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We Are All Energy Workers (A Book Review)

In The Women’s Book of Healing, Diane Stein presents both theory and practice for developing our natural skills to project healing energy.

In the theory, physical dis-ease (Stein used hyphens to emphasize the tendency of the being toward wellness) is the manifestation of energetic imbalances in the psychic layers that surround it. Those layers focus the emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of our lives. As Stein explains, the layers also host one or more chakra energy centers, each chakra having a corresponding color in the rainbow. Red is the color of the body, progressing outward to purple at the highest spiritual layer. Beyond that is the transpersonal layer, which as the source of all colors is white.

Obviously much of this is metaphorical – concepts built over milennia that humanity uses to access energies that reach all the down to subatomic realities. For that reason, there are some inconsistencies. As Stein testifies in discussion of practice, healers that honor the intentions of the “Goddess” can dispense with the metaphors.

Stein explains not only how to use the metaphors for healing, but how to heighten sensitivity through meditative practices. That begins with the ability to see the psychic layers as auras. Next comes color visualization as the healer scans upwards through the chakra centers in the physical body. In remote healing, dis-ease is imagined as blotches on the psychic layers. “Tinker Woman” work describes the development of personal healing metaphors (stapling cuts closed, putting in faucets and drains for blockages).

Laying on of hands is more abstract, dealing directly with energy flows. The book ends with chapters on crystal work, building and enhancing the color metaphors at the beginning of the book.

The resources of the earth is emphasized throughout as essential to grounding energies, thereby avoiding transference and to ensuring that both parties (healer and healed) are not left open to harmful invasion.

In talking about these methods, the book is generally light-hearted and generous. According to Stein, the ethic of the woman healer is to work without compensation. Respect for the autonomy of the dis-eased is emphasized again and again.

Where most fault is to be found is in Stein’s militant feminism. Matriarchy is good, patriarchy is evil. Conflation of patriarchy and allopathic medicine is rampant. Both serve to suppress women’s self esteem, seeing their bodies and intentions as foul and inferior. Male practitioners are recognized, but their contributes are cast as “finding the Goddess within.” Conversely, Stephen Harrod Buhner (The Lost Language of Plants) reports that many country doctors were intuitive herbalists.

I have reached out to Stein with the observation that the ethic she mandates is modern. Allopathic medicine (surgery and medicine) was pursued in part to guarantee that both patients and doctors were protected from psychic entanglements. Negative intentions can be projected in both directions. I know that a tender of money justifies abusive rage in clients that don’t receive the benefits they expect. But how else is a practitioner to stay alive? And how can we believe that those dependent upon their craft might not be moved to extort money from their clients?

The slipperiness of this slope is evident in one particular practice offered by Stein. This is the use of an imaginary “healing bag” to store negative energies collected during visualizations. These can be splotches on the aura or pools of negative energy. The practice, at the end of the session, is to imagine the bag burning up along with its contents.

But how did those splotches originate? Stein tends to the perspective that they all originate from patriarchal abuse, but I have met dragon ladies that fail to honor Stein’s ethic. Just as a healer can remove blotches, the dragon lady can tear pieces out of the souls of her victims. Those pieces never integrate properly, and so manifest as blotches that generate dis-ease in the dragon lady. Is it right to remove them and burn them up? Or should they be returned to their point of origin?

This contextuality is not acknowledged by Stein. It is non-trivial. Priests talk about predators the “lie with their whole being.” This is a practice used by abusers to hide their intentions behind the façade of victimization. (Their victims, after all, will naturally fight back against them.) Peering past that façade is safe only for practitioners that have progressed past the use of metaphors to work directly with the underlying spiritual forms.

When I was in graduate school, I met a massage therapist at a bar in Boulder. He troubled me with his difficulties clearing the negative energies he accumulated while working with Wall Street bankers. I finally told him “Look, don’t be an enabler.” Reading Stein’s work, I am concerned that she is unwittingly creating a culture of enablers. That concern is reinforced by the way my skin crawls every time she inveighs against “the patriarchy.” Damn it, Diane, their wives profit from that system as well.

So put away the hatred, and write a book that offers useful metaphors for transforming negative associations in the psychic layers. I’ll offer my own system in the near future.

And for those that wish to use the beautiful metaphors and practices collected by Stein: make sure that you know your clients well. To do otherwise is prideful, and leads down harsh and painful roads.

Mind Management

The Brain on Meditation

Cognition has two mechanisms: neural connections and supporting blood flow. The second has an underappreciated impact on our thinking.

Negative thought patterns are sustained because the inner mind believes that they are useful for our survival. Unfortunately, to sustain the supporting blood flow they require exercise now and then – else they atrophy (just like a muscle does). On the other hand, if we’re not careful they begin to run in loops in the background, starving other thoughts.

We can’t blame the negative thoughts – they’re just trying to maximize their ability to perform their function.

A function performed by the rational part of our mind (what Freud called the “super-ego”) is to regulate wayward thought patterns by pruning, and to fortify functional thought patterns. Where most of us think of this as changing the pattern of neuronal firing, the rebalancing of blood flow is also important.

We shouldn’t seek only happy thoughts, for they tend to passivity. We shouldn’t tolerate anxiety either, for it tends to isolation. We need balance. In building our capacity to control our thoughts, meditation helps us attain that balance. In emphasizing non-attachment to our thoughts, I think that the principal mechanism is reorganization of the blood flow in the brain. This achieves balance, while preserving the store of knowledge that allows us to move skillfully through the world.

Inspired by Rhi-Inspired’s post out at An Accidental Anarchist.

Basics

Personal Development: Part 8

Truth

I grew up in a thoughtful environment, surrounded by people that engaged the world with confidence. As I filled the gas tank after high school one day, I couldn’t believe my eyes as a woman in a Cadillac slowly backed her car up toward the tanker hoses, glancing expectantly over her shoulder for assistance. The bumper was over the valve when I put my hand up and commanded, “Stop!”

I’ve had my own moments: taking a bike down a steep incline to a dirt path. My step-son kept telling me that I wasn’t going to make it. After flipping over the handlebars at the bottom, I dusted the dirt from my t-shirt and shrugged. “See! No harm done.”

At least the lady in the Cadillac knew she needed advice.

For most of us, our self-talk was impressed upon us in childhood, when we were too naïve to defend ourselves. The judgments were delivered by parents who had little experience and often limited understanding of child development. But at least parents must take care of us after they make a mistake – something to give them caution.

Siblings and peers don’t have to clean up the mess they make in us. That allows them to be cruel.

Perhaps thus we have the wisdom from grandma, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” To those that can’t hold their tongue, it follows that you always say something nice. “You look great” to the size-ten woman wearing a size-six mini-skirt.

That doesn’t make sense either. We’re going around in circles.

Here’s how I smooth over arguments that go around in circles, each party quoting their own facts:

What is true is not nearly as important as what is possible.

We all make mistakes. The wise don’t pass judgment over mistakes, they learn from them and do better next time. If what you’ve been told about yourself isn’t working, see a hypnotherapist and come up with an alternative that does work.

Learning from a mistake is a two-part process. First, we need to know what happened. Then we look for elements that we could add to the experience to get a better outcome. In problem solving, we usually focus on the second step. But the first step is harder. If we don’t have witnesses, we have little chance of reconstructing our experience – simply because we can’t see ourselves in the situation.

If we do have witnesses, are they going to tell us what they saw, or what they think about what happened? The second is “You’re a dork.” The first is “well, when the front tire hit the path, your weight was forward of the axle, so you flipped over.” The second means “There’s something wrong with you,” the first means “You did something wrong.”

After we learn to heal and trust, we tend to say the first thing. We have empathy for the struggle to do right. We want to see others succeed, for in their success we gain strength as well. We establish a friend that wants us to succeed, and so will offer us trustworthy counsel.

We do confront a new challenge, however: with all this help being given and received, we develop new behaviors more rapidly. That’s a good thing, in general, but it has a consequence. Our dreams, goals and needs change. The people that brought us to those opportunities may not be able to carry us forward.

This is the plight of the housewife with the jet-setting husband, the commercial real-estate executive that can’t master social media, and the coach that loses the Super Bowl two years running. They live in anxiety that they’ll be left behind.

Couple having serious conversation in bed

It is in negotiating these anxieties that truth turns – literally – inside out. The jet-setter becomes psychologically ungrounded; social media only opens the door, it doesn’t close a deal. To appreciate the actual value of an existing relationship, the full lived experience needs to be revealed to each partner. Each party needs to submit to their partner’s witness. That means hiding nothing and never lying. It means living with integrity and in truth.

Why is this hard? Because we enter into partnerships for what we hope for, not for what we are now. We wanted to raise two happy children; we wanted to be number one in our rental placements. To live in truth and integrity, we must put our hopes on the shelf and allow the incomplete self to be revealed. (Our children aren’t yet grown up; we’re still number three.)

That’s a vulnerable thing to do. We reveal our limitations and weakness. It can only be done together.

But it must be done if we are going to continue to grow. Lying and hiding takes work, distracts attention, and degrades the commitment of our partner to our shared goals.

Hypnotherapy supports this process by evening out emotional turbulence. Anxiety often originates in experiences of violated trust early on the path to maturity. Euphoria felt among others can cause us to renege on our commitments – something seen as weakness by partners old and new.

More potently, however, in hypnosis guided imagery journeys of discovery can help us to understand how much power is liberated when we chose to live in truth. Living in truth allows our whole mind to unify behind the accomplishment of our goals.

It allows us to grasp possibilities that our conscious mind could never imagine.

Part 1 || Part 7 | Part 9

Basics

Personal Development: Part 7

Healing and Trust

The doorway to adulthood opens in that moment when we realize that we don’t know how to be an adult. The years from infancy to independence only teach us how to express ourselves. They don’t teach us how to be a responsible member of society.

By the end of a successful adolescence, we have found a competitive niche. We have found strengths that command support from our peers. But behind those strengths lie unresolved deficits. The masterful video gamer can’t sustain a romantic relationship. The social butterfly overspends her credit card. The project planner at work doesn’t allow time for play at his 5-year-old’s birthday party.

I have found this definition to be helpful:

An adult understands power and love and has the wisdom and experience to know when to express them.

Clearly this is an aspiration.

But the first three steps on our pathway to maturity focus on power. In survival the guiding concern is “How am I?” With sex we focus on “What is my identity?” During exchange we shift to “What is my value?” At every step, however, the self is first. We assume that everyone else will be taken care of. They have parents, after all.

When separation from the home is complete, however, we confront directly a fact that we always took for granted: whatever benefits (even if scanty and begrudged) we received from our parents, we received due to their love. With that support removed, how are we to survive?

The strong choose the path of force – they impose their will on the world. This is the method of the Second Amendment absolutist in America. Not trusting in love, the armed zealot wants to carry a concealed weapon everywhere. The problem with this strategy is that intimidation works though fear, and people don’t like being afraid. It’s both psychologically and physically draining. They resist, which builds fear in both parties.

The second option is to reassess our strategies for living and rebuild our personality with love as a conscious choice.

In the competitive modern world, that second choice is not easy. The Christian psychotherapist F. Scott Peck recognized this in the title of his landmark book “The Road Less Traveled.” Learning to love involves owning up to your flaws, taking responsibility for past wrongs, and making a commitment to healing not only for ourselves but for others.

The primary venue for this work is the sanctuaries of the major world religions. For those seeking to undertake serious internal work, the challenge is identifying and scheduling time with a mature spiritual guide.

The magic begins in healing. We realize that what didn’t kill us made us stronger. When we begin, it feels as though our heart is going to break. But the heart is a muscle, and the more it is exercised, the stronger and more sensitive it becomes. We learn to trust in its strength, and that allows us to be more trusting of others.

The principal role of the therapist is to provide encouragement and support. In bearing witness to our internal work, our therapist helps us to recognize when we need to take a few steps back from the edge or pick up the pace so that we can jump the next hurdle. Sessions are also an opportunity to feel how we are doing in a process that almost always brings up resistance from friends, family and employers.

Hypnotherapy offers powerful practices to facilitate this stage of development. Journaling allows us to clarify our goals and priorities. The Kappasinian Mental Bank allows us to enlist the subconscious as we broaden our concerns. Guided imagery journeys can identify hidden resources that we can integrate into our lives and allow us to visualize the results of behavior change. Spiritual guide work bypasses the doubting conscious mind to connect us through ancestors and ethereal beings to the universal source of love that sustains us in our growth to maturity.

But none of this is meaningful without the change that occurs between sessions. We learn how to integrate concern for others into our lives, and to balance concern for self and others. We build deeper and more satisfying relationships. We surrender control of the process of exchange, confident in the knowledge that when we have need others will rally to our aid.

Part 1 || Part 6 | Part 8

Basics

Hypnotherapy vs. Psychotherapy

If we have a behavior that causes us grief – whether biting our nails or watching too much TV – we may arrive at the conclusion that we can’t make change by ourselves. In that case, we have many options for finding help.

Most of those choices boil down to finding a friend. Life coaches, religions, meetups and intramural sports: these are all methods for meeting new people that we hope will give us encouragement and direction for change.

But what if that still doesn’t work? What if there’s something wrong with our minds?

Now we know that same fear as it relates to our bodies. When I started having pain in my back, I worried that I had an injury – perhaps a slipped disc – that would require surgery. To my relief, I discovered that the pain went away through yoga. I stretched my back and strengthened the muscles of my abdomen. Problem solved!

As regards the mind, the same basic options are open to us. Psychologists and psychotherapists have a special license to treat wounded minds – minds that are abnormal because they are missing parts or are overly sensitive to certain kinds of stimulus. They are the surgeons of mental health. Hypnotherapists – as encoded in California’s Business and Professional Practices Code Section 2908 – are allowed to support clients seeking “vocational and avocational self-improvement.” We are the yoga instructors of mental health. We help you change yourselves.

This is a critical insight. If I hadn’t taken my yoga practice seriously, I might eventually have needed surgery to correct misalignment in my spine. So also with behavior change: if we don’t deal with our TV addiction, we might get divorced and lose our job and then, sure enough, we have sufficient cause to be depressed and go on medication.

But the question still remains: why hypnotherapy as opposed to paying someone to be our friend? Irving Yalom in “The Gift of Therapy” describes psychotherapy as relationship modeling that builds relationship skills. If psychotherapy is another form of friendship, is hypnotherapy also just another way of finding a friend?

The answer is “no” because hypnosis is not a technique, it is a behavior that enables the client to learn with maximum effectiveness. When in hypnosis, the subconscious receives suggestions and immediately translates them into changes in our deepest behavioral programs. Those changes are made by reconfiguring the connections between our neurons, but also by modifying the flow of blood in the brain. This happens more efficiently in hypnosis because the conscious mind – while monitoring what goes on – is relaxed and comfortable and doesn’t chime in “well, we tried that before and it’s not going to work!”

In effect, when in hypnosis you learn like you did in elementary school, before you started to question authority. Or doubt yourself.

Let’s compare this to psychology, which uses drugs to modify the way the brain works. Our basic emotions are controlled by two chemical systems: the dopamine system that creates euphoria and the norepinephrine system that creates fear. The two are kept in balance by the reasoning part of our brain, the prefrontal cortex. Several psychological disorders involve imbalances between euphoria and fear.

Where a hypnotherapist would use techniques and suggestions to strengthen reason and reallocate energy between euphoria and fear, the psychologist prescribes drugs that amplify the weaker signal. In physical terms, it’s like giving someone with a strong right side a brace to straighten their spine. Of course, the other option would be to strengthen the left side.

Just as in maintaining our bodies, it’s important to adjust the operation of our minds to prevent serious breakdowns. Hypnotherapists help you make those minor adjustments before they become major issues. Because hypnosis is only a learning process, if the changes don’t work, you can always over-ride them later on.

It is for this reason that I promote hypnotherapy as “mental hygiene.” Just as with dental hygiene, we should not be ashamed to come in to get our behaviors cleaned up every once in a while. In fact, it’s the best way to avoid more serious problems later on.

The root of many psychological and physical problems is unreleased anxiety. Even if you don’t have a specific behavioral challenge, every hypnotist will help you to remember what it feels like to be relaxed. So if you haven’t, contact a hypnotherapist today!

And Bring Your Whole Self to Life!