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Unconscious

When the Subconscious Initiates Therapy

A case study about information volunteered by the subconscious.

Key points

  • Interactions with the subconscious allow patients to better understand themselves.
  • Interactions with the subconscious can be accomplished through contemplation, finger motion, talking, or typing.
  • People can benefit from trusting their subconscious.

Commonly, clinical interactions with the subconscious involve questions posed to patients’ subconscious by either their clinicians or the patients themselves. In my experience, on the infrequent occasions when a subconscious volunteers information during an interaction with a clinician (as opposed to in a dream or through intuition) it is for the purpose of conveyance of important guidance for the patient. Also, I have found that sometimes the subconscious appears to orchestrate elaborate schemes to present such guidance.

An example of such an experience involved “Michael” (not his real name), a 19-year-old whom I treated for vocal cord dysfunction when he was 13-years-old. At that time, immediately after he learned to calm himself with hypnosis his respiratory symptom resolved. Also, I taught him how to interact with his subconscious as a way of better understanding himself and how he reacts to stressors. He was then discharged from my care.

During the subsequent six years Michael continued to use self-hypnosis on a regular basis in order to calm himself during stressful situations. While most of my patients do not typically interact with their subconscious on their own, Michael enjoyed delving into his subconscious through which he gained a lot of insight. Typically, he did so through contemplation or typing with the subconscious. Therefore, it was not a complete surprise when I received an e-mail from him on December 2, 2012 in which he stated, “I was meditating recently and my subconscious told me that I should come see you.”

I scheduled him for an appointment five days later. He came into my office happily, and greeted me with a big smile.

“Life is good!” he exclaimed. “I graduated from high school last June, and had a great time working on a forestry crew in the Adirondacks this summer. I especially like that there was no access to the internet or phones there, so it was very peaceful. I made a lot of good new friends and had lots of time to read.”

“It sounds like you had a very life-affirming experience,” I offered.

“Yeah,” he mused. “I’ve gotten real close to some of my friends. I even told some of them that I thought we might have known each other in a previous life because of how close we’ve become.”

I recalled that Michael had shared with me when he was younger that he had become interested in Buddhism and its teachings that the same souls tend to travel together in different lives.

“Are you still using a lot of hypnosis?” I inquired.

“Absolutely. I meditate when I want to step out of myself such as when I am tired, and I do hypnosis when I want a question answered or I want to think more. This has been especially helpful in college. I find hypnosis to be spiritual.”

“I’m glad hypnosis has been so useful to you,” I observed. “So, why did you decide to return to see me today?”

He appeared confused. “I’m not really sure,” he said softly.

“Well, why don’t we ask your subconscious,” I suggested.

“OK,” he said. After I teach self-hypnosis to my patients, as soon as I ask to speak to their subconscious they enter hypnosis automatically. I asked Michael to put his hand on the arm rest of the chair and established which fingers his subconscious would utilize to indicate, “Yes,” “No,” and “I don’t want to say.”

I stared at his hand. “Did you want to Michael to come in to see me today?”

The “Yes” finger rose tremulously.

“Is there a specific reason you want him to come in?”

Helga Chirk/Shutterstock
Source: Helga Chirk/Shutterstock

The same finger rose again. Michael suddenly brightened. “I remember now!” he exclaimed. Three days ago, I asked my subconscious if I was going to die on December 21, 2012. And he said, yes. So, I freaked and asked you to see me.”

“Why would you ask your subconscious about that date?” I asked.

“Because that’s the day the Mayan calendar is supposed to end and some people say that will be the end of the world,” he explained.

“And you didn’t remember until a moment ago that you had this interaction with your subconscious?”

“No,” he said, as he appeared puzzled.

“I’m not surprised,” I said. “Sometimes, we bury thoughts that are uncomfortable for us. I’ve seen that happen many times with my patients.”

A Guided Transition

Our conversation had taken on a very profound turn. “Are you sure your subconscious said you are going to die in two weeks?” I asked.

“I asked him that. And he told me that I wasn’t going to die physically, but rather this will be a metaphorical death. A part of me is going to go through a transition of some sort.”

“Hmm…” I stalled as I digested what he had said. “Didn’t your subconscious tell you to come and see me five days ago?”

“Yes.”

“And didn’t you tell me that you had this interaction about December 21 and your transition three days ago?”

“Yes.”

“That’s odd,” I observed. “It’s almost as if the subconscious had planned all of this. Do you have any idea why?”

“No.”

“So, let’s ask it,” I offered. Michael put down his hand again. “This transition that Michael is supposed to undergo, is it important that it take place on December 21?”

The “No” finger rose.

“Is December 21 of any particular significance?”

No.

“So why did you make a big deal of it?”

The fingers hesitated. Then Michael spoke, “Because I was focused on that day. My subconscious wanted to capture my attention, and that’s why he said I would die then.”

“Got it,” I responded while looking at Michael. “It seems that the subconscious succeeded in doing what it had planned. I wonder why it sent you to see me.” I shifted my gaze to his hand. “Am I supposed to help Michael in some way through this transition?”

Yes,

“Are such transitions common?” I asked.

Yes.

“Are people usually aware when they transition?”

No.

“Is Michael supposed to prepare himself in some way for this transition?”

Yes.

“Can you tell him how?”

Yes.

“Go ahead,” I said.

Michael looked at me. “I’m supposed to spend time during the next couple of weeks thinking about the upcoming transition. And then I’m supposed to talk to you about what I learned.”

“Sounds like a good plan,” I responded. “Learn as much as you can from your subconscious. I will make an appointment with you on December 20, on the day before the transition, and then on December 23, two days later, so we can process what took place.”

The Day Before

We met in the late afternoon on the day before the planned transition. Michael reported that he had asked the part of him that was going to undergo the transition to help prepare him. “I found out that the transition will not be related to a religious experience, such as Buddhism or Christianity,” he explained. “Rather, it will be a spiritual experience.”

“Will it change what you will do in your life?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied. “I learned that the transition will involve going through a door, crossing a bridge, and hope. I think the transition will help me feel warm and open-hearted. That way I will be more accepting of things.”

“Did you learn anything else?”

“I learned I need to trust him,” he said. “I learned that this is one of my subconscious’ favorite transitions, whatever that means. I learned that I will be confused by my transition. Your role will be to help me to understand what it means.”

“How will I know?” I asked.

“You already know everything I’m going to learn,” said Michael.

“Then why can’t I just tell you what I know?”

“I have to experience it for myself,” he replied. I thought his answer to be quite wise. Indeed, in life people learn best from their experiences.

“Great,” I summed up. “So, tomorrow, when you have your transition, please e-mail me. I am very curious about what is going to happen.”

“I definitely will,” he promised.

“I’ll see you in three days,” I said. As he walked out of the office I wondered how he would change by the time he returned.

The next blog post will describe what occurred during the subsequent three days.

References

More information about hypnosis and its use for interactions with the subconscious is available in the 2021 book "Changing Children’s Lives with Hypnosis: A Journey to the Center," by Ran D. Anbar. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

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