The Third Ear: A Powerful Tool for Becoming a Better Listener

By Eleanor Laser, PhD.

To help clients heal, the medical hypnotist needs to be more than an eyewitness, she needs to be an earwitness or, as my professor at Adler University, Rudolph Dreikurs, M.D., used to say in his distinctive Viennese accent, “You must listen with a third ear, ya!” In other words, it’s especially important to hear key clues and phrases that provide insight, allow you to address the client’s problem, and help him or her return to health. Following are some cases that illustrate how I used my third ear to uncover this critical information, such as when I treated K.K., a combat soldier.

Listening with the 3rd Ear: Treating PTSD in Combat Soldiers

When K.K. arrived for our first session, he shared a riveting story. In 1996, his US Army base in Saudi Arabia was bombed. During the attack, K.K. was thrown into a ditch two hundred yards away. “It was so dark there,” he said, “I haven’t slept since and now I’m always tired.” The tiredness interfered with his work as an accountant. In addition, he was on five medications from the VA hospital, but none helped.

As I listened, the phrase “it was so dark there” jumped out. For me it spoke volumes and explained exactly how I should proceed.

First, I hypnotized K.K. and taught him mindfulness. Mindfulness focuses your awareness on the present moment while simultaneously acknowledging and calmly accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It helps clients manage stress, build resilience and deal with anxiety, insomnia and more. Next, I asked K.K. about the darkness and realized he was frightened of the dark because it was unpredictable, and he couldn’t see what was coming. Bottom line, since the explosion, K.K. always slept alert - which meant he hadn’t really slept at all. The solution was nightlights plus the mindfulness meditation. This combination, along with K.K.’s very sincere desire to get well, solved his problem in just two hypnosis sessions.

K.K. also learned how important it was to be consistent in his new behaviors and not to test them. “When I first arrived in Germany, my new home,” he said, “I did not use the nightlights...I had horrible nightmares...added to jet PTSD worsened and I (again) became tired, lethargic, out of control. After enduring a few of those miserable nights and mornings, I found some very good night lights to break the darkness of the room I slept in...I was (then) able to sleep without fear of the nightmares subsided greatly...I’m still amazed how fast you, Dr. Laser, figured it out” - all of which allowed K.K. to get on with his life!

Listening with the 3rd Ear: Treating Idiopathic Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Bob, another client, wanted to get on with his life too, but he faced a different challenge &endash; a medical diagnosis of idiopathic multiple chemical sensitivity. The problem started when Bob’s wood floors were refinished with a toxic sealer. As he slept for nine hours, Bob was exposed to the sealer’s dangerous fumes. Those fumes produced a severe reaction &endash; so severe that Bob began experiencing more than 25 incapacitating symptoms. Ultimately, experts said his condition, idiopathic multiple chemical sensitivity, was impossible to cure. The recommended treatment was total avoidance.

Suddenly, Bob couldn’t enter stores or buildings with carpeting. Cleaners, laundry detergents, and other odors impacted him. He was incapacitated by the smell of everything from tires to HVAC systems, cigarettes to newspapers, clothing, and more. Bob also couldn’t use soap or deodorant and couldn’t go out to the mailbox without a respirator.

The symptoms became so severe that Bob abandoned his home. He tried nine different hotels, but his condition persisted. Desperate, like many other sufferers of idiopathic multiple chemical sensitivity, Bob moved into a tent. In Bob’s case, the tent was on his brother’s deck, but this was a problem too. He couldn’t enter his sibling’s home because every day smells were overwhelming. Ironically, the one thing Bob could do was go to drive-in lines at fast food restaurants where the strong odors made him feel better. Unfortunately, nothing else did including a range of medications and visits to specialists. Finally, an ER physician referred Bob to me.

To prepare for his first visit to my home office, Bob and I spoke on the phone. He asked if I had wood floors. He also asked me not to wear perfume. Of course, I complied and seated him in my uncarpeted living room where we began to talk. As I listened, I learned that Bob owned a nautical store with a swimming pool in the rear where he taught deep sea diving. Since the store was near my former home, I was familiar with it and had actually purchased goggles and fins there. Although we hadn’t met before, being a customer helped build our rapport and allowed Bob to share a key point with me, the point my third ear picked up on when he said, “I feel safer and more comfortable underwater than anywhere else.”

Those revealing words along with my knowledge of Milton Erickson’s theory of utilization, showed me how to help Bob. Erickson’s theory says the unconscious is the key to healing and the therapist can access this place through hypnosis. In so doing, I could use Bob’s passion for diving to create positive change. The process would be even more effective if I added “collapsing anchors,” a tapping technique used in Neuro- Linguistic Programming (NLP) founded by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. Essentially, “collapsing anchors” helps the client decide which negative state to eliminate and which more dominant, positive state to replace it with.

This very effective technique not only helps get rid of negative emotions, it replaces them with positive, resourceful ones and actually changes the way the body reacts to stimulus. In other words, with collapsing anchors, the situation that once triggered a negative response will now trigger a positive one. Collapsing anchors works because a person can’t experience two incompatible states - such as joy and anger - simultaneously. Ultimately, the stronger, more positive state consistently wins out, especially when hypnosis leads the way and creates the environment for success. (Learn more about collapsing anchors and other NLP techniques from the references listed at the end of this article or the many good resources available online including YouTube. *)

With this plan, I hypnotized Bob and took him on a deep dive. The water imagery provided the perfect opportunity to help his auto-immune issues. It allowed me to use those key words and tell Bob that with every exhalation the toxins would float away in the water and with every inhalation from the tank on his back, he was inhaling filtered air which was cleansing and safe &endash; an experience he loved!

To reinforce my words, I added collapsing anchors to rid his body of negative emotions, tapping one shoulder to get rid of the toxic fumes, then the other to reinforce the cleansing air coming from the tank. As Bob breathed out, I repeated again and again that the toxins were floating away in the water. I also used a soft voice to describe the underwater scenery, fish swimming by, and the healing air Bob was inhaling. Hypnosis allowed me to strongly suggest that the filtered air from the tank was curing Bob’s body and mind while the tapping/collapsing anchors released the noxious odor from the floor of his house. Finally, I placed my fingers on both Bob’s shoulders at the same time and asked how he felt.

“Good - for the first time in months!” Bob replied and that good feeling persisted. After just two sessions of hypnosis supported by NLP, Bob was able to return home, live in his house, and resume his life.

Listening with the 3rd Ear: Treating Insomnia and Relationship Issues

Likewise, a combination of hypnosis, NLP, Visual Auditory Kinesthetic Gustatory (VAKG), and Adlerian psychology helped Mohamad, another client, quickly and effectively change negative behavior so he, too, could enjoy life, conquer crippling insomnia, and more productively search for a wife. According to Dr. Alfred Adler, MD, identifying early memories is key to this process because we learn perception before age eight. This means early memories are crucial to revealing behavioral patterns. The therapist can retrieve these memories during hypnotic age regression or during a conscious state. Under hypnosis, the childhood memories are vivid and make immediate sense to the client. He or she can put together past and present behavior, and clearly understand how “then” relates to “now.” Ultimately, the client can recognize that early negative behavior has become a pattern he has unconsciously and detrimentally repeated in adult life.

It’s the therapist’s job to interrupt this negative behavior pattern. My experience with NLP techniques such as collapsing anchors, combined with Adlerian psychology and hypnosis, gives me a wide range of behavior generators to accomplish this goal. I weave them together and customize my approach to help each individual client shift gears. This can happen very quickly. In one session, a person can understand how their early experiences play a role in their current negative behavior. This was the case with Mohamad, the Pakistani man, who came to me with insomnia.

To understand why he was awake all night, I hypnotized Mohamad to retrieve those memories before age eight and to unlock his patterns of behavior. The hypnosis helped him recall something that happened when he was six years old. “I was in Walmart with my father. I took a pack of gum from the counter and ran and hid on the floor behind an aisle of products.” Mohamad had seen the gum on TV and was excited to taste a new flavor &endash; but he achieved this goal at a very high price. His father called the store manager, then beat Mohamad. This perception of excitement and its consequences started a pattern that caused Mohamad problems throughout his adult life, including insomnia and relationship issues.

You see, Mohamad wanted to be married but continuously chose women from many different cultures including women from China, India and Spain - in other words, different flavors. Unfortunately, these relationships failed which made him feel like he was being punished. As his therapist, I came to understand that he took the gum to experience a variety of flavors and get away with something. This was where his excitement behavior pattern began and the gustatory flavor, the taste, was key to his issues with women - an amazing revelation to Mohamad. Since he was now lonely and wanted to wed, I explained that we had to interrupt this pattern to achieve different results. I suggested that we change the flavor of the gum because I knew that where one sub-modality changes, others can follow.

To prepare for his transformation, I first set the framework for the session. I explained that we would be using a salt night light from Pakistan. The light creates a soft glow in an otherwise completely dark room and promotes sleep by cleansing the air. I also used a sound machine to duplicate gentle ocean waves. With these props in place, we began hypnosis, changing the flavor Mohamad wanted to change the behavior causing his problems.

Mohamad emerged from hypnosis happy and relieved. He followed up later to say he felt great and now slept well, equally important, he was returning to Pakistan to marry &endash; a profound life change achieved in a single session.

This is the power of medical hypnosis combined with critical, third ear listening and other proven techniques. Together, they can help clients solve problems, create better futures and live their best possible lives every day.

*To learn more about collapsing anchors and additional Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) techniques, please see the following by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, and check other resources/ demonstrations on YouTube and elsewhere online:

Frogs into Princes, Richard Bandler and John Grinder, (1979), Real People Press Reframing: Neuro-Linguistic Programming and the Transformation of Meaning, John Grinder and Richard Bandler, (1982), Real People Press

Trance-formations, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and the Structure of Hypnosis, John Grinder and Richard Bandler, (1981), Real People Press

Using Your Brain for a CHANGE, Richard Bandler, (1985), Real People Press


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ELLY LASER, PH D is a medical hypnotist who is also trained to practice Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP); Eye Movement Desentation and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) Hypnotherapy. To learn more about Elly's work, please see her articles on LinkedIn and

Eleanor D. Laser Ph D