Monday, May 23, 2022

Hypnosis Article in BBC News

"The medical power of hypnosis" notes that "[h]ypnosis is emerging as a powerful medical treatment for pain, anxiety, PTSD and a range of other conditions." The article then asks, "Can it shake off its reputation as a stage magician's trick?"

The journalist, Martha Henriques, had never been hypnotized before but experience a session (one-on-one, with a legitimate practitioner) during the course of writing the piece. Her approach seemed balanced and open-minded.

Of course, my colleagues and I had presented similar material during the 1980s, so there was nothing new here. Nevertheless, anything that lends credibility — or even potential credibility — to hypnosis as a healing modality is a positive development, and the BBC is certainly a reputable source. I hope to see more reports like this one in future. 

Source url:

Friday, September 11, 2020

Article on Hand-Written Notes Raises Intriguing Questions.

BBC News recently published “The Benefits of Note-Taking by Hand.” The author, Hetty Roessingh, is a professor of education at the University of Calgary.

Over three years ago, I touted the benefits of journaling by hand, and even recommended use of the non-dominant hand (cf., blog entry of 12 July 2017). Applying similar principles to the academic setting, Roessingh notes that the process of taking “notes by hand involves cognitive engagement in summarising, paraphrasing, organising, concept and vocabulary mapping — in short, manipulating and transforming information that leads to deeper understanding.” Of course, time constraints during a lecture doubtless make it impossible to take notes with the non-dominant hand, but it would be interesting to see what results might ensue.


The second question addresses a matter of more personal interest. Roessingh reports, “When people visually represent knowledge, they can deepen their comprehension of concepts such as cycles and relationships: as a result, some cognitive researchers advocate teaching different ways of representing knowledge from an early age.”


That is well and good for most people, but some – like me – suffer from aphantasia, an inability to visualize mental imagery. Above and beyond the academic concerns raised in the article, I wonder whether the “comprehension of concepts such as … relationships” might also create behaviors consistent with mild Asperger Syndrome, although I am unaware of any such studies to date.


The complete article: News Newsletter%5D-2020September11-%5Bworklife%5D

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

“Yale researchers find where stress lives”

Researchers have recently turned their attention to the neural network between the hippocampus and hypothalamus. The subjects whose neural connections are stronger may in fact feel less stress. [This was tested solely by “troublesome images,” not by actually placing the test subjects in stressful situations!]

I must append that notwithstanding the likely medical/pharmacological interventions yet to be developed, hypnosis remains a remarkable tool for stress management. One cannot "relax stress away," but one can learn how to respond to the stressful stimuli without "getting stressed out."

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

"Stress, Anxiety, or Depression?"

As COVID-19 continues along its path of devastation, an increasing number of people are suffering from "something," which may take the form of anxiety, depression, stress, or any combination thereof. Thus, I have posted an excerpt of this article and the url to the entire text.
Our brain’s survival mechanisms once saved us. Now they can threaten our mental health.

Certainty is in short supply these days. Feeling a lack of control over a situation can fuel feelings of stress and anxiety, and possibly lead to depression. Understanding the differences between them can help lead to the right treatment, say Yale Medicine experts.

Long before the coronavirus pandemic mixed fear and uncertainty into daily life, Americans felt stressed out.

They worried about the country’s rising health care costs, struggled to pay them, and wondered if they could even access care in the future. One-quarter of U.S. adults reported discrimination—based on race and gender—as a significant source of stress. And on an individual level, work and money ranked as the top two major stressors, all according to a 2019 study.

Wherever constant stress lives, so too does its more agitated and debilitating cousin: anxiety. About 31% of Americans will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, with adult and teen women experiencing one far more often than men, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

What’s more, anxiety often goes hand-in-hand with depression. Nearly half of people diagnosed with depression also have an anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. At any one time, “about 7% of the U.S. population meets criteria for a major depressive disorder,” says Rachel Katz, MD, a psychiatrist at Yale Psychiatric Hospital.

As if those statistics weren’t worrying enough, enter the global pandemic that has upended daily life in numerous ways, leaving millions of Americans without a job, and producing far more questions than answers. When will we be safely able to move about our lives? Will the kids go back to school in September? Will I lose my job? Will I or someone I care about get sick?

“With these concerns, the experience right now is, ‘I don’t have a lot of control over what is happening around me,’” says Carolyn M. Mazure, PhD, a Yale Medicine psychologist and director of Women’s Health Research at Yale.

Feeling a lack of control over a situation can lead to stress, anxiety, and even depression. Recognizing the differences between the them can lead to the right treatment. [MORE AT:]

Thursday, August 15, 2019

ADHD Often Overlooked/Missed in Girls

A fairly recent article discusses the problem of how and why clinicians miss indications of ADHD in girls. Of course, ADD and ADHD are somewhat different, and the "hyperactivity" symptom is almost surely more commonly seen in boys. Here's the link:

I must append a related comment. Hypnosis has been used (in conjunction with other modalities) to help students overcome attention deficit disorder!

Monday, May 27, 2019

An Interesting Therapeutic Idea!

If the way we tell others about major events in our lives is indeed a reflection of our personalities, is it possible that by training ourselves to narrate -- or at least to view -- the same tales differently, we may in fact effect a change in our personalities? This is the idea presented in Christian Jarrett's article for the BBC today, "The Transformational Power of How You Talk about Your Life." The last paragraph and link appear below. 

<< As philosophers have long argued, there is a sense in which we construct our own realities. The world is what we make of it. Usually this liberating perspective is applied by psychotherapists to help people deal with specific fears and anxieties. Life story research suggests a similar principle may be applicable at a grander level, in the very way that we author our own lives, therefore shaping who we are. Now that’s a tale worth sharing. >>

I predict that the profession of "narrative therapist" may work its way into clinical lexicography in near future.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Hypnosis (or Hyperempiria) and Alternate Universes

With the increased popularity of hypnosis, beginning in the 1960s, a number of “New Age” applications made their appearance. One of the more sensational – and controversial – of these was the use of hypnosis as a tool for “past-life regression.” This practice soon became highly commercialized, to the extent that it even spawned “past life therapy” and, of course, any number of people who declared themselves “past life therapists,” regardless of their previous training, licensure, or certification.

Most clinicians have remained skeptical about the practice of hypnotic regression, although once the denunciations began to quiet down, people started to look at the anecdotal material more objectively. Those skeptics who sought hard “proof” rarely found any, but a few of the cases in fact proved highly intriguing.

For example, when a subject from Virginia, who had lived his whole life in that state, felt compelled to travel into the deep woods of Minnesota, where an earlier incarnation had “buried something of value,” and when some extremely valuable artifact indeed turned up at precisely that location (where it had lain for over two centuries), this turned a few heads. Perhaps – just perhaps – something involving reincarnation actually had happened, since no other explanations could be found.

Similarly, reports of “spontaneous xenoglossy” – the ability to speak or write in a language with which the speaker was completely unfamiliar – could often be difficult to explain. Some of these were absolutely spectacular, and it was even alleged that a few were speaking not in modern languages, but rather in forms of the languages as they had been spoken centuries earlier.

Such cases were, of course, few and far between, and even these aroused profound suspicion. Nevertheless, they also lent a tiny bit of credibility to the practice. And this, in turn, led psychologists to look more carefully at the regressions themselves. Perhaps these were not literal incarnations, but they might nevertheless have presented valid symbolic representations of the subject’s present state. As such, it was certainly quite possible that they were therapeutically valid after all. Indeed, one can readily find case histories of clients whose past life regressions actually enabled them to gain a greater insight into their present situations, and ultimately to acquire better coping mechanisms for dealing with them.

As hypnotists and therapists using hypnosis continued to work with their subjects, other possible “incarnations” began to materialize. Dr. Bruce Goldberg, a dentist practicing in California, caused a sensation with his book, Past Lives, Future Lives (Ballantine, 1982), and followed with the sequel, Past Lives, Future Lives Revealed (Career, 2004; also available as a digital book on Kindle). Goldberg flatly stated that people “have the power to customize and control their destinies” by choosing which future lives they will follow.

The same year (2004), Llewellyn Publications released yet another startling title, Life Between Lives: Hypnotherapy for Spiritual Regression, by Michael Newton, Ph.D. Here, the author’s concern was not for who the previous incarnations might have been or who they might become in the future, but rather with the time they spent in the spirit world in between incarnations. Newton’s work has given rise to “life between lives” therapy.

Scientist-practitioners who have been rigorously trained in the methods of experimental psychology must admit that they frankly do not know whether reincarnation exists, though half the world believes in it. However, we do know that current scientific opinion regarding whether or not it is possible to recover memories of a previous existence by means of hypnosis is preponderantly negative. Lynn and Kirsch, in their book entitled, Essentials of Clinical Hypnosis: An Evidence-Based Approach, reviewed research which found numerous discrepancies between memories of previous lifetimes that were recalled under hypnosis and known historical facts, as well as the tendency of such memories to be influenced by previously suggested information. They concluded, “In summary, hypnotically induced past-life experiences are fantasies constructed from available cultural narratives about past lives and known or surmised facts regarding specific historical periods, as well as cues present in the hypnotic situation.”
On the other hand, when we consider its therapeutic potential, it does not matter whether or not the details of a previous life can be recalled with courtroom accuracy – or indeed, with any accuracy at all. In the words of an ancient Chinese proverb, "It doesn't matter whether a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice." From a strictly psychological point of view, it doesn't make any difference whether hypnotically induced past-life regression experiences are actually real or whether they are a form of experiential theater. As long as some people report that their problems have been alleviated by PLR, a cure is a cure, regardless of the explanation for it. What is important is the meaningfulness of such an experience to the individuals concerned. For example, a loving couple may choose to re-experience a wedding night in a previous lifetime (or a series of encounters in many previous lifetimes) by hypnotizing each other before making love, thereby satisfying their need for variety and adventure within their own union, while simultaneously deepening and enhancing their appreciation and experience of each other.

The controversy disappears completely when there is no external reality against which to compare the product of one's imaginings. Experientially gifted people are able to experience the subjective reality of adventures taken from literary fiction just as easily as they are able to experience the subjective reality of a previous lifetime or a parallel universe. And who would argue that an adventure taken from the world's great literature is not subjectively "real" to the person who undergoes it, if that person says that it is – especially when the individual concerned is also fully aware that it is a product his or her own imagination?

From the standpoint of post-modern constructionism, it is foolish to reject a given therapeutic modality out of hand. To the extent that some approaches work for certain people, they are presumably of some value. If a given therapy does not work in a given situation, it is clearly not the right option to pursue. The larger question – indeed, the simplest one – is simply whether it “works.” And this is precisely where the investigation of parallel universes begins.

In the absence of any clear “proofs,” we must cheerfully concede that these incarnations on parallel universes cannot be confirmed “real” in our universe. Indeed, the idea of parallel worlds has no validity whatsoever until the advent of post-Newtonian physics. We learned very early that matter “is anything that occupies space and has mass,” from which we drew the immediate corollary that no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time.

This view changed dramatically when quantum physics began to bombard us with two different times, or masses, or lengths that appeared to co-exist concurrently. From this point, it was simply a matter of time before theories of hyperspace developed. “Hyperspace” refers to a somewhat theoretical space (or “place”) in which the three dimensions with which we are more or less comfortable are replaced by other dimensions, and in which the basic laws of Newtonian physics are transcended. Moreover, in this theoretical hyperspace, it is entirely plausible to postulate two objects occupying the same space in the same time.

Once we have done that, why not two universes? And from there, the next step is more than two, and potentially, an infinite number of parallel universes in which everything that can happen actually does happen.

Many of us wonder about the “what if?” possibilities. These usually refer to serious events, of course. If you tied your left shoe first today, there is no reason to imagine an entire “universe” in which you tied your right shoe first (or slid into a pair of loafers). However, there are significant “game changers” in our lives, even as there have been many turning points in history.

Naturally, the “alternatives” have spawned an entire industry for writers of fantasies and other such fiction. What if the Persians had defeated the Greeks? What if Hannibal had defeated the Romans? What if the Muslims had conquered Europe – or, centuries later, if Genghis Khan had done so? What if Napoleon had thrashed Wellington at Waterloo, or the South had won the Civil War, or Hitler had prevailed in World War Two?

In a more artistic sense, perhaps this subject was on the mind of Robert Frost in his classic poem, “The Road Not Taken”:

                        Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
                        And sorry I could not travel both
                        And be one traveler, long I stood
                        And looked down one as far as I could
                        To where it bent in the undergrowth;

                        Then took the other, as just as fair,
                        And having perhaps the better claim
                        Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
                        Though as for that the passing there
                        Had worn them really about the same,

                        And both that morning equally lay
                        In leaves no step had trodden black.
                        Oh, I marked the first for another day!
                        Yet knowing how way leads on to way
                        I doubted if I should ever come back.

                        I shall be telling this with a sigh
                        Somewhere ages and ages hence:
                        Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
                        I took the one less traveled by,
                        And that has made all the difference.

Interpreted literally, the work tells us how the speaker is walking in the woods and comes to a fork in the road. For some while, he finds himself absolutely stuck, uncertain of which way to turn. He briefly thinks one road is less traveled (line 8), yet contradicts himself in the following two lines (“Though as for that, the passing there // Had worn them really about the same”). Taken in this sense, he almost mocks himself in the final stanza.

However, Frost’s poetry is rarely quite that simple, particularly when he repeats certain lines. Perhaps the two roads that diverge “in a yellow wood” symbolize major choices we make in life. Having selected one option, we effectively preclude the alternative. And now we are truly baffled by the inherent irony of that last stanza. Why will he “be telling this with a sigh”? Will it truly make “all the difference” that he took the one less traveled by – or does he expect to end up in the same place? Moreover, perhaps we sense some regret; the work is, after all, entitled, “The Road Not Taken.” Does the speaker contemplate that parallel universe in which he chose the other road, rather than the one he briefly thought less traveled?

From a clinical standpoint, we find that parallel universes – i.e., the lives led on them, or the circumstances surrounding them – may indeed help people heal. And this fact, supported by the experiences of numerous clients, validates the work we are presenting in this volume. We shall leave it to physicists to solve the mysteries of hyperspace. We can even assume, for the sake of argument, that our parallel universes are things we, ourselves, create. Does it truly matter? Is anything gained by suppressing the imagination and wallowing in unhappiness? I do not think so!