Saturday, April 4, 2009

Perception and Hypnosis

Once upon a time, when I was a child, I was having a disagreement with my mother. I think I was about 4 or 5 yrs old. I don't remember what the fight was about, but most likely it was about my doing something I didn't want to do because she told me to. I was really the independent one when I was little. About the only thing I remember about this incident is my mother saying to me in a very forceful, loud way, "you can't win. I'm the only one who is going to win in this family."

Now if you were to ask my mother about this, she wouldn't remember it. She was not trying to do anything except get a recalcitrant child to behave. But what I heard went deep into my subconscious and there it stayed. Periodically it would replay when it looked like I was on the verge of winning or becoming successful. It would rise up in further "discussions" with my mother and I would simply give up and not argue. Instead of speaking my truth to her, I shut her out and shut my truth down. After all, what difference did it make if I was just a loser.

Did I hear what my mother said? I heard that I was a loser, that I couldn't win. I heard that the one person whom I looked to as my refuge considered me a loser. I heard that it was hopeless, regardless of the situation, I couldn't win. There was nothing I could do because I didn't deserve to win. I wasn't good enough. And on and on... over the years my subconscious embellished it as I went about proving this belief, unwittingly written on my wall, as true.

Now I was an extremely bright, very talented child. I was musically oriented and artistically inclined. I was excellent with math and science, and fascinated by genetics, psychology, literature... I painted and danced, I played the violin, the cello, and the piano. I designed faux stained glass windows. I was extremely creative. But it only went so far. Once I began to feel successful I would quit. And when I finished high school, I went to work, not to college, not into the arts, not into further studies. I went to work. Why? Because my subconscious heard something once upon a time that became a solid belief that functioned at a deep inner level to designate what was safe for me to do. And being a winner was not safe. So I self-sabotaged.

Why am I telling you about this? Certainly not because my experience was unique. Quite the opposite. My experience IS the norm. This is how our internal, subconscious beliefs are formed. And these beliefs then inform our lives. Was my mother at fault? Only in so far as her comment was not well thought through. Do all parents make comments like this? Probably. I have never met anyone who claimed to have a perfect childhood. There are always some issues, whether mild or severe, that are brought into adulthood and lie underneath all of our experiences. Sometimes these beliefs hinder us, sometimes they seem to goad us into trying harder and harder.

We all have these beliefs. Gary Craig, the founder of EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), uses the metaphor of a blank wall. The child comes into this life a blank slate and parents, society, friends, culture, movies, games, teachers, everyone the child comes into contact with, has the power to write on those walls. Of course, the people who are closest to us and with us the most, our parents, teachers, families and friends, have the most impact. And as these beliefs become embedded, we lose any awareness that they are there. But even if we don't know about them, that doesn't mean that they have no impact on us. Quite the opposite. Some of those beliefs are so deeply engrained on our walls that it becomes difficult for us to even be aware that the writing is there, let alone to try to erase it. I think of it like a fish trying to understand its life in the fish bowl. Without any experience of "outside" the bowl, he has nothing to compare it with, and so we might imagine that the fish thinks everything he sees is part of his fishbowl. We'll come back to this metaphor again.

So one day I'm working away and the words flash across my mind, "why are trying to do this? You know you can't win." And for the first time I really "hear" this thought. I might then ask myself, "where did this come from?" and I may hear the answer, "mom said so". Ah, now I know that something isn't right in my psyche. At this point I have a choice: I can forget it and refuse to deal with this particular inner dialogue, or I can choose to take it out and start asking questions. And it is this choice that almost always is the trigger for self-development and self-exploration. Psychologically, this is considered cognitive dissonance. I know that I'm intelligent, I know that I have many talents and aptitudes, and I know that I "should" be successful. But I'm not. I can't win. What's up with that?

Well, now that I've allowed this awareness into my conscious mind, I have more choices to make. I can choose to rationalize and justify my situation, ie, my mom should know. She knows me better than I know myself. Whatever she says must be right. After all, I've never won before, why do I think this time is any different? As I justify and blame, I dig my rut even deeper, because now my consciousness is cooperating with my subconscious beliefs.

Another choice I might make would be to start asking some questions about this belief, questions like why is this so? is this true? I could choose to ask my mother about it and see if my perceptions are indeed correct. Did she mean that I couldn't win anything? or just that particular argument?

Another choice I might have would be to simply acknowledge the thought and say to myself, "but I know that isn't true" and get on with life. Not too many people can manage this one.

There are many ways, probably as many ways as there are people, to handle this type of internal dialogue. But the truth is that usually these dialogues become self-fulfilling prophecies. Because I believe it to be true, I create those situations in my life that will confirm that it is true. Each experience justifies the belief. For most people, the self-fulfilling prophecy just keeps on going and going and going and.... they can't find a way out of it by themselves.

Supposing that I am now aware of this dissonance, and supposing that this dissonance makes me uncomfortable enough to want to bring about a change in my life, I have a number of different approaches I can take to this problem.
  • I can go see my MD and talk with him about how I can't make sense of anything. His choices are fairly simple - he can refer me to a psychiatrist who will most likely put me on some kind of meds to take the edge off, and will then proceed to have weekly meetings with me so we can discuss the problem and work it through;
  • I may choose to see a psychologist who will have weekly meetings so we can discuss the problem and work it through;
  • I can find some psychological self-help books that may or may not provide good answers for me;
  • I can find a certified, experienced hypnotherapist, who can guide me through the process of locating the issue, resolving the issue and forgiving those involved.
The first three choices are very good choices and I would find some relief through each process. However, these processes take a lot of time and money. The last process, however, is usually quickly accomplished, usually within 4-6 sessions depending on the individual's commitment to change.

A good hypnotist can help find a way through the maze of core beliefs that have been written on our walls. We can go in and erase those walls, turn the fire hose on them and wipe them clean.

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