Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On Hypnosis (Part 21/26)

(There are 6 more articles to come on Hypnosis...)

We view hypnotherapy as a process whereby we help people utilize their own mental associations, memories, and life potentials to achieve their own therapeutic goals. Hypnotic suggestions can facilitate the utilization of abilities and potentials that already exist within a person but that remain unused or underdeveloped because of a lack of training or understanding.[1]

In Erickson's terms, trance is a time during which "the limitations of one's usual frames of references and beliefs are temporarily altered so one can be receptive to other patterns of association and modes of mental functioning that are conducive to problem-solving."[2] Hypnotherapy, then, is a "learning process for the patient, a procedure for re-education.[3] [Emphasis added] Erickson's approach deals with the casualties of neurosis (the "learned limitations"). He believed that it was his role to actively change patients -- to use hypnosis and post-hypnotic amnesia to help them restructure their thinking. He viewed hypnotherapy as process for/of restructuring thinking.
Prominent psychotherapist and researcher Jay Haley studied Erickson extensively. The titles of two of his books on Erickson -- Uncommon Therapy: The Psychiatric Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, M.D. (1973), and Ordeal Therapy (1984) -- suggest the idiosyncratic nature of Erickson's techniques. For example, Erickson had a propensity to employ sexist language, verbal assaults, and other bullying approaches when treating women.[4] He was also an authoritarian therapist, as seen in the terms he dictated to a "plump," unhappy, unkempt, and unloved 35-year-old woman who had come to him for treatment:

These terms are absolute, full, and complete obedience in relation to every instruction I give you regardless of what I order or demand...You will be told what to do, and you will do it. That's it. If I tell you to resign your position, you will resign. If I tell you to eat fresh garlic cloves for breakfast, you will eat them...I want action and response -- not words, ideas, theories, concepts...Once you come, you are committed to therapy, and your bank account belongs to me as does the registration certificate for your car...I will tell you what to do and how to do it, and you are to be a most obedient patient.[5]

To "re-educate" this patient, from whom he had demanded complete obedience, Erickson induced a trance and then said to her:

"You are five feet three inches tall, and you weigh about 130 pounds; you have trim ankles, an excellent figure, a beautiful mouth and beautiful eyes..." Then, in a tone of voice of utter intensity, in the manner of conveying a vitally important message, she was asked the following question: "Ann, did you know that you have a pretty patch of fur between your legs?" For some minutes Ann stood staring at the author, blushing deeply and continuously, apparently too cataleptic to close her eyes or to move in any way. "You really have, Ann, and it is definitely darker than the hair on your head. Now at least an hour before bedtime, let us say at nine o'clock tonight, after you take your shower, stand in the nude before the full length mirror in your bedroom. Carefully, systematically, thoroughly examine your body from the waist down...Try to realize how much you would like to have the right man caress your pretty pubic hair and your softly rounded belly. Think of how you would like to have him caress your thighs and hips..."[6] Erickson's idiosyncracies - example {tt203}

Erickson's theories and techniques notwithstanding, a person's self-image does not remain poor, nor do her abilities remain undeveloped, because of limited "frames of reference" or "a lack of training or understanding." Adult neurosis is not the result of cognitive distortions; it is the product of correct cognition which is out of context. Childhood trauma alters one's perceptions to accommodate the Pain. When one's perception is altered, one sees hurt as an adult where none exists. "Can I help you?" becomes, "You think I'm helpless, don't you?" Furthermore, spontaneity and free feeling are not something we "learn"; children simply are spontaneous and free feeling until deprivation and injury intervene. A child whose father is too busy to notice him does not have "learned limitations"; he has the raw feeling of neglect. The child who is physically or sexually abused does not have "learned limitations"; she has the brutal pain of assault and violation. Her underlying fear and therefore distorted perceptions later on reflect an original situation that engendered lifelong fear. To be afraid of airplanes is to have fear from the past placed out of context in the present. ( adult neurosis is the product of correct cognition which is out of context {tt204} )
Learned limitations are the last outcrops of the neurotic process. They represent what Freud called the Superego. They are the acquired inhibitions impressed into the child's brain by parents when at last she has sufficient intellect to register and code inhibition. A stern look by a parent every time the child cries is an example. She "learns" not to cry on an emotional level without any words being spoken. The implicit factor here is fear of loss of love of the parents. If there is no real contact between parent and child, there will be little learned inhibition. Love has already been lost.
To assume that changing one's beliefs about oneself involves reeducation, training, or problem-solving is to assume incorrectly that beliefs, particularly about oneself, are rooted solely in cognition. Beliefs are the product of our experiences, and the source of "limiting beliefs" is a childhood with inculcated prohibitions about everything from how one eats to how one holds one's jaw.

A great deal of Erickson's hypnotherapy centered around the development of indirect suggestions that would "bypass" the conscious mind and lodge squarely and educationally in the unconscious mind. Since intellectual language is the province of the cortical mind, using language to bypass it requires some very clever wording. Erickson's skill at devising these clever linguistic loopholes, termed indirect suggestions, was unparalleled. Moreover, his use of indirect suggestions to bypass consciousness has become a model for much of the hypnotherapeutic community. This is the cognitive approach taken to its limit: there are suggestions called "double dissociation double binds" and those termed "conscious-unconscious double binds" -- not to mention compound, contingent, and associational suggestions. All in all, Rossi organized Erickson's indirect forms of suggestion into some 30 different categories, which he arrived at by simply analyzing the linguistic structure of the suggestion.
Erickson fully believed that suggestions which could not be understood by the conscious mind would be understood and acted upon by the benevolent unconscious mind. Indeed his trust in the unconscious was almost childlike:
You don't have to listen to me because your unconscious is here and can hear what it needs to, to respond in just the right way. And it really doesn't matter what your conscious mind does, because you don't have to listen to me because your unconscious is here and can hear what it needs to, to respond in just the right way. And it really doesn't matter what your conscious mind does, because your unconscious can find the right means of coping with that pain.[7]

Somehow the unconscious would then understand the message of a follow-up suggestion such as, "You can as a person awaken, but you do not need awaken as a body"[8] -- even as the conscious mind puzzled and fretted over its cryptic meaning. For Erickson, indirect suggestion was a cognitive means of bypassing cognition en route to a more beneficent unconscious which could hear, comprehend, decipher, solve, and heal all that consciousness could not. The problem with this viewpoint is that it is contradictory. On one hand, Erickson believed that consciousness could be bypassed by using intricate linguistic devices (ambiguities, metaphors, paradoxes, etc.) in the form of indirect suggestions which the conscious mind could not decipher. On the other hand, he assumed that the unconscious mind would be able to magically sift out the hidden meaning that had so eluded consciousness. The first contradiction is that he attempted to reach the non-verbal levels of the unconscious by using complex verbal techniques. The second contradiction is that in bypassing conscious-awareness, he was bypassing the one level of consciousness that contains the cognitive skills to actually comprehend his suggestions. And in bypassing consciousness he was bypassing exactly the element needed to stimulate the processes of healing and repair
None of this matters much to a person in Pain, and Erickson's viewpoint certainly spoke to the pained child in any adult. However simplistic or contradictory it might have seemed upon close intellectual scrutiny, his notion of the unconscious was comforting and promising. Indeed, it was made even more comforting (and believable) by virtue of Erickson's own personality and history.
In the last three decades of his life, Erickson was a living picture of the wise and comforting grandfather -- white-haired, penetrating, jocular, kindly, and crippled. Of far greater impact was the fact that he had lived out in a very poignant way the archetype of the wounded physician who learns to heal others by first learning to heal himself. At the age of 17, Erickson had almost died from an attack of polio that left his entire body paralyzed. As a teenage farm boy with nothing more than a rural education behind him, who was now still able to speak and see but unable to move any part of his body, he managed to find ways to use his mind to rejuvenate his muscular and motor abilities. Within a year-and-a-half of his attack he was able to walk unaided. Soon thereafter he entered medical school. Then at the age of 52 he experienced the rare medical tragedy of a second attack of polio, which robbed him of his upper-body strength and left him permanently confined to a wheelchair. He lived in constant pain and discomfort in the last decade of his life, but he continued to create ways to deal hypnotically with his disability and the physical pain it caused him. Patients knew this, and few remained untouched or uninfluenced by it.
The great poignancy in Erickson's history and physical presence must be taken into consideration in evaluating both his viewpoints and his impact. It would indeed be unfortunate if the course of psychotherapy as a field veered off into hypnotic realms in the hope of duplicating the often unprecedented results Erickson achieved professionally after coping with his own personal afflictions. His simplistic view of the unconscious has tended to be accepted uncritically, for example, by virtue of the results he achieved (by his own accounts) in applying it clinically. The question remains as to whether patients were responding to an intrinsic principle of consciousness rightly perceived and utilized by Erickson, or were they responding to the influence of an inspiring and seminal personality
Part of the trouble with Erickson's approach to therapy lies in his assuming the role of an omniscient, infallible figure. Jay Haley describes Erickson as "the first major clinician to concentrate on how to change people...influencing people with hypnosis, persuasion, or directives, Erickson...seems to have been the first major therapist to expect clinicians to innovate ways to solve a wide range of problems and to say that the responsibility for therapeutic change lies with the therapist, rather than with the patient."[9] Should a psychotherapist really be so concerned with "influencing" and "changing" his patients? When you combine this attitude with the needs of a patient, you have a formula for continued repression.

[1]Milton H. Erickson and Ernest L. Rossi, Hypnotherapy: An Exploratory Casebook (New York: Irvington), 1979, p. 1.
[2]Ibid., p. 3.
[3]Ibid., p. 9.
[4]See Masson, J., Against Therapy: Emotional Tyranny and the Myth of Psychological Healing. New York: Atheneum, 1988, 224-234.
[5]Innovative Hypnotherapy: The Collected Papers of Milton H. Erickson on Hypnosis, vol. 4, ed. by Ernest L. Rossi (New York: Irvington, 1980), 482-90.
[6]Innovative Hypnotherapy, 482-490.
[7]Erickson and Rossi, Hypnotherapy..., p. 45.
[8]Ibid., p. 47.
[9]Jay Haley, ed. Conversations with Milton H. Erickson, M.D., vol. 1, Changing Individuals (New York: Triangle Press, 1985), vii.


  1. Art,

    I just noticed that the book would cost more to ship to Australia than the price of the book itself! Is it going to be available through Amazon?


  2. Life before birth:

    I really look forward to reading your new book, Art. No doubt it will be highly relevant and interesting.

    Just an open thought. When and if humanity finally gets rid of its neurosis (and I'm hopeful we must one day) we will in fact be in a much better position for having had been so neurotic for so long. I say this because in understanding our weakness (vulnerability to trauma/repression) we can, in the future, know what to watch out for and AVOID. In this sense our species will come to be stronger for having been able to learn from a neurotic past.

    And I believe this may prove to be one of PT's greatest gifts to humanity in the long term: The advanced appreciation of what NOT to do, for maybe countless generations to come.

  3. Erron: which book? Sex book is on Amazon. art

  4. Andrew Atkin: You say; "Just an open thought. When and if humanity finally gets rid of its neurosis (and I'm hopeful we must one day) ...."

    Life Before Birth implies and I hope, also mentions that it is 'HUMAN CHILD REARING PRACTICES' that are the ROOT of the problem ... least-ways, for facilitating the eradication of neurosis.

    The means are already there and implied in Primal Theory, if only we could get the universities, medical, psychiatric and psychological professions to look closely into Primal Theory.

    It is my guess that for the foreseeable future they will continue to approach it through micro-biology and hope that they can eradicate it through pharmacology. That is only, if they can accept that neurosis is a major debilitating condition; it is tantamount to looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

    Alas, I fear I am whistling in the wind.


  5. Art,

    no, "Life Before Birth".


  6. Erron: One more delay: maddening. "Life Before Birth" can be ordered now for delivery Oct 1. Also in Bookshops Oct 7. Art.

  7. Erron: And the question is? It can be ordered now at ntiupstream.com delivery first week on October. Sex book can be delivered now. art janov


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.