Monday, December 19, 2016

Book Review: Helping Yourself with Self-Hypnosis

Title: Helping Yourself with Self-Hypnosis

Author: Frank S. Caprio

Memorial tribute to Dr. Caprio:

Date: 1963

Publisher: Prentice-Hall

ISBN: none

Length: 192 pages + 8 pages endnotes and 6 pages index

Quote: “We have…attempted merely to point out the importance of correct thinking, how the mind influences the way we feel…since all hypnosis is self-hypnosis, the average person can be taught the techniques of self-hypnosis to increase his confidence, his zest for living.”

Yes, the average person to whom this book was addressed was a “he.” So was his doctor. From time to time the author mentions a female, but it was a different era; the female reader was supposed to identify with the “average” reader as “he.” That’s how quaint this book is.

If you’ve read more recent books about stress management, weight control, meditation, visualization, or “self-help,” Helping Yourself with Self-Hypnosis will seem very basic, like reviewing phonics at school when you were already reading whole words. There is nevertheless some benefit in going back to the basics.

Dr. Caprio and writing assistant Joseph Berger were writing for an audience of people who thought “hypnosis” was something mysterious that only Professional Psychiatrists (and Professional Charlatans) could do, even something occult, satanic, a way to gain “mind control” over people that could force them to do all kinds of things. They had to spend some time explaining that in the light-trance state people enter during self-hypnosis, they are conscious, able to revert to an ordinary state of consciousness if necessary, and able to decide what they will and won’t tell themselves to do.

As Scott Adams frequently reminds Dilbert Blog readers, a trained hypnotist can persuade people to do a lot of things, but not without their consent. If the hypnotists of the early twentieth century were ever able to suggest that someone in a trance state should give the hypnotist all the money in his or her bank account, they did that, just as salesmen and scammers do today, by convincing the person that giving the money to the hypnotist would be profitable, or at least fun. More sinister “brainwashing” techniques are achieved by other forms of persuasion, such as violence, threats, and blackmail. Caprio discusses how to use logic, observation, relaxation, meditation, and rewards to convince yourself that you want to stay sober more than you want to get drunk.

In self-hypnosis, the most conscious part of your mind wants to persuade the less conscious parts of your mind to cooperate in achieving certain goals. Suppose you want to lose weight; you also have formed a habit of eating high-calorie food when you feel stressed, and you’re also in a long-term relationship that is currently quite stressful. Caprio offers a nine-step program, beginning with “Devote the initial session of self-hypnosis to making a definite decision about your weight-problem.” Next, persuade yourself to get a complete physical checkup and follow your physician’s orders—engaging both the most conscious and logical part of your mind, and the unconscious, biochemical “body-mind” in your brain. “Tell yourself all the reasons why you should reduce.” “Repeat to yourself…reasons why you would like to reduce.” Analyze your eating habits, when and why you overeat. List the foods you should and shouldn’t eat and the number of calories you need every day. “Decide in advance what you are going to eat. Weigh yourself daily…Keep a weekly progress record…Reward yourself…by buying…a new suit in a smaller size. Take pride in your appearance.” Finally, “Repeat daily that you an and will maintain your ideal weight, that you have now developed new eating habits, sensible ones.”

Caprio discusses this process in detail, and then goes into similar depth in discussing how to use self-hypnosis to stop smoking, to stop drinking, to enjoy the act of marriage more (if married), to be more attractive in social situations (if single), overcome fear of oral examinations, alleviate menstrual cramps, break the habit of worrying, and so on. 

People who publicized hypnosis as a method of entertainment relied on the fact that a lot of people would like to be singers, dancers, clowns, etc., but didn’t think their skills were good enough for public display. Lack of understanding of how hypnosis works made it easy to pick one of these people out of a crowd and persuade him or her to do something entertaining. Many young people who have prepared to pass tests, make speeches, or whatever, but suffer from “performance anxiety,” can still benefit from using self-hypnosis to program themselves to act braver than they feel.

Caprio also discusses ways people can use self-hypnosis to adapt to social mores that many people now prefer to discard. “My husband needs to have his ego inflated…As a wife, I am responsible for a neat orderly home for my husband.” (Why not, “As a husband, I am responsible for a neat orderly home for my wife”?) “Persons who are popular are usually extroverts.” (This is a few pages after the observation that people can use self-hypnosis to become better listeners, but still…do people really like extroverts?) “Old age is conceived in the mind…I am going to remain young.”  (Why not, “Old age is often confused with ill health, which  is possible and undesirable at any age. I am going to maintain good enough health to enjoy the age I really am”?)

Well…if Helping Yourself with Self-Hypnosis were a human it would be approaching retirement age by now. It’s a period piece. If you need a lot of detailed examples of how to use self-hypnosis to stick to an exercise plan, keep a New Year’s resolution, or something else you want to motivate your whole self to accomplish now, this book can still help you. If you just want to remind yourself that the world in which your parents or grandparents grew up was not better than yours in every possible way, this book can help you with that, too.

It seems only fair to mention the existence of a revised and updated sequel, claimed by a living hypnotherapist:


However, although Wikipedia lists several authors and search engines identify several medical professionals called Joseph Berger, none of them mentions any involvement with either of these books. So, if you want Helping Yourself with Self-Hypnosis, the $5 per book, $5 per package shipping charge, and $1 per online payment will not be used to pay either of the authors. You could still add at least three additional paperbacks of this size to the package for the $5 shipping charge, so it would still be possible to participate in the Fair Trade Books program if any of those happened to be Fair Trade Books.