In a problem focused world, looking for solutions can appear slightly flippant. It’s like saying to a severely depressed person that they should just think of something positive. It simply wouldn’t wash.
We tend to think the same way we’ve always done because it is simple and habitual. Humans generally don’t like change and change never feels comfortable which is why we stick to jobs we don’t like or relationships that don’t work. We then feel unhappy and think about it 24/7.
What you focus on grows
Here is the science though. What we focus on grows. With the emergence of MRI scans and neuroscience we now know that what we choose to focus on draws neurons together. Add frequency of thought to the equation and all of a sudden you have formed a neural pathway, a habitual pattern of thinking and behaving that gets more automatic the more we repeat the same thought. Repetitive thinking turns the neural pathway into a sort of motorway in the brain which means that the thought-feeling link happens in a nanosecond.
This is great news if we are thinking positive and uplifting, supportive thoughts. Not so much if we are rehashing and ruminating about what is not working in our lives. But living in a society so focused on problems can make solution focused thinking seem a bit lightweight. After all, we have problems at work, we have problems in our relationships, we have problems with our kids, we have weight problems, skin problems, health problems and so on.
So how can we stop being so problem focused?
In solution focused hypnotherapy we encourage our clients to look for what they want in life instead of what is not working (solution thinking instead of problem thinking). We encourage clients to imagine what life would be like if the problem they came to see us with went away or they learned to handle things in a more positive way. What difference would that make to them? What would they do? What different behaviour would they exhibit? What would other people notice about them that was different?
All of us have had times in our lives where we felt happy or content, even if it was fleetingly. We all have something that we like doing, that we feel good about or that we are proud of. Even if it was a long time ago we can feel that way again. Solution focused hypnotherapy encourages the client to figure out which small, practical steps they can take each week to get closer to their preferred outcome. Change is much easier for our minds to contemplate when we have clear instructions of what to do next even if the next step might be making a phone call that we’ve been putting off.
The mind likes clear instructions
During hypnosis clients are able to re-programme their negative and unhelpful thought patterns and replace them with new and supportive ones. This in turn leads to making more positive life choices such as exercising, spending time with uplifting people and having a more positive inner dialogue. Which in turns produces important neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and endorphins which makes us humans happy, content and motivated.
Knowing that our choice of thinking creates feelings and behaviour which then shapes our lives can be very empowering – and sobering. By being mindful of what we think, how we treat ourselves and what we focus on can be an important start to turn the negative chatter around and start to notice that which is already working. As uncomfortable as change may be, focusing on what you want gets easier and simpler the more you practice. And before you know it you have created brand new neural pathways which makes positive thinking and behaviour second nature. Those negative pathways no longer used simply withers away. The mind is truly amazing.