Obituary of Gil Boyne, 1924-2010.
May 10th, 2010
by John Butler.
Gil Boyne died on 5th May 2010 at his home in London, after a brief illness. Having been admitted to hospital and been given a diagnosis a week previously, he told his wife Ann that he was very ready to go, that he wanted to pass away at home and he didn’t want to linger. He left hospital on 4th May, arrived home and passed away around 8.45 on Wednesday morning. His wife, his daughter and his grandchildren were with him. He was 85 years old.
He remained highly productive until the end of his life, working on several fronts, corresponding on his website, lecturing at the Hypnotherapy Training Institute in London, collaborating with some close colleagues on important projects, and he had continued to teach his intensive 4-day master classes with some help over the last several years. He walked his talk and was proud of the fact that the only medication he needed was a little pain medication at times he sustained a knee injury during the war, which led to arthritis and difficulties with mobility, which he coped with so well that few people suspected he had such problems. Over the last year, he had said more than once that he was “ready to go”, feeling satisfied that he had accomplished his main life’s tasks.
Gil’s life was highly eventful, his influence in hypnotherapy immense and his accomplishments so numerous that only an overview of his life story and his achievements can be mentioned here. His achievements include
Transforming the lives of thousands of clients who learned to believe in themselves, acquire hope and to open themselves to happiness and fulfilment as a result of his dynamic therapy.
Training thousands of hypnotherapists through the Hypnotism Training Institute of Los Angeles, which he ran for many years and his master classes, which he took to many countries around the world.
Being instrumental in establishing the modern profession of (so-called) “lay” hypnotherapy in the United States and later in many countries around the world. Although he was aware of the common use of the term “lay” to describe non-medical therapists, Gil often criticised it as a condescending and inaccurate description for well-trained hypnotherapists abiding by professional standards of practice and conduct. He set up a professional body, the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners, to support hypnotherapists, create standards of training and practice and provide a reliable source for the public seeking information on hypnotherapy. He was a co-founder of the Hypnotherapy Examining Council of the United Kingdom in 2008 and was developing, with other hypnotherapy trainers, similar bodies for other countries along with an international body to link all of the schools and professional bodies that had grown from his work.
Making available through his publishing company invaluable learning materials on therapy including his own creation of filmed live therapy sessions which provide a unique learning resource for students of hypnotherapy, and classic texts such as the work of Dave Elman, many of which were virtually unavailable at the time.
Successfully opposing many legislative attempts to restrict the availability of hypnotherapy by limiting its practice to the members of certain professional groups, or bringing it under the control of an authority rather than of the people actually involved, i.e. practising hypnotherapists and their clients. As he effectively pointed out at numerous legislative hearings:
There were no significant proven dangers inherent in the use of hypnosis. He insisted that hypnosis was a natural state and any damage to clients arising from a therapeutic interaction could only occur as the result of mistakes made by an inadequately trained therapist, whether that therapist was a medical or a other practitioner.
The people seeking to restrict the practice to themselves or to control the practice of others, in his opinion had no proven superior expertise in hypnotherapy, and often in fact had very little expertise in this field.
Professionals such as medical practitioners and psychologists had had over a century in which to incorporate hypnotherapy as part of their practice and make it available to the public on a scale which would meet the demand, and had conspicuously failed to do so in fact, if it had not been for hypnotherapists being able to offer their services unrestricted, there would be virtually no hypnotherapy for the general public in modern times.
The obvious conclusion, in his opinion, was that restrictive professional groups and authorities had little real commitment to hypnotherapy and could not be trusted with it. He frequently voiced his conviction that their main interest in restricting and regulating the practice of hypnotherapy was not to protect the public but to “close down” an annoyingly successful competitor to their own preferred methods of treatment and therapy.
Gil believed that the best “protection of the public” was primarily achieved by proper training of therapists and by informing the public how to select, evaluate and if necessary, make a complaint about a therapist. From his vast experience of bureaucrats, legislators and their political masters he was firmly of the opinion that hypnotherapy and the public good were not best served by their involvement in “regulating” this field.
Gil was to spend a great deal of energy and personal resources in defending “the free and open practice of hypnotherapy” as he championed it often in the face of highly determined and influential opposition. He was prepared to take on opposition directly and to make enemies if necessary in fighting for what he believed to be his rights and the rights of others.
In the last years of his life, he remained closely involved with this issue, which he regarded as vital for the future of hypnotherapy. Much of his correspondence involved this matter, and he was saddened and infuriated by the passage of restrictive practice laws in some US states, which resulted as he had predicted in hypnotherapists who had previously been free to practise as “People Helpers” (his preferred “professional” category for hypnotherapists) now being “regulated” and unable to offer services which could be considered “treatment” and offer effective competition to powerful interests.
Often therapists who had previously hoped that they would be protected and supported by some kind of “official” recognition were shocked and disillusioned while there were little tangible benefits in the “protection of the public” from bad practices. He was on the other hand delighted to learn of the recent retraction of restrictive legislation in Australia, where in 1980 he had spearheaded a successful campaign to oppose restrictive legislation planned at that time.
His courage and passion for this battle was rooted in his equally passionate belief that the benefits of hypnotherapy were too valuable to be hidden away or under the control of any self-appointed custodians of this power. His life had been transformed by the power of self-belief. To a far greater extent than most people, he had overcome the odds against him through mastering his mind and refusing to accept the false belief that he was doomed to a limited future. To the end of his life he remained fascinated by the inner world of the human mind and the potential to be found there, and he was passionate about making the possibility for transformation available to all who sought it.
This struggle was evident in his own life story. A highly intelligent and clearly sensitive boy, he grew up in an Irish-American family in a tough neighbourhood in Philadelphia where people had to work hard for very limited wages. His father supported his family but was also a heavy drinker with a temper, which frequently expressed itself in physical violence. In one of his most self-revelatory filmed cases, “Bud”, Gil recounts how his father forced him to fight other boys, preventing them from ganging up on him all together but making him fight them one at a time. When Gil was older, he was the “fighter” for his group of teenage boys, the one who defended the turf and took on challenges. Although hard on his natural sensitivity, this tough role prepared him for his work for many years in fighting for his goals and in particular advancing the cause of hypnotherapy and defending the freedom of hypnotherapists to practise. He learned in the mean streets of Philadelphia that if you don’t defend your rights yourself it’s not likely that someone else will do it for you.
He was capable of being highly combative when the occasion warranted it while being genuinely caring, compassionate and sensitive. He liked to champion the cause of those who were vulnerable and would often offer services and other help to those in need without any thought of recompense or public recognition. He was very aware of the frailties of human nature, including his own, and would sometimes comment to his friends that he had been too aggressive and hostile in his comments towards one of his opponents. Sometimes, he would offer an apology even when Gil’s friends felt he had been more wronged than the opponent. This highly sensitive side co-existed with the tough street fighter and as he grew older his sensitivity became more apparent, even to his opponents.
Gil was also an extremely effective businessman who had learned to “go make that dollar” early in life, starting out in the Great Depression. He could have achieved success in many fields, but he chose to use his talents and business acumen ultimately in the service of the profession of hypnotherapy, which he loved. Many have rightly commented over the years that the establishment of “lay” hypnotherapy as a profession in its own right was primarily the result of the vision and work of Gil Boyne.
As a youngster, education provided by the religious orders who ran schools in his childhood neighbourhood gave him the nourishment he needed for his intellect, his sensitivity and his natural flair for the dramatic. He loved to read aloud, even then appreciating the power of the human voice, and disregarding the mockery of other boys who disliked reading in the class. His teachers encouraged him to study and gave him the fundamentals of self-belief based on his own abilities. They recognised his prodigious intellectual and creative abilities as well as his drive to learn and achieve. He often stated that their encouragement and belief in him was the first beginnings of his vision of making more of his life. Due to his intellectual abilities he was offered the then rare opportunity for further education, but his parents did not accept this, wishing their son to earn his own living from an early age as they had, and not supporting his potential to move to a different lifestyle via an extended education. This was a story he sometimes told with great sadness, often in illustration of how hard it is to forgive someone for a great loss they have caused you.
However, one consequence of having been thwarted educationally in his youth was that his thirst for learning never ceased. His resilient spirit and desire to succeed showed themselves in the standards of achievement he set for himself in his study of hypnotherapy and many psychological therapies. His knowledge of the field of hypnotherapy was encyclopaedic and his skills prodigious. He acquired not only extensive training in therapy systems but he also became extraordinarily knowledgeable in the history, politics and personalities of the field. He was well-acquainted with many major practitioners, including medical hypnotherapists, from the period and could speak at length and enthrallingly of his learning and insights into the work of these people.
His first exposure to hypnosis was actually in his childhood home. One day his uncle hypnotised Gil’s parents, and the young boy was fascinated to see these two adults who were usually dominant in relation to him, become quiescent in seconds. His personal introduction to a therapeutic process came after the war. He had seen military service in the American Navy in the Pacific, enrolling as a patriotic 19-year old, and along with many others had suffered severe stress and emotional scars from the experience of being in a ship isolated in the middle of the ocean, regularly coming under air attack. He became uncommunicative and withdrawn, growing a face-concealing beard and finding nothing to excite or motivate him. It is hard for those of us who knew the energetic and always well-dressed Gil of his later years to imagine the figure he must have presented at this time. He was assigned to a therapeutic program based on psychoanalysis, but found his therapist detached and unsympathetic and the process bringing no change. He requested an alternative and was assigned to a man who practised a “humanistic” approach he encouraged Gil to sell from door to door. This succeeded! Gil emerged from his isolation, developed his natural skills in communicating with people and retained a lifelong belief in the positive value of “selling”, as anyone who met him can testify.
The community in which Gil grew up was deeply religious, as were his first educators, and spirituality was a central preoccupation in his life. While describing himself as a Christian, he studied New Thought teachings and respected the core principles of the great spiritual traditions. He believed that there is a universal source of life that is unconditionally creative and loving and that all of us can access this and become loving creators in our own lives. His therapeutic work was geared towards this goal. He knew that feelings and the imagination are the most powerful forces motivating people and that therapy must embrace these if it is to be effective. Emotion, dramatic intensity, confessional dialogue, forgiveness of self and others, redemption and reintegration are essential elements of both Catholic and Evangelical religious traditions and Gil had no difficulty in harmonising these with the then “new” teachings of Fritz Perls’ Gestalt and Carl Rogers’ unconditional regard. He studied with these therapists and with many of the now famous names of therapy. He creatively incorporated what he found of value in their work with his own ideas and with his already well-honed skills in managing hypnotic trance (he had spent some years as a very successful stage hypnotist) and in using therapeutic suggestion (he had given therapy to many clients using trance and suggestion alone, as that was what the small number of existing hypnotherapists mostly practised at that time). Gil’s creative fusion of these elements and original contributions together resulted in the creation of his system of analytical therapy, called “Transforming Therapy”. With this he could achieve profound and lasting changes for his clients, greatly extending what could be achieved through trance and suggestion or the older psychoanalytically-oriented forms of hypnoanalysis.
Gil always worked at the cutting edge of therapeutic development and was never afraid to explore wherever therapeutic value might be found. Seeking the elements which made therapy most effective, he focussed on the crucial moment when a client transfers trust to the therapist as a core event in trance induction. Although he patriotically supported his country in the Cold War, which was in force at the time, he nevertheless studied reports of the work of Russian scientists under Ivan Pavlov and incorporated their idea of the “power of the word” in inducing trance and producing therapeutic change. One outcome of Gil’s study and practice of this work was his masterful use of “instant” and “rapid” induction methods for which alone he justifiably became famous in the world of hypnotherapy.
Transforming Therapy is a rich and multi-aspected therapeutic method and Gil was never satisfied when students fixed only on the “spectacular” elements of instant induction and highly dramatic regressions and disregarded the essential role of the less obvious elements. This included his sophisticated and sleuth-like pre-hypnotic interviews in which he probed through the layers of material presented by the client, tracking the “live” issues through voice tone, emotive cues such as tears or facial expressions, and apparently random statements which gave vital clues to intense emotions and underlying powerful beliefs. His intuitive abilities, or spiritual guidance as he preferred to call it, his powerful intellectual faculty, his deep emotional resonance with the client and his courage to confront the problems for the sake of the client made him an amazingly effective therapist. He often mentioned that many students failed to seek the wide perspective necessary to be an effective therapist and limited themselves greatly by being reluctant, for example, even to read important materials simply because they did not have an obvious reference to hypnosis or include hypnotherapy in the title.
He himself studied closely the work of many different therapeutic approaches such as existentialism (he had a very high regard for the work of Rollo May, for example), bio-energetics (he said he “went through a phase” of getting clients to “act out” with vigorous leg movements etc but eventually decided he could achieve the same results with less focus on “external” methods), as well as Carl Rogers and Fritz Perls. He was aware that in any effective therapy an intense rapport is generated between the therapist and client, but felt that in most circumstances there is no reason not to use direct hypnosis as the most powerful and straightforward method of achieving this. He was fond of pointing out that Milton Erickson often used very “direct” methods depending on the needs of the client and he believed that an effective therapist can utilise any position on the continuum from “direct” to “indirect”.
He rejected superficial and simplistic approaches to hypnotherapy that did not deal adequately with the deep emotional issues and dysfunctional beliefs buried in the subconscious, which were at the roots of the client’s problems. He insisted on “dealing with what emerges” in the therapy session, as Perls had originally put it, and felt there was little value and much potential for counter-therapeutic effects in “labelling” clients’ problems, especially as in his opinion, such labelling methods were often based on little more than speculative theories and quasi-scientific doctrines on the nature of the human mind.
Gil was highly creative, spontaneous, often radical and not afraid of controversy in his clinical practice and teaching. He became extraordinarily successful in his clinical practice and so well-known in Los Angeles that many celebrities came, along with the members of the general public, to benefit from his services. He was genuinely a “therapist to the stars” of Hollywood’s heyday but was always down to earth in his appraisal of the value of fame and celebrity.
He put enormous effort into the training institute that he set up and ran in Los Angeles for roughly forty years. This Institute was dedicated to protecting the public in the most genuinely effective way, by producing hypnotherapists who were able to help people and were grounded in the real principles of therapy. He was very keen that others should not only practise but also teach his methods, while accepting the reality that any teacher can only teach from their own level and not many would compare to the length, depth and breadth of his own therapeutic development and experience. He rejected many offers to oversee a chain of Transforming Therapy Institutes but was happy to have hypnotherapy teachers learn as much as they could of his methods and incorporate them in their own teaching. His master class program gave students the opportunity to experience his work directly.
He expressed satisfaction that in his later years there were a few teachers and institutes that he felt were very close to teaching what he himself practised and could justifiably be called training centres for Transforming Therapy. An inspirational trainer, dramatic, intense and often impassioned in his teaching, he taught in a spontaneous style using the experiences of the students as material to open up for them the principles upon which the powerful effects of hypnotherapy can be achieved. In his teaching, Gil was constantly challenging the students as he challenged himself. He used to say (banging on the desk), “you are not there to do what you feel comfortable with’, you are there to do what the client needs”. He knew that change can take great commitment
the emotional effort to engage your attention with the client from the outset of the session to the conclusion
the intellectual effort to analyse the client’s situation as presented to the therapist, often in a confused and rambling form
the self-discipline to do what is necessary for the client, rather than what is easy, gratifying or “comfortable” for the therapist
the self-discipline to do the necessary learning and practice to acquire the skills to be able to do what the client needs.
A close study of his many remarkable filmed sessions shows Gil’s intense and consistent engagement of attention and his ability to employ whatever of his vast range of therapeutic skills the client needed from time to time
sometimes very confronting
sometimes very gentle
sometimes very forceful
sometimes analysing with masterly skill and presenting the client with the clear-cut choices or conclusions embedded in the client’s self-contradictory or confused narrative
sometimes taking the time to ponder the complexities presented by the client’s situation and responses
sometimes giving the client mini life-lessons which have obviously been missed from his or her education.
Because Gil Boyne lived the life and did the work he did, people who have borne heavy inner burdens can undergo Transforming Therapy in many parts of the world. His work continues whenever a Transforming Therapy client completes a session feeling lighter and looking more alive and radiant than they have for years, with hope awakened that their life can truly be worth living for. As he used to say after nearly every regression session “you kind of surprised yourself”.
Let us continue his work in gratitude.
Any obituary of Gil Boyne is necessarily only a brief summary of his life and achievements. His humour, his empathy, his generosity, his energy, his tireless worldwide teaching and support of hypnotherapists, his valiant bearing of the challenges of old age (“growing old is not for cissies!”), his love of jazz, his love of the theatre, his large collection of colourful neckties…
© John Butler, May 2010