My First (formal) Hypnosis Experience

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—View from the far side of the recliner

My First (formal) Hypnosis Experience

My first formal hypnotic trance experience occurred June of 2007 in Sante Fe, NM at the Hypnotherapy Academy of America. I remember (always questionable) being one of the first students to get in the recliner in the front of the class. It was a revelation and mind opening experience.

It turns out that I and probably everyone with normal cognitive function has been in a hypnotic trance, many times, maybe most of the time. Every day dream, every time becoming entranced in TV, a movie, play, those times stopping the car at a familiar place and not remembering anything about driving there, pretty much anytime when our mind took us to some other reality when we were not actually asleep, is likely some form of trance. When someone states “I can’t be hypnotized” they are denying experiencing anything other than living in this exact moment in this exact setting. Kind of a sad! They actually mean that they have such a powerful mind/will power that no one can control their mind. Fortunately no one with those beliefs have shown up at my office. It would be an expensive few minutes for them and a complete waste of time for us both. When someone makes such a statement I don’t argue with them, after all they have such a powerful mind (is that the same as a strong opinion?). I do explain my understanding of what hypnosis and hypnotherapy is, almost more important, what they are not and the way I use them in my practice. People usually have a difficult time denying ever having a day dream or getting into some type of entertainment. Actually I have a free consultation by phone or in person so that never happens. What often happens is that a client or potential client states “I don’t know if I can be hypnotized” and that turns into a conversation instead of some talk show yelling match. I don’t yell so that never happens either. I’m pretty sure that by time we have the, “I don’t know if…” conversation they are ready to take a chance because they’ve tried everything else.

Alright back to my trance, because isn’t it really all about me, unless it’s all about you if you are the “me”? One of the amazing aspects about the experience is that I could clearly hear every sound in the room. I don’t know what I expected, but I remember being so surprised that I could hear every sound in the room. My classmates were trying to be quiet but I could hear pages turning, people shifting basically sounds that I would not have been conscious of if I was sitting in class doing anything else. It seemed like I would hear the voice of the hypnotist that just made sense. The fact that my hearing seemed enhanced was just amazing. That was my first WOW! so that what hypnosis is like learning experience.

I had many other learning experiences in those seven weeks. I had never seen a hypnosis entertainment performance so was floored, actually I didn’t hit the floor, to learn and experience that you could stand, walk, open your eyes and talk in a trance.  Also the experience of being in a trance so light that I seemed to be just relaxed and so deep that I could just barely hear and knew that I could move if I wanted to but just didn’t want to. There is so much more but I’ll save it for another time.

As always, experience is the best teacher. Although if it is a really bad experience it’s better if someone has the experience and you do the learning. I use the suggestion that “any sound you hear, even the sound of my voice, just helps you go even deeper into relaxation”. Many hypnotherapists use that suggestion as part of deepening the trance. My office is about 200 yards from a major railroad crossing and over a hundred trains a day go through Flagstaff. Incorporating extraneous sounds into deepening relaxation is both powerful and essential in my setting. Every time I give that suggestion I’m reminded of my first time in the recliner more than seven years ago.

So stay amazed and enjoy your trance!

Next time I’ll probably write about pain, so bring bandages, ice packs and aspirin. I am, most likely going to my 40th High School Reunion. That may be a different kind of pain, so maybe I’ll write about that.

Feel free to contact me with any comments and of course if you know someone who might be interested in these posts please send them on.
Don Berlyn


Odds and Ends

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View from the far side of the recliner

Odds and Ends

Well probably not that odd and definitely not the end.
Another Learning Experience
I got a call from a potential client’s wife which is usually a red flag. In this case the man had been referred by a physician I know to quit smoking. I didn’t feel I could turn that referral down. The gentleman had a number of serious medical conditions and was looking at another surgery. His doctor naturally wanted him not smoking, surgery is risky enough even for someone in good health. It turned out that the man smoked 5 to 7 cigars a day the way other people smoke cigarettes. He also wanted to work on dietary and exercise goals.
The problem was he still had cigars. I usually want my clients to have their last smoke and get rid of all smoking material before they come to see me. If they are not willing to do that they probably are not ready to quit smoking. There are some other techniques I can use to assist them to being ready but of course if it’s not really their goal I can’t help them with that goal.
We spent a long time going over his history and goals. Decided on the language for suggestions. Did a quick reality technique to check if he could really see himself as a nonsmoker. It was not easy for him to see himself a nonsmoker. Not encouraging. Because of the medical importance of this issue I decided to go ahead. I taught him some simple stress reduction techniques then went into what seemed like a good trance session. In the review at the end of the session he seemed to think he could give up the cigars. We scheduled another session in two days to keep working on the other issues.
Next session he had not quit and still had enough cigars to last him three days. He had decided that his goal was to quit smoking at 6:00 PM on the third day while tapering off. It didn’t seem like the best plan but he was sure it would work and he had spent a lot of time thinking about it and even had a number of precise suggestions. We reviewed the previous stress reduction techniques then proceeded with a session using his suggestions and very specific target for being a nonsmoker.
I called him about an hour after the target time to congratulate him on being tobacco free only to find that he felt terrible and couldn’t give up the cigars yet.
Although that result wasn’t totally unexpected at least the stress reduction techniques were reported to be helpful. I talked to the doctor about the outcome and he thought it worth a try anyway.
I will give this client a call now that it’s been a couple of weeks and see if he wants to work on anything else or do some deep work on his need for the cigars.

More Seizure Stuff
Last time I wrote about my experience of having seizures. Most of the time I can function just fine and no one else knows what’s happening in my head. At least twice that I remember, I was working with clients deep in trance going through suggestions when the auditory hallucinations came on strong, after a bit my ability to form words was getting compromised. Until the seizures passed it was a matter of extreme concentration and frequent pauses to keep going. At the end of those sessions I was exhausted but at least the clients were relaxed and had no idea of what had been going on the other side of the recliner.
Hypnotherapy Conference
Last week I attended the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners Conference in Pasadena. There were three days with 24 presentations and 16 workshops. I managed to get to six workshops and two presentations for a total of 17.5 hours. Almost everything I went to was excellent. It was great to hear directly from two authors of powerful books in the field and from one of the best known medical hypnotherapists in the world. The other speakers were very knowledgeable with excellent information. It was nice to be reminded of some of the things that I learned previously, techniques that I want to start using again and new insights and details on what was familiar. There were four areas in which I gained a lot of new information using metaphors in hypnotherapy, working with; insomnia, PTSD and children.
I am really looking forward to incorporating the new information into my existing practice and expanding into more working (kind of like play) with the little people and helping those folks dealing with PTSD.
I meet two of my classmates from the Hypnotherapy Academy of America (in Sante Fe, NM back then) class of Summer 2007. We agreed that we did get an excellent education. I meet a number of very nice and interesting people from all over the country. There were even a few from Arizona.

That’s it for now.

Feel free to contact me with any comments and of course if you know someone who might be interested in these posts please send them on.
Don Berlyn

Self-Hypnosis for Injury, Surgery and Dentistry Part 1

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View from the far side of the recliner

I went into hypnotherapy to work with people in pain. Less than a year later there was an opportunity to use self-hypnosis to deal with a sudden injury in a challenging situation. I was on an annual weeklong retreat. One of the days was twenty four hours in silence, alone as much practical. Most of us spent the day in nature. There is a beautiful canyon in the desert with a stream flowing through it. I drove a woman from Switzerland to the canyon in the morning. We had agreed the previous day to meet in the canyon later in the day for the drive back to town.
After we went our separate ways, I crossed the stream to get to a spot up higher in the rocks. While bracing myself between two vertical rocks to get over an opening my wet shoe slipped causing me to fall forward with my right arm stuck against the rock. I felt my shoulder dislocate and then reduce (go back into place). I was able to quickly determine that one muscle was completely torn off the bone but that there was no nerve or circulatory damage. So it was not an emergency situation and I couldn’t just take off and leave my friend from Switzerland alone in the canyon without a ride. I had planned to meditate anyway. I propped my forearm on my pack and using some combination of meditation and self-hypnosis I was able to stay in place for several hours. Meeting my friend, walking out of the canyon and driving back to town was a bit more uncomfortable. Moving the arm didn’t help and having to be focused on where I was walking and driving did not allow me tune out.
It was at least six weeks until the shoulder got repaired. I listened to a pre and post-surgery hypnosis CD. During the outpatient surgery it was not possible to wear any type earphones, I ended up with a nerve block and general anesthesia. Coming out of surgery I felt pretty bad. It was difficult to focus, between the pain meds, the ice water machine and interrupted sleep. After a few days it became easier to use hypnosis.
This was a good learning experience. I was able to use hypnosis to relax, block pain and stay calm after being injured. It helped of course that I had the knowledge and experience to be able to determine that the situation was not an emergency. After the surgery I don’t know if being under general anesthesia then pain meds kept me from being able to focus enough to use hypnosis. I’m not sure that using hypnosis (at least at my skill level at the time) without any pain meds would have been sufficient to control the pain.
My experience with a hip replacement a couple of years later was totally different. I’ll blog about that next time.

Feel free to contact me with any comments and of course if you know someone who might be interested in these posts please send them on.
Don Berlyn

It’s alright to get paid isn’t it? Another Learning Experiences

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View from the far side of the recliner

It’s alright to get paid isn’t it?

Strange concept. It makes sense that if you do some service for someone you should get paid. Nobody paints my house or fixes my car for free. So why do I and so many other people in the “helping” professions feel that there is something wrong for getting paid to help someone overcome a difficulty. Obviously a personality defect.

The owner of the Hypnotherapy Academy of America, wise fellow that he is, recognized this tendency. Attending the school was pretty expensive but a good value because of the very high quality of the education, excellent instructors and complete, clear and easy to use materials.  Tim, the owner and head of the school, made it clear that it was important both for us and our clients to charge a fair amount for our services. We spent some time on this subject, looking at our beliefs about money and discovering if they were helping or hindering us from being successful.  We needed to get reimbursed so we could continue doing what we do and to have a decent level of living which would also serve as model for our clients. The clients need to pay for what they receive, “an equal exchange” so that they would value the service. It turns out that when people have to pay even a small amount for a medication they are more likely to actually take it than if it is free. It appears that at least in some areas of life, free = no value.

I know that when I help someone achieve their goal of becoming tobacco free they will save hundreds of dollars a year. There are of course other benefits. So charging an amount equal to a few weeks’ worth of poison delivery devices seems like a great deal.  Although I know this on the intellectual/conscious level I still have to practice this in my professional life, in both Hypnotherapy and Physical Therapy. I could use another session on this myself.

There is such a thing as going too far the other way. There are hypnotherapists who are all about money with systems to identify all of these areas in which a client “needs” sessions. This can come to over a thousand dollars. Then there is all of the canned CDs or downloads you can recommend. I ended up spending a lot of money to one of these operations to improve my business and before becoming completely turned off, feeling both pressured and disgusted. I am aware that this attitude of trying to squeeze the most money possible from the people you are supposed to be serving also exists in some PTs, MDs, DCs, dentists and hospital administrators.

I really like to see a person for just a few, sometimes one session with the client having the tools to help themselves and hopefully so happy that they become my best referral source and advertisement. It’s a crazy business plan. Maybe it‘ll work.


I’ll be attending a hypnosis conference called HypnoThoughts Live in Las Vegas, July 18 – 20. This gathering is for entertainment hypnotists, hypnotherapists and anyone with an interest in hypnosis. Although I don’t do entertainment hypnosis it is fascinating and fun to watch when performed by master show people. There looks to be a great variety of interesting lectures and presentations. This may be blog material you’ll soon be seeing.

Sex Stuff; Another Hypnotherapy Learning Experience

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View from the far side of the recliner

This just happened so I guess I’m still learning.

Sex. A touchy subject. Actually in my practice NOT touchy. In my hypnotherapy work there is rarely any touching, unlike my physical therapy practice. “No touch”, words to live by when one’s client is in a trance.

“No Touch” was also the favorite phrase of one of my favorite clients from a few decades ago when I was a supervisor/trainer in a sheltered workshop and a recreation staffer for the same organization. Frankie was a stocky, very strong, very friendly guy who happened to have Down’s syndrome. Frankie always had a smile. If I remember right, when you reached out towards him he would say “No Touch.”, while smiling large. He did love to shake hands, pat you on the back and give bear hugs that would leave you breathless. Frankie gave good advice. Guess that would be one advantage of phone sessions. But I digress, sometimes a lot.

I got a call yesterday morning, a Sunday, from a male who desperately wanted my assistance to feel comfortable dressing, feeling, and thinking as a woman. He wanted to know if I did sessions over the phone, he wanted the session that night and he wanted to pay me after the session. He lived on the East Coast, I live in Arizona. Red flags everywhere. Flags on top flags, flashing lights, flares and “just say no” signs. Did I mention the sirens?

I should have of just said “NO, can’t help you.” and hung up as soon as I understood what he was talking about. It did take a while to understand what he was talking about. He did add at some point that he wanted self stimulation as part of the session. When I made it clear that I did make suggestions for that in a session he backed off of that part of his request. I tried to explain that I didn’t think that one session of hypnosis would serve him the best, he should see a qualified person over a period time if this was long term change he would be making. I listened to his situation, did a quick interview to get some details to work with. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, clear goals are crucial. This guy had a combination of a lack of clear goals, some hidden goals as well as some dishonesty that became very apparent. Based on what I had to work with, I gave him some suggestions for visualizing his intention.

I texted the contact info for a very experienced hypnotherapist who works primarily on the phone and has a lot of CDs for being comfortable with different sexual orientations and arrangements. Recommended doing a Google search for whatever type of hypnosis he was interested in and he would probably find all kinds of sites. (A search for “erotic hypnosis” turns up quite a list). Additionally I put into print exactly what sexually related issues I will address. I thought that we were done, however he kept calling and texting wanting that session. How many ways can you say no? I only speak English. When he realized that I really, really was not going to the session he accused me of lying and threatened to report me. I encouraged him to do just that. He did call one more time and I told him to never call me again.

It’s been over twenty four hours maybe this warp in the fabric of sanity is over.

This is the first time in seven years that I’ve had quite this extreme of an interaction. I know hypnosis can be considered “out there”, but really. I’m curious if anyone else has had a similar experience and how you dealt with it.

For anyone still reading and interested here is my list of broadly defined “sexually” related areas that I will work with;

  1. Impotence, only after the man has been medically cleared,
  2. Getting self-confidence up, stress and anxiety down to begin a relationship,
  3. Dealing with the aftermath of relationships that ended,
  4. Working with the self-beliefs around sexual abuse/trauma
  5. And ending a pornography habit.

Learning Experiences: Goals are important Part 2

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View from the far side of the recliner

Clear goals, Where’s the goal? Is there a goal here, somewhere else, anywhere?

Usually I have at least a bit of a phone or face to face conversation before setting up an appointment. One time however I got a call from a woman who said that a guy that I had helped thought I could help her.” Well that’s great!  What would be the best day for you to come see me?” I probably said something like that. The man that made the recommendation had some clear goals that he wanted to achieve. We worked great together, he did his homework and he was much happier with his life. Unfortunately by not having “the talk”, I did not discover that for my new client there were no goals that she wanted to address. She was just very unhappy, didn’t really want to talk and wasn’t sure why she was seeing me. It was probably the longest session of my hypnotherapy career. Must have been something wrong with the clock.

There was this other time a few years before. A man with self reported Asperger Syndrome made an appointment to see me but as the session progressed there just wasn’t a clear goal. I couldn’t get him to come up with a specific issue. He knew he wanted to do something with his life but there really didn’t seem to be any direction to that journey. It was a conversation about something, some things, never anything concrete or focused. So we ended up with the generic, but still useful visualization, stress reduction, focus and relaxation techniques. And somehow I didn’t even get paid. I can’t remember what the excuse was. Whatever it was it wasn’t too clear.


Hidden Goals

A couple of years ago I had a client who I found extremely challenging. The story got very complicated very quickly. Because of the nature of the situation details will be kept to a minimum. A woman, well into her twenties contacted me for regression to work with abuse she experienced earlier in her life

I carefully explained that the use of regression under hypnosis in this setting is to recognize the feelings and beliefs about oneself based on the previous events that may be having a negative effect on her life now. This allows those ideas to be examined and if not accurate, can be changed to a more positive self-view. For instance if she was blaming herself for being abused as a minor and experiencing guilt, that could be identified and a more accurate assessment could be made, perhaps what happened was not her responsibility but the action of an adult beyond her control. In the process the facts or history do not change only the personal beliefs and judgments about that history. I emphasized that anything that might come from a hypnotic regression session would not be considered legal evidence.

(I’m pretty sure that is true. I’m not an attorney but I’ve watched lots of Perry Mason, Matlock, Night Court and Law and Order. I haven’t seen Judge Judy but I do know from legal ads on TV that I can sue for damages from the effects of some drug that I’ve never heard of even if it resulted in my death. Ah justice.)

After seeming to acknowledge all of the above, the client then indicated that she wanted to recover memories of what had happened to her because she was pursuing legal action and that information would help her case. I repeated everything that had just said about the uses and limits of hypnotic regression. I then asked if under those conditions, she would like to proceed if the outcome might be an improvement in her self-image and the quality of her life but would not be of any use legally. She kind of said that she’d like to try. I did have her experience the breathing, visualization and being present techniques. The trance part of the session was kind of successful in that there was no regression but at least she got to a peaceful place. The woman did want to do another couple of sessions. I’m not sure if we actually met for one or two more sessions. My client had a hard time showing up for or perhaps remembering the appointments she had made.  I never got paid for those sessions. Maybe if she gets a settlement but I’ll still pay the rent in the meantime.

It seems that when I don’t get paid for a session it is a sign that things just aren’t clear. That’s been a learning experience for me.

More Learning Experiences; Goals are Important

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View from the far side of the recliner

Kids or whose goal is it?

Working with children can be great, they can so easily be in their imagination. If a child wants to come see me for something that is important for them we can both feel successful. Kids usually come with parents and that often includes parent goals which may not be kid goals. Sometimes a parent will be in the room talking about the kid’s “problem” which the kid doesn’t consider their “problem” if a problem at all. If a person doesn’t own an issue they are not likely to feel that they can change it. Once we get through our three way interview and goal setting part of the session I end up doing the best I can. Usually I teach visualization, stress reduction, focus and relaxation techniques that can be used for the specific issue as described by the parent or at least the child can hopefully use them for whatever they want.

I once had a session with a girl and her father with the issue being that the daughter was hypersensitive to the sound of people eating, especially it seems at home. It turned out that her sister had something similar going on. We had a very extended interview and discussion. The girl didn’t really seem too concerned about the situation. I’m not sure that we accomplished much in the session. Some days later her dad called and after a long conversation it seemed that the parents had very different ways of dealing with their daughter. My recommendation was family counseling. There are situations where the best thing I can do is not do. This seems especially true when there is more than one person involved and not everyone sees the same problem or even agrees that there is a problem. I like to feel successful.

Not Kids but whose goal is it?

I have been smart enough (just barely probably) not to fall for the “Can you make my (usually boyfriend or husband) quit (usually smoking or chewing)? My automatic answer is “No, I can’t make anyone do anything” (not even my kids) “but if (he) would like to (make some change that is pleasing to the significant other) then have (that person) get ahold of me and we’ll see what we can do”. Occasionally I’ll hear from the person with the habit that someone else wants to change but not as often as I would think. Could be a lovely Valentine’s or anniversary present. Think I’ll make it a gift certificate.