How we Dream Reality

This video is an extract from a seminar which I held with the BMDSH Scotland, a society of dentists and medical doctors who work with hypnosis. The seminar was called “The Art of Therapeutic Storytelling”. The 4 hour introductory part is also available as an audio recording. I will put it in the Stefan Hammel Shop. It should be available there next week. There is also an English video demonstration on couple therapy in the shop – and on how to do couple therapy when only one partner is present. If you’re interested in these – you can also just send me an E-mail. For now – have fun with the little film!


The story “Nosebleed” is a basic intervention which can be varied in many different ways, and which serves as an example of the effectiveness of hypnotic suggestions in everyday life outside an explicitly therapeutic context. I have used the technique described below on five people, four of whom were children. In four cases the bleeding stopped within one to three minutes, and in one case there was no significant improvement. The valve should be turned to the right or left depending on the symptoms (to the left in order to increase blood flow). The suggestions are unambiguous, despite being phrased in an indirect and non-directive manner. The story can be used not only for somatic complaints, but also for patients suffering from erythrophobia (fear of blushing or compulsive blushing), as well as for patients with “bad” habits and other (chronic) psychosocial symptoms in order to highlight the power of the mind to eliminate a certain symptom without further ado. In such situations it is recommended that further episodes of the story be told, explaining how individuals simply “turned off” a problem or symptom (e.g. a red-hot oven ring, a garden hose or an annoying radio). Since most symptoms are involuntary and are defended by clients as occurring “not on purpose”, I would advise against discussing the content of the story on a cognitive level. Nevertheless, when eliminating symptoms it is always necessary first to ask oneself and the client, “What purpose does this symptom serve?”

They met by chance on a grassy field. The old man was exercising his dog, and the young man was simply going for a walk. They recognised each other because they belonged to the same chess club, and so they started chatting. Suddenly the old man hesitated. He took out a packet of tissues, pulled out a few and held them in front of his face. His nose wouldn’t stop bleeding. “Can I show you how to stop the bleeding?” said the younger man. “Look around you. Can you see anything red?” “That tree over there has red berries,” said the older man. “That’s right. Berries as red as blood. Can you imagine a valve on a water pipe in the same red colour?” “I can.” “Does it look more like the red handle on a tap, or a large red stopcock of the sort you sometimes use to turn off the water supply to a house?” “A stopcock.” As they stood next to each other and talked, the younger man stretched out his arm in front of him and kept turning his hand to the right as though he was closing a big valve. “You can put your tissues away again now,” he said.

“Good Morning Everyone!”

Promoting understanding – Understanding and misunderstanding

The story “GGood Morning Everyone!” can be used to encourage the listener to adopt a creative approach to gossip. It demonstrates how a victim of gossip can take proactive steps against the “rumour mill” by spreading counter-rumours.

There was once a priest who lived in a small village far out in the countryside in Bavaria. He was a young and good-looking priest who lived alone, which made him a figure of enormous interest for the other villagers. One morning he got up, opened his window, hung out two sets of bedlinen to air – as was the custom in that land – and drank his coffee in peace. Good morning everyone! Now he had plenty of material for his next sermon…

Without Words

Promoting understanding – Understanding and misunderstanding

The story “Without Words” offers examples of how body language can be interpreted. It can be used as therapeutic homework to provide young people with autism with a new way of interpreting other people’s behaviour, and to occupy highly gifted young people with observation tasks as a distraction from provocative or depressive behaviour.

While I was driving home I approached a zebra crossing. A pedestrian was walking along the pavement, still a little way before the crossing. I stopped. It is possible to tell whether someone is going to cross the road several metres before they stop or look around, because they make a small turning motion with their body or head which foreshadows the planned movement. There are situations in which it can be useful to observe these minimal movements which anticipate actual movements. When the person leading a committee meeting or seminar asks for a volunteer, for example, a long pause often sets in while everyone waits to see if someone else is enthusiastic enough to volunteer first. And yet the individual who finally volunteers after lots of encouragement is always the one who moved immediately after the request was made – by leaning forwards slightly, by opening his or her mouth briefly, by uncrossing his or her legs, by sighing or by any other movement which might serve as a non-verbal introduction to a spoken contribution. If I want to circumvent this tedious process, I address a direct question to the person who moved first after I asked for a volunteer, enquiring whether he or she would like to take on the task. Experience shows that the answer is always yes.

The Cave Dwellers

What we perceive is determined more by our biology and biography than by objective facts, and the feedback effects from both our sensory perceptions and our interpretations largely drown out what is allegedly real about the world.

She asked her mother, “Mum, mum, mum, what is real, real, real?”

“What do you mean, what is real, real, real?”

“I mean without this echo, echo, echo.”

“Which echo, echo, echo?

Right here and now is real, real, real.”

“I see, see, see.”

And then she understood, understood, understood.

(From: Stefan Hammel: Handbook of Therapeutic Storytelling. Sories and Metaphors in Psychotherapy, Child and Family Therapy, Medical Treatment, Coaching and Supervision, Routledge 2019)


« Terminé! » , cria l’œuf quand il fut pondu. « Maintenant terminé! » , cria le tétard quand il fut sortie de l’œuf. « Maintenant je suis au complet! », cria la créature quand elle eut deux pattes. « Je suis enfin au complet de la tête aux pieds! » , cria l’être, quand il eut quatre pattes et une longue queue. « Qui sait ce qui va désormais encore se produire… » , dit la grenouille quand elle fut terminée.

The Creation of the World

All thought systems – and therefore all human ways of interpreting the world – have been devised by humans. We often get the world we think up and believe in; at a personal level, this means that we become what we believe in and what we think, hope and fear.

This rule has far-reaching implications in terms of both our health and our psychological, material, financial and social conditions. We can of course share our individual worlds with others by communicating them verbally and non-verbally, and to a certain extent turn our environment into what we believe it to be. All reality is created on the basis of a communicated and therefore shared world.

Mohammed created a world. Freud created a world. Tolkien created a world. McKinsey created a world. The Aldi owners created a world. Bill Gates created a world. Can I too create a world?

A German sales company uses the advertising slogan, “Every week a new world”. New worlds are indeed created every week. Most of them are not very original; they swim in the wake of the established worlds and do not gain any traction.

What kind of a world have you created? A philosophical world? A spiritual world? A commercial world? A mathematical world? A social world? An aesthetic world? A material world? A communicative world? A world of fun? An ethical world?

You might be thinking to yourself, “But I haven’t created any world at all!” I don’t believe that for a second. As soon as you look at something – anything – and inadvertently think something new, you start to create a world.

(From: Stefan Hammel: Handbook of Therapeutic Storytelling. Sories and Metaphors in Psychotherapy, Child and Family Therapy, Medical Treatment, Coaching and Supervision, Routledge 2019)

Le loup de mer et le loup de terre

Un jour, le loup de mer reҫu la visite du loup de terre. Les deux se connaissaient déjà depuis l’école des loups. Le loup de mer avait parcouru le monde et vécut beaucoup d’aventures et il rentra chez lui riche de trésors et d’expériences. Le loup de terre était resté chez soi dans sa tannière. Il rencontra une louve de terre et eut des louveteaux de terre. Et maintenant, il a beaucoup de petits-louveteaux et des arrière-petits-louveteaux, et tous sont devenus de vrais, bons loups de terre.

«Parfois j’aimerais refaire ma vie», dit le loup de terre au loup de mer. «C’est la même chose pour moi», dit ce dernier. «Je ferais beaucoup de choses différemment», dit le loup de terre. «Oui, moi aussi», répondit le loup de mer. «Je naviguerais les océans», rêva le loup de terre. «Je me marierais», soupira le loup de mer. «Je vivrais des aventures», expliqua le loup de terre. «J’aurais des louveteaux», dit le loup de mer. «Je serais un loup de mer riche. J’aurais vécu des expériences  périlleuses et magnifiques, dont je pourrais raconter les histoires», dit le loup de terre avec enthousiasme. «Moi, j’aurais des petits-enfants et des arrière-petits-enfants qui m’aimeraient et qui s’occuperaient de moi quand je serais vieux et malade», assura le loup de mer.

«Et ce serait moi qui serait maintenant assis avec toi dans cette tannière de loup de mer», continua le loup de terre, « …et moi avec toi… », rajouta le loup de mer. Le loup de terre hocha la tête : «Et puis maintenant tu me dirais : “Parfois, j’aimerais bien refaire ma vie” et moi, je répondrais : “Oui, c’est la même chose pour moi.”»

Renewed Life

A number of researchers wanted to find out why salmon die after spawning, so they fished a number of specimens out of the river, fitted them with radio transmitters and placed them back into the sea. And what do you think happened? The animals stayed alive.

The story “Renewed Life” makes it clear that life plans and goals play a vital role in an individual’s happiness, health and life expectancy.

(Stefan Hammel, Handbook of Therapeutic Storytelling. Stories and Metaphors in Psychotherapy, Child and Family Therapy, Medical Treatment, Coaching and Supervision. Routledge 2019)