What’s in the way of following our bliss?
Surely, it’s easy to come up with a long answer to this question, as we can list countless reasons why we find ourselves incapable of making positive choices in life and being happy. But the truth is that most humans get a kick out of being miserable. No point in denying this simple fact; scientific studies prove that our brain is wired for negativity (please see What Is the Negativity Bias? Article under References).
Research also shows that our default tendency is to say “no” and protect ourselves from change. According to an article from Psychology Today (The Power of No; please see under References), “the human brain is hardwired to respond to No more quickly, more intensely, and more persistently than to a positive signal. No is stronger than Yes.”
Of course, knowing when to say “no” is an important survival skill. The problem is when we get stuck on the “no.” Since change is the fiber of life (and one of the only constants in our lives), that means we tend to spend a lot of our time and energy resisting change by trying to avoid or control it, which is a sure recipe for misery. As misery loves company, we often contribute to making others around us miserable by resisting the changes they might be ready to make, trying to hold them back or resenting them when and if they do manage to change their lives. In turn, they do the same for us.
Another reason that prevents us from finding our bliss and keeps us stuck in misery is not being able to let go of the past. Past trauma can lead to PTSD and other serious issues that often need to be addressed with professional help. However, there’s always a choice to be made: Seeing ourselves as victims and refusing to let the past go, or acknowledging, accepting and working to heal from past suffering, remembering that our past experiences helped shape who we are.
So what’s the solution?
6 Rules for Leaving Your Misery Behind:
- Being willing to use “no,” while at the same time going with the flow. Developing and maintaining healthy boundaries is vital for allowing ourselves the space to seek self-fulfillment and live well. On the other hand, misery ensues when we keep saying “no” to the flow of life. The trick is to tap into our inner and higher guidance to find a balance between “no” and “yes.”
- Accepting change as a fact of life without trying to control it. Remember Ben Franklyn’s ol’ adage, “nothing is certain, except death and taxes”? The word “change” should be added to that saying. No point in digging our heels; it’s gonna happen...
- Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. Life is full of discomfort. Trying to constantly avoid it doesn’t serve us well; it just makes us afraid and keeps us stuck.
- Reconciling with the past with the help of some core work. We can use tools we’ve familiar with (such as forgiveness) and learn new tools or get professional help.
- Sharing our story with the right audience as part of our healing process, and as a means to help inspire and guide others through their own challenges.
- Consciously choosing to leave misery behind! It does take a conscious choice or decision on our part. Less misery means more room for bliss!
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 05/26/22
Photo by Edward Howell on Unsplash
What Is the Negativity Bias?
The Power of No
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…But Being Defined by Labels Can Become a Deficiency
Never before have we had access to so much information about… well, pretty much everything. That can be helpful and useful in many ways, if we have the discernment to sift through the overload of available information and determined what’s accurate, what’s inaccurate, what’s distorted by the sponsors behind the information being disseminated, and so forth. If we do manage to come out on the other side of the maze, there’s plenty of reliable information we can access on our own or through reputable healthcare professionals to help answer our questions.
Due to the outspread availability of information, it has also become easier to label conditions, even when those labels mean that current knowledge doesn’t have all the answers and healthcare professionals don’t really have a clue about what’s going on or how to cure it. Still, there are plenty of labels that get thrown around in relation to diseases and illnesses with internal, external and unknown causes that doctors can’t quite define or understand, from autoimmune to brain-related/neurological conditions such as RA, Fibromyalgia, Autism and Alzheimer’s, to name just a few.
On one hand, it’s important to know as much as possible about health issues and conditions that may limit our lives in any way. Knowledge is power; it can enable us to manage such issues and maintain a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle.
On the other hand, being defined by such labels can become a deficiency if that instills fear in us, preventing us from living life to the best of our abilities. It can become a deficiency if we accept these labels without question and feel limited to the point where they are used as excuses to stop growing, to justify the belief that we’re not capable of pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone, trying to overcome our circumstances and doing better every day. Labeling can lead to resignation that makes us forget the power of the mind and spirit.
As someone who deals with frequent anxiety and even the occasional panic attack due to OCPD, and who has discovered as an adult that I might be on the lower end of the neurodivergent spectrum (in addition to having physical issues such as herniated disks and hip repair surgery), I understand how difficult it can be to deal with and manage a limiting condition. Because I don’t want to take medication, managing myself takes a combination of alternative therapies (hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, flower essences, essential oils, etc), along with regular meditation, breathing techniques, etc. Exercising and practicing yoga also help; so do writing and coloring book therapy. In other words, proper self care is vital; that includes establishing priorities and strong boundaries that involve plenty of quiet time, while not neglecting to stay connected with loved ones. I also developed the habit of deliberately shifting my thinking when I start obsessing and feeling anxious about something; I try to focus on the ultimate goal, set my intention and simply say to myself: "I give this to God (or my guides, Angels, Source, Universe, etc)." That opens the space to receive clear guidance and be able to follow it, even when it’s unsettling. Not beating myself up for not being perfect is also key!
Of course, each individual has different needs and needs to find their own ways to cope or recover; but here are some additional tools that have been effective for myself, my clients and others who have tried them:
- Rather than reminding myself of why I can't do something, I make sure to constantly re-frame that thought by teaching myself how I can do anything I set my intention to accomplish.
- Hypno-coaching can help jump-start healing on a subconscious level by using scripts such as Gateway to Healing by Linda Bennett and Self-Health by A. Chips.
- The Emotion Code is a simple technique to help release trapped negative emotions from the body: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3g7pRNLJKh4
- Mel Robbins' 5 Second Rule and other similar techniques are effective shortcuts to trick the brain into doing what I want it to do: htthttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nI2VQ-ZsNr0
- The morning pages exercise (also known as brain drain or mind dump) is a powerful method of uncluttering the brain and opening the space for creative solutions to life’s puzzle:
Here's Everything I Learned From Doing Morning Pages Every Day
FINAL WORD: We are all works in progress, doing the best we know how at any given moment. Whatever challenges we deal with on the physical, mental emotional and spiritual levels, we are the only ones with the power to define ourselves; and that in itself is an organic, ever-changing process. Let’s not get stuck on a label!
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 09/28/21
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
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More Than Best Friends
After the shooting at the Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016, a local Lutheran church which has an outreach program with the LGBT community joined forces with other churches and organizations around the country to invite 12 comfort dogs to come to Orlando. These wonderful dogs were brought to work with injured victims and their relatives, the family members and friends of those who lost their lives, and the emergency workers in attendance. They helped provide temporary calm and consolation to those in need during a traumatic week. It was heart-warming to see them at work, to watch their interaction with so many people in need of healing. Many people would just start crying as they petted the dogs. Comfort dogs (and animals in general) have the capacity to pick up the emotions of those who pet them, and are great listeners who don’t judge and offer unconditional love. They also help make it safe for people in pain to drop their guard and express their feelings.
Humans and animals have always shared a strong bond. Anyone who has a connection with their animal companions understands how rewarding it is. This bond has often been a source of solace and relief for those who suffer from physical or emotional pain. But a growing body of scientific research is showing that our pets can also help make us healthy, or healthier. That helps explain why Pet Therapy (which includes Animal-Assisted Therapy or AAT, and other Animal-Assisted activities) is a growing field, having gained a lot of popularity over the last few years. There has been an increasing use of animals (mostly dogs and cats; but also horses, birds and fish) in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, jails and mental institutions.
According to Aubrey Fine, a clinical psychologist and professor at California State Polytechnic University, the use of pets in medical settings dates back more than 150 years. But it was only in the late 1970s that researchers started to discover the science behind it, and a great number of studies have been published since.
For years, animals have been used with great benefit in the treatment of the elderly and the terminally ill. Animal-Assisted Therapy has also been shown to help children who have experienced abuse or neglect, as well as patients undergoing chemotherapy or other difficult medical treatments. These days, AAT is also helping sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The use of pets for assisting veterans and their families who are struggling to cope with the effects of wartime military service is becoming more common, due to the many success stories of pets helping PTSD patients greatly reduce their symptoms. Studies reveal a high success rate with the use of dogs, cats, birds, horses and even dolphins in PTSD treatment. According to an Elements Behavioral Health’s blog article (Animal Therapy Is Making Strides In The Treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), “in one study of the effect of dogs with patients, psychologists noted an 82% reduction in symptoms. One particular case noted that interacting with the dog for as little as one week, enabled a patient to decrease the amount of anxiety and sleep medications by half.” The studies have been so encouraging that the Department of Defense is investing close to $300,000 in this type of treatment.
Pet Therapy can also help patients with OCD and other psychiatric conditions. Here’s a touching video from America's Got Talent featuring a contestant with a disabling form of OCD who says that his dog has changed his life. They obviously share a strong connection, which anyone can notice when they perform together:
America's Got Talent 2016 Patrick & Ginger The Most Talented Dog in the World
Some of the many reasons why Pet Therapy works:
1) Animal companions require care and attention, which keeps the patients busy, active and distracted from their health challenges. They also reinforce rehabilitation behavior in patients (for instance, by getting them to walk or throw a ball).
2) Animal companions offer unconditional love, which is the most healing feeling anyone can receive.
3) Animal companions inspire altruistic love. By doing something for another being, a person can reduce depression. Loving others is a depression antidote.
4) Animal companions are wonderfully accepting creatures. As I mentioned above, they make great non-judgmental listeners, providing a safe space for emotions to be expressed.
5) Animal companions lower blood pressure, relieve stress, reduce anxiety, boost the immune system and more. Countless studies show the health benefits of riding a horse, playing with a dog or a cat, etc.
In short, Pet Therapy can promote healing of mind, body and spirit in many children, adults and seniors suffering from countless different issues. And one of the best things about therapy that involves animal companions is that it goes both ways. Animals also benefit from their special bond with their human companions and can find healing along with their caretakers; especially animals commissioned from shelters, who often have a history of abuse and neglect. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 06/29/2016
NOTE: This blog article was published on the September 2016 issues of Natural Awakenings - Central Florida/Orlando Edition (link below)
Natural Awakenings CF - September 2016
Article: Animal Companions - Pet Therapy Offers Many Benefits; pgs. 32-33
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What Hypnosis Is and Isn't
As a hypnotherapist, part of my work with clients involves explaining how hypnotherapy works and playing the role of “myth buster.” That has become necessary because of the great amount of mistaken notions about hypnosis that’s out there, mostly due to misrepresentation on TV shows, movies, etc. It doesn’t help that hypnotherapy is often compared to and confused with stage hypnosis and other entertainment-driven practices such as mentalism, street magic, etc. It’s been my experience that a lot of people, including other practitioners and healthcare professionals, share at least a few misconceptions about hypnosis.
One recent example came from a client of mine. After a few sessions, she started noticing marked positive change. This client happens to be someone who goes easily and deeply into trance, and hardly ever remembers much about the session on a conscious level. As it often happens in these situations, she couldn’t believe that something as seemingly simple and easy as a hypnosis session (which she often felt as if she’d slept through and couldn’t even remember), could start making such a big difference in her life. So, every time we’d meet, she would question me about how hypnotherapy works. I was only too glad to answer all her questions to help her feel as comfortable as possible with the process. One of those times, however, she mentioned that she had spoken about it to someone she knew, a massage therapist who claimed to also be trained in hypnotherapy. She had told this person that she was mostly zoned out during her sessions and couldn’t remember almost anything. The well-intentioned but ill-informed practitioner told her that it was not working, then; and added that she needed to be alert and engaged for it to work. So I had to explain to my client that this is one of the most common misconceptions about hypnotherapy. I told her that, although it might feel like being asleep during session sometimes, she’s really not completely asleep or unconscious. She’s actually in a sleep-like state or somnambulism, which is between awake and asleep (in the Alpha/Theta zones), and not in deep sleep (Delta zone); in that state, she might lose conscious awareness but her subconscious is still engaged, listening to the sound of my voice in the background and duly recording the message. That’s how she always knows when I’m counting her back up (which is referred to as “awakening”). As my client was still looking a bit unsure, and also wondering about the content of the scripts I had been using, I offered to show her the script I had used in our last session, explaining that it would give her a good idea of what we had covered but it wouldn’t be exact, since I customize it for each client. Well, the moment my client started looking at the script, she cried out in instant recognition: “Oh, I remember this! I remember the door and the key and everything!” Merely glancing at the script was enough for her conscious mind to get triggered into remembering what her subconscious had already recorded. She was quite surprised about it, and was finally convinced that the therapy was working as it should, and her subconscious was doing its job.
Light or Deep Trance? Trance levels vary for countless reasons. For instance, some scripts are more interactive than others, so you might be more alert during those. Or you might be curious about the process or a bit nervous during your first session, which could also cause you to stay more alert. Or your levels of stress might be higher than usual that day; or unexpected background noises might pull you out of your relaxation mode; or your mind might be distracted by your to-do list; etc. Or you might simply feel more comfortable staying alert through the process. Of course, the therapist will do the best to help you stay relaxed and engaged in spite of distractions. But, in general, your own subconscious will do whatever is best for you at the time. If there’s something you need to remember on a conscious level, you will be more alert during the session; or go in and out (in for the part you need to remember consciously and out for the part that you will retain more on a subconscious level). If your subconscious needs your conscious mind out of the way for some deep healing and change, you are likely to zone out for most of it. As illustrated above, if you do go into a deep hypnotic state (or sleep-like state), you might not remember everything (or anything) on a conscious level, once you are awake. And that’s OK; your subconscious mind still records the message. You can actually train your mind to stay conscious and aware during a deep trance, but that’s not necessary for the hypnotic suggestion to work. On the other hand, it is possible for a client to get completely detached from the environment and go into the Delta zone (deep sleep). However, the tell-tale signs are clear, and at that point the hypnotherapist can bring the client out of hypnosis a bit, making the trance lighter.
IN SHORT: Hypnotherapy works through subliminal suggestion, regardless of how deep the state of hypnosis. The hypnotic trance achieved by the client can be light, deep and everything in between; and significant change can happen at any level of trance. The only exception I’m aware of is medical hypnosis for pain management or control. In this case, the client needs to reach a deeper trance for best results. You can learn more about the science behind Hypnotherapy (including studies proving its effectiveness and theories discussing why it works) by exploring the sources under References.
OTHER HYPNOSIS AND HYPNOTHERAPY FACTS:
1) About Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy. Hypnosis is a trance or altered state of consciousness that's between waking and sleep, and is characterized by increased suggestibility, relaxation and heightened imagination. It's a natural state which we achieve many times throughout the day, without even realizing it (for instance, when we become so involved driving, watching TV or a movie, or reading a book, etc, that we lose awareness of where we are). We just don’t refer to it as going into a hypnotic trance; we call it “zoning out.” Hypnotherapy is a therapeutic method of healing by using hypnosis.
2) Hypnotherapy is completely different from stage hypnotism, mentalism, street magic, etc. What entertainers seek to accomplish is to distract your conscious mind through rapid induction and confusion techniques, so that they can get you to temporarily believe certain things and act in certain ways for the purpose of entertainment. But for that to work, you still need to be a willing participant. And even when it does work, it will be short-lived, as your subconscious will seek to go back to normal (and “normal” is certainly not clucking like a chicken!). This process is called homeostasis, or a natural state of balance, and it will soon occur even without suggestion removal by the entertainer. A hypnotherapist, on the other hand, discusses goals with you before the session so that you are aware of and in agreement with the positive suggestions that will be made to the subconscious during the session. Then the hypnotherapist intentionally induces a trance to help bring you into a relaxed and focused state, which makes the positive suggestions much more effective. And even in such planned circumstances, if you have too much resistance or mixed feelings about the goals you are trying to accomplish, your subconscious might not accept the positive suggestions, or just accept them to a certain degree. The bottom line is: the more motivated you are, the better it works.
3) Hypnotherapy is not mind control. Nobody can force you to do anything you don’t want to do through hypnosis. You have to be willing to accept the suggestions. As I mentioned above, even in the case of stage hypnosis, the participants need to be willing to play the game.
4) Hypnosis is not dangerous. There has never been a documented case of harmful results from the therapeutic use of hypnosis. It is easy to be brought back from a hypnotic trance; there has never been a documented case of someone unable to come out of it.
5) All hypnosis is a form of self hypnosis. Different techniques can be used, either on your own or with a hypnotherapist as your guide. But even when you engage the help of a hypnotherapist, it’s your subconscious doing the work of opening up to and accepting suggestions for positive change. As I mentioned before, the more motivated you are, the better it works. Most people are capable of reaching a hypnotic state, as long as they are motivated to do so.
6) Hypnotherapy does not work better on weaker minds. In fact, the stronger the will and imagination of a person, the more likely they are to achieve success in hypnosis. This is because people are most influenced by their own suggestions and, in actuality, put themselves in a hypnotic state. A therapist's role is to guide them in this process. Hypnotherapy will only be effective if you want to be helped and want to resolve your problem. In a hypnotic state you will either accept or refuse a suggestion.
7) Potential Issues with Hypnotherapy. There are some issues which can potentially decrease the effectiveness of hypnotherapy by impeding or slowing down progress, such as resistance (often caused by the client being of two minds about a goal; having fear of symptom removal; trying too hard; being over analytical; having lack of rapport with the therapist; suffering from extreme anxiety or other mental health issues; etc). The hypnotherapist should be able to help the client through some of these issues, at least to a certain degree; however, the client needs to be willing and open to change. The combination of hypnotherapy with counseling or other behavior modification practices can be beneficial in such cases.
There are also potential risks involving hypnosis; some of these are: abreaction (a strong emotional reaction to a memory); physical reactions (especially if the client has epilepsy, lung or respiratory disease, etc); recollection of blocked memories (which can cause an abreaction); and false memories. It is important to remember that such occurrences can be great opportunities for a client to remove, resolve and release past issues or trauma. It’s also important to understand that recollected “memories” might be real; but they could be distorted and embellished, much like being in a dream state. Such recollections could also be just a symbolic representation of what the client felt during a hurtful or traumatic moment. A qualified hypnotherapist should be prepared for and able to handle such issues, and also know when to call for additional professional help or refer the client.
8) Hypnotherapy is a safe, natural and non-invasive way to guide you through positive change. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Hypnosis that's conducted by a trained therapist or health care professional is considered a safe, complementary and alternative medical treatment.” It can be of great use in the treatment of many behavioral, physical and psychological conditions, such as stress, anxiety and panic, fears and phobias, pain, fatigue, health issues, sleep distress, self esteem and motivation, loss and separation, depression, learning disabilities, bed-wetting and many others. It is often used for weight loss, smoking cessation, athletic performance, natural child birth, regression, etc.
BOTTOM LINE: So, once you choose a qualified professional or learn how to practice self-hypnosis, how do you get the most out of your sessions? Simply put: motivation... and an open mind.
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 05/12/2016
Image by the 33D Animation Production Company from Pixabay
Clinical Hypnotherapy: A Transpersonal Approach, by Allen S. Chips, DCH, PhD
Hypnosis for Change, by Josie Hadley and Carol Staudacher
On The Hypnotic Induction
Scientific Theories of Hypnosis
Various research, training and educational materials supplied by SWIHA - Southwest Institute of Healing Arts