Hypnosis & Kids: What’s Safe? with Dr. Jeffrey Zeig

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Children tend to have highly suggestible brains, which makes them all the more vulnerable to some of the negative messaging in society, most often found on certain social media platforms. So due to their easily influenced brains, is it best to just keep kids away from hypnosis until their brains have developed properly? In the fourth and final episode in a series on hypnosis, Dr. Daniel Amen, Tana Amen, and Dr. Jeffrey Zeig give their surprising views when it comes to medical hypnosis and children.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years, using tools like brain SPECT imaging, to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to brainmd.com
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We are here with Dr. Jeffery Zeig. We're so grateful for his time. The founder and director of the Milton Erickson Foundation, also hugely influential in helping to support Man's Search for Meaning and Viktor Frankl's work in the United States. He runs the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference, one of the largest, most influential psychotherapy conferences in history. And we're just so grateful to talk about this really fun, helpful topic of hypnosis. So, I think we've talked about it's not of the devil. It's a medical treatment that has been used actually since the time of Mesmer and Mesmer was around 1760, 1770 wildly popular, but the scientific community was not a fan. Actually, Benjamin Franklin was part of the group that investigated Mesmer and the whole Mesmerism and they said, oh, it's nothing more than suggestion, such as suggestion is really a bad idea.
Tana Amen: Right. [crosstalk 00:02:03] suggestion, in a powerful way.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It could be really helpful idea, but then used by Charcot and used by Freud, at least initially, its really been part of psychiatry since psychiatry's inception and way less toxic than most of the medications we use or some of the really insane things we've done to try to help people heal. So, we've been talking about some of its uses, like sleep and pain.
Tana Amen: Performance.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Irritable bowel syndrome. Do you think, Jeff, this is something we should actually be teaching most children, how to use self-hypnosis?
Dr Jeffery Zeig: Sure. How to use your mind, how to use your brain. You've been a champion of that, Dan, in helping people to understand brain health, brain welfare and brain possibilities. And so the earlier that we can teach people how to use the potentials that they're born with, the better we'll be as a society.
Tana Amen: Yeah. We don't call it hypnosis per se, but we've been working with Chloe since she was a baby, pretty much, on focus. So, on focusing what is good and focusing on what you want to achieve, what you want to be and not focusing on what you don't want, and then meditating on that, praying on that, really focusing ...
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, we have a great Chloe story. And ...
Tana Amen: Oh yeah. She actually ...
Dr. Daniel Amen: And I'm also a child psychiatrist, so I've used it with children a lot.
Tana Amen: This is really great.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And from what I remember, hypnotizability peaks around the age of 11 and because children don't have the adult belief they can't do something, they are much more able to go into trances and utilize the information. So, do you wanna talk about the story of Chloe?
Tana Amen: Yeah. So, it was 4th of July and she decided to make something on her own. She wanted to make something and so she heated up some almond butter and I didn't know she put it in the microwave and it got overly hot. She went to get it out and it's bubbled over onto her hand and she burned her finger pretty good. Now, it wasn't like a third degree burn, but I mean she ... It blistered her finger. So, I was, I'm a nurse and I'm trying to wrap it and clean it and do all this stuff and I'm talking really sweet to her and I'm ... And she is screaming. She's screaming, she won't settle down. She's hyperventilating. And I think she's working herself up even more than what the wound warranted. But kids do that, right?
So, she was about what?
Dr. Daniel Amen: We all do that.
Tana Amen: She was seven or eight? She was about seven or eight. And so she is just getting more and more worked up and ...
Dr. Daniel Amen: And she hates herself. I'm so stupid.
Tana Amen: She kept saying, "I'm so stupid. I'm so stupid. I'm so stupid. I hate myself. Why did I do that?" I mean, she's ... I'm like, what? You just burned yourself. I'm like, honey, this is just a mistake, but she's not having any of it. She's just going on and on and on. I'm trying to read her a story. Two hours later, she's still worked up and going on, won't go to sleep. And I finally am just at my wit's end and I go in and I'm like, I need help with this kid. I can't get her to sleep.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So, I have no idea what's going on. I'm in my office working.
Tana Amen: And she's just like out of control. So, I go get Daniel. I'm like, I have no idea what to do with her. She just will not settle down. She is just out of control and she's getting worse, not better. And it's like 10:00 at night. So, he goes in there, now you take it from there.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So, and I see how upset she is and I'm like, oh, we should put her in a trance. So, I talk softly to her. I tell her it's all gonna be okay, and I have her focus on a spot on the wall above her eye level. And I said, sweetie, I'm gonna count to 20 and as I count to 20, I just want your eyes to begin to feel really heavy. And by 20 her eyes are closed, she's calmer, she's breathing better, do a little bit of progressive relaxation and she's gone. It was awesome. Take her to a park, to a pool, have her put her hand in the healing water of the pool.
Tana Amen: She had all of her favorite animals with her and ...
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah, I know. I mean, the more visualization you can do, the better in my experience. And I suggested that we'd turn off the pain and that she would go to sleep and in the morning everything would be fine and ...
Tana Amen: Oh, and that people make mistakes and there's no reason. I mean, you did this whole thing about there's no reason to feel bad and so ...
Dr. Daniel Amen: And then we left and ...
Tana Amen: She was out.
Dr. Daniel Amen: We're wondering, we're five minutes later ...
Tana Amen: Middle of the night, is she gonna come in screaming?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Will she be screaming? And we didn't see her until the morning, and I'm like, hey, how are you? She's like, I'm really fine. And people make mistakes. It's okay.
Tana Amen: Never mentioned her finger again.
Dr Jeffery Zeig: Super. Super. Is that ... That's a transformative experience, and that's one of the building blocks of adult functioning. So, once you can help a child to get that kind of a realization, that is pure gold for enjoying and being effective in life.
Tana Amen: Yeah. And one of the things that you taught me, I mean hypnosis is, I mean as we've discussed, one of my favorite tools, but even with a child before you get to that level of even medical hypnosis, because hypnosis is really helping you focus, right? It's a focus on your potential. So, one thing we do, you've helped me with is asking her questions that help her to focus. So, getting her to focus on the right things with the use of questions over and over and over. So, redirecting her attention and her energy. If you can, I think, do that with kids and really get them focusing on the right things, 'cause especially in adolescents, they're not focused often on the right things, but getting them to focus on the right things through the use of questions is really powerful.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, and I think, I'd be interested in your thoughts, Jeff, that social media actually uses hypnosis in a very negative way.
Tana Amen: Negative way, for kids.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That people are entranced by their phones that they actually lose time. So, oh, well, I have three minutes to check Instagram and 40 minutes later they're still there. And the unconscious message that you're not enough, you're not pretty enough, you're not smart enough, you're not rich enough, just is pervasive and then kids feel terrible about themselves. The incidents of teenage depression has skyrocketed, right? When you and I were in training, we didn't see the numbers of kids who are suffering the way they are now, even though as a society we have more emotionally, they feel like they have less.
Tana Amen: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dr Jeffery Zeig: Yeah, well there could be empowering messages just as well as the subterranean disempowering messages that are more pervasive in the Internet world, but I have to think that I am an inadequate hypnotist, because the people who are capable of creating games and Facebook and Instagram and all of these things that exist have figured out ways to suck people in and to influence people and to get people involved in a focus state that may not be as valuable for them and it's amazing that people's brains can be malleable enough to keep up with some of the incredible things that can happen in the media and also ...
Tana Amen: So true.
Dr Jeffery Zeig: On their iPad or their personal cell phone. The amount of things that people are being exposed to. I know that there was a study many years ago, before the Internet, that if you have a child between three and 18, saw 100,000 murders and 300,000 acts of violence. Now, I'm sure that that figure is very conservative compared to what happens today. So, bombarding children with violence and with pain is not the best way to build self-esteem. And it would be nice to know that these designers would have ways of helping people, like games that could be where children group together to defeat the game ...
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Jeffery Zeig: And would be more a positive experience then, I'm better than you are at a using Fortnite.
Tana Amen: Right. It's amazing that we haven't even ... We might not even have time to talk about it, but we haven't talked about the hypnotic state that kids go into with these violent video games. So, I don't wanna get into the discussion of guns, no guns, but all of these shootings that we see, everyone's focused on the guns, but no one's thinking about these kids go into ... Because there's a really interesting fact that a lot of people don't even know about and that is that the U.S. government adopted the technology from Nintendo, okay, because they started to realize that kids can walk into a room and commit these violent acts. Do you know how hard it is to hit a moving target? But these kids were able to walk into a room after ... A room they've never seen or they've never been to, and hit moving people and the government began to realize, wait a second, these kids are actually better at it than our soldiers. They adopted that technology and began to utilize it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: All right ...
Tana Amen: So, it makes you wonder.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Before we stop, let's bring this back to helpful.
Tana Amen: But that's hypnotic.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yes, I agree and I brought it up with social media, but we only have a few minutes left and Jeff, you had ... You said some really important things. Don't just go to someone for hypnosis, that's a hypnotist who's also not a trained psychiatrist, psychologist, marriage and family therapist, social worker, because often people will go, but there's an underlying major depression or there's an underlying bipolar disorder or posttraumatic stress disorder. This is a tool to use ... To be used by a competent therapist that can be so helpful. On Brain Fit Life, that's our online tool, it's our app that is like brain health in your pocket or purse, I actually do six hypnosis audios for people.
Tana Amen: I love them.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Sleep, pain, anxiety, peak performance, weight, smoking, those things can be helpful, but it's always best done in the context of someone who is a professional. I wrote a book once that I think you'd really like, it's called Time For Bed Sleepy Head. It's a hypnotic game. It's really a hypnotic book to put children to sleep. When my daughter, Brianne, was three, she wouldn't go to bed one night and she and I were just bonded and I must of had a bad day, 'cause I was really upset and I got angry at her and I felt so guilty for being angry at her that I'm like come on, you can do better. Put her in a trance. And then I basically told her that story for the next five years, 'cause she loved the sleepy time story. So, there's lots of resources. Which of your books should people read or which of your resources could be helpful to our audience?
Dr Jeffery Zeig: Well, most of my work, most of my writing is for professionals. So, the books that I have that would be interesting or the trade interesting for the lay audience, they're not about hypnosis. I have one book which is Ten Commandments For Couples and there's a book, which is the Habit of A Happy Life. And those are available from Zeig[inaudible 00:14:02].com, which is a publishing company that I also run. For the people who are professionals who want to learn about Erickson, about advances in evocative approaches to psychotherapy, hypnotic approaches to psychotherapy, they can go to the Erickson Foundation website and the Erickson Foundation also has [inaudible 00:14:22], and many of my professional books are on the Erickson Foundation site, but what I'm trying to do, which is what you said at the beginning, is to understand influence and that hypnosis is the foundation in psychiatry, psychotherapy of using an evocative technique.
You don't put person into hypnosis to give them information. You put somebody into hypnosis to demonstrate you can change your state. You're not the slave of your depression, your anxiety, your habits, your bad relationship. You can change your state and if you can change your state once, to demonstrate to yourself you can change your state once, get in as if you're thinking about a standard shift car. You're in reverse right now, you're coming to me for help. I do a trance. You go into neutral, you demonstrate. I can change my state. Once you can get into neutral, then you can begin to move into first year. But again, I don't recommend that people shop for techniques, that they shop for the right person. Each person will have different techniques, each expert, each therapist, licensed therapist, licensed physician, psychiatrist, will have technology at his disposal, and once you find the right person, the technique will help to get you there, but you don't ... But you ... Looking for the technique first is putting the cart before the horse.
Dan, you've been a wonderful friend and a great friend of the Erickson Foundation and a great supporter of our work and the conferences that we do. And you've been a remarkable contributor, both of you, to helping people to live more healthful lives. And if we call that hypnosis, that's probably going to diminish some of the effect that you've had. You've had a marvelous effect at helping people to realize, both of you, keep your brain healthy. This is what you need to live, what you need to function adequately in life. So, bless you for all of the things that both of you are doing to bring health to life.
Tana Amen: Thanks Jeff.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That is wonderful. I'm so grateful. If it wasn't for the imaging work that I stumbled across, that hypnosis would have been probably my life's work, 'cause I just loved it so much. But then when I started looking at the brain, I'm like, oh, hardware and software. You gotta get the hardware right first and then it's so much easier to program. So, what ... After listening to the hypnosis series with Dr. Zeig, what's the one thing you've learned?
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: What's the one thing that you can apply in your life? Post it any of your social media sites and ...
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