Don E. Gibbons, Ph.D., NJ Licensed Psychologist #03513
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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Hypnosis and Human Evolution

To borrow a line from Charles Dickens, “One thing must be clearly understood, or no good can come from the story I am about to tell.” Our brain creates our own reality!  What is really out there bears no resemblance to what we actually perceive through our senses, as any philosopher or physicist will affirm. Because our brain does create our own reality out of the buzzing, blooming confusion of raw sensory input, we can use the power of suggestion to mentally construct a future in which we experience now, in the present, the complete and total fulfillment of our existence, in whatever way we choose to define it, thereby eliminating much of the anxiety, anger, and depression which are so frequently the hallmarks of everyday life, and, with this fulfillmment already pre-determined in our own minds, allowing us to act, think, and feel as if it were impossible to fail.  

With the fulfillment of our existence already an accomplished fact in the Multuverse, the univerwse of all possible universes,  if one particular goal in the present should not be achieved, it becomes easy to switch to another with undiminished enthusiasm. In the words of Watterson Lowe, “Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years wrinkle the face, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-interest, fear, despair -- these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust.”

Confucius said, *Tell me and I may not remember. Show me and I may forget. Involve me and I will understand.”  Human evolution has given us the ability to hypnotcally project our anawareness into the future and experience now, in the present, the rewards of distant goals, thereby eliminating or greatly reducing the need for “will power” in order to attain them. As I began to use  hypnosis in my psychology practice to fully involve clients in corrective experiences which transcend the limitations of ordinary reality, I soon discovered that in one way or another, these life-changing events involved releasing into their own lives the indwelling presence of God.

When we have a long-term goal whose rewards are in the future, we attempt to bridge this gap between present efforts and future sources of satisfaction by daydreaming, autosuggestion, "positive thinking," affirmations, visualization, and fantasy techniques, These usually don't help very much, because they still don't do enough to involve the whole person in the satisfactions of goal attainment. Eventually, even though our long-term goal remains as attractive as ever, our motivation begins to falter, and sooner or later we give up. If the gap between our aspirations and what we are able to do involves the attainment of a major life goal, such as becoming a successful writer, artist, or composer, the gap between what we aspire to do and what we have actually achieved can often be great enough to cause a full-blown existential depression.

By hypnotically projecting our imagination into a parallel universe where our goal has already been achieved, we can experience the rewards of these goals now, in the pr4sent, where they are most needed for motivation (Gubbibs & Woods, 2016). If you can pre-experience the fulfillment of this goal with your entire being, then you will be able to act, think, and feel as if it were impossible to fail!

The Best Me Technique of miltimodal hypnosis (Gibbons, 2001) is a method of suggestion-enhanced experience for involving your whole person in the content of a suggested event, which enables those who are sufficiently imaginative and properly trained in this procedure to experience in the present and in concentrated form, the rewards and satisfactions which would not normally be theirs until a goal has been achieved. This in turn can provide the motivational fuel to pursue whatever goal we may have chosen, no matter how distant or difficult that goal might otherwise appear.

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); and these elements can be combined in a variety of ways. In the hyperempiric adventure which follows, the Best Me Technique is used to pre-experience the rewards of a graduation ceremony in order to enhance the motivation to pursue a course of study leading to an academic degree. However, the Best Me Technique can also be used to as part of a comprehensive program to enhance performance in other areas, such as athletics, music, dance, and theater or as part of a program to lose weight, or to become a non-smoker, or to rid oneself of other forms of addiction.

The suggestions are presented in B-E-S-T-M-E order for the sake of illustration; but in actual use, Best Me suggestions may be repeated in any order and varied and repeated as often as necessary in order to maximize involvement with their content, much as one might repeat the verses and choruses of a song. Rather than memorizing a specific set of suggestions or reading them to the client as a script, I usually count out the steps of the Best Me Technique on my fingers as I am improvising an induction or a therapeutic suggestion, going back and forth to make sure that I have adequately covered them all. This gives me more freedom to individualize my suggestions to better meet the needs of each individual, and to use their body language to gauge the speed and content of my delivery.

The incentive value of the Best Me Technique can be further enhanced by pre-experiencing the rewarding results of other situations related to the goal, such as celebrating at a graduation party with friends and family, or relaxing on the deck of a cruise ship on a much-deserved vacation after a long-desired degree is actually in hand. It is also helpful to pre-experience the rewards of sub-goals along the way, such as doing well on an upcoming major examination, or enjoying the semester break, secure in the certain knowledge that one is on the way to an inevitable success. At the conclusion of an appropriate hypnotic or induction, suggestions similar to the following may be given, with appropriate repetition and elaboration, much as one might vary the verses and choruses of a song.

Belief systems. Now you can feel your awareness of the present beginning to fade, as you become ever more clearly aware of yourself 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!

After allowing time to fully enjoy the experience for a few moments, the induction may be concluded in an appropriate manner. Once the technique has been mastered, it can be repeated daily as a form of experiential meditation until the goal is actually attained.  

The Importance of Sub-Goals

Confucius said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." About thirty percent of all the graduate students who have to write a dissertation as the final step in attaining their doctorate fail to do so. This is frequently because, when they think of a dissertation as a book-length project, the task looks too formidable and too difficult. But if they can break the job down into meaningful sub-goals, and experience a feeling of achievement when each of these steps is attained, it doesn't matter how long the journey is because they have learned to reward themselves at the completion of each small step.

I once knew a graduate student at the University of Portland who inherited three million dollars while he was enrolled in the Psychology program. He did not touch the money except inr one type of situation. He would treat himself and a date to a big steak dinner at a local restaurant every time he passed a test, and live frugally the rest of the time.  By successfully achieving a series of small sub-goals along the way, he obtained his degree with relative ease. As Martin Luther King put it, "If you can't run, walk. If you can't walk, crawl. But keep moving forward!"  

When there Is No "Impossible Dream"

When there is no clearly-identified goal upon which to focus, or when existing goals are not desired strongly enough to fully motivate a person to achieve them, suggestions such as the following can be given to increase the enjoyment of goal attainment in general.
Belief systems. Now we are going to help you to experience in concentrated form, both your desire to achieve and your ability to feel the satisfactions you are going to feel in the future from the fulfillment of a job well done.

Emotions. We are reaching down into the depths of your vast, untapped potential for feeling happiness and joy. Great waves of happiness and joy are flooding out from the depths of your potential, growing stronger and more beautiful and more intense with every passing second.  

Sensations and physical perceptions. The waves of joy are becoming stronger and more intense, filling and flooding every muscle, and fiber, and nerve of your entire body with a beauty and which is greater than anything you could possibly imagine.

Thoughts and images. Your mind is filled with such beauty and such joy that it is impossible to think of anything else, and all you can do is feel these waves of joy washing over you., growing in beauty and intensity with every passing second.

Motives. This is the kind of fulfillment you will be able to feel when you put your whole self into doing a job – any job – well. And you will have plenty of energy left over to enjoy every other aspect of life to the fullest.

Expectations. And I don’t know whether this experience will leave you with new goals, or with a re-dedication to the ones you already have. But in either case it will be a transforming moment, for it will have the power to change your life.

By using the Best Me Technique along with the necessary changes you need to make in your environment in order to accomplish the goals you have chosen, you will be able to provide yourself with the inspiration and incentive for a lifetime of accomplishment and personal growth.

A Word of Caution

Of course, we must still be able to give up on goals which are really not worth pursuing, no mater how attractive they may seem at first, in order to protect ourselves from our own mistakes in judgment. The world is full of people who want to become a success as writers, actors, sports heroes, and a host of other things, but are simply not cut out for that kind of work. On the other hand, many goals which may may seem impossible at first are attainable if we are willing to work long enough and hard enough. As we develop the ability to choose our motives as well as our goals, i.e., to have free will in the truest sense of the term, it is up to each of us to decide how practical or how idealistic we want to be.

Recently, Kelley Woods and I (Gibbons & Woods, 2016)I 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 this universe and inducing emotions which are as pleasant as possible -- i.e., "dissolving  into an ocean of infinite, unbounded, and everlasting love," we suggest 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!"  

“Jan” was a 59 year old single white female with a Ph.D. in biology.  After a successful academic career, Jan decided to change course and enrolled in a medical technology program.  She hoped that her new laboratory skills, along with her doctorate, would help her to begin a new career in a hospital.

Several years ago, Jan had worked extensively with a hypnotist when she was in another transitional phase in her life.  From this previous experience, we knew that she was not only open to hypnosis, but was also highly responsive to suggestion. This time, Jan was seeking help with confidence.  She was particularly concerned about her final examination in hematology.  Following is a transcript of the multimodal hypnosis session which occurred a few days prior to her examination.

Sensations and physical perceptions.  Just imagine that it’s a warm summer afternoon, and that you’re lying on the deck of a small boat which is safely tethered at the edge of a shallow bay, about a hundred feet from shore.

Belief systems.  If you accept each detail of the scene as I describe it, without trying to think critically, your imagination will allow you to experience the situation just as if you were really there.  

Sensations and physical perceptions. Let your body absorb the peacefulness which is all around you, as the boat rocks you gently back and forth and the sun shines warmly down.  Let the warm, golden glow of the sunlight spread throughout your entire body, relaxing you completely from head to toe.  Feel the cool breeze upon your skin, and savor the freshness of the fresh, salt air. Listen to the cries of the birds in the distance, and the sound of the water quietly splashing against the side of your boat as it rocks you gently back and forth, and that warm, golden glow of the sunlight relaxes you more and more with each passing moment.

          Emotions.  As that warm, relaxed feeling grows and grows, it is driving out all of your worry, all of your tension, and all of your cares, leaving you filled with perfect, infinite, boundless peace, calm, and tranquility.

Thoughts and images.  It’s so calm, and so peaceful there in the bottom of your boat, that all you want to do is keep drifting, and dreaming, and floating on, and on, and on, into a deep, peaceful state of total relaxation.

As the sun slowly sinks lower and lower on the horizon, you can just let go, and allow your consciousness to sink down into a deep, peaceful hypnotic state.  Sinking down, and shutting down. Sinking down, and shutting down. Sinking down, and shutting down, and shutting down completely, as the sun gradually sinks lower and lower on the horizon. As the sun slowly sets, and the sunlight turns to twilight, and the twilight turns to darkness, you can let yourself drift even deeper.

Motives.  And the deeper you go, the deeper you want to go.  And the deeper you go, the deeper you’re able to go, and the more enjoyable the experience becomes.

Expectations.  Now, while you remain deeply hypnotized, I am going to guide you to experience a different situation, which will be of great help to you as you prepare for all of the remaining tests in the course. You will always be able to hear and to respond to my voice, and I will bring you out of hypnosis in a few minutes.  But until I do, every aspect of the situation to which I guide you will be completely real, and you will experience it all just as if you were really there.

Belief systems.  Now I’m going to ask you to experience a different scene, in which 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.

Sensations and physical perceptions.  Feel the crisp, cold winter air 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. Down in the valley below, at the very foot of the mountain, you can see the goal you have been trying to reach. Your journey has brought you as far as this mountaintop; but all along the mountainside, standing between you and your objective, are barriers and obstacles of many kinds, which have been blocking you from the attainment of your goal.

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 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.

Emotions. And 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 confidence growing along with it.

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

Motives. As the boulder begins to roll downwards on its own, you can feel your 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 all obstacles in its path, as it thunders all the way to the bottom of the mountain.

Thoughts and images.  As you stride purposefully down the mountainside, you feel more and more confidence.  And as you complete your descent and approach the valley, you find that the snow has disappeared and the winter has turned into spring.  The air has suddenly grown much warmer, and the trees are covered with fresh, green leaves. The birds are singing, the flowers are in full bloom, and a small brook is bubbling quietly as it flows beside your path.

           Motives.  Just as the climate around you has turned into springtime, your future has turned into springtime as well. You know that your life headed for a certain and inevitable success, in ways which you cannot presently even imagine.

Expectations.  And whenever you have a carefully chosen goal that you can deeply believe in, you will be able to act, think, and feel as if it were a reality.

Belief systems.  In just a few moments now, you will return to the everyday state of consciousness in which we spend most of our waking lives.

Emotions. Your mind will be clear and alert, and you will be excited about the opportunities to put these experiences to use.

Sensations and physical perceptions.   You know how helpful hypnosis has been to you before, in ways you did not realize at the time.

Thoughts and images.  And you will also find many new ways to use today’s experiences, in addition to the ways you already know.

Motives.  Now, you are ready to resume your life’s journey of achievement, secure in the knowledge that, in whatever form it may take, you are destined for a complete and inevitable success.

Expectations.  As soon as you are ready now, you can open your eyes, feeling wonderful.  [ after a brief pause:] You can open your eyes now, feeling wonderful!

Jan told us later that she had decided during the hypnotic experience to construct her boulder in a different location than the one which was suggested. Since the snow on a mountaintop is very fine and powdery, she reasoned, she had chosen to imagine herself in the back yard of the house where she had lived as a child, “where the snow was wetter,” and consequently better suited to making a snowball.  As she rolled the boulder downhill and into her neighbor’s yard, its weight exposed a stretch of green lawn beneath it. Then, in order to experience the springtime scene, she had visualized herself in a nearby park. She believed that the imagery was effective; but she stated that she had wanted me to repeat the suggestions about feeling, and acting.

Instead of questioning her about it, I decided to re-frame her choice in a way which would facilitate her sense of empowerment.  I complimented her on her selection of new imagery, and told her that the clients who seemed to benefit the most from hypnotic suggestion were those who felt free to spontaneously modify the suggestions they were given in order to better suit their own needs and preferences.

Then, on a file card, I wrote the following summary: “Believe it will happen, will it to happen, and feel it happening.  As you do, you will be able to act, think, and feel as if it were a reality,” which incorporated all six multimodal hypnosis categories. She was then briefly re-hypnotized, and it was suggested that the statements on the file card would serve as posthypnotic suggestions whenever she looked at it; and that as soon as she became sufficiently familiar with their content, she would be able to repeat them to herself as autosuggestions whenever she desired to do so.


Jan reported back that she had studied just one day for her hematology final examination, rather than her usual three, and that she had gone into the examination room with confidence. She earned a score of 95% on her examination, and was elated.

In a telephone follow-up which was conducted some weeks later, Jan expressed some anxiety over an upcoming microbiology exam. A. K. S. added the following to Jan’s multimodal autosuggestions:

Thoughts and images.  Everything you read, write, study, and learn will be absorbed into your brain as if it were a sponge.
         Sensations and perceptions.  When it comes time to take your tests, the information will flow forth from your brain, down your neck, shoulder, arm, hand, fingers, and into your pen and onto the paper.
          Thoughts and images.  Everything you read, write, study, and learn will be engraved upon your mind as if it were stone.

          Expectations.  And when you take your exams, you can pluck the information out when you need it.

Jan did indeed become a medical technologist, and no she longer regards any examination as a “life or death” situation.  During her one-year course, she reported that she consistently obtained “A” grades on her tests after only a reasonable amount of preparation, and without experiencing any more anxiety than she regarded as “normal.”  She indicated that she repeats these suggestions to herself several times a week; and that she continued to experience a noticeable increase in confidence as a result.

By restricting Jan’s use of multimodal autosuggestion to those situations in which she had a carefully-chosen goal that she could deeply believe in, we were attempting to avoid several common pitfalls attendant upon its indiscriminate application.  Emboldened by their initial successes, many people who have mastered various techniques involving the use of positive affirmations may be inclined to apply them to more and more areas of their life, without sufficient forethought.  As they encounter more and more unforeseen problems, their confidence in these procedures begin to wane, and eventually, it becomes difficult for them to escape the belief that they are merely lying to themselves.

Clients have been saying things like, "I can't thank you enough!" and, "I'm at a point in my life now where I think I can accomplish anything!" The changes which they are reporting in their lives seem to bear this out.  It's too early for any hard data, as we have just begun to use these techniques. But we would like to invite you to join us in exploring these fascinating new realms of experience, and sharing with us in the thrill of discovery.  

Gibbons, D. E., & Woods, K. T. (2016) Virtual reality hypnosis: Exploring alternate and parallel universes. Amazon Books, 2016. (Both print and Kindle editions are available.)