Journalist Connery first encountered psychiatrist/hypnotist Spiegel during the celebrated retrial of Peter Reilly, the...


THE INNER SOURCE: Exploring Hypnosis with Dr. Herbert Spiegel

Journalist Connery first encountered psychiatrist/hypnotist Spiegel during the celebrated retrial of Peter Reilly, the Connecticut youth convicted of his mother's murder and subsequently exonerated. Spiegel gave expert testimony that Reilly was not a high-trance subject capable of amnesia after-the-fact; he was vulnerable to police-interrogator pressures, however, because of a poor sense of self. Connery's Guilty Until Proven Innocent (1977) was an account of the case. Here he focuses on Spiegel himself--perhaps the leading American practitioner of medical hypnosis and trainer of physicians (at N.Y.'s Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital). Now in his late sixties, Spiegel comes across as a caricature of the forceful hypnotist: sharp in dress and speech, with a black mustache and a Kojak-style shaven dome. But he and Connery insist that the good hypnotist is not a Svengali controlling a passive ""You-are-sleepy"" patient. Quite the opposite: hypnosis is a state of acute alertness and awareness in which the subject concentrates intensely on the areas suggested by the hypnotist, to the exclusion of all else. Spiegel's aim is to train subjects in self-hypnosis and exploit the trance state to overcome phobias, pain, or other problems that (as he sees it) lend themselves to short-term therapy and positive control. He has devised an eyeball-rolling test as a measure of hypnotizability (how much white shows, on a scale of 0-4, when you are asked to look up); this he combines with a measure of the trance state induced (how easily, how deep) to provide a formula for working with patients. Depending on the score, the problem, and the personality, he suggests ways of inducing trance and appropriate ideas or imagery to aid the patient. (Giving up smoking, for instance, involves reinforcing positive ideas of being good to the body--rather than stern negatives or aversive conditioning.) All this does tend to sound simplistic or obvious. The stupendous successes overshadow the occasional failures; the easy typologies--Apollonians vs. Dionysians, reason vs. emotion--are all too familiar. Still, there is no longer any doubt that hypnosis can help some people--and the book provides ample warning that it's not a parlor game or a panacea. With a tidy summary of hypnotism's checkered past and a recap of Spiegel's colorful career: a reasonable and readable state-of-the-art report.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1982