Introducing Brandon Ables from Active Alert Hypnosis, a trailblazer in hypnosis innovation. Brandon’s journey into hypnosis was sparked by his innate fascination with efficiency, leading him to develop active-alert hypnosis techniques that leverage everyday activities for self-improvement. His groundbreaking work, combining hypnotic scripts with physical movements and interactive technology, offers a unique approach to hypnosis, challenging traditional norms and addressing hedonic adaptation. MysticMag has the pleasure.
How did you get into hypnosis and what sparked your interest in the field?
I got into hypnosis through my interest in multitasking and efficiency. I have always been interested in getting the most out of my time, especially related to how daily actions we perform thousands of times throughout our lives can double as opportunities for self-improvement. As I was researching technological applications for enhancing daily activities in a master’s program, I found the book Suggestible You by Erik Vance.
In Suggestible You, Vance cites research about an enzyme in the brain called catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) that can make a person more prone to suggestion, placebo, and hypnosis if they are part of the 25% of people who have the methionine/methionine (met/met) combination on rung rs4680 of their DNA. After taking a 23andme DNA test, I discovered I am part of the population that is more prone to suggestion. Finding scientific evidence that I was more hypnotizable than 75% of the population acted as a deeper covincer for my subconscious to grab onto whatever was suggested. I took this information and began creating new self-hypnosis methods to apply to my daily life.
To incorporate suggestions in my daily life, I became interested in interactive ways to present text to my subconscious while I was engaged in other activities. I did not want something passive that I could disengage with easily like an audiobook, but instead something whose playback was tied directly to the activity I was engaging in. I found and adapted the rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) technique to present sequences of text to my subconscious one word at a time. I expanded this technique to include sequences of audio or computer speech that occurred one syllable at a time.
I developed and adapted sensors and software to allow everyday actions like chewing, brushing my teeth, and riding an exercise bike to be self-programming opportunities where I could peripherally engage with hypnotic suggestions while completing necessary tasks. The speed at which the text or audio would play back was determined by the speed of the movements of the activity I was engaging in. All this came together when I came upon active-alert hypnosis which uses physical movement instead of relaxation to get the mind to a suggestible state.
What are the differences between active hypnosis and relaxation hypnosis?
Most people associate hypnosis with the words “you are getting sleepy” and watching a pendulum swing back and forth. This type of hypnosis is known as traditional or relaxational because the client is usually seated in a chair or led through progressive relaxation exercises for induction. My research pairing everyday activities with hypnotic scripts led me to active-alert hypnosis which can be done while people are moving and aware with their eyes open. As clients are engaged in certain physical activities, the hypnotist states “you are becoming more alert”. Active-alert hypnosis usually only requires a few minutes of induction to get the client to a suggestible state. The level of physical effort must not be too strenuous as that will hamper the ability to achieve a suggestible state.
What are induction methods?
Some induction methods historically associated with active-alert hypnosis are walking, spinning, knee bends, and head rotation. In the 1970s Ernest Hilgard and Éva Bányai put subjects into a hypnotic state while they were on exercise bikes. Hilgard and Bányai used the same hypnotic induction script as traditional relaxational hypnosis sessions, except the words “relaxation and drowsiness” were switched with “activity and alertness.” In a later study by Bányai, it was even found that imaginary movements can be just as powerful as real movements in the active-alert hypnosis approach. The participant can be in any bodily position and the hypnotist can suggest they imagine they are sitting on a bicycle and pedaling rhythmically, and it will have the same results.
In my practice, I am pioneering novel interactive-alert hypnosis methods that pair any repetitive movements or activities in our daily lives with metaphorically related hypnotic scripts. I am interested in active-alert hypnosis during the times we are doing things that have become second nature, like toweling off after a shower, eating, or grooming ourselves in the mirror. For example, during the pandemic, I outfitted my lower bathroom vanity cabinet with sensors so that every time I washed my hands, I would also hear an audio track of a hypnotic script aimed at boosting my immunity, cleanliness, and ability to fight off COVID. Bringing interactive-alert hypnosis methods to everyday activities recovers the mindfulness that has been lost to over-rehearsal, creating an opportunity to reclaim our subconscious for our own intentions. My current PhD research involves using opportunities throughout the day for active-alert inductions and developing the technology required for peripheral interactive hypnotic script playback.
What technology can be used for active-alert inductions?
For my hypnosis practice, I incorporate interactive technology with active-alert hypnosis inductions in-person or virtually through Zoom. For in-person methods, I use different sensors and switches fitted to the client or on objects to control the speed of text or audio hypnotic script playback. For virtual methods, I use software that can track a client’s movements through their Zoom video feed to trigger the same text or audio hypnotic script playback as in-person clients. Both in-person and virtual clients can also type out affirmations or goal statements using body movements in active-alert hypnotic states to better communicate intentions to the subconscious. My job as the hypnotist is to create the perfect movement and hypnotic script pairing. I spend time researching therapeutic metaphors and finding ways to translate them through physical movements and the technology I have available.
I have developed many inductions for my unique interactive-alert hypnosis approach. All these movements interact with the text or audio of the hypnotic scripts or allow the client to type out intentions. Some of the more traditional methods I use involve walking (in place, on a stepper, or on a treadmill), knee bends, and cycling with arms or legs. Some less traditional methods involve head rotation, motor tasks (like tossing a ball in the air to yourself repeatedly), and raising/lowering arms. Rubbing hands together for warmth, washing/drying your hands, or as a physical act of anticipation can be used to induce a hypnotic state and play back hypnotic scripts.
Other everyday activities like typing, chewing, and talking can also be used to address unique client goals. Many of these pioneering active-alert hypnosis techniques take advantage of the confusion induction for hypnosis, where the client is trying to figure out many things at once, their critical factor (reason) is distracted and the brain gets to more suggestible states. Pairing the confusion induction with emerging technologies allows multiple sources of peripheral information to get through to the subconscious as the client is attempting to perform designed multitasking activities related to their unique goals.
Is there anything else about your work that you’d like to share that we haven’t covered?
Another important aspect my interactive-alert hypnosis practice addresses is battling against hedonic adaptation. Most of us approach everyday activities automatically, without thinking about them. We eat, sleep, and bathe in the same environments and follow the same patterns daily. We have lost awareness of the foundational expectations we attach to performing these everyday rituals. The loss of initial pleasure to the familiar is called hedonic adaptation. A way to recover that initial enjoyment is to approach such activities unconventionally. Variety in consumption and interaction re-injects the pleasure of newness into activities that have become dull through over-rehearsal.
Changing the way we perform everyday actions can not only be pleasurable but also phenomenologically refreshing. We can create new opportunities to reclaim and re-experience large chunks of our life made up of small necessary actions, now remade to feel and sound new. We can again remember what we expect from our actions, potentially enhancing their effectiveness. Even if you are not part of the 25% of the population that is more hypnotizable, experiencing interactive-alert hypnosis methods can help bring mindfulness back to activities that have become second nature.
To learn more about Brandon and his work, you can visit www.activealerthypnosis.com