INTERVIEW WITH A MASTER
BY Trevor Silvester, Editor – HYPNOTHERAPY JOURNAL
National Council Hypnotherapy Spring Issue 2001
We’ve all had special days, days that we will look back on for the rest of our lives. One of the advantages of getting older is that sometimes I can feel the special nature of the day as it’s happening, and thus savour the moment all the more.
Today was such a day. Having been in the audience of an excellent 4 day seminar given by Gil Boyne on Clinical Hypnosis I had been invited to interview him at his home in Islington.
The warmth of the smile of his wife quickly assuaged the trepidation I had felt as I waited for the door to open – and the extravagant welcome afforded to strangers that only a Yorkshire terrier could deliver with a semblance of complete sincerity.
Comfortably seated in his dining room, complete with antique Irish Coffin table, I began a conversation with a man who, at 76 years old, had managed to hold his audience enthralled for 4 days. Gil Boyne is a complex man who can generate a variety of responses in his audience. That he is a gifted master of his art was quickly established; that his methods of therapy were brilliantly effective was obvious. That the confrontational aspects of his approach, and some of his views on life in general, were challenging to the audience were also apparent. It made for a fascinating four days.
One of the things that made me look forward to the interview was the rarity of meeting a man who appeared very clear in his place in the world, who could say to his audience “I don’t care what you think” (about breaching the confidentiality of a drug dealing client) “I have a right to live in a decent, drug free world” without appearing rancorous or defensive, it was just delivered as a fact. What journey takes a boy from the ghettoes of Philadelphia, from an alcoholic and abusive household, to the pinnacle of a caring profession, and such an apparent inner certainty about life?
I began the attempt………….
Trevor Silvester: You have a massive list of achievements to your credit, and you were recently voted Man of the Century by the Hypnotists Hall of Fame. What would you say has been your greatest achievement?
Gil Boyne: I think the greatest personal satisfaction is seeing the realisation of my goal to witness of the worldwide acceptance of Hypnosis. Especially, in places and countries where it had been unused and unknown, as well as its acceptance in America, and in the UK. In the USA, for many years, we had to fight the constant introduction of legislative bills to restrict hypnosis to Psychiatrists and Physicians.
TS:I had this weird, almost nagging feeling that I should go to your course. I only actually confirmed it the night before, and quite apart from the techniques I learnt, the thing that inspired me was the passion you put into calling yourself a Hypnotherapist.
There is a debate in this country where, in my opinion, some Hypnotherapists think there is a snob value in calling themselves Psychotherapists – a feeling that in some way Hypnotherapy is a poor cousin. For you to say so strongly “Being a Hypnotherapist is enough” really gave me the desire to build the identity of the profession more strongly in the UK.
GB: Originally Psychiatrists would state that ‘Hypnotherapy is not a profession, it’s a technique used by Licensed Medical Health workers at their discretion’. But in 1974 I went to the State of California to have my school registered as a State registered vocational school. They told me there was no such vocation because it did not appear in the USA Department of Labor’s ‘Dictionary of Occupational Titles’. If an occupation is not in this manual, the state has no legal way to formally recognise it. I went to Washington DC and was successful in organising hearings with the US dept of Labor. After, three years of recurrent hearings, the agency ruled that Hypnotherapy was indeed a profession. Then we were able to go back to the California State Board of Education and say ‘Here is the legal definition and we want to be recognised as a State Licensed Hypnotherapy Schools.
TS: Did it spread to other States?
GB: Once that happened we began to tell our members in other parts of the USA, to go to their State Boards of Education for similar recognition.
TS: So you fought hard to identify Hypnotherapy as a distinct profession in itself.
GB: Yes. There is a major difference. In the practice of psychotherapy, there are more than 550 variant forms of psychotherapy that are practiced. Each clinician’s methodology emerged from their training, their personal inclination and the direction they chose as their experience grew. This broad diversity of theory and practice is simply accepted as part of the profession.
With Hypnotherapy there is one major constant. Instead of feeling, “I have many tools and hypnosis is one that I will use when I feel ready to use it, hypnotherapists advertise that they will hypnotise (induce the “trance state”) in their clients. Hypnotherapists do not depend on “word association” tests or the “Rorschach” test, or a “thematic apperception” test because these are “diagnostic” tooIs that the psychotherapist uses. The hypnotherapisls working principles depend primarily on where the Hypnotherapist studied, and the orientation of the teacher.
In my case when I entered the work, part time in 1950, there was no instruction available – there weren’t even any books because there was no universe of buyers to buy them! This was due to Freud’s rejection of hypnosis and the slavish devotion of the psychoanalytic community to his views.
TS: How did you learn?
GB: I am largely self-taught. I had an uncle who was a famous stage hypnotist but I never received any formal instruction from him. From time to time I would write to him and ask questions. He came to my home for dinner one time when he was appearing at a theatre in Philadelphia and I saw him hypnotise my mother and father. I was 12 years old. Both my mother and father were very authoritarian and could be very punitive and to watch them meekly following his suggestions made a very vivid impression on my mind. At the age of 13 I hypnotised my first subject. I think it startled me more than it did her! I really didn’t know what to do but the experience said to me “You can do this.”
TS: You just followed what you had seen your uncle do?
GB: Right. I only remember seeing two other hypnotists; one was an attorney who performed at a night club in Philadelphia on Saturday nights. The other was a Professor of Psychology from a local University who performed a stage show a to raise money for the College building fund. These three demonstrations of Hypnotism excited my imagination and sowed the seeds for a lifetime career in Hypnotherapy.
TS: Do you think that seeing your parents controlled in that way was part of your initial attraction?
GB: l believe that one of the motivations that attracts a person to become a Hypnotist or Hypnotherapist is that it symbolises power and influence. Most of us feel lacking in power and influence and it seems an exciting way to becoming more influential. Initially, we interpret the hypnotic response as submission to the authority of the hypnotist. Actually, when you come to fully understand it, it’s an agreement that is entered into between two people and therefore like any agreement or contract. There’s no real wielding of authority because the person agrees to be hypnotised whether they come up onto the stage or come in for an appointment with a clinical Hypnotherapist. They are saying by their actions and their presence “I agree to be hypnotised”.
Of course, over the years hypnotists eventually come to recognise that the subject can reject suggestions. In the demonstration with Susan (name changed to protect identity) you saw that at times when I fed her a line she’d say “No, that’s not it” and I would say “Then you state it in a way that would be correct”. It was obvious that she was in a trance but she was able to reject suggestions that didn’t fit, or she didn’t feel right about accepting. The important point is that hypnotised subjects can exercise their right to reject ideas, concepts, suggestions and programming affirmations that they don’t feel comfortable with.
TS: You don’t believe that stage hypnotists can persuade their subjects to do things against their will?
GB: No, in 45 years I have never seen a case where stage hypnosis has been proven to have had a negative effect. There was the recent case with Paul McKenna in London, that proved that no harm can occur. Most Hypnotherapists report that they get an increase in bookings when a stage hypnotist comes to town – because people see that something unusual can happen and think, “Perhaps it will work for me.”
It is true that there are complaints against hypnotists, and those complaints are almost always of a sexual nature, a violation of professional ethics that rule out those kinds of behaviours. But a much larger number of identical complaints are filed against licensed professionals such as psychiatrists or psychologists who hold state licences. The numbers of sexual complaints filed against them are quite large, even against clergy who do counselling. Any time you have two people – usually of different genders – alone in an intimate situation where one person is revealing their feelings, intimacy is generated. The therapist expresses a caring energy “I am here to help you, I am hear to listen to you without judging you”, and the potential for intimacy grows quickly.
However, the responsibility to behave ethically always belongs to the therapist. Some therapists are acting out their own problems or are literally seduced by the client’s behaviour – for example, a female client may behave seductively, in her manner, in her voice, in her dress, and after a few sessions, the therapist could say “Lets talk a moment. I’m going to take full responsibility for what I’m about to say, because this could all be within my imagination, but I feel seductive energy in the air when we are together. Can we discuss that?” Immediately she uncrosses her legs, pull her skirt down, and doesn’t wear the dress with the plunging neckline the next time, because the therapist has communicated, ‘I am here to help you, not to enage in flirtatious behavior that could lead to physical intimacies with you.’
It is not because of hypnosis that this can happen but the situation and the quality of the relationship. As a rule, therapy relationships only become sexualised when one or both persons develop conscious and/or subconscious sexual feelings and begin to act them out.
TS: What was your journey from being a Stage Hypnotist to becoming a Hypnotherapist?
GB: Well that’s not quite the way it was. The first ten years I struggled to develop a practice seeing clients. Then I joined a show business organisation called “Saints and Sinners” that supported a charity for crippled children. Many well-known entertainers met every Monday night, and when you were sponsored into the club you had to get up and give a talk or perform. So I did a stage show. There was a theatrical agent in the room who asked if I’d be interested in nightclub bookings. I said I would but I had a good practice that was supporting me and I needed some assurance of a continuing, dependable income. He was the house booker for 14 nightclubs throughout the western states and he said that if I did well in the first club he could book me in all the clubs.
When I went onto the nightclub circuit I closed down my hypnotherapy offices in Los Angeles. I worked regularly and I averaged 36 weeks a year which is a very good percentage for a theatrical hypnotist. Every night after each show, people would ask if I could see them privately for certain problems. I would finish my last show in the club about 2am, have some breakfast, and get to bed at four or five in the morning. After lunch, I would see clients all afternoon, then I would have an late dinner and at 9.30pm, I did my first show. I was still doing clinical work, but the clients were attracted by seeing the stage show.
At the end of three years, I felt that I had my fill of the ‘good times: partying with show biz people and I realised my strongest desire was to be an “people helper” rather than an entertainer.
TS: Why was that?
GB: I felt that as an entertainer I wasn’t don’t really making a significant difference. The regular patrons come one week to see a comedian, next week they corne to see a singer, and this week it’s a hypnotist. I felt I wanted to return to the clinical work because I felt I was performing a higher level of service. I told the agent I wouldn’t be available any more except for ‘casual engagements’; such as an organisation having its annual banquet where I would be hired to provide the entertainment. I discovered a lucrative source of income by advertising in University newspapers. In the USA, the sororities and the fraternities all have pledge weeks in which they provide party nights with entertainment to attract new pledges. As I became known in many of the major Universities in Southern California I developed a steady income from these shows.
I continued to combine the two although the major part of the work was the clinical part. That is why when people describe me as a former stage hypnotist it’s not really a true description – I never left the clinical work.
TS: How do you come to begin teaching? Was the Transforming Therapy something that came to you all of a sudden or….
GB: It was slowly, like building a house where it comes together slowly and then you step back and say ‘well that’s really quite a structure’. The influence of Fritz Perls was very powerful.
TS: You said you felt you disliked him on first meeting him. Why was that?
GB: I felt that his philosophy was negative. He, disagreed with Freud on most of his major theories. He was charismatic in a strange way, and had a long white beard and dressed in purple velvet jacket and trousers. He could be vulgar, or even mean-spirited under a given circumstance. He was totally nonanalytic, which rubbed me the wrong way at the time, but what I got from him, was not to be totally analytic but to realise that not every problem needs to be analysed, some just need to be re-conditioned.You don’t need to know the ‘why’.
TS: You use a lot of powerful one liners to grab the attention of the audience. One was, “the opposite of love is indifference”. Have you generally found that the source of peoples problems tends to be a lack of love or self worth?
GB: Yes, I believe the cause of all problems – other than mental illness which is chemically or genetically based – is a fictitious belief that we are unlovable. Because the person who doesn’t feel loved is not allowing whatever love that is in their life to nourish them. Because they feel unlovable they are attracted to people who will exploit that quality in them. I had a prostitute as a client and she was talking about her pimp.
She stated, “I’m in control in this situation. I said ‘Tell me about that’ and she replied ‘He wears the most expensive custom made suits, drives the most expensive automobiles and I’m the one who provides the money for him to do that. Without me he couldn’t have them.”
Now it’s obvious that is a really her gross rationalisation to cover her feeling of being helpless, which is what she is most accustomed to. Of course, when she’s no longer there another woman will take her place. This is an extreme example of the delusive rationalisations that people develop in order to maintain the status quo within their psyche, however aberrant or distorted it may be. At the same time, the same people believe they are either incapable of expressing love to others or they may be one-sided and give a semblance of being very loving to others, but they just can’t accept love for themselves. Relationships must be two way to be wholesome. If you are on the receiving end of someone who is constantly expressing love but can’t accept what you have to give to them, a sense of frustration develops.
I think it’s well illustrated in Eugene O’Neill’s play ‘the Ice Man Cometh’. Hickey, the salesman, nicknamed ‘The Iceman’, comes to a broken down pub/hotel which he visits every year when he goes on an annual alcoholic binge. He’s a big spender, and all of the “habitues” (lost souls) look forward to his coming. This time he arrives but he’s very different. He takes each one aside and starts talking to them and says that he’s seen ‘the truth’. Each of them are terrible losers in life, and they have all developed alibis and rationalisations about how and why they failed. Hickey systematically begins to strip them of their alibi’s, telling them that to speak the truth is what will be best for them. As he does, their personality diminishes and they become vapid and colourless. Then the police arrive and it is discovered that Hickey has murdered his wife in a psychotic episode. In a great dramatic scene Hickey tells why he killed her. His wife always forgave him of everything. He couldn’t stand the shame and guilt any longer. The frustration of not being able to accept her love and forgiveness became too much for him.
TS: You used that story during part of a therapy session video and it was one of the things that I liked – that you use contemporary sources for your metaphors. Very often when you have new students and you task them with writing a metaphor they come up with princesses in towers and…
GB: The Guru on top of the mountain…
TS: Exactly, and you just tell stories drawn from modem culture…
GB: And personal experience – most of them come from my practice.
TS: And lines from songs as well! I think it was good for the newer students to realise that you don’t have to go the dungeons and dragons route to make a point.
GB: The problem with fanciful metaphors is they need to be interpreted. There is no guarantee that everyone is interpreting your metaphor in a way that is meaningful to them. I have read many therapeutic metaphors whose meaning was obscure to me. I try to place them in a context that is more meaningful and current is a more likely to be absorbed and integrated. After all that’s what the presentation of ideas is all about.
First, my effort is to clearly conceptualise and articulate the thought process that I want to express. In doing that, I must make a considered judgement as to who I’m expressing it to, and to speak in a manner that gives the greatest ease in acceptance, interpretation, evaluation, assimilation and all the processes that occur in the best communication. That’s what’s wrong with much of University training. You have to learn the verbiage, the terminology that the professor applies to Psychotherapy. You have to have defined for you what are traumas and psychotic episodes, what is schizophrenia, and many other diagnostic labels, so that during the lecture you will acquire some comprehension of what the lecturer is talking about. In the four days you were with me you may have noticed I used few words that weren’t easily understood.
TS: I can’t remember you using a single label for a condition.
GB: Yes, giving a client a label for their feelings and behaviour is most often counterproductive. Whatever the client presents, — it’s a problem, it’s a symptom, it’s an issue, it’s a goal — and hardly ever pathological. Susan said to me ‘I want more confidence. I’m studying hypnotherapy but I’m fearful I won’t be able to learn it and pass the exam.’ You could see as her therapy unfolded that it wasn’t a lack of confidence. She had a fixed belief that she would fail and that became a self-reinforcing belief. Whatever task or challenge she had to confront, she was convinced she wouldn’t do it successfully.
TS: I think that an almost universal experience is childhood experiences hypnotising you into believing who you are allowed to be.
GB: Yes, RD Laing the brilliant British Psychiatrist said, ‘the clinical hypnotist often knows what he is doing. The family hypnotist rarely does.’
TS: You have been inducted into the “Hynosis Hall of Fame” as the “Man of the Century” which was obviously a tremendous honour, who would you have voted for?
TS: (You see what I mean about a man completely relaxed about his place in the world. The verdict was delivered without a trace of egotism or pomposity, just a calm certainty.) Who would have come second?
GB: Dave Elman.
TS: I thought you would say that, he seems to getting rediscovered doesn’t he?
GB: Yes people had forgotten Dave Elman.
TS: You played quite a part in bringing him back from obscurity didn’t you?
GB: Well, when I started the publishing business I started with a book called ‘Hypnosis and other Mind Expanding techniques’ by Charles Tebbetts. I had a copy of Elman’s book that was originally called ‘Findings in Hypnosis’, and I began to investigate. I discovered a longplaying record of some of Elman’s sessions and it was labelled “part three of thirty six’. It was evidently part of a course and I really wanted to get the whole course so I telephoned Elman’s widow, Pauline, and found that she had many boxes of those recordings, but didn’t know if they were complete sets.
I contacted my son, who lived nearby, and he met with Pauline and spent a weekend taking an inventory. I asked her about the status of the book and she said several people had been interested in republishing it but no one wanted to pay any advance royalties. I offered her a large advance on future royalties on the book and she agreed. I advertised the records and in time I sold all of them. Then I took the records and made them into tapes that continue to sell well!. The ones I sold at the seminar are Five hours of recorded Hypnotherapy by Dave Elman. I took the tapes of Elman doing therapy and had them digitally remastered.
TS: Do you find it ironic that Dave Elman was a lay Hypnotherapist who limited his training to those in the medical professions?
GB: At that time, Medical people were the only people who were interested in hypnosis.
Elman first developed his interest in 1908 when his father was dying of cancer and in terrible pain. A stage hypnotist happened to be performing nearby and the father wrote to him for help. Elman’s father was confined to the bedroom and he wouldn’t allow the child to see him because he was in so much pain. You can imagine an eight-year-old child, hearing the sounds of his father’s pain through the bedroom door and not being allowed into the room.
The Stage Hypnotist came and put the father into hypnosis and taught him to control the pain and immediately the boy could come in and be with his father. That captured Dave’s imagination and he began to do demonstrations when he was 17 years old.
At one of the demonstrations, there were two doctors in the room. They approached him and asked him if would he agree to teach a small group of interested doctors. That’s how it all began. The first group was only eight physicians but his success led to other groups and he wrote the book as a teaching manual that was only available to students on the course.
He was employed in advertising and eventually he taught mass marketing at Columbia University. He became very successful in Network radio marketing. This was before the days of television, of course, when radio was the major source of entertainment and advertising. He finally left the advertising business at the age of 42.
He further developed his training course and then used his marketing skills to develop a brochure, chose twenty US cities, set the dates, reserved the venues and send out a mailing to every doctor in the USA. His classes began filling rapidly. The only other person doing seminars on clinical uses of hypnosis was Milton Erickson.
A medical doctor, David Cheek, who has written several books on Clinical Hypnosis, told me that he had studied with Elman many years earlier. He said Milton Erickson spoke to him privately and said, “you don’t stop referring medical people to a lay hypnotist, I will see to it that you are expelled from the society. (Erickson was the founder of the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis) and Dr Cheek replied. “Dr Erickson, you don’t have to expel me, I resign” and he formed his own teaching organisation – “Hypnosis Symposiums”.
TS: Strange. isn’t it, that Cheek later collaborated with Rossi who was a protege of Erickson.
GB: Yes, but that was much, much later and I think that Cheek was the senior part of the collaboration.
TS: I thought that was an excellent book.
GB: Yes, Cheek didn’t originate it, but he did pioneer the use of ideomotor finger signalling.
TS: A fascinating aspect of this interview is that you stand astride a period of hypnosis and therapy that most of the people can only read about. You actually knew people like Dr. Cheek. Did you ever meet Erickson?
GB: No I never met Milton Erickson. Many of the Medical doctors who were interested in hypnosis were concerned about of reaction of their peers to any association with lay Hypnotherapists and they avoided training with Elman. The only other choice was to train with Dr. Erickson.
Cheek was different and he even wrote a testimonial for the Elman book. At the end of the day, the legal victory was ours, although the battle raged for more than twenty-five years. We are in the Federal Dictionary of Occupational titles. I went to Washington to have Hypnotherapy Training Programmes included in the Department of Education Directory of Instructional programmes (2 years or less). This was another formal acceptance in America, and now Canada is doing the same thing, adopting it from the US model. That’s how it spreads.
TS: That is something you must be very proud of.
GB: Yes I’m pleased at the role that I have filled as the number one political activist in fighting restrictive legislation and in promoting proactive legal approvals.
TS: There are interesting parallels in Britain, where the Psychotherapy Bill has recently gone through Parliament, with moves for a Hypnotherapy bill to follow it. What is your opinion about the need for registration of the profession?
GB: There have been three major studies done by Parliament on whether Hypnotherapy/Hypnosis needs to be regulated. The last one was in 1995, and each time it was determined that there was no need for regulation, no threat to public health and safety, no documented instances of harm.
TS: I think the pressure might actually come from within the Hypnotherapy community itself. There is a lot of political infighting going on between rival organisations and I think the danger is one will try to drive regulation through as a means of dominating it. I have a feeling that may have been the case with the Psychotherapy bill.
GB: Having been through similar things many times in America, I can tell you, the infighting of the rival groups is what will stop a Bill from becoming law. The groups first have to unite, and have a spokesperson in the legislature who has subsIanIiaI influence and authority. I believe that Hypnotherapy can flourish best as a self-regulated profession.
TS: Do you think that’s how it will remain?
GB: I think so, for the foreseeable future.
TS: With your approach to Hypnosis, another of your one-liners that caught my imagination was when you said that ‘inductions are rituals’. I thought that to be true, because people get tied up in knots over the different ways of inducing trance, but in essence it is something people respond to because they come through the therapists door expecting it.
GB: That’s right, it’s an unspoken contract, “I come to you because I wish to be hypnotised, and I choose you because you have advertised the fact that you can do this for me.” I use several radical ideas when teaching such as ‘Hypnotherapy is a mystical art resting on a foundation of spiritual philosophy.’
When one has been in this work for ten years or more, it is almost certain that they will come to the conviction that it is truly a mystical art.
TS: The commonly held belief is that some are “good subjects”: some are “bad subjects” and others cannot be hypnotised. Yet, you are saying that everyone has the potential to be hypnotised?”
GB: Most university academics do not know how to cope with people whose levels of response have been distorted by misinformation, faulty perception, and their own fears. These are the only things that can inhibit the natural response to enter into trance.” Yet, over a period of time, I came to realise there are nondiscernable reasons as to why a person won’t go into a trance with some hypnotists yet go easily into trance with others.
TS: Some unconscious identification?
GB: Yes, purely at an unconscious level. In the same way, why are some people influential in advising and guiding others? I don’t necessarily mean a therapeutic relationship, this occurs even among friends.
TS: One of the demonstration subjects was a lady wanting help in coping with the news of her husband’s recently diagnosed potentially terminal illness. You questioned her to check the appropriateness of her level of response, but did not embark on therapy; rather you opened it to the audience to communicate with her if they felt they had something personal to say to her. What was your rationale behind that?”
GB: The question was, out of all those people in the audience who came forward to talk with her in her subconscious state, which one would reach her feeling mind with the reassurance she needed?
TS: Who would deliver the word that helped her.
GB: The word… the phrase… the feeling. In that unanswerable question is hidden the mystery of the mind. Let’s say I’m working with someone and there are clues pointing to the fact that it was the death of the father, or terminal illness that was instrumental In heightening some issue that still is a problem. It is likely I would have the person go back and do an exercise called ‘saying goodbye’ , which you saw me do with Susan…
TS: And which you did on your video with Bud…
GB: Right. Since the woman’s husband was still alive, and had only been diagnosed three weeks earlier, that technique was not appropriate. Her grief will diminish and she will cope.
TS: That was something else that came out strongly, your opinion on what actually causes the change in the client during a therapeutic session. That it is not the induction, or the depth of trance, but the re-education and re-programming that occurs during the trance that is actually the therapy. It gets away from all the bells and whistles that surrounds much of Hypnotherapy.
GB: Yes, the questions ‘Are they somnambulists?’ or ‘Are they in a medium level trance?’ all become moot.
I think that the memories people regress to which are connected to their problem are not deeply buried because people access them every time they re-experience the problem. They are actually waiting to emerge. Bud said, “I haven’t thought of those things in years.” It wasn’t that they were things he thought about consciously.
TS: No, but he could have been accessing them unconsciously whenever the situation that triggered the problem activated them.
GB: I think so.
TS: Your spirituality came across very strongly in your teaching and you quote St Paul a lot. Would you say he is a major figure for you?
GB: Yes, my favourite passage in the bible is 2nd Corinthians when Paul talks about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and enumerates them – and includes healing. “Covet these gifts severally as thee may”. In other words, which of these gifts do you most desire for yourself, which will you receive? I read that early on and I thought “Healing, that’s the one for me.”
TS: I left 18 years of police work because I was no longer getting the feeling of helping people that had led me to join. Now I get that through Hypnotherapy – and knew I would from very early on. I think I’m very lucky because many people search their whole life to find how to express their ‘gift ‘.
GB: A major problem for those involved in law enforcement is the constant contact with criminals and their behaviour, which is the seamiest side of life. There is a brutalisation that can occur. But, it is not inevitable. The worst occupation I can imagine is to be a prison guard. You are locked up for 8 hours a day. You are constantly being reviled by emotionally disturbed criminals. How can you evolve spiritually? And yet some people do.
Warden Duffy took over San Quentin Penitentiary, which was a hellhole, and turned into a model prison. He was the key factor in the transformation of an inmate who later wrote under the name of Bill Sands. Bill Sands was the son of a Judge who got involved with some other boys and stole a car. He was arrested, and his father suddenly died of a stroke. When he came up for sentence the Judge, who was a harsh man, was of the opinion that Sand’s was responsible for the death of his father and sentenced him to prison.
Sands life went in a desperate direction after that and he kept getting in more, and worse trouble until he ended up in Solitary confinement in San Quentin. He had become a bitter and violent man. Against the advice of his guards Duffy would visit the prisoners unescorted, and one time on a visit to solitary confinement he went into Bill Sand’s cell, and sat with him. He said to Sands, “Why are you willing to live this way? The early training and values you were given are still inside you.” Sand’s turned to him and said, “Who the hell cares?” Duffy put his hand on his shoulder and said, “I care.”
TS: Which goes back to the “I’m unlovable” premise.
GB: Yes, and that was the beginning of the transformation. Eventually he got on a release programme and made a successful living as a writer on the rehabilitation of prisoners.
TS: It illustrates, doesn’t it, that sometimes therapy can just be two words. It reminds me of the quote from the Russian writer about “Words are a therapeutic and physiologic factor”.
GB: Yes, most people do not realise the power possible in a word, a gesture, a look, delivered at the right moment. Some people get upset when they see me confronting a client, but that can be an effective way of showing that you care. Your potency and strength enables them to trust you. And they don’t feel that they should hide the truth.
I had a priest in one of my classes declare once, “Gil Boyne, you are the Hound of Heaven!” I really like that.
TS: There is a common attitude, which I think is a hangover from Rogerian Counselling, that suggests that the therapist should always be gentle and completely accepting. Your approach challenged a number of therapists in the audience who think that raising their voice runs somehow counter to the profession. I was glad to witness I because I had come to learn something new. I certainly picked up a lot from your use of language. The way you would get a client to repeat a phrase, and then follow it with ‘because’, or ‘and that means’ and get them to finish the sentence in their own way is something I really liked and will use in the future.
One of the audience made a statement at the beginning about you being at the other end of the continuum from Erickson, in that he was permissive and you were authoritarian, but what I witnessed was what I take a permissive approach to be. Not that you let the client do whatever they want, but that you guide them into doing what you consider is the most appropriate direction, but leave them to decide how to do it.
GB: Yes, exactly. Create a context and get them to fill it.
TS:Gil I could happily sit and listen indefinitely but I am aware of the amount of time I’ve taken up. Can I thank you on behalf of the NCH for taking the time to talk with me.
GB: It’s been a pleasure.
I walked away from the house with my head full. Every answer to a question raised ten others that I did not have the time to ask. As I read through the interview now I am painfully aware of how shallow is the scratch I’ve made in trying to find what lies beneath the man. With hindsight, that was always going to be the case given the time available and the raconteur’s skill of my subject. Nevertheless it is a scratch I hope I get the chance to excavate more deeply. My personal thanks go to Gil for the gentle generosity with which he gave his time.