An interview with hypnotic pain relief expert Michael Ellner, voted “Educator of the Year” several times in the major hypnosis organizations.


Michael Ellner, CHT, is a certified medical hypnotist in private practice in New York City. He teaches advanced courses in medical hypnosis at schools throughout North America and South Africa and is a featured instructor of Hypnotic Pain Relief, Effective Medical Communication and Stress Management at the annual PAINWeek conference.

Check out Michael’s website at www.HopeIsRealistic.com.

Michael Ellner

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Podcast Episode Transcripts:

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Imagine building a more successful hypnosis business just in the next 10 days. To learn how please visit work smart hypnosis.com and take the 10 day hypnosis business challenge yours free today. Welcome to the Work Smart Hypnosis Podcast with Jason Lynette, your professional resource for hypnosis training and outstanding business success.

Here’s your host, Jason Lynette, and how’s your day? Well, mine’s going fantastic. Thanks for asking. This is Jason Lynette here, work smart hypnosis.com. So glad to have you here back once again for session number two, an interview with Michael Elner in this interview. Uh, I’ll save it for the interview. Do you hear the story of how Michael and I.

First connected bit of a fun story and a bit of a wonderful learning lesson in terms of how you can really grow and learn and interact with other hypnotists in the professional community. You may not find the exact same scenario that Michael and I had in order of how we first met and connected and became friends.

Um, maybe not every single time, but at least some of the elements may be. You’ll hear that story in a few moments. Uh, specifically before we jump into this interview, the reason I wanted to interview Michael was all about this concept of automatic response, and in my opinion, that is the ideal result. Of what our process with a hypnotic client should be, how do we begin to motivate that automatic response?

So it’s not a matter of having to think back to conscious triggers, cues, reminders, and things that need to happen to or to affect the change. Really the ideal change should be as if the challenge wasn’t even there at all. And you’ll hear us spend some good time elaborating on that. Uh, I know we’ll reference it here in the interview.

But Michael’s website, the new one, Hope is realistic.com. Be sure you check that out. Here we go. An interview with Michael Elner.

Well, it’s kind of interesting in that my New York City, uh, business has followed me via. and, uh, several of the people who were referring to me when I lived in New York continue to refer to me and continue to, uh, tell their patients and or clients that, uh, working with me on Skype is very effective. So, That’s in terms of my business in relation to clients, and then I’m putting a lot of energy into teaching.

I’m looking forward to teaching at Hypno Thoughts Live. I’m excited about teaching at the National Guild. Uh, so I’m keeping busy. . Yeah. Excellent. Well, we’re here today with Michael Elner and, uh, Michael’s, someone that I quickly shared my story. Uh, I was active on a couple of different forums online and my thought was, I need to meet this Michael Elner guy.

Uh, been hearing a lot of good things. And suddenly you pop up. I think it was on hypno thoughts with the line of my hotel room got canceled. Who has a room I can sublet? And so and I often would share that, and we’ve been roommates at the GH convention ever since. And I’d often use that story to kind of highlight that.

You know, we’d often play this game of we’re learning from new people and interacting with new people. And we’d put this one up on a pedestal and think, um, oh, never meet this person. Well now we’re sharing a room at the convention. So, and I think, I think of it as a ritual and I really enjoy sharing a room.

It’s how I think of that convention. The National Guild Con. , uh, convention that I go to, I think is worth attending and they all have something different to offer. But one of the things that when I set my calendar by the National Guild is I enjoy sharing a room with you and it’s a lot of fun. Yeah. And, and, and it, it, it’s amazing how easy it was.

Yeah, it worked out. And of course the wonders of going into the first day of the conference with, what was it, three hours sleep. Yeah. . Yeah. Love the conversations. You’ve had a bit of a new project that, um, has taken you in some interesting new directions. Could you give us like a brief introduction to Hope Coaching?

Yes. It revolves around the idea of mindful hypnosis. That has two prongs. The first prong is helping hypnosis practitioners, uh, become mindful of their automatic behaviors that are self-limiting and changing those automatic behaviors, and then extending that awareness to helping clients recognize, recognized the consequences of their positive and negative reactions to.

And when a person becomes mindful of them, it’s very easy to assist them to make changes and recondition themselves for healthier and uh, more effective behaviors. So, Mindfulness is the base of it, and the idea is hope. Coaching is about one. When you work with people with chronic conditions, uh, learned hopelessness and learned helplessness are a big part of their challenge and being stuck.

So the idea is hope is realistic. There is hope they can. They can, uh, improve the quality of their lives. And then I think the more important issue for a lot of hypnotists is, is a change of role rather than being a therapist. One is acting as a coach and educator. So when clients are approached with that, especially uh, clients dealing with medical and health challenges, uh, you’re empowering them to take charge of their lives and.

and they’re doing all the important work, and you’re giving them an opportunity to increase their skills and abilities. So it’s a radical approach to conventional hypnosis. You know, there’s no fixing. It’s about helping people become aware of behaviors that are working for them and behaviors that are not working for them, and giving them the skills to make change.

There’s a specific point that was inside of that was embedded inside of those statements. That’s really the main reason I wanted to spend some time with you on this, uh, interview today, which is that concept of automatic response. That this was something that I think I heard you say a few years ago and it just kind of stuck out and it began to shift kind of the paradigm in terms of a lot of my work that yes, it is absolutely valid.

It’s absolutely wonderful to spend our process. As a hypnotist, kind of in that mindset, more of, and exactly what you said, not quite the fixer, but the teacher, the instructor, guiding them through that process in which they’re able to make those adjustments, make those changes. But that concept of automatic response, I love to use that as the filter in terms of how we measure success.

And here’s the way that I would say it to a client, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, that if I told them, Let’s use an example of a person wanting to quit smoking and understand that even though I’m saying tapping, this is not a reference to eft. That’s the modifier to this description. If I told you, in order to be successful as a non-smoker, all you have to do is tap yourself on the forehead 18 times, and by the 18 time the craving goes away, and then you’re good.

Yes, we could make that work. However, perhaps drawing in the hypnotic part of the conversation, the part, hypnotic part of the process, it may not be the intended result because we’ve given them a conscious trigger to remind themself to do something, as opposed to stepping into that mindset of the new automatic response.

I, I’d love to hear your, your thoughts and comments on that. Well, I agree and I think that if we were going to use the example of smoking, the craving is an automatic reaction. Right, And they’re responding to the craving. So when we look at it as a stimulus reaction, stimulus reaction, what we’re looking to do is change the reaction to whatever the stimulus is to smoke.

And that’s pretty easy to do if you keep that in mind, is the objective of what you’re helping a person do. You’re helping them change states. So one reaction is, Man, I need a cigarette. Wow. I’ll go crazy if I don’t light up. And another reaction is I’m feeling really happy to be smoke free. And at every time I notice that old impulse, it reminds me that I’m really delighted to be a non-smoker, that I really identify with being an ex-smoker, blah, blah, blah,

But I think I’m more dramatic Example would be pain, anxiety, stress. and many, many of our clients as well as many hypnosis practitioners have automatic reactions where suddenly they’re stressed, suddenly they’re suffering, Suddenly they’re filled with anxiety, and those who learn behaviors, those are automatic reactions that could be changed.

So you have one set of automatic reactions and. Leads to stress, anxiety, suffering, and we can help them convert that. So the same stimulus now is producing confidence, effectiveness, uh, a sense of fun. So I see that personally and professionally as the foundation of change work, helping a person become mindful of ineffective un.

automatic behaviors and knowing that they can change those behaviors. And what I find is, is, is, you know, I, I, I’ve developed a reputation for being very effective, and that’s at the heart of it. . So I’m working with Kelly Woods. I’m, you know, the one and only Kelly Woods. I’m working with the incredible Mr.

Allen Bosky, that’s b a r s k y. He loves when I spell his name correctly. And I like that . Wait, how do you spell my last name?

That’s, you’re stopping me, man. We’ll let you go on that one. Yeah. Geez. So, uh, when we come to that, You, you begin to see that you don’t have to take a cookie cutter approach and you can individualize your sessions, but you can still recognize an overall pattern. So with pain, many, many people are stuck in pain because their doctors ask the wrong questions.

They’re given a medication, they come back and the doctor says, You’re still in. And that requires a yes or no, and there’s no wound to indicate, well, there’s been some improvement. No improvement, a little improvement. If you ask them if they’re still in pain and even if they have slight pain, the answer is yes.

So then the doctor changes the prescription or gives them a higher dose and they get stuck in that pattern. So when someone is trained by me, they help their clients separate the idea of pain and suffer. and suffering is a consequence of our negative reactions to a signal. And once they understand that, we could modify their reaction to the signal.

They suddenly experience relief. They get a new freedom in their lives. A sense of control and even small improvements can have a huge impact on the quality of their lives. So we’re talking about the same thing, but I think it’s most graphic when you’re talking about the consequences of stress and whatever the stressor is.

The person reacts by feeling distress, panic, anxiety, pain, and those reactions have been conditioned. We can recondition those A reactions, and that’s, I think, you know, the essence of what I do as a hyp. and there’s a segment in there I wanna highlight. Um, that of dissociating the concepts as two different conversations of.

Pain and suffering. There was a class that I hosted here at the office back January earlier this year, and in attendance, there was actually a doctor who had really just a surface level awareness of hypnosis. A pretty good awareness of it, but it was still relatively new to her. And as soon as we get into the concepts of talking about pain relief, immediately she’s there with the disclaimer of.

Pain is there for a reason. It’s a specific reason it’s there. You need to find out why it’s there. And I shared that concept of, well, when it’s appropriate working in conjunction with the doctor, what if we were to leave the pain, the signal exactly where it was, but change the response, work on the suffering.

Um, I think I learned it from you, the metaphor of. Where I am, I’m in the Washington DC area. We’ve got three major airports and Air Force bases all in close proximity. There are airplanes flying over all the time, and we’re used to it, and someone visits from out of town who’s not as populated as an area, they hear that and go, How do you live with that?

Then our natural response here would be live with what? So the signal is not changing, but it’s the response to the signal. But again, By changing that response, the relationship to the signal now changes. Yes, and and what I would point out in terms of what the doctor said is there are two types of pain.

Acute pain is giving a me meaningful signal, and the signal is something requires medical attention. and in helping clients with acute pain, I wanna be sure that they’ve been evaluated by a doctor and if they haven’t that they are clear. I’m recommending they do. So I’m not a policeman, I’m not gonna force ’em to see a doctor, but I have them sign off on my recommendation that they do.

But most hypnosis clients have chronic. , they’re not getting a meaningful signal. It’s not giving them useful information, and that is where becoming aware of the difference between their signals and their suffering can be life changing and is life changing. So I can help a client with acute pain, but you wanna be sure that anything that might be addressed medically is being.

so we can help in both arenas, but it’s important I think for hypnotist, doctors and clients to understand the difference.

Absolutely. Absolutely. And this hope coaching process, I just pulled it up real quick. It’s Hope is realistic.com. That’s home base of that. Yes. And what’s great about it, there’s a number of resources that are there already on the site as well as the research around it. Uh, that, that concept of research is one that I really respect of your work of doing some of the peer reviewed, uh, journal entries as too, right?

Yes. You know, one of the things that I think is very, very important in my approach to working is, is it’s collaborative. Uh, this is based on an earlier work quantum focus. Which evolved to Quantum focusing, which is now evolved to Hope Coaching. And in the process, all the practitioners involved in the clients who were assisted have direct impact on how those evolve, on how those grow and change.

So when you see Hope Coaching, it’s presented. By Kelly, I and Allen, but there are many people contributing to it all the time, and we welcome those contributions and incorporate ’em. So it’s something that’s alive, it’s something that’s subject to change. We’re offering what we think is the best program at this time, and it can be improved.

And many of the people like yourself who are involved in helping their clients give us, uh, very, very important feedback on how to improve. So we’re all in this together. I don’t see this as something that’s my own. I, I see this as developing an approach to helping people help themselves. Uh, that’s subject to improving based on new information.

And I love that concept of the flexibility within the process. That uh, I think it was you that I heard say, learn from people who disagree with each other. Yes. As being a model of all things hypnosis. And I even point out some of the differences between the two of us here. I teach a specific workshop just on hypnotic testing convincers and how to make them stronger when several years ago.

That’s a whole segment of work you removed from your practice. Yes. Yeah, I, You see, I respect anything and everything that’s effectively helping clients and I respect mastery and you know, you have to work within you. I have to work within me. My friend Dan Cl has to work with him. Kelly works with her.

Alan Bosky works within himself, and that’s the beauty of what we. is, is that we’re able to internalize it and make it our own. So there are many effective ways to help somebody and, and I think when we’re talking about mindfulness in what automaticity we’re talking about a universal, you know, I like to joke every client is unique, just like every other client, , you know, I’m opposed to cookie cutter approaches, but I think it’s important to recognize the significant.

role that automatic behavior plays in all of this. And I see it with hypnotists. You know, a hypnotist has a novel situation, Oh, I haven’t worked with this before. And they get really upset and they get really, uh, anxious about it. Whereas the same stimulus could produce excitement and, and, and produce a sense of it.

Well, I’m gonna learn something. Because if you’re confident in your skills and abilities, you can handle anything and everything that pops up in your practice. So I welcome novel situations. I haven’t worked with this before. How exciting, Uh, and trust myself to be able to apply what I know effectively.

So to me, flexibility saves the cat. You know, curiosity kills the cat, , you know, flexibility and humor. Brings them back and, and that’s another part of flexibility, is putting the fun into what we do. And I mean, no offense to dentist, but I don’t want anyone to think of my sessions as like going to a dentist or going to a therapist.

Now we’re gonna have creative fun, and you’re gonna make the changes you want. So it’s about our attitude. It starts with the practi. , remind me again. I know that you know, again, as consulting hypnotist, as non-medical practitioners, we do not diagnose or technically work on specific conditions. And you had an, you had a wonderful reframe, a wonderful new phrase, a new title perhaps for depression.

Yeah, I call ’em fund deficiency disorder. And you know, it’s sort of because I realized the importance of staying within the scope of our practice. So I had many, many people tell me who were coming to my wellness groups, as you know, as service to my community. I was running wellness groups for people with AIDS and people with cancer.

And within the wellness group, you know, the feedback was such that I began to see. that one of the most important ingredients in all of this was recognizing the importance of helping people lighten up and, and put fun into their changes, and create a sense of wellbeing and the qualities that we found.

Happy heart, peaceful mind, playful spirit. Uh, if, if you bring those to anything you’re doing, you’re gonna be more effective, You’re gonna have more fun. So yeah, you’re absolutely right. That is, uh, a big thing. And I learned it from the people attending the wellness groups. But it’s also one of those moments where the, the practitioner is the one, often transcending technique.

The techniques are good, the techniques are important, but often it’s just that that energy, that atmosphere that we create the work within that really begins to change just the structure. It just begins to chip away at the structure of that old issue and it’s first place. Yeah. So we don’t analyze , you know, we don’t fix.

And we don’t have any worries. But yes, of course the state of the art is in the hypnotist. It’s inside him or her. And none of the techniques, none of the models that we use really are effective in and of themselves. So you have the same technique with two different practitioners, and you see very, very different results.

Why? Because it’s not the t. , it’s the person using it. And I think many, many people become technique centric, and that’s sad because they don’t have as much fun and they’re not as effective. Well, it’s that spirit of just being in the moment, dealing with what emerges and then letting the appropriate techniques, if this even techniques fall into the process where they should be.

But I think, you know, that could be, uh, restated as automatically doing this without thinking about it. And that’s the beauty of it. You know, I don’t have to plan ahead. I’m in the moment, the clients in the moment, and there’s magic in the moment, and. , I trust that I’ll know what to do without thinking about it.

So it’s sort of, uh, really giving a client your undivided attention and trusting yourself to automatically react in a way that’s effective. And, and that’s a, that’s a skill that I highly recommend hyp professionals develop, or any person in, in the healing professions develop. , that spontaneity, that freedom.

It’s one of those things that it’s, it’s interesting to learn how to teach that as well. You know, we can, we always have to begin with techniques. We always begin with the exec strategies. Here’s your inductions, here’s your methodology. Yet, just as quickly as we learn that, to begin to learn how to break that structure as well.

And I’d share from the business perspective. I’m actually, I, I’m very open with my clients where they’d ask me, What are you doing in the first session? And I can give them a rough outline in terms of what the experience may be. Yet, I’ve actually found it’s a wonderful, perhaps not the best term, but a wonderful selling point that they hear me say, I don’t know until you’re in front of me.

And that’s what you should be hearing, that it’s the approach of, I’m learning from you what the challenges and what the goals are. And then from that mixed in with experience with training mixed in with everything else, that’s what becomes the process for you. Yes. I, I, I, I say something along the same lines.

I think it is a, a a plus from marketing what we do, I, I, I think it’s very important that when a client calls up that they understand how we’re able to assist them. And so I very quickly talk about automatic behaviors. And I very quickly talk about the essence of what we’re gonna do is help you identify and become mindful of those behaviors, and then give you skills and techniques for changing them.

And you’re gonna do all the important work. I’m a guide, I’m an educator. I’m very good at helping you do what you want to do. I can help you reach and maintain your goals, but you’re an active part. And the goal is to develop your skills and abilities for creating change. So I, I find that the setup is sometimes more important.

You know, I had this weird and wonderful experience of radio exposure. And there was a time I was on, uh, the commercial free radio Pacifica radio station in New York. So often people thought I worked there. They thought I had my own show, but I was a guest on a lot of shows and I would describe hypnosis.

And then a period of time would go by and people would contact me and say, I heard the interview. I stopped smoking. I heard the interview. I lost 20 pounds. , I heard the interview and, and my pain is half of what it was. I, I heard the interview and my, what went into remission and. . That was liberating in that I realized I didn’t use conventional hypnotic approaches.

I simply described how we could help somebody, and then I became less concerned about the conventional approaches that I had been using. and more concerned with, uh, the flexibility of the freedom to understand that just describing things can really, effectively create change. And I imagine there are a number of people who experienced those changes who didn’t call, you know, when someone would call, I heard you’re interviewing and I stopped smoking.

I said, Okay, send me $10. But, uh, , that’s great. Uh, but it’s really exciting to discover. and, uh, I really found it liberating because before that, uh, I thought there were things I had to do and when I trained, I thought they, things that they had to do. And now I’m very flexible about what we have to do and, and how we can help people change their automatic reactions and work towards reaching and maintaining their goals.

It’s like a two prong process. It, it requires action. It, it requires a person making a commitment in doing something. And it could be as simple as practicing self-help techniques to develop the ability to recondition themselves. So, yeah. And your, your approach was self hypnosis too. Something that I, I recall very strongly is that, that concept specifically of the timing that I, I love the idea of just folding that in as transitional moments.

Yes, exactly. Yeah. Yes. It, it, it’s the idea that, you know, I, I was teaching meditation and I was teaching it kind of in an orthodox way, but I was teaching several different kinds, but all of them required an hour at a time practice. Some required an hour in the morning, an hour in the evening, let’s say 30 minutes in the morning, or 30 minutes in the evening.

And the feedback I got was, Well, yeah, I like the meditation, but making time for it is very stress. And I began to see that, uh, you could get the same benefit or even a bigger benefit by practicing it for two, three minutes at a time, several times a day. And none of these people had a difficulty doing that.

They always could find two or three minutes as a transitional moment. So they were practicing intentional relaxation and creating change for themselves, and they are transformational moments. I’ve become a little sly in that delivery of that style of phrasing too, in recent years, which is, and it kind of breaks the expectation they might have of being the one who’s gonna sell them to tell ’em to go home and do these specific things over and over.

That’ll actually look at the client these days and just say, Now if you go home and you look at this information again, and you schedule time for you to do this, I’ll be very blunt with you. You’ll never do. But if you fold it into your day and moments of transition as you get outta bed in the morning, before you head into work, or my favorite one, that moment where you’re leaving work to let work, be work and let home be home, it’ll become the easiest, most reliable thing for you to fold into your day and find that benefit from.

I love that. Yeah, and, and you know, it’s the idea of becoming aware of that special moment when we’re changing activities, whatever those activities. And if we make that a habit of paying attention to changing activities and this give ourselves a, a moment of two, of relaxation and inspiration and motivation, wonderful things happen and they happen automatically.

It’s like a ripple in the universe. And , you know, you started a wave and it’s growing, so yeah. I, I, I think it’s very important to unfold it into your day or fold it into your day. And specifically too, the, the concept of the hypnotist, the practitioner, or whatever provider we may be. Practicing what we preach, folding this process in.

Perhaps even as that cleansing between one client to the next. You know, I had a personal experience that I’ll share with the group. I had a traumatic brain injury in 2012. Happy to say I recovered, but at the time, and for a period of up to 18 months, I had moments oforie. And I noticed that my own automatic reaction was irritation and stress, that it was very stressful to feel disoriented.

And what I noticed is the more I forwarded or the more I resented it, or the more I was bothered by it, the longer and, and the more intense the experience was. And as soon as I recognized that, that was my automatic. Reaction to the disorientation. I changed it and, uh, I saw the disorientation as an, as an invitation to reorient, and I would use one of these, you know, mini hypnotic, self hypnotic techniques to do that.

So I made peace with something that was bothering me, and then I made it an ally and I think it really helped me. achieve my recovery. Uh, I, it it enabled me to stay lighthearted in very difficult moments cuz you, you’re dealing with something where you’re not feeling like you’re yourself and, and, and there’s this little, now you may never feel that way.

And, and, and you know, it’s like shoot, first, it ask question later. As soon as that would occur, I had a new reaction to it. I recognized the unwanted reaction, and if I was having one, I changed it on the spot and I became better and better at avoiding them in the first place by creating a new reaction.

So not only is it something I preached, I used it and it really was helpful in my.

there’s something too within that about, I I, I usually would talk about this as being the easiest slide of mouth pattern, just a mathematical equation of, uh, you know, what if negative now becomes what if positive that we can look at this one situation as every reason why we can’t do something. Um, and as hypnotist, we would hear this in all different sorts of challenges.

I can’t quit smoking because my partner smokes. I can’t lose weight because my entire family’s overweight. Um, I can’t overcome this challenge because I’ve been diagnosed with this condition. I can’t start my business now because of this. And for every single one of those, Each one of those because of this is, could become that reason why they absolutely can right now.

And to point back to the phrase that you’ve popularized here, it just introduces that change in belief structure that hope is realistic, that another option is possible. That perhaps up until now we’ve just hypnotized ourselves to believe that this is the only solution we had, and yet to look at it from a different perspective from the outside looking down on it.

That now this is every bit of motivation to move forward. This is every reason I can retrain that automatic response to feel, to function, to process life the way that I want it to be. Now, it’s funny you should say that because I use the phrase as a continuation. Hope is realistic. You can change or can do attitude into a can do mindset and, and that’s the whole idea that you.

you can do this. and that’s really all that’s involved. The person, whatever the issue is, they have a can’t do attitude. A mindset, beliefs, expectations, all of those things keep them stuck. And the key to getting unstuck, you don’t have to go back and find the initializing event. You don’t have to, uh, in any way do any, uh, analytical stuff.

You just have to address changing the reaction to those stimula. so that instead of a can do attitude, the person experiences, I can do this, I can handle this, I can cope with this, I can manage this. This is gonna be fun, this is gonna be easy. I tell my advanced that students that one of the things that really shaped my growth was realizing that the key to all of this for me is,

I am most effective when I’m me. I’m most effective when I’m enjoying this session. I’m most effective when the client and I are actually having fun, and it’s the excitement that we are sharing that adds to it in a way that produces. Really, really consistent results is when you look at this as, uh, sharing, you and the client are interacting in a way that’s exciting and inspirational and change happens.

So, uh, I’m awful letting change happen, especially when it’s directed at things a person wants and will improve their lives. So I really reduce it to that simple idea that, Most of my clients are dealing with automatic behaviors that are causing whatever difficulty they’re having, and to change that, uh, is the key into helping them reach their goals, which does bring it into this wonderful place of looking at the context more so than the content.

This is how you feel now. This is how you’d rather feel. Let’s begin to focus on that instead. Yes, this is where you are. This is where you wanna be. Well, this is what’s necessary for the safest, healthiest way to get, and the fastest way to get from where you are to where you want to be. You know, in a way we’re giving them to use N P a better map.

Fantastic. Well, again, Michael Elner here. This is, uh, Hope is realistic.com. Make sure you check in with him at a conference. Say hello, room with him. Sleep in the same, Oh, nevermind. . Uh, Michael, this has been fantastic. Thank you. Thanks for listening to the Work Smart Hypnosis Podcast and work smart hypnosis.com.

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