Sunday, March 30, 2008

Book Review: Self Hypnotism, Leslie Lecron

Leslie M. Lecron's Self Hypnotism: The Technique and its Use in Daily Living is one of the classics on self hypnotism. I've read some complaints about Lecron's attitudes (categorizing homosexuality as a mental illness, for example, or saying that only medical professionals should be trusted with hypnosis - a view Milton Erickson shared), but every book (movie, play, essay, hypothesis, etc.) is a product of context: geography, gender, culture, class, year. Lecron's book is a product of a 1964 psychologist. What is it they say in the Twelve Step movement? Take what works and leave the rest. (The key is to experiment first, to learn whether it works for you or not.)

One of the things I like about Lecron's book is the resources he cites for learning about hypnosis and methods to develop awareness, sharpen focus, increase attention, deepen relaxation, and other skills that can be used to overcome obstacles of perception, belief, and habit. Throughout the text, he recommends books and authors and sometimes adapts their methods to hypnotic processes. (Unfortunately, the books he mentions aren't all listed in the bibliography, so you have to flip through the book looking for the italicized titles.)

Lecron's book does seem very dated to me; nevertheless, I like the way he describes working with ideomotor signals (finger signals or pendulum movements) to narrow down the range of past experiences that might be at the root of current troubling attitudes or habits. His background as a psychologist also made the book richer, for me. When I was growing up, migraines and allergies were the debilitating conditions in my family, and the root causes he identifies (repressed hostility and overprotectiveness) rang true to me as an adult.

I recently read a blog somewhere describing someone's Catholic-school experiences and how they remembered their family and classmates dealing with a "cool" priest and a "perv" priest with gossip and vigilance. Later, as adults, the real story came out, and they learned the cool priest was the actual pedophile and the perv wasn't a perv at all, but the overseer hired to make sure the kids were never alone with the pedophile. The grown children reviewed their memories and compared their youthful interpretation of characters and events with their informed adult memories. It struck me how very like hypnosis this was. Like Dave Elman's terrific book, Hypnotherapy, Lecron's book describes case studies of people whose experiences in childhood were the source of adult problems that were cleared up once that insight was identified and resolved with hypnosis.

Lecron's book is definitely a product of its time, but the methods are sound and described with adequate detail so that any reader can adapt them to their own uses.

Friday, March 21, 2008


I like slingback-style shoes, but they aren't terribly sturdy. I had a pair that broke midweek, and I was stuck for something else to wear. I tend to dislike shopping for clothes, so I don't have many back-ups.

I had a pair of shoes I'd purchased at the same time as the slingbacks and never worn. They had three-and-a-half-inch heels (I love high heels), and although they felt fine at the shop when I tried them on, just two hours in them once I'd got them home made me realize I'd made a horrible mistake. So they sat in a bag destined for Goodwill for the better part of two years.

I dug them out of the bag, not having an alternative until I could shop for a new pair.

Within two hours, the ball of my right foot was numb and the toes of my left foot felt rubbed raw. I thought about methods of interrogation and torture and decided if high heels weren't one of the tactics the military used, they were dolts.

Day Two was more of the same. By the end of the day, I was in agony. The admiring comments on my "cute new shoes" seemed to make it worse. Didn't it just figure that something I hated provoked compliments from others?

On Day Three, I knew something had to give. I shoved a pair of Dr. Scholl's gel inserts into the toes and decided to focus on anything but my feet. My posture. My breathing. The muscles in my abdomen and lower back. My shoulders. Any time pain drew my attention to my feet, I took a deep breath, looked up at the ceiling, sucked in my gut, threw back my shoulders, and told myself I was strong, tall, graceful, and powerful.

I imagined I was standing in front of a lecture hall giving a presentation with a huge screen behind me; so huge that I had to stand tall or else I'd be invisible in comparison.

I told myself I'd only have to endure this for a few more days; then I'd go shopping and get a comfortable pair of shoes.

By Day Five, the shoes seemed looser, my toes felt pressured but not pained, and I began to regain a nice rhythm and confidence in my walk.

By Day Seven, I was pretty sure I could love these shoes. They were becoming comfortable. By the end of the second week, they were completely broken in, as easy to wear as my old pair, and I really did love them.

Isn't breaking old habits often like that? We struggle to incorporate new actions that seem difficult, sometimes even painful, to perform. Using repetition, positive self-talk, change of focus, setting a limit of "just a few more days," engaging the imagination to dissociate from the challenge and associate into an outcome, strong emotion -- in other words, hypnosis -- awkward new behaviors become second nature.

How easy it would have been to give up the first day!

Pain is a message. Sometimes, it means something is deficient (health, wholeness, safety). Other times, it means something is different. When I use different muscles, learn new information, experiment with different foods, get a new pair of glasses, fall in (or out) of love, or expand ourselves in any way, pain is sometimes a passenger in the experience.

No matter what the message contains -- "Something is deficient" or "Something is different" -- I get to decide how to respond to pain. I can stop what I'm doing and consider my options. I can completely abandon the course I was taking. I can ignore the discomfort and persist.

I can label or categorize the pain in a number of different ways: Use Robert Dilts's Logical Levels, for example. I've known people who lived with chronic pain for decades. Some made it a part of their identity; others made it a part of their environment. Even at the level of identity there are differences. Some made themselves a victim of their pain. Others regarded it (as Richard Bach has said) as "a problem with a gift in its hands."

The best way out is always through. -- Robert Frost

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Media Review: Paul McKenna

Paul McKenna is more familiar to viewers across the pond, but he's come to the USA in a big way now on TLC's show, I Can Make You Thin with Paul McKenna. He used hypnosis with Ellen Degeneres to help her stop smoking and was on her show using hypnosis to help folks eilminate fear of snakes, spiders, etc.

Now, McKenna is spending five weeks to help folks lose weight.

I watched the debut on Sunday and delighted at the provocative way he couched his Golden Rules for weight loss.

1. When you're hungry, go and eat.
2. Eat what you want, not what you think you should.
2. Eat consciously.
4. When you're full, stop.

Why are these provocative? A couple are so simple that they're easy to dismiss. I can imagine people rolling their eyes in disgust, saying, "Well, of course, everybody knows that."

If those Golden Rules were really as simple as they appear, McKenna wouldn't have spent a full hour explaining them! Hypnosis depends on precise language, and McKenna took care to unpack "hungry," "consciously," and "full."

I loved the experiment where they invited people to a restaurant for identical breakfasts on two consecutive mornings. The second day, they blindfolded the customers. And guess what? People felt full sooner. They left food on their plates. I'm guessing they also ate more slowly, because it's probably a little more difficult to eat when you're blindfolded. I wonder if the food tasted differently, too?

McKenna hasn't talked about hypnosis, but clips from next week's show had people using EFT, Gary Craig's Emotional Freedom Technique, derived from Roger Callahan's Thought Field Therapy. A recent article in the March 2008 Journal of Hypnotism cited a study that said people who eat for emotional reasons (bored, stressed, lonely) have a harder time losing weight than others. I'm looking forward to watching McKenna at work.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Portland Story Theater, Part Three of Four

Last Friday, Portland Story Theater opened its third show of 2008 with Rick Huddle's On Sale Now! Rick is one of my favorite tellers; nevertheless, I was nervous, because the theme of consumerism can be so polarizing. I steeled myself for an evening that, for all I knew, could have been subtitled Money Is Evil. I needn't have worried.

Rick doesn't tell safe stories (one of the things I like about him), but I always feel safe with him (another thing I like). He takes care of his audience.

What else do I like about Rick? He's physical. He skips, hops, preens, and teaches audience members to flip through catalog pages as he shares a game from his childhood. He projects a captivating childlike energy, an irresistable invitation to come out and play. He has a Puckish, mischievous air that's both grounding and exciting. Kind of like watching a seven-year-old balance atop a wall.

And his stories touch universal human preoccupations: respect, inner worth, relationships, cultural values, work, dreams, family.

I arrived at Hipbone Studios before the doors opened, but I could hear Rick laughing inside. After confirming my reservation and purchasing my ticket, I was handed some Monopoly money and urged to go buy a snack. I wandered over to the concession table, where a variety of chips and sodas were on display. I bought a copy of Rick's CD and signed the unique On Sale Now! guest book (what a nifty idea!).

Alton Chung had composer and pianist Mike Van Liew accompany him, and Rick had the Tuesday Group open for him with their Stimulus Package. What a kick! But boy, am I glad I'm not their agent. How to describe them! "Hi there, I've got three men and two women in business suites performing a choreographed, a capella, be bop, interactive indictment of consumerism that will have your audience laughing, cringing, and tapping their feet!" I don't know. Might be a hard sell, which is a pity. They were wonderful.

As usual, Huddle's performance was stellar. He takes the most mundane events and arranges and polishes them into treasures. It's truly a coal-into diamond effect, and I always marvel.

Hypnosis sometimes involves storytelling, and storytelling frequently evokes trance. For me, the most memorable story of the night reminded me of some of Milton Erickson's work. Rick described the first time he identified with clothing: a pair of green Converse Chuck Taylor tennis shoes he owned as a kid. From having his foot measured (I thought I was the only child enchanted by those metal things that had that little sliding gizmo that pressed up against the ball of your foot) to the way the shoes almost magically transform his world to the sad end of the relationship, it's a sweet and penetrating portrayal of identity, autonomy, personal symbols, and personal power.

Are sweatshops evil? And what about Wal Mart? What happens when our dream jobs become brain drains? Is it impossible to imagine that something as simple and transitory as a coconut cupcake could be a legitimate source of happiness? Huddle poses more questions than answers, thank goodness, giving the audience the opportunity to explore as they pursue their own journeys.

On Sale Now! closes this weekend. Next up for Portland Story Theater: Lynne Duddy's dark matter, April 11-12 and 18-19.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Book review: Self-Hypnosis and Other Mind Expanding Techniques by Charles Tebbetts

In 1970, Charles Tebbetts enrolled in Gil Boyne's self-hypnosis course in California, and entered into a deep love affair with hypnosis and a passion for the rapid-change techniques Boyne taught. Tebbetts went on to be a creative, compassionate hypnotist and teacher in his own right, opening one of the most respected hypnosis schools in the State of Washington. Self-Hypnosis and Other Mind Expanding Techniques describes the successful methods of self hypnosis he used and taught.

Tebbetts gives wonderfully direct and simple descriptions of the roles of the conscious and subconscious minds that dispel many misconceptions about hypnosis (e.g., I won't wake up, I'll be unconscious, I'll be giving up control of my mind to another). He also firmly advises readers to avoid skeptical, doubtful, or analytical attitudes, which can complicate (or completely derail) a person's ability to enter hypnosis.

Tebbetts describes six inductions and four deepeners (including two personal favorites, the Elevator and Glued Fingers), all simple and easy to perform.

There's also a really wonderful chapter about how to construct and deliver effective suggestions to yourself. Crafting suggestions in a way they'll be accepted by the subconscous mind is very important. Hypnosis cannot make anyone do anything against their will, and the subconscious will reject suggestions if it doesn't like them. How do you create suggestions the subconscious will accept? Tebbetts lists nine qualities that every suggestions should possess, and they are so simple, elegant, and beautifully described, I'd like to have them tattooed on my wrist.

Scripts that can be recorded verbatim are provided for clearing out unresourceful emotions such as anger, self-pity, exaggerated pity for others, guilt, and anxiety (self-limiting fears). Those of you who are reading this blog for reflections on Nonviolent Communication may wonder where I get off calling any emotion "unresourceful." Good question. I'll take it up another time, because that probably deserves a post of its own.

Tebbetts also includes scripts for pain relief (headache, constipation, arthritis, bursitis, asthma), rapid recovery from disease, memory improvement, and other issues. I can understand why this book was so popular; it's absolutely jammed with information, while emphasizing the essentials in a simple and straightforward manner.

While slightly more than half the book is devoted to self-hypnosis, the remainder looks at meditation, biofeedback, faith healing, and ESP. In the secion on meditation, Tebbetts suggests some things to try if you don't get good results with the mantra you've been using: change your mantra, change your rhythm, and seek advice from someone more experienced. All of these are also excellent suggestions for those who may be having difficulty with self-hypnosis. (Substitute the word "induction" for "mantra.")