I Guess That Makes Me a Hypnotist

May 8, 2023 | Me

I knew I was a hypnotist the moment I gave a woman amnesia.

The woman was also a hypnotist. We were part of the same class, working to get our certification. And we were currently working on an assignment.

The amnesia, however, was not part of the assignment. That was an accident. But it did mark a turning point in how I viewed myself as a hypnotist, as an author, and as a person.

But I’m Getting ahead of Myself

I hinted at this last week, when I revealed I was working on a secret side effort. That effort was no more or less than me taking classes to earn my hypnotist certification. I was spending my weekends in a neighboring town called Taylorsville, enrolled in a course sanctioned by the National Guild of Hypnotists (NGH) to train and credentialize students of hypnotism.

It was one of the better experiences of my life, and perhaps the best one dealing with formal education. I was enrolled with three other students—all women—and each of us had come to the class with different objectives. One wanted to learn hypnosis to augment her Reiki business. One was a nurse who had a life goal of learning every mode of healing. And one was a real estate agent looking to experiment with a new career.

I was the only one in the group not seeking to practice hypnotism professionally. At least, not in any direct way. Though the course proved profitable in ways having little to do with money.

The Writer’s Road to Hypnotism: Fascination

I have always been fascinated by the subject of hypnosis, as—I suspect—have most of you. My first serious exploration of the subject was when, as a teenager, I read a book by Raphael Rhodes, who demystified the practice in ways that piqued my further curiosity.

The book is sadly out of print, but serves as an excellent primer (though, naturally, formal training is a far superior approach to understanding the subject). As a teenager, the idea of hypnosis genuinely impressed me, especially upon learning that hypnosis can be used in lieu of anesthesia for surgical patients.

This seemed too ridiculous a claim to believe. If hypnosis can replace chemical anesthesia with none of the latter’s side effects (which are numerous and potentially dangerous), then why would any medical establishment rely on chemical anesthesia for anything?

The more I studied it, the more I could discern that, while hypnotism by all accounts ought to be a pseudoscience on paper, its track record was too good to dismiss as a superstition or a scam. Hypnosis is something which provably exists. It also has provably cured and treated a wide array of human ailments, and has been used as a forensic tool, and even as a performance-enhancing technique for athletes.

But I was just a teenager at the time, and I had other commitments to attend to. Still, I never lost my fascination with hypnosis as a subject.

The Writer’s Road to Hypnotism: Enter David Farland

My lifelong dream of becoming an author also took root during my teenage years, and had far more of a hold over me than hypnosis itself. Yes, I was curious about hypnotism, but I knew I wanted to be a writer. With a limited amount of time for extracurricular activities, I chose writing over hypnotism, believing the two subjects to be mutually exclusive.

That changed the day David Farland agreed to edit my book, Advent 9.

Dave Wolverton, as he is known in real life, had an interest in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), which is a close cousin of hypnotism. His son is an NLP practitioner, and Dave himself was so convinced of NLP’s efficacy that he made it a cornerstone of his writing technique, and even taught NLP principles as part of his instructive materials to up-and-coming authors.

As I valued Dave’s advice more than almost anyone else’s, his enthusiastic endorsement of NLP got me thinking, maybe subliminally, about hypnotism. It probably would have led nowhere if further twists of fate hadn’t prodded me further.

The Writer’s Road to Hypnotism: Enter Scott Adams

The creator of Dilbert is also a bestselling author in his own right. And he is quite prolific on Twitter, where he dispenses writing advice—not in the same quantity as what David Farland doled out on a daily basis, but Scott understands the ground rules of writing, and he hammers those points home to anyone who bothers to listen to him.

Scott doesn’t bother to hide the fact that he is a trained hypnotist, though his real interest is the field of persuasion science, which the study of hypnotism has helped him to master. It occurred to me that, as an author who will have to market his work, a knowledge of persuasion techniques would help my efforts.

The Writer’s Road to Hypnotism: Enter Joshua Lisec

From Scott’s Twitter account, I learned about Joshua Lisec, one of the world’s most successful ghostwriters. Though Joshua has published fiction in the past, his primary business model is working with professionals who occupy the top of their respective fields. Joshua picks their brains, collates the information, then uses his writing skill to produce a book that becomes the go-to handbook for that particular field. He rakes in millions of dollars every year this way.

Joshua is also a certified hypnotist, and speaks highly of hypnotism as a science.

And, after observing that so many successful authors had connections to the practice of hypnotism, it occurred to me that mere coincidence could not explain this. Three separate bestselling authors have incorporated either hypnotism or NLP into their writing practice? You can’t convince me this is an accident.

So I asked Joshua how I might become a hypnotist myself, and he directed me to the NGH.

Enter T. Alan Horne

The NGH’s website has a convenient list of hypnotism instructors across the United States. I found one that was not too far a drive from my home and signed up for the program. As someone who suffers from communication deficits, it occurred to me that hypnotic techniques could help me build rapport with people for a number of purposes, not least of which was marketing my book, Advent 9.

I decided to make the investment to get my own certification. It was strange to be the only person in the classroom whose interest in the subject was (almost) purely academic, but I was determined to learn everything I could about hypnosis, in the hopes that it could help me connect with people better.

Amnesia Made Me Remember Something

On my second weekend, I gave amnesia to my assignment partner without meaning to.

Therapeutic hypnosis most frequently takes the subject into one of the lighter hypnotic states, where they still remain aware of themselves and afterwards remember everything that happened. It is extremely effective, but many people feel cheated if they fail to forget everything that happened while they were hypnotized. Stereotypes suggest that hypnosis isn’t real unless it is accompanied by memory loss.

Frankly, I had fallen into that trap myself. Don’t get me wrong: I felt good every time someone hypnotized me. I could tell there was more to the experience than simply sitting in a chair and pretending to be asleep. But I couldn’t be sure anything had actually happened.

And, as this hypnosis course was primarily aimed at people seeking to become therapeutic hypnotists, little instruction was given on how to produce the more visible, tangible, and instantaneous results of hypnotic intervention. The course would eventually demonstrate how lighter hypnotic states are more beneficial for such clinical purposes, but I still wanted to do something unmistakably hypnotic.

That it happened so suddenly, so unplanned, sent my head spinning. I was only trying to perform the Ego Strengthening Script on my fellow student. Yet when I brought her out of hypnosis, she could not remember a word of anything I said from the moment I finished inducing her to the moment I started lifting her out of hypnosis.

It was then her turn to hypnotize me, and as she read the Ego Strengthening Script out loud, she realized that she had no memory of any part of it. The words were completely new to her, and I came out of the experience without any memory loss.

And it struck me: on only my second weekend of training, I had already demonstrated the reality of hypnosis in a measurable way—measurable by the time lost by this fellow student, who had no recollection of being hypnotized.

And, at the end of the day, when each student took a moment to share their experiences with the class, I had to say, “I guess that makes me a hypnotist.”

Still Learning

It still boggles my mind how hypnotism has flown under the radar of the scientific and medical communities for so long. While some luminaries, such as Sigmund Freud, dabbled in the practice, it is still largely ignored. Treated as superstition. Dismissed as “magic”.

But lots of things look like magic on paper. I can’t help but remember the words of another famous author:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

ARTHUR C. CLARKE

And, in fairness, a lot of the links between hypnosis and other, actual pseudosciences (psychic powers, and the like), come from inside the community of hypnotists. Hypnotists are, by and large, an open-minded group. Having filled a niche left unexplored by mainstream science and medicine, they are sensitive to all who are similarly excluded.

Perhaps if the community of hypnotists made more of an effort to distance themselves from esoterica, there would be a greater welcome toward hypnotism from the scientific community. I must admit, I am tempted to suggest this exact course of action to hypnotists everywhere. The benefits could change the world, revolutionize health care, and even give researchers the tools they need to study human consciousness in a repeatable, documentable way.

But I fear such a suggestion will not get far. Even if hypnotism extends an olive branch to science, there is no guarantee that science will reciprocate. And many hypnotists couldn’t care less what institutions or academia think of them. They put so much effort into building their cloister of arcana exactly how they like it. Why throw that all away on the off-chance it might catch the eye of some egghead?

Stuck in the middle, all I can do is blaze my own trail, as an author who is open to almost all possibilities. Right now, the most tantalizing possibility of all is doing pro bono work for friends and family.

Practice makes perfect, after all.

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