By Susanna Sweeney, MSC, MBACP, CHT
Carol Robertson PhD, one of the best master hypnotists UK, Scotland, spent time with me chatting about her hypnosis career and how hypnosis and NLP both are an integral part of her life.
Susanna Sweeney: Carol, Carol Robertson all the way over in Scotland. Thank you so much for joining me here today to talk about your hypnosis career as a master hypnotist who's been in the field for so long.
Carol Robertson: Thank you for inviting me. It's such an interesting subject to talk about. I'm sure lots of people are fascinated by
Susanna Sweeney: It sure is fascinating. And I believe you have a story about how you got involved in hypnosis in the first place.
Carol Robertson: Yeah, I was by 13, I think, and I was helping out at a save the children jumble sale. And there were some ladies in a circle with two large bin bags and they were like, Oh, Oh, what was she thinking of, we shouldn't, couldn't possibly have brought this material here.
It's not at all suitable for a save the children jumble sale. Of course I was a typical 13 year old listening in and all that, you know, what, what is this? And so I swooped past and said, um, I said anything for the bin? And they said, Oh, and somebody took that opportunity and handed the bin bags in my direction and tied them tight.
So it wasn't until I got home and unwrapped them and got to look to them that I was super delighted. I loved reading as a kid. So I was really pleased that it was basically somebody’s, an expert's- library of ancient papers and things about hypnosis.
Of course, many of these things we're familiar with now, you know, we, we call them yoga and so forth. So that's where my fascination started.
Susanna Sweeney: Do you still have those?
Carol Robertson: No, I don't, I don't have them. That's a big story, but it's not for here. I'll tell you at some other time.
There’s a lot of suspicion around that kind of material. And so I was very interested and of course there was all sorts of things in those and each or there was some of the earliest documents about hypnosis, some of the earliest books and some of them were about how hypnosis was used in hospitals for healing.
And it was also a lot about the idea of energy and the idea of manifesting. So the book, The Secret was there, um, the book the secret is based on, it's called the Master Key that was in amongst there, all sorts of things. A ouiji board. And so it got me interested in healing.
I was already interested in healing because we used to rescue wild animals. And so I was very interested from a very young age, you know, from five years old and how we could get these young animals, these animals to stay alive because that was the biggest issue cause they were of shock.
So you would want to rescue them. They'd been hit by a car or a wire or they got cold or lost their parents or something. And so we were always out bird watching and exploring in the countryside. So, my father was very interested in observation, he had a great eye. So he taught me from very early on to look and find things.
So noticing the difference between two old birds that kind of look almost exactly the same as tiny differences in their movement or in their color. Fantastic training for my brain- music probably would have been even better for my brain- but he taught me to observe and just to be able to see, um, to see a bird. So we would find these poor animals and people would bring them to us and we'd be like, how would you keep them alive?
So, and that all relates to what you and I know now about the behavior of the amygdale- how to keep an animal calm. So it all kind of ties into that kind of idea of healing and the idea of manifesting.
So I actually, as a 13 year old I, one of the exercises, one of those books was about, um, manifesting your future. So I sat down and I did a drawing of the house I want to live in in the future- and I am here now. And so when we came here, I recognized it. So I was able to take that opportunity of embracing it as a project and not have fear for it. And yeah, that's how I began.
And then, uh, yeah, in another kind of amazing thing when I went to art school when I was 17, the house that I lived in, there were some older PhDs and they had- bizarrely, they had the first books on NLP.
So this was 1980 and they had these very early books. So that was an extraordinary thing as well. And lots of books on Milton Erickson.
Susanna Sweeney: At what stage did you come to the point where you decided this was going to be what you would be doing as a career?
Carol Robertson: Um, that's a good question. When I was about 17, I was really disappointed in the art school I went to, uh, I just didn't really like it. Partly because I really didn't understand that was the beginning of a degree course.
So I come from a small country town where you kind of did paintings that looked like things that are like Coca-Cola cans or the landscape or a horse or bird or something like that. So when I went to art school and they were asking us to make something new, that looked like it was never made before, I found it really difficult and I just found it hard.
I didn't expect it to be hard. I expected it to be really rewarding, expected to be a positively rewarding experience. And it was really tough to be told as a 17 year old, right, make something better than Leonardo or better than Picasso, you know, create something completely new. And trance really saved me there because then I started to understand that you could make work that was not, the painting wasn't a window, it was a mirror or something – it’s an expression.
But what also happened at the same time was that I read the NLP books these flatmates had. So I said to my father, I said, I want to go to America and train with these people and I wanted to also do sand therapy. And he wouldn’t let me go. He said, finish art school first and you do that properly.
It wasn't the same then going off to America- it wasn't as easy as we think of it now. Now we would just do it now. Then it seemed a difficult thing to do. So I was really cross, but also then I thought, well, if I can't go on a course now what I'll do is I'll make my own course.
So I started to go through all the material, all the books, and then look for when people were in trance and look for- for example, when they were generalizing language. When were they distorting, when they were deleting, when was the group in trance? When was and what was the start of the trance? So I got really interested in that. I was training myself.
Susanna Sweeney: Right. They're incredible observations for a young person to make, right. About group trance States and how people spend a lot of their lives living in trance and not actually seeing reality, away from all the possibilities in the world being, being locked into a limited translate.
Carol Robertson: Yeah. And being really kind of unselfconscious in it all. Observing people carry on with beliefs- I have this thing where I have this limit or other block or yeah. Or I don't like this. Why? Um, how so- I was really interested in how I suppose.
So for me hypnosis and NLP became completely intertwined. Because I was interested in Erickson’s work and then in NLP of course we have the Milton model. So that’s modelling what they thought Erickson was doing, so it’s sort of tiny chunks so you can start to understand it more, see more. I was really interested in that and also, there were some brilliant teachers there and it was actually a great experience.
And in some ways, deciding to do what I did meant I relaxed a bit and became a bit less confrontational. This, this idea that I couldn't draw horses anymore was so shocking at first, I was so shocked.
And of course when you're, when you're shocked, you become, your amygdala becomes active when you become fearful. So that kind of stopped because my focus went on something else. And then I ended up actually doing really, really well and just did really well, which was a surprise.
I didn't expect that I could really get into my work and I got through it doing the NLP and hypnosis as separate study and what I noticed was a very interesting thing. So I noticed that the head teacher, if you like, of the subject that I liked most was in an amazing kind of trance because the class would show their work and it was a very technical thing they were looking at, and it was just a very , you know, black and white thing, whether this thing worked or not- it had to do with blocking the acid from eating the metal and in the whole class, it never worked.
The acid always got in and ate the metal. And this was just on the back of the plate, not even on the person’s art work. So they would say, ah, this didn’t work and they would lose heart and they would stop doing it. They would give up.
So I thought that is really interesting. You know, how come nobody resolves this?
How come it's just accepted? So I kind of watched and I looked, and I kept seeing this trance he was in and seeing how to teach this and how to deal with it.
And so one day I thought, I wonder if I can change the trance. So I thought I’ll get him to feel it. I knew that he really was tactile. So I thought I’ll get him to feel it.
So I thought you had to feel it because you couldn't really see because it was under the varnish, the black varnish. So I got him to feel it and I said: Look you know, feel this, feel how hthis is broken and it’s gone into the metal. And the trance broke.
This is like broken and it's going into the metal and the trans bro right changed, you know, you can see where it boom. It's like new, new perspective, new change in the world. Like it really, really had gone in there.
Susanna Sweeney: It had never occurred to him to do the tactile test and I it just size like what can we do?
Carol Robertson: And he didn't have an answer and you could see he didn't have an answer. He was looking everywhere for an answer, almost like spatially looking for the answer.
And so just left him because that's what you learn to do when you become a hypnotist. You kind of just watch and I was watching and he's looking for the answer. And then eventually he said to me, “Fuck off. Go back to your studio.” And he said, if it was good enough for Rembrandt it was good enough for you.
So, of course, cause I'd been learning, not just the Milton model, but I'd been learning about Virginia Satir’s thing. So, I kind of went, how'd you know? So I was really cross, like a really annoying teenager sort of thing.
So I went and studied that and I found out that Rembrandt actually couldn't get it to work either. And there's a whole lot of wonderful stories- wonderful stories about Rembrandt and trying to solve the same sort of issues and uh, and so I thought it's just gone on. Nobody's been able to solve this and everybody's just accepted it, has accepted that this is how it is.
So even though it’s rubbish, really annoying and expensive and puts everybody off- that’s how it is, you struggle with it, struggle, struggle, struggle with this trance with this false information. So then I got really interested in resolving it and in the end I did. And I did it through channelling, so again it’s the gifts of hypnosis. So I channeled the original creators.
So you, could say it's like, there's been, uh, one of the first studies ever was done recently on two people who channel. And so it looks very interesting. It looks like the, the brain goes very quiet because there's lots of areas that are less active. So, and people who are learning to channel, they still have activity in those areas so they're struggling more.
So I did that and through that.. Other people think that you are contacting some universal intelligence. I don't have the answer, but the answers that I got from using that process, and I still use those processes to this day was- I got the, what those original originators of the method wanted to achieve through very clean principles.
It was just like, they just wanted to stop the acid biting the back of the metal plate while they worked on the front- clean principle. And they were just using whatever they had around back then 500 years ago. And so I asked myself, what do you have around now, 500 years later. And what I had around was polymer and then I was able to team up with one of the best specialists in the world in polymers and tell him my principles and I already knew these things would work. And so he was able to look at those things work and then make it even better. And so we could create a product.
Susanna Sweeney: That's absolutely incredible. What a story Carol of using hypnosis in the process.
Carol Robertson: And then again using hypnosis when you communicate with somebody. So, so the way I think of hypnosis is, you know, there's how many parts of, so when we break them down to make a classical hypnosis session, which is really fun to have sessions cause we're developing our neurology and that gives us more scope to do things.
Because often when we're learning in school, the way that we're learning is very much like somebody tells us something and we absorb it and we repeat it as closely as possible. So it's kind of, yeah, receive, repeat, receive, repeat and that’s brilliant for some kinds of things. But there is a whole other way of learning that schools don't explore as much and universities don't explore so much.
Carol Robertson: I mean we both went to art school, I think, from what I know we both make art. Art can be learned with receive and repeat as well, we can copy...many of the great masters learn by copying and "how did you make this thing work" and how you grind up the paint and layer so it does that same thing, so a lot of that, too. But then there's this other way of learning. So when you build those neural pathways by doing hypnosis, so learning self-hypnosis or working with a fantastic hypnotist, working with lots of hypnotists, really, you can, now with media you can buy downloads, you can watch videos that help develop those bits of your mind.
Susanna Sweeney: So may I comment on this.It's like, what I'm hearing from you is, really hypnosis, for you, goes way beyond client work. This is a way of living, right, and so far integrated into your life that really everything you do, it transcends everything you, right?
Carol Robertson: So it's the same when I see a client because really, it's often that do a de-hypnosis. So it's like looking at the trance they are in. And looking at how does it...what's the induction for it? What started that trance? What ends that trance? And what's the consequence of that trance?
Susanna Sweeney: Yeah.
Carol Robertson: How can we start to do the trance differently? And hopefully I apply that to me, too. You know, but I think it's very good to, so I still would go for sessions with somebody else because they'll spot my trances, where I limit myself.
Or where I did things that don't serve me very well and aren't very helpful. Yeah, and thank you sharing that because I think that principle is just so important when you're working with clients to really work through your own material, because that's the only way for us to become more and more available to people, to really be able to accompany them on their journey.
Susanna Sweeney: The more we shift of our own material, the more available we become, right?
Carol Robertson: Yeah, and I think the more understanding we have.
Susanna Sweeney: Exactly.
Carol Robertson: And the more we clear ourselves as well to be more present with them. Yeah and then we can be more observant, so we're more helpful. I think, because we spot things. I mean I think that's one of the great things about going and working with a hypnotist. And I think, often people say to me, "Oh you know like it's going to be scary and closing my eyes and all that stuff."
And you know, it kind of makes me laugh because the trances they are doing at the moment are worse. They're worse. And actually its not...
Susanna Sweeney: But actually the hypnosis myths themselves are like a trance, aren't they, like a trance that keeps people away from hypnosis. I've been absolutely stunned with this since I started looking into the hypnosis field and some of the literature around it, and just realizing that these myths are 250 years old and they still dominate the public consciousness to the degree that they do.
You know, it is absolutely incredible how this trance stuck, yeah? Yeah, it's a really interesting one. It's a really interesting one. I sort of smile because its, I don't know, a thing that's lots of different kinds of...I think I was very lucky because I learned it on my own. And I looked for it in the world. So I looked for it, "Can that be true?" "Does that happen?" "What happens if you do that?" And so sometimes when I meet hypnotists who work with a script, uh, it seems very different to me.
Susanna Sweeney: Yeah.
Carol Robertson: You know clients sometimes come to me and they are like, "Wow, you're like the real deal, like that was, like, fun!" And "Whoa!" You know. We might go for a walk or something like that, or engage with an animal, or do something...
Susanna Sweeney: It sounds like you have completely your own unique style.
Carol Robertson: Yeah, but I've learned a lot from the masters, so it's developed over the years and developed my confidence. When I ask about their experience with other hypnotists sometimes, what they'd say to me is that they go see somebody and they lay on a couch,and then they hear a recording. And I'm just like that, to me, I would way you want to be learning about your own trances and how to do self-hypnosis and how to shape your brain.
Susanna Sweeney: Yeah.
Carol Robertson: So, I like to see hypnotists moving more towards, I think sometimes, we do utilize, you have to utilize is somebody comes in really upset and they're crying that's not the time to teach them hypnosis, but I think that you want to share the information. And hopefully more scientific researchers will help us.
Susanna Sweeney: And tell me this Carol, if you could wave a magic wand and make some changes into the future of hypnosis, what changes would you make with the entire hypnosis field?
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Carol Robertson: Probably to be taught in schools. You know, I mean it shocks me that by offering to go into schools to teach hypnosis, they say it's dangerous and yet what do we have? We have a very high rate of mental illness, we have drug abuse, we have unhealthy- just unhealthy, kind of, lifestyles, and things. And yet developing our imaginations, and I think very much, like understanding everything around us is made, you know not natural like a tree or something like that, growing, everything else starts in somebody's mind.
They imagine it. We know that as artists, you know like the table behind me, somebody designed it, it happened somewhere in here. They went "tuh duh" and "it's going to be like that" and then they made that happen.
So, that's not always something that you receive from somebody else, that something you developed in your mind, so I think it should be on the curriculum. What I'd like to see, as well, is that a lot of the fear around it to be dispelled.
And hypnotists play with that, as well, they utilize it because part of being a hypnotist is utilization of state. So it's a little bit tricky, we're a little bit caught in that.
Susanna Sweeney: You're talking about the showmanship, and the, kind of like, "I will make you this" and "I will make you that."
Carol Robertson: Maybe not even so much that, but maybe just not, sort of, sharing how it's done.
Susanna Sweeney: Ah, yes.
Carol Robertson: Not unpacking it.
Susanna Sweeney: Trade secrets.
Carol Robertson: Yeah or just, it comes under utilization in a way, really. So I am, I suppose I'm a kind of, like, my books are all about how to do it, and early on in that part of my career people would say to me, guys mostly, they would come of sort of say to me, you know, "Stop giving away the secrets." So I guess I'm a, uh, I like to kind of open up, you know, this is how it works.
Susanna Sweeney: Yeah, and that's what makes you a great teacher.
Carol Robertson: Well, hopefully, it's something I'll always work on. It's a real skill being a teacher, now, so you're only as good as your last engagement.
Susanna Sweeney: Always evolving...
Carol Robertson: Yeah.
Susanna Sweeney: So, listen, thank you so much Carol Robertson,for talking to me about hypnosis and your relationship with hypnosis.And until we meet again...
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Carol is a creative thinker, a solution seeker and an enabler. She is a psychosensory and sensory specialist, author, inventor and artist. She has been described as a ‘recognised global change-maker’ and as ‘someone who makes complex issues simple to understand’. Currently she provides Havening Techniques training for mental health professionals from all over the world. She also provides sessions for people of all ages who are seeking change of some sort, and helps people with their animals too. In these sessions she shares knowledge gleaned from studying and practising psychosensory processes, NLP, NHR, hypnosis, energy psychology and positive reinforcement training.
Her books are published by Thames & Hudson, and inventions are manufactured by Lascaux. Her own art works have been collected by HM The Queen and are in other public collections. The art works she has made in collaboration with other artists like Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, Mary Newcomb, or W. Barns-Graham can be seen in collections such as The Tate and other national collections. For Carol, the making is as important as the finished piece and she believes everyone is creative. The making, especially when working with another’s aims in mind, is a great stretching learning experience, with parts that are like meditating, or a steady zen-like mode, while others have high energy as fast and exciting discoveries are made.
She loves learning, seeing this neural activity as the key to opening many possibilities and discoveries. Helping animals and humans, she enjoys seeing their lightbulb moments as well as the happiness and calm confidence their new knowledge can bring them.
Carol is fascinated by the findings of neuroscientists and how this new information is changing how we can shape ourselves for easier learning and wellness. Her two new books ‘The Little Book of Brain Art’ and ‘The Little Book of Brain Sculpture’ will soon be available.
She values the natural world, a simple life, the company of her family, dogs and horses and a connection with the land. She is continually exploring and sharing through everyday interactions, making things for others, or by writing and illustrating books, coaching and training. She is thrilled to be joining Wellbeing Radio and looks forward to engaging with you on her show Love Learning. You can contact Carol via her website.
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