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What Is Hypnosis?

Updated: Dec 13, 2022

Hello and welcome to the Hypnosis Show Podcast. I'm Robbie Spier Miller, your host, and today Scott McFall is joining us to answer your questions about hypnosis, such as: What is hypnosis really? Can I be hypnotized? Is hypnosis safe? Will I expose my secrets? Can I be made to do something that goes against my moral beliefs? An incredible hypnotist, Scott has built and sold seven hypnosis clinics across the US. He is also a masterful stage hypnotist and magician. His breadth and depth of hypnosis experience over 35 years and tens of thousands of clients shows in his client results and the success of his many students. Welcome, Scott.

Hi Robbie, how are you? Good. How about you? Fabulous.

Why don't you start by telling us how you first discovered hypnosis? Well, when I was a young person, I grew up in a family that did a lot of alternative care. I was born very premature. Spent time in the neonatal unit or whatever they called it in 1965 at the Mayo clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. I was brought there from Bismarck, North Dakota. And I had my first heart surgery to correct a coarctation of the aorta when I was 11. I also now have an artificial aortic valve and so on. So growing up, my father and my grandmother were students of the Harry Aarons Method of Hypnosis. And also, my father was a student of Dr. Thurman Fleet, who was an alternative care chiropractic physician who was very into mind attitude. The thoughts are things kind of concepts. So growing up when I was in the hospital, nurses would use various types of hypnosis and distraction to help with pain and so on. And I became very interested in it based upon, well, essentially escapism. I mean, I was, I was not feeling all that great at certain times and was overwhelmed either physically or going through the high blood pressure of those situations and whatnot, and hypnosis provided a way of chasing outcomes and sort of ignoring obstacles for a period of time as a kid. And some of that was fantastic. And some of it was more like having an attention issue, you know, because I wouldn't be paying attention to what I needed to be doing. But the basic idea is that I of course believed in the use of hypnosis and fixated attention because of the experiences I had as a kid.

And those experiences included noticing that you could get next to pain and have it sort of over here or, move it and sort of change your perception of pain. And that's where it began for me. Over the years, of course, I’ve done a lot more than just pain management. But yeah, there's that - one of the biggest reasons I was excited about it is I knew that it had helped me, well, feel better.

Great. And so when we look at hypnosis itself and sort of the mystery around it, and the amazing things that we can do with our minds, tell us a little bit about what you discovered from all your stage hypnosis experience and just observing what happened in that kind of environment that helped you with working with clinical clients.

Well, the thing that most clinicians have not experienced that stage hypnotists of any skillset do experience, is that in a stage hypnosis show, you're taking people through routine after routine after routine. So if you think about Al Krasner's concept of the ways that we used to test the depth of hypnosis, he called them convincers instead of depth tests. And that was a very good way of referring to it because the more we have said yes, the more that we have taken action on suggestions, essentially, the more likely we are to respond to the next suggestion. So what demonstrational hypnotists know that many clinicians do not know is that at the end of that hour show, responding to each and every suggestion, those people are much more responsive and profoundly more likely to show dramatic symptoms of hypnosis than someone in the clinic who's gone through a couple of little physical and emotional suggestions. And so they tend to be better at recognizing the symptoms of hypnosis. The hypnotic masking, eye flutter, fixated gaze, literal interpretation of suggestion, reddening of the scleras of the eyes. When frequently in a clinic, new clinicians could really use that kind of experience.

Certainly. Okay. And when you look at people who maybe are a little worried about losing control, when they see people up at a stage show and doing all kinds of wacky things, and they're worried that they're going to lose control or that they are going to reveal their secrets or that it's gonna change them somehow, what do you think is a useful way of looking, a more useful way looking at this?

Think about it like this. Life is a never ending experience of finding out how to surrender control. We don't have control over often, a lot of things in life, whether it's health challenges or health challenges of loved ones or the coming and going of people within our life.

And so, in a sense, we need to know when to apply ourselves, when to assert ourselves, what to fight for, for example. And we also need to know when to let go. I know it's trite, but think about it like the Serenity Prayer, you know, when to change the things you can and accept the things you cannot and the wisdom to know the difference. Hypnosis is a wonderful way to do what we could call directed meditation within the brain. It is very true that if you directly suggest something that a person would not do, normally they tend to just shake off the session. Now there's been a lot of research, even in the military. And that research demonstrates that really certain drugs are much more likely to make people do things they wouldn't normally do than hypnosis itself than hypnosis using relaxation, fixation, repetition. So when you're working with hypnosis, that trance reaction is directly dependent on the need of the client. If the client needs that relaxation, needs to let go, needs to forgive, needs to let go of stress, their response is going to be pretty profound. To fixate, let go, begin to learn a new way. When the person really kind of has it solved, their response to the - let's call it the trance symptoms per se, those symptoms go down and so forth.

So I think that there's a certain fear of losing control that can happen in relationships that can happen when we're trying to connect with people. So certainly hypnosis is sort of a metaphor or an analogous scenario for a certain type of maturity, hypnosis in a great hypnosis consultant's office. It's going to be done for an outcome, lose weight, quit smoking, quit biting your nails, pain management, forgiveness, sports improvement. So that individual, that person, they’re going to have a goal. They're going to have an outcome. They're going to know what is relevant to that outcome and not relevant to that outcome.

So certainly you get hypnotized every day. You drive into the driveway and you've been daydreaming. And you wonder what you've been doing the last eight, 10 blocks, or you hear a song from high school and your mind jumps to the memories of when you were in high school.

During these timeframes, your mind is definitely sorting by agreement. It's surrendering into a state of mind that isn't necessarily the one that the environment around you would suggest. And so in a sense, part of each day is in theta brainwaves, very suggestible, and it's a normal part of everyday life, in my opinion.

Now there are lots of theories on what hypnosis is. But really in a hypnosis consultant at an office point of view, it's inducing belief through suggestion to help a person take the appropriate actions for their outcome. It's inducing a belief through suggestion that causes the person to be highly likely to take the actions, to get their outcome.

And it's really that simple. The actions are where that success really lies and all hypnosis really is self hypnosis. The hypnotist is just someone taking you through the motions of doing it. So do you have any other question about that concept or idea?

So how I look at it is when we're using hypnosis to help us get outcomes, we actually have more control over our lives because when we're not using it, we're really, just repeating an old hypnotic trance that we started doing probably when we were a little kid and it's totally out of our awareness. So when we identify something we want to change and we get this kind of help and feedback that it actually gives us more control and more choice.

Many people in the NLP movement agree with your point of view and state that you're really there to get un-hypnotized from a routine that you had. And, certainly I understand that point of view and agree with you, and it helps that client to understand their inner routine that they may want to change.