Introduction to the book that I’ve started. Feedback is appreciated.
Throughout my working life, I moved among people that the public characterizes as “geniuses.” Their skills were analysis, reason, and logic. They were the scientists who tried to explain events that we can’t see because they’re too small (inside atoms) or too far away (in distant galaxies). They were the computer programmers who designed operating systems and database engines. They were the engineers and software developers who built the automated systems that have displaced so many of our blue-collar workers – and now threaten to replace white-collar decision-makers.
Near the end of that career, one of my young colleagues exercised his privilege to spend time at home after the birth of his second child. To my surprise, he came back to work at the half-way point of his leave. When asked, this gentleman – among the most sympathetic of my peers – explained that bonding to his new child was mentally exhausting. He felt that if he didn’t come back to work, he’d forget how to do his job.
The anecdote is offered to illustrate a general principle: the highest and most demanding functions of the mind are not logic, reason and analysis. Our ability to relate to people is far more complex. So complex, in fact, that we try to avoid relating through privileges that allow us to impose our will upon others. The mechanisms of privilege may be physical (“Power grows from the barrel of a gun.”), cultural (“Children should be seen and not heard.”), or political (“Majority rules.”). The goal is confidently to assert “I am in charge of my life.”
That seems like a simple claim, but its psychological foundation is elusive. What is this “I” that we talk about? For that “I” is constantly changing. The most obvious change is physical – as the ancient riddle goes “What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening?”
But that “I” is also the doting spouse that becomes vicious in divorce court. That “I” is the radical student who becomes the conservative hedge-fund manager. That “I” is the atheist who becomes a Christian apologetic. Those shifts may appear contradictory on the surface, but often are explained by underlying traits of character. The first depends upon others to manage their emotions. The second insists on having their own way. The last hopes that people will learn to care for each other.
Looking at the structure of the brain, identity – the elaboration of “I” – is a recent innovation. Definition of our personality appears to reside in the frontal lobes, seat of higher reason and social awareness, and a part of the brain that is unique to humans.
As a child grows, the brain activates its circuitry in sequence. The survival functions come online first, following by sensation and motor control. As these skills are mastered, our parents encourage us to independence. For most of human history, that was as far as “I” went – the immediate demands of survival absorbed our attention. The opportunity to think deeply about our identity – the nature of our personality – was limited to the most privileged.
The difficulty and importance of that quest is demonstrated in the longevity of the teachings of our great religious thinkers. Confucius, Buddha, and Jesus of Nazareth walked the earth thousands of years ago, and yet are more inspirational to us than the great masters of global affairs. Paradoxically, they inspire the “I” not to power, but to social harmony.
That harmony was a manifestation of the organization of their minds. The prefrontal cortex – last of the brain centers to activate fully – extends connections into the more primitive parts of the mind. Those connections can either stimulate or suppress primitive behaviors. The religious avatar has achieved that control to a degree that approaches “ineffability” – a state of emotion beyond emotion, from which every emotion serves a conscious intention.
This goal – the goal of refining the personality – is the inspiration for this book. While many can claim to help us choose a goal for our lives to focus our personal development, only one maintains a clarion focus on facilitation of that development. That is the discipline of Lay Hypnotherapy.
Hypnotherapy more broadly facilitates the negotiation of the boundaries between “I” and our survival systems. The “I” is the central element of the part of the mind that we term “conscious.” The subconscious comprises the automatic behaviors that serve our survival. As the “I” enters in to manage those behaviors, our survival is placed at risk. Thus the subconscious resists the intrusion.
As recognized by Dr. John Kappas, intellectual forebear for this work, hypnosis is our ideal learning state. This is obvious in considering the most immediate route to hypnosis: a physical assault. In those conditions, the mind accepts all sensory input as “what is true,” because to question the input would delay action necessary to our survival. To induce that state comfortably, the hypnotist applies patterns of speech and physical manipulations. In a therapeutic setting, once in that state the primitive parts of the mind can be conditioned to change their responses to stimulus.
For much of the history of hypnotherapy, that control was used by clinical specialists to “cure” patients whose behavior was a threat to their own well-being. As documented by Anne Harrington in “The Cure Within,” therapeutic techniques were difficult to transmit – the reputation of the clinician seemed essential to success. In the lack of that authority, we might perhaps not be surprised that – as discovered by the young Sigmund Freud – patients eventually began to rebel against hypnotic “cures.” The “I” asserted its independence.
So – excepting those such as Milton Erickson and their protégées – clinical practice branched along different dimensions, focusing on surgery, pharmacology, and laborious conditioning. These measures were justifiable only in extreme cases. Denied the right to practice in those areas, hypnotherapists marketed to clients seeking self-improvement (in fact, Dr. Kappas drafted California’s legal scope of practice as “vocational and avocational self-improvement”). This is the scope of practice that I recognize as “Lay Hypnotherapy.”
Perhaps the greatest result of the research pursued under Dr. Kappas’ direction was the conclusion that therapy was most effective when the “I” was honored. In the Kappasinian method, each session begins with a “cognitive” discussion of the goals for behavior change. The hypnotherapist’s skill is to weave the statement of those goals around hypnotic procedures to embed them in the parts of the subconscious involved in implementing the behavior. After the session, in dreams the client fully elaborates suggestions as behaviors. In the final years of his life, Kappas inspired Cheryl O’Neil to develop methods that allowed the subconscious to talk back during hypnosis. After Dr. Kappas’ death, O’Neil extended the practice of Therapeutic Imagery to all areas of application.
Rather than a simple re-iteration of those methods, this book places collaboration between the conscious and subconscious minds at the center of Lay Hypnotherapy. The core practices of Kappasinian therapy – Theory of Mind, E&P suggestibility and sexuality, and hypnotic induction will all be recast to facilitate that collaboration. Rather than putting the conscious mind into abeyance, the desired practice is for it actively to encourage the reluctant subconscious to explore new possibilities.
This work will also empower the practitioner to illuminate the psychological journey of the “I” in ways that have been proven to inspire clients to jettison painful history and reach out for a future filled with pride and joy. The mechanisms of the “I” are wondrous, with elaboration in mental, physical, and spiritual dimensions. The great privilege of the Lay Hypnotherapist is to empower clients to realize their potential.
If someone is hypnotized and thus very suggestible, wouldn’t it make sense that while their defenses are down the hypnotist can say anything and the subject’s mind will accept it as truth, and it becomes stronger the more you say it?
You are correct, and this is exactly why hypnotherapists are needed. Trance is a natural state. It occurs when the subconscious, which is 90% of the mind, decides that it doesn’t need the conscious mind to negotiate social safety. Auto accidents, chronic fear, and falling in love are all examples. The things that are said to us in those situations are deeply internalized. A hypnotherapist helps to untangle those knots.
Finally, as Freud discovered: the subconscious depends upon the conscious mind to confirm that our behaviors are working in the waking world. When it decides that what it has been told in trance works against our well-being, it begins to reject any suggestions coming from the source. This is why we fall out of love, quit that ethno-nationalist cult, and start ignoring what our therapist tells us.