by Anné Linden
Stories have held a special fascination for humankind since the dawn of time. Stories teach, entertain, preserve history, heal and nurture. Appealing to our unconscious mind, a story sidesteps the conscious, cognitive and intellectual mind and engages our imagination and intuition.
Dr. Milton Erickson, the master of unconscious communication and metaphor, reminded us repeatedly that change depended upon a shift in our perspective - our point of view. Stories take us out of ourselves and into the shoes of another; thus changing our perspective and allowing our creative part to make new associations and connections.
A message or idea that we might consciously resist or become defensive about can be communicated much more effectively through a story. A metaphor uses a story to communicate a specific message. We have unlimited stories within us: everything you have ever done, learned, watched, listened to, read about, dreamed about is a potential story. Your life is a story filled with stories. A trip to the supermarket can become a fascinating story about how many choices we actually have that we do not realize until magically there appears a shelf with ten more brands of spaghetti sauce than we ever before knew existed.
Two very important ingredients for using metaphors are trust in our intuition and the courage to be wrong. Trust means going with that first idea for a story that comes to you remember when you question yourself it is the conscious mind, the ego that is analyzing and worrying about being right. Trust means allowing the energy to flow from your unconscious where your intuition lives, and not blocking that flow with the ego. This relates to courage -the courage to be wrong for the ego wants to be right. Courage means acting on your intuition going with the story, telling it and dealing with the consequences. The worst thing that can happen is that you make a mistake. That is not so bad - especially when you keep in mind that you learn more from mistakes than successes.
The third important ingredient for metaphors is to have a structure; a step by step procedure that will, if practiced over time, build confidence and trust and courage.
The following is a structure that I have found to be useful: (You can use this with an individual, a couple, family, or group)
(1) Listen to and look at the person with whom you are interacting. Place all your attention on him/her. Identify the problem and what he/she wants instead, or his/her goal. Or you can choose to create or amplify an attitude or state of mind that would facilitate learning, healing, or pleasure.
(2) Ask yourself, "What change in thinking, feeling or behaviour would bring this person closer to his/her desired outcome?" (This step is not necessary when you simply want to create or amplify a resourceful state.)
(3) Ask yourself, "What emotion or idea would facilitate this?"
(4) Ask yourself, "When/Where have I had this feeling or idea? OR When/Where have I seen, heard, or read about someone else having this feeling or idea?"
(5) Say out loud, "That reminds me of..." OR "Once upon a time..." Open your mouth, move your lips and tongue and allow the words to fall out, and the story will flow from your unconscious to your listener(s) and their unconscious.
"Once upon a time there was a blade of grass. She was in great despair; she kept being either frozen, flooded, burned by the sun, or trampled upon by hundreds of heavy shoes and boots! Just when she was beginning to be happy, stretching upward to the blue sky and warm sun, listening to the birds call to one another, and feeling the breeze caress her, she was cut down, flattened out, and pressed against the earth. Once, someone who did not know what he was doing cut her so short that she could hardly breathe and she certainly could not hear the birds' songs or feel the breeze. But somehow after a few days she noticed she had grown a little and could begin to stretch out and look up to the sky again.
However, after a few weeks the sun burned so hot she lost all her beautiful green color and turned brown and dry. She thought for sure the end was near, except just at that moment the rain came and she drank deeply of the cool moisture. Soon, again, she regained her color.
Something always seemed to happen to hurt her, or put her in danger; the ice and snow, the hot sun, people walking, running and jumping on her. She was in despair; life was not worth living this way. One day a beautiful butterfly landed close by. There was something wonderful about this butterfly and the blade of grass began to talk to her and eventually told her her story of sorrow.
The butterfly was very sympathetic and began to speak. 'I can understand how you feel but I must say I am quite surprised by your story. You see, from my perspective way up high above you in this field I watch you day after day. I see how you are so flexible that the worst storms never break you, no matter what happens to you - being stepped on repeatedly, being frozen or burnt, you always pick yourself up, look up and stretch yourself high to the sky and clouds. And when the wind blows I can hear your soft beautiful song.'
The blade of grass thanked the butterfly and was quiet for a long time. Then she began to smile to herself and hum a happy song - for she at last realized her whole life was one of success, not failure."
What message does this story bring to you and your life?
Emotions As Messages
(Don't Kill The Messanger)
by Anné Linden
Once upon a time there was a King who received a messenger from a far off land. The messenger brought news that the King's favourite daughter was about to marry the son of one of his most hated old enemies. The King was so angry that he killed the messenger on the spot. As the King's guards came to remove the body he discovered to his horror that the messenger was his daughter in disguise. Too late, he realized that she had disguised herself hoping to prepare him and dampen his angry reaction so that she could eventually reconcile him to her marriage and receive his blessings - for they loved each other deeply.
What is your first reaction to an uncomfortable or difficult emotion? Is it to seek ways - sometimes any way - to stop it, get away from it, kill it!
What is an emotion? These feelings that can run our lives, that are the glue that keeps us together or the force that can destroy us. An emotion is a thought or idea accompanied by a bodily sensation; it is experienced as a form of energy. We are frequently unaware of the original thought or the awareness is short-lived and fleeting. With intense and dramatic emotions such as joy or terror, the body sensations are obvious; however, when the emotion is more mundane and ordinary, as with boredom or annoyance, the physical sensations can be so subtle as not to be noticed.
There are no bad emotions; there are desirable and undesirable emotions, but no bad emotions. Because an emotion is painful or uncomfortable does not make it bad. When a loved one betrays you, it is human and appropriate to feel hurt and disappointed - you would be less than human if you did not.
You may not want to feel emotional pain, but when you find yourself in a hurtful situation it is appropriate to feel that hurt. The essential question about emotions is not whether they are good or bad, but whether the emotion is appropriate for the situation. That is, does the emotion match the circumstances. For example, a well-educated, intelligent woman who goes back to graduate school and sometimes feels confused and overwhelmed is feeling emotions that match or are appropriate for that situation. If however she goes from confusion into panic or terror, that emotion is inappropriate for that situation; it does not match the circumstances. When you're going through a divorce it is appropriate to feel loss and pain; it is not appropriate to feel these emotions every time your mate leaves for a day of work. This does not make these emotions bad - only inappropriate.
Being human you may often have these "inappropriate" emotions. What does this mean? You are being paged urgently! Any recurring emotion that does not match the situation is a signal - a message about some aspect of your life.
A young man is working as a vice president in the family business. He suffers from depression; yet the circumstances do not seem to warrant this response. He is married to a woman he loves, his first child is happy and healthy and he earns enough money to provide comfortably for his family. This emotion is a messenger. A messenger that is trying to tell him something about his life. Ordinarily he would ignore the feeling, hoping it would go away, drink or take anti-depressants, have an affair, work triple time - anything not to feel his depression. Encouraged to feel this emotion within the frame of learning about the message beneath the depression, he begins to realize that this emotion is about how and where he spends his working life. Deep down he has never wanted to be in business and work in a city, in a skyscraper, in a sterile office. He really wants to work outside in the freedom of the fresh air, in contact with the earth and nature - growing things. He wants to be a farmer. Now if he had killed the messenger - buried the depression with pills, liquor, sex, work, he never would have realized this essential truth about himself and probably ended up divorced, estranged from his child, with an ulcer or worse, dissatisfied and wasting his potential for a fulfilling life.
Emotions are a gift that makes and keeps us human - you have a right to feel any and every emotion you experience. When they match the circumstances they express your humanity, heal and complete the experience so that you can go on with your life cleanly without the excess baggage of unrecognized or unexpressed emotions. When they do not match the circumstances they become opportunities to learn something important about yourself and your life. That is when you must listen - these emotions are your teachers, don't run away from them. Ask yourself, "what is this emotion trying to tell me about my life?" A middle-aged woman constantly felt guilty about the cleanliness of her house. She was overly conscientious about cleaning, so that she was always tired and neglected her family. When she tried to relax and do a little less in order to enjoy her family more she was plagued with guilt. She was encouraged to pursue the message beneath the emotion of guilt - for it was certainly inappropriate for the situation. The universal message of guilt is that you have violated your own standards. This woman discovered that she wasn't using her standards for cleanliness; she had been using her mother's standards and always falling short. When she developed and used her own standards she began to spend less time cleaning, felt good about her house and family, and was free of guilt.
The message is different for each person; however, there are certain universal messages contained in some of the more common, frequently experienced emotions. The following list is a guide to help you explore and learn from your emotions.
GUILT: A message that you have violated your own standards. Be sure you are truly using your standards, and that they are appropriate for the situation. You can modify and adjust standards and learn for the future.
DISAPPOINTMENT: A message to change expectations. Disappointment results from not having our expectations met.
DEPRESSION: A message that you need to change something about yourself and/or your life.
HOPELESS: A message to let go of something.
JEALOUSY: A message that your emotional well-being is threatened.
ENVY: A message that there is something you want. Is "it" worthwhile enough to go after?
STUCK: A message to go outside of yourself and gather more information and resources.
ANGER: A message about the need to stop the abuse - from self toward self or from others toward self.
PROCRASTINATION: A message that either you don't know how to do something, or you don't want to.
Emotions are your friends, your allies - not to be used as excuses to avoid thinking or taking action; but to respect and learn from. When you allow yourself to feel something you are in process and that process moves you forward so that pretty soon you're feeling something else and moving on. Sometimes people are afraid that if they 'give in' to their emotions they'll drown in them. Just the opposite is true; "giving in" to them will move you through the tunnel to the light of learning and change at the end. Emotions don't get us into trouble - it's the emotions we have about our emotions that trap us and keep us on a treadmill of negativity and stagnation.
Emotions are our teachers and opportunities to learn and change. Listen for the message and don't kill the messenger.
by Anné Linden
Self-Hypnosis is similar to praying. When we pray we address our thoughts, desires, hopes and fears to an entity - a being greater than ourselves whom we consider to be God. Prayers are conversations, requests and appreciations. People find prayer to be comforting, nurturing and beneficial to their lives.
Let me suggest that Self-Hypnosis is also a form of prayer. We have two minds: the conscious mind and the unconscious mind. The conscious mind is in charge of immediate awareness - right now your are aware of these words. When driving a car you are aware of the left signal light of the car in front of you. The sound of the horn blowing behind you and your thoughts about being late for work. There are many other sights and sounds around you but you are not conscious of them. This is because our conscious mind is limited to being capable of paying attention to only between 5 and 9 pieces of information at any one moment.
The unconscious mind is like a vast storehouse in which every experience, all our knowledge, our memories, our abilities are safely kept. It is the reservoir of our unlimited potential. The unconscious also organizes information into categories by making connections and generalizations and give meaning to experience. Our resources and abilities often get connected to certain types of experiences and situations so that they do not seem available to us at other times.
In self-hypnosis we are addressing our unconscious mind - our unlimited potential; asking for help with problems or unrealized goals. The premise is that the unconscious has stored the experiences of numerous resources and has the ability to make connections' creating new associations and realizations.
Some of the benefits of self-hypnosis are" Deep Relaxation, Centering, Self Appreciation, New Insights, and Understandings, Clarifications, Renewed Energy and Access to Resources.
There are three phases to Self-Hypnosis:
PHASE I: Preparation. Decide how long you want the trance to last. I recommend between 5 and 20 minutes.
Determine what you want your unconscious to do during this time. There are several possibilities: 1) Access a specific resource and bring into your present situation; 2) Review a problem, find a resource that would help resolve it and connect that resource to the problem; 3) Review a future desired goal; 4) Relaxation, deepening a state of calm, rest, centeredness and pleasure. As you sit comfortably in a quiet place literally ask your unconscious to help you in some way and give it a specific time frame. For example, "I would like you - my unconscious mind - to help me access my resource of creativity and use it as I write this article. Please review several of my experiences of creativity and bring forth what I need as I write. This work will be for 10 minutes. Thank you."
Remember asking your unconscious for help is like asking God for help - my mother used to remind me when I was a child that you do not ask God for a million dollars or a new car, but the abilities and opportunities to earn them.
PHASE II: Inducing Self-Hypnosis Sit comfortably in a quiet place find a spot in front of you that you can stare at and continue to do so until you close your eyes. As you hold your gaze on that spot say to yourself, "And I am aware of seeing." describe one thing that you can see. Do this four times with different images; each time describing something different. Move on to what you can hear, "I can hear..." describing one thing you can hear. Do this four times with different sounds. Move on to kinesthetic - physical feelings, "I can feel..." describing one physical sensation you are aware of. Do this four times with different sensations.
For example, "I am aware of seeing the light coming in the window, I can see the curtains moving with the wind, etc. I can hear the sound of traffic outside. I can hear the hiss of the heating pipes, etc. I can feel my feet on the floor. I can feel my chest rising and falling as I breathe," etc.
The second round you do the same - describing what you see, hear, and feel except only 3 statements of each. The third round you use 2 statements each of what you can see, hear, and feel. Finally, for the fourth round do 1 statement of each. You must continue to stare at your chosen spot. Do not move your eyes, until you can no longer hold them open and you want to close them. Then simply describe what you see inwardly when you get to the visual statements.
PHASE III: The Altered State This is simply a state of highly focused attention that is different from your normal waking state. A state where the focus is inward and a bridge has been built to your unconscious. There is no right or wrong way to do this; your response to what is happening is what’s important. Remember while your conscious mind day dreams about your next vacation or worries about going shopping, your unconscious mind is doing what it does best - journeying in response to your direction and request. Your unconscious mind is a friend, an ally and an incredible resource.. It will do as you ask - just be clear and simple. Allow whatever happens to happen. Let go and relax.
Accept, enjoy and attend to your wonderful unconscious mind. Create and support in a friendly way your relationship with it. This is another form of prayer. Only this is not directly to God but to your inner self, your potential, your soul. It is easy, it only takes a few moments and will give back to you untold benefits.