THE BUSCH FACTOR: A REVIEW
Richard Busch has recently released his latest work to the mentalism fraternity, which is arguably his most comprehensive examination of a subject area since Peek Performances. There is a great deal of applied theoretical information that method mongers, as I believe Eugene Burger referred to them, might find a turn off. This will be their loss.
First let me make my own biases clear; I am a clinical psychologist trained in Ericksonian therapy and hypnotherapy. Like Richard, I use this stuff in my work. I have seen the impact these approaches have and I like to think I know a lot about it. Even so, in The Busch Factor (hereafter referred to as TBF), Richard has integrated ideas and presented them in such a clear-cut way that Ive already found myself putting them into practice on THE JOB, as well as in my mentalism performances. This has happened only once before, involving an idea in Richard Osterlinds writings, and in both cases I believe speaks to the wisdom and strength of the material.
But I know most reading this review are far more interested in presentational uses than therapeutic. And Richard goes out of his way, more than once, to emphasize that the purpose of TBF is not to create therapists or hypnotists but better and more powerful performances. He actively discourages recent trends to present effects as therapy, though certainly recognizes the experience of rapport and wonder may likely be healing for some.
Facets of TBF are already established, written about and used regularly by those engaged in the mystery arts. Looking back at an article titled Ericksonian Extracts, I wrote for a book called The 73rd Hour, perspectives shared by Richard and I, as well as favorite Erickson anecdotes, are obvious. Kenton Knepper, Docc Hilford, Luke Jermay and Richard Mark (to name those who immediately come to mind) have touched on some of these same aspects. What TBF accomplishes is an integration of these aspects in a way wherein the total is greater than the sum of the parts. This is no small thing.
Richard clarifies common misconceptions about hypnosis and shares his beliefs and personal and research based knowledge to provide a rich description of what hypnosis is and isnt, its history, how it manifests in all interactions and how we as mystery entertainers can use this to enrich our performances. To those who think this is a book about hypnosis let me warn you now that it is no such thing. It is interesting that Richard has the intellectual and verbal agility to describe integrating hypnotic relationships into our performances without turning TBF simply into a manual of hypnotic methods.
I think that it is vital to understand that Richard takes a strong stand, whether in therapeutic or entertainment venues, against the older models of treatment and performance that present the therapist and/or entertainer as all powerful and doing something to the participants. While perhaps not original to Richard, he makes a clear case for the benefits of inviting our participants and audiences to join us in a unique and entertaining experience. In so doing, he teaches ways to avoid the resistance, or attitudes of challenge, that can so easily permeate and sabotage the use of suggestion. The goal in TBF is to make it a win/win situation for both performer and audience, eliminating any remnants of the us vs. them approach.
Given many performers stated difficulties, and sometimes outright avoidance and condemnation of suggestion, this is very important. TBF is not cookie cutter material. Like Erickson and others, Richard makes it clear that each person is unique and must be approached as such. Call it pacing or simply respect but effective suggestion must take this aspect of the relationship into account.
So what precisely is the Busch Factor and what makes it unique? Let me take some definitions and examples from the book itself.
From the foreword, written via Richard channeling the spirit of Milton Erickson J, we have, Its all about the application of what Richard calls the elicitation of hypnotic relationships in mentalism, covertly turning up the level of connection and intimacy between a performer and participant. And, The Busch Factor is this reversal of direction in favor of championing human attributes, like applied attention, inviting imagery, sensitivity and intuition in mentalism.
But there is more, much more, that takes TBF even farther and where Richard comes into his own in terms of the integration I referred to above. TBF is all the above PLUS the application of the ideomotor response. He writes that TBF includes, specific examples of how the elicitation of effective hypnotic-ideomotor communication reveals itself and why it is so presentationally important.
Though I suspect that anyone reading this review and interested in TBF already knows what the ideomotor response is let me briefly define it and give some examples. Coined by William B. Carpenter, he described ideomotor action as, the influence of suggestion in modifying and directing muscular movement, independently of volition. And from William James, Whenever a movement unhesitatingly and immediately follows upon the idea of it, we have ideomotor action. This is not a curiosity but simply the normal process.
We are not talking vague theory here. Ideomotor responses are thoroughly researched and documented in medical literature. But dont let this heavy stuff scare you away; this is all background to enhance our understanding of the history and ultimately the application these principles. Examples are plentiful in mentalism: pendulum movement, the Haunted Key, Ouija boards, table tilting all rely on ideomotor action, not supernatural forces.
Richard Osterlind writes eloquently about the application of ideomotor activity to the Haunted Key, as well as other effects, and how this experience in performance can help us get back in touch with our own sense of wonder. And what we experience, we communicate.
The mind-body connection is exemplified in ideomotor response and is perhaps the most visible example we have of this well established phenomenon. Bottom line, when our thoughts manifest in action without conscious physical mediation, we are dealing with the mind-body connection and ideomotor activity.
Richard writes, The Busch Factor invites the performer to entertainingly evoke a thought or image within the mind of the participant and then elicit an inevitable response from their body. The applications are endless.
In TBF, Richard provides us with a great number of examples. If he had only described the principles and not applied them to specific effects, it would have been sufficient. If he had only described specific effects and not explained the principles behind them, it would have been sufficient. But Richard does both, providing us with an understanding of why the effects he teaches work and are so powerful. While some may feel bogged down in the technical aspects and want to get right to the tricks they will be missing out if they dont study the foundations TBF provides.
As far as the effects covered in the book, for those who like to count, there are at least 20. Many are multi-faceted so the number is really higher.
TBF begins with several effects that are often described as body magic. Some of these were familiar to me, many werent. These are presentations that require nothing more than mind and body. As the clich goes, they can literally be performed naked. There are many pictures of Richard demonstrating these effects in the book and we can collectively thank him for not taking this route J!
Besides the effects themselves, Richard provides us with language (only as examples of patterns; he makes it quite clear that it is up to each individual performer to be unique and congruent, not Busch clones) that increases the likelihood of success. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say his suggestions guarantee success. He writes, Your language makes it clear that they are demonstrating their OWN (emphasis mine) mind/body connection so there is nothing to challenge, and a bit later, As I was taught so many years ago, wherever the arrow hits becomes the bulls eye! Always use this failsafe approach. Its smart. Its respectful. Its elegant. Its always open to success because it uses precisely whatever is already happening.
We are not simply talking about outs but something far more powerful that will hopefully alleviate the fears many have about applying suggestion. And at the same time, greatly enhance our impact on our participants and audiences.
An example from my own experience: I was once demonstrating the pendulum to a group of teenagers. Most were very successful and experienced not only entertainment but a sense of accomplishment and rightfully so. One of the dads stepped in after watching for a while and expressed great skepticism that thoughts could be converted into actions without conscious intent. He took the pendulum and as I went into my usual patterns to help elicit movement, nothing was happening. Dad looked very smug, saying, See this stuff doesnt work; what Im thinking doesnt make a difference. Its just muscle fatigue and people not being able to hold still. I asked him what he was thinking to which he responded, contrary to my instructions, that he was concentrating on the pendulum staying still. So you were telling the pendulum not to move in your head and it stayed still. Muscle fatigue and difficulty maintaining immobility didnt cause the pendulum to move for you; it stayed perfectly still just as you were imagining. Wow! The smug look vanished and dad had cause for pause.
Back to the effects in TBF. While many, as described above, are pure mind-body work, Richard also slyly includes material that appears to be more of the same but involves deception. Each enhances the other and the ability to mix and match puts us in a very powerful position theatrically.
TBF also includes Richards take on many classics of magic and mentalism, all of which are stronger for the application of the above ideas. Suggestion and trickery intertwine in ways to amplify one another and the overall entertainment of their presentation.
These include a unique presentation and method for the blister effect, effects with matches, coins (one of which is a great frame for the bent coin), cards, pens (including a totally new effect with the Perfect Pen) watches, the ball & tube (while having some similarities to other recent work with the apparatus, the effect is uniquely Richard and includes handlings of the props that are new, easy and effective), the Imp Bottle and the Haunted Key. I know it is clich, but there is something for everybody in TBF. How much you get out of it is up to you.
Richard even gives us a sample from Peek Ovations the upcoming third book in his peek trilogy. This involves an addition to one of his best-known peeks, the preferred approach of many modern mentalists, that allows for a literally surefire, hands off approach with unlimited applications. Again an old clich comes to mind but I truly believe some will find this one method worth the price of the book.
Ive gone on far longer than intended but I cant imagine any other way I could accurately describe the scope and impact of TBF. After my first read (and like most if not all of Richards works this is meant to be studied, not simply read) I told someone that this was his best book since Peek Performances. I realized later that this wasnt a fair statement. TBF is every bit as good and as important as Peek Performances; perhaps even better as Richard has grown as a creator and writer. It just covers different territory. Just like Richard set a standard for all future work on peeks in the two books of his trilogy on the subject so far, TBF does the same for ideomotor applications and enhanced communication and rapport. As I did after studying Peek Performances, I feel after studying TBF that I have read a modern day classic. I strongly suspect I will not be alone in this assessment.