HypnoTalks Questions & Answers with Axel Hombach & Dr John Butler – Episode 2

How important is the ISE really?

In the second episode Dr John Butler and I are going to discuss the question how important it really is to finde the ISE. The ISE that is the initial sensitizing event.

Around the ISE many myths and half-truths exist. Do you have to find it to work effectively? Or don’t you need it? Is it helpful? Does it even exist?

You may be surprised at the answer a clinical hypnotist and neurologist with nearly 40 years of experience gives.

Wie wichtig ist der ISE wirklich?

In der zweiten Episode diskutieren Dr. John Butler und ich, wie wichtig es wirklich ist, den ISE zu finden. Der ISE, das ist das Initiale Sensitivierende Ereignis.

Um den ISE und seine Wichtigkeit ranken sich viele Mythen. Muss man ihn finden, um wirksam zu arbeiten, braucht man ihn vielleicht gar nicht? Ist er hilfreich? Gibt es ihn überhaupt?

Sie werden vielleicht überrascht über die Antwort sein, die ein klinischer Hypnotiseur und Neurologe mit rund 40 Jahren Erfahrung gibt.

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Axel Hombach

welcome to HypnoTalks Questions & Answers with Axel Hombach and Dr John Butler. I’m Axel Hombach the director and principal hypnotist of the Hypnose Zentrum Köln. I’m currently online with Dr John Butler of the HTI in London, the Hypnotherapy Training international.

Good morning John!

Dr John Butler

Good morning Axel.

Axel Hombach

So, as we outline in the first episode, we are now going to answer the first question that we selected. This question was taken from our closed Transforming Therapy™ Practitioners group to which only our participants of the workshops in Transforming Therapy™ have access. Now, the first question was posted by one of our participants.

John, are you ready for the first question?

Dr John Butler

Yes, I am Axel

Axel Hombach

So, our colleague wrote:

„Hello John, hello to you all. Please could you explain why it is not necessary to go back to the very first situation the feeling occurred? I think this must be the purest feeling which is not mingled with any other impression.

John, this sounds like a question about regression hypnosis.

Dr John Butler

Yes, it is Axel. And thank you Christoph!

My answer to that is, well, I don’t say that it’s not very valuable or relevant to deal with the initial sensitizing event. I certainly hope we find the initial sensitizing event and it’s the ideal situation when we get it. But there’s no guarantee that you always have that event. Sometimes it’s obvious in the regression that you’ve got it, but at other times it’s not certain and there might well be an earlier event that you haven’t yet found, but that certainly doesn’t mean you can’t do an awful lot of good work even if you haven’t found the initial sensitizing event.

In Transforming Therapy™ we say: Deal With What Emerges. And you can do a lot of good work with that event that you’ve uncovered which might be a secondary reinforcing event.

Axel Hombach

That would be the SSE.

Dr John Butler

Yes, we have initial sensitizing event and secondary subsequent sensitizing events and often those are secondary reinforcing events from the initial ISE or initial sensitizing event. Now, I’d like to say that you can’t be certain during the regression that the client has gone back to the initial sensitizing event just because you told them to go back to that event. And the insistence on this with the client, insisting that they go back to the very first event that caused the problem might cause a lot of conscious interference with the process of working subconsciously in hypnosis, because the client has to think „Oh, is this the right event? Is there an earlier time than I’m remembering?“ Perhaps there is, or perhaps there isn’t. And that question can cause confusion in their mind. So in Transforming Therapy™ we don’t say it that way. We say instead „Go back to an earlier time to do with that feeling“. This is the predominant underlying feeling that you’ve uncovered during the good analytical work before you progress the client.

Axel Hombach

I also remember from Gil Boynes sessions that he says „Go to another event to deal with that emotion“ or so. (Go to another event to do with that feeling)

Dr John Butler

That’s right.

Axel Hombach

So that he leaves open if it goes further back or if it goes to just another time maybe a little bit later.

Dr John Butler

Yes, it could go back to an earlier one and that might not even be the initial sensitizing event. There’s no guarantee that the client is able at that time to reveal that. Now, I think sometimes students are told that the client doesn’t change as a result of the regression then it means that they haven’t found the initial sensitizing event and they must go back and find it. But that’s too simplistic in my view and often incorrect. Because it ignores many other factors within the client that may inhibit or sabotage change and you have to know about these if you were to be a confident therapist. So, an unnecessary excessive insistence on finding the ISE, the initial sensitizing event, takes the therapist sometimes and the client in the wrong direction. Now, if for example the client goes to a secondary reinforcing event and you work on that appropriately, effectively with them, a lot of progress can be made at that time. And then you might even ask them to check and go to an earlier time if you think that there is one.

Let me give you an example there. One often finds, well, I say often, when some clients go back in time in the revivification and regression, you find that a certain percentage go to teenage years. And often that’s the secondary reinforcing event because more often people do go back to an earlier time in childhood often around five or six years old as a starting point as the time of the initial sensitizing event. And there’re reasons for that which I don’t want to go into at the moment why that age is particularly an important point for our work. But again, with all of this we can’t be too prescriptive when you use regression and an initial sensitizing event might well be in the teenage years.

You see, Axel and Christoph, when you use the regression and take a person back, they’re dealing with a complex neuronal network in the brain level to do with thoughts feelings and behaviors that are causing problem, And when you regress the client, you may end up going say to the middle of the network in time, and from there the client may be able to see much of the pattern from that time position how things have been developing in their mind up to that point and how it continues from that point going forward. And so having gone back to the secondary reinforcing event rather than an initial sensitizing event they can get an awful lot of understanding and you can always go back further to get more understanding about the problem if there is an earlier time to deal with, but it is a complex network of neuronal patterns and the client seeing things and understanding them consciously, subconsciously and doing other work within the uncovering in hypnosis and processing of the uncovered material, the client learns a huge amount, even if they haven’t always gone back to the very beginning of the problem, though clearly it is desirable to do that, if we can for sure manage to do it.

Now, I think there’s also a sort of a misunderstanding with some hypnotherapists which is linked to the old Freudian ideas that if you have a conscious revelation of a trauma then everything is resolved. It’s almost kind of like a little magical formula, and I think that’s very out of date and has long been discredited. There are maybe several fixed ideas, as we call them, and finding the primary one is very important and useful, but there can be several of them and they may be interactive. That problem you’re dealing with in the mind can link with other areas of their other problems, other areas their personality. Let’s take an example of a person who has had a whole pattern of neglect and abuse in their lives, going right back into childhood. And so there’s not just going to be an initial sensitizing event that’s the basis of all their problems and then just revealing that will be like a magic formula for releasing all of the problems.

This approach that we’re teaching on Transforming Therapy™ which Gil Boyne was developing from the 1960s and goes back to Dave Elman and many other practitioners in classical hypnosis, but he updated things, he added new things, he refined and developed a very full form of therapy which involves the therapist becoming very knowledgeable about the mind and the different ways problems develop, how change can be stimulated and you will often find that the problem is not just solved anyway when you do find an initial sensitizing event, but you’ve got to do deal with maybe two or three secondary reinforcing events. I think, many therapists are not trained enough in the factors of readiness for change, which I mentioned a bit earlier, when you’re dealing with the problem and helping the client with different levels of conscious and subconscious understanding in a so-called reframing of the problem. This has many many aspects to it which therapists need to understand about the mind and maturation processes and failure to mature in the client. We have an integration processes as well in Transforming Therapy™ and all of this helps to create greater degrees of closure, greater degrees of understanding. And if you look at some clients, they are the minority, but even when you revealed perhaps an initial sensitizing event and even some secondary reinforcing events, they could because, of a lack of readiness for change, be unwilling to change. They may be getting secondary gain from the problem, have various alibis. They maybe at, in Gestalt we talk about the client being at an impasse and you have to, as a competent skilled therapist, know about those

So there is a fuller deeper aspect to the therapy than the problem that that question represents which is, is essentially the initial sensitizing event pretty much the be-all and end-all of therapy? No, in my opinion it’s very important but it’s by no means the most crucial aspect of the therapy because there are so many other things that I’ve just been talking about that are absolutely critically important as well to take into account.

Axel Hombach

Thank you very much John for your very deep insight.

To summarize very quickly, to take let’s say two punchlines out of it:

As I understood the ISE, the initial sensitizing event, is something like an ideal situation, but to reinforce it can mean that the conscious reasoning mind of the client jumps in and takes the person out of hypnosis, and in other cases maybe there is no one ISE, but there are several ISEs. And so it is almost futile to find the very first one.

So then another punchline would then be that, as I understood you, it helps if you work with the SSEs, the secondary reinforcing events, because it activates a neural network and helps already in many cases or maybe even in most cases the client too how his patterns arose and how to change that. And together with the other methods that are involved in the Transforming Therapy™ hypnosis approach, you can then use that to foster the readiness for change and come to an actual change with a client.

Would that be, from your point of view, correctly summarized, or the punchline correctly said?

Dr John Butler

Yes Axel. I think that’s a very good summary of what I’ve been saying. Another little way of summarizing much of what we’re talking about here is, in therapy in our therapy we say DWWE:

Axel Hombach & Dr John Butler

Deal With What Emerges

Dr John Butler

Do good work with that and help them see that pattern. You’re looking into that neuronal pattern and the behavioral patterns and thinking and emotional patterns. Once the client begins to understand that, even if you haven’t gotten in sensitizing event, you’ve done excellent work. And you can always go back and look further as necessary but you have to check out all those other factors about readiness for change and know about them which can be much more the cause of the problem when the client is not moving forward rather than simply insisting on „Oh it must be I haven’t got the initial sensitizing event“ and if you keep holding that view and insisting in the client „all right we must not have found it yet“, you’re interfering with their therapy.

Axel Hombach

Okay, so one sentence would be:

Don’t panic if you can’t find the initial sensitizing event.

You can do a lot of fantastic work without it and you can help your clients a great deal even without ever touching the ISE.

Dr John Butler

For sure you can get very powerful long lasting change as long as you’ve done good therapy and even haven’t got the „absolute first first first sensitizing event“.

In four words, as a good therapist you

„Deal With What Emerges“

Axel Hombach

So, don’t panic, deal with what emerges, and don’t let anybody tell you that you need to find the ISE, the initial sensitizing event.

Thank you very much John for your insight. And I’m already looking forward to our next session where we are going to deal with a interesting question.

And for the time being, thank you very much John and have a great day!

Dr John Butler

Thank You Axel and thank you Christoph and thank you very much people who are listening. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to speak to you about therapy and hope everybody and their continuing professional development. So, goodbye for now than.

Axel Hombach

Thank you and goodbye for now to all of our listeners from myself and John.