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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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Next Step Upward in Human Evolution

With 99% of the same genetic makeup as our closest simian cousins, the chimpanzees, there is little doubt that our evolutionary development has been lopsided. We have highly developed frontal lobes which enable us to formulate lofty ideals and distant goals, but all too often our emotional centers prevent us from achieving them. More than once in the last century, we have come close to annihilating each other; and many social institutions are devoted in whole or in part to regulating our behavior so that we do not destroy one another individually.  

Human, evolution did not come to a screeching halt with the first bipeds who could accurately be labeled homo sapiens. We have been developing the powers of our imagination in new and exciting ways ever since. We frequently need the services of a hypnotist to function as an enabler, coach, or personal trainer to show us how to use these emerging abilities with confidence, because they are so different from the current patterns of thought which we are used to in everyday life. Using the BEST ME Technique of multimodal suggestion for the simultaneous involvement of Beliefs, Emotions, Sensations and physical perceptions, Thoughts and images, Motives, and Expectations, for greater involvement and effectiveness.(Gibbons & Lynn, 2008), it is possible to fully experience the rewards of distant goals now, in the present, when they are most important for motivation, making it much easier to live up to the goals and ideals which evolution has enabled us to construct but have heretofore been difficult to achieve (Gibbons & Woods, 2016).

The next major breakthough in human evolution is likely to be of a  spiritual nature. The saints and mystics of every major religion have attested to the life-changing properties of experiences in which they felt that they were in the presence of the Creator, returning with a sense of the indwelling presence of God.  People who are sufficiently advanced in their evolutionary development may be hypnotically brought ino the presence of the Creator Himself, and return with an enduring sense of the indwelling presence of God, no longer broken by the stresses of life, and living like they have never lived before! 

Regardless of whether or not our clients' metaphysical beliefs are the same as ours or whether we have no metaphysical beliefs at all, the challenge facing all of us is to help our clients to to make the fullest use of their emerging imaginative abilities by regularly practicing hyperempiric meditations such as these, for the facilitation of human growth, the ennoblement of the human spirit, and the enrichment of human existence.


Gibbons, D. E., & Lynn, S. J. (2008). Hypnotic inductions: A primer. In Ruhe, J. W., Lynn, S. J., & Kirsch, I. (Eds.) Handbook of clinical hypnosis, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Assn.

 Gibbons, D. E., & Woods, K. T. (2016). Virtual reality hypnosis: Explorations in the Multiverse. Amazon Books.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

How to Spot Bogus Academic and Professional Credentials

I can run off a Ph.D. degree today on my computer and give it to you, and you can say that you have a Ph.D. without breaking any law. The only time you can actually be prosecuted is when you offer your services to the public in a license-protected occupation, such as a psychologist, counselor, or social worker; but even here, there are exceptions.  In New Jersey, for example, a non-profit organization such as a church can hire you as a psychologist or a counselor  without having to comply with formal licensing requirements, because you are not actually holding your services out to the public, they are, regardless of whether or not you have a real degree, a phony degree, or no degree at all. Many non-profits do employ licensed people, of course; and there are many fine instructors in non-profit organizations who do not have the full preparation which is required for working or teaching in public institutions.

If you want to open a practice as a "psychic astrologer," with a Ph.D. that you designed this morning on your word processor,  there's nothing stopping you, because "psychic astrologer" is not a license-protected occupation -- although you may still have to pay for a business license before you can actually open a practice and collect fees for your services. Generally, these occupations operate according to the "Golden Rule:" He who has the gold makes the rules!

In any field, a degree which is recognized by established institutions of higher learning must be offered by the officially recognized accrediting body in your locality, and no other, because diploma mills are very good at forming legitimate-appearing organizations which happily "accredit" each other. Here is a list of all officially accredited post-secondary institutions from the U.S. Department of Education.
Since there aren't any restrictions on forming an "educational institution," it is easy to incorporate "universities" with impressive-sounding titles, offering courses and degrees in all sorts of subjects, which may then group themselves into unsanctioned regional associations to accredit each other -- and they do!  To muddy the waters even further, some States maintain "lists" of educational institutions, which some of these institutions then use as evidence that they are "recognized" by that State, because it is all too easy to confuse being on a State list  with being "accredited by the State in question, which usually involves an official visit by a State accrediting team and a thorough review of the qualifications of every member of the faculty,
Whenever you hear someone say that they "can paper the wall of their office" with their academic degrees, or you see an official-looking diploma signed by people who have a large number of degrees in several different fields after their name, or someone has claimed to earn a large number of degrees in just a few years, this should be a signal to examine the situation further. (Just think how many years or decades it would take to actually earn all those degrees!)
The best way to establish whether or not an accrediting body is legitimate is to call up the Registrar's office of an academic institution which you trust, and inquire as to the legitimacy of the accrediting body of the college or university which you are asking about -- but sometimes even the legitimate institutions themselves get fooled by a person who has begun teaching there with a bogus credenttial. 
When I was teaching, every few years I would hear about somebody who was booted off the faculty because their diploma was found to be a fake. By the same token, professed membership in the American Psychological Association is not in itself proof of professional standing, since A P.A. lacks the financial resources to police the Internet for impostors.
Here in New Jersey, there is a woman up the road from me who advertises that she has a degree in psychic astrology and hynotizes people to tell them the name of their guardian angel. I once complained about her ro the New Jersey Psychological Association, and I was told that because neither hypnosis nor psychic astrology are regulated by State law, there was nothing that they could do. 
It is no crime to posess an unaccredited degree. The world is awash with them! But before you take a course or a workshop from such a person, or pay good money to attend one of their conference presentations, it is usually a good idea to check out their credentials ahead of time. If you are met with silence, evasiveness, or a personal attack, this is usually good reason to suspect their qualifications. 
Caveat emptor: let the buyer beware!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

How to Improve Sports Performance Using Self Hypnosis

Perhaps you have seen those news stories about individual athletes, or even entire athletic teams, who have improved their performance by securing the services of a sports hypnotist. The research literature in psychology supports the conclusion that such interventions have been effective. (Barker & Jones, 2008; Levitan, 2012; Tramontana, 2011). But you don't have to hire a hypnotist yourself in order to obtain similar results.  Self-hypnosis, can also provide helpful mental preparation. What really counts is the ability to actively engage the imagination so that you can pre-experience successful performance as vividly as possible.  

I recommend regular practice with the Best Me Technique (Gibbons & Lynn, 2010) in self hypnosis as a way of involve your whole person in visualizing successful performance, so that you can experience now, in the present and in concentrated form, the rewards and satisfactions which would not normally be yours until success has actually been achieved. This will not only improve your performance, but it will also provide you with the motivation to pursue it. 

Each element of the Best Me Technique corresponds with a dimension of experience (Beliefs, Emotions, Sensations and physical perceptions, Thoughts and images, Motives, and Expectations), which may be used in any order and varied and repeated as often as desired in order to involve the imagination as completely as possible. I'm going to use bowling as an example of how to use the Best Me Technique to improve bowling performance, but it can just as easily be applied to other sports such as baseball, golf, and soccer. Here's how it works.

First, find a quiet place where you are not likely to be disturbed. Close your eyes, and after inducing self hypnosis as described in the link above, imagine or picture yourself about to bowl a successful strike, using imagery like this:

Beliefs. Believe, or picture in your mind, that you are headed towards a certain and inevitable success. 

Emotions. Feel the thrill of achievement surging through you as you realize that victory is assured.

Sensations and Physical perceptions. Listen to the sound of the ball rolling down the chute while the people around you grow quiet.

Thoughts and Images: See the ball hit the pins directly, and watch them go flying in every direction .

Motives. Realize that this is how you want your bowling to become.

Expectations. Allow yourself to fully savor in your mind the fruits of your success! 

Believe it will happen, expect it to happen, feel it happening, and savor in advance the fruits of your success. Practice and rehearse regularly, and with patience. And, above all, make sure that you enjoy it!


Barker, J. & Jones, M. (2008). The effects of hypnosis on self-efficacy, affect, and soccer performance: A case study.  Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology, 2(2),  pp. 127-147.

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.

Tramontana, J. (2011).  Sports hypnosis in practice: Scripts, strategies and case examples. Norwalk, CT, US: Crown House Publishing Limited.

Levitan, A. (2012).  Review of Sports hypnosis in practice: Scripts, strategies, and case examples. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 54(4), pp. 365-366

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The "Backstory" can Validate or Invalidate ANY Hypnotic Technique!

The hypnoverse of all possible experiences which may be brought about by means of suggestion is theoretically unlimited, as is the multiverse of potenial experiences which constitute our daily lives (Gibbons & Woods, 2016). But the circumstances in which we presently find ourselves are fixed; and to sucessfully blend the former into the latter, we mst consider the context from which we start.  Here is Steve Lynn's excellent summary of how they work together, followed by an illustration of their application in everyday life.. His first sentences deal with the structure of the hypnoverse, and the final sentence refers to their application in the multiverse in which we live. 

 . . .how clients respond to suggestions depends less on the nature and success of a particular induction than on the following variables: (a) clients' prehypnotic attitudes, beliefs, intentions, and expectations about hypnosis; (b) their ability to think, fantasize, and absorb themselves in suggestions; (c) their ability to form a trusting relationship with the hypnotist; (d) their ability to interpret suggestions appropriately and view their responses as successful; (e) their ability to discern task demands and cues; (f) their ongoing interaction with the hypnotist; and (g) the appropriateness of the therapeutic methods and suggestions to treating the presenting problem. . . . Accordingly, clinicians should devise inductions and suggestions with these variables in mind and tailor their approach to the unique personal characteristics and agenda of each client they encounter" (Gibbons & Lynn, 2010, p. 289).  

 A nurse I used to work with in a screening center asked me to hypnotize her to stop smoking, which I was happy to do. She mentioned that one of her high school teachers used to hypnotize her regularly (apparently as a demonstration subject in his classes), so it was clear that she was imaginatively gifted. 

We didn't have time for the usual stop-smoking program that I use, with three visits and all the rest. But, knowing her as I did, it was clear that if she was ready to stop she was going to do so, with hypnosis providing the necessary catalyst regardless of the time and format which were available to us -- so I just gave her the usual stop-smoking suggestions, with the usual repetition and elaboration. As I recall, I told her that her desire to smoke would vanish, that the cues which would normally awaken a desire to smoke would no longer be effective in doing so; that she could not be suddenly surprised by taking a cigarette without thinking of it; and that she would feel strong feelings of pride, achievement, and accomplishment at the fact that she had become a non-smoker, 

To my consternation, the next day, when I asked her how she had done, and she told me that she had gone home and smoked an entire pack of cigarettes! But six months later, when I casually mentioned something about her smoking, she told me, "Oh, I haven't smoked since the time you hypnotized me."`

"But didn't you go home and smoke up a whole pack?" I asked her.

"Yes," she replied. "And then I stopped."

Having worked side by side on the same unit with her for quite some time, I was familiar enough with her "personality and unique characteristics" to realize why she had responded the way she did. Her approach to authority was basically confrontational. In her everyday work environment, she made it obvious to everyone around her that, "Nobody's going to tell ME what to do!" So, when I gave her suggestions under hypnosis that she was going to stop smoking, her life narrative required that she had to first go home and deliberately smoke up a whole pack just to prove that I wasn't telling HER what to do. Then, once she had made the point to her own satisfaction, she could comply with my suggestions because she was ready to change. 


Gibbons, D. E., & Lynn, S. J. (2008). Hypnotic inductions: A primer. In Ruhe, J. W., Lynn, S. J., & Kirsch, I. (Eds.) Handbook of clinical hypnosis, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Assn.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

When Your "Inner Hypnotist" is a LIAR!

The following video was made by a woman who had been suffering in an abusive relationship for many years. In personal terms, she explains the underlying psychological principle of cognitive dissonance, and how it kept her from realizing what was really going on and taking the necessary steps to end it. 

We commt to a belef on the basis of emotion, and  then we use our intellect to defend it -- which is why political and religious arguments usually lead nowhere. When you have an idea that you are deeply committed to and you encounter a fact which contradicts it, as in the case of the group described in the video below, cognitive dissonance is the result. You put your intellect to work not to seek the truth, but to reduce the dissonance if the truth is just too uncomfortable to face because it is tied up with your sense of self.

 Political, racial, religious, and other forms of cognitive dissonance have ruined many Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, outdoor barbecues, and couples get-togethers; and at the opposite extreme, it can provide the basis for rioting and war.


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Limitations of Mechanically-Based Virtual Reality Systems

In spite of all the money which is currently being thrown at them, mechanically based systems of virtual reality are necessarily limited to the single sense of preception. And how "real" is that when they are STILL working with only one dimension of experience? Here is an example of what we as hypnotists can do to involve one's whole person in the content of a suggested experience  (Gibbons & Lynn, 2008; Gibbons & Woods, 2016).

The Best Me Technique utilizes the simultaneous involvement of Beliefs, Emotions, Sensations and physical perceptions, Thoughts and images, Motives, and Expectations, for greater involvement and effectiveness. Taken together, the elements of this technique form the acronym, BEST ME.

Belief systems which orient an individual to person, place, time, and events may be suggested as being different, allowing the participant to mentally transcend present realities.

Emotions may be enriched, intensified, weakened, or combined with others.

Sensations and physical perceptions may be suggested and experienced with an intensity approaching those of real events.

Thoughts and images may be created and guided in response to explicit or indirect suggestions.

Motives may either be suggested directly or implied as a consequence of other events.

Expectations may be structured concerning the manner in which the participant will look forward to and remember suggested events which will occur in the future, and the manner in which suggested experiences will subsequently be recalled and interpreted in memory.

When I was teaching at what is now the University of St. Francis de Sales, a student with whom I was well acquainted came to my office and said, "Hey, Prof! You gotta do something. I'm not studying!" Final examinations were coming up soon, and he was in the last semester of his senior year.  His grade point average was marginal at best. Since he had been a willing participant in earlier hypnosis research, I knew that he was a high responder. After hypnotizing him, I proceeded approximately as follows:

Belief systems. Now you can feel your awareness of the present beginning to fade, as you become ever more clearly aware of yoursel seated at your graduation ceremony, waiting to go up and receive your diploma. Just picture the scene, and imagine yourself excitedly waiting there, until it becomes just as real and just as clear to you as if it is happening right now.

Emotions. Let yourself feel an ever increasing sense of pride and achievement as you savor this moment to the fullest. As you look around at your fellow graduates and at the crowd of family, friends, and well wishers who have come to share in your success, you can truly rejoice in the thrill of all you have worked so hard to accomplish.

Sensations and physical perceptions. The graduates are getting up one row at a time to form a line beside the stage until their name is called. When it is your turn, you join the line and await your turn to go up and shake hands with the Dean and receive your diploma.

Thoughts and images. And all the time, you are realizing how much this means to you, and how much it has all been worthwhile.

Motives. Now, as you walk across the stage and shake hands with the Dean, he smiles and hands you your diploma, and you return to your seat, let yourself take a few moments now to bask in the satisfaction of a job well done, and savor your achievement to the fullest. [Pause.]

Expectations. And each time that you return to this treasured memory of the future, it will become easier for you to act, think, and feel as if it were impossible to fail. Believe it will happen, expect it to happen, feel it happening, and savor in advance the fruits of your success!

We repeated this exercise five times in the final two weeks of the semester, and he did successfully graduate. Of course, it helped to have the active participation and encouragement of a faculty member who believed in him and was rooting for him; and the effectiveness of hypnotic suggestions must be evaluated in terms of the personality and unique characteristics of the individual to whom they are given, and the total context of the situation within which they are presented.  But what would we have been able to do with virtual reality goggles, even if they had been available at the time?


Gibbons, D. E., & Lynn, S. J. (2008). Hypnotic inductions: A primer. In Ruhe, J. W., Lynn, S. J., & Kirsch, I. (Eds.) Handbook of clinical hypnosis, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Assn.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Myth of the Analytical Hypnotic Subject

It has been said that the organisms most frequently experimented on are the laboratory rat and the college sophomore, because they are the most available to academic researchers. The differences in hypnotic responsiveness which are commonly used in psychological research have been obtained when data are gathered under standardized testing conditions such as a college classroom.

The Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility, Form A (Shor & Orne, 1962) is modeled after the experimental approach originally begun by Clark Hull (1933). It contains a script consisting 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 will obtain a score of zero on the test, 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. Many useful inferences can be drawn from Measuring sugestibility as a personality trait, and I have collected some of it myself (Gibbons & de Jarnette, 1972).

Now let's perform a thought experiment. I would like you to imagine that the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility is being given to a class of introductory psychology students when a person dressed in a police uniform bursts into the room and says in a loud, commanding voice, "There is an active  shooter in the building. Take refuge under your desks immediately and await further instructions!

Even if such an announcement had been 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 cower under their desks until they were found by the next class which was scheduled to use the room. What happened to the "analytical  subjects" who were supposed to be impervious to suggestion? What happened to the individual differences in hypnotizability which the Harvard Group Scale was supposed to measure? They simply ceased to exist!

Outside of the narrow confines of the classroom, however, suggestibility is the rule rather than the exception, which is why entrenched political and religious opinions are so hard to change. 


Gibbons, D. E. & De Jarnette, J. (1972). Hypnotic susceptibility and religious experience. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 11(2), pp. 152-156. 

Hull, C. L.  Hypnosis and Suggestibility. New York: Appleton-Cenntry, 1933.