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A young lady who came to see me recently was in a bit of a bind that is typical of many high school students. It was time to choose a career: her family had always expected her to enter the medical field, and she was feeling drawn to a different profession, in entertainment and media. In the past she had always done what her family wanted, even at the cost of sacrificing her personal desires, but this was different. She told her family she was applying to the other program, which surprised her parents so much that all conversation ceased for several days.

After she explained the situation, she asked me the title question: is it selfish of me to care so much about being happy in my career, rather than doing what my family wants?

We are all motivated by a number of different drivers in our lives. The values we have and the states we want are what cause us to choose our careers, purchases, homes, communities. Psychology professor Steven Reiss conducted a large-scale study in the late twentieth-century into what motivates us, and identified sixteen basic drivers, including values like romance, honor, order, and tranquility. None of the sixteen are better or worse than the others, they can each be healthy in their own way. Understanding your own personal drivers can help you transform blocks where you may be perhaps trying to motivate yourself with something that doesn't work.

I have friends who work in jobs that they actively dislike and, if they were not getting paid, would not be doing. However, that is fine with them and they are OK with that fact, because it allows them to take care of their families and pay for vacations and expensive luxury items. That's not a choice I could have made, because I would not be able to get up and go to work in the morning if I did not enjoy what I was doing or find it fulfilling. I also cannot afford the same vacations and purchases they can, yet I would say we are both happy in our own way.

I answered the young lady as best as I could: it's not for me or anyone else to judge what another person should be doing for their own happiness. There's no apology necessary for wanting to be happy in a healthy and rewarding job, and that I hoped her family would come to understand that and the relationship would repair naturally, as opposed to her forcing herself into a smaller box.

What is it that gets you out of bed and is behind everything you do, propelling you forward like a rocket?

Are you one of those who

  • Wakes up, starts thinking about today’s to-do list, and feels intense heaviness and tightness on the body?
  • Opens the eyes, begins to worry about what might happen, and feels heartbeat racing and breathing fast?
  • Thinks, oh crap pills don’t work on me and I can’t see my doctor/therapist today, what can I do?
  • Feel, I’m too tired to even move, or I’m just feeling paralyzed not knowing what to do...

Panic attack as a result of overthinking and over worrying, shows signs of insecurity behind which is the fear of “something bad might happen”. 

But the truth is, by labelling yourself as “I have panic attack” “I need meds” is like putting youridentify on a victim status and accepting that “I’m ill”. With that identity you’re allowing “I get stuck” to plant the seeds.

That is not what you really want, isn’t it? You want to be free of it, be the victor, and cultivate the ability to handle any challenging situations without panic attack, don’t you?

A simple and yet effective tip to flip from victim to victor is a quick linguistic tweak. When you begin to worry about “What if xyz” in an internal sentence, add a word “So” and a “,” in that sentence:

SO WHAT, IF xyz”. 

Read that new sentence again, “SO WHAT, IF xyz”, again” SO WHAT, IF xyz”.

Feeling the difference now? This shift in wording is not to meant to avoid the issue, simplify the problem, or ignore what must be done for healing. It’s to bring you a perspective to recheck the reality, stop blowing things out of proportion, and reverse all those patterns of

  • All or nothing thinking
  • Over generalizing
  • Mentally filtering out the positive aspects
  • Disqualifying the positive
  • Jumping into conclusions quickly
  • Magnifying the negatives and minimizing the positives
  • Emotional reasoning for the worse scenario
  • Critical wording to yourself such as “should” “must” “ought”
  • Labelling yourself with victim or loser identity
  • Personalizing responsibility as something must be wrong with you and that’s all your fault 

Another fundamental element that you know but often forget or overlook when you get panic attack, is the importance to relax. Relaxation slows down heartbeat and breathing rate, lowers blood pressure, improves digestion, maintains normal blood sugar levels, reduces activity of stress hormones, increases blood flow to major muscles, and reduces tension and chronic pain, stiffness, migraine, etc.

Here is a quick exercise you can do relax almost instantly when you wake up with panic attack.

  • Notice that panic attack and give it a color/shape, let’s say for example red circle.
  • Name a feeling that you’d rather have such as peace or calmness and give it another color/shape, let’s say green triangle.
  • Inhale and imagine breathing in that calm and peaceful green triangle.
  • Exhale twice longer and imagine releasing that red circle of panic.
  • Repeat the process, each time inhale a little longer and hold the breath, and exhale slowly, twice longer.
  • Continue this awareness breathing a few more times until the panic is not attacking you anymore.

You might wonder will this work because it seems so simple? It’s simple but not simplistic. You breathe 24/7 so this is the handiest tool available to you that you can easily do without even moving in bed.

And this is a BABY STEP that works. Here’s why.

When you feel “I can’t do anything” then don’t force yourself as that will just create a mental block to resist any change actions. Just take a BABY STEP to inhale and exhale slowly while thinking about the in/out of the colors, notice any changes in feelings/sensations, and just that. 

Because every little step, is more forward than staying and getting stuck. That’s right. The last thing you want to do is to stay at Step Zero, so any small steps is good enough, much better than no steps. 

There’s no perfect way of doing these two exercises, as there’s no right or wrong answer. There’s only you, allowing the time and space to address panic attack, in simple but consistent steps moving forward.

Our entire lives are controlled by our mind. All that we are, all that we think, all that we feel, all that we perceive and all that we do, starts and finishes in our mind. This of course offers us a great opportunity when we recognize this basic fact of the human experience. This is because in recognizing it, we come to a place where we can control it, thereby making it possible to control everything in our life. In fact, we can control everything to the finest detail, once we learn how it is done. Once we realize that we not only have all the tools necessary to do that, but that we have had them all along.

The brain is two major parts, the left brain and the right brain, separated by a barrier known as the Corpus Collosum. This barrier when examined in fMRI imaging, has a bit of activity passing back and forth between the two halves of the brain. However, when we go into hypnotic trance and take another image, we find that the activity passing through the barrier is markedly increased. There is scientific proof that hypnosis changes the function of the brain. But how is that useful?

It is in fact very useful! I speak of the brain and I speak of the mind. These are two different things in my vocabulary, because we know quite a bit about the brain, but the mind is vast and complex beyond our current ability to fully understand. It is likely that a good hypnotist understands the mind the best out of any profession. Can a brain surgeon change your mind? Your habits? Reactions? Beliefs? No, of course not. An experienced hypnotist however, can do all of that and more, simply with words.

The mind is composed of two parts, the conscious mind or “CM” and the subconscious mind or “SCM.” They protect us and they protect each other. The CM is the part that contains our awareness. Everything you perceive during your waking hours is filtered through the CM. The CM examines it, compares it to what is stored in the SCM and looks for things that match up before allowing anything to be transferred to the SCM. This is why changing a habit with willpower alone is so difficult. The SCM is where all our basic programs are running and therefore, it is in charge of all change.

You see, when the CM compares something to what is stored in the SCM and finds that it does not substantially match up with that, it rejects the incoming information and thus, it never reaches the SCM, where all changes are made. So, when we tell ourselves, for instance, “I am quitting smoking Right now, today. I am no longer going to smoke!” The CM looks at the SCM and finds the SCM has you as a smoker, thus the CM, having found a discrepancy, rejects the change you desire. And in very short order, you are smoking again.

And know this, smoking is not an addiction. It is a habit which is worse for us. First, there is not enough nicotine in cigarettes to addict you. Now, perhaps in the thousand chemicals the tobacco companies put in them there is an addictive substance. I have no clue. However, look at the heroin junkie, they have to keep increasing the dosage to get the same effect. Why? Because they are addicted and their body adjusts to the heroin. Same with pills. But, as I said, quitting is very difficult on your own. You have to break the habit. The CM protects that habit.

If when you were a child, your parents taught you that a football or soccer field is square, when you got into school and the teacher puts up a rectangle, you would identify it as a square, right? Because that is what you have been taught it is and that is the information in your SCM. So, when the teacher corrects you, you would reject the correction and insist it is a square. You would be very resistant to changing the identification of that shape to a rectangle. This may well wind up with a trip to the principals office.

In hypnosis, we move the CM to the side and deal directly with the SCM. Therefore, a hypnotist can change that perception very rapidly, because the CM is not able to interfere in the change process. Now, that is a very simple example and a simple yet direct fix to the situation. Hopefully you can extrapolate that out to see the great potential of hypnosis. But can someone deal with their SCM directly? Yes, absolutely they can. But, it is not as easy as it may seem. Let us look at a simple case of someone dealing with their SCM directly without understanding the basic principals involved. Actually, doing it unwittingly and without awareness of what is happening.

You are getting ready to leave the house. You realize you are not sure where your keys are and you start searching for them. Eventually, when you do find them, they are right where you left them and right where you looked a dozen times. What were you repeatedly saying to yourself as you looked for your keys? Likely something like “I can't find my keys, I am going to be late!” The SCM picked up on that and thought that you did not want to find your keys and so made them invisible to you. That is negative hypnosis and I use it all the time in street and stage hypnosis to appear to the subject I turn invisible.

Understand, the SCM in an adult though it has great wisdom, has the maturity of a 6 year old. So you have to know how to handle that mix for good results. Whats the old saying? “Be careful what you ask for, you might get it!” Yes, that's the one and it is very good advice when communicating with the SCM. Because the SCM does not care what you want, it will give it to you if you can frame the request so it understands. When looking for your keys, say to yourself “I am going to find my keys quickly” so that if the SCM picks it up, it helps you.

So how does a hypnotist make changes in our mind? First, they move the CM out of the way. Then, they will deepen the trance sufficiently that they can work directly with your SCM and change the programs that make you who you are. You want to get rid of anxiety? Great, a hypnotist can do that. You want to get rid of a phobia? No problems for the seasoned hypnotist.

Anyone with an IQ above about 85 can be hypnotized. When people tell me they cannot be hypnotized, I immediately ask to see their death certificate and autopsy report. Without that function of the mind, your heart, lungs, liver, immune system.... well, everything stops working. The death certificate would be enough, but I am curious how the coroner would explain that death. Selfish me.

And when they tell me they are too intelligent to be hypnotized I laugh! Because the more intelligent you are, the easier it is for you to enter trance. That intelligence is communicating with the SCM all on its own already, so the connections are already half made.

And children from about 6 to 18 are very susceptible to hypnosis. More susceptible than someone with the same IQ who is 35. Why? Because they do not have the preconceptions and their mind is not closed. They are using their SCM, that is where the imagination is. That is where the artistic and musical abilities are. And children, as most know, have very vivid imaginations!

Thanks for reading, I hope this helps someone.

In last week's entry, I referenced the advice given by mindfulness teacher Pema Chodron, to notice what you are feeling in your body without judgment, the chemicals in the bloodstream from the emotional trigger will fade within 90 seconds. What does it mean, to notice without judgement?

Recently, a few disappointing and upsetting things happened to me over a 4-day period. A project I had worked on for weeks I discovered could not be rolled out the night before it was scheduled to because of a technical setting in my work account I had no control over. On the same night I discovered that one of my pets, whom I'd had for 5 years, had passed away unexpectedly and for unknown reasons. A group I had been contracted to work with for an event went over the time they were supposed to leave by, leading to my getting home late and losing sleep. Another project I had been planning for months ran into a hiccup just as I publicly announced its rollout, generating interest from several people that I might not be able to fulfill any more.

Benign attention

One of the key practices in mindfulness is to observe things happening for what they are in the present, without judgment. When learning meditation, many people get frustrated and quit over the thoughts that inevitably arise while one is trying to keep a clear mind. As we are criticizing those thoughts, we are becoming attached, holding on with hooks sunk in deeper the more energy we give. The quality of benign attention is to watch something with no attachment to an outcome, no judgment. When we apply judgment, we are adding to the experience, changing it, and no longer simply acknowledging or being aware of it in its natural form. If it's a sensation, that sensation could get stronger, or weaker, or stay the same; either makes no difference, you merely sit and watch with an unhurried curiosity. If you become aware of yourself becoming attached or judging, just notice that for what it is as well, benignly. Reduce the energy you are giving to that thought in half, then cut it in half again, and again. Until you are not sure if you are giving it any energy any more. Do I still have thoughts about the troubling occurrences that happened, even though it's been a couple days? Yes, they do rise to the surface every so often. Am I thinking about them? No.

How am I directing my attention to the things that really matter, and cultivating the best soil for healthy plants to grow and bear fruit?

Negative emotions like fear and anger can seem to last forever, but do they have to?

When something occurs and we have the thought that it might be threatening to us, one of our protective emotions is triggered (fear, anger), and our bodies instinctively respond. Chemicals are released that physiologically send us into a state of readiness to deal with the aforementioned threat. Those chemicals have a natural lifespan, leaving the bloodstream to return the body to a more neutral state, and that lifespan is 90 seconds. If an emotion seems to last for longer than 90 seconds, we have done something to restart or prolong that chemical response. Dr Jill Bolte Taylor is a neuroanatomist with a special appreciation for the brain functions we might take for granted. She experienced a rare form of stroke in 1996 that necessitated her rebuilding her brain from the inside out over eight years.

"If, however, I remain angry after those 90 seconds have passed, then it is because I have chosen to let that circuit continue to run."

Jill Bolte Taylor

The phrase "I have chosen to let" is powerful. How many times do we feel at the mercy of an emotion, like it has taken the reins of the team of horses and is driving down a path where we don't wish to go? We may struggle and fight with that emotion, adding more negative feelings on top of it, so that the wagon's speed increases ever faster and the grip of the emotion sinks in deeper. Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun and author on mindfulness, teaches that if you allow the feeling to exist and notice what you are feeling in your body without judgment, justification, or constructing a story about it, it will dissipate in 90 seconds.

"Feel the feeling -- drop the story."

Pema Chodron

Instead of the question I usually close my entries with, I would like to leave you a quote from the novel Dune by Frank Herbert. This process has been useful to me in times of fear and anxiety, as a reminder that the feelings and distortions are temporary and if I would watch them pass without attaching, they would leave all the more quickly and easily.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, Dune

I am composing this post from the final day of the HypnoThoughts Live convention in Las Vegas, NV. This is my second year attending, and as the attendees begin to drift home from the liminal space that annual conventions occupy, I reflect on the nature of connections.

As members of the primate order, humans exist most happily in social groups and communities. Having moved on from the days of small villages and nomadic tribes, we still find our own connections of some kind with family, friends, and neighbors. Scientific studies demonstrate that humans who lack appropriate social relationships suffer in mental and physical health. As we have evolved to more complex social networks, have our brains evolved with us?

One thousand hypnotists come from all over to attend the world's largest hypnosis-related convention, putting a lot of miles between us the other 362 days of the year. During those times, we interact through Facebook, YouTube, and other social media outlets. While I may spend dozens to hundreds of hours interacting with someone online, an hour of face-to-face conversation has a noticeably different feel to it, like a more concentrated essence. Perhaps it's a reflection of the environment in which I was raised, where internet access didn't become too common until I was in high school.

I watch teenagers now who would much rather go to their individual homes and text or call up the friends they saw earlier that day. Their social media accounts have hundreds, thousands of followers, most of whom they have never met in person or possibly even exchanged words with. When the conversation is essentially viewable by the world, how can it not be different from a sotto voce private conversation in a library corner or coffee shop? I don't know if anything like this has happened yet, I think it would be interesting to conduct a study on the overall health of individuals who would consider themselves highly social where the majority or all of those connections are virtual/distant. Technology does have the capacity to connect us, and I wonder after the quality of those connections, especially as it impacts our individual health.

What is the smallest step you can take today that will empower your present and future connections, and you, in the most healthy way?

Look at the photo below: notice the faces of the children, the posing for the camera, the brightly colored shirts, the fixed attention on the turtle; nothing special, right?

Work by artist Øyvind Kolås modifying a photo by Chuwa (Francis).

Look again. The photo by Chuwa (Francis) is originally a black and white photo. Go ahead, click to open the full-size version and look at the proportions. A digital artist has placed grids of overly-saturated colored lines going across the image. Those parts where the color looks solid? That's your brain filling in the rest, what it thinks should be there. The effect really becomes hard to see when the image is smaller, or when you squint at it.

This image reminded me loosely of Magic Eye picture books, which were all the rage when I was in high school. The pages appeared to be a swirling mass of color, maybe some unclear shapes, but there was supposed to be a magic 3-dimensional image hidden somewhere in each picture. The secret was to start very close to the image, focusing the eyes in a particular way, and then by slowly moving away from it, the illusion came forth.

Do you see the shark?

Our minds are pattern-making machines; when data is missing, the brain moves to fill in the gaps so that sense emerges. It saves us time and allows us to function in the world at its current pace. When it can't, we may find ourselves becoming frustrated and will reach for something, anything, to find that closure, often missing some small detail that could make a world of difference in meaning.

Where have you filled in the blanks in the past that you can look back on now with a wider perspective and find new more powerful positive resources?

I had a blast last week having an interview with Nickolas Ely from Liberation Hypnosis. I quickly found out this wasn't going to be the typical "what's your origin story, what do you do" interview when the conversation ranged to the nature of consciousness, finding your inner game, and how do we maintain healthy connections in an increasingly digital world.

It was an honor to be the guest on your first podcast, Nickolas; I look forward to hearing where your other-than-conscious mind directs conversation with future guests!

Last week I had the pleasure of being interviewed on Business Talk Radio One about my career as a mindset coach. Thanks to the staff for reaching out to me and providing a great opportunity to share about my business with a new audience.