Saturday, October 20, 2007

Practical Parenting with Hypnosis

My boys are 8 and 10. Our family life -- with two parents who work -- can be stressful sometimes, just like most family's. As a mom, I have found the use of hypnosis -- for myself and for my children -- can be a very practical tool for keeping the peace in day-to-day living.

Take Thursday, for instance. I don't know about you, but there's always a lot to squeeze into our morning. Getting exhuberant kids dressed, fed, and well-listened to (we use our morning time to catch up as I sip my coffee and wake up) and then equipped with homework folders, permission slips, lunch money, band instruments...the list goes on... is always a bit of a feat.

One unexpected event or accident can throw off a morning and start a chain reaction of stress. I'm sure other parents can relate!

Last Thursday, with 10 minutes before kids were due to offer final kisses and hugs goodbye and march off to school, my youngest smashed his finger in the bathroom door. I was just getting out of the shower, and after hurrying to throw on some clothes, I met his sobbing self in the middle of the upstairs hallway. Paul's not one to cry easily, but the tears were streaming down his face, and I could see his finger really hurt.
"Sit down with me," I said.

Paul questioned me with his eyes, as I plopped down as if it were the most normal thing in the world to have a conversation on the hallway floor in the middle of traffic. As Paul sat down, I held his little finger.

"I can tell this finger hurts really bad. If the hurt had a color, what color would it be? Close your eyes and tell me."


"Ok, good. And if it made a sound, what sound would it make?"

"...'creeeeeeeeaaaaak' like a squeaky door."

"Good. Now what does it feel like? Give me some words ... is it stabbing and pinching?"

"Yes -- stabbing and BURNING."

After we identified the color, the sound, and the feeling, I asked Paul to find somewhere very very comfortable on his body, and he found his other hand. I asked him the same three questions, and he closed his eyes and came up with: a deep blue-jean blue, the sound of an owl, and a cool, gentle breeze.

Next, I gave him the suggestion to put all his attention on the blue, the whoo-whoo sound, and the cool breezy feeling and to allow those to grow and, expand bigger and bigger. Finally, I asked him to imagine the blue, whoo-whoo-ing and cool, cool feeling was actually replacing the white-pink, creaking, burning feeling. More and more the blue color took over and the white-pink became dimmer and dimmer, less and less. I suggested that any time he needed any more comfort in his finger, all he had to do was remember the blue, whoo-whoo-ing, cool breezy feeling.

All of this took less than three minutes to do. It was a very simple process of establishing rapport -- I acknowledged I completely understood his pain and I took it very seriously -- and helping him to change his focus.

By the end of 3 minutes, Paul looked up surprised at himself -- the pain was much, much less and the tears had stopped. He smiled and said he could go to school now.

Now, I know that in this context this exercize may sound like a simple game of pretend that will only work with children, but I guarantee you it is not! :) The mind-body connection is real, and teaching ourselves and our children what is possible in terms of living healthy, happy lives by controlling our thoughts, is one of the best gifts we can give.

If you are interested in my Practical Parenting with Hypnosis class, please contact me.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Wired for fear? Or Mind Over Matter?

Reuters announced the results of a new study today. In Fearful looks get brain's attention fast: study, we learn that researchers have discovered the brain is wired to process fear faster than happiness or any of the related emotions, like love.

The study, which appears in the journal Emotion, also
reveals how little interest the brain has in smiling faces.
[bold is mine]

I don't intend to argue with the scientific research here. If we are faced with a real, physical threat, this hard-wiring of our brains (researchers say it is brain's amygdala that takes in these messages from the visual cortex and serves as the "alarm center") is critical to our survival.

But what if we always find what we are looking for? A couple of common sayings come to mind..."You'll see it when you believe it" or "when all you have is a hammer, everything you see looks like a nail."

If I'm wired to look for the fearful threats, I will find them in abundance. I will also NOT notice all the happy things, the love, and the joy in my life.

Few of us live in an environment where we need to be able to spot trouble (like a hungry tiger) and flea for our lives at a moment's notice. Yet many of us live like we're under constant threat. We see the enemy/threat to our happiness our government, in our environment, in a people who believe a different way or worship a different way, in our jobs, in our co-workers, in our families, in our spouses, in our own bodies, in our minds.

Biological Inevitability? Or Mind Over Matter?

What is the source of our "wiring" and our predisposition to seeing threats? While we might say the brain, I would argue that the contents of our subconscious holds many beliefs that influence how -- and what -- we see.

Other interesting studies have shown that the brain works in the very same way whether it is seeing something for real -- like a flower, for instance -- or it is imagining a flower it has seen before. Yes, it works the very same way whether the vision is real or imagined.

We can raise our blood pressure by having a stressful thought. We can make our mouths water by imagining delicious foods. We can cause a sick feeling in our stomach by imagining ourselves in a threatening situation -- like public speaking, for instance. We know, then, that our thoughts have effects in our lives.

If I have a strong subconscious belief that the world is dangerous, I will tend to feed that fear by noticing all the things about life that prove this belief. My thoughts are like a lense through which I experience the world. Colored with my fear, my world will appear fearful. Taken to the extreme, we end up paranoid or we develop phobias.

Many of these subconscious beliefs are first formed when we are very small. We don't know we harbor these beliefs, because they exist out of the realm of our conscious awareness. Underneath the surface they may be, yet they must still be expressed somehow....through compulsive thoughts or behaviors, negative emotions, even sickness and disease.

The good news

The mind can be re-programmed to see love, joy, and happiness. If we want to experience more of these positive emotions and events -- and less fear, anger, frustration, envy, and lack -- then we should seek change from the inside out. We don't need to find a perfect world to live in; we need to release the fearful thoughts and replace them with loving ones.

We can start right now by taking time daily (or hourly!) to relax and then repeat these affirmations to ourselves:

"I love and accept myself"

"I forgive my past mistakes -- and the past mistakes of others. I know my "enemies" were just fearful, too. I choose to stop the chain of fear now by choosing forgiveness and love for myself and all others."

"From this this moment on, I send only Love."

"All is well."