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If you talk to mindfulness practitioners about the simi-


larities between guided mindfulness meditation and hypno-

sis, they tend to react with various degrees of indignation,

if not downright revulsion, as if to say, Dont get that icky

hypnosis all over my nice mindfulness! Mindfulness prac-

tice, they aver, is rooted in the ancient wisdom traditions

of the East, dedicated to developing self-understanding,

serene acceptance of lifes trials, and spiritual growth. Free

of religious dogma or orthodoxy, presumably it imposes

nothing, but simply elicits an inner awakening of peoples

true selves and helps them cultivate

compassion, awaken from the trance
of unworthiness, and, of course, attain

enlightenment. Who wouldnt want to experience these

lofty states of mind? n Hypnosis, by contrast, is commonly

u estin
Michael Yapko

considered a crass theatrical stuntan GMM practitioners could signifi-
occasion for a hypnotist to exert mind cantly improve their clinical work and
control over a passive subject. In this produce more focused and effective
distorted view, hypnotists impose their
will on easily led people, as epitomized
interventions if they drew upon the
findings reported in thousands of stud-
To acknowledge
in a cheesy Las Vegas stage show where ies already done by hypnosis research-
the slick, manipulative hypnotist makes ers about the many complex personal
a row of volunteers believe and act as if and interpersonal factors influencing the inevitable role
they were playing musical instruments peoples ability to respond meaningful-
or pantomime over-the-top lascivious ly to suggestion. But to do so, they first
behavior. If mindfulness is symbolized need to strip away the philosophical of suggestion in
by the Buddha, his soft gaze turned abstractions, Eastern mystical spiritual-
down in serene contemplation, hypno- ity, and romantic exoticism that cur-
sis is too often represented by Svengali,
his fierce eyes fixed on his prey.
rently infuses the entire discussion of
mindfulness. Theyd be advised to start
But a closer look at the processes, by considering some basic clinical ques-
goals, and outcomes of both mindful-
ness and hypnotism reveals that they
tions they generally dont yet ask: What
differences are there between mindful-
is to acknowledge the
share fundamental similarities of pur- ness employed primarily as a spiritual
pose and practical knowledge. Within quest and that applied for therapeutic
the framework of a trusting therapeutic purposes? What role do the therapeu- principles and
relationship, attuned therapists now tic alliance, client expectations, and
regularly employ Guided Mindfulness therapists suggestions play in conduct-
Meditation (GMM) in the same way ing GMM? How do we determine whos methods of clinical
I was trained to use clinical hypnosis. most and least likely to benefit from
Todays mindfulness-oriented thera- such experiential methods? How can
pists, like clinicians practicing hypno-
sis, teach clients self-regulation strate-
we best adapt mindfulness methods to
meet the needs of specific clients?
gies, such as how to use their breath
Spiritual Practice Isnt
and employ guided imagery to shift
attention and experience the deep Clinical Intervention If mindfulness-oriented
power of accepting whats unchange- It seems likely that, barring a few spiritu-
able or inevitable. al geniuses (Buddha being one), almost
As mindfulness methods have come nobody really learns mindfulness alone, clinicians want to be
to assume a more prominent role in in a vacuum. Mindfulness requires a
mainstream clinical practice, the com- teacher, to provide explicit instruction,
mon mechanisms that underlie the encouragement, and leadership, within effective, its important
efficacy of both GMM and hypnosis the context of a trusting relationship.
have become more apparent. To begin The failure to see the fundamental
with, both involve two people: a guide,
teacher, or therapist, who uses sugges-
similarities between GMM and hypnosis
stems from the tendency to regard all
that they better
tion to focus then alter the awareness mindfulness practiceguided or other-
cognitive, sensory, relational, and emo- wiseas entirely a solitary spiritual prac-
tionalof a client or student, thereby tice, undertaken by one person medi- understand how their
promoting experiential learning. These tating alone, seeking capital-T Truth.
alterations in awareness may give rise to
dramatic and seemingly spontaneous
In contrast, hypnosis is seen as a kind
of indoctrinationan induction into suggestions
shifts in perspective and even profound mindlessness too often carried out by
personal transformation as ones self- quacks with control issues.
definition expands. They may also yield Of course, most therapy clients dont are structured and
what pioneering hypnosis researchers learn mindfulness because they desire
Theodore Sarbin and Ernest Hilgard spiritual transcendence. Instead, they
called believed-in imagination. In fact,
the science of clinical hypnosis is high-
find themselves trying meditation for
more immediate reasons: freedom
ly relevant to understanding how the from pain, depression, crippling pho-
methods of mindfulness may have even bias, or addictions. Would client X ever
greater impact when used in a psycho- have gone to an integrative medicine
therapeutic context. center to learn how to meditate if he

30 P S Y C H O T H E R A P Y NETWORKER n S e p t e m b e r / October 2011

hadnt been diagnosed with cancer, social-psychological terms as the prod- spontaneously elicit different kinds
suffered great pain, and become des- ucts of suggestion within a shared per- of empowering subjective experiences,
perate enough to try almost anything? ceptual framework than as the sponta- such as analgesia or anesthesia for
Would client Y be practicing mindful- neous bubbling up of spiritual truths pain management or increased bodily
ness if shed been able to resolve her in therapy. and sensory awareness. Hypnosis, like
eating disorder or depression through When a clinician conducts a GMM, mindfulness, encourages awareness
ordinary therapy, medications, or any its self-deception to believe he or she and acceptance, especially an aware-
other mainstream solution? It follows isnt the one conducting the session ness of the personal resources one can
that since the two typical reasons for and serving as the catalyst for what bring to bear on a situation. Virtually
learning mindfulnessas a spiritual transpires. Its deceitful to suggest to all of the modern neuroscience of clini-
pursuit or a clinical treatmentare dif- clients that its entirely up to them cal hypnosis, like that of mindfulness,
ferent, the intentions for using them how many steps along the path to focuses on attentional processes and
and methodology followed also should enlightenment (or wellness) they directing focused attention in clinically
be different. These differences should take, as if the clinicians guidance and useful ways. When a mindfulness prac-
be well understood by the clinician and the quality of their therapeutic alliance titioner talks about attention without
clearly articulated to the client. werent vital to what happens. Therapy intention and tells the client to let
Therapists who view mindfulness is a shared, goal-oriented process, and go of goals and stop being a human
as a private pursuit of deeper aware- both clinicians and clients inevitably doing and instead be a human being, he
ness tend to remove themselves from contribute to the outcome. or she is paradoxically suggesting a new
the equation, considering themselves goal of having no goals. Whatever the
only guides, as if they were doing The Power of clients experience from either GMM
nothing more than handing out an Suggestion or hypnosis, the therapists actively
instruction sheet. But, what, exactly, Nevertheless, the very idea that GMM, directed suggestions lead the way. If
does it mean to be a guide, and how just like hypnosis, incorporates active, mindfulness-oriented clinicians want
does guidance in the form of GMMs directed suggestion to a client by the to be effective in the work they do,
in therapy influence the clients phe- therapist strikes many mindfulness its important that they strive to better
nomenology and associated clinical practitioners as tantamount to heresy, understand how their methodstheir
outcomes? If mindfulness is to prog- a betrayal of the purity of the practice suggestionsare structured and deliv-
ress as a clinical tool, we need to itself. Mindfulness is typically intro- ered, and discover what role the quality
better understand how it works: how duced in the context of a therapeutic of their suggestions plays in the clinical
the guide structures and delivers the relationship by a clinician convinced results they obtain.
words to cause meaningful subjective of its merits, who directly says to the Clinicians also need to ask tougher
but nonvolitional experiences, such distressed client that this will help, questions. What, actually, are the differ-
as acceptance and compassion. To do and then begins the experience by con- ences, if any, between mindfulness and
that means acknowledging the power- ducting a guided mindfulness medita- clinical hypnosis? We know that the neu-
ful role of suggestion in encourag- tion. The GMM attempts to engage roscience of mindfulness and hypnosis
ing attention and stimulating (prim- the clients attention and help him or is parallel, causing changes in brain
ing) unconscious processes. This is her focus on certain suggested experi- activation of the same magnitude. Both
the domain of clinical hypnosis, and ences, whether they involve breath- feature cortical inhibition as revealed by
the research and methods found there ing, scanning the body, meditating on slowed EEG theta waves, and both show
warrant every clinicians serious study. acceptance, awakening to the truth, higher levels of activity in areas where
Like students of mindfulness who or cultivating compassion. Finally, theta is prominent, such as the frontal
may meditate and spontaneously culti- the point is made, either implicitly or cortex and especially the anterior cin-
vate equanimity or have profound feel- explicitly, that this experience will have gulated cortex. But its still too early to
ings of spiritual transcendence, people some lasting impact on the clients well- draw many conclusions about the mean-
in hypnosis routinely experience dra- being and that repeated practice will ing of such neural activities.
matic suggested effects that defy logic: facilitate the desired effects. Is there To highlight impressive brain chang-
being able to stem bleeding from the any part of this process that does not es presumably justifying mindfulness
site of a wound, having a felt sense rely on the use of suggestion to attain meditation, some neuroscientists iden-
of being with someone long deceased therapeutic results? tify a much-touted thickening of the
(whether a relative or the Buddha), To acknowledge the inevitable cortex following repeated meditation.
feeling a vital connection to the inner role of suggestion in mindfulness is But whats the evidence that a thicker
sage. Such remarkable experiences to acknowledge the principles and cortex actually makes for a smarter,
illustrate clearly the measurable shifts methods of clinical hypnosis. Hypnosis happier, better, more effective human
in physiology, relationship, cognition, encompasses the study of how to being? None yet! What does it indicate
affect, and spirit that can arise through compose and deliver suggestions that that some research suggests a thicker
hypnotic experiences. These dramatic engage the clients attention, foster cortex may be associated with autism?
effects are far better understood in a deep experiential absorption, and The fact that experience, including

meditative and self-hypnotic experi-
ence, changes brains in measurable
ways is fascinating, but it raises far
more questions than answers about the
psychological impact of these changes.
More important to the understand-
ing of mindfulness and hypnosis,
though, is the evidence that what a
brain scan reveals depends on what
the client is being asked to do. GMMs
typically have different focal points
associated with them than do hypnosis
sessions. In fact, it may be that all that
differs between GMM and hypnosis is
what the person focuses on and how
that focused mind-state is used. The
effects of suggesting global and spiri-
tual experiences to peoplefeelings
of acceptance, forgiveness, or over-
all serenitywill be quite different to
those of providing clients with spe-
cific ways to accomplish a particular
goal, such as overcoming depression or For example, a mindfulness practitio-
anxiety. Clinical hypnosis is openly and ner has the client focus on her breath
As soon as you suggest that
unapologetically goal-oriented, while by suggesting that she become aware
GMM is equally goal-oriented, but its of the breath, the rise and fall of the someone focus on some
practitioners are still uncomfortable chest, the warm or cool temperature of
defining themselves as such. the air, and the clients breathing may
The similarities of clinical hypnosis slow down, even though the practitio- specific stimulus
and GMM are stronger by far than their ner hasnt suggested that she slow her
differences. The methods of both stimu- breathing down. The client says it just
late unconscious processes that produce happened. Similarly, a person under- or a sense of detachment
automatic or nonvoluntary, but mean- going GMM reports an amazing trans-
ingful and helpful, responseseven formation of my anger to forgiveness from some thought or
though GMM practitioners may not use or proclaims my self-hatred turned to
this language to describe what they do. self-love. These arent responses you
How are these spontaneous transfor- can consciously generate on demand. feeling, youre directly and
mations accomplished? Mindfulness Theyre nonvolitional but subjectively
practitioners will typically respond with powerful. Its not surprising that a cli-
a global answer of an awakening or ent will have the feeling that something indirectly suggesting
a spiritual answer of enlightenment. magical just happened.
However, a more realistic answer is to be
found in the neuroscience of attention
What may seem magical to people
who havent analyzed this phenome- dissociation
and, more specifically, in the capacity to non in depth is actually one of the most
influence unconscious processes in dis-
sociated states.
intensively studied aspects of clinical
hypnosis. People can have dramatic ses-
drawing attention to this
sions in a wide variety of ways, and these
Dissociation: The can have powerful enduring effects. aspect of the experience and
Driving Force One of the most common observations
Both GMM and clinical hypnosis use documented in the hypnosis literature
suggestive methods to elicit beneficial, is how a new perceptual or behavioral separating it from
nonvoluntary responsessuspension response can be readily absorbed and
or amelioration of pain, spontaneous then repeatedly acted upon for a time
feelings of compassion, acceptance, or span ranging from a short while to an the rest.
transcendence, and so onthat cant entire lifeeven on the basis of a single
simply be willed. During a course of hypnotic experience.
meditation, a wide range of responses Even more intriguing, during hyp-
can seem to arise as if from nowhere. nosis, people are typically fully aware

32 P S Y C H O T H E R A P Y NETWORKER n S e p t e m b e r / October 2011 PHOTO GETTY IMAGES

of the suggestions being given them Typically, the first time a client has this doom will lift and hell get some relief.
and their responses to the suggestions. kind of dissociative experience, he or Similarly, suggesting to a highly self-
But theyre not aware of how theyre she is truly amazed. Beyond sugges- critical perfectionist that she focus on
able to respond nonvolitionallyhow tions for automatic or nonvolitional a message of loving-kindness to herself
theyre able to develop pain-relieving sensory experiences, one can just as may, over time, help her recognize shes
numbness in a limb, for instance. readily suggest emotional experiences, much more than just her imperfections,
Understandably, this gives many the a procedure in hypnosis known as the and thereby expand her harsh self-
feeling that something remarkable induction of affect. In this way, hyp- definition to be able to accept herself
touched their soul, outside the con- nosis commonly connects people to and find more comfort in her own skin.
text of the hypnotic relationship. The feelings of love or compassion, forgive-
same thing happens with GMM, dur- ness or equanimity, hopefulness or firm Hypnosis by Any
ing which people may be aware of resolve, and curiosity or resourceful- Other Name
and respond powerfully to suggestions ness, which seem genuine and sponta- The point is that whether these states
for loving-kindness, for instance, neous to the subject. While identifying of what we might call therapeutic dis-
but have no idea how they did so. these emotional experiences as effects sociation and depersonalization result
So, they feel that something amazing of suggestion and dissociation rather from clinical hypnosis or GMM, theyre
happened! Its curious and puzzling than signs of profound awakening may achieved via similar, if not identical,
to observe such responses; its hard remove the aura of spirituality, the ben- consciousness-shaping mechanisms and
to try to explain them. What about eficial therapeutic impact is the same. procedures. Since, as clinicians, were
the unconscious allows automaticity of In GMM, dissociation similarly supposed to do more than just stum-
responsesresponses that seemingly becomes evident when people can ble blindly forward with our clients
just happen involuntarily, outside of separate themselves from their usual on instinct alone, it behooves us to
or beyond our willed control, as a result frames of reference. When someone know what were doing and whywhat
of well-crafted suggestions from the drifts off into serenity through a nar- mechanisms and procedures we use to
therapist or guide? rowed focus on just the physical experi- get what effects. The wording of sug-
A key to how this may occur can be ence of breathing, the accompanying gestions and the range and quality of
found in the phenomenon of disso- sense of depersonalization can be a their impact on subjective experiences
ciation, which, simply defined, involves beneficial dissociative response. The like insight and transcendence have
breaking a global, multifaceted emo- ability to detach oneself from ones been studied and distilled for decades
tional, sensory, and/or cognitive expe- thoughtsexternalizing angry or self- in the well-established literature of clini-
rience into its component parts. As destructive thoughts by seeing them, cal hypnosis. We dont have to attribute
soon as you suggest to someone that for example, simply as clouds pass- therapeutic gains to abstract awakenings
she focus on some specific stimulus, ing in the skyhas great therapeutic when we can credibly predict them from
or experience a sense of detachment potential as a critical step in building the nature of our suggestions and the
from some thought or feeling, youre impulse control, frustration tolerance, social psychology of the interaction.
directly and indirectly suggesting disso- and reality-testing skills. As an example of this suggestive
ciationdrawing her attention to this Which of the many elements of expe- structure, lets consider the guided
aspect of the experience, functionally rience we pay attention to at any given meditation conducted by Jon Kabat-
separating it from the rest. When peo- timewhether during a party, for exam- Zinn, famous for helping bring mind-
ple speak about parts of themselves, ple, we focus on our curiosity about fulness into the mainstream of Western
as when someone says, My head tells other people, rather than on what we medicine and society, during a 2007
me this, but my heart tells me that, or believe is our social awkwardnesscan presentation he gave at Google. (The
Part of me cares, and the rest of me make an enormous difference in the entire presentation, guided medita-
couldnt care less, theyre using the quality of the overall experience and the tion included, is easily accessed on
languageand suggested subjective lessons we draw from it. In both GMM YouTube:
realityof dissociation. and clinical hypnosis sessions, we delib-
During the experience of hypnosis, erately shift the quality and direction of Stage 1:
dissociation becomes especially evident focus from self-limiting to expansive ele- Preparing the Client
when people respond nonvolitionally, ments of experience to relieve emotion- In his psychoeducational preface about
that is, without conscious effort, to a al or physical pain. A client burdened the benefits of meditation, Kabat-
suggestion. For example, a clinician with multiple anxieties cant solve all Zinn told the audience that we have a
might suggest a feeling of lightness his problems in a day, or even in a year. Stone Age mind in a digital world,
or warmth in the clients body, and Worrying about solving problems just which works against creativity. Since
that the client allow this experience exacerbates the anxiety, but if that cli- this language was sure to appeal to
to develop. Without being aware of ent can just focus on his breathing, and Google employees, who are dedicated
expending any effort to respond, the thereby discover an ever-present means to becoming more creative in the digital
client readily experiences lightness or of emotional self-regulation, chances world, he suggested a strong motivation
warmth that seems to just happen. are his overriding sense of dread and Continued on page 50

Yapko from page 33 Stage 4: Building a new awarenesses into their lives? He
to the audience for taking up mindful- Response Set said, If [the mind] wanders 10,000
ness meditation. He prepared them for The purpose of the response set is to times, you know whats on your mind
the experience by saying, So, lets see increase responsiveness as the experi- 10,000 times, and without judging con-
if we can tune in to now for no other ential process unfolds over time. In this demning, forcing, blaming, just come
reason than just for fun, . . . not to get phase, suggestions are offered to inten- back to this moment, this breath . . .
anywhere, [or] to be more relaxed, sify focus and deepen absorption in the with a certain kind of tenderness as a
[or] to become a great meditator, [or] process. For this purpose, Kabat-Zinn radical act of love and kindness just
to break through some problems that said, If youd like to concentrate more, toward yourself . . . wherever you are. . . .
youre having, . . . but to see if you can focus on the abdomen or wherever the And the meditation practice winds up
hold this moment in awareness. sensations are most vivid, I invite you doing you much more than youre
to close your eyes if you care to . . . and doing the meditation practice, and the
Stage 2: just ride; surf the feeling, the sensations world and everybody and everything
Orienting the Client of the breath moving in and out of your becomes your teacher.
Kabat-Zinn introduced the term pro- body, moment by moment by moment,
prioceptiondefined as the unconscious . . . and let everything else going on in Stage 7: Ending the
perception of movement and spatial the mind, in the roomsounds, every- Experiential Session
orientation arising from stimuli within thingjust be in the wings. In this last stage of the process, Kabat-
the body itselfas a scientific frame Zinn used permissive suggestions to
for the automaticity of perception and Stage 5: bring people back to a more externally
bodily functions like breathing. This Offering Therapeutic oriented awareness of themselves and
oriented his audience to the credible Suggestions the immediacy of the context. He said
idea that important bodily responses Kabat-Zinn reassuringly suggested that that the formal experience might be
can arise effortlessly, without conscious for meditation beginners, or even for over, but striving for awareness could be
involvement. He said, If breathing practitioners of 50 years or more, the a lifelong commitment. He rang a medi-
depended upon the conscious mind, mind will naturally wander; the goal is tation bell and continued, Now Id like
. . . wed all be dead alreadyWell, I to come back to the breath over and to invite you, if your eyes are closed, to
got busy, forgot, oh yeah, Im supposed over again. He explicitly stated that allow your eyes to open . . . while main-
to breathe. Luckily . . . the design of the goal of the session was to teach the taining the same quality of awareness, . . .
the nervous system is much too clever value of awareness in the moment and even as you turn your head or shift your
to leave that to conscious control. . . . the importance of holding on to that body or stretch. . . . So although the for-
Whats being suggested is, [lets] see awareness across life experiences. Its mal meditation practice in some sense
if we can drop in on the sensations not like youll make a bad meditator comes to an end, and has to, the real
of breathing without fiddling with the because your mind is unruly. This is the meditation practice never comes to an
breathing at all. It knows how to do it nature of the mind. . . . Its just like the end; its your life. . . . Its no more at an
really well, much better than you. Pacific Ocean at its most tumultuous. end than your breathing.
. . . If you learn to drop down 20, 30 In conducting this GMM, Kabat-
Stage 3: feet under the water, theres just gentle Zinn offered many different sugges-
Focusing Attention calmness, . . . and its the same with tions about how attendees could think
The focus then shifted from the gener- the mind. The surface of the mind can of themselves and their experience,
al orientation and rationale for the ses- be very agitated, embroiled in thought starting with how to sit and ending
sion to a narrowing of attention on the and emotion, but awareness itself is like with when to open their eyes. When
breath. Selective attention gives rise the depths. he suggested different levels of expe-
to dissociation and is essential to acti- rience, specifically the surface of the
vating any experiential processes. He Stage 6: mind versus the depths of awareness,
directly suggested how to sit and then Generalization building on the earlier notion that
employed metaphor when he said, So The goal at this stage is to help make the conscious mind is quite limited,
see if you can just feel yourself breath- the response available in other life he referred, of course, to the relevant
ing. . . . Sit [in an] elevated and erect contexts. At this point in the process, attributes of the unconscious. These
position that embodies dignity . . . [to] Kabat-Zinn had already encouraged include the abilities to process infor-
meet this moment in its fullness with a focused awareness on breathing, an mation on multiple levels, develop new
alertness. . . . Lets see if we can feel appreciation for the inevitability of awarenesses and behavioral responses
the breath, not think about the breath mindlessness and the value of mind- automatically, and respond to familiar
. . . moving in and out of the body as if fulness, an orientation toward finding challenges in new and creative ways.
we were approaching a shy animal sun- comfort in the depth of oneself, and All in all, Id have to say that although
ning itself on a tree stump in a clear- a sense of gentle compassion toward Jon Kabat-Zinn may not yet know it,
ing in a forest. We want to approach the self. How did he use suggestion to hes already a skilled practitioner of
[it] gently. encourage people to integrate these clinical hypnosis!

50 P S Y C H O T H E R A P Y NETWORKER n S e p t e m b e r / October 2011

Unintentional Intentions in time and frequency, will achieve of hypnosis can resort to global philoso-
When someone uses suggestion with- anything close to the same. phies such as trust your unconscious to
out realizing it, how can the sugges- Successfully adapting the delivery know the meaning of the metaphor or
tion be focused yet flexible enough of hypnosis or guided meditations to trust your unconscious to know what
to be adapted by different individuals the uniqueness of the particular client to do when the time is right. When
who each have differing capacities for requires many skills, including the abil- people dont recognize their participa-
attention and response? When one ity to observe and accurately determine tion in co-creating some experience,
uses suggestive strategies to elicit highly someones information-processing style they may conclude its the inner sage
subjective experiences that necessarily and tailor the wording of the message or the Buddha within, and have little
involve dissociation and other hypnotic or suggestion to fit that style. To be or no insight about the role suggestion
phenomena (such as time distortion in more effective, you must throw away played in eliciting the hypnotic phe-
order to hold this moment in aware- the script, acknowledge in experien- nomenon that seemed so unexpected.
ness or sense the timelessness of this tial terms the uniqueness of your cli- Clinicians who use guided mindful
moment, sensory alteration in order to ent, and adapt your methods to those meditations need to become more
just ride; surf the feeling the sensa- individual differences. No matter how aware of what theyre doing, how and
tions of the breath, or positive halluci- many times you conduct a scripted why these experiential processes work,
nation in order to see and experience GMM body scan or an awareness exer- and how they can improve their own
a shy animal sunning itself on a tree cise, youll always be conducting a practice of these powerful methods.
stump), how can these techniques be standardized procedure on people who The field of clinical hypnosis has gone
used deliberately and skillfully if one respond idiosyncratically. far in explaining the key structural
isnt even aware of employing them? The field of hypnosis has examined factors underlying GMM and hypno-
In Kabat-Zinns guided meditation, his the role of dissociation in generating sis: the skilled application of sugges-
suggestions for eliciting these phenom- nonvolitional responses, such as those tions to a client who is in an atten-
ena were general in nature, direct in that spontaneously arise during the tive and receptive dissociated state.
structure, and given permissively in course of a guided meditation. These Understanding this can benefit not
style. Might his suggestions have had are the hypnotic phenomena of age only mindfulness practitioners, but
greater impact if they were offered in regression (the experiential utilization of therapists and even other health care
other structures and another style? memory), age progression (the experien- professionals. After all, every therapeu-
Could the responses have been fuller tial utilization of expectancy), analgesia tic intervention you can name, whether
if hed known what responses he was (the capacity to reduce sensation selec- medical or psychological, will neces-
suggesting instead of suggesting them tively), catalepsy (the inhibition of volun- sarily involve some degree of skilled
unintentionally? The hypnosis litera- tary movement), positive and negative hal- and suggestivecommunication with
ture says yes. lucinations (having sensory experiences an individual within the context of a
The field of clinical hypnosis has with no external cause, or not having therapeutic alliance.
studied intensively individuals abili- sensory experiences despite the pres- Key points to remember regarding
ties to become absorbed in and ence of a stimulus), time distortion (the the process of suggestion are:
responsive to the guidance (sugges- constriction or expansion of ones sub- Dissociation is critical to developing
tions) of another. The findings are jective sense of time), and other marked positive automatic responses that foster
unequivocal: people differ widely in perceptual shifts that highlight how greater self-trust and greater emotional
their capacities to focus attention and malleable subjective perceptions can regulation. As neuroscientists focus on
generate nonvolitional responses. be. These capacities for transforming the nature of attention, they commonly
How then does a mindfulness prac- perception are amplified during expe- describe different but related atten-
titioner determine who is and who riences of mindfulness and hypnosis, tional subsystems in the brain. The
isnt likely to respond well to such making it necessary to be exceptionally most salient point is that attention isnt
experiential processes? Should it just clear about what one is suggesting and a singular mechanismits comprised
be assumed that everyone is capable why. Global explanations of an awaken- of multiple, interactive conscious and
to the same extent? Is telling people ing or becoming mindful seem poor unconscious processes. Different quali-
to just practice harder enough to substitutes for an in-depth knowledge of ties of attention will be elicited by
enhance responsiveness? The research the interface between receptive, disso- different qualities of suggestion. Its
in hypnosis addresses this subject in ciative, focused states and suggestions interesting, but hardly surprising, to
depth and offers many insights into for hypnotic phenomena disguised as discover from neuroscience that dif-
the nature of hypnotic responsiveness sacred meditations. ferent areas of the brain regulate the
and the variable effects of practice When people dont understand the different types of attention. Thus, its
over time. Studying the gifted medita- mechanism behind something that predictable that there are differences
tors and discovering their presumably seems extraordinary, they can too easily in brain activity across different types
desirable thicker cortices offers no conclude its magic or divinely inspired. of suggestive experiences.
evidence that nongifted meditators, or Even those practitioners of hypnosis When you conduct experiential pro-
those whose meditations are limited who arent well grounded in the science cesses, you cant avoid giving suggestions.

This means that whatever comes up for tionsthat helps mobilize the immo- who are successful at eliciting it from
a person during a session is, at least bile. The fact that mindfulness works the hoary depths. In fact, wed under-
in part, your co-creation. The study of isnt in question today. But does it work stand mindfulness phenomena much
hypnosis indicates that what generates in the way advocates have suggested? better if wed study the empirically
an effect isnt only what you say: its also Theres a popular television com- demonstrated mechanisms of clinical
what you imply. Your influence on the mercial for an automobile in which hypnosisa quite this-worldly form of
client is inevitable. The science and art a young boy dressed as Darth Vader remote control. n
of suggestion, or hypnosis, is found in walks through his house with arms out-
learning to use that influence skillfully stretched trying to muster The Force Michael Yapko, Ph.D., a clinical psycholo-
and benevolently. in order to get an exercise bike to gist and marriage and family therapist,
All people are different, and not turn on, his resting dog to stand, the is internationally recognized for his work
equally capable of focused attention, washing machine to turn on, a doll to in clinical hypnosis, brief psychotherapy,
dissociation, and mindfulness. If you speak, and a sandwich plate to slide and the strategic treatment of depression.
wish to enhance your effectiveness over to him. Naturally, he fails in each Hes the author of 13 books, his latest
with a broader range of clients, you instance. Then, when his father pulls being Mindfulness and Hypnosis: The
cant use the same techniques and into the driveway in the new car, he Power of Suggestion to Transform
wording with everyone. Many people rushes outside to channel The Force Experience. Others include Breaking
who find it hard to focus on the into starting the car. Much to his sur- the Patterns of Depression; Depression
breath or do a body scan might do prise, the car turns on! His mother and Is Contagious; and Trancework: An
well with another approach tailored to father are quite amused watching his Introduction to the Practice of Clinical
their personal style. amazement, because Dad used his new Hypnosis (3rd edition). Contact: michael
Years ago, when psychologist Neil cars remote to turn the car on from; website: www.yapko.
Jacobson asked, What is it about cog- inside the house. com. Tell us what you think about this
nitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) that In its own way, mindfulness also pos- article by e-mail at letters@psychnetwork
works? his research suggested it was its something like The Forcea myste-, or at www.psychotherapynetwork
much less correcting cognitive distor- rious, hidden, often spiritual source of Log in and youll find the com-
tions than behavioral activationthe energy; a kind of otherworldly magic ment section on every page of the online
action-orientation of CBT interven- that can grant profound gifts to those Magazine section.

The Gifts of
Buddhist & Western Psychology
Jack Kornfield
Tara Brach & Mark Epstein

Washington, DC
September 1617
Purchase tickets online at or call 800.745.3000.
Visit or call 800.944.1001 for more information.

52 P S Y C H O T H E R A P Y NETWORKER n S e p t e m b e r / October 2011