HYPNOSIS: A Window Into The Soul of HealingLee Pulos, Ph.D, ABPP October 1, 2012
Since the dawn of recorded time, indigenous tribes and emerging cultures utilized drumming and trance dancing to create ecstatic interludes and transpersonal experiences in order to explore higher and deeper octaves of consciousness. The Druids, Vikings, Hindu priests, and holy men of all religions wrote about and described various techniques such as monotonous incantations, magnetic passes over the body, and even the inhalation of ethylene which seeped up through cracks in the rocks so the Delphic oracles could foresee or intuit events. Accounts of what we call hypnosis appear in the Bible, Talmud, Hindu Vedas and in the writings of Wing Tai, the father of Chinese medicine.
Franz Anton Mesmer, a Viennese physician, would induce profound healing trances by passing a long magnetized iron wand over people’s bodies. He proposed that there was a “subtle energy” or a “magnetic fluid” he called “animal magnetism” that created a magnetic cure. Mesmer achieved considerable success and people came from all over Europe to experience this new and powerful healing technique.
Later, in the 19th century, London surgeons performed major operations by making long mesmeric passes over the body to induce full body analgesia. The modern analogue to full body mesmeric passes would be Therapeutic Touch and certain applications of Reiki.
An English surgeon, James Esdaile, described over 3,000 painless surgeries he conducted including the amputation of arms and breasts, Caesarian sections, cardiac surgery, hysterectomy, the ligation and stripping of veins, etc, in his book Mesmerism In India. In all surgeries, he reported there was no pain, no infections, and a reduction of deaths from 50% (pre-mesmeric passes) to 5%. There was no touching of the patient, no talking; simply making long body passes with his hands to induce a full body ‘trance.’
Of course, other surgeons were shouting “sham” and “fraud” and they were the forerunners of today’s self-appointed “quack busters” who deny that anything exists outside of reason, logic, and a tidy four-dimensional reality. However, I replicated Esdaile’s full body trances with a group of volunteers and published my research in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. The point being that anyone can induce a full mesmeric trance and I have taught this simple technique to mothers with colicky babies and to selected patients with pain issues.
Let us look at different kinds of hypnosis, each with a different expectation and outcome:
Forensic Trances – are utilized to refresh the memories of either witnesses or victims of serious crime or accidents. Trying to enhance the recall of traumatic events can be inconsistent. Over the years, I conducted more than 80 hypnotic interviews for the R.C.M.P. and Vancouver Police. Many of the sessions were helpful but some were not. The reason for the latter is that sometimes witnesses will tend to confabulate or embellish what they think they saw which can lead to false memories. For that reason, I have stopped doing forensic hypnosis.
Peak Performance Hypnosis – is employed usually with athletes who wish to overcome subconscious blocks to optimal performance. A question I frequently ask of athletes is, “How much of your success is mental? How much time do you spend in the mental?” I believe those two questions could apply to everyone – not just athletes. Regardless, many techniques are utilized including identifying limiting beliefs, reducing performance anxiety, and mental rehearsal.
Entertainment Trance – is utilized by stage hypnotists. Since hypnosis is a skill, stage hypnotists will utilize suggestibility tests to select the best skilled hypnotic subjects while the rest are sent back to their seats. The hypnotic virtuosos are then “trance trained” and go on to perform outlandish stunts for the audience.
Spontaneous Trances – respond to emergencies such as a 100-pound mother suddenly mobilizing unimaginable strength to lift, for example, a small automobile that rolled over her child.
Clinical Hypnosis (CH) – of course, is utilized for helping and healing such issues as pain, sleep dysfunction, habit control for stopping smoking and losing weight. CH also has a successful history of strengthening self-esteem, preparing for surgery, improving memory, achieving goals, and hypno-birthing. In fact, CH is a widely respected therapy for a host of other clinical issues which require identifying the root cause of problems and subconscious self-sabotage.
I will close with my favourite metaphor for describing hypnosis:
Imagine driving along a highway just before sunset. The closest city is 20 miles or so away and as you attempt to tune your radio dial to find a good music station, all you can pick up is a few bars of a song that is constantly interrupted by irritating static.
However, as the interfering cosmic rays of the sun disappear below the horizon, suddenly you can pick up WGN in Chicago, KGO in San Francisco and possibly a great jazz station in New Orleans.
In other words, as we slip from the static and non-stop “monkey chatter” of our left brain or solar consciousness into the lunar consciousness of our right brain, we expand our bandwidth of information and can access the whole spectrum of our non-ordinary abilities and the range of our capabilities.