Hypnosis - an ancient solution for modern problems.
- Larry McMahon
Originally published in "Decision" magazine.
When I launched my first "Untap your True Potential" training programme in the Irish Management Institute, many years ago - I was not too sure what to expect.The course itself was aimed at business leaders, which was fair enough.But the training methodology was based on hypnosis (which was a bit unusual, to say the least, on a management development programme!).And this was clearly stated in the course brochure.So the real question was: - "Will serious business people actually sign on for a course like this ?"
To my immense relief, they did.In fact the course continued to be a "sell-out" for the years I stayed with the IMI. Nothing like this, had ever been tried before - in the world of business training.
Another surprise for me was the type of backgrounds the participants came from.I was expecting perhaps some H.R. people or closet "New Age" types would emerge from the ranks of industry for this event.Now such people did of course come.But, by and large, most executives who attended came from a "harder" background.They tended to be people like engineers, accountants or scientists, by background.In other words - they were people who had been trained that, if something can't be measured, then it doesn't exist.That they were signing up for something as "nebulous" as hypnosis – was quite a revelation!
The winds of change
It is almost as if, having measured things all their lives, they get to a stage where they realise that some truths just cannot be measured.I mean most of us have personally experienced telepathy, for example.So we know it exists - but we cannot explain why.And when a farmer wants to find water on his land - he hires a water-diviner.Just because the water-diviner is thinking about water - how does the data about the water location transmit itself from beneath the earth, through the divining-rod, into the diviner's arms?Nobody can scientifically explain this phenomenon.Yet it does occur.So some things can be true - even if we cannot measure them.
"Scientific Materialism" has been worshipped for the past 100 years or so.But maybe the sands are starting to shift a little bit, in recent years?Hence perhaps, the growing interest in different types of spirituality and meditation.And of course - in the field of Medicine, there has been a perceptible movement away from conventional to alternative therapies, such as Acupuncture, Reiki and Bio-Energy.Hypnosis (or Hypnotherapy) is yet another of these alternative approaches.There is also a growing interest generally in the power of the mind.
How I got started
I first began to learn and practise hypnosis, back in the early 80s.As a management trainer, I became fascinated by the possibilities of using hypnosis as a learning technique on the courses I ran.Having spent the previous eleven years using all the conventional techniques of the training game, such as case studies, lectures, group-work etc - I felt there had to be a better way to trigger profound learning changes in managers.And I believe I have had such a breakthrough with my own particular technique - called "Hypno-Training™".Subsequently, I discovered that hypnosis can trigger even more dramatic changes in the area of Healing.
How does it work?
So what is hypnosis exactly?In a nutshell - it is simply a technique for talking directly to the Unconscious Mind...and then asking it to make whatever changes may be necessary - as per the requirements of the subject.The technique involves the use of certain types of language patterns.These language patterns initially lull the subject into a very relaxed and dozy state - usually referred to as a trance state, or a state of altered consciousness.It can be similar to that drowsy state we all know - when starting to drift off to sleep.The amazing thing, is that when we are in a trance state, the Unconscious is extremely open to suggestion or persuasion.Nobody knows why this should be - but it is almost like a "window" into the mind.
For myself, as a Hypnotist, it feels a bit like talking to a very receptive, constantly evolving (and user-friendly) computer!While in the actual trance state - the Unconscious can be informed about the suggested new "programme" – and then asked if it will agree to implement it.Once the Unconscious is happy that the new programme offers a better deal than the old one - it is usually only too happy to oblige !
Your own benevolent Unconscious Computer !
In fact the Unconscious Mind does behave rather like a computer.It's a computer which is packed with programmes.Some of these programmes are genetic (e.g. the Heart-Beat programme) - while others are learned (e.g. car-driving).There also seems to be a "Master-Programme" - which permeates all the other programmes.And this Master-Programme wants what is good for you...as best it knows.And of course, this programme has access to your total life-history to date - in every detail !All of my experience indicates that the Unconscious is a benevolent and central part of you.It is not the "cess-pit of horrors" which some Freudian psycho-analysts might lead us to believe!
For example, under hypnosis, your Unconscious Mind will not agree with anything - unless it is in your own fundamental best interests.So the whole experience is positive.But "what about stage hypnosis ?" - you might well, ask.The real secret here is that, in any large theatre audience,there will always be a small number of genuine "exhibitionists".These are the people who volunteer themselves - and end up on stage doing silly things.But then, for them of course, it is a positive experience !
Dr Franz Anton Mesmer in action!
Very little is known about the possible origins of Hypnosis.Most text-books on the subject, refer to the 18th century Austrian doctor, Anton Mesmer as being the earliest recorded practitioner of the art.At the height of his career his services were much sought after by the aristocracyin pre-revolutionary Paris.Hence the term "Mesmerism".Yet if you dig deeper, you find that Mesmer himself learned his methods from Father Maximilan Hell, a Jesuit.Dig deeper still - and you find that this Jesuit was mainly inspired by the work of an Irish healer !This Irish healer was called Valentine Greatrakes (known as "The Stroker").He was born near Dungarvan in 1628 of planter stock – and died there in 1682.But he too was quite a celebrity in his day, healing many people in a remarkable way.But beyond Greatrakes the recorded trail fades away.
My own suspicion is that the origins of hypnosis may be a lot older.People I have met from places as diverse as Gujarat in India to The Cameroons in Africa - tell me of village healers or witch-doctors who use hypnotic techniques in their work.And they have apparently been doing so for thousands of years.They even had "Dream Temples" in ancient Egypt - using a form of Hypnosis. This custom was later on, copied by the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Hypnosis in ancient Egypt
Fragments of ancient Egyptian Dream Book
It's interesting to consider that Hypnotherapy was actually "mainstream medicine" back in those ancient times.So could it be, that what we call "Hypnosis" nowadays, is simply a very ancient healing art - under a new name?
The late American hypnotherapist, Dr Milton Erickson was probably the most famous 20th century practitioner.Although the late Dr Jack Gibson of Naas, Co Kildare, probably did even more pioneering work in the field.Because of his own professional credentials in the medical world however - Erickson was able to do a lot to get hypnosis accepted as a legitimate therapy in U.S. medical schools.But people who write about Erickson today, seem to think that it all started with him.What he has certainly done is to help make hypnosis "respectable" as a healing therapy - and not just a music-hall stunt.
The possibilities for hypnosis are immense - as we re-discover how to harness the sheer power of the mind, to trigger both performance-improvement and healing in our lives.
In my own case, as a management trainer, I was able to develop a revolutionary form of training - based on the principles of Hypnosis. I call it "Hypno-Training™". It is very different, highly enjoyable and very effective!
I have been practising my own form of Hypnotherapy now for nearly 40 years - helping clients to heal from all sorts of illnesses and disorders. Yet I still continue to be astonished at how people can trigger such amazing results for themselves, using this therapy. At one level, the client is just lying down, having a restful enjoyable experience. And yet at the same time he or she is triggering such profound internal healing changes.
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