Interview with ESH past president Marjan Pajntar (ESH Newsletter)

by Consuelo Casula 

Let me introduce Marjan Pajntar, medical doctor with a degree also in Psychology. He became Doctor of Science in Obstetrics and Gynecology and has been Nominated Full Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Senior Health Councilor and Head of Research Unit, at University Medical Centre, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Ljubljana. 

He is the Initiator and leader of the Slovenian Perinatal Information System and the Project manager of “Quality of Health Service in Slovenia” project. He has also been Medical Chamber of Slovenia and Ministry of Health. He is author and co-author of more than 350 scientific and professional articles. One of his famous books in his country is the ‘text book: Pregnancy and Labor’ (1962) an introduction of hypnosis for pain relief during labor in Slovenia. 

He is also the founder and president of the Clinical and experimental Hypnosis society of Slovenia. In 2007 he Co- founded the Society for medical hypnosis in Slovenia and is its president. 

CC: Dear Marjan, thank you for participating to this interview. Please describe your background. What led you to become a medical doctor expert in psychosomatic disorders, and what drew you to hypnosis in particular? 

MP: I wanted to help people so I went to study medicine. As a student of medicine I found out that there are reasons for some illnesses in mind and so I went to study psychology as well. When I was practicing in maternity hospital I wanted to help parturient women in psychological way. So I began to study hypnosis from books. In those days, Swedish colleagues were very good at different fields of hypnosis. They had a great activity in helping parturient women with hypnosis, so after the Malmo congress I went to Swedish maternity hospital several times to see how they perform it. 

I went to Sweden to see how they used hypnosis to help people. Then I saw that duration of labor and some complication of pregnancy and labor might have been connected with women’s personality, I made a research for my PhD. All work with obstetric and later gynecological patients increased my interest in hypnotherapy. 

After that beginning I started studying hypnotherapy in neurotic and psychosomatic illnesses and I made a decennium of research with electronic bioengineering in the field of locomotors nerve lesions (stroke, peripheral nerve lesions etc.). 

CC: What is your current work focus, and what role does hypnosis play in it? 

MP: As retired professor of obstetrics and gynecology, I am fully involved in a hypnotherapeutic practice mainly with the broad variety of neurotic patients, psychosomatic troubles, with ego strengthening for students, managers etc, giving support to pregnant women during pregnancy and teaching them self- hypnosis especially for the time of labor. 

In Slovenia the interest for medical hypnosis is increasing. At the meetings of our society we have lectures about the newest discoveries and we are regularly organizing courses for medical doctors and psychologists, We teach them the basics of hypnosis and also more advanced hypnotherapy. Also newspapers nowadays are very interested in hypnosis, there are a lot of articles about hypnosis, especially after Catherine, duchess of Cambridge, gave birth under hypnosis. 

CC:. You are one of the founders of ESH please tell us something about those days 

MP: At the beginning of ESH there were no strict rules, so at the time of the congress in Malmo, we decided that the president of ESH should be the leader of the present congress. As a committed co-founder of ESH, with Peo Wilkstrom among others, I got the opportunity to be the president of the second congress. At that time, Sweden had the strongest hypnotic society in Europe with more than 1500 members. They issued their own paper Hypnos and had a great possibility of administrative support. For this reason, after the congress in Malmo they continued with administrative work of ESH, and my priority was to prepare the congress of Dubrovnik. After the congress in Dubrovnik, Italian colleagues took care for the congress in Abano Terme. After the congress in Malmo we founded our “Slovenian Society for clinical and experimental hypnosis”. At that time we had 120 members.

CC: You have served as the ESH president from Dubrovnik (Yugoslavia) 1981 to Abano Terme (Italy) 1984. The Dubrovnik congress was the second ESH congress. Can you tell us some anecdotes about this congress? Tell us about the atmosphere, the people, the topics discussed during the congress. 

MP: The second ESH congress was held in Dubrovnik (former Yugoslavia, now Croatia) from 12 to 18 May 1980 with the title “Hypnosis in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatic Medicine”. The congress was held in a beautiful place and had a great success on scientific and social fields. At that time I was very satisfied with helping some colleagues from Hungary (Eva Banyay and Istvan Mezarosh) that came from the other side of the iron curtain. During those years the political atmosphere was unpleasant because of the death of Yugoslav president Tito: for this reason many registered colleagues from USA did not come. 

There were about 500 participants in Dubrovnik. At that time our Slovenian society was a member of ESH and ISH but we always had problems with membership fees: now it is quite the same. The members of our society (Slovenian Society for hypnosis in medicine) are interested to become members of ESH, but there is always money problem. 

The topics of the congress were many such as: suggestibility and hypnosis, psychological processes in hypnosis, neurophysiologic processes and measurements in hypnosis, clinical and therapeutic problems in pain, clinical and therapeutic problems in psychosomatics, obstetrics and gynecology, clinical and therapeutic problems in interne medicine, clinical and therapeutic problems in dentistry, clinical and therapeutic problems in rehabilitation. There were workshops in psychotherapeutic problems, clinical and therapeutic problems in psychiatric conditions, clinical and therapeutic problems in neurological conditions, hypnosis in relaxation, clinical and therapeutic problems in children. 

CC: Can you tell us something about the AbanoTerme congress in 1984? Tell us about the atmosphere, the people, the topics discussed during that congress. 

MP: In Abano Terme I remember there was a warm atmosphere with kind Italian people, good food and warm Thermal water for swimming. 

CC: In those years ESH was at the beginning of its existence, and so you contributed to give it a foundation and a direction. What were the intent, the mission and the values of ESH in those years? 

MP: The intention in those years was that the European hypnotists would have its own politics regarding the themes of ESH interest. Beside, through having congresses held in Europe, more European colleagues would have come. That was very important especially for the colleagues coming from the East. With our own society it would be easier for us to spread hypnotic knowledge among doctors and psychologist in countries where hypnosis was not well accepted (Germany and especially in Italy, where in that time they had to use the word sophrology instead of hypnosis because many serious doctors were afraid of using the word hypnosis). 

CC: What is your best memory of those years 

MP: The best memories of those years were that founders of EHS were right and the main ideas of ESH were spreading very quickly through Europe, as well as in Slovenia. I was proud especially that in Slovenia we had good research, with electronic evidence of muscle EMG (more than 50 articles). The best memories are about the friendly collaboration with the Swedish colleges, also cofounders of ESH (Peer Wikstrom, Basil Finar). They gave me a great support. 

The worst problems were connected with our (Slovenian) problems with paying ESH fees. 

CC: During your presidency, what style of leadership did you adopt? 

MP: At the beginning of ESH my greatest problem was arranging congress and inviting different people to come and to become members of ESH, the other problems were solved in Sweden. 

CC: You now come from the future of that experience, is there something in particular that you are proud of, and something in particular that you regret, or some- thing that you, would now like to have done differently? 

MP: I am proud that we had the strength to organize such a congress in a country which was between east and west, despite the politically difficult circumstances in Yugoslavia. 

CC: You have seen ESH grow and prosper, how do you consider ESH development? Do you like what ESH has become? 

MP: I was not present at all ESH congresses, mainly because of the lack of money. The second reason was that the main leadership at that time was taken over by some people full of superiority. They thought that the size of scientists’ country is crucial for their ideas being accepted or not. The atmosphere became quite different from the one of the beginning of EHS. Now I am very glad that you a woman with a nice personality became the president. 

CC: Thank you very much for your compliment, I take it as a support and encouragement. Tell us something about hypnosis in your country, its development, and its use today. 

MP: For the book edited by Peter Hawkins and Michael Heap: Hypnosis in Europe, I wrote a chapter regarding hypnosis in Slovenia. After the congress in Dubrovnik there was a great interest for hypnosis in obstetric and rehabilitation, but in 10 years the interest has diminished, mainly because at that time doctors providing hypnotic aid could not be paid, so many of them gave up this activity. In the last 10 years the interest for hypnotherapy has increased among young medical doctors and even more among psychologists, and I am very glad that interest between both students of medicine and psychology is becoming greater and greater. We started educating them in workshops with 150 hours of theoretical and practical knowledge of hypnosis and hypnotherapy. In the medical faculty of Maribor they are interested in lectures about hypnosis in postgraduate education and it will begin in this year. We also established a new “Society for Medical Hypnosis in Slovenia”. We accept the EHS code of ethics and we collaborate with Bernhard Trenkle in our trainings. 

CC:. Following ESH activities, what changes have you noticed in the last years? What do you observe about how the use of hypnosis varies from one culture to another? What do you observe about how the use hypnosis in the field of Medicine, dentistry, psychotherapy and research varies from one congress to another? 

MP: My opinion is that in the fields you mentioned there is too much work, papers and lectures which are without any evidence-based medicine rules: this fact diminishes our endeavor to give hypnosis and our treating with hypnosis a status of serious therapy possibilities. 

CC: What kind of suggestions or advice can you give a young scholar of hypnosis, how can you encourage a young psychologist to study hypnosis? 

MP: I would tell them: “In your therapeutic work with different illnesses do not forget about body-mind connection, do not forget that many illnesses are based on psychological causes – psychosomatic illnesses. Such illnesses can be cured quicker with brief therapy in hypnosis”. 

CC: I thank you very much for your great contribution.