Changing Fixed Ideas – How fixed ideas control behaviour

By Gil Boyne

Editor’s Note: The following article is excerpted with kind permission from Gil’s forthcoming book, “Hypnotherapy, Principles and Practice” which will be published by Westwood Publishing Co.

Behaviour is the expression of energy in a variety of forms. Behaviour acquires its character from the underlying ideas that have become fixed in the subconscious mind. Since most of our behaviour patterns are appropriate to the circumstance and situation, the therapist’s concern is primarily with fixed ideas that generate frustrating, restrictive, and counterproductive behaviours. These behaviours are repeated and reinforced compulsively until the underlying fixed ideas are modified or replaced.

The combination of hypnosis and the techniques, methodology and philosophy of Transforming Therapy™ is the most rapid process known at this time for changing these fixed ideas. Transforming Therapy™ focuses on the intensification of the feelings which are linked to fixed ideas which are established through initial sensitizing events (usually in childhood) and maintained by continuing secondary reinforcing events throughout a lifetime. The goal is always to change the emotional and intellectual perceptions to develop heightened awareness and new understanding rather than simply acquiring intellectual insight.

Intellectual insight into the past can be somewhat educational. But insight alone never changes the past and rarely triggers therapeutic change. The best therapy is oriented to the client living today, next week, next year.

Age regression is a process used in trance to revive earlier memories with vivid emotional intensity so as to uncover early programming ideas and concepts that have become fixed ideas and have become the basis for frustrating, self-sabotaging behaviours.

It is accomplished by intensifying the underlying subconscious emotion which has been identified by the Hypnotherapist during the preinduction interview. Then the subject is directed to go to an earlier time in which the same emotions were experienced. This allows the Hypnotherapist to begin an exploration to discover how traumatic experiences or incorrect interpretation of experiences developed fixed ideas that underlie inappropriate behaviors. Often there is a highly-emotionalized abreaction followed by cathartic ventilation at which point the Hypnotherapist can begin the process of re-education and reprogramming the subconscious mind.

After the cathartic discharge of the repressed energy linked to the initial sensitizing and subsequent reinforcing events, combined with re-education (rewriting the script), it becomes possible to integrate the intellectual understanding with the new feeling tone attached to the behaviours. This form of eliminating resistance to change precipitates therapeutic change in a shorter time frame than any other approach to behaviour modification.

In Hypnotherapy, we change inappropriate interpretations through the uncovering and re‑education methods that we use. When an idea is presented to an adult mind, it is screened against the accumulation of knowledge, experience and the interpretation which is stored in the “critical factor of the conscious mind.” Its function is to act as a filtering screen, so that when ideas are presented we have a way of analyzing them. We look for the rational content and decide if it connects with material that we have previously stored. If we are unable to make a connection or if the incoming ideas are irrational, then we reject them. If it is a totally new idea, the tendency in the adult mind is to reject it unless there are very favorable circumstances involved in the reception of that new idea.

For example, imagine a young man who doesn’t have any familiarity with classical music. He speaks of opera as high‑brow and boring. Then he meets and falls in love with a young lady who is very devoted to classical music and opera. In the midst of this love affair, she’s teaching him all about opera. Soon he has learned a great many new things and he no longer finds opera boring. He is changing his ideas because of the payoff at an emotional level.

With hypnosis we can create a state of mind in which the critical factor becomes temporarily inactive. It doesn’t disappear, it just stops analyzing for rational content and it stops evaluating in terms of previous knowledge or fictitious beliefs that we have previously accepted.

When we say, “I just know that I can’t stand up in front of a crowd and give a talk, because I’ll be mortified,” that is a fictitious belief because we can. We may need some conditioning to overcome fear responses in our body, but we can do it. We only believe that we can’t. What we are really saying is, “I won’t, because I don’t want to feel the feelings that occur when I do.”

When working in hypnosis we deliberately attempt to generate gullibility, which means the uncritical acceptance of ideas. Why should anyone be willing to accept uncritically, the ideas, suggestions or directions that we present to them? How can we acquire such significance in their psychic existence? One reason is because they are desperate; they say, “Well I’ve tried everything else, so I’m going to try hypnosis.” That’s when they’ve reached a point of “readiness for change.” When clients have reached a point of readiness for change, there’s very little you can do to prevent them from changing. It might take them years to get to the point of readiness for change but when they’ve reached it nothing can stop them from changing. Change can only be perceived retroactively—after the fact. “Wow! Have you changed! It’s two years since I’ve seen you and I can see that you are really a different person.”

We can hope that we are ready to change. We can plan to change but the only way that we are going to know that we have changed is through the ongoing, continuing expression of change. Just as hypnosis is a mystery, change is a mystery—it can’t be predicted. We can’t initiate change by talking about change. If we could, everyone would be changing all the time because we are always talking about it. We can’t experience change because we long for it, any more than the desire and thought of food can fill an empty stomach. The only way we can experience change is when we initiate a process of change, which means when we begin engaging in different behavior. As a therapist all I can do is to say, “Thank you Lord, for allowing me to play this part in the mysterious process of change.”

We therapists must give thanks every day, because we are among the fortunate few. We can observe, first hand, the process of change, knowing that we played a part in it, and that knowledge keeps our own hope for change alive and active!

If you are fortunate enough, you will never suffer from despair, and never slip into hopelessness and anti‑life behavior because each day of your life you will see the miracle of change right in front of you, but you must give up thinking that you’ll change simply because you are helping other people to change. You will change when you say, “I’ll do the same hard work that my clients did.”

Helping others is not going to transform you, even though you may believe that it will. When you have helped many and the testimonials are many, you can still feel the same negative feelings inside and you’ll say, “I thought that helping others was going to do it for me but it hasn’t.”

Many feel that once they have enough money, or career success or romantic love they’ll feel differently inside. They are repeatedly disappointed that their negative images of self remain.

The process of change is always exciting and mysterious and therapists are fortunate to play a part in it. It can be a vital factor in transforming our lives.

We set out to create a willingness in the client to accept and become gullible to our ideas. The best hypnotherapists know how to create strong gullibility and uncritical acceptance and the central element in the process is trust and the client’s awareness of our devotion to them.

When you sit down with someone, no matter how troubled they may be, within a brief period of time (ten or fifteen minutes), they must begin to feel enveloped by your caring, divine love. They must feel that all of your thoughts and all of your energies are focused only on them during the time that they are there. You must begin to penetrate into their psyche, because you’re not there to sit and take notes, and keep saying “Very interesting.”

They will then become willing to reveal themselves to you. They can go into their psyche and go back to when they were just as willing at four, or five years old, to accept suggestions and directions from mother or dad uncritically.

The client comes to you with a certain mental set and they expect you to get into that set. If you surprise them, they let loose of their mental set, and you can frame a new mental set for them.

The therapist can create conditions conducive to change, can attempt to motivate the client to change and can even provide a change-inducing experience, but change must occur within the client. Change cannot be forced upon clients, and clients cannot be expected to change in ways that are inappropriate to their needs or foreign to their backgrounds. Hypnotherapists must keep the burden of responsibility for change on the shoulders of their clients. Since people can do any number of things against themselves and devise very intelligent ways to defeat or destroy themselves, you need to understand that if a person can destroy the self intelligently then they can also redirect their energies to build themselves up creatively.

Stimulating therapeutic change actually involves the application of some mechanical skills. They are admittedly complex skills requiring an extensive specialized background of training and experience, but therapy really amounts to pushing the emotional, intellectual and spiritual buttons that will cause the desired therapeutic reactions and learnings. The strategies and techniques employed by the therapist should be genuine expressions of professional concern and not mere rote imitation or mechanical reproduction.

The induction and maintenance of a trance provides a special psychic state in which the client can begin to reorganize his inner awareness and utilize his own capacities. Therapy is accomplished when clients have an experience which triggers a reorganization of previous understandings and responses. This can correct false ideas or misperceptions previously held or lift a rigid restriction or present the truth to the client in a new way. It is the client’s experience of reorganizing his own internal perceptions that stimulates change. The therapist can help by presenting creative ideas and post-hypnotic suggestions in a way that stimulates imagery and feeling and relates to the present as well as the future. It is this experience that can lead to a transformation and/or cure.

In hypnotherapy always work for the client’s action and response instead of focusing on theories and concepts. Focus on creative responses of actions and change, not the consideration of the possibility of change; always work to develop an expectancy of change!