We live in possibly the most materialistic time in the history of the human race. That is not to say that this particular time is a greater time of selfish desire for “things,” however. What I mean by materialism is the idea that unless we see, hear, touch, or sense something, it does not exist, or at least it is not important. This idea, introduced to us mainly during the Age of Enlightenment, crept into nearly all disciplines by the end of the eighteenth century. In such thinking, if we cannot sense it, then we dismiss it, ignore, it, laugh at it, insult it. It has made atheism its religion and practical science its idol. It relegates anything beyond the five senses to the mystical, the ghostly, the spiritual, or the ignorant. Such materialism claims a superior intellect. It says, “I don’t want to think about those unseen experiences/activities. I am above all of that balderdash.” Maybe people who think that way are simply afraid of what they do not know.
The story is told of a man who goes down to the river to read a book. Whilst reading, he notices an old fellow trout fishing. As the fisherman pulls in fish after fish, the man notices a strange behavior. After reeling in a big fish, he tosses it back into the river. After he reels in a small fish, he drops it into a basket, presumably for the night’s dinner. Observing the behavior for a while, the observer could no longer contain his curiosity. He dropped his book on the bench, got up, and approached the man. “Pardon me, sir, but I have a question. I observe that as you catch the trout, you save the small ones but toss the large ones. Is there, perhaps, a difference in the flavor?” The fisherman replies, “Oh no, it’s not that at all. It’s just that I only have a six inch frying pan.”
Like the fisherman, it is our tendency to reject ideas that do not fit our preconceived ideas, ideas we do not understand, or ideas we have not yet learned about. Those forces beyond our senses may confuse us or even scare us as they cause us to acknowledge forces beyond ourselves. At best, we raise our eyebrows and simply ignore those ideas which are “beyond us,” maybe even relegating them to comedy. At worst, we assume that some concept which does not fit into our “frying pan” must be unwholesome or evil. Maybe as we mature, we simply learn to avoid those things which we do not understand as a form of self-protection. Whatever the case, we miss out.
Hypnosis is one field that is often relegated to the spiritual, the ghostly, or the demonic world, thanks in large part to Hollywood (think The Manchurian Candidate). We file hypnosis with Ouija Boards, psychics, palm readers, tarot cards, astrologists, and TV faith healers. When a hypnotist or hypnotherapist stands to speak, we vaguely hear the theme song from The Twilight Zone begin to play in our heads.
I want to offset these negative perceptions of hypnotherapy. In Part II of this book, therefore, I will establish the science and practical applications of hypnosis as a tool for therapy in offering fast relief for many long term behavioral-related maladies. I want to show that despite our fears or our misgivings, hypnotherapy is actually a tool we all use daily in one form or another. It is how we cope every day. It is how we function every day. It is how we entertain ourselves every day.
Think back to the last time you sat bored at a meeting or in a classroom, for example. What did you do? I would suspect that you daydreamed your way through that tiresome meeting. Daydreaming is actually a form of self-hypnosis!
Or think back to a time you took a long, familiar drive somewhere. Did you suddenly realize that you had not been paying attention to traffic, but rather you had been lost in thought for miles and miles? Although we may be concerned about our inattention, we also know something within us would have reacted to bring us quickly back to reality in a traffic crisis. Such an experience is highway hypnosis.
Or consider the last time you became engrossed in a good book, movie, or football game. In moments like these, time stops and outside distractions disappear. We become hyper-focused and immersed in our experience. Athletes refer to this experience as being “In the Zone.” The stereotypical football widow knows this experience all too well. She cannot get her husband’s attention at all while his team is battling on the gridiron. It’s almost like he is hypnotized! Guess what? He is! Hypnosis is a part of our everyday experiences.
As human beings, we have seen instances in which our instincts or drives take over when we have no real time to think. Sometimes these habits or instincts even trump what we consider appropriate behavior. At times, we may say we did something unconsciously, and we would be exactly correct. We are not just turning a phrase; we are speaking true science.
Where do these experiences exist? How do they function? Is there a way to examine and change the “unconscious” programs that affect us throughout each day in order to improve our lives? We can find the answers in what I call “the middle mind.”