My practice is referral based. This means I don’t do any radio or TV advertising, no internet, not even Facebook. The unwritten rule is, If people get good results, they talk. One person refers you to another and another and another and so it goes, it’s called good will. There are very few exceptions to this rule, Dr. A was one of them. He didn’t make an appointment with me because he wanted my help, he came to me by way of coercion from the ultimate authority, his wife. “Do something with him?”, she implored. He’s got world war three going on inside him and it shows up in the middle of the night when we’re sleeping. He wakes me up kicking and screaming as if he was fighting for his life! Her phone call came in late in the afternoon on a Friday. I had worked with Mrs. A on a few issues involving her anxiety and she was doing very well after we cleared them up. She was referred to me by her daughter, Sally who had some anxiety and self esteem issues as well which we worked out nicely. There were others referred to me by Sally but the most notable one was her fiancée Mike. The important point regarding Mike is that up until this time, he was very success driven; he always had goals and always made them happen. He had been a very good student and athlete all his life and now that he graduated from college he made three new goals. His first goal was to become a very successful stock broker. The second goal was to marry Sally and the third was to start a family. Everyone who knows Mike expects nothing less from him. He always meets and more often exceeded his goals. When his employer told him that he had to pass a probation period to prove himself, he didn’t even think twice about it. But as his probation period was coming to an end, something happened to Mike that had never happened to him before; he wasn’t performing up to his own standards. He lost his focus and in a very short time, found himself in his employers office where he was told that he had three months to pull out of this slump or he was to going be terminated. It was almost as if another person was occupying his mind and body, and in a manner of speaking, there was someone else influencing him but it wasn’t so much his body that was being occupied as much as it was his mind. I’ll explain more about his case in another chapter. But for now, let’s get back to Dr. A.
“I’m calling you because no one else seems to know what to do with him.” Mrs. A went on. “He’s too smart for his own good. He plays with therapists like a cat plays with a mouse.”
“Great!” Now I’m really looking forward to working with him!”, my sarcasm didn’t go unnoticed.
“Wasn’t it you who told me that your work doesn’t require intellect?”
“Its true my work is more about intuition and trust.”
“Well then, let’s just say I trust that your intuition will know what to do with him.”
“How does he feel about hypnosis? As you know, if he’s not open to it, it could be a problem getting him to work with me.”
“Oh I’m sure you’ll find a way, besides, he’s genuinely curious.”
“Oh, I see, I’m kind of like an experiment for him.”
“Yup, another mouse to play with. What he doesn’t know is that this mouse roars.”
I can try.”, I responded cautiously, “His intellect is going to be a major obstacle.”
“Of course it is but I’m sure you’ve worked with his type before.”
“Yes, that’s true.” I acquiesced to her determination to help him.
“Can you see him next Friday?
“Well, I do have an opening next Friday at 3:00 PM., I said reluctantly checking my calendar.
“That’s fine. I’ll let him know.”
Needless to say, I wasn’t excited about working with Dr. A for two reasons. The first was because he was going to be resistant to my help. If he really wanted to make a change, he would have made the appointment on his own. The second reason had to do with the fact that he enjoyed playing mind games with therapists. Over the years I’ve came to realize that brilliant people tend to over analyze everything. Although a brilliant, logical mind is amazingly helpful in the areas of mathematics, medicine, business and engineering, it is woefully out of its element when it comes to emotions. In the average person, logical, rational reasoning is what the conscious mind or pre-frontal lobe of our brain is supposed to do and It is very skillful at doing so. When the person is brilliant, however, it takes logical reasoning to a whole new level.
Emotions, for the most part, are not very logical, in fact, they are almost always illogical. Like most other things I’ve learned in life, I learned this lesson the hard way. About 6 months after we were married, my wife had a dream that we we’re at a party and she saw me flirting with one of her best friends. When she awoke, she was so angry that she slapped me. It’s funny to think about it now but is wasn’t very funny then. After she came to her senses, she apologized for slapping me but she was reluctant to let go of her irrational jealous emotions. What ensued was a week of her scrutinizing everything I did. I couldn’t go anywhere without her checking up on me. If I was one minute late getting home from work she would accuse me of having an affair. If that wasn’t bad enough, I was so traumatized and resentful of her jealously and anger towards me that I began thinking that maybe I should have done something wrong to warrant her negative behavior. Sadly, my reaction wasn’t any more rational than hers. Now both of us were being irrational.
It has been my observation that in its zeal to give meaning and logic to our lives, the conscious mind will do anything and everything it can to justify our emotions and behaviors, even at the expense of our physical and emotional well being. Our conscious mind is heavily invested in the ego which means it doesn’t like to be wrong even when the emotion it is defending isn’t based in reality. Regarding the situation with my wife, she was trying to justify her jealousy by scrutinizing everything I did. She could see very clearly and logically that the dream was not real but her emotions about what happened in the dream were very real. So, instead of trying to talk herself out of feeing jealous, she kept looking for a reason to justify her jealous emotions. This conscious mind behavior of justifying illogical emotions, will become more apparent in my conversation with Dr. A.
The following Friday afternoon at exactly 2:59 PM, Dr. A showed up at my office. A medical doctor and surgeon by profession, Dr. A was understandably skeptical about my work. ’What exactly is it that you do?”, he asked snobbishly sizing me up. I could tell by the way he looked at my furniture and paintings on the wall that my office was less than he expected and was also being surgically dissected by his keen sense of opulence. Having been a cynical skeptic for many years myself, I smiled and asked him if I could get him anything to drink. “Sure, he responded, how about a nice merlot?”
“Sorry, I’m not a psychiatrist, so no drugs.” I said smiling.
“A nice merlot is hardly a drug and you don’t have to be anything more than a bartender to pour a glass of wine.” Outwardly chuckling, I vouchsafed no response. Inwardly, however I was thinking, this is going to be a long day!”
Even though I expected it, his banter continued far longer than I hoped it would. Once he was convinced that I wasn’t completely stupid, I was able to ask the reason for his visit.
“My wife thinks I’m angry.” he mumbled sheepishly, with his eyes almost closed.
“Do you think you’re angry?”
“No, not at all.”
“Then why are you here?”
“She said she was going to leave me if I didn’t come. You are aware of that aren’t you? I mean she was the one who made this appointment after all.”
“I appreciate your honesty. But if you’re not angry then why would she say that you are?”
“Because I have mini-outbursts at times and sometimes I lose employees at my office.”
“Why do you keep losing employees?”
“Because they’re incompetent and way too sensitive.”
“So does this mean you yell at them?”
“Of course I yell, but I’m not angry.”
“Then why do you yell?”
“I yell at them because they need to be corrected. In my profession we can’t afford to make mistakes so by yelling at them I let them know mistakes are not acceptable. Sometimes they take it too personally and they quit. They mistake my yelling for anger.”
“If you’re not angry when you’re yelling at them, then what are you feeling when you yell at them?”
“Oh, I see, so they mistake your intensity for anger?”
“You got it.”
“Tell me something, when did this ’intensity’ begin?”
“I’ve been an intense person as long as I can remember. Why do you ask?”
“Just curious. What was your childhood like, if you don’t mind my asking.”
“I grew up in a tuff neighborhood in New York.”
“I’m sure that wasn’t easy.”
“Did you get into any fights?”
“Well, I did the best I could.”
“I gather it didn’t go well?”
“Nope, I was a small kid.”
‘Did you have any siblings?”
“Yes, a sister and a brother. My sister works for me.”
“And how’s that relationship doing?”
“Is all this really important?”
“Does it make you uncomfortable to talk about it?”
“No, I just don’t see the relevancy. Aren’t you just supposed to hypnotize me and get me to behave differently?”
“That’s TV stuff. Asking questions and getting a general background on you actually helps me with my work.”
“Look I’m here, isn’t that enough? Can you just get on with it?”
I attempted to explain to Dr. A that there were several types of traumas that have come within the realm of my investigations: emotional, physical, cellular and spiritual traumas. Each of them have their own particular point of origin and each of them have their own way of effecting and in many cases infecting our beliefs, behaviors, health and general outlook and perspective on life. I explained to him that standard hypnosis is useful in changing behaviors on a temporary basis but if his belief system was in opposition to my hypnotic suggestion, it would only be effective for a few days at most. He was expecting a quick fix. Needless to say, we didn’t accomplish much in our first session. In point of fact, he didn’t like me and he let his wife know it. To stay in compliance with his wife’s demand that he get some help however, he did go to anger management classes at another location. And, once again, he outsmarted the teacher, but his anger only got worse.
So, he didn’t come back to my office again for about a year. This time things went considerably better. Eventually, we were able to do a process I like to call ‘bio-feedback’. In this process the client is put into a light state of hypnosis and I begin to ask the subconscious mind questions. Most people think they are consciously aware of all the reasons for why they have their negative behaviors. But I have found by using this process, we bypass the conscious mind’s rational reasonings and justifications for undesirable behaviors and we get to the actual source of the trauma which literally created the negative emotional, physical, cellular and spiritual adjustments. More often than not, the reasons for a person’s negative behaviors may go much farther back in time than the conscious mind realizes. This is why we can consciously try to forgive our enemies and/or try to think positive thoughts about people who have hurt us, and still not see a significant change in our negative behaviors. Positive thinking is not enough. We must change our beliefs in order to facilitate meaningful, measurable and permanent behavioral modification. In other words, when the subconscious mind finally releases the trauma associated with a person’s negative behavior, and is then convinced that there is no longer a need to hold on to the trauma, the negative behavior associated with it simply disappears.
In order to facilitate the change that Dr. A’s wife was hoping for, I needed to understand where the links to his present behavior originated. The bio-feedback process yielded three major traumas; Emotional, Physical and Spiritual traumas. I wiil address the spiritual trauma later on in this chapter. The physical trauma was the result of the beatings he experienced at the hands of the neighborhood bullies. However, the way this trauma manifested in his mind went beyond physical. He negatively associated the physical trauma as being weaker physically than other kids but he positively associated the trauma with being stronger than them emotionally and intellectually. This emotional trauma was associated with how unfair his situation was and the voice that he gave to it came out in the way of anger. Being smaller in size than most of his peers he was often bullied and made to feel defenseless against the bigger boys who would embarrass him before they beat him up. Understandably, because he simply wanted to survive, he had to comply to their bullying but inside he was like a volcano that was ready to erupt with anger. In the same way that he decided to use his intellect to fight back, he also resolved to make anger his emotional refuge.
It is important to note that Dr. A could have chosen to rebel in a violent way, if he had chosen the violent path however, his options on a successful life would have been dramatically reduced. Sadly, there are too many young people in our school systems today who have been bullied and harassed so much that they do opt for the violent alternative. There is a great deal of information I am more than willing to contribute in this area, not only to explain why the children who have been traumatized inadvertently traumatize others or themselves but how this insidious nature of trauma is passed from one person to another. I am also convinced through my work in this area that we can correct these traumatic behaviors early on in a young person’s life.
Since Dr. A knew he couldn’t physically outmatch the bully’s in strength, he resolved to use his intelligence to get back at them. He decided to be the smartest at everything he did. The end result was that he graduated at the top of his class at every school he attended including Columbia and Harvard. Dr. A learned to use his anger and intelligence to work harder than everyone else. He openly admitted that he never thought he was a genius but he was so fiercely committed to succeeding that nothing or no one could get in his way. In a manner of speaking, anger had become his one true friend. As we move forward with his story, you will see that his adjustment of using his intellect actually served him well but his emotional adjustment of anger clearly did not benefit him at all. By the time he got to my office, he had already learned that in order to defend his anger, he had to give it a different name. Intensity does sound a lot better than anger but a different name doesn’t change what it is and what it does.
Although the anger had become Dr. A’s friend, and seemed to serve him well in terms of becoming successful and very wealthy, it didn’t do him any favors in the area of relationships. As soon as he was able to get out of his old neighborhood, he began to use his anger like a battering ram. He would often hurt or insult people who weren’t as intelligent as he was. He used his intellect as a form of protection against meaningful relationships by becoming very cynical and skeptical of loving emotions. This meant that most of his relationships were shallow and meaningless. As is the case with most young people, he eventually found another person who was equally as traumatized as he was. They got married and had two children but, as you might have expected, the marriage ended in divorce and he found himself estranged from his children. Does this sound familiar? If it doesn’t it should. I have found through practical experience, that most marriages start out this way; two traumatized people coming together because they can relate to each other’s traumas. They are under the false impression, due to romance novels and the Hollywood movie machinery, that somehow they can learn to heal each other. This false belief system has been responsible for fundamental problems in marriages for decades. As an example, my own parents were married for 50 years but their marriage was hardly ideal. My father was an alcoholic and very angry. My mother openly admitted that she married him because she felt sorry for him. In today’s world they probably would have been divorced after only a few years but in their day divorce was not an option. So, they stayed together and to make matters worse, they had a dozen children. The end result, 9 of the children got married and 6 of them ended in divorce.
If you’ve got the impression, from what I’ve described so far, that Dr. A, was not very likable, you’d be mistaken. He was then and still is quite the charmer. With his enormous intelligence, he is very quick witted and hilariously funny when he wants to be. If you combine his social charm with his financial where with all to provide lovely and expensive gifts, you’ve got what most women would consider to be the ideal combination. Sadly, for many men who have achieved his level of success and approval, real love becomes almost impossible to find. For Dr. A, it became difficult to know if the women he dated really cared about him or if they were simply attracted to the security that a man of his means was able to provide.
As fate would have it, however he met the current Mrs. A., a lovely, talented and deeply spiritual woman who was doing quite well on her own. She didn’t need his money or his gifts. She essentially opened his eyes to the possibility that he could actually love and be loved by someone who wasn’t trying to take advantage of him. She actually brought out the best in him. In his new found love he felt a kind of freedom to trust her with his sheltered emotions in a way that had formerly been impossible. Fortunately for him, he was smart enough to know that her love for him transcended his cynical skepticism. Finally, by most people’s standards, Dr. A had it all. He was healthy, wealthy, recognized and honored in his profession and now he had the one thing that had alluded him most of his life; he found love.
But even though his life was seemingly perfect, his anger outbursts were getting worse. How could that be? Why would Dr. A choose to continue with a negative emotion like anger when he now had the perfect life? The anger that had seemingly served him so well, was now morphing into his worse nightmare and was now undermining and even threatening the one relationship that meant more to him than any other. But why would he still be holding onto to anger, when in reality there was nothing to be angry about? The truth is, he wasn’t choosing to be angry. He was now being angry because he didn’t know how to do otherwise. That’s right, he didn’t behave that way because he wanted to, he behaved that way because he was compelled to do so. Isn’t it interesting that even though his anger was disrupting his life, he made every effort to find ways of defending it including giving it a different name.
Before you judge Dr. A, think about this, how many times in your life have you been in a pretty good place but still had a negative emotion come up out of nowhere like fear, anger, grief or resentment? Furthermore, how many times have you tried to dismiss these negative emotions by trying to convince yourself that there was no need for them? And how well did that work? My guess is that it didn’t work at all. In our efforts to deal with our negative emotions, we generally do one of three things. 1. We try to suppress them, 2. We try to move or run away from them or 3. We try to medicate ourselves out of them with a drink, a smoke, or a pill. But none of those adjustments solve the problem.
The only way to solve these negative emotional issues, is to find out where the original point of the trauma began and then release it. You may be thinking, isn’t that what standard psychotherapy is all about? In a word, yes, it is. Standard psychoanalysis has a variety of different ways to go about getting to the root of the problem. To speed up the process some therapists use processes like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing)or NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) which I find helpful. In Freudian therapy, a good therapist will attempt to take you go back to the source of the negative emotion then through skillful conversation. get the patient to replay it with a different outcome until he/she no longer needs the negative emotion. For those of you who are not familiar with Freudian therapy this process is called ‘Catharsis/Cathexis. As I mentioned earlier, we may have had something happen to us fairly recently and we will attribute our negative emotions and behaviors to that particular event, but, more often than not, the actual source of the trauma may be an emotional, physical, cellular or spiritual event or observation that the patient has blocked from the conscious mind. He/she may be thinking the problem has to do with the current boss, boyfriend, girlfriend, physical challenge like Covid etc., the list can go on forever. So, how do we get to the original source of our traumas? We can start by asking the patient’s conscious mind and on occasion it does know what the original source of the trauma is but, I’ve found that it’s right about 20% of the time, whereas our subconscious mind is right 100% of the time.
As expected, in doing Bio-Feedback with Dr. A, we found out that a great deal of his trauma was due to his experiences with the bullies in his neighborhood who pushed him around, but there was also a significant amount of trauma that was spiritual in nature. This trauma had to do with his ancestry; you see Dr. A is Jewish and members of his family were killed during the holocaust in Germany. Other members who barely survived the holocaust shared their stories in family gatherings and the terror and anger in their words made a home in him even as a young boy. Over and over again their words would resonate and affirm in his young mind: “You must be rich to find a safe heaven in this world, to get rich you must get a good education and make as much money as you can. Never forget that everyone has a price including your best friends. Never trust anyone because your best friend may betray you to save their own skin. Never put your guard down always be ready to fight or flee. Remember that your anger is what made you successful.” Sadly, as dark and scary as those words are, they became his way of approaching life. Understandably, they didn’t leave much room for peace and happiness.
It has taken a bit of time but as a result of the bio-feedback, Dr. A is becoming calmer and more trusting. His subconscious mind still wants to hold on to a little bit of the anger because, on some level it still makes him feel safe and in control. But overall, he has become noticeably kinder to his employees. He still maintains an incredibly high level of integrity in his work but he is less stressed about small mistakes his employees make. Instead of yelling at them when something goes wrong, he finds himself talking to them calmly, praising them for the things that they do correctly and encouraging them to pay more attention to details. On several occasions he has actually asked them to forgive him for his anger outbursts and to be patient with him as he moves along his path of self-discovery.
On the home front, significant changes have taken place. Dr, A is now taking time to enjoy his wealth instead of constantly being in fear of losing it. He decided to reduce his work schedule which gives him more time to take vacations with his wife who is enjoying his company now more than ever. This has also given him time to work on his relationships with his children, step-children and, best of all, his grandchildren.