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Life is Hard

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Trevor Silvester

Autumn 2017

Life is Hard

My grandad taught me many things, among them this pithy maxim, “It’s not supposed to be easy, just possible”. I’ve found it’s served me well, and has never been a more necessary reminder in a world that increasingly seems to tout the desirability of easy over effort.

It means that quite often we get clients who hope to lie back in our therapy chair and somehow get better with no investment on their part other than of the financial kind. And that’s not how creating any real change in your life works. At least, not permanent change.

If you want your life to be great, it’s going to need consistent effort on your part, and that’s a bit of an unfashionable message in our X Factor/Love Island instant fame/gratification world. 

Getting good takes effort

It’s why I respect the Cognitive Hypnotherapists in our network so much. When they join us they’re specifically warned to expect it to be the most challenging course to qualify as a hypnotherapist they could take.

Why? Because becoming great at helping people help themselves takes a great deal of effort and sacrifice, and we’re not interested in graduating average people who can only help people averagely. Most do work their socks off, while a few go through the motions and usually drop out or go on to something simpler – there are lots of choices out there. And I don’t blame them for not committing wholeheartedly to becoming great, any more than I blame clients hoping for an easy miracle. We run on batteries. Our brain has evolved to seek shortcuts and conserve energy, so we’re attracted to attaining a goal with a minimum of effort. Also, our brains are reductionist – we seek the simple answer to anything. Trump gained a Presidency by riding that pony.

In my 20 years as a therapist, I’ve seen many new therapies hit the market, and they nearly all have the same sub-text – “Do this! It’s quick, simple, and it’s all you need!”. Practitioners of the new therapy seek clients using the same bait that lured them to the training. Both tend to find disappointment. Throughout their careers, Cognitive Hypnotherapists are going to hear the siren call of the simple, and it’s mightily seductive.

Who doesn’t want the answer to everything being one thing? Especially if it’s easily grasped.

Success doesn’t negotiate

So, we lose some people to these simpler approaches and their promises. Which is fine. Our road is hard, but our teaching structure has always been one based on knowing that we’re panning for gold. We make it as possible for our students to become as good at therapy as we can, but no easier. Some of that is about learning the craft, and some of it is developing the right mindset. For example, we teach them how to cultivate one of the most potent traits: consistency.

Some new graduates initially rise to the heavens like rockets, and then fall back to earth as sticks. In the fire of early passion, it’s easy to devote yourself to a new life direction and make great progress early on, but victory goes to the tortoise. We’ve noticed that the simple act of turning up, of consistently taking action, is the single biggest predictor of our graduates succeeding in building a thriving practice. And the rarest. Because life is hard, things will get in your way, and the world won’t always reward your desire to succeed.

Change can be a grind. Boo hoo. Success doesn’t negotiate. You do what it demands or it goes to someone else.

Isn’t that true of your life, and what you desire? Isn’t keeping going after the initial excitement of a new direction really hard? Anyone can start something, but not everyone can see it through. So, you need to be clear about what you want, and how badly you want it. You’ll know what you want to gain by succeeding, but are you clear about what you’re prepared to lose? Because something will have to go to make room for it. It’s the message we give to clients because every Cognitive Hypnotherapist on our therapist finder has learned this, and continues to learn it. Your therapist is walking the same path you are.

The benefits of the road less travelled

Making your life great – or getting great at something – costs, but another one of my grandad’s sayings was, “The only benefit of doing something easy, is that it’s easy”. What you gain from the sacrifice you make is a life of your own making – and that’s rare.

Also, it will help you grow as a person. I think we’re born to strive. We’re happier when we’re in pursuit of a goal, when we must stretch to reach something worthwhile. I’ve done well in my profession, and I’m proud of what has emerged from it, but I miss the work involved in getting me to where I am. Getting here was more fulfilling to me than being here, because I enjoy the stretch of learning, of failing, of not knowing. The latter of which is a fundamental part of our philosophy.

Keep growing

I begin every Diploma course with this: “Nothing I teach you is true”. Nothing in all of therapy is true, actually, it’s just a series of models, but most people won’t admit it. Yet, in a hundred years’ time people will look at the models we’re using, and consider as cutting edge, and laugh, so we have reason to be humble.

I said in class only this weekend that, if I could infect my students with one thing, it would be uncertainty. It’s seen as a weakness. I see it as a strength. On your journey, be uncertain that you know enough. It will keep you alert and seeking more answers. Along the way, be uncertain about anything presented to you as the truth. Have strong opinions, but hold them lightly. Nothing is more dangerous than the certainty of feeling you’re right.

Remain uncertain and you’ll stay growing. Become sure, and you start to die.

Okay, dying might be over-stating it, but you’ll stagnate, and that’s no fun either. Look around you and notice how many people are just sleepwalking through their lives, living how they’ve been told to, valuing what they’ve been taught to value, settling for what they’ve been told is having ‘made it’.

For me, there is no standing still. You’re either moving forward, or you’re sliding back. Keep moving, keep exploring, remain dissatisfied, and you might discover wonderful things.

I know many therapists who’ve settled. Who believe they know ‘how to do therapy’ now, and become resistant to new ideas. That’s understandable if they are successful 100% of the time, which surely is the only reason to be satisfied. Yet nobody is. Not even close. People are too individual to ever fit into one therapy model, and yet the history of therapy has been a succession of people who built fences around their ideas, proclaimed their superiority, and demanded an entrance fee to learn their knowledge. Crazy. Therapy should be an open-source laboratory of cooperative endeavour. It really isn’t.

This vision was behind my creation of the Cognitive Hypnotherapy model. Rather than it just being the latest truth, it’s a framework within which techniques from any other model can be utilised according to the information gained from the client. That framework is subject to change, and the techniques are being regularly added to. Cognitive Hypnotherapy is a permanent revolution, pursuing the victory of being able to help everyone, with any problem. It’s probably an impossible dream, but we’re happiest when we’re striving, right? Even if our brains want us to sit back, take it easy and be certain.

It’s important that we keep this uncertainty at the centre of our work because the trouble is, if your therapy is ‘right’, and the client doesn’t improve, whose fault must that be? Your client comes to see you with problems, and leaves with more. Way to go. We’ll keep uncertainty as a strength here at Quest, thank you.

This isn’t about therapy, it’s about your life

I’ve written about this as a topic, not just as a bit of background about the difference you might experience by going to see someone in the Quest network, but because the principles I’ve described are fundamental if you want your life to change.

There are no short cuts to a great life. You must apply yourself fully to what you want. Keep striving. Don’t ever think you’ve arrived – you’re not who you’re going to be, yet. And take action. Small things consistently acted upon will get you further than any big leaps you attempt. Pick one thing and make it part of your life practice. Attend to it, because how you do that one thing, will be emblematic of how you do everything. Be brave in your pursuit of your goal because I suspect the only thing to really fear is feeling regret at what you didn’t do when you’re too old to remedy it. If there are changes to be made in your life, contact someone on our therapist finder. From reading this, you’ll already be familiar with some of the ideas they’ll get you to apply to help you get the change you want. Just don’t expect it to be easy…