Getting Out of Prison

Getting Out of Prison

“If you want total security, go to prison.
There you’re fed, clothed, given medical care and so on.
The only thing lacking… is freedom.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

I have a friend who insists that prisons are everywhere. She says that modern society is set up as a series of prisons. In her way of thinking, you’re born, you go to school, you leave school and then you probably go onto further education or into a job, and then that’s it. If you take a gap year, then it is a gap between one bit of structured existence and the next bit of structured existence. If you’re one of the lucky ones you either get a job that you love or you create your own…and then you get to design your own prison! If you buy or rent a house, you have to make the payments each month. If you have a family, then you have more expenses that you have to pay each month. More prisons in her view (and she has both)!  At some point, the kids might leave home and you might finish paying off the mortgage, and then you should get out of prison…but most don’t…because they stay for the total security that the Eisenhower quote talks about.

getting out of prisonThat’s what my friend says, and whilst I have of course suggested that she has a negative perspective on life, I can also see that she has a viewpoint that many people share. Life can be a series of prisons, though only if you let it, is what I say to her worldview. What I tend to think of as the everyday prisons of our life are all of the “shouldnts”, the “cant’s”, the “mustnt’s”, the “I don’t think I cans” etc….for they can be incredibly limiting in life and for some people, those phrases that frequent their self-talk stop from getting out of whatever their theoretical prisons may be.

So, the question I’d ask of you, the reader, at this point is: “Is life what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” or do you start tweaking your landscape so you can make your way out of any prisons that may be containing you?

I remember with great fondness my own decision to finally stop smoking using hypnosis. I still refer to that as the day I got out of prison, and it is (apologies to any smokers reading this!). For me, it was life changing and set me on a path from which I have never looked back. Luckily, we can all make changes and unlock the doors of those theoretical prisons, and so change our beliefs around how we see the world and then our habits and behaviours. That old part of my past though, was of course my own self-created prison. Some people have their prisons forced upon them by events that are sometimes hard to reconcile.

I work with a lot of those people during the course of an average year for their fears – fear of heights, fear of driving on motorways, fear of flying, fear of public speaking, fear of spiders, fear of dogs, fear of relationships and many more besides. Often these are fears that are unexplainable, previously unsolvable and usually very unconscious. The anxiety usually attached to these fears can be severely limiting or even crippling for some people, so much so that they turn into phobias which can inhibit their lives even more. Anxiety itself is so present in 21st century life, that it’s now by far and away the most common thing that your average person seeks either medical or therapeutic help for.

What’s true for all of the fear examples that I mention above, is that the anxiety that arises when the feared subject is present, mentioned or even thought of is very real. That’s why so many people find themselves at their GP to try and manage the anxiety with some form of medication. Whilst that may be the most common approach and perhaps useful in the short-term, it is by no means a long-term solution. The anxiety arises because it is a conditioned response to the stimulus (feared subject) that is locked into the subconscious mind. When the people I work with are able to manage and then work through that anxiety using hypnosis (and sometimes regression) to access the subconscious mind, then it offers a long-term solution. The response to the feared situation becomes manageable, usually changes permanently and sometimes even becomes completely forgotten.

The theory of Reciprocal Inhibition says that you can’t experience two conflicting sensations at the same time, and that four states will override anxiety – hunger, thirst, sexual arousal and relaxation. As dependency on the use of the first three provide potential problems of their own, it’s fortunate that relaxation is the fourth one. So, that is what we use as part of hypnosis as a starting point to start helping people manage their escape route out of their own particular prisons. It’s not always as simple as I make it sound here, though often it can be.

You may have read the subject line of my newsletter where Viktor Frankl says, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” In hypnosis, people are given that space, or more importantly and relevantly their subconscious mind is given that space to make a different choice. The awareness of the problem at a subconscious level often starts to provide relief and continued re-framing and desensitising helps to further that process.

And what about the everyday prisons I mentioned earlier? The “shouldnts”, the “cant’s”, the “mustnt’s”, the “I don’t think I cans” etc of your life….for they can be as equally limiting in life as the strong fears, the anxiety and the phobias.

These phrases and others of a similar vibe that might busy themselves within your self-talk do stop you moving forward. Well, the good news is that they’re both accessible and changeable too. Some are simply a question of changing your mindset by being aware of yourself and making changes as you go through your days and week. Otherwise take a little more effort as they emanate from more deeply-rotted beliefs in your subconscious. And those core beliefs can often be the real “bad guys” that stop you from getting out of those theoretical prisons.  Perhaps they are as simple as the belief that “I don’t believe that I can change” or perhaps they are linked to particular period in your life (often childhood) or even both. These kind of beliefs may take a bit of commitment and motivation however they are most definitely do-able.

One important thing to remember with all change work is that we make change when we allow it. Sometimes that’s a question of being too tired to resist any longer, or perhaps it’s when we actively use the power and potential of relaxation to access the subconscious on a regular basis.

The most important thing to remember though is that getting out of prison is always possible…if you believe it is.

Until next time