is that will cure them, and demand that you do it. They know what outcome they want, but usually how they want to go about getting it is wrong. 

As a therapist, is it ethical to do what the client asks for?

You can always outright refuse to do the procedure. But what is the Ethical position if you recognize that the client is showing symptoms of depression, or childhood trauma? Do you give them what they want, or what they actually need?

Suppose a clients says they want to explore a Past Life. Some friend told them they are being punished for some bad thing they did in a previous life. Do you just do the Past Life Regression as they ask, or should you first explore what is going on in this life? And if it becomes clear that their problems are all caused by something in this life, should you persuade the client to accept a different procedure?

Or should you agree and then do what they need? It is quite easy to do anything you want, within limits, when the client is in trance. You can disguise your therapy in a metaphor, or you can 'accidentally' go back to an early trauma and clear it with Regression to Cause. The client probably would never realise that what they got was not what they asked for. 

But if it works, is that ethical? Equally, is it ethical do what they ask for, when you know it won't work?

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