Having been a hypnotherapist for over 30 years now, I have had many experiences—personally and with people who have come to me for hypnotic support—of witnessing the profound change that can come from touching into previously unimagined possibilities. For example, I remember the very first time I experienced what I later came to call my “optimal future self”. Touching into a felt-sense body state of that “future image” somehow sparked a deep internal shift that went on to affect my whole life. And, I remember so many people who have come to me for pre-surgery hypnosis over these years, and their subsequent reports of unexpectedly easy surgical and recovery experiences.
One of the most important things I’ve learned in these years of working with hypnosis is “what the body learns, the psyche will follow.” For this reason, I have focused a great deal on what I have called the “optimal future self”, as a means to touch into a person’s latent potential and help to bring it to life. Doing this work for so many years has naturally built a habit of mind in me, where I tend to look for options and possibilities as I move through daily experience. Because of an orientation toward mindfulness, I take time to notice what happens to the quality of my internal experience when I focus on possibilities compared to when I focus on fear, self-judgment, or other constricting kinds of themes.
For this week’s experiment, I invite you to play with a process of imagining possibilities and then noticing what happens in your body and psyche as you hang out with these kinds of imaginings. Rather than feeling discouraged because you feel certain possibilities aren’t within the scope of your lifestyle or life choices, notice what happens if you hold an attitude that there are possibilities beyond your imagining and that you are willing to be open to discovering them as you move through your daily life. It’s a matter of where you orient your attention. The brain, as a survival organ, naturally tends to look at what’s out of place, to orient to the negative as part of its strategy to keep us safe. In this experiment, I invite you to do the opposite, to move the natural awareness of your brain to focus on what’s out of place and, instead, to consider what positive surprises might actually be possible if you were open to them.
A simple way to shift from negative to at least “maybe” would be something like the following. Say you are in a situation where things look too challenging, or too discouraging. Instead of giving up, you might find yourself saying, “Well, it doesn’t look good now, but there could be surprises right around the corner that I don’t even know how to imagine.” Even a small shift in thinking along these lines creates a natural shift in the body toward the openness that is an inherent aspect of curiosity and away from the constriction that is so characteristic of fear.
As with all these experiments, remember to bring that curiosity along as your constant companion and to keep in mind that there are no right answers to what we explore here. Instead, there is just this one more invitation to notice what happens when you live more consciously, aware of how your thinking, feeling, acting, and choosing have an ongoing impact on your internal quality of life.