The Toronto Hypnotherapist

Hypnosis and Toronto Hypnotherapy with Allan Clews.

Gurdjieffian Hypnotherapy

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conventional view of  hypnosis.

We Live in a World of Hypnotic Illusions

(Please note that double quotation marks "..." will be used when quoting GI Gurdjieff).

Although we think we are 'awake' we really spend most of our lives in a hypnotic subjective dream-like state George Gurdjieff called "waking-sleep".

As children we were indoctrinated into this state when we were taught to perceive fantasies, illusions and "artificial perceptions" as reality.

We eventually outgrow some, such as the belief in Santa Claus, while others, especially those that form around language, become so powerful we hold them to be real.


Many of us, for instance, believe that imaginary lines drawn on the ground and deep in the middle of bodies of water are so real we would be willing to kill and die for them. Something that the birds and fish who cross these imaginary lines (known as borders) would find strange.

As a result of this inherent tendency to believe all sorts of things, to accept what others tell us is the truth (particularly when we were too young too judge for ourselves) we contain a mass of contradictions and competing parts and plain old silly beliefs that have no basis in reality.

For example, we are not our name. It was a fiction invented by our parents and heartily supported by bureaucrats and government officials. And even though we may be quite fond of it, and it is printed on our birth certificate and other forms of ID, it is not 'us' but just an invented label.

Some of these labels take on a life of their own such as the label that we are shy, anxious or depressed. And so we filter out those times, those 'exceptions' when we effortlessly chatted with strangers, or felt safe, or experienced one of those of genuine moments of happiness that occur to all of us.

Even the most depressed person is not depressed 24-hours a day. No one is depressed when they are sleeping or startled or something grabs their attention. They just 'believe' they are always depressed and do not question this label.

The source of this problem can be traced back to when we were small infants. Somehow the process of socialization, particularly the acquisition of language, caused what George Gurdjieff called our "being-consciousness" to be split into two parts which now have "nothing in common with each other." Parts we now call our conscious and subconscious.

Hypnosis and the Hypnotic State

Although we spend most of our waking lives in the hypnotic dream-like state of waking-sleep, we only use the word 'hypnosis' in a very specific context, which, according to George Gurdjieff is when this process occurs in an accelerated way and the results are concentrated.

And unlike our normal dream-like state, this "acceleratedly concentratedly" version is one of the main tools we can use to break free from the delusions, contradictions, and dark, distorted impulses that haunt and fracture all of us and prevent us from living the life we could be living.

As George Gurdjieff repeated many times; we lack any real internal unity and are filled with a mass of contradictory impulses. We may decide to eat good nutritious foods one day and suddenly give in to those darker impulses to pig-out on junk food the next. One part may want to drink and another to stay sober.

This is because we don't have any real 'will' or the ability to 'do'. Things more or less just 'happen' to us because underneath it all we are really fractured and divided. And although we might point to that one moment when we really did have willpower, we conveniently ignore all of those other, far more numerous times when it was so obvious we did not. But then we have "buffers" or mechanisms that prevent us from seeing all of these contradictions. Otherwise we would go insane.

George Gurdjieff says that these two consciousnesses, the false one, which we call our conscious mind, and the true one which we call our subconscious, have different "tempos" or kinds "of blood circulation".

This becomes obvious if you have ever seen someone drift into a deep trance because their breathing deepens and slows. The muscles in their face flatten and both sides of the face become more symmetrical. Blood also flows more easily to the surface of their skin making them more flushed. You can even see this change when someone is sleeping and their subconscious is in charge.

The Making of the Conscious Mind

According to George Gurdjieff we are not born this way. Babies and small infants do not have a conscious mind or the part that is created by what he calls "artificial perceptions". He says that our whole approach to child-rearing and educating our youth is unintentionally "maleficent" because it isolates the subconscious so that it stays in a primitive and undeveloped form.

This means some of the most sacred "being-impulses" that exist in our subconscious, remain in a primitive, undeveloped form: particularly our conscience. Which is one reason this world is so messed up.

This also gives rise to things such as our ego and "Mr. Self Love" and "Madame Vanity", which contrary to what many believe are not bad or evil. They are really "sentinels" that are there for our protection, because that deeper part, which should have been cultivated and developed, is unable to protect us from stray influences and suggestions. So they stick up for us and stand in the way and prevent suggestions from entering us, even if those suggestions are really beneficial.

Conventional hypnotists, not quite understanding this, have simply labelled this defence mechanism the 'critical factor of the conscious mind' as if labelling it explains it and tells them all they need to know.

Now one of the keys to understanding why this all happens lies in what George Gurdjieff calls "mentation by thought" and "mentation by form". He says that animals are capable of mentation by form, or thinking by form, whereas mentation by thought, or thinking by thought is uniquely human. And the main thing that distinguishes human from animal thought is words and language.

Some have even simplified this and talk about how we can think in words or pictures. But this is to ignore our other senses because mentation by form involves thinking by images, non-linguistic sounds, smells, tastes and sensations.

In other words, our conscious mind thinks in words and our subconscious mind thinks in images, sounds, smells, tastes and sensations. So when a rat learns how to navigate a maze, there are no verbal descriptions or words or self-talk involved. It doesn't think: 'I must go three paces and then turn right, then take another four steps and turn left...' Yet it does think.

Many spiritual and mystical traditions have some latent understanding of this when they tell us to clear our minds and focus on our breathing – in other words, to turn off the incessant chatter of words that normally circle round and round in our brain from the moment we wake up to when we go back to sleep. That running commentary that some call the 'narrator'. Some even recognize the hypnotic allure of words and how it is almost impossible for most people to turn off this stream of verbiage and so they encourage us to use simple mantras or phrases to restrain and control it.

This also partly explains the power of affirmations. They bind the conscious mind in a straight-jacket and allow something to seep inwards and something deeper to grow.

George Gurdjieff says that we fail our children by focusing our education on the training and development of the conscious mind, on words and language and other "artificial perceptions". As a child, I spent a lot of time being taught the history of Canada, without ever realizing that 'Canada' is one of these "artificial perceptions" and is a mental construct and only exists in the mind of human beings and nowhere else in the universe.

He says that words are "purely peculiarly-subjective" and have no real connection with those deeper more important parts of our being. When I talk of my 'world' and you talk of your 'world' we are probably talking about two entirely different things. Especially when we seem to agree.

Unfortunately this "false consciousness" has now become our "autocratic ruler" and it messes us up and causes such disharmony and fragmentation within us - like the ignorant and superstitious servant who usurped the master's throne.

The Power of Hypnotherapy

As a result, the real power of hypnosis lies in the fact it reverses this aberration. By changing the tempo of our blood circulation - the conscious mind, the part that rules us, but should really be our servant - is temporarily suspended or restrained. It does not disappear, but slips into to the background while the subconscious is empowered and brought to the forefront.

George Gurdjieff then says to bring about change, the hypnotist (and this is something conventional hypnotists do – though in a muddled and confused way) should engage in some type of polarity work, or use of opposites, and utilize the fact that this concentrated state allows for an "accelerated change".

George Gurdjieff never made things easy for his students. He wanted us to struggle to extract meaning and so he made sure he never spoon-fed it to us. And so in his deliberately complex way he phrased this:

"[T]hen indeed my boy, if the crystallization of data for engendering in that localization an idea of something opposite to that which has already arisen in them and somehow become fixed, is assisted in a corresponding manner, and if moreover the actions evoked by this idea are directed upon a disharmonized part of the planetary body, an accelerated change in it possible."

Or to phrase this in a more understandable way: we need to conjure up a positive to cancel a negative. So part of the solution for someone who has problems with anger involves conjuring up a memory of feeling love and acceptance, while chronic despair and hopelessness are counteracted with joy and hope.

Of course, this simplified understanding ignores the layers of complexity that should be teased out of this quotation by those who seek to practice hypnosis. This is because if the original anger arose from a belief and we attempt to counter it with a feeling, we are not really summoning the opposite. This is why a deeper understanding of Gurdjieffian Hypnotherapy is an invaluable tool in any hypnotist's arsenal.
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