You’ll soon be here coming back

As I write this, it’s just turned midnight and I’ve had a revelation.

Before we go into the meat of this post, or quorn for those of the veggie persuasion, can anyone let me know why oh why do revelations always happen in the middle of the night – and usually on a Sunday before work and yes, for those who know my current work status, I do have work on Monday, albeit unpaid. My alter ego has a complex preparation for an eight-hour training delivery on Thursday in Southampton about the Financial Planning Regulated Diploma case-study exam. I need my sleep and I’m not going to get it until I’ve laid this demon to rest.

So what’s the revelation, I hear you cry?

Just as I was drifting off to sleep, trying to ignore the nagging realisation that I’d Facebooked an effective promise to get my next blog post written, it occurred to me that I needn’t worry because, in the words of a previous post, a future me has already posted it on my behalf. All I have to do is get there.

That’s when my past rose up and slapped me across the face with a wet kipper.

Unbeknownst to me until now, I come from a long line of skilled conversational hypnotists who don’t have the foggiest idea that that’s what they do. Either that or my mother and my mother’s mother before her back into the mists of time, to continue the atmospherically obscured metaphor, are Antipodean shamen.

Unlikely! comes the retort from my apparently quite vocal imaginary readers.
Well let me explain. As a small child, there are always situations that you find yourself in which you wish fervently were not happening. Dentistry in the 1960’s, for one. A Christmas appendectomy, for another. Not to mention room-tidying and all manner of household chore. Well, my mother had a spell, learned for her mother, which made them all go away.

My fishy awakening came about as the ‘posts of hypnotic suggestion’ theme of my blog dragged itself away from my present and wrapped itself around my childhood. My mother, assuming for the moment that down-under sorcery is actually pretty rare, appears to have had a profound working knowledge of post hypnotic suggestion, time distortion and the induction of amnesia in small children.

How so? I hear… Look could you stop with the interruptions and let me get on with the post? I’m obviously over-tired and positively hallucinating an actual audience, which as a regular bloggee you’ll know about from previous posts, (not the audience, the hallucination), if you’ll excuse the blatant nudge to get another view logged on my blog stats.

The particular mantra, spell or induction was quite simple. ‘Don’t worry. You’ll soon be here coming back‘. As with all pattern interrupts, the incongruity of this phrase for a five year-old boy enabled it to slide straight into my subconscious and weave its hypnotic magic unnoticed.

In another link to earlier posts, this effectively stopped me taking the usual number of snapshots of now that would befit a traumatic experience destined for painful recall later. So, even though the dentist’s drill hurt like hell, by the time I was back in the waiting room I had fewer units of bad experience stored up and the intervening time pretty much collapsed into not very much, thank you. My appendix was removed and I was back home in time for Christmas dinner, to the annoyance of my younger sister who was admitted to the same hospital with the same condition half a day before me but who still missed out on the turkey. The post-hypnotic suggestion was triggered. Time was duly distorted and amnesia induced. Job done. Hoorah for my Mum. Or so you’d think.

Unfortunately, this didn’t really account for my over active imagination and a misguided determination to develop a skill which appeared to enable effective time travel into the future, avoiding all unpleasantness on the way. I may even have known that I was destined to become a hypnotist and called on that future talent to nurture my progress as a spotty and precocious youth. I started to use this spell to carve out longer and longer slices of unwanted or useless time. School Assembly? Gone in a flash. Latin? Couldn’t remember a thing. History became, well, history. So far, so good.

Then I found I could do entire weeks, even entire school terms. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t daydreaming my way through my education. I was just getting to the end of it quicker. Before I knew it, my A-levels were done. I suddenly found that I’d left with good exam results but very few memories. You see, the problem with this particular spell is that it is designed for short-term use. Not an entire childhood. I had unwittingly time travelled right through my youth with the intention of editing out all the nasty bits, of which there were many as with any normal, hormone ridden adolescence. However, I now found myself at the other end of the time tunnel having forgotten to remember the good times as well as the bad.

I still have very few memories of my childhood. Come to that, I have very few school friends that I keep in touch with. It wasn’t until I graduated from University and sobered up that I finally cottoned on to the fact that life is about what happens to you as you grab the next piece of the puzzle and struggle to find out how to make it fit. Now is important. Now is what the past is made up of and what the future will become. Now is the only thing that’s real. And it’s gone in an instant. All that’s left is what you’ve logged and stored to ponder over in your older ages. Store more. Life is fuller that way. Whether it’s good or bad, lead a full life.

I’ve spent years de-hypnotising myself from this particular trance. I now spend most days firmly in the present and I hope I’ve successfully modified the family spell for my children. Despite its drawbacks, it really is useful to be able to reduce the impact of negative experience. It’s just that it shouldn’t be used out of context. It shouldn’t delete them entirely. Apply this skill with care.

So, is my mother a master of Hypnosis? Personally, I prefer to believe the mystic shaman theory of my ancestry. She certainly had eyes in the back of her head and knew exactly what we were thinking or planning as children. She could tell at a glance who had struck the first blow and doled out punishment accordingly. She was always right. Well, mothers always are.

There is of course another possible explanation for my lack of schoolboy mental scrapbook.

Maybe I just wasn’t the sort of kid that other kids liked very much. Maybe I don’t have many long-term school friends because there weren’t many friends in the first place and the reason I don’t remember much is that actually I don’t want to. I’m sure if I thought about it for long enough, I ought to be able work out whether my mother was a gifted caster of spells or I’m trying to forget that I was a snotty oik. The problem is that I can’t, (or won’t), remember enough to decide. So I leave the decision to you. Here’s how;

If you suspect I deserved my apparent lack of school friends, then ‘like’ this post, (I won’t take offence, honest)…

If you’re a fan of matriarchal magic, leave a comment and a request for the spell of your choice…

If you’re undecided, why not follow this blog. You never know, future posts might shed more light…

…and if you’re already following, thank you. I’m hopeful that clarity will eventually emerge.

A moment of magic
© Tony Burkinshaw 2012

He’s starting to believe

So I’m starting to believe.

Not that I think I’m Neo, for those of you who are fans of the Matrix. (There’s another Matrix reference later, just to keep Trevor happy). It’s that the cynic who keeps me safe and sane is taking a back seat and the adventurer who believes anything is possible is doing more of the driving. I keep seeing and experiencing more things that the cynic can’t explain away as pure coincidence.

It’s not that I’m pessimistic or not open to new ideas, more that I’m a realistic optimist who’s aware that there’s more to achieving goals than just positive thinking. But in the past whenever the adventurer comes out to play and makes decisions, something goes wrong. The cynic sighs quietly in the corner and stands up and takes over. Again.

It’s like living with an excitable teenager inside my own head and the cynic is all parental and picks me up, dusts me off and puts me back on the right path. I suppose the point is, who’s right path is it? It used to think that the cynic inside me was me being my Dad. Partly there to watch over me and keep me safe and partly getting exasperated whenever something went wrong, scolding me and making sure I did the right i.e. ‘sensible’ thing. Take the sensible decision. It keeps you safe.

Over the years the cynic has been the stronger of the two, particularly when I was younger, keeping control of the excitable teenager and only letting him out at party time for a laugh. There have been fewer of those times of late – shame really.

But the more I sit and think about the reality of it, the more I realise that the good decisions have come from the adventurous side of me, not the safe and cynical one. Risks are worth taking. The whole point is that risks don’t always pay off. That’s what makes them risks in the first place. It’s just that when they do pay off, they more than make up for the times when they don’t. Unless you’re taking poorly judged, outrageous risks of course. And the definition of poorly judged and outrageous would depend on where that cynic came from and whose motives he’s being driven by, I suppose.

Anyhow, the upshot is that I think I was wrong about that cynic being my Dad. It’s more like a child’s view of my Dad, a caricature of a parent based on my Dad, not my Dad as the man he really was. That’s important because, strangely, I’ve spent most of my life as an adult and a fair proportion of it as a father too. Although he died half a lifetime ago, it feels as though I know him better now than when he was still around.

I’m pretty sure that all my Dad was actually trying to do was help me keep my options open whenever I truly didn’t know which way to turn and, more importantly, when there was no apparent downside to my decision. That was useful, taking me into Sciences for A-level, (safe decision – options open – no doors closed), Chemical Engineering at University, (another safe decision, lots of open doors), and into my first job as a professional Chemical Engineer. As it turned out, the adventurer won that one.

I couldn’t make up my mind which of the big, (or small), chemical companies I wanted to work for, or indeed be at all sure whether any of them would actually want to take me on. So the adventurer applied for a job at a brewery. Just for a laugh. I ended up working for Ind Coope in Burton-on-Trent as a process engineer, technically known in the vernacular as a Brewer. Now that was a good career move! Whilst in my mid-twenties, I worked in one of the largest breweries in Europe and, on night shift, I was the top man on site. Me, in charge of all that beer. I made more beer than I could possibly imagine – and believe you me, I could imagine a lot of beer!

Look at this way – one brew would last you and 5 hard-drinking friends 10 pints each a day, each and every single day for 10 years, although in reality the beer would have gone off by then, you and your friends would have become alcoholic and died of liver failure and I’d have lost my job for letting you take up the challenge in the first place. Maybe that’s why the brewery was ‘dry’. Absolutely no drinking alcohol on site at all, except for the official Taste-Panel of course and no prizes for guessing who was a dedicated member of that committee. We made one brew an hour, 24 hours a day. I think that qualifies for the phrase ‘a lot of beer’.

Meanwhile, back with the Adventurer/Cynic conflict in my head. There were some definite advantages to the options-open approach, (beer for one), although to be fair that only came about because the adventurer threw in an off the wall back-up at the last minute.

And I think, after all this vaguely relevant waffle, that that’s the whole point. It’s not about whether I should follow the adventurer, throwing caution to the wind or whether I should keep all options open and adhere to the fatherly, parental cynic’s advice, staying safe and secure.

Somewhere out there, there’s a Tony shaped path through it all. Sometimes it’ll be cautious and sometimes a little strange and risky. But after years of recalling all those times when the adventurous choices came undone, I almost always ended up somewhere better. You see, there’s this Trance Phenomenon called Hallucination. Now I realise that this sounds a bit spooky and smacks of stage hypnosis and chickens but actually it’s more subtle and everyone uses it. It’s more about how you choose to mark your day or week or even your whole life.

It comes in positive and negative flavours which unusually aren’t about whether the particular hallucination is good or bad. It’s about what you add or take away from your day-to-day experience. A positive hallucination brings in something or interprets something as something it isn’t. Like seeing your best friend wave to you in the street so you shout hello and it’s actually someone you’ve never met before. You positively hallucinated their face onto the real one. Of course you could go the whole hog and absolutely know that there are hens in the skirting board – hooray for Mrs Overall!

Negative hallucinations, on the other hand aren’t necessarily bad and are the way most of us get through the day. You simply don’t notice things that really are there. It’s usually just a way of filtering out all that irrelevant stuff that goes on around you all day, every day. It also what makes someone unlucky. Or lucky, for that matter. According to research, (a favourite phrase of a certain Cognitive Hypnotherapist I know), there’s no such thing as a lucky or unlucky person. They both pass through the same world. It all boils down to what they remember and more importantly what they don’t remember, at the end of the day.

In general, I count myself as an optimist and a lucky person. I remember the good things that have happened, the people who smile at me, the driver that lets me in at the junction, the fact that I always find a car parking space. Always. I really do. The unlucky person behind me wonders who that weirdo with the smirk was, why did that car push in in front of him and who is that bastard who always parks in the space he had his eye on!

The cynic/adventurer fight, I’m coming to realise, has nothing to do with whether I feel optimistic or not. It’s more about who I am. Over the years, the cynic kept reminding me of the time I left the brewery to become a financial planner, (read door-knocking life insurance salesman), or never sought promotion because then I’d be working for the man and he’d want a slice of my soul – only to end up working so hard that I ground to a halt and became ill.

I deleted the steps that meant I worked from home when my children were small. I could pick them up from school, keep them calm when the school caught fire and they were evacuated to the pub, (yes, really!). It was the adventurer that kept me asking Gill to marry me – she turned me down three times. She eventually gave in, and it was absolutely the best thing I ever did. You’ll have to ask her if you want to know if she feels the same!

It was the adventurer that decided that I should take up the redundancy offer last year instead of redeployment into a safe job that kept the salary coming in. It was the adventurer that put me in front of businesses that mean I’m now working half as hard as before for more money, surrounded by more rewarding people. And it was the adventurer who searched for and found Quest. Cognitive Hypnotherapy is fascinating and very rewarding. It’s almost as though this is what I’ve been searching for but didn’t know it, (nearly the other Matrix reference…be patient).

I didn’t sign up for therapy but we practice everything we learn on each other so I’m damn well getting therapy, whether I want it or not.

I’m starting to believe. It’s becoming an opportunity to bathe the soul. I’m starting to believe…

…there’s a difference between running a bath and taking a bath…

…after the rescue…
© Tony Burkinshaw