(An earlier version of this posting was published in the Swedish journal, Hypnos, 2004, Vol. XXXI, No. 2, pp. 89-93).
People of many different religious traditions have attested to the life changing potential of mystical and transcendental experiences involving the experience of contact with a consciousness beyond one's own. In one study of the Fundamentalist Christian experience of "salvation," for example, subjects readily attested to both the personal reality of the experience and its subsequent influence upon their lives, although such experiences did not seem to be universally attainable and did appear to be related to the ability to respond to suggestion (Gibbons & DeJarnette, 1972; Gibbons, 1988).Mother Theresa (now Saint Theresa) had a mystical experience while she was still in her teens, and spent the rest of her life trying to re-capture it. But you don't have to closet yourself away and spend years in meditation, which may or may not be effective. With high-responding hypnotic clients who are willing to to undertake the journey, we are able to induce these types of experiences practically at will (Gibbons & Woods, 2016).
A 58 year old retired English teacher and mother of five grown children recently had been divorced after a marriage of forty years and came to me for help with depression. She was spending the greater part of each day in bed, with the blankets drawn up over her head. She was taking antidepressants, but they did not seem to help.
Early in the course of therapy, she mentioned that when she was about sixteen, she had a mystical experience: "I could step beyond the ordinary world of reality, and I felt totally loved." I asked her if she would like to re-visit this mystical experience in hypnosis as a way of getting over her depression, and she immediately agreed.
She responded very well to hypnosis. I regressed her to her earlier mystical event, and told her that we were going to make it even stronger using hyperempiria, or suggestion-enhanced experience. I suggested that we were reaching down into her vast, untapped potential for feeling happiness and joy. This happiness and joy was flowing out from the innermost depths of her being in many different ways and on many different levels, like water from a hundred secret springs. As these feelings continued to flow without limit, they were healing and cleansing every muscle and fiber and nerve of her body, driving out all of the worry, and all of the stress, and all of the care that she had ever felt, and leaving her glowing from head to toe with such an intensity of happiness that she could not bear it if she were not hypnotized.
She remained outwardly impassive as I continued in this vein, emphasizing that this happiness was greater and more intense than anything she had ever hoped for, dreamed of, longed for, or imagined. To further emphasize its strength, I suggested that when she returned from hypnosis, she would not be able to bring all of this intensity back with her, because it would be more than she could bear in the everyday state of consciousness in which we live and move and have our being. But nevertheless, it would transform her life, and turn each new day into a thing of wondrous beauty.
Her depression lifted within two more sessions. Because she was a Buddhist, it was easy to frame her mystical experience as evidence that true happiness comes from within. She no longer remains in bed all day, and frequently goes out to go shopping, play cards, or visit with friends. Her demeanor is pleasant, relaxed, and cheerful. She is continuing to come in for monthly sessions in order to keep her orientation focused on the positive aspects of life, and as a means of continuing her personal and spiritual development.
From the standpoint of the therapist who is well-versed in the techniques of hypnosis, experiences of this type may easily be made available to clients who desire them and are sufficiently responsive to suggestion. From the first glow of anticipation to the enduring treasures of fondest memory, suggestion provides us with a brush with which it is possible to paint upon the canvas of human experience virtually any masterpiece we may desire. Although most of us routinely provide a considerable amount of detail with the experiences we suggest in order to make them more realistic, the Best Me Technique provides a systematic, comprehensive framework for maximum involvement and effectiveness of experiential learning (Gibbons & Lynn,
The theme and content of such experiences should be determined by the needs and preferences of the client, with the goal of providing reassurance, strength, and encouragement.
Lawrence (M. A. Lawrence, personal communication, June 27, 2003) reports the successful application of the Best Me Technique with nursing home residents who are dealing with end-of-life issues.
The Best Me Technique would appear to possess numerous other potential applications. Good results have been reported using the Best Me Technique to enable experientially gifted clients to experience now, and in intensified form, the rewards which would not normally be theirs until a goal has actually been attained, thereby eliminating the need for "will power" or external environmental incentives (Gibbons, 2003).Sexual relations in multimodal trance between committed partners who respond well to suggestion can take on near sacramental qualities as the lovers consecrate themselves to one another anew (Gibbons & Woods, 2016).
Recently, Kelley Woods and I (Gibbons & Woods, 2016) have been suggesting to hypnotized clients that they are being transported to an alternate universe where time and space do not exist. After orienting them to the Multiverse and inducing emotions which are as pleasant as possible -- i.e., "dissolving into an ocean of infinite, unbounded, and everlasting love," we are then able to provide suggestions such as the following: "with practice, you will be able to feel this kind of fulfillment whenever you put your whole self into working towards a goal you have chosen. As you think about achieving the goal ahead of time, you can believe it will happen, expect it to happen, and feel it happening! And with practice, you will be able to act, think, and feel as if it were impossible to fail!"
Experientialism is the philosophical theory that experience is the source of knowledge. It is indeed an honor to work with the imaginatively gifted among us; for they are truly "the bearers of the light," which all humankind will one day follow.
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