There’s an amusing and very enterprising sign on a restaurant tip jar near my office. It says: “Fear Change? Leave it behind….” I always smile when I see it, but it’s a somewhat rueful smile. You see, I’m in the business of change. I’m also in the business of fear.
But, I don’t program people. I de-program them. I help people lose weight, gain weight, stop smoking, increase confidence, have more rewarding relationships or careers, even lose fears and phobias like fear of flying, fear of water, and even fear of vomiting. (No kidding. I’ve had several people in the last year who are afraid of vomit or vomiting, and I was one of them!)
There are several forms of hypnosis or hypnotherapy. The classical form is called direct suggestion. This usually consists of a hypnotist or hypnotherapist giving positive or negative suggestions to encourage or discourage a habit. Although this can be beneficial, sometimes it only gives short-term relief. A more comprehensive form of hypnotherapy like 5-PATHâ„¢ gets to the root of the fears, misperceptions and limiting beliefs.
Through all my sessions, I’ve found that the fear of change is also a fear of fear. In fact, our very basic fear of death immobilizes us and it becomes a fear of life. We become afraid of mistakes, afraid of consequences and afraid of fear itself. If death is a macrocosm, then change is death in miniature.
For many, life is happiness underscored by a symphony of fear: “What if I don’t fall in love, earn that promotion, or keep what I already have?” We soon acquire a series of coping mechanisms that allow us to maintain a precarious and frightening house of cards. Often our greatest strengths become our greatest weaknesses, because we keep on using them over and over versus using or learning new skills. We lose our ability to be resilient.
It also doesn’t help that we are afraid of our emotions. If you tell someone that you’re afraid, they most likely will say “don’t be afraid,” as opposed to teaching how to solve the fear – OR if someone is afraid, they are more interested in “venting” and alleviating their fear momentarily rather than changing the situation.
At its basic level, fear actually helps us survive, to stay alive. Fear tells us to move back when there’s a screeching car heading towards us. Fear helps us get motivated to get out of bed and go to work. But, when we start ignoring that fear, like when it comes to our health or relationships, things go awry.
But wait – where does this fear of change come from?
It’s actually a biological and evolutionary imperative. For the fittest to survive, we must be efficient and effective. Change can require too much energy. Retaining information in our brains is a chemical reaction that requires energy. To retrain or un-imprint the memory pathways in our minds, it requires even more energy. Our bodies are prone to efficiency and conservation.
In the animal kingdom, if you are weak, injured or different, you tend to be noticed and you’re more likely to be culled from the herd. Just as important, if you’re different or don’t learn fast enough, you could be a liability and endanger others. Plus, if you’re more like others, you’re more likely to survive and help others survive, as well.
So how does hypnosis fit into this? It’s why we’ve been able to survive as a species. Hypnosis is simply a focused state of attention. In fact, right now, by simply reading these words and imagining what I suggest, you’re in a light state of hypnosis.
In fact, imagine a soft, white furry kitten and you’re picking it up and holding it in your arms. You imagine that kitten and you can feel its soft fur and how it’s quietly nestled in your arms, and you snuggle it to your chin…you hear its slow, contented breathing….
This “imagining” is a state of hypnosis. There is no kitten, but your body and mind can feel those sensations.
The reality is this: We’re usually in a state of hypnosis or multiple states of hypnosis. Sometimes the hypnotic phenomena is obvious or surprising, like when you’re driving to work and you accidentally end up at a previous job, or you can’t find your sunglasses, but they’re sitting on top of your head.
But, even more importantly or profoundly, we’re born in a state of hypnosis. Our brain is a relaxed, blank slate, ready to record everything in our environment. The faster we learn, the more likely we will survive. Have you ever looked into a child’s eyes and saw that the lights were on but no one was home? That child is in a state of hypnosis and a state of survival. They are memorizing everything about you and the environment and storing it.
Another survival mechanism kicks in during those early years. We start learning how to think and we start having emotions. But we jump start this by adopting the thinking patterns of others – typically mom and dad. We start creating the energetic pathways (the matrix) that allows us to access and retrieve information. Once those pathways start settling, they become deeper and more ingrained over time. They become resistant to change, resistant to being different.
Our hypnotic ability helps us learn, helps us survive our childhood and perhaps our early adult life. But often, those coping mechanisms may not be sufficient for our 30s or 40s or beyond. We also start to run out of energy to resist the negative patterns from the past. We realize we are just like mom or dad. We start falling into what I call the “event horizons” of our past. And the conflicting and differing ideas in our brain that cause “monkey mind” or “cognitive dissonance” start creating a gridlock that immobilizes us.
Eventually, because it’s not bio-chemically efficient to change, our thought matrix becomes a prison. Over time, we might lose the ability to be resilient and to adapt to new circumstances, new information, new stimuli. We start reaching to distracters like alcohol, cigarettes, gambling. We start losing sleep, and we become frustrated, potentially depressed.
Ultimately, what is the solution? Learn to identify and simplify your emotions. In fact, the root of all emotions is fear. Even when we’re angry, we’re afraid. When we say that we’re worried, stressed or anxious, we’re actually saying we’re afraid. By acknowledging our fears, identifying solutions and being resilient in implementing them, we can gain more confidence in our world.
Start doing an inventory of everything you know and believe from your past and present. Ask yourself: Does this serve me? Is this habit, belief or behavior useful, beneficial or effective? If you’re nursing a grudge or have anger towards someone, does it serve you to maintain it? What is the price of forgiveness, what is the price of anger?
Another solution that is infinitely more expensive? Have children. Now, I’m saying this somewhat ironically, but it is true. Often having children helps us see circumstances with new eyes. We become more forgiving. We start understanding a broader picture of our parent’s struggles, strengths and weaknesses.
But, a less-expensive solution for the more ingrained or complex situations is to use the very skill that allowed us to survive in the first place: hypnosis. Now we can use it to de-program or de-hypnotize ourselves. We can use it to re-organize our minds so that we can more easily be all the best aspects of ourselves.
Ultimately, there is no need to be afraid of change. There is no need to fear fear. But understanding why we might fall into those dynamics helps us move from will power to free will. It helps us evolve and become more energetically efficient. It helps us transcend.
Susan Just will be speaking on “Dissolving the Fear of Fear” at Edge Life Expo, at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, and at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15, at The Hyatt Regency, 1300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis. For tickets, call 1.877.776.5244, or visit www.edgelife.net.