Sophrology

A friend of mine received a brochure in the mail one day. It said:

You can do anything!

• stop smoking, drinking, biting your nails

• have successful relationships

• overcome shyness and anxiety

• develop a strong personality

• predict the future

• succeed in everything you do!

"Center For The Liberation of Mental Energy"

My friend was going to throw the brochure away along with the rest of his junk mail, so I said I'd take it. I was curious, I guess. I called the number on the brochure. A man with a deep voice answered. He didn't ask for any information, just set up an appointment for the following afternoon, almost as if he had been expecting my call.

Next day I found myself in a residential part of town, impressed by the expensive, stately conformity of the houses on the block. I found the address I was looking for and rang the bell. A butler opened the door. He led me to a comfortable looking, luxuriously appointed office - each piece of furniture could have come from a museum, every painting was a masterpiece. Along with the plush carpeting, the decor created an atmosphere of reassuring harmony.

After half an hour's discussion with the owner of the house, a well known banker who practiced hypnosis in his spare time, I had the answers I was looking for. Here was a man, a highly respected member of his community, alive and well in the middle of the twentieth century, who maintained an unwavering faith in the powers of magnetism, who could have been a disciple of Mesmer himself. I was impressed as he offered an account of his exploits.

"How many persons do you think are practicing hypnosis at this very moment?" he asked. Not waiting for an answer he continued. "Thousands. There are thousands of clandestine hypnotists playing around with people's minds, many using their own versions of occult practices, magic, parallel medicine, amateur psychoanalysis, and so on."

It was in order to purge hypnotism of its ambiguous image, its unfortunate association with charlatanism and the occult, that Alfonso Caycedo had decided to coin the term 'sophrology.'

"Despite the persistent efforts of some doctors to disassociate the study of hypnosis from its mystical origins, the forces of myth and magic proved too strong to overcome. The work of these pioneers of the scientific study of hypnotic phenomena has been completely overshadowed by the often spectacular displays offered by magicians, illusionists and music-hall performers, as well as by some practitioners of the occult sciences and new-age thrill seekers, always on the lookout for the unusual or bizarre.

"We are in favor of the abolition of the word 'hypnosis' from medical terminology, not only because we consider it to be an inaccurate description of these phenomena, but more importantly because the word itself is charged with a whole range of contradictory emotional reactions. This makes it very difficult to use as a therapeutic tool - doctors find themselves constantly having to reassure patients and dispel implied associations with magic and mystery." (Quoted from Hypnosis, Sophrology and Medicine by G.R. Rager, Fayard Publishing, 1974).

Was he telling me that all he'd done was substitute one word for another, without making any changes in method or philosophy? As I soon discovered, that was not the case.

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Friendly Persuasion

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