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Burb's Eye View: Hypnotic response to bad habits

April 24, 2013|By Bryan Mahoney
  • Columnist Bryan Mahoney
Columnist Bryan Mahoney

The academic rigors of second-grade math were proving too difficult for a young Ronald Bonk.

The mocking numbers overwhelmed him. Bonk chewed on his pencils, hoping the method would provide prescience. The stress roiled. Eventually the habit evolved, and the Cleveland boy would soon find himself chewing at three knuckles on his right hand.

That habit would continue for the next 40 years. He tried to stop with gloves and lotions, he even quit washing his hands. In his sleep the habit would foment, and asking women to dance at swing-dancing clubs proved too embarrassing.

“It was always, ‘What are you, a leper or something?’” Bonk said.

Bonk tried hypnosis as a last resort, a technique that carries its own stigma. That decision changed everything for the former film restorer and 20-year Burbank resident – his career, his personal life and his hands which, after four years without a bite, have healed nicely.


He says it took one session with a hypnotherapist to see results. A therapeutic session with a hypnotherapist is similar to getting a massage or doing yoga – a person is led into a relaxed half-sleepy state in which breathing and concentration is slowed and focused. It’s a different experience from a hypnotist’s stage show – he was not made to cluck like a chicken or embarrass himself.

“At first it really weirded me out because ‘It’s mind control, it’s evil, it’s making you do things you don’t want to do,’” he said.

For hypnosis to effectively take hold and make someone quit smoking or eat less, the opposite is true. The subject has to want to do what’s being asked, and for Bonk he wanted out of the habit that plagued him nearly his whole life.

The results were so immediate and so real, Bonk wanted to learn more about what happened to him. He began taking classes at the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in Tarzana to learn about hypnosis – and to learn how to do it. His day job fraying after a company buy-out, Bonk eventually decided to go pro.

Today his main practice is in helping people quit smoking. He chose this discipline because the results are immediate – and he says 20 of the 22 clients he’s seen for smoking issues have quit. As World No Tobacco Day approaches on May 31, Bonk expects that number to rise.

The key to quitting, he says, is wanting the change.

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