Saturday, December 09, 2006

Pet-sitters and vacations: I got home from my Thanksgiving road trip to Los Angeles and Las Vegas to find my cats happy and healthy, thanks to the pet sitter who miraculously appeared when I most needed her.

About six weeks before the trip, I phoned Janice Rizzi, who'd been recommended to me once upon a time. She's no longer pet-sitting - she's now owner of Rad Cat, a raw pet food manufacturing company. (Coincidentally - if you believe in coincidence - I've been feeding Rad Cat to my kitties on the recommendation of my vet.) She gave me the number of her pet-sitter, who was already booked for the Thankgiving and Christmas holidays.

She referred me to Lara Uskovich, who came by and met Garbo and Cellophane, got a tour of the apartment, and watched the feeding ritual, and learned where all the good cat toys live.

I worried. This was the first extended trip I'd taken for years. Lara assured me I could call her and check in anytime. I didn't want to seem like a stage mother, and she had my number in case of emergency, so I didn't call... but I did worry.

I came home to happy kitties - happier than they are when I have to go away for an overnight trip! Lara also left me the most delightful daily diary of each visit: how much they ate, where they were sleeping when she arrived, how much petting, brushing and play time they got... it was adorable.

If you need a pet-sitter, give Lara a call at Buck's Adventure Dogs. (Yes, she does dogs, too.)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

On Inclusion

At a parish meeting many years ago, the rector announced the results of a safety inspection. The beautiful cedar trees surrounding the church needed to be fire-treated because of their proximity. Spend tens of thousands of dollars for the treatment... or endless thousands in city fines... or cut them down. We had to decide -- and act -- within the time limit on the citation.

The vestry (board of directors) recommended removing the trees. The rector asked for any discussion. After a long silence, the rector said, "Well, since there are no objections, we'll have the trees removed."

When we left church that day, a fellow parishioner approached me, horrified. "I can't believe they'd just go ahead and make a decision like that!"

"What are you talking about?" I said. "They asked for discussion!"

"I wasn't going to raise my hand. Nobody else did. I think people were intimidated. It sounded as though the decision had already been made."

"It was a recommendation," I said. It wasn't final until no one objected."

"Well, I think it's awful," the parishioner huffed.

"It's not like they were going to cut off your head if you asked for more details or objected," I said. "Nobody put a gag in your mouth. If you're too afraid to speak out in a room full of your friends, you've got no right to complain."

I was younger then and spoke more harshly than I would now. The encounter lingers, though, even 20 years later. I'm sure the rector and vestry wanted to include everyone in the decision -- otherwise, why ask for input? Could they have used another approach? Most certainly. Could it have been one that made everyone feel included?

Is it possible to "make" someone feel included? Or is inclusion defined by each individual, in a specific context? As a nominalization, I suspect inclusion is one of those things that needs to be described in observation language (what a videocamera would pick up) before any group can come up with useful strategies to achieve it.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Instant & Rapid Inductions

Howard Hamilton came up from his hypnosis school in Albany this weekend to teach Saturday's class at Apositiva Institute.

Howard is a master of the Elman method and teaches a wide variety of rapid inductions. I think he's engaging, provocative, curious, attentive, compassionate, and funny as hell.

Instant and rapid inductions aren't everyone's cup of tea. I like them because of the overtly kinesthetic techniques that accompany them. The quick depth is nice, too. As Howard says, the shorter the induction, the longer you have to do content work!

At the same time, the paternal style that characterizes the rapid inductions can grate on some people. They prefer a more maternal style. I'm grateful that Rich and Cat invite Howard down to teach their students as part of their course, because it really demonstrates their commitment to making sure their students have a fantastic grasp of the scope of practice they can develop.

I try always to attend the Oregon Hypnotherapy Association meetings when Howard is teaching, because no matter how many times I watch him work, I always learn something new.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Susan Skye's NVC Deepening Workshop

Just home from the lovely NVC Deepening workshop offered by Susan Skye. Some familiar faces; some new. The West Hills Unitarian Fellowship is set back off Oleson Road in a grove of trees (pine, cedar or redwood -- this city brat couldn't tell). The air smelled clean. I wanted more light, but it's always difficult for me to adjust to the time shift from summer to autumn.

I found it hard to focus entirely on the exercises; I wanted to catch up on what had happened with people since I last saw them. It's always a challenge for me to balance the exercises with the friendships!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Tyler met me at the door the other night, grinning ear to ear.

"Snowball is SO busted," he crowed.

"Snowball" is his nickname for Cellophane, my 13-year-old fluffy cat. Cellophane is not a lap kitty. Never has been. She likes to sit next to you on the couch; at night, she'll sleep on top of the bed; but she doesn't like to be picked up and cuddled and she doesn't sit on laps.

Tyler had a series of photos of Cellophane earlier that afternoon, sprawled across his lap.


Are there things you (or your partner, coworkers or boss) "just won't do"? Something out of character? Against beliefs or values?

Behavior and beliefs stem from habit. They've been repeated so often that they seem natural. Part of our identity.

I'm not a morning person. I surprised when a shift in one aspect of my life (which didn't have anything to do with sleep, by the way) resulted in my waking up refreshed, energized, and enthusiastic about the day ahead.

I know I've written about this before, but I'm continually amazed, amused, and relieved by it. We aren't constrained by our past. Sure, it affects us, but it doesn't determine us.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Book Review: Beyond Reason

Book review: Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate, by Roger Fisher (coauthor of Getting to Yes) and Daniel Shapiro (associate director of the Harvard Negotiation Project).

The best way to resolve problems -- whether they're formal negotiations, or problem-solving related to corporate life or personal conflicts -- is to look at the facts, stay objective and dispassionate, and keep your feelings out of the way. Right?

Well, no. It sounds nice, and plenty of people will be quick to tell you that emotions have no place in business, but the fact is that emotions are a basic physiological response, like yanking your hand away from a scalding pot. Pretending you don't have any... that's like pretending you don't have a foot. Emotions can affect your body, your thinking, and your actions.

As with so many other issues, it's not what emotions you've got, but what you do with them that counts.

Fisher and Shapiro draw attention to common triggers of emotional upset and suggest ways to turn that attention into an asset. Reduce the likelihood that the situation will explode; instead, use your emotions (and those of your adversary) to create partnership, collaboration, and respect.

Oh -- and conflict resolution.

Talk about useful: Not only is the book easy to read, well documented, based on research, illustrated with real-life examples, and structured on a progressive list of principles and easy-to-execute suggestions, it's got a cool "Analytical Table of Contents" at the back, so you can locate and review procedures in a snap. (I love this feature.) There's no formal index (my only serious disappointment), but there's a lovely annotated bibliography that not only lists works consulted, but describes and evaluates them.

Emotions can mire discussions in a La Brea Tar Pit of messy decline, but they can also elevate discussions and create bonds of mutual purpose. The authors describe how to prevent the first scenario and stabilize the second. They describe five core concerns that stimulate many emotions: Appreciation, Affiliation, Autonomy, Status and Role; they offer ways to handle strong emotions; they suggest ways to prepare for (and thus avert) disaster.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Restaurant Recommendation: Madison's

After Friday's trip to Hermiston, all I was suited for this weekend was sleep. But I had brunch with a friend this morning -- how did I ever miss Madison's? Holy cow, what a fabulous meal! I actually had to choose between my favorites (they had them all): French toast, Eggs Benedict, corned beef hash and chicken fried steak. I decided on French toast, and it was amazing, with cinnamon apples and densely whipped cream. Kathleen had the chicken fried steak, and it was delicious. Even the hash browns were extraordinary, seasoned with rosemary (I think) and curry (Kat thinks). I think I'm going to head down there more often!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Portland Story Theater Season Opens

Anita Bryant said a day without orange juice was like a day without sunshine. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we can do without either -- but don't ever get between us and our coffee.

Portland Story Theater opened its 2006-07 season last night with Who am I and Where is My Coffee?. The original stories, based on life events of the tellers, provide a memorable evening of gentle humor, adventure, and even moments of horror -- although not the kind you'd traditionally expect in October. While earlier productions have featured a quartet, the show's core trio of Lynne Duddy, Lawrence Howard and Rick Huddle tightly sustain the solid string of tales.

In a city overflowing with coffee shops, you wouldn't think finding a regular hangout would involve high drama in a grocery store aisle, but that's what Rick Huddle delivers in "The Fix." Part travelogue, part love story, not one false note, Huddle describes his search for an oasis of belonging -- one of those warm, grounded places where "a regular" can get "his usual." What he finds is both transitory and timeless.

Self-proclaimed "Drama Queen" Lynne Duddy is surprised by the powerful consequences of an 18-month-old cup of coffee she never got. Crater Lake was always a symbol of serenity for me. No more. It's a miracle there aren't two craters there now, after the scorched-earth reaction to a vacation gone terribly wrong. But Duddy also finds -- in the midst of identity theft -- that the world is conspiring to shower her with blessings.

Lawrence Howard's "Night Blues" may not convey the mystic power of John Masefield's lonely sea and the sky, but it rocks in a river dreaminess all its own. Boys on boats have a long and respected pedigree in storytelling, and Howard's contribution to the field speaks of adolescence, honor, and playfulness, and a job well done. "I Dream of Jeannie" also draws on on-the-job camaraderie, but also on isolation, and those situations when you wisely draw the line and walk away.

Who am I and Where is My Coffee? runs through October 28. Future performances are already scheduled for February and April (so far away!). Get season tickets. It's delicious work worth savoring.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Silent Induction

Today at the Portland Chapter meeting of the National Guild of Hypnotists, we learned a silent induction. I'm so accustomed to verbal inductions -- even inductions with props typically have accompanying verbal instructions -- that I often tend to forget that you can induce a hypnotic state just by saying, "that's right." Using movement alone is something I hadn't considered; as I reflect on my own experiences, though, the arm drop is the part of the Elman induction that always sends me right out. Geoffrey Knight taught today, explaining and demonstrating a technique developed by Marx Howell. It was absolutely lovely. Relaxing, playful, and effective. You could do the process by focusing on any large muscle group, checking to make sure they had no stiffness or soreness in any of the joints involved. And any one of the steps could be used as a deepening technique with another induction. Nice content, and nicely presented by Geoffrey.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What's Wrong with Doing Your Duty?

Duty and obligation. In NVC, those words hold negative connotation, because they imply someone is giving you (or you are giving yourself) a should.

I don't think there's anything "wrong" with duty. The problem I see with labeling things "duty" is that it becomes easy to disconnect from the values and needs beneath the label.

I saw a documentary recently about New York firefighters on 9/11. I was struck by how often they talked about their duty. There was no sense of should; rather, of privilege and contribution. I thought of the police officers who deserted their posts during Hurricane Katrina, and the health-care workers who left nursing home patients to drown in the rising water. They weren't paid enough to risk their lives in emergency conditions, some said. I remembered the words of a FDNY firefighter who said, "If I wanted to become rich, I would've been a lawyer."

The FDNY sense of duty and obligation seemed to signal values of loyalty, reliability, trust, appreciation, gratitude and mutuality; what NVC would call "life-serving energy," not the energy-sapping, discouraging, anti-choice meanings to which NVC commonly refers when it talks about duty.

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) suggests that when we do something out of duty or obligation, there is typically a should involved that takes all the joy out of an action. As soon as you start telling yourself you should do something, it's an indication you're using guilt, blame, punishment or reward to coerce yourself, or you're telling yourself you "have to," because you have no choice. (And God help you if you start telling someone else what they should be doing!)

If you should be doing something, you aren't doing it. Why not? What stops you? There's something in the way: a belief, attitude, internal or external message, or something else. So how do you get unstuck?

I often make a list of the reasons I'm giving myself for doing or not doing something. You can do this, too. Take a blank sheet of paper and draw a big T across it. On the left side of the vertical line, write SHOULDS. On the right side, write BARRIERS.

On the left side, make a list of all the shoulds or reasons to do whatever it is you're resisting.

On the right side, list all the barriers, objections, dislikes, judgments, and obstacles to doing it.

Once you've made your lists, you can translate each statement into needs. Item by item, ask:

What values does this express?
What needs would it meet?

Use the NVC Needs Inventory for this process. (If you don't have one handy, visit the needs inventory at the Center for Nonviolent Communication.) During this process, use your feelings like a compass. If you quiet your mind and attend to the physical and emotional cues that are stirred up by each item on the list, these sensations will lead you toward the needs and values unmet by duty and met by the barriers.

Once you have translated all the items into needs, you will probably notice some that are "core," central, or most deeply held for you. Once this happens, you can start brainstorming tactics that would satisfy all your core needs.

Does this sound way too simple? Yeah. It ain't rocket science. It never ceases to amaze me how something so simple can smooth out the roadblocks.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Errands (Ugh)

I'm going to a wedding tomorrow.

I spent four hours at the mall looking for shoes.

I hate shopping.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Communication as a Sacrament

I co-facilitated an NVC training for a religious organization recently. For me, communication is a holy process. It can unite human beings in an activity of mutual respect and collaboration. It can inspire creativity, growth, learning, relief, compassion and love. Written communication can carry insights over millenia. When I read translations of ancient manuscripts, I have a sense of the sacred: I'm being given the opportunity to share the thoughts of people who haven't walked the planet for thousands of years.


Of course, the messages are distorted by my own filters. I read with my 21st-century mind and my 21st-century perspective. I'm limited by my own assumptions, guesses, experiences. My curiosity -- or lack of it. (I remember the difference between reading Pride and Prejudice the first time, knowing nothing about Austen's culture, and the second time, having learned quite a bit more about manners of the time. P&P went from being a total bore to being one of my favorite books.

Request to self: Pay attention to my interactions with others on a day-to-day basis, and notice where my own filters may be corrupting their messages.

Put on giraffe ears!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Resource: Portland City Club Broadcasts Online

Portland City Club has a weekly speaker luncheon (open to members and non-members) that is broadcast on OPB. I almost never remember to listen, so I feel fortunate that the City Club also posts recordings on their Web site. The speakers come from a variety of geographic areas, from a broad range of specialties, with many different areas of knowledge and passion. Fascinating stuff.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Digging For Humor

Susan Skye is teaching an NVC Basics weekend, which I'm missing, because this is my only unbooked weekend in five weeks, and I'm wanting to spend my time doing errands, spending time with my partner and kitties, and tending to those things that I sometimes postpone longer than I intended.

I remember how excited I felt when I attended one of Susan's trainings for the first time. She has an academic background, and I loved the systematic, structural approach that explicitly described the interrelationship of some NVC components. There were also practical exercises... and lots of laughter and humor. Sometimes, NVC trainings seem somber to me. People carry so many unhealed wounds, it's easy to forget that life is also a source of exuberance, enthusiasm, joy, laughter, delight.

Request to self: Practice creating humor in "humorless" situations. (Be willing to do it silently!)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Marketing for Hypnotists

Hannah Martine spoke about marketing today at the Oregon Hypnotherapy Association meeting. I found her presentation exciting and informative.

A lot of people hate sales and marketing. They think it is about getting compliance: convincing someone to do something against their wishes, or against their better interests.

If that's sales, I don't like it either!

For me, sales and marketing aligns with NVC. It's about helping customers get their needs met. What needs are unmet in their current situation? What strategies would most completely fulfill those needs? Sales and marketing is about being of service: helping someone discover what's most important and valuable for them, and then how to make it a reality.

A huge range of NLP processes and concepts apply to PR, marketing, advertising, and sales. After spending 20+ years in PR, I'm especially interested in those uses.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

What is Hypnosis Good For?

Someone recently asked me what hypnosis is good for.

What isn't it good for!

Most commonly, people come in to

* manage their weight
* stop smoking
* overcome anxiety or fear
* build confidence
* break old habits
* change perspective or attitude
* gain motivation
* improve athletic performance
* relieve stress
* improve sleep

Then there are the medical applications, which are reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association and other peer-reviewed journals. Browse the papers at, and read about hypnosis in obstetrics (to turn breech babies in utero), dentistry (when local anesthesia is insufficient and general anesthesia is contraindicated), and pediatrics (especially for children in burn wards). At a meeting of the Oregon Hypnotherapy Association, I met a hypno-anesthesiologist from Kaiser Permanente. Cancer patients may use hypnosis to manage pain and combat the severity of side-effects of chemotherapy.

Is hypnosis a cure-all? No. Does it work for everyone? No. Everybody has different needs, situations and beliefs.

Will it work for you? The only way to know without a doubt is to try it.

If you tried it once and didn't get the results you were looking for, does that mean hypnosis won't work for you at all?

No. I've seen clients who had an unsatisfying experience with hypnosis the first time, and the second time, everything clicked.

Why doesn't it work 100% of the time? Sometimes people are distracted, mistrustful, tense, or have unrealistic expectations. Maybe they have misgivings that don't get addressed. Change can be scary.

Sometimes the hypnotist isn't a good fit for the client, and the client doesn't know they may have a completely different experience with someone else. There are many styles of hypnotists and hypnosis. Have you ever tried to find a dentist or chiropractor you really liked? It's the same thing.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Needs Underlying Competition

Back in May, there was a report about high school football coaches in Connecticut facing suspension if they "rout" opposing teams. Coaches say it's "unnecessary" to win by large margins.

I'm curious about what they mean by "necessary." I'm not clear what this new rule is meant to achieve. Is it intended to keep the losing team from feeling badly? Is it meant to shift the purpose, or intention, of the game - from winning to something else?

I have friends who dislike the idea of competition because it creates "winners" and "losers." I don't agree that creating winners and losers is negative, in and of itself. When I was a kid, my grandfather told me, "It isn't whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game." It's been my experience, in the 40-some years on the planet, that "Sometimes you're the windshield; sometimes you're the bug." Peaks and valleys; ups and downs. It's part of life.

Also, I'm better than my friends are at some things; they're better than I am at others. Nobody's great at everything. Does that mean I feel crappy when my friends or coworkers outshine me? Only if I've got a stingy spirit.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

Keeping score is one way of getting feedback, which is an important component of NLP and NVC. Am I paying attention? Am I being fully present to the game and to my teammates? Is my energy high? Am I playing to my strengths, and the strengths of others? Is my focus on what I'm doing well, or is it on my flaws? Am I distracted? Afraid? Arrogant? Worried? Am I so "in the flow" that there is no "me" or "them," it's just the rhythm of the game?

I worry that if we eliminate "winners" and "losers," we'll have attacked only the symptom - not the cause - of what we fear: creating a class of people who are "better"; more entitled to admiration, money, justice, comfort, respect, or whatever we value as a community.

I think about Shakespeare, Edison, Einstein, Salk, Steinbeck, Mozart, and all those whose works I feel grateful for. Would I have wanted them admonished to keep their achievements small, because it wasn't "necessary" to excel? Do I want to live in a society where people are encouraged not to do their best?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Waterfront Blues Festival!

It's Independence Day weekend, time for the largest blues festival west of the Mississippi! If you haven't heard the horns, guitars, drums, and bass booming from Safeway's">Waterfront Blues Festival (benefitting the Oregon Food Bank), you haven't been listening.

Saturday is Zydeco Day! Come down and dance! Take a deep breath and smell the BBQ ribs, corn on the cob, corn bread and sunscreen. It's a family affair, so bring the little ones. Wear a hat. Stay hydrated. Stop by Music Millenium's book at take home recordings of the great bands, including Patrick Lamb's incredible Ray Charles Tribute. If you saw this act last year, you'll be thrilled to know that the studio recording captures every bit of joy and passion you saw on stage.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

What If I Get Stuck in Hypnosis?

Fear #5: Stuck. Lots of people are afraid they'll get stuck in hypnosis; that they won't wake up.

It can't happen. It's physiologically impossible.

First, hypnosis isn't sleep. A person can't not wake up because they aren't asleep to begin with. If they were asleep, they wouldn't hear or respond to any suggestions.

Second, some people get so comfortable in hypnosis that they fall asleep. (This frequently happens when clients who have trouble sleeping come in for sleep improvement!) If that happens, the hypnotist just wakes them up the way they'd wake up any sleeping person.

Third, some people enjoy the experience of hypnosis so much, they don't want to come out of trance. If you've never experienced hypnosis, you may have trouble imagining how blissfully relaxed, at ease, secure, comfortable, restful and revitalizing the experience can be. No wonder some folks are slow to emerge!

Hypnotists are glad you are having a wonderful time, and we hope you'll come back for another session or show. We want to stick to the schedule, though... and right now, it's time for you to wake up. It may happen a little more slowly for some people, but it always happens.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

What If I Can't Remember What I Did or Said In Hypnosis?

Fear #4: Have total amnesia. Stereotypes hang on a long time because there's usually an element of truth about them. They appear to make sense. Careful examination reveals their limitations.

Is it possible to have total amnesia of hypnotic experiences? Of course. Look at highway hypnosis. You zone out and have no memory of passing the last 22 exits. Oops!

Similarly, a client may choose to leave the content of a hypnosis session in their subconscious once they emerge, letting the subconscious mind do all the reorganizing, resolving, and recovering, while the conscious mind focuses on things like the gross national product and where to get watercress in August.

This can offer incredible benefits. In her book You Can Be... Emotionally Free, Rita Bennett says that once you have decided to stop using your conscious mind to worry a problem to death, you need to post a NO FISHING sign. The subconscious is lazy. It doesn't like to be interrupted. Once you ask it to work on something, let it! Don't keep stirring things up! If you do, you'll turn into an annoying, irritating nag. Your subconscious is likely to crawl into the back seat and sulk. "Fine. If you know so much, you handle it!"

Forgetting the content of a hypnosis session can give the subconscious mind space to breathe. Not to mention tidy up all those loose ends.

The content of the hypnosis session may remain in the subconscious for a long time, or the client may remember it gradually over a few days. It might even come back all at once, or in a dream. It all depends on the individual. That is one of the wonderful traits of hypnosis. Your experience will be exactly what's right for you

It's very common for a stage hypnotist to suggest volunteers will remember nothing about the show until they are triggered in some way: taking a sip of their beverage, hearing the word "blue," or any number of post-hypnotic cues. Like any other suggestion, if your subconscious mind finds it acceptable, you'll act; if it doesn't, you won't.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

What If I Embarrass Myself?

Fear #3: Tell all my secrets.

Sometimes people are afraid of what they may say or do in hypnosis. The most common reaction I get when I tell people what I do is, "Are you going to make me cluck like a chicken?"

I ask, "Do you want to cluck like a chicken?"

In one-on-one client work, a certified hypnotist treats her clients with care and respect. You will not say or do anything you don't want to. The wonderful thing about hypnosis is that it puts control in your hands. You possess all the knowledge, skills, and capabilities you need to overcome your challenges. Those resources simply need to be focused and directed, which hypnosis allows you to do. Often, solutions occur entirely on the subconscious level. You don't have to say or do anything.

I have had exactly that experience myself. After a hypnosis session, I was puzzled by the way it unfolded. It did not seem to have anything to do with the challenge I was facing. I shrugged, went about my business, and forgot all about it.

Three days later, I noticed the problem no longer existed! It had been completely resolved, so unconsciously that I didn't even notice when or how it happened. I would tell you about the specific problem, except that I can't even remember what it was!

Such is the power of hypnosis.

What about stage hypnosis? Surely a stage hypnotist can control you the way a voodoo priest controls zombies. You may have seen people in stage hypnosis shows doing things you would find embarrassing.

You may also notice, if you look carefully, that other people do not respond to those suggestions. They simply sit quietly in their chairs. Others may become fully awake and aware, no longer in trance. This is what happens if you find a suggestion unacceptable. You may ignore it or wake up.

I love stage hypnosis, and I don't think it's ever necessary to embarrass people. I don't think humiliation is funny. Hypnosis can bring out hidden talents, release creativity, and tickle your imagination. It's easy to build a show that's fun for everyone, volunteers and audiences alike. If you ever come to one of my shows, you can be sure that the volunteers have the best time of all. They'll feel excited and proud of their abilities when the show is over - not embarrassed! - and they'll want to tell their friends about it again and again.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

What If I Can't Be Hypnotized?

Fear #2: You can't hypnotize me. I'm too strong-willed, too reasonable, too determined; too fearful, smart, uncertain, etc.

You're right. I can't hypnotize you.

Three things are required to enter hypnosis: expectancy, an IQ of average or above, and the ability to follow instructions. That's it. But if any one of those things is lacking, you won't be hypnotized. If you go into it to resist, guess what? No one can be hypnotized against their will. You are in control.

A friend of mine wondered what hypnosis was like, but he was nervous about it. I explained to him that hypnosis was a natural state of mind that we enter into naturally, every single day, hundreds of times, without even noticing it. I offered to give him an experience of how his subconscious mind, which already controlled things like his breathing and heartbeat and habits, could affect other areas of his life. I asked if he'd like to try one of the of the pre-tests we use for hypnosis. Although it is not hypnosis, it will give you an idea of what to expect.

So we ran through the pre-test, where you hold out two hands level with each other, concentrate on a feeling of heaviness in one and a feeling of lightness in the other.

His hands started to vibrate and shake while remaining perfectly level. I brought the pre-test to a close and said, "Open your eyes. You can see your hands remain perfectly even with each other, although your hands did respond with some vibrating and shaking."

"Yes," he said. "I was fighting not to let you take control of my mind."

(See earlier post about how hypnosis isn't mind control any more than braking at a stop sign is mind control.)

So if you don't want to be hypnotized, you won't be. At the same time, nothing can keep you from being hypnotized if you do want the experience.

It's up to you. You're in control.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Hollywood Hypnosis

Fear #1: It must by like what I see on TV. (Or in the movies.)

I grew up watching Boris Karloff and Vincent Price moviews and while I don't recall seeing hypnosis explicitly portrayed, I definitely saw evil wizards casting spells with mysterious gestures, crystal pendulums, and the seductive monotony of the villian's voice.

Years later, in Telefon, I saw Charles Bronson turn into an assassin when someone whispered a hypnotic trigger over the telephone.

Creepy! And it has no relation to real hypnosis.

Hypnosis is not black magic or brainwashing. It is a naturally occurring state of mind that we pass through repeatedly all day long.

Hypnosis means our subconscious receives a message (suggestion) and begins to act on it without resistance, rejection or interference from the conscious mind.

This happens every time you come to a stop light. Do you consciously think, "Red means stop. I remove my foot from the gas, downshift, apply pressure to the brake, take the car out of gear, adjust my speed so that I come to a stop leaving space between my vehicle and the vehicle in front of me, before reaching the intersection."

Probably not. Your foot just moves.

A friend of mine said, "That's not hypnosis. That's a reflex."

Were you born with driving reflexes? Didn't you learn the behavior consciously at first? Maybe it has been a long time since you first climbed into the driver's seat of a car. Do you remember having to concentrate on every move? You had to practice again and again until you could do it with unconscious ease.

You probably don't remember learning to walk or talk, but that's another example of something you do now - automatically, reflexively, without conscious attention - that you had to learn with effort and practice.

Hypnosis is a tool for accelerating that "unconscious competence" and changing your behavior so that you can do it automatically, without struggling, using willpower, or arguing with yourself.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Five Myths About Hypnosis

At the Portland Chapter NGH meeting on May 13, Floyd Willis mentioned a mnemonic device developed by Tom Silver to describe common fears people have about hypnosis:


1. Must be like what I see on TV.
2. You can't hypnotize me.
3. Tell all my secrets.
4. Have total amnesia.
5. Stuck in trance.

I thought it might be fun to examine these one by one. Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Hypnosis to Improve Sports Performance

The Portland Chapter of the National Guild of Hypnotists met today, and the speaker - Floyd Wills - presented a talk entitled, "Blending Focus With Hypnosis: Mental Training for Sports and Personal Fitness." Meaty stuff! Wills covered theory and gave out real-world tested, nuts-and-bolts tools, passing along substantial, well-researched and well-presented material.

Wills has been practicing martial arts for 16 years and teaching them for seven. The techniques he taught not only fit athletes, but anyone who wants to develop laser-like focus in any area of accomplishment. These brain-based tools work with the whole mind and body. You can't train psychology and physiology separately, Wills says, because they are inseparably connected in our natural biology. Research shows that people are 80 percent more likely to give up on their physical training goals if the mental training component is lacking.

Illustrating facts with stories from his own life, from the lives of athletes and U.S. servicemen, and from folklore, Wills outlined four components that will move us through the blocks - distractions, doubts, fears - that keep us from accomplishing what we set out to do.

I love mnemonic systems - techniques that make things easy to remember, such as associating letters of a word with steps of a process (MYTHS for the five most common fears that block hypnotic trance, for example). Wills used several mnemonic systems in describing simple ways to structure and execute a mental training program.

I left the presentation with solid theory, and with plenty of hands-on tools. Wills included NLP patterns and hypnosis scripts for use with clients - or with ourselves. The packet he handed out also included a bibliography of books that explain things in more depth. It was a privilege and a pleasure to be in the audience and receive the benefits of his knowledge and experience in the martial arts, and to hear how these techniques transfer to the field of hypnosis.

Monday, May 08, 2006

New Portland Story Theater Performance!

I remember when I had to wait six months (or more) for a performance by Portland Story Theater. God must really love me, because I've seen them perform twice in the last three months - once around Valentine's Day and once last weekend, for their Mother's Day show: "Everybody's Got One."

If I were the sort of person given to hyperbole (heaven forfend!), I'd say, I wish every storytelling concert could be like this! To me, it seemed perfectly paced - the humor, the heartbreak, the mindboggling "Wow, I wish I'D seen that!" and the cringing "Yeesh, I'm glad that wasn't ME!"

I'm a huge fan of original material. There is something about personal narrative that engages me like nothing else. Maybe that's why the stories of childhood and adolescence had me rapt on the edge of my chair. So often, I hear people telling stories about childhood experiences, and they haven't really gained much emotional distance. The stories have become engraved and enshrined as part of a personal mythology. The meaning of those events has remained the same over the years. In the stories I heard last Friday, the tellers revealed how the meanings of their stories had changed; how their understanding of events had shifted, sometimes gradually, over years, and sometimes in a flash. Wow.

There's one more weekend to see "Everybody's Got One" - Friday and Saturday, May 12 and 13. I don't know when the next PST performance is planned, but I do know you don't want to wait six months. Lynne Duddy, Anne Penfound, Lawrence Howard and Rick Huddle have really put together something special. Go see!

Location, time, and other info is at their Web site,