Indirect Hypnotic Techniques: The Magic Stone
by Jay Inglee, M.A., – APMHA Vice-President 2002-04
The following vignette has been taken from a larger essay on the “Psychotherapeutic Applications of Magic” to be published in July.
The vignette has been taken from an actual case. Indirect hypnotic techniques are applied with the use of a “magic-trick” to help anchor, embed and future pace certain ideas for the client. At the end of the “trick” the client is left with a small “magical stone.” This “magical stone” has been transformed into stone from a small piece of black clay, into which the client has placed (molded, formed, sculpted) new ideas, dreams, associations of the time spent with the therapist. Enjoy.
John is a 17-year old high school student. He failed out of regular high school due to drug and alcohol use and was placed in a continuation school. Over the past year, he had been sober and was very involved in a 12 Step program. John is an intelligent, insightful and introspective young man. His father lives in another state and is a recovering heroin addict who has been “clean” for many years.
John looks up to him and idealizes him (both negatively and positively). His father is remarried and John wants to move to live and work with his father. Johns mother is over protective and to a great extent has projected many characteristics of Johns father onto him. Their relationship is at times (figuratively) like a wife and husband. Between their respective positions in the family and their personal histories, they just don’t get along. They both love each other and there is often a good deal of adult understanding and interaction between them, but it is time for John to go.
Mom predictably sees doom and problems on the horizon, John of course does not. They are both right. During my therapeutic relationship with John, he had made some significant progress. In addition to maintaining and valuing his physical sobriety, he had also come to a greater understanding of his feelings directed towards his mother and father and how they (feelings and parents) had significantly impacted his development and life.
He was able to a great extent, begin to reconcile and conjure with his inner life regarding women, intimacy, jealousy and fears of abandonment. In general he appeared to take more focused responsibility for his life. He did well in therapy. On our last meeting I asked him if I could give him a small gift for him to take with him. He said “sure.” I removed a small, ornate silver pill box and said, “there is something inside of this little box and what is inside has been here long before either of us and will be here long after we are gone.
No, not a diamond, therapists proposing to their clients is frowned upon.” (intimacy, giving and receiving affection was an important element in therapy so this comment was light and appropriate) John laughs and I open the box. “It is a simple lump of black clay, take it out and squeeze it between your fingers.” I place the box back into my pocket and speak slowly, pacing the rolling and squeezing of the clay. “Tear the clay in two, and as you do this, consider some things. As you squeeze the clay and feel it between your fingers, you realize that you can form, shape and sculpt an image to put into this clay ball…continue squeezing the clay and mold and image.
So many of the things have changed in your life. How much has changed that you never thought would? You can take that with you. Put into that ball all of the things you would like to take with you from here. Many of the things we have talked about together, what you have felt and thought…put those things in…shape that image and know that it goes into that clay forever.” John keeps thinking and rolling the clay in his fingers.
After thirty seconds or so I say. “Ok, put it here on the palm of my hand.” I extend my right hand and he places the ball onto my right palm. “And place your right hand onto the ball and roll the clay into a smooth ball. As you roll the clay between our hands and feel the clay, make the images you placed in the clay real, see those things become real and solid….real and solid…taking form. You can know inside that you can take these things with you wherever you go. Like the sound of the streets and the color of the sky and waking up in the morning, these things are real, and live inside of you now.
Like this clay ball, it becomes real and solid. Something you can have with you for as long as you like. Take a look at the clay….hold it up. Whenever you see it or hold it, it will remind you of what is really important.” The clay has turned into a solid black stone! Johns mouth falls open and he starts laughing nervously. “Dude, huh…what the #*&#!?” Johns eyes became glazed and he fought back tears. “Christ, thanks man, nobody will ever believe this shit!” I told him that I had learned a lot from him, that I will think of him often and thanked him for accepting the gift but not to believe everything he sees. He laughed and said “yeah appearances are deceiving.”
We hugged briefly, patted him on the back and we parted.
I don’t know what John is up to but I imagine that he is struggling, learning and living sober and somewhat sanely near his father in Arizona. He may have difficulty in relationships with women, but who doesn’t.
Jay Inglee, M.A., is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, APMHA Certified in Medical/Analytical Hypnosis in practice in Long Beach, California