Its hard to think of another good film about the unconscious mind – the only other ones I can think of are Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Hitchcock’s Spellbound, David Cronenberg’s Spider and Jacobs Ladder. Inception is far and away my favourite “mind movie” – so packed with intelligence and ideas, especially for a big blockbuster movie. Read More
Gil Boyne passed away in his London home on Wednesday 5th May. I was fortunate enough to train with this awesome legend in LA, he was the last of the great hypnotherapists. Having worked extensively with some Hollywood greats including Sylvestor Stallone (helping motivate him to write Rocky), Gil went on to have a huge influence on hypnotherapy not only as a therapeutic practice but also as an industry. He pioneered the rapid induction (after Dave Elman), and his unique blend of various realms of psychotherapy (mainly gestalt) into his own “Transforming Therapy” is a personal favourite. His case studies and book of the same name are essential for anyone working within behaviour change.
in 2008, I travelled to LA to train with Gil, where I found his experienced awareness and compassion inspiring. Later he moved to London, and only weeks before his death he called me to discuss the possibility of working with him, based on an email I sent two years ago. We talked for a while about various things, including the nature of hypnotherapy in Britain and the challenges of doing it professionally. I found his candid and honest views reassuring. The conversation was cut short by someone calling at his house, and I never got round to following it up. Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was being too busy, but I deeply regret not having made more of the opportunity to learn from Gil whilst I could. All those times suddenly become immensely precious. And whilst I am deeply saddened by losing the last great remaining hypnotherapist, I’m grateful for being reminded not to take anything for granted. Gil was a personal hero, and a massive influence on my thoughts and personal philosophies about the human condition.
The world of therapy, self-help etc really is a massive mish-mash. For the most part, I think alot of it is total horseshit, mostly because the ultimate goal is often to make someone money, not to get someone better. So circular training courses evolve where the trainees pay a lot of money, get their heads packed with optimistic trash, then realise the only way to really use it is to train more people. Also, the therapy industry tends to attract alot of fragile egos who through their own misfortunes want to ‘help people’ but lack the awareness or discpline to achieve that in any lasting, constructive way.
I’ve recognised for a while that the therapy industry is frought with problems. The real tragedy of it is that the people who are exposed to it are at their most vulnerable, and could easily have their problems reinforced and leave feeling hopeless (thinking “well, I tried…”) Hope is the ultimate weapon of the self-help and therapy world, and its exploited far too much.
Since taking a break from hypnotherapy I have been studying and thinking about the patterns that make people get stuck, become free, and the most useful and efficient ways to achieving that. So far my learnings circulate around the ideas that:
– Tools, techniques, and fixes are not the answer, except to small trivial issues. They just delay the greater issue at hand, which is normally that people are living too much in the imagined world in their heads, and not reality.
– Peoples imagined worlds in their heads are full of false meanings, false associations, a need to control life rather than flow with it, anxiety. It prevents people from being able to truly appreciate and ‘see’ reality for what it is, as well as other people. They only see what they expect to see, and its usually fear-ridden and negative.
– Becoming aware of yourself and reality is one of the most useful things you can do. Letting go of your expectations, and imagined world, is an essential part of that.
There are all sorts of implications of this. Peoples problems and barriers are actually incredible useful opportunities, because sometimes it takes a massive shock to reach the point of being ready for change, and having the confidence to let go of expectations (of life, self and others). Helping people in small ways to overcome problems but not face the bigger underlying barrier that caused it in the first place can actually be a disservice, because you’re ridding them of the opportunity for true growth. I’ve read lots of case studies of people who in what looks like really unfortunate circumstances, have actually found a new sense of personal freedom. They have let go of something that was previously blocking their perception of reality.
Its all interesting, and it feels right. That isn’t to say it is right, but it is for me right now, and is likely to form the focus of my future workshops.
I often think that the true masters of psychology (and certainly psychological persuasion) aren’t the psychologists, therapists or academics. They are the con artists (and not far behind, the magicians, salesmen, marketing gurus and advertisers).
Con routines are frightening in their vicious sense of shrewd exploitation, but equally fascinating in terms of the psychological dynamics.
I was once conned out of $40 on a game on ‘Monty’ in New York, at the time it annoyed the hell out of me, but since has provided lots of food for thought.
Everyone else was a stooge.
I was the mark.
As I pass by, I am fascinated by the hands offering and taking wads of cash from the main guy, playing the cups and ball routine.
People are winning every time, and he’s handing out cash, everyone’s enjoying themselves.
As I watch, I am now unwittingly involved.
Suddenly, no one is betting, yet to me its obvious that the ball is under a certain cup.
The guy doesn’t seem to care about the money anymore – he asks for random guesses.
With nothing to lose – I point out the cup I think its under. He nods yes! Well done! And suddenly – hes offering a handful of money! Wow, this guy really is a good guy, I haven’t even bet! I automatically reach out to take the money – but hold on – he remembers that I haven’t put anything up of my own.
So he declines, and asks me to prove that I had the money to bet.
I take out $40. He takes it, as if suggesting he is just about to offer me the money with his other hand – but then pulls both hands back, including my money.
He lifts the cup – obviously I was wrong, I’m the mark, the sleight of hand escaped me.
Everyone sighs “aw, bad luck!” someone slaps me on the back, all suggesting “there is nothing you can do now”.
Confused, I walk away, going over in my head what just happened, and wondering how I lost $40 (which in hindsight I realise was minimal).
I realised I was conned – but by the time I look back – they have all disappeared. I have met people who have a very similar story to tell of how the same thing happened to them.
The routine was explained on “The Real Hustle” (pictured) with a detailed account of all the subtleties.
Do you have a story to share of how someone tried (successfully or not) to con you? If so – please provide all the details, it would be great to share the story.
Scent is relatively neglected in terms of how much research and attention the other senses receive. More recently, research has been showing up all sorts of interesting things about smell, such as how our noses adapt to chemicals in the air within twenty minutes (i.e., we can’t smell them anymore).
You have likely experienced the strange phenomenon of having a whole era of your life come flooding into memory when you pass someone with a particular perfume or whiff of hair shampoo.
Scent is more entwined with our emotions and memories than we give it credit for, and it operates largely on a purely subconscious level.
This is why scent is now becoming a hot area in marketing research.
The picture is for Tom Tykwers movie adaption of Patrick Suskind’s novel, Perfume: Story of a Murderer. More information about the research of scent can be found here.
IF YOU’VE SEEN THE SHOW then please leave your analysis, ideas, observations, reviews etc in the forum / blog bit below, ESPECIALLY if you were chosen for anything!!
THE BELOW COMMENTS CONTAIN SPOILERS so please don’t read them unless you enjoy indulging in the fun of trying to analyse/figure out the tricks.
SERIOUSLY! After a short time, people’s contributions escalated, all in the name of a bit of fun, trying to figure out how various routines were done. Its massively spoilery, so please click away if this kind of thing annoys you.
My Review of the show:
Personally, Derren’s recent work has been a bit too tricksy for my liking – the frenetic running about with clipboards, envelopes, pens etc just screams ‘IRRITATING TRICKERY!’ and doesn’t capture the psychological intrigue of his earlier work. In fact, I would go as far to say that Derren has broken the rule he spelled out in Pure Effect, the need to convince the audience of the ‘process’ you are pretending to use for the illusion. Ever since Something Wicked This Way Comes, I don’t think “Wow – he’s reading their body language! How interesting, that people give away so much!” I just think “oh – its a trick”. In Some ways, I think its hypocritical of Derren to be so tricksy – because as Derren keeps campaigning about (for example in Confessions of a Conjuror) isn’t psychology and human behaviour fascinating enough, that we shouldn’t have to resort to lies and deception to create wonder? This is the argument he makes against psychics, but surely he’s in exactly the same boat by being a magician who pretends the trick works because of psychology.
I know you may think “oh its all entertainment! Chill out!” and you’d be right. But… I still think there is something a bit cringeworthy about dressing up blatant trickery as psychology. We can accept that Uri Geller is full of shit, because we know rationally that mystical nonsense is exactly that. But When people ending up (and there are plenty of them) end up thinking he can “implant ideas” and “read peoples thoughts” etc etc, his bullshit has overstepped a mark. Seeing him onstage talking about his dead grandfather… making some women from the back of the theatre cry on stage with her freshly engraved coin… I don’t know, it just makes me cringe. But thats just me.
Anyway, the first half of Enigma was very tricksy, the usual running around reminding the audience of whats happening, frisbees, marker pens, and then gasps of delight as various things are turned around to reveal something. As well as the virtuoso showmanship (not just the usual charismatic presentation but the acting, deception etc) I did love the humour of these shows, in fact they could be classed more accurately as comedy magic than psychological magic. Many moments had me laughing out loud. The tricksy-tricksy was redeemed ever-so-slightly in the second half, where Derren seemingly uses genuine hypnosis (although still could be the pseudo, self-conscious group-psychology fuelled ‘bow your head, look hypnotised and write something on this clipboard that I can use as a trick’ hypnosis that hes used in stageshows before.) I thought there were laws in Britain about public hypnosis acts anyway, perhaps he gets away with it by not using the word. A spirit cabinet routine similar to Seance was excellent as live entertainment, very visual and interesting. The problem here is that Derren’s rushing about strips it of the potential wonder and intrigue it could have had – had he framed it more patiently, it would have been a lot more eerie. On the whole though, although slightly flawed, very rushed and annoyingly tricksy in places, its very funny and interesting enough to make it worthwhile as live entertainment. Far shitter on the televised version, I have to say.
Blessed are Fox Broadcasting for knocking out another belter of a show.
Lie to Me stars Tim Roth (Mr Orange in Reservoir Dogs, an excellent British actor) and follows the endlessly interesting day job of an expert in body language and lie detection.
Puzzles are solved in a format similar to CSI, your first impressions of a situation gradually evolve during an episode to reveal an unpredictable twist of events.
Its based on the work of Paul Ekman, whose books Telling Lies and Emotions Revealed are recommended for anyone interested in observational psychology.
I love this show – its brilliant fun for its body-reading knowledge, as well as some excellent lessons in perception, subjectivity, and balancing what you think you know with what is actually true.
Have you seen it? What do you think?
Dr Neil Cox of Exeter County Chiropractic did a great talk on 19th March called ‘Think Well’ as part of a series on being more aware of the body, mind and nutrition for better health.
I was grateful to contribute a part about how our minds influence our states, focusing on the mental movies of our subconscious imagination. For those who attended and would like to know more, and anyone else, more information is on the Magic of Mental Movies page here!
I am reading a good book at the moment called “Strangers to Ourselves” by Tim Wilson.
Personality theory has normally focused on how to measure ‘personality’, with predictability of behaviour being the only really output of any research results (and the results were never particularly strong in that respect because personalities are more dynamic than lab tests can seemingly account for).
Tim theorises on the idea of a conscious personality, and an adaptive unconscious personality, which can be quite different.
The research is staggering.
For example, a persons conscious ideas about his or her beliefs and prejudices can often be completely contradicted by their automatic actions or responses in a situation. It comes down to that difference between who we think we are, and who we really are.
Our automatic responses account for a majority of our behaviours, yet they are the bits we filter out as part of our big defensive campaign to reinforce our ‘self beliefs’.
Its all very interesting. The more I learn about the automaticity of the mind and the unconscious, the more it dovetails with my experiences of hypnosis and hypnotherapy.
One morning, a casual looking guy pulls out a violin and starts busking to people emerging from a tube station to go to work.
Six classical pieces and 43 minutes later, over 1000 people had passed.
Would you have stopped and listened?
Probably not – who does?
The difference here is that the busker was actually Joshua Bell, a world famous violinist, once a child prodigy, playing on a $3.5m Stradivari, three days after filling Boston’s Symphony Hall for over $100 a seat.
Its a perfect experiment to test the strength of recognition, genuine appreciation and values in a different context, with some conformity pressure thrown in too (if everyone else is passing by… then there’s no reason to stop, right?)
So what happened?