For this post I’ve made updates to the Reading List with some fresh volumes that represent some of the best ways in to useful stuff, in three different areas.
As promised last week, a couple of good ways for everyone who wants to try Ericksonian hypnosis for and on themselves.
Some say that NLP (which derives in many ways from analyses of Erickson’s methods) is the best way in for this. Now without wanting to say NLP does nothing, I personally would make a strong distinction between it and trancework of the Ericksonian kind. I didn’t get hugely into NLP personally, although some do. (Many in the know agree that NLP has been considerably watered down from what it was 3 decades back when it first appeared, so if you do decide to check it out, be careful from whom you learn.) Stephen Lankton, whom I mentioned last week, wrote an excellent book on NLP right at the beginning of the movement, but then moved to further analysis of Erickson himself and building on the Ericksonian paradigm, because he thought there were things there which hadn’t yet been brought out. I think he was right.
I found NLP fun and useful, but it didn’t have the strong, mysterious, internal-map-changing power of Ericksonian trancework for me, nor, often, that humanistic philosophical depth, and it’s since mostly gone rather by the boards. By all means experiment with it, but don’t think it’ll necessarily do the things I’m talking about by itself.
Another option some will always recommend is of course to buy a CD. Here again though, things can be hit-and-miss. There’s a danger that the generic nature of hypnotic CDs, although it could do something, won’t do enough to really hit your personal issues, and will leave you with a feeling of having ‘tried it but ho hum’. A randomly chosen CD may not always be the easiest way to really get into trance if you’ve never had the experience before.
So what are some more reliable ways? Here’s something not always mentioned: anyone can walk into any hypnotherapist’s workplace and say, “I’d like to try entering a hypnotic trance please, to see what it’s like,” and they will be courteously obliged. The experience orientates someone to trancework much better than a generic cd, and it doesn’t have to be about ‘curing’ anything. Even more importantly, any hypnotherapist will be only too happy to teach anyone how to hypnotise him- or herself. With that experience, working alone becomes far easier. It doesn’t take long to get the idea.
I went to see Keith Bibby, an excellent Ericksonian in London, and he was amazing (I thoroughly recommend him), with skills that still knock me out when I think back, far ahead of anything I could do. Especially off the cuff. It was a delight to be in such good hands. He murmured a continuous quick stream of syllables that I couldn’t quite consciously hear, like a wizard out of Le Guin, but my subconscious heard everything and managed to bring back an interesting item or two, from a trance so deep that my arms felt practically leaden and pinned to the chair.
So that’s one way. But in addition, many will want to find a way by themselves. Luckily, these days there are options.
A great recommend here is a book called Hypnotherapy Scripts by Ronald Havens and Catherine Walters. It’s packed with scripts, including many types of direct and metaphorical (story/image-based) suggestion scripts, in what the authors call a ‘Neo-Ericksonian’ style. People tend to find that having this great variety of scripts pre-made, to choose from, takes out a lot of the difficult initial variables. There’s a variety of excellent “inductions” (sequences to bring on trance), and when it comes to the main body of the script, there’s general stuff like help for your life goals or procrastination, ability to cope with events generally, or scripts for other common issues from the minor to the devastating. In fact the book is a positive grimoire of workings for everything from pain management to smoking, to every relationship and career issue imaginable, to anything else anyone can think of plus some things I couldn’t. (It’s easy to check the table of contents in the Amazon reader for the full list).
Whatever scripts look interesting can simply be recorded to any medium, speaking slowly and gently (the layout of the scripts shows where to put in breaks), and most people interestingly find their own voice is one they respond to very well.
Choosers of this book have two other advantages. First, a CD is out there of Havens and Walters doing one script each — just inductions, but they are both excellent and provide an instinctive link to the material as well as a much better trance experience than you’ll get from most CDs. Second, and even more important, the authors have included a small, enjoyable, and highly workable set of instructions at the back of the book, for anyone who wants to write their own scripts. The steps are simple and jog the mind into creativity. With this method, anyone can get up to speed writing their own Ericksonian metaphors, and will get results. It’s a great, easy, hands-on way to learn.
I really dogged this book when I was starting because it had so much in it, yet allowed the freedom to experiment — learning by doing. I still refer to it quite a bit. It’s a good, friendly way in and I salute it.
Special Bonus: I have a copy of this book to give away! It’s completely new and unused, and I’ll be happy to send it to the first person who contacts me (using the ‘Contact Me’ button, top of the page) and asks for it. :) Yes I’m serious! EDIT: Sorry, the book’s been taken now…
However, one book of course can’t unpack the full Ericksonian toolkit. I’m including two more Ericksonian books on the Reading List, which will give a more complete journey for anyone who wants it. (The next couple of posts will illustrate some of the possibilities that open up if you try this.) A look at Erickson’s casebook, and an understanding of relevant ideas on stages of family development, is quite an education. Erickson thought about people as part of a wider system of relationships, a system either communicating and actualising well or — not so well :). On this, Jay Haley’s book Uncommon Therapy is unputdownable, with its wide-ranging selection of cases of every type imaginable, and many insights into Erickson’s methods.
I also don’t think a person could really get the most out of the book I mentioned so often last post, Steve and Carol Lankton’s The Answer Within, without having read Haley, because the Lanktons constantly reference those developmental ideas. Their book, my final recommend, really does provide the tools for lifting any Ericksonian hypnotic techniques into the stratosphere. It’s a one stop shop providing some philosophical underpinnings, an ingenious method for interweaving multiple metaphors, a complete overview of indirect language use (including double binds) and a system for using and teaching the all-important trance phenomena, amongst many other things. Anyone who’s already learned how to write scripts can start adding this material in and just watch what happens. It’s a veritable book of Gramarye.
Talking of trance phenomena — that’ll be my topic next post. It’s the umbrella term for the products of trance in consciousness, (such as time distortions, sensations, and so forth), which are a very interesting study in themselves, and getting access to them on a regular basis can have some big benefits. The post following that, we’ll take a look at Milton Erickson’s casebook to find out what the man himself was capable of. Later we’ll also be placing Erickson in context with Humanistic Psychology, which school also happens to contain one Glenn Morris.
Meanwhile, here’s an interesting tidbit. Robert Becker’s remarkable book The Body Electric is probably best-known for recounting his experimental proofs that not only do living beings have an electromagnetic field associated with them, that field is absolutely vital to their health. (His work showed an amazing effect on the regenerating limbs of amphibians — real science, and very relevant to everything I discuss, it’s an enthralling read which has been on the Reading List for a while.)
However, there’s more than that in it. On pp. 238-9, Becker describes findings for hypnotic anaesthesia which confirm an electromagnetic polarity alteration takes place on people whose arm has become numb in trance (another of the standard trance phenomena). The same alteration occurs with physical anaesthesia too, but Becker had expected the effects of hypnotic trance to be more ‘psychological’:
Some doubters (including myself, I’m afraid) had believed hypno-analgesia was merely a state in which the patient still felt the pain but didn’t respond to it, but these experiments proved it was a real blockage of pain perception.
More importantly perhaps, they showed that the body’s electrical system, and therefore ch’i, alters strongly as a result of trance. This is one reason why hypnosis is so good to partner up with qigong.
Our culture is probably the most tranced in history. It was a while before I realised that many of the early experiences I valued were trance experiences, including mutual trancing such as that caused by games — good preparation for being inside another person’s imagination. The TV and the novel are powerful ways to self-trance.
But it probably hasn’t escaped many that the uses to which the trances in those systems are put doesn’t necessarily always work 100% for the wellbeing of the general public. There seem to be some trances built from TV and movies, particularly, that can only be removed with other trances, and need to be for some people. I sometimes think the polarity of the information is at odds with the everyday mind. But once the whole system is working, it’s quite hard to distract people from actualising again. Actualised people also help others to actualise by their presence alone, but more of that anon.
(Not to mention, plenty have bent the Ericksonian and NLP ideas out of shape just to use them for sales techniques. Forewarned is forearmed.)
Famously, Becker found evidence for the existence of acupuncture points too. (His conductivity maps of the points are fascinating.) Ingo Swann on the other hand, sitting in meditation in a copper room built by Elmer Green according to instructions found in some theosophical channelings, had amongst many other remarkable experiences a different kind of confirmation of the acupoints’ existence:
I again looked down at my hands with my eyes, and saw […] that the surface of the skin was peppered with small glowing dots. Of course, I immediately wondered what these were — at which point they somehow magnified — and I could see them composed one-half of pink light, the other of turquoise blue light. Inside each of them was a transparent lusciously green whorl […] I soon realized, with extreme amazement, what these were. I had always wondered how the ancient Chinese could make maps of the acupuncture points without having sensitive instruments which could detect their minute voltages. It was now clear to me that they almost certainly had used micro-clairvoyance to do this […] However there were many more of [the points] than are usually illustrated in the books…
— Swann, Psychic Sexuality, 1999, p. 218
No, I haven’t had this experience, although Robert Bruce seems to have had something similar. It makes sense that there are more points than we know of — the so-called ‘sen points’ of Thai massage are a similar system to the Chinese one, but with many more points, and in different places. Similarly, the nadis of yoga fulfil similar functions to the Chinese meridians but are definitely not identical with them.
However, the standard Chinese meridian system is a great way to work with the energies, and people can do so by themselves using the technique of acupressure, which costs nothing and gets excellent results. Glenn recommended doing self-shiatsu after every meditation, which uses similar points and meridians, and that’s another alternative. (He also used the same points to hurt rather than heal, a martial arts trick called Dim Mak.)
Plenty of the ch’i kung books on the Reading List have a little acupressure stuff in them, but after experimenting with a regular regimen, I think it’s worth getting to know for itself. I’ve put in a couple of books for people wanting to try it. Michael Reed Gach’s Acupressure’s Potent Points is a classic focusing mostly on physical healing — allergies, backache, insomnia, colds and flu, digestive issues, you name it; whilst the book he’s more recently written with Beth Ann Henning, Acupressure for Emotional Healing, comes at it more from that emotional angle with point combinations for anxiety, depression, fear, grief, trauma recovery, and so forth. Naturally there’s a lot of crossover between the books, and healing the physical will certainly alter the emotional and vice versa.
Acupressure is fun and easy to experiment with, and I have found it highly effective. Combining it with trancework, meditation and ch’i kung, the possibilities expand again. Glenn mentions, “Shiatsu becomes particularly interesting once you’ve developed chi kung” (Path Notes, p. 258). What he means is that when you can develop a light meditative state and pour energy into the points, plus their associated meridians, rather than just using pressure, you have a whole other thing. You can develop beautiful states from that alone, and it works fast.
I know there are a few people who want me to write more about sex (!); more detail will have to wait but I’ve just added a book to the List that I absolutely loved: Sexual Energy Ecstasy by David and Ellen Ramsdale. It seems to be out of print and you’ll get it very cheaply. I got mine for a dollar plus shipping on US Amazon.
What I love about it is that it’s very comprehensive on sacred sex techniques, but very friendly and easy and non-intimidating. It’s quite a large, thick book with a lot covered, but it never seems like you have to do it all — there’s just a lovely, big, warm menu of energy, training and attitude to choose from. This makes it ideal for the interested person who wants to try something but is not sure what the best way in is for them personally. It also has a gracious, generous vibe to it which I found really enjoyable. It’s a book about becoming a dynamic, happy human being as much as anything else. Who could disapprove? :)
The menu offered is big and varied. Quite a lot of emphasis on the Deer Exercise of Stephen Chang, and some great Taoist-style energy meditations, but also work with massage, ritual, visualisation, touch techniques, various systems for orgasm extension and so forth. Some stuff is bound to appeal, and there’s plenty in there I’ll probably never use too.
There’s also a whole section on sexual applications of acupressure, which is a great subject in itself. So much so, I’ve actually put a different book on the List covering it, North and Chia’s Taoist Foreplay, which I also really appreciated. The points chosen there have a Shiatsu vibe, and the sequences for warming up and opening energies and meridians are wonderful for creating that intimate and open feeling.
One thing the Ramsdales don’t cover is hypnotic trance. The reader may well be saying, surely there are sexual applications to hypnosis? And the answer is most decidedly yes! Any system that can induce such deep concentration and relaxation, heighten sensitivity, cause you to feel delicious sensations and alter your perceptions, help you remove inhibitions, and so on, is an absolutely gimme for use in the bedroom. ‘Time Distortion’ sounds awfully clinical, as indeed it should, but using it in sex — say, for causing an orgasm to go ten times as slowly and last ten times as long — is a lot less intellectual! Combining this with Chi Kung’s well-demonstrated ability to produce a healthy flow of sexual power (I just saw an Amazon review for Lam Kam Chuen’s Way of Power that mentioned, “although now nearing eighty, I have been somewhat embarrassed by the regeneration of my sexual energy” ^_^) and you have a rather nice recipe for happiness in this department.
However, use of hypnosis for sex isn’t really being well-covered in book form yet. There are a couple of books out there — I’ve got Masters’ Look Into My Eyes, but to be honest it’s rather ordinary stuff. The techniques are quite resolutely non-Ericksonian and the uses to which they’re put are fairly standard, fantasies etc., with no spiritual techniques or approaches. Quite a lot of other ‘sexual hypnosis’ products are mixed up with the ‘pick up artist’ community which has a predatory vibe, and sometimes comes down to using NLP for some kind of frat-boy misogynist serial seduction thing. (Besides, developing ch’i Glenn’s way makes ‘pick up’ a fairly straightforward process.)
I’ll save most of my own observations on hypnosis and sex for another time. Right now, focusing on the spiritual aspects of sex, one thing I’d observe about hypnosis is that it can clean up any sense of guilt, struggle, or tension. Another thing is, for the man particularly, spiritual sex has a lot to do with what is generally thought of as ‘self control’, especially if he is developing those oh-so-interesting non-ejaculatory skills. Hypnosis, with its deep and blissful relaxation, makes that learning a great deal simpler. It’s a fairly easy Ericksonian move to take the blissful comfort of trance and associate it to the sexual act in such a way as to make it natural to relax at the… appropriate moments. :)
Spiritual sex involves deep calm and extension of the act into something meditative, lasting, no longer about hunger, fully present and awake, enjoying the timeless depth and beauty of having arrived somewhere beautiful, in which ch’i is sensed, as in any other meditation, and spiritual light is present. It is utterly beautiful, deeply satisfying, and anyone who likes the idea or feels drawn to it could do no better than start with the Ramsdales. Personally I think people practicing in that way are helping to break down centuries of misinformation about sex and spirit in our culture, as conveyed by repressive Christianity and other forms of societal squashing of love.
Well, I hope these books have set some thoughts off in people on the path towards greater actualisation and fulfilment! Next post, as promised, we’ll have a look at the trance phenomena and their myriad fun applications.