Our journey of personal development has reached its
end-point. Thus far, the journey has been incremental, each step building upon
prior progress. In a broad sense, we can see that in the first three stages
(survival, sex and exchange) the goal is to explore opportunities for personal
expression. The second three stages (healing/trust, truth and creativity) shift
to collaboration and social responsibility.
Hewing to the priorities of the hypnotherapist, our focus has
been on changes in behavior. That growth may bring conflict with the self or
others. Each segment has surveyed the tools hypnotherapists may offer to
support those struggling with a transition.
Psychiatry offers some detailed insights. The brain also
changes as we mature. When learning to survive, the brain is designed to
capture as much experience as possible. Neurons form dense webs of
interconnection. During adolescence and early adulthood (sex and exchange), the
brain sheds many of those connections, focusing its energy toward identifying
and amplifying social advantages.
Along with those gross changes, the brain develops new
structures. Reason and relationships are our highest cognitive functions, and as
we learn neurons are recruited to their service. Each new node requires the
services of its predecessors. The highest relationship function – altruism – often
develops only in our mid-twenties (in the region called the posterior superior temporal sulcus).
these insights, however, we have no reason to expect that the basic model of
behavior development might begin to break down. Remember how this goes: due to
the complexity of social existence, around eight years of age the brain divides
into the conscious and subconscious, with exchange mediated by the critical
mind. Could it be possible that as we age, the more powerful subconscious might
come to trust our abilities to survive in society, and come back into the light?
change is not incremental. It completely upends our concept of self.
This is the nature of the final stage of personal development, the stage of imagination.
dissolution of the critical mind begins in dreaming. Dreams are the forum in
which the subconscious invents new behaviors, free from the prejudices of the
conscious mind. But the process is inefficient at best and often obscure. Many
remembered dreams are vague if not incoherent. But if through dream analysis we
cultivate a dialog, the subconscious learns to be more precise. And when that
dialog is pursued gently and respectfully, it eventually begins to call upon
the conscious mind during sleep, allowing it to help resolve choices. This is called
researchers and enthusiasts have developed methods to cultivate lucid dreaming.
The first wanted accurate descriptions of the content of dreams and later
discovered that it could be used to overcome trauma. The second enjoyed the
thrill of the dream. It is important to remember, however, that unstructured
dreaming is a critical part of behavior development. My recommendation is to
allow the subconscious to open the door naturally, according to its own
understanding of the benefits of greater conscious participation.
lucid dreaming, however, comes lucid waking. Trust works both ways, and when
the conscious mind respects the creative powers of the subconscious, it can facilitate
their activation without falling asleep. This is the natural state of many
artists: they switch rapidly between abstract analysis and physical sensation
as they work. Hypnotherapists call this mental pattern “somnambulism,” and discovered
that many neuroses are related to “hypersuggestibility”: the tendency for the
subconscious to reinforce negative thought patterns. But when the conscious
mind is disciplined to cultivate positive thoughts, when a new opportunity
presents itself it can drop into a meditative state to ask the subconscious “Where
does this lead?” A rich set of possibility are presented immediately.
As the critical
mind continues to dissolve, eventually a new brain state emerges: the gamma
state. Observed in dedicated meditators and religious devotees, the gamma state
appears to be the most highly energized of the known brain states, operating
almost 50% higher than the beta state that we entered when alarmed.
experiences all lead to increased imaginative capacity. But there is far more open
to us in the space of imagination.
understand the richness of that experience, I must challenge the psychiatric model
of thought. Observing that damage to the brain causes loss of cognitive
function, psychiatrists believe that all thinking occurs in the brain. Another
possibility, however, is that the brain is an interface to the soul. Damage to
an interface also causes loss of function.
experience of the space of imagination led me to that second model: the brain
is a kind of multi-channel receiver that tunes into a realm of ideas. In that
space, injection of noise is the worst disaster. It disrupts the coherence of
ideas. To gain full access, therefore, we must learn to sublimate our concern
for the physical self, guarding against the impulses of greed, anger, fear,
envy, lust, etc. In fact, failure to do so activates powerful intellectual
antibodies that hurt our brains.
might recognize my “space of ideas” as Jung’s “collective unconscious.”
ideas obviously strive for expression, and with our complex brains, human
beings are a wonderous partner in the evolution of ideas. Unfortunately, we are
still in transition from the long era of biological evolution (running back almost
three billion years) that was driven by competition, conflict and pain –
sources of noise that degrade the coherence of ideas. Intellectual evolution took
root in us only when we learned to moderate our primitive impulses. That
evolution, unfortunately, is a known threat to our evolutionary predecessors –
including people that were not raised into intellectual opportunity. To avoid
extinction, they are suspicious of intellectual change.
religious avatars explore the path through this thicket of mistrust. Buddha
offered the concept of “compassion for all sentient beings.” Christ went
further, promising “unconditional love.” In both cases, the avatar achieved
intellectual authority only by resolving to witness sorrow as an intermediary
for ideas that accumulate power from the gratitude of those that receive
healing. Buddha tortured himself to achieve that status; Christ surrendered himself
to death at the hands of those he loved.
work done by our avatars is a transformation of the spiritual ecology in the space
of ideas. Unconditional love seeks virtue in all things, transforming
eventually even our vices. Anger becomes passion; destruction becomes creative transformation.
Of course, the primitive impulses resist that transformation. Their program of
repression, however, is frustrated by the sacred martyr, who endures physical
wounds as a method of infecting the motivating ideas with love’s virtue.
in the world of material exchange, such acts seem insane. What history teaches
us, however, is that material exchange is a dead end. It creates nothing that
endures. Despite all the promotion and wailing of the 20th century,
the most enduring personalities in our cultures are our religious avatars. When
I was a child in the 1960’s, we still hated Hitler. Now only a few remember
him, and increasingly they are ridiculed as anachronisms.
lies in acceptance and celebration of our differences – differences that
permutate in the space of ideas to build ever richer possibilities for the
expression of love.
brings us back to sex. Sex has a biological expression in male and female forms.
That expression has a parallel in the space of ideas, in principles that I call
“masculine” and “feminine.” The masculine principle facilitates change and must
achieve temporal and spatial isolation to accomplish that end. The feminine
principle sustains continuity through temporal and spatial diffusion. Even in
our age, few appreciate the transformative power of their integration: transformation
under the guidance of prescient intuition. The possibilities are literally
But I have drifted into speculation, and the reader, following experience, must be wondering what hypnotherapy has to offer in this process. The answer, unfortunately, is “nothing.” Hypnotherapy is necessary only to divided minds. Those operating in the space of imagination no longer suffer from that limitation.
course, a hypnotherapist operating in the realm of imagination is an incredibly
powerful aid to personal development. John Kappas and Milton Erickson are
recent examples. I am suspicious, reading the reports of his faith healings,
that Jesus also deserved the title.