Still Normal, After All These Years I am in awe of hypnotherapists who publish success rates of 90% plus.

I don’t know how they do it. Not only that, I don’t know how they know they do it. Personally, I don’t have any systematic follow-up procedure. I treat patients and discharge them when they are fixed, or if I can’t fix them. And that’s that. I don’t send them Christmas Cards or quarterly e-mails asking “Everything still OK, then?” largely because I don’t see how any of that helps the patient. It might help me but, then, they didn’t come to see me, or pay me, to help me. I have no idea what my success percentage is. But roughly 40% of my new patients come because I have been recommended to them by former patients, and quite a few patients stay in touch so I have sufficient anecdotal evidence to believe I’m doing a reasonable job. Whilst not being any more interested in success percentages than my GP is, i.e., not at all, I do have a passing interest in my own MPM rate. MPM stands for Miracles Per Month. I know some readers will recoil at the mention of ‘miracles’ but, the simple truth is, some of the things that happen in my clinic (and, I dare say, in other hypnotherapy practices) look remarkably like miracles. Averaged out over the last 17 years my MPM rate stands at 2.3. It’s an entirely self-determined statistic as it’s based solely on my definition of miracle, which is, those cases where I want to take the top off the patient’s head, look inside and figure out “How on earth did that happen?” And whilst 2.3 MPM might seem incredible, you need to know that that’s out of an average of sixty sessions per month involving an average of 23 different patients. That makes for a ridiculously neat MPM conversion rate of 10%. It’s so neat, it occurred to me to fudge the statistics and make it look less neat, but I haven’t. It is what it is. I’m writing this today because I’ve become aware of a really lovely qualifier for my MPM stats, and I decided to write him up. Ned (not his real name, obviously) called to ask if I could help him stop smoking. We had a chat and made an appointment. He came to see me, stinking of cigarettes. In the case history, Ned described his father as a “violent alcoholic”, and his mother as a “slut”. His father would get drunk at lunchtime and spend the rest of the day beating his kids with the buckle-end of his belt. When he was seven, Ned saw his mother having sex with one of his dad’s mates on the kitchen table (while dad was sleeping-off lunch upstairs). It was not an isolated incident. Ned grew up in a fishing village I’ll call Tapworth. Aged five, he’d been gazing in a toyshop window admiring the Dinky trucks, when a stranger asked what he was looking at. The stranger bought him the truck and took him to a well-know local beauty spot. Before anything really bad happened, police appeared from nowhere and arrested the predator. Aged 13, Ned went on holiday with the gay friend of his 15 year-old sister’s older boyfriend. Watford’s a funny place for a holiday but there you are. He was offered the choice of sex with the man he was with, or with all the man’s gay friends. The man he was with raped him. Ned was dyslexic, struggled at school, and escaped to the trawlers as soon as he could. He got married, and divorced when his wife had an affair with his pal. He

hadn’t seen his daughter for 20 years. Somewhere along the line he’d become an alcoholic, homeless and destitute, and managed two narrowly-failed attempts at suicide. By the time I met him, he’d had a great deal of therapy, all his issues were sorted, he’d had no alcohol in a year and he just wanted to stop smoking. Except ... he was still chronically anxious, and he never slept well because every night he was haunted by multiple nightmares about being chased and not being able to get away. The nightmares were dreadful, and left him constantly exhausted. I got Ned on my couch and hypnotized him. He seemed like a good hypnotee. I established ideomotor responses (IMRs) and asked a question which I anticipated would engender a nailed-on ‘Yes’. I got a ‘No’. The next few questions resulted in answers so contrary I had no idea what was going on, so I stopped the IMRs and started all over again, spending sufficient time to make sure there was no confusion on any part’s part as to what was ‘Yes’ and what was ‘No’. (It transpired, subsequently, that Ned had always struggled with right and left, though I never understood why that should equate to confusion between ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ IMRs in one hand.) Stopping him smoking seemed, to me, to be the least of the issues so I agreed that with his subconscious mind, and then asked if it was OK to make him less anxious and stop the nightmares? His subc agreed, so I carried on. I used my 1066 protocol which basically says that ‘Stuff happened and you’ve had plenty of opportunity to learn any useful lessons there my have been to learn from it so there’s no need to keep carrying the books around. Put them down, walk away and keep walking.’ (That’s not script; that’s just the gist of it.) I guess it’s a quasi-analytical, or maybe anti-analytical protocol I use to avoid retraumatizing patients by making them revisit their stuff and, instead, accepting that though it happened, and was horrible, it isn’t happening anymore so don’t let it plague you. And obviously it is, in the vernacular, ‘context free’. Anyway, I did 1066 and in the middle of it he started crying so I got a tissue and wiped his tears away; literally. (I use a lot of tissues wiping patients’ tears away.) I woke him up, we had some chat, he made an appointment for the following week, paid and left. Two days later he left a message on my telephone saying he was having terrible headaches and asking if that was normal. I made a note to call him back but, generally, I don’t take or make patient calls over the weekend and that was a Sunday. Monday, I had patients at 09:00, 11:00, 14:00 and 16:00, plus a lot of other things to take care of, and I failed to call him back. He called again on Tuesday and this time I picked-up. He asked if the headaches were normal. I told him they weren’t. He said they were getting better. I said “Good”. He said “See you Thursday, then?” I said “Yes.” Before he arrived on Thursday I prepared my Session Record, and in the Reminders field I wrote, “Smoking, Anxiety, Nightmares.” I wasn’t hopeful, even though I’d thought he was a good hypnotee, because of the headache call.

When he came in I tried to smell the cigarettes – knowing full well that the week before the aroma had been overwhelming. I couldn’t smell anything, but thought he might have showered and put clean clothes on. When he sat down I said “How’s the smoking then?” “I haven’t smoked at all since I saw you,” he said. “I thought about it once or twice, but I knew I didn’t want to do it so I didn’t.” Well, every hypnotherapist who has ever stopped someone smoking knows how good it is to hear that. “But I’ve got to tell you,” he said, “That’s not the best thing. I haven’t had a single nightmare. Not one. You have no idea how good it is to wake up in the morning feeling normal. It gives a real kick to the start of the day. And I feel so much more relaxed and easy in myself. It’s like everything I thought should have happened in all the other therapy I’ve had, suddenly has happened. It’s incredible really. I don’t know how you do what you do, Barry, but it’s brilliant!” I said “Before you arrived I put Smoking, Anxiety and Nightmares in the Reminders box on my form …” “And you’ve ticked ’em all off,” he said. And I had. There was no mention of withdrawal symptoms from this man who had been smoking 30 to 40 roll-ups a day since he was 12, so for nearly 50 years. Instead, he said, “This peace ... is this how normal people feel, coz I’ve never been normal in here?” pointing to his head. “Too much torment.” In his second session I consolidated the work I had done on smoking, anxiety and nightmares, and also let him forgive his mum, dad and everyone else – including, of course, himself – so that this guy who had had, for good and legitimate reasons, an awful lot of therapy in his life, didn’t need any anymore. I agreed with his subc to let him be ‘normal’. I last saw Ned 27 months ago, but he phoned me today. He said, “You did so much for me that I wanted to come back and see you, but I haven’t had any reason. I still don’t. I’m just calling so you know I’m still normal after all these years.” We exchanged pleasantries. Then he said, “You never asked where I got your details.” And that was true; sometimes I do, but in his case I hadn’t. “I’ been talking about getting hypnotherapy to stop smoking and a friend of mine, an interior designer, said that rang a bell. She knew someone, a Spanish woman, who smoked 60 or 70 a day, and she saw you once and stopped smoking ten years before. And she went back to her and got your name and number. That’s how I found you.” I don’t remember ever stopping a Spanish woman smoking 60+ per day, even 12 years ago, and it isn’t really important. Ned definitely qualifies for my MPM rate, and he’s the second this month. Barry Thain Clinical Hypnotist Mindsci Clinic, and Kingston Hospital