Diploma in Hypnotherapy and Solution-Focused Psychotherapy (DHypPsych UK) 2000
Certificate in Paediatric Hypnotherapy
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy
Certificate in Gut-orientated Metaphor (IBS)
Practitioner Certificate in Integrated Eye Movement Therapy
My personal journey
I became interested in hypnosis a very long time ago. My father lent me a book about it (Teach Yourself Hypnosis I think it was called. It was pretty old and tatty - and my friends and I experimented irresponsibly with it at school). Later, he gave me his personal notes on 'psycho-yoga' as he called it. He always insisted that the mind was capable of producing incredible effects on the body. That battered notebook, written on the eve of a world war, nudged me much later - along with other factors - to choose hypnotherapy as a profession.
I must admit that when I first read about hypnosis as a teenager, it sounded like magic: that you could believe something to be true and lo! it became true. I experimented and cured myself of a rampant spider phobia. But I discovered that other sought-after effects were less easy to attain and I set aside my interest in the whole subject, pigeonholing it under the title Wishful Thinking. It took a maturer outlook to understand that, actually, hypnosis isn't like that and that yes, it does work.
I re-approached the subject much later and not from a medical background. I had long been interested in the study of myth and archetype, seeking traces of ancient beliefs in our cultural heritage. I wanted to know why a story or poem from a thousand or more years ago was still capable of producing what Robert Graves describes as 'mixed exaltation and horror': that effect that makes the hair stand on end? And how did old 'fairy tales' lead the mind on strange journeys towards healing? We intuit that something profound happens to us when we engage with Story on this level, however that narrative is conveyed. I gradually understood that there are ways of getting in touch with and obtaining healing from our deeper selves. And I wanted to know the mechanics of it.
A possible explanation finally came along when I understood that it may all stem from the genetic downloading we undergo in the womb during those lengthy periods of Rapid Eye Movement brain activity. Our ancestors (literally, in the form of our inherited DNA) prime our brains with ancient behaviour patterns, very loosely designed and infinitely adaptable, to provide solutions to the various challenges to survival we will encounter after birth.1
Stories, old or new, which match these powerful paradigms of human behaviour not only feel right: they offer answers to current problems. There is a kinaesthetic shift (a bodily sensation related to a mental concept) when we are moved by these things. Our language reflects this: to be moved, to be touched, to have a gut feeling, to be heartbroken.
As that inimitable storyteller, Tolkien puts it, 'It is the mark of a good fairy-story, of the higher or more complete kind, that however wild its events, however fantastic or terrible the adventures, it can give to child or man that hears it, when the "turn" comes [the eucatastrophe of the Happy Ending], a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears, as keen as that given by any form of literary art, and having a peculiar quality.'2
I imagine that the oldest forms of healing involved ritualised narratives, engaging the tribe in an emotional and spiritual journey to suggest ways of coping with perennial problems like death, loss or conflict. The quality of attention that would be required by the audience and the resultant trance state would have led to catharsis, renewal and re-energising. Telling the story moved the trauma collectively from amygdala to hippocampus. And so human beings learned how to evoke the experience at will, the key to release from psychological bondage: Tolkien's Eucatastrophe or 'happy overturn'.
The unconscious is the place3 where these 'ancient' pathways to healing are forever renewed and encoded. I used to believe that the old myths were just echoes from the past. I now see them as alive and present, dynamic and available in the here-and-now. As an example, when we employ the imagery which heals the gut-brain, we catch the attention of a part of the mind which understands metaphor with a primordial, dream-like simplicity and directness.
And it works. People have told me they 'feel' things being moved within their bodies as they co-operate with the therapy. Real things happen inside you when you imagine very lucidly under the guidance of a therapist who understands the subtleties of hypnotic language; real solutions present themselves; real emotions can be attached or reattached to objects.
To study the mind is to study the living history of the human race, I believe.4 And as Jung puts it, 'It is my mind, with its store of images, that gives the world colour and sound; and that supremely real and rational certainty which I can "experience" is, in its most simple form, an exceedingly complicated structure of mental images'.
Hypnotherapy has a modern 'clinical' form, increasingly acceptable to Western medicine, but it also has an extraordinary lineage, stretching back to shamanic healing rituals and spirit journeys, faith healing, sympathetic magic and every form of folk medicine which depends upon the psychology of positive expectation. It's true that once trained as a hypnotherapist, you identify the use of hypnosis everywhere - because it is everywhere - and you sigh a little at different psychotherapies 'discovering' wonderful new procedures when they are simply applying an ancient hypnotic technique.
The Well is never dry and there is always enough. Ancient healing morphs into shiny modern formats with pseudo-scientific names but nevertheless the old, old truth remains: where thought goes, energy flows.
3 And of course the 'unconscious' isn't a place or area in the brain at all. It's simply all the functions which happen below conscious awareness. You don't consciously grow your toenails or run your immune system, for example, but you are making them happen regardless of what 'you' focus attention upon.
4 Modern scholarship now tends to agree - have a look at some of the studies on genetic memory referred to in this article: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/genetic-memory-how-we-know-things-we-never-learned/