The Hypnotic World of Paul McKenna by Paul McKenna

If you judged this book by the choice of title and cover art, you could be forgiven for dismissing it as a piece of sensationalist trash. Inside, it’s nothing of the kind. Some glowing reviews led me to employ the “don’t judge a book by its cover” philopsohy and give the book a try. At present, I’m keen to learn all I can about the nature of human consciousness, in order to get a better understanding of myself and hopefully of life. I’ve gone in this direction due to the failure of religion in my experience, and to my delight I’m gaining invaluable insights that have been hidden to me until now.

This book covers a wide range of topics, including the history of hypnosis, childhood programming, the nature of trances, how to perform a hypnotic induction, stage hypnotism, hypnotherapy, self-hypnosis, past-life regression, neuro-linguistic programming, mind control. And that’s just some of it. The book is a mere 232 pages, and it took me absolutely ages to read because there is so much concise information packed in, and I wanted to grasp it all.

Of particular interest to me was the understanding that we enter trance states naturally, as a part of everyday life, without realising it. This casts quite a different light on the common fear people have of being placed under hypnosis. I now understand why television adverts are done the way they are done – why the producers use a completely irrelevant subject to advertise a product. What they’re doing is creating a positive association in the mind. When you hear a song you like on a TV ad, or see a celebrity you admire, or watch an experience you recall feeling good about, this is all designed to make you associate the good feeling you get from that unrelated thing with the product on offer. Later, in the supermarket, when you see that product, you experience the same good feeling without understanding why, and this becomes a powerful motivator to get you to buy the product. I keep recalling Michael Jackson, back in the late 1980s, advertising Pepsi, singing, “You know I’m bad, I’m bad,” followed by the modified lyric, “And Pepsi’s cool, yeah, cool.” Always struck me as a bit odd and pointless, that. Now I understand it perfectly. Pretty manipulative, eh?

I have a friend who has a fear of cameras. I originally thought this had something to do with her feeling insecure about her looks, but we had a chat about it once and I discovered the real reason. When she was a young child, her parents used to hire an official photographer for each birthday party. She found this man scary, and over time she unwittingly built up an association between the camera pointing at her and the negative feelings brought on by the photographer. So, nowadays, right into womanhood, any camera causes that same effect of dread, regardless of who’s holding it, or how irrational the dread is. With a little knowledge of how the human mind works, it all makes sense! This also empowers me to look for the negative and unhelpful associations that I’ve created in my life (and, oh boy, there’s a big one I can see!), and deal with them through self-hypnosis. It’s almost laughable how much guilt I’ve put myself through over something that’s nothing more than “bad wiring” in my head – and absolutely fixable.

That’s just a fraction of the insight gained from reading this book. I feel like I want to read it all again, because there was so much to take in. I find myself marvelling at the human mind in a new way. And even more than that, I find myself not identifying with it. My mind is not me. If it were, I would not be able to re-program it, but I can. There is something beyond mind: call it soul or consciousness. You can choose to be a slave to your desires, to your emotions, and also to your mind states – or you can change them. I feel that so many people are going through life like computer programs running on automatic, unaware of how much of what they are is nothing but conditioned responses to stimuli. For want of a little insight, they never become conscious enough to realise they can break the programming and be what they want to be.

One of the best lines in the book, and a great quote, is: “If you don’t take responsibility for programming yourself, then someone else will.”