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Hypnotic Episodes

[whitespace] Local practitioner teaches clients to live more Force-ful lives

By Will Harper

IF OBI-WAN KENOBI WAS a 20th-century account executive, he might advise his client, "Use the Hype, Luke. Use the Hype." With the release of the Star Wars prequel, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, San Jose hypnotist David Barron decided it was just too good an opportunity to pass up.

Hence his latest marketing campaign, which claims the mystical powers of "The Force" and other elements of Jedi training are actually just elements of hypnosis and Neuro-Linguistic Programming in disguise.

Remember the scene from the original Star Wars where Obi-Wan posthumously advises Luke, who is trying to blow up the Death Star, "Use the Force, Luke"?

Barron argues that this was an example of Luke's unconscious intuition making itself known through an auditory hallucination. Barron says, "Not everyone hears a voice as clearly as Luke did"--and those who do are usually the ones who hear their neighbor's dog demanding that they kill unsuspecting co-eds--"but we've all had these moments of clarity, gut feelings that we know we should trust, and this can be greatly improved with hypnosis."

Or take that scene where Obi-Wan confuses and disorients the dimwitted storm trooper with a few simple words. An example of what Barron calls "indirect suggestions." George Lucas didn't make this stuff up.

"Among the other parallels of The Force and hypnosis are they both require going into an altered state of self-hypnosis," Barron asserts. "A Jedi knight wielding his light saber or any athlete can use hypnosis to slow down their perception of time and thus speed up their responses.

"While using The Force," Barron continues, "Luke Skywalker saw into the future, a nice tool that hypnotists call 'time lining' and is used to rehearse skills for future uses."

After he catches my attention with his profound deconstruction of The Force, I decide to meet with Barron in his office near the Midtown Safeway.

He is younger than I pictured--aren't hypnotists supposed to wear top hats and capes?--a youthful-looking 41. He wears khakis and a thick cotton button-down over his fit frame. No cape.

He tells me he did the whole Star Wars analogy "on a lark," with tongue firmly planted in cheek, despite the fact that it appears he put a lot of analytical work into it. He runs a typical hypnotherapy practice helping people get over their hangups and addictions.

So Jabba the Hut might seek Barron's services to help him lose some of those extra chins. Or Darth Vader might drop by to quit smoking. (Hear that loud breathing of his? Emphysema!) And Luke would go under to learn how to pick up on chicks other than his sister.

In real life, Barron says he does have a few shy Silicon Valley engineers coming to him to help them get over their fear of flirting with the opposite sex. "You've got some highly skilled people trained as engineers, but who lack social training," Barron says.

To give them that social training, Barron assigns homework after a session. "I'll even go out with them and make sure they introduce themselves to a woman."

Still, the staples of Barron's practice--and other hypnotherapists'--are helping people lose weight and quit smoking (individual sessions range from $50 to $90).

Barron's patients sit in a cushy La-Z-Boy chair and put on a pair of sunglasses with flashing red lights on the inside of the lenses. The glasses are linked to a sound system that plays a rhythmic pulsating beat that gets progressively slower.

Once the subject relaxes, Barron will give hypnotic suggestions. For overweight people, he asks them to visualize themselves as a thin person.

Not everyone can be hypnotized, Barron says. Smokers especially have to be highly motivated to quit for the hypnotherapy to work. Barron offers a free evaluation for new clients. "It tells us if a person is motivated and would be a good hypnotic subject."

The office of Barron's start-up company, Changeworks (www.changework.com), still looks unsettled. The walls are almost bare, and there is a vague smell of paint. Barron's desk is a picture of minimalism--phone, computer and datebook. That's it.

Just a year ago, he was in his home state of Idaho making and selling customized cowboy hats. He liked the work, but it was isolating.

He started getting into hypnotism 15 years ago, though he can't remember exactly what attracted him to the subject (at least not without a session of regression therapy). He read a few books, went to a few conventions and eventually became a certified master hypnotist, the equivalent of certified Jedi master, capable of tapping into the Hype.

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From the July 8-14, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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