Terry E. Gahm’s study of hypnosis began very early, although he didn’t realize it. The son of a true WWII hero, Terry was exposed to one of the most traumatic forms of altered reality that one can endure, a severely debilitating mental disease recognized today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. At the time, a PTSD episode was regarded as nothing other than a bad day of bad memories. But as a child, Terry had to live with the truth, a father with two personalities. The first was a charismatic war hero who would entertain and motivate others and could pick up the spirits of everyone in the room. But at home, his father would become a completely different person. A very violent, suicidal ex-soldier with horrific long-buried memories who could not overcome his depression.
The only situation that could snap him into becoming the good dad was created by the suspended reality of celebration at an event or party, where the entertainer war-hero father would revel himself to the delight of those strangers around him. As a youngster seeking a way to make his father happy, Terry found a way…music. A straight “A” student (Terry was his high school valedictorian), he chose to dedicate all extra time to the study of music.
I originally learned to play keyboards as my own escape from my father’s dark side. When I would play music, dad’s personality would immediately change, especially with company around. The celebratory situation would take him away from his past and into a completely different world of joy and love. Without that stimulus, he couldn’t do it for himself. Looking back, it was then I learned what would become the career study of my life – how to help people find an alternate reality and the incredible positive changes that are possible when one is brought into another psychological focus.”
Terry’s circumstances and interest in helping others overcome tragedy led him to choose a Jesuit college, Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. He enrolled in Creighton’s highly regarded ROTC officer training program. “I wanted to carry on my father’s legacy in honor of his outstanding military record.” Terry gave ROTC his full effort, eventually becoming a First Lieutenant in Vietnam, at one point leading an entire company of 180 men. That’s when his life’s study of alternative realities became deadly serious. Gahm explained:
The only true horror of the Vietnam War wasn’t just men dying; it included the severe drug problem that evolved among those surviving. There were mainly two drugs the troops were using, pot and heroin. Unfortunately, military police and dogs would easily identify and confiscate the pot. That left a modifying truth none of the officers wanted to talk about, but knew to be true. There was a huge growing contingency of boys, good clean cut kids from good families, who came into Vietnam to fight for their country, and were leaving as severe heroin addicts. For the first time I understood what my father had been through. On the front lines, the war was one big horrifying nightmare, but back in the hometowns, most people viewed the war as an embarrassment for our country, almost like a skeleton in the closet. The only difference was that some of these embarrassments would die while doing their job for our country. No one wanted to hear the despicable truth. A never-ending nightmare that could only be relieved by an occasional break that usually involved the soldier’s ingesting any drug that was available to them. Unfortunately, the most available drug was heroin – very pure heroin at that. These kids were seriously addicted and no one wanted to talk about it.”
However, Terry’s life- effort of trying to help those in severe distress wouldn’t allow him to just sit back and watch young boys decay, many who he saw as younger versions of his dad. “I just couldn’t look the other way. I knew what would happen to these boys if they returned home as drug addicts. Even though my father and other past US soldiers had been abandoned, at least they were regarded as heroes. But for these kids to return home as soldiers of a lost war, and as drug addicts, would ruin the rest of their lives.”
Terry described his frustration with the politically correct directive that US politicians invented to sweep the massively growing drug epidemic under the rug, “All officers were directed to allow soldiers to confess their drug problem and enter an Amnesty Program. In reality, this program was politically motivated and internally compromised. Most who entered became worse. These boys would be forced to return home in shame and addicted to drugs. Many would wind up on the streets of America, unwelcome in their own hometowns. After a life of watching my father trying to cope with post war trauma (without a heroin addiction), I couldn’t let these young men be treated that way, It was a sure ticket to a life of hell back home. I had to do something to help them.”
Terry took matters into his own hands, and made a decision that would risk everything. Lieutenant Terry E. Gahm’s military career and any chance of a future career in the ministry were on the line. By military law, he could have been in serious trouble, yet he persevered, Terry knew that for these boys it was going to take a lot more than his keyboard playing to take them out of their severe drug addictions. So he developed a secret detox center, appointing his own guards to secure the facility, and began to use a different type of treatment, an eastern form of therapy that he had witnessed Asian doctors and caregivers use very effectively. It was a form of meditation, although much more elaborate. Gahm recalls:
They didn’t call it hypnosis by name, but that’s what it was. And, was it ever powerful! I saw guys who had been described as hopeless using it effectively for pain, sickness and even strength. The most incredible thing I witnessed was the complete change of personality that would occur when these boys went into trance. They would transform from being severely depressed and suicidal soldiers, into the young boyish personalities they had exhibited when they first came to Vietnam. And those who would go deepest, came off the drugs easier and faster. It was like watching magic!”
Eventually military authorities became aware of Gahm’s private detox operation and immediately
shut down the activity, bringing Lieutenant Gahm before a military inquiry, “By all military protocol
I should have been brought up on charges, but I wasn’t even formally cited. The whole incident was just swept under the rug. I was never given any reason, but all involved had a pretty good idea why. They
just wanted the whole thing hushed up. My hypnosis detox center had worked better than anything the US military doctors had ever attempted. They let me go free with a pledge that I wouldn’t talk
about the witch doctoring that had proven so effective. It was vastly superior to the Amnesty Program, which they all knew had been a disastrous failure, but no one was going to risk acknowledging this fact.”
Gahm left the service disgusted and distraught. He was discharged as a decorated officer, just like his dad. However, just like his dad, he also became a disturbed and angry ex-US soldier. Even more upsetting, Terry returned home to the disgraceful treatment that welcomed Vietnam Veterans.
I remember trying to attend an American Legion club meeting, hoping to interact with other guys like myself. Instead, I was refused entry and told that Vietnam Vets were NOT permitted into their American Legion Club because we had lost our war! That broke my spirit completely. I gave up all my dreams of the Ministry and anything else that a former valedictorian with a degree from Creighton University would expect to accomplish. I swore that I would not let myself become my father, doing the responsible thing on the outside, but miserable and unhappy on the inside, living a lie. Instead I decided to live my life in entertainment, something with no serious consequences, where my only responsibility would be to have fun with people.”
So Terry Gahm the piano player went on the road. It wasn’t long before he faced the realization that simply playing music couldn’t bring him the happiness it had when he was young. The events of the war still haunted him. “I learned that just pretending I was happy wouldn’t work, I had to talk about it. I needed to tell others what a lie war was and what loyal military service really did to our soldiers.” Terry moved to New York City and became e.g. Terry, a politically angry comedian. His therapy became making fun of the hypocrisies of war, big business, and government.
Then in 1982 Gahm was hit with the shock of his life. Terry’s father woke up one day, placed a shotgun into his own mouth and blew the back of his head off. That unspeakable tragedy would change Terry’s life forever. “That was the impact tragedy of my life. I had spent most of my youth trying to learn how to help my father find some kind of happiness. Then I spent my adult life trying to overcome the same frustrations my father had experienced. I was overwhelmed with guilt and pain. I felt that I had abandoned my father when I could have helped him most, by convincing myself he had gotten over it, as I thought I had. But it wasn’t true. It brought everything back and I experienced tremendous anxiety and shame.” Gahm describes the transition he experienced following his father’s suicide as miraculous:
I could not continue to live my life as I had been living. I could no longer repress my original goals and my true life’s dream. The only way I was ever going to beat those demons would be to challenge them head on. I set out to learn all I could about what I had encountered in Vietnam, It was the only real therapy I had ever seen work, and I wanted to learn all I could about this amazing procedure called hypnosis.”
Terry initiated a full time study of hypnosis and by 1985 became nationally accredited as a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist. He immediately began his now legendary career in hypnosis. Gahm was committed to apply his new found wisdom with the same instincts and courage he had followed as a military officer; his way … trusting his own instincts. “After my assignment in Vietnam, and in memory of my father’s life-long battle with psychosis, I committed myself to always find the entertainment factor in every hypnotherapy program I provide. My experiences with my father taught me something I’ll never forget. When we are entertained, we are experiencing that moment in time, and are building new positive memories, not suffering from past negative memories. If I can teach my patients to become entertained while working, in relationships or even through hardships – if I can teach them how to find enjoyment in those moments, by entertaining themselves and others – then they can learn to overcome anything in their lives. The power to laugh in the face of danger, and the ability to discover new enjoyable adventures within our present time circumstances, is truly the most powerful hypnosis in the world. It brings tranquility and faith into most any situation. That is the focus of my life’s work. Once people can learn to hypnotize themselves to see their life that way, they’ll always have a full life and a bright future, no matter what has happened to them in their past.”
Terry E. Gahm has studied extensively, and continues to study with the greats in the world of hypnosis. Mentors like Ormond McGill, Gerald F. Kein, Robert Kennzington, and many others have all contributed their own individual elements to Terry’s incredible and masterful presentation: It’s Amazing! The Minds of America!
Terry loves to explain how he entertains professionally to emphasize his philosophy. “When I do a hypnosis show, my purpose is to demonstrate what incredible power our thoughts have over us. When we focus on things that are positive we can enter any world we want. In fact, any negative experiences we may have had, at that point only provide more motivation to enjoy the present moment for exactly what it is, a better moment in time.” Today, Terry has found his better moment in time. He met and fell in love with his beautiful wife, Lori Sue, and settled down to enjoy a life of contentment. Together they have raised three sons and have become successful and respected business people. Terry’s greatest regret is that he wasn’t able to help his father. “He had so much to offer, if he’d only known how to let go of the past and explore his opportunities in the future, a future he never let himself see. Maybe he too would have been a survivor. It’s a lesson that we can all learn and benefit from.”
Terry’s show, It’s Amazing! The Minds of America!, is a dynamic Hypnosis stage show dedicated to his dad and presented for all the unique people of our great country. Terry E. Gahm offers Joy and Fun for everyone, as he illustrates his message with action, not simple words:
The people of America are the stars and they truly are amazing minds.”