Friday, February 06, 2009

Post-Hypnotic Suggestion and Trance Logic

"How could I have believed such dumb stuff? And how come I still believe it sometimes? And how come I went against my morals and lied to people when I was a TM teacher? And how come I couldn't see through Maharishi's pathetic so-called logic?"

Those are four good questions that some people who have left the TM organization ask themselves.

Looking at the TM experience through the lens of post-hypnotic suggestion and trance logic may provide a possible answer to these questions.

A post-hypnotic suggestion is an instruction the hypnotist gives the subject while the subject is in the hypnotic state, which the subject is to carry out after he is out of that state. For instance, the hypnotist may say to her subject, "A few minutes after I take you out of the hypnotic state, I will say the word 'horseradish.' When I do, that will be your cue to lie down on the floor." The hypnotist then awakens the subject from his hypnotic state. A few minutes later, she says 'horseradish." And sure enough, the subject lies down on the floor.

Ha ha. Stage hypnotists have gotten laughs for this sort of entertainment. Now the story gets even more interesting. The hypnotist says to the person on the floor, "Why are you lying on the floor?" The floor-lier does not reply, "Why, because you gave me a post-hypnotic suggestion to lie down when you said 'horseradish'." Nor does he say, "I had this sudden impulse to lie down on the floor, but I don't know where it came from." Instead, he says, "I was tired; I just had to lie down." Strange, huh?

It gets even stranger. The hypnotist presses the person, saying, "If you were tired, why didn't you go back to your seat? Why did you lie on the floor on the stage in front of this whole audience?" Now the subject does not answer, "You're right. I sure am behaving strangely." Instead he says, "I felt too tired to walk all the way back to my seat," or "I'm more comfortable lying down than sitting, " or "The chairs smell funny," or "It's healthy to rest on a hard surface."

This is known as "trance logic." Trance logic is garbled logic, logic used to rationalize trance-related moments, logic that the person would find unsatisfactory under normal circumstances. The person is not aware he is rationalizing, and he is not aware that his logic is faulty.

For some of us, our TM beliefs and behaviors may have been acquired in a similar way. For instance, in 1972 I attended a residence course where we meditated up to six times a day. I started that residence course as a skeptic about TM. I came out one month later as a true believer who wanted to become a TM teacher. If you had asked me back then what happened on that course to change my beliefs, I would have said that I had learned new and wonderful things, that I saw the light, and that I was convinced by the scientists. What I would not have said was, "Meditating many times a day produced something akin to a hypnotic trance, and I was given a post-hypnotic suggestion to believe in TM and to become a TM teacher."

A person very dear to me attended a similar one-month TM course in 1974, and wrote me during the course, "I have a sensation like I am holding onto a wall, and a strong wind is tearing me off the wall, moving me to become a TM teacher, and it is only a matter of time before I will give way." After the TM course, she, like I, became a TM teacher. Looking back, 35 years later, her words sound to me like she could have been describing a post-hypnotic suggestion being implanted. Her words almost sound like a plea for help. What do you think?

When I went on my TM teacher training course in 1974, I meditated up to 12 times a day. On that course we were taught - or given a post-hypnotic suggestion? - to lie to our students if we thought it would help spread the TM message.

Maybe some attendees really did see the light or were convinced by the scientists. But how about me? How about you? Did you become a TM true believers because you were given post-hypnotic suggestions to believe? Did I, did you, lie to TM students, despite our ethical standards, because of post-hypnotic suggestions to lie? Did I, did you, rationalize this lying, due to trance logic? And did I, did you, use tortured logic to defend the TM movement because of trance logic?

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