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Ideo-motor whatsthatnow?

On Friday Rachel introduced us to Loren Parks, Oregon’s token billionaire political string-puller, described in a new Mother Jones story as a “sex hypnotherapist.” As it happens, Mr. Parks has a lot of videos on YouTube demonstrating different aspects of his hypnotherapeutic stylings. Among what was shown on the air Friday was this one about women and weight loss:

To get us on the same page, the full quote Rachel picked up on is,

A long time ago, back in the ’80s, when I was doing large groups of people and using ideo-motor finger signalling, and we came up with a bunch of reasons the women who were overweight gave for their being fat.

I realize this is a tangent, and I don’t mean to take away from the larger point of the segment, but ideo-motor finger what’s that now?

I looked it up and here’s what google tells me, and by all means, if you have any expertise in this field I appreciate any insights you can contribute…

Ideo-motor finger signalling turns out to be a technique used in hypnotherapy - not surprising given the context and the fact that Mr. Parks is a hypnotherapist. I can’t endorse hypnosis or hypnotherapy, but here’s what folks who subscribe to the practice of hypnotherapy are talking about when they use that term:

The idea of ideodynamic anything is that a thought in your head causes a physical response in your body. The most relatable example I came up with in my own experience is that I can give myself goosebumps just by thinking of a person biting an ice cube. I think teeth-on-ice and my arm hair stands up. I reckon a more subtle version of this idea, and something closer to what a hypnotherapist would be dealing with, is a poker tell. Your brain knows you’re lying and your body expresses it in some way you’re not aware of.

The thing about these examples is that the connection between the stimulating thought and the physical response is automatic and not trained in any way. I don’t have to do arm hair exercises or practice my goosebumping for my body to make that connection, it just does it.

But when the hypnotherapy community talks about signalling, they’re talking about making that very sort of connection.

Ideo-motor signalling involves teaching someone to have a particular physical reaction to a particular thought as a means of communicating to the hypnotherapist. (I’m avoiding modifiers like “subconscious” and “unconscious” here for fear of misuse, but understand, these aren’t overt thoughts about physical movement.)

The way it supposedly works is that you have some deep secret that you’re not able to admit to yourself or say out loud or maybe even realize on your own. So your hypnotherapist puts you in a trance and you get all relaxed and comfortable and your arms are relaxed with your hands presented but resting easily. This is not a trance like magic show, cluck-like-a-chicken hypnosis, but I gather the same principle is at work. And so your hypnotherapist tells you something about your body being able to express itself through your fingers and you should think “yes yes yes” thoughts and think about your yes fingers being lighter, or something along those lines. The claim is that through close observation they might see a flicker of movement in certain of your fingers. Then your hypnotherapist does the same for thinking “no no no.” In so doing, those fingers are said to be assigned yes and no signals.

Now it’s time to talk to the hand, so to speak. Your hypnotherapist will put you into a deeper trance (or whatever the word is for being deeply hypnotized) and ask you yes or no questions about that deep secret you aren’t dealing with on a conscious level - in the case of the video above, reasons for overeating. Are you overeating to make yourself less attractive because you fear intimate contact with others? Are you overeating because yadda yadda something about immediacy of gratification?

So from there hypnotherapy believes it can figure out what your deeper issues are, and you can pursue resolving those issues. Bump ahead to the 3:00 minute mark in the Loren Parks video to see what that might mean in hypnotherapy terms, but I imagine an important part of a therapist’s job is assessing the type of therapy that is best suited to whatever issue you (and your fingers) have uncovered.

Again, and as ever, I appreciate any further insights you can share, particularly if I’m not getting it right.

Rachel Maddow Show Geek

Ideo-motor whatsthatnow?