Review of The Hypnosis Experience and Preparing for Uncertainty
These discs showcase Eric Greenleaf, leading us through half-hour trances – four on the double-disc Hypnosis Experience and two on Preparing for Uncertainty. Greenleaf's gentle, companionable voice covers a lot of territory in the process.
The programs work for hypnotic novices or experienced subjects. In The Hypnosis Experience Greenleaf describes the nature and wisdom of unconscious processing, using ideas like unself-conscious flow, dreaming, body processes, and unique organization. He links hypnosis to the great healing traditions, specifically the "sleeping cures" at the ancient Greek temple of Aesclepius. He quotes a patient describing the curiously doubled communication of hypnosis: "You're talking to me, yet you're not talking to me. You're talking to all of me."
Greenleaf creates a relaxed, natural feeling, assuring his listener that the process of hypnosis is easy, though some of the things accomplished within it may be difficult. That difficulty, though, is well within our capacity.
By creating trances designed for anonymous listeners, Greenleaf is forced to abandon a central Ericksonian dictum: Create a new therapy for each person. Lacking a unique, individual listener, he compensates by using metaphors that resonate widely (preparing for and taking a journey, emotions as a richly varied palette of colors) and sometimes by providing lists of possible images or concepts.
Greenleaf unobtrusively conveys a fair amount of factual information about hypnosis: the utilization principle; the focused attention excluding extraneous stimuli; unconscious functioning that "solves problems by shifting things around and making them balance." Myths are quietly debunked.
The Hypnosis Experience includes "Using the Resources of the Unconscious Mind," "Experiencing Useful Trance," "Tuning to the Body," and "A Pharmacy of Emotions" – all masterful stuff. We learn much about feelings, the body, healing, relaxation, allowing the mind to take its own lead – all without quite knowing how the learning is taking place. I use and teach this material, and I approached the CDs with the intent of listening critically, without giving myself over to the experience of trance. Nonetheless, my (conscious) recollection of listening is often cloudy and sometimes even absent. Had I not taken notes, I wouldn't have been able to write this review.
Preparing for Uncertainty could, I suppose, be faulted for a less than original metaphor: packing for and taking a journey. But it's such a rich metaphor, and Greenleaf gives his listener a lot. He asks us to prepare "like an athlete, a scholar, a contemplative, a child, a parent . . . a dreamer," to imagine preparation for birthing, taking time out (both as a welcome rest and as a disciplinary consequence),listening to stories at night.
The "Uncertainty" message is crucial. Our culture teaches us to try to make everything known, solid, and certain. Eric Greenleaf is wise – and kind – in teaching that uncertainty is our life; and we can find our way. This program, and The Hypnosis Experience, will be useful to new or seasoned hypnotherapists looking for examples of skillful work. The discs could be sent home with clients for practice and growth. The clinician could use them that way, too.
Will Handy, MSSW
The Milton H. Erickson Foundation Newsletter
Vol. 26, No. 2 Summer 2006