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Should I study hypnosis?

2 Post author: Bound_up 30 July 2017 05:11PM

I was just about to do my best to figure out if hypnosis was worth studying and how.

 

I trust the judgment around here pretty well. Am I wasting my time, or is this something worth pursuing? If so, what for, and do you have any recommended sources?

Comments (13)

Comment author: jimmy 30 July 2017 06:30:01PM 6 points [-]

I'm quite glad I did. Consider it a lab where you can play with the low level building blocks of cognition. I don't really "do hypnosis" anymore, but the insights I've gained from studying hypnosis has pretty substantially changed how I go about things.

I can't really say more right now, but you can check out my blog (which I'm not done with, just really behind on) if you want, and if you have any more questions I can answer them later.

Comment author: Screwtape 01 August 2017 08:51:55PM 0 points [-]

I'm somewhat interested in hypnosis, but your blog seems to have the same problem I've encountered in googling the subject or in other blogs about hypnosis; namely, they seem like they have lots of information for someone who already has a basic understanding of how to do it but little information for someone who doesn't know how to do it in the first place. (I only read the 2011 and 2016 posts so far, but I haven't run into a how-to yet.) If I was looking to study driving, information about how cylinders work or edge cases in the automotive law code is good to know and I understand why a driving focused blog would talk about that, but what I have yet to find is something like "put the keys in the ignition (probably located behind the wheel) and turn them until you hear the rumble- that's the engine. Now check if the stick in the centre of the car is positioned next to either the 1 or the D symbols..." Do you have a post (or short series of posts) than have that basic how-to, or do you know of a good place to get that ground knowledge?

At the moment, my hypothesis is either that hypnotists have some less known variation on "a magician never reveals their secrets" and that all capable hypnotists either figured out the basics via independent efforts or studied from someone they met personally who knew how it worked. Given the capabilities ascribed to the skillset that should probably relieve me, but it does make research and dabbling in the subject a tad frustrating.

(An alternate hypothesis is that hypnosis just doesn't work, like telepathy or homeopathy, but at the moment that seems to have a lower probability then the above. Not a very low probability mind, but I've met enough acquaintances who've been hypnotized, read enough confident blogs and boasts of hypnotists, and seen dumber sounding loopholes in the human psyche to be at all sure this doesn't work.)

Comment author: jimmy 08 August 2017 05:34:01PM 0 points [-]

what I have yet to find is something like "put the keys in the ignition (probably located behind the wheel) and turn them until you hear the rumble- that's the engine [...]do you know of a good place to get that ground knowledge?

Anthony Jacquin's book "reality is plastic" is what you're looking for. He also has a few youtube videos that are similar in nature.

At the moment, my hypothesis is either that hypnotists have some less known variation on "a magician never reveals their secrets" and that all capable hypnotists either figured out the basics via independent efforts or studied from someone they met personally who knew how it worked.

I definitely don't get the impression that hypnotists as a whole are secretive or anything, just that it's really hard to communicate because the levers you're reaching for aren't always in the same place and you need some much bigger abstractions to get beyond "hit or miss" success, or reliable success within a very narrow context. For example, one time the bit that functioned as an "induction" was saying "sshhh, shutup. no, shut up, shut up, there we go". In most contexts that won't exactly get the desired results, and it's hard to give a step by step of how to do that without coming off like a rude/condescending ass.

My own blog was more about my attempts to figure out what's really going on as explained to "myself a couple years ago", so I didn't bother summarizing anything that I didn't feel was "new" or hard to get from what was already out there.

Given the capabilities ascribed to the skillset that should probably relieve me [...] An alternate hypothesis is that hypnosis just doesn't work, like telepathy or homeopathy

Another issue is that hypnotists tend to have a different idea of what hypnosis is and can do than people who haven't studied it. I'm the first to admit that people who hand wave away the scary bits with "hypnosis can't do that" are dangerously wrong/lying, but it hypnosis is still a far cry from scalable/arbitrarily aimable mind control.

The damage you can do with "put the keys in the ignition and turn them until they rumble" kind of instruction can be pretty nasty in some individual cases, but the scope where it can be applied is fairly minimal in the grand scheme of things. It's sorta like being really good at chess, so long as you manage to start in one very particular chess board state.

If you have all those moves planned out when no one else does, yes, you can do better. Generalizing that to chess as a whole changes the game in a big way.

Comment author: Screwtape 08 August 2017 09:20:29PM 0 points [-]

Reality is Plastic ordered. I'll be sure to put a review up somewhere once I've received/read/experimented with it. I'll likely check out the youtube videos as well, though video is far from my favourite format to learn things from. If I get really good results out of it maybe I'll take a shot at condensing the abstraction somewhere, though that seems a long shot at the moment.

My own blog was more about my attempts to figure out what's really going on as explained to "myself a couple years ago", so I didn't bother summarizing anything that I didn't feel was "new" or hard to get from what was already out there.

Ah, I get what you mean about your blog. Yeah, those diary-esque recordings can be really helpful to the person making them or the person in a similair place while being sometimes useless for anyone else.

I'm the first to admit that people who hand wave away the scary bits with "hypnosis can't do that" are dangerously wrong/lying, but it hypnosis is still a far cry from scalable/arbitrarily aimable mind control.

See, that's one of those things I keep looping around to. Even assuming I take hypnotists at their word that hypnotism is far from arbitrary mind control (which I do, for the record, though I have to at least think about the possibility) there's a whole lot of power involved in even basic possibilities. Facebook's news feed or a slick TV commercial exert a level of mental influence that already makes me uncomfortable. If hypnotism is potent enough to be useful, then I have to assume it's potent enough to be harmful.

By "damage you can do" do you mean the sort of damage you can do with a handgun (intentional and directed) or the sort of damage you can do with a sedan (accidental and as often hurting yourself) or some third thing? (I recognize my examples aren't great, but hopefully the work enough that you understand the question. If not I can try and rephrase.)

And thank you for taking the time to give direction!

Comment author: jimmy 10 August 2017 06:19:39PM *  0 points [-]

At this point I have to mention that I think this is going to be more difficult than you expect, and that I wouldn’t be surprised if you, in particular, aren’t going to immediately get as much encouraging results as you’re hoping for. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be a very worthwhile journey, but I think it might require more things overturned than you currently expect.

I could certainly be wrong, of course, and I’m only gauging from these few comments. Maybe you get impressive results right away. That certainly happens, and I hope you do. I just want to make sure that if that doesn’t happen, you’re prepared to interpret it correctly.

By "damage you can do" do you mean the sort of damage you can do with a handgun (intentional and directed) or the sort of damage you can do with a sedan (accidental and as often hurting yourself) or some third thing? (I recognize my examples aren't great, but hopefully the work enough that you understand the question. If not I can try and rephrase.)

Both.

False memories would probably be the most obvious example of accidental damage, but there are other ways too. I know someone, for example, who was given somewhat of an eating disorder by a well-intentioned but ethically and therapeutically clueless ‘tist.

On the intentional side of things, the same girl was sexually assaulted by a hypnotist who abused her trust and used his hypnotic “in” to persuade her to meet him in person and then tried to bury the memories of the sexual assault. It’s pretty freaky stuff, given that he was successful on the first part and partially successful on the second, but thankfully she’s pretty much alright on both fronts now.

Comment author: ChristianKl 02 August 2017 07:00:21AM 0 points [-]

It wouldn't be surprising if most capable hypnotists learned their skills in person training. When I go to a medical doctor I wouldn't trust them to be good at practicing medicine if he had no in-person training. In many domains people with good skills do have in person training.

I personally learned my skills in in person seminars with Chris Mulzer, so I'm not exactly sure whether certain written material manages to bridge the gap. I think jimmy did learn through self-study, so he might be in a better position to point to articles about how to start.

"Reality Is Plastic: The Art of Impromptu Hypnosis" seems to be a popular book that people used for self-studying hypnosis.

Comment author: Screwtape 02 August 2017 03:30:31PM 0 points [-]

Your suggestion that hypnotism is intrinsically better learned in person makes a lot of sense to me, so maybe the reason there aren't that many written how-to guides is because capable hypnotists recognize that and try and push would-be students towards in-person lessons. Unfortunately, I'm rural enough that getting in-person training is somewhat troublesome.

Have you read "Reality Is Plastic"? I haven't, though I have read two books on the subject which both had the same problem of spending almost all their wordcount on details too advanced of where my skills were at and not enough wordcount in the basics. "Popular" doesn't equal "useful" unfortunately :\ (You'd think this would be one area, like marketing, where you could equate popularity with author skill, but oh well.) If you have read it and think it would be useful, I'll likely pick it up.

Comment author: jimmy 09 August 2017 06:27:11PM *  0 points [-]

Hypnotism is definitely something you have to see done and do it yourself. I didn't do any in person trainings, but since I cut my teeth with text hypnosis and found someone a couple years ahead of me to function as a mentor/peer, I was still had the opportunity to see what it looks like when it works, try doing it myself, and then get detailed feedback after the fact. I don't necessarily think you have to have anyone in the "instructor" role if you've read enough, but you can't really expect books to be enough in the same way you wouldn't expect books to be able to teach you to ride a bike without falling every time for the first dozen times.

I'll echo what Christian said below about emotional control and add to it a bit. I think it's really hard to emphasize how big a deal that part is. When you're telling people stuff that are normally outside the window of what is accepted as possible (any hypnotic phenomena, for example), they have to be able to rest on the fact that you know it's possible, because if it were just them they'd rule it out immediately. If you're showing self doubt, they'll jump to the conclusion "he doesn't really believe it but he's 'trying' to see what happens if he says it" and since you don't really seem to believe it they're going to have a hard time seeing it as something that can be real. If you actually know it's something they can do (because you've done it yourself and you've helped others do it too) and you can accurately model what has been stopping them, then it's easy to have that "unshakable confidence" and to know what needs to be said.

That's why the simple scripts and beginner stuff contained in Reality Is Plastic is going to have limited applications. "Just doing the basics" requires that you have the background abilities to congruently perform the actions described, but I have read it, the content does work when done right in the right context(s), and it seems to be exactly what you're looking for.

Comment author: ChristianKl 02 August 2017 09:02:25PM *  0 points [-]

From my perspective part of the basics is emotional self control. If I'm getting nervous while I'm hypnotizing there's a good chance that will disturb the process. A book can tell you not to be nervous but it's unlikely to teach you the skill of not being nervous while in person training is better at teaching you to be in a certain state of mind.

If you have your own state of mind decently under control and you have a decently hypnotizeable and consenting subject you should be able to get some results by following a simple script. Reality is plastic does have a few simple scripts for hypnosis effects that can be done in an impromptu setting.

I skimmed the book but I haven't read it deeply.

Comment author: Screwtape 08 August 2017 09:25:31PM 0 points [-]

Hrm. Do you mean "emotional self control" as in "able to control what emotional signals you send via tone of voice or body language" or "you can decide what emotions you feel at to what extent"? I think I have the former, the latter is much harder for me.

What makes someone decently hypnotizeable? Is it something you can deduce from observation/measurement, or do you have to try and hypnotize someone and see whether it works or not?

Given two people with experience in hypnotism have recommended the same book, I'll be reading it and seeing for myself soon enough I suppose :) Any important advice you'd give or pitfalls to avoid?

Comment author: ChristianKl 09 August 2017 09:36:28PM 0 points [-]

Having control over your tone of voice and body language is not enough. If you are in a good trance with another person the breathing rate is synced and when you are anxious your breathing rate is going to chance and the other person breathing rate is also going to change accordingly.

What makes someone decently hypnotizeable?

The ability to let go of control is useful. Unfortunately, the average rationalist is bad at letting go of mental control. Ability to visualize well inside one's own mind indicates good suggestibility.

Any important advice you'd give or pitfalls to avoid?

When doing hypnosis in a form where there's no direct verbal feedback it's useful to be able to read body language to see whether a suggestion gets accepted or whether it doesn't and you have to try something different.

A good basis to noticing what the body of someone else is doing is to be able to notice what one's own body is doing.

Comment author: Bound_up 31 July 2017 01:11:16PM 0 points [-]

Thanks, Jimmy. Sounds great!

Comment author: ChristianKl 30 July 2017 07:10:17PM 1 point [-]

Without knowing what you want out of studying hypnosis it's hard to say whether studying it will be a good time/money investment for you.