Sunday, 28 June 2015

JK Rowling: Depression and Dementors

When J.K. Rowling created the Dementors that haunt Harry Potter, she reportedly based them on her experience of depression. In their presence, all the joy, warmth and happiness feels like it’s being sucked out of the air, though the real terror lies in their ‘kiss’, which drags out one’s soul (though maybe she’s trying to ward her kids off dating there).

If you haven’t had depression the Dementors probably washed over you as generically evil creatures, particularly with their hooded cloaks, rotting hands, and general hovering around. But to those in the know, the Dementors are clearly Depression. And they affect every witch, wizard and muggle in a 100 metre radius.

It’s no coincidence that they are a portmanteau of dement and tormentor. If you want to understand what depression feels like, these gravity-challenged entities hit the mark: “If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself… soulless and evil. You’ll be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.” They then “freeze your insides”. And to top it off: “they don’t need walls” to keep their prisoners, their prisoners become “trapped inside their own heads”.

Despite the multitude of campaigns around telling us the signs of depression, it’s often not easy to recognise those signs in yourself and pop down to your GP. People who fall under depression might very well need help to get help. Unfortunately, just like you wouldn’t want to be around a Dementor, it is tough being around their prisoners. While depression can affect people differently, there are a few possible, and not often talked about, by-products which can make it even harder.

Failure to consider other people. Describing people suffering depression as ‘self-absorbed’ seems like a harsh way of describing those already clinically down on themselves. But there’s truth in the sentiment: it’s a self-obsession about how everything about you and in your life points to how horrible and useless you are. This is pretty time consuming. It’s not that you don’t care about others; your inability to show this, or feel complete happiness for them, makes you feel even worse. But if it’s between beating yourself up or thinking about how you affect someone else, the depressed brain will always be sentenced to the former.

Irrationality or hyper-sensitivity. Here’s an example: after a less-than-stellar attempt to park her car, a girl suffering depression goes into a panic, crying over her inability to do the simplest things and the mocking gestures of bystanders (or so she perceived).

She phones her partner and blames him for not driving her, knowing that it isn’t his fault. It was obviously unfair, but she was acting to stop something we can’t see. She was trying to grasp onto something that didn’t point to her being worthless, incapable, a joke. You’ll do whatever, to whoever, to make depression ease up on you.

Change in interests. There’s a good chance you probably won’t remember what you were like before depression; you’ll think you’ve always been this way. But you’ll likely struggle to find enjoyment in things you used to. Seeing other people can be an all too confronting illustration of how far you fall short.

So a lot of complaining, sniping or lame excuses might emerge to prevent this from happening. You’ll be preoccupied with only two types of activities: those that somehow reinforce your depressive thoughts and those that momentarily distract you from them. This could be as serious as substance abuse, or as bewildering as a compulsion to watch TMZ.

Laziness. With your mind in persecution mode, there’s not a lot of energy left for even the simplest of chores. You might to start to believe yourself incapable of doing them. You might even forget that they need doing. Your, and your pet’s, hygiene could be a casualty.

Some recent government-sponsored commercials feature women suffering depression. The formula is much the same: inner hostility + outward concern = appreciative smile + feeling better. Another commercial tracks a depressed young girl, with an uncanny ability to do things backwards, and her mum intervenes and drives her to the doctor, in reverse. These ads hit on an important, and slightly uncomfortable, piece of the puzzle in overcoming depression: the people close to us. After all, anyone’s Patronus Charm can protect those nearby (to keep up the Harry Potter references).

Of course, it’s not the responsibility of others to make sure someone suffering depression gets help. Not every situation will be the same. Not everyone suffering depression will act the same. You’ll have to use your judgement. But there are a few things you can consider when you suspect someone close to you has depression and a few things to perhaps best avoid.

What to steer clear of:

Confusing the illness and the person. The changes might occur gradually, leaving you both feeling like it’s a permanent change – it’s just who they are now. But you need to distinguish between the person and the illness. It’s not easy; you’ll feel like they are dragging you down too. That’s the illness; it affects everyone in the immediate vicinity.

Personal attacks. Feeling frustrated, hurt and upset is understandable and you’ll need to vent. Boxing might help but yelling at them, complaining to them, bitching about them won’t get anyone anywhere. It’ll probably just make things worse and feed the depression. Keep in mind that you wouldn’t complain about someone with Parkinson’s not keeping still.

Running away. After an extended time with someone suffering depression, this could make you feel better. You should consider your own needs and it might be necessary for you. But hopefully, there’s a moment before you reach that point when they’ll reach out for help. And hopefully, you’ll be ready and willing to take it.

What to try:

Practicing patience. For everyone’s sake, the sooner depression is treated the better. However you can’t force someone before they are ready. They might not want to go to a doctor but they’ll want to get better.

Admitting the problem might seem easy, but when you’re in the midst of it getting professional help can seem futile or amount to failure, a confirmation that you are Wrong.

Being tolerant. You could be the one doing most of the chores, the one making all the plans, the one being counsellor to every vaguely negative occurrence during the day. It’s incredibly taxing and you may not be thanked for it. These things might get you both through today, but they won’t improve tomorrow. Endurance is required.

Being prepared to talk. Depression can seem like paranoia, with the world in a Truman Show-scale collaboration to reveal how incompetent/worthless/evil you truly are. You need to consider whether repeated hints might add to this sense of conspiracy or play down the problem. Just being prepared for a difficult talk will mean you can take advantage of the inevitable moments when they reach out and, in their own way, ask for help. It could be uncomfortable, time-consuming, draining, baffling and messy. It might be as simple as saying “I think you have depression and need to get help. But I’m here for you, I’ll support you. Tell me what you’re worried about and we’ll get through it together”. Either way, it will be better in the long run.

Depression is difficult, soul-destroying even. It’s an illness that affects the mind and therefore might lead to people doing some pretty nasty things, to you and to themselves. Hopefully, rather than take it personally, the better prepared can recognise it and treat it as an illness, and the sooner help can be sought. No one wants to become a prisoner of their mind, but with a Dementor standing guard it’s easy to get trapped. Someone might need you to be brave and help them out.

A psychologist who writes under the pen name Ray Duggan for sensible and paranoid reasons, she has watched the Harry Potter movies too many times and had to turn this into something productive – hence her first article for Mamamia. She lives in Adelaide with her brother’s cat, Frankie. Her life is not as sad as it sounds.


Sunday, 14 June 2015

VIDEO Hypnotherapy Demonstration: Anaesthesia

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

20 Mind Tricks to Try on Your Friends

A timing trick. We adjust to timing errors / latency. For example you press a button and 300 milliseconds later, a beep. You do this a few times, and you will adjust to it and the delay will become less apparent. Now the trick: After adjusting to the delay, remove the delay. Press the button, and the beep happens instantly. But the timing adjustment in your head will sincerely make you believe that the beep happened before you pressed the button. It’s mind-blowing. You can try a visual version of the trick by clicking here-thenfour & Aeoxic
#2. I like doing a false-belief test on children that are 4-5 years old to see if they can recognize that other people see the world differently and have different beliefs based on their experiences. Here’s a Wikipedia explanation of a false-belief test: “In the “appearance-reality”, or “Smarties” task, experimenters ask children what they believe to be the contents of a box that looks as though it holds a candy called “Smarties”. After the child guesses (usually) “Smarties”, it is shown that the box in fact contained pencils. The experimenter then re-closes the box and asks the child what she thinks another person, who has not been shown the true contents of the box, will think is inside. The child passes the task if he/she responds that another person will think that there are “Smarties” in the box, but fails the task if she responds that another person will think that the box contains pencils.” -meowkay
#3. Kind of a cruel one here: bet a friend/family member that they can’t taste the difference between whole/2%/1%/skim milk, or some combination thereof. Blindfold them and have them begin tasting the milks. Now, replace the last milk with orange juice. The brain prepares the body for milk, and the unexpected acidity usually causes a gag reflex, and sometimes vomiting. Keep a bucket handy. -TwoTimesThirty
#4. Make someone feel insecure by looking at their hairline while they speak. -thptaway
#5. If you want to get get rid of an object, for example walking with a friend after you bought a 2l coke bottle and want him to carry it, just keep talking to him while handing him the bottle, most of the times people will just take the object automatically without thinking. -rarabara
#6. If you want people to like you more, ask them to do favours for you. People think that doing nice things for others will make them like them more, but actually, when you as someone to do a favour for you, their subconscious thinks “I’m doing something for this person, so I must like and care about them.” It works:) -hypotheticalreality
#7. Put an object on the table. Hover your hand about a foot or so above it. Allow a family member to hover their hand halfway between yours and the object on the table. Say “I bet you I can grab (object) before you do. Once you see my hand move, grab for the (object).” Grab the object. By the time their brain registers that your hand has moved and they need to move theirs, you’ll have already grabbed the object. I like to do this with money and make bets. You can see a visual demonstration here-woeisandy
#8. When playing rock paper scissors; right before you are about to count (or interrupt the count) catch the person off-guard with a personal question, or something directed at them. Then immediately after just resume the count like nothing happened. Most of the time the person will throw scissors as a sort of automatic defensive mechanism. -zefy_zef
#9. Ask people this: What’s 1+1? What’s 2+2? What’s 4+4? What’s 8+8? Name a vegetable. For some reason, they almost always say carrot. -funnymanjohn
#10. How to convince someone you’re a mind reader: Ask them to hold up their hand and to think of one of their fingers without telling you which one. Then very gently push against each finger, one by one, with your own finger. When you get to the finger they have chosen, they will unconscious put up a tiny resistance, or counter-pressure, to your finger. To make it more convincing, throw in some meaningless gesture before telling them the answer, such as holding their palm to your forehead—this to deflect from your actual method of determination. Works every time and people are always amazed! -ilikestuffdoyou
#11. In negotiations or things of the sort, practice using silence. Most people are very uncomfortable in silence and are willing to break it by giving up a key point. Try it, it actually works. -the4thwheel
#12. Nodding your head while asking a question will make the other person more inclined to agree with you. “Don’t you think blah blah is right?” while nodding, most people will agree. -the4thwheel
#13. When you’re in a group and someone tells a joke, and everyone laughs, the first person you look at while laughing is normally the person you’re closest to. -the4thwheel
#14. For sports related things- if someone is really on their game and you want to mess them up, ask them “Wow, you are really good at blah what are you doing to affect it?” or something to that point. They will from then on overthink and most of the time start to fail more often. -the4thwheel
#15. If somebody’s trying to count something and you want to mess them up because you’re a jerk, don’t say random numbers, say numbers in an order because the brain latches onto patterns. -the4thwheel
#16. Sing the chorus or popular part of a song, then immediately say something to get their mind off that song for a moment. Sit back and wait, it’ll get stuck in their head. I’ve accidentally discovered this with my ADD. I’ve tried it multiple times. -YouWontBelieveWhoIAm
#17. Go to a halloween store and buy a rubber hand or arm. Do the ‘rubber hand illusion’ – you will really freak out your family. Instructions/explanation here-grinning
#18. Here’s a physical one. Have someone lay down on their belly, arms stretched out over their head as if they are imitating Superman in flight (but face down). Have them close their eyes (and they must remain closed the whole time) and then grab their wrists and lift their upper body up to about a 45° angle. Like some sort of weird, assisted yoga pose. Hold them steady in that position for 2 minutes. Then, very, very, very slowly and gently, lower them back down until their arms are flat on the floor again. It produces the sensation of your body not stopping when it reaches level – as if you go right past 0° and begin to sink into the floor. I’ve never looked up the reason, but the brain believes the body is level again before it really is and interprets the continued movement as moving past where it started. -Pandromeda
#19. When in a group act bored and disinterested when the speaker is not using their hands. Act interested if the speaker uses hand motions. Within a month or less you can get people to wave their hand quite emphatically and erratically when they speak to you. This works incredibly fast if you can enlist a friend or two to help you. Our class did this with our own psychology professor and then filmed it. He denied waving his hands around until we showed him the video. We all got an A in that class. -Rolakaab
#20. Ask someone to trace an uppercase E on their forehead with their finger. If they draw it so you can read it, they’re doing what’s best for you and are therefore empathetic. If they draw it facing themself, they are only thinking of theirself and aren’t empathetic. -Jjeremiah49

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Active Listening: Hear What People Are Actually Saying

Listening is one of the most important skills you can have. How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness, and on the quality of your relationships with others.

For instance:
  • We listen to obtain information.
  • We listen to understand.
  • We listen for enjoyment.
  • We listen to learn.
Given all this listening we do, you would think we'd be good at it! In fact most of us are not, and research suggests that we remember between 25 percent and 50 percent of what we hear. That means that when you talk to your boss, colleagues, customers or spouse for 10 minutes, they pay attention to less than half of the conversation. This is dismal!

Turn it around and it reveals that when you are receiving directions or being presented with information, you aren't hearing the whole message either. You hope the important parts are captured in your 25-50 percent, but what if they're not?

Clearly, listening is a skill that we can all benefit from improving. By becoming a better listener, you will improve your productivity, as well as your ability to influence, persuade and negotiate. What's more, you'll avoid conflict and misunderstandings. All of these are necessary for workplace success!


Good communication skills require a high level of self-awareness . By understanding your personal style of communicating, you will go a long way towards creating good and lasting impressions with others.

About Active Listening

The way to improve your listening skills is to practice "active listening." This is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, try to understand the complete message being sent.

In order to do this you must pay attention to the other person very carefully.

You cannot allow yourself to become distracted by whatever else may be going on around you, or by forming counter arguments that you'll make when the other person stops speaking. Nor can you allow yourself to get bored, and lose focus on what the other person is saying. All of these contribute to a lack of listening and understanding.


If you're finding it particularly difficult to concentrate on what someone is saying, try repeating their words mentally as they say them – this will reinforce their message and help you stay focused.

To enhance your listening skills, you need to let the other person know that you are listening to what he or she is saying. To understand the importance of this, ask yourself if you've ever been engaged in a conversation when you wondered if the other person was listening to what you were saying. You wonder if your message is getting across, or if it's even worthwhile continuing to speak. It feels like talking to a brick wall and it's something you want to avoid.

Acknowledgement can be something as simple as a nod of the head or a simple "uh huh." You aren't necessarily agreeing with the person, you are simply indicating that you are listening. Using body language and other signs to acknowledge you are listening also reminds you to pay attention and not let your mind wander.

You should also try to respond to the speaker in a way that will both encourage him or her to continue speaking, so that you can get the information if you need. While nodding and "uh huhing" says you're interested, an occasional question or comment to recap what has been said communicates that you understand the message as well.
Becoming an Active Listener
There are five key active listening techniques. They all help you ensure that you hear the other person, and that the other person knows you are hearing what they say.
1. Pay Attention

Give the speaker your undivided attention, and acknowledge the message. Recognize that non-verbal communication also "speaks" loudly.
Look at the speaker directly.
Put aside distracting thoughts.
Don't mentally prepare a rebuttal!
Avoid being distracted by environmental factors. For example, side conversations.
"Listen" to the speaker's body language .
2. Show That You're Listening

Use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention.
Nod occasionally.
Smile and use other facial expressions.
Note your posture and make sure it is open and inviting.
Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like yes, and uh huh.
3. Provide Feedback

Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said. This may require you to reflect what is being said and ask questions.
Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. "What I'm hearing is," and "Sounds like you are saying," are great ways to reflect back.
Ask questions to clarify certain points. "What do you mean when you say." "Is this what you mean?"
Summarize the speaker's comments periodically.


If you find yourself responding emotionally to what someone said, say so, and ask for more information: "I may not be understanding you correctly, and I find myself taking what you said personally. What I thought you just said is XXX; is that what you meant?"
4. Defer Judgment

Interrupting is a waste of time. It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of the message.
Allow the speaker to finish each point before asking questions.
Don't interrupt with counter arguments.
5. Respond Appropriately

Active listening is a model for respect and understanding. You are gaining information and perspective. You add nothing by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down.
Be candid, open, and honest in your response.
Assert your opinions respectfully.
Treat the other person in a way that you think he or she would want to be treated.

Key Points

It takes a lot of concentration and determination to be an active listener. Old habits are hard to break, and if your listening skills are as bad as many people's are, then there's a lot of habit-breaking to do!

Be deliberate with your listening and remind yourself frequently that your goal is to truly hear what the other person is saying. Set aside all other thoughts and behaviors and concentrate on the message. Ask questions, reflect, and paraphrase to ensure you understand the message. If you don't, then you'll find that what someone says to you and what you hear can be amazingly different!

Start using active listening techniques today to become a better communicator, improve your workplace productivity, and develop better relationships.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Poetry and Hypnosis, Poetry for Healing

 by Felice Austin
Only poetry can mend a rupture in our civilization. – John Carey, P.Hd.
As hypnotherapists we deal in the language of the unconscious mind—in metaphors, symbols, imagery, and sensory detail. Our profession and our tools are not new; for thousands of years humans have done this: shamans, monks, prophets, poets. In some languages, the ancient word for poet is the same as the word for prophet.
By definition, a prophet or prophetess is someone who speaks by inspiration, edifies, uplifts, heals, and sometimes predicts things to come. Poets also do this. The very nature of poetry, with its rhythms, images, inferences, and maternal patter, is designed to reach the mind on a different level than everyday prose. Delivered to the mind in this way, poetry can inspire, heal, and even predict, as suggestions and images that bond with the unconscious begin to unfold into reality.
Contemporary poetry is life-affirming and directly relevant to all of our lives. The wonderful thing about contemporary poetry is that a poem can be about anything. There are poems about cars, girls, homework, lawn mowers, blue nudes, bicycles, suicide, love, death, the moon, and much more. The power of a good poem can move and change a person profoundly and unforgettably. Most people have at least one poem that they remember that affected them—the poem read at a wedding or funeral or during an inauguration speech.
While not all of your clients may be interested in poetry, a few solid collections in your library can enhance your hypnotherapy practice in several ways. First, poetry can be a window into your client’s subconscious mind, or to parts of him/herself. Second, poetry can be used as a secondary induction to induce hypnotic trance. It is also wonderful for embedding commands. Third, a study of poetry can greatly sharpen your sensory acuity as well as your repertoire of imagery, metaphors, and suggestions. Lastly, poetry can work where other things haven’t. Kafka said that a book “must be the axe which smashes the frozen sea within us.” A poem can be just that for a resistant or frozen client—especially the clients who seem the least likely to be interested in poetry.

Poetry as a Window to the Unconscious

If you have a client that likes poetry or even writes poetry, this can be a great way to learn things you wouldn’t in a typical session. If my clients like poetry, I might ask them to bring in some of their favorite poems and ask them to tell me why they love them. This can be very revealing.
Here is a fun example:
Tuesday 9 a.m.
By Denver Butson
A man standing at the bus stop
reading the newspaper is on fire
Flames are peeking out
from beneath his collar and cuffs
His shoes have begun to melt
The woman next to him
wants to mention it to him
that he is burning
but she is drowning
Water is everywhere
in her mouth and ears
in her eyes
A stream of water runs
steadily from her blouse
Another woman stands at the bus stop
freezing to death
She tries to stand near the man
who is on fire
to try to melt the icicles
that have formed on her eyelashes
and on her nostrils
to stop her teeth long enough
from chattering to say something
to the woman who is drowning
but the woman who is freezing to death
has trouble moving
with blocks of ice on her feet
It takes the three some time
to board the bus
what with the flames
and water and ice
But when they finally climb the stairs
and take their seats
the driver doesn’t even notice
that none of them has paid
because he is tortured
by visions and is wondering
if the man who got off at the last stop
was really being mauled to death
by wild dogs.
This poem not only shows the inside of Denver Butson’s mind, but also tells something about my mind, as a person who likes this poem. I think this poem is a great example of how beneath the surface of everyday interactions, everyone has their own distortions, deletions, hallucinations, and negative hallucinations. Perhaps my liking this poem, which I discovered years ago, was an early indicator of my future career as a hypnotherapist.
When it comes to poetry each person is allowed to have their own unique experience in it. Someone else might say that “Tuesday 9 a.m.” is symbolic of a crossroads in his/her life, or that it reminded him/her of family. Another may call it a cautionary tale about public transportation. The kind of poetry your clients gravitate to and their experiences in it can give you a lot of information for the hypnotic part of the session. For example, if my client said she was the woman at the bus stop who was drowning, I might put her on the well used imaginary staircase, but going up—out of the water, to higher and higher ground.

Poetry as a Secondary Induction

Poetry, like music, is to be heard. – Basil Bunting
Gone are the days when you may have had to sit in a classroom and torture the meaning out of a poem—do they still do that in schools? I hope not. Poetry does not exist simply to convey meaning. The paraphrasable meaning of a poem is less than the poem itself. The sounds are where the meaning is just as much as the words. And if you have ever been to a good poetry reading, you know that poetry can induce hypnotic trance. The maternal lulling patter that I call “poet voice” is similar to hypnotherapist patter. And while many things can induce trance (driving, anxiety, television, etc.), none of these accidental inductions have the power to heal the way poetry does.
As I get to know my clients and what metaphors and images they resonate with, I may read poetry to them as an induction. From this framework I can then weave the metaphors from the poem through the hypnosis as a way of delivering the hypnotic suggestions. It is a bit Eriksonian, and works equally well for literal and inferential learners.

Poetry as Suggestion

Even before I became a hypnotherapist, people would come to me in search of help or wisdom. While I often didn’t know what to say, I knew I could always turn to poets—who have been making sense of the world for a lot longer than I have. I would open a well-read book of poetry or poetic prose and find just the right quote to read to them. So, on becoming a hypnotherapist, it was natural for me to look for hypnotic suggestions in poetry. Once you open yourself to the world of poetry, you will find that poems reflect the majority of issues we deal with in therapy – fears, relationships, communication, connection, hobbies, habits. Not only will you find suggestions in poetry, but powerful imagery and metaphors. For example, a lovely poem called “Ballplayer” by Evie Shockley can make an outdoor basketball game seem vividly alive and interesting to anyone that has ever watched a pick-up game. To an athlete who may be struggling with performance, it can add just the right magic into the hypnotic part of the session.
Some poems are so powerful they become personal mantras, especially during difficult or unreal times. For example, “Wait,” by Galway Kinnell, might be the mantra for someone who feels they have nothing to live for—who fears they might take their own life. Below are the first few lines from that lovely poem.
Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Another poem, by Dylan Thomas, whose famous ending couplet has become the personal mantra for thousands, is:
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Long before there were hypnotherapists, there were poets. Poets were some of the first hypnotherapists, and are still some of the finest. Here are just a few examples:
Jesus Christ is well-known as having taught in parables (stories), but what is not as well known is that he was also a poet. Christ’s famous Sermon on the Mount, in its original language was written in a formal kind of poetry: a chiasmus. In English, a chiasmus is a very interesting and challenging form to write, with its repetitive, inverted parallelism, but it works naturally in the Aramaic and in Hebrew. [1] Unfortunately, most of the poetry has been lost in translation.
Lao-Tzu, an ancient Chinese mystic and philosopher, best known as the author of the Tao Te Ching and regarded by some as a the founder of Taoism, was also a poet. “As with most other ancient Chinese philosophers, Lao-Tzu often explains his ideas by way of paradox, analogy, appropriation of ancient sayings, repetition, symmetry, rhyme, and rhythm.” [2]
Among modern poets, there is Khalil Gibran, whose 1923 book of poetic prose titled The Prophet, gained huge popularity in the 1960s. Gibran is the third best-selling poet of all time, behind Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu. [3]
Then there is my Rilke, my personal favorite when looking for suggestions. Maria Rainer Rilke was an accomplished German poet, but he is probably most widely know and loved for a collection of poetic letters he wrote to an aspiring poet who sought his advice. A good translation [4] of this small volume can bring endless amounts of insight and suggestions for all kinds of presenting issues.
Here are just a few short excerpts from Letters to a Young Poet:
  • ...many signs indicate that the future enters us in this way in order to be transformed in us, long before it happens. And that is why it is so important to be solitary and attentive when one is sad: because the seemingly uneventful and motionless moment when our future steps into us is so much closer to life than that other loud and accidental point of time when it happens to us as if from outside. [5]
  • We must accept our reality as vastly as we possibly can; everything, even the unprecedented, must be possible within it... Some people only come to know one corner of their room. [6]
  • ...we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience. [7]
  • Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence something helpless that wants our love. [8]
  • Don’t search for the answers, which would not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. [9]
  • Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born...
I have used all of the above as direct suggestions or as inspiration for imagery in therapy.

When Nothing Else Works – Throw Poetry at Them

The act of writing poetry is an attempt to put into words that which the poet finds inexpressible. When it is successful, the act of reading or hearing it can create a similar, unsayable experience—an experience that is beyond logic, that bypasses the critical mind and, as Kafka so poetically suggests, can “smash the frozen sea within us.”
While it is easy to assume that poetry is only for a certain type of client, this belief could create missed opportunities. Poetry can have the most profound effect on the clients you wouldn’t expect. Of course, not everyone loves poetry. Some people will tell you they hate it. These people usually had a bad experience in school where they had to read medieval poetry and then analyze it. Most people are pleasantly surprised when exposed to contemporary poetry on a subject that interests them.
To the skeptical but willing client, I sometimes give the therapeutic directive to pick up a friendly anthology of poetry, like Poetry 180 [10] and tell me about their experience. The response from my logic-ruled clients is subtle but deep. It is usually for these clients that poetry is the most necessary. On this necessity, I can not add to what William Carlos Williams has already written so beautifully: My heart rouses thinking to bring you news of something that concerns you and concerns many men. Look at what passes for the new. You will not find it there but in despised poems. It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.