Our worst fear can be transmuted
What is the thing that produces the greatest fear? Mistakes and bad choices arise when one is stressed, scared or distracted. Accidents occur when one does not pay full attention to the task at hand. Then, worry over making further mistakes prevents one from making better choices. So, the question arises, how might fears be conquered in order to make better decisions?
If one analyzes the various mistakes and bad decisions encountered over time, some common characteristics will emerge. At base, the common thread that sews bad choices together is an underlying fear. One presumes it must be a fear of something specific. But in my experience, fear is fear.
Fear is one of two core emotions one feels. By whatever name or circumstance, it is the ‘negative feeling’ energy. Such feelings include anger, anxiety, depression, frustration, jealously, rage, envy, etc., etc. All the dark days one experiences are driven by a representation of fear. Self-doubt is fear. Worry is fear.
If one accepts that all emotions derive from energy (EMOTION = Energy in Motion), it follows logically that ‘feelings’ have an energy signature; i.e., when angry, one is hot and red; vs. calm,
one is cool and blue.
It follows, then, that as one worries, there is an investment of life-force, or Qi, into expecting something bad to happen. And that energy investment makes the negative outcome even more likely.
Tommy says, “I worry about final exams.”
Now, Tommy may be a student who has spent most of the semester partying. Or, Tommy is planning an all-nighter (study binge) prior to finals despite having diligently studied all semester.
The sub-text of Tommy’s worry is: “I have this feeling that I am going to fail my final exams.”
In the therapeutic setting we probe that statement, “What are you afraid of if you should fail a final?”
A common response might be, “I am afraid that if I fail a final, I will lose my scholarship and therefore have to drop out of college”
Probing further, “And if you should have to drop out of college, what are you really afraid of?”
“If I drop out of college, I am scared that my parents will be disappointed in me. My family members and friends will stop liking me.”
“So what will happen if your parents are disappointed and your friends think less of you?”
“Then I am really afraid that I will be worthless and nobody will like me.”
“AND…if nobody likes you, then what is your greatest fear?”
“I fear that my parents will stop loving me. They will reject me and abandon me and I will be all alone with no family, no friends!”
“Sort of like the homeless man in the street?”
“Yes, and all because I am not good enough!! I fear that I am not good enough, not lovable, not able…just useless, worthless and unlovable!”
Wow, that is a long road of fear down the rabbit hole! I go through this exercise with most clients. The sequence varies, but the bottom line is always the same.
Repeating the same probe over and over makes the exercise seem drawn out and complicated, but it is important that the client understand fear as a primordial emotion that underlies every other ‘named’ fear.
Fear is fear no matter one’s age. It comes from deep inside the brain, originating in the amygdala, the reptilian or primordial brain).
Fear knows no reason. Imagine two aspects of the brain that govern human sentience. One is cognitive consciousness, which is based on knowledge, reason and logic. The conscious mind is where one thinks, reasons and makes judgments. It is located in the outer components of the brain, the cerebrum and cerebellum. While learning from teachers and experiences, the ability to think abstractly is expanded, leading the ability to rationalize and evaluate. One becomes ‘smarter’ not just with more learning, but with the ability to process and use what is being learned. Of course, as we learned from Mr. Spock in the Star Trek television series, an overemphasis on logic can cause one to become too critical, which hinders the capacity to experience joy. This critical aspect of consciousness does not feel. As the Mr. Spock of consciousness, it argues and reasons.
In contrast, the subconscious is one’s emotional center. Centered deep within the brain, in the amygdala, it is considered Grand Central Station for all feeling. The subconscious does not change much over time, whereas the conscious mind changes with and experience and study.
So, the critical brain resides in the conscious mind while the emotional self resides in the subconscious. As the subconscious contains the sum total of one’s emotional experiences, the emotional self is, in effect, hidden. Between that, and a longstanding tradition of not having been taught how to articulate feelings, one generally defaults to thinking, as opposed to feeling.
After all, in much of American culture one learns to sublimate feelings. There is a strong resistance to values education in schools, making it that much less likely that children might be taught how to express what they feel, let alone exploring and identifying specific nuances within feelings. How might the learning environment change if schools actually taught children that feelings are theirs to own and not for others to impose on them.
Emotional energy exists in two forms only, that control all subsequent named emotions; the two basic forms being fear and love. Fear underscores all negative feelings; anything that feels bad or threatens one’s being. Love is responsible for positive emotions; everything felt with the potential for a smile. There are myriad variations, with names that reflect a continuum from very strong emotional energy to very weak. There are also ‘mixed emotions’ as one responds to an experience with variations of both love and fear. Bottom line, ALL feelings stem from either fear or love.
That being said, since emotion is energy in motion, and basic physics posits that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; when one’s being is consumed with fear, there is no room for love. In contrast, one filled with love has no room for fear. It follows then that if one is scared, that energy cannot be removed. However, it is possible to transmute Fear into Love.
Returning to our worried student, Tommy was acting on fear. The possibility of failing a final exam led into the rabbit hole that bottomed out at “homeless man in the street;” unloved and not good enough; unlovable.
Though such statements are commonplace in informal conversation, there is a certain hazard in allowing them to go unchallenged, particularly in a therapeutic setting. In informal conversation, such a worry gives energy to a negative prediction. That prediction needn’t be realized as actual failure, but the energy vested in failure will, at the very least, lead to a lower assessment than he is capable of.
But let’s say Tommy made this statement in a therapeutic setting, or friends think he has a mindset that would benefit from therapy. He will likely expend more energy in the direction of fear. He will project ever more dire consequences for himself as the fear energy grows. By the time of the final, he will be in a state of panic, his nightmare becomes reality, and the sense that he is unlovable is reinforced. The focus on a negative outcome, making the energy more intense, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The energy of fear is stored in the subconscious mind. A memory triggered by a stimulus elicits any related sensory information, such as smells, visuals, tastes, sounds or touch sensations. It also evokes positive or negative feelings. If the memory is of a fearsome experience, fear is re-experienced in them moment. Likewise, a positive memory may lead to a spontaneous smile.
Just as you call up a file on a computer and it appears exactly as it was when you last closed it, a memory is just so much data. Emotion is simply one aspect of the database.
The wonder of the human mind is that, with access to the subconscious mind, one can go in and revise the data. So it is possible to revise a fearsome memory into a benign or loving memory. In hypnotherapy, this is usually accomplished via a process of ‘reframing’.
Tommy’s concern about failing a final may be rooted in one or more memories, likely things that he experienced as a child and then reinforced as he grew up. These may also be things he mis-interpreted as a child, or habits that served him well as a child but are a hindrance as an adult.
As a hypnosis session begins, it is not necessary to know exactly what the memories are or how they need to be reframed. Tommy is simply guided back in time to a place and time that his subconscious identifies as important or significant. From there, he is guided to ‘virtually’ reframe the emotional experience, transmuting it from fear to love. This reprograms the ‘data’, turning the revisions into his new reality.
It may be necessary to visit multiple memories before he is ready to ‘flip the switch’ from living in fear of not being good enough to perceiving himself as a lovable person.
The process ends with revised messaging and visualizations. Instead of predicting failure, “Imagine…
…your parents and friends cheering you on your success at your final.
…feeling so good at succeeding on your final exam.
…feeling the energy of love from your folks and friends.
…loving yourself enough to want this loving feeling.
…having learned to affirm yourself.
Such affirmations bolster Tommy’s confidence. He will want to keep this feeling and understand that, in order to be confident, he must also practice to be competent. The finals serve a valuable purpose, which motivates Tommy to prepare to succeed. He acknowledges that worry directs energy into failure, and that it takes the same amount of energy to do well as it does to fail, so it’s all a matter of where one parks energy.
Energy is energy. Learning to invest in positive options, saying YES to love and NO to fear, allows one to feel better about oneself and one’s goals.
The value of hypnotherapy is the ease with which fear can be transmuted to love. Reframing changes the polarity of emotional energies, making it a very powerful tool to help heal from past hurts or challenges that inhibit one’s best self. Hypnosis puts the critical mind at rest, allowing access to the subconscious, where it is then possible to change feelings. Whereas it is impossible to change what happened in the past, it is possible to change how one feels about it.