Don E. Gibbons, Ph.D., NJ Licensed Psychologist #03513
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The New Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy, LLC

The New Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy, LLC, is located at 675 Route 72 E Manahawkin, NJ 08050. Telephone us at(609)709-2043 and (609) 709-0009.Take Mill Creek Road South, just off Route 72, on the road to Beach Haven West.After about 400 feet, turn right into the office complex of Greater Coastal Realty. Then turn right and go past the Lyceum Gyn. Continue on to the Prudential Zack Building. We. are the last office at the end. We accept Medicare and most other major insurance.Weekend and evening office hours are avalable.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Trauma and Trauma Treatment

If you tie a string of firecrackers to the tail of a cat and light them, he may not be physically injured -- but he will never be the same cat again! Humans, with our more "advanced" brains, are often inclined to blame themselves for a traumatic injury over which they have no control. The first thing a mental health professional has to do is often to teach a traumatized person to love and accept oneself, so that the effects of the trauma can be re-directed in order to complete the healing process.

We have all had minor traumas and have learned to adjust to them, like a cat whose paw is accidentally stepped on but who appears to be emotionally uninjured, although it may be wary of our feet in the future,  But, like the cat in our first example, if the trauma is great enough, a traumatized human will never be exactly the same human, either!

In the following Ted Talk, Sasha joseph Neulinger speaks about surviving multi-generational sexual abuse and how it can constructively influence our choices for the future.

Clients sometimes ask to be hypnotized in order to find out whether or not they have been molested or abused in other ways. Hypnosis is not used to help in the recovery of past traumas because there might be so much emotion associated with these memories that the client may be overwhelmed by them. Indeed, the relaxation and security of the hypnotic setting itself may occasionally be sufficient to bring about the recall of childhood traumatic events, possibly traumatizing the client all over again and making recovery even more difficult than it was before. Clients are not even encouraged to talk about their childhood trauma unless they feel comfortable in doing so. There is also the danger of "false memory syndrome," or the tendency of the imagination to construct events which never actually occurred, which caused great anguish in the past, before this phenomenon was formally recognized.

I like to recommend Babette Rothschild's The Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment for  clients in my practice  who like to read about trauma treatment and who themselves have been victims of trauma. She writes with great clarity, but some familiarity with the professional literature is usually helpful.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Balloon Ride: A Hyperempiric Induction

The following induction may either be presented by iteself, or at the conclusion of a traditional relaxation induction, which allows the client to first go "down" into hypnosis and then "up" into hyperempiria. 

Now, with your eyes closed, imagine that you are sitting or lying inside the basket of a large balloon. If you accept each detail of the scene as I describe it, your imagination will be free to allow yourself to experience the situation just as if you were really there. So just let yourself relax now, in that large wicker basket, with the balloon above you slowly filling.upn withh helium.

It is a beautiful spring day; you can smell the sweet, fresh air of the surrounding meadow, laden with the gentle fragrance of wild flowers. You can hear the soft rustling of the grass around the basket, and the song of birds in the distance. And as you feel the gentle breeze upon your face and the warm sun upon your skin, the balloon will begin to rise. And the higher you go, the greater your sensitivity will become.

I'm going to count from one to ten, and at the count of one the balloon is beginning to rise. And with each count it will go higher. And as it does, it will feel as if your mind is expanding along with it, until you are able to hold within your own consciousness an awareness of the entire Universe, and all its beauty.

Now the balloon is nearly full. And as it begins to rise, I will begin to count, as your consciousness commences to expand.

One. As the balloon slowly begins to rise, you are beginning to enter a new and different experience of awareness. You will find that you begin to experience very pleasant feelings of increased sensitivity.

Two. You are beginning to enter a higher level now, as your body becomes more sensitive and more responsive with every word that I utter.

Three. As the balloon continues to rise, you can feel the basket gently swaying in the breeze, rocking you back and forth as it does, and you can hear the sound of the wind blowing in gentle bursts as you continue to float up and up.

Four. Your perceptions are becoming keener as you float on, higher and higher. It's such a pleasant feeling as you drift on, and on, and as your awareness expands more, and more, and more.

Five. As you continue to rise higher and higher, you can feel the balloon swaying and turning in the breeze, as you drift on, high above the earth. And the higher you go, the more your ability to experience pleasure expands as well.

Six. As you feel your consciousness expanding more and more, you are feeling an ever-growing sense of joy as you experience all of your senses being tuned to their highest possible pitch -- yet it is pleasurable in every way.

Seven. It's a wonderful feeling of liberation which you are experiencing now. And by the time I get to the count of ten, you will have reached the peak of your potential. Your perceptions will take on new qualities, and they will possess a greater depth of reality than anything you have known previously.

Eight. You can feel yourself drifting up, into the sky now, hanging on the very edge of space. Soon you will be able to travel on by yourself, into new dimensions, with only my voice to guide you. As the balloon continues to rise, the feeling of joy continues to increase, as you feel your capacity for experience becoming infinitely keener.

Nine. All the way up into the sky now, and ready to travel on into new dimensions of sexuality.

Ten. Now, you are ready. And while you remain in hyperempiria, all your perceptions will be infinitely sensitive, and you will be able to experience the reality of whatever is suggested to you much more keenly than you could experience anything in the everyday waking state of consciousness.

                                             Print Reference

Gibbons, D. E. (2000). Applied hypnosis and hyperempiria. Lincoln, NE: Authors Choice Press. (originally published by Plenum Publishers, 1989).

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Suggestibility: Exploding the Myth

Let's perform a thought experiment. Suppose you are standing by a newspaper rack one morning, when your eye is caught by the following headlines:

A bolt of fear shoots through you, as you stand rooted to the spot -- until you hear the sound of loud laughter behind you and, turning, you see a friend who works in a print shop. You realize that you have been made the object of a practical joke. Your friend (who may soon become your former friend!) obviously printed up a fake newspaper, and placed it in the rack when he saw you coming.
A practical joke such as this one would be based upon suggestion --i.e., presenting an idea in such a way that it is likely to be accepted as literally true, and therefore "real," at least for the moment. In the hypothetical example just mentioned, notice that when such a suggestion is accepted, you respond not merely with your voluntary abilities, such as thinking about whether or not there might still be a place to hide, but with your involuntary abilities as well, such as feeling frightened and all that goes with it. In other words, the "power of suggestion" is rooted in our beliefs and perceptions about reality itself!

Suggestibility, however, is another matter. In ordinary life, people differ in how easily they are able to respond to suggestions of various forms. The Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptilibility, Form A (Shor & Orne, 1962; Form B was never completed), is modeled after the experimental approach originally begun by Clark Hull (1933).  It contains a script of a light hypnotic induction, followed by a list of twelve suggestions in increasing order of difficulty, from "easy" ones which almost anyone can pass, to more difficult items such as the inability to shake one's head "no" when challenged, or amnesia for most of the test items until after a prearranged signal has been given. Since its initial publication in 1962, the test has been used in dozens of studies all over the world, in order to give us a greater understanding of individual differences in suggestibility. 
In a typical administration, in a class setting of about thirty people, there are there are from one to three high responders who obtain a perfect score  of twelve on the test, one or two people who are just sitting there with their eyes open, looking around the room with a mixture of curiosity and boredom, and the rest manifesting varying degrees of responsiveness in between. Data of this type have been gathered by now at many colleges and universities around the world, and has yielded a great deal of useful information about differences between high and low responders. (I have collected some of it myself.)

Now let's perform another thought experiment. Imagine that the Harvard Group Scale is being given to a class of introductory psychology students at the American University of Beirut, let us say, when a person dressed in a police uniform bursts into the room and says in a loud, commanding voice, "The city is under biological attack, and a germ cloud is headed this way. Take refuge in the basement immediately and await further instructions!"

Even if such an announcement is a hoax (i.e., a cleverly-designed suggestion) thought up by a dissident student organization to disrupt the orderly running of campus activities, if it were to be conducted in a sufficiently convincing manner, everyone in the class -- including the instructor -- would probably dash for the exits and head for the nearest underground shelter. What happeed to the individual differences in suggestibility which the Harvard Group Scale was supposed to measure? They simply vanished, as everyone took flight!

Just as in our previous thought experiment, a high degree of responsiveness to the impostor's suggestions would occur regardless of how an individual student might have scored on the suggestibility test which was currently underway. Notice also that the victims of this hoax would probably have been totally involved in the content of the impostor's suggestions: trembling, feeling frightened, weeping, crying out in alarm, and so on.

It is often said that the two organisms most frequently experimented upon are the laboratory rat and the college sophomore, because of their ready accessibility to researchers. But this necessarily limits our ability to generalize our findings to the world at large, as well as our ability to correctly interpret them. Suggestibility only appears to be a trait of personality, because our experiments are designed and carried out in a stndardized group setting such as a classroom. But if a suggestion is believable enough, or if you modify the setting in whicih it is measured, as in the hypothetical example just mentioned, individual differences in responsiveness change deamatically. In human society in general, suggestion appears to be causally related to experiences as diverse as  falling in love,  coming under the sway of a totalitarian dictatorbeing saved in a revival meeting, or turning into an animal (transmogrification), as practiced in Native American culture.

Hypnotizability also appears to be related to suggestibility as it is measured on the Harvard Group Scale. But even here, if the standardized testing conditions are departed from. individual differences seem to vanish or be consideraly diminished. Many practicing hypnotists will assure you that in clinical setings, these measured differences are less than reliable. Once their doubts and fears have been eliminated by an appropriate pre-hypnotic talk, some people respond to hypnosis poorly, most people respond to some extent, and a few others respond extremely well. A number of techniques have been developed to "hypnotize the un-hypnotizable" by convincing  the low-responders that they too have been hypnotized. When this is done, they not only respond better on suggestibility tests then those who have not accepted this idea, but they also respond better in therapy (Lynn & Kirsch, 2006). 

I used to believe that hypnotizing someone who scored low on a test such as the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility was like trying to teach a snail to firewalk: it simply can't be done. Now, it appears that hypnotizing a person who scores low on a suggestibility test is more like teaching a person to dance who -- initially, at least -- appears to have a poor sense of rhythm. We can't all be like Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers, but almost anyone can learn to dance to a passable extent -- and with practice, some of us can become pretty good at it!

Basically, you're hypnotized if you think you are! I use hypnotic inductions almost every day in my clinical psychology practice as a form of suggestion-enhanced experience, adjusted to suit the personality and individual characteristics of each client in order to facilitate the acceptance of additional suggestions, which are then accepted more easily because they have been made more credible.

Print References
Hull, C. (1933). Hypnosis and Suggestibility. New York: Appleton-Cenury.

Shor, R, E., & Orne, E. C. (1962). Harvard group scale of hypnotic susceptibility, Form A/  Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.

Lynn, S. J., & Kirsch, I. (2006). Essentials of clinical hypnosis: An evidence-based approach. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

The Storytelling Animal

There is no absurdity that will not be widely accepted, 
especially by the young  if it is frequently repeated 
by those in authority with great solemnity.
Human beings are natural storytellers. Every society tells stories to its young which attempt to explain, in metaphors which are simple enough that children can understand, the meaning of life, the purpose of existence, and the identity of the people into whom they were born. As adults, we re-enact aspects of these same metaphors in patriotic and religious rituals. Unfortunately, this power is often abused; for there is no absurdity so palpable that it will not be accepted if it is presented to children by those in authority and frequently repeated with great solemnity.  Shintoists pray to their "honorable ancestors," while Hindus have literally hundreds of gods to choose from. Tibetan Buddhism teaches that you choose your parents  for what they can teach you during your upbringing. For Muslims, "there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet.," and so on. Then, once it has been accepted, the religion can then be used to justify all sorts of mischief. But how effective have they all been in getting us do the things that we ought to do in order to take care of ourselves?

Most of us are familiar with Charles Dickens' story, "A Christmas Carol," in which the miserly Scrooge has a dramatic personality change after he is visited by three spirits: the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. If Dickens had been writing in the Twenty-First Century instead of the Nineteenth, he might have had Scrooge make three or more visits to a hypnotist! Instead of giving him the fright of his life (which we now know is generally ineffective), a modern hypnotist would be likely to provide Scrooge with a series of reward-based metaphors which appeal directly to the better side of his nature.

An ideology is basically an overgrown cult. I once received permission to teach a course on the Psychology of Cults at what is now the University of West Georgia. The first thing we had to do was to decide just what exactly is a cult. The definition that we eventually arrived at was that a cult is a) small in size, in relation to the general population; and b) different in its world view from the population as a whole. For example, Christianity started out as a cult, because it initially fit both of these criteria; but now it fits neither. Whether or not a group is generally regarded as a cult, then, has more to do with how big and how widely accepted it is than with whether or not its teachings are correct.

For some changes,  we don't need to use metaphors, and neither do we need to use a hypnotic induction. I am fond of quoting a well-known story about a boy who had become shy and withdrawn because his face was disfigured by a birthmark -- until his grandmother told him that this was a special sign from God that he was destined for greatness. Although he did not become famous, he grew up to experience a much more successful life than he otherwise would have had were it not for his grandmother's prediction, which had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If there were more grandmothers like that, they would probably put hypnotists, and many cognitive-behavioral psychologists, out of business! 

Print Sources

Gibbons, D. E. (2001). Experience as an art form. .New York, NY: Authors Choice Press.

Gibbons, D. E. (2000). Applied hypnosis and hyperempiria. Lincoln, NE: Authors Choice Press (originally published 1979 by Plenum Press).

Gibbons, D. E., & Cavallaro, L (2013).. Exploring alternate universes: And learning what they can teach us. Amazon Kindle E-Books. (Note: It is not necessary to own a Kindle reader to download this e-book, as the Kindle app may be downloaded free of charge to a standard desktop or laptop computer and to most cell phones.)

Gibbons, D. E., & Lynn, S. J. (2010). Hypnotic inductions: A primer. in S. J. Lynn, J. W. Rhue, & I. Kirsch (Eds.) Handbook of clinical hypnosis, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, pp. 267-291.