My sessions with Emily Cahal of Salem Hypnosis Solutions have been delightfully varied. Today, my fourth session, and the last for a while, featured me meeting the Vice-President of my psyche in charge of achieving goals.
Per usual, before the actual hypnosis session Emily and I talked about how things have been going with me since we last met. Naturally the focus was on how I've been dealing with my chronic health problem, a bladder condition, since that was my motivation for giving hypnosis a try.
I told her that though it's difficult to prove cause and effect, I felt like the previous session did help me come to grips with a "caged" feeling of being unduly constrained by my health problem, which makes traveling long distances quite difficult.
A symptom of that feeling had been a strong desire to revisit my motorcycling/scootering days, since my mind argued "If you can't travel very far, you should find a way to make traveling locally more fun." But after considering the pros and cons of a Can Am Spyder, or such, after our third session I found that desire had abated a lot. Almost non-existent, in fact.
Instead, I'd been doing my best to focus on what sounds like a platitude (because it is), yet is something I struggle to put into effect: Be Here Now.
A motorcycle forces this, because otherwise you're at high risk of getting into an accident. But I can stimulate my senses and quiet my "monkey mind" without getting on two motorized wheels. I can simply pay closer attention to what is right at hand, rather than what awaits me around the next bend of the course my life is taking.
So that led to a theme of the pre-session discussion between Emily and me: how I need to find a better balance between (1) setting a goal and working to achieve it, versus (2) relaxing into the reality of the present moment.
Before a chronic health problem became a big part of my life, I'd always felt that I could overcome my problems. Or at least, stand a good chance of doing so with sufficient effort and energy. So the frustration of being told by three urologists that I've got to cope with my problem for the rest of my life has sent my psyche into a sort of hamster-wheel frenzy.
It wants to escape the cage I feel myself in, but there's no way out.
Emily summed things up in a wise fashion. She told me that instead of seeking a solution, I should aim for "mastery." Meaning, I should try to deal with my health problem, and problems in general, with less emphasis on a particular outcome. Instead, mastering a problem might not result in anything changing with the problem itself, but rather with how I look upon it.
At least, that's how I view the term, "mastery."
During the hypnosis session Emily started off, as before, by getting me into a pleasantly relaxed state.
She had me imagine walking down a forest path and coming to a clearing. In the clearing was a crystal clear pond with pebbles on the banks. I sat down on a warm flat rock, picked up a bunch of pebbles, and tossed them one by one into the pond, watching the ripples dissipate before I tossed the next pebble, which I could see sinking down below the surface to the bottom of the pond.
After that, my favorite part of the session was meeting up with a personified part of myself, the Vice-President in charge of my goals. He had a great corner office with a beautiful view. But I was the President, so I got to give the V.P. some marching orders, along with a critical assessment of how he's been doing.
In response to Emily's questions, I told the guy that while I appreciated his hard work, he needed to chill out more. Relax, dude, sometimes you try way too hard. That was part of his new job description.
Several times Emily had noted in our pre-session conversations that intelligent people, among whom she was kind enough to include me, often are prone to perfectionism. I guess I knew that about myself, but it was good to hear it nonetheless, because sometimes the most obvious facts about ourselves are what we pass over.
So it was healing to be able to talk to the goal-setting side of myself, that Vice-President who is prone to pushing too hard when there's a brick wall between me and what I desire. Frustration results when I keep on forcing what is immovable. Pushing the river, in other words.
Interestingly, when I Googled that term and found the above link, the reference was to a chronic health problem:
The simpler description is this: my chronic disease can make me feel I’m drowning. The personal image that comes to mind is Venice during a heavy rainstorm -- when there is also an acqua alta (high water) alert. Then the canals overflow and flood the city. The only way to navigate is by walking on the top of the infamous catwalks the municipality quickly installs. During those times I have quite literally felt water flowing above and beneath me.
(I just ordered the book mentioned in the Psychology Today article, "Dancing at the River's Edge.")
It's hard to break life-long habits. I've always enjoyed the sensation of working hard to power through a problem. Even if I couldn't succeed, or achieve most of what I sought, my self-image was of someone who never quits, who fights on against long odds, who does his best to attain a Possible Dream.
But now I'm faced with what almost certainly is an Impossible Dream: having a functional bladder again.
That isn't the worst thing in the world, not even close. I'm thankful that I don't have a host of other health problems that would restrict me even more, or be more difficult to deal with on a daily basis. Of course, with time I might have one or more of those worse health problems.
Emily Cahal has helped me better understand what I already knew: it doesn't make sense to get all tense and worked-up over a goal whose purpose is to make me happier and more relaxed. Down that way lies, if not madness, unnecessary anxiety.
I'm going to do my best to master the art of trying not to try, of simply doing rather than worrying about what I'm doing while I'm doing it. Yeah, I know this sounds obvious. But if I'd been able to see the obvious, I never would have sought the help of Emily and hypnosis.
Which, I'm really glad I did.