Hypnosis: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

Chaplain Paul G. Durbin, Ph.D. President's Address to IMDHA 2003 Conference 






1. INTRODUCTION: I am proud to serve IMDHA as President of the Board of Directors. I remember Anne calling me several years ago and inviting me to be a member of the Board.. I was at a nursing station at Methodist Hospital New Orleans, LA making my rounds when I answered that call. I accepted and have been active in IMDHA since that time.

Anne knew that I was practicing hypnotherapy at the hospital with the blessings and encouragement of the President and staff of the hospital. She told me that she had a dream that one day all hospitals would have a door marked "Hypnotherapy". There are many hospitals now that have hypnotherapist working in various departments depending upon the policy of the hospital.

I have been practicing hypnotherapy at Methodist since 1981 and in 1999, the Department of Pastoral Care became the Department of Pastoral Care and Clinical Hypnotherapy. When I was planning my retirement for the end of Feb 2001, the President ask me to stay on as Director of Clinical Hypnotherapy. I told him that I would but that I only wanted to work 3 days a week and he accepted my request. To the best of my knowledge, Methodist Hospital became the first hospital in the world to have a Department of Clinical Hypnotherapy. As of that date, we have a door marked "Clinical Hypnotherapy".

I first became interested in hypnosis while participating in the Clinical Pastors Education (CPE) Program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C . (1972-73). We had an "Introduction to Hypnosis" seminar led by our CPE supervisor, Chaplain Carl Ray Stephens. Following that seminar I bought a book written by Frank Caprio and Joseph Berger titled, Helping Yourself With Hypnosis. I put that unread book in my bookcase and forgot about it.

Though I had enjoyed the seminar, I did not follow-up until three years later. I first used hypnosis (which I called "Suggestion Therapy") in 1975 while a Chaplain at the Burn Center at Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. The hypnosis was first used with Robert, a sixteen year old, who had burns over thirty percent of his body. I began by asking Robert to close his eyes and to become as comfortable as possible. I then went through a progressive relaxation procedure with him. As he was from Florida and enjoyed the beach and swimming, I suggested that he imagine himself on his favorite beach. He could lie down on a warm blanket and feel the warm blanket under him. He could feel the warm rays of the sun as they covered his body. He could mentally get up and go into the warm waters of the ocean. He could feel the warm waters as he went into the ocean. It was warm and comfortable. (After the first 48 hours, patients who have been burned often feel cold and the use of the word "warm" can be very comforting.) He could swim and enjoy the feeling of the warm water. When he was tired, he could return to the blanket, lie down and go to sleep. He learned to do this exercise for himself (self hypnosis) whenever he needed to do so. These metal exercises helped him to reduce pain and go through some normally very painful experiences with little or no discomfort. Because of Robert's use of self-hypnosis, I realized that people can use self-hypnosis to reinforce suggestions and use it when they desires.

Though I had success with several burn patients, I did not use hypnosis when I first came to Methodist Hospital in New Orleans in 1976. In December of 1980, I had a day off. As my wife was at work and my sons were at school, I decided to do some reading. As I looked over the books in my collection, I came across the Caprio/Berger book on self-hypnosis. I began to read and became so interested that I finished the book before nightfall. That book motivated me to begin a serious study of hypnosis. Since that time, I have used hypnosis to help people as a pastor, counselor, chaplain and hypnotherapist.

Hypnosis is one of the tools that can be used to enhance healing, overcoming unwanted habits and for living a more abundant life. Though hypnosis may not be a panacea, it is an excellent method of reaching the subconscious and using the power that God created within us. Hypnosis will not help you do something that you cannot do, but it does allow you to go beyond what you have previously thought you could do. It can help you to reach your potential.

2. YESTERDAY: .The first recorded use of hypnosis is found in the book of Genesis 2:21-22, "So the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon man and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which God took from the man He made into woman and brought her to the man." In this incident God used hypnosis as an anesthesia so that Adam felt no pain during the removal of his rib. Since that time, hypnosis has been used in almost every age and culture under a variety of names.

In the religious and healing ceremonies of all primitive peoples on the face of the earth there exist the elements essential to place the subjects into a hypnotic trance. It is assumed, therefore, by the study of ceremonies of primitive peoples who still exist in Africa, Australia and elsewhere that even before history was recorded, induction's were accomplished by rhythmic chanting, monotonous drum beats, together with strained fixations of the eyes accompanied by catalepsy of the rest of the body.

2A. THE MEDICINE MAN: Imagine going back several centuries into the past. You are running a high fever and the herbs that normally bring you relief have not helped so your family calls up the medicine man to come. With great expectation, you await his arrival. He is a great healer and very respected in the tribe. The medicine man come and waves a eagles feather back and fort over you face. He chants words for releasing evil spirits and for healing and comfort. In a short time, the fever is gone and you are feeling well. The feathers passing over the face and the chants produced a hypnotic state and you were healed.

2B. SLEEP TEMPLE PRIEST: You have been having devastating headaches that come and go. When the headaches come, you can do nothing but lie down and pray for the headache to pass and go away. A friend tells you about miraculous healings taking place at the Sleep Temple in Athens which is about 15 miles from where you live. Your choice of transportation maybe camel, donkey, horse, wagon or walk. What ever it takes you make your way to the Sleep Temple Once there, you enter a large room with many other sick people and people just wanting a good change in their lives. You lie down and the Priest begins to chant, chant, chant for healing, health, prosperity etc. until you go to sleep. You wake up feeling great and go through you life seldom experiencing headaches again.

2C. SAINT PAUL: You have not walked for years. Your family takes you to the steps of Synagogue where you beg for money all day long. One day, you hear of a man named Peter, a follower of Jesus Christ, who is coming to speak at the Synagogue. You hope and pray that he will come you way. You see him coming and plead for a donation. As he comes up to you, you look up and stare into his eyes. He says to you, "Gold and silver, I have none, but what I have I give unto you, arise and walk." You feel strength coming into your legs and you get up and walk. You rejoice and dance around the Synagogue.

2D. FRANZ ANTON MESMER, JAMES BRAID, JAMES ESDAILE, MILTON H. ERICKSON: Franz Anton Mesmer, a physician was influence Father Hell and Father Gassner who were widely recognized for their healing services. Father Gassner would have those desiring to be healed brought into a room where they were told to wait. As their expectation mounted, Father Gassner would wait and then majestically enter the room, lower his cross on the head of a person to be healed and command "be healed." The person would collapse and upon command would rise praising God for healing. [Morton, p15]

Father Hell used hypnotic techniques and metal plates. He believed that illness occurred when the magnetism of the body was out of polarization. He would have his patients lie down and pass metal plates over them. His suggestions and the passes of the metal plates seemed to cure those who came to him for healing.

The modern history of hypnosis is considered to begin with Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer (1735-1815). Mesmer came to the conclusion that it was the metal in Father Gassner's cross that caused the cures as well as the religious significance of the cross. If the metal in the cross could bring cures, perhaps any metal could be used for healing. With this information and experiments conducted by Father Hell in mind, Mesmer began to develop his theory of "animal magnetism". Though Mesmer facilitated the healing of many, he was discredited by a committee appointed by the King of France. The committee came to the conclusion that the cures came for the expectation and imagination of the patients and not from anything Mesmer did.

It is interesting to note that though the committee recognized the importance of the expectation and the imagination of the patient, but none of them followed up with studies on value of expectation and imagination. Charles d'Eslen, a pupil of Mesmer, remarked concerning the committee's findings, "If the medicine of imagination is best, why should we not practice the medicine of imagination."

Other great names from Yesterday are James Braid, James Esdaile, Ambrose Liebeault, Hippolyte Bernheim, Milton H. Erickson and I am sure that you could name many more. All of these and others made great contributions to the understanding and use of hypnosis.

3. TODAY: Today is a great day for hypnotherapy and it is gaining ground in respectability each year. However, we have a long way to go before we receive the full acceptance and respect that we deserve. I would compare the hypnotherapy of today with the chiropractors of 50 years ago. Chiropractors were fighting for recognition, for reimbursement from insurance and respectability. In the 1980s, they won a restriction of trade law suite against the AMA and since that time, they have been recognized as a legitimate profession and now receive the respect they deserve.

In l989, I represented National Association of Clergy Hypnotherapist [which in no longer active] at a Convention held in Santa Ana, California. The theme of that convention was "United We Stand." From that meeting, the Council of Professional Hypnosis Organization was established. The purpose of the organization is to work together to promote a positive acceptance of hypnosis in our country and the world. COPHO has done a lot of good for hypnotherapist, but we still have a long way to go, but we must keep working toward the national recognition of hypnotherapy with all the benefits that comes from recognition. We must work together. I have often said that the various hypnotherapy organizations are our own worst enemies because of the infighting that goes sometimes goes on between organization. Let us rise above our jealousies and competition and work together to get hypnotherapist licensed in every state in the USA. Not only should there be a door marked Hypnotherapy in every hospital, but licensed hypnotherapy in very state.

3. TOMORROW: We have looked at yesterday, today and now look toward tomorrow. I believe that great times are ahead of us for the use of hypnotherapy. In order to fulfill our potential, we must work together. We can best fulfill our potential by respecting, uplifting, and learning from one another. To put another hypnotherapist down is unproductive and detrimental to all hypnotherapist. A Rabbi once asked his pupils, "How can you tell when the night had ended and the day was dawning?" "Could it be when you can see an animal at a distance and can tell whether it is a sheep or a dog?" asked one student. "No." said the Rabbi. "Could it be when you can look at a tree in the distance and tell whether it's a fig tree or a peach tree?" "No." said the Rabbi. "Well, when is it?" demanded the students. "It is when you look on the face of a woman or man and see that she or he is your sister or brother because, if you cannot do this, then no matter what time it is, it is still night." Jesus said, "A house divided by itself cannot stand." (Mark 3:25)

There is a story about a man who left this earth and was taken on a tour of hell. He was shown a room where he saw a large group of hungry people trying to eat dinner, but because the spoons that they were using to eat with were longer than their arms, they remained frustrated. "This," his guide told him, "is hell." "That's terrible!" exclaimed the man, "Please show me heaven." "Very well," said the guide, and they went on their way. When they opened heaven's door, the man was perplexed to see what looked very much like hell. There was a group of people with spoons longer than their arms. As he looked more closely, however, he saw happy faces and full stomachs, for there was one important difference. The people in heaven had learned to feed each other.

There are mountains to climb and rivers to cross, but we are making advances which will be of great benefit to the people of our world. Let us accept the challenge in unity and begin to climb the mountains and cross the rivers as we fulfill our mission.

4. CONCLUSION: EAGLES AND CHICKENS WITH TWO ENDINGS: (which you choose is your choice): A man found an eagle's egg and put it in a nest of a barnyard hen. The eagle hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them. All his life the eagle did what the barnyard chickens did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air. Years passed and the eagle grew to adulthood. One day he saw a magnificent bird high above him in a cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents with scarcely a beat of its strong golden wings.

(First ending): The eagle looked up in awe. "who's that?" he asked. "That's the eagle, the king of birds," said his neighbor. "He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth-we're chickens." So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for that's what he thought he was.

(Second ending): The eagle looked up in awe and said, "who's that?" His neighbor answered, "that's the eagle, the king of birds. He belongs to the sky. We belong to earth-we are the chickens." The eagle went through the day thinking of the eagle flying high. The next day the eagle went down to the pond and saw his reflection. He noticed that he looked a lot like an eagle. He began to test his wings, flying further and further each day. After a few weeks, he was flying high and gliding just as if he were an eagle. He realized that he was an eagle. He realized that he was an eagle and not a chicken. With that thought he flew above his past and his environment. Let us fly above our past and our environment to support each other and to work toward the full recognition of hypnotherapy practiced by licensed professional hypnotherapist and others. Thank you.