Friday, 9 November 2012

Look into my eyes...

Back in the day, i used to practice hypnosis as a hobby - this was in the late '70s and early '80s.  I had some success with it but later dropped it.  Somewhere there is a cassette lurking of some hypnosis sessions i made in 1980.  As it happens, i have certain issues with hypnosis, just as Liz has issues with my lucid dreaming.  Hypnotherapists have, however, assured me that the responsible use of hypnosis would take pains to avoid the problem i perceive with it.

Before i go on, here are the two latest videos which i have accidentally scheduled for the same day.  They're hypnosis and relaxation videos, one to go down, the other to come up:

Going down:

Coming up:

OK, so there are two issues:  the true nature of hypnosis and the risks of hypnosis.  Well, there's a third issue too - am i a rubbish hypnotist?  Ignoring that one though:

What i mean by the risks of hypnosis is this:  assuming it works, does it amount to a "surgical" removal of an undesirable habit?  Would that "habitectomy" then result in the expression of the issues which caused that habit to manifest in the first place elsewhere?  This is why i've steered clear of hypnosis for several decades.  Having said that, in 1993 i used a post-hypnotic suggestion to ensure that i'd never hit my children, and it has "worked", whatever that means, but seems to have resulted in me shouting at them more.  It would've been better if that hadn't happened, but it illustrates why hypnosis worries me:  you might solve one problem but create another, so for example someone might successfully give up smoking but develop the stomach ulcer the reduction in haemoglobin oxygenation would've caused anyway.  Therefore, it's only a cosmetic change - OK, so you're not a smoker, but you still get ill, so what's the point?  Clearly i've exaggerated here, but another example might be that someone might overeat to fill the gap left by tobacco.

As i said, i'm sure hypnotherapists approach hypnosis responsibly and what i'm suggesting here is like a non-herbalist criticising me for using toxic plants to treat illnesses which in their opinion will both fail to alleviate the condition and give people liver damage and cancer, but the fact is that i'm not a hypnotherapist.

Liz's rather similar objection to lucid dreaming is that the machinations of the subconscious mind are best left alone in order to let it do its own thing and that treating it as either a game or consciously directed therapy will lead to problems later.  It is in fact the case that frequent lucid dreaming is tiring and of course fatigue contributes to poor mental health  for reasons which seem obvious to someone who believes in depth psychology - REM and wakefulness need to be kept separate and blurring the boundary between two states of consciousness is bad news.  I'll come back to states of consciousness in a second.

Nonetheless i dream lucidly on a fairly regular basis and it tires me.  I suspect that lucid dreaming is significantly different from REM because of Daniel Dennett's claims about dreams not being experiences, but that's another story.

The other difficulty with hypnosis is more philosophical:  is it a state of consciousness at all or more like a theatrical performance and a role?  If one believes the latter, would that make it less effective?  There is a debate about this - the "state vs. non-state debate".  Whereas waking and REM sleep are identifiable states of nervous system activity, it isn't clear that hypnosis is such a state as well, and it may be that instead roles are adopted by both the hypnotist and the subject, somewhat like a game or a part in a play.  That in turn suggests dissociation, that is, a condition similar to that of so-called "multiple personalities" - some of us can develop a persona which is highly suggestible.  However, other studies suggest that the hypnotic induction of visual hallucinations involves measurable changes in neural activity in the visual cortex.

My general impression is that it tends to work if you think it will.  It's not clear if it won't work when you think it won't and in fact going in that direction may be unhelpful for therapeutic purposes.

There is a secondary issue about depth and superficiality which i haven't time to cover yet.

A few comments on the videos.  The first one has a doubled-up soundtrack introduced by accident because i wasn't aware that Sound Recorder also recorded anything else which was playing on the computer at the time, but i decided to leave it that way due to the possibility of subliminal influences.  The second one retains the grating, rough soundtrack of its Soundcloud equivalent because i decided that tended to irritate and therefore wake people up.  Also, there is both a kitten and a double rainbow in the going under clip, which is deliberate viewer bait - in fact there are two because the slideshow repeats except for the final image, so it's a double double rainbow.  However, i still think it's justified because although the tags say that, there really are such images in the slideshow.  The transitions are probably more abrupt than they should be.

Interestingly, the second video, which is intended to wake the listener up, has intentionally stimulating images and is much shorter, and i found that such images tended to be portrait rather than landscape in aspect ratio, emphasising the vertical.  Clearly that makes sense if the subject is diet coke and mentos or a rocket taking off, but it seemed to apply across the board.

Finally, these two videos are in the "Videos relating to the Other Channel" playlist because they are primarily part of a hypnosis project i'm doing over there with several other videos, but could be useful here too.  I'm also trying to entice people to watch this channel.  I expect views on these two videos to increase rather rapidly once this project is underway, although i could be wrong.  The idea is to thread viewers in and out of the two channels, although there is still some point in having "in" and "out" videos apart from that - it stops me from having to make very long videos and upload them with identical beginnings and endings, and means i can still stick the middle bits on the other channel and have them come up with distinctive thumbnails.  They also have re-watch value.