Review of ''Richard Bandler''s Guide to Trance-Formation: How To Harness the Power of Hypnosis to Ignite Effortless and Lasting Change'', 2008 Paperback edition
"'Talking about music is like dancing about architecture"'. So said either Elvis Costello or Martin Mull, according to a variety of sources.
In my experience, the sentiment contained in that statement can be applied to many kinds of 'instructional' guide, which, by dint of not containing the actual experience they seek to describe, act as a substitute for that experience.
So, my 3 star rating of Richard Bandler's 'Trance-Formation' is partly based on the acknowledgment that, try as he might - through explanation and use of the many exercises contained in the book - there is no way that Bandler can get the reader to have the kinds of experiences with the Neuro Linguistic Programming and hypnosis techniques in the book that he or she would have if they took a course in the techniques or went to see a hypnotist or N.L.P. practitioner who is proficient in the techniques.
Giving the book 3 stars is also a reflection of my experience of the book as being a moderately good 'guide'. Truth be told, I would have given the book 2 ' stars if possible, because I find the descriptions of the exercises to be somewhat confused at times. Also, despite acknowledging at various points in the text that different people will respond to different types of sensory ''cues'/experiences' (auditory or visual or kinaesthetic), depending on the '"maps"' (meaning systems) which they have developed, Bandler emphasizes the visual aspect of things, and neglects the others.
Having had some very enriching learning experiences in my life using techniques, practices and subject matter which overlap with those which Bandler discusses, I was a little perplexed at the absence of some very basic, simple suggestions which are at the basis of some of the things that he mentions, and which would complement or enhance the reader's use of Bandler's techniques. The most basic of these is deep breathing which, almost by itself, can help the body attain the kind of relaxed state which is part of a concentrated, trance/hypnotic state.
Another couple of things that I found annoying were the total lack of attribution of the idea and phrase "'the map is not the territory'" (Korzybski said that), and the 'Recommended Reading and Audiovisual Resources' section containing references only to other N.L.P. resources (many of which are by Bandler). There is a substantial body of work available about hypnosis, and I find it hard to believe that Bandler only believes that the reader can benefit from reading his tomes, or those of others connected to him in some way. Perhaps, though, this explains the lack of clarity in the book's title, subtitle, and back cover with regard to the fact that it is basically about N.L.P. with an emphasis on using hypnosis within that perspective. The descriptions in those places basically suggest that the book is about hypnosis, not emphasizing N.L.P. at all, although it is mentioned in passing on the back cover.
On the positive side of things, Bandler has some very practical, no-nonsense advice on things such as indicators of trance states. He also makes the very important point ' for those of us who are psychotherapists ' that trauma work should not involve the client having to re-live or revisit the actual event(s) which originally caused the trauma.
Along with the above are other, eminently sensible comments such as the one which criticizes those psychotherapists and others who engage in interpretation of their clients' experience, when all the 'evidence' that one needs to work with people is readily and immediately available by simply taking notice of the information that people present to us in the ways that they speak and act. This emphasis on process (the ways in which people communicate) as opposed to the content of what people say, is a fundamental part of the way that Bandler works.
Apart from the consistent lack of clarity mentioned above, Bandler writes with an authoritative 'voice' and is quite witty at times. He is obviously confident of his opinions and work, and presents many examples of hypnosis achieving changes in people's lives which they, and others, had previously thought were impossible, and which go far beyond simple habit changes.
To summarize, Bandler provides a thorough grounding in the 'theory' of hypnosis, although this grounding is exclusively contextualized from the perspective of N.L.P., the theory of change which Bandler developed. As such, I think that the book misses out on informing the reader about other practices and theories regarding hypnosis which they might find helpful. Also, in my experience, no book that seeks to promote change can even begin to approximate the kind of valuable learning experiences that one would get from either taking a course on N.L.P. or hypnotism, or seeing a hypnotist. Bandler's critiques of others' ways of practicing bear paying attention to, though.
Other respected writers/names in the field whom people might want to include in their research are Milton Erickson and Michael Yapko.