Oops! One Size DOESNT Fit All


The Stop Smoking Hypnosis people.

The ancient Greeks certainly had their share of eccentrics. One of whom has been known by his peculiar notions of hospitality. King Procrusteus had some peculiar notions of propriety. If one of his guests was shorter than the king's bed, Procrusteus would have them stretched to fit. If the guest was too tall, the good king would have his surgeon chop the extra bit off.

As hypnotherapists we have good reason to believe in the fluidity and resourcefulness of human consciousness. A human being can eliminate a long standing phobia, adopt a new positive belief, or obliterate a nasty stubborn habit in only a few minutes of trance time. We have experienced those kinds of benefits for ourselves as well as assisting our clients in making profound life enhancing changes.

There are hypnotherapists who are certain that all of their clients have past life inner children causing current problems, that all of their clients are possessed by spirit entities with multiple personalities, or that all of their clients have a raving case of pet iguana envy. Unfortunately, all human beings do not conform to any one of those models.

Those hypnotherapists have mistaken their model for the "Truth". And, of course, being human, they will have their certainties bolstered by every success, and tend to blame failures on the something other than the mismatch between reality and the model. Perhaps the client is "resistant" or "not ready to change". "One size fits all" is a useful generality with certain items of clothing, but it falls short when applied to humans desiring a change of habit.

Anyone who is familiar with the work of Milton Erickson will know that he had an approach radically different than the "one size fits all minds" model. To him, each client was unique. He acted as if individual unconscious minds were like puzzles consisting of a unique set of needs, values and beliefs. Each one opening via a different approach. For example, a client may need to "resist" being "controlled" by the hypnotist, so Erickson would give them some unimportant suggestion to resist, which then allowed them to be compliant with Erickson's other suggestions.

A dear friend, and a very fine hypnotherapist recently told the author that she could "never yell at a client". Yet, there are occasions in which a few sharp words can achieve wonders in disrupting a client's smug "I can't do it", or even precipitate substantial positive change. Some of us feel like we are glued to our chair during a session, or that we would never touch a client. Yet, since other hypnotherapists regularly do just those things with success it must be possible for the rest of us to do so as well.

One of the presuppositions of NLP is that the element with the most behavioral flexibility in a system will control the system. Thank goodness that the presupposition is not true! It is only a model, but it is a powerful way of thinking about certain aspects of the client hypnotherapist relationship. Models are testable, of course. By becoming more capable and willing to engage in an increasingly wider variety of behaviors, hypnotherapists can discover that they can increase their effectiveness with those uniquely varied and impossibly stubborn human beings who drop by the office asking for miracles.

One of the author's favorite requests for a miracle on demand comes from the client who wants the problem that they are creating to cease while tenaciously clinging to the belief that it's impossible. Of course, they also expect only the problem to melts away while everything else in their lives remains the same. These clients frequently benefit from humor, confusion techniques, and eliminating their limiting belief sets through reframing and NLP's slight of mouth patterns. When a hypnotherapist demonstrates odd, playful, and slightly unorthodox behaviors it gives clients a subliminal message that yes, they can take a few baby steps outside their self constructed boxes.

Milton Erickson and Dave Elman heartily disliked each other during their lifetimes, which is understandable, given their diametrically opposite approaches to hypnosis. Athletes and coaches know the value of cross training. A runner gains in ability by strengthening the upper body with weight training. A cyclist becomes more capable by adding running and yoga to the weekly training schedule. Similarly, there is value for the hypnotherapist to study the techniques and philosophies of Erickson, Elman, and the other schools of hypnotherapeutic thought. Not only does it give a one the ability to have a second, third, or fourth technique to pull out of the bag for the unusual client, such study stretches the mind into greater flexibility. The more we can think outside of our normal universe the more we will create workable solutions for our client's problems.

Hypnotherapists routinely encourage clients to stretch their thinking, adopt new beliefs, and behave in new and healthier ways. In other words, we encourage them to become more mentally and emotionally flexible. It only stands to reason that we should demonstrate those very qualities in our professional lives. If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much more so a living example of mental and behavioral flexibility?

Cross training for hypnotherapists can certainly include learning experiences outside the field. For example, the author has been privileged to study improvisational comedy with Robert Lowe, a world class improv teacher, and innovator in bringing improv to corporate settings. Applying some of the principles of improv to client sessions has proven to be a great boon to the author. Sessions have been more fun for both himself and clients, and it's been much easier to create unthinking reverse double whammy comebacks to unsettle a client's stubborn confidence in his or her self imposed limitations. And, experiencing the improv teaches at a gut level such vital lessons as, spontaneous response, there's no one right answer, and if what we're doing falls flat, it's possible to start all over again fresh in the next moment. The genius of the improv being that students learn those lessons by living them on stage.

Learning any discipline that teaches metal flexibility enhances our effectiveness. We have all had to deal with the abreactions and idiosyncratic responses to ordinarily and innocuous concepts can that crop up so unexpectedly. And, then there are the clients who just seem determined to be impervious to our normal approaches. Which means that even with a repertoire of the best scripts improvisation, creativity, or just stepping into another hypnotherapy model can be a save the day necessity.

We all know that there is a tendency of humans to stick to the familiar. It's true with clients, who will cling to familiar painful habits and feelings even while asking for help, and it's true with hypnotherapists who find a model and settle in with it as the only way to work. Yet, there's hope for us all. We don't have to try to fit all of our clients on the procrustean bed of our favorite methods. We can choose to cross train, choose to learn new skills, and choose to step out of the ruts of familiar thinking, and in so doing, achieve more of the greatness that is our potential as humans and hypnotherapists.


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