“Where belief is painful we are slow to believe.” – Ovid
Why is it that we always revert back to what we can’t do versus what we can? What we didn’t do versus what we did? It’s because the Saboteur Within has created a series of beliefs about ourselves that produces a kind of “default” setting that feels comfortable, familiar and above all – safe!
Even if it closes the door on possibilities.
Even if it keeps us down.
Even if we’re not entirely happy; at least we’re… safe.
In many ways, self-beliefs are necessary for structure and order in our lives. After all, every day can’t be full of chaos and disorder, can it? Even a daredevil needs to know where his parachute is or what mountain he’s climbing next!
The problem is that most of us eventually become limited by these self-beliefs. Which is, of course, exactly what your Saboteur Within wants. After all, if you believe yourself to be only a shop assistant, a waitress, a manager or a teacher, there is less fear of you, say, opening your own business, running a marathon, asking for a promotion or switching careers in your mid-50s. Why? Because the “only” compounds the limits of your world and your Saboteur will stand guard at your prison gates. To save you risking the dangers that lie in the unknown beyond the safety of those carefully built walls.
Self-Beliefs Limit Us
The fact is; self-beliefs are often limiting. That’s because life is easier that way. Better to be lonely, disappointed, broke and fat – if that’s our “comfort” zone – than nervous, anxious, fearful and even hopeful about a possible life change.
At least, according to the Saboteur Within.
I know what you’re thinking: “Why doesn’t my conscious mind start and kick the subconscious mind’s butt?”
Good question; I hope that you are beginning to formulate your own answer?
The Three Keys to Transformation
When I was 26 years old I developed chest pains when walking uphill and even climbing stairs. I had always been fit and, at the time, I was young, energetic and other than those recent chest pains, felt totally invincible, so this was a bit of a conundrum for me. I just couldn’t understand it. I’d never smoked or done anything that would harm my body, so what on earth could it be?
My doctor diagnosed me with angina and prescribed the appropriate medication for my presenting condition. Whilst giving the doctor my medical history, I became consciously aware that my eldest brother died at age twenty nine of a heart attack and several of my uncles had passed away before the age of thirty five all with heart attacks or heart related illness.
My doctor explained that I would go through a series of tests that would allow them to check my heart thoroughly. But I wasn’t out of the woods just yet. In fact, as I waited for my appointment at the hospital, things got progressively worse and I wondered if they would ever get “better.” In the months that followed I got weaker and weaker as the “illness” took hold.
Eventually the day came when the specialist checked out my heart via a CT scan. Great news at last: the scan showed that my heart and the arteries around it were clear of any blockages or indeed, any other problems or disease. The consultant was happy, although, not quite as happy as I was! Over the next couple of months my breathing became normal again, what was left of my medication was returned to the doctor’s surgery to be disposed of and the chest pains vanished.
So, what had happened? Why had I suddenly grown short of breath at the ripe old age of 26 when there was no physical reason for it to happen? And, once informed of my “diagnosis,” why had things taken a sudden turn for the worse until I got the test results back?
Clearly, my Saboteur had earmarked me to follow in the steps of my big brother, my role model and all the other men folk in my family. After all, I had been hearing from various relatives, all my life, how the males in our family die at a very early age and this will have been a topic of conversation at countless family meals, holidays and get-togethers. Living with that constant reinforcement, who was I to imagine that I might be allowed to break the family “curse”?
Thinking back, it was quite an eerie prospect to think that I, too, could have fallen foul to the Saboteur Within me. This time I was lucky enough to understand and acknowledge that the family’s beliefs didn’t need to be my own. Today, I have three sons who require their dad to be around for many, many years and that’s the role that I have set my Saboteur to fully support me in.
I was very lucky to have my wife Sonya around during my brush with the Saboteur because; she was on the outside giving me a direct feedback loop to all that I was doing, saying and being. For her insights, observations and simply holding up a mirror to enable me to fully see, I am eternally grateful.
According to Joseph Yeager, there are three things that have to take place in order to enjoy an effective transformation:
- You have to want to change.
- You have to know how to change.
- You have to have the time to change.
Fortunately, my angina diagnosis was a blessing in disguise as I was able to breakthrough the “dead by thirty five belief” which, now it was out in the open, seemed ridiculous; I didn’t smoke, hardly drank and was otherwise fit and healthy so other than this belief there was nothing stopping me from living a long and happy life.
Wherever you are in life, right now, at this very moment, seize these three keys to transformation and never, ever let go!
Confusion: The First Step to Eliminating Your Limiting Self-Beliefs
“Confusion is the final step before enlightenment.”
When my client Mr. Watson, a school headmaster, asked me if I could “work some magic” on a six-year-old student who had a terrible stammer, I smiled and said, “Of course.”
I had been working with young children for a few years in private practice by then, and Mr. Watson had retained my services, on an ad hoc basis, to support any children in his school with behavioural problems. There was a lot of red tape, as usual, but Mr. Watson always looked out for the child’s interests above anything else, and would do what he needed to do to enable me to work with his pupil.
The day arrived and I was invited into Mr. Watson’s office. Mr. Watson then left and collected little Jimmy from his class. I’d like you to keep in mind that Jimmy’s “Saboteur Within” was utilizing his stammer to capture more attention, mostly from his parents and the world at large. This meant that Jimmy would need a new strategy to help him to move beyond this developmental stage.
While I was alone in the office I sat in Mr. Watson’s chair, so that when the two of them came back, they would have to sit on the other side of the desk. Mr. Watson looked very puzzled as he walked in and sat down, on the wrong side of the powerful desk. He said nothing other than to introduce Jimmy to “Mr. Hudson.”
Jimmy was a freckled-faced, ginger-haired, young boy, with, I was informed, a terrible stammer. “Do you like Bart Simpson?” I asked. Jimmy looked puzzled, so I repeated the question, adding that Bart was “my favorite character.” Jimmy smiled and nodded in total bemusement.
I then went on to explain that while watching an episode a few days earlier, the show began to run “out of sync.” Suddenly, Bart’s mouth was moving but Homer was speaking. “It’s frustrating, isn’t it?” I said to a now curious Jimmy.
The young boy stared back at me with a knowing look on his face.
“Then everything has to STOP, Jimmy!” I said with some energy. “And when everything is STOPPED, Jimmy, then everything can be realigned so that everybody is speaking with their own voice. Now, isn’t that interesting?” Before Jimmy had a chance to respond I dismissed him with, “You can go back to your classroom now, Jimmy; thank you.”
As a bewildered Jimmy left the headmaster’s office, an equally bewildered Mr. Watson sat staring at me and wondering what had just gone on.
“Matt,” he said, in his Edinburgh twang, “you can’t expect me to cough up for that?” I took that to mean he didn’t want to pay for my latest “performance.” I remember mentioning to him that I was feeling a little like the Pied Piper after ridding Hamlin of its rats; the people of the village that had been plagued by rats were suddenly unwilling to pay now that the problem was gone and the piper had rid them of the rats!
The headmaster raised an eyebrow and looked at me, his face filled with doubt and disbelief; I smiled at Mr. Watson knowingly, enjoying the view from behind his big wooden desk. “Trust me on this one, Phil,” I said.
“All right!” he said, extending his faith in me; at least for now. Then he chuckled, “Can I at least have my bloody chair back, now?”
The next day Mr. Watson rang me to say that Jimmy’s mum and dad were at the school and little Jimmy had woken up without his stammer.
“How the bloody hell did you do it?” asked a now fully-trusting, amazed although still confused Mr. Watson.
“Elementary, my dear Watson,” I replied wryly.
What I did, dear readers, was to utilize all of the information that I have given you in this course. Let me explain in detail, Jimmy had a limiting belief about being a “stammerer”, in other words, one of his “I am’ statements would have been “I am a stammerer” and, in order to save him from his Saboteur Within, I would have to use his many other beliefs to erode and eradicate this one. To better see how I accomplished this goal, let’s have a look at the session from Jimmy’s side of the desk.
Question: When does a child go to the headmaster’s office?
Answer: When you’ve been really good – or when you’ve been really bad.
The headmaster is usually behind his large, imposing desk. So, if there is someone else sitting in the head’s chair, and Mr. Watson doesn’t tell him to move, not only that, he just sits quietly on the ‘wrong’ side of the desk alongside Jimmy, then that person must have more power than the Head.
This ‘powerful’ person likes the Simpsons, just like me.
This person gets frustrated, just like me.
If I haven’t been bad, then this person must have something… good… for me?
All of the above are positive beliefs. Now, by not allowing Jimmy to talk, I prevented him from identifying himself to me as a “Stammerer.” Then, by dismissing him without explanation, I maintained his confusion, while still feeling good about himself. Finally, I had seeded a strategy for Jimmy to let go of his stammer. This way, all day long Jimmy would be puzzling over our conversation and as he sailed into sleep that night, everything would STOP for Jimmy. The next day Jimmy had stopped and then started again – without his stammer.
Yes, there is a method hidden within my madness and more often than not, as Milton Erickson the psychiatrist, psychotherapist and hypnotherapist that revolutionised Western psychotherapy would put it: “any explanation is a therapeutic mistake.”
What Erickson meant by this statement, is that the client already has all the answers they need to resolve their issue; as therapists, we just have to find a way to propel our clients above and beyond their current definition of themselves, outside the boundary of their self-limiting beliefs and into chaos and confusion. It is in that confusion that they are able to tap into the infinite possibilities that are there for all of us if we do but dare take that step and transcend the threshold of our self imposed ‘safe house’.
Always be aware, your Saboteur will use fear to keep you ‘safe’ but it’s all an illusion, False Evidence Appearing Real; chaos is nothing to be feared.
Remember: “Confusion is the step before enlightenment.” So don’t be afraid to be confused; it’s the first step to eliminating your limiting self-beliefs.
Knuckling Down: Getting to the Root of Self-Limiting Beliefs
When my wife, Sonya, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in her early thirties, she was busy running her own hairdressing salon, raising four boys (including me!) and had less than no time to be ill.
Sonya’s hands were giving her massive pain, so much so, that she had to take time out of her salon, cancel appointments and attempt to rest her hands for so many hours a day. To a committed workaholic like Sonya, she didn’t know which was worse: the pain or the time off from her loyal customers!
We were fortunate enough to be able to see a consultant rather quickly; who suggested an operation would be the best way forward. The plan he suggested would be to remove Sonya’s knuckles and replace them with plastic ones.
“Wow,” I thought. “What a wonderful idea? NOT!!!!”
This was a time when a second opinion was definitely needed; my own! So, knowing what I knew about the Saboteur Within, Sonya and I decided to use hypnosis to engage directly with the Saboteur and create a whole new set of outcomes for Sonya and her hands.
After our first session the swelling in Sonya’s hands had gone down considerably and the pain eased. The second session brought about more flexibility and the third session, some ten years ago, saw the end to Sonya’s pain, outcome; no operation, no drugs and no side effects.
So what happened? Where had the pain come from and why did it go away? Sonya’s spirit was encouraging her to embark on her own path at the salon, but her own personal “I am” message was trapping her inside her beliefs about being a mother, a wife, a provider, a worker and on and on. The conflict this created manifested in pain in her hands making it impossible for her to continue juggling these different identities.
We worked on upgrading Sonya’s beliefs around her identity and in so doing, uncovered a need to explore a more spiritual and therapeutic focus to her work. She has long since left behind her scissors and hairdryers and become an exceptional hypnotherapist specialising in past life regression.
She would be the first to tell you that letting go of her expectations of herself in respect of her identity as mother, wife, provider and even hairstylist, allowed her to move beyond the conflict she was experiencing and create a fulfilling and rewarding career.
Many people continue to struggle on through this conflict and use alcohol, doughnuts, or prescription drugs to help them, but that gives rise to even greater illness, pain and depression.
Take for example, Bi Polar disorder or manic depression as we used to know it. You see a famous person on television who has more money than they could ever spend, famous friends and a super star lifestyle yet they are suffering with Bi Polar disorder, how can this be?
Well let’s look at the chemicals that their brain creates for them, they are enjoying their starring role, their hit record, their moment in the headlines and all of that produces excitement and in turn their brain creates an intoxicating cocktail of chemicals that gives them that elated, walking on air, got the world on a string feeling. Then, their equivalent of Monday morning comes, the run on Broadway ends, someone else grabs the starring role in the hot summer blockbuster film and the paparazzi have taken up residence on another doorstep. All of a sudden, their natural chemical rush has reduced to a normal level, big problem! OMG!!! Help me doctor I’m suffering from depression, the next big film role or TV reality show comes along and all of a sudden they are on a high again. Their roller coaster life style creates an addiction for the rush, which comes with this territory.
What they are really suffering from is an attack of the ‘normals’! Life has natural ups and downs, the true test of how well adjusted and flexible you are is making lemonade when you’re given lemons.
I have worked with celebrities who have been on prescription anti-depressants for over twenty years, when what they really need is to be told that it’s normal for them to feel low and then to build a set of strategies for feeling good about yourself without the dependency on an external stimulus.
Imagine that your mind has a setting from zero to ten about how you feel about yourself. Now ask yourself on an average day, zero being low and ten being high, what number do you give yourself? At what point on that scale do you start your day?
Most people start their day on a two or a three, so it doesn’t take much to be feeling really bad about yourself and the world around you. What if you were to start your day on a seven, that gives you room to fall in love, get a pay rise, drop a dress size or win the lottery, whilst also leaving you the capacity to deal with a flat tyre, getting caught in the rain or learning that the boiler won’t make it through another winter.
People who feel good about themselves can roll with the ups and downs that we all encounter in life, without having to turn to an outside substance to get them through the day.
In the many client examples that I have drawn from, you can see quite clearly how you could end up with bi-polar, pain both mental and physical, insomnia, ME, etc. In fact if you were to consider the nature of your Dis-ease it will come down to un-easiness within yourself and no amount of outside influence will bring you back into balance, unless you allow yourself permission to let go and grow.