It has now been exactly a fortnight since I woke up after a much needed and prolonged sleep (and a five day in the making hangover) following my last time as organiser of the UK Hypnosis Convention.
I think it is fair to say that this year’s event, thanks in no small measure to a much-improved venue, had the best feel of all the conventions thus far and any pride I had in what we had achieved was balanced with a slightly heavy feeling in my heart that Tuesday, that it was indeed my final one in charge.
I am very proud of many things that I have achieved in my life and developing a convention where everyone clearly felt so good and learned so much is one of them. I am incredibly bias, but I really do think that this convention had something a little special, something that is not defined by total numbers or glitzy location, but by the value that the participants, visitors and speakers alike, got out of it.
I am also very proud that I didn’t take the route of selling it out to the highest bidder, but instead gave it serious consideration over many, many months as to who would do it justice going forward, who could protect the ethos in which it was created and who would be able to take it to the new levels in terms of professional positioning and contribution, that I could not.
So, I was down last Tuesday, but confident I had made the right choice for the good of the convention and for all those people who have invested their time, money and goodwill into it over three fantastic events.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have also taken some time out to just sit and reflect on the experience with the added luxury of not, for the first time in two years, having to keep one eye on the early preparations for next years.
I believe the convention has undoubtedly made a positive contribution to the profession over three years and I want to share with those that are interested why that is and, for those that stick with me until the end of the blog, share where I am now and how I and the convention can continue to add value going forward.
The first year I decided to use the convention as an opportunity to redress some of the damage done to the hypnosis community by social media and figured the best way to go about that is to invite the fractious elements to share what they did (and didn’t) know under the same roof. People baulked at the idea, but it worked well and proved that people are seldom as bad (or as competent in some cases) as they appear on social media.
It was noted that some members of certain schools and organisations naturally tended to move together, observe the same classes, gravitate to that which was familiar and only dip their toes into the unchartered waters of conflicting or alternative opinion. This wasn’t necessarily a problem however, because the same groups also had other members actively looking to broaden their horizons, move away from their comfort zones and explore and network with others. It is those individuals that in many ways have defined the success of the convention as much as anything else and have helped cultivate an atmosphere of openness.
It was this atmosphere of comfort and freedom, along with another stellar line up of presenters, that gave the second year its momentum, doubling the number of attendees as a result and really creating an air of expectancy around it.
Year two also highlighted something for me that I had become aware of (and gambled on) in the first year, but which had become more evident in the second, and that was that the critical thinking andgenerosity amongst participants, speaker and guest alike, wasn’t mutually exclusive. When people are open and competent enough for their knowledge to be questioned and others willing enough to ask questions and seek answers (often of themselves), you have a very grown up and flexible space in which people can really learn and grow.
Another thing I noted, especially when processing the feedback, was that the flexible and open space created by UKHC participants, freed people up to self-regulate what they wanted to see and what they didn’t in terms of speakers and topics. It was resoundingly clear people who visited the convention weren’t inclined to be sheep and as such gravitated towards the value and new learning experiences on offer. The result being that it really felt like the cream was encouraged to float to the top. People’s eyes were being open, not just because the convention was giving them exactly what they wanted, but because it presented them with enough choice and scope to make up their own minds.
In short, the convention was quickly becoming a place where decent folk and people with something of value to say were made to feel welcome, whilst and a place where egos or bull-shitters were better off staying away from for fear of being judged as irrelevant or non-consequential.
In truth, over the three years I never really had too many checks and balances in terms of who was welcome to participate, though I did exercise my right on very rare occasions to reject people at the presenter application stage (and cancel one ticket purchase in the entire three years). I didn’t have many rules in terms of applying but I did have my discretion which I exercised rarely and sparingly.
There were a few individuals who in the past have attracted what I would consider the absolute wrong type of press, namely accusations of inappropriate behaviour towards women that was in the public domain, that I simply wanted to play no part in the convention from the get go and who found their applications immediately binned.
So too, were some of the more dubious and what I would consider, questionable topics submitted that I thought went too far in terms of misrepresenting the profession, or may have reflected the convention or hypnosis in a bad light or stupid way. And that was really that and all I had to do in terms of filtering for the convention.
The level of guest is so high and the environment so honest, that participants have done the job for me in regulating the quality and standards of our weekends together.
There have been times I have exercised my discretion on what I have just considered a bad day at the office, or thought that a particular individual had an important message to share and should speak and put speakers in, but the UKHC is ultimately so good because the people who attend it are so good and they therefore determine the quality, leaving the mediocre or egotists to choose, on the whole to stay away.
The other thing to consider is that though I clearly can excerpt a level of influence in terms of who participates and doesn’t, as an organiser of a broad event, for the last three years I have had to remain relatively impartial.
That means some presenters and some topics have not been to my liking and on occasion stewardship of the UKHC has limited my ability to challenge them – after all it is not my job but what I am encouraging the guests to do themselves.
However, now I find myself as an attendee of the UKHC, I want to fully embrace the same freedom to question that the other visitors have enjoyed at the convention.
Over the last three years I have already questioned my own thoughts on what hypnosis is and what hypnosis isn’t and in that respect, have enjoyed quite the journey and experienced several moments of enlightenment (nd just as many back-peddling and laying old beliefs and schools of thought to rest).
I wouldn’t have been able to do so without the insight the convention has given me.
What I am now free and very keen to do, is challenge some of the people whose misinformation or models I think are deliberately exploiting people, who are knowingly lying to people and ultimately, putting people in harm’s way.
I intend to do this in a few ways:
Through open discourse with those that I may (or ultimately may not) have a problem with, though it is abundantly clear that those amongst them that are the genuine snake-oil sales folk tend to retreat from this at the first opportunity.
By bringing conversation out into the open for everyone, be it people being trained inappropriately, on the receiving end of bad therapy or techniques, or those feeling their work and profession is being misrepresented harmfully by others, to see, hear and contribute to.
And lastly, by openly exploring new ways of looking at old problems to remove or offer alternatives to existing limiting beliefs and the bad training, fake science and poor advice that is rife in the profession.
Let me be clear, this will not be a witch hunt, quite frankly I do not have the time. But aside from doing my own work well, I believe this will be a beneficial contribution to the profession.
It is something I have felt passionate about or some time and at this stage in my life, personal and professional congruence are more important than ever.
It also is independent of the convention, which I believe is destined for much bigger and better things.
The convention, led by Adam and Co. and with the UKHC family and all their goodwill and energy behind them, will grow and become better each year. It may have new organisers but the contribution over the three years from its speakers and guests, have given it its soul and have shaped its purpose.
Adam will unquestionably bring another dimension to it by adding an evidence-based, cross therapy appeal to the event, but people should also realise that it is because of Adam’s input that we have been able to enjoy contributions from the likes of Martin S Taylor and James Brown (and many other speakers as well), who this year for me, asked as many important questions of us all as any of the academic contributors or therapists could have.
So I for one am looking forward to attending the UKHC next year under its new leadership and excited that I can continue to play the equally important part of guest and contributor to the development of the profession.