Finding comfort in relaxation
If I were to find a common theme that connected all of my clients, I would choose the theme of comfort. Whether suffering from depression, an illness, or various kinds of unwanted behavior, all of them feel discomfort, as well as some form of pain - emotional or physical.
Compared to any other time in history, we live in great comfort. Even with food shortages, there is no starvation. In fact, a large percentage of Americans - 48% - are obese – implying too much food, too little exercise, and too much sitting around… in comfort. So why is it that so many people feel discomfort and have so much trouble comforting themselves, when the fact is they appear to suffer from too much comfort?
Why do I feel depressed when all appears well?
One reason, of course, is expectation. Because we have only enjoyed a few generations of this kind of physical prosperity, we still think of ourselves as needing to finish all the food on the plate, for fear we won't have food tomorrow. We need to rest, rather than tire ourselves out. We expect to have children and own a house before a certain age. We expect job security. We expect our parents to love us in the way that we want them to love us. We expect our children to outlive us.
When our expectations aren't met, we feel pain and disappointment. So, why don't we drop them when they aren't realized? The answer is that expectations give us comfort, and they also give us hope. Our expectations are what drive us to do the things we do. The trouble is that because they are expectations, rather than dreams or ambitions, they really belong to a pest. If we want things to change in our lives, we need to be projecting what we want in the future.
Achieving goals and reaching a new level of success.
What is the key to breaking free of old patterns?
And that's where hypnotherapy comes in. Chiropractor and researcher, Dr. Joe Dispenza, my new favorite go-to for all things hypnosis, says that the key to freeing the body from hardwired programs in the brain is to meditate on future goals as if they were happening now. Doing so creates a heightened emotional state that programs the new emotions into the brain and body. He has also shown how channeling the spinal fluid to flow upwards into the brain and stimulate the pineal gland creates positive and negative charges in such a way that the brain/spine becomes like a magnet - a magnet for what we are thinking. If we use hypnosis to change thought patterns and belief systems, we become a whole new magnet and can attract a whole new life.
For example, if we are thinking about what we expect, and we don't get it, we feel resentment. Rather than change, we become attached to the resentment because it becomes its own source of comfort. If you watch my "How Hypnosis Works" video, you will see that the subconscious mind is drawn away from pain and toward pleasure. The trouble is that the subconscious learns to identify certain thoughts and emotions as pleasure when, in fact, they cause pain.
In “Existential Kink: Unmask Your Shadow and Embrace Your Power” Carolyn Elliot, PhD, calls out the subconscious mind for what it is - familiar patterns that give us comfort, even if that doesn't make sense to those around us. She also calls out the practice of positive affirmations, commonly used in hypnosis, as the sham. Indeed, a small portion of clients experience positive affirmations as a kind of a lie, in which they don't want to participate. For example, if a client was severely abused as a child and hates his parents as a result, he may suffer from guilt, because he feels unable to forgive them. But, in fact, if he acknowledged that hating them made him feel safer and more secure, he could let go of the guilt. Of course, a good hypnotherapist will get to the bottom of why a client won’t do positive affirmations, but Elliot’s point is a good one.
Why do I engage in bad behavior when I know better?
Dr. Eliot’s book is not for everyone. Not all of us secretly enjoy our shadow side. However, the idea that people engage in dark behavior because they are drawn to it, just as the subconscious is drawn toward pleasure, is a useful tool, especially for those who have suffered severe childhood trauma. Let's say a client engages in kleptomania - steals little items from the store. By stealing, the client may feel more in charge of life, and more like they are getting something they deserve that has been kept from them. By acknowledging the reward that comes with the behavior, the client is, therefore, more free to choose healthier ways of feeling in charge of life and getting the things they deserve. The same could be said for people who drink, smoke or eat too much in the face of stress or trauma. Even though thoughts may not be addictive in the way that substances can be, they do create emotional reactions in the body, which stimulate the nervous system and release hormones. As with drugs, the positive chemical feeling in response to repetitive negative thoughts might feel comforting to a client. For example, endorphins are released when someone self harms. These hormones create a feeling of release and triggers the body to heal. Women who are “addicted” to plastic surgery experience the same kind of release. By acknowledging the search for release and relief, a client can choose healthier ways to function.
How can hypnosis help?
Hypnosis helps in several ways. First, it can help the client acknowledge that negative behavior can be satisfying, that there may be a secondary gain or a negative pay-off to unwanted thoughts and behavior. It can also help clients recognize that some of these behaviors or thoughts are addictive. Next, it can find and stimulate positive resources within the mind that the client can use over time to replace the negative behavior. Third, it can neutralize emotions with respect to trauma that underlie or initiated the behavior. Lastly, it gives the client a new positive habit or practice - doing self-hypnosis - that stimulates the “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system to maintain the positive behavior or outlook.
Regardless of who a client is or the problem a client seeks to reverse, comfort is what we seek and long for. And, happily, hypnotherapy can help.
Letting go of expectations and beliefs that hold us back, and moving towards a new and better future.
Want to learn more?