Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Modern Hypnotist's Worst Enemy

Motivational speaker and self-help guru Tony Robbins once made a wisecrack to the effect that he couldn't understand why so many people spent exorbitant amounts of money to go through hypnotherapy and be put into trance. To Tony Robbins, the big challenge was getting people out of trance.

To no small extent, the good Mr. Robbins is right. As anyone with even a modicum of understanding about hypnosis knows, we put ourselves into trance(s) every single day. We have trained ourselves rigorously--intentionally or otherwise--to respond to all manner of triggers which cause us to fade in and fade out on cue all day long. Be it the sound of our alarm clock, a particular voice familiar to us, or a visual indicator, we can pop into trance instantly and experience changes in our behavior, conditioned responses, and a host of other things due to our personal trance-inducing triggers.

Young people especially are susceptible to self-hypnosis triggers and are guilty of continually reinforcing, if not clinging to one, repeatedly. I am speaking of what I consider to be the bane of the modern hypnotist's existence:

Cell phones.

I don't think there is an instrument large enough to measure my loathing of cell phones. Many's a time when what would have been an otherwise successful hypnosis session was ruined by those ringing, singing, buzzing, and vibrating little bastards of technology. One very responsive subject of 22 sat for fifteen minutes on the couch across from me fielding call after call on his little pocket telephone. It was doing what we of old once called "ringing off the hook". That is, if the damnable little device had a hook. When I insisted he shut it off so we could proceed, he assured me, "I'll turn the ringer off." He then spent an additional twenty minutes responding to text messages. GAH!!

I once had a rather brilliant young man of 18 deep in trance, flopped over in a comfy chair like a rag doll, breathing deeply and receiving and accepting my commands. Then his cell phone rang. Instantly--and I do mean instantly--he sprang upright, fully awake, eyes wide and totally alert, body stiff. Out of nowhere he had his wretched cell phone in his hand, up to his ear, saying, "Hello?" I had never seen anything like it. I have helped people quit smoking, stick to their diets, improve their exercise regimen. I have turned intelligent men into yapping puppy dogs, made pals cluck like chickens, and had subjects think the rubber farm boots I stuck them in were magic enough to make them dance around the room as if they were at a barn dance. Yet I have never induced anyone to respond so promptly, so completely, so irresistibly, as when a god-cursed cell phone goes off.

After that incident, the session was pretty much over. I had the lad set his phone down on the coffee table, and although he did, it held his entire concentration. He glanced back at it 17 times in the course of one minute. Yes, I counted. I urged him to put his focus back on what we were doing, but he responded with a babbled, "Yeah, but my friend said she was gonna call me and let me know about this thing and I don't want to be under when she does, 'cause then I might miss it and we really—" He went on for a few minutes, not even remotely aware of the fact that I could've put him under with chloroform and he'd still most likely spring to his feet wide awake if his cell rang.

Another subject, 19, and brilliantly responsive, cannot even get into trance if he has his cell phone with him. He suggested we try some ZAP hypnosis while he waited on a friend, saying we had "about 25 minutes". ZAP hypnosis induces trance in less than one second. I figured we had time. I figured wrong. He kept referring to his phone, pulling it out of his pocket, putting it back, setting it down, picking it up, all to double-check to see if he'd somehow mysteriously missed his call. It was maddening! And this subject, who can usually be put under by nothing more than a snap of the fingers and the suggestion to "Sleep", could have been yanked around the room then by consecutive arm pulls and still never gone under.

Don't get me wrong, I know what it's like to be young and self-programmed with my own trance responses. In the summer of 1984, when the movie Ghostbusters hit the silver screen, it was impossible to flip on the radio without hearing its theme song being hollered out by Ray Parker Jr. For whatever reason, I loved that song and no matter what I was doing when it came on, I always stopped to get up and dance. I even had my own moves and routines worked out (yeah, I was a geek). Well, imagine my surprise when one evening, after a long day of school, my paper route, time with friends, and whatnot, I collapsed on my bed and fell asleep with the radio playing...only to find myself being shaken awake not long after, and coming to my senses to find myself, alone, dancing in the middle of the room because the Ghostbusters theme had come on. Sound asleep (read: in trance state) and dead to the world, I still got up and danced when I heard my trigger.

But this cell phone business takes things to a degree well beyond throwing yourself into a favorite Top 40 hit. Telling a young subject to leave the cell phone off, or worse yet, in the car, is not unlike telling a terminal kidney patient that you need them to leave their dialysis machine in the next room for a couple of hours. Plus, the phones seem to breed tremendous impatience, particularly with the young ladies. I had one subject under for a session, and he was among those whose phone buzzed or vibrated in excess of fifty times a minute. Not knowing how to deactivate the darn thing myself, once my subject was under I buried his phone under a mound of pillows. During our hypnosis time, I heard the damned thing buzzing away, but thankfully my subject did not. After our ten-minute session was over, I returned his phone and he was in awe to find that he had missed six calls. I am not making this up. I am not exaggerating. Six calls. All from his impatient, overbearing girlfriend. She was coming to pick him up, and kept calling to both let my subject know she was en route and also to verify the correct address. By the time he dialed her back, she was in a fit of pique, swearing a blue streak, and already back on the expressway heading toward the next county at high speed. "If you're going to ignore my calls and not even bother to get back to me, you can just go to hell!"

Our hypnosis session had lasted, please recall, only ten minutes. The snotty and inconsiderate girlfriend's half dozen cell phone calls spanned a time frame of less than four. All within the last five minutes of my subject's trance.

So take the advice of a frustrated hypnotist and leave the cell phone behind if you are going to be hypnotized. It will enrich your experience immeasurably and allow you to fully enjoy the wonder and joy that comes of an uninterrupted session of hypnosis. Please free yourself of the distraction. Turn the thing off, put it away, leave it in the car, or better yet, leave it at home. Otherwise, I will be more than happy to put you under deeply, slip you into a pair of huge, heavy-soled boots, and make you dance to your heart's content to the strains of Ghostbusters. With the miserable little cursed cell phone placed beneath your heels.

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