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reading an article by Milton Erickson (Clinical and Experimental Observations on Hypnotic Amnesia: Introduction to an Unpublished Paper) where he was speaking of various distinctions that he had made regarding ordinary forgetting and hypnotic amnesia.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.

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.
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.
Every now and again I get asked what my take is on energy work.  While I'm not an expert in it I do have my own opinions regarding the manner that maybe best summed up in the form of the below video.

I would like to thank whoever made this video and posted it on youtube for making it so crystal clear what I think of when people say they are doing energy work.

_ One of the biggest things I have to deal with as an agent of change is to teach people that for the most part how they think and they feel is within their control.  The problem today with the field of psychology is that people can get assigned all sorts of psychiatric labels and from that they relinquish control and responsibility for how they think and feel.  In some ways I feel the field of Psychology gives people an excuse to feel helpless.  To say that someone has a chemical imbalance in the brain is taken as evidence for why their life should be screwed up until the day they die.  Personally I just can buy the idea that if I have a problem that I am stuck with it.  And in a lot of ways that is what fueled my studies through the years the unrelenting belief that things could get better and that I could change and as I moved through the world and found that this was true. 

I began to work with other people and I found that even worse case scenarios could get better and that for the most part the cases that were given up on as impossible were the cases in which people had tried all they could and just couldn’t figure out a way to fix the problem.  But it didn’t mean they tried out all ways that would work.  There’s a difference between doing what works and all the things that I can do that I think will work.  And often I think this is where we get stuck.  We try all the ways that we know of that we think will work and when it doesn’t we give up.  That’s what keeps us stuck.  In my experience yeah I know that I can’t fix everything 100% but I can help make things better.  Make that your goal.  If not then enclosed in the clip below is my favorite sad music.  Because honestly if you are going to be a victim it shouldn’t be to a bad sound track.

For years I have heard of Dave Dobson referred to as another Milton Erickson.  Though I had never seen footage of him in action.  Enclosed here is a youtube clip of him giving an interview about his work that he refers to as Other Than Conscious Communication. 

I've studied the work of Milton Erickson pretty extensively from what I can tell. Something that I have always found interesting was people's assertions at how although he didn't claim to be psychic that sometimes he sure seemed like it. 

All throughout the field of NLP and Ericksonian Hypnosis there seems to be a premium placed on developing what would be referred to as 'Advanced Calibration Skills'.  There are even a couple courses that claim to teach these skills.  Never having been on any of them I can not comment to how worth while they are.

I have seen demonstrations of detecting VAK accessing cues from NLP, a few demonstrations of detecting Submodalities and Meta-Programs, and I have always found them interesting (but never terribly pragmatic during the course of a regular conversation).

Lately I have been focusing Micro-Expressions and Subtle-Expressions.  If anyone is interested at www.humintell.com there is actually a training program that you subscribe to that allows you from the comfort of your home develop your skills in reading them.

The work of Joe Navarro, I have found very fascinating as well as useful and I would recommend it to anyone.

As of late I have been looking into Cold Reading... I'm convinced that some of Milton Erickson's advanced calibration skills can be attributed to an ability to cold read people.  I don't know that he was doing it purposefully as such but I do think that it is an interesting by product of his natural ability to speak to people in such 'artfully vague' terms as has been described.

I would absolutely recommend to anyone interested in working with people in any fashion to learn how to do cold reading.

Derren Brown has made a career out of making people think that he possessed Psychic Abilites.  So it was interesting to watch he do a show where he was investigating the claims of a person that claims to be able to contact the dead.

The field of personal development is littered with charlatans so it has been my experience that it is entirely worthwhile for anyone that is exploring it to explore the skeptical side of it as well.

In the attached clip towards about the middle of it there is an interesting demonstration where the psychic that he is conducting the documentary on is shown to be reading someone and then Derren is put on the spot and asked to conduct a 'reading'.

I found it very interesting that Derren acknowledged that wasn't psychic and only using the skills of cold reading was able to put on the demo that left the person that was the subject walk away and claim that they thought Derren in fact was.

I met a woman the other day at a networking event, an older woman.  I think she may have been nice I don’t really know I really couldn’t get past the front she was throwing up.  Met and introduced myself told her what I do to that she replied that she helps teach people to be millionaires and billionaires.  She further went on to say what she does is cool and that she loves it.  She said that she likes to work with people that want to live in palaces and have beach homes.  Her preference is not to work with people that are complacent with just living in a house in the suburbs.  She was looking for people that just want to retire.

I told her that I would love to have a house in the suburbs and as far as retirement goes what would I do with all that free time.  I’d rather spend my time seeing clients and doing things I enjoy and that furthermore I hope to see clients for as long as I possibly can.  I asked her if there was any area of her life that she would like better.  To that she replied, ‘every area of my life is awesome, wonderful.’  First of all when I hear that I assume the other person is lying.  I mean they may be telling the truth but most of the time not.  I can think of at least one area of my life or at the very least an aspect of my experience that I would love to improve.  For example sometimes walking to the mailbox is kind of boring.  I would love to spice that up a bit.

That notwithstanding she could have been telling the truth and I would have believed her if it weren’t for the fact that she was so incongruent when she responded to the question that I asked.  When she replied to me I noticed immediately a cracking in her voice where there wasn’t one before.  Out of my peripheral I noticed her body began to shift and wobble in the same way people do when they aren’t really certain about what they are saying.  From there she stopped looking at me directly whereas a second ago she was.  To me something was not right about our interaction.  I prodded her more about what she does and how it makes her feel.  Her answers were, ‘I feel wonderful.  Amazing.’  She said the organization that she was working for taught her the power of her thoughts and how they control her reality.  And to that I asked her, ‘What specifically have they taught you?  What do you know how to do now that you didn’t before?’

Her response to me was more about how wonderful her life was and how amazing she felt.  But her words didn’t match what her non-verbals were saying.  She was talking about feeling amazing when clearly she was in distress.  It was very sad to see someone so incongruent about how they were feeling.  I actually felt really bad for her.  To me it’s heart breaking to see people that their only crime is wanting to improve their lives but they get sucked in by the brainwashers that work in the field of self help.  They tell people about all the types of beliefs that they should have about themselves.  They give them all kinds of clichés and slogans to rattle off.  They convince them to reject how they currently feel in reality and to replace it with nonsense about how they should feel.  Heart breaking.

What’s even worse though is that deep down these people have to know what they are doing isn’t working.  Yet they persist ever vigilant.  I ask myself, ‘Are these people incredibly resilient and have amazing perseverance or are they just plain stupid?’  I’m going to have to reflect on this question more before I make up my mind.  No matter what you do if deep down you know it’s not creating for you the results you want let alone deserve.  There is no shame in telling yourself that the emperor has no clothes.


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