Tuesday, July 26, 2011

On Hypnosis (Part 11/20)

Views of Suggestion

While suggestion is necessary for trance, it also occurs outside of hypnosis. Most of us respond consciously and unconsciously to suggestions on a daily basis and throughout our lives. For instance, we buy certain products and choose certain brands for reasons we are not aware of, having been influenced by hypnotic suggestion used in advertising. Most children's personalities are shaped out of direct and indirect parental suggestion. The parent tells the child to "be good" or "keep quiet," or throws her a look to the same effect. The child obeys "if she knows what's good for her." Trying to please her parent or to avoid punishment, she cooperates. She is no longer spontaneous; instead her behavior adheres to the parent's instructions. Many of us grow up "not ourselves," more intent on "not making waves" and catering to other people's desires than on expressing our own individuality.

Barber contends that the fact that suggestion operates in everyday life is precisely the point which invalidates the concept of a special hypnotic state. Yapko agrees: "The trance state is a state differing from everyday mental experience only by degrees and not kind...there are no clear demarcations from the usual state to the trance state."[1] "Trance logic," or the hypnosis subject's unquestioning acceptance of suggested reality, no matter how illogical it may be, also occurs outside of hypnosis. It happens when a person lacks the critical thinking ability to objectively analyze whether something is "real" or not, such as when someone fervently believes in Heaven or in his guru's prophecy that Armageddon is coming.

According to Barber's research, trance is not necessary to elicit hypnotic-type responses – but suggestion and credibility are:

"When hypnotic induction procedures are helpful, it is not because the subject is in a "trance" or "hypnotized" in the popular sense of these terms. Instead the evidence indicates that they are helpful when they reduce the subjects' critical attitudes toward the suggestions and thus help them accept the suggestions as believable and harmonious with their own ongoing cognitions. Although hypnotic induction procedures are effective in reducing critical attitudes in some subjects, more ordinary procedures are often equally effective. Non-hypnotic procedures that have been shown to produce a high level of responsiveness to suggestions, presumably by reducing critical attitudes, include (a) exhorting subjects to try their best to imagine those things that are suggested ("task motivational instructions") and (b) urging subjects to put aside their critical attitudes and to let themselves "think with" the suggested themes."[2]

For Barber the essence of suggestion as a behavior-shaping force is credibility, and credibility requires a reduction in critical and evaluative abilities. Thus, any technique which achieves this – be it exhortations, urgings, or mild advice – could be called a hypnotic induction technique. Charismatic politicians, among others, can induce a sort of waking trance in some people, making them feel hopeful when a sober analysis of reality might lead to very different emotions. Barber additionally reports that suggestion has been shown to successfully block the skin reactions normally produced by poison ivy-like plants; to give rise to localized skin inflammation that had the specific pattern of a previously experienced burn; and to cure warts and stimulate breast development in adult women. He hypothesized that "'believed-in suggestions,' which are incorporated into ongoing cognitions, affect blood supply in the localized areas" to produce the above phenomena. Here the key term is "believed-in suggestions." I shall discuss the role of ideas in altering behavior in subsequent chapters.

For Erickson, suggestion was an important element in inducing trance. He agreed with Barber that suggestions had to be believed in and incorporated in order to be effective. But he focuses not so much on getting the subject to believe as on evoking and utilizing the subject's own innate potentials. In contrast to Barber, Erickson viewed hypnotic suggestion as something qualitatively different from non-hypnotic suggestion – a means of communicating new, therapeutic ideas that would block or alter old, non-therapeutic ideas:

"Ordinary, everyday, non-hypnotic suggestions are acted upon because we have evaluated them with our usual conscious attitudes and found them to be an acceptable guide for our behavior, and we carry them out in a voluntary manner. Hypnotic suggestion, by contrast, is different in that the patient is surprised to find that experience and behavior are altered in a seemingly autonomous manner; experience seems to be outside one's usual sense of control and self-direction."[3]

For Erickson, trance is a special state that facilitates the acceptance of suggestion. For Barber, trance is a fallacious term for procedures that reduce critical faculties and thereby facilitate the acceptance of suggestion. However, both view the acceptance of suggestion as a process involving the reduction of conscious mental processes in one way or another. Suggestion, therefore, is a matter of the mind, of suspending the subject's critical thinking. The trick is to word and present suggestions in such a way that they are accepted by the mind and then acted upon by both mind and body – so that the hypnosis subject will begin salivating as she gets ready to take imaginary pieces of divinity fudge from an imaginary tray.

[1]Trancework, p. 140.
[2]T.X. Barber, "Hypnosis, Suggestions, and Psychosomatic Phenomena: A New Look from the Standpoint of Recent Experimental Studies," American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 1979, _____, pp. 13-25.
[3]Erickson, et al., Hypnotic Realities, p. 20.


  1. Hi,

    Excuse me but where does one draw the line between "client lead". . . "free association" and "re-creation" (of a new fantastic self) and particularly when a mentor is guiding you on the way?

    The mentor could be your psychotherapist.

    It seems to me that the reason why Art is so persistent in his presentation of the facts of our neurological evolution is because the fantasising process can be manipulated through the willingness of the 'patient' to receive loving and growth-full suggestions.

    Not the doors of perception but the doors of suggestibility (through the "counter-transference"; y'know, the way the therapist has to defend himself from the projections of his clients. . . ., all in the interests of interpreting the clients' needs)?

    Thus if Art didn't keep banging on about this truth till he drops, he might give some of us the impression, or do I mean the suggestion that he didn't believe in his convictions as a scientist.

    I mean, when we are in that trance we will believe what our mentors tell us until they stop and then in the absence of a mentor (feeding our beliefs) we will find others to replace the feeling of being cared for. We will allow ourselves the flexibility of a modified belief system to accommodate the new supply.

    Love is a food and we need to eat.

    Who runs the supermarkets of love?

    Paul G.

  2. "Barber additionally reports that suggestion has been shown to successfully block the skin reactions normally produced by poison ivy-like plants; to give rise to localized skin inflammation that had the specific pattern of a previously experienced burn; and to cure warts and stimulate breast development in adult women."

    we need more studies. we need more neurological evidence. we need to define the difference between a neocortex that shuts down during a primal, and a neocortex that shuts down during hypnosis. what are the long term effects of hypnosis? where is the evidence? who cares?

  3. An email comment:
    " dear dr. janov, hello!

    i am enjoying reading your posts. due to your articles on hypnosis, i thought i'd let you know what i have experienced in my work and ask you a question or two.

    i am a hypnotherapist.... not really a hypnotist, for i don't really like the idea of hypnosis. i DE-hypnotize people... after all, we don't need MORE suggestions, we need to release the grievous suggestions we've internalized and we're fine again. living in a walking trance, believing we are mere human bodies and personalities, we merely need to release the past, specifically the trauma that anchored us into our bodies; the trauma that made us think we are bodies. what i have found is that often that trauma was often planted long before this lifetime.

    1) as i said, i am not a typical hypnotist. i never gave a client a suggestion that they were going to go to a past life. i would just help them relax fully and then ask them to ask their inner wisdom what it would like to show or tell them about the 'issue' they came with. i would use the words they used - anger, anxiety, sorrow. i tried to be as neutral as possible, to not color their experience, but to get out of the way.

    2) their 'inner wisdom' without prompting would show them a scene that i never asked questions about, but just accepted as if it was 'ordinary'. i never asked questions such as 'what year is it?' or 'what is your name?' or anything like that. i would just listen to their story, mirror a few of their own words occasionally back to them, and treat 'whoever showed up' as if they were the client. and they were always humble creatures - someone on a slave ship who escaped by starving herself to death, a child whose family lost their crops to a locust swarm, someone who was pushed over a cliff by men on horseback by the light of the moon, someone who lost their head in battle, etc.

    3) without my direction or help, they would simply recognize that yes, a trauma happened in the past and yet they were safe here and now... and they would simply be brought up to date - by their own inner wisdom. i was just the lucky observer of shift after shift, miracle after miracle.

    4) this worked on a physical level too. you wrote, "Something in the present resonates with her history, and then she becomes a prisoner of that history; a prisoner of pain." i would say, once we are free of that history, we are also free of the accompanying bodily sensations. i am convinced that the pain is an invitation to us to focus on the past trauma and release it.

    i wonder if you have had people in primal therapy relive their circumcisions? i think it is a hugely ignored early childhood trauma and much healing is needed in this regard. p.s. i was circumcised as a little girl in kansas so i have been studying the subject and have learned a lot about the differences between the mindsets of the circumcised and natural.

    this work never tired me; it always invigorated me. never wearied me or bored me. i think that's how you know you're doing it right, hmm? i suspect you know that already. :)

  4. Hi,

    I'm sorry but I cannot buy into this hypnotherapists' menu of belief about her practical methods.

    -" release the trauma, release the past"-

    -"trying to be as neutral as possible"-

    -" brought up to date by their own inner wisdom"-

    -" shift after shift, miracle after miracle"-

    -" I think that's how you know you're doing it right, hmmm"?-

    I'm sorry but I am deeply suspicious of this rhetoric; all it does for me is show how it's possible to hear Arts' words and interpret a confirmation of something completely different about ones' own belief system.

    Here I sense some-one deeply traumatised symbolically 'recovering' from their own abhorrent abuse through the entrancement of her patients.

    Really I hope I'm wrong. Who am I to make such a damning denouncement? But after everything Art has said about hypnotism and suggestion all I sense is this poor womans' own self suggested hypnotic vision of wellness. Living through the pain of her clients.

    Paul G.

  5. Paul G: There is a very good piece in the latest Scientific American about the Rehabs and how they fail, written by a neurologist. art janov

  6. Hi Art,

    Tried to find this article, found lots of interesting stuff, but can you put a date on the piece with a title so i can be sure of what you are referring to?

    Paul G.

  7. Paul: I have no idea what you are referring to. AJ


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.
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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.