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It is with a heavy heart that I write those words as the title of my blog entry here today. It really is. I have had a solid subscription to Runner’s World for several years and before then, I subscribed on and off since I was in my early 20s. I used the Runner’s World training plans religiously when I first started running marathons, and I have recommended that many, many other runners do the same. I have discussed Runner’s World articles with fellow runners for years and have featured in it on a number of occasions, but I have decided that they will not have me as a subscriber any longer, let me tell you why…

Runner’s World made the cardinal sin of ‘journalism’ in my opinion. What’s more, they did so with my beloved subject matter of hypnosis. I cannot forgive them. Hot on the back of my article at my main hypnosis website at the end of last week, whereby I wrote an article titled “How A Hypnotherapy Success Story In The Daily Mail Shows How Little The Public Know About Hypnotherapy” highlighting the usual misconceptions that the public hold regarding hypnosis, I could not believe it when I opened up a recent copy of Runner’s World who have gone and perpetuated even more myth!

In April 2014’s edition of Runner’s World, the article on page 90 entitled ‘Think yourself strong’ should have been titled ‘Think yourself wrong.’ It opened in the lazy way that so many provincial newspaper articles do when they encounter a newly qualified and excited hypnotherapist who is opening up shop in the neighbourhood – by saying stuff like “when you think of hypnosis you usually think of a cloaked figure swinging a watch on stage, or Derren Brown making some unsuspecting punter bark like a dog.” Yaaawn.

Firstly – the reason so many people continue to think such things is because authors of these article perpetuate it in this typical, uninspiring manner.

Secondly – I do not know of any stage hypnotist who wears a cloak. And knowing the work of Derren Brown as well as I do, I am pretty sure he has never made anyone bark like a dog, let alone an “unsuspecting punter.”

The only thing missing from this typical introduction was a title “You are feeling sleepy” or some other equally incorrect cliché.

What made this article properly wrong though, was the advice from the hypnotherapist referred to in the article. This is how this hypnotherapist describes hypnosis:

It works by damping down the conscious mind and brining the subconscious to the fore, accessing the part of your brain that will implant ideas there on a more permanent basis.

What? What? What!

What does that actually mean? How is that substantiated?

There is no evidence of any kind to substantiate this fallacious notion.

Any hypnotherapist ought to know that James Braid, the creator of the field of hypnosis as we know it today does not refer to a subconscious mind at all when he explains hypnosis. Here’s a quote from another one of my books:

“If you examine the depths of research in the field of hypnosis over the last century, from major contributors such as Hull and White in the 1930s and 1940s, Hilgard in the 1950s, Barber and Orne in the 1960s, those engaged in the theory wars of the 1970s such as Barber and Spanos and all the way up to the 1990s with authors such as Kirsch, Lynn, McConkey and Sheehan – none of them discussed the unconscious mind or suggest that hypnosis is a means for accessing the subconscious mind. It is not even mentioned.”
Eason, A (2013) The Science of Self-Hypnosis. Awake Media Publishing.

It (the notion of a subconscious mind) just has not forged a part of academics understanding of hypnosis.

Neuroscience and cognitive scientists firmly dispute the notion of dualism – that of us having a conscious and subconscious mind. EEGs. FMRIs, PET scans show us much of interest in our field, but have still not discovered any centre of consciousness.

For anyone really interested in reading further around this subject, you can visit my hypnosis hub and forum, follow links of articles I have written on the subject and explore further: http://www.adamshypnosishub.com/topic/35/is-there-an-unconscious-mind

Yet there are still hypnotherapists who know nothing of this, and still perpetuate myths and metaphors as explanations of how hypnosis works. It is just plainly not the case. I still managed to read on, despite my frustration…

The technique offered up for any reader wishing to “reach hypnosis” (what?) is also not an effective or useful process. It firstly suggests that hypnosis requires relaxation, yet there is strong empirical evidence to show that people can be responsive to hypnosis without being relaxed (Banyai, 1961) but it is basically a progressive relaxation protocol. What’s more, people who struggle to relax or struggle to find the time or setting to adequately relax may get put off by this. There are indisputable benefits to relaxation, I have written prolifically on the subject; but relaxing is not hypnosis. The two are not correlated in any way other than the fact that relaxation can be enhanced with the aid of hypnosis and it is usually quite nice to be relaxed when being sat hypnotised by a professional.

Again the author instructs us that “your subconscious is open to suggestion” – like it is a ‘thing’ that actually exists. Pah!? The ‘creating suggestions’ part has more wrong-ness. Why would you suggest that a runner say the words “I am less worried about my ability”? Classic rules of suggestion – be progressive, ask for what you want, not what you don’t want.  Just offering generic suggestions to oneself without any specific focus or useful aim renders suggestion fairly impotent, it needs more welly, more instruction than is being given in this soundbite attempt to instruct the reader.

The two things I love most in the world, running and hypnosis, were bastardised before my eyes with this article. When I run seminars for runners, speak to people at races, coach clients, receive messages from readers of my books or attendees at my lectures or even speaking to people involved in my PhD, they ask me questions about the sort of nonsense perpetuated in this article. So rather than run the risk of reading anything similar and my head subsequently exploding, I’ll simply not renew my subscription and leave it at that.

I’ll be brutally honest… There might also be a bit of sour grapes on my part here, I guess… When it was newly published last year, I sent a complimentary copy of one of my books (Hypnosis for Running) to the editor, I have sent a copy to a RW columnist following my contribution to an article quite recently too. This book is highly evidence-based, it is the antithesis of the RW article “Think yourself strong” – my book is used by a multi world record holder ultra runner, a former multi world champion sportsman as well as many, many more runners of varying standards. It has nothing other than 5 star reviews. It contains a lot of the full literature review being used for my PhD. Granted, it is not a light read, but when you have such resources sent to you, surely if you do not even want to read it, if you do not even want to politely acknowledge the gesture of it being sent to you, then you at least seek out some small way of considering the subject matter you are writing about. At least research the subject matter as thoroughly as so many other subject matters covered by the magazine, no?

The major issue for me here, is that when I discuss the substantial evidence base for hypnosis and cognitive sports psychology that can help runners, when I speak to other runners at races and events, when I have spoken to people asking me about the subject following my TV spot in ‘Run for Glory’ and even when I speak to my friend Martin Yelling on his brilliant Marathon Talk podcast, I get asked “isn’t it about tree-hugging?” (Martin asks me this on recent episode I featured in) and other such stereotypical views. I have to continue to educate about this subject and the benefits that people can genuinely derive with the backdrop of this kind of guff. Yet I have to compete with magazines churning out nonsense to a wider audience than I have exposure to and it becomes an even more uphill task.

Runner’s World show evidence and studies for so many other topics and subjects – they have offered up scientists, nutritionists, coaches who all substantiate claims and explanations about their work. Yet when they decide to cover my field of hypnosis, they treat it poorly. Really poorly. I am hacked off. The issue has been cast into my Tardis bin (you know what a geek I am) and torn in half to fully prove my disappointment. That’ll learn ’em.


On the plus side of the running world, my brother got a PB at London marathon yesterday, lots of my colleagues and friends ran it, and the main man at my Bournemouth AC running club, Steve Way, ran 2 hrs 16 mins and was 3rd British male; a brilliant performance. Plus, I’ll be back very soon with something very, very different. So runners, don’t believe everything you read in running magazines…