By Susanna Sweeney, MSC, MBACP, CHT
Olf Stoiber is one of Germany's top hypnotists with TV and radio appearances during which he hypnotized millions-under his belt.
In this interview with Susanna Sweeney he shares the personal story that introduced him to hypnosis, talks about his career and client work as well as his vision for the future of the hypnosis field.
Susanna Sweeney: Good morning, Olf Stober in Munich in Germany. Thank you so much for joining me. You are one of the best known hypnotists in Germany are moving in that circle. How did you actually come to hypnosis?
Olf Stoiber: I came into contact with hypnosis was in the mid nineties because I was like, um, like really scared of going to the dentists like not really scared but massive, I had a massive phobia almost due to a very, um, bad experience with a creepy dentist who did a lot of like, like really weird stuff to my mouth and to my teeth.
Just an example, the person who gave me the, anasthetics, um, she wasn't even qualified to do so. Yeah, that was me being 15 years old, um, in need of a lot of dental work and like being so scared, I thought that nobody could ever get me back into a dentist's chair. So one morning I looked through the Munich newspaper and I found an article that said ‘hypnosis at the dentist’.
And I was like, like taken in because I thought, well, it's just amazing. You know, it's like I'm going to a dentist, he might like have a big beard, like really creepy eyes, maybe pendulum swinging and put me into this wonderful state of hypnosis and get it over and done with. And I'd wake up again smiling, my teeth being alrigh and so on, yeah.
So it didn't happen like that. I did phone up the one with the most credentials. I got an appointment and it uh, took about seven or eight, um, visits. And he didn't even use like officially hypnosis, you know, like swinging pendulum or anything like that, it was about how he used his voice and, and how he’d structure his words and um, the nature of his communication. So I had less anxiety, less pain. And um, in hindsight it was an amazing experience. So that was like my first contact with the hypnosis.
Susanna Sweeney: And I think what you're describing is actually really typical expectation. Many clients go into hypnosis with this miracle expectation that everything gets sorted in one session. Do you find that?
Olf Stoiber: Yes, that's a common expectation. Um, like I've been given an example. Last week a lady asked us about a hypnosis session for weight loss and she asked the price for one session and she, she's also been, um, diagnosed with a panic, panic attacks. Um, in Germany we would call it panic attacks. I'm not quite sure what the equivalent in English language will be, recurrence recurrent panic attacks on, uh, the singular ones, but you know, like she has all these psychosomatic issues and, um, depressive episodes. And if we could also put it all in one session please because she can only afford one session. So yeah, some people think it's like a magic wand or you just snap your fingers and, um, you know, like completely reprogram the human.
Susanna Sweeney: How would you describe the power of hypnosis? Because you know, it's still a very powerful treatment. Right. Um, but taking the magic expectation out of it, if you were to kind of position as in the world of therapy, what would you describe that?
Olf Stoiber: Well, I personally feel like the effects you can achieve using hypnosis are quite magical sometimes, but the tool per se, is not magic. It's quite explainable, you can find some structure in it. Um, so the true power of hypnosis in, from my point of view is being able to have a more or less direct communication with the unconscious parts of the mind, which requires the client to actually understand what it's about and to actively want this, for whatever change they look for.
Basically if you know what hypnosis can do, if you have like a basic understanding of what it's all about, if you're willing to look deep inside of yourself and not expect somebody else to fix you, um, it's by far the most amazing method you could possibly use. Do you want somebody else to fix you? If you want somebody to solve the problems for you, uh, it's probably not gonna work as well as you'd like it to.
Susanna Sweeney: Yes, I absolutely agree. I would see it very, in a very similar way that if you compare hypnosis to like, say for example, psychotherapy, there really is no comparison. It's like the Rolls Royce in the car race. It's always going to win out in terms of depths in terms of speed and in terms of just overall efficiency of what you can do with it. Absolutely.
So you were, so you had your entry into the hypnosis world, age 15, and then tell us what happened after that.
Olf Stoiber: After graduating, I studied communications, I worked for a while in the field of public relations and later on copywriting for a big German TV station. And in 2001 I found an amazing hypnosis teacher online, Terrence Watts, about 50 miles outside of London.
So I, I started training with him in 2001 that was my first training and took it from there. And I've done a lot of courses with Terrence who's I think like one of the most amazing geniuses in the field of hypnosis because he has a very, um, sane as sensible and healthy approach towards change work. And yeah, that was like my, my first, um, training experience in hypnosis. I did go full time actually back in 2003 which was way easier back then than it will be nowadays because there was like little to no competition.
Susanna Sweeney: And you took the German state exam and you've been working in the hypnosis field ever since.
Olf Stoiber: Yeah.
Susanna Sweeney: So what do you think, how many clients have you worked with since since?
Olf Stoiber: No, I could not possibly tell and it's not because I don't want to, but because I really have no idea- if you ask me how many people I have hypnotized so far this year, I could probably say maybe, I don't know, two million or so because I was like on radio earlier this year, like doing like, like, um, mass hypnosis but it's not the like the number of individual clients.
Susanna Sweeney: So tell us a little bit about that, about your work in the public arena and radio and television and how that came about.
Olf Stoiber: Sheer accident. My first, uh, TV work was actually for a state's television back in 2004 and they wanted to do a feature on smoking cessation and yeah, so I set up like a room, I found like 30 people to quit smoking.
They wanted like to do like a group smoking cessation, and have one person they could like follow around and see the aftermath of it and how well it worked. And you know, the guy who was featured, he was actually my, um, my, um, hairdresser at the time and he, he owned a salon and he heard about this and he was like, well, I'd like, like to like reduce my smoking and yeah, it's healthy. It's also good for somebody, you know, like owning his own store and being on TV.
So I told him, well, it's a quit smoking session. It's not like a reduce smoking session. And it was like, nah, don't worry about it. Let me do it. And you know, it's no problem. So obviously he went just there. He actually did reduce smoking the way he wanted to. But you know the TV uys afterwards said it didn't work.
Susanna Sweeney: Well the myths that still exist around hypnosis will come in. They're still very much in the public domain and I've been really amazed by that. When you look at it, hypnosis has been around for 250 years. Some of those myths are still the exact same as they would have been the quarter of a century ago.
Olf Stoiber: Oh, yup, absolutely. That's a lot down to, I guess the way hypnosis is featured as well or the structure of the entire documentary or whatever it is is about. Yeah, that's quite true.
Actually, I did have one client for smoking cessation many years ago who, who wasn't happy with the way the session went down. So I usually do a lot of like, um, pre-talk, which isn't just chat. It's already, you know, like therapeutic change, throwing in hypnotic suggestions, opening up possibilities of the sort, visualize or imagine what it'd be like to be completely free of cigarettes. And he was like asking, so when, when do we do hypnosis? I'm like, Whoa, this is like a big part of what we're doing and of what's working. And he was like, you know, he didn't want to talk.
And at one point he was like, well, I'm not quite sure I'm in the right place because what you're doing, it's not hypnosis. So I asked him, well, what do you mean? What should it be like? It should have to be like, and he was like, well, it's easy. I did see it on television. Um, I've got this series I like to watch.
It's about a certain football club and um, and at the football club, they did a smoking cessation hypnosis. Two wives and the players just showed up. He, he hypnotised people and told then you don't smoke anymore. And the day after wow, it's amazing. It's completely gone and I'm all free. So I could have been thinking, well, shitty television, you know, just, you know, like doing stage stuff and making it harder for us therapists. But actually it kind of sounded like familiar, something in it.... and then I realised, I had been that hypnotist on this television...
Susanna Sweeney: Talking about a joke on self.
Olf Stoiber: Yeah. Yeah. So, um, I, I, I actually, uh, that was, in Dusseldorf. And, um, they flew me in for that and I did like, um, I think eight hours with those two guys and their wives. And we did a long hypnosis session that was way longer than an hour, but obviously, you know, they're not gonna show like eight hours, you know, again, they’ll show like a couple of minutes and they’ll need interesting bits and pieces.
So when I asked this guy what, what did the hypnotist look like? And he was like, I don't quite remember, but then he asked was it you? I did tell him about it and all of a sudden he was quite happy with, you know, talking, uh, that was when he realized that actually is a big part of it.
Susanna Sweeney: But yeah, he came back at that point when he realized you were the man on television.
Olf Stoiber: Thank God. Yeah. Yes. So that's it-absolutely.
Susanna Sweeney: So that's about the, the myths and how the myths inform how people present, um, in our therapy rooms. But on the upside, like on, on the, on the results side, can you talk a little bit about that? What kind of results you're getting with hypnosis that wouldn't really get any other way?
Olf Stoiber: Well, absolutely. We usually see a lot of clients at our practice who've been for years, if not decades of psychotherapy and, at a point where they are told, well, there is nothing anybody can do for you anymore. And by putting the power back to the client, by actually teaching them how you can tap into your own unconscious mind to experience the changes you want and that you need, that can be very empowering.
So, um, you know, if, if somebody had an issue for many, many years and there’s nothing they've been able to do about it, putting them into a place where they can have the change they want, that's, that's quite amazing. If a client is willing to self reflect and to take the dive into the unconscious mind does basically no limits.
Susanna Sweeney: Hmm. Absolutely. And what you are talking about reflects my own experience a little bit because I suppose that's how I came to hypnosis really. I got stuck eventually with psychotherapy and everything else I was trying at the time and hypnosis was the one thing that was still, that was working for me, you know?
So it's really- it has that super charge to it once you're moving away from being stuck in the conscious mind. That was the thing for me that what I, what I saw in my client work and what I experienced myself was that as long as you're sitting there with your eyes open and you're talking ‘about’, that's when you are, you're working in, you are trying to work it out with your mind, but the moment you close your eyes, you're in a different world and you can achieve completely different results.
So I would completely go along with what you're saying about the, the power of the unconscious mind and tapping into that. But what would you say has been your biggest achievement so far in the hypnosis world you're in at now?
Olf Stoiber: Oh, good question. My biggest achievements, well, besides from working on myself and getting like over some baggage and stuff you carry of your own. Maybe it was founding with, uh, some colleagues, a hypnosis association, that's the biggest one in Germany by now. Kind of exchange ideas and to think about both quality standards.
Susanna Sweeney: And doing a little bit of continuous professional development maybe through the association. Would that be part of your plan?
Olf Stoiber: Yes, absolutely. Conferences for example. Well we've done two so far. It's a lot of work setting them up, but yeah, absolutely.
Susanna Sweeney: Yeah. Yeah, so that's fantastic. So it's really bringing the hypnosis world forward with the setting of standards and so on will really bring it into the modern era, shall we say. So congratulations on that. That is fantastic work. And have you moved into the realm of writing books?
Olf Stoiber: I'm about to. I'm, I'm doing it right now, so.
Susanna Sweeney: Right. So that's all happening. That's all in the pipeline and that's wonderful. And we look forward to that.
So, Olf, tell our audience how yu use hypnosis for yourself. See, I obviously respect that when people try out the tools themselves and use them for their own development because I'm, I'm a firm believer in the principle that you can only bring your clients as far as you have yourself.
Olf Stoiber: I can second that. I do like to use hypnosis in whichever way it comes in handy, like on a almost everyday basis. So I'm not very dogmatic about it. I, if I don't feel like it, I don't do it. But if I feel like it, I like to use it on myself in some different ways. So I'm like, I'm the classic example will be like putting on my headphones and listening to it. MP3’s. Right. That's what I quite like. Um, also during the day, instead of like taking a power nap, taking a power self-hypnosis,with imagery.
So basically, um, do self hypnosis by closing my eyes, relaxing myself and then like working with visualization or inner feelings or archetypes, whatever comes in, you know, like whatever the flavour of candy happens to be that day.
I like to, I also like to use technology every once in a while. And yeah, I like to play around a lot. So not, not very fixed on one specific methods but it’s fascinating.
Susanna Sweeney: I might talk to you about that again. Um, I go along completely with the self hypnosis CDs and the visualization, the imagery, I practice all of that myself. I find it incredibly powerful. It's really brought me, um, out of that slump that I was in for years where nothing was moving, brought me to a place where everything started to move again. Right. So my concluding question to you off, if you could wave a magic wand, what arrangements would you make for the future developments in the hypnosis world?
Olf Stoiber: Uh, back to the basics and or roots. I find that hypnosis sometimes gets lost in interventions and in techniques and in finding the next big thing that kind of works for us.
Where when you actually use like good hypnotic language that's, you know, in sort of a new Ericksonian style, opening up possibilities, adding um, in our like, like, like bandwidth of emotions and then guiding the clients who a place where they have more abilities in, in, in, in choosing what feelings, what actions they see fit. That's, that's like a big thing.
I need to know the basics and that's what I'm trying every day improving the way I handle hypnotic language because it's a very peculiar um, thing. You, you, you speak totally different than that you would normally cause you're communicating with the unconscious parts of the mind and that's very, that's like a foreign language. You need to learn, you need to practice, you need to study and you may always have an accent but you, you can work on getting it as right as possible.
That will be my magic wand wish for myself and my colleagues to remind ourselves of- I'm really working on the basics. Before you tried to do any fancy stuff
Susanna Sweeney: Back to the roots we go and thank you so much for your time.
I hope you have enjoyed my interview with one of Germany's top hypnotists, Olf Stoiber. Find out more about him on his website.
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