I’ve been fortunate over the last 6 months or so to have the opportunity to study with Michael Yapko Ph.D.
Dr. Yapko is arguably the world’s foremost expert on hypnosis. He has made it his life’s work to uncover all there is to know about hypnosis and how it works. He has written the textbooks on teaching hypnosis and authored many other books.
Despite all of this, he is the first to tell you that the more he comes to discover about hypnosis, the more he realises how little he actually knows…It is a journey without an end point. Along the way he has had to constantly change his thinking in light of new evidence and scientific findings.
Hypnosis is an incredibly powerful tool. It allows people to make profound and lasting change. But the truth is, we are still a way off from understanding how hypnosis actually “works.”
It has been a challenging, enlightening and sometimes difficult experience of being thrown headfirst into a course as demanding as Yapko’s, especially when it has meant that a lot of ideas and facts that I held to be “true” have been turned upside down and inside out. (Some days my head feels like someone has taken an egg-beater to my brain!)
Some of my long-held beliefs have had to be tossed in the rubbish. Some things that I had been taught in the past were “100% fact” (and had passed onto others in good faith!) are simply untrue. Other old beliefs had to be mulled over for a period of time before I finally conceded that they too may be wrong…
(Then there are a few points we will agree to disagree on…and that’s okay too!!)
As I was reviewing some notes today and realising how much some of my “truths” have changed, I thought about how important it is to have flexibility in thinking. How important it is to be able to change your thinking in light of new information or new ways of seeing things- and of how so many of us are unable or unwilling to do so.
Sometimes we get so caught up with what we “believe” that it actually begins to become part of our identity, part of who we are. Sometimes our beliefs become so important to us that we cannot tolerate the thought of anyone not agreeing with us, of not “thinking like we do”. People who have views that do not match our own become threatening to us. We become more determined to hold onto our “truths”, to defend them and to keep them close.
It reminded me of a presentation I went to on climate change about 12 months ago. In our small group there were those who believed, those who disbelieved and those who were neutral on whether climate change existed as a phenomenon. Some held very strong views.
The professor who presented did not tell us at any stage what he believed but some had “guessed” and were already either resistant or supportive of him before we began! The professor simply shared information with us- some information took us in one direction, some in the other. We were able to ask questions, to clarify data and to discuss as a group. Each of us weighed up every piece of evidence for and against. One person however offered the same mantra which grew more and more strident and peturbed: “Well, I don’t believe in climate change and I never will!” By the end of the talk this person reminded me of a small child with their hands over their ears shouting “No, no I don’t want to hear that it’s my bedtime!!”
They identified as a “Climate Change Denier” and they were going to hold onto that no matter what. It was important to them.
When our group met a few months later each of us had experienced some sort of personal change in what we thought, what we saw happening and how we acted in relation to climate. We still all held different beliefs, although they were now not so far apart and they were all continually changing as each of us considered new evidence. The exercise had opened our minds. Even though we still had differing beliefs, all were open to the possibility of our viewpoints continuing to change in light of new information. Our “Climate Change Thinking” had become flexible.
All except one who was proud to announce “Well, I don’t believe in climate change and I never will!”
And in that, of course, they are 100% right..