How To Study Hypnosis

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I START my teaching with a lecture on "How to Study Hypnosis." Here is what I tell each doctor: If you decide to take up this subject, you are giving of your time and effort to learn how to use a tool that can be of inestimable value to you in your practice. You can learn to use it properly if you follow instructions. First and foremost, do your homework. Doing it will not take precious time away from your busy office and hospital hours. Instead it will give you extra time to increase your practice and your leisure hours, because you will be able to do more with each patient in less time. Therefore, as you begin practicing, limit your induction period to one minute for each patient. When you take longer than a minute to introduce the subject of relaxation and gain the hypnotic state, you are wasting time. It is my firm conviction that if hypnosis is to have a respectable place in medicine and dentistry, it must be available to the doctor almost instantly. If he can't use hypnosis on a more or less instantaneous basis, it has no practical value in the average doctor's office. It is a rare doctor who can afford to spend from three minutes to two hours on the doubtful assumption that he might be able to succeed in obtaining hypnosis if he keeps trying long enough. So, at the beginning, use one minute for each patient and one minute only. Don't take any more time than that—and you shouldn't even need the full minute to gain the state.

On the other hand, don't expect to have perfect results from the start. If you have excellent results in your first few tries, you are nonetheless bound to meet with failure later on. The best student has a combination of successes and failures while learning. It is my firm belief that in this subject you learn more from your failures than you do from your successes. If your first ten attempts are all successes, and then you fail, it may be a blow to your ego. After such an experience, a doctor often finds it difficult to continue improving his technique. But if you fail the first two or three times and then succeed, and then perhaps fail another time, then suc ceed twice and then have another failure, and then succeed three or four or five times—then you get to the point where you don't fail at all. You have become a good student. The man who fails a few times among those first ten is going to progress well because he's going to find out what he did that was wrong. If instructions are followed, he will become adept in a short time.

Failure to obtain the hypnotic state during the first few attempts is often caused by a lack of confidence. The remedy: Try again. As your studies continue and you are taught new methods, try every new method you are taught. Don't form the bad habit of using one technique only. There are many from which to choose. As you go along, select those techniques that seem most natural to you and that obtain the state most rapidly and deeply for you.

Occasionally, a doctor will say at the second or even the third session, "No, Mr. Elman, I haven't started practicing yet. I'm waiting to learn more about the subject." This is the phoniest excuse for laziness or timidity in the world, and your teacher knows it. You can only learn more about the subject by starting at the beginning. You can't start in the middle and go both ways. It's impossible.

Each time you endeavor to induce the state in someone, you are adding to your knowledge. While timid students are waiting to learn more, their colleagues are going ahead rapidly, learning more and more about the subject by putting into practice what they've learned at each class, together with what they've learned at each previous practice session in their own offices and at the hospital. Every patient with whom you work presents a new experience—a chance to observe individual reaction, a chance to correct the faults you were able to notice in previous inductions. And the man who learns by a combination of instruction and experience— in other words, by practicing—achieves a far greater success than the man who tries to learn by theory alone.

Some years ago, one of my physician students was, to put it charitably, a hesitant practicer. Despite my warnings about this pitfall, he kept postponing any attempt to put my teachings into operation. Finally, during the ninth class session, he said, "Mr. Elman, I have an important announcement to make. This week I hypnotized two people." By that time, every man in the room had probably hypnotized a couple of hundred people. And this man still had to make the mistakes that they would make no more.

There are certain things you should not do, at least at the start. After three or four weeks have gone by, you can forget these don'ts: Don't try to hypnotize your wife, or members of your family, or friends you see socially; these people know you are studying hypnosis, and will put up an instinctive objection to becoming your guinea pigs. Don't try to hypnotize people who "defy" you to put them into the state; hypnosis is a consent state and, obviously, the person who defies does not consent. Don't try to prove the value of hypnosis to a skeptic; at this early stage, you will be arguing from a position of weakness. Later on, when you know enough about hypnosis, you can argue from a position of strength.

It is also very important that you don't treat the subject of hypnosis as a joke or a parlor game. Hypnosis is a scientific study when it's properly conducted, and if you respect hypnosis as you should, you will not use it for parlor tricks. It has a great value in medicine. You must intend to use it that way if you—and your patients—are to get the maximum benefit from it.

This, I think, is very important, too: Don't get ahead of yourself. In this book, I am going to explain the proper techniques to use, just as I do in actual classes. Don't skip lessons and attempt more advanced techniques. Don't attempt any procedures until you have thoroughly digested it, and preferably not just from a text but with a capable teacher. Practice what you've been taught in each lesson. Go no further, and you will learn more from each lesson. Every phase of the subject is covered in proper order for you to absorb it. If you try to get ahead of yourself, you're bound to run into things that puzzle and mystify you. As these things are covered and explained, the puzzlement leaves, you understand the subject more fully and you're ready for those reactions that require a deeper knowledge of human reaction to the power of suggestion.

Once I asked my students for their reports at the second session and everybody gave me a report except one man. "I didn't write down my homework," he said, "but I have a wonderful report to make. This week I succeeded in using hypnosis exclusively to deliver a woman and it worked beau tifully. Perfectly, I had one hundred percent success with it."

I guess he expected an ovation, but instead he heard these words: "Doctor, I'm awfully sorry you dici that. With your present inadequate knowledge, if you had perfect success, it was a complete accident. You don't know why you succeeded, and when you try it again, you'll fail because you don't have sufficient knowledge to carry a woman through delivery at this point. Then you'll try it a third time and fail, and by the time you've tried it about four times and failed, you'll decide that hypnosis can't be relied upon, and you won't make a good student at all. On the other hand, if you go along with the course, when I tell you that you are well enough equipped now to do a delivery, then you'll be able to help, to some extent at least, every woman who comes into the delivery room."

Hypnosis can be used on every patient who comes into your office, if for no other reason than to relax the patient. There is no one who cannot benefit from relaxation, and until you have learned to go further into the subject, your patient should be taught the immediate benefits of relaxation and the relief of anxiety.

When you begin practicing, endeavor to obtain a state of relaxation on at least ten of your patients using the relaxation approach and the handshake technique. While doing so, look for the signs of hypnosis. Hypnosis gives off five signs. These signs are subtle, minute. If you don't know what to look for, the signs could all be there without your detecting one of them. When you know hypnosis, however, you can spot all five signs at a glance. Here are the five signs of hypnosis, all of which you must carefully observe: (1) body warmth; (2) fluttering of the eyelids; (3) increased lacri-mation; (4) the whites of the eyes getting red or pinkish; (5) the eyeballs going up into the head. We will go into further detail regarding these signs in a later chapter. For the time being, it is merely important for you to bear them in mind and memorize them so that they will be quickly recognized when they occur.

A bad habit pattern can keep you from becoming adept and can keep you from becoming a good student. Begin practicing the methodical restraint I advised a moment ago by not jumping ahead.

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