Hypnosis Seminar

This is a workshop of about 24 people just on hypnosis. This is some basic information about Dick's approach to hypnosis with examples. 1984

This is quite a trip. I've been telling one or two people what I have been up to this last six or seven days.. I've been out on the Mississippi River with a Potawatami medicine man by the name of Crooked Tail, and we have been together and we both made a Vision Quest. Some of you know of that ritual, perhaps some of you don't. It involves sleeping on the bare ground at night, and living in a pretty primitive way. There is no telephone or radio or anything of that kind. Interestingly enough there was very little talk. Where spiritual matters are concerned for most of us was the focus. It involved once or twice a day going into a sweat lodge. For those of you who don't know, ...... it's a circle with a hole in the middle from here to the wall and you put stones in it that have been heated in a fire for hours and you pour cold water after you close everything down. It becomes almost unbearable. You sit like this.

As for me, the main part was the vision quest itself. It involved for me 40 hours without food or water of any kind. And 24 hours of that time was spent in very wild country with a little space about ten foot square which I wasn't allowed to leave for 24 hours. And I was there totally alone. From about five o'clock one evening till about five the next morning, and an additional 12 hours the next day. I don't want to talk so much about it. I know what a baby feels like when it is halfway out. I am slightly back in there and part way out here but your skill is that you will pull me out.

The topic here is hypnosis in action. What I want to do is to demonstrate hypnotherapy. Because after all, it is a great thing to put somebody into trance, but it is another thing to know what to do once they get there. And I think that is far more important and I would like to let you get familiar with that area. I will be working in that area with a couple people, not everybody. This is a professional workshop, there is going to be a lot of talk that is didactic, with questions and answers. Okay?

The important thing for you to realize about a hypnotic trance is that it can happen at any time. It is not necessary for you to be sitting in this chair for that to happen. And you are going to find yourself in trance much of the time you are sitting here. Some of the time you will not be aware of sitting here. You will be somewhere else. And sometimes you will feel like you are falling asleep but no one will fall asleep at any of these trainings. At some times you will be aware, but at other times you will have signs that you are going into trance.

One thing to consider is your attitude toward trance. Some people welcome it, some people don't mind it, and some people are afraid of it. ......For people who are afraid of trance: it is important for me to say, and right now it is important to reassure them, because you will always have clients who are afraid of trance. That has its drawbacks and benefits. One thing that happens is that it is hard for them to go into trance. The other thing is that they might be so concerned with their fear that they don't let things happen that otherwise would.

I think we can see the dichotomy between Freud and Jung. Jung at one time was Freud's right hand man and then they came to a parting of the ways. which left Freud very bitter. And so for a long time they were out of communication. It is very interesting to read their letters after they broke silence. It was very formal: "Dear Doctor Freud," "Dear Doctor Jung," and then they got more informal, but they never did get back together again. One of the big issues between them was the view of the unconscious. Now if it is bad, you have to be on your guard against it, you need to protect yourself from it. If it is good you can give yourself over to it. You see that dichotomy when you are working hypnotically with people. Now for Freud the unconscious was a kind of dungeon. Freud wrote a book called Civilization and its Discontent. The point of the book is that in order to have civilization, you have to become repressed. There is no free lunch. So you have to pay the price of having a society with social laws and all kinds of repression. Consciousness goes underground and is constantly looking out, and you have to keep that stuff down there and you have to come to terms with it and to sublimate, and to compensate, and in general to handle all this stuff like a scientist working with mechanical hands and gloves through this thick shield like it is radioactive. Freud saw the unconscious as being inhabited by demons and you have to be on guard against them at all times. Jung on the other hand saw the unconscious not as an underground dungeon but as an underground depository, a treasure house where all your resources are stored. Some of which are not acceptable to you. And accepting the unconscious for Jung meant accepting resources that were going untapped. Now that is an enormous difference.

This is an overview and I apologize for real in-the-know Freudians who might know better. I am not an in-the-know Freudian but I think my general picture is accurate. If you have one attitude, you are afraid of your unconscious, if you have the attitude that I attribute to Jung, you are constantly open to explore, to discover resources that are not ordinarily available to you.

Milton Erickson's view, from everything that I ever read, and I have read a great deal of everything he has ever written, is that the unconscious is basically benign. This also the attitude of Fritz Perls of Gestalt Therapy. The unconscious is self regulating. It won't bring up something that you are not ready to handle. So you don't have to be afraid of it for that reason. Now that can be an enormously liberating realization for anyone. It can be relatively liberating for those of you who are afraid of your unconscious and it can be enormously liberating for those of your clients who are afraid of their unconscious.

To be afraid of your unconscious is to be afraid of yourself, because you are your unconscious. Your unconscious in not something separate from your self: "I am I and my unconscious is over there." There I speak of my unconscious as though I am not my unconscious. Actually I am my unconsciousness just as I am my big toe. The old metaphor of the iceberg that nine-tenths of it is underwater and so it is with us. nine tenths of us is underwater: our unconsciousness. Well, the nine tenths of the iceberg that is underwater is still the iceberg. As a matter of fact, it is most of the iceberg. The part that shows is just the tip of the iceberg, it is insignificant. Now talking like that to clients who are afraid of the unconsciousness is helpful, it is the difference between the dungeon and the storehouse. The metaphor of the iceberg is helpful as a means by which many people can identify themselves with their unconscious. And using other metaphors is a good way to do it. .....You can communicate things metaphorically that you could not communicate if you were not speaking metaphorically. The metaphor is extremely useful in very many ways. The most important aspect is that it is definitely a right brain communication. You are all familiar with the left brain being associated with the linear and the analytical and so on. And the right brain with the mythic and poetic and spatial and so on. And the metaphor is a right brain language. Even left brain people use metaphors. We all use metaphors from time to time. So that is one advantage of using metaphors.....

Another thing about metaphors is that is gives us a model to use. If you identify with the metaphor, then you can identify that your consciousness is one tenth of you and that most of you, that wonderful part is all below water and that is all you. Just a few words like that and you can just convey a great deal of meaning or a change of attitude.

There are other metaphors that I use with people who are afraid of their unconscious. I like to use the metaphor of the sun. Because the sun we associate with feelings. It makes things grow. We all know that with lots of sunlight things grow better. We cut down trees so our gardens grow better. We know that sunlight purifies things very often. We associate sunlight with cheerfulness, with light-heartedness, with bringing things out into the light of day, open. Very many positive connections are made with the sun and sunlight. And so I sometimes will say to people who (are afraid), and they don't have to tell me that they are afraid of going into trance. You need to develop the ability to detect intuitively, not magically, but intuitively, with very little doubt that this person is afraid of their own unconsciousness. Then you can start to talk about the consciousness as an eternal sun and compare the unconscious to the sun and talk about the other sun and this person's unconscious will make the connection. I remember a workshop I did two years ago, on hypnosis at the University of Eau Claire, I came to a certain person and I said to her, I never referred to a sun inside her, I said, "You've seen a sun rise and seen a sun set, and you've seen a sun at noon, and hundreds and hundreds of times from all kinds of positions." And then I continued to talk about that. "You know that the sun shines even on the darkest day. You can go up above the clouds and there is blue sky and even when it is midnight here in Wisconsin, it is high noon in Tokyo and as it sets in Tokyo, it is rising in London. And always it is shining. even on the darkest day above the clouds and on the darkest night, it is shining on the other side of the world. And if you were sitting in the sun. looking down, you would see clearly, And in the space ahead of you is the sunrise, eternally all the new dawn, and eternally if you look down below you it is high noon."

And I talked this way for a long time and I didn't make any reference to the person. I was talking about the real sun. There was a dramatic change in this person sitting there. At the end she started to talk about being thankful and I had done nothing to bring this about. All I did was to talk about the sun. I gave her a really extended metaphor. Because a metaphor can be compressed or contracted as when you say your eyes are like jewels, your teeth are like pearls, you cheeks are like roses. There are three metaphors, all very trite. And they are very condensed. Or you can expand your metaphor and talk for a half hour as I did. But one of the first things for you to look for in yourself and in your client is a fear of the unconscious. And that is the first thing you must deal with.

I presuppose a kind of faith that the unconscious is benign, a faith that the unconsciousness is enormously powerful, a faith that the unconsciousness will indeed act on my behalf, a faith that the unconscious knows what to do. When I work with people, they often go into trance, and some of you are in trance right now, and the reason that that happens is that I believe that you will go into trance. I expect that that will happen. My faith in that happening is not something that I do. I have no control over you. I don't pretend to have it. I certainly don't want it. God forbid that I have such a responsibility, such a headache. I don't want that. But my belief that you will go into trance is the result of a direct suggestion to my unconscious so that my behavior automatically becomes the kind of behavior that facilitates your going into trance.

So we have the paradox that the hypnotist does really nothing except to do nothing. Because the harder you try to make it happen, the more you will block it from happening. That is true of your own trance work with yourself. It is true of working with other people when they are in trance. I do not, for example, consciously modulate my voice in any way, but I am quite aware that my voice is different. That is not a calculated ploy on my part. It is a result of a suggestion to myself, my belief that you are going into trance, which causes on my part changes in my tone, my behavior, that allows you to do other things that you hadn't been doing.

I want to say this one more thing on this subject of trance and our attitude toward trance. It is important to view trance as helpful, powerful and benign. There is a book written, I have forgotten the author, a woman, the name of the book was The Healing Trance, and hypnosis is often useful in that way. If you simply consider one factor alone, the degree or element of tension in a person, if that alone is alleviated, you can have anything from a feeling better to what is an apparent cure. It is a very significant factor, that one thing alone. I really believe that trance state itself is healing. Being in trance is a healing state. Most people don't understand that. There is a man who is very much your age, named Andrew Falter and he had a little booklet called, __________ and in that he tells of his personal research which had preceded W.W.II. He tested about 300 subjects and he was interested in how many subjects were hypnotizable and what percentage would not. Of those, how many would go into light trance and what percentage would not. Today it would not be considered significant, and least I don't. Because Ericksonian hypnosis has shot holes in the belief that five percent of people can't be hypnotized and about how deep they can go. And Falter was interested only in that and ................he kept records of all this . The only thing of significance for me was the disclosure that almost everybody who went into trance without exception felt greatly refreshed, had major change come over them, felt more optimistic, felt confident, just out of going into trance. And it is my experience that almost never does a person go into trance and come out feeling bad. Occasionally people will come out of it and say, "I feel kind of sad." But you look at them and they look relaxed, and it is a kind of sadness that is quite tolerable. After all, sadness is part of our human heritage too, you can't be happy all of the time. So that is what I wanted to say about hypnotic trance. First I want to ask if there are any questions.

Q: What is the difference between meditative state and hypnosis?

Dick: Hypnotism is not a state of mind, it is a tool. the word hypnotism was invented by a man by the name of Dr. Braid, back in the middle of the 19th century, A British or Scottish doctor. He began to do some of the first classical experiments . Anton Mesmer is the father of modern hypnosis. Braid perhaps should have that title. He noticed that many of the people showed the signs of falling asleep. They would become very relaxed, they would close their eyes, sometimes they would not speak when spoken to, loud noises would not disturb them. There were many signs that looked like deep sleep, so he coined the word hypnosis from the Greek word hypnos, meaning sleep. It is ironic that this word is used because we know now that the state of trance is not a state of sleep but a state of extreme alertness. Trance is a state of focused awareness, very concentrated. There is a relationship between hypnotic trance and meditation and no one has ever drawn it very clearly. Recently, somebody went to .....Ananda, of the Siddha Yoga group and asked, "What is the difference between hypnosis and meditation?" And he pointed to me and said, "Here is a man who knows all about that!" Here is a guy who knows much more than I do. I will give you my impression, and take it with that condition: the hypnotic condition is more purposefully induced.


In order to hypnotize myself I frequently use the method I was trained in back in the 50's. I do it like this. "Now I try to open my eyes and they don't open." At the onset of trance I count 1,2,3,4,5 and say "Trance." Now the way that came about is a man, who is not an expert, he trained me that way, He said now do it. And it works just as well today as it did back then. Another method that I like to use is the Siddha yoga method that they call Hum Sa. breathing. Saying Hum as you inhale and Sa as you exhale. That is all you do, nothing else. And anything can happen from there but you don't know what it is going to be. That is much less directive.

There is also less direction in this way. I may hypnotize myself for the purpose of telling myself that I am going to give this group this weekend the very best this weekend. I will give them the very best I can. All my resources are going to be here to offer to you. I do this hypnotically. In meditation I simply do Hum Sa or anything you want to do in your meditative practice and whatever will happen will happen. You haven't any idea of a specific goal. You can hypnotize yourself and tell yourself that you want to stop biting your fingernail, stop smoking, increase your reading skills, pass examinations, and that is all different. Is that clear? They are very close.


Q: What about using hypnosis to escape?

Dick: When I give groups on self-hypnosis I list the dangers of hypnosis. One is masking medically significant pain. If a patient tells you for example that they have a pain in their stomach, it is quite possible for you to make that pain go away. And keep it gone through hypnosis and be masking an ulcer crying for attention. That is one of the dangers: masking medically significant pain. I remember a few years ago we went on a camping trip and a young man of 17, in the middle of the night, four A.M., everything was pitch dark and she came back and told me he was sitting by the fire crying. He had a very rotten tooth and had eaten several chocolate bars, you know what happens when sugar hits a sensitive nerve. And there is a macho tendency not to cry but he was in a lot of pain so I said bring him back here. So she did, and I was still half asleep, I had been asleep and it was so dark you couldn't see. I hypnotized him in total darkness which is something I have never done before or since and the toothache went away and I went out in the morning and there was no pain which was all right with me. Before I did anything when he came in, I said, "I can hypnotize you and make your pain stop but I will do this only on one condition and that is that you promise on your honor to get a dental appointment when you get back," and he agreed. Now I don't know whether he did or not but I thought I had done my job.

One other thing to be very careful of, a danger is the quest for perfection, which is a real psychological danger, and if any of you here are hoping through hypnosis to learn to be perfect.....You confuse yourself.....That is a terrible trap to fall into. That is a trap that can give you more psychological and emotional problems than before you ever started out to improve yourself. You are better off being miserable as you are rather than falling into the trap and thinking that you can obtain perfection.

And the third danger of hypnosis is the escape from reality. That is exactly what you are talking about. It can be useful that way. Keep in mind that this is not a flaw in that process. This is a flaw in the intent of the person using the process. The fact that you can use hypnosis to mask significant pain doesn't mean that you should never use for that purpose. The fact that quest for perfection is a danger in the use of hypnosis doesn't mean that it shouldn't be used, but it shouldn't be used for the quest for perfection.

Q: What about using meditation as a denial to avoid reality.

Dick: Now you are getting into the area that this workshop is all about. A person who has submerged his feelings has denied his feelings. This becomes a problem because when you deny your feelings, you deny yourself. And although I haven't mentioned it yet, I am about to mention it now, the perspective that I come from is Self Acceptance Training. Some of you know what that is. Now with a person like that, when you are able to facilitate deep, unhappy feelings in the person; then of course, you have the opportunity, the chance to re-frame it, and we will talk about re-framing. This is significant.

The motto of self acceptance training is, "If you can't lick them, join them." You can't lick that predilection for trance, so go into it and utilize it. This involves Erickson's principle of utilization. A key word to remember. It is a key word and if you think about it, what it means and how to put it into practice, you will find yourself within a relatively short time becoming quite skillful at it. An enormously powerful tool. It simply means that instead of, like in the early 150 years of hypnosis where the hypnotist is creating the structure, the hypnotist takes whatever the subject brings up and utilizes that. If you were sitting in the chair there and you said that it is hard for you to sit up in it and you would like to get down and lean back a bit. If I was of the old school I would say, "Sit in the chair and remain alert." But if I utilized it I would say, "Good, that is what I want you to do. Sit down on the floor and relax and go into trance." And you can encourage that woman to fantasize dealing with reality and to fantasize what it is like. You can say, "What would it be like, what kind of marvelous adventures could you have if you were in touch with really significant things that are happening in your daily life."

There are two principles involved. Two important words, one is utilization, which I have explained. and the other is reframing, To re-frame something is to put it into a new context. In N's case, the client who has submerged feelings of abandonment and brought these feelings up and had some deep sobbing. This is an ideal chance to re-frame because, ... I would be willing to bet a significant amount of money, that this person has a value that this is very bad, "I must not break down like this. I must not lose control. I must not cry and go all to pieces. I must keep a stiff upper lip and keep myself together." At this point, you can re-frame this terrible breakdown. You say, "And now you can be aware of how lucky you are to be having these profound feelings at this time, because you are able to work this through now. You can be rid of all the things that you put forth here." Now that is a re-frame. Taking it from the attitude that it is a bad thing, that it represents a loss of control. You say "Look how lucky you are. At last after all these years that you have been so miserable and terrified, at last you are lucky to go through this and be done with it." Are all you clear on what reframing is?

Question: What about the fear of fear?

Dick: I would like to respond to that by reframing it. Fear is not a bad thing. If you were incapable of feeling fear, it is doubtful that you would be sitting here today. It is doubtful that you would even grow to be ten years old. Because without fear, long before you were ten years old, you would have done something that would kill you, because you haven't learned to be afraid of what might kill you. It is true that the state of fear is not pleasant. But it is not injurious. In some ways it is very useful and helpful in keeping us out of danger. The real danger of fear is not fear itself, but in the danger of being afraid to feel fear. "The only thing to fear is fear itself," are Churchill's words. I was in college when I heard that on the radio. So fear is not something to fear. It is just as valid as joy, or anger, or sorrow. Sorrow is also not something to avoid, unless it is excessive. So having nightmares for example: nightmares are not a kind of something evil that you should try to cut out, or a sign of something negative. It is a sign of something in us that is trying to come out. It is a sign of something positive that is trying to come out and our unconscious speaks for us, but it is not negative. Now in Gestalt dream work, we find invariably that nightmares contain hidden experiences that are very very positive. For example, I very much need to assert my autonomy, against my mother, say, who has dominated me. I can't bring myself to say NO to her and this is bringing all kinds of practical effects into my life which are negative. I have a nightmare in which I either kill my mother or more likely I am watching while someone is tearing pieces of her flesh off with red hot pinchers. I wake up and call it a nightmare and I think to myself, "What evil things must be coming up for me?" What is coming up is my need for autonomy which is coming up in this bizarre and fearful way. It is symbolical. But look at it like this and there is nothing evil coming up, right? .....Do you all see that the process that I used here, not hypnotically, but that utilization and reframing are involved. Have any of you been drifting in and out of trance? Some of you. That is all right. That is when your learning is the best.

We could divide our work, our subject here, that we are concerned with here, into two main rubrics. One would be trance induction, and the other would be the art of offering suggestions. In actual practice they run together but for the purpose of talking about them and dissecting them it is useful to separate them. The art of offering suggestions is much more difficult to learn and requires more skill than the art of trance induction. It is relatively easy to induce a trance if you allow a trance to happen, that is all you have to do and then be alert and aware, because people are drifting in and out of trance all the time and you simply need to be aware and alert. Working patiently, just like fishing on a river, just waiting for a fish to nibble, and then zam, you know. I seldom, for every ten trance inductions that I make, less than one that is done in the way that I used to do it years ago, "Now I want you to stare at this object and your eyes are getting sleepy, and closing, and you are going deeper and deeper, and your eyes are closing and you can't open your eyes"(all in fast commands). That is the old way.(laughter) It still works. But the other way is so much more powerful. It is quick and clean and all you do is wait for the person to go into trance and help it.

I remember about January of 1950, I did some inductions, a few years later I keep reading books. At that time I was doing Gestalt therapy primarily. I was asking people to do gestalt continuum of awareness, some of you know what that is. "Now I am aware of the shadow of the light, now I am aware of movement of my foot, now I am aware of movement of your chair, I am aware of the movement of your hand, and feeling my knee crossed on the other." And all of a sudden, his eyes would go vacant, his whole body would get still. As a gestalt therapist, I used to say, "What happened?" (Dick mocks a dialogue with a client) "I was thinking about something" "What were you thinking about?" "I was thinking about my mother." "What about your mother?"

At that point I didn't realize that this continuum of awareness was a hypnotic technique, so it was right before my nose and I didn't see it. So I would say, "What is happening?" and he would tell me and whatever he would tell me, I would work on that, gestalt-wise and it would work, but I no longer do that. When a person now comes to that point I just sit quietly and say, "Go ahead, that is right" and nine times out of ten, the person will go into trance. This is the Ericksonian principle of utilization. Can you see the difference between that, and "keep your eye on this white object on the wall" and talk "sleep, sleep?" So what you do is be aware that people are going in and out of trance constantly and you watch for the signs. That is what I do. People come up and say that they want to work on this or that and I say, "OK, we can work on that" and we talk a bit and then I wait....

Now to talk about ways of deepening trance is to talk about the things that are not directive. In hypnotic work I think that you will find, as I have found, that to be indirect is more effective than to be direct. In the non trance state, we make a great virtue of being direct. In hypnotic work it is a virtue to be indirect. Very seldom will I ever use direct statements. But let me give you an example. This is something that I have invented for myself, you can do the same. Feel free to use mine if you like, but feel free to use your own. And I ask you to just feel what happens as you listen to the story that I am about to tell you.

The story of the redwood tree (to be transcribed)

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