Transcript: Cracking The Code 08: Trances. 09 Feb 2007

Thom wrote his book "Cracking The Code" on the air: This was the eighth week, covering trances.

Cracking The Code 08: Trances. 09 Feb 2007

Cracking the COde

After the break at the bottom of the hour we're going to be doing our on-line, or on-the-air, book, writing our book, "Cracking the Code: The Art and Science of Political Persuasion" and we're going to be talking about trances: training trances, learning trances, trances in politics. I think you'll find it real interesting for that segment.

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Trances. This for our book "Cracking the Code: The Art and Science of Political Persuasion". Trances. Most people think that a trance is where a person is no longer here, they're no longer paying attention; somebody is so hypnotized, for example, they're so in a trance that you can do dental work on them without anesthesia or put their arm in cold water and they don't know it, or make them have, you know, feel like their leg is cold or hot or whatever. And the common belief is that the reason that all those things can happen in a trance is because there is a lack of attention. It is in fact the opposite; a trance is the result of a surplus of attention, not a deficit.

You've heard me before talk about how most of us can attend to seven plus or minus 2 things and no more? For example, until I say it, you probably didn't notice the position that your body is in right now; but now you're noticing it. You probably didn't notice whether or not your shoes were tight; but now you're noticing it. What I'm doing is I'm throwing your attention around in different directions, right. You didn't notice, you know, the weight of your butt on the chair or whatever posture you may be in right now, but now you're noticing it.

So, the way to induce a trance is to amp up attention in a very, very narrow spectrum of area. So, the way stage hypnotists induce trance for example is by causing a person to focus just on their voice or on a particular point, or on a particular sensation. They'll say, you know, put your fingers together and then… Actually, I'm very wary of doing that stuff on the air because I don't want anybody driving down the street to be in a trance but, that's the technique that's used, just in summary, is that the way to induce a trance is to cause a person to focus, focus, focus more and more and more and more intensely. And the more, and you find, you hear that some people are very easily hypnotized; some people, it's more difficult. Those people who are more easily hypnotized are those people who more easily focus on, focus their attention. They can highly focus; they are the most hypnotizable.

But everybody goes into trances all the time; we all do. Sometimes it's called daydreaming, where we're very, so focused on something. Sometimes it's reading a book and you're not noticing the clock ticking in the room; that's a reading trance. Sometimes it's listening to a talk show or attending to the media or listening to a teacher; that's a training trance. In fact, in the industry, in the business as it were, they talk about training trances, learning trances, and that's really what I want to talk with you about right now, is the whole concept of learning trances.

All effective communication requires that the person be giving intense attention to the communication itself; by definition, that's a trance. Might be a very light trance but it's a trance; it's attending to something. Now there are two basic ways to induce trances and what we want to do is induce learning trances. This is specifically for learning trances. There's a bunch of ways, you know, to do things like induce amnesia so you can do dentistry and stuff; we're not talking about that here. But to induce learning trances; the kind of trances where the amount of information that people hang onto as a result of their learning is increased because they were in a learning trance when they got it.

The first is punctuation. By flipping people's attention on and off and on and off; by causing them to attend and then not attend and then attend and then not attend or by noticing the sound and then silence and then the sound and then silence. Now, this is nothing new and it's called the dramatic pause, right; they use this in theater all the time, it's used in movies. A movie, by the way, is a classic example of a trance. Very often a really good movie, you even forget you're in a theater. So that punctuation, beat, rhythm; the punctuation, that's one of the ways to produce a trance, even in conversation like I'm doing right now.

Another is to shift a person from attentional system, attentional modality, attentional sense, sensory state, from one to another very quickly or to use multiple sensory states. We've talked in the past about visual, auditory and kinesthetic or feeling; what we see, what we hear and what we feel. Now, this is the one exception to the rule that I gave you before that, you know, if you're talking to somebody who is highly visual you want use a lot of visual metaphor and say, "do you see that?" and they say, "yes, I see that". Or somebody who is highly auditory, use a lot of auditory metaphor; "Do you hear what I'm saying?" "Yes, I hear what you're saying". Or somebody who is very kinesthetic, use a lot of kinesthetic metaphor. "Hey, do you get that concept? Is that a solid one for you?" "Yeah, now you say so, now that you mention it; now that you gave it to me, I get it". That's how a kinesthetic would.

But this is the exception to that because we all actually have all of these available to us so handing something to somebody that they can see and hear and feel is very powerful. It's, this is so powerful that Milton Erickson, the famous hypnotist, probably the most famous hypnotist in the twentieth century; he was a physician, a psychiatrist, he was out of Phoenix. Richard Bandler and John Grindler based an awful lot of their work on Milton Erickson's work, and there's a whole school of Ericksonian hypnosis, a number of books that have been written about him; some of my favorites: "My Voice will go With You", Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson volume ! and II by Richard Bandler and John Grindler.

His wife developed a technique for self hypnosis to put herself to sleep. And so he referred to it as the Betty method and he taught it to people as something that a person could simply use to calm down, just to relax. And it's a way of producing a trance essentially and she said to notice three things that you see and then to notice, and I'm going to do this really quickly cause again I don't want to put you in a trance, cause I know I'm talking to people who are driving down the street; to notice three things that you see and then notice three things that you hear, and then notice three things that you're feeling and then notice two things that you see and two things that you're hearing and two things that you're feeling and then one thing that you see and one thing that you're hearing and one thing that you're feeling and if you do that and you take a little bit of time to do each one of those things, and I'll do this with an audience, and you can put an entire audience into a trance almost, you know, within about four minutes. You just go through that very slowly and have them actually do it and they're all just sitting there completely stoned and totally in a learning trance.

It's very powerful and you can do it yourself. Try doing it tonight before you go to sleep. It just calms everything down. It's actually a variation on an old Buddhist technique. I learned something very similar to that the first time I learned Buddhist sitting meditation at Karmê Chöling, this Buddhist retreat that I used to go to up in Vermont.

So, noticing that in order to be most effective at your communication in terms of producing that trance, you want to have:

  1. the punctuations; you want to be very careful of cadence, and
  2. you also want to have multiple modalities, multiple senses.

I just want to share with you a couple of advertisements and this, let's see, this is George W. Bush. Well actually, let's do John Kerry first. This is one of the less competent ones.

" … Tough and smart. We have to rebuild our alliances because that's the best way to find and get the terrorists before they get us. America shouldn't have to carry the burden alone. And we have to strengthen our homeland security - protect our trains and our ports. We shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down in our own communities. I'm John Kerry and I approve this message because a strong America begins at home."

Now, what was wrong with that ad is that it was 100% kinesthetic; every piece of it used kinesthetic metaphor, number one. Number 2, there was virtually no punctuation to it. Let me just one more time, real quickly. Just notice this now; notice the use of kinesthetic metaphor. So, a single modality and there was no punctuation…

" … Tough and smart. We have to rebuild our alliances because that's the best way to find and get the terrorists before they get us. America shouldn't have to carry the burden alone. And we have to strengthen our homeland security - protect our trains and our ports. We shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down in our own communities. I'm John Kerry and I approve this message because a strong America begins at home."

Now, that's an ad that didn't work… Now here's George W. Bush, an ad for president, similar thing, listen to this; this is something quite different… [problems getting the clip to play] …

I just wanted to contrast the Bush ads with the Kerry ads because the Kerry, some of the Kerry ads were actually quite good; I went through a bunch of these this morning, but some of the Bush ads were absolutely astounding; they were multimodal and the pacing was extraordinary. Again, not to say that Bush won the election, but just by way of pointing it out.

OK, we were talking about trances. By the way, I'm getting these audio clips from the pcl.stanford.edu web site. They have a whole library called 'political campaigns' with all of the ads that ran in the 2004 political campaign. And listen to this Bush ad attacking Kerry and notice the different modalities about seeing and hearing and feeling and notice the pacing in this thing.

George Bush: "I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message."

Announcer: "John Kerry says he's 'Author of a strategy to win the war on terror?'...Against the Japanese yakuza. Never mentions Al-Qaeda. Says nothing about Osama Bin Laden. Calls Yasser Arafat a "statesman." The New Republic says Kerry's plan 'misses the mark'." Kinesthetic. " And Kerry's focus? " Visual. " Global crime, not terrorism. How can John Kerry win a war if he doesn't know the enemy?"

You notice it started out with auditory and then you know, he says, and here it is, and then they went to the visual and the kinesthetic and like that. There's another one here, another campaign ad. This is George W. Bush. This is a very, very powerful ad. It's called "21st century".

"We are in changing times and the economy is changing. We need new small-business owners. And that's why the policies I've put forth help small businesses." Notice the pacing here. "We've got tax cuts in place that'll help the economy grow. But we've also got plans to help people get the skills necessary to fill the new jobs of the 21st century. I'm optimistic about America because I believe in the people of America. I'm George W. Bush, and I approve of this message."

Optimistic, beautiful, the vision of America, the future of America. There were, if not explicitly visual metaphor in there, there was a lot of implicitly visual plus obviously, you know, Bush uses kinesthetic metaphor constantly and the pacing and music were brilliant, and if you could see the graphics on them; I mean, these are all TV ads, so if you could see the graphics on it you could also see that.

So, anyhow that's, I'm not going to spend the whole rest of the day here sharing political ads with you. We'll wrap it up with a few quick phone calls. Steve in Mountain View, California. Hey, Steve, welcome to the programme. Steve, are you in a trance?

[Steve]: No, I'm not in a trance.

[Thom]: OK. You're on the air, then.

[Steve]: Sorry, I didn't know it was me. Yeah, I just want to comment briefly. I'm trained as a, I do Zen…

[Thom]: You sit zazen.

[Steve]: [crosstalk] …Zen meditation and when you were talking about the excess or oversupply of attention it cued it in my mind the standard Koan meditation is also a trance-inducing approach.

[Thom]: Yes, it is. In fact, it's interesting, the difference between Rinzai and Soto Zen that in Soto Zen you sit and you are simply present with everything all at once and so your attention is highly focused but incredibly diffuse.

[Steve]: Right.

[Thom]: It's everywhere; you're noticing what you're seeing, you're noticing what you're hearing, you're noticing what you're feeling, you're noticing what you're tasting, you're noticing absolutely everything and you're not attached to any of it; you're just there with it. That's Soto Zen, whereas with Rinzai Zen, the Koan Zen, you are hyper-focused, typically on something that's auditory although occasionally internally kinesthetic where, you know, it's like what is the sound of one hand clapping; you're trying to solve a problem and cause the brain to essentially short circuit itself and go [ sound] and get out of the way.

[Steve]: It's always a question that can't be answered.

[Thom]: That's right, and once, but once you get close to an answer then the brain at that point kind of freaks out and stops and when it stops trying to understand it, then the enlightenment comes. And they are two very different treatments of attention, both coming out of the same Zen tradition. I always found that fascinating. I've studied both, and I have great, great respect for both and I sit zazen and so, yeah. So, thank you for pointing that out, Steve, I appreciate it.

[Steve]: Sure.

[Thom]: And back to politics…

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