Making Magical Thinking Work for You

Flying_carpetAn article of mine, Practical Uses of Magical Thinking, was just published in the Oregon Counseling Association’s Spring 2016 newsletter. Check it out!

I’m not a counselor, but the Oregon Counseling Association casts a wide net, welcoming non-counselor practitioners or anyone else with an interest in the topic.

As a hypnotherapist, I see lots of people who could just as easily see a counselor, but have chosen for one reason or another to give hypnosis a try.

I chose “magical thinking” as a topic because it’s a focus of hypnotherapy but is somewhat skimped in more traditional therapy. With magical thinking, we, in effect, ignore the daunting and distracting difficulties of getting from point A to point B, take a magic carpet ride to B, and spend enough time there that it becomes familiar. If we like what we see, the problem is half-solved already. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and that single step is more likely to happen if you’re clear about your destination. 

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11 Ways We Distort Our Thinking

distorted-thinking-checklistI stumbled across this list of eleven fallacies and distortions at Surrender Works and couldn’t resist reposting it (with some fairly heavy editing).

This is an interesting checklist because it’s different from the classical list of false arguments, such as a priori conclusions, ad hominem arguments, etc., which many of us encountered in school.

Noticing Your Own Distorted Thinking (aka Cognitive Errors)

Mark Twain defined Man as “the rationalizing animal.” And, boy, are we good at it! Since we’re good at it, our rationalizations usually live up to our reasonably high standards. When we resort to fallacies, it’s a sign that something’s not right. Ideally, we’ll notice this before anyone else does, and take action.

As a hypnotist, I have a lot of respect for the power of the unconscious mind, and when the unconscious mind is pulling in a different direction from the conscious mind, it tends to win. Rationalizations are a sign that the conscious mind has little idea what’s going on, and is making up excuses to fill in the gaps. The lights are on, but nobody’s home. That’s a warning sign.

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How to do Therapy: A Gumby Show Example [Video]

This clip from the Gumby Show episode “The Rodeo King. Pokey acquires the delusion that he is his favorite TV character, Buster Bronc, and Prickle — “that’s Doctor Prickle” — shows the attitude of any good therapist by immediately trying something else when his first attempt doesn’t work. In the clip:

  • Pokey tries modifying the patient’s environment first.
  • When that doesn’t work, he switches to hypnosis.
  • When this, too, fails, he “prescribes the symptom.”

This brief clip from a children’s TV show in 1957 demonstrates a can-do attitude and a flexibility of method that is not always found in today’s therapists!

But we all knew that Gumby was special.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Do This

A man came in to see me to stop smoking, and after the first session, he reported, “It didn’t work. As soon as I left the building, I wanted to see if I could still smoke, so I lit up a cigarette. And I still could.”

He would have agreed that an alcoholic client probably shouldn’t keep a hip flask on his person at all times, and a sex addict shouldn’t leave a hypnosis session escorted by a couple of hookers! That would be silly. There’s a difference between falling off the wagon and jumping off.

Fortunately, most people already know this, so a smoking cessation client isn’t surprised when asked to bring in any remaining cigarettes so we can dispose of them. Hypnosis adds the power of suggestion to your existing powers of willpower and resolution, and it can do this quickly, but not so quickly that it’s wise to douse ourselves in steak sauce and walk into the lion’s den!

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Why Some Bad Memories Keep Hurting While Others Fade Away

47434667 - beach, wave and footprints at sunset timeWhy do some bad memories stay with us while others fade away? I remember that, when I had my wisdom teeth out, it was a deeply painful and unpleasant experience, one that made me wince whenever I thought about it. But as time passed, the wince-worthy feelings faded. I still remember that day clearly enough, but now it’s almost as if it happened to someone else. The remembered pain has faded away, leaving the memories of the sights and sounds and smells and thoughts intact. Where did my pain go?

Perhaps it’s one of the responsibilities of the unconscious mind to let painful memories go, after first absorbing the meaning of the painful event and learning from it, preserving the learnings and then letting the pain go,  its task complete?

Pain, like unpleasant feelings, has its uses. It gets your attention and encourages you to stop! And vividly remembered pain can remind you not to do it again. But how unpleasant it would be if every painful experience were remembered as if it were happening again! So — usually — we learn from the experience and then let the pain go. Usually. Not always.

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