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01-24-04: Area residents go under to overcome

Hypnotist conducts class to help reduce weight, stop smoking


ST. MARYS — They came from all walks of life with a common goal — to shed unwanted pounds or to stop smoking once and for all. For those problems, the conference room at Joint Township District Memorial Hospital is an appropriate place to start.
The American Lung Assoc-iation of Ohio began offering hypnosis classes back in the mid-1990s, choosing 29 hospital, medical center and YMCA sites across the state. In addition to St. Marys, other area locations include Van Wert County Hospital, the Lima Memorial Hospital Annex and Wilson Memorial Hospital in Sidney.
“I never met a person I could not hypnotize,” clinical hypnotist Don Mannarino says prior to conducting the first of two nighttime sessions recently. “Every-body can be hypnotized; it’s as simple as that. Eight out of 10 who come seeking help will be successful. Let me assure you that your chances of success are greater than excellent.”
The Cleveland resident, who travels throughout the state helping people under the auspices of the lung association, describes hypnosis as a heightened state of awareness during which clients reach a level of intense concentration allowing them to focus on a specific goal or task.
Mannarino, who holds a master’s degree in human services and a doctorate in counseling psychology, opens the 45- to 60-minute sessions with a liberal dose of humor. It is done by choice and not by accident.
“Humor breaks down resistance,” he explains. “People must have a positive attitude and be ready to listen, relax and make changes in order to be successful.”
He quickly assures the uncertain — 11 in the 6 p.m. smoking cessation group and 12 in the 7 p.m. weight reduction group — there will be no impromptu performances or nightclub antics such as barking like a dog or crowing like a rooster.
“I will not put you to sleep because then you wouldn’t hear anything,” he adds in reassuring tones. “You will stay awake and learn how to be successful.”
Mannarino, the only clinical hypnotist sponsored by the American Lung Association of Ohio, has been conducting wellness seminars since 1978. The fascination with hypnosis he acquired as a youth helped him achieve nonsmoker status 26 years ago after his lung collapsed.
He addresses the participants uncertainty and skepticism, pointing out hypnosis has been medically approved and sanctioned by the American Medical Association since 1958. He adds the Lamaze childbirth method is actually a form of self-hypnosis as other techniques like transcendental meditation, biofeedback and yoga.
After fielding questions from the audience comprised of men and women ranging in age from young adults to senior citizens, Mannarino dims the lights and encourages participants to relax in their seats and take deep cleansing breaths. His voice, once vibrant and energetic, takes on a soothing tone. He doesn’t use a watch dangling at the end of a chain as in the movies or on television. The rhythm of his voice, like a wave breaking slowly yet gently across the shore, gradually takes participants to a trance-like state. It is a natural state — like daydreaming, meditating or becoming engrossed in a good book — where attention is narrowly focused and relatively free of outside distraction.
He introduces suggestions via the conscious mind into the subconscious mind, the seat of unwanted negative habits. The message is simple yet direct — smokers will become nonsmokers from this day forth; overeaters will reduce their daily intake. Mannarino delivers the actual words in rhythmic fashion establishing the beat by snapping his fingers.
Participants emerge from the trance-like state feeling relaxed and refreshed. They leave armed with a desire to succeed and a reinforcement tape or CD that is to be played twice at points throughout the day and once at bedtime.
A Mercer County woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, came for the weight reduction session after trying to lose excess pounds over the course of eight years. She has tried everything from diet shakes to the latest low-carb rage, losing some pounds initially and them putting on even more.
“I am confident that I’m going to lose this weight once and for all,” she says. “I have never felt so good about anything. It cost me $50 tonight, but I can go to as many sessions as I want without charge for a year. I’ll be back for the next session here on July 15 and I’ll probably head to Lima or Van Wert in the meantime.”
A man in the smoking cessation session kicked “the nasty habit” six to seven years ago through hypnosis. He lighted a cigarette one day and immediately came back for reinforcement fearing a return to his old ways.
Mannarino believes weight loss and the ability to quit smoking are on an even keel. One is no more difficult to achieve than the other.
“You smoke because you made the choice to smoke; you become a nonsmoker because you do choose to do so,” he says. “You put on weight because you made the choice to overeat; you lose weight by choosing to cut back.
“Resistance does not happen by chance. It also happens by choice. You can’t resist anything subconsciously and therein lays the key to the success of hypnosis.”
Anyone wishing to learn about upcoming clinics can call the American Lung Association at 800-231-5864 or log on to www.ohiolung.org.


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