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THE GREAT RUSSIAN COMPOSER SERGEI RACHMANINOFF WAS SO TRAUMATIZED BY BAD REVIEWS OF HIS FIRST SYMPHONY, HE SHUT HIMSELF OFF FROM WRITING ALTOGETHER. HAD IT NOT BEEN FOR THE WORK OF THE PIONEERING HYPNOTIST NIKOLAI DAHL, RACHMANINOFF MAY NEVER HAVE COMPOSED HIS “SECOND PIANO CONCERTO IN C MINOR, OP. 18.

Sergei Rachmaninoff was born in Russia in 1873. He studied with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and was on his way to stardom when his “First Symphony” premiered in St. Petersburg. Rachmaninoff fled the orchestra hall before the symphony finished.

“It is true that the performance was beneath contempt,” wrote Rachmaninoff, in his memoirs “Rachmaninoff’s Recollections.” “Its deficiencies were revealed to me with a dreadful distinctness even during the first rehearsal.” One critic compared the piece to the ten plagues of Egypt. “If there was a conservatory in hell, Rachmaninoff would get the first prize for his symphony, so devilish are the discords he places before us,” newspaper critic Cesar Cui sneered.

“Something within me snapped,” Rachmaninoff wrote. “All my self-confidence broke down. … A paralyzing apathy possessed me. I did nothing at all and found no pleasure in anything. Half my days were spent on a couch sighing over my ruined life. My only occupation consisted in giving a few piano lessons in order to keep myself alive.” The composer’s depression lasted for three years. Rachmaninoff continued his career as a pianist and conductor, but hit a creative wall and was unable to compose music.

Nikolai Vladimirovich Dahl was a Russian physician who specialized in the fields of neurology, psychiatry and psychology. He was born in 1860 and graduated from the Moscow University in 1887. Dahl was also an amateur musician who played the viola. Dahl treated Rachmaninoff after the composer’s breakdown. After the 1897 Symphony No. 1 reviews, Rachmaninoff lived with his cousins who urged him to visit a psychiatrist in Moscow who was working with a new therapy called autosuggestion.

“My relatives had informed Dr. Dahl that he must by all means cure me of my apathetic condition and bring about such results that I would again be able to compose,”

Rachmaninoff wrote in his “Recollections.” Dahl started his treatment on Rachmaninoff in in January 1900. The daily treatment program included hypnotherapy and went on for more than three months.

By the early 1900s, hypnotism was becoming accepted as a therapeutic tool. While Sigmund Freud used hypnosis to provoke a catharsis in his patients that might jar repressed trauma, Dr. Dahl took a more modern approach. His daily sessions were motivational. “I heard the same hypnotic formula repeated day after day while I lay half asleep in an armchair in [Dahl]’s study,” Rachmaninoff wrote. “You will begin to write your concerto,” Dahl told Rachmaninoff. “You will work with the greatest of ease. The concerto will be of excellent quality.”

“Dr. Dahl had inquired what kind of composition was required of me, and he was informed, ‘a concerto for pianoforte,’ for I had promised this to people in London and had given up in despair the idea of writing it,” Rachmaninoff wrote. “Although it may sound impossible to believe, this treatment really helped me. I began to compose at the beginning of the summer. The material grew in volume, and new musical ideas began to well up within me, many more than I needed for my concerto.”

I felt that Dahl’s treatment had strengthened my nervous system to a miraculous degree. Out of gratitude I dedicated my Second Concerto to him,” Rachmaninoff concluded.

The Association is considering holding a 7 week, 100 hour training course in Winnipeg beginning September, 2021. This course is sanctioned by the Association and covers all facets of hypnotherapy and professional practice conduct. Successful completion will lead to membership in the Association for those choosing to go into practice. The tuition fees cover all materials (bound manuals, DVDs and CDs), the final observed practicum exam and the first year’s membership in the Association as well as your personalized listing on the MHA website. This training meets the standards for membership in the National Guild of Hypnotists and is tax-deductible for those in practice.

There is still room for more applicant trainees,  so if you are interested in taking the training, do not wait to enroll.

Please contact MHA Trainer Terry Harapiak for more information: 204-402-0152 or 204-515-5448 or email: Mindmedicine@primus.ca.