Adventures with Hypnosis – A User Experience
In 1949, I had a real problem with a dental phobia. Four dentists had turned me down as a patient. I had two abscessed teeth and a mouthful of other cavities. My dental phobia was so bad that it had forced me to go to a hospital some years earlier in order to have three abscessed teeth removed while I was unconscious.
I went to a dental convention where I found the recommended dentist who did hypnosis. He couldn’t work on my teeth, but he said he thought he could help me. So, at the lunch break, I went to his room with several other dentists, and he hypnotized me with a “standard” induction technique. Then, he taught me a psychological trick of relaxation. If I raised my left hand whenever I felt my right hand becoming a fist, indicating tension, the dentist would stop, and I would relax my right hand, and lower my left hand.) I didn’t believe it would work, but I made an appointment with the last dentist who had turned me down and had recommended hypnosis.
For the first few minutes, I kept raising my left hand, and he stopped immediately. After that, I didn’t need to raise my left hand much at all, and he worked fast.
He pulled the two bad teeth, and drilled and filled a dozen more in one single hour and half session. I had Novocain for the bad ones, and didn’t need it for the others. Both the dentist and I were amazed at this, and he asked if I were really twins
To me, a 22-year-old engineering student, this was a genuine “miracle”, and I started to learn all I could about this miracle cure. I read everything I could find, from the 1700’s literature about Mesmer, Coue, etc, up to Erickson, Barber, etc.
I became an electronic engineer, and pursued this as my major career, but my avocation continued to be hypnosis, and by extension, psychology. (Much of behavior psychology is similar to hypnosis). I used it professionally, taught it in a major university to doctors, and continued to learn about it. I performed some “shows”, and considered a career as a stage hypnotist, but was more interested in using it for helping people, as it had helped me.
In 1979, I left electronic engineering, and turned to psychology. I went back and obtained a Doctorate in Psychology based on my education, life experience, and my doctoral dissertation. I became a successful Behaviorist Psychologist for years in private practice in Florida. I gradually converted to an Orthomolecular practice when I found that these types of therapies worked better than any “talk therapy”, although talk therapy is sometimes useful as well.
During this many years of study, and later career as a psychologist, I realized that what that original dentist who hypnotized me had actually done. With hypnosis, he had simply given me a “new” conscious tool of relaxation. Using this simple tool, I could actually change something in my unconscious called a “phobia”. It wasn’t really a miracle, though I had thought so at the time. Adding this knowledge to my knowledge of Pavlovian “conditioning responses”, I came up with what I called the Bate Relaxation Technique.
This is very simple, yet it can be very powerful – much more powerful than most realize because of its simplicity. It starts with a general hypnotic induction technique of relaxing the body muscles, starting with the toes and going up to the scalp and face. Then, in a state of muscle relaxation, ask the subject to visualize a very beautiful relaxing scene he/she is in. Describe the scene. Ask them to concentrate on how beautiful and very relaxing it is.
Then, ask the subject to memorize the feelings of relaxation and concentration they are feeling at that time. Have them put these feelings into their memory like a photograph. Then, give them a post-hypnotic suggestion that they can now recall those feeling any time they simply count to three. End the session, and have the subject stand up, take a deep breath and simply count to three.
It’s simply amazing how the shoulders often slump 2-3 inches or some other muscles that the subject usually tenses from stress relax. I describe the “strange” feeling as sort of a “blah” feeling. (As subjects stand up from the session, their “normal” pattern of muscle stress takes effect, and the “instant” relaxation is definitely experienced.)
I then tell the subject that they now have the pattern, but it up to them to use it often, several times a day, even if not needed, for the next week or so. This will set this pattern into their unconscious as a “conditioned response”. (Remember Pavlov’s dog?) Now, they have the same tool I got from the original dentist, but it is much more enhanced and valuable. It instantly relieves stress of any kind.
Driving a car a long distance is very stressful. My wife and I recently drove over 20 hours straight thru, with me driving about 14 of those hours. At 78 years old, that’s not “usual”. The secret – we both simply count to three every so often and are able to relax behind the wheel. Muscle tension is very tiring, and few are able to relax this muscle tension behind the wheel.
This relaxation technique is very useful in many ways in helping to solve psychological problems of phobias, compulsions, and even some serious physical problems. I was able to solve dozens of Asthma problems in all persons between 7 and 15 years old, and was often successful with older persons as well. (Kids in this age range are very suggestible; some adults are too cynical.)
The system is simple, but effective. First, teach the relaxation. Then, have the patient emulate a really bad asthma attack. “Come on, get really bad, your throat is closing more and more.” It’s getting worse and worse.” When the patient really starts to become in distress, say, “Now, count to three”. As he gets to three, he relaxes, and says, “Now, it’s gone, and you are in control”.
Many years ago, I did this routine on the 14-year-old son of lifelong friends. When I was visiting them a few years ago, I walked into the store of the son, and he recognized me immediately. I was surprised as it had been over 20 years since he had seen me. He said, “Do you think I could ever forget the man who cured my Asthma?”
It was another great day for my ego.
There’s nothing magical or even mysterious about it. All you are doing is teaching a new “trick” to the unconscious mind. This “trick” of instant relaxation is learned as a conditioned response by repetition and use. It becomes a tool for the conscious mind to use in all types of situations to reduce stress. As everybody knows, stress ages us, diminishes the immune system, and helps to kill us.
The various forms of yoga and other meditation techniques are similar, yet different. They relieve stress of course, but are of little use in immediate stressful situations. This relaxation is immediate.
This also can be used for self-hypnosis, positive statements and visualizations.
I also used it for patients that wanted to stop smoking as a “substitute” for that instant craving that comes to an addicted smoker.
One idea makes a lot of people “afraid” of hypnosis. The idea that another person has “control” over them, and can make them do literally anything. Every experiment ever conducted has shown that this is simply not true. Hypnosis cannot force a person to do anything that is against his/her moral code. The unconscious mind is very protective, and is what we are working with either with hypnosis or subliminal training.
There is some possibility of “indirect” misuse of hypnosis. I once witnessed a hypnotist demonstrating this. He had a very attractive woman who was very hypnotizable (instantly into somnambulism by snapping his fingers). He hypnotized her, and told her to take off her clothes. She awoke instantly and was embarrassed, but had no conscious memory of why.
He then hypnotized her again, and this time, told her that she was at home in her bathroom with the door closed, and she was going to take a bath. She calmly started to take off her clothes. He stopped her before she got too far, but she was obviously going to completely strip.
It was interesting how he stopped her. He told her that someone had come into her home, and was near the bathroom door. She said, “Don’t come in. I’m not dressed”.
He then had her get dressed, and woke her. She had no memory of the incident.
When I was a young man, I had a girlfriend who I had sex with once or twice. And she had been hypnotized several times as well. One night I wanted sex, but she didn’t. I used the cue that hypnotized her, but to no avail. She refused, even hypnotized. So, the idea that someone can make you do something you do not want to do is false. I can testify to that personally. Our unconscious mind is very protective of us in all ways, even though some ways may be wrong.
Of course, if you work with either hypnosis or subliminal training, or virtually any type of serious psychology you have to be aware of the unconscious mind, as that entity is always what you are trying to influence.
Hypnotic Age Regression
This is a very useful tool for a psychologist, or, for that matter, any doctor of any stripe. Under even “light” hypnosis, it can be used to “pull” details from the life of the patient that he/she has forgotten consciously. (The unconscious memory has everything in it.)
There are several “tricks of the trade” involved. After my Relaxation Technique, I used a “deepening” technique that went something like this, “Now, I want you to imagine and visualize yourself going down an escalator as I count to ten. One, imagine yourself stepping on and feeling the steps form under your feet. Two, as you move down, relax even more. Three, as you go down further, concentrate more and more. Four, and as you relax more, you can concentrate more. Five, this positive circle of concentration and relaxation continues as you move down.”
Continue with similar repetitions thru nine, and then, “Ten, step off the escalator into a room. This room is yours alone. It is only in your mind, and no one else can ever get into it. You can make it anything you want. In this room, you can do anything or visualize anything that will help you to be a better person. In this room you can remember anything you want.”
Next, I would start the questioning. For example, a man came to me to try to find a lost valuable diamond engagement ring. He and his fiancé had broken up, and she had returned the ring to him. He remembered taking the ring, but when he got home, he couldn’t find it at all. I did the above technique, and then started.
I said. “I want to you to go back in time to the moment when she handed you the ring. Where were you and she at that time?”
He replied, “We were in her living room.”
“Alright, see yourself taking the ring. What did you do with it?”
He said, “I’m putting it into my small watch pocket of my jeans.”
“OK, now you are leaving her. What happened next?”
“I’m getting into my car, and driving home”
“Good, what happens next?”
“I’m going into my bedroom, and changing clothes.”
“I have to go to a baseball presentation dinner.”
“OK, what did you do with your jeans?”
“Oh NO! I had put them in the washer!”
That was the story. He went home and found the ring stuck in the washer. (The usual story of such is that it gets caught in the “U” drain under a sink.) This illustrates the value of “age regression” as a memory aid.
Of course, it’s also useful to uncover the beginnings of phobias and compulsions. A woman came to me with a cat phobia and asthma. I did the usual as above, and with a couple of other useful techniques found the problem. One “trick” is to say, “OK, now you are going back in time. It is your 15th birthday. You are awake in that morning. Do you have asthma?”
She replied, “yes.” (She had earlier said on intake questioning that her asthma had started very early. I start well past that so as to get the patient used to going back.)
“Ok, now you are ten years old, just waking up on your birthday. Do you have asthma now?” Same answer.
“OK, you are now five years old, on your birthday. Do you have asthma now?” Same answer
I worked back thru 4 and 3 and 2, 1, and started back in months. I got to the ninth month, and she didn’t have asthma. Still she had no memory of anything that was related. So, I went to her tenth month, and went backwards, day to day with the same question. I got to the day when she did have asthma. Now I asked her, “What happened to you during the last day that caused you to have asthma? I am going to count to three, and when I get to three, you will remember everything. One, you’re starting to remember. Two, memory is coming back. Three, you now remember everything.”
She then related, “I was lying on my back in a crib, and the cat jumped into the crib, and lay across my mouth. I couldn’t breathe, or call out, and I was scared. I don’t know what happened, but I think I hit the cat, and she went off me.”
It was two birds with one stone. Cat phobia, and asthma caused at that point. Asthma is often a “protective” device used to keep oxygen in the body. Most can easily breath in but have real problems breathing out. This was her case.
Then, we get to the really interesting part. Age regression to past lives. As an agnostic, I don’t really know if the many stories I have heard from many persons are true, or something from the universal mind or what?
Probably the single most impressive story is from the man who came to me with two lifelong phobias that he had had since earliest memory. He was deathly afraid of fire and water. He thought that these phobias might be from past lives, and asked me to try to find out.
He was easily hypnotizable, and with little urging went back thru birth to the previous life. He had been a circus clown, and been burned to death in a circus fire. It was then simple to go back to a previous life to that. It seems that he had stolen a horse, and was caught. The vigilantes didn’t have a tree, so they hanged him from a bridge. The rope broke, and he drowned. Of course, it took much more time to go thru, and some suggestions from me. He was cured according to a phone call a week later.
I’ve had several such interesting cases. Another was fascinating to me. Under hypnosis, a man kept saying, “All I can see is a bird”. I kept after him about this bird for 10 or more minutes, but he couldn’t see much more than this bird. Finally, he said, “It’s a black bird, and it’s on my shield”.
I pressed him harder about his shield, and did he have a sword and a horse. He suddenly screamed, “There’s blood all around me, and all over me and my horse. I’m killing people all around with my sword, and they’re trying to kill me! ”
I questioned him closely, and it became evident that the date was 1066 at the battle of Hastings as the Normans conquered England.
Is the story true? I cannot say with any certainty, but it was impressive.
When I gave seminars and talks on hypnosis, I usually finished with doing my Relaxation Technique, and my deepening. Then, I would say, “In your room, sitting comfortably, I want you to let your mind go out of your body. Let it go out into space, and as you see earth behind you as that familiar blue and white marble, see space as almost velvety, with stars and planets being very clear and steady. It’s really beautiful out here in space. Now, you are coming to a white cloud that is getting bigger and bigger, and you are now entering it. On the other side, there is another blue marble world. As you approach, it looks like Earth, but as you get really close, you see no huge cities, but beautiful parks and lovely buildings that seem to be a part of the landscape. As you come to it, and walk about, you notice that the people are all friendly, and the animals are all friendly, and the gardens and parks all around are simply the loveliest you have ever seen. You are filled with the same sort of happiness that it seems everybody there has. You are at peace with yourself and that place.”
“Now, it’s time to leave, and we are going back into space again. Ahead of us is that same white cloud, and this time, as we enter it, we make a left turn, and we are now going back in time. The year is 1700 on Earth, and as we come back to Earth in that time, we are going to each go into a body in that time and place. I want you to look at your feet, and your clothes, and your surroundings, and have a sense of who you are in that body. Now, it’s time to return. We are leaving this time and place, and going back thru that white cloud, and back to that blue marble of earth, and back to that comfortable seat, and into your own body again. As I count to three backwards, you are gong to awaken, not drowsy or sleepy or affected by my voice at all, and you will remember everything you experienced.”
Then, I count, “Three, two, one, awake fully awake. Now, how many persons really experienced that beautiful planet?”
About a third or more really did visualize it clearly. (A few were somewhat angry with me for not leaving them longer!) Then I asked, “Now, how many persons experienced themselves in 1700?” Surprisingly, about one third had very good and clear visualizations. One woman was indignant “I had bare feet, and scratched legs, and I was a serving woman”. She had a very high opinion of herself in this life obviously. Needless to say, these stories were very interesting, and varied. One woman impressed me with, “I was in a dark place waiting to be born.”
Of course, such stories do not prove anything. They could be products of imagination, or simply scraps of something from the unconscious or universal mind. However, or whatever they are, taken in bulk from honest persons with no known vested interest, they do prove something beyond our conscious knowledge.
An “Impossible” Story
Here’s a true story that is unbelievable to many people. In reading about hypnosis, I came across an article where a professional hypnotist had claimed that he had been able to increase a woman’s breast size using hypnosis. I dismissed that claim until in 1978; I read an article by Dr Ted X. Barber in the Journal of Clinical Hypnosis about hypnotic phenomena. This article discussed many different hypnotic phenomena, including several experiments at several different colleges that had all done a similar experiment. As I recall (at this much later date), each college used 8-12 women, all of whom were somewhat flat chested, and all wanted larger breasts.
All were carefully measured, above and below the actual breasts, and across them at the nipples. Once a week for 12 weeks, they were hypnotized as a group, and told to visualize things like, “See yourself in a mirror naked with larger breasts. Admire your larger breasts. See how good they look, and how good you feel with them. Now, see yourself dressed in a very becoming dress, and how well it looks on you with your new breasts. It increases your self-confidence as well. “
These comments were repeated several times. As I recall, the average for all of the various experiments was that 80% actually increased their breast size, and the average increase was 2.1 inches.
Let’s take another deeper look at this. The average success rate for losing weight by hypnosis is considered to be less than 65%. In other less reported breast size experiments, DECREASING breast size in women with overly large breasts, the success rate was negligible.
In addition, this suggestion is specific – add body cells to a certain part of the body only! We have no knowledge if actual mammary cells were added, or only fat cells, but still!!!
I’ve won two bets from other psychologists that this story was published in a reputable scientific journal. I made a hypnosis tape specifically for “breast enlargement”, and heard for a few of the women who purchased it that it did indeed work for them. Unfortunately, few people report either success or failure.
Why doesn’t hypnosis work better on the “lesser task” of losing weight, or losing breast weight? The explanation is difficult, but in my experience the social “advantage” to women of large breasts inhibits the unconscious from losing this “advantage”. Some women are “punishing” their selves (or their husbands) by being fat. (Sort of “love me for me, not for my body”). Motives of the unconscious mind are often murky and difficult for our conscious minds to understand. The computer analogy of “garbage in – garbage out” applies here.
Harmful Unconscious Ideas
The unconscious mind can be a force for good or bad. It apparently doesn’t discriminate – again like a computer. If a virus gets in, it can distort many other programs in different ways.
Let’s examine a very illustrative case. A woman brought in her 8 year old boy for hypnosis for bedwetting. I did the usual direct suggestion, and told her to keep him off all milk products for at least a week.
Two days later, she and her son were back. No success. This time, I did age regression hypnosis. He went back (with a little urging) to when he was 4. He was in bed almost asleep when he heard someone trying to get in his window. He was so scared that he wet himself, and cried out. The burglar (real or imagined) left. The unconscious “logic” to this boy – urination protects from intruders in night. It wasn’t difficult to remove this logic (computer virus), and his mother said that he hadn’t wet again a few months later.
The great master of hypnotic therapy, Milton Erickson, once had an almost comic situation that he solved in a unique way. It seems that a recently married couple came to him because each was a bed wetter. On their honeymoon, the bed was wet each morning, and each thought the other was very thoughtful in not mentioning it. After a few days, they each confessed and came to Erickson.
He made them agree to do exactly what he said, and then told them to kneel on the bed when they were ready for sleep and each had to urinate, and then sleep in it. They came back several days later, and they had kept their word. He then told them, “Since you did as I told you, tonight you can go to bed normally without the urination, and come back tomorrow”. The next day, they said the bed was dry in the morning, so he “allowed” them another dry night. Then another, and then he declared them “cured”.
These two stories illustrate the immense power of the unconscious for both good and bad. One of the major jobs of the unconscious mind is to “protect” the physical body (home of the unconscious mind) from harm. If a threat is perceived whether real or imaginary, it goes into action, even if the action may be harmful to itself.
Phil Bate PhD