By Dan Jones
Dr Forster: ‘Maybe you yourself have the rare power that only occurs once every millennium to perform a miracle…for a person with exceptional strength of will…there are no limits! In every human being is a part of God. That is the will, the energy! Gather all your strength. What do you see now?’
Hitler: ‘I see your face… your hand and the signet ring… your white coat…the newspaper on the table and the notes about me’
Dr Forster: ‘Take a rest. You have been cured.’
In his latest book, Triumph of the Will?award winning author Dr David Lewis describes how in October 1918 Adolf Hitler, a lance-corporal with the List Regiment, was left blind after a British gas attack. Doctors diagnosed his blindness as being due to mental breakdown rather than physical injury. Sent to a ‘nerve clinic’ far from the Front Line, he was cured by Naval doctor Edmund Forster using hypnosis. The hypnosis left him convinced he was a ‘chosen one’ whose every action was dictated by a supernatural power.
Top British hypnotherapist Dan Jones, of the Mindchangers.co.uk, explains how the hypnosis worked.
Hypnotherapist Dan Jones
As long ago as the 1890s, hypnosis researchers like Jean-Martin Charcot and Pierre Janet had reported that the easiest individuals to hypnotise were also more vulnerable to hysterical illnesses. For this reason, Hitler was likely to have been a highly responsive hypnotic subject.
Hitler, extreme left, with List Regiment comrades
The trauma of the October gas attack, which injured many of those around him,triggered what is called an ‘orientation response’.
German troops during gas attack.
This produces a desire on the part of the individual to follow suggestions. All it would take is someone saying their eyes were stinging and preventing them from seeing, at a time when his own eyes were stinging,to make this his own reality.
Nurses treating German soldiers injured in gas attack
Edmund Forster used what he knew of Hitler’s personality as a way treating the hysterically induced blindness. Rather than fighting the lance-corporal’s beliefs and perspectives he caught Hitler’s attention by telling him what he most wanted to hear. He reassured him he had been genuinely injured. That the ‘blindness’ isn’t ‘in his head’ and that he isn’t ‘weak’.
‘Nerve doctor’ and Naval Officer Edmund Forster
Forster seeks to increase Hitler’s expectancy by first creating feelings of hopelessness. He encourages him to focus on ‘so what is the answer then’.
Silence deepens hypnosis and, by remaining silent for a few moments, he focuses Hitler’s attention. The first stage of inducing hypnosis.
The second stage is to narrow the subject’s attention still further. At this point Hitler is primed to focus his attention on a way out of the hopelessness.
Forster creates what hypnotists call a ‘yes set’. In this a statement is made which is so obviously correct that the subject is unable to disagree.
He de-potentiates any negativity by mentioning the negatives first. If you think someone is going to say ‘no’ or ‘I can’t’ it is better to say it for them to take the power out of those self-suggestions.
Forster now started making statements designed to guide Hitler in a specific direction. One that offers the possibility of regaining his sight.
He did this using a technique called ‘seeding’. He knows Hitler, like most people, doesn’t think of himself as average and so he plants an idea that while miracles do not happen to average people they can occur to ‘chosen’ people. All Hitler has to do is believe he isn’t average and by implication he must be ‘chosen’.
Forster next stated that he was neither a charlatan nor miracle worker but merely a simple doctor. By insisting he was not a charlatan he was implying: ‘I’m not trying to trick or con you.’ This encouraged Hitler to trust what he said.
Framing the blindness as a problem ‘only a miracle can treat’, meant that if his sight returns it would be a miracle and since the doctor can’t work miracles, Hitler himself must be the miracle worker. The ‘once in a thousand years chosen one’before whom even nature bows down.
Dr Forster followed this up with a hypnotic technique called a ‘tag question’, which is where you ask for agreement while depotentiating the chance of disagreement by saying ‘don’t you agree?’ Because people like balance, they are more inclined to respond ‘yes’ than ‘no’.
When suggestions are low in emotion they require lots of repetition for them to stick. When high in emotion, however, very little repetition is necessary. Forster had been creating high levels of emotion and desire within Hitler which, together with his responsivity to hypnosis, created a situation in which all the suggestions, even the subtler and implied ones, were likely to be internalised and responded to powerfully.
The third stage of hypnotising someone is giving the suggestions for change and carrying out the therapeutic work.When undertaking hypnosis you never really know exactly how someone will interpret your suggestions, you can only ever have a general idea and do your best to give suggestions in the direction of the therapy. Unknown to Forster at the time, the context, Hitler’s personality and the suggestions he gave to Hitler had deeper ramifications than just restoring sight.
Metaphor is commonly used in hypnosis to lay down patterns in a client’s mind for them to follow.
Metaphor is very powerful and crosses contexts. Hitler had become blind to the world, he was angry about his blindness, angry about what was happening in the world and dreamed of the idea of someone rising up, ruling and leading people out of the darkness and into the light. Presented with an opportunity to see again, he had a ‘new vision’ of the world.
The treatment was a metaphor which would have run deep as a post-hypnotic suggestion. That is a suggestion given during hypnosis that is acted upon outside of hypnosis. Forster had, inadvertently, started Hitler off on his new mission. Convinced him he was the ‘once in a thousand years chosen one’ whose divine destiny it was be to lead his people to glory.