Mesmerising Learning

Mesmerising Learning

Franz Anton Mesmer is often credited for launching hypnosis in popular culture but really its origins go back much further into ancient Egypt and India.  And that makes sense because learning through trance is a real human phenomenon but more of that in a moment because…


Today many people have seen stage show hypnosis, have heard of or experienced hypnotherapy or have views about the work of people such as Derren Brown and Paul McKenna.  Less known is that of forensic hypnotherapy in which the police sometimes utilise to increase accurate memory recall and information.

Studies have proven that under such conditions there is an average of approximately 30% more accurate information compared to a standard police interview.

Simply put, if you are interested in retaining and learning more get into trance.

One piece of great news is, so much of our day is spent in one form of trance or another, we just haven’t realised it. Take a look, have you ever

  • Driven your car and awoken slightly surprised at your destination thinking, “Oh I’m here”
  • Sat on a train or bus journey and realise you’ve missed chunks of the journey or scenery
  • Sat in a meeting and completely wandered off the key points being shared
  • Sat at the cinema with a bucket of popcorn or sweets and realised, unexpectedly, they are almost all gone
  • Looked at all the commuter faces on the bus, train or tube and realised they are all tranced out. That’s’ right because they are!

If you want to enter into another light trance now pick a spot (slightly higher than your eye line) in the near distance and focus on it and keep focusing for the next minute or so.  And as you continue to focus upon it begin to notice what you notice.

It could be heaviness in your eyes, becoming more relaxed or your mind wandering into different imaginations.  Don’t worry, you are in full control and you are beginning to enter into early trance.

So it’s not a question of if you are in trance, it’s when and more importantly, from a learning and performance perspective, how you use it.

Learning through You’re Conscious and Unconscious Mind

Why is it that a human being can believe they are inadequate, not pretty, slim or capable enough in some way, when all and I mean all of their friends, tell them otherwise?

It’s because the power of the unconscious mind is vastly greater than the conscious mind. The person receives unanimous and positive feedback and yet all they can hear is the one criticism that got stuck, probably some time ago, in their unconscious.

That’s why it doesn’t matter how many times their friends will say, “You are beautiful, gorgeous”, etc; if it doesn’t register at the unconscious level it doesn’t become a felt reality. And therefore, in the perception of that individual this limiting reality is true and so nothing changes.

How does this shape your learning?

If you want to change attitude, thinking, feeling and behaviour you have to address and begin shaping or changing the unconscious mind.  One example of where unconscious learning is underutilised is within didactic learning in which there is overwhelm of knowledge dumping.

On-boarding programmes, inductions, some classroom trainers, some on line learning portals (and not to mention many leadership meetings) can all be guilty of sending learners into trance states that disengage the learner.

People are meant to be in a learning environment but really they are being transported back on the bus or tube trancing out to somewhere else. Probably somewhere more interesting than the training or meeting they are in.  Tell me you haven’t ever experienced this!

You don’t have to be Derren Brown!

Or learn full hypnosis because there are some simple and very natural ways to induce useful trance into learning and these include

  • The use of metaphor and stories that induce the unconscious mind to ‘stumble’ upon the self learning inherent within the unfolding story.
  • Using metaphors and stories that link throughout the learning or training and each layer embeds the previous story or tale.
  • Using positive emotions that connect the learning.  So many of our emotions sit in the realm of the unconscious which is why one tiny word, memory or reminder from a classically funny experience can ignite the giggles all over again, days, weeks and even years later. (For those of a certain era you might only have to hear the words ‘Fork Handles’ from the Two Ronnie’s sketch and a smile comes to your face)
  • Using experiential learning games that mean delegates create their own metaphors and positive emotions through self-exploration.
  • Consciously using language patterns in your learning delivery can induce positive trance phenomena. Increasing the likelihood of students creating an inner ‘yes’ to the experiencing they are receiving.

Trancing the Learning Mix

Lastly, what of your learning mix?  When so much learning is re-shaping itself through digital formats and online platforms, how can we help the unconscious to learn, change and grow for the better, through a computer? (And other non-traditional formats)

As learning delivery changes the challenges remain. Appealing to the unconscious and conscious mind is not to be underestimated but, as in other eras, it continues to do so.

Here’s a recent experience.

Recently, as a judge at an industry awards event I studied the learning programmes of finalists to decide who was best in class. One submission stood out for its innovative use of technology to offer bite sized (20 minute) chunks of learning to improve customer experience performance, attitude and behaviour; via an online portal.

Like me, you are probably used to seeing this type of training delivered traditionally in classrooms. That’s right and with this experience it’s relatively easy to spot when either the information and or its delivery format induces positive, open, accommodating trance or something more closed and restricted.

It doesn’t take Derren Brown to realise that when I’m given nuggets such as…

  • “Be prepared”
  • “Look and act professionally”
  • “Use a pleasant tone and a professional demeanour “

…I am being sucked into the early stages of a trance that begins to disengage me, however cool and up to the minute, is the portal I am using.

Glenn Bracey

Glenn Bracey

Glenn is the co-founder and inspirational learning and performance director of Future Vision. He is a trainer, coach, conference speaker and passionate advocate of developing learning that makes a tangible difference to your business, its people and customers.


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