The first time I hypnotised someone, I had no choice – I just had to do it, because it was being demanded of me by fifty handbag-waving women – members of the Brentwood Ladies Circle who had asked me to give a talk about hypnosis.
This was a turning point in my life. I had been studying hypnosis and getting research papers from Milton H Erickson, but had yet to put any of what I had learned into practice. I naively accepted to give a talk about hypnosis without consciously realising that they would want a demonstration. My unconscious mind knew better however, and had decided that I was ready for this, it just didn’t tell me until the last minute.
At the end of my talk they asked for a demonstration and so with considerable knee shaking confidence I invited a woman to the front. I had received a paper from Erickson that week where he had induced a negative hallucination in a patient indirectly. So not knowing how to do it directly, I repeated what I had read in Erickson’s paper.
Within minutes I had made this woman’s best friend disappear – she was completely invisible to my volunteer hypnotic subject. I had her invisible friend levitate a glass on the table and watched with delight and astonishment as my volunteer went a deathly white with fear.
A week later I was giving a talk at a local 18 plus group, so I repeated my demonstration and delighted in watching my new volunteer pass out when she shook hands with her invisible friend, who happened to be her brother.
I was not yet a therapist but I could see the amazing potential if I could change someone’s reality to such an extent. So I decided to become an Ericksonian hypnotherapist, and my two demonstrations taught me that our reality is totally based on our perception, and our beliefs are based on our perceived reality. It made me question what was real and what was illusion.
Light waves travel faster than sound waves. So if they arrive in our brains at different times how can we possibly experience something real in the here and now? These events have already happened. Everything that we believe is happening in the present moment has already happened a few moments ago. This explains why we can change reality with hypnosis. We don’t actually change reality, we change our perception of the reality that we believe is real.
This opened up many possibilities for me as a therapist because I could now see that it was possible to change beliefs by changing perception. Everything was possible because nothing was real. Even the client’s problem was not real. The problem they brought to therapy was based on their perception of a problem that had already happened, and their perception was also based on a previous perception.
The secret to a general theory of effective therapy is based on the therapist dismantling the repetitive thought processes that have been hardwired through synaptic connections in the brain and reinforced through the client’s failed attempts to help themselves. The answer is not to dig around in the client’s past but to give them a mental laxative by re-wiring how their brain processes their perception of their problem.
Me in the late 1970’s, around the time I was giving my first talks and founded the British Hypnosis Research Association.