by Steve Roh
Hello, I’m happy to offer my latest article for the Banyan Hypnosis E-Zine. This series is intended to help hypnosis professionals by briefly summarizing books from outside of the field, and describing how the information can be applied within a hypnosis practice.
In a previous issue, we took a break from summarizing books and instead used Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares” TV show. It’s good to give the Kindle a rest once in a while, so let’s tackle another TV show that is curiously related to the work we do as hypnotists: “Supernanny” starring Jo Frost. Coincidentally, it is also a program which originated in the United Kingdom, just like “Kitchen Nightmares”.
Jo Frost, the Supernanny, is a nanny who has a reputation for successfully dealing with hardcases. The show involves her being called in to rescue families that are overwhelmed by the chaos and mayhem of little tots gone wild. Simply watching this show can be a very effective form of birth control, as you witness the despair of overwhelmed parents.
Supernanny is a contrast to Gordon Ramsay, but only at first glance. Although their styles are different, in substance they are quite similar. They both have high expectations and are not afraid to demand more from people who have gotten complacent.
Still, Supernanny does not express herself in the way that Chef Ramsay is known for (explosive outbursts of foul language) — so far, Supernanny has not yelled at one of her little tots with the classic Ramsayism “you stupid donkey!” If anything, that would be more appropriately directed towards the parents, who in many cases have completely abdicated responsibility and let the children run the household by default.
Now, I must say that I do not have children myself, just a Himalayan cat named Mia. So I cannot really judge these parents for what they go through (although, on this show, it often appears that they are barely making even the smallest effort to be parents).
Which leads us to the first hypnotic lesson of Supernanny:
1. Respect Your Clients For Having the Courage to Seek Help
In reality shows like Supernanny, it’s easy to judge the parents for making mistakes that seem obvious to viewers. In fact, I think part of the formula that makes these kinds of shows popular is that they provide an outlet for judging and criticizing the participants.
As with anyone in a “helping” line of work, although we all strive to be professional and non-judgmental, it is only human to have some head-scratching moments where you wonder “How can they not see how silly their excuses are?”
For example, weight control clients sometimes talk about how they eat out of boredom, because they have no interests or activites aside from spending every night in front of the television eating Cheetos. Then, in the next breath, they will say that they are just too busy and don’t have time to cook proper meals for themselves. Hmmm…
As an external observer, you cannot help recognizing the silliness of that kind of curious irrationality, but one thing that makes it easier to refrain from engaging in non-productive judgement is to remind yourself that this person in front of you is the one who took the initiative and was proactive in doing something to get better. Just like the parents on Supernanny, they may be exhausted and mentally drained, so you must recognize that their irrationality may not be a fundamental character trait or flaw, but merely the result of the exhaustion that any human would feel in that circumstance.
It must take an enormous amount of courage and/or desperation to invite Supernanny and her camera crew into your home, knowing that your problems are going to be exposed. In the same way, I often ask myself if I personally would have the guts and/or insight required to go seek help about whatever issue was troubling my clients.
Another thing that makes it easier to develop this very powerful sense of respecting your clients is to make sure you only work with clients that you can develop this kind of respect for!
In an earlier article, I wrote about the “Red Velvet Rope” policy, where you intentionally strive to limit your client base to people who inspire you to do your best for them. This includes making sure your marketing is filtering out and rejecting people who are unlikely to earn your respect in the first place (people who want different results in life without having to change anything, people who set out with the intention of finding another thing that they “tried, but it didn’t work”).
When you genuinely admire and respect your clients for having the courage to seek help, and you believe in them because you sense that they mean business, your belief in them is communicated unconsciously during your interactions, which is kind of important for the type of work we do as hypnotists.
2. Insist That Someone Be “the Adult” in the House
Understanding, empathy and respect are necessary, but not sufficient to bring about a desired change. Supernanny insists that the parents act like the adults, which seems like a new concept for many of them. Part of Supernanny’s role is to teach the parents leadership skills, which are not an innate skillset that most people happen to have. Often, people have context-specific leadership skills that just need to be generalized into other areas.
I think this is similar to what we do as hypnotists, especially when we use techiques that involve helping different “parts” of us become more in sync with each other. We help clients understand that there may be different parts of us at varying stages of maturity and development, and differing motivations and ways of handling things, but that fundamentally they all have the same goal. By hypnotically helping these parts learn to communicate, trust and appreciate each other, then they can work better together, and the friction of screaming and yelling and throwing tantrums can become a thing of the past.
This requires helping the client clearly assert themselves as the Adult, or the Leader… greater than the sum of all parts. If they do not take leadership, no one will — and of course, the hypnotist will not play that role for them. The idea of a hypnotist, or any “helper”, leading someone else’s life for them can be seen to be absurd.
In that sense, this sense of taking responsibility can also be applied to the commonly heard complaints that many hypnotists express, about how their clients seem to be lazy, unmotivated, expecting magical results without effort, etc. You also hear hypnotists express frustration about how the general public just doesn’t understand or respect or seem to care about hypnosis.
Hey hypnotists: you need to take responsibility for that. If, as a whole, your clients seem to be lazy, unmotivated, and seem to distrust you and your expertise, YOU are doing something wrong. You are attracting the wrong people because you are failing to do your marketing correctly (marketing is not the same as advertising). You are doing a dis-service to them, so you should apologize to those people who you feel are lazy, unmotivated, and willfully ignorant, for wasting their time. As the supposed expert, shouldn’t you be able to expertly select and focus on the people who would actually benefit from your work?
And if it seems that everyone you talk to is creeped out by the idea of hypnosis (“everybody is scared of it, they don’t want to talk to me about it”)… get real… you might want to consider that there is something about your approach and how you project yourself, that sends out the “creep” signal. It probably has nothing to do with hypnosis.
3. In the End, the Nanny Can Only Do So Much…
“Supernanny”, like “Kitchen Nightmares” and all shows of this type, have the nature of being a sort of short-term intervention, with ultimate longer-term results being up to the parents or the restaurant owners. During the time that Supernanny is in charge, she is able to add structure, establish rules, and direct activities for the entire family.
It is quite similar to how a hypnotist, during the course of a hypnotic experience, has a high degree of control over the thoughts, emotions and behavior of the client. This can be a very powerful learning experience for the client and help them in many ways. But of course, at some point Supernanny has to move on, and the hypnotic client has to live their daily life. They are free to choose what to do with those skills and learnings.
In these programs, it is common to end the episode with a brief update on how the family is progressing. In most cases it appears that the family has grown closer because of the experience and that many of the lessons have been built upon with positive results. However, there are inevitably families (or restaurants) where it seems that the skills that were taught are just put on the shelf and the family for whatever reason has just decided that they’re more comfortable with the old ways of doing things and the resulting mess.
I think it’s necessary for hypnotists to develop a tolerance for this kind of result, which is not the same thing as being complacent or uncaring. This tolerance is needed for doing this kind of work in a sustainable way — becoming heartbroken or personally upset by such things is not only unproductive, but also terribly egocentric.
Well, I hope this hypnotic consideration of “Supernanny” has been of interest to you and provoked some useful thought processes. I know some people would think that this kind of reality TV show is too trivial and mindless to be worthy of discussion, but it’s good to accept the human need for light entertainment once in a while, and sometimes you can get something of value even from something silly, if you look for it. Which reminds me, the TV show “Saved By The Bell” contains many hidden life lessons… but that is another story.
© 2011 Steve Roh