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Change Who You Are

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Trevor Silvester 

Autumn 2018

Change who you are

People come to Quest for one thing, whether as a student or a client. They want to change their life.

With clients coming to see us for therapy, it’s usually a case of looking at whatever obstacles are in the way of that change – most of which are usually in our own heads. Whether it’s low self-esteem, weight loss, anxiety, depression or the host of other issues that plague us, people want the change to their life that letting go of their problem would bring.

Curiously, when we’ve helped them achieve that, the next change is to do something else with their life. Because, for many of us, what kept us from losing weight, what made us anxious or depressed, and what drove our low self-esteem, caused us to create our life in a certain way – one that usually isn’t the life they’d actually like to be living. When that changes, the horizon suddenly appears different.

The helped becoming the helper

Many choose to train with us as Cognitive Hypnotherapists, partly because they want others to experience the difference they feel in themselves, partly because they’ve become fascinated about the whole subject of personal change, and partly because they see it as a career infinitely more fulfilling than what they’re currently doing.

On the surface, my job is simply to teach them – and anyone else who attends our Diploma in Cognitive Hypnotherapy. Teach them the skills, the framework, the techniques, the outcome measures and all the other many things they’ll need to be a great therapist and a successful business owner. But that’s not the best bit. I know I can teach them all of those things and they’re still likely to fail in their goal of becoming a successful therapist unless I help them do one thing. Enjoy being themselves.

That sounds straightforward, doesn’t it? Because who doesn’t? Most people some of the time, and some people most of the time, is what I’ve learned. “On a scale of 0-10 how much do you like yourself?” is a core question I ask my clients at some point – and ask my students to consider also. I’ve had minus answers. Clients average about 4/10. Now, the thing is, getting you to genuinely like yourself, to enjoy your own company, to not be harshly judging yourself against others or beating yourself up for your perceived failings or shortcomings, is more than can be achieved in a therapy room or classroom alone. To have a good relationship to yourself requires regular attention on your part. Think of it this way. Your unconscious is looking for evidence it can use to judge who you are. It watches what you’re doing or not doing and decides from that what kind of person you are.

The more you act as the person you’d like to be, the more you’ll feel, and hence become, that person. Changing what you do changes who you are. The challenge for me is how to encourage my clients and students into the mindset that creates and then maintains new behaviours that leads their unconscious to a positive belief about who they are.

Knowing is not enough; we must apply

In terms of my students, one example is in the second phase of the Quest training – the Master Practitioner. I offer two challenges to the group. Skydiving and running a 10k race for a wonderful charity called CHECT. Each provides a different challenge. The skydive is obviously a big test for many people at the moment of doing it, but not so much of a challenge to daily behaviour beforehand – it’s not like you have to practice anything. I found falling two miles in one minute an amazing experience – it had been the biggest thing I thought myself unable to face my whole life. And so, I found surrendering myself to leaving the plane life changing. Ever since, when faced with a challenge, I’ve thought – ‘well, if I can jump out of a plane…’. Several of my other students reported the same.

Running a 10k is an entirely different proposition. If you have hang-ups about your physicality, if you’ve been away from exercise, if you’re scared of looking stupid, if you don’t like exercise, there’s going to be some serious mental friction between you and the start line. Therapy can help, of course, but most therapy happens in-between sessions. As Bruce Lee pointed out: “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” Nothing begins to really change until you take action. To run a 10k you have to put the hours in, on days you want to and days you don’t. I’ve found consistency is one of the rarer traits people display naturally.

For that reason, I teach the Master Practitioners the latest on how to motivate people, on how to set up productive habits that endure, goal-setting that actually works, along with techniques to maximise your positive states. These are all as applicable to people wanting to lose weight, change their job, move out of their depression or let go of anxiety as they are to training for a run. So, when students commit to the 10k, they create the perfect opportunity to be a lab rat for the very things they’ll teach their clients. And, as they find they work, their confidence and congruence in motivating people to change increases.

They become better therapists/coaches by becoming the change they want to see in their client (thank you Ghandhi).

And then there’s the day of the race. We turn up as a team, we run together for children with eye cancer. We struggle for 10k to help children and their families who’ll struggle for a lot longer. Research shows that sacrificing effort for a greater good makes us happy. That serving others boosts our mood. That striving fulfils us. Sometimes we just need a focus to remind us.

Small steps…consistently

The feeling at the end of the run – this year it was 31 degrees of hell – is testament to that. Crossing the line and get- ting the medal can be a huge moment for people who never got picked for netball. A goal achieved is fuel for further success. One of the most pleasing things was seeing two people from last year’s run, Jo and Lynne – both formerly non-runners – turn up to do it again. That’s what it’s about – not working yourself up for one big effort, but using that big effort to create momentum that leads to a permanent, positive shift in your behaviour.

Because if you can make that shift, what other changes could you make? The answer is…any. And you’re most likely to be helped to make them by a therapist who has done it themselves. There’s a saying that you can only take a client as deeply as you’ve gone yourself, and I kind of subscribe to that. It doesn’t mean the therapist has to be perfect – we’re going to fail regularly if we want to improve – it’s having the mindset to turn that failure toward future success, not against yourself.