Over the past few weeks I’ve been spending quite a lot of time discussing and writing about “You’re Back in The Room”. For those who don’t know, this is ITV and Philip Schofield’s latest Saturday night game show, which has the unique twist of having the contestants hypnotised (by master hypnotist Keith Barry) to make the games much more difficult.
My position is pretty simple on the matter. I’ve enjoyed watching the show, it’s a great piece of light entertainment, and I think it will do the profile and kudos of all Hypnotists no end of good.
Not everyone agrees with me…
Quite a few people disagree vehemently (mostly myopic Hypnotherapists IMHO), and many others just have a lot of questions. I’ve done my best to summarise many of these conversations in my article called You’re Back In The Room – real or fake? and other frequently asked questions.
The article has gone down very well and I’ve received lots of very kind words about it, not least from Keith Barry himself. In the comments for the article I got asked such a good question that I thought it deserved an article all of it’s own.
In essence, the question was :
‘Can you click your fingers and hypnotise my loved one to not feel her chronic pain?’
This is a really good question, and worth spending some time delving into, because the answer could literally change your life.
First I need to deal with definition and a couple of other underpinning concepts.
Hypnotherapy compared to hypnoentertainment
My definition of hypnosis is ‘the automatic part of any response to any suggestion’. If I put out my hand to shake yours, there is an automatic desire on your part to reciprocate. This is hypnosis in action.
To be clear, hypnosis is not mind control and is entirely collaborative. You can resist the urge, and you will win the struggle if you really want to, but the automaticity of the urge is what makes the response hypnotic. Try it next time someone goes to shake your hand.
In its broadest sense, hypnotherapy is the use of this same mechanism of automaticity in a structured way, in order to create a therapeutic situation for the client. Hypnoentertainment is the use of this same mechanism in a different way, which is entertaining for an onlooker.
Both situations can lead to a hypnotic trance, and in both situations a hypnotic trance can be a very good vehicle for delivery and automatic execution of further suggestions.
Equally, ‘waking suggestion’ can be used to stick hands together in an entertaining way with no trance, and some hypnotherapy techniques (such as The Swan Protocol) can be used therapeutically with no trance.
The intended outcome of a suggestion is what puts this practice into the camp of hypnotherapy or hypnoentertainment.
In essence, the definition is simply semantics. The same psychological mechanism is being used, but put to a different end in all of these situations.
Still further wandering along, in my typical tangential fashion, I would also like to explain an important difference in the strategy of a hypnotherapist versus a stage hypnotist.
Please bear with me, this really is important with respect to understanding the answer to the main question above.
The Selection Process and Response Variance
Everyone responds to hypnosis in different ways. Under the right circumstances some people will fall into a deep trance with just a nudge in the right direction (these people are known as Somnambulists), whereas others will take a looooong time and require a lot of assistance to get into a trance (these people are Low Responders). Most of us are happily somewhere in the middle.
Further, some people are very responsive to certain types of suggestions, such as lightness or hallucination, some are very lethargic, some respond really well to suggestions of amnesia or anaesthesia. Only extreme somnambulists respond well to all of these suggestions right away.
When a Hypnoentertainer is selecting ‘volunteers’ they will use a lot of subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, methods to weed out the Low Responders and try to keep only the Somnambulists. Of those, they really want the ones with the best responses to the things that are going to be most entertaining for the audience.
The Hypnoentertainer doesn’t want you to know this. It’s not that it’s a secret, but the illusion is much more powerful and entertaining if they can make it look as though they have randomly selected people from the audience.
As their main job is to entertain, I think this is fair enough, but I suspect this is largely the bone of contention with the nay-saying therapists.
Lets now start to answer the main question by comparing this selection process with a visit to your local hypnotherapist.
A Visit To Your Local Hypnotherapist, and how it all ties in.
The hypnotherapist doesn’t have a selection of people to choose from. Some people will have responded to an advert, and somnambulists will have a higher response rate than sceptics and low responders will, but that’s about the extent of their direct influence.
Many people arrive from a referral, word of mouth, or a personal recommendation, having never seen an advert. Many people arrive desperate and sceptical, having been failed by other therapeutic approaches.
When you arrive at the Hypnotherapist’s office, the therapist has only you to work with. The selection process for a hypnotherapist is the selection of techniques that they feel are best for your response level and type.
Most Hypnotherapists will start with a conversation. In the jargon of hypnosis this is called a pretalk. This is intended to find out about the problem and find out a little about what type of person the client is, but mainly this is to make the client comfortable and give them the first instructions leading toward hypnosis.
Most therapists will then use a series of exercises to determine that you have understood instructions, to begin to figure out what types of suggestion you are likely to respond to and how strongly you are likely to respond. (i.e. are you a Somnambulist, a Low Responder, or somewhere in the middle)
I use a consultation process to get to this point, but many people do this all in one session. Both are perfectly acceptable.
Somnambulists, Low Responders and the rest of us
If you are a somnambulist then from this point you would probably have a hypnotherapy experience not entirely dissimilar to what you might see on stage.
A rapid or even an instant induction would be followed by some direct suggestions, then possibly a psychotherapeutic imagination exercise or two to help deal with underlying causes. Once that is done you will be reoriented and left with positive suggestions for feeling good. Quick, simple, to the point, and generally very effective.
If you are a Low Responder you will have a much slower experience, with much more emphasis on relaxation and many more stages of testing and deepening.
With Low Responders it may be the case that no therapy is done in the first session, and that the first session (or more) is simply used for helping you to develop the ability to get into a hypnotic trance. I would always do my best to make sure a client leaves the first session feeling better than they arrived, with at least some progress made to their presenting issue, but no guarantees can be offered.
Fortunately most of us are somewhere in the middle and can expect to have a fairly rapid induction and make some significant progress in a single session.
So, Finally, Answering The Question…
You hopefully remember that, some time ago, I was going to answer a question. Well here it is…
Without further delay…
Actually, before I answer the question, one final point. From the above information, you may already have something of a reasonable answer. There is actually no simple answer, but it can be greatly simplified by understanding the above ideas.
‘Can you click your fingers and hypnotise my loved one to not feel her chronic pain?’
… If your loved one is a somnambulist, and one of the things she can easily respond to is a suggestion of anaesthesia, and if she follows instructions and wants to be hypnotised, the yes, that is possible.
In all likelihood it will be a longer process, but I’m confident that we have a good chance of success.
After all that preable (a.k.a. pretalk) I hope the answer was satisfactory, but please comment or contact me if not.
If you would like to see hypnotherapy techniques live…
If you would like to see some hypnotherapy techniques in action (as a contrast to or in addition to the hypnoentertainment you may have already seen) I will be doing a free 1 hour workshop on The Swan protocol in Norwich, on Sunday the 29th March 2015, as a part of a weekend-long Mind, Body and Spirit fair.
I appreciate this is short notice, so if you can’t make it I will be doing more in the future, so keep an eye on my Events page, or send me a blank email* and I’ll add your email address to a (spam free!) mailing list I’m compiling.
*it doesn’t have to be blank, you can say hello and talk to me if you want