written by Chris Wallace
I first became interested in hypnosis when I was in college in the 1980s. Eli Benson did something called “The Relaxation Response”, a form of self-hypnosis to evoke a deep relaxation. My psych teacher in college would sometimes lead the class in guided imagery exercises and I found myself fully buying into these. I loved the way I could sit in my seat and yet, at the same time, seemingly be somewhere completely different.
I remember there was an exercise we did where we imagined we visited a small town. It was somewhere quaint, and its description could have been for any small town a hundred years old or more, with the old architecture and a Main Street. We wandered around the town as she described the sights, sounds, smells, and then finally found an antique shop. It was filled with objects of all kinds and she suggested we gaze over all the items, leisurely taking it all in. Suddenly, there it was, an object we had not anticipated, but looking at it, it became the only desirable item in the store. She suggested we move towards that item, pick it up, hold it, run our fingers and hands along its length and feel the marvel at finding such a precious item in this dusty old store, in this small town in the middle of nowhere.
Then she brought us out of our trances and had us write down our experiences. In my reverie, I had found an old Brunswick Trophy snooker cue. It had an ivory center and copper screw, black ebony and maple hardwood shafts. It was just like the one I got as a gift from a girlfriend, and which used to belong to Jim Rivers down the street from me. When I showed her my answer, she asked me if it was possible this cue represented me. Was it the old part of me I’d turned away from and disavowed through my travails? I had to think hard about it, but the more I did, the more I appreciated the exercise and what it meant to me emotionally.
I was hooked on self-hypnosis after that. In my first jobs as a counsellor in two different centres, I used hypnosis and guided imagery every day. I’ve been a long time National Guild of Hypnotists member and we don’t need to call it therapy or be seen as therapists. I’m a consulting hypnotist.
In fact, anyone can hypnotize themselves. And pretty much anyone can be hypnotized. In all the years I’ve practiced, I have never had someone who could not benefit from hypnosis. I myself was a chronic problem sleeper and still to this day, use about a dozen techniques to put myself into trance. In fact, I used one of them last night when the hot muggy air mixed with an overactive mind interfered with my going to sleep. In five minutes using one of my go-to strategies, I was out.
I can nap anywhere. I can pull into a busy parking lot of a gas station, find a corner, and park. Then, using the sound of cars going by, the Doppler effect of approaching noise, the diminishing noise as the cars move off to go deeper down, down, and down into trance and a nap. Ten or twenty minutes later, I’m refreshed and ready to go. I took a nap in the delivery room of the hospital when my son was born, with missus and her two sisters in front of me. I used the whirring and beeping of machines to imagine I was in a submarine descending into the darkness of the Mariana Trench, gliding silently, sailors (nurses) flitting about attending to duties, down, down, and out. “Wally! You’re missing it!” came the startling cry from my wife a few minutes later. I jumped up on time to see my son arrive and got a few concerned looks from the assembled women. We still laugh about it.
I’ve used hypnosis to great effect with addiction, overeating and a host of other behaviours. Hypnosis is suggestion and because it occurs when normal ego defense is lacking, it can temporarily change self-concept. That’s how you see yourself measure up against how you believe others see you. Self-concept is destiny as far as I’m concerned.
We live emotionally and use our brain to rationalize later. The brain operates predictively to put you in the best emotional state to meet circumstances, beneath awareness, and course-corrects afterward based on the social reality before you. It uses interoception, what’s going on in the body, and mines your databank of previous experience since birth to best guess at an appropriate state to keep you safe and functioning. It’s done faster than you can think. All this means is to create new feelings, you must live new experiences. This is why time heals, though, if the person doesn’t live differently, it may not. What hypnosis does is allow a window of suggestion to take hold, and with this, the client can live differently and create a new feeling paradigm around that behaviour. The imagined new behaviour influences that databank of prior experiences, and this allows new emotional states which the brain can use predictively. It’s inserting desirable memories so the brain can call upon these to meet its challenges. The more you do it, the better it works.
A smoker doesn’t become a non-smoker, they become normal. Note the difference? The dieter doesn’t “lose weight” or they will just try to “find” it later. What they do is become a healthy eater using moderation and choice to control their caloric intake. It’s seeing themselves in a whole new light. With good rapport between hypnotist and client, anyone can benefit from hypnosis. The key for the skeptic is to understand the above while realizing it is their hypnosis and theirs alone.
Chris Wallace, BST,CH
Advisor to Men, Counsellor at Large
Note from Alex: Like Chris, or “Wally”, I have had many unique, interesting and even shocking memories pulled out from me while engaging with a hypnotist, some that occurred when I was only 3 or 4 years old. Accurate memories that have been affirmed as real by my parents. Several sessions of hypnotherapy rank in the top handful of emotional experiences I have had in my adult life, and each left me feeling as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders, at least momentarily. While this is not the purpose I utilize hypnotism for, as I do not feel burdened down by my past, it is quite an interesting experience that may help others.
I invited Wally to write this article as I know he has been practicing hypnotism for decades and also, like me, shares an interest in following the ongoing research and devouring all new books geared towards the layman on neuroscience. I’ve known Wally for 17 years and he was one of the first 5 people that tried the hand pressed tablets I produced.
Chris Wallace is the Advisor to Men and Counselor at Large, author and entrepreneur. He helps men use their power in service of themselves and those around them to find meaning and freedom. Find him at advisortomen.com