The Nature of Trance by John Cleesattel / wizardoftrance
At USD20, The Nature of Trance is more expensive than Cialdini's Influence (a book I will review soon) but cheaper than Elman's Hypnotherapy (more on this later). I bought a copy because John mentioned parts of his model on this forum and suggested that his whole model was in this ebook.
My first thought is that this ebook struggles to understand its own identity. Is it a journal of a guy exploring hypnosis? Is it a description of the results of his exploration into hypnosis? Is it a training manual for applying the results of his exploration? Or is it an advert for his own hypnotherapy solutions? It reads like a journal in that it is very much in the first person and has a chatty style. It does describe his results, but in the same style as his first person, chatty approach, his 'research' is personal, subjective and is based on assumptions that I, for one, could not accept without some objective justification.
John was a systems analyst for twenty years (according to his preface) and it shows. Much like the many systems analysts I have worked alongside in the past decade, John appears to have the desire to simplify a process into interrelated component parts and then simplify these parts and the overall process. The danger of this approach is over-simplification through a lack of information about the system. As John did not have access to the internals (the structure and use of the brain), he had to treat it as a black box; a black box approach supposes no knowledge of the contents of the system and models it solely through external interaction. Unfortunately, he then postulated some components of the black box (the conscious mind, the subconscious mind and the superconscious mind) which went against his black box approach.
His choice of 'minds model' was based on his training. This appears to be a combination of Elman and neo-Freudism. Unlike Erickson who guessed at the two minds model (conscious and unconscious), John guessed at the three minds model (conscious, subconscious and superconscious). Estabrooks referred to such models as unscientific in his book Hypnotism. Science has to be testable and models of minds are not generally testable, beyond the fact that no evidence exists to support the models. As metaphors they work perfectly to cause dissociation and to provide fresh perspectives on problems. John, however, was more concerned with whether he could find evidence for them.
Starting with the answer (the model or theory, if you like), John set out to find "evidence" to support it. I think John should have set out to disprove it as I think it would have been just as easy (easier some would say) to find evidence to disprove his model as it was to find evidence to support it. One can still find lots of evidence to support the idea of a flat world, but it only takes a small amount of evidence to disprove it.
By setting out to support his model ("prove" it in his language), John got caught in the same trap as those using circular arguments. The description of the minds became the basis of his evidence to support the existence of the minds. His only additions were much subjective thought and self-examination. Of course, if his model of mind was wrong then he had no basis on which to trust his and others' reports of subjective thoughts and therefore no evidence to support his model.
For example, recent experiments by neuroscientists appear to show that the conscious mind is an illusion, that it narrates post-fact as opposed to deciding pre-fact, that our subjective experience of this mind is time-skewed in our brains so that our 'decisions' coincide with or pre-date the output of our 'decisions'. It appears that decisions are not taken consciously (or what we would generally refer to as consciously), yet we appear to consciously narrate the decision making process after the event, with this narration skewed in time so that it appears to be the decision making process rather than simply the narration of it. Weird and complex, but functionally significant if we are to rely upon reports of subjective thoughts as part of our evidence. I am far from convinced that subjective thought is a good way to obtain evidence.
John made the common (post-NLP anyway) connection between mind and computer. Patterns in NLP-speak became 'macros' in John's ebook. While I have some sympathy with this model, we should always remember that computers to mimic brains still appear to be a long way away. Even if this connection does make sense in the future when computer science is sufficiently advanced, we currently do not have the models that permit us to map the information in the brain, let alone the meshing or interconnections required to provide that information to the regions (processes) that require it.
John defines the superconscious as pretty much Elman's critical faculty. He provides two ways to bypass it, confusion/shock and expectation. By this point, other than the addition of the superconscious it was sounding a lot like every other neo-Ericksonian claim of how hypnotism works: A lot of claim and not a lot of evidence. I'll conclude here on the barrage against John's model because all his additional claims are built on the shaky foundations of his minds model and it would be long-winded and unfair to pick apart each and every claim he subsequently made. It is worth bearing in mind that John believes in his model (or at least his words imply that he does - "(This) explains why trance exists in the first place and how the mind works using it").
Next John discusses the practical applications. He takes what appears a reasonable approach to hypnosis (structurally similar to Elman or Estabrooks), from pre-talk to deepening and test, and then strips out the parts he thinks are unnecessary. This is a worthwhile task but I think John's propensity to over-simplification has led him to discard steps that make the process easier, or to discard steps that in isolation do not appear necessary but may appear so in combination. His resultant process is simple and possibly useful but lacks detail and examples that would bring it to life and make it easily understandable. That said, the resultant model is based around expectation, but with all those minds present it was difficult to understand which minds he thought were 'expecting' at different points in the process.
In the middle of this 'fluffless' model, John states:
If you fully grasp how the subconscious responds to what it expects to happen, and how it
adapts the body in the anticipation of an expected event, you can understand that
physiological changes can also take place.
Everything from hypnotically removing warts, to breast enhancement, utilizes
expectancy. And these trance solutions do work!
To me, it raises the question: "what other physiological changes can be made?"
In the Christian Bible, it notes: "as you believe, so shall you be".
This is the point that I started to wonder whether the ebook was simply a reverse-charge advert. The ebook provides no evidence or justification for wart removal or breast enlargement. A quote from the bible in anything other than jest seriously undermines any objectivity an author hoped to convey. So what was the purpose of these statements? Gain customers was one thought, but really? Was that the plan and would it work? Even if he was only selling hypnosis generally as a solution and not specifically his practice, is that reasonable? I don't think so, but I think the real reasons those words were there elude me.
John concludes with the equation:
(E/R) + T = O/R
Expectancy, divided by the resistance to accept input by the watchdog, plus the triggering of the start of the expected event = the body experiencing the expected outcome divided by the same resistance of acceptance by the watchdog.
Given that objective measurements of the inputs to this equation are not possible, the output simply cannot be calculated and the truth of the equation cannot therefore be tested. The letters in the equation could be completely rearranged and the resultant equation would be just as valid as this one. Both would be just as valid as E=15 (which is to say, untestable and not useful).
John's finale is his induction for analytical subjects. After some rhetoric, John presents Elman's 'three things' induction which Ant teaches as three handshakes. Elman used three puffs on a cigarette but (as John confirms) any three things can be used. It's not a bad induction but I don't think it solves the problems that people have with 'analytical subjects'.
In summary, John set out to prove (to himself at least) a model of mind, then prove (again to himself at least) why hypnosis works, then review and refine his hypnotic approach and finally to provide an induction that would work with all analytical subjects. I believe his approach was flawed, leading to a false proof of his model of mind and followed by a false proof of his model of hypnosis. I thought his approach to stripping down the hypnotic approach was good but the results are insufficiently documented to help those that need this kind of shake up. Finally I thought his solution to the 'analytical subjects problem' was nonsense, although he claims it works for him.
My recommendation would be to bypass this ebook and read Elman's Hypnotherapy (if you want a good stripped down approach) or Ratey's A User's Guide to the Brain or Ramachandran's The Emerging Mind (if you want an interesting read on theory).