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 its famous prefrontal cortex at about 600,000 years of age. This brain likes to analyze everything. This brain speaks English or 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, called the sub-cortex. This brain is over 1 billion years old in evolution. This is our ancient brain; it does not speak English. Instead, in the somatic language, it says that visceral forms, symbols, imagery, dreams, memories, and imagination are the seat of our emotions. It is here where we feel 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, with images, emotions, and intuition. Talk therapy works best for the first one but not the second one. We need Mindfulness, Hypnotherapy, EMDR, or Brainspotting therapy for the sub-cortex.
The conscious mind is like the captain of the cruise ship. She directs the ship and orders 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 make sure all the parts of the cruise ship function in harmony and move forward; they follow orders. 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? The crew members down below do not talk back or question the orders. They 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 accurate act charges does not question the demands of the order on the basis on which they are given. The subconscious takes everything literally. This is how negative beliefs about ourselves get 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 five-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 that 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, their bodies will react and make it happen. I have a client who keeps telling herself “I RK hard,” then her job was giving her grief because her body believed it is “hard” to do a good job. 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 specializing in medical support hypnosis. I get to work with psychiatrists, surgeons, and allergists. Sometimes a patient has a medical issue that doctors cannot answer; 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 history of emotional trauma first. Then I look at what the client says to themselves daily, how they talk to themselves, their bodies.
Are they constantly criticizing 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 people's problems are caused by the view they hold inside. their confidence is 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 learn that the threat 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 a 78% success rate. Clients see positive changes in 6 to 8 sessions. Success also depends on the client. Some of my clients come afraid o that they still become once they are healed, others are afraid of letting go of the false belief or trauma. I jus 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/: “let's 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 see me for hypnotherapy for weight loss; they come for 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 them learn to talk positively about their bodies . 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; 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 cannot 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 accepting change and accepting 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 six male client from Somerset KY, who came to see me because he would get angry 6 times a week lasting up to 3 hours are 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 calm; I asked him to close his eyes and I then communicated with his subconscious. From middle school, he had come to believe that he was stupid and a bad person, and anytime someone said the word “retarded” at home, he got activated, thinking it was him they were talking about. He had come to believe that he was stupid and a bad person from middle school. It came three more times, and now that young man sleeps so well. He talks positively 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 come in because a spouse made them, or their parent told them to, or the court system did 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. Because their diagnosis serves them, they have a secondary gain such as getting attention or a 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 need each other. The first one is logical, likes to plan, make choices, and analyze everything. For example, right now, your neo-cortex is asking, “What exactly is the neo-cortex …?”.
On the other hand, the sub-cortex is the seat of emotions, dreams, imagery, our subconscious. The subconscious runs our autonomic nervous system, everything going on without conscious awareness, heart beating, respiration, and hair. The subconscious mind does all this charge with charge. Our subconscious is storing stores 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 at the moment, this m; this awareness makes me notice sensations in the body. For example, when I need to decide, should I work this weekend? I tell my body out loud, “I am working this coming weekend,” then I notice 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; a law 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 an 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 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 let myself to go into a set of mind of heightened awareness, my body is relaxed. Here, I can communicate with my subconscious and body and learn 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 somehow you made it home, you were in an altered state of mind called hypnosis.
In hypnosis, we are working with the subconscious mind. When 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 go back to that stage in their subconscious and distinguish and separate themselves from their mother’s own fears programming and my client’s. Throughout are being programmed by those we perceive as authority figures. This programming creates beliefs or thinking patterns 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 thought: “I am stupid, I am ugly, I am not good enough”. The issue.” is that I believed these thoughts to be accurate, and I created my own belief. These beliefs then translated into emotions, behaviors, and 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 made years ago by someone you admired, such as a parent, or teacher, dictates the results they are having in their lives today.
Every time I get it, I remind surgeons and their staff to speak carefully. 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 minds to change our genes. These are radical findings
April 2017 Interview with Dr. Richard Davidson at the 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. There are some fascinating questions about epigenetic changes—changes in gene expression that are just beginning to be studied on the basic research side There are some new techniques 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 discoveries around this in the future. The radical idea here is that we can use our minds—mental training—to influence the expression of our genes to influence our genes' expression side there. 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 are lots 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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