Podcast > Episodes

episode #228

Interview with Dr. David Spiegel: Power of Hypnosis, Changing Your Relationship with Food and Improving Your Sleep!

February 20, 2023 in Podcast


This week I interviewed Dr. David Spiegel.

Dr. Spiegel is the associate chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, the director of the Stanford Center on Stress and Health, and has published over 480 journal articles, and a whopping 13 books on the subject of hypnosis and related topics.

Set aside your preconceived notions regarding what hypnosis “is” and “is not” because Dr. Spiegel is here to help us better understand the power of scientific hypnosis, the neurobiology of hypnosis, and the clinical applications of hypnosis from pain management to sports performance!

We also discuss how underutilized it is and how to do self directed treatments with his hypnosis app Reveri (linked below).

Enjoy the show!

Hypnosis App: https://www.reveri.com/

Brian (0s):

Coming up on the Get Lean EAN podcast,

David (3s):

People are scared by the idea of hypnosis and if it people have had any personal exposure, it's going to some dumb state show where, you know, the football coach dances like a ballerina and makes it fool of himself. And, and so they see it as either silly or dangerous and they're afraid of it. You know, I've, I've thought that maybe our tagline should be hypnosis dangerously effective. You know, cause it does, it, it is a rapid change in your state of consciousness. It's highly focused attention and you can use that to, to good advantage. And, you know, you mentioned you love golf. Guess who trained with hypnosis throughout his career? Tiger Woods, you know, and his glacial calm in the face of, you know, highly stressful situations, I think in part is due to his training in self-hypnosis, in narrowing the focus of attention.

David (54s):

Now, it didn't help his marriage or his driving very much, I'm sorry to say. But yeah, it sure helped him become a superb athlete. And, and so it's a skill that when you learn to master it can really help you.

Brian (1m 9s):

Hello and welcome to the Get Lean ean podcast. I'm Brian Grn and I'm here to give you actionable tips to get your body back to what it once was, five, 10, even 15 years ago. Each week I'll give you an in-depth interview with a health expert from around the world to cut through the fluff and get you long-term sustainable results. This week I interviewed Dr. David Spiegel. Dr. Spiegel is the associate chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Services at Stanford University School of Medicine, the director of the Stanford Center on Stress and Health. And has published over 480 journal articles and a whopping 13 books on the subject of hypnosis and related topics.

Brian (1m 49s):

So set aside your preconceived notions regarding what hypnosis is and is not. Because Dr. Spiegel is here to help us better understand the power of scientific hypnosis, the neurobiology of hypnosis, and the clinical applications of hypnosis from pain management to sports performance. We also discussed how underutilized it is and how to do self-directed treatments with his hypnosis app. Revere really enjoyed my interview with Dr. Spiegel. This was a great topic to learn about and I hope you enjoy it. Thanks so much for listening and enjoy the show. All right, welcome to the Get Lean ean podcast. My name is Brian Grin and I have Dr.

Brian (2m 30s):

David Spiegel on welcome to the show.

David (2m 32s):

Thank you Brian. Glad to be here.

Brian (2m 35s):

Thanks for coming on. And I was just talking with Dr. Spiegel. I haven't had anyone on actually to talk about hypnosis and I've always been interested in the mind and how we can work it towards our advantage in sports cuz sports is a big part of my life, especially golf. And so maybe we'll get into that. But before we get get into that, perhaps maybe give the audience a little bit of background of yourself. I know you've been, been 40 years of research with hypnosis and things like that. Maybe explain that, that sort of journey if you can.

David (3m 6s):

Sure, Brian. I'd be glad to. Well, I'm, I've, it's been more, it's been more like almost 50 years of clinical work and research with hypnosis. It's been something of a genetic disorder in my family because both of my parents were psychiatrists and psychoanalyst. And my father was an expert in hypnosis. So he, he started using it when he was trained by a Viennese refugees as World War ii. Began to use it on the battlefield to help with combat stress and pain. And he, you know, so the dinner table conversations were interesting and I got to occasionally watch him make a movie of a patient.

David (3m 46s):

He was hypnotizing and I, so I was intrigued by it. And my parents told me I was free to be any kind of psychiatrist I wanted to be. So here I am. And I took a course in medical school and my, the first time I ever used it was I was walking down the hall at Children's Hospital in Boston and the nurse said, Spiegel, your next patient is an asthmatic in room, you know, whatever number it was. And I'm following this out of the wheezing down the hall. And I walk in the room and there's this pretty 15 year old bolt upright in bed knuckles white struggling for breath. Her mother's standing there crying and they had twice given her subcutaneous epinephrine that didn't work.

David (4m 29s):

And they were thinking about inducing general anesthesia and then giving her steroids. And I didn't know what else to do. So I said, would you like to learn a breathing exercise? And she knocks and I said, got her hypnotized. And then I realized we hadn't gotten to asthma in the course yet. So I came up with something very subtle and clever. I said, each breath you take will be a little deeper and a little easier. And within 15 minutes he's lying back in bed. She's not wheezing. Her mother stopped crying, the nurse ran out of the room and my intern comes looking for me and I figure he is gonna pat me on the back and say, what the hell did you do? Speak roll. And he said the nurse filed a complaint with the nursing supervisor that you violated Massachusetts law by hypnotizing a minor without parental consent.

David (5m 13s):

Now I lived in Massachusetts for seven years. It's got a lot of weird laws, but that's not on the list. And her mother was standing there anyway right next to me. And that's been the problem with hypnosis, Brian. Either people think it's useless and ridiculous and a stage show trick or it's really dangerous. You know, be careful. So he said, you're gonna have to stop doing this. And I said, well, tell you what I said, as long as she's my patient, I'm not gonna tell her something I know isn't true talk. My talking to her is a lot safer than what you're planning to do with her. And she's better. And so take me off the case if you want, but while she's my patient, I'm gonna keep doing this.

David (5m 53s):

So he runs out and there's a weekend conference among the intern, the the chief resident, the attending. And they came back on Monday with a radical idea for Children's Hospital. They said, let's ask the patient. And she said, I like this. You know, now she'd been hospitalized every month for three months and status asthmatic cuz she had one subsequent hospitalization, but then went on to study to be a respiratory therapist. And I thought that anything could help a patient that much, that fast, that safely and violate a non-existent law in Massachusetts. Had to be worth looking into. And I've been doing it ever since. You know, I just saw it, you know, it couldn't have been any planer than that, that the mine, you know, we have this huge three pound organ on the top of our bodies.

David (6m 37s):

It controls and connects with everything in the body. It's our major evolutionary advantage, but it doesn't come with a user's manual. And so people don't begin to understand the extent to which they can learn to control their mind and their body, whether better be better with hypnosis.

Brian (6m 55s):

Yeah. And how long ago was that? What, do you remember what year that

David (6m 58s):

Was? That was in 1970. 1970. So it was a long

Brian (7m 4s):

Time ago. And would you say since then h has it, has it changed hypnosis has the, the research I'm, I'm sure obviously more research, but like has it become like more, has it become more used in practice or what would you say?

David (7m 21s):

No, I, it's been terribly disappointing. Brian, I, you know, I thought, you know, my, my theory when I started my career was build it and they will come, you know, provide the research base we need and then people will see it and use it. And I published an article in The Lancet in 2000 showing randomized clinical trial with, you know, 102 hundred 40 patients, three arms. They were all undergoing invasive radiological procedures. Arterial cutdowns, you don't use general anesthesia for it. One arm got standard care, which was you push a button, you get opioids, we know how good the opioids are these days.

David (8m 2s):

The second is that plus a friendly nurse providing comfort to control for just emotional support. And the third was teaching themself hypnosis to filter the heart out of the pain, to learn to control the pain and their stress levels better. And by the end of an hour and a half, the ones randomized to hypnosis had virtually no pain at all, virtually no anxiety at all. The, the standard care group had five out of 10 pain and six out of 10 anxiety. They were using twice as much opioids. And it turned out the procedures ended 17 minutes faster. And the hypnosis group, cuz they were just so much more comfortable. And you know what, the staff were more comfortable too.

David (8m 42s):

They didn't feel like they were hurting. They, and there were fewer complications. Now if I published a randomized clinical trial like that in the best medical journal in Great Britain, every hospital in the country would be be using it now. Right. You know, evidence based. Right. But they're not, and half a million Americans have died from opioid overdose tests in the last 10 years. And so there is something really outta whack here and that's why I'm talking to you now, that hypnosis is a powerful, effective, and safe means of helping people with stress, insomnia, pain, eating problems, stopping smoking. And we are terribly underutilizing it.

David (9m 23s):

And so that's why I started Revo, I I figured I'm, I'm gonna bypass the middleman and go straight to the people who use it and get it out that way because we've done a terrible job of making it an available treatment.

Brian (9m 37s):

Yeah, I was looking at your, your app Rev Revere, and when did you, when did you start that?

David (9m 44s):

We started at about two years ago. Okay.

Brian (9m 46s):


David (9m 48s):

We've, we've enrolled about 240,000 people right now. I'm treating more people than I used to in a month. So it, it, you know, it's just teaching them a skill, teaching them how to control their stress and trouble sleeping and eating problems. And I'm, I figure I'm just gonna go straight to the people who can benefit from it. That's the idea.

Brian (10m 11s):

Yeah. Because the traditional route wasn't working.

David (10m 15s):

Wasn't working.

Brian (10m 16s):

No, it would you say that's because, you know, there's just no money in it per se? Like, or what would you say the reasonings why it probably hasn't been more for

David (10m 27s):

Yeah, well I'd say there are a couple things. People are scared by the idea of hypnosis and if it people have had any personal exposure, it's going to some dumb stage show where, you know, the football coach dances like a ballerina and makes it fool of himself. And, and so they see it as either silly or dangerous and they're afraid of it. You know, I've, I've thought that maybe our tagline should be hypnosis dangerously effective, you know, cause it does it, it is a rapid change in your state of consciousness is highly focused attention. And you can use that to, to good advantage. And you know, you mentioned you love golf. Guess who trained with hypnosis throughout his career?

David (11m 7s):

Tiger Woods, you know, and his glacial calm in the face of, you know, highly stressful situations. I think in part is due to his training in self-hypnosis and narrowing the focus of attention now, it didn't help his marriage or his driving very much, I'm sorry to say. But yeah, it sure helped him become a superb athlete. And, and so it's a skill that when you learned to master it can really help you.

Brian (11m 34s):

Yeah. And how long does it, I mean, how long would it take for someone? Do you see like to, I talk about mastering it, you know, cuz I think it's tough for a lot of people. If you talk about just like staying present, it's, it can be difficult. It's just like meditating to some degree. W how long would you say it takes someone to actually like master hypnosis self hypnosis?

David (11m 56s):

15 minutes. I, I just got done talking with one of our subjects who was using Revere for the last couple of weeks for eating control. Lovely 59 year old woman who has meditated forever and loves meditation and she does movie meditation and all this stuff, you know, but she said, this is very different. And she said, I'm eating entirely differently now and I don't, I no longer feel guilty about having intention. So meditation is a wonderful practice. It's changed a lot of people's lives, but it's Easter, you know, the idea is don't try to do any, solve anything, be open.

David (12m 37s):

Let let your feelings and your thoughts flow through. You. Don't do it for a reason, do it because it's good to do it. To have open presence, to have compassion, to be aware of your body, but not try to change things. See Syd now for the first time, I don't feel, I go into the state, I don't feel guilty at all. And she's not that hypnotizable, but she's got the idea of focusing on respect and protection for her body, which is one of the things that we teach people in hypnosis. Focus on what you're for, not what you're against. So she said, I can enjoy eating more while I'm eating less. I sit down. I I don't just nibble all the time. I sit down and really enjoy a meal. I, for the first time, I don't feel I need to eat chocolate every day.

David (13m 19s):

I like it, but I'm thinking about what's good for my body. She said, it's, it's gotten me through life this far. I want to give it a good ride the rest of the way. And, and so she's focusing on respecting and protecting her body. The hypnosis helped her shift her perspective on that. And she's already very happy about how she's changed her perspective on eating. And so it's the kind of thing that can happen unlike mindfulness where you, which again, I have great respect for, but it's different. You, you're supposed to do it for two or three or four weeks. Headspace proudly reports understandably that their users and they have millions of users are 16% happier after they use it for three weeks.

David (14m 1s):

And that's great. But hypnosis is different. You don't have to use it for three weeks, I hope you will. But you can feel less stress in 15 minutes. You can feel less pain in 15 minutes. You can change your perspective on how you eat very rapidly.

Brian (14m 16s):

Hmm. And I'm curious, what is the brain, what under, what happens during this process with the brain? Just not, you know, not to get too into the weeds, but I'm just curious Yeah. Like sort of the signs behind what happens during hypnosis, you know, on a neurological level.

David (14m 35s):

I'm glad you asked that question. We spent a lot of time researching that. And so what we, what we did was we took a group of high and low digitizable people, people reliably differ in their hypnotizability.

Brian (14m 47s):

How can you, I'm, I'm curious. I I know you've said that a few times. What Yeah. Differentiates people. I'm wondering like if I am or not, I, I would, I think I would be, but I don't, I have no idea. Yeah.

David (14m 57s):

Do you ever get so caught up in a good movie that you kind of forget you're watching a movie and enter the imagined world or

Brian (15m 4s):

A novel? I don't watch a lot of movies or, yeah, that's a good question. I probably not actually, but,

David (15m 12s):

Hmm. Okay. Or reading a book. Do you ever just get totally absorbed in it or doing your work? Do

Brian (15m 16s):

You just Yeah. Conversations or work? Yeah,

David (15m 21s):

We, we have one quick test that we can try. It's not actually being hypnotized, but I'll give you an idea. It's called an eye roll where you look up. Just try this look up, pass your eyebrows, keep your head still, but look up. Okay. And as you keep looking up, slowly close your eyes look up and close. Good. Okay. So let your eyes open now. So that test would suggest that you're moderately hyp, not extremely, but, but moderately hypnotizable. And I just, I give a, we have a five minute test that's also available on Rev. You can do it interactively to, and, and it involves giving instructions to let your hand feel light like a balloon float up in the air.

David (16m 1s):

And if you pull it down, it'll float back up. And there are people whose hands just will sit there forever. I was remotely treating a woman the other day whose having, having trouble with her concentration and stress and her hand was just floating up in the air for 15 minutes while we were doing it. And she didn't even notice it. She just said, it just wants to be there. You know? So you can radically change your mind body relationship, how you control things in your body. And the test takes five minutes. So it's just, you know, if I pull the hand down, will it float back up? And people very reliably, about two-thirds of the adult population is at least somewhat hypnotizable. About 15% are extremely hypnotizable and the rest are not.

David (16m 43s):

And it's good to know that, but you know, you can learn about a good strategy even if you don't have the added boost of shifting states and going into this altered mental state. So to get back to your question about what would go on in your brain if you were hypnotizable and entered a state, we find that three changes happened. So we took highs and lows, put them in the M r i scanner and then gave them a recorded hypnosis instruction that I prepared. And two of them involved hypnotic states. One going on a vacation, imagining what that was like. And another just doing things that made you feel happy, feeling good.

David (17m 24s):

So there were things that were meant to pleasantly engage people. And then one was just being at rest and not doing anything. And one was doing a memory task. And only the differences we saw were only in highly hypnotizable people and only in the two hypnotic conditions. And we saw three things. One was they turned down activity in what's we call the salience network. It's a part of the brain, deep in the middle, it's center of the, the brain called the anterior singular cortex. And so when you hear, if you were to hear a loud noise that you thought was a gunshot, you'd stop paying attention to me and shift, that's your salience network saying, Hey Brian, look out. There's something going on. You better pay attention to. It's, it's what the social media people do all the time to drag your attention away from what you're doing online by saying, did you hear there were break-ins in the neighborhood and you better, you know, it gets you sealants that we're distracting you.

David (18m 16s):

So in hypnosis you turn down activity in that area, you just say, I'm not gonna worry about whatever else is going on. I I'm gonna focus intently on this. The second change is that there's higher connective activities. So similar activity between the executive control network, the one I'm hopefully using now talking to you in the frontal cortex and the insular, which is a part of the salience network that controls the mind body relationship. So it's how my asthmatic patient was able to break the circle of psychological fear and physical tension that kept her bronchials constricted and let go. So the, the executive control speaks to the mind body salience network and says, calm things down, your body's gonna be fine.

David (19m 3s):

And the third is inverse activity between the executive control network and something we call the default mode network. That's the part of your brain. That's when you're just kind of ruminating about yourself. You're not performing a task, you're not distracted by anything else. You're just thinking about yourself, what people think about you, who you are and what's cool about that. And that's a part of the brain where activity goes down during mindfulness as well. Because, you know, part of mindfulness meditation is to kind of let go of yourself, preoccupation, you know, let go of yourself. Just be, don't be, you just be. And in hypnosis you're able to quickly and temporarily disconnect what you're doing from who you are.

David (19m 44s):

So that's why the football coach can dance like a ballerina, not think about it. It's why you can give up old kind of false ideas or preoccupations. And like this nice woman I talked to just before talking to you, she said, I used to think that my chocolate was my treat, I had to have this treat. And now I'm thinking I don't have to have it every day. I like chocolate, I'll have it sometimes, but my first priority now is giving my body a good ride as long as I've got it taking care of my body and it doesn't feel like I'm giving up so much. It feels like I'm being consistent with a commitment to take care of my body.

David (20m 24s):

So it's a way of cutting loose from old preoccupations and approaching an old problem from a new point of view.

Brian (20m 32s):

Yeah, it's so interesting. I mean, cuz we all have sort of these self labels that we put on ourselves. I mean, I work with a lot, a lot of men who probably for the last 30, 40 years, you know, have been slowly, let's just say like have this label of themselves is, oh, well I'm, I'm the, I was always the fat kid. Or you know, like these labels that they put on themselves throughout many years. And, and it's some of it's subconsciously. And so what you're sort of saying is hypnosis can sort of separate you from that. Would that does that? It's,

David (21m 9s):

Yeah, it's well put. We say in hypnosis that you always wanna focus on what you're for, not what you're against. You know, if I tell you, don't think about purple elephants, guess what you're thinking about, you know? So instead it's a way of changing your perspective, not by fighting it and saying, I don't want to think of myself as a fat kid, but rather, the thing I tell people in hypnosis is, for my body, too much food is a poison. I need my body to live. I owe my body respect and protection. I get them to think of their body as if it were their child, their baby, or their pet. We would never do to a pet what we do with our own body. Would you force your dog to eat more food than he wanted to?

David (21m 50s):

Hell no. But your body is as dependent on you as your pet or your baby is. So we all have this natural protective urge, use it, feel good about yourself, don't feel you're depriving yourself, feel like you're being a more responsible steward of your own body.

Brian (22m 8s):

And sessions of hypnosis last, how long typically would

David (22m 12s):

You say? Well, in my office, the, the actual hypnosis session is like 15 minutes. And on reary the sessions are like nine to 11 minutes. They're interactive. I ask a question, depending on what you say, you'll get a different response. And we also have some one minute reminders, hypnotic moments that will help you kind of tune back into the last time you used it. But it can literally take, you know, just using it yourself, you know, three to five minutes to just kind of renew your commitment, to respect your body and feel good about what you plan to do, review what you have done. And so it can be very rapid, but it's a, it's a sudden shift in your focus of attention.

Brian (22m 53s):

And each time you're using the app revere, are you getting into this hyp hypno hypnosis state or, or is it just sort of reminders or things like that? Like

David (23m 2s):

No, you're getting into the state. Okay. I mean, we do have some explanation, but unlike a lot of other apps where you spend a lot of time learning what it is and what to do, our, our goal is to get you into it and doing it as quickly as possible and see what it's like. And then you can learn more about it if you want to. But much of the time on the app is actually experiencing self-hypnosis.

Brian (23m 24s):

Now I'm really intrigued. You know, I, I see you, you focus one of, well one of them is focus and performance. And you talk about sort of shifting states and like in golf, you know, you, you sometimes call this like a flow state where you know you're playing and you're not even like, no, nothing around you is matters. You know, you're in this sort of like, right, just like, like one state of mind. And, and this is when, this is where you see, like you talk about tiger woods and the best athletes in the world seem to get to this state more often.

David (23m 54s):


Brian (23m 57s):

Yeah, go ahead. Go ahead, go ahead. No, I was just curious, like, yeah, maybe talk about the application it could use for, for performance.

David (24m 4s):

Well, there's a famous book called Zen in the Art of Archery. And this zen master, who also was a superb archer, used to say, you know, most people focus on the wrong thing when they're performing. They focus on the, you know, the arrow hitting the target, aiming at the target. And he said, that's a mistake. What you wanna focus on is your relationship with the bow and arrow. And if your relationship is correct, the arrow will go where it needs to go. And so he's saying you're focusing more on outcome than you are on process and in flow. You know, you're not thinking, oh, oh, what happens if I don't make it? Or you know, if I don't score a basket or if I, you know, you can be sure Steph Curry, I'm sorry he got injured last night, but he's fabulous.

David (24m 50s):

He's not worried about the consequences. He's having a physical experience of how he relates to the basketball and where it goes. And Tiger Woods did that too. He was amazing at just concentrating on what his body needed to do and let the rest take care of itself. And so it's this idea of being in and enjoying the physical experience you're having, rather than worrying about what the consequences and outcome will be. You're just distracting yourself if you do that. So that's the idea that to narrow your f in hypnosis, you narrow the focus of attention so that you can just be in the moment and the experience that you have dissociate everything else.

David (25m 31s):

Put outside of conscious awareness, things that could be in consciousness, but wind up just being distractions and being cognitively flexible. Seeing things from a different point of view than the one you usually have. And those three things are the essence of hypnosis. And you can, when you combine that in performance or in taking care of your body as you eat, you'll find you can be more effective and you can really change in a hurry.

Brian (25m 55s):

Hmm. What, what other applications can you use it for? I'm just curious what else?

David (26m 1s):

We, we use it for helping people stop smoking. Same kind of concept as with eating only. It's not, but we're not telling you to smoke better. We're telling you that for my body, smoking is a poison. I need my body to live by my body respect and protection. Would you put tar nicotine into the lungs of your baby or your, your pet cat or dog? Hell no. So focus on respecting and protecting your body after using the app. 19% of people stop smoking. Now I wish it were everyone, but that's as good as you get with most of the medication for cleaning others that people use. So it's not bad people. Some people can do it in a hurry and feel good about it. The nice thing is for them, it isn't a struggle.

David (26m 42s):

And I say, oh god, you know, I'm so anxious now and this and that. They feel good about themselves cause they're taking a whole new point of view. It's shifting your focus about shifting to respecting and and protecting your body. We use it for insomnia. That's one of our most pop popular apps. And we try to get free and post information from people on the app, you know, with how stressed are you feeling before and how stressed after we get about a 35% reduction, same with pain, we get about the same level of reduction in 15 minutes. We were getting very poor responses on sleep until people started texting us that they didn't want to provide an answer because they were falling asleep. They didn't wake themselves up to tell us how sleepy they felt.

David (27m 25s):

So it can, it can happen very quickly and, and many people can get good results in a hurry.

Brian (27m 33s):

Would you recommend someone working with someone like that's a professional hypnosis for

David (27m 40s):

For I'm sorry, go ahead.

Brian (27m 42s):

Yeah, no, first and you know, I guess it probably depends on the individual and the situation maybe. But I'm, I'm just curious.

David (27m 48s):

Well, you know, one of the, I was teaching a workshop for the Society for Clinical Experimental Hypnosis and one of my esteemed senior colleagues said, you know, I realize we've been making a mistake in hypno. We've been treating it like Golden Fort Knox. You know, that, you know, you have to go to the right person all the time. I do think if you seek a professional, go to someone who's licensed and trained in a professional specialty like psychology, medicine, dentistry or whatever, you know, it's important to have someone who knows how to help you assess the problem and figure out the best way to treat it. But I think it's not necessary. A lot of people can benefit by trying to just learn it for themselves. And that's why we built Revere. And there was a time when I wouldn't have dared to do it.

David (28m 30s):

I would've thought, oh my God, what's gonna happen? These people will be out there in trances and all this stuff and it hasn't happened. You know, it's because people who are hypnotizable are in trance-like states a lot of times anyway, like getting lost in movies. And my favorite example of why I'm not so worried about it anymore is that when, when windshield wipers were invented for cars a century or so ago, there was a movement not to allow them, because remember the oldest idea of how to hypnotize someone was to bangal a watch. You know, well what do your eyes do when you're looking at a dangling watch? They moved back and forth and people were afraid that people would watch the windshield wipers while they were driving and go into trans states, well, we're okay with windshield wipers.

David (29m 12s):

It, it has not caused that problem. And right, same, same with this, that people can learn to master an ability they have and they probably use sometimes in the wrong ways anyway. So find a, find it, it is a good way to approach it and see if it will help you. Now there are some kinds of problems that are more serious. I use hypnosis to help people deal with post-traumatic stress disorder and people can have serious symptoms, serious problems of flashbacks and, and hyper arousal and irritability that need attention. And, and sometimes for that you need a licensed and trained professional to help you with it.

David (29m 54s):

So I would say it's a good revey, things like re or good place to start. And if you need more help or you're having symptoms that are really serious, by all means get to a licensed and trained professional who also knows about hypnosis and, and let them help you with it.

Brian (30m 11s):

Okay. And how, is this something you have to perform every day? I'm just thinking like, if, if I'm going to play golf, would I do it like the morning of or is that unnecessary?

David (30m 26s):

Well, it depends. It's, it's not a bad idea. I think it does set you in the right frame of mind. Okay. And it gets your mind associating that when you actually pick up the club and take the shot, you're gonna try and be in this frame of mind. So I would say it's easy, it's fast, it's a good idea to do it, to set yourself up for, for what you're gonna do. And I find that very helpful. When I sometimes was anxious about giving a talk, I would just go into a little state of self-hypnosis before and just in my own mind, check off where the talk was going, my main points. Cuz sometimes as a speaker we get lost in the weeds and it was helpful for me to say, what's the big picture I want my audience to come away with?

David (31m 6s):

And I found that was helpful to me and I think in helping them, and it's certainly making me less anxious about giving the talk.

Brian (31m 13s):

How have you been implementing it? So you, which you sort of answered my question, but in your life Yeah. I mean, you've learned about it. You like, what'd you say since the seventies? Yeah. Has this been something you've been utilizing in your life since then?

David (31m 27s):

Sure. One athletic performance thing, I was trying to learn a water ski and I, I was on my face all the time and I realized that what I was doing was the typical mistake that newbies make with water skiing, which is, they're, they're really tense and they're pulling in like this and they're making more of a control differential than they need to just hang on to the, to the rope and their leg. My legs were stiff and so I couldn't absorb the bounces on the water. So I hypnotized myself and I said something very clever and and complicated arm straight knees bent, arm straight knees bent.

David (32m 8s):

And I got it. I was up, you know, it just was sort of programming my mind to program my body to do what it needed to do to do it. And so I've used it for things like that. I've used it for pain. I had a recurrent dislocating shoulder that I finally decided to have operated on. And I, it was a three hour procedure, I had general anesthesia for that, but afterwards I was just imagining cool tingly numbness in my shoulder, filtered her out of the pain. And I went, I, I was at a hospital, I worked at Mass General and I went over and read my chart, which I wasn't supposed to do. And the, the surgical intern had written patient using very little pain medication.

David (32m 48s):

We mustn't have cut many nerves now, you know, I got a scar from here to here. I can tell you that, you know, they cut nerves, but people just couldn't understand. I used it that way. My, my lovely wife who's a stem cell biologist was when she gave birth to our first child, Dan, who was now a very large important architect in San Francisco. He was 10 pounds when he was born for a first child that's alive. She was floating in Lake Tahoe, filtering the head outta the pain, didn't have the usual physical anesthesia, and I had no pain at all. You know, she was, she was fine. And she had her second child in a couple hours, again using self-hypnosis.

David (33m 32s):

So yeah, it can be very helpful.

Brian (33m 35s):

Oh, there's your wife making a kidney in

David (33m 37s):

The background. Right? Right. Wanna say hi, wave.

Brian (33m 42s):

She's ok. It's all true. All

David (33m 45s):

True. She's said,

Brian (33m 49s):

I mean the, the brain is cylinder under utilized. What like, percentage would you say that we use our brain? I've, I know I've heard these stats before, but like the percentage that we're actually using our brain and how much we actually, how much more we could actually obtain from just, you know, using it or learning to use it?

David (34m 4s):

Well, I, I'll tell you, I, my, in my publications, I live and die by numbers. So I'm, I'm, you know, hesitant to make 'em up. Yeah. But I would say that at the least we can double what we can do by, by making better use of our brain. I mean, hypnosis, we've, we've done studies where people can look at a color grid and drain the color from it. Hypnotically looks black and white and reduce activity in the color processing regions of the brain significantly. And if they look at a black and white grid and add the color, they double, you know, the increase the activity in those regions. So I call that believing is seeing, you know, we, our brains have an incredible ability to help us picture and, and then plan and experience things that we didn't think we could.

David (34m 54s):

And so it's something we don't nearly take full enough advantage of. You know, there's, you know, it's, it's related to but more powerful than the placebo effect, you know, expect something that will happen. Yeah, you'll feel better. And there's evidence that a lot of our responses to many medications have a placebo component. So let's, it's not, it's not a problem, let's take advantage of it, you know, let's, but it, it's a combination of doing that, but, but choosing the right strategy that will genuinely help you whether or not you're hypnotized. But if you are hypnotizable and you use the right strategy, you're gonna get a lot farther along.

Brian (35m 32s):

And I noticed on rere, there's a, then you did it to me, the eye roll test, and I was just looking at, so was that developed by your dad?

David (35m 41s):

Yes. Okay. It was, he, he used to, his hypnotic induction used to be looking at a, a light fixture on the ceiling of his office. And one, one morning, I, I had been with him on a Saturday while he was hypnotizing this very large woman who had what we called non-epileptic seizures. So suddenly she'd fall down and start her arms and legs would be moving. And her husband actually had to have his desk at the factory near the door. So if she started to have one of these seizures, he could run home and help her. And this neurologist at Columbia called my father and said, her, I'm not asking you, I'm telling you you're gonna see this woman. So he did, and he did a, a really kind of funny thing.

David (36m 23s):

He said, good, I'm gonna help you have a seizure. And she said, are you kidding? I came here to get rid of them. I said, well, a lot of people have tried that hasn't worked. Right. So, you know, give me, gimme a chance here. So he has her go back to remember the last time she had a seizure, and sure enough she has one. And he said, good, you know, and a lot of these people, they can't stop it, but they can start it. That's a way of teaching them, they can control it. So he taught her to have milder and milder seizures. So instead of falling down and, and thrashing her arms and legs, she just had a little tremor in her hand. And she felt great. She was doing a whole lot better. And it happened that I noticed and he noticed that when she would go into hypnosis her eye, he couldn't see her, her pupils at at all.

David (37m 4s):

He just saw sclera. It was all white. As she looked up and closed her eyes. And on the next Monday, he had a very obsessional, rigid guy who wouldn't take suggestions from anyone and had him look up and he noticed that he had to bring his eyes down as he closed them. And this guy was not at all hypnotizable. And that's what got him thinking. So he started measuring, and yours is, as I say, in a mid-range, but it does seem to be, it's not a test of hypnotizability per se, but it's an indicator that you've got the biology that should allow you to experience hypnosis. And our eyes are right in the middle of controlling consciousness. We close 'em when we go to sleep. We have rapid eye movements when we're dreaming during sleep.

David (37m 46s):

So the parts of the brain that control eye movements are also related to what's called a reticular activating system apart. It gets very active when you're alert and aroused and very quiet when you're going to sleep. So it's not a surprise that the way your eyes move might be some indication of how hypnotized where you're

Brian (38m 4s):

Yeah, that's really, so the more your eyes will roll up when you do the test tech, typically you're more hypnotizable than

David (38m 12s):

Someone. But the crucial thing is not just rolling up, but keeping them up while you close your eyelids. That's hard to do. Yeah.

Brian (38m 17s):

Right, right. I

David (38m 17s):

Noticed that. Cause you're asking those nerves to do contradictory things, and it's the ability to keep your eyes up while you're closing them. That's the real test.

Brian (38m 27s):

I know you did, you did it to Dr. Huberman. Was he pretty hypnotizable? Yes,

David (38m 32s):

He is. And nobody was more surprised than him. Yeah. I love that. There's a, there's a YouTube video of my doing it with him. Right. And you, you may have seen it. And I just, I mean, he's this brilliant neuroscientist, you know, smart as could be. And and he's looking at his left hand and saying, what the hell's going on here? You know, so he had that profound sense of dissociation. So he is pretty hypnotizable. Yeah.

Brian (38m 55s):

So you're, so he was, you're, when you get hypnotized, you're in sort of the subconscious state, but do you realize what, what you're doing or do you not,

David (39m 4s):

Yes, you realize what you're doing, but it's more circumscribed. You're really realizing what you're doing, but you're not thinking about a lot of other things. You might also be thinking about like, what are people gonna think when this is posted on YouTube and you know, people see me like this, he's not thinking about that. He's just thinking about his relationship to his body and how different his left hand feels from his right hand. And, and so it, it's not that you're not conscious. You are, but you're conscious of a more circumscribed domain.

Brian (39m 34s):

Hmm. And I, I mean, obviously sleep's a big one. And this is a topic that comes up a lot on my podcast, is getting optimal sleep. And what I even notice with myself sometimes I'm a pretty good sleeper, but there are some times in the middle of the night you get up and you go to the bathroom, and then if your mind starts to work, then it's like, okay, it takes a while to fall back asleep. It's, I could totally see how this is very, you know, you know, applicable for something like that.

David (39m 58s):

Absolutely. And it, it can be very helpful. And the, the issue is this, that our autonomic nervous system that controls our level of arousal has two major components. One is the sympathetic system, nor nor epinephrine, epinephrine or secreted. Your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure goes up, your muscles tense, you start to sweat. And the worst thing is that the more you notice that and the more irritated you are, it's three in the morning I wanna get back to sleep. The more aroused you get, the parasympathetic, the self soothing part of your nervous system slows heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and they compete with one of the, when you go to sleep, you basically shut down your sympathetic nervous system and let the parasympathetic take over.

David (40m 42s):

And, and that's why, you know, your alarm clock or a loud noise will wake you up and you know, you wake up and your heart, heart rate is going and you're sweating and you wondering what happened that will keep you from sleeping. So what you want to be able to do is shut down that sympathetic response. Don't focus on how irritated you are that you're awake, picture yourself. And what I do in hypnosis on re is teach people to imagine they're floating in a bath the lake on hot tub or floating in space. So get your body comfortable before you deal with what you're worried about. And you can do that very easily and quickly. Most people can, and I say, if you're still having these thoughts, don't fight them, but just project them onto an imaginary movie screen and watch 'em as if you were watching a movie.

David (41m 28s):

So you can have the thoughts, but detach the physiological arousal from it. And that's how we help people. People handle stress as well. And that allows you to just turn down the arousal cues and allow your body to be comfortable and drift back to sleep.

Brian (41m 45s):

Yeah, I'm sure that's a big one that comes up for you guys. Yeah. You probably, you probably get that quite a bit. We do. Wow. This was great. Well, yeah. Is there anything else that, you know, maybe we missed or there any, you know, studies coming out that maybe we should look out for regarding hypnosis?

David (42m 4s):

We, we just have a paper that came out on breath work actually on helping people use the way they breathe. And we're using that to kind of augment hypnosis. And it's, the idea was here that just five minutes a day of learning to inhale fairly quickly and slowly exhale what we call cyclic sighing is another way of helping people to, to breathe in a way that helps and to that parasympathetic response help people calm down so you can supplement the hypnosis with this, this breath work.

David (42m 45s):

And that's a study that I did in collaboration with, with Dr. Huberman. Hmm. And, and so cyclic sign is a kind of interesting thing too. I would say that there is more and more research coming out that, you know, if you compare what you can learn on re in a few minutes with the risks and benefits of a lot of the drugs we use, we found in another study that there is more people who are highly hypnotizable have more inhibitory neurotransmitter activity in this salience network. It's called GABA gamma aminobutyric acid. And it's the same substance that is stimulated by most anti-anxiety drugs.

David (43m 28s):

So you've got your own little anti-anxiety pharmacy in your brain that you can learn to use better. And just the way we know, we have endogenous opioid receptors too in the brain, and we can learn to stimulate those receptors in non-pharmacological ways as well. And that's a, that's a great benefit.

Brian (43m 48s):

Yeah. Love these, these free tools that we can utilize right

David (43m 51s):

Abs. Absolutely. And so we, we welcome people to try Revere. It's r e v e r i the, the first seven days are free for anybody to give it a try, see what it feels like. And we have, we, we have an iOS version you can download from the app store and we've just recently introduced an Android version of, well you can get from Google Play and give it a try. There's no harm in trying it. And see what you feel like. The nice thing is you should know within the first 15 minutes whether it's likely to help you or not really. And if it is, you'll feel the difference. And if you don't, okay, no harm, no foul. But I think many people are finding that it helps 'em live better and helps their bodies live longer.

Brian (44m 36s):

Yeah, I love that reverie. I will definitely put a, a link in the show notes. Is there, is there anywhere else people can find you to see where you're doing your research?

David (44m 45s):

Well, I, I'm on the faculty at Stanford. I'm a professor and associate chair of psychiatry and I have a, a CAPS profile that people can get to, to keep track of what's new and they, they update all the publications and things like that. So you can go to Stanford who, and get to the CAPS profile and, and see what's up.

Brian (45m 8s):

Well, I'll tell you, I'm gonna give it a go. I'm gonna at least give the trial a go. Right. I, I, I, I've always been interested in this, so I'll report back.

David (45m 17s):

Terrific. I'd be glad to hear.

Brian (45m 18s):

That's great. Well, Dr. Spi, I appreciate you coming on the show.

David (45m 22s):

Thank you, Brian. It's been a pleasure. Thanks for having me. Thank you.

Brian (45m 26s):

Thanks for listening to the Get Lean EAN podcast. I understand there are millions of other podcasts out there and you've chosen to listen to mine and I appreciate that. Check out the show notes@briangrin.com for everything that was mentioned in this episode. Feel free to subscribe to the podcast and share it with a friend or family member that's looking to get their body back to what it once was. Thanks again and have a great day.

Dr. David Spiegel

Dr. David Spiegel is Reveri's Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer. He is also a psychiatrist with more than 45 years of clinical and research experience studying stress, pain, sleep and hypnosis. He has written thirteen books, 404 scientific journal articles and 170 book chapters. He was educated at Harvard and Yale and now works at Stanford. He started Reveri so that you can tap his expertise and change your mind.


wanna talk to brian?

Schedule a free 15 min consultation