There is a natural relationship between hypnosis and philosophy. After all, both are concerned with the nature of belief. It is imperative in both hypnotherapy and in philosophy to identify and discard false or dysfunctional beliefs and to replace them with beliefs that are consistent with our understanding of reality. The mind will reject hypnotic suggestions that conflict with values and
beliefs held consciously and/or subconsciously. Conflicts within our belief and value systems can interfere or block altogether the effectiveness of hypnotherapy. As a philosophical practitioner and certified hypnotherapist
, I offer sessions in practical philosophy or philosophical counseling
either separately or synergistically combined with hypnotherapy. Philosophical disciplines ranging from Taoism to existentialism to pragmatism are used with the goal of achieving mental clarity and harmony between the conscious and subconscious aspects of mind.
The relationship between philosophy and hypnosis, however, goes even further than the ironing out of conflicts between conscious philosophical beliefs or attitudes, and between them and the subconscious. The interconnections are many and are the basis of a book that I am currently in the process of writing. It is not my purpose on this web page to delve too deeply into this matter, however, I will note the particular connection between philosophical paradox and hypnosis and hypnotic induction in particular. The great hypnotherapist, Milton Erickson, understood how confusion and paradox can help lull the mind into the hypnotic state. In my practice, I specifically use philosophical paradox in my inductions in order to help my clients reach hypnosis. Not only does paradox serve the purpose of therapeutic confusion, it also is very effective in conveying important and revealing messages to the subconscious in order to help break through negative and self-destructive patterns of thinking.
The philosophical enterprise of resolving and dissolving confusion is also highly complementary with hypnotherapy. I use my knowledge of pragmatism and analytic philosophy, as well as other philosophical disciplines, to help work through intellectual and philosophical confusion. Greater conceptual clarity is then reinforced during the hypnotic session.
Hypnosis is itself a very Tao-like process. Of all the great traditions of philosophy, I find that Taoism provides a nearly perfect metaphor for hypnosis. Hypnosis is truly a sort of non-doing that contains the germ of great change and self-realization. Hypnosis is sometimes described as “allowing oneself to go with the flow.” This is a nearly perfect description of living in the Tao!
It is also pertinent to mention the association that hypnosis has historically had with philosophical conceptions of the transcendental or universal mind. Although the phenomenon of hypnosis has in effect been known for thousands of years through the techniques of seers, oracles, and other mystical practitioners, the physician Franz Anton Mesmer is generally credited as being the father of modern hypnosis. However, Mesmer, whose major work occurred in the late eighteenth century, did not correctly understand the reason why his patients fell into trance-like states or the reason why he seemed to be capable of producing miracle cures. He believed that a substance that he called “animal magnetism” permeated the universe, and that by passing magnets or iron rods over his patients or by pointing at them, combined with his great ability of establishing rapport, he could facilitate the circulation of this universal “fluid” and harmonize imbalances that he thought were responsible for many diseases. While it was not long before the nature of hypnosis became understood as more properly a function of suggestion than animal magnetism or spirituality, the linkage between hypnosis and spirit and/or transcendental mind has persisted in the minds of many metaphysically minded people. The name ‘hypnosis’, which is a derivative of the Greek word for sleep and was coined by British physician and mesmerist James Braid in the mid-nineteenth century, reflected the less spiritual attitude that was emerging from ongoing experimentation. Nonetheless, while the nature of hypnosis became much better understood the interconnections between the natural state now called hypnosis and psychic phenomena grew even stronger in the late nineteenth century. This is seen in such classic works as The Law of Psychic Phenomena by the American Thomson Jay Hudson and Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death by F.W.H. Myers. The latter was one of the founders of the Society for Psychical Research in Britain. Both Hudson and Myers believed that “subjective mind” (Hudson) or “subliminal mind” (Myers) had connections with the spirit or with psychic or paranormal phenomena which are obscured and covered by the activity and interference of the conscious mind. This is a view that would also be later echoed by the French philosopher, Henri Bergson. In the United States, the leading exponent of this point of view was William James, considered the founder of modern psychology and the founder of American Pragmatism (along with Charles Sanders Peirce and John Dewey). William James is one of my favorite philosophers. Not only does he write in a pleasing literary style, but I deeply admire his ability to be a hard-nosed empiricist oriented pragmatist while at the same time able to seriously explore the profound ramifications of religion, spirituality, and psychic phenomena. William James’ intellectual courage is much needed today especially when one finds oneself walking the corridors of stodgy positivism.