When I was ten or eleven I used to climb trees.
We used to play in a wood near where I lived. There was a particular tree overhanging a slight drop of about eight or nine feet. Me and my pals would dive out to the branches, grabbing them with our hands, and hang suspended above the drop. Typical boyish daredevil fun; we'd never even heard of health and safety back then.
And there was a time when I leapt out for the overhanging branch - and my hands slipped. The force of the leap drove my legs upwards, and as my hands left the branch I did a full back flip in mid air. My friends could see what was happening to me physically, and I have to say it must have looked pretty cool, because I actually did a full rotation and landed more or less unharmed on the ground like a proper gymnast. What they couldn't know is what was happening to my consciousness during that split second.
Yes, you've guessed it, everything went into slow motion, I felt absolutely calm and relaxed, my mind felt wide open to any experience, but there was no hope or fear - just a sense of being, of a strange kind of timeless existence. A split second to my mates felt like eternity to me. When I landed, it was like coming out of a dream or awakening from a hypnotic trance. I felt like I'd been some place else. And only afterwards did my heart rate speed up. But by that time I was busy trying to look totally unruffled. All the normal aspects of my mind had returned, such as self consciousness, imagination, anxiety and so forth, but in the air I had been momentarily free of all mental clutter. My consciousness had narrowed down to a pin point. Now it was again busy and crowded.
When we are expecting one pattern of events and an entirely unexpected pattern happens instead, strange things happen to our state of mind. Of course, this fast track entry to a wide awake hypnotic state isn't restricted to me. Countless people have reported time distortion, as well as visual and auditory alterations during sudden shock experiences. They don't tend to think of this as instant shock hypnosis but that is precisely what it is.
The Rapid Eye Movement - or REM - state is usually connected to dreaming, and is so called because during REM your eyeballs flicker from side to side. Yet REM can also occur when we are awake. Foetuses in the womb experience REM more than at any other time and it's through the REM state that instinctive responses are laid down - before you are born. These instincts are then later matched to environmental triggers in the world - for example, the instincts to cry, to eat and to speak are activated by the infant's real experiences.
But life is complex and if something unexpected occurs, we need a new response to that trigger so we can deal with it in future. We need to update our instinctive responses because, for example, how can a newborn baby know to fear a loaded gun pointed at them? In order to form a new instinctive response we need to enter the REM state - otherwise known as hypnosis. This state of natural shock hypnosis means we become much more suggestible and therefore able to learn a new instinctive pattern.
During REM dreaming at night your body experiences a kind of paralysis called catalepsy because acting out your dreams is bad for survival - and nature doesn't want that. More evidence that shock is a fast track into the REM state is that we can become frozen by shock. We enter the REM state and we experience catalepsy. This freezing during shock may last a second or minutes for some people. Flip a guinea pig on its back suddenly and it will freeze. That's how you do animal hypnosis!
In all animals, including humans, shock hypnosis is triggered by the orientation response. When something startling grabs your attention, an electrical charge travels up from your brain stem through your mid brain and into your cortex. This electrical charge is called a PGO spike.
When we enter shock hypnosis, which of course is much quicker than progressive relaxation hypnosis, we are wide open to suggestion and new instinctive programming. If somebody had been able to whisper a hypnotic suggestion in my ear during my split second flip, then chances are I would have been effectively programmed by that suggestion. This is what happens when a stage hypnotist creates a shock and fires the orientation response. For example, when they tip a subject backwards - creating the shock - they are then able to deliver their command.
The great Milton Erickson would often interrupt an expected pattern and replace it with another - creating mild shock - so he could make therapeutic suggestions. The famous Erickson handshake is pure pattern interruption and can induce deep hypnosis instantly for some people.
Understanding the power of shock and its connection to hypnosis is hugely important as it can illuminate other areas of life for us.
For example, bullies can program people to be fearful by doing unexpected things or by suddenly shouting. This leaves you feeling you don't know where you are with them, which means your brain is wide open to receive any pattern that is suggested to it. The bully may then create the pattern of fear. Bullies can make us experience post-hypnotic phenomena such as feeling fearful when we go back into the environment where the bullying took place, whether the bully is there or not. Think about bullies you have known - they will have been inducing a kind of shock hypnosis in their victims by behaving unexpectedly.
When we think of hypnosis we usually think of relaxation, of a calm voice lulling us into serenity and peace. It's true that progressive relaxation is a wonderful way to enter hypnosis or REM. Progressive relaxation mirrors what your mind and body do naturally as you drift off to sleep and enter the REM state naturally at night. Relaxation has many health and mind benefits but it is not an essential aspect of the REM state - we can be hypnotized - like the startled bunny caught in the headlights - without being relaxed. Both types of hypnosis can update the way we instinctively respond to life. We prefer to use relaxation hypnosis with our clients because of the added benefits of relaxation.
My tree experience years ago didn't put me off climbing trees, but the anxiety I felt just after the hypnotic experience did program my young mind with to be more cautious - which means I'm still here today.
Emergencies naturally hypnotise us and people who want to manipulate you make use of this. This knowledge should make certain aspects of life clearer to you, and protect you against those who would use shock hypnosis against you.
Help depressed clients quickly: Free eBook
Get '5 Things You Must Do When Treating Depressed Clients' free when you subscribe for email updates.
Return to Uncommon Hypnosis Master Seriesblog comments powered by Disqus