We’re surprisingly well adapted to find problems.
In essence our unconscious mind uses our senses to scan everything in our environment like a multi-level radar system. Our brain, which by the way is the most complex system known to science according to that keyboard-playing Professor Cox, is superb at identifying patterns. It matches them to past experience and projects them into potential futures. In the blink of an eye it decides whether we are safe & sound or whether to sound the alarm to keep us safe.
It is simply stunning.
Sometimes the patterns it matches to are out of date, belonging to a you that is no longer here. Things that troubled you as a child are innocuous as an adult but we still feel the fear of speaking to strangers or talking to those we automatically see as authority figures. We respond to bosses as if they were teachers and we were children, either acquiescing quietly or becoming tongue-tied. Being called into the office is so like the walk to the headmaster’s room that we feel the same sense of trepidation and dread. (Or is that just me?)
Sometimes the pattern is more recent but the rawness of it resonates long after it ought to have past.
I got clobbered with one of these last week.
Occasionally in these blogs, I’ve mentioned that I have a pacemaker and so have routine checkups to ensure that it still functions well and the battery isn’t running out. Replacing this power unit isn’t quite as straightforward as swapping over some AAAs so it’s good to plan ahead.
Anyway, I strolled casually into Peterborough City Hospital exactly on time, found out where to go and with a minor detour arrived at Cardiac Investigations. I was perhaps less relaxed than I looked. This was my first visit since Rachael’s major operation earlier this year.
Stuart, the senior technician who oversees my check-ups, was his normal efficient and friendly self and passed me fit for another year with probably 4 years or more of battery life left. I’d keep on ticking on for some time yet, so I left to go home by the more direct route to the exit.
And was pretty much brought straight to my knees in tears.
I found myself leaning against a wall fumbling for a tissue to dry my eyes, wondering what had happened. A couple of rounds of 7-11 breathing calmed me enough and I carried on.
It was only afterwards that I realised it was probably the colour that triggered it.
As with many modern hospitals every floor has a similar layout and you only know where you are by the colour scheme, (or the more practical method of looking at the signs but that involves reading and at the level of the unconscious, colour trumps letters).
The route back from my check-up had taken me straight past the theatre wing, it’s bright orange colour scheme glaringly proclaiming its presence. The last time I had stood there was the 5-hour ordeal of waiting for my extremely weak and ill daughter to undergo major surgery. Those same tears were back.
I guess it helped that I knew what my mind was doing and which patterns it was matching. I could almost stand to one side and be interested in the routines as they played themselves out. By knowing that I was safe and that this was just my mind trying to keep me safe helped the feelings pass quickly.
The echoes were still there as I left the building. If I simply went home, then I knew that my mind might re-run the same patterns next time because I’d inadvertently reinforced it as I walked that orange corridor. I deliberately sat down outside in the sunshine and spent the next 5 minutes spinning the tension away and replacing it with the feel of the fresh summer morning that it really was.
This way, my unconscious link with a hospital visit is more recently connected with the feeling of relaxed fresh air than with the tension of parental corridor-pacing from three months ago. If it weren’t for my hypnotherapy training, this might have been the start of a PTSD-type response repeating itself through my future. I’m very glad that I know what I know. I drove away happily enjoying the sunshine of the present moment and looking forward to the first client of the day.
So where does this leave us?
Our minds are wonderfully powerful things which make us happy and keep us safe. They are the most complex system in the universe, but they do make mistakes. They can launch us into protection mode and make us feel anxious, depressed, stressed, fearful, angry and much more. Trying to keep us safe from threats that actually aren’t threatening.
Try as you might, reprogramming these mistakes and updating the software can’t always be done by shear willpower. Wishing yourself better sometimes just isn;t enough.
So if you find yourself being overtaken by anxiety, depression or stress, or are suffering from the many ways these conditions can affect us, you are not alone. Cognitive Hypnotherapy is amazingly powerful and effective at helping clients get past their fears and traumatic stresses. So please get in touch, even if it’s just for a chat. It could be the start of something new: a life free from old fears and woes.