The following interview with Gil was published in The Hypnotherapy Journal (Vol 8 Issue 4), National Council for Hypnotherapy.
Rob Woodgate: Gil, you’ve enjoyed an amazing career spanning over 50 years, were recently named “man of the century”, and are hailed as a pioneer of modern hypnotherapy along with Erickson and Elman. How did it all start for you?
Gil Boyne: My great uncle was a famous magician and stage hypnotist, and when I was 11 years old he was playing at a theatre in our city. He came over for Sunday dinner and I saw him hypnotise my mother and father. I was amazed by what I saw, and I began to look for some information.
But at that time – 1935 – there was no information on hypnosis apart from a paragraph in the encyclopaedia Britannica. So, I imitated what my uncle had done and eventually managed to hypnotise some schoolmates; that was really the beginning.
RW: When did you decide to take it further?
GB: I went in the Navy at 18 and served almost 4 years in the Pacific area. At one point, I took an injury to my knee in an explosion on Okinawa, and while I was in the hospital, I started hypnotising some of the other patients. The doctor saw this and he asked me to make the rounds with him to hypnotise certain patients.
We were doing well and suddenly an order came from higher up: ‘stop the hypnosis’. So they shipped me out, back to my ship.
But the war and my time in the combat area really changed me. I had an outgoing personality as a youngster, but my war experience changed that. I grew a Van-Dyke beard, moustache, wore dark glasses and ended up on a 10% disability pension with a diagnosis of ‘psychoneurosis: mixed types’. Whatever that means.
The psychiatrist told me to look in the newspaper ads and find a job selling door to door. I ended up selling magazines, and after 6 weeks without making a sale it started to come together for me.
From there, I went on to sell cookware sets, encyclopaedia and all sorts of other things. It was very good training, because it taught me to speak to people and taught me the art of persuasion.
And after all, that is essentially what hypnotism is all about – persuasion.
RW: So your sales training helped you recapture what you had and set you up for your career in hypnotherapy.
GB: Yes. Working in direct sales at that time was commission only. When you make sales, you make commission; no sales-no commission. As a crew manager, my income was in some way affected by the performance of my crew, so as new men came in for training I would work with them. Each day I would take them one by one and hypnotise them in the car.
Soon my reputation grew, because those men were producing – and eventually I became a sales manager, and then a sales motivator. Other companies began contacting me to motivate their sales force and soon that was all that I did.
RW: So you were increasing their self-confidence and their belief in their ability to make sales.
GB: Yes. The biggest problem for sales people is they want approval. They fear disapproval. And you have got to risk disapproval. You’ve got to be really tough, even though you disguise it.
Five years later, I decided I wanted to do hypnotism for a living and I thought California was probably the best place. At that time (1954) there were very few hypnotists, in Southern California and when I went to their free lectures, I decided that I could do it better than they did.
So I moved, took a job in direct selling to raise some money, rented a little apartment, put a small ad in the classified section of the L.A. Times and waited for the phone to ring.
RW: How did your career take off from there? What was your biggest break?
GB: I was selling for a housewares company – still door to door – and there was a big drug store on the corner that had a fountain where they served coffee and doughnuts.
One morning I went in with some of the other salesmen to get a cup of coffee and there was an elderly woman behind the counter.
I said, “How are you today?”, and she said, “I’ve had this terrible headache for 4 days. I can’t get rid of it and I’m so worried. The pharmacist fixed up several things for me to take but none of them had any effect.”
Remember, I was very young, in my 30’s. I said, “I can get rid of that headache right now”. She looked at me and said, “Are you kidding me?” I reached over the counter, put my hand on the back of her neck, pulled her forward and shouted ‘sleep’. I gave her some good suggestions then brought her up. She said, “Oh my god, it’s a miracle, my headache’s gone, my headache’s gone.”
She ran out back to the pharmacist and said, “This man, he cured my headache, he cured my headache.”
The next day, as we got in the car to go out to the territory, a new man asked if I was the fellow who is interested in hypnotism. I said yes.
“Well”, he said. “A funny thing happened last night. I was listening to Ben Hunter’s all night radio show about 1am, and this woman called in. She said she had this terrible headache until this man came in and hypnotised her. She said it was very sudden and dramatic and the host, Ben Hunter, has been asking for the hypnotist to come in for an interview.”
So that night at 11pm, I went up to the radio station. I went in and there was a switchboard operator and receptionist.
I told her, “Ben Hunter has been broadcasting that he wants me to come in for an interview – I’m the hypnotist.”
She said, “What?” I said, “I can hypnotise people in a split second.” She said, “Can you hypnotise me?” I said, “Of course.” So I reached over, pulled her forward and she fell across her switchboard.
The studio door opened, and Al Poska stepped out. He was the presenter on a show called ‘Conversation Please’ and he had just finished interviewing two brothers who were pop singers. As he walked up, the phone lines were buzzing, she was lying there and he said, “My God, what happened? Did she have a heart attack or what?”
I walked over, looked up and said, “No, she’s hypnotised”. He said, “What do you mean she’s hypnotised?” I said, “I just put her under.” He said, “For God’s sake, get her out.”
When I did, he said to her, “What happened?” She said, “I don’t know, he was talking to me and suddenly I went blank.”
The two brothers, who were famous singers, were standing there, and one said, “Can you do it to me?” So I said, “Of course I could – stand up straight”. I used the instant induction; he went down on the floor. Then I turned to the other fellow, and said, “Look into my eyes”, and he fell to the floor too.
So Al Poska, the host, said, “I want to interview you on my show”. And I said “Well, Ben Hunter gets his interview first.” I knew Ben Hunter had an all night show – Al Poska only had a half hour show.
And he said, “Well, I’ll interview you a week or so after Ben does”. I replied, “Too late, I’m leaving town shortly.”
Ben Hunter came in shortly afterwards and I went into the studio with him. He said, “I’m booked up for the next 10 days or so, I can book your interview after that.” I said, “Too late, I’m leaving town.” I wasn’t of course, but he didn’t know that.
So he picked up the phone and told his secretary to cancel his guests for that night and reschedule them. And for the next two hours, I was on the biggest station in LA.
Now Ben Hunter was so popular that he had developed his own travel agency. He would advertise on his show and take people on tours. But his wife had an aeroplane phobia, and wouldn’t go on any tours with him.
When I hypnotised her, I found out what it was – her son had developed an ailment that leads to the loss of his hearing, and she had flown to specialists in the USA and Europe to find a cure. And all the time she was on these planes, she was as tight as a drum with the disappointment from treatments that didn’t work and the fear that there was no cure.
Her friends and relatives kept telling her that she had to relax – soon the word ‘relax’ became linked to her extreme hypertension. On the couch, the more I told her to relax, the tighter she got. I realised this, and finally, I just dropped the word relax completely, and used words like ‘letting go’, ‘loose and limp’ and we had great success.
Now the stage is set for the real explosion of my career. Ben was so happy with the result that he gave me a special number to get into the talk show; his direct line.
Once a month, he would appear in a different city for the ‘Night Owl Roost’, and I became the featured speaker for several months. He would advertise these meetings on the show and when callers asked questions about the mind, psychology or hypnosis, he would say, “Gil Boyne will be on tomorrow night and we’ll ask him.”
The station was 50,000 watts and on a good night, after midnight, the show reached into 24 states. That started my career.
Some might say I got a lucky break. No, I created good fortune! I hypnotised the woman with the headache!
RW: That is such an important point. Many hypnotherapists have an incredible desire to help people, but they see it as a vocation, not a business. But if you don’t promote yourself, how are people ever going to find you to get the help you can give? You’ve got to make your own luck. And you did that by marching yourself down to the studio.
GB: You are absolutely right. Every action has a consequence.
When I was a regular on that show, I had three hypnotists working for me full time, and we were working from first appointment at 8 in the morning, until 9pm at night. And I was getting free publicity worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
At that time, I had an overwhelming enthusiasm. I was like an electrical storm.
RW: It is one of the things you promote as a key attribute for a hypnotherapist.
GB: You need the passion – greater than the passion you ever had for a woman, for gambling, for an addiction, or anything. A deep passion to help people.
Of course, in the beginning there was a tremendous amount of ego in what I was doing. As the years go by, the ego subsided and I recognise my part, and the client’s part in the therapy.
RW: Absolutely. I think it is a universal experience amongst therapists that sometimes, when you feel you have done your best work, the client is not ready to change, and sometimes what you think of as your worst clients end up being the ones who recommend you to all their friends.
GB: Clients must accept the responsibility. It’s the denial of the responsibility that created the problem in the first place. I remember once, in front of a class, this very soft-spoken woman told her story and it became obvious that her mother was the source of her problem. So I had her create a dialogue with her mother, and I said, “Say to your mother, ‘I hate you’.”
She said, “I could never say that.” So now we know where she is stuck. Her mother is not sitting there, it’s all in her mind. So I repeated the request, and again she said she couldn’t do it. So I said, “Look at me and say, ‘I won’t say that.’” She did. “Now tell me ‘I won’t say that because…’” She said, “I won’t say that because you can’t talk to your mother that way”. I said, “No – children can’t talk to their mothers that way. Adults are free to do so.”
A lot of people don’t understand my work. Sometimes I get very tough, sometimes I may even shout. And students ask, “Don’t clients resent you for that?” My answer is, “Well, they always love me in the end, and I know I’m going to get to the end”. They know I’m not going to pat them on the back and say, “There, there, darling; it’ll be all right. Give it some time and everything will work perfectly.” Their subconscious says, “Here is somebody who is not going to take ‘no’ for an answer.”
RW: What do you say to those hypnotherapists who still rely solely on suggestion therapy and scripts?
GB: In the beginning, before I knew better, I was hurling suggestions at clients with a lot of enthusiasm and energy but that is not the royal road. It works in some cases and it has short-term benefits for some. It paves the way for some who are really ready for change.
For example, you may get a person who has really made up their mind to stop smoking at an emotional level. And their wife has said they can no longer smoke in the house. The children are on their back. They come for one session and they stop smoking. They would have stopped if they didn’t have the session.
Over the years, I’ve come to understand the two levels of the mind, and I believe that suggestion alone often doesn’t do the job.
The true dynamics of change are:
The client has to reach the point of readiness to change. That happens before they get to you.
The relationship with the therapist, much of which is at the unconscious level.
As a therapist, you can only influence the relationship. A therapist once told me that clients must think of him like he is their father. And I replied – “Poor therapy”.
You have no idea who or what the unconscious connection with the father is, nor how positive or negative it may be – and how that can be projected on you if you insist on them thinking of you as the father.
RW: Yes, a negative transference could really damage the relationship and interfere with therapy. As part of your work, you have a novel way of dealing with transference – can tell us about that.
GB: Many students wonder why I ask clients who I remind them of at the end of each session, before I bring them out of hypnosis. I want to find out:- are they projecting the image of their father, or their uncle who titillated them sexually when they were 4 or 5 years old. Or is it a beneficial, positive connection.
Usually by the 3rd or 4th session I ask them and they say, “No one – you are Gil Boyne.” And I say, “That’s wonderful, for that’s who I am. Separate, distinct, from anyone you ever knew.” No one had ever thought of that before.
Psychoanalysts talk about transference and counter-transference, but no one has ever thought about how to clear it. I just ask them – “Who do I remind you of?” – while they are still hypnotised.
RW: You also use other techniques as part of ‘Transforming Therapy’, such as spelling out the word – is that to stop people thinking consciously?
GB: It is a technique I originated. In order to get to the word, you have to get to the feeling. And you get to the feeling through the initial interview, which can last up to an hour. And somewhere in their narration, you’ll get their feeling – usually they feel unloved – but there are many expressions of it, such as sibling rivalry, mother’s rejection, father’s rejection, unfortunate love affairs, and feelings of inferiority.
So I feed that back to establish an Affect Bridge that will carry them to the word. And once they get the word, I have them use it in a sentence, and when I have the sentence, then I do the regression.
RW: Your faith is also very evident in your work. Compared with the USA, the UK seems a bit of a heathen bunch, so if you were in practice over here, would you introduce these concepts in your work as strongly as you have done in the USA?
GB: Absolutely. I have a mission. I believe that people’s lives can be improved if they come to the realisation that there is something outside of us and we are a creation of a larger force.
And it doesn’t matter what name you give it, whether it’s Jesus Christ or Muhammad or the Great Pumpkin in the Sky. You have to know that there is something larger than you, and connected to you.
We have been given many divine gifts, and the foremost of those is the ability to create. No other animal can literally create. All other animals can only procreate and function out of instinct and training. Everything around us is the creation of mankind. I believe it is most helpful to know that there is a force outside ourself, larger than ourself, and that we have been given divine gifts. I’ll help you to recognise them and use them.
Creation is a divine gift. I believe that’s what is truly meant when we are told that man is made in the image of God, the ultimate creator.
RW: You have been enormously successful as a therapist. Can you tell us a little about how you ran your sessions – for example, did you used to actively solicit feedback from your clients?
GB: Usually, way back, depending on the problem, I would book them for 6 or 8 sessions. I never booked for one session at a time. When I finished on the first session I’d say – “well we can get a lot of good work done in about 6 sessions, and the cost will be…”
I then made an effort to collect it all from them in advance. And I’d tell them that if we get the job done sooner than that, I’d refund the difference. That kept me from having no-shows.
Then, lets say they had agreed to 6 sessions. On the 5th session, I’d say, “Now we agreed for 6 sessions, and next time is the 6th. Next week, I want you to bring me a written report of what your progress has been. If you feel that 6 sessions have been sufficient– that’s wonderful – if you feel you need additional sessions. I’m available for you.”
And on the 6th session, as we are finishing up, I’d say – “I want you to know, if you need further help, I will find a place to book you in ahead of new clients.” I’d let them know I had a special interest in them. I have had clients span 3 generations and I have had clients who would call me with different problems – 25 years later!
And they tell me, “I always come back to you because you get the job done.”
RW: Many hypnotherapists, it seems, are just making ends meet. If you had one piece of advice, what would it be?
GB: I would say between 60-75% aren’t earning an adequate income. Adequate to maintain a lifestyle that is suitable for a self employed, self-directed person working in therapy. If you are not earning at least £50k, then you don’t have a full time occupation or your goal may not be a monetary one.
But money has no significance. In man’s history, money has been pieces of rock, a stone with a hole in it, pieces of metal, women, cattle, and pieces of paper. None of it means anything. If money is meaningless, what has meaning? Money is the payment for the service you give.
So how can you increase your supply of money? You can increase the form and the quality of your service. And when you do that, the money will come.
RW: You increased your own service by starting Westwood Publishing and bringing Dave Elman back to print. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
GB: Well, there is a story to that. When Dave was a boy, his father was dying of cancer and in terrible pain. He read of a hypnotist appearing in a nearby city and sent his wife to fetch him. He hypnotised Dave’s dad and relieved his pain. And so the boy was able to go in and be with his father in his final days.
It made an indelible impression on his mind. And so, he became an amateur hypnotist, and as a teenager he put on many hypnotism shows.
Eventually, when he was a young man, a doctor saw him perform and asked him, if he got a small group together, would he be willing to give them instruction. And that was the beginning. Before that, his main income came from radio network production and marketing.
RW: So he was a marketer too!
GB: He had a show, called “Hobby Lobby”. But his avocational work was hypnotism. Now, the only other person teaching hypnotism was Milton Erickson, and several psychiatrists that taught with him, and hypnotherapy wasn’t very well accepted by the medical profession.
At the time there was no such thing as lay hypnotism, and Elman’s book was available only to doctors who had taken his classes.
But I had a copy of the Elman book, and I knew it was exciting and could become a classic textbook. Soon after he had died, I contacted his widow and she told me that several people had wanted to republish the book, but no one had wanted to pay advance royalties.
She also had a cellar full of LP recordings of his course. I gave her the advance she wanted and I acquired the LPs and exclusive worldwide distribution rights for all of Elman’s works, written and spoken. In the years since then, his book has become the best selling hypnotherapy text.
RW: It is a very good book. You are well known for your use of rapid inductions – for what reasons other than speed do you prefer these?
GB: First of all, there is a myth that persists, which is the deeper the trance, the better the suggestions will be accepted and the quicker the results will come. Trance is not a constant – it fluctuates during therapy.
People are reluctant to use the direct gaze technique but it is the most effective induction. For example, if I say:
“I want you to look me in the eyes. Don’t take your eyes from mine. If you follow my simple instructions, nothing in the world can keep you from going into a deep trance in a matter of a second or two.”
I have told the subject exactly what will happen. There is no malarkey about it. There is nothing in my eyes that shows doubt or fear or nervousness.
RW: You have absolute conviction. You overwhelm the critical factor. Finally, of all your awards and accolades you have received, what means the most to you?
GB: It used to be the letters from clients who had very successful results. Then it became the testimonials from students who had attended a training course.
Now, the thing I enjoy most is receiving the following: “Dear Gil, I’m writing this letter to tell you I’m now retiring after 32 years as a hypnotherapist, and it all began with my training with you. I’ve had a wonderful and rewarding career and I want to say thank you. You have been an inspiration and a role model to me.” Letters like that mean a great deal to me.
I have been working in the hypnotherapy profession for 54 years and I have worked with thousands of clients, taught thousands of students throughout the USA, Australia, New Zealand, throughout Southeast Asia and the Far East and of course the United Kingdom. Many more have told me how they were influenced by my books and DVDs of therapy sessions.
I look back on my career with pride and gratitude.
RW: Well, you can add another couple of teaching hours, because today has been a real education for me. It’s been an absolute pleasure to talk with you. Thank you Gil.
GB: It’s been a pleasure.