Since 1988 I have spent the better part of every day helping people overcome their problems ranging from ordinary bad habits to extreme PTSD. The whole process centers around introducing people to the nature and function of our mind.
Isn’t it ironic that we need help to understand something so close to us? Our mind — our thoughts and emotions — is our most intimate experience. Why is it so unwieldy?
While it seems self-evident that we live in the world, we actually live in our mind.
This turns out to be a provocative, and even confusing, proposition for most of us. While we think we’re experiencing the outside world, we’re actually experiencing the display of our own mind.
You don’t need Technology to have Virtual Reality
For a moment, let’s consider how our senses work. Our senses take in data from various objects and events. Our senses then transmit impressions to our brain, which works to make sense of this data.
Using the new sensory data, our brain creates an internal experience of sights, sounds, and even our experience of the passage of time. What we initially see, and what our brain sees, are not the same thing!
In a common example, if you’re looking at a flower, each of your eyes transmits an inverted image of the flower to your brain. The lens of your eye turns the image upside down. Then the image of the flower, received by each of your eyes, is turned right side up by the brain! As the brain inverts the two images, it combines them into a single image.
What you see is not the flower itself — it’s the flower your brain creates.
With every object we see, we are seeing a copy of the object, not the object itself.
Our Internal Home Entertainment Center
So what are we experiencing? We are experiencing the internal reality that our brain has created. It’s not “real” — it’s virtual reality!
Our brain quickly labels the image we have seen and gives it meaning (The brain does this by associating the image with data from prior experience: memories).
Say you’re walking a trail in the woods. There’s a stick on the ground. Right away we see our brain’s version of that stick. And then, our mind really goes to work:
Is this a dangerous stick? Is it a useful stick? Is this stick a useless thing to be ignored?
You see a four-legged animal approaching. Is it a cat, a squirrel, a dog? Could it be a coyote? Should I ignore it, befriend it and pet it, or run?!
Obviously, we are going to recognize a cat based on our past experience. When we respond to that cat, we’re responding to our memory of a cat. This is easy to understand with the things we see, but what about our other sense experiences?
For example, when you touch something, do you realize that you are touching a memory?
It’s true. We only experience the creations of our mind, which are constantly playing in our Internal Home Entertainment Center. They don’t even stop when we go to sleep! We’re free to create wonderful experiences in our mind, but too often we create horror movies and emotional turmoil instead.
What Is Virtual Reality Therapy?
If we have the choice, why do we choose to create these internal horror movies and get scared and anxious about them? Why don’t we just create beautiful experiences?
It’s simply that we don’t realize how we are creating our own reality. We believe we’re at the mercy of the “outside world” — a reality we have no power to influence.
This is why therapy based on solving problems in the “outside world” doesn’t help us very much. Because our experience of pain and suffering isn’t happening in the outside world — it’s being created in our mind’s internal reality.
We need to go to the source of the problem. This is why we need Virtual Reality Therapy (we can call it VRT). More than just having a therapy session, in VRT we engage in a process of therapeutic learning.
We learn that we’re creating our experience. We learn exactly how we create our negative internal horror shows. In the process, we see for ourselves that we can consciously choose to create positive, fulfilling experiences.
Once we realize we’re creating what we experience, we feel a tremendous sense of relief. We stop using our creative power to make unnecessary pain and suffering for ourselves.
Virtual Reality Therapy and PTSD
People suffering from phobias and PTSD can gain rapid relief with the Virtual Reality methods of Transpersonal Hypnotherapy and NLP. They learn how they are creating an experience of PTSD, for example, and they learn how to stop creating it as well. In my experience such breakthroughs often take place in a single session.
When we experience PTSD, our brain is making and replaying a movie of the original traumatic event. We then react as if we are living inside that scary movie.
What is happening? We are literally hypnotizing ourselves so that we experience the memory of the original physical attack, auto accident, or earthquake, as if it is happening — or about to happen — right now.
Whenever a triggering perception pushes the start button on this memory movie, we react unquestioningly as though the trauma is happening all over again.
The technique we use to eliminate PTSD in a Transpersonal Hypnotherapy session is to rehearse being outside the traumatic memory. We do this by observing the bad memory as “just a movie.” We repeatedly practice watching this movie from a safe distance, remaining clearly aware that the movie is not happening “to me.”
Maintaining and strengthening this clear, present-time awareness dissolves the PTSD triggers.
The New, Hi-Tech Virtual Reality Therapy
Now brain research scientists have begun to experiment with technology to relieve suffering such as trauma, depression, and destructive self-criticism. One cutting-edge example involves using virtual reality goggles (such as Oculus) to retrain the traumatized brain to create positive, healthy experiences instead of negative ones.
Forbes magazine recently published an article about neuroscience research done using virtual reality technology to reduce depression. Researchers happily found in this first-of-its-kind study that people experienced significant relief when they created and identified with a personal avatar who expressed compassion and comfort for an upset child:
“In this study, by comforting the child and then hearing their own words back, patients are indirectly giving themselves compassion.… A month after the study, several patients described how their experience had changed their response to real-life situations in which they would previously have been self-critical.”
The process being tested in this brain research study is a techno version of the profoundly effective techniques used in Transpersonal Hypnotherapy NLP sessions since the 80’s.
In fact, you could say that the therapeutic research on virtual reality goggles is merely simulating a variety of techniques that have been practiced by hypnotists and hypnotherapists for over 100 years!
In a hypnotic regression trance, for example, the hypnotist guides a person to create the necessary inner virtual reality effect so that it becomes an extremely vivid, healing experience for them. This is all done without expensive hi-tech devices.
There is at least one positive benefit of the hi-tech option, however. For those wary of trying hypnosis, it may feel more familiar and approachable to use a method that reminds them of a video game. On the other hand, learning to create and play with positive scenarios, right within your own mind, is much less expensive and more user-friendly!