It’s no secret that hypnosis and hypnotherapy are passions for me. In fact, people often ask me if I ever think about slowing down or retiring and I always reply, “It has taken me two complete careers before I became a therapist and now that I’ve found my calling and my special niche, I can’t think of not doing it; ever. As long as I have a room with a door and two chairs, I plan on whispering in peoples’ ears and easing their minds.” What a lot of people don’t know is how I got into hypnosis over 45 years ago, and the profound effect it has had on my life. I thought I would share that story today.
When I was 15 years old, I was a weird kid, even in the early 70’s, I loved learning, but hated school. Unbeknownst to the Nuns, my family and me, I was/am profoundly dyslexic. Reading and especially math were living hells for me, so I compensated by listening. I found that if I kept quiet (not an easy task for me then or now), and gave people a little prompt, they would teach me the most wonderful and useful things, usually accompanied by an interesting story. The more esoteric the subject, the more I liked it.
So there I was. I was 15 and helping my ‘Grandmother’ clean out a back bedroom when I came across a dusty box under one of the beds. When I opened the box I found 12 LP records of the Dave Elman Teaches Hypnosis program. Grandma said she found them at an estate sale years earlier and had never listened to them, but I could have them if I wanted. Are you kidding? Weird kid…hypnosis…I don’t have to read to learn this stuff…sign me up!! And so it began.
I should also mention that I was profoundly shy and hated even the idea of having to give a presentation in class. Anything more involved than answering a question from my seat sent me into an anxiety attack. Fast forward to college.
Through a bizarre series of coincidences, I wound up attending a medical hypnosis training, with about 400 people in attendance. I signed in and immediately went into the back corner of the room where the rest of the introverts were congregated. Hey, these guys were my tribe at the time.
Midday on the second day of training the instructor began to speak about Social Anxiety Disorder and was walking straight toward me…enter the panic attack. This man came up to me and in the most calming and gentle voice said, “Close your eyes and let me take you by the elbow and lead you to the demo chair. You have seen at least a dozen others sit in it and no one has died. Just keep your eyes shut and listen only to my voice.” I was already under.
20 minutes later I opened my eyes to see the other 399 people smiling and clapping, but I had no idea what happened and why they were all looking at me. The instructor said, “You’re freaking out because you’re not freaking out, aren’t you? Come back at the break and I’ll go over the technique with you again so you have it consciously.”
Those 20 minutes changed my life forever. I went to a shrinking introvert to a raging extrovert. Within the same month, I began doing standup comedy and even today, I don’t truly come alive until I’m in front of an audience.
For the next several decades I used hypnosis as a party trick and to help friends quit smoking, etc. but it wasn’t until I was in grad school this last time, studying to become a therapist that the full impact and potential of this skill hit me. I incorporated hypnosis into the CBT framework and I have never looked back. While CBT continues to be the theoretical framework from which I practice, I use hypnosis as my intervention of choice, because I can get the same results as 6 months of talk therapy in just one or two sessions.
Is hypnosis the be all and end all of therapy? Of course not; it actually doesn’t work on everybody. In fact, I have a colleague who is fond of saying, “For 80% of the people, it works 100% of the time.” It still makes that last 20% much more manageable.
So, if you’re not using hypnosis as a tool in your practice, why not? Of course, use it or not,
The Choice is Always Yours.