Mischaracterized Nature of (Hypnotic) Amnesia:
Anyone that has had the experience of hypnotizing an individuals for any great length of time will be familiar with the scenario of inducing a trance, deepening it, giving suggestions, emerging the subject from the trance state and them having ‘amnesia’ for all that occurred during the session. Recently I was reading an article by Milton Erickson (Clinical and Experimental Observations on Hypnotic Amnesia: Introduction to an Unpublished Paper) where he was speaking of various distinctions that he had made regarding ordinary forgetting and hypnotic amnesia.
The first couple of pages of the article is him speaking about the challenges in experimental design in testing various assumptions and being able to differentiate between the two phenomena. Towards the end of the paper though Erickson relates an interesting example of something that most people would mischaracterize as Amnesia one that I am sure in varying forms most of us can identify with.
“This example relates to the teaching of a series of tricks to the family dog. By force of circumstances this teaching and all performances of the tricks occurred in a basement room, although the dog had the run of the entire house. One day, long after the dog had not only learned the tricks well but would perform them spontaneously in anticipation of a food reward, visitors asked for a demonstration. The dog was called into the living room, a crust of bread was offered, and the usual commands were given. The dog gave every evidence of wanting the bread but seemed to have no understanding of the commands or of what was wanted, despite patient, repeated efforts. When everyone went down to the basement, the sight of the bread crust was sufficient to elicit repeated spontaneous performances of all her tricks without commands being given. Even after having eaten the bread, she performed readily upon commands from anybody without further reward. Upon return to the living room the dog again seemed unable to understand commands, nor did the offer of food do more than elicit restless, hungry behavior. Giving her small morsels didn’t help, but another trip to the basement resulted in an adequate performance. Finally, after repeated commands and offering of food and much restless puzzled behavior by the dog, she finally began to understand the familiar command of “roll over.” She responded by racing to the basement, performing the task, and then racing back for the food reward, repeating this behavior at every new command.”
Erickson does go on in the next paragraph to say, “While this behavior cannot legitimately be called an amnesia, certain of the results were comparable to those that would derive from an amnesia.” This observation by Erickson seems to fall in line with the research presented in Gabriel Radvansky’s book, Memory P.125 where he speaks of, “Context being an important memory cue.” There is a phenomena that is referred to as Encoding Specificity. An example of this would be seminar amnesia as many of us like to call it. We teach students how to do amazing and wonderful skills or we see people pull off amazing things in seminars but then once they walk outside the seminar room doors all that they just had is no longer available to them. It’s almost as if it never happened.
Radvansky cited an example of encoding specificity, “Having lived most of his life in St. Louis, Missouri, except for 2 years at the University of Texas at Austin, and 4 years in the military service during the Second World War, my father returned to Texas after 42 long years of forgetting. Although previously certain that he could recall only a few disembodied fragments of memories of his college days, he became increasingly amazed, upon his return, at the freshness and detail of his newly remembered experiences. Strolling along the streets of Austin, my father suddenly stopped and animatedly described the house in which he lived in a location now occupied by a parking lot. He recalled in vivid detail, for example, how an armadillo had climbed up the drainpipe one night and became his pet, and how the woman who had cooked for the residents of his house had informed them of the attack on Pearl Harbor, abruptly ending his college career. Not until he returned to the setting in which those long-past events had occurred had my father thought or spoken of them.” (Radvansky, 2010)
Radvansky further goes on to speak of a study in which scuba divers learned lists of words. Some divers learned the words on land other learned them underwater. The divers were then tested in both contexts. It was found that divers that learned on land recalled better on land than underwater and that divers that learned underwater recalled better underwater than on land. The implication of all this research appears to me that if a person wants to have information available in multiple contexts then they should learn it there or use it there so that there is a generalizing effect.
This all got me thinking. Many times what is really a situation of something NOT generalizing we mischaracterize it as amnesia or forgetting. At the most we could consider this non-generalizing a form of amnesia or forgetting but then even that might be stretching it. The applicability of this information to me seems two fold 1.) we begin getting closer to describing the varying phenomena that is all lumped together as ‘Amnesia’ or ‘Forgetting’ 2.) as we break down these various phenomena we discover fairly simple ways to deal with them.
Imprints according to conventional psychology is thought to be a type of phase sensitive learning, a type of learning that occurred at particular age or phase of life. One of the things that I'm good at is looking for patterns between different ways of thinking and being able to examine things by analogy.
Hence for the topic of imprints I will be breaking it down into several posts all examining the same subject through various different ways of working with imprints. Some of what I say might seem insightful and other things that I state might seem dead wrong. My intention here is not to get to the right answer as it is to convey different ways of viewing this phenomena and working with it.
It we were to think of an imprint in terms of memory it could be likened to something such as a flashblub memory in that they are often events that occur that are highly vivid to the individual that they occurred with in.
Something that does appear to be particularly interesting about Imprints is that they appear to effect the functioning of an individual for years to come unless appropriately altered. People that are familiar with Time Line work in NLP will see Imprints referred to as Significant Emotional Events (S.E.E.).
In one of the very first books on NLP, "Frogs into Princes" John Grinder and Richard Bandler detailed a pattern called, "Change Personal History" this pattern allows the user to track any in 'limiting feeling' that they might be experiencing back to the initial 'reference experience' (Imprint/S.E.E/Flashblub Memory).
After a brief 'break state' the individual receives the opportunity to conjure from their personal history any resources that had they had them back then the situation in question would not have been an issue.
I have had experiences in the past where I have had individuals say that had they had a sense of safety, security, confidence, etc... that they would have been able to deal with the situation in question more appropriately.
Utilizing anchoring techniques from NLP we were able to take those resources from various contexts in the individuals life and apply them to the problem context in order to transform the 'reference experience'.
What then is often done is that they are then instructed to take this new and altered perception of the event and to imagine moving forward and to notice what things they would have done differently given this new and transformed experience.
Often times the person being worked with will notice quite a few things.
Typically a person once they make it to the present moment what is then done is that the are asked to clear their mind and then to think of future contexts that will be affected by having made this change and to notice what they do differently.
This pattern "Change Personal History" is very useful for assisting people to clear up all kinds limiting experiences. I'm impressed at how often people are haunted by past experiences that were beyond there control. This pattern along with "Reimprinting" pattern developed by Robert Dilts work wonderfully in transforming limiting imprints into resources that allow people to move on with their lives using those past experiences in a way that serves them.
The book that I am recommending has both "Change Personal History" and "Reimprinting" patterns in them. I would suggest anyone check them out.
Self Talk is something that if a person does not learn to manage can make your life hell. But if you learn how to transform it quite often your worst critic can become your greatest ally. I can't tell you how many times I was being haunted by self talk and how bad it made certain areas of my life. Had known how to transform my self talk, man my life could have been so much easier.
Just today I was surfing Amazon and I saw Transforming Negative Self Talk by Steve Andreas. I can't tell you how highly I recommend this book. Incredibly useful book with many many different exercises that are incredibly useful in transforming self talk!!
Below I'm including a link to Amazon. I am an affiliate with them so every time you buy something from them using one of my links they will give me a commission. It costs you absolutely nothing and helps me support my book buying addiction.
This is THE best book on transforming Self Talk that I have ever come across. I have gone to thousands and thousands of dollars worth of trainings and never once have I received as many useful exercises for transforming negative self talk as this book offers!
Self Concept is something that is thought about in a great number of ways. There are thousands of resources all over the internet all referencing different ways of influencing one's concept of themselves. Whether it's a person's sense of their social self, spiritual self, sense of self reliance, etc... all these qualities are made of the same stuff.
We form our sense of self based on the internal representations that we hold inside our minds. Think about it... if you were to think of your self image... what kind of picture would you see in your mind? Is it a big picture? A small one? Do you see yourself as if you are watching someone in a movie or do you see it through your own eyes? There are so many different distinctions such as the ones described above the comprise the 'stuff' of your self concept.
The difference between a useful self concept and an unuseful on is really the difference between how one codes the differences between the two. To influence change at the level of self concept is fairly simple to do so long as you have an effect model for how to do so.
Transforming Your Self by Steve Andreas is the culmination of a multi-year modeling project in which Steve set out to model the structure of self concept.
What I can say from Steve's work is that an amazing job!
If you ever said to yourself something to the effect of... that is just not something I can imagine myself doing... or that is just not who I am... if it's useful... and you really want to... by the time you are done reading this book you will be able to...
After reading this book and engaging in the thought experiments that Steve outlines you will be able not to only shift your self concept in a useful way but you will be able to assist others in doing the same.
Holding People Accountable:
Recently I have been speaking to various friends and people from my past back when I was involved with some of my very first trainers in the field. I remember how confrontational their styles were they would not hesitate to destroy someone in front of a group of anywhere from 75-100 people. I always thought it was incredibly remarkable the lengths they would go to prove their points. If you disagree with them or did whatever they would make it a point to put you on notice and they would call it holding you accountable.
A while back I was talking to a woman that I was working with I had told her about my experience in NLP and Personal Development she had told me about a company in the city where I live that runs a leadership program. She ranted and raved about them and told me how they would tear people down. They would do exercises where they would have people run up and down the line and have people tell you what is wrong with you. Supposedly the theory is that it’s supposed to get you use to not caring about what others think.
I told her standing while having someone yell at me and tell me what they think is wrong with me didn’t sound like something that I wanted to do (especially since I served in the Marine Corps that’s something I already had done before) more so when you factor in that I would be in essence paying them to do so. One of the things that I’ve noticed a lot of these trainings like to do is put people into exercises where they openly express their vulnerabilities in very black or white type of scenarios. These exercises a lot of the times are a form of metaphorical tasking.
They are having people do things and whatever they are doing is supposed to teach the participant some sort of lesson that they need to learn. While these types of exercises can be useful my experience has been the lesson that these exercises teach is for the participants to be dependent on one individual for the answers to their problems. They all implicitly teach people to look to a guru usually the person leading the seminar for the answers.
Most of the time because the tasks are so metaphorical they can literally mean anything but when it’s put on by someone that you are paying to train with and especially if you are new to personal development I find it’s easy for people to fall into the trap of abdicating their critical thinking skills.
And most of these trainers are so good at getting people to do so. They set up false either – or scenarios. If you are not in your seat by a particular set time then you are wasting the groups time and you need to explain to us why your time is more valuable than all of ours? Or why do you not owe all of us an apology? I remember on trainer that what he used to do when people would go to the bathroom he would make a scene in front of the entire audience stating that the person that was leaving was looking for some way to avoid their problems. And that needing to go to the bathroom when something important comes up that applies to them is just an example of that type of failure to cope.
So many assumptions are being built into these types of scenarios. Most often from my experience these are really power games by seminar leaders that give them an excuse to abuse people in order to build compliance. They are able to do this because they can always cloak what they do behind the veil of they are just trying to hold the other person compatible and that what they are doing to help them brings them no pleasure at all but they have to do it because they care about the person they are doing it to.
I was talking to a friend recently that was telling me about a trainer that they thought they were testing them and they were stating they can’t figure out their intention. For example they wanted to do something in the past with this one person and when they originally brought it up to them the speaker was all for it. Just recently they contacted them again and the other person told them to forget it that they weren’t interested. This gentleman told me he can’t decide whether the person is trying to help them by telling them not to do it and that it’s really a test to determine his commitment or do they really not want to do it.
I would think to many people that are just starting out this would be a hard thing to discern. Most people in my experience that enter personal development want to believe that the people they are working with has all these benevolent answers for them. Having met quite a few trainers I can speak from experience when I say that I met individuals that preached about how sacred marriage was while they were cheating on their wives. I would watch the same person call people out in front of audiences of people because they had some sort of addiction to smoking or they didn’t want to get married or something like that. The speaker in question would attempt to hold them accountable in order to ‘help’ them.
Meanwhile this same trainer was in the process of being sued by multiple casinos for gambling debts, they were rumored to have a drug addiction and were in the process of going to trial for multiple charges of fraud. I don’t remember anyone in any seminar I was with him ever hold him accountable his actions. I do remember someone bringing up his failing marriage at one seminar and the speaker was able to find a passage from the bible that he could use to blame his wife for what was happening because SHE was the one asking for the divorce. So she was obviously the one in the wrong.
What I’m getting at here is that while a lot of these groups exercises that are taught at many transformational seminars can possibly be helpful. My experience has been that they are nothing more than tools to gain uncritical compliance from attendees while hiding under the guise of conveying some sort of benevolent message.
The biggest flaw in my opinion in doing this type of stuff from what I can tell is that it teaches people to look to others for confirmation of the ‘right’ answer. It also teaches people to do nonsense stuff without real justification other than there is a lesson for them to learn.
Recently I have been looking at the work of Carl Rogers. Something that I really appreciate about his work is that he stresses the importance of the therapeutic relationship. From Rogers' perspective the role of the therapist is to create an atmosphere conducive to the client activating their own healing capacities.
If you are familiar with the work of Milton Erickson you will see that he placed a great deal of faith in his client's abilities to mobilize their own internal resources so as to allow them to solve their own problems. Sometimes a lot of people miss this point because instead they focus on his linguistic patterning and his ingenious interventions. When truth be told he had the ability to interact with people in such a cooperative fashion so as to totally melt away their resistance.
To me the ability to create this type of dynamic is of the utmost importance for any would be people helper.
Milton Erickson once wrote of some clients that he had come that were Doctors, Lawyers, Ph.D. candidates, college students, etc… that had come to him through the years all requesting help passing tests. Most of the time these clients had come to him after multiple failures in their own attempts to achieve a passing grade on their examinations and few of them had been to other therapists or hypnotists before him.
Erickson in his collected papers describes a basic outline of what he did to help them. In all cases he induced a light to somnambulistic trance state. He then told all of his clients in trance and to listen to him carefully that he was to say carefully though it would not be what they wanted to hear and he reminded them that what they were currently do was not working so to do what he suggest. He told them from the outset that the first thing they were all to do was pass their exams but in the way he instructed.
And then he told them all that when they went into take their tests they were to aim for the lowest passing grade. They were to go out of their way to make certain that they passed with the lowest passing grade. He specifically told each and every one of them that they were explicitly not to aim for an A or a B but that they were to go for the lowest possible passing grade.
He then instructed them that once they left his office that they would feel carefree and forget about the examination that they were to take but that they would show up at the right place and time and be present to take the test.
Once they arrived on time and ready to take the examination that they were to read through the entire examination all the questions and then begin once again at the first question re-reading it. They were then to begin to write and they were instructed that their unconscious would release bits and pieces of information and knowledge that they needed in drips to them and that they were to write those drips down as they came and that when they stopped. They were to move on to the next problem and that the process would repeat itself. When they were done they were to turn in their exams feeling calm and at ease with themselves.
The results of this outline as Erickson described turned out to be very favorable he goes on to explain how when he explained this process to others they questioned him on his use of having them go for the lowest passing grade. Especially by the time it was done he had many clients that got A and B’s a few C’s and no D’s or F’s.
The explanation given to those who questioned him was that by telling them to go for the lowest passing grade was that it freed them up from the anxiety of trying to do well or trying to get the highest possible score. He said that through his years of experience he has found ‘wisdom’ in having his clients avoid their ‘perfectionistic drives’.
Personally I have found this true in my experience. When I was writing my book, ‘Experiencing Reality’ it was so important to me that it be perfect from the outset that I never really got started. It was only when I gave myself permission to write something that was less than perfect that I was able to write the manuscript. And then even from the manuscript to publishing the book. It was because I ‘felt’ that everything had to be perfect that I delayed it’s being published for many months because I was afraid that it was not perfect. It was only then that I gave myself permission to put out an imperfect albeit but the best I could do product that I was able to publish it.
When working with people he will tell people to ‘make changes in your own way’ or ‘make change in ways that are most appropriate for you’. I’ve always found this an interesting way of formulating suggestions so as to fit themselves to the person right in front of you. Erickson one wrote a paper where he talked about a young man that was recently married that came into him because he needed help to correct his driving.
The man told Erickson that he didn’t think he could be hypnotized but that he still wanted Erickson to give it a shot anyways. Erickson said in the paper that he was able to induce a fairly deep trance during which time he spoke to the man questioning as to what he should do to help him correct his driving. The man told Erickson that there was nothing that Erickson could do and that it would be pointless for him to make suggestions because they man would have to do it in his own way. Erickson continued to question the man as to when he would correct his own driving and the guy said essentially in about a month’s time and then re-iterated to Erickson that there was no point in him suggesting anything to him because he would have to do it in his own way.
Taking a hold of that Erickson began to making several repetitious suggestions to the client slightly different in how they were said but all with pretty much the same mean about how he was going to correct his driving in his own way. The essay goes on to say that the man was one day came in a couple weeks later to tell Erickson that he was still driving like a mad man and that he didn’t know what to do. The man then left disappointedly.
A couple weeks later about the time when the man said he would correct his driving in his own way the man came in telling Erickson that he was working on his car with a friend. The got the car all supped up. And then without taking his friend or his wife with him when out driving like a wild man in the mountains as he normally did. He stated that he was enjoying seeing how fast he could go until he realized he was coming to a turn in the road and that he was losing control of the vehicle. He man before it was too late jumped out of the vehicle to safety the vehicle went off the road.
The man spent the rest of the day walking back home thinking to himself how he was going to have to correct his driving in his own way. Later on the man made it back home explained what happened to his wife and then on purchased a new vehicle. A while later he dropped into see Erickson to say that he was no driving correctly and within legal limits and said that he really learned this lesson the hard and expensive way. He didn’t give much credit to Erickson for what had happened in making his change other than to say that he gave him the little extra push that he needed.
I like this story because it reminds me that sometimes when you work with clients you are going to have some clients that it’s more useful for them to discover for themselves the resources they need in their own way. I would suggest that anyone reading this and that work in Hypnosis share with their clients that they really ought to make the changes that are most appropriate for them in reaching their desired outcomes.
Throughout Erickson’s work if you take a look at his language you will see a recurring pattern emerge.
I've been studying the field of psychology and personal development for over a decade. My experience is that when many get involved they do so under many preconceived notions. It was through a lot of trial and error, success and failure, that I finally learned what was what and what is wrong when it comes to working with people.
One of the things that I decided to do was to put on paper some of the things that I wish I would have known going in when I first decided to study human behavior and creating change. This book is a series of metaphors that each highlight a theme that I have discovered as being important when acting as an Agent of Change.