Saturday, October 18, 2008

Prerequisite I for Surviving a Conference: Understanding Christianity, Hypnosis and Anticipation

Do you know where I first learned about hypnosis? The church. Throughout the early and mid ‘70s, there was actually a movement within the Baptist church promoting hypnosis. We were Pentecostal in the seventies, and we also visited a local chiropractor who embraced mind science and holistic healing, Norman Vincent Peale style.

 These ideologies bear similarities, overlap and complement one another for good reason which we will soon discover. In an attempt to help me with nightmares (related to a few childhood traumas), my mother (a Pentecostal Christian of only a few years of maturity at the time) introduced me to the writings about hypnosis that came out of this movement when I was as young as eight years of age. I’m most familiar with the writings of CS Lovett and Paul Adams, both Baptist ministers who interwove mind science into evangelical Christianity. Actually, having been through the Word of Faith (WoF) mill, I now know that the two ideologies, mind science and WoF share common roots. Were it not for study of and obedience to the Word of God along with my disappointing experience with these systems, I would still likely still be of that same school of thought.

When E.W. Kenyon discovered Mary Baker Eddy’s works, he identified some principles of faith that were true but not Christian, and he sought to “correct” her work and improve upon it by injecting Christian principle into it. But where did Mary Baker get her foundational ideas concerning divine health and faith healing, developing the foundations of New Thought Christianity? She studied with a European mesmerist named Phineas Parkhurst Quimby. In that sense, when Kenyon introduced mind science principles into Pentecostal ideology, he joined hypnosis and Christianity. 

What took me many years of experience and much investigation to learn was that true divine healing (miracles) and healing through hypnosis are actually what I believe to be two unrelated types of healing. I believe that hypnosis reflects principles of truth that are clearly noted in the New Testament (“Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word”.... “Your faith has made you whole”) and diverts faith in God away from God and into faith in the “process of faith” as a work of the mind.

 Note the subtlety there: a primary work (of the mind/flesh) and not a primary fruit of the Spirit. Essentially, New Thought took Christian principles and developed techniques, and then Eddy and Kenyon reintroduced their attenuated faith principles (by then, mixed with pantheistic Eastern ideas and humanistic freewillism) back into Christianity. Though I studied medical applications of hypnotherapy for chronic pain management as nursing continuing education, I was surprised to realize how much insight I also gained regarding the process of spiritual abuse that I’d experienced and how WoF practices actually primed me for spiritual abuse.

I took a fascinating cinematography class in college one semester because I had such a heavy science load, and I also did not expect to learn what these two areas, hypnosis and cinematography, had in common: techniques that could be used to bypass an individual’s critical thinking in order to establish selective thinking. The process needs no unconscious state but can be accomplished while an individual remains completely awake by simply refocusing attention.

A person who wants to advance an agenda needs only to develop skill in the process of shifting and manipulating attention, something we all experience when watching a good film, just one example of waking hypnosis (as I believe it was named by Dave Elman, a pioneer in modern medical and dental applications of hypnotherapy). Elman offers many examples of how waking hypnosis can and does work well by directing the vital element needed for any hypnosis of any type: anticipation. He offers an example of a radiologist who must perform a barium swallow exam which he was taught to preface to patients as an uncomfortable procedure that was unavoidable but vitally necessary. Barium, if retained in the GI tract becomes like concrete, so it is important to cleanse the body from the Barium after the procedure.

The physician was trained to stress this also, but he did so in a manner that had patients anticipate the complications of retained Barium, something that could well never happen to them. He changed his approach to his patients who needed informed consent to participate so that he did not teach them to anticipate discomfort before the procedure. His modified description of the process was entirely true, but he reframed the information so that it did not include anticipation of discomfort. He told patients that the liquid would soothingly coat the GI tract, as the Barium liquid is rather benign and does coat the mucosa. And he told patients that the Barium had to be removed from the body and that there were unpleasant complications, but he prefaced this process as a simple one, focusing more on the cleansing of the substance from the GI tract rather than the complications.

Elman reports that this radiologist reportedly had no problems with patient discomfort after he taught his patients to anticipate a good outcome. The radiologist still obtained informed consent from his patients, but he did so in a wiser way that improved the experience of his patients. He diverted focus away from the molehill (a foreign substance in the GI tract) onto the mountain (the many positive benefits of the procedure).

Redirecting of focus and attention to establish selective thinking serves us as a normal part of the human experience. 

We all know how powerful this selective focus can be, as we all can relate to watching a film or becoming engrossed in a book or a work project so that we loose an active sense of the rest of the world around us. “Time sure flies when you’re having fun.” (Loss of an accurate sense of the passage of time is an effect of hypnosis and of certain states of consciousness.)

The same mechanisms that allow for us to be able to spontaneously redirect our focus can be directed or manipulated by factors in our environment. Teaching a person in chronic pain to turn down their attention to physical pain represents just one of many positive applications of this kind of redirected focus, but not all such manipulations or redirection of our focus can be for our benefit. Both desire and anticipation play a very significant role in this process, as we generally find it easy to anticipate those things which we desire. Manipulators can capitalize on those desires, deceive us, and exploit our good desires in order for their own personal gain (when that gain requires our compliance). A salesman who wants to sell a security system can find ways to redirect our focus through things like fear mongering in order to exploit our desires to keep our family safe and well-protected, for example.

I imagine that there was not one person who attended the True Woman ‘08 Conference without some sense of anticipation. There is a special excitement that comes though a planned event for which one prepares in advance. One technique that nearly guarantees some anticipation of receiving something valuable comes when one pays money in exchange for something like a conference. It is natural, expected consequence, very much like a contract. If I pay money for service or to receive information at a conference, it is quite natural for me to expect reciprocation for that money, and I anticipate that reciprocation. (One certainly would not pay money for something if they did not expect to receive something in exchange.)

This is also very much a behavior that indicates and reinforces that one is willing and cooperative, another element of hypnosis that strengthens the effectiveness of the power of suggestion. (Hypnotherapy clients should always be asked directly if they want and agree to be hypnotized prior to each session.) Payment is another means of reinforcing the desire to cooperate with a behavior which enhances the process, much like the direct question of "Do you want to be hypnotized" should be employed in some way in every session of hypnotherapy. This anticipation, desire and cooperation that one experiences as a conference attendee also create the environment conducive to hypnosis.

Remember that effective hypnosis takes place only when willing participants experience anticipation for a desired outcome, willingly cooperating with the process. The conditions that enhance hypnosis also coincide with the conditions that most conference attendees experience as well, so it behooves any conference attendee to be aware that their critical decision-making skills will inevitably be challenge. (An upcoming "prerequisite post" about states of consciousness or brain wave states will follow this post.)