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 (609)709-2043 and (609) 494-0009.

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Friday, December 27, 2019

CAN Hypnosis be Used for Mind Control?


Let me begin by asking three quesstions. First, does seduction ever occur outside of hypnosis? The answer to that one is obvious. Second, does hypnosis make people any more virtuous than they were before? Most people would agree that the mere act of being hypnotized does not suddenly change you into somebody else. Third, is it logical to assume that fantasies of seduction under hypnosis only occur to hypnotists themselves, and never to hypnotic subjects? In a word, the answer is no.

Is it really possible, then, to commit a crime by means of hypnosis?  Laboratory investigations into whether or not hypnosis can be used for antisocial purposes inevitably fall short of the mark, because the situational background is not sufficiently taken into account. Imagine that you are a student in introductory psychology, taught by Prof. Snarf, who asks for volunteers in a psychological experiment. You accept the invitation, and are given a hypnotic induction, followed by the instructions to pick up a beaker of acid and hurl it in the experimenter's face, to pick up poisonous snakes, or to shoot the experimenter with a supposedly loaded gun. Would you  really believe that a reputable scientist would let you commit a murder as part of a psychological experiment? Or would you be inclined to believe that because you are ordered to do these ridiculous things there must be a reason for it other than the one that was given, so you might as well go ahead and do as you are told? Some people, at least, choose the second option (Sarbin & De Rivera, 1998). Dr. Martin Orne coined the term demand characteristics to refer to this tendency of a subject in an experiment to act in the way that the subject thinks one is supposed to behave, rather than simply reacting to the instructions in themselves.

Some years ago, I was asked to testify in the case of a man who had falsely advertised himself as a psychologist and had begun hypnotizing teenage girls in the area, one of whom subsequently accused him of rape. In order to make its case that hypnosis could be used to compel behavior, the prosecution had pointed to an incident in eastern Europe several decades earlier, in which a stage hypnotist had handed a man a pistol loaded with blanks and commanded the man to shoot him. The hypnotized subject, who was an off-duty police officer, drew a loaded revolver from his pocket and shot three members of the audience. I testified that while hypnosis cannot force people to people do something which is against their moral and ethical codes, it is impossible to conclusively demonstrate in the laboratory whether or not hypnosis could be used to compel anti-social behavior. You could never actually allow such behavior to occur in an experimental setting, or in any kind of staged demonstration, and the subjects know it! But, in what I like to call "the laboratory of life," the results are more clear-cut. Hypnosis in its modern form has been around for over two hundred years; and if you have to go half way around the world and back several decades in time in order to find even one instance of its alleged use in the commission of a crime, then it would be easier to conclude that this individual was psychotic or mentally deranged than to conclude that his behavior was the result of the alleged coercive power of hypnosis. If hypnosis could be used in such a manner, by this time its anti-social applications would be well-documented and systematically employed -- in organized crime, in international espionage, by thwarted lovers, and in many other settings. And the evidence simply is not there. 

When a hypnotist is accused of rape or seduction, the problem is not with hypnosis itself, but with the power differential which is inherent in a therapeutic relationship, as it is when the abuser is a person in a position of high status, as was the case with Rasputin, a priest and an advisor to the Tsarina in the court of imperial Russia. This trust must never be abused. The responsibility always lies with the person in authority. It is necessary for the trusted person to maintain strong boundaries and to stop any inappropriate relationships from developing, even if a client displays seductive behavior due to transference, a personality disorder, mental illness, physical attraction, or simple intimidation.. A teenager would be especially susceptible to such suggestions; and If he or she subsequently accused the hypnotist of rape, then the chances are, the hypnotist may have abused his or her position of trust and authority in order to have sexual relations with the client, which is tantamount to rape, as we are currently seeing on the news where hypnosis is not involved at all. Therefore, the prosecution's mistake was to attack hypnosis itself, rather than the power differential between the hypnotist and his teenage victim. (He was still convicted, however, because it was found that the girl was underage.)

It would be a serious mistake in situations such as these is to assume that fantasies of seduction under hypnosis occur only to hypnotists and never to their subjects -- in which case, the problem is still not with hypnosis itself. However, if mutual consent is not freely given aheaad of time, there is  a very high incidence of "buyer's remorse," due to the fact that the subject usually has conflicting motives.

Instances such as these tend to be reported in great detail by the media, and are amplified still further by depictions of hypnosis in fiction. Because of the publicity which results from them, there are many people who will not have anything to do with hypnosis .And because these abuses continue to surface from time to time and dramatized by the mass media, the public is probably never going to be won over completely, despite our repeated assurances that hypnosis is perfectly safe when used by ethical and appropriately trained professionals.

(I am grateful to Dr. Annette K. Schreiber for her collaboration and assistance in the preparation of this posting.)

Reference
  
Sarbin, T. R., & De Rivera, J. (1998),  Believed-in imaginings:The Narrative Construction of Reality (Memory, Trauma, Dissociation, and Hypnosis) . Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

A Glitch in the Matrix? How to Create Parallel and Alternate Universes in Hypnosis


Regardless of whether or not parallel universe exist in the reality which we know in everyday life, in the Hypnoverse, the universe of all possible universes in hypnosis, a sufficiently responsive hypnotic partner can easily create a parallel universe by simply thinking it into existence. If they are behaviorally appropriate, the suggested changes can be made comprehensive enough to have a lasting effect on behavior by using the Best Me technique of multimodal suggestion. This involves the simultaneous use of Beliefs, Emotions, Sensations and physical perceptions, Thoughts and images, Motives, and Expectations, and may be summarized as follows (Gibbons, 2001):

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 orientations to person, place, time, and events.

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 actual occurrences .

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.

The following set of BMT visualizations describes a motivational experience in a natural setting.  It is not intended to be used as a script, but rather as an illustration of how the Best Me Technique may be a template for constructing multimodal experiences for a variety of  purposes. It may easily be modified to refer to bring into existence any event which the client may find personally meaningful. 

Belief systems. You are becoming aware of yourself warmly dressed, standing at the top of a large, snow-covered mountain which slopes steeply downward toward the valley below. Between you and your objective at the foot of the mountain, are barriers and obstacles of many kinds, which have been blocking you from the attainment ,of your goal.

Emotions. You can feel the excitement inside of you growing stronger and stronger, as you prepare to eliminate them all.

Sensations and physical perceptions.  Feel the crisp, cold winter aicr upon your face, and savor its freshness as you inhale. Notice the dazzling whiteness of the snow in the morning sunlight, and feel its soft crunchiness underfoot as your mind absorbs the silence which is all around you, broken only occasionally by the faint stirring of a distant breeze.

Thoughts and images. Bending down, you pick up a handful of snow and start to examine it. Notice how soft and powdery it feels in your hands.  In a way, it is like your resolve has sometimes been ‑‑ soft and powdery, when it ought to have been firm and strong. See yourself packing the snow together in your hand now, and compressing it into a snowball as you add still more snow, packing it down firmly, as you resolve to make your trust and confidence just as firm and just as hard as the snowball itself. See yourself rolling the snowball along the ground, packing into it every ounce of confidence you possess, until it has grown to the size of a boulder.

Motives. As the snowball grows even larger, you can feel your own courage and resolve becoming as hard and as firm as the snowball you are getting ready to roll down the mountainside, all the way down to the deserted valley below.  As you push the boulder over a small ledge and start it on its way, you can feel your trust and confidence growing along with it. As the boulder begins to roll downhill on its own, you can feel your trust and confidence growing along with it as it grows in size  ‑‑ growing and growing, becoming larger with every foot that it travels, until it has become an avalanche, sweeping away every obstacle in its path, as it thunders all the way to the bottom of the mountain. As it does your trust becomes infinite in its power, completely obliterating any last vestiges of doubt.

Expectations. Believe it will happen, expect it to happen, and feel it happening!

Belief systems. Next, you pick up another handful of snow and slowly pat it into a perfectly round snowball. This snowball is made of perfect faith.

Emotions. This too you roll down the mountainside, as it does, you feel your faith becoming infinite in its power, and eliminating everything standing in its way.

Sensations and physical perceptions. Watch it now as it carves a path beside the track left by the first one.

Thoughts and images.  This snowball is also turning into an avalanche, sweeping away everything before it until it too comes crashing all the way down to the bottom of the mountain.

Motives. Feel your faith expand along with it, until you feel as if nothing is impossible for you if you can believe in it.

Expectations. Believe it will happen, expect it to happen, and feel it happening!

Belief systems. Finally, you pick up another handful of snow which represents perfect love, in its purest possible form. After slowly and tenderly patting it into a perfectly round snowball.

Emotions. As it does, you can feel the love inside you also becoming infinite in its power and ready to sweep away everything which stands before it.

Sensations and physical perceptions. Now you roll this snowball down the mountainside, watching it as it carves a path between the ones created by the first two,

Thoughts and images. This avalanche of perfect love is also sweeping away every barrier which stands before it, until it too comes crashing all the way down to the bottom of the mountain.

Motives. Now, with all doubt removed you confidently stride down the path that the boulders have made,  And as you reach the foot of the  mountain, you discover that the winter has  turned, into a beautiful springtime. 

 Expectations. You will be able to carry this mood with you, and it will turn the entire day into a thing of wondrous beauty. Believe it will happen, expect it to happen, and feel it happening!

Although most of us routinely provide a considerable amount of detail into our visualizations in order to make them more realistic, the Best Me Technique of multimodal suggestion provides a systematic comprehensive framework for incorporating sufficient detail into several major types of experience for maximum effectiveness, more thoroughly than expensive virtual reality systems, which only deal with the two senses of sight and hearing, rather than  involving one's entire person in the experienced reality of a suggested event.

Bibliography
Bányai, E. I., & Hilgard, E. R. (1976). A comparison of active-alert hypnotic induction with traditional relaxation induction. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 85, 218-224.

Gibbons, D. (1975, August). Hypnotic vs. hyperempiric induction: An experimental comparison. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Psychological Association, Chicago.

Gibbons, D. (1976). Hypnotic vs. hyperempiric induction: An experimental comparison.Perceptual and Motor Skills, 42, 834.

Gibbons, D. (2001). Experience as an art form: Hypnosis, hyperempiria, and the best me technique. San Jose, CA: Authors Choice Press.

Gibbons, D. E. (2003, July). The best me technique for constructing hypnotic suggestions Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the British Societies of Medical, Clinical, Dental, and Experimental Hypnosis, London.

Hammond, D. C. (1990). Hypnotic suggestions and metaphors. New York: Norton

Lazarus, A. A. (1989). The practice of multimodal therapy. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Lazarus, A. A. (1997). Brief comprehensive psychotherapy: The multimodal way. New York:Springer.

Sarbin, T. R. (1998). Believed-in Imaginings. New York: Barnes & Noble.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Hypnosis is Easy When You Know How


According to statistics available at the site, the following article has been read by over one million eight hundred thousand people and edited by over a thousand others. I have watched and participated in its development over the past few years, and can vouch for its accuracy and effectiveness. For additional information, see my book, Applied Hpnosis and Hyperempiria. 



It is easy to hypnotize a person who wants to be hypnotized because all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. The hypnotist merely functions as a guide or a personal trainer to help you to focus the power of your imagination more effectively. The progressive relaxation method presented here is one of the easiest to learn and to use.[1]

Part 1 of 6: Before Hypnosis

  1. 1
    Make sure that your partner clearly understands what you are going to do and when he or she is going to get out of it.
    • Keep in mind what you say to the partner before. The introduction is just as important, and perhaps even more important, than what you say during the hypnosis itself. How well people respond to hypnosis depends not only on their ability to respond to suggestion, but also on their beliefs and expectations about hypnosis and their trust and confidence in the person providing the suggestions.
  2. 2
    Ask your partner if he/she has been hypnotized before, and inquire what the experience was like. If they have, ask them what they had been told to do and how they responded. This will give you an idea of how responsive the partner is likely to be to your own suggestions, and perhaps what things in the procedure that you should avoid.
  3. 3
    Tell the partner ahead of time that he/she will clearly remember everything that happens. This serves as a "waking suggestion" which defines the experience in such a way that the partner is likely to remember everything, even if they otherwise might not. It is very useful in building trust, and in obtaining feedback when the session is over.
  4. 4
    Reassure the partner that they cannot be made to do anything under hypnosis that they do not want to do.
  5. 5
    Ask your partner to sit or lie down in a comfortable position in a dimmed room where you are not likely to be disturbed for a while. Turn off cell phones and pagers. Make sure that your partner is not so tired that he or she will be inclined to fall asleep.

Part 2 of 6: Induction

  1. 1
    Ask your partner to close his or her eyes, and imagine being in a "happy place" where one can feel comfortable and secure, such as relaxing in a meadow beside a gently running stream. Elaborate on calming details of the place and make sure to note how calm and comfortable they feel in their place. And make sure the person will not laugh or be distracted
  2. 2
    Speak slowly, in a low, soothing, "hypnotic" voice timed to your partner's breathing, with considerable elaboration and repetition far beyond the point of boredom in an ordinary conversation.
  3. 3
    Ask your partner to relax all over, using words like these: "Just let your feet relax, and your legs relax. Feel your hips relaxing, and your waist relaxing. Feel your chest relaxing, and your arms relaxing. Your shoulders relaxing, and your neck and head relaxing. Feel your entire body relaxing, all over."
  4. 4
    Ask your partner to feel themselves flying through the air, with the wind whipping their hair behind their head as they laugh with glee. No stress, no worries, no cares. Say that they land on a cloud and ask them to feel the softness of that cloud. This particular cloud is made out of pure relaxation. Tell them to feel themselves sinking down into that cloud, and the more they sink down, the more relaxed they feel, and the more of their stress and worries flow out. Tell them to just visualize the stress, worries and cares flowing out of them like a river and tell them to feel those feelings being replaced by relaxation.
  5. 5
    Gradually change your instructions into suggestions which increase the strength of the feeling of relaxation. "You can feel yourself relaxing now. You can feel a heavy, relaxed feeling coming over you. And as I continue to talk, that heavy relaxed feeling will get stronger and stronger, until it carries you into a deep, peaceful state of hypnosis."
  6. 6
    Using your partner's breathing and body language as a guide, gradually make your suggestions more directive, using suggestions similar to the following. Repeat the suggestions a few times, much as you might repeat the verses and choruses of a song, until your partner appears to be totally relaxed.
    • "Every word that I utter is putting you faster and deeper, and faster and deeper, into a deep, peaceful state of hypnosis."
    • "Sinking down, and shutting down. Sinking down, and shutting down. Sinking down, and shutting down, shutting down completely."
    • "And the deeper you go, the deeper you are able to go. And the deeper you go, the deeper you want to go, and the more enjoyable the experience becomes."
  7. 7
    You can conclude your induction with words like: "Now you are resting comfortably in a deep, peaceful state of sleep, going deeper and faster and deeper and faster all of the time, until I bring you back. You will only accept those suggestions which are for your benefit, and that you are willing to accept."

Part 3 of 6: During Hypnosis

Provide positive suggestions which are specifically geared to achieving the goal. This will allow the partner to try out new attitudes, feelings, and behaviors which often are not voluntarily attainable. If the suggested changes are more adaptive than the old patterns after everything is taken into account, they will be retained. More than one hypnosis session may be necessary until the suggested changes are firmly rooted in the partner's life. Don't try to "scare" somebody into achieving their goal by dwelling on the consequences of failure, or by using "shoulds," "oughts," or "musts" in your suggestions. Research has conclusively shown that fear is a poor way to motivate people, and the side effects usually outweigh any possible benefits. Here are some examples of simple positive suggestions that you can elaborate on:
  1. 1
    • "You will look back on this experience as a game-changer in your life which will turn each day into a thing of wondrous beauty."
    • "As a result of these suggestions, you will feel as if you are headed for a certain and predetermined success.."
    • "You will be able to act, think, and feel as if it were impossible to fail."

Part 4 of 6: Concluding the Session

This is easier than inducing it, because all you have to do is essentially ask your partner to stop imagining.
  1. 1
    Begin by saying, "I'm going to count from one to five, and at the count of five you will be feeling wide awake, fully alert, and completely refreshed."
  2. 2
    It's also helpful to suggest, "And as a result of this hypnotic experience, you will find many exciting changes taking place in your life, some of which you may already be aware of and some of which you may not yet realize." This provides the partner with an extra measure of encouragement to process and complete any constructive changes they are already working on.
  3. 3
    Repeat for emphasis, "And as you continue to explore these deeper dimensions of experience, you will discover even more exciting changes taking place in your life, some of which you may be aware of and some of which you may not yet realize."
    • Suggestions of this type tend to serve as self-fulfilling prophecies, because the mind acts upon them in such a manner as to bring about the outcomes which have been suggested.
  4. 4
    Start counting, interspersed with suggestions to the effect that the partner is waking up more and more, "and by the time I get to the count of five, you will be fully awake and feeling wonderful"

After Hypnosis

  1. 1
    Discuss highlights of the session with the partner, and ask if there are any questions or if there is anything they would like to change.
  2. 2
    Now you should be able to re-induce hypnosis more easily. If your partner has responded well, repeat the session using a shorter induction and go over the positive suggestions you gave previously.
    • A series of two or three short inductions is usually more effective than a single longer one. This also allows more opportunity for the partner to provide feedback.
    • At the conclusion of each session, suggest that whenever your partner is willing to be hypnotized by you in the future, they will be able to enter hypnosis faster and go deeper each time because of the practice they have had.
    • Always be sure to emphasize how good the partner is going to feel when the session is over, to insure that the experience is an enjoyable one.

EditMethod 6 of 6: Frequently Asked Questions

Prepare by familiarizing yourself with questions which are frequently asked by people who are about to experience hypnosis for the first time and the answers to them.[2] It's good to have a general idea about how to answer questions like these ahead of time, because confidence and trust are so important in determining how a person is going to respond to your induction.
  1. 1
    • What are you going to do? I will ask you to visualize some pleasant scenes, while I talk about how to use your own mental abilities more effectively. You can always refuse to do anything that you don't want to do, and you can always come out of the experience yourself if an emergency should come up.
    • What does it feel like to be in hypnosis? Most of us experience changes in our conscious awareness several times a day without realizing it. Any time you let your imagination go and just flow along with a piece of music or a verse of poetry, or get so involved in watching a movie or a television drama that you feel like you're part of the action instead of a part of the audience, you are experiencing a form of trance. Hypnosis is just a way of helping you to focus and define these changes in consciousness, in order to use your mental abilities more effectively.
    • Is it safe? Hypnosis is not an altered state of consciousness (as sleep is, for example), but an altered experience of consciousness, which is brought about by using suggestion to re-configure the properties of the imagination. And anything that can be imagined can be un-imagined just as easily.
    • If it's all just your imagination, then, what good is it? Don’t be confused by the tendency in English and many other languages to use the word "imaginary" as opposite in meaning to the word "real" -- and neither should it be confused with the term "image." The imagination is a very real group of mental abilities, whose potential we are just now beginning to explore, and which extends far beyond our ability to form mental images!
    • Can you make me do anything I don't want to do? When you're using hypnosis, you still have your own personality, and you're still you -- so you won't say or do anything that you wouldn't do in the very same situation without hypnosis, and you can easily refuse any suggestion that you don't want to accept. (That's why we call them "suggestions.")
    • What can I do in order to respond better? Hypnosis is very similar to letting yourself become absorbed in watching a sunset or the embers of a campfire, letting yourself flow with a piece of music or poetry, or feeling like you are part of the action instead of part of the audience when you are watching a movie. People who do not feel that they have been able to respond very well, on the other hand, sometimes find it difficult to relax in new situations. It all depends on your ability and willingness to go along with the instructions and suggestions that are provided.
    • What if I enjoy it so much that I don't want to come back? Sometimes you might not want a movie to end, because the movie is so enjoyable -- but you still come back to the real world, because you know it’s only a motion picture. Hypnotic suggestions are basically an exercise for the mind and the imagination, just like a movie script is. But you still come back to everyday life when the session is over, just like you come back at the end of a movie. However the hypnotist might need to try a couple times to pull you out. It is enjoyable being completely relaxed but you can't do much when hypnotized.
    • What if it doesn't work? Did you ever become so absorbed in your play as a child that you didn’t hear your mother’s voice calling you in for dinner? Or are you one of the many people who are able to wake up at a certain time each morning, just by deciding the night before that you are going to do so? We all have the ability to use our minds in ways we are not usually aware of, and some of us have developed these abilities more than others. If you just allow your thoughts to respond freely and naturally to the words and images as your guide, you'll be able to go wherever your mind can take you

EditWarnings

  • Though many people have tried, post-hypnotic amnesia is notoriously unreliable as a means of protecting hypnotists from the consequences of their own misconduct. If you try to use hypnosis to get people to do things they would not normally be willing to do, they will usually just come out of hypnosis. If you are going to venture down this road, get them to agree to what you are going to do before the induction. Otherwise, they may never trust you again, tell everyone what you did, take you to court, or worse.
  • Don't allow yourself to be fooled by the sensationalism of hypnosis in the mass media, which commonly leads people to believe that hypnotism allows anyone to make other people act like fools with a click of the fingers.
  • Don't try regressing people to when they were young. If you want, tell them to 'act as if they were ten.' Some people have repressed memories which you really do not want to bring up (abuse, bullying etc.). They shut out these memories as a natural defense. Oddly, these people are often good at being hypnotized.
  • Ask your partner if he or she has any questions about what has happened, and be prepared to answer them.
  • Don't suggest anything that is against a person's morals or value systems, or that might be embarrassing to the partner, or anything that you wouldn't want someone to suggest to you.
  • Recognize that there are dangers associated with hypnotizing someone; a subject successfully hypnotized is literally a subject to any stray comments they hear while under. Practice caution, and use 'single~speaker' diligently.
  • Don't just sidle up to someone at the mall, or someone who is asleep, and try to hypnotize them on the sly. Though not impossible, it is extremely difficult to hypnotize someone covertly or against their will. Although covert approaches can work occasionally with an unsuspecting person who is caught by surprise, much more often than not, people will catch on to what you are trying to do. They will either laugh at you, or become angry for insulting their intelligence, and/or suspect that you have an ulterior motive and report you as a suspicious person.
  • Don't try to use hypnosis to treat any physical or mental condition (including pain) unless you are a licensed professional who is properly qualified to treat these problems. Hypnosis should never be used by itself as a substitute for counseling or psychotherapy, or to rescue a relationship which is in trouble.
  • Don't get hung up on technique. When something works dramatically with some people, and not as well as you want it to with others, this creates a "partial reinforcement" effect which may cause people to go from one book to another, or one training program or conference to another, in search of a "magic bullet" that is going to work with everyone. But despite claims to the contrary, most induction procedures work about equally well, and the differences in responsiveness are due to other factors. Decades of laboratory research involving hundreds of investigators have conclusively demonstrated that for everyone who responds poorly, you are statistically certain to find someone who responds so well that your perseverance in the use of hypnosis will be amply rewarded over time.[3][4][5]

 Sources and Citations

  1.  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. 267-292.
  2.  Gibbons, D. E. (2001). Experience as an art form: Hypnosis, hyperempiria, and the Best Me Technique. New York, NY: Authors Choice Press.
  3.  Hull, C. L.. (1933). Hypnosis and suggestibility: An experimental approach. New York: Appleton-Century.
  4.  Shor, R. E., & Orne, E. C. (1962). Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility, Form A. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
  5.  Spiegel, H. (1974). The grade 5 syndrome: The highly hypnotizable person.International Journal of clinical and experimental hypnosis, 22(4), pp. 303-319.

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Saturday, December 14, 2019

Multversal Meditation for Overcoming Existential Depression

In many cases, depression can  be overridden by suggested
experiences of beauty, wonder, and delight
(An earlier viersion of this posting was printed in the Journal of Experiential Trance, 2009, vol. 1 no. 1, pp.1-10, under the title, "Mystical Therapy." Reproduced by permission.)

Abstract:: This paper describes the induction of a series of suggestion-induced mystical experiences to reverse an ongoing depression and anhedonia, or the loss of the capacity to experience pleasure, and to re-institute a drive for high achievement. For the present purposes, a mystical experience may be defined as one which possesses a quality and an intensity which are not voluntarily attainable in every life.

Hyperempiria, or “enhanced experience” (Gibbons, 2001, 2003) may be used not only for induction procedures based upon suggestions of increased responsiveness, but also for a wide variety of experientially-based procedures for the facilitation of personal growth and behavioral change. Hyperempiria can be attained either by the use of an explicitly hyperempiric induction, based on suggestions of increased alertness, mind expansion, and enhanced awareness and responsiveness, or by a more traditional induction if it results in a sufficiently high degree of involvement, as in the present illustration.

I like to express my suggestions using what I refer to as the Best Me Technique, to involve one's whole person in a suggested event. Every letter in "Best Me" corresponds with an element of suggestion, and these elements can be applied in a variety of ways: to place oneself or another person into hypnosis, to pre-experience the accomplishment of a goal, and to conclude the hypnosis or self-hypnosis session. It’s the versatility and the thoroughness of these elements that makes the Best Me Technique distinct from meditation and visualization exercises, and from other forms of hypnosis and self-hypnosis. Instead of merely picturing something in the mind’s eye, the Best Me Technique enables us to paint upon the canvas of experience almost any masterpiece we may desire (Gibbons, 1995, 2001, 2003; Gibbons & Lynn, 2010).

The Best Me Technique uses Belief systems (who and where you are and what is going on around you), Emotions, Sensations and physical perceptions, Thoughts and images, Motives, and Expectations. "Best Me" suggestions may be presented in any order and as often as necessary, with considerable repetition and elaboration as needed to accomplish the desired effect, much as one might repeat the verses and choruses of a song. The Best Me categories are not conceptually “pure,” and each Best Me suggestion may contain elements of the others.

Using the Best Me Technique, experiences of mystical intensity may easily be made available to clients who desire them and are sufficiently responsive to suggestion. Such experiences should be determined by the needs and expressed preferences of the client, with the goal of providing reassurance, strength, and encouragement. It should be of little consequence whether the religious and/or metaphysical beliefs of the client are shared by the therapist or are in conflict with those of the therapist, or whether the therapist has no theological or metaphysical beliefs at all (Gibbons & Schreiber, 2004).

The Case of Jennifer

“Jennifer” was a forty-five year old, married, Pentecostal of Italian-American descent with two grown children, who had converted from the Roman Catholic faith as a teenager. She was currently drawing workmens' compensation payments for a work-related injury She had lost interest in sexual relations with her second husband, to whom she was recently married, and she had ceased to look for work. She usually spent her days sitting at home watching soap operas.

She was raised in a Chicago tenement, and both of her parents, who taught in a local Catholic school, were alcoholics who fought regularly with each other, and who frequently would beat her with a chain cut from a children’s swing. In order not to alarm the neighbors, Jennifer had to force herself to remain silent during these beatings. If she did cry out, her parents would only beat her more intensely until she learned to endure her punishments in silence.

As she was growing up, her older sisters would occasionally set her up by placing a pack of her parents’ cigarettes in one of her clothing drawers, and then tell on her. Unless she “told the truth” and admitted that she had stolen the cigarettes, her parents would beat her even more severely for “lying.”

She married as soon as she could in order to get away from home, vowing that she would never be beaten again. Her first husband, with whom she had two children, was an extremely jealous and possessive man who watched her every move and insisted on being waited on hand and foot. 

Jennifer’s two “signature strengths” which had kept her going were her closeness to her children and the pride which she took in her work. When she presented at my office, with a lifelong history of depression which had recently worsened with the loss of one of these signature strengths (her job), she clearly needed to change the manner in which she thought and felt about herself, the world, and the future (Beck, Rush, Shaw, & Emery, 1979). But, like many real-life clients, she was probably too depressed to become sufficiently involved with the slow, painstaking “homework assignments” of cognitive therapy. Instead, she needed an experience of mystical intensity, which would fill her with enthusiasm for life, restore her desire to work, and re-awaken her passionate relationship with her new husband.

I chose to employ a traditional hypnotic induction rather than a hyperempiric one, because I suspected that Jennifer would have learned to be extremely good at learning to dissociate due to her early childhood conditioning. Since hyperempiria literally refers to a state of "enahnced experience," high responders are often able to perform quite well by first going "down" into hypnosis and then "up" into hyperempiria, much as one might first draw back a slingshot in order to increase its forward momentum, feeling alternately shut down and hypersensitive in turn.

Jennifer responded extremely well to the induction, and was totally amnesic for the experience. With her prior knowledge and consent, I used suggestions similar to the following, pulling out all the stops to induce the required levels of happiness and enjoyment to re-orient her approach to life and to re-awaken her emotional responsiveness.

Belief systems. Now we are reaching down farther than ever before into your vast, untapped potential for feeling happiness and joy, 
Emotions. Great waves of happiness and joy are flowing out from the innermost depths of your being, like water from a hundred secret springs.
Sensations and physical perceptions. These waves of happiness and joy are bathing you from head to toe in wave after wave of infinite, boundless peace and happiness.
Motives. And the more you feel, the more you are able to feel. And the more you feel, the more you want to feel, and the more enjoyable the experience becomes.
Thoughts and images. You are pre-experiencing now, in concentrated form, the happiness and satisfaction that will always be yours in response to a job well done.  
Expectations. And as a result of these hypnotic experiences, your entire outlook on life will be different, and each new day will become a thing of wondrous beauty.
At the conclusion of each session, the intensity of her emotional level was returned to normal, post-hypnotic suggestions for relaxation and clear-headedness were provided, and the session was concluded in the usual manner.

Results

At the end of the first session, which lasted approximately thirty minutes, Jennifer became momentarily tearful, explaining that it was such a relief to have someone to talk to about her problems with her neighbors and her extended family, since her husband was not interested in these details. For the remainder of the first session and the remaining sessions, we would devote half of each session to hypnosis, and half to a discussion of these topics.

Her manner immediately brightened; and as she arrived for the third session, she announced that she had resumed sexual relations with her husband.

At about the fifth session, Jennifer told me that she had begun looking for work. She also stated that her managed care insurance company had requested a review of her case, which is customarily for workers in her State who are drawing disability for on-the-job injuries.

The insurance company review took place at the conclusion of Jennifer’s eighth session. The reviewer noted in his report that she was wearing jewelry, and did not appear to be outwardly depressed. Jennifer was amnesic for the specific content of the suggestions she was given under hypnosis, and the reviewer – apparently not wishing to be criticized for being one of the reactionaries who still do not believe in hypnosis – made no reference to the treatment itself. Instead, he focused on our discussions of Jennifer’s daily problems during the second half of our sessions, pronounced them “specious,” concluded that she was not depressed, and allowed four more sessions for termination.

Soon afterwards, Jennifer told me that she had found a job teaching the very skill for which she was disabled. At the first interview, she was asked if she would mind taking over the program and administering it. The current supervisor, apparently, was in some political difficulty, and Jennifer was being groomed from the start to become his successor, which occurred within a matter of about a month.

Jennifer was seen for a total of twelve sessions, as provided by her workmen’s compensation insurance. I called her home one Sunday, six months after the conclusion of the twelfth session, in order to ask Jennifer how she was doing. Her husband answered, and said that she had gone in to work that day, to finish cleaning up the paperwork mess left by her predecessor. I then called her at the work number which he gave me, and she reported that she was indeed doing well.

I contacted her for a second follow-up one year after her treatment had been concluded. She reported that she was still experiencing pain from her work injury, and that political problems had developed on her job, and she was currently busy with wedding preparations for her second daughter. 

Discussion

If other therapists encounter similar results with clients who are highly responsive to suggestion, it will no longer be possible to regard mystical experiences as beyond the range of voluntary human control. Instead of having to wait years or decades for experiences of this type to occur spontaneously, if indeed they happen at all. The versatility and power of the Best Me Technique should enable clients who respond well to suggestion to undergo mystical experiences as often as needed, anchoring the intensity of the emotion thus produced to suit the client's needs -- in the present instance, to an appreciation of the beauty of each new day, and the satisfaction of a job well done.

Throughout the course of human history, a few individuals have been able to have experiences of mystical intensity, which are perceived as having the potential to permanently alter the lives of those who are fortunate enough to undergo them. The fact that these experiences are now voluntarily available to a wider number of people does not detract from their mystical, life-transforming potential.

I incorporated the words "as if" into my suggestions because I regard hyperempiria as a form of experiential theater. The subjective experiences which result from "as-if" suggestions are every bit as real as if they are really happening.
  
Print References

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., & 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.