I read a lot of books about the brain, and it’s exciting to see how neuroscience is substantiating what healers, hypnotists, shamans, etc. have known for the past 4000 years (give or take a few).
A good example is Power Up Your Brain: The Neuroscience of Enlightnment (Perlmutter and Villoldo) — an interesting conversation between neuroscience and shamanic practices. I wanted to share a couple ideas from this book that I think really clarify the work we are doing with hypnotherapy and other kinds of mental healing work. The first is the idea that:
Your limbic brain (which operates by influencing the endocrine system and the autonomic nervous system) cannot distinguish between a painful event that occurred 20 years ago and the memory of that event triggered by a similar situation today. This means that unless we do something to convince the brain that it doesn’t need to constantly keep referring back to that old response, we’re going to continue to experience our lives as an infuriating series of patterns and habits.
The second idea is that:
Visualizations allow you to pave the way for new neural pathways that can allow you to perceive people and situations in a new way.
So guided visualizations are rewiring those old responses by inviting your creative mind and all the images, colors, shapes, and ideas that it holds to come forward. When this happens, the normal chatter of everyday life (which often includes a lot of unproductive self-talk) eases into focused awareness, a kind of expansion of perspective that, when put into action, can lead to powerful insight and the potential for change. And your body relaxes, which allows healing to happen at both the cellular and the mental level.
So as you practice interrupting habitual thoughts with visualizations and breathing throughout the day, keep in mind that you’re doing more than just imagining yourself swimming in that ocean or walking through that amazing landscape. You’re communicating to your brain that you’re safe and in a different place in your life — so there’s no need to conjure up that old response any more.
(Imagine your own neural pathways firing and clustering like a cascade of matches — not into a dangerous fire…
but into a silent luminosity… )