Wednesday, May 17, 2017

GOING DEEP: A Book Review

by Benjamin Moss and Judy Prince

Be it said from the start that I am not the target audience for this book. The target reader is the therapy practitioner intrigued by the potential of hypnosis and looking for another tool in the therapeutic toolbox. The book is a concise, experiential and eminently practicable manual in the art of hypnotherapy. If I were a therapist—I’m not—I would value its detailed, easy-to-follow scripts and its no-nonsense do’s and don’ts. Everything you need to know is here, wrapped in a manageable and attractive package. As one who values brevity and concision, I’m impressed by the amount of practical wisdom that fit snugly in its ninety or so pages.

That said, even as a layman with no professional application for its contents, I enjoyed the read and learned a lot from it. I came to it with some presumptions about hypnosis from which Moss and Prince speedily disabused me. No swinging timepieces or crystals here, no spooky instructions to “Go to sleep!”, no invitation to weird or untypical behaviors. No regression to childhood experience or prior lives. Moss, the hypnotherapist of long years of experience and Prince, a psychotherapist who came to him originally to learn the practice, are at pains to distinguish what they do, for both the reader and their clients, from the “going to sleep” model. For them, its all about relaxation, gentle guidance and suggestion; the hypnotic state they describe is one of deep concentration and awareness, in which the relationship of trust between practitioner and client is at once intimate and respectful, deep and compassionate without being probing, intrusive or domineering.

What struck me most, in reading The Gift of Hypnosis, was how closely the experience resembles in both skill and intention a practice I myself have been following for more than twenty years: breath meditation. The practice described in these pages is in many respects identical to a guided meditation in which the voice leads the process and suggests a path to follow. Meditation of course is usually less specific in its purpose: hypnotherapy intends to address particular problems—the fear of public speaking, for example, the cessation of smoking, or the improvement of self-confidence or self-esteem. Both skills, or arts, however, (I see them as both) seek the relief of suffering—in part, as the authors point out in a final chapter, by learning non-attachment. Both are a way of going deep into the human psyche, beyond consciousness, and tapping into the limitless and usually unrealized power of the subconscious mind.

It surprised me that Moss and Prince remain so pragmatic in their approach. Romantic that I am at heart, I was expecting something, well… more Jungian in their exploration of the potential of hypnosis, a greater access to the domain of myth and archetype. Thinking back on what I read, though, I realize that what the authors so usefully provide is no more nor less than a gateway into the life of the mind. What interests us in stepping through that gateway may vary greatly. Psychotherapists will, I’m sure, want to take advantage of the access it offers to the past, or to that poetic, let’s say spiritual landscape of dream and mythic narrative where ultimate meanings are opened up for exploration. Others, though, will be satisfied with its potential to arrive at a kind of inner peace and a more balanced sense of self.

The "gift," of course, works two ways, as this small book makes clear. It is not only what is received by the beneficiary, it is also the skill of the practitioner. And, too, the book itself is intended as a gift, as the authors make clear in their introduction. For myself, The Gift of Hypnosis brought me to this realization: not only is the practice related in many unexpected ways to meditation; in some ways, too, the practice of meditation may be a benign form of self-hypnosis. Something, surely, on which to meditate!

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