Monday, July 25, 2011

On Hypnosis (Part 10/20)

Not everyone can go into a hypnotic trance, salivate at the "sight" of imaginary fudge, or be hypnotically transported into the past. For those who can go into a hypnotic trance, there is great variation in the depth and type of trance manifested. What produces a trance in the first place? What accounts for what occurs during the trance and for variations in it? Furthermore, how to explain age regression and so-called past-lives regression in hypnosis subjects? It seems to be a matter of the giving of suggestion and the degree of responsiveness to suggestion, also known as suggestibility.

In hypnosis, suggestion refers to statements made by the hypnotist intended to influence the hypnotic subject. The most obvious of these are the suggestions used to induce the hypnotic trance itself. Suggestion is also the basis of a hypnosis subject's belief that hypnotism can help him in some way. Suggestibility is defined by Yapko, a leading hypnotherapist, as "an openness to accepting new ideas, new information."[1] It refers to a person's capacity to be influenced by another person, that person's words, or by hypnotic techniques employed. In the ongoing controversy within the psychotherapeutic community over the retrieval of repressed memories of childhood abuse, suggestibility is central to the question
of how to distinguish between a real memory and a "pseudo-memory" which may have been elicited, "implanted," or suggested by a psychotherapist.

In a 1982 study, Robert A. Baker showed how easily most "normal human subjects" can be hypnotized as well as "persuaded" to "remember" their prior incarnations. Sixty undergraduates were hypnotized with the intent of age-regressing them to previous lifetimes. They were divided into three groups of 20 each. Prior to being hypnotized, members of each group had been told they were participating in a study of relaxation and had listened to taped suggestions either supportive of or condemning the idea of past-lives therapy. Of the group exposed to supportive comments, 17 of 20 later reported returning to "another life" while under hypnosis. Of the group members exposed to a taped message which ridiculed past-lives therapy, only two did so. In discussing this study, Baker came to a number of conclusions:

* If subjects expected to have a past-life experience, they did, and if they did not expect to have one, they did not;

* The idea of having lived before seems both appealing and powerful;

* Most hypnosis subjects are highly suggestible and easily influenced by the hypnotist's tone of voice, manner, and attitudes; and

* Rather than evidencing the reality of reincarnation, past-lives regression is "the result of suggestions made by the hypnotist, expectations held by the subjects, and the demand characteristics of the hypnoidal relationship."[2]

Suggestion is the hypnotherapist's principal tool. Suggestibility on the part of the subject makes him "open" to the hypnotist's suggestive ideas. In the absence of suggestibility, a hypnotist cannot induce a trance, much less utilize the trance state for specific ends.

Using Suggestion to Induce a Hypnotic Trance

While the neurological and psychological mechanisms responsible for a successful response to suggestion are not yet established scientifically (though we may surmise what they are, as discussed below), the external effects of suggestion can be validly described:

The hypnotized individual appears to heed only the communications of the hypnotist. He seems to respond in an uncritical, automatic fashion, ignoring all aspects of the environment other than those made relevant by the hypnotist. Apparently with no will of his own, he sees, feels, smells, and tastes in accordance with the suggestions in apparent contradiction to the stimuli that impinge upon him. Even memory and awareness of self may be altered by suggestion, and the effects of the suggestions may be extended (post-hypnotically) into subsequent waking activity.[3]

Hypnosis is supposedly "induced" by the giving of suggestion. Because of this, much ado has been made in the last several decades over discovering and developing efficient hypnotic induction techniques. Of the leading hypnosis researchers, only Barber believes hypnotic induction procedures are irrelevant. The more common belief is that the techniques play an important role in establishing rapport with the subject,[4] which in turn affects how responsive the subject is to the hypnotist's later suggestions.

Ordinary hypnotic inductions begin with simple suggestions for relaxation that are easily accepted and acted upon by the subject. "You are falling into a deep sleep" is the suggestion which most readily comes to mind, with the subject's eyes focused on a shiny object dangling from a string and swinging back and forth. In the study on past-life regression mentioned above, the induction procedure began with the subject being told to fix his gaze on a spot above a ceiling lamp, while it was suggested that a "warm light globe" in the center of his head was moving slowly and systematically through his body, "warming and relaxing the muscles and melting the tension as it moved."[5] Once relaxation is evident, the hypnotist attempts to "deepen" the hypnotic trance, such as by suggesting increasing distortions in perception and memory. For example, an earlier suggestion to the subject that "Your eyelids are becoming heavier and heavier until they finally close," may now become a "challenge" suggestion than "Your eyelids are shutting tight... tighter... tighter. You cannot open them even if you try."

The next step is "utilization," or using suggestion to make the subject do certain things or be transported in a certain direction, such as to regress him into his own past. Perhaps the hypnotist says, "I want you to go back in your mind, back to a time long ago, when you first rode a bicycle, keep going back and back and back..." and so on. In one approach to inducing age regression, known as the "television technique," the subject is told to imagine a TV screen in his mind on which he will soon see a recording of an event in his life long ago. He will also be able to stop the picture if he wants, reverse or fast forward the event, and zoom in on particular details.[6]

In order to prolong a desired hypnotic effect, the hypnotist may give post-hypnotic suggestions for the subject to respond to at a later time. Post-hypnotic suggestion usually combines amnesia with the suggestion so that when the person later responds to the suggestion he has no conscious understanding of why he is doing so. For example, the subject may have been instructed to re-enter a trance state whenever he sees the hypnotist scratch his chin, wherever and whenever that may occur. Erickson reported many a subject or patient lapsing into a trance state upon encountering him at a later date – sometimes involving several years – in some unexpected social situation such as a conference or a cocktail party.

[1]_Yapko, M.D., Trancework: An Introduction to the Practice of Clinical Hypnosis. (New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1990), p. 88.
[2]Baker, Robert A., "The Effect of Suggestion on Past-Lives Regression." American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 25(1), July 1982, 71-76.
[3]Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th Edition, 1981.
[4]"The process of discovering what your client wants and how to best reach him is the process of acquiring rapport," writes Yapko, "arising when your client feels you have an understanding of his experience." Trancework, p. 102.
[5]Baker, op cit., p. 73-74.
[6]Council on Scientific Affairs, "Scientific Status of Refreshing Recollection by the Use of Hypnosis." Journal of the American Medical Association, 253(13), April 5, 1985, pp. 1918-1923.


  1. Quote: "The hypnotized individual appears to heed only the communications of the hypnotist."

    I made the comment earlier that 'the group' might function in place of the authoritative hypnotists. I have also long noticed that people often only see their here-and-now reality through their group, or more specifically the suggestions of their groups. The group directs what they do and do not 'turn on' to.

    For example, they may not be open to a given piece of music or idea [in terms of allowing their 'system' to even entertain it] unless the group first suggests that they should. Until then objects/stimulants literally disappear into the background of their perception. It basically doesn't even exist to them.

    Same dynamic? Maybe, I suppose.

  2. I note that the Dog Whisperer on NatGeo TV, shows that you can not work with a dog till you get him into the right state of mind, calm and submissive. I think this is much the same for humans. Hypnotists get people into the most receptive state and then make their suggestions. In both dog and humans, it seems to work. But again, the state is one we can get into without “hypnosis.” In fact, if we put ourselves into a good state before trying to receive or think or whatever, we might do just as well. But most of us prefer a “parental” hand, the old transference mentioned by Paul G in part 11.

    We can not think or do many things when in a state of fear, anxiety, anger, or other such intellectual blocking moods and emotions. Gaining some control of emotions could be helpful OUTSIDE of PT.

    I also note in books I have read about hypnotism, that the calm consistent tone of voice is important. This seems to reinforce what I have said previously above. Our tone of voice is important when talking to our kids or mate or whoever.

  3. Andrew,

    As small I began to feel ashamed at the mere thought ...question of what others would think about what I thought. So… first listen and then fallow others ‘values were obvious to me. What a life… a hypnotic state in constant pain. Still there… if not in control.



Review of "Beyond Belief"

This thought-provoking and important book shows how people are drawn toward dangerous beliefs.
“Belief can manifest itself in world-changing ways—and did, in some of history’s ugliest moments, from the rise of Adolf Hitler to the Jonestown mass suicide in 1979. Arthur Janov, a renowned psychologist who penned The Primal Scream, fearlessly tackles the subject of why and how strong believers willingly embrace even the most deranged leaders.
Beyond Belief begins with a lucid explanation of belief systems that, writes Janov, “are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively.” While belief systems are not presented as inherently bad, the author concentrates not just on why people adopt belief systems, but why “alienated individuals” in particular seek out “belief systems on the fringes.” The result is a book that is both illuminating and sobering. It explores, for example, how a strongly-held belief can lead radical Islamist jihadists to murder others in suicide acts. Janov writes, “I believe if people had more love in this life, they would not be so anxious to end it in favor of some imaginary existence.”
One of the most compelling aspects of Beyond Belief is the author’s liberal use of case studies, most of which are related in the first person by individuals whose lives were dramatically affected by their involvement in cults. These stories offer an exceptional perspective on the manner in which belief systems can take hold and shape one’s experiences. Joan’s tale, for instance, both engaging and disturbing, describes what it was like to join the Hare Krishnas. Even though she left the sect, observing that participants “are stunted in spiritual awareness,” Joan considers returning someday because “there’s a certain protection there.”
Janov’s great insight into cultish leaders is particularly interesting; he believes such people have had childhoods in which they were “rejected and unloved,” because “only unloved people want to become the wise man or woman (although it is usually male) imparting words of wisdom to others.” This is just one reason why Beyond Belief is such a thought-provoking, important book.”
Barry Silverstein, Freelance Writer

Quotes for "Life Before Birth"

“Life Before Birth is a thrilling journey of discovery, a real joy to read. Janov writes like no one else on the human mind—engaging, brilliant, passionate, and honest.
He is the best writer today on what makes us human—he shows us how the mind works, how it goes wrong, and how to put it right . . . He presents a brand-new approach to dealing with depression, emotional pain, anxiety, and addiction.”
Paul Thompson, PhD, Professor of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine

Art Janov, one of the pioneers of fetal and early infant experiences and future mental health issues, offers a robust vision of how the earliest traumas of life can percolate through the brains, minds and lives of individuals. He focuses on both the shifting tides of brain emotional systems and the life-long consequences that can result, as well as the novel interventions, and clinical understanding, that need to be implemented in order to bring about the brain-mind changes that can restore affective equanimity. The transitions from feelings of persistent affective turmoil to psychological wholeness, requires both an understanding of the brain changes and a therapist that can work with the affective mind at primary-process levels. Life Before Birth, is a manifesto that provides a robust argument for increasing attention to the neuro-mental lives of fetuses and infants, and the widespread ramifications on mental health if we do not. Without an accurate developmental history of troubled minds, coordinated with a recognition of the primal emotional powers of the lowest ancestral regions of the human brain, therapists will be lost in their attempt to restore psychological balance.
Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.
Bailey Endowed Chair of Animal Well Being Science
Washington State University

Dr. Janov’s essential insight—that our earliest experiences strongly influence later well being—is no longer in doubt. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, immunology, and epigenetics, we can now see some of the mechanisms of action at the heart of these developmental processes. His long-held belief that the brain, human development, and psychological well being need to studied in the context of evolution—from the brainstem up—now lies at the heart of the integration of neuroscience and psychotherapy.
Grounded in these two principles, Dr. Janov continues to explore the lifelong impact of prenatal, birth, and early experiences on our brains and minds. Simultaneously “old school” and revolutionary, he synthesizes traditional psychodynamic theories with cutting-edge science while consistently highlighting the limitations of a strict, “top-down” talking cure. Whether or not you agree with his philosophical assumptions, therapeutic practices, or theoretical conclusions, I promise you an interesting and thought-provoking journey.
Lou Cozolino, PsyD, Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University

In Life Before Birth Dr. Arthur Janov illuminates the sources of much that happens during life after birth. Lucidly, the pioneer of primal therapy provides the scientific rationale for treatments that take us through our original, non-verbal memories—to essential depths of experience that the superficial cognitive-behavioral modalities currently in fashion cannot possibly touch, let alone transform.
Gabor Maté MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction

An expansive analysis! This book attempts to explain the impact of critical developmental windows in the past, implores us to improve the lives of pregnant women in the present, and has implications for understanding our children, ourselves, and our collective future. I’m not sure whether primal therapy works or not, but it certainly deserves systematic testing in well-designed, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled clinical trials.
K.J.S. Anand, MBBS, D. Phil, FAACP, FCCM, FRCPCH, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Senior Scholar, Center for Excellence in Faith and Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System

A baby's brain grows more while in the womb than at any time in a child's life. Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script That Rules Our Lives is a valuable guide to creating healthier babies and offers insight into healing our early primal wounds. Dr. Janov integrates the most recent scientific research about prenatal development with the psychobiological reality that these early experiences do cast a long shadow over our entire lifespan. With a wealth of experience and a history of successful psychotherapeutic treatment, Dr. Janov is well positioned to speak with clarity and precision on a topic that remains critically important.
Paula Thomson, PsyD, Associate Professor, California State University, Northridge & Professor Emeritus, York University

"I am enthralled.
Dr. Janov has crafted a compelling and prophetic opus that could rightly dictate
PhD thesis topics for decades to come. Devoid of any "New Age" pseudoscience,
this work never strays from scientific orthodoxy and yet is perfectly accessible and
downright fascinating to any lay person interested in the mysteries of the human psyche."
Dr. Bernard Park, MD, MPH

His new book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” shows that primal therapy, the lower-brain therapeutic method popularized in the 1970’s international bestseller “Primal Scream” and his early work with John Lennon, may help alleviate depression and anxiety disorders, normalize blood pressure and serotonin levels, and improve the functioning of the immune system.
One of the book’s most intriguing theories is that fetal imprinting, an evolutionary strategy to prepare children to cope with life, establishes a permanent set-point in a child's physiology. Baby's born to mothers highly anxious during pregnancy, whether from war, natural disasters, failed marriages, or other stressful life conditions, may thus be prone to mental illness and brain dysfunction later in life. Early traumatic events such as low oxygen at birth, painkillers and antidepressants administered to the mother during pregnancy, poor maternal nutrition, and a lack of parental affection in the first years of life may compound the effect.
In making the case for a brand-new, unified field theory of psychotherapy, Dr. Janov weaves together the evolutionary theories of Jean Baptiste Larmarck, the fetal development studies of Vivette Glover and K.J.S. Anand, and fascinating new research by the psychiatrist Elissa Epel suggesting that telomeres—a region of repetitive DNA critical in predicting life expectancy—may be significantly altered during pregnancy.
After explaining how hormonal and neurologic processes in the womb provide a blueprint for later mental illness and disease, Dr. Janov charts a revolutionary new course for psychotherapy. He provides a sharp critique of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and other popular “talk therapy” models for treating addiction and mental illness, which he argues do not reach the limbic system and brainstem, where the effects of early trauma are registered in the nervous system.
“Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” is scheduled to be published by NTI Upstream in October 2011, and has tremendous implications for the future of modern psychology, pediatrics, pregnancy, and women’s health.