Just about everyone has heard the aphorism, “Know Thyself.” It’s attributed to Plato, Socrates, and a dozen or so other lesser known Greek sages. Regardless of who actually said it first, it’s meaning of self-awareness is the building block to personal growth. Because when we know ourselves, when we have a clear understanding of what we think about our own personal strengths and weaknesses, it clears the way for improvement in areas that might hold negative impressions.
Now, those negative impressions are found in the sub-conscious. They're hidden; we may not even be aware we have them. But, they greatly affect almost everything we do. Luckily, parts of our subconscious can be re-written - just like a computer’s hard-drive. That’s right, you can exchange the data that others put into your sub-conscious with data (self-knowledge) that YOU put into your subconscious.
The phenomenon is called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the ability of our brains to create new nervous system pathways when old ones aren’t working or when old ones hold us back. We visualize the positive. We mentally repeat the positive action or thought and it becomes “written” like new software or code in our subconscious. It’s just like uploading new software and data. Luckily, you don’t have to an expert in computer programming to rewrite the data; you only have to be an expert in you.
Countless research studies prove when we repeat a skill we are trying to master, we strengthen the neural networks that represent that action. This happens physically in the brain whether we perform the action, or simply visualize it. Your brain cannot tell the difference between an action you actually performed and an action you visualized. The neural “programming” is the same.
Dr. David Spiegel, associate chair of psychiatry at the Stanford University School of Medicine, says, “hypnosis is a real neurobiological phenomenon that deserves attention...We haven’t been using our brains as well as we can. It’s like an app on your iPhone you haven’t used before, and it gets your iPhone to do all these cool things you didn’t know it could do.” And no data overages!
Albert Einstein used positive visualization his entire life. He said, “imagination is more important than knowledge.” Now, we’re not saying that you’re going to come up with a new theory of relativity if you learn start practicing neuroplasticity exercises every day, but it can help you master new skills, overcome bad habits, improve sleep patterns, and reduce stress. All those positive changes may very well lead you to achieving the goals you want.
The easiest way to re-program your brain is hypnosis. No, we’re not talking about the stage acts where people flap their arms like eagles. We’re talking about the scientifically proven technique that the New York Times reported was “the epitome of mind-body medicine...It can enable the mind to tell the body how to react, and modify the messages that the body sends to the mind.” (New York Times, 11/08)
Here’s an example of how hypnosis can work with weight loss (stick with us for a minute while we break the science down in the explanation): Let’s say when you were in the 3rd grade you brought home a perfect report card. When you showed your mom (smiling from ear-to-ear) she gave you a hug, told you how proud she was of you - then said, “Lets go celebrate with ice-cream.” That impression of ice-cream being a reward for a job well done was “written” into your brain. That physical reward of the yummy ice-cream became a subconscious trigger that made you feel good, happy, loved. The physical trigger (eating ice-cream) was written in your subconscious. It may seem like a good thing. But actually, it sets up an unhealthy pattern where use the same trigger when you’re seeking that same feeling of self-worth or satisfaction. The same subconscious reward trigger can become the replacement for feelings of failure, shame, stress, anxiety. Disappointment or sadness caused by a job loss, bad break-up, death in the family, being subjected to verbal or physical abuse, the list goes on, can all be soothed by the feeling of happiness that was “written” into your brain with the sweets or some other physical substitute.
Hypnosis is like pressing a reset button in your brain that erases subconscious triggers and rewrites them with something healthy. It can make the impossible - possible.
What about pain relief? Glad you asked - especially with the alarming problem we have with opioid addiction. Over 21.5 million Americans 12 or older, in fact, had a substance use disorder in 2014 (American Society of Addiction Medicine) Hypnosis can relieve many people’s pain without opioids. A 2000 Harvard Medical School found that patients who received hypnosis during surgery required less medication afterwards. Plus, the patients had fewer post-surgical complications than patients who didn't receive hypnosis. Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Stephen M. Kosslyn, who led the study, said: “Top-down processes override sensory, or bottom-up information. People think that sights, sounds and touch from the outside world constitute reality. But the brain constructs what it perceives based on past experience.” Turns out, the old adage of “if you put your mind to it, you can do it” is actually true!
What’s amazing is the healing power - for pain relief, for stress reduction, for weight-loss, for smoking cessation, for sleep disorders is nothing new. Hypnosis has been taught in practically every major medical school in America for years. Over 100 years ago, Dr. William James, the so-called “father” of American Psychology said, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind.” Finally, the word is getting out!
The fact is, your self-knowledge has been dictated by the inputs that your sub-conscious brain has received assumptions since you were born. Well, what if someone, a parent, friend, significant other - put something in your head that gives you a negative self-image? The only way to remove that self-image is to replace it. Once you learn simple self-hypnosis techniques, it’s surprisingly fast and effective to practice it every day. A few minutes of visualization, of actively harnessing the power of your own mind, can be the key to success in every task you set out to achieve.
It’s all part of truly knowing yourself. Seems like Plato, or Socrates, or some other smart Greek philosopher who didn’t get proper credit, really knew what he was talking about: the power to heal yourself is already yours. You just have to take control and put your mind to it.