“Am I a man dreaming I’m a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming that I am a man?
—LAO-TZU, Chinese philosopher

It is a natural assumption that the choices we make are guided by some external force or are conscious acts of will. However, there are powerful, unconscious forces within us at work. I studied these forces for years in my work as a clinical hypnotist.
The hypnotic state is rated on a scale of 1 to 6, the sixth stage being the deepest. One out of every five people is considered a sixth-stage subject. Given the right subject, a good hypnotist can implant a temporary belief system in the subject’s subconscious.
This suggestion is governed neither by the subject’s conscious desire nor by his or her power of will. This new reality is the result of subconscious programming; yet because of what I call
the ‘‘Illusion of Consciousness,’’ the subject will believe that his or her conscious desire should win out.
For example, I can place a man in a hypnotic state, in which he appears fully awake and aware of his surroundings. Then I throw several $100 bills on the floor and tell him that he may keep them if he can pick them up. However, when he reaches out to touch the money, I tell him that each bill weighs 2,000 pounds.
The result is dramatic and instantaneous: He cannot pick up the money. He’s confused. In his paradigm of what’s possible, it doesn’t make sense. I ask the man if he really wants the money,
if he’s motivated to pick it up. Of course he says yes, so I add more money to the pile. He tries harder, straining to the point where I must stop him.
In more than thirty years I have never lost a dime.
The second example is even more dramatic. While a subject is in a heightened state of suggestibility, I tell her she will be unable to remember a particular number. ‘‘You cannot remember the number eight,’’ I tell her. ‘‘You cannot hear the number eight or see the number eight. For you, the number eight does not exist.’’ Then I ask her to open her eyes; she is fully awake and conscious.
I offer a reward to anyone in the audience who can get her to say, see, or hear the number eight. I initiate the process by having her count to ten. Naturally, she skips eight.
I encourage the audience to shout out the number, but she does not respond, because the sounds she hears make no sense to her. I write the number on a flip chart. Twenty-five percent of the time, she will see absolutely nothing. The number is invisible to her. Seventy-five percent of the time, she will see the drawn lines, but won’t know what they mean.
This is not magic. The practice of hypnosis was accepted as a science by the American Medical Association in 1958, and doctors all over the world use hypnosis in their work.
And a hypnotic state is not mysterious. You actually enter and exit this state of mind many times during an ordinary day. It may happen when you listen to music, watch television, read a book, drive to work, or simply drift into a daydream. Something triggers this state. With discipline, you can learn to trigger it on your own. You can hypnotize yourself and control stress, lose weight, open up your creativity, or improve your golf game.
Hypnosis opens a channel to the subconscious, that part of the mind wherein resides our belief systems. When the hypnotist guides a person into a state where conscious judgment is set
aside, suggestions can be momentarily or permanently programmed into the subconscious; then these suggestions become the individual’s reality for the time being.
As with all unconscious programming, our senses are manipulated to perform in harmony with our beliefs, our paradigms. The output (behavior) is the result of the input (suggestions).
The point of the demonstrations is to show how our belief systems dictate reality. Like the hypnotized woman, you cannot and do not recognize what you don’t believe to be true.
The perceptions you hold about yourself and the world comprise the core of your programming. They are usually unconscious and unexamined, yet every action you take and every decision you make is influenced by them. Your willingness to examine your unconscious gives you the power to change how you think, and thereby change your reality: victim to creator.
The possibilities are endless if you realize you yourself can create new belief systems within your subconscious, and these new beliefs can allow you to see what you didn’t believe to be true. You can make the invisible visible.
How does that make you feel? Does it scare you and make you defensive? Or does it make you feel challenged and excited about opportunity?
The Illusions of Separability, Failure, and Consciousness are giant stumbling blocks. But when you explore the possibility of being connected to others, transform failure into feedback and learning, turn judgment into curiosity, and become aware of the power of the subconscious, you open the pathway to personal mastery.
“When the will and the imagination are in conflict, the imagination invariably wins the day.”
—EMILE COUE´ , French psychotherapist