Read an Excerpt
The Story Behind the Story
If I asked you to tell me your life story right now, what would you say? In all likelihood, you'd give me details about where you were born, how you grew up, the house you moved to when you were twelve, where you went to school, what you do for a living, and so on. Maybe you'd tell me about your first love or your first heartbreak.
But would you tell me about the signal events that made you who you are now? Probably not, because you're most likely not even conscious of these. Most people aren't. For example, consider one of my patients from 1997.
Erin, a successful healthcare professional, flew in to see me from St. Paul. She'd married late in life, and now thirty-nine, was trying to have a child. She had suffered three miscarriages in the past eighteen months one of which was very late term and understandably, she was extremely upset. Her most significant medical problem was that she had an inverted uterus, a congenital condition. Several gynecologists told her it would be nearly impossible to carry a child to term because of this.
During our first meeting, I asked her to tell me more about herself. Erin was born into a prominent family, but her mother died tragically when Erin was eleven. This event plunged the entire family into despair, disarray, and ultimately, for Erin, poverty. In the years that followed, Erin struggled with depression and a major back injury while doing everything she could to make her life successful. She put herself through two graduate degrees, visited a psychotherapist regularly, pursued philosophical and religious studies, and traveled the world. Now she was at a crucial turning point, desperately wanting to have a child and to build her own healthy, loving family. From her perspective, doing so was the most important goal in the world.
That was her history.
Her story behind the story was another matter.
As Erin spoke to me, I knew something more was going on than what I could learn from the bullet points of her life. Everyone has a deeper story that goes beyond the mere events in their lives. This deeper story has a tremendous effect on us, one that is so much more intense than what we normally associate with our life stories. Yet, most of us remain unaware of a deeper story because we can't figure out a way to reach it because we don't even know it exists.
To get to Erin's story behind the story, I guided her into a hypnotic state and asked her to go to the place in her mind where she would find the knowledge she needed to get well. She went to the day of her mother's death and experienced those moments as though she was there again. She told me who was there with her, what people were saying, and what she felt.
Suddenly, she gasped and said, "Pregnancy leads to death." I asked her to elaborate on this, and she told me her mother was seven months pregnant when she died. Since Erin was at the impressionable age of eleven, she linked the two events in her mind. She intertwined pregnancy and death and secreted this distorted "belief" in her subconscious from that day forward. Now this distortion was fueling her miscarriages because the subconscious mind has the important job of preserving our physical survival.
As soon as Erin found this distortion under hypnosis, she released it quickly (we'll discuss how this happens later in the book), breaking the link between these two concepts. At this point, the unfortunate connection she'd created between pregnancy and death could no longer do her physical harm. She'd found the part of her story that was preventing her from bringing a child into the world and she rejected it.
Within three months, Erin called me to say she was pregnant. Despite her inverted uterus, she carried her son to term and started the family she desperately wanted. And in so doing, she changed her story.
The Inextricable Connection between the Mind and the Body
Since you are reading this book, you are probably among the large percentage of people with health problems who have found that traditional medicine fails to deliver the quality of life they desire. Because of my expertise, many people who feel this way come to me for help often after their physicians have told them that chronic pain, depression, anxiety, dysfunction, disability, or even the specter of death are unavoidable.
Most of these people come to me in a state of despair for understandable reasons. They believe their illness has caused this despair. That is usually when I introduce them to the first lesson in mind-body science. "If that's what you think," I say, "you've put the cart before the horse." Most people who feel bad physically got that way and stay that way because, whether they know it or not, they were not satisfied with their lives to begin with. They were living stories that made them deeply unhappy in ways they could barely understand.
You might not believe this. You might point to a family history of diabetes, a congenital heart disorder, a fractured back in a car accident, or the degradations of twenty years of smoking. "These are the reasons I'm sick," you'll say, "not some vague concept about some story I'm living out." If you feel this way now, I ask you to stick with me because I'll prove that you're not seeing things as clearly as you think you're seeing them. All of the issues above might be relevant to the onset of suffering, but they are not the only causes of illness.
More importantly, they are not keys to a cure. The key comes in a simple but powerful revelation that I will repeat often in this book: disease in the body starts with dis-ease in the mind. Any health issue you have corresponds directly to some level of distortion in your mind. Therefore, to set free the hidden power of the mind for healing, you need to discover that distortion. You need to get to the story behind the story.
Every one of us is living a unique, epic journey, an adventure in self- discovery and self-knowledge. The plots vary widely, leading us through the extremes of poverty and wealth, triumph and despair, love and loneliness, strength and weakness, illness and health, grace and shame. Everyone's lessons in life are different. However, everyone's story has the possibility of a noble outcome, and everyone's potential is truly unlimited if they are willing to live their own story deeply and honestly.
Living outside your story failing to learn the lessons life is trying to teach you or misunderstanding or repressing your experience is the root cause of pain and suffering. When I say this, I do not mean to imply that you are purposely ignoring your life lessons. We human beings tend to repress any experience we find painful, terrifying, difficult, shameful, or otherwise challenging, so we can move on in life. We do it subconsciously because we have to in order to maintain our stability and forward momentum we have jobs, school, children, and other important responsibilities that need our attention. So we sacrifice our personal needs. Unfortunately, powerful feelings, thoughts, and desires that are repressed or "set aside" in this manner remain in the subconscious mind where they sabotage our psychological, physical, and spiritual wellbeing.
The good news is, if you can identify your story and live it out authentically, you can unleash miraculous mental power and attain great health, peace, and joy. Your age, station in life, race, culture, gender, or how much suffering you've had to endure doesn't matter.
It really is that simple.
However, getting to your story behind the story is not so simple. Because the human mind is a complex machine, you'll need some tools to get there. I will provide those tools in this book. These tools will help you get in touch with parts of your mind you've had little or no access to in the past. They will help you understand the themes, long-buried memories, and unacknowledged lessons you learned from others that have had a profound effect on your life. They will help you see the life you've lived in ways you've never seen before and help you decide which parts of that life you want to keep and which parts you want to change.
In short, these tools will change everything, for the better.
Most people are only aware of their conscious thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes, but conscious awareness is the smallest, weakest part of the mind. The subconscious mind is much larger and more powerful, and you are living out much of your story there. A rule of thumb we use in the field of clinical hypnosis is that the subconscious mind is two to two and a half times the size and power of the conscious mind.
In addition, there is the vastness of the super-conscious mind what people commonly call the "soul" or "spirit" (we'll discuss this at length later). Every human being possesses super-conscious awareness, and it is infinite in power. Some of your story is being lived out there in the form of your highest aspirations, your search for meaning, your yearning for what is sacred, and your knowledge that there is so much more to life. In a recent Gallup poll, 82 percent of people in the United States professed a belief in God and another 13 percent professed a belief in a higher power. When you experience the story behind your story, you'll encounter revelations that, if you are religious, you will see as coming from God. If you are a scientific humanist, you'll see these revelations as coming from deep within yourself. No particular point of view is needed to succeed with my methods. All of us, independent of belief, are capable of tapping the tremendous healing power contained in the super-conscious mind.
For each of us, the resources in the subconscious and super-conscious constitute a limitless storehouse of mental energy that has the ability to heal the body and mind, address the challenges of day-to-day living, and sustain an extraordinary life of fulfillment and joy. As I have done for thousands of my patients, I will show you how to tap into the knowledge and power that are secreted away in your mind. It will give you the ability to live life large and my guess is that once you have a taste of it, you're going to want to explore it more deeply.
What Do You Believe?
"You are what you believe." Most people would agree with that statement. What we believe determines how we see ourselves, how we relate to our bodies, how we relate to others and to the world, and ultimately how we feel, but do you really know what you believe at a deep, subconscious level? Most people with the rare exception of those who have pursued a disciplined effort at self-knowledge are unaware of their own true beliefs.
There are two reasons why. The first is that you've filed the vast majority of your experience (memory) and thoughts (beliefs) away in your ¬subconscious (often long ago, when you were a child), and you can't access them through ordinary means. Think of Erin, who was shocked to discover that she believed pregnancy would lead to death. Erin had no idea she felt that way, but this subconscious belief led to her recurrent miscarriages.
The second reason is that what we believe may or may not be an accurate reflection of reality. What we believe is simply a product of our experience and education, our conditioned habits of thought, our general level of awareness, and the workings of our brains all of which are highly subjective. One of the first things I do for my patients who have serious health problems is to challenge what they hold dear. I help them deconstruct and then reconstruct their belief systems. This is a necessary first step toward going beyond one's limited reality. You will learn how to do this for yourself in this book. It requires some effort but it is well within your reach.
Everyone thinks they are living in the "real world," but this is rarely true. Over the course of this book, you will learn that you are living in a box determined by your brain and your mental conditioning, and you will discover the tools to free yourself from the limitations of that box.
About five years ago, I was sitting in a beautifully renovated playhouse in Greensboro, North Carolina, watching my daughter play the lead role of Maria in West Side Story. It was a father's dream come true. She was fantastic, seemingly right there in Spanish Harlem, standing on a fire escape on the second floor of a tenement building. At intermission, though, I walked up to the stage a set design, painted on a wall just a few inches thick. From this perspective, it was obvious the stage was nothing but an illusion. When I went back to my seat for the second act, however, the drama and music mesmerized me again; I could swear it was real.
The "real world" is such an illusion. Look at what you "see" in the room around you. Now consider how other species would regard the same thing. A fly simultaneously sees dozens of pictures of its immediate environment. Bats navigate using radar, an entirely different system from ours. A dog doesn't see color but can smell, hear, and feel things that human beings do not. As part of its own survival strategy, each species constructs its own world of sensory impressions out of the energies around it. Whose worldview is more accurate? During the Asian tsunami crisis in December 2004, news agencies reported a compelling phenomenon: the wild and domestic animals in Sumatra fled to the mountains in the hours before the tsunami struck. They knew, through their ability to tune in to electromagnetic energy patterns, about the oncoming devastation. If only the human inhabitants of Sumatra could have known how to do the same thing.
Of course, human beings can tune in to electromagnetic energies, and we have the mental power to manage this energy to some degree. You will need this skill in order to heal yourself, and I will teach it to you in this book.
The world you live in is a reflection of the map of your own neurology and your thoughts and beliefs, stimulated by electromagnetic energy. You are neither experiencing an objective reality (though you think you are) nor interpreting it objectively. Like the backdrop in my daughter's play, what you're sensing is just a stage set.
How well do you perceive the stage set for your own life story? Probably not as well as you think. Consider the mechanism by which we "see" an object a new car, for example. A light wave from the car hits a receptor nerve cell in your eye. At the same time, electrical energy is running from your brain into this nerve cell. The two currents of energy meet and an electrical signal goes to the brain. Then, the mind has to perceive or interpret the signal that's been received by the brain. That's where your thoughts, beliefs, and general level of awareness come in.
At any step along this process, there is room for substantial error. If you have too little energy in your nerves, as would be the case if you have a neurological problem, you won't actually "see" correctly because insufficient electrical current is going to the brain. Or perhaps this is the first "car" you've ever seen, in which case you still won't "see" objectively because your thoughts and beliefs provide no model for interpreting the signal.
I saw this phenomenon in 1998 when working with the Shuar, a tribe of headhunters in Amazonian Ecuador. Most of the Shuar had never seen a white person or any form of modern technology. A close colleague of mine on that expedition had left the Shuar village years before to go to the "big city" to get an education. She described her experience the first time she encountered a door. Since the Shuar don't have doors on their grass huts, she stood for a long time in front of the door, pushing on it, growing increasingly frustrated. She did not "see" the doorknob because her mind had no basis for perceiving what she was looking at.
Before you say, "Well, those were a primitive people...I'm not unaware of things in my environment," think again. The human brain receives more than eleven million sensory inputs every minute, of which most people are aware of a scant 2 percent. Each of us lives in a box of our own creation. As it turns out, it's a very small box indeed, but I can help you make yours much, much larger. In fact, I can teach you how to get out of the limitations of your box altogether.
The Need to Reevaluate Your Construct of What Is "Real" The reason you should learn to deconstruct your ideas about what is "real" (as you will be able to do via the tools in this book) is that the boxes we create and live in can become prisons that threaten our physical health and wellbeing. Just as the world you thought was real is only a box of your own creation, the "you" that you presently experience is not a reflection of reality either. Nor is it fixed. We human beings are also composed of energy: from the electrons, neutrons, and protons, which form the building blocks of cellular structure in the body, to the electric impulses that govern the human heartbeat and drive our senses. We are not merely biological beings composed of chemicals and chemical processes; we are also biophysical beings composed of energy.
Similarly, human thought and feeling exist as subtle energy. An electroencephalograph (EEG) measures a patient's brain activity in the form of energy waves whose amplitude and frequency correlate with various states of consciousness (waking or sleeping, anxious or calm, reasoning or imagining, for example). This illustration leads me to the most essential tenet of mind-body medicine: human thought and feeling translate instantaneously into biophysical change (in this case, altered brainwave patterns). According to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association, 80 percent of Americans believe you cannot have good physical health unless you have good mental health. They are entirely correct. Every physical illness, even those caused by injury, has a root cause in the mind. As I said earlier, every disease in the body begins with dis-ease.
Therefore, if your body is ailing, you will be able to find a related ailment or distortion in your thinking (most of which goes on at the subconscious and super-conscious levels within the mind). It is critically important for people with a physical illness to be able to access the content of their thought at all levels (conscious, subconscious, and super-conscious) as a means to healing. In the chapters that follow, I will teach you how to feel the energies in your body and use deep levels of awareness to access your thoughts so you can direct those energies, shift what is going on in your bodily tissues, and achieve self-healing.
The power of these techniques (energy work combined with increased access to the power in your subconscious and super-conscious minds the techniques you will learn in this book) is often miraculous. I saw this with a patient of mine named John, who I met at a conference on alternative healthcare in Fredericksburg in 1996. He was fifty-one years old and had suffered from juvenile diabetes for most of his life. By the time I met him, he was nearly blind. The sight in one eye was functioning at 40 percent, and the other eye was functioning at only 15 percent. I began to do energy therapy on his eyes while guiding John into a hypnotic state (a heightened state of inner awareness that allows a person full access to the content of the mind) and asked him to talk to me about what he did not want to see in his life.
John might well have said, "What do you mean 'what I don't want to see?' I have diabetes!" Instead, he spoke with deep feeling about the fact that he had no surviving relatives and about his longstanding fear that he would end up homeless and destitute. He explored this at length and began to realize he had the resources to avoid this dismal future. In spite of the deaths in his family, he had enough money to get by and people who cared for him. As he realized this, he naturally let go of his distorted beliefs, and the vision in both eyes began to improve noticeably. A week later, an eye exam showed that the eye operating at 15 percent before had risen to 80 percent, while the eye operating at 40 percent was now functioning at 85 percent.
John's history was that he had juvenile diabetes and was losing his sight. The root cause of his declining vision, though, was that he'd seen so much tragedy in his life and gotten to the point where he didn't want to see any more. John's mind had built up the distorted belief that life was a series of disasters and that the future only brought more heartache. His story behind the story was that John subconsciously did not want to "see" himself become alone and abandoned. Therefore, his mind systematically shut off his sight. When he let go of his distorted beliefs when he made the decision to change his story he was free to look at the world around him again. The tools in this book will allow you to do something equally dramatic if that's what you want.
Repeatedly, over my thirty years of clinical work, I have seen that when we get to our story behind the story, amazing healing occurs. John could have written his blindness off to juvenile diabetes. Erin could have assumed her physical problems meant the death of her dream to have a child. They, however, were willing to look deeper than the physical symptoms, explore their minds for distorted beliefs, release those beliefs, and revise their stories in a way that dramatically improved their health and led them to richer and happier lives at the same time.
It's your turn now. Once you are able to access your story behind the story you will be amazed at how much better you will feel both physically and emotionally. You will rid yourself of the hidden pain and delusion that is sabotaging your body. You will reject the parts of your story that encumber you. You will celebrate the noblest parts of your story parts you might not have realized were yours at all and decide to make the rest of your story something to celebrate as well. If you truly want to, you can employ the tools in this book to become the best person you can possibly be. They can even lead you to the heights of human greatness.
You have no idea how powerful you are. This is true even if you already think you are powerful. Think of someone who has overcome the odds and demonstrated tremendous strength and character. Lance Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France, overcame testicular cancer, which should have killed him, then started a worldwide movement for cancer awareness and research. You can be that powerful.
What is the difference between Lance Armstrong and you? Nothing! Except that he knows how powerful he can be, and you probably do not know how powerful you are. Like Lance Armstrong, you can achieve any noble goal you set your heart to.
People like Lance Armstrong refuse to buy in to two big lies that permeate our culture and hold people back. The first lie is, "Hey, achieving your dreams and having a wonderful life really isn't possible." The second is, "Oh yeah, it's possible all right; it's possible for Lance Armstrong but not for me. I'm just not good enough." I can tell you that, based on three decades of clinical work with people from every station of life, nothing is further from the truth. It's going to take some work nothing this magnificent comes without effort but if you endeavor to learn the tools in this book, you'll experience a wonderful payoff. You'll discover your story behind the story, bask in the limitless power of your mind, feel better than you've felt in years, and swim in the extravagant joy that is every human being's birthright.
It's all waiting for you.
Before You Move Ahead
I always describe my methods as "Integrative Medicine," meaning they are ideally used together with conventional healthcare (medical care provided by a physician, nurse practitioner, or properly credentialed mental health professional). Please be wise. Seek conventional medical treatment in response to your healthcare needs and use the methods in this book to magnify your health and wellbeing. If you have no access to appropriate medical care, then by all means, use the methods in this book to heal yourself. The methods are very powerful, in many cases powerful enough to stand alone as a cure. However, they are not designed to replace conventional medical care and should not be used in exchange for common sense. Please be smart. Use all the tools available to you, and you will be well.