Thinking as a Skill

Thinking is such an abstract thing. Because of its mysterious background, it’s hard to imagine thinking as a perfectible skill, and easier to just think of it as some graceful force that lands on certain ideas and feelings almost by accident. What if I told you that thinking needs just as much upkeep as a broken rib, or a leaky faucet? What if I told you it wasn’t just some ethereal wind blown into one ear and out the other, but a very malleable part of you that isn’t essential, but created? It’s hard to believe that we are defined by our decisions because that means we’re responsible for, well, everything. But we are. The good thing is that the more responsible we are for our life, the greater the feeling of reward, and the more feeling of reward we have, then, you
guessed it, the more happiness and health.

If you are under the impression that thinking can’t be manipulated, just think about how we manipulate our thoughts when we are faced with adversity. In the same way we clench our fists and punch things when we get frustrated, we mentally abuse ourselves by digging our thoughts into the ground. We choke our mental faculty of any positive form of thinking. Your mind becomes a warzone, your relationships sour, your work-life suffers—all because you haven’t made other decisions on what to think. It’s that simple.

Yet, it’s not easy. That’s why a life coach is often necessary to give you a bird’s-eye view of your life, an outsider’s perspective. Often, people come to see me, and they don’t even know of the negative thoughts they’ve been thinking! They are so accustomed to dwelling on the feeling that those negative thoughts produce, that they disregard or forget the precipitating thought. After all, “I feel so sad” is a lot easier to communicate to yourself and others than “I’m sad because I can’t stop thinking about the way my sister’s husband keeps treating her and my mother’s response to the whole thing. “ What I do is get rid of the debris, and reprogram the mind. That’s what hypnosis is. That’s what life-coaching is.

I also want to take this time to personally wish everyone a very warm and prosperous holiday season. Eat well, be merry, and make lots of memories. I’ll see you in 2012!

You Are; Therefore You Are

A lot of people are hazy as to what exactly it is I do. I can explain Medical Hypnosis, I can explain Rational Cognitive Therapy, I can explain Life Coaching, but I want to explain to you the central tenet of my practice: self-discovery. It is my firm belief that everyone is guided by a personal philosophy — always under construction, of course — but strong and stable nevertheless. Some have a libertarian mindset about the world, some a communal one, some see meaning in chaos, others, chaos in meaning, some see the sad things in the world, the funny things, the weird things, etc. What is your philosophy? Through what lens are you interpreting this world, your relationships, and yourself?

When my patients come to me, I not only uncover their own credo, but see what it is that is preventing it from flourishing. I never make judgments about the belief — it is yours, and that is its only needed justification — but I do help you shed those blocks that continue to hinder it. A lot of times when our voice isn’t in harmony with the chorus around us, we abuse ourselves or others. Some choke their personal philosophy with anxiety or depression, some cloud it with alcohol, drugs and binge eating… there are many ways we compensate for the insecurity, fears, and rejections of our own belief smacked against the context we find ourselves in.

By no means is this a cerebral process; I know the word “philosophy” sounds academic. But our values are predicated on our hearts, our experiences, our childhoods, our loves, and our passions — this is what we use for your positive change. Forget Locke for a second; what’s locking your potential?


Depression/Anxiety & Alcohol

In our modern age, it seems impossible at times to not be anxious and depressed. In the last thirty years, I’ve seen the rates of affected people only increase. With all our daily distractions and temptations, along with the stress of keeping up in an increasingly difficult world, we begin to defend ourselves in the easiest ways we know how: worry and defeat. We think we have more to lose, we fear our ability to accomplish things, and therefore we cultivate a mentality of “no,” a vocabulary of “can’t,” and a motto of “woe is me.” It’s not productive. It’s not smart living. You wouldn’t waste money, you wouldn’t waste time, so why waste your happiness and health? It’s only when we put happiness and health on a pedestal that we begin to feel the stress and burden of achieving it. We should cherish our happiness and health of course, but the higher up we put it, the harder we reach. What I like to help my patients realize is that the life you want is right in front of you. It’s just self-imposed mechanisms – ones that aren’t helping you – that have made that life appear a lot more distant than it actually is.

For each person, the reasons, and unnecessary hindrances that result from these reasons, are different. It might be an abusive parent, a terrible thing someone said to you, countless amounts of rejection, cheating, etc. I always spend the necessary time assessing the person in front of me by listening to him or her. Once the depression and anxiety are clear to me, we work to change the brain. In place of a pill, I introduce to you new thoughts. You’ll be a new person in no time.

Another replacement for pain is alcohol. As you can see on the “Alcohol” page of the website, there are four types of drinkers. The two seriously worth addressing are the contact and linear alcoholics; the former drinks uncontrollably at their third drink, while the latter cannot control their drinking from the get-go. With the contact drinkers, I teach a thinking pattern of moderation. This way when they finish the second drink, they find the desire to stop as opposed to continue to obliteration. With linear drinkers, sobriety is really the only option, so we work together to remap the brain chemically through hypnosis to allow sobriety. I had a CEO of a fledgling company who was busy convincing investors that his company was on the rebound. The stress of coming across as confident to the investors, salvaging a weak company, laying off hard-working employees, and the deteriorating personal relationships led quickly to alcohol abuse. If his brain was a musician, the musician had stopped practicing his instrument. He needed to relearn. I suggested to him the possibility of impressed investors, grateful friends and family, and a city that needed and adored the product his company offered. Note by note, his brain relearned the old tune it would play when it came up with the idea to start the business, or how it felt during the moment he first met his wife. Before you knew it, he was ordering seltzers and ginger ale, and what do you know, his company finished the year in the green. You have the necessary strength to purify that body, ground those relationships, and attain the inner happiness that has seemed only attainable through alcohol.

More next week!

Taking Full Responsibility For Your Life

How accepting responsibility for your happiness empowers you to become happy

Taking responsibility – This is a very important principle. As an adult, you are solely responsible for the choices in your life. So many people look to blame others or circumstances for the things that are not right in their lives, or
more so for our unhappiness. This attitude is self-delusional. The
concept that we’re fully responsible for the entirety of our lives, a notion
rooted in the principle of the simultaneity of cause and effect, could not be
more evident. Everything we experience in our lives today appears as an effect
of causes we ourselves have made in the past, and that everything we’ll see in
the future will occur as a result of causes we ourselves are making in the

Having said that, the notion that we’re completely responsible for everything in our
lives has immense value once properly understood. At the very least, it points
us toward a more complete recognition of the power we do have to affect the most important outcome of any life event – how happy or unhappy it makes us. Fully understanding this could empower people to accomplish more than they believe they can.

Certainly believing that you have more control over your life than you actually do
will lead nowhere good. Believing we only need to act kindly and morally, for
example, to make everything turn out all right will surely cause us only
disappointment and bitterness. We must, of course, acknowledge we often have no
direct control over what happens to us (i.e., we can’t simply decide
we’re not going to get cancer and expect that decision to protect us from
actually getting cancer). However, the degree of control we have over how we respond
to what happens to us is far greater than we often realize and that it remains
the key to our happiness.

As human beings, we’re endowed with an extraordinary degree of self-awareness,
self-awareness we’re constantly engaging to form value judgments about the
events of our lives. Typically, these value judgments sort into two camps:
“good” and “bad.” The problem is that our minds are so
powerfully predisposed to make judgments in general that they make most of them
too quickly, based on too little data. What’s more, these judgments almost
always leave out a key ingredient – our own ability to affect a particular
outcome. So when we hear we have cancer, we immediately judge it
“bad” – and as most would agree having cancer is bad, we leave
it at that. Except that the ultimate value of our receiving such a diagnosis is
elusively difficult to forecast. What if we’re able to find a clinical trial
that increases the likelihood of our being cured to over ninety-five percent? Or,
to speculate even more wildly, we were to start a foundation to raise money for
our particular cancer that becomes so fabulously successful it ends up playing
a significant role in our particular cancer’s eventual cure? Even if we die
from it ourselves, might we at least be given pause to consider whether or not,
on balance, this was a good deal? We do, after all, have to die of something
eventually. I say this not to sound callous but to point out that we have more
power to create value out of adversity than most of us believe, especially than
we believe at the moment adversity first confronts us.

What’s more, as Viktor Frankl famously said, “When we can’t change the outcome,
we are challenged to change ourselves.” This is more
than just a consolation prize for being unable to get what we really want (i.e.
our cancer cured). It points to the important fact that how we internalize
adversity, whether or not we feel empowered to challenge it or feel completely
overwhelmed by it, has more to do with our inner life state (and therefore the
beliefs operating in our lives which determine it) than with external events
themselves. I’m certainly not saying that getting cancer isn’t awful; but that
the suffering it causes in almost everyone who’s had it is due to the fact that
almost no one (with a few notable exceptions) views cancer as a value-creating
proposition at the outset (those who come out cured at the other end sometimes
do, but mostly not those who ultimately die from it). To do so of course
requires a life state of enormous size, one undaunted, enormously
self-possessed, and brimming with courage and vitality. Which is exactly what
I’m arguing we should all be seeking to acquire.

So what does it really mean to take full responsibility for your life? It means, in my
view, to take full responsibility for your happiness. It means recognizing that
how things look at the outset doesn’t determine how things will end, and that
although we can’t control everything (or perhaps anything) we want, we all have
enormous ability to influence how much happiness or suffering the events
of our lives bring us. Our focus should be on strengthening our inner
fortitude, on developing a spirit that refuses to be defeated. For that spirit
brings with it an enormous amount of power, power that can help us live up to
the idea that we are responsible for our lives and everything in them. And if
we can live up to that idea, refusing to become immured in blaming anyone or
anything else for our misfortune, we’ll find ourselves in the best possible
position to win and be ‘winners’. And even if we don’t – even if we do
ultimately go down – at least we’ll be able to do so swinging, with a full
sense of ownership of our fate. A sense of ownership that even in the face of
defeat may yet provide us satisfaction.