Comments by Luke Chao

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  • The reason I won’t endorse my own profession is that it isn’t a homogeneous practice, even though all hypnotherapists are hypnotizing their clients. The hypnosis part is only a method to intentionally suspend critical thinking, as you’ve identified: once that’s out of the way, the hard part begins.

    The six principles I’ve shared in my essay are examples of suggestions I’ve given to so many different people that I’m ready to call them universal. In my view, hypnotic suggestions should make sense on the rational and moral levels, and should be backed up by one’s own lived experience, which makes the bypass of critical faculties an accelerator rather than an absolute necessity. If an idea is so fantastical that it can’t be accepted without hypnosis, it shouldn’t be accepted with hypnosis, either.

    When a client is being asked to suspend their own critical thinking, the hypnotist has a duty to perform critical thinking on their behalf. Because we can make mistakes too, I believe that hypnotists owe their clients transparency about what they will suggest — in other words, the client can only give informed consent with their faculties intact. I disavow practitioners who take advantage of their clients’ lowered defences, or who abandon critical thinking alongside with the client.

    This happens in other contexts too — wherever we find people in positions of power and authority — but because hypnotists make a study out of substituting another person’s thinking for their own, we have extra responsibility to be critical, truthful, moral thinkers. When I think about what’s normal and what’s not, this isn’t at all an endorsement of my profession, but an indictment of some other professionals who we have all met.

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  • Thanks for your comment. Your wife is lucky to have you, and she demonstrates the point that healing is inevitable when conditions for healing are maintained on a long enough timeline.

    People who are not as lucky will often hire a mental health professional to overcome their lack of role models and proper guidance in childhood. But when these professionals are not clear on what ‘healthy’ looks like, or when they believe that it’s unethical to provide directive guidance, they will not be able to do for their clients what you’ve done for your wife. It’s a case where paid is worse than free.

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  • Visceral Gravitas’ analysis of Doctor Ramani is eye-opening.

    I might suggest that dignity is innate — even when you can’t quite see it, your dog definitely can. The third principle that I listed — believing your senses — is something that our animal companions are excellent at doing. It’s worth allowing such a friend to remind you of who you are.

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  • Your cycling example indeed sounds healthy. When I imagine somebody who’s ignoring sensory input and tuned into their imagination or memories instead, I think of myself when I am riding through city streets with a lot going through my mind… I am not a very safe cyclist then, and would have gotten hurt in the situation you described.

    I’ve come to accept that words are wholly inadequate for conveying emotions, so I choose the most common words, not necessarily the most precise ones. In this essay, I use the phrase “mental health” interchangeably with “happiness and peace,” and “mental illness” synonymously with “various forms of unhappiness.” This is imprecise and nonmedical, but I believe it communicates effectively enough, and allows one to get on with the thornier business of figuring out how to help people to suffer less.

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  • Thank you for contributing to the conversation. Each of the principles at the end deserves its own essay, since there’s much substance to explore in each one, and the lucidity comes in part from omitting all the finer details.

    Principle 3 argues in favour of empiricism over rationalism as a epistemic stance. It isn’t that a rich inner world has little relevance, nor am I claiming that it’s possible to sense the objective world independently of our subjective interpretations. Instead, I claim that we’ve been encouraged to overvalue cognitive processes and undervalue empiricism (not only sensory information, but hard data), and that this is detrimental to our well-being. My claim is that the safest way to drive down a highway, navigate a new relationship or relax in a strange environment is by prioritizing ongoing sensory information over our memory and imagination, and that this is characteristic of mental health.

    Principle 6 is very much open to interpretation, because of its metaphorical nature. When a deep wound heals, it leaves a scar, and something analogous happens with the emotional wounds that we are discussing. Even a trauma that we might call “healed” can produce a life-long scar — it just doesn’t hurt as much anymore. When it’s easier to focus on the present moment because you aren’t hurting as much, I don’t see a clash with principle 3.

    And I agree, art (in all its forms) is essential to human happiness. Without it, we suffer — with it, we are capable of thriving.

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