First Person Singular: Jennifer Parman Johnson, Hypnotherapist, Fairfax

(Mike Morgan -- For The Washington Post)
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

There are two things necessary for hypnosis to work. One is, you have to want to do whatever we're talking about doing. I can't make someone want to stop smoking or lose 20 pounds or drive over the Bay Bridge. And the second thing is, trust in the person you're working with.

The most common question is: "Can I do this, because I like to be in control?" The first thing I tell them is, "You are in control." All hypnosis is self-hypnosis. I'm just a guide. If I were to say something really weird or totally inappropriate, your conscious mind would cut in and say, "Hey, you gotta be kidding, lady. I'm not going to do that." And you'd open your eyes, and that'd be the end of the session.

The second thing they say is, "But I've been to the comedy club, and they make people do all kinds of silly, crazy things." The people who wind up on stage are a certain personality type. They're exhibitionists; they want to be part of the show. And they know if they don't bark and they don't quack, they're going to be back in the audience. Nobody took control of your mind and made you do anything.

I have people from the CIA, the NSA, all those agencies. I had a brigadier general call me from the Pentagon. He just wanted to quit smoking, but he must have grilled me for an hour. He was concerned about everything from security clearance to torture during the Korean War, when hypnosis was used. He just needed some reassurance. The interesting thing is that he was one of those people that went in really deep. It was like, once he knew he had control, he just let go.

I used to tell people I was a hypnotherapist; now I say I am a therapist. I can be at a party, and if I say I'm a hypnotherapist, people immediately want a performance. Sometimes I just want to have fun at the party. If I just say I'm a registered behavioral therapist, that doesn't excite anyone. In fact, people back off.

Interview by Amanda Long


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