While I was travelling I met a few people who were fascinated by the fact that I am a hypnotist and wanted immediately to know if I could help them overcome a problem they had. Sometimes its quicker to demonstrate than to try and explain what I do.
Bryonny was in her twenties and told me she had a problem with cringing. She would remember things that had happened to her and feel ashamed and embarrassed. Sometimes she would lie awake at night remembering the same events over and over and making herself feel terrible.
I asked her to choose just one thing she thought of that made her feel that way and she straight away came up with a big one. Something that had happened to her when she was just a child.
“Don’t tell me what it is” I said, “I don’t want to know- we’re on holiday! But tell me when you think of this event now is there a picture? Where is it?”
She looked confused momentarily and shook her head, “Where is it? I don’t know what you mean.”
Luckily she’ld already just shown me what I needed to know so I asked her again, “just think of that event now” and as she began to think of the event I put my hand out in front of her to the place her eyes were focusing- directly in front of her about 5 feet away.
“Ok, I’m guessing you have a picture right here?”
“Is it in colour or black and white?”
“How big is the picture roughly, a foot across? three feet across”
“Um let’s say 3 feet.”
“Ok so when you think of this event now how do you feel?”
“Cringey” she said and gave a little shudder.
Now I could have gone on and asked a whole load more questions but like I said, I was on holiday and besides, I had pretty much all the information I needed.
“So Bryonny, as you look at that picture now, what I’ld like you to do is just imagine pushing the picture further away into the distance and as you do so just fade out the colour so the picture is in black and white. Can you do that?”
I watched her as she followed my instructions and then asked “So how do you feel about that event now? ”
She shrugged, “I don’t feel anything about it really, just neutral”
“Ok that’s great.” I had her repeat the same thing 5 times, very quickly and then asked her to think of a different event that in the past had made her feel the same way. As she did so I noticed her eyes moving quickly from the first location to the second location with the image far away and in black and white and knew immediately that my work was done! Bryonny had learnt to recode her experience and remember it in a way that no longer carried with it the burden of feeling bad.
You can test this very simple and powerful idea on yourself right now. Take any memory that you have strong feelings about, good or bad and the chances are that the images you associate with the feeling will be colourful, large, up close and usually associated- that is you will be seeing what you saw at the time. There are lots of subtle distinctions and not everyone codes things in the same way but its a good generalisation.
Memories that do not have a strong emotional content on the other hand will tend to have pictures that are smaller, further away, less colourful and disassociated- that is you are more likely to see yourself in the picture as if you were a fly on the wall.
The brain likes to learn fast and all I did with Bryonny was teach her a simple way of using her imagination to change the way in which she remembered. Once she’ld done that a few times her unconscious took over and applied the new strategy automatically so try as she might, she couldn’t get the same feeling back.
Now I don’t know about you but it seems to me that it might be a good idea to take a quick inventory and see for yourself just how you remember experiences- and make the choice to remember those times when you felt good in vivid technicolour right up close and those times when you felt bad in black and white, tiny images far away. In NLP the different ways that we code memories are called submodalities and there’s a whole class of patterns designed to assist you in recoding your experience in a more resourceful way.
Bryonny took less than five minutes to change something that had been bugging her for years. I like to make sure I finish a job properly once I’ve started so a couple of days later I did a session with her checking on the ecology of the change and ensuring that her new learning would be applied in the future but the essential work was already done. It can be that simple.
I meet so many people travelling and working who, like Bryonny, are held back from fully enjoying life because they’ve learnt a habit that makes them feel bad. I wish I could help them all but I learnt a long time ago that there’s a right time and a right place and when people are ready, they’ll call me.
Bye for Now,