Hypnotizing the Internet Mind
by Tim Brunson, PhD
The fundamental functioning of the human mind/brain is currently undergoing the most significant shift since the advent of the printing press. Starting with the mid-20th century cultural infection known as the mass media, recent information technology advances are redesigning our plastic brains and affecting how we think, learn, and interact with each other. These profound changes are also redefining our basic nature, creating a plethora of new mental dysfunctions, and necessitating that we relook at just how consultants, trainers, coaches, and therapists ply their transformative efforts. Hypnotherapists who practice their skills as either a profession or a trade must update their methods lest, like the rotary dial telephone, they become an obsolete relic of the past.
We have become technological junkies. My desktop is a prime example. I am writing this article on the left screen of my dual screen display. (I often wish that I had more than two.) I have five Internet browsers currently open with a total of 17 active tabs representing ideas, projects, and concerns that are currently occupying my mind. To the right is my palm-sized multi-media cell phone complete with Web and the ability to perform live syncing with multiple social network systems. Then there is my six line phone which came with a 900 page manual, live tech support, and more features than I will ever master. And then on the edge of my desk I am charging the latest addition, which is an Amazon Kindle DX that is connected wirelessly 24/7 as it continually downloads updates of several newspapers and a couple of my favorite magazines. Add to this cacophony of communication technologies the fact that I actively maintain 12 e-mail profiles, over 40,000 Web pages, a couple of Twitter accounts, a MySpace account, and more Facebook personal pages than they would like me to have – and 26 Facebook "fan" pages.
It should be no doubt that I frequently experience all of the psychological maladies that William Carr mentions in his excellent book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains. Yes, I find myself frequently jumping from one idea to the other. I have increased my ability to multi-task. As Carr poignantly illustrates, I am also loosing my ability to concentrate and – despite my illusion to the contrary – I am becoming less efficient. On top of that, as Newport Beach psychiatrist Daniel Amen MD often points out, I am setting myself up for an increased susceptibility to addictions and psychological problems and increasing the probability that I will experience an early onset of Alzheimer's disease.
This trend did not start when we recently embarked on the Information Superhighway merely a few decades ago. As Carr points out, this started in the middle of the last century when we moved from our addiction to radio to our obsession with television. Note that this was back when were overwhelmed by the multitude of programming options in the form of NBC, CBS, and ABC. (The satellite signal coming into my home theater currently provides 285 all-digital channels – not counting numerous movies and porn on demand.)
This phenomenon shapes how our brains function. Considering brain plasticity (i.e. the brain's ability to reorganize the location in which a given function is performed), neurological research reveals that we are changing how we are using our brain. SPECT scans of the brain show an increasing reliance on the Anterior Cingulate Cortex, the brain's thought switchboard located just above the ancient limbic center – which controls our emotions and baser functions such as libido, hunger, and fight/flight responses. This not only makes us more susceptible to illnesses due to the resulting chronic suppression of our immune system. It also shifts precious blood-born energy away from the centers of the brain that control intellectual thought and concentration. Essentially, we are becoming a society of attention deficit zombies leading couch potato shallow lives while we measure our thoughts in terms of micro-blogging comments of less than 100 characters and sound bites that last only a few seconds. We are therefore more likely to be affected by sensationalism, belief indoctrination, and seek out limbic-oriented thrills to assuage our mental pain and boredom. We are increasingly relegating our thinking capacity to the "programming" provided by the media.
Although I love my gadgets – a fact that seems to be genetic as my son likewise shares this affliction – I am not blind to the problems they cause. I tend to be increasingly impatient and have the constant feeling that I am never going to get everything on my "to do" list accomplished. Realizing this, I purposefully attempt to counter these side effects of the lure of technology. Also, I realize that I am not alone. Indeed, as a hypnotherapist I am seeing more and more people whose lives are rapidly changing as they encounter problems caused by having a highly developed Internet Mind.
Another key aspect to this dilemma is the realization that the way the change-consultants, such as hypnotherapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, coaches, trainers, and consultants, practice cannot remain the same for long. For instance, just yesterday one of my students sent me a wonderful stress-reduction MP3 file. Her voice was soothing. And it was obvious that she is an expert in our field. Her suggestions and metaphors were fantastic. However, despite my deep gratefulness in her loving gesture, I must admit that she missed out on one thing. She did not realize that I am an Internet, information, and technology junkie. Therefore, 40 minute guided imageries with long flowing sentences no longer work as well with me. After reading Carr's book – one in which he quoted just about every authority mentioned in my doctoral dissertation – I began to understand why. Please note that although I may be coming across as a techno-basket case, I am not alone. There are millions – if not billions – of us around the globe. And our numbers will continue to grow until "normal" people are featured in history museums.
The hypnosis script writing techniques that I developed as part of Advanced Neuro-Noetic HypnosisTM were intended to be a congruent reflection of the recent innovative discoveries in the fields of neurology and artificial intelligence. However, now when I go back and review my techniques I am see something else. Due to the fact that I am a walking and talking example of the complications caused by mental adaption to the information revolution, I now see that my techniques are written for the contemporary brain. Therefore, these scripts have somewhat short and disjointed phrases. They play upon the short attention spans and the realization that the Internet mind works significantly differently than the one addressed by Erickson, Elman, McGill, Tibbets, and other classical hypnotists. While I still use a blend of multi-modal (i.e. visual, auditory, kinesthetic, gustatory, and olfactory) statements and continue to mix direct and indirect suggestions, I recognize that ANNH scripts go far beyond just seeking to train the mind with surgical precision. I have also unintentionally developed a technique that is extremely conducive to the preferred communication style that is more congruent with the Internet Mind.
This has been an epiphany for me. I have long advocated a more scientific approach to the practice of hypnosis and hypnotherapy. By moving away from evidence-based methodologies that in turn validate well-thought-out theories that are in line with neurological and artificial intelligence concepts, I intended to improve our profession. What I completely missed was the fact that, concurrently with scientific advancements, the human brain was going through a significant shift as well. I am glad to discover that the techniques that I have developed unintentionally respected this fundamental change. Indeed, this will be a train of thought that will impact on how I continue to evolve my theories.
Although I firmly believe that my science-based approach to the art of hypnotherapy should be adopted by all schools, organizations, and associations which hold themselves out as authorities on the subject, now I see that it is time that we also seriously relook at the processes that we use and assure that they change to match the nature of the mind/brains of our subjects. While the advent of the Internet Mind presents us with a new array of dysfunctions and road blocks to self-actualization, we must realize that in the present and increasingly in the future the fact that our brains operate differently than our grandparents must lead us to alter how we conduct our sessions.
The International Hypnosis Research Institute is a member supported project involving integrative health care specialists from around the world. We provide information and educational resources to clinicians. Dr. Brunson is the author of over 150 self-help and clinical CD's and MP3's.
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