Recently a couple came to see me, to try to solve a Very Unique Problem in their relationship: they weren’t getting along. I’m kidding, of course. Most of the couples who end up in my office aren’t getting along, and want to improve the communication in their relationship. Sometimes they’re not even aware that there’s a problem of communication in the relationship — they just think they’re an unhappy couple, and they want to be a happy couple. That’s a simple enough request to make of your hypnotherapist, isn’t it?
So what do I do?
When I’m working to help a couple communicate better, it may surprise you to hear that I don’t employ the latest tricks to get men to understand women better, or vice versa. Improving relationship communication is actually much simpler than that — if the hypnotherapist’s approach is transpersonal in nature.
As a transpersonal hypnotherapist, I’ve discovered that helping couples improve communication in relationships is a matter of embodying (not merely believing) a simple, yet often elusive, perspective about the nature of our minds and our experiences.
What is this simple, yet elusive, perspective?
As a hypnotherapist, I do not have to put people in trance — they are already in trance. In fact, all of our problems are born of our trances. A therapist can use standard hypnotic processes (which I teach in my hypnotherapy certification course) in the same way that poisons are used, in proper measure, to make medicines.
But a transpersonal hypnotherapist practices this alchemy with the understanding that the goal is not to help clients become established in comfortable trances, but rather to be free of trances altogether! The goal is to be present, at ease, and free of fear — whole and peaceful. In order to help people become free of troubling trance states, I introduce three ideas that everyone must understand before they can be free and happy in relationships:
1. We are not who we “think” we are. Who we think we are is our deepest trance state (actually a “bundle” of trance states). Knowing this makes it easier to relax and let go of all of the thoughts and feelings we identify as being “ours.” When you can do this, your communication is naturally more curious and open-minded. You ask more questions; you listen without thinking you already know what’s about to be said. The whole process becomes less intense and much more interesting.
2. To the degree that our awareness is absorbed in and identified with our thoughts, we live in a hypnotic state. Most of us are accustomed to living within this tightly defined state rather than living in a spontaneous, “real” state, an “awake” state. Once you understand that there’s an alternative — that you can respond to your experience as new in each moment, life becomes a great deal more surprising and delightful, and memories of the past don’t create the fear and dread they once generated.
3. All communication is a sharing of our hypnotic states, “dream” states, and even deluded states. We share our hypnotic states in both intrapersonal and interpersonal communication, to the degree that we’re sharing our thoughts about reality rather than a direct experience of reality.
When you say, “I feel you don’t appreciate all that I do for you,” you’re talking about your hypnotic state, your ideas and thoughts. You’re not talking about your feelings (sadness, disappointment, annoyance, etc) at all! But if you know that whatever you say to your partner is going to be an artifact of your customary hypnotic states, that makes it easier to see the discomfort of your negative feeling as an object in awareness. It’s a fluid energy pattern, not some”thing” you must hold onto for dear life.
All day long (and even in our dreams) we are selectively attending to our ideas about ourselves in order to make choices which define and determine our lives. Amazing how we can be doing this continuously, without even being aware of it, isn’t it? And …
Understanding these three perspectives, which strike at the root of our mistaken perceptions of ourselves and our experience, opens the possibility of complete freedom of thought, feeling, and perception in the moment.
If you’re aware that your idea of “myself” is a set of ideas — a trance — then it’s not such a big deal if your partner says, “You never listen to me! Why are you so selfish?!” You don’t take it personally. That statement, just like your idea of your “self,” and just like any uncomfortable physical response (emotions) you may feel when you hear it, is just another object in awareness. And when you don’t take it personally, you’re not threatened. That means you can be genuinely interested in what’s really troubling your partner. Instead of getting caught in painful reactions, you can share warmth and support.
These simple shifts in understanding can help not only couples working to improve communication in relationships, but anyone seeking to understand, and to be understood by, another person.