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An epiphany, long delayed

February 11, 2018
Once Upon a Time, there was a retired Navy officer who called himself “RM” and who wrote on a daily basis. Though he was not a great writer, over time he could see the quality of what he wrote beginning to improve. Having reached the point of trying his hand at fiction, he was working on a novella to be included in an anthology of different authors. He even had a blog, for which he tried to write on at least a semi-regular basis. Then, one day, for no particular reason, he simply stopped writing. He found himself unable to even let others know why he was not writing. He spent a long time effectively wandering around in the darkness and wondering what had happened to his desire to write. It would be a long time before he found his answer.
As a life coach and hypnotist, I talk to my clients a lot about the subconscious. The job of the subconscious, I tell them, is to protect us. The subconscious does not do this by making sure we do what is right. The subconscious does not care about right and wrong. It does not protect us by making sure we do what is moral or ethical (again, it does not care about right and wrong). It does not protect us by making sure we do what is in our best interests. How, then, does the subconscious protect us? It protects us by focusing on a simple dichotomy. That dichotomy is familiar vs. unfamiliar. To the subconscious, that which is familiar is positive (not “good,” mind you, but positive or to be preserved) and the unfamiliar is negative. Change, then, is by definition negative. From the standpoint of  hypnosis, this explains why so many people who wish to change a particular behavior or habit so often sabotage their efforts. Even though the desired change may be in a person’s best interest, the subconscious perceives it as a negative thing. It also at least partially explains why some people remain in unhealthy relationships even though they know they are unhealthy (or why they leave one only to enter into another). The planned change, which can run the gamut from the mundane to the extraordinary, is perceived by the subconscious as a threat.
I have seen this in clients who own small businesses. After struggling for years to make a business profitable, after just as many years of rigid discipline, when they are finally right on the verge of becoming financially independent, they will engage in some act of self-sabotage that destroys all their hard work. It makes no sense – until we recognize the role of the subconscious in providing psychological protection. The thing they wanted, the thing toward which they had been working, was so different from what was “normal” or familiar to them that it had to go. The temptation is to say this is rare, but it is not. Whether it is quitting smoking, finally getting out of unhealthy relationships,building a successful business, becoming a published author or a myriad of other things.
I happen to be a registered nurse. Many healthcare professionals like to say that nurses and physicians make the worst patients. There is some truth to that, though not for the reasons many people think. We tend, as a rule, to not be rude to those who care for us when we are sick or injured. We recognize their professionalism and we really do try to make their jobs easier. After all, we have been where they are and remember well the frustration of dealing with uncooperative patients and clients. We tend to not fuss or complain. No, our tendency to be poor patients manifests itself in a different way. We tend to not take care of ourselves. Many of us smoke, drink to excess, overwork, eat poorly, get into dysfunctional relationships or fail to exercise. In short, we fail to do the things that will keep us from being patients or clients. We can see the effects of these sorts of behaviors in those for whom we provide care, but so often we are either unable to change them in ourselves. Sometimes, we cannot even see them in ourselves. It is odd, but borne out by the experiences of many of us in the helping professions. Which brings me back to the story.
Finally, after a long time, RM spoke with a person he had helped many times over the years. Because of RM’s influence and suggestions, this man was well on his way to making for himself the life he wanted. This man had even become a hypnotist himself as part of changing his life. He listened to RM as he spoke of his inability to write anymore and of his frustration at being unable to find the cause. He spoke but a few words. “Fear of change,” he said. And finally, at long last, the lights came on.
I am a retired Navy officer. It is a big part of my self-image. Included in that self-image is the fact that I always do what I have said I will do. My subconscious fear of change, my fear of possibly being able to make a go of the whole writing thing, lead me to fail to do what I had promised another person I would do. I have apologized, directly, to this person. Though I certainly hope he accepts my apology, that is a decision only he can make. My responsibility and my decision is to change my behavior and to become more than I am (the very thing I help my clients do)…and to start writing, again.
This concludes my mea culpa.
Now, I have discovered there is a lot I suddenly want to write! How cool is that?

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