Don E. Gibbons, Ph.D., NJ Licensed Psychologist #03513
This Blog is published for information and educational purposes only. No warranty, expressed or implied, is furnished with respect to the material contained in this Blog. The reader is urged to consult with his/her physician or a duly licensed mental health professional with respect to the treatment of any medical or psychological condition.

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The New Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy, LLC

The New Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy, LLC, is located at 703 Mill Creek Road, Suite G #1, Manahawkin, NJ 08050. Telephone us at(609)709-2043 and(609) 709-0009. We will welcome you warmly and will work together with you to develop a plan which is individually suited to your goals, utilizing a variety of therapeutic approaches including cognitive behavioral, family systems, psychodynamic, humanistic, and eclectic approaches as well as hypnosis. We accept Medicare and most other major insurance. Weekend and evening office hours are available.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How to Get a Good Night's Sleep

Don't just toss and turn in bed
when you are having trouble sleeping.
Get up and do something Boring!
  • Make sure you get enough daylight so that your body will be able to establish a daily wake-sleep rhythm. 
  • Some people have found commercially-available light boxes to be helpful, especially if you live in a location where there is less sunlight during certain seasons of the year. This lack of sunlight can lead to a condition known as seasonal affective disorder  (more popularly known as "cabin fever"), characterized by periods of depression and interference with regular sleep patterns.
  • Keep the bedroom dark and quiet. Darkness causes the body to produce melatonin, a natural sleep-inducing agent.
  • Use the bed only for sleeping and for sex. Instead of tossing and turning, get up and do something boring until you get sleepy. This helps you to avoid a conditioned association between not sleeping and being in bed.
  • Most people need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Trying to get by on less than this biologically-determined amount builds up a sleep debt which  cuts into your well-being and efficiency, and becomes harder and harder to repay.
  • Establish a consistent sleeping schedule. People tend to become sleepy 24 hours after they last went to sleep, and awaken 24 hours after they last woke up. Significant changes in either time -- especially shift work schedules which frequently change -- disrupt the sleep-wake cycle.
  • If your sleep is troubled by nightmares, or if you have personal problems which prevent you from getting the sleep you need, you may want to consider seeking professional assistance.
  • Have a set ritual before going to bed. 
  • Limit the amount of food you eat for the last two hours before you go to bed.
  • Limit your daily use of caffeine, or eliminate it entirely.  Using coffee or tea, or other drinks which are high in caffeine only makes it harder to repay your sleep debt.
  • Exercise regularly, preferably in the morning.
  • If possible, adopt a life style which reduces your total amount of stress.
  • Don't try to "drink yourself to sleep" by regularly consuming an excess amoiunt of alcohol. It's physically hard on you, and potentially addictive. In this case, the "cure" is worse than the disease! 
  • While most of us prefer not to use prescribed sleep medications, millions of people do use them regularly without ill effects. Ambien and Lunesta are two medications commonly prescribed as sleep aids. Consult your prescribing professional for more information.
  • Forget the time-honored method of "counting sheep!" After you have made yourself comfortable and are ready to fall asleep, thinking of a "happy place," such as the one pictured below or one you have chosen yourself, can help you get to sleep more easily.  

Thinking of a "happy place" will often help you get to sleep.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thr "Hypnotic Trance:" a Shared Delusional System

Once when i was attending a demonstration of stage hypnosis, the man sitting next to me was one of the volunteers. Later, when he sat down, the woman he was with asked him how he felt, and he replied, "Like I'd been run over by a freight train!"  But I use hypnosis almost daily in my clinical practice, and I have yet to encounter anybody who feels like that. (Of course, i don't give them the same kind of suggestions that the stage hypnosis volunteer received; but many people turn out to be high responders in hypnosis even though they don't really feel any different after an induction than they did before.

People respond differently to induction procedures, and many do not feel any different at the conclusion of an induction procedure than they did before.  You can still have stray thoughts and musings, even as you respond effectively to hypnotic suggestions. Others, of course, do respond in accordance with the popular stereotype of the hypnotized person. But don't think that you have somehow "failed" if your own experience of hypnosis is not like you think it is supposed to be. "An 'induction procedure' . . .is not some sort of mechanical process which one person "uses on" another to render the subject more compliant with the will of the suggestor, as laymen occasionally tend to perceive it; and neither does it operate in some mysterious fashion to open up a direct channel of communication with the 'unconscious mind.' It is, rather, a method of providing both the opportunity and the rationale for those who are able and willing to utilize their imagination in an 'Alice-in-Wonderland' fashion to go ahead and do so" (Gibbons, 1979, pp. 16-17).  In view of the "hysterical" development of hypnosis, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to come to any other conslusion.

Lynn and Kirsch (2006, p. 44) state: "The idea that hypnosis is a trance state may be the most pernicious of popular ideas about hypnosis. Decades of research have failed to confirm the hypothesis that responses to suggestion are due to an altered state of consciousness, and as a result, this hypothesis has been abandoned by most researchers in the field (see Kirsch & Lynn, 1995). Many knowledgeable scholars either reject the use of the term trance as misleading or use it in a sufficiently broad sense to include such commonplace experiences as being absorbed in an interesting movie, conversation, or daydream. Nevertheless the idea of trance is the most commonly held view of hypnosis among the general public and is even retained by some clinicians and researchers. . . . 

"Countering the idea that hypnosis is a trance state allows the patient to interpret relaxed involvement as evidence that the induction was successful, which thereby takes the pressure off of the patient to experience a trance and facilitates response to suggestion. Lynn et al. (2002) found that participants informed that responding to hypnosis involved entering a trance were less suggestible than were participants informed that responding to hypnosis involved their active cooperation" (p.45).

Sources and Citations

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. (1982). Hypnosis as a Trance State: the Future of a Shared Delusion.
Bulletin of the British Society of Experimental and Clinical Hypnosis5, 1-4.

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.

Kirsch, I., & Lynn, S. J. (1995). The altered state of hypnosis: Changes in the theroretical landscape. American Psychologist, 50, 846-858.

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

Lynn, S. J., Vanderhoff, H., Schindler, K., & Stafford, J. (2002). The effects of an induction and defining hypnosis as "a trance" vs. cooperation: Hypnotic suggestibility and performance standards. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 44, 231-240.

Hypnosis and the Mind-Body Problem

How can the physical world be reflected so perfectly in the mental world? 

If I think that I want to raise my arm, and then I raise it, how did the mental thought get translated into a physical act? What is the connection between the mind and the body?

In philosophy, this is traditionally known as the "mind-body problem." In the area of hypnosis, it usually takes the form of a debate as to whether hypnosis is a state, in the sense that fainting, coma, and shock are separate states of the organism, or whether it is best conceived of as a non-state, i.e., a set of "believed-in imaginings," as Sarbin has called it in a book by that title, or "the ability to think along with and vividly imagine the instructions and suggestions one is given," as Ted Barber has stated.

If we first take a closer look at the mind-body problem which underlies it, I believe we will have a better idea how to approach the state vs. non-state controversy in hypnosis. Several answers to the mind-body problem have been proposed, which usually fall into one of four categories:

1. We could say that everything is physical, and consciousness is just an illusion, much like the reflection in the photo above, as the behaviorist, John Watson and his followers emphasized. This answer leaves many others unsatisfied. When someone who holds this opinion asks you what you mean by consciousness, many people are inclined to scornfully reply, "I mean what you feel when you ask me that question."

2. We could say that everything is mental, and what we call matter is just an illusion, as did the philosopher Immanuel Kant, who believed that everything exists as an idea in the mind of God. (This provides a neat explanation for the problem of miracles: "God changed His mind!)

3. We could say, as did Descartes, that mental and physical get translated from a "pineal eye" located in the center of the forehead. But others will object that if you are going to talk about a connection between them, you must first establish that they are two separate entitites, i.e., you must establish something which is not true in the first place.

4. Finally, we could say, "Why make the problem?" as did the British philosophers, Bradley and Bosanquet. If we don't state things in either-or categories, then we don't have to wiggle out of them.  Hypnosis is a state of the organism, as is any constellation of thoughts -- but it is also a function of the imagination, which is a very real group of abilities located in the organ which we call the brain. And there is no need to separate them through the creation of any artificially-linked analogies.

Does this mean that the brain is merely a computer which stops when you die, as Steven Hocking claims? Not necessarily. If you accept Einstein's equation that matter and energy are two different forms of the same thing, this means that neither matter nor energy can be created or destroyed -- just transformed.

Matter and energy are both forms of the same thing!

See also: The Evidence is In: "Free Will" is an Illusion!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Want to Understand the "Unconscious Mind?" Ask an Anesthesiologist!

When I was an undergraduate psychology major at the University of California, Riverside, Dr. Marvin Nachman, who later became the head of the dorctoral program in experimental psychology, humorously related that when he was in medical school he heard a leacture entitled, "The Localization of the Conscious Mind in the Frontal Lobes." 

Inferring the existence of something and then using it as an explanation of what we are trying to understamd is circular reasoning which does nothing to contribute to an explantion of the phenomena we wish to study. In Biblical times, when a person started acting strangely, they used to say, "He hath a devil." Mrs. Malaprop, a character in the writings of Richard Brimsley, used to say that hypnosis puts people to sleep because it has "dormative power." Some people still "explain" hypnosis as a method of by-bassing the conscious censor and speaking directly to the unconcscious, which accepts suggestions without question. ("Trance is everywhere?" Then why not call it inattention?)

The brain is consantly busy regulating blood pressure, heart rhythm, digestion, and a host of other processes without our conscious attention. We can also make habitual many other complex activities, from walking to playing a piano concerto, so that we can regulate them without paying attention to every detail. We do use our attention selectively, like a spotlight on a darkened stage, because there are too many things going on around us to attend to them all.  However, to infer the existence of two minds, each operating according to different principles which are often in conflict with one another, and then use this inference as a form of circular reasoning to explain anything is a bit of a stretch for most cognitive scientists in the Twenty-First Century. If you call up any college or university near you and ask any professor in the psychology department about the nature of the "unconscious mind," you might be referred to an anesthesiologist!

Would I ever infer the existence of hypothetical constructs that go beyond the data, in order to speculate about phenomena whose existence I cannot prove? Of course! I blog aboug re-concdualizing hypnosis as suggestion-enhanced experience, and I use a thought experiment to illustrate the limitations of the research on suggestibility. I discuss the influence of phenomena as diverse as falling under the sway of a totalitarian dictator, falling in love,  having an orgasm,  being saved in a revival meeting, and exploring the multiverse for personal growth.  But, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the "unconscious mind," IMHO, are too simplistic to be taken seriously,

President Obama has recently called for an investment of $100 million as "the approximate investment to give scientists the tools they need  to get a dynamic picture of the brain." in order to better understand how we think, learn, and remember. How much are you willing to bet that it won't end there?


MacCorquodale, Kenneth, and Paul E. Meehl. "On a distinction between hypothetical constructs and intervening variables."  Psychological review 55, no. 2 (1948): 95.