Paul McKenna: Celebrity hypnotist is on a quest to discover where his grandfather taught in Edinburgh, can you help?

Hypnotist and behavioural scientist Paul McKenna is returning to Edinburgh on a quest to discover more about his grandfather – a man who taught in the Capital between the first and second world wars.

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All that the 58-year-old knows at the moment is that his grandfather taught here in the 1920s and 1930s, other than that, his story has been lost in the passage of time.

McKenna, who brings his new show, Positivity, to Edinburgh's O2 Academy on March 19, explains, “My grandfather, William Joseph McKenna, was in the Army in WWI. Actually, it's an interesting story, he was wounded and assumed dead so they threw him in a pit of bodies. Fortunately, an officer walking past saw him move slightly and they pulled him out.

Paul McKennaPaul McKenna
Paul McKenna
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“When he got back to Edinburgh, he met my grandmother. They married and had 12 kids, some of my aunties and uncles were born in Edinburgh but sadly they are all dead now... and I've not been able to find out where he taught.”

The only other clue he has is that his grandfather's father, a tailor in the city, was also called William Joseph McKenna having originally come from Glasgow.

He continues, “I asked mum if there was anyone might know, but she said, ‘I'm sorry, they've all passed, son’.”

McKenna himself first came to the Capital as a young man and reflects that even then he found it intriguing to think of his grandfather teaching here.

ITV's The Paul McKenna ShowITV's The Paul McKenna Show
ITV's The Paul McKenna Show

He explains, “My mother was a teacher too and I suppose that's kind of what I do at my events, seminars and trainings.

“I do remember my grandfather but​ he passed away when I was in my early teens – he had a very strong Scottish accent.​ I'd love to know more about his life in Edinburgh.”

McKenna’s route to teaching wasn't as direct as those of other family members but he recalls they were all very supportive of his early dream of being a DJ

“My mother is a very bright lady, she ended up as a university lecturer. ​Mum is a​ very positive person with a great sense of humour​. M​y father, like my grandfather, was a charismatic, jovial kind of guy and when I first said I wanted be a DJ they were very supportive.

Paul McKenna with his mumPaul McKenna with his mum
Paul McKenna with his mum
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“When I did the Young DJ Slot on Capital Radio they were very proud. However, after doing radio for a few years I got interested in hypnotism and, like anybody back in the 1980s, when you said ‘hypnotism’ they went, ‘That sounds dangerous. Is it a cult?’

“For a few years​,​ when I started​,​ I’m sure everyone thought I was doing voodoo, so I ​did ​have to overcome some resistance​ at that point.”

Becoming a household name thanks to his top rated TV series, The Paul McKenna Show, the young hypnotist soon found himself becoming more and more interested in the therapeutic nature of the artform.

“While ​I was doing stage and TV shows I ​became interested in the therapeutic benefits of hypnotism​. The thing was, I​ didn't want to sit in an office all day helping people quit smoking or lose weight​,​ so I started making ​'self hypnosis' ​cassettes​. I had also began studying with Richard Bandler, probably the best hypnotist of them all.”

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Building from that, McKenna set up his own training company and has now taught hypnosis to more than 100,000 people.

Those skills will be on display at the O2 Academy when his new show takes up where his latest book, Positivity: Confidence, Resilience, Motivation, leaves off.

In the 90 minute appearance, McKenna will teach audience members to control their fears, have a calm and confident mind, develop more focus and mental strength, adapt to problems and challenges, create a compelling future, become powerfully motivated and to thrive in the new world.

“S​uddenly, what I do is in demand because we are in a biological pandemic and a psychological one too; anxiety, insomnia, depressions... People want a solution, which is exactly what I do.

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“Positivity is an interactive, experiential event with thought experiments that you can join in with or not as the case may be, but you're going to be in a room for 90 minutes with a hypnotist so you are going to experience some change.

“My objective is to make sure it's a show with a bit of pizazz but also one that allows you to take away techniques you can use for ever more - I unlock people's potential and show them different ways to think and feel.”

After two years living through a pandemic and with the world order currently in disarray, many are feeling anxious and powerless as the world changes. It's important to appreciate what we do have, insists McKenna, offering this advice for these troubling times.

“We have had a lot of conditioning over the last couple of year, rightly so when there's a deadly virus, however, because the messaging has been quite scary a lot of people have become anxious. They are catastrophising in their mind, like a mouse on a wheel going round and round. I show them how to stop doing that while keeping the appropriate concern without freaking out.

“One thing you can do is create a gratitude list and visit it as often as you can. Think what you have; health, friends, family, clean water, small things like that first cup of tea in the morning, a TV show you're looking forward to watching or maybe a holiday. When you do that you learn at a subconscious level that your life is good and we always get more of what we focus on. It a main tenet of what I teach. With a gratitude list you are reinforcing the good in your life. Compared with other parts of the world, we are rich.”

Paul McKenna’s Positivity tour is at O2 Academy, Edinburgh on March 19, tickets here

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