A book review by Tim Brunson PhD
If every decision you ever made was flawless, how would your life be today? Of course, this assumes that you could accurately predict all of the consequences of taking a particular course of action. I'm sure that the mere possibility of perfect decision making immediately brings up fantasies of great relationships, career successes, and even unlimited financial wealth and prosperity. However, although no matter how much a person has achieved - I doubt that anyone can claim a perfect record - can we at least aim for having a much improved track record in the future?
This intriguing idea can be put into practice with an extraordinarily simple idea according to Martin and Marion Shirran (with Finoa Graham). In Pause Button Therapy these hypnotherapists, who are British expats practicing in Spain, explain their approach to what most mental health clinicians call "thought stopping." They then add to this a nifty technique that suggests that once a person encounters the requirement to make a decision, they future pace and make more appropriate choices after being able to sufficiently assess the consequences of various alternatives. They rightly point out that once this procedure is used, many faulty alternatives may be avoided thus allowing one to follow an alternative with preferred consequences.
They are also correct that one of the main problems with achieving the ability to pause when faced with a significant decision is that the event is often instantaneous and therefore decision making is normally the result of previously programmed and/or instinctual responses. In order to combat that dilemma, they introduce a brief protocol that they explain which involves Cognitive-Based Therapy (CBT), Hypnotherapy, Guided Imagery, and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). One of the goals of PBT is to have the person condition their mind so that a pause becomes instinctual. (The presumption is that all decisions lend themselves to such pauses. However, that may not always be true in many situations – such as aircraft piloting, law enforcement, surgery, and the military – where the mind must be trained to automatically make the "right" decision and pauses could be unacceptable. Nevertheless, for the rest of life situations PBT is extremely applicable and should be suitable.)
What I like about their approach is the simplistic approach – although the non-self-help reader who is most likely familiar with the underlying basis may prematurely write off their ideas as a re-packaging. Indeed, their PBT concept is something that can easily be taught to young children while being equally valuable to older adults. Nevertheless, the reader should not be dismissive of this method or be mislead by its straightforwardness as I consider it to be highly credible and effective. In fact, I have already given a copy of their book to one of my long-term patients, whom I feel this is exactly what she needs at this point in her therapy.
This book is informative as it provides numerous vignettes and testimonials, which illustrate the wide range of applications for PBT. I was particularly impressed by their voluminous discussion regarding the personal, familial, corporate, and society-wide benefits should there be a wider acceptance of this – or any other cognitive-based approach that improves decision making. Certainly, as they point out, the financial benefits could easily be staggering.
Although Pause Button Therapy is a self-help book, experienced clinicians could benefit by studying it and carefully implementing PBT with their clients and patients. Despite their claim that part of the protocol involves hypnotherapy, it is obvious that this approach is not a typical hypnotic intervention and thus could potentially be productively used by those for whom that method would not necessarily be recommended. In short, this is an intriguing book that is well worth reading by both clinicians and members of the general public, who would like to improve their lives.