by Tim Brunson, PhD
There are two unquestionable conclusions, which emanate from my just over a half a century ponderance and exploration into the human condition. The first is that subjective experience is related to behaviors, values, and attitudes, which are the results of a mixture of innate characteristics forced upon us by our heritage and the results of external influences and programming. Secondly, our use of the qualitative perceptions with which we experience space and time indubitably shapes how we progress on our journey through life.
Not stopping there, however, I have also come to realize that there is much more to our human existence. Indeed, our ability to transcend our inheritance, take charge of the shape of our programming, and free ourselves of the spatial and temporal shackles, allows us to assume the mantle of becoming a creator of our lives and of our universe. Therefore, as I mentally come to terms with the varieties of concerns expressed by my clients, patients, readers, friends, and family, I have determined that each of us is on a path somewhere between congruently existing within our environment, reaching some form of enlightenment, and truly beginning to realize our role in a more transcendent reality.
As a professional clinical hypnotherapist, the struggles that I see almost daily within the minds of others can be better understood should I attempt to fathom where they stand on this path. Are they overly obsessed with their identity? Do they see that their obstacle to achieving happiness and fulfillment is limited by the actions of others? How much of their mental processes is dominated by emotions and feelings rather than intellectual processes? Do they ever explain their experiences in terms of location, duration, speed, and direction? Answers to such questions give me a better idea just how I can be of service.
These questions are not limited to the lives of contemporary clients. Rather, they have dominated human existence throughout our recorded history. The myths and doctrines espoused by root religions such as Hinduism and Judaism have striven to reconcile mankind and the environment. This relationship has created a sense of identity and environmental connection that dominates much of human behavior – both good and evil. This philosophical worldview continues today as many of my colleagues show a fascination with shamanic traditions in Australia, Central American, and with the Native Americans in the US, Mexico, and Canada. (Ironically, while most of them see their interest as forward-looking, surprisingly, in many ways, it actually may represent a rather regressive approach. Of course, finding transcendence through reconnecting to the primal is an interesting conundrum that could warrant further discussion.)
Transcendent religious traditions in many ways seek to free our minds from the bonds of environmental-based approaches. In fact, both the Buddha and later Jesus Christ questioned the validity of Hinduism and Judaism, respectively. While many practitioners of Buddhism and Christianity are still mired in the identity and programming of their religion, whether they use the terms nirvana or salvation, for the most part the essential teachings of both focus on getting their adherents to see themselves as unrestricted by the limits of their environment.
I also realize that not everyone sees themselves primarily as a follower of one of the aforementioned religions. However, this does not negate the ubiquity of my observations. In fact, as much of pop culture is rather non-religious – even though at times it may retain certain vestiges of spirituality – it has not shown that anyone is capable of ignoring my initial conclusions. Yes, rather than being focused on Krishna, Jesus, and the Buddha, modern cinema and television instead expose us to Neo, the Daredevil, Superman, Batman, and many others. The a-religious are thus no more immune than religionists when it comes to their obsessions with their relationship to the environment, their cultural programming, their filtering space/time perceptions, or their frustrations, which motivate them to transcend to a higher level of fulfillment.
Clinical hypnotherapists – as well as others in the healing and helping professions and occupations – facilitate a person's journey as they move through stages of understanding toward improving their abilities to create their reality or unfold as an evolving human being. Understanding their current location along this evolutionary continuum along with their motivation to progress and the amount of development desired is critical knowledge that a clinician must have before determining the proper intervention.
Most – if not all – clinical interventions involve changing beliefs and identities, re-programming mental filters such as values and attitudes, or changing perceptions (e.g. reframing).Rarely do I read or hear about an intervention that is more transcendent in nature unless it is proffered by a religious figure. As you can see, each intervention focuses on addressing the subject's concerns somewhere along a continuum that starts with identity and programming at one end and freeing a person from all environmental restrictions while they pursue unlimited possibilities at the other.
When considering my conclusions, there are two basic ways of proceeding. Either the clinician can assess where the subject is along the continuum and seek to perform a healing or alteration, or they can seek to affect a regression (i.e. getting back to their primal roots) or a progression (i.e. a move that is closer to recognizing a freedom from restrictions and a move toward transcendence). Thus some interventional approaches may seek to be reconstructive as they attempt to change identities, programs, or perceptions. Also, a person who is focused on one of these three attributes may be asked to filter their experiences through another perception or behavior – such as asking a person who has a strong identity to start thinking in terms of changing their space/time perceptions. Conversely, transcendent-based interventions serve to move a person overly focused on identity into a way of thinking that is free of those concepts. (Jesus' temptation by the devil in the desert and the Buddha's encounter with Mara under the Bodhi tree are stories of how they refused to revert back to the identity, programs, and space/time perceptions from which they sought transcendence.)
Of course, in addition to grasping this radically different paradigm, to be effective the clinician must first come to terms with his or her own developmental level. Someone who is overly restricted by their position within their field or profession – to include overly identifying themselves with titles, licenses, education, and other credentials – most likely will find it more challenging to assist others despite their rather self-centered beliefs to the contrary. At the other extreme, the overly transcendent helper or healer may likewise find it difficult to advise those who have not yet achieved their level of unworldly enlightenment. Nevertheless, I suspect that most will find different degrees of success as they achieve the necessary level of mental flexibility, which allows them to adapt to the amazing variety of clients who they encounter.
I fully realize that the two conclusions that I initially aired – along with the third ancillary observation regarding the drive for transcendence – are not the only ones that one could make when dealing with others. However, I still maintain that they are sufficiently ubiquitous and pervasive to provide a meaningful approach to the therapeutic process. Indeed, any educated review of anthropological literature and candid assessment of contemporary mental and physical health thought leaves little argument to the contrary.