Hypnotherapy Project

When I snap my fingers, you will feel no fear

ugly dolls This is a follow-up post about the Hypnotherapy Project, which I collaborated on in July and August of 2007 with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hoped to accomplish here; you can read all of the entries in chronological order here.

I have had a couple of follow-up meetings with Greg, debriefings of a sort. We did some tweaking, he tried out a few new tools he picked up at a recent convention (topline: they're way cool, and Greg is slowly but surely turning into an unstoppable force.) Both times, he tiptoed around the issue of me following up, mainly, what was happening with me and why I wasn't.

I could blame it on the heat, you can blame a lot on 96ºF weather, especially when it's happening in your apartment*.

I could blame it on a busy work schedule, or the necessity of attending to various items that were somewhat neglected as I devoted up to four hours per day, 30 days in a row, to plumbing the depths of my psyche.

I could even blame it on mental exhaustion and it would be true: you plumb the depths of your psyche and expose it to the world 30 days in a row and see how sprightly you feel.

But the truth is, another big reason I haven't written any follow-up analysis of my 30-day hypnosis experiment because I was afraid.

Afraid that my analysis would be wrong, how can I know what really happened to me, and how it's affecting me now?

Afraid that my writing would be inadequate, how could analysis of something after the fact be as compelling as writing made raw and present by exposed nerves and immersion?

Afraid: isn't that why I agreed to try the experiment in the first place, to deal with my fear?

Well, no. No, it wasn't. I got into it to see what would happen. What I found out was, big surprise, there was a lot of fear under there, gumming up the works. We put names and faces and events to the fear, but hoo boy, was it startling to run up against so much of it.

Did I think that it was all going to evaporate once the 30 days were up? Once I could put names and faces and events to it? Apparently, a part of me did just that, and was astonished when, oh! there it is, it popped up again here, when the phone rang, or there, when I opened my checkbook register.

The bad news: the fear does not just evaporate when you turn the lights on.

The good news: it is easier to look at it in the light than imagine it in the dark.

Some examples:

  • While I still feel a bit of resistance come Thursday, when Toastmasters rolls around, it is nothing like the paralyzing fear I had (even if I was good at hiding it) when I first took over as President back in June.
  • I've had the money my father left me sitting in a low-interest holding account since he died three years ago this fall. I mean crap interest, personal savings account-level interest. It's my last tie to him and I guess I was afraid to let it go, a not-uncommon thing after a loved one dies, apparently. This week, I wrote a check for the whole shebang and closed it out. The writing was a little shaky on the check, and I felt a little sick and nervous walking to the bank, but I did it.
  • I've started keeping a daily calendar where I actually slot out everything that must be done that day so I can see how much I've committed, and over-committed to.
  • As a result of the above, I am actually taking on less. At least, I think so.
  • Heaps of books, clothes and other goods have been making their way out of my life, I've made considerable inroads on the mountains of paper to be entered into various accounting programs.
  • For those of you into the woo, I had a pretty amazing thumbs-up from the Universe about 10 days ago. I'm not quite ready to talk about it now, but it went a long way towards validating the public writing work I've been doing over the past three years.

How much of the change is directly attributable to the hypnotherapy, vs. the regular therapy or even the super-regular process of living with my eyes and ears open? It's impossible to quantify, of course. There's no double-blind protocol when you are working on you, no matter how many of your sub-personalities have signed on for the test. But I assure you that great change has been set in motion.

And I will do my best to document it as it happens. Maybe not fearlessly, but openly, honestly and with the great hope in my heart that any step one of us takes moves us all forward a little bit.

xxx c

*As documented by a thermometer purchased 10 days ago to prove to myself I was neither exaggerating nor going mad. And that's with shades drawn, and windows blacked out with foam core and beach towels, and three fans blowing the sad stream of cool air generated by the portable A/C directly on my mainly-naked person. But hey, it's a dry heat.

Image by ffi via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Hypn07, Day 30: With a whisper, not a bang

flutter This covers day 30 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I'm collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here; you can read all of the entries in chronological order here.

like butterfly wings

that create the breeze that releases the wheel the statue the equation the story or the love inside hearts that really moves mountains

sometimes the ending comes quietly

but it is no less extraordinary for coming without fanfare or parades or exclamation points or punctuation of any kind except maybe ellipses

if the end is really the beginning then maybe ellipses are the only way to go...

xxx c

Image by darrin170 via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Hypn07, Day 29: A place where everybody knows your name

wonderful world This covers day 29 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I'm collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here; you can read all of the entries in chronological order here.

As I've mentioned before, most people wouldn't know it to look at me, but my self-esteem usually hovers between weak and non-existent. I've made up for my shortfall in this area the way I suspect most people like me do, with a combination of bluster, good face and lotsa hustle.

But I'm finally realizing the need to address this core issue of lack head on. I mean, I can continue with the tap dancing, but Jesus God, it's exhausting, and I suspect that energy could be put to more productive use. Besides, using the team or "hive mind" theories of advancement (the latter of which is maybe more appropriate to a discussion about sub-personalities), isn't it just way more efficient to utilize all of your resources? If I'm really interested in moving things forward, wouldn't a few extra bodies help?

So, how to get there? Well, first you get that 98-lb. weakling, self-esteem, in my case, into training. There's no end to methods for tackling this, but they seem to boil down to two: (1) do what you can with what you've got; and (2) act as-if about the rest (I can't find it right now, but Steve Pavlina has a terrific podcast about using as-if to get you from where you are to where you want to go).

One critical component of moving forward is support. I've got a few things already in place, a file of You Go, Grrrl! emails and suchlike to sift through when I get down, and a short list of people to call on when I just plain need comforting. But these are relics of places I've been, and chroniclers of events I've been through; how does one get to the next step? How do you stay "up" as you turn your attention to the big places you want to get to when all you have is this poor, 98-lb. weakling to escort you?

Apparently, you solicit the support of the people who are already there: your heroes and idols, the people you admire who are farther (waaaaay farther) down the path you'd like to travel.

For the record, I had no idea what Greg was going to do on this last day together. And, like many of our experiments (including, if I'm honest, this whole Hypnotherapy Project itself), I might not have agreed to it had I known what the getting-there would be like. A lot of this is really hard emotional work, even if it does leave you feeling great afterwards.

On Friday, he put me under and brought me to a large room. And one by one, all of my heroes and idols came to me and said a few words: some, of encouragement; some, of advice; some, just a "hello". Meryl Streep, Vanessa Redgrave, Eleanor Roosevelt, Dr. Martin Luther King. I met old teachers and bosses, leaders whose skills I admire even more now that I'm learning how to lead. I met Oprah and Barack Obama. And at the very end, my core of support, my parents and my paternal grandparents, whose approval and admiration meant more than anyone's to me, came out to greet me. I'm weeping now as I write about it, but believe me, I was weeping more then, and from the start. Wave upon wave of love and support and the power of the ages swept over me; it's a good thing Greg picked a Friday, is all I have to say.

Well, of course, that's not all I have to say. I have to say this: we are not alone in our quest. We are supported, all of us, by some invisible (but no less real for it) web of energy that flows between us now, and through us to all people of all time. It's right there, right there, all the time, ready to tap into whenever we need it.

The trick, of course, is letting ourselves do it. It's so easy to get closed off as we navigate through our super-sped up world. It's easy to be a grownup and hard to be an adult who accepts that a part of herself is eternally childlike. But I am, and you are. You are still that child inside who, hopefully, had a time of wonder and wide-open imagination. And if you did, you can go there anytime and experience the greatness of the All-That-Is.

I don't live there all the time; I'm not sure if it's a good thing to do that. But to know it's there, to understand that at the core, we are love and love is all that matters, and to live with that knowledge all the time, well, I'm not there yet, either, but I can start to see what it will be like.

And it is the most beautiful, beautiful thing of all.

xxx c

Photomosaic by MontanaRaven, from 36 Flickr photos by other contributors, via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license. For the record, I couldn't link directly to the Flickr page with that image, so I created a workaround URL; it says http://xrl.us/wonderful, but it redirects to her Flickr page.

Hypn07, Day 28: No one wants the party to be over

best friends This covers day 28 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I'm collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here; you can read all of the entries in chronological order here.

A funny thing happened at the end of my last week: I started flipping out about the whole thing ending.

Don't get me wrong, I knew I'd find plenty of use for all of that extra time I'd be getting back come Monday. (The project was due to end on Saturday, a "tape day" for me, so much less of a time commitment.) But I'd come to rely on and look forward to this everyday therapy, this daily confab with a good friend who was also on the path but whose job at this juncture was taking care of me.

I am not used to being the one taken care of, or cared for, you see. This became abundantly clear during my five-month incarceration in Cedars Sinai and my own apartment while recovering from my Crohn's onset. As I've discussed before, when you're unable to walk up a flight of stairs sans assistance, you learn pretty fast what it's like having people help you out. (Topline: hard, at least for some of us.)

Add to that what my actual shrink calls my (lack-of-)entitlement issues, and you can see where this time with Greg was some heady stuff. Talking when I wanted to talk, about myself and some high-level, non-immediate issues, it was like being a sophomore in college again, only with someone way smarter and more experienced, who mainly wanted to talk about you.

I got a little lax in that last week. My notes are sketchy in those last few days, and I was busy enough to feel okay with putting off my updates until I wasn't so busy. Greg's notes are sketchy, too, but he has down that we did a live recap of the doorways trip, which makes sense since Thursdays are big days for me and Day 28 was a Thursday.

Four weeks of intensive growth is splendid, but a bit overwhelming. And writing from four days after the whole shebang is over, I can see that while things have begun to shift in this heady time, the real growth will happen much as it always does, slowly and over the long term.

At which point, of course, it will seem to have happened all at once. The 10-year overnight success, personal growth edition.

xxx c Image by tobym via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Hypn07, Day 27: My kingdom for a cookie

cookies This covers day 27 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I'm collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here; you can read all of the entries in chronological order here.

When I first worked with Greg over a year ago, it was (ostensibly) to help me get back on the SCD, the diet I use to control my Crohn's disease. The dang recording he made me worked so well, though, that I immediately told him we should not waste one more second on the diet stuff, I'd take care of that on my own time, but that we should start poking around to see what other enormo-changes we could effect.

Fast-forward to one year later. I'm back off the diet (big time) and in need of a tape that's not a tape, or what I like to call "a digital file." So yesterday, we made me a new recording to keep me off the bread and sugar, chocolate and potatoes, rice and soybeans.

Now, I'm fairly brutal with myself: I can force me to do an awful lot. But after a while, this makes life not so much fun and me not so much fun to be around, so to find this lovely, elegant way of doing an end run around myself at the ripe old age of 46 is pretty damned extraordinary. Hypnosis swiftly connects the needed action to the uber-goal, a really handy trick when it comes to delaying gratification. (And in case you hadn't noticed, a plate of fresh-cut fries from In-and-Out Burger is awfully gratifying in the now.)

It's up to me to commit, and to reinforce the good lessons learned and habits begun during these almost-30 days with Greg. But I think I'll probably continue to check in with the blog about my progress in the weeks and months to come.

Partly because it might be illuminating for you. Mostly because it will be honest-making for me...

xxx c Image by newyork808 via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Hypn07, Day 26: Teachers are just professional students

The school marm

This covers day 26 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I'm collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here; you can read all of the entries in chronological order here.

I didn't talk about it, I guess, but I was wicked sick this June. As in, flat-on-my-back, no-work-for-two weeks, lost-my-voice-for-two-days sick.

And it didn't stop at two weeks because of course, after two weeks of being confined to my quarters, I started to lose my mind and had to get out, had to start working. So as a result, some five (or is it six?) weeks later, I'm still a little sick, I won't die, but this chest congestion will not leave, and at the end of the day, I start to get a little Brenda Vaccaro-ish around the vowels.

I've never really talked about this, either, I guess, but when I was sick with my Crohn's onset, the real onset, after I'd been hospitalized and diagnosed and to me, the worst of it (the not-knowing) was over, I really embraced my illness. I remembered my mom talking about embracing her cancer this way, and thought she was flippin' nuts, but once I was really and truly Sick, I got it: you have to make peace with everything that's in you, because even if it's only temporary, it's a part of you. (And by "you," as the Youngster likes to say, I do mean "me." So if it's not your thing, I apologize, and I totally get that we all do this differently.)

Someday I'll scan them in, but for now, I'll just tell you about the two spiral notebooks full of drawings I made of my colon, where the Crohn's was centered. I don't know what inspired me to do it; I think it might have been wanting to acquaint myself with a part of me where there was a whole lot going on that I couldn't see. The summer had been one, long, scary mystery, and there was a peaceful kind of control I felt just drawing my colon.

I didn't draw it as perfect and rosy-pink; I drew it with "bugs", the bacteria I believed had triggered the Crohn's, and hearts, all the very toxic but potent meds they were pumping into me to stop the immune response. And as I drew them everyday, I thanked the bugs for teaching me what I needed so much to learn, and told them they could go now because there were some new, different bugs to take their place. (I put myself on heavy doses of acidopholus, and, once I was up to making it, SCD-legal yogurt.)

Greg and I started this Hypno Project a little late because of this new teacher that had shown up. It might be my teacher, but infections being what they are, it could still make Greg sick, too. And early on in our sessions, while I was under Greg asked if maybe the Teacher might be willing to leave; she demurred, saying (rightfully) that I was a little willful and she wasn't comfortable taking off entirely. He got her to agree to perhaps a sabbatical, and she agreed to pack and plan the date.

Yesterday, he talked to the Teacher again for the first time in awhile. She's still not willing to go, and was a little defensive about the need to stay. Hell, she was defensive about everything, and it was pretty clear she felt like persona non grata in the kingdom.

So Greg did an interesting thing: he invited the rest of the crew to come and say "hi" to the Teacher. One by one, they all popped in and damned if every last one of them wasn't fine with her. They all knew it wasn't anything personal; like the rest of them, she was just there doing her job.

Even as I was talking, because I am always aware that it's me talking, I thought it was a little strange that I was taking on the personality of this cold/flu/whatever that nailed me to the wall. But of course, it's not really about that; it's about me giving myself permission to be sick, to be flawed, to be imperfect. About taking my sweet time to learn my lessons, even though I know I "should" get them faster by now.

I finally (kind of) got that I will always have the Teacher around in some form, because it's my job to be the student. Of course, I'm going to keep working towards the lessons being a little more fun and a little less painful, but if I ever have no Teacher, it means I'm Done.

And you know, for as much as being sick can be a pain in the rear...or the lungs...or wherever, I'm really not ready to be Done yet.

xxx
c

Image by Robem via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Hypn07, Day 25: Doorways vs. driveways

parking tickets This covers day 25 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I'm collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here; you can read all of the entries in chronological order here.

There's always an extra burst of joy on Mondays when I see Greg in person after a couple of days "off" (remember, "off" days I'm still doing hypno, just not in person).

In part, I just like the chatting. There are so many ideas and new things manifesting in my life since we stirred the pot with this project, it's a relief to be able to share them with the person who's actually collaborating on it with me.

But it's also great to have the personal attention of a new CD or just a personalized "trip" after listening to the canned version for two days. On Monday, Greg created a new recording that's all about helping to build up one of my weaker personalities, self-esteem.

I'm starting to see how a lot of hypnotherapy works through imagery. As in, imagine yourself...

  • on a beach
  • in a quiet, safe room
  • going down a tunnel
  • at the lectern/helm/steering wheel/etc.

...and then (amazing/wonderful/different thing here) happens.

It makes sense that people who already have pretty well-developed imaginations would do better with hypnotherapy than those who are extremely literal-minded. There's a lot of visualizing and leaps of faith involved when you're creating something from nothing.

This recording had a series of doors, each with labels like "today" and "tomorrow" and, because it's a particularly gnarly day with lots of commitments for me (at least through the end of this calendar year) "Thursday." Greg walked me through them and something or other happened there, I guess I'll find out when I listen to the CD some more, since I went somewhere else during the recording.

And that somewhere else? The curb I was parked at on this, a street cleaning day. My inner clock was battling it out with my inner artist, and since my inner financier hates getting parking tickets, the scales were tipped on the side of let's wrap this up.

For those of you who still think there's some sort of woo-woo lala-land you float off to under hypnosis, that should serve as some reinforcement of this central fact: you can't walk through the doorway when you're worried about being parked in the driveway.

xxx c

Image by rknickme via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Hypn07, Days 22 - 24: Talking and sleeping, sleeping and talking.

finish line This covers days 22, 23 and 24 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I'm collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here.

One of the things that Greg and I have learned from the Hypnotherapy Project is that you can cover a LOT of ground in 30 days.

One of the other things we've learned is that some of the ground covering happens in the days after, in the debriefing sessions (a.k.a., our nattering marathons) and in the rest.

Without rest, you could probably work yourself to death, yes. But also, without rest none of the learning can really take root. What we're doing is a little like going to the gym and blasting away at your muscle groups for 30 days straight. And there's only so much blasting you can take before your muscles say, "Give it a rest, sister, or we'll do it for you."

We did a lot of yakking on Friday, did Greg and I. We used our time to map out a plan for this last, yes, last, week of the project. Some things I want to do, some things he wants to do.

I will be glad to get some of this time back. I'm looking forward to using it, along with my newly restored vigor and enthusiasm, to do some serious creating.

I'm also looking forward to some rest. I feel like I've run a marathon, and it's not even over yet.

But the rest and the free time come at a price: I will miss the discipline of coming to the hypnotherapy every day. I will miss the exploration of this one, particular thing.

And most of all, I will miss doing it with this excellent human being. Thank you, Greg...

xxx c

Image by Seraphim C via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Hypn07, Day 21: Wherein our heroine becomes our hero

burmese monks This covers day 21 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I'm collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here.

I've never had a past-life regression before. And quite honestly, even though I saw myself as a 15-year-old boy with only one, much-beloved parent who died shortly thereafter, even though I saw my pretty face and ugly feet, my mother's light eyes and our tiny house in some rolling green hills, I'm still not sure I had one on Thursday.

Whatever it was, I had an "experience". Of being a boy named, improbably enough, Adam. In what looked like England at one point, and Burma at another. In 1653. I was 15 when we started the memory, and lived fairly unhappily to a ripe old age of 45, at which point I died, alone, still in service to some sort of royal family. (There was a coronation or wedding ceremony in the palace when I was 16 or 17 that looked suspiciously like a scene from The King and I.)

Uh-huh. I know, I pretty much feel the same way.

I've discussed before how I'm an eager and willing subject. I have a natural skepticism, but it mostly has to do with my ability to tap into any of this other-worldly, past-lifely type of stuff. I have no problem with the idea of other people being facile with it, or the idea of other dimensions and reincarnation; the chief feeling I had upon discovering that other people believed in this thing I'd never been able to put a name to was one of relief. Not-so-alone-ness.

But as with so much of this hypnotherapy project, whether a thing is absolute and verifiable is less important than my decision to conjure it up. Before I went under, Greg asked my subconscious to pick a life that would hold some sort of significance for me today, in this life, on this day, given what I was going through right now. The life I saw was significant for its insignificance: 45 years of no particular happiness, then nothing. Greg asked me to watch my own death in this life, and to note my last words or thoughts. Which were "That's all?"

I was so very, very lonely in this lifetime I dreamed up. I had no friends, no family. I had a job I was good at but didn't particularly like, and not much else, it seemed.

My life now is very rich, so full of love and great friends and meaningful work that I am often blown away at the thought of it. And yet, there is always a feeling of aloneness that creeps and creeps, and wondering if I am enough, if I am doing enough. If this is all.

The day raised more questions than answers. But then, that's what I'm beginning to see as my life's work: the asking of questions, and the exploration that follows.

There may never be answers. I'm starting to see that the answer most likely lies in the looking. And in appreciating the connections when they do happen.

We are all of us alone; we are all of us together.

We are all of us a 15-year-old Burmese-English boy who lost his mother too young, who spent his life trying to find his way back to the connection and happiness that was his birthright...

xxx c

Image by FriscoDude via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Hypn07, Day 20: Yackity yak

girl talk This covers day 20 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I'm collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here.

Sometimes I come to Greg's and talk.

And talk and talk and talk.

A lot of this "figuring things out as you go" stuff is debriefing. Or, as I like to call it, "talking."

So on Wednesday, Greg and I talked for an hour and a half about the project, stuff we were learning, stuff that was happening in real life that might affect the direction for the project, which would (in turn) affect the learning.

And at some point, he'd had enough, which I grokked partly because he stood up, grabbed the headphones and said, "You're going to listen to a tape today."

And partly because I said, "If I'm going to listen to a tape, can't I listen to it at home?"

Done and done.

Sometimes things work out and you get the talk you need and the time you want.

And an amazingly sound night's sleep, to boot...

xxx c Image by late_blOOmer* via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Hypn07, Day 19: Lord of the Dark Side

darth vader

This covers day 19 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I'm collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here.

If you haven't already, go immediately to your favorite book purveyor (library, local independent bookseller, anywhere but even @m@zon) and get yourself a copy of Steven Pressfield's delightfully sly, slim and incisive look at creativity, The War of Art. Ounce for ounce, the smartest treatise on what keeps us measuring our lives in coffee spoons and not achievements of magnificent fulfillment. I enjoyed Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way for its similar insights into the creative process (and its particular demons) but this is way less woo-woo and just as practical in many ways, more so, in that you can read it in about an hour standing on your feet.

Anyway.

The chief slayer of creative output, according to Pressfield, is Resistance. It takes many shapes (procrastination is a favorite) but moves inexorably towards its chief goal, keeping your ass parked in front of the TV, eating Doritos and/or shooting heroin, depending.

I burst into Greg's bungalow office full of excitement over this great new guide and its mythic depiction of a wiggly idea. But Greg decided to do old Steven one better: he called Resistance "The Resistor", and, after putting me under, got it to talk a bit. Here's what we learned...

#1: The Resistor is, um, a little scary

Unlike the other inhabitants of Kingdom Communicatrix (and much to Monkey Brain's dismay), the Resistor is not eager to make friends.

The Resistor needs no one and nothing, except something to push against, and everyone else does a damned fine job of providing fodder. The Resistor is very well developed, very smart and very, very strong, in fact...

#2: The Resistor is closest in temperament to The Edge

The Edge gets things done. It doesn't differentiate between good or bad, dark or light, right or wrong. It has a task and does it. You might remember that when we met The Edge, it was in charge of procrastination. And it took its job seriously, not personally.

The Resistor is very much the same way. It is indifferent to pain, although it seems to find it interesting or even amusing. But it doesn't derive pleasure from causing pain. Far from it. It enjoys pushing back, period. Hence, the Resistor's particular gift at shape-shifting (and, perhaps, a wee bit of pride in its highly refined abilities in this area.)

#3: The Resistor cannot use its powers in the employ of anything but resisting

The Edge? Happy to serve in any other way we'd like to suggest.

The Resistor? Would have none of it. Greg tried every way he knew of to bring the Resistor to the side of Light, much to the amusement of the Resistor, who patiently, if a little condescendingly, kept insisting that was not a possibility.

#4: I am a Star Wars geek after all

These ideas all come from somewhere. I wish I were diving into some Jungian pool of collective unconscious, but the truth is, I learned everything I need to know about yin and yang from George Lucas. Such is the price of coming of age in the late 70s.

#5: There's a lot of skill residing in the Resistor

So far, we've come up with six other subpersonalities that make up the crazy interior world of me. That's six slices on the side of Light, some of whom are pretty strong (Monkey Brain, The Edge), all of whom are very smart.

There is one, only one, part of me that does nothing but push back. Oh, sure, the other ones screw up (or are screwed up), but they're interested in changing.

The Resistor, on the other hand, is what a former acting teacher of mine used to call a "fixed given": like time or furniture or other unopposable force/immovable object, it is fundamentally unchanging. It does what it does what it does; the only change is that it learns to do it better and more efficiently. Which means...

#6: It is pointless to try changing the Resistor

The only way to beat the Resistor is to become as good at your task, as single-mindedly driven in your goal at hand, as it is. And it never, ever stops, because the Resistor will respond to strength and cleverness with equal or better strength and cleverness.

Vigilance and a fierce pursuit of the Truth are the only useful weapons in one's ongoing battle with the Resistor. That and...

#7: To start working against the Resistor, you must accept that it exists

It's a bitch, but there it is: you cannot beat it; it is an essential part of you.

So look at the Resistor as the part that keeps you honest and striving. The part that keeps you creating, really, and makes each act of creation more interesting, rich and powerful than the last.

The Resistor won't care, of course. It will just smile and come back at you another way, another day.

Admire its strength, say a brief prayer of gratitude if you have it in you.

And then, dear Artist, get back to work...

xxx
c

Image © Erin Watson, via Flickr.

Hypn07, Day 18: Better living through script-ery

no no no no no This covers day 18 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I'm collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here.

Coming off of a weekend, two days of dealing with my own stuff much more intensely than during the week, I sometimes have a clearer picture of what I want or need to address in my work with Greg.

There are a whole slew of things that are converging right now; one I can discuss freely is my issue with taking things personally. Which I do. A lot.

Greg put me under on Monday and had a little confab with Monkey Brain, who always has great hacks for dealing with thorny issues. In this case, she came up with two terrific ass-savers; when confronted with a proposition that something has my name written all over it...

1. ...if I am not, in fact, certain that it is mine to bear, I am to take my time by answering, "Hmmm...let me see..."

2. ...if I am SURE right away that there is no need to take this thing personally, I am to say, "Noooo, nooo, that is NOT mine."

And the beauty part is, all of this happens silently, in the space of time it would take to open one's mouth to actually say something.

The unconscious mind, she is a genius...

xxx c

Image by LishaFisha via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Hypn07, Days 16 & 17: To sleep, perchance to sleep some more

o sleepy This covers days 16 & 17 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I'm collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here.

For those of you keeping track, Days 16 & 17 fell on the weekend. And, like last weekend, we decided to give both of us a break by just having me listen to my recording.

Unlike last weeken, there was no last-minute drama. I just popped those headphones on, hit the "play" button on mr. nano, and nodded off almost immediately.

Who needs Ambienâ„¢ when you've got Greg Beckett?

xxx c Image by ombrastarr via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Hypn07, Day 15: Meander Time, trust and letting go

meandering This covers day 15 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I'm collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here.

Do you schedule yourself ruthlessly? Or are you a chronic meanderer?

I have always seen it as a binary decision, with scheduling firmly on the side of right. But when my system finally broke down back in 2002, the Crohn's onset flipped my well-ordered life over on its ear, I began to see the value in rest, play and meandering.

Part of what we're doing with this project is playing. We had no set plan other than a commitment to have me go under for 30 days in a row. Some people, the old me, for instance, might find that a colossally silly waste of time.

The new me was excited at the prospect overall. I loved the idea of not-knowing, of trusting that I had done enough work up to this point to let go.

But the old me, which I think I've amply proved is still very much always with me, sometimes freaks out at the idea of no-plan, especially on a day-to-day basis. The biggest anxiety I've experienced during the Hypnotherapy Project is not "will I be made a fool?" or "will I do some irretrievable damage by mucking around with my insides?" but "sweet baby Jesus...what are we going to talk about today?!"

On Friday, we talked about...all kinds of stuff. What was going on in my life, what was going on in Greg's. We're friends, and that's what friends do. Could we be working more efficiently? Maybe.

Or maybe not. Maybe you need the room and air around an idea to get it to bubble up.

Bubble up it did. After about an hour of yakking, we hit on having me envision the weekend's workflow going smoothly. It's what I needed. I've got a lot more work to do these days than time to do it in.

And the weekend? It flowed very smoothly, just as we saw it doing. Work that felt like play, freer from worry.

There was even a little discretionary time for meandering...

xxx c

Image by casch52 via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Hypn07, Day 14: Oh, THANK you!

thank you This covers day 14 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I'm collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here.

Thursday was the trifecta of personal growth services. I kicked off the morning with my weekly marketing coaching call, then headed to the Valley for my monthly shrink check-in (thank you, reduced health care plan), then headed back over the hill for Day 14 of 30 of the Hypnotherapy Project.

There are some emerging themes of late. First is my staggering incompetence as a leader of men (and women). This term as president of my Toastmasters club is pointing out all the ways in which I suck at being in charge. While I love love love effecting change, I'm much more skilled at helping directly than helping people to help themselves. In other words, good at thinking and doing, bad at delegating and trusting.

I'm starting to see the roots of some of this, and by "seeing", I mean "actually grokking." It's not like I haven't had my struggles with perfectionism pointed out before. I also figured out a while ago that I'm a control freak. (Sorry, Jim, for not figuring that out sooner; then again, I wasn't the only gabbadost in that relationship.) But a whole slew of dots got connected Thursday morning when Leslie, my wonderfully patient shrink, finally got it through my thick skull that I have a dramatically stunted sense of entitlement.

Wait, you're thinking, isn't that a good thing?

Well, no. No, it's not. To make a really clumsy analogy, having no sense of entitlement in a modern world is like being a fry cook with no temperature receptors, it turns a rather ordinary existence into a life fraught with danger.

Once I brought it up, Greg immediately seized on it as our idea for the day. I went under lickety-split and he asked whoever was in charge of this aspect to come forward. The voice was so small and quavery, he didn't recognize it as Monkey Brain, who, while only around seven, is extremely forceful.

She was adamant on the point of NOT accepting compliments because they give you a big head. You do the work, and it's expected you do it well, so compliments are either beside the point or reserved for occasions of staggering accomplishment in an area outside of one's expertise. (Hey, relaxed people! Starting to get a picture of the non-stop party that is the life of a perfectionist?)

The grownup me understands that the person responsible for this rather loopy system of praise and reward meant the best. Mom grew up in a family where the expectation that women would accomplish anything significant was so miniscule that she and her sisters were not given middle names, they'd just lose them anyway, when they got married. I'm hugely grateful for her expecting more from me, and for teaching me to use my brain, to look up the word, to never ask for help with homework.

All the same, there's a limit. So Greg did a little playing with Monkey Brain and got her to agree to try out taking a compliment by observing the following protocol:

  1. Pause and take a breath.
  2. Resist the urge to brush it aside by saying "Oh, THANK you!"
  3. If necessary, give myself a little more time to gather myself by adding something like "That is so NICE of you to say" (as opposed to rejecting it outright or even partially).

It still feels extremely uncomfortable to really sit in a compliment, just like it feels uncomfortable to expect that if I lead, people will follow.

But I have a feeling that if I keep practicing, it might get easier. And I'm almost sure that it will lead to me feeling much, much better more of the time.

xxx c Image by headexplodie via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Hypn07, Days 12 & 13: Where would you like to go today...and tomorrow...and five years from now?

the beach This covers days 12 and lucky 13 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I'm collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here.

Here's my big, stupid confession: I want more than this.

Not that I'm not happy with my life, my work, or my current location: I love many, many aspects of all three, and over the course of the past five years I've turned into one of those annoying people who pretty much bound out of bed most mornings, excited to see what the day will bring. True, I have been very fortunate in that there have not been a lot of "tests" since the Job Years, that stretch from 1992 with colossal amounts of illness, death and the Trifecta of Worry, relationship/job/money strife. Since 2002, I've mainly dealt with garden variety annoyances like fear, heartbreak and petty illness. (Well, except for the Crohn's onset, my dad dying, his widow doing a little creative redistribution with our inheritance under cover of night, and a subsequent two-year lawsuit. But hey, into every life etc., right?)

So I've gotten to a place where my world is full of good challenges and lovely people. But in a lot of ways, I now understand that I've done it by making my world smaller, especially my ambitions. For most of the past five years, all I've focused on is being healthy and being happy: what those two things meant to me, and what the best ways were (and weren't) of getting there.

Over the past 10 or 12 months, things have started shifting. Now I can no longer deny that my ambitions have grown, and if they're not the same stupid ones as "make a sh*load of money and VP by 30" or "become beloved film superstar and host SNL", they're no smaller, in some ways, at least, from where I stand now.

I've gone on record as saying I'd like to be earning my living with words in five years: mostly writing, with some speaking mixed in. Moreover, I want to do it without giving up the freedom I have now to pick and choose the jobs I want, so in some ways it's an even more insane dream than obscene corporate or theatrical success. I mean, any major dude will tell you that writing books is a fool's game, and according to Eventful, people aren't exactly clamoring to hear me speak.

But I have a vision, a goal, and even a location! (see above), so by gum, I'm putting Team Communicatrix on the case. Yesterday, Greg took me on a journey to see what that end result might look and feel like; today, he made me a recording so I can start working on the goal from the inside out as well as the outside in.

Because here's what I know about goals: the more you connect the place you want to get to with the passion that drives it, the faster the obstacles fade away.

What's your dream? Where do you want to go today? Tomorrow? In ten years...?

xxx c

Image of me in paradise by The BF, released under a Creative Commons license.

Hypn07, Day 11: Every team needs a badass

badass with a bindi This covers day 11 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I'm collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotist hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here.

A tool is just a tool: in the hands of a great chef, a knife can create masterpieces; in the hands of a murderer, mayhem.

Yesterday, we met The Edge. I didn't know her name was The Edge; when she came out, all hardy, strong and pleased-to-meet-you, Greg was asking to meet the part of me responsible for procrastinating. No one could have been more disappointed to see such a friendly, can-do, back-slapping go-getter. This was me procrastinating? NO WONDER I CAN'T GET ANYTHING DONE!!!

But this was not Procrastination, it was the part of me who'd been tasked with procrastinating. And apparently, I had some pretty fierce need to not get things done; we put the biggest, loudest badass of the bunch on the task.

Not an especially nuanced nor strategic thinker, this Edge. Give her a job and she gets it done, but she never questions orders. I guess I had more fear, more to protect than I'd reckoned with.

God bless Greg. He asked The Edge if she might be persuaded to be errand girl for some of the more neglected officers of communicatrix Command Central, say, the Financier, who's been patiently waiting by the open, dusty vault for eons, or Self-Esteem, who's simply never been, and got a resounding "yes!" I swear, I have a Selling Machine for an Edge.

For those of you laughing at all this, please note that this morning, before work hours, The Edge took the Financier, Monkey Brain et al on a fine, three-mile walk to make both a personal and a business deposit, and that a few of the checks fell just inside the 90-day safe range. Granted, there weren't any colossal-sized checks in there, but all told, there was enough to cover the rent and treats for the whole gang. [In the comments, a reader pointed out that this paragraph was a bit unclear. What I meant to illustrate was that I am: (a) so fearful of de-vague-ifying my money that I'll put off dealing w/ it for a really, really long time; (b) like most fears, when you turn the light on it, it is not as big or horrid a reality as you thought; and (c) I like the idea of myself as a kind of nerd version of the Hole-in-the-Wall gang.]

That Monkey Brain...she sure do like Peet's coffee...

xxx c

Image by Erica Simone via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Hypn07, Days 9 & 10: Ultimately, it's all your choice

oy vey This covers days 9 & 10 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I'm collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotist hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here.

One of the reasons Greg chose me to do this project with him is he knew I'd commit myself 100% to the conditions we agreed on. There was someone on deck before me, but he flaked early on. And all he had to do was show up at Greg's office every day to be supervised as he listened to his recording; at that point, the idea was more to see what progress one could make if one repeated the lesson for 30 days in a row.

The first five days were more intense than either one of us could have anticipated. We backed off a bit to give my poor brain time to digest, trying some "fun" experiments (making me forget, making me cluck like a chicken); as the weekend approached, we talked about and agreed to let me listen to my recording at home, checking in to assure Greg I'd done the work.

Both days, I chose to listen at night, before sleep. Typically, I have problems falling asleep unless I'm sick and/or exhausted, so it was immensely pleasurable to go O-U-T before the recording had finished, I woke up about 90 - 120 minutes after putting on the 20-minute recording, pushed away the headphones and nano, and went back to sleep.

Last night was a bitch, though. It had been a long weekend, The BF had freshly laundered sheets for the bed, and as I got ready to go night-night, I realized with horror that somehow, the last iPod sync had wiped the hypno file from the drive.

For the splittest of seconds I considered blowing it off...and then, at 10:55, I got in my car and drove the five miles back to my place so I could resync and do it right.

Everything about hypnosis, it turns out, is a choice: even whether you do it in the first place...

xxx c

Image by websteria via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license

Hypn07, Day 8: A day of parlor trickery (or, "Scott Adams on why we go under")

dilbert This covers day 8 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I'm collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotist hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here.

While Greg and I spend time each session on the actual hypnosis, most days we speak at least as much about the actual process of hypnotherapy, what my experience is with it and because of it, and why it works or doesn't.

As I've mentioned, the last couple of days we'd decided to "play" a little bit: Greg hypnotized me, and during the hypnosis also gave me permission to forget everything that happened during the session.

This is a critical component of hypnosis: a willing subject, and the understanding that the subject is choosing to do all of what the hypnotist is suggesting. So the "best" subjects are people who are really willing, and the "best" hypnotists are the ones who are really good at suggesting.

I realize that sounds stupidly simplistic, but it's the crux of hypnosis: all you're doing is uncovering what's actually there, whether it's a desire to do something, to change something or to think about something.

In the comments of my last post in the series, Curtis Sawyer pointed me to a fascinating post by Scott Adams, best known as the creator of the comic strip Dilbert, less known as a practitioner of hypnosis (well, less-known by dilettante geeks like myself). In it, he does a better job than I ever will of defining what hypnosis is (and isn't) and what it can (and can't) dol. So just go there. But for the lazy, here's the crux of it:

We talk of people “going under” hypnosis, or “going to sleep.” Both are misleading. A subject under hypnosis is fully aware of his environment. He's awake, for all practical purposes, and can ignore any suggestion that might be objectionable. In the history of hypnosis, there's no reliable record of anyone following a suggestion he thought would be harmful to himself or someone else. The subject doesn't lose control.

So what does happen?

I describe the state of hypnosis as acquiring a power. The subject has all of his regular faculties operating plus he gains some more, if he has no objection to those new powers. For example, a subject under hypnosis would get a little extra power in one or more of these areas:

1. Extra relaxation 2. Extra imagination 3. Extra focus

As Adams points out elsewhere in his post, a small slice of the population seems really able to tap into the superpower thing; they're the ones who end up on stage, barking like dogs and seeing people naked. On the other end, all but a few diehards can benefit from the relaxing effects of hypnosis; I've been listening to my recording at night and it puts me under before it's over, which, if you know me and Monkey Brain, is pretty impressive.

I am willing, even eager, to experience some of the parlor trickery, far-out aspects of hypno, too. So Greg and I tried that on Friday. It was an experiment for both of us, since he really uses hypnosis as a therapeutic goal-setting tool, not for stage purposes.

We tried:

  1. making me cluck like a chicken in the middle of singing the Star Spangled Banner
  2. having me see both of us naked (when, just to be clear, we were not)
  3. having me hear him speak in Spanish (he speaks it, I don't)

Numbers 1 and 2 worked pretty well. Though as I said to Greg, I'm perfectly willing to cluck like a chicken under most any circumstances, I've done far, far more embarrassing things on stage, for free, with less prodding. (No one ever asked me to get naked on stage; interesting, that.) So I knew as I was clucking, that I was clucking. And I didn't want to "help", but I did want to let whatever was going to happen, happen.

The best way I can describe what happened with the clucking is that it floated up on a bubble. I knew I could stop it, but I had a mischievous impulse to cluck, like burping or farting in church on a dare.

Similarly, with seeing us naked, I didn't see us naked, but I found myself giggling as if we were naked, like we had a goofy secret between us no one else knew about.

I wish I could say I heard every word he spoke in English as though it were in incomprehensible-to-me Spanish; all that did happen was it was ridiculously hard to grok what he was saying in English: like my comprehension skills took a nosedive, or the way it's harder to read a complex book when you're tired or tipsy.

So it seems I'm gifted with middling powers as a hypnosis subject. And hey, I'll take it! Just being able to relax, or to turn off the buzzing and focus, or to give my pretty gigantic imagination a chance to strut its stuff, is pretty wonderful.

But like Adams, I'm wildly jealous of the one-in-five "who can give birth without pain, or see an elephant in the room, or eat an onion and think it's an orange, or have multiple orgasms on suggestion. My name for that group is “lucky bastards.” For them, hypnosis can fix a lot of problems."

And quickly.

Lucky bastards...

xxx c Image by Scott Adams and © United Feature Syndicate, Inc. "Borrowed" w/o permission; hopefully, the nice people at Megolopolis, Inc., will let it slide.

Hypn07, Day 6 & 7: What hypno?

poppies This covers days 6 & 7 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I'm collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotist hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here.

I went into this hypnotherapy project with (wait for it...wait...) my eyes wide open. I knew there would be doubters out there, because to be 100% honest, there was a seed of doubt in me, as well.

Was this parlor trickery? Or just another manifestation of my deeply ingrained desire to please? As Greg always reminds me, you do these things because you choose to, not because you have to. That's why they say you can never make someone do under hypnosis what she wouldn't do anyway. (It's also why stage hypnotists won't choose people who clearly don't want to be hypnotized. Because, like, they won't.)

Since we'd covered so much ground and I needed some time to digest it all, we'd done a tape for later use (okay, a recording) on Day 5. Neither of us felt the need to do a whole lot more digging on Day 6, so I asked if he could try the experiment we'd talked about before: hypnotizing me to forget what had happened during the hypnosis itself. (I'll pause while you wrap your brain around that one.)

When he brought me back up, I had that same feeling you get when you first awaken from a dream: chunks of it are vivid, but unless you work at remembering them, they fade pretty fast. I was marveling over it, picking at my brain to get at what was underneath, what I knew was there but couldn't remember. Greg kept laughing, but told me to stop it: he'd also given me a post-hypnotic suggestion that the less I remembered, the better it would work.

For the rest of the evening until bedtime, I kept feeling the memory want to bubble up. But then I'd remember what I was supposed to, that it would work better, whatever it was, if I let it go. (Talk about your zen lessons.) I didn't know what "it" was, but I knew I wanted it.

The next day, being a stubborn cuss, I wanted to try it again. Greg laughed, but complied: this was a great way to help me convince me of the power of me. So he put me under again; when I came back, same thing, faint, blurry dreams I wanted to grab at, but Greg warned me that the more I let them go, the better they'd work.

I can tell you honestly when I tell you that until today, Day 8, when he lifted the forgetting curse during hypnosis, I could not remember what the hell I was supposed to forget.

  • Day 6: sleep deeply and restfully
  • Day 7: things would go smoothly though I had a nightmare day of anxiety-bringing new things and tight scheduling

To be truthful, I don't have the best memory to begin with, or not the most reliable one, anyway. I blame my drug-addled 20s, but on top of that, I've always had an amazing, self-preserving way of remembering what I needed to and pushing everything else the hell out. (Raise your hand if you're an adult child of an alcoholic.) But those weirdly dreamlike moments coming up cinched it: there is something to this hypnosis thing, and I am rapidly becoming its poster child.

xxx c

Image by Foxicat via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.