Suggestibility, Imagery and Healing Stories

Chapter 17: Kissing Frogs

Chaplain Paul G. Durbin, Ph.D.

1) Suggestibility:

(2) Semantics: The Meaning of Words:

(3) Communication: The Buddhist Temple:

(4) Imagery And Healing Stories:

(5) Explore Your Imagery abilities:

(1) Suggestibility: The mind, conscious and subconscious, is greatly influenced by suggestion. Suggestibility is a natural characteristic of our humanity. It is the foundation of learning and change in our life. It is used in education, worship, politics, advertisement and human relations.

Stop for a moment to consider the power of words as one method of conveying suggestions. By words, the preacher proclaims the Good News of Faith. By words, thoughts are imparted from one person to another or from one generation to another. There are words that make us laugh and words that make us cry, words that bless and words that curse, words that honor and words that condemn, words that wound and words that heal. The old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." is a false statement. Words can be helpful or harmful depending upon the way they are given and received.

Mr. Claud had heart by-pass surgery at another hospital, but he was admitted at Methodist Hospital about a month later. Thought the surgery had been successful, Mr. Claud's condition was progressively deteriorating. I was consulted by his physician to work with in regards to his attitude and lack of hope. During a hypnotic session, I asked him to go back to the beginning of his problem. He went back to his surgery. (A note about heart by-pass surgery that after the by-pass is completed, another surgeon normally closes the procedure with stitches.) As the by-pass doctor had completed his procedure, he said, "I have done all I can do sew him up." He meant that he had completed his portion and the other surgeon could now close up the wound. Though under anesthesia, Mr. Claud heard him and thought the doctor meant, "It was so bad, I can't help him, sew him up." I explained the procedure and asked him to look at it from a different understanding. Now, he could begin the process of healing. That occurred about five years ago and Mr. Claud is active and healthy.

My mother was in a hospital in Shreveport, La. for the removal of a cancerous growth on her jaw. She had surgery and had returned to her room. I stayed with her from about three in the afternoon until about ten the next morning. The nurses were very responsive to my mother's calls for the longest that she had to wait for a nurse to come was about three minute. I consider that excellent response time. The first thing that each nurse and her doctor said when they came into the room for whatever reason was, "Mrs. Durbin are you hurting?" Until about nine that night my mother had not needed anything for pain and I wondered, "Would she needed any pain medication at nine, had the question been different." What if the nurses and doctor had said something like, "Mrs. Durbin, are you comfortable?" "Mrs. Durbin, how are you feeling?" Instead the suggestion that they were reinforcing with each visit was that my mother should be experiencing pain.

During that same hospital stay, the IV needed changing from one hand to the other. The nurse who came to make the change said, "Mrs. Durbin I wish I had an anesthetic to give you so that this would not be so painful." I said, "Oh you can give her an anesthetic." She responded, "No, no, I would get in trouble for I do not have a doctor's order for an anesthetic." I replied, "Just watch and see." I took my mother's hand and said, "Look at me mother while the nurse works on your other hand. In a moment, the nurse will apply an antiseptic swab to your other hand. You feel the cold antiseptic as it is applied. The cold antiseptic causes a numbing effect so that you feel only pressure." As I talked to my mother the nurse completed her mission of inserting the IV. When I stopped talking, my mother turned her head toward the nurse and said, "When are you going to begin?" The nurse looked surprised and said, "Mrs. Durbin, I have already put the IV in your hand and I am now putting the tape on to hold it in place." I said, "I told you that you could administer an anesthetic without a doctor's prescription." In both these illustrations concerning my mother's nurses, you can see the power of suggestion. No formal hypnotic induction was used, but in both cases hypnotic effect was accomplished: one negative and one positive.

Whatever use is made of hypnosis, whether it is in therapy, clinical research , relief of symptoms, or merely for amusement, we cannot get away from the fact that none of it would be possible without the use of suggestion. Suggestion is used to induce the hypnotic state; suggestion is used to control the responses while the person is hypnotized, suggestion is used to attain responses after the session has been completed, and suggestion is used to get the person out of the hypnotic state. In other words, the entire procedure of hypnosis, from pre-induction to attainment of the individual's purpose for using hypnosis, is all founded on suggestion. Therefore the proper use of suggestion is the most important aspects of hypnosis. The word "suggestion" used in hypnotic context, is the acceptance of an idea or belief to the point of causing changes in an individual's actions, body responses, attitudes, emotions, or characteristics.

Some people respond better to direct suggestions, while others respond best to indirect suggestion. Most of us can respond to both direct and indirect suggestion but generally have a preference for one or the other. Because I believe in the importance of an individual's suggestibility, I have everyone who comes to my office for counseling fill out a suggestibility questionnaire which will generally give an indication of their dominate response. When working with a hospital patient instead of using the suggestibility questionnaire, I ask questions to help me determine the dominate form of suggestibility for the patient.

Our suggestibility usually comes from our primary care giver (usually our mother). If the child experiences his mother as saying that she means and meaning what she says, he will usually be more responsive to direct suggestions. If the verbal and non-verbal parts of her communication does not express the same thing, the child begins to search for the real meaning. She begins to look for the implied meaning rather than what is actually said. Balanced suggestibility comes when in certain areas, the mother is consistent in what she said while in other areas, she gave conflicting messages.

I tend to be close to the middle with a slight dominance for direct suggestion for when my mother told me not to do something, I knew she meant it. If she told me to do something, then I should do it. There was a cause and effect. Mother laid down the law and I followed it or I reaped the consequences. On the other hand, mother could be indirect in her request. She might say to me, "Paul don't you think you should go visit Mrs. Smith. She is sick and she gave you a gift for Christmas last year." Now that sounds like I had a choice but I did not. She meant for me to go se Mrs. Smith and if my answer to her was "no", she would let me know in no uncertain terms that I was to go.

(2) Semantics: The Meaning of Words: When we give suggestions to clients, we assume that we are being understood. Words have different meanings. We need to be sure that the client is understanding the meaning we are trying to present. Remember that the subconscious minds tends to take statements literally. A hypnotherapist who had worked with many people for weight control used a statement, "You are reducing down to 120 lbs." The woman was reducing but her hips were getting bigger. Her subconscious took reducing down to mean that the fat was going to her hips. After he realized what was happening, he changed his words and she reached her desired weight of 120 lbs. with a nice figure. She was the only one out of many who this man worked with

who responded as such, but it shows how people may accept a meaning different that what we


I am going to say a word and you think of a meaning. I will then use the word in a sentence and see if your meaning and my meaning are the same.

1) BUG - "The judge gave the police permission to bug the suspect's phone."

2) COOL - "He remained cool in the midst of the heated argument."

3) HIGH - "He was arrested for being high on cocaine."

4) POT - "If you would like to eat, there is a pot of peas on the stove."

5) DOG - "After working all day, I was dog tired."

6) MAKE OUT - "She had to make out four different applications."

7) FIRE - "He had to fire Bill because he hit a customer."

8) BOOK - The cop said, "I am going to book you for robbery."

9) SPEED - "His head is all messed up because of using speed."

10) SCREW - "He has a screw loose."

11) HIP - "He is really hip."

I believe that you can see by this exercise that we depend on the context of our sentences and non-verbal cues to give meaning to our words. Our non-verbal communication usually

serves to intensify word's meaning. Remember, words and imagery are the most important tool in the field of hypnotherapy.

We act and feel not necessarily according to what things are really like, but according to the image our mind holds of what they are like. We have certain mental images of our self, our world, the people around us, of God, and we behave as though these images were the truth whether they are or not.

As an illustration, if a husband ask his wife the question, "Where is my blue and white tie?" The wife may respond according to how she hears the question. If she hears it as a little boy saying, "Mama, where is my tie?" She may respond, "You must learn to keep up with your things." If she hears him speak as a domineering parent, she might respond, "Why are you always picking on me., it is not my responsibility." If she hears his question as a simple request for information, she may respond, "I believe you put it on the hanger with your blue suite." Her reaction did not necessarily come from the requested information, but how she heard the question.

When formulating suggestions, remember the nature of communication. Words create mental images in the mind of the person to whom we are speaking. The success of getting the person to understand the meaning we intend is dependent on whether we are creating the same mental image in the person's mind who hears our words A good hypnotist attempts to consider each client on an individual basis and attempts to recognize the different reaction and adapt to them. With this in mind, I share with you the following story concerning communication.

(3) Communication: The Buddhist Temple: The Monks of a Buddhist Temple in Japan would allow anyone to spend the night who could win an argument about Buddhism with one of the monks that lived there. If the traveler is defeated in the argument, he has to move on. In the Buddhist Temple, two brother monks were dwelling together. The older one was learned, but the younger one was stupid and had only one eye.

A wandering monk came and asked for lodging, properly challenging the monks to a debate about the sublime teaching. The elder brother, tired that day from much studying, told the younger one to take his place. He said to both that they were to carry the dialogue in silence". So the young monk and the stranger went to the shrine and sat down.

Shortly afterward the traveler rose and went in to the elder brother and said: "Your young brother is a wonderful fellow, he defeated me." "Relate the dialogue to me." "Well," explained the traveler, "First I held up one finger, representing Buddha, the enlightened one. So he held up two fingers signifying Buddha and his teaching. I held up three fingers, representing Buddha, his teaching, and his followers, living a harmonious life. Then he shook his clenched first in my face, indicating that all three come from one realization. Thus, he won and so I have no right to remain here." With this, the traveler left.

"Where is that fellow?" asked the younger one, running in to his older brother who said, "I understand you won the debate." "Won nothing, I'm going to beat him up." "Tell me the subject of the debate," asked the elder one. "Why the minute he saw me he held up one finger, insulting me by reminding me that I have only one eye. Since he was a stranger I thought I would be polite to him, so I held up two fingers congratulating him for having two eyes. Then

the impolite man held up three fingers suggesting that between us we only have three eyes.

So , I got mad and started to punch him, but he ran out and ended it."

(I heard this story in a seminar by Reverend Randy VanNostrand at the National Association of Clergy Hypnotherapists some years ago.) A paraphrase of that story maybe, "I know that you believe you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."

(4) Imagery And Healing Stories: Imagery is a flow of thoughts you may see, hear, feel, smell, or taste. An image is an inner representation of your experience of your fantasies - a way your mind codes, stores, and expresses information. Imagery is made up of the dreams and daydreams; memories and reminiscence; plans, projections, and possibilities. It is the language of the emotions and most important of the deeper self.

Imagery is a window on your inner world; a way of viewing your own ideas, feelings, and interpretations. Imagination, in this sense, is not sufficiently valued in our culture for imaginary is often equated with the fanciful, the unreal, and the impractical. In school, we are taught the three R's while creativity, uniqueness, and interpersonal skills are either barely tolerated or frankly discouraged. As adults, we are usually paid to perform tasks and to think creatively. The premium is on the practical, the useful, the real as it should be-but imagination nurtures human reality as a water brings life to a desert.

Without imagination, civilization as we know it would not exist. It took imagination-the ability to conceive of new possibilities-to make fire, create weapons, and cultivate crops; to construct buildings, invent cars, airplanes, space shuttles, television, and computers.

The changes and learning that can take place through the use of imagery and healing stories are two of the most interesting aspects of communication with the subconscious.

Imagination and imagery helps the person's subconscious to understand there can be a better way. The possibility of change begins with the imagination. Inventions, music, writings,changes in behavior begins with imagination.

Imagery comes in two ways: visual and imagery. A visual person can see in the mind's eye as if viewing a scene in reality or on the TV screen of their mind. The visual person can also use their imagination. The non-visual person can not see pictures but they can imagine scenes, sound, and experience feelings.

Healing stories are used as an indirect suggestion for the client to hear and receive the meaning it has for him. Jesus used healing stories which we call parables to teach his message. The healing story allows the client to interpret the story and take responsibility for change.

The more one uses positive images in his mind, the easier it becomes for these images to become a reality. When images of health, success, and life styles changes are accepted by the subconscious mind, there is a tendency for the images to be realized. If you visualize or image yourself doing whatever it is you desire, you begin to act, do, think in ways to bring it about.

In 1985, I decided that I wanted to write a book on hypnosis and have it published. I wrote the book and began the process of finding a publisher. Each day, I would visualize my book and singing the book for someone who purchased it. It was accepted twice, but for various reasons, it had gone unpublished. During this time it was turned down by 30 publishers. I never gave up. I continued my visualization. Finally it was accepted and published by Access Publishing Company and was released in Jan. 1994. That book was Human Trinity Hypnotherapy. After that I imaged this book being published and it is so.

In early 1986, I was informed that I was among five Army National Guard Chaplains throughout the nation being considered for promotion to Brigadier General. This was a new position so whoever was selected would be the first Army National Guard Chaplain to be promoted to Brigadier General. Each day, I visualized myself in my Generals uniform. I pictured the Chief of Chaplains of the Army pinning my star on my uniform. In May 1986, I was selected and became the first Army National Guard Chaplain to be promoted to general rank in the history of the nation.

I use imagery for many things and it has either worked or I am still in the process if imagining it into being. I still am working on being selected as a winner in the National Publisher's Sweepstakes, for I am still imagining that phone call or knock on the door with their representative informing me that I am a winner. Albert Einstein once said, "Imagination is the preview of coming events."

It could be said that the mother of your reality is your imagination. Norman Cousin said "We move toward our expectations." Our expectations, thoughts, and imagination can and does affect our reality. There is a story of the great Renaissance artist Michelangelo, a famous statue, and a boy named, Giovanni. Every day after school, Giovanni would rush to Michelangelo's studio to watch the famous sculptor chip away at a 14-foot-high block of marble. Week after week, the boy came and watched, as the magnificent status of David was being formed. In all innocence, Giovanni ask Michelangelo, "How did you know he was in there?" Michelangelo knew because he had a vision of what he could create. If he was willing

to dedicate himself to it if he was willing to work hard and long, enough, his vision would become a reality.

Maurice Maeterlinck tells of an interesting experience that thought him to envision the best for his life each day. While walking through the country one day, he stopped to admire a beautiful garden surrounded by a white fence. As he stood there a little old lady, showing her age, stopped by his side. After he greeted her, she came closer and asked if he was enjoying the flowers? When he said that he was, she launched upon a detailed description of the harmony of colors and shapes of each and every type of flower in the garden. When she concluded her vivid description, she looked up at him and he noticed that she was blind. He

asked her how she was able to describe the vast array of colors to such perfection, inasmuch as she could not see. The old woman answered that when she was able to see, she learned to look at the beauties of nature as if she would never see them again. Her ancient vision was able to carry her through life. Though she could not see with her eyes, she could see with her mind.

(5) Explore Your Imagery abilities: (Adapted From a Martin Rossman Script): Began by getting comfortable as you can...Let your eyes close and take three slow, deep breaths: breathing in relaxation and exhaling tension... Now take another deep, letting go kind of breath... Just begin to let go of any unnecessary tension, stress, anxiety, or discomfort...Begin to focus inside and let go... Let the images come as they will. It may be visual or just a feeling but let it happen.

As I ask you to imagine a variety of things, allow yourself to observe what happens for you...Remember, there is no right or wrong way to imagine these things...Just notice what it's like for you...That's your only responsibility now...Notice what it's like...

Visualize or imagine a sandy beach...Feel the warm breeze...Hear the sounds of the waves going in and going out... Walk along the beach...Imagine or see the beautiful blue sky with a few white clouds lazily drifting by... Hear the sounds of the waves going in and going out... Walk along the beach. Feel the sand between your toes as you walk along the beach... Imagine or see the beautiful blue sky with a few white clouds lazily drifting by... Hear the sound of birds as they fly over your head... Lie down on a blanket... Feel the warmth of the sun on your body and the warmth of the sand beneath the blanket...

Now let the image go...And let a square form in your mind's eye or on your mental screen...Any kind of square is fine... Just notice what it's like as you continue to observe it... Now let that image fade and imagine a circle... Notice how big or small it is, and how round... Let the circle be yellow... A bright yellow circle... Notice if it helps to think of the sun or a yellow lemon...Let the yellow fade and imagine the circle is red... Like an apple or something red that's familiar to you...Now let that go and imagine the circle is blue...Like the sky or the let that image go...Imagine you are in the country, and it's wintertime...You are walking through the freshly fallen snow and can hear and feel it crunch beneath your boots... The air is cold and crisp, and you can see your breath as you exhale... In the distance a radio is playing... You go into a house and there is a fire place with wood logs burning bringing warmth to the room. You go over to the fireplace and warm your hands and feet...Feel the warmth, enjoy the warmth...Smell the coffee brewing and enjoy a hot cup of coffee...

Now let that image go...Imagine a very happy time in your childhood...Maybe you are at a party, playing with a friend, or just having a good time...Notice the sounds you hear, the things you see, and how you feel...Now let that go...and recall some time you felt very much at peace with yourself...A time when you felt very peaceful, very centered, and calm...Imagine it as if it were happening right now...Notice where you are...And your face...Your voice, especially notice the feeling of peacefulness and calm...Notice where you feel these qualities, and let them be there...Let them begin to grow in you...Let them amplify and expand, filling your whole body with feelings of peacefulness and calm...Let the feelings overflow your body to fill the space around that all of you is bathed in the peacefulness...

Now slowly let yourself begin to become aware of the room...and let our self come awake and alert, bringing back with you and feelings of peacefulness you may have experienced...Remember what was of interest or importance to you, and take some time to talk about it...

Evaluate your imagery experience.

Did you experience any of the images as pictures? Sounds? Smells? Tastes? Feelings? Which images came easily? Which were more difficult, and were there any you weren't able to imagine at all? Were you surprised by any particular images or your reactions to them?

Did you experience heat, cold, peace, or other sensations at any time? If you did, you've already begun to influence your body through your imagery. If not, you may want to experiment with your own images until you can imagine these sensations.