BOOK REVIEW: Hypnotism for Beginners by B.V. Pattabhi Ram

Hypnotism for Beginners: Easy Techniques to Practice HypnotismHypnotism for Beginners: Easy Techniques to Practice Hypnotism by B.V. Pattabhi Ram
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Dr. Pattabhi Ram provides a concise and accurate overview of the basics of hypnosis. There are a lot of books on hypnosis in publication, but – unfortunately – it’s a subject for which there is a lot of chaff to shift through to get to the grain. Many of the books that address the subject with scientific accuracy are dense scholarly tomes unsuitable for the average reader. And many of the books that target hypnotic neophytes are filled with erroneous statements which contribute to the perpetuation of myths. This book strikes a nice middle ground for those looking for an introduction to hypnotic trance that isn’t too dense, but yet is rooted in scientific findings on the subject.

The book consists of twelve chapters. The first two chapters examine the development of hypnosis as a subject of scientific inquiry. This isn’t to suggest that there was no application of hypnotic trance earlier, but it fell more into the realms of religion and spirituality. The first chapter considers the history of hypnotic science, focusing on major figures such as Franz Mesmer (as in “mesmerized,”) James Braid (the one who coined the term “hypnosis” and moved the subject away from the ethereal approach of Mesmer,) as well as other early influencers, namely John Elliotson and Jean Martin Charcot. The second chapter investigates the legitimization of hypnosis tied to its recognition by governments.

The third chapter explores the varying levels of hypnotic trance, dividing them into light, medium (hallucinatory), and deep (somnambulistic [sleep-walking].) Here the reader learns what differentiates varying degrees of trance.

Chapters four and five offer brief overviews of neuroses and phobias, respectively. As hypnosis is about tapping into the subconscious mind, these are domains in which the technique is particularly likely to be of assistance.

Chapter six is where skeptical readers will begin to doubt what I have said about the scientific legitimacy of this book. It is entitled, “Hypnotism and Occult,” and for one thing it inquires into the evidence that hypnosis can contribute to extra-sensory perception or other super-normal abilities. However, to be fair, the author doesn’t suggest that there is evidence of such a connection, merely that it’s a claim that has often been made. If there is truly an offense to science, it’s more in the later portion of the chapter, which deals in Freud’s ideas about dreams and their interpretation (which is generally discredited in the scientific community, though it maintains a large following among psychoanalysts.)

Chapter seven deals in another common [and controversial] claim, that hypnosis can be used to improve memory. One thing I would have liked to see a little about in a chapter on memory and hypnosis is discussion of inadvertently planted false memories as has now been well established in the literature. There have been a number of cases in which it seemed hypnosis had turned up a repressed memory, but under investigation it was discovered that the memories were false. (It should be pointed out that it needn’t require a diabolical intent for this to happen. It seems likely many of the therapists who suggested visualization in the hypnotic trance state genuinely believed they were helping, but failed to realize that a visualization can become indistinguishable from a memory under the right conditions.) At any rate, that isn’t addressed in this book. However, to be fair, the book is several years old at this point (I read a 2010 edition that I suspect wasn’t the first edition), and a lot of these findings are relatively new.

Chapters 8 and 9 form the heart of the book, teaching the reader how hypnosis is done. The first of these chapters focuses on the script and technique by which a hypnotist would induce a hypnotic trance in a subject. Chapter 9 is an overview of self-hypnosis. A truism in the field is, “All hypnosis is self-hypnosis,” and so it makes sense that this subject is addressed – especially given the self-help nature of the book.

Chapter 10 explores smoking, and how hypnosis can be used to break that addiction. This is one of the areas in which the usefulness of hypnosis has been most clearly established. The chapter is specifically geared toward smoking addiction, but an astute reader could apply the script to dealing with other addictions. The penultimate chapter explores the use of hypnosis and self-hypnosis as a means to overcome stress. This, too, is a major area in which hypnosis has shown itself to be helpful for a large number of people. The book focuses heavily on mental conditions, suggesting that hypnotism shouldn’t be considered for physical conditions. In this sense, I feel it may take too conservative a stance as it tries to avoid being accused of “hypnotic imperialism” (i.e. the suggestion that hypnosis can be used on anyone for any purpose.) Hypnosis as an analgesic (pain-reducer) is extremely well-established.

The last chapter is a bit different, and it focuses on how to do demonstrations of hypnosis. In India, where this book was published, there are laws regulating such shows in response to a lot of charlatanism. So, some of the chapter deals with legal issues that may or may not apply to you, depending upon where you reside, but it also deals with the general flow of a stage show for demonstration.

The book has black-and-white graphics (photos and drawings), but doesn’t provide much else in the way of ancillary material. Where references are made, they are in text – i.e. there is no bibliography. Footnotes are used rarely. The edition I read does have some typos here and there, but not at a distracting level.

My biggest criticism of the book would be that I couldn’t quite grasp the logic of its organization – particularly through the middle. Chapters 1, 2, and 12 make perfect sense, but the other chapters seem like they might benefit from being rejiggered with the how-to / technique chapters (8 and 9) moved closer to the front and the topics regarding afflictions and their treatments being more tightly grouped. That said, this wasn’t particularly distracting or detrimental while I was reading.

I would recommend this book for someone who is interested in learning the basics of hypnosis.

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BOOK REVIEW: How to Hypnotise Anyone by The Rogue Hypnotist

How to Hypnotise Anyone - Confessions of a Rogue HypnotistHow to Hypnotise Anyone – Confessions of a Rogue Hypnotist by The Rogue Hypnotist
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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This is the first book in a popular eBook series on hypnosis. The series is written by an anonymous hypnotist and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner from London. As the first book, it addresses the basics of hypnotic induction, including background about what a hypnotic trance is and how it’s achieved, as well as fundamentals of voice and word choice that can influence the hypnotist’s effectiveness. The book also introduces “convincers” and “deepeners,” practices that help get the subject in the right state of mind for hypnosis and which take them deeper into trance, respectively. [Though, the author argues that the former aren’t really necessary.]

This short book consists of 29 chapters and 5 appendices. The “chapters” are as short as a single paragraph and lay out the concepts, and the appendices are scripts for hypnotic induction or trance deepening. This is a short book, and some have complained that it reads more like a detailed outline than a book. While it’s true that it’s a “just the facts” kind of format, many will find that preferable, depending upon how one likes to take in information. As long as you’re not expecting a lot of narrative examples, you may find it’s just what you are seeking. It’s written in a conversational style as if the author were telling one the information in person.

Given the controversial title, a reasonable question to ask is whether the book is practical or a lot of pie-in-the-sky ramblings by someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about. What’s the controversy? While there are many hypnotists and would-be hypnotists who claim that they can induce a hypnotic trance in anyone, regardless of the individual or the situation, the science suggests that there is continuum of degrees of hypnotizability. The distribution along this continuum follows a bell curve. What’s this mean? Almost everyone can be hypnotized to some degree, but at one tail there are people who are extremely suggestible – however, at the other end there are people who just can’t be induced. Because there are so many Hollywood misconceptions (see: “Now You See Me”) and hypnosis related fantasy and fiction, it’s not surprising that there are a lot of wrong ideas out there. [I should point out that everyone probably achieves a trance state at some point organically, but some people seem unable to be induced into that state because of anxiety, resistance, or otherwise.] Having said all that, it seemed that the author knew of what he wrote and was quite open about the myths, misconceptions, and limitations.

Later titles in this series address such topics as the details of language for hypnosis, escaping cultural hypnosis, applications for anxiety reduction, uses for combating addiction, as well as the more bizarre and arcane side of the subject.

I’d recommend this book for anyone looking for a primer on hypnosis. I was not bothered by the sparse approach. It’s quick and readable, and seemed to offer well reasoned approach to hypnotism.

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