Q/: “Erick, can you share with your readers what is the difference between the conscious and subconscious mind in therapy?"
Sandstad: “I like to think of our head as having two brains, the top and frontal part of our skull is the neo-cortex, neo as in new, since it has been in evolution only for the past 6 million years with it's famous prefrontal cortex at about 600,000 years of age. This brain likes to analyze everything. This brain speaks English or in concepts, is the chatter-box brain that worries at night when we can’t sleep. Some people like to call it the seat of the conscious mind.
The second brain we got is in the middle of our skull connected with the spinal cord and its call the sub-cortex. This brain is over 1 billion years old in evolution. This is our ancient brain, it does not speak English, rather in somatic, visceral forms and in symbols imagery, dreams, memories, imagination, and is the seat of our emotions. It is here where we feel the panic when we worry. Some people like to attribute this as the seat of the subconscious mind. Both brains struggle to communicate well with each other. The neo-cortex speaks with concepts and reason, the sub-cortex with images, emotions and intuition. Talk therapy works best for the first one but not the second one. For the sub-cortex we need Mindfulness, Hypnotherapy, EMDR, or Brainspotting therapy.
The conscious mind is like the captain of the cruise ship. She directs the ship she sends orders to the men and women in the engine room below. The women and men in the engine room can be likened to the subconscious mind. They control the boilers, the instruments, the gauges and so on. The men in the boiler room do not know where they are going, they just makes sure all the parts of the cruise ship function in harmony and move forward, they just follow orders. In fact they would go on to the rocks or icebergs on their path if the person on the bridge issued faulty or wrong instructions.
The people in the engine room obey her because she is in charge. Because she is supposed to know what she is doing, what is ahead, where are they headed to. The members of the crew down below do not talk back or question the orders. They simply accept what she says and carry her orders. When they notice something is not right they communicate this by sending signals, like pain, disturbance in sleep, dreams, etc.
In the same way your conscious mind is the captain and master of your ship – your body, your environment and all of your affairs – your subconscious mind takes the orders you give it based upon what your conscious mind believes, and accepts as true. It does not question the orders on the basis on which they are given. The subconscious takes everything literally. This is how negative beliefs about ourselves gets lodged into the subconscious. If we believe ourselves to be unworthy then those beliefs will dictate our emotions, and our actions and the results that show up in our lives.”
Q/: “Can you give us some basic examples of how simply changing our language can help to change our lives?”
Sandstad: “Our subconscious mind is like my 5 year old niece Stella, she is a child and it takes everything we say literally. It does not judge anything. If you are constantly telling yourself that you are a loser, or stupid, or that life is hard, then is exactly what you will get. Your subconscious mind answers that conscious mind orders by saying “your wish is my command”.
Another no-no is organ talk. Saying things like, “I need a break. You’re killing me. You are a pain in the neck”. When I hear clients saying this to their bodies constantly and believing this, then their bodies will react and make it happen. I have a client that keeps telling herself “I work hard”, then her job was giving her grief because her body believed that is “hard” in order to do a good job, and her body feels exhausted every morning upon waking up before going to work.” With my clients I encourage them to talk kindly to their bodies as their bodies are listening to them."
Q/: “What are some of the biggest challenges that you are assisting your clients in overcoming?”
Sandstad: “I see people for everything you can imagine, from people trying to stop smoking to self-esteem issues to trauma due to HIV infections. I am a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and a clinical hypnotherapist with specialization in medical support hypnosis. I get to work with psychiatrists, surgeons, and allergists. Sometimes a patient has a medical issue that doctors cannot seem to find the answer to; maybe they have pain in the body or migraines or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and doctors after much attention seem to go nowhere. So they refer them to me. I look at the patient’s past history of emotional trauma first. Then I look at what the client is saying to themselves on a daily basis, how they talk to themselves, their bodies.
Are they constantly berating themselves, and beating themselves up? My job is to find out what beliefs are lodged in their subconscious: “I don’t deserve health, It’s my fault, I do not deserve to be happy, to have money, to be loved”.
Some people believe that God is punishing them for something they did 20 years ago, this is a belief. They may be punishing themselves by surrendering to that false belief. Most of the problems people have are caused by the belief they hold inside. “People are out to get me. I must suffer. I must stay in this bad relationship”. I help them get rid of those beliefs and reprogram the subconscious with empowering beliefs “I am good enough. I am not perfect, but I am good enough”.
I also worked with people who have lots of trauma from past experiences, and some suffer from racing thoughts which makes them feel panic attacks and can not get sleep at night. They may get some sleep but they are hypervigilant as their subconscious believes they are still in danger. With this type of client my goal is to talk to their subconscious and allow it to learn that the danger is gone and he can move on, I do it through hypnotherapy and Brainspotting therapy. Very effective.
I have to say that I have about 78% success rate. Clients see positive changes in 6 to 8 sessions. Success also depends on the client. Some of my clients come afraid of that they will become once are healed, others are afraid of letting go of the false belief or trauma. I just ask them, “Do you scare yourself all the time? What do you get by scaring yourself ? when will you know you have suffered enough?”.
Q/: “lets talk weight reduction versus weight loss… explain?”
Sandstad: “This goes back to our previous conversation about organ talk. Loss implies that something is lost or even a loser. People don’t come to see me for hypnotherapy for weight loss, they come fore weight management or reduction. Their body listens and we want to tell the body that we love it, we don’t want to punish it, or cut it or mutilate it by losing a part of it. When my client comes for weight reduction I have my client learn to talk positive about their body. I tell them to talk to their body kindly, your body is listening… your body is either smiling or frowning. If your body is sad it will try to self-destruct. Look at your body as part of you, each part is you, each organ is you, your body is your buddy yes your friend. Look at it and say, “I appreciate you, I accept you the way you are. I love the way you look today, day by day you feel and look better and better.” If my client is not able to learn to say this, I won’t proceed with therapy or hypnotherapy for weight management. The body wants to be loved and feel good before it is willing to accept change and accept healthy eating behaviors. How the body perceives itself will affect the feelings it will generate and behaviors will choose.”
Q/: “Can you share a recent success story with us?”
Sandstad: “Because of my confidentiality I can only share a broader picture of a case, I had a 23 year old male client from Somerset KY, who came to see me because he would get angry 6 times a week lasting up to 3 hours leading to migraines, he would be with his family and out of the blue he would get angry and punch the wall. He would do this even in his sleep. He would wake up in the middle of the night angry, overheated and irritated. On the first session I asked him to tell me about the last time he got upset for no reason, I then asked him to notice my fingers as I moved them to the left and right of the client’s eyes until he felt the emotion arising. There I stopped and I left him in silence for 20 minutes. He cried, and cried… he felt the anger in his arms and once the emotions left him, he felt calmed, I asked him to close his eyes and I then communicated with his subconscious. He had come to believe from middle school that he was stupid and he was a bad person and anytime someone said the word, “retarded” at home he got activated thinking it was him they were talking about. He came three more times and now that young man sleeps so good. He talks positive about himself, he is learning to love himself, no more frequent rage episodes.”
Q/: “ In your opinion who is healing the fastest and why? What do you see as the key contributing factors?”
Sandstad: “When people get tired of the suffering and seek out help they are already on the path of healing. People who come in because a spouse made them, or their parent told them to, or the court system made them, do not necessarily heal because they are there for someone else not for themselves. When a client comes into my office, we plan our goals and objectives and I always ask them, “Are you looking for partial healing or complete healing?” the reality is that some clients don’t want to heal fully. Some because their diagnosis serves them, they have a secondary gain such as getting attention, or getting the disability check. For others they are afraid of the unknown, what they will look like and feel once healed.”
Q/: “Take us behind the scenes in how the human brain works and how this can create success… or not”
Sandstad: “We have a brain within a brain, the neo-cortex and the sub-cortex. Two brains that intertwine with each other, they need each other. The first one is logical, likes to plan, make choices, it likes to analyze everything, for example right now, your neo-cortex is asking “What exactly is the neo-cortex …?”.
The sub-cortex on the other hand is the seat of emotions, dreams, imagery, our subconscious. The subconscious runs our autonomic nervous system, everything that is going on without our conscious awareness, our heart beating, respiration, hair and fingernail growing, wounds healing. All this is done by the subconscious mind. Our subconscious is in charged of storing our memories throughout the body in our nervous system. The subconscious is also responsible for storing and accessing all beliefs, positive and negative.
How do we access the subconscious? There are many ways. I like to start by becoming aware of my body in the present moment, this mindful awareness makes me notice sensations in the body. For example, when I need to make a decision, should I work this weekend? I tell my body out loud, “I am working this coming weekend”, then I notice my body how it feels after saying this, I sense in my body where I feel that sensation, and whether this sensation is negative or positive. Then I repeat the phrase but in the opposite, “I am not working this coming weekend”. I notice my body and I see how it feels. My body will communicate a positive or negative sensation. This is a way of accessing the subconscious mind.
Another way to access my subconscious is by gazing, there is a law that says: where you look affects how you feel. This principle states that as long as I gaze with my eyes to the right or left in a x-axis and y-axis and I am mindful of my body, on how is feeling as I am staring in the horizon it will access an either peaceful sensation in my body or an anxious one. This principle helps me get in touch with my subconscious mind.
A third way to access the subconscious is through self-hypnosis. I practice self-hypnosis daily. I take myself into a trance and allow my neo-cortex to relax and allow myself to go into a state of mind of heightened awareness, while my body is relaxed. Here I am able to communicate with my subconscious and my body and learn about what is bothering me or what I need to improve. Hypnosis is a natural state of mind that belongs to every person, is as natural as sleep or excretion. You probably have already experienced hypnosis and you did not know it. The last time you got to work or home while driving and your mind was lost in thought and some how you made it home, you were in an altered state of mind called hypnosis.
In hypnosis we are working with the subconscious mind. From the time we are in our mother’s womb we become programmed by her feelings and what she says about herself and others including her pregnancy. In hypnosis I like to make sure my clients to go back to that stage in their subconscious and distinguish and separate themselves from mother’s own fears and programming and my client’s. Through out our lives we are being programmed by those we perceive as authority figures. This programming creates beliefs or patterns of thinking that get lodged in the subconscious. I have a learning disability and as a child in fourth grade my teacher made fun of me in front of my peers. That same day, I had these thoughts: “I am stupid, I am ugly, I am not good enough”. The issue is that I believed these thoughts to be true and I created my own belief. These beliefs then translated into emotions and then into behaviors and then results.
If you grow up believing you’re ugly or stupid, what kind of behaviors will you display when you grow up? People don’t realize that a simple non-important statement that was made years ago by someone you admired, such a teacher or parent can dictate results that they are having in their lives today.
Every time I get, I remind surgeons and their staff to be careful how they speak to their patients in the surgery room. Because even though the patient is anesthetized, the subconscious mind is awake and listening, recording it… this is called programming."
I want to share a quote from the scientific community regarding our brain and the power of our mind to change our genes. These are radical findings
April 2017 Interview with Dr Richard Davidson at University of Madison Wisconsin, “We have a large center here—the Center for Healthy Minds—at the University of Wisconsin, and we do lots of different things that include both basic research as well as more applied or translational research. On the basic research side, there are some really exciting questions about epigenetic changes—changes in gene expression that are just beginning to be studied, and there are some new techniques that are available to look at this in ways that were never possible before. This is going to be a whole new arena that's going to open up all kinds of exciting possibilities. We're doing a bunch of basic research along these lines and we expect that there are going to be all kinds of new discoveries around this in the future. The radical idea here is that we can use our minds—mental training—to actually influence the expression of our genes. That's just a mind-blowing concept—but the fact that it can occur is by now pretty well-established. How that occurs—the mechanisms by which it occurs, the extent to which it occurs, and the kind of impact that it might have—all those are still to be determined, but there's a lot of interesting questions that could be asked there.” Dr. Richard Davidson. is a research professor of psychology and psychiatry, director of the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior, and founder of the Center for Healthy Minds. He was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2006.
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