When you experience unpleasant and painful emotions, the typical reaction is to try to restrict them, stop them, or run away from those feelings. Let’s be honest, though — this doesn’t really work, does it? Surprisingly, one of the most effective ways to control a negative emotion (such as anger or fear) is to give up controlling it.
“To give your sheep or cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him.”
Thousands of meditators have used this aphorism of Suzuki Roshi to remind themselves to relax rather than contract when the mind gets wild with emotion.
During my hypnotherapy training many years ago, I discovered that Milton Erickson understood this same principle. In fact, Erickson’s perspectives on how to work with the mind were so closely in accord with Suzuki Roshi’s teachings, that I quickly began to think of Milton Erickson as a “natural Buddhist.” If Erickson had met Roshi, he might have thought Roshi was a “natural hypnotist”!
Let’s experiment with applying this principle of control to fear. There are a couple of different ways to give the sheep or cow (or tiger or dragon) of your fear a large pasture.
You can become mischievious in the midst of a fearful state — catch yourself shrinking, and then expand yourself in a big belly laugh, “Ah, ha, ha! I love this fearful state!” Repeat it louder. Repeat it again, this time even louder! Become the tiger and roar!
Or . . . if this is too theatrical for your taste, it’s fine to take a more imaginary and quieter approach:
Look at, or sense, your fear. It has a certain energy and presence right? This means it is an “object” in your awareness. We usually think of emotions as being in our body or mind, so this is probably the location of your fear. Right? Just feel where it is.
Now imagine expanding your fear. It’s not just inside your body anymore. Imagine the whole room feeling this fear . . . then the whole house. Imagine the fear spreading through the whole neighborhood, your entire city.
Intensify it! It continues to spread through the state, the country, the whole world. Now it spreads beyond the world to the solar system. It is really on the move! It is engulfing Jupiter (thousands of times bigger than the earth!) and moving on into the space beyond the solar system!
Your fear is spreading throughout the galaxy now. Take your time and really sense it spreading to all the millions of stars and star systems and all the beings of whatever sort — innumerable in their multitudes.
What happens to your fear when you make it bigger in this way? How do you feel when you let it expand into the infinite universe, instead of trying to control it or push it down?
Many of my clients have found these techniques very empowering ways to work with fear and other disturbing emotions. If you tried it out just now, please leave a comment and tell me how it went.
May we all flourish in peace and harmony. Roooaar!
Learn more ways to work with the Mind and to set yourself free. Come to Opening the Lotus of the Mind – February 26-27 and March 5-6, 2011
If you’d like to further develop your inner strength in dealing with disturbing emotions, the CD Become Fearless and Compassionate will support the growth of courage and clarity in your subconscious mind.
Jack Elias, CHT is founder and director of the Institute for Therapeutic Learning in Seattle, Washington. He is the author of Finding True Magic: Transpersonal Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy/NLP, a book and course which blends NLP training modalities with philosophical traditions of both East and West. Jack offers private sessions in Lucid Heart Therapy and Life Coaching. He offers live trainings and distance learning trainingsin Transpersonal Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy/NLP. Jack also presents keynotes and other programs to teach audiences how to use the techniques of Transpersonal Hypnotherapy/NLP to achieve success, confidence, and a consistent sense of well-being.