The Practice of Gratitude


In recent years, gratitude has received much attention from researchers, and it has been well established that gratitude has benefits for our health and our relationships.[1] Here are some interesting findings:
Psychological well-being
Gratitude has been identified as a key trait for improving psychological well-being. [2, 3] Keeping a gratitude diary and reflecting on grateful feelings can reduce depression and stress, and increase happiness over time.[4] Gratitude is inversely related to depressive symptoms and major depressive disorder.[5] In fact, one’s disposition to feel gratitude is a unique predictor of lower depression.[6] Gratitude is also inversely related to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and is believed to decrease the negative effects of posttraumatic stress on mood and cognition.[7]
Gratitude can also enhance quality of life for those who suffer from chronic illness.[8] Gratitude has been valuable for people with fibromyalgia and neuromuscular diseases, especially in its positive effect on emotions.[9]
Emotional intelligence
Gratitude is positively associated with emotional intelligence, which relates to our levels of self-awareness, empathy, motivation, and self-regulation.[10] Emotional intelligence is important in personal and professional relationships. Even though emotional intelligence tends to be steady throughout our lifetimes and to increase with age, it can be improved deliberately with the practice of gratitude interventions.
There is a strong relationship between gratitude levels and increased patience, which is especially important for self-control.[11]
Social interactions
Gratitude plays an important role in building and maintaining interpersonal relationships. There is a well-established association between gratitude and more positive social interactions.[12, 13] Individuals who have more grateful dispositions tend to be more generous and trusting on average.[14]
Expressions of gratitude play a special role in friendships. Levels of gratitude seem to be higher toward friends than toward siblings, and we generally place a higher expectation on friends than we do on siblings to express gratitude.[15] One’s view of a relationship is stronger when gratitude is expressed outwardly as opposed to simply thinking grateful thoughts about a friend, or even having a positive interaction with a friend.[16]
The body responds to gratitude
The effects of gratitude have been observed in the body. In one study, the average heart rate was significantly lower when experiencing gratitude versus resentment.[17]
Brain scans indicate that gratitude affects the regions of the brain involved in the regulation of emotion and motivation.[18] In one study, subjects wrote letters expressing gratitude. After three months, their brain activity was measured while experiencing gratitude, and showed significantly greater effects in the prefrontal cortex, the region associated with morals and value judgments.[19]
Differences between men and women
Women may be more likely than men to experience gratitude, both as a personality trait and upon receiving a gift. In general, men seem to derive fewer benefits from gratitude, and tend to feel burdened and obligated more than women.[20] However, another study showed that boys appear to derive greater benefits from gratitude in the forms of feeling social support and exhibiting positive social behavior.[21]
Some tips for a gratitude practice
We can cultivate gratitude. Research indicates that benefit-triggered gratitude (gratitude felt for a particular person or situation in response to a kindness received) has a stronger effect than a general appreciation for the positive or valued aspects of life.[22] With this in mind, think of something specific for which you are grateful, but not something that makes you feel obligated, guilty, or dependent.
Gratitude may be expressed by a person’s own internal feelings of appreciation, or by an outward expression to someone else. Write a letter (whether or not you actually send it), keep a gratitude journal, or think deliberately of your gratitude for a specific person or situation. Try making a habit of expressing gratitude every day.
What you might experience
Subjects participating in gratitude interventions reported more grateful moods than was typical for them, more people to whom they were grateful, more frequent daily episodes of gratitude, and more intense gratitude per episode.[23]
A conscious focus on the things for which you are grateful can bring real emotional and interpersonal benefits.

1.Fox, G. R., Kaplan, J., Damasio, H., & Damasio, A. (2015). Neural correlates of gratitude. Frontiers in Psychology,6.

2.Sirois, F. M., & Wood, A. M. (2017). Gratitude uniquely predicts lower depression in chronic illness populations: A longitudinal study of inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis. Health Psychology, 36(2), 122-132.

3.Davis, D. E., Choe, E., Meyers, J., Wade, N., Varjas, K., Gifford, A., . . . Worthington, E. L. (2016). Thankful for the little things: A meta-analysis of gratitude interventions. Journal of Counseling Psychology,63(1), 20-31.

4.Leary, K. O., & Dockray, S. (2015). The Effects of Two Novel Gratitude and Mindfulness Interventions on Well-Being.The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine,21(4), 243-245.

5.Dusen, J. P., Tiamiyu, M. F., Kashdan, T. B., & Elhai, J. D. (2015). Gratitude, depression and PTSD: Assessment of structural relationships. Psychiatry Research,230(3), 867-870.

6.Sirois, F. M., & Wood, A. M. (2017). Gratitude uniquely predicts lower depression in chronic illness populations: A longitudinal study of inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis. Health Psychology,36(2), 122-132.

7.Dusen, J. P., Tiamiyu, M. F., Kashdan, T. B., & Elhai, J. D. (2015). Gratitude, depression and PTSD: Assessment of structural relationships. Psychiatry Research,230(3), 867-870.

8.Toussaint, L., Sirois, F., Hirsch, J., Weber, A., Vajda, C., Schelling, J., . . . Offenbacher, M. (2017). Gratitude mediates quality of life differences between fibromyalgia patients and healthy controls. Quality of Life Research,26(9), 2449-2457.



11.Dickens, L., DeSteno, D. (2016). The grateful are patient: Heightened daily gratitude is associated with attenuated temporal discounting. Emotion. 16(4): 421-5.

12.Yost-Dubrow, R., & Dunham, Y. (2017). Evidence for a relationship between trait gratitude and prosocial behaviour. Cognition and Emotion,1-7.

13.Does Gratitude Enhance Prosociality?: A Meta-Analytic Review. (2017). Psychological Bulletin.

14.Yost-Dubrow, R., & Dunham, Y. (2017). Evidence for a relationship between trait gratitude and prosocial behaviour. Cognition and Emotion,1-7.

15.Rotkirch, A., Lyons, M., David-Barrett, T., & Jokela, M. (2014). Gratitude for Help among Adult Friends and Siblings. Evolutionary Psychology,12(4), 147470491401200.

16.Lambert, N. M., Clark, M. S., Durtschi, J., Fincham, F. D., & Graham, S. M. (2010). Benefits of Expressing Gratitude. Psychological Science,21(4), 574-580.

17.Kyeong, S., Kim, J., Kim, D. J., Kim, H. E., & Kim, J. (2017). Effects of gratitude meditation on neural network functional connectivity and brain-heart coupling. Scientific Reports,7(1).


19.Kini, P., Wong, J., Mcinnis, S., Gabana, N., & Brown, J. W. (2016). The effects of gratitude expression on neural activity. NeuroImage,128, 1-10.

20.Kini, P., Wong, J., Mcinnis, S., Gabana, N., & Brown, J. W. (2016). Gender differences in gratitude. NeuroImage,128, 1-10.

21.Froh, J. J., Yurkewicz, C., & Kashdan, T. B. (2009). Gratitude and subjective well-being in early adolescence: Examining gender differences. Journal of Adolescence,32(3), 633-650.

22.MA, L.K., Tunney, R.J., Ferguson, E. (2017). Does Gratitude Enhance Prosociality?: A Meta-Analytic Review. Psychological Bulletin.

23.Mccullough, M. E., Tsang, J., & Emmons, R. A. (2004). Gratitude in Intermediate Affective Terrain: Links of Grateful Moods to Individual Differences and Daily Emotional Experience. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,86(2), 295-309.


A Hypnotic Work of Art

Danilo Correale, At Work’s End, Installation View at Art in General, Photo: Dario Lasagni.

"To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring -
it was peace."

- Milan Kundera

Last winter I was approached by the Italian artist Danilo Correale to collaborate on a script and recording for a work of art using hypnosis. In the style of the self-help and guided meditation records popular in the 1960s and 1970s, he wanted to help exhibition-goers imagine an idea that has long captured the sci-fi imagination: a future so technologically advanced that human labor is obsolete. Why hypnosis? The artist writes that maybe this vision “begins in the realm of sleep - in the temporalities and spaces where we are momentarily freed…”

I was intrigued immediately. He had also recently completed another work exploring the social implications of sleep, which spoke to my interest in how our ideas about sleep can be influenced by society and learned unconsciously.

Collaboration on a hypnosis script to capture an artist’s vision is a unique experience for any hypnotist, and it was also my first time in the recording studio. The finished work is a two-part vinyl LP in a gatefold cover with interior artwork and written work.

danilo Correale_Reverie_2017_0169
Danilo Correale, Reverie. On the liberation from work. Deluxe Gatefold Record 180gr, plus Insert, Ed. 400, Signed and Numbered Danilo Correale.

The project gave me a perfect opportunity to be creative with my interest in hypnosis techniques using a fixed gaze. Side B instructs the listener to look at a blue dot, which is included in album on a transparency poster. The dot becomes associated with a state of stillness, stability, and presence. The listener is asked repeatedly to close the eyes and imagine falling backward, then to open the eyes and gain stability by looking at the blue dot and remembering the state of presence.
This work also caused me to think even more about the reduction of work-related stress using hypnosis. Many people seek hypnosis to address stress from work-related issues, such as too much work, a hurried and/or long schedule, pressure to perform, interactions with supervisors and coworkers, inadequate compensation, and feeling held back or unfulfilled. This project looked at the other side of work-related stress: the thoughts and feelings that arise from being at leisure. One of the most interesting comments mentioned to me came from a couple who, after emerging from the work, remarked how relevant it was to them because they had both recently retired. Who we are and what we do for work shapes our lives, our schedules, and how we see ourselves and are seen by others. I hope this undertaking ultimately helps people to remember their identities beyond work.
From September 28–November 9, 2017 “Reverie On the Liberation from Work” is the core work in an Exhibition entitled At Work’s End, commissioned by Art in General. You enter a gentle purple light, pass beyond a Majestic Purple Curtain into two separate chambers corresponding to Side A and Side B of the record, recline in lounge chairs created by the artist, and go into hypnosis.

Danilo Correale_At Work's End_Art in General_0917_0079
Danilo Correale, At Work’s End, Installation View at Art in General, Photo: Dario Lasagni.


The Practice of Retrospection

Retrospection is contemplation of the past. Pythagoras of Samos (570-495 B.C.), the first to be called a “philosopher” (i.e. “lover of wisdom”), recommended the following exercise of retrospection before going to sleep:
     "Never suffer sleep to close thy eyelids, after thy going to bed,
Till thou hast examined by thy reason all thy actions of the day.
Wherein have I done amiss? What have I done? What have I omitted that I ought to have done?
If in this examination thou find that thou hast done amiss, reprimand thyself severely for it;
And if thou hast done any good, rejoice.
Practice thoroughly all these things; meditate on them well; thou oughtest to love them with all thy heart.
'Tis they that will put thee in the way of divine virtue." 
(Golden Verses of Pythagoras, 40-46)

After Pythagoras, the Greek Stoic philosophers recommended similar practices. Epicteus (c. 50-135 A.D.) wrote:

     "Let sleep not come upon thy languid eyes Before each daily action thou hast scann'd; What's done amiss, what done, what left undone; From first to last examine all, and then Blame what is wrong in what is right rejoice."
(Epicteus, Discourses, 3.1)

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 B.C. - 65 A.D.) wrote about Quintus Sextius, a Roman philosopher whose philosophy combined Pythagorean and Stoic thought:

     "When the day was over and he had retired to his nightly rest, he would put these questions to his soul: "What bad habit have you cured to- day? What fault have you resisted? In what respect are you better?" Anger will cease and become more controllable if it finds that it must appear before a judge every day. Can anything be more excellent than this practice of thoroughly sifting the whole day? And how delightful the sleep that follows this self- examination - how tranquil it is, how deep and untroubled, when the soul has either praised or admonished itself, and when this secret examiner and critic of self has given report of its own character! I avail myself of this privilege, and every day I plead my cause before the bar of self. When the light has been removed from sight, and my wife, long aware of my habit, has become silent, I scan the whole of my day and retrace all my deeds and words. I conceal nothing from myself, I omit nothing. For why should I shrink from any of my mistakes, when I may commune thus with myself?

     "See that you never do that again; I will pardon you this time. In that dispute, you spoke too offensively; after this don't have encounters with ignorant people; those who have never learned do not want to learn. You reproved that man more frankly than you ought, and consequently you have, not so much mended him as offended him. In the future, consider not only the truth of what you say, but also whether the man to whom you are speaking can endure the truth." 
(Seneca, On Anger)

Why is retrospection helpful?
The most obvious purpose of retrospection is ethical perfection.

Retrospection gives us more control of ourselves. As Seneca points out, we will have more control of our actions if we know we will review them every day. We will also become more mindful of our actions. Retrospection prepares the mind for mindfulness.

The practice of retrospection trains the mind to identify with observer of the thoughts, emotions, and physical impulses, rather than feeling victim to them.

Among the Pythagoreans, retrospection also served the purpose of training the memory. Pythagoras was said to be able to recall in backward sequence everything he had done and said throughout his day, even for several days.


During our waking hours, we engage in many activities and interactions, and we respond to them in a number of ways. Sometimes we respond with the rational, intellectual mind. Other times we are moved by our emotions or by the instinctual impulses of the physical body. A nightly exercise of retrospection could include questioning whether we acted out of the mind, emotions, or body in each event or interaction.


Imagination and the Use of Imagery in Hypnosis

Before the Scottish physician James Braid coined the terms "hypnosis" and "hypnotism", the phenomena of hypnosis belonged to the fields of magnetism and Mesmerism. Magnetists and Mesmerists believed that an invisible universal fluid was responsible for their cures. In 1784 a commission investigating Mesmer stated that the cures were due to the imagination, not to magnetism. In response to criticisms, one of Mesmer's pupils, Charles d'Elson, wrote, "If Mesmer had no other secret than that he has been able to make the imagination exert an influence upon health, would he not still be a wonder doctor? If treatment by the use of the imagination is the best treatment, why do we not make use of it?"[1]

Many people suffer from problems that are caused by the imagination. For example, the person with a fear of flying imagines the small space or turbulence, or, as Kroger describes in Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, the example of a person who lacks confidence in public speaking:

"When in bed at night, he 'sees' himself walking up to the rostrum and 'hears' himself delivering his address. The mere thought of the future talk causes palpitation, sighing, holding of the breath and a panicky feeling. Thus, the imagination produces the same effects as if the speaker were in front of the audience. This process is referred to as sensory imagery. If his imagination is negatively 'programmed' in this manner, time after time, night after night, it is only natural that he will develop anxiety when he gets up to speak. Continually thinking negative, harmful and destructive thoughts eventually leads to their realization because of expectation and belief that they will happen. Having an idea of an action often results in that action."

The Law of Reversed Effect
Most people try to assert will power to solve their problems, but the Law of Reversed Effect says that the harder one tries to do something, the less chance there is of success.[2] For example: the insomniac who makes a real effort to sleep (even though sleep cannot occur from effort), or the smoker who tries to stop by admonishing herself every time she smokes a cigarette. In hypnotherapy, more effective than the suggestion "You do not smoke" is the imagery of increased breath capacity, healthier skin, or greater peace of mind.

More than words
The unconscious responds more readily to the imagination than to hypnotic suggestions. When hypnotic suggestions are used, their greatest effect is not in their literal meanings, but in the imagined thoughts they produce. Words and phrases can produce powerful imagery, so a thoughtful hypnotist will be sensitive to the imagery that certain words may trigger in the imagination. Part of the task of the hypnotist is to determine what words are cues for specific imagery for the hypnotic subject.

Make it personal
Imagination can be reproductive (i.e. reproducing a previous experience or idea) or productive/constructive (creating something new). When using imagery in hypnotherapy, the subject's own recollections are more impactful than a newly created image. For example, to help someone increase confidence in public speaking, it is more effective to use his actual memories of times when he felt confident (in speaking or otherwise) than to describe an idealized image to which he cannot relate from personal experience. His own personal experiences are not forced on him, so he will accept them more readily.

Types of imagery
Imagination can be volitional (voluntary) or receptive (involuntary). Hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis can use both types. With receptive imagery, the images come without conscious effort. An example of using receptive imagery is to establish a purpose for entering hypnosis (ex: to remember something or to solve a problem), and then to observe passively what imagery occurs on its own, without exerting conscious effort.

Tips for using imagery:

- Close your eyes.

- Pay attention to details: colors, shapes, faces, attire, landscape, sounds, feelings, etc.

- Include all five senses. Imagination can be visual, auditory, olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste), and/or tactile (physical sensation).

- Be patient. Don't rush it or make hard work of it.

- If you are using volitional imagery, maintain a passive attitude when the mind wanders from the subject of focus, and return to it without judgment or frustration.

- Everyone already has the ability to imagine, so instead of waiting for something unusual or remarkable to happen, approach imagining as an opportunity to discern more closely how your imagination operates.

[1] Goldsmith, M. L. (1934). Franz Anton Mesmer; a history of mesmerism. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc.

[2] Kroger, William S. (1963). Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott.


Beyond Suggestion Hypnosis Facilitates Unconscious Processes

Hypnotic suggestion is ancient. At least as early as 1550 B.C., Egyptian priest-physicians repeated positive suggestions to their patients in trance. In modern times, the theory that the effect of hypnosis is the result of suggestion became prominent with the work of Ambroise-Auguste Liebeault (Sleep and its Analogous States, 1866) and Hippolyte Bernheim (Suggestive Therapeutics, 1889). In the twentieth century, the verbal techniques of “Ericksonian” hypnosis and neurolinguistic programming (NLP) came to dominate clinical hypnosis. Consequently, the popular conception of hypnotherapy today is that the hypnotist induces trance, then repeats carefully constructed verbal suggestions to influence the unconscious.

Suggestion does have an effect. The well-documented placebo effect is a form of suggestion. The hypnotic trance heightens suggestibility by relaxing the critical faculty of the conscious mind, allowing suggestions to make a greater impression upon the unconscious. However, hypnosis is more than a state in which the patient receives suggestions passively. Hypnosis also facilitates the patient’s own unconscious processes. The purpose of trance is not only to increase suggestibility. Hypnotic trance creates an opportunity for the unconscious to fulfill the motive that urged the patient to schedule the appointment, show up, and participate.

Outside of sleep and dreaming, the unconscious mind has important work to do. Overemphasis on the linguistic dynamics of hypnotism (i.e.; the phrasing and delivery of verbal suggestions) diminishes the role of the unconscious. Modern culture has a highly rationalistic belief system that tends to downgrade the unconscious. We like to think we are in control, that our conscious minds have all of the answers, and that we are pretty well aware of our unconscious motives and beliefs. However, the conscious mind is actually very limited and unaware of unconscious processes. Not everything mental can be accomplished on a conscious level. In fact, conscious efforts frequently get in the way of unconscious processes, and people often have problems because the conscious mind is trying to solve a problem that the unconscious can solve better. The unconscious is smarter than the conscious mind, and often has a much better solution to the problem than the patient or the hypnotist. In certain states of hypnosis and meditation, the patient gains greater access to unconscious resources.

The conscious and unconscious processes may influence each other, but they are independent. Consider how sometimes when you are trying to remember something unsuccessfully it comes to you spontaneously after you stop trying. The fact that the unconscious search for the information continues after the conscious mind has moved on demonstrates that the conscious mind and the unconscious can be involved in two independent tasks. While the patient’s attention is fixed on the words of the hypnotist (or in meditation, while one’s conscious attention is fixed on a mantra or a breathing pattern), the usual patterns of awareness are interrupted, and the unconscious automatically searches for a solution to the problem.

Some people have a sudden insight about their problem while in hypnosis, but patients are not always aware of the work of their own unconscious, and do not have to be in order to obtain successful outcomes. Normally, the creative processes of the unconscious take time to become conscious. This can mean that the patient subjectively feels different, but is unable to explain how or why.

We often hear about the positive physical effects of hypnosis and meditation, but these are not the most important reasons to use hypnosis, self-hypnosis, or meditation. Hypnotic trance offers the opportunity for the unconscious to develop what is authentic to the individual, free from the usual limitations and interference of the conscious mind. The role of the hypnotist is not only to induce trance and deliver suggestions, but to facilitate the expression of the patient’s unconscious processes. Hypnosis is more than restorative relaxation or a state of increased suggestibility. Ideally, hypnosis facilitates the valuable work of the unconscious.

Erickson, M. H., Rossi, E. L., & Rossi, S. I. (1976). Hypnotic realities: The induction of clinical hypnosis and forms of indirect suggestion. New York: Irvington.


Hypnosis and the Eight Limbs of Yoga

As a hypnotist, I often teach workshops on self-hypnosis and meditation at yoga centers, and some participants have asked if there are similarities and relationships between hypnosis and yoga. Usually, someone in the group points out that hypnosis seems similar to “yoga nidra,” the deep, trance-like state that yogis experience during meditation. In both yoga nidra and hypnosis, the body is intensely relaxed and the mind highly focused. The comparison doesn’t end there; in his landmark book Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis in Medicine, Dentistry, and Psychology, Dr. William Kroger points out that there are great similarities between hypnosis and the eight “limbs” of yoga that are set forth in the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. This brief comparison explores the relationship between Yoga and hypnosis.             

There are many ideas about the precise meaning of the word “yoga.” Literally, it means to join, bind, attach, or unite. In popular use “yoga” has come to mean, as Webster defines it, “a Hindu philosophy that teaches a person to experience inner peace by controlling the body and mind.” That sure sounds a lot like hypnosis! The Yoga Sūtras, dating back to approximately 200 BCE, are 196 aphorisms that form the basis of Yoga. The sutras are divided into eight “limbs,” sometimes called the “eightfold path.” They are summarized here, with their analogies to hypnosis.  My interpretations differ somewhat from Dr. Kroger’s, but credit must go to the master for making the initial comparison:

1st Limb: Yama is restraint, self-control, discipline, ethics, and integrity. 

2nd Limb: Niyama is the regular and faithful observance of rules and practices.

These first two limbs of yoga are analogous to the ideal mindset for someone approaching hypnosis. As with most methods of mental healing, success depends partially on the positive expectancy that any person who has a sincere intention and dedication to the process can achieve results.

3rd Limb: Asana is placement of the body in the correct posture and sitting still.

4th Limb: Prānāyāma is control of the breathing. 

In hypnosis, posture and breathing exercises facilitate the deep relaxation that is often associated with, though not always necessary for, the induction of hypnosis. Posture and breathing also serve to misdirect the attention. In hypnosis, when attention is diverted by mental focus on automatic motor movements (like breathing or muscular twitches) or automatic sensations (like tingling or floating), the conscious mind is kept busy and out of the way, allowing beneficial suggestions and imagery to imprint upon the subconscious mind.

5th Limb: Pratyahara is withdrawing thoughts from the outer world.

Pratyahara resembles the “depersonalization” that occurs in hypnosis and allows one to experience thoughts, feelings, and actions from a new perspective. Depersonalization takes place to some extent when you feel like you are outside of yourself, or like you are watching yourself act, without control over your actions. It happens to some extent when you are daydreaming and suddenly feel as if you could not move, even if you tried, though you don’t care to try. Depersonalization can be positive. In some situations it brings a burst of insight, a sudden expansion of mental perspective (“Eureka! I never seen it that way before!”), or an emotional shift (“Suddenly I just feel great, and I can’t explain it!”) that seems to fix the problem automatically and permanently. Depersonalization can be spiritual. Kroger points out that the goal of nirvana, the state of complete liberation, is strikingly similar to the depersonalization and other dissociated states that characterize hypnosis.

On the other hand, depersonalization can be negative, as when it is the result of trauma or prolonged stress. To some extent, a person who has automatic bad habits or compulsive worries experiences some degree of depersonalization by not having conscious control of their behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. In such cases, the goal of hypnosis is to orient the person to their own identity in a balanced and positive way.

Hypnosis can be a powerful tool to achieve depersonalization when needed, or to stop it when undesirable. Hypnosis influences this aspect of the mind so effectively that many well-known phenomena of stage hypnosis rely on it. For example, it is the epitome of depersonalization and disassociation when a subject is made to forget his own identity and assume he is another person, or is made to lose control or feeling in part of the body.

Kroger writes that the first five limbs of yoga involve the creation of a favorable mental attitude of expectancy, which is necessary to approach and induce hypnosis. In summary of these five: First we take account of our personal motivation (yama) and commit to the process (niyama). Next we focus on postures (asana) and breathing (pranayama), which facilitate the trance state. The misdirection of attention resulting from mental focus on posture and breathing facilitates withdrawal from the outer world and focus on inner thoughts and sensations (pratyahara). 

Kroger compares the last three limbs of yoga (dhāranā, dhyāna, and samādhi) to the responses that occur during hypnosis:

6th Limb: Dhāranā is concentration. For example, a person might focus attention on particular parts of the body (kinesthetic), a mantra (auditory), or an image (visual).

7th Limb: Dhyāna is to hold stillness in the mind, without the willful effort of single-pointed attention that characterizes the previous limb of dhāranā.

During the induction and deepening phases of hypnosis, posture and breathing (like limbs 3 and 4) serve to misdirect the attention and facilitate trance. Now, with the subject in hypnosis, concentration on certain tactile, auditory, or visual stimuli again keeps the conscious mind busy so that positive suggestions can influence the subconscious mind.

Like the single-pointed concentration that characterizes dhāranā, constantly pulling the mind back to focus on a certain thought, image or feeling, repetition is an elementary principle of hypnosis. The mind chooses its subjects of thought automatically, and redundancy (repetition) gives it more bits of positive information from which to choose. When positive information outnumbers negative information (like worries and negative self-talk, for example), it becomes more likely that the positive thought or emotion will become chosen automatically and unconsciously. In hypnosis the positive information that is repeated with concentration and effort at first (like dhāranā) eventually becomes automatic and effortless (like dhyāna).

8th Limb: Samādhi is a profound state of ecstasy and peace that comes from feeling at one with higher consciousness.

Yoga is more than stretches, poses, or exercise; it is a path by which an individual may achieve overall physical healing and balance. There are different types of yoga, but they all achieve their effects by helping the person to achieve union with a higher state of consciousness. Likewise, the real magic of hypnosis takes place when the mind is lifted from its previous state to a higher plane of thought. When a problem is seen from a new perspective, a paradigm shift from the previous state to a new state can be achieved, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Many people approach their problems by struggling against them. For example, the smoker feels engaged in a mortal battle (literally) with cigarettes, or the overeater has a love-hate relationship with sweets (they love the sweets, and hate themselves for giving in to them). However, the Law of Reversed Effect asserts that the harder you try to do something, the less chance you have of success, because the unconscious mind that the thing against which you struggle actually has power. In both Yoga and hypnosis, healing is not achieved by focusing on the suffering, or by empowering one to struggle harder, but instead by raising the mind to a higher plane. In practical terms this means leading the subject to experience the thoughts and feelings that will accompany the goal once it is achieved. For example, to stop smoking it is usually far more effective to think about how good it feels to have energy, lung capacity, peace of mind, and self control than to focus on the damage caused by smoke and nicotine, or the shame of addiction. My point is not to equate samādhi to overcoming, but to illustrate that in both hypnosis and yoga, the ultimate goal is achieved when the subject is lifted to a higher state of consciousness.

This is only a summary comparison of two very complicated subjects, but I hope that it can in some way benefit those who are involved in the practices of yoga and hypnosis. When we consider the parallels between ancient systems of healing such as these, it reminds us that we are one human family, all with the same goal of human health and happiness. If we follow these universal prescriptions for balance and healing, we are bound to think, feel, and do better.

Kroger, William S. Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1963.

© 2014, John Mongiovi, CH – All Rights Reserved.


10 Characteristics of Hypnotic Speakers

Within the field of hypnotism some claim to teach hypnotic speech techniques that bestow the power to influence and control others secretly. These methods of indirect suggestion, sometimes referred to as covert hypnosis, aim to influence a person’s unconscious without their knowing. A few forms of indirect suggestion are:

Embedded command: This is a technique of placing a command (“Feel more relaxed.”) into a larger sentence or phrase (ex: “You may feel more relaxed if you change positions.”).

Analog marking: This is the process of using verbal cues (ex: pausing or altering intonation) or physical gestures (ex: facial expressions or body language) to mark certain words. In the example above, the embedded command “feel more relaxed” would be marked. The basic idea of analog marking is that the unconscious notices and is influenced by the words that are marked.

Implication: “I wonder how deeply this article will influence you.” The implication is that the article will influence you to at least some extent, and potentially deeply. There is also an embedded command in this example: “…this article will influence you.”

Implied directive: “As soon as you get comfortable you will take a few deep breaths.” The implied directive has three parts: 1) A time-binding introduction (“As soon as…”); 2) the implied suggestion (“…you get comfortable…”); and 3) a behavioral response (“…you will take a few deep breaths.”).

Bind: A bind is when two choices are stated, both of which satisfy the outcome. For example: “Would you rather enter hypnosis rapidly or gradually?” In this case, either choice assumes that the subject will enter hypnosis. Binds can be classified further into many subtypes.

Other techniques of indirect suggestion include confusion, shock, questioning, and use of analogies, puns, and metaphors.

Many of these methods of indirect suggestion were developed from the work of the psychologist Milton Erickson (1901-1980).[1] Erickson believed that normal conversation could influence the unconscious, regardless of whether the subject experienced hypnotic trance. Suggestion that has an effect without the presence of hypnosis is known sometimes as waking suggestion. Neurolinguistic programming (NLP), created in the 1970s, is an attempt to classify the natural language patterns used in Erickson's own recorded therapeutic sessions. Empirical validation of NLP’s effectiveness is controversial, however scientific evidence does support the idea that people respond to suggestion without the presence of hypnosis.[2]

Indirect suggestion does have some effect, but one can not influence others significantly simply by employing these techniques. The “hypnotic effect” of hypnotist or a powerful speaker is not solely, or even primarily, due to any verbal techniques they may employ, but because of their whole personalities. Before the advent of clinical (i.e. Ericksonian) hypnosis, it was long recognized that the influence of a hypnotist resides within certain personal qualities,[3] which may be natural or developed over time. These characteristics are the basis of hypnotic influence in traditional hypnotism, both in stage hypnotism and hypnotherapy, and can increase one’s influence in practically any field of endeavor, especially in speaking, presentation, and performance:

Confidence is the most important quality for a hypnotist. A hypnotist must have absolute confidence that his suggestions will have the desired effect. His certainty gives the words force. Likewise, a speaker must have total confidence that his message will be received positively by his audience.

Authentic confidence comes from success, which is the result of hard work. You can “fake it ‘til you make it” for a while, but people can detect false confidence. Eventually a person who does not obtain actual successes will lose confidence in himself as well as the confidence of others. 

Thoughts have power, psychologically and metaphysically. Psychologically, the sincere will and intent of the hypnotist or speaker produce subtleties in his verbal and nonverbal communication, which may be perceived by the listener's unconscious. Metaphysically, thoughts have the power to affect outcomes.[4] The focused and concentrated will of a hypnotist or speaker give life to his words.

The direct suggestions of a hypnotist are often sharp and decisive. An effective hypnotist or speaker does not hesitate in his statements.

Hypnosis is not always a predictable experience. A hypnotist or speaker must be prepared for any response from his subject(s) or audience. He should not be timid or fearful.

A good hypnotist or speaker must concentrate entirely on the idea being expressed and avoid being distracted by other thoughts, such as wondering how he is being received or whether he will be successful. Also, he must be persistent and adhere to a course of action, despite any difficulties or distractions that might arise from the subject(s), audience, or environment.

Self Possession
A person who would direct others must have command of himself first. Hypnotists and speakers cannot lose control and react negatively to difficult circumstances. They must be in charge of their responses at all times.

Using verbal suggestions to create mental imagery, a hypnotist must be able to create a vivid picture of the desired outcome. Successful speakers also are often skilled at describing their ideas with compelling imagery.

The hypnotic subject must feel a kinship with the hypnotist. The hypnotist and subject must be en rapport. Some believe that this is more essential to hypnosis than depth of trance. Likewise, for a speaker to be effective the audience must feel that they can relate to him. They must like the speaker and want to succeed with him. Also, the hypnotist or speaker must be sensitive enough to perceive the subtleties and nuances of unconscious communication and empathize with their subject's or audience's perspective. Anyone seeking to influence others should develop their sense of empathy.

A good hypnotist or powerful speaker should be of good physical, mental, and emotional health. Ailments can diminish one’s power to think and concentrate. Also, a person who appears vital and healthy exerts a stronger influence than someone who does not.

There are no short cuts to “hypnotic power.” Indirect suggestion plays an important role in clinical hypnosis and hypnotherapy, but when it comes to influencing others nothing can match the force of these authentic personal qualities. Anyone who wants to increase their power in speaking, leadership, or performance should pay attention to these areas: confidence, success, willfulness, decisiveness, fearlessness, concentration, self-possession, vision, rapport, and health. The key to real hypnotic power is self improvement.

1. Erickson, M., & Rossi, E. (1976). Hypnotic realities: The induction of clinical hypnosis and forms of indirect suggestion. New York: Irvington.

2. Kirsch, I., & Braffman, W. (n.d.). Imaginative Suggestibility and Hypnotizability. Current Directions in Psychological Science Current Directions in Psychol Sci, 57-61.

3. Cook, W. (1943). Practical lessons in hypnotism. New York: Willey Book.

4. Radin, D. (1997). The conscious universe: The scientific truth of psychic phenomena. New York, N.Y.: HarperEdge.


Hypnosis for First Responders

A review article in Medical Acupuncture stated that first responders should be trained in integrative medicine approaches, including hypnosis, to help relieve pain and stress.

The first recorded use of hypnosis for anesthesia during surgery was by Recamier in 1821. In 1829 Cloquet used hypnosis to perform a breast amputation before the French Academy of Medicine. Around the same time in the U.S. a nasal polypectomy was performed on a patient under hypnosis by P. Wheeler. John Elliotson (who introduced the stethoscope to England) reported numerous painless operations using hypnosis in the journal Zoist. The Scottish surgeon James Esdaile reported over 2,000 minor and 345 major operations using hypnosis in the 1840s and 1850s. In 1849, Crawford Long (who pioneered the use of ether in America) stated that physicians were recommending hypnosis for pain relief during surgery. It was in recognition of the established use of hypnosis for anesthesia that Liston, who performed the first surgery under ether in England, remarked, “Gentlemen, the Yankee trick beats the French one.” He was referring to the American discovery of ether as being more reliable than hypnosis (under the name of “mesmerism”) and developed by French physicians, neurologists, and psychologists.

Chemical anesthetics proved more reliable, but that’s not to say that hypnosis is not useful. Hypnosis has been in use for pain far longer than ether, chloroform, and later chemical anesthetics. Consider that chemical anesthetics are not 100% reliable, either. A report of the Royal College of Anaesthetists suggested that in 1 of 19,000 operations a person becomes conscious while under general anesthesia. In the case of a caesarian section, the odds increase up to 1 in 670.

There is nothing new about using hypnosis for emergency pain and trauma. Hypnosis was in great use as anesthesia during the Civil War, then fell out of use with the development of ether and other chemical anesthetics. The need for rapid treatment of war neuroses during World Wars I and II and the Korean conflict brought renewed interest and activity in hypnotherapy, and resulted in the merging of hypnotic techniques with psychiatry. The British Medical Association, in 1955 reported its approval of hypnosis for the relief of pain in childbirth and surgery. Since then, hypnosis has been widely used and studied.

In 2002 the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health published a study by Levenson and Acosta, two mental health clinicians associated with the NYPD, who were at Ground Zero of the World Trade Center beginning on September 11, 2001 to assist with crisis intervention and Critical Incident Stress Management. Their study considers the stress-response of police officers on site and offers clinical techniques and guidelines for emergency mental health practitioners and first responders for use with victims of critical incidents.


Tips for Achieving Your New Year’s Resolutions

The beginning of a new year is a time when we think about our goals for the year to come. The practice of making resolutions for the new year goes back at least 2,000 years to the ancient Romans, and continued in America with the Puritans. Today, new year’s resolutions continue to be an important routine for the personal and professional growth of many Americans. Popular areas of focus are:

• Health & habits (smoking, drinking, eating, sleeping)
• Career and education
• Finances
• Relationships, family, friends, and social life
• Personal qualities (kindness, patience, helpfulness)

Achieve your resolutions using these strategies:

1. Focus. Don’t try to accomplish everything at once. Unless your goals are interdependent, pick your most important goal and concentrate your entire will on it.

2. Write it down. Putting pen to paper leaves a greater impression on the mind than a passing thought. Write your goal in bold letters on bright paper, and put it where you will see it regularly. A written goal that you see visually is not only a good reminder, but a powerful suggestion to the mind.


3. Be specific. Identify both your long-term goal and the individual actions that you must take to reach it. Focus on the specific actions and steps that you have to take next.

"In human affairs of danger and delicacy successful conclusion is sharply limited by hurry. So often men trip by being in a rush. If one were properly to perform a difficult and subtle act, he should first inspect the end to be achieved and then, once he had accepted the end as desirable, he should forget it completely and concentrate solely on the means. By this method he would not be moved to false action by anxiety or hurry or fear. Very few people learn this.”― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

4. Accept it. Most changes require work and adjustment, which create stress. Acknowledge and accept any feelings of frustration and discomfort you might feel, then...

5. Release the stress. Try these classic relaxation exercises, tips, and recordings.

6. Don’t skip a beat. If you get off track, get right back on immediately. Do not spend time worrying or beating yourself up. Juts focus your mind again on whatever was working best.

7. Share. People who share their new year’s resolutions are more likely to keep them. Share your goal with people who will be supportive. It adds accountability to your goals.

8. Track your progress. Use a visual representation of your goal. If your goal involves progress over time (e.g., losing weight), a journal, or better yet a chart or graph that you see and update daily, can work wonders.


10. Trust that you will adjust. No matter how hard it may seem today, humans break habits and take on new ones more quickly than we expect. Be persistent, and you are likely to feel that it is automatic and normal in less than a month.



A Daily Practice


New Year’s resolutions remind me of one of the best daily practices I could recommend for someone who wants to hold themselves accountable until conscious practice makes unconscious habit.


Pythagoras of Samos (570-495 B.C.) was the first to be called a philosopher (i.e. “lover of wisdom”). He recommended two moments for thoughtful reflection, when one goes to sleep and when one awakens. According to Porphyry (VPyth 40), he recommended singing these verses before going to sleep:


Also, do not receive sleep on your tender eyes,

before you have thrice gone through each of the day’s deeds:

Where have I fails myself? What have I done? What duty have I not fulfilled?



But before getting up, these:


When you awaken from sleep, the honey to the heart,

first watch very carefully, what deeds you want to perform this day.


More on the practice of Retrospection



Medical and Psychological Associations Approve Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy has been approved by the medical and scientific establishment as far back as the nineteenth century, and especially since the 1950s. The world’s most respected medical associations have long recognized the validity of hypnotic phenomena and the effectiveness of hypnosis as a therapeutic intervention. Instruction in hypnosis has been recommended for medical and psychology students, and thousands of physicians, psychologists, and dentists have received training in hypnosis from universities, medical schools, and leaders in the field. The following is a chronological summary of significant medical institutions that have stated their support of hypnosis and hypnotherapy.

1892 The British Medical Association (BMA) commissioned a committee to investigate hypnosis. Their report, published in the British Medical Journal, stated that they “satisfied themselves of the genuineness of the hypnotic state” and recognized that hypnotism is “frequently effective in relieving pain, procuring sleep, and alleviating many functional ailments.”

1955 A BMA subcommittee issued a report in the British Medical Journal endorsing the 1892 report and stating that hypnosis is a effective in treating psychosomatic disorders, revealing unrecognized motives and conflicts, removing symptoms, changing morbid thoughts and behaviors, and alleviating pain. The report also recommended that medical students be introduced to hypnosis as part of standard psychiatric training, and that specialists in psychology should receive instruction in hypnotism.

1958 The American Medical Association (AMA) approved a study by its Council on Mental Health, which recognized hypnotherapy as an orthodox medical treatment (as opposed to an “alternative” or “complementary” treatment). The AMA committee stated their agreement with the report of the BMA, and it recommended that instruction in hypnosis be included in the curricula of medical schools and postgraduate training centers. [In 1987 the AMA rescinded almost all policies from 1881–1958. As a result of that decision the AMA now has no official position on the use of hypnosis.]

1960 The American Psychological Association endorsed hypnosis as a branch of psychology (it should be understood that the practice of psychology emerged from the field of hypnosis)

1961 The AMA Council on Mental Health recommended that medical students should receive 144 hours of training in hypnosis over a 9- to 12-month period at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

1978 The Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) formed a section for “Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Medicine”.

1983 The RSM approved a diploma level training course of hypnotherapy.

1984 The RSM commissioned a report entitled “Symposium on Psychological Influences and Illness: Hypnosis and Medicine.”

1986 The BMA emphasized that hypnotherapy is “part of orthodox medical treatment.”

1995 The United States’ National Institute of Health (NIH) issued an extensive report, which concluded that hypnosis is effective in alleviating chronic pain associated with cancer and other conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and tension headaches.

2000 BMA stated to the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology that “Hypnotherapy and counseling may be considered as orthodox treatments.”

2001 The British Psychological Society commissioned a group of psychologists to publish a report on The Nature of Hypnosis, which reported that hypnosis is a proven therapeutic medium. The report stated that “hypnotic procedures may be beneficial in the management and treatment of a wide range of conditions and problems encountered in the practice of medicine, psychiatry and psychotherapy.”

2005 The American Psychological Association published a formal definition of hypnosis.

Kroger, W. (1977). Clinical and experimental hypnosis in medicine, dentistry, and psychology (2d ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott.

Robertson, D. (2000-2006). The Medical & Scientific Approval of Hypnotherapy. Retrieved November 30, 2015, from