Now we are going to emphasise the fact that the active creation and utilisation of such loops in order to amplify change is one of the primary techniques of Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy

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An example that has been cited already is the simple Hypnotic phenomenon of hand levitation. From the moment that there is the slightest movement in the hand, the feedback is clear: the perception of movement leads to an increase in the expectation of movement, which in turn leads to more movement:

In a similar way a slight sleepiness in the Subject can be amplified by the Hypnotist who creates a loop: \{arousal} > /{thought, "I am sleepy"} > \{arousal}

which, as long as it is maintained, will lead to decreasing arousal or increasing sleepiness. I have written this in terms of arousal rather than sleepiness firstly because it is closer to our principles of working as closely as possible with the notions of activation. The second reason for this example is to demonstrate a decreasing positive feedback loop, to revise the fact that it is the adjective positive which is the key one when we are trying to amplify a change. The primary difference between a decreasing and an increasing positive loop for a given system is merely that in the former the change is limited by the fact that the activity of the system cannot be less than zero. In the latter case any limits will be imposed by other considerations, such as the effects of other systems.

An "induction" routine will often contain repetitions, such as, "Your legs will feel heavier and heavier

heavier and heavier ... heavier and heavier", to be followed a few minutes later by, "Your legs are now still heavier ... heavier and heavier." Here again we have a procedure which has been found empirically to be effective in producing the required effect, but the mechanism passes without explicit comment in most books. This is not to say that practitioners are not aware of what they are doing: it is more that there is no established theoretical framework in which to express it. With the language and notation we have developed we can throw into high relief the fact that the repetition is part of the process of establishing a feedback loop. The first mention of heaviness will establish an expectation of heaviness; after a while a slight heaviness will normally be perceived; once this happens, it will increase the expectation, which will in turn increase the perception. The task of the Hypnotist is simply to draw attention repeatedly to these two systems while they build each other up systematically.

If you were to turn back to look at the list of characteristic Hypnotic phenomena in Chapter 2, you would find many simple phenomena that can be produced in a great number of people with no other "induction" than the establishment of a direct feedback loop between the phenomenon and the expectation of the phenomenon.

It is really a very worthwhile practice for anyone training in Hypnosis to attempt to create these phenomena with no preamble or induction by simply establishing positive feedback loops in a fully alert and conscious individual. Such groundwork gives an excellent insight into what a great part of our subject is about.

As another example, the question, "I wonder if there is a small grain of sand in your shoe at this moment?" establishes a mild expectation that there might be. This tends to amplify the response of any nerves in the sole of the foot. If we keep on asking the question there will generally come a time when one small group of nerves happen to fire more than average. This will reinforce the expectation that there might be something there. This leads in turn to a greater amplification of the messages from those nerves, relative to the others, in an attempt to find out if there really is a grain there. But this makes it seem as if there is something there, and so the expectation is amplified still further. Within a few minutes this feedback loop will increase to the point where there is a clearly "hallucinated" grain in the shoe. It is perhaps even easier to create an itch in the nose in a similar way.

We may note en passant that the above process is very similar to that which is current in the hypochondriac, whereby the expectation of a symptom leads to small signs of the symptom, which build up the expectation and so on.

The common form of loop which we are meeting here is the simple: /{expectation} > /{perception} > /{expectation}.

Note that the idea that belief is an important factor in Hypnosis is common. What this normally fails to take into account is the fact that a belief which is not accompanied by some evidence confirming the belief will tend to wither away: only those which seem to be confirmed by experience are retained and strengthened. In shorthand we have:

/{confirmation} > /{belief}, \{confirmation} > \{belief}.

It is mainly when we have a situation in which a belief produces its own confirmation that a positive feedback loop is established which leads to a deeply entrenched belief. We have the phrase, "a self-fulfilling prophecy" to describe such beliefs. Once they are fairly established they become unshakeable.

So, to put things in another way, ANY of the simple phenomena we have listed may be produced with absolutely nothing in the way of "induction" other than creating a self-fulfilling prophecy by the fixing of attention on an appropriate loop involving the phenomenon and the expectation of the phenomenon for long enough for the loop to become established.

In cases where they cannot be established, the most likely cause is one of the following. a) The attention of the person has wandered. b) The person has been able actively to entertain the belief that nothing will happen; when nothing happens, that belief becomes stronger; this ensures that the phenomenon is less likely to happen and we have a positive feedback loop - but of the opposite kind to that desired. c) There is simply not enough amplification as we go around the loop to produce a significant effect.

We have already seen that the traditional tests of "Hypnotic responsiveness" are far better understood as a way of testing how easily one system may activate another. But it is very often the case that one system will not naturally activate another enough for our purposes, so that the effect has to be amplified. In this chapter we see HOW a typical Hypnotic procedure of creating a positive feedback loop is used to amplify a small effect into a large one to create the dramatic effects we associate with our field.

In the chapter on tests, feedback loops were not emphasised, because at that stage in Part A such things had not been described. It should now be possible to understand why a professional Hypnotist or Hypnotherapist may get far more dramatic effects than are readily achieved in a laboratory test under "standard" conditions. The former can tune a feedback loop far more accurately to the individual Subject. The latter, who is using the same tape-recorded approach for each potential Subject, will be less likely to activate the strongest form of feedback loop in each.

It should also be clear now that the simple idea that it is straightforward to establish how easily one system acts on another was a little naive. We can now distinguish the ease with which one system can activate another directly from the ease with which it can do it when an increasing positive feedback loop has been called into play.

In an abstract form we now distinguish between the case in which we are merely examining, for two systems A and B, the strength of:

and the case in which B also acts on A and so we are examining: /A > /B > /A.

Even if at times it may be hard in practice to distinguish between the two, it is important to bear the distinction in mind.

In the practical context of Hypnotherapy the advantage of thinking about and working towards the creation of increasing positive feedback loops to amplify our efforts leads to a great increase in efficiency. IT IS EQUIVALENT TO THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN USING POWER TOOLS (WHICH AMPLIFY EFFORT) AND HAND TOOLS.

You may now be beginning to understand why the Hypnotherapist has more power to change a person than other therapists. It is through having learned skills which can now be more clearly seen as highly rational, scientific and practical: skills in using the intrinsic systems of mind and body to create positive feedback loops to power change.

Next we will take a look at the other side of amplification: the elimination of negative feedback elements which prevent a positive feedback loop from taking off. In a nuclear reactor an explosion is prevented by the introduction of rods of a moderating material which absorbs neutrons. If there is the slightest danger of over-heating, these rods are pushed in a little further to absorb some of the extra neutrons and the reactor is dampened down a bit. We have the negative feedback loop:

The brain relies very heavily on the use of such negative feedback loops to inhibit activity. The action of an enormous number of the neurons in our brains is to inhibit the action of the thousands of neurons that they are in contact with. If it were not for this fact, every neuron in the brain would soon be firing in an orgy of unco-ordinated activity as a chain reaction of mutual excitation took place. There would be massive hallucinations of all kinds: visual and sensory, ecstatic or agonising; frenetic activity of the muscles, and so on. I suppose that to experience such a thing would be not unlike feeling an atom bomb exploding in the brain.

Most of the peripheral nerves of our bodies are continuously sending messages inwards towards the brain. But most of them fail to activate any conscious response most of the time. Somewhere along the line they pass through a subsystem which at that time prevents the message from being passed on.

An exactly analogous process is visible in human organisations. At any given time many customers may be complaining about a product to salespersons. In many cases the complaint is actively prevented from going further. In the rarer case it gets passed on to a manager, where it may again end. If it happens to be a particularly serious complaint it may get up to the Managing Director's Assistant, or even, but only very rarely indeed, to the Managing Director. At each level we are seeing an active process of preventing the message getting any further. This is, in fact, necessary to the good organisation, since if the MD had to handle every complaint in person he or she would have no time for anything else.

In the task of picking up a pencil, the action is a result of the amplification of the minute amounts of energy involved in thinking of the task into the much larger amounts involved in contracting the muscles of the fingers. But there has also to be a continuous process of monitoring the contraction and limiting or controlling it to make it a useful one.

These simple examples illustrate the principles which run through the organisation of our whole bodies and nervous systems. On the one hand we need processes of amplification, and on the other hand we have to be able to prevent them getting out of hand. The eye can multiply the effect of a few photons of light falling onto a few cells in the retina until a very large proportion of the entire cortex is activated. (Suppose that you are lost at sea in a small boat and have just seen the merest flicker of light from a lighthouse.) But on the other hand we need to be able to control these amplification processes or they will get out of hand. If every few photons were enough to trigger off activity in the entire cortex it would be totally overwhelming.

The important ideas that we want to emerge from these examples are first the general one, of the complex and extensive network of amplification and control systems which is involved in all our thoughts and actions, which is the essence of cybernetics. The second, and specific, idea is that amplification can be achieved not merely by creating some form of increasing positive feedback loops but also by reducing the activity of a process which is limiting the action of an already existing amplifying loop.

As some further simple examples of this consider first a simplistic picture of rabbit numbers in the wild, which are limited by the number of predators in a negative feedback loop of the form:

We can therefore increase or "amplify" the rabbits by eliminating the predators, since (at least when there is enough food) the system of rabbits is naturally self-amplifying:

In society, criminal activity is limited by police activity. The elimination of police activity would lead to an increase in criminal activity.

In some marriages many kinds of activity in the wife are limited by the husband. If the husband dies we may see a dramatic increase in his widow's activity in those ways, once she has passed through a period of grieving.

In many adults an inclination to playing the fool is usually limited by social convention acting through higher brain centres. If we incapacitate those centres with drink, or eliminate the normal social conventions by calling the situation a "fun party" or a "hypnotic show", then we can quite easily see a dramatic increase in the playful activity.

I hope that these examples are enough to illustrate the principle: IF we have a system A whose activity is being limited by the activity of a second system B, THEN a reduction in the activity of B will lead to an increase in the activity of A. This is obvious when you start to think about it.

We may now look back at the idea presented in Part A, which was that a general feature of many Hypnotic procedures is the gradual reduction of the activity of most systems, with the exception of the one or two of interest. We presumed there, on grounds of common sense, that this reduction in the activity of the majority would tend to increase the activity of those few left active.

Now we can see a little more of the reason behind this. The general reduction of activity will almost certainly blanket off all those systems which acted in such a way as to inhibit or moderate the activity of our key systems of interest. These are left free then to act to their fullest extent.

There is a good chance that by eliminating all other species of animals but one herbivorous species in an ecosystem, we will find that this one, with no predators and competition left, will start growing exponentially.

There is a good reason to suppose that if we send on holiday all other departments in a factory, especially the quality inspectors, then we will be able quite easily to get an increased output from a remaining production department.

There is a good reason to suppose that if we can switch off most mental functions, including those which resist suggestion and monitor behaviour (self-consciousness), then we might easily induce a totally uninhibited (in most senses) activity from the Subject - as can happen in stage Hypnosis.

In brief, we can now see more clearly the rationale of another of the characteristic procedures of Hypnotherapy which distinguishes it from other therapies: the inactivating of the majority of internal systems. The reason is that this can be expected to remove the effect of systems which are acting to limit change, and hence allow required changes to take place under the influence of a positive feedback loop.

We are now in a position also to see why this may not always work. We might, by this global switching off, also switch off systems which activate the one of interest: the Subject is then too sleepy to respond at all. (The workforce may simply down tools and play cards.) Or systems which are vitally involved in the proper action of a key system may be switched off and the result can be dangerous. (The absence of safety personnel may quickly lead to dangerous practices and an accident.)

The moral of this is that whereas it may at times be helpful to follow the practice common in contemporary Hypnotherapy of aiming (it would seem) at rather generally low levels of activation other than in the key system, the more accurate analysis and approach recommended here is far safer and more effective. If we have done our diagnostic analysis fully and properly we start, ideally, with an awareness of the part played by all related systems. Some may increase and others decrease the key activity. And we should be aware of the consequences of changing any of them, and in this way know just which ones it is useful and advisable to work with.

Finally we will look at an application of the principles of this chapter which is very important in the context of Hypnosis, since it deals with those areas we may call rapport and suggestibility.

In most people an early tendency to trust others is gradually limited by the creation of a learned ability to doubt. In the child the tendency is for every idea presented to be accepted, provided only that it can be grasped. Notice the incongruity of the following dialogue.

Mother: "Look at that nice doggy. See, it is white."

Child: "No, Mummy. You are not necessarily right. We have no evidence to establish whether it is nice or not, and it may be black or brown as well as white: we know only that it is white on this side!"

Such replies can only come at a later stage in life, after the child has learned to analyse, criticise and doubt. These are active processes that some people learn and develop more than others. Notice also that we generally learn them more in some areas than others. The philosopher, who may be ruthlessly analytical of his colleagues' statements, may be like a babe in arms in the hands of a car salesman.

If we let A be the process of Accepting an idea, and R denote the learned system of Resistance to accepting a new idea, which is a mixture of doubt and self-assertion and self-protection, then it is the nature of the relationship that the greater the resistance, the less the acceptance:

The Hypnotist will therefore often be trying to reduce the inhibiting effect of the resistance - the critical, analytical reactions - in order to increase the acceptance of his or her suggestions.

How does he do this? Typically by means of a feedback loop! We thus see the two themes of this chapter brought together in the one example. On the one hand we plan to activate a useful system - that of Acceptance - by means of decreasing another system which is holding it in check - Resistance. On the other hand we will see that this is typically not achieved in one step, but as a result of a feedback loop:

which is a positive feedback loop which is increasing for A and decreasing for R.

This abstract formula had better be illustrated by an example. Generally the persuasive speaker,

Hypnotist or not, will use the procedure of starting with an idea for which there will be automatic acceptance, such as, "Now, I think you will agree with me when I say that you seem a very sensible person?" The acceptance of this statement will reduce the resistance a little. Why? Because we cannot always have R active. We have learned that if we trust a person - which amounts to discovering that what he says is in agreement with our ideas - then we gain by reducing our resistance to other ideas. As a rule of thumb we therefore start with a fairly high resistance and lower it on every example of agreement and raise it on every example of disagreement.

Because the resistance is reduced, the next suggestion will then be accepted a little more readily. It might be, "But as a sensible person you will know that some people suffer from closed minds like tortoises?" This can also be accepted easily, which will in turn reduce the resistance. This can then be followed up with a more direct action to reduce the resistance still further, such as, "But I am sure that you are not like them. You will certainly recognise the importance of having an open mind." Again, with the reduced resistance, this can be accepted, and the way is becoming open to stronger and more questionable statements, such as, "Now, I have your best interests at heart, and when I say that this car is going to transform your life, I know that you will not be like one of those tortoises and dismiss it out of hand, but will really examine the advantages." And so on.

The above is clearly a manipulative process: it is not being recommended! It is mainly mentioned to illustrate the fact that the nature of the process is a feedback loop. Creating rapport is a process. It takes time. And it involves the amplification of small changes.

These facts are also true for the Hypnotist's task of developing rapport. As an example consider the following process which might be used on stage. "You probably wonder if you will be hypnotised tonight?" This will usually get a "Yes" response. (The good Hypnotist, like the good salesman, will be looking for responses - a "Yes" or a nod of the head - to verify that there has been acceptance at each stage.)

"So do most people. Now, are you prepared to co-operate with me to see if we can find out?" (This is an easy statement to accept, so resistance drops a bit, reducing in turn its inhibiting effect on acceptance.)

"Now just face the audience. That's fine." Here we have an example of a trivial request to which the potential Subject cannot object, but the acting out of it means that the idea of moving has been accepted, and the Hypnotist is a small step further on. I have seen cases in which the Hypnotist does a lot of little adjustments in this spirit: "No, if you could just move along a bit. No, back a bit. That's fine. Now give a big smile to anyone you know in the audience." And so on.

The accepting of these seemingly trivial suggestions generally reduces the resistance to all other suggestions, whether of actions or ideas. It is really quite immaterial what the suggestions are: the important thing is that they are accepted, so that the loop is travelled a few more times. It is then correspondingly quicker to get another loop started, such as the loop involving the expectation of eye closure and the acting out of it. But the achievement of the eye closure loop will further act through the

Resistance-Acceptance loop to reduce the resistance still further, and so on.

This underlines the dynamic and loop-like nature of what is involved in quite a central aspect of stage Hypnosis. At least one professional Hypnotist is explicitly aware of this fact (McKenna (1993)Bib, p. 28), though he gives only a little detail of HOW it is done.

In Hypnotherapy the way in which resistance is reduced is generally different. In part, I suspect that this may be due to a difference in the personalities of those who choose to work on stage and those who work in therapy. The latter are going to be primarily carers, which tends to correlate with a rather low level of authoritativeness and a comparatively low-key personality. The former have to be quite extrovert and tend to like to dominate a situation, so that an authoritative style is rather congenial to them.

In any case the Hypnotherapist, who will still be operating (typically with great sincerity) the loop:

\R > /A > \R, will tend to do it in a slower and more relaxed manner. She will establish an atmosphere of trust by empathising with feelings and agreeing with statements. Responses such as, "I know how bad you must be feeling", "It must be terrible for you", and so on are quite as good at reducing resistance as the methods we have seen above, and far more appropriate to the therapeutic environment.

I find a not uncommon pattern in therapy is for the Client to come with what seems to be a small problem. I then deal with that as well as I can. Then, seemingly out of the blue, a totally new problem is presented, which is often far larger. We might start with nail-biting, and end up with childhood sexual abuse, for example. The process is clear: the client is simply testing me on the first item. If he or she is satisfied at that level that I make sense, can be trusted, etc., then it seems possible to proceed to a larger and more sensitive matter. This approach is totally understandable. It is what I would do myself. It is an example of the above positive feedback loop.

The above loop process of reducing the inhibiting effect of resistance may be called achieving rapport, however it is established. In general, note that the process is very much richer and more complex than has been indicated above, for the potential Subject or Client will be responding not only to what is said, but to a great variety of other things such as the tone of voice, the nature of the eye contact, smiles or their absence, bodily gestures and so on. Something of this complexity has been hinted at in the chapter on Inductions. Consequently resistance will generally only reduce if ALL the signs are in agreement with the expectations of the person. A look in the Hypnotist's eyes which is interpreted as being shifty, or a note in the voice which seems to indicate insecurity or hostility are quite as able to increase resistance -reduce rapport - as a statement which is thought to be false. People tend to be very sensitive to insincerity and any lack of consistency in the messages they perceive.

It is for this reason that I would not recommend a conscious striving for rapport in Hypnotherapy. It is one thing to recognise the nature of what is happening, and thereby to recognise where you may be going wrong. It is another to be forever operating a system mechanically; by rote; following rules.

In the end it seems to me that the only rule is that the Hypnotherapist should be honest and sincere. If you do not sincerely wish for the well-being of the Client, then the chance of any success is greatly reduced because something of this will show up in the way you speak or act, and in most cases it will simply induce resistance to anything else you say or do. To attempt to bluster through a feeling of having slipped up, for example, will be disastrous.

Sincerity and honesty are the central virtues needed in order to build up rapport. If you have these then your body language will be consistent with your speech and your intentions. If, on the other hand, you are trying to follow the handbook, Ten Gold-Plated Techniques for Creating Instant Rapport, by I. McConn, the chance of there arising a discord between some of these aspects of yourself is great, and the chance of a good and lasting rapport with all Clients is low.

The moment a discord is sensed, the resistance R to accepting what you say will rise quite dramatically, breaking the loop. This will tend to result in a denial (D) of your next statement. If you press the point, the resistance will rise still further and we are well on the way to establishing the loop:

/R > /D > /R, which is the dynamical form of a quarrel!

It is because of this that there can be as many styles of Hypnotherapy as there are styles of people. Extroverts and introverts will tend to have opposite styles, for example. But each is acceptable, as long as it is consistent:

This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. - Shakespeare, Hamlet I. iii. 75.

So we have seen in this centrally important example that in order to increase acceptance we have had to work to reduce the activity of the system of resistance, and have done so via a suitable direct loop.

Let us look at a few other examples of this same pattern in the field of Hypnosis.

In many people there is a natural tendency to daydream - to visualise freely -from time to time. In such people this process is actively suppressed by the need to pay attention to things or people in the surroundings. If we therefore act to reduce the system of active attention to surroundings in such people, the daydream will naturally emerge.

In anyone who has had a busy and rather stressful day, there are definite messages of fatigue being sent from the body to the brain, but these are typically being actively ignored (as we have seen messages to the Managing Director being ignored: "Don't bother me now. I'm busy!"). We may readily "induce" a feeling of tiredness in such a person by simply reducing the activity of these suppression systems. The words, "Now, just listen to what your body is telling you," may be enough to do this.

In problems in which some memory is actively prevented from coming clearly back to mind by some defensive system because it was so painful (see later chapter on dissociation), then the inactivation of the repressing system will lead to the activation of the memory. This should not, of course, be done without experience of how to handle the resulting expressed feelings.

These few examples are representative of very many more in which we amplify by removing the effect of a controlling system. But notice that although it is easy to say, "remove the effect of a controlling system", that is itself a change that is unlikely to come about by simple diktat. Normally we will need to establish a positive feedback loop to turn a slight reduction of the controlling effect into a larger one, as we have seen in the case of rapport.

We may now put the message of this chapter another way. The image of Hypnosis which has the Hypnotist giving a single order which is obeyed gives a misleading impression. The essence of so many Hypnotic practices is that, far from being as simple as flicking a switch, they involve complex dynamical processes which demand repetition for their effectiveness. They involve repetitive processes which build towards the desired outcome.

A picture to have in mind is a child on a swing. She builds up height by means of many small synchronised extra pushes. Before she has the knack of it she cannot get anywhere.

A business grows, not all in one bound, but by a steady round of increasing sales and feedback in a particular market.

Products are NOT usually designed perfect. There is a loop in which a change is evaluated, then improved and then evaluated again. It was how the Wright brothers learned to fly. It can be how a car is rocked out of the mud, slowly building up momentum. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition in order to establish loops which will build up a significant change. Repetition (with slight variation) in order to establish positive feedback is central to Hypnotic phenomena, as it is to so many organic processes. Repetition in this book is by design: a significant change of mind generally requires repetition.

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