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Define Your Terms

5 min

The other day I got into what has become an unfortunately common kind of online interaction.

I followed someone on Instagram because they are a practicing hypnotist and I have recently become one of those myself (more on this later). I was very curious to see what other people in my newfound profession say about it.

In one video post, this person said (I am paraphrasing):

"I believe anyone can be hypnotized. It isn't something you're born with or not, it's something anyone can do. What's more, hypnosis doesn't have to look like or feel like anything in particular. If you want to be hypnotized, if you're open to it, then you will be."

Now, this statement is not radical. In fact, it is anodyne. This general sentiment has been echoed by many, many hypnosis practitioners over the years, including several I look up to and trust.

So the content of the statement is not, necessarily, at issue. But I was curious: if hypnosis "didn't have to look or feel like anything in particular," how could she tell if people were hypnotized or not?

So I asked a very simple question:

"How are you defining hypnosis here?"

Now, reader:

What do you suppose happened next?


I tweeted this the other day, and have been thinking about it since:

We simply do not like being asked to define our terms.

This dislike operates on multiple levels.

We've all had the experience of using a word in a sentence and then finding it surprisingly difficult to say what it means. It's common to "have a sense" of the meaning, enough, at least, to use it without confusing anyone. Accurately defining a word is hard work; in trying, you often find that other people "hear" the same word quite differently than you do.

Most of the time it is perfectly cromulent to use a word you have only a vague understanding of. It is rare that anyone will notice or care.

Our reluctance to define our terms also operates at the level of our ambition.

It is nerve-wracking to come right out and say what it is that you desire. This act of proclamation causes us so much anxiety, in fact, that we often find it easier to remain ignorant about what we want in the first place. Perhaps we expect it will just "come to us" one day, like a bolt from on high. Maybe we're waiting for Mom and Dad, or the State, or the Academy, or TV, or Social Media to tell us what it is we should want. Safer to wait for approval from the "big guy," whoever that happens to be.

After all, if you speak your just might get it.


These two threads became entangled for me earlier this year.

For one, I became increasingly frustrated with the quality of hypnosis materials online.

To put that in perspective, I view it as an unforgivable moral failing that I was allowed to go my entire life thinking that hypnosis was nonsense, placebo, a product of weak-minded people caving to social pressure, etc.

It is none of these things. But as a consequence of believing this, I experienced immense amounts of psychic suffering that were 100% avoidable. I berated, criticized, and demeaned myself for decades for no reason at all.

After I was hypnotized and experienced the complete and instantaneous disappearance of my symptoms, the very first thing I felt was relief. Very shortly after that, I felt anger.

Why didn't anyone tell me this was possible?

The level of rigor brought to hypnosis is extremely unevenly distributed. You have world-class scientists and academics doing incredible work on hypnosis in academia; you have incredibly thoughtful and insightful practitioners doing the work of hypnotherapy out in the "real world." But intermixed with those who take the work seriously are those who view it simply as a means of making a quick buck, who view it as essentially magic, who spread false claims about its efficacy, who repeat, verbatim, complete nonsense about how it works, why it works, who can use it...and on, and on, and on.

To be frank: Hypnosis is awash in bullshit, and that bullshit is the cause of real harm. It turns the very people who need hypnosis away from it, preventing them from taking advantage of a fast, powerful and safe mental health intervention.

All this is happening at a time when our mental health is declining on nearly every level. A poll conducted by CNN and the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that 90% of Americans perceive the nation to be facing a mental health crisis. The latest annual State of Mental Health in America report indicates that approximately 19% of the U.S. population, or 47.1 million people, are dealing with mental health conditions. This figure represents an increase of 1.5 million from the previous year. Since the year 2000, suicide rates have escalated by nearly 30%. By the end of 2022, only 31% of adults in the U.S. rated their mental health as "excellent," a significant decrease from the 43% who did so twenty years ago.

We need hypnosis and practices like it: practices aimed not at the long-term analysis of our issues (for which there is definitely a place), but at the direct, immediate alleviation of mental suffering. The fact that people are turned away from such a practice by what I can only call a deep lack of seriousness makes me furious.

So, let me speak my desire.

Let me say what I really want:

I want to substantially reduce the amount of suffering in the world with hypnosis.

And I am starting right now.


Remember the woman I questioned about her definition of hypnosis?

She replied:

"I don't worry about how to define it. I only really care if my clients get results."

And, look: I get it. It is hard to define our terms. It takes work, and care, and a level of rigor that we are often not used to.

It is a risk to expose your desire to the world, to take things seriously enough to truly give your best. In so doing, we create the possibility of failure: what if I try my hardest and it still doesn't work?

But how else can you live?
Really live?

I am going substantially reduce the amount of suffering in the world with hypnosis.

I am going to do that by constantly learning and seeking a deeper understanding of hypnosis and how it works.

I am going to dispel myths around hypnosis by putting out world-class, high quality educational material into the world.

I am going to create the world's best trainings in the use of hypnosis and self-hypnosis and make them available to as many people as humanly possible.

I am going to develop profound expertise in the use of hypnosis through continuous practice with people who need my help.

I am going substantially reduce the amount of suffering in the world with hypnosis.

I have defined my terms.

Let's see what happens next.



P.S. If you would like to work with me, I am currently taking paid 1-on-1 clients. Prices range from $1500-$3000. If that sounds like a fit for you, you can book a call with me here.

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