Hypnosis and psyche: interview with prof. Giuseppe Vercelli

The unconscious, as a dark background, coincides with destiny and it is then necessary to modify the unconscious to modify destiny. In this regard, the trance dimension can represent a particular modality of confrontation and dialogue with the unconscious, able to bring out some often hidden abilities of our mind and also to modify the scripts through which we unconsciously build reality.

cover: Kinuko Y. Craft, โ€œPsyche Weepingโ€, 2019

by Roberto Cecchetti

As a philosophy teacher at the School of Psychotherapy Erich Fromm I often find myself having to build bridges between the tradition of Western thought and dynamic psychology.

To go deeper into this research, which is full of connections of great importance with traditional thought, Dr. Marco Maculotti and I, we thought of meeting prof. Joseph Vercelli, currently professor of sports psychology at the Unicusano University, former professor at the University of Turin, psychotherapist and head of the psychology area within the Juventus Medical Center, an authority on hypnosis, trance, psychology, especially in relation to the way of sport.

Among the works of Professor Vercelli we remember Winning with the mind (Bridge to Grace 2016), The hidden power of the shadow (Preview 2013), Competitive intelligence (Bridge to Grace 2017), Sports psychology in practice (Manfrini 2019).

Before proceeding with the questions to Professor Vercelli I would like to try briefly to clarify the reason for the philosophical interest, even before the psychological and clinical interest in phenomena such as those of trance and hypnosis. We can move from problem of freedom and destiny.

In the thought of Heidegger the throwaway, geworfenheit, is to be considered as the first and unavoidable moment in which being-there, that is man, finds himself having to deal with a world that has always been before him. Being thrown, being immersed in a language and in a horizon of objects and subjects that precede us, means encountering the primacy of otherness, means having to recognize that a world has always determined us, that is to say it largely determines our our motivations, our own movement, the motility that constitutes the wandering of the human.

After all, the same Husserl, in a famous passage by Ideas II he realized that the motivation that determines the movement, the initiation of the kinetic activity, of the dynamism corporeal, rested against a dark background, and psychoanalysis was ultimately necessary to understand this shadow origin. It is interesting that the father of phenomenology considers psychoanalytic investigation appropriate as it is capable of investigating the dark background that determines the very motivation of our movements. The throwaway is not decided by being there, just as the dark background of which Husserl speaks remains unknown and implicit. Both of these elements tell us about the constitutive precedence of the unconscious over consciousness.

The wisdom contained in the mythical tales of traditional societies was primarily concerned with the need for break free from the dominion of the unconscious: it was an identifying necessity that traditional man could put into action thanks to the action, to the ritual gesture that was inserted in a mythical-symbolic context.

What we must first focus on is the initial domination of the unconscious over consciousness. A great student of Carl Gustav Jung, Eric Neumann, which will assimilate the initial state of the development of the individual conscience, in which man finds himself thrown into the world, to the condition of fusion of the conscience with the unconscious in the so-called uroboric phase.

If the task of each subject is to question that being that he himself is, in order to proceed in a hermeneutic movement that takes on the sense of his own being, this task coincides with the interrogation of the unconscious; it is this question that gives life to every transformative and meaningful act for the individual.

The fact that, after the death of god, after the collapse of the patriarchal-traditional society, the importance of the search for meaning becomes even more urgent, indicating the need for an ever more authentic and ever more intimate confrontation with the unconscious background that precedes us. In modernity, however, this comparison seems no longer to be decisively supported by the mythical-symbolic apparatus of traditional society. As Jung repeated, there is no longer an imitation of Christ, but each one must alone, in the bewildering confrontation with the freedom of this time, come to terms with what constitutes adherence to one's own daimon, to one's destiny, to one's individual uniqueness, in the absence of models.

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The man of our time seems called to this, to an investigation into his own throwing, about the dark background that directs and orders our unconscious lives. Then the link between freedom and destiny becomes clear: as long as the unconscious prevails there is no freedom for the subject and at the same time the interpretation and dialogue, the confrontation with the unconscious, represent the way for the acquisition of a personal and authentic destiny.

So fate, what is opposed to our will, is something unconscious? Is destiny the way in which we unconsciously make ourselves interpreters of reality? Here's what he writes about the constructivist view Vercelli himself:

โ€œBy analyzing in detail what the brain structures and constructs through language, it turns out that most of the thinking turns out to be unconscious and automatic. Since thinking is mostly unconscious and uncontrolled, it happens that, in making decisions, we are often unable to consciously choose which maps of our mental representation are best to use. Generally, we think and make decisions using the first interpretation that presents itself to our awareness, which is often the result of expectations and prejudices. "

The unconscious, as a dark background, therefore coincides with destiny and it is therefore necessary to modify the unconscious to modify destiny.. In this regard, the trance dimension can represent a particular mode of confrontation and dialogue with the unconscious, capable of bringing out some often hidden abilities of our mind and also of modifying the scripts, metaphors, maps through which we unconsciously build. reality.

The professor. Giuseppe Vercelli

Interview with Roberto Cecchetti and Marco Maculotti

Cecchetti: Prof. Vercelli, after this brief introduction I wanted to ask you to briefly explain what is meant by trance

By trance we mean an alternative state of consciousness, generated by a focus of attention on a single, dominant and precise idea. This state, more and more studied over the years also by neuroscience, is defined by specific cortical and subcortical activations in which there is a strong connection and interaction between mind and body, with a consequent sensory amplification and activation of the latent resources of the individual. Just as it is well represented by this very explanatory image, the idea is that everything that the individual knows how to do well in the state of normal wakefulness, he can do it better in the state of hypnotic trance, thus considering the trance as a sort of " amplifier".

The phrase "hypnosis does not exist, there is only evidence of hypnosisWhich derives, in the light of recent neuroscientific discoveries, from a sort ofย  paraphrase of a quote from Milton Erickson, one of the greatest hypnotists of the twentieth century, who stated that "hypnosis does not exist, everything is self-hypnosis". Each trance is, ultimately, a self-trance in which the person accesses the abilities inherent in the human being.

Cecchetti: Sand the creation of the symbol and the mythical narrative represent creations of the unconscious, according to what Jung himself observed, it is possible to make the subject in hypnosis experience a mythical-symbolic process capable of producing a development in the subject himself or in the patient of conscience?

In hypnosis, the symbol or archetype is used to activate the "transpersonal" dimension, that is, the expansion of consciousness in which the superior capacities of our mind are activated. Examples of what has just been stated are represented byinsight, creativity and the problem solving. The expansion of consciousness is the dominant objective of all mystical disciplines and branches of every religion and context, just think of Sufism and the Cabala. The symbol, in constructivist hypnosis, therefore serves to activate the transpersonal monoidea and access this dimension of our mind. However, this does not happen automatically: the subject must be trained, regardless of whether it is induced or self-induced hypnosis.

Cecchetti: Could you tell us briefly about the SFERA model? In his book, winning with the mind he talks about a real ritual that leads to a condition of perfect psycho-physical activation. Do you think this process can also be used by those who are not an athlete for a complete development of the mind-body relationship?

SFERA is a Model and Method of analysis and intervention, based on the five factors underlying human performance. Conceived about fifteen years ago within the Sport Psychology Operating Unit of the Research Center in Motor Sciences (SUISM) of the University of Turin and currently successfully applied in sports and academia and as a business e life coaching. It was also presented to the international scientific community on the occasion of the XII World Congress of Sports Psychology in Marrakech (Morocco) in June 2009. The SFERA Model stands out mainly for ordering and simplifying, in an immediate and easy to memorize way, all the components necessary to achieve maximum performance. It can also be defined as a Model because, let us remember that a model is such if it can be represented graphically.

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SFERA allows you to give answers to any type of performance, starting from a more general phase, called the analysis phase, to arrive at the idea of โ€‹โ€‹NooSFERA, that is the knowledge and connection with the environment. More specifically, the Factors of the model are Synchrony, that is the ability to concentrate in the here and now, the Strength points, that is the technical, physical and mental resources that the individual recognizes to possess, the Energy, which consists in 'active and balanced use of strength, the Rhythm, that is the right flow in the sequence of movements and the Activation, which refers to the motivational engine and to the maximum expression of the passion of the subject. Hypnosis is closely linked to SFERA because it is the privileged tool to facilitate the functional connection between mind and body: Synchronicity is in fact the state of maximum expression of ย  these two components.

Cecchetti: Sport is often understood as a recreational activity or pastime. In your opinion, can sport be seen as an activity that leads to a trance state where the ego dissolves and the subject-object opposition disappears?

Sport always leads to a connection. In the Kenyan language, for example, to define an action one does not say "the horse gallops" but something that would sound likeย  ยซthe gallop mare ยป. In other words, it is a linguistic expression in which the subject is the action. A different construction of the sentence and the activation of different linguistic registers therefore allow to have completely different mental representations. Even in sport, neologisms are born, such as those used to define some technical terms. Speaking of skiing, for example, the word "cutโ€Has a very specific meaning for an athlete who does Slalom or who is Giant, while for a person who does not know this discipline it may not mean anything.

Cecchetti: So can rituality be understood as a method for directing the unconscious and therefore the destiny of the subject?

Unlike the classical, orthodox psychoanalytic dimension, the unconscious is considered exclusively as a reservoir of resources in Ericksonian and constructivist hypnotic practice. In hypnotic trance we draw on the resources of the unconscious, so much so that in the incipits of inductions there is always the idea that, if we have to solve a problem, we do not ask the unconscious to solve it and find the solution, but we ask it to remember the solution. In this regard, the following table is indicative, which summarizes a simple distinction between the functions that are usually attributed to the conscious mind and those attributed to the unconscious mind on the other.

We can therefore say that it is the relationship with the unconscious that is different: if we make this relationship virtuous, the limit can really be transformed into an opportunity.

Maculotti: Are there studies on the brain capable of detecting brain activity under psychotropic substances that in traditional rituals were used to reach the trance state?

When it comes to trance, we must be careful not to get confused: the use of psychedelics alters perception and, consequently, the state of consciousness. On the other hand, the trance is different, which we can define as an alternative state of consciousness. If we consider the neurological and neuroanatomical aspects, the concept of "hypnotic trance" concerns a particular functioning of the individual that allows you to influence your physical, mental and behavioral conditions.

Maculotti: The most varied sacred traditions, from the Indo-Buddhist one to the shamanic ones, identify in the subject in a trance state some changes not only psychic, but also physical. One of these would be the so-called "internal heat", which the Hindus call "tapas" and to which the ancient Norsemen, who called "รฒor", attributed exceptional abilities such as transformation into Berserker or animals of various kinds. Has your experience in the field of trance research ever allowed you to identify, in the subjects analyzed, a similar change of "internal heat" during the ecstatic state?

We can define "internal heat" as a metaphorical image,ย  which highlights the fact that when we are in extreme connection with ourselves, we actually perceive new and different sensations. The label is not important: we can call it "internal heat", as well as a state of inspiration or insight. From the neurophysiological point of view there are actually cerebral modifications of different areas, such as a deactivation of some parts of the left and right parietal lobes (medial parietal cortex) associated with different sensations. In summary, it is a symbolic identification of something that has to do with a practice.

Maculotti: In the shamanic tradition of various countries, eg. in the Americas, in central and northern Asia and in Australia, mention is made, during initiation rituals, of "invisible darts" or "quartz crystals" that are "projected" (or "sung into") the physical structure of the neophyte in order to carry out the inner transmutation. Taking into account your research in the field of trance, can something similar be seen in the panorama of today's โ€œdesacralizedโ€ world?

In the hypnotic trance we speak of minimal cues, that is, of trance indicators. Everyone has their own minimal cues and the hypnotist's job is to locate them, whether he works on hypnosis or self-hypnosis. These indicators can be kinesthetic, auditory or visual. In the case of invisible darts or quartz crystals, we would refer to the hypnotic decoding of these phenomena a minimal cues visual. It is also widely known that the presence and appearance, in a trance state, of very vivid shapes and colors, between blue and purple, is always linked to the achievement of profound mental states. However, this is not the only system for certifying trance: kinesthetic stimuli, such as automatic rotating movements or auditory or drumming stimuli, can also be so.

Maculotti: We would like to conclude with a curiosity. We know that you got to know Gustavo Rol personally. Do you think that an opening towards the fantastic can be a resource in this historical moment?

I was lucky enough to know and associate with this character for six years who, regardless of how he is played by fans or detractors,ย  he was certainly gifted with extraordinary intelligence and enormous sensitivity to the world. His main feature was an extraordinary form of empathy. Beyond the character Rol, returning to the "fantastic" understood as spiritual, I would like to mention Maslow, who at the end of the study on his motivational pyramid prophesies that man, when he has reached full self-realization, will actually fall into a state of psychopathology of normality. How, then, can we counteract this psychopathology of normality that today affects everyone a little? Through a new spirituality, even disconnected from religion,ย  and implementedย  right by accessing theย  transpersonal dimension that we discussed earlier.

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