Dr. Dylan Morgan M.A.(Oxon.), D.Phil.(Oxon.), MNCP, MNCH

LEEDS Complementary Therapy Centre, 249a Otley Rd. LS16 5LQ. map
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Life Coach
Website all my own work. It has some 500,000 words and many links to check. If you find mistakes I would be pleased to know.
Boy makes prints in snow

Your Path in Life

Dylan Morgan


A book for the general reader, designed to increase understanding life and how to lead it more successfully.

Eildon Press, 1990. Not in print but freely downloadable from this site

What is more important: to be able to do mathematics or to be able to run your own life? And so what does society put into your school curriculum?

What is more important: to understand how mankind has changed through history, or how you change through life? And what does society put into your school curriculum?

I will be provocative and say that society teaches us in school those things that could make us useful to society , and leaves out those things that could actually help us to know ourselves .

In this book I am redressing this, in a small way. I am writing of everyday things that I find that even very intelligent people have simply missed being told on their path in life. I am giving information that can make all the difference between a smooth, successful life and a disastrous one.

You will find that I continue as I started: by asking a lot of questions with the aim of stimulating you to provide your own responses and ideas. It is a good idea, when you find a section of the book that strikes a chord, to write down the answers to these questions. This increases your involvement and makes it more likely that you will discover more about yourself.


Chapter 1. Paths

I would like you to see if you can imagine a new land, vast and unexplored. It could be a bit like North America as seen by the early settlers, or a land of your own imagining. It is to have no inhabitants and no roads or man-made paths. Can you picture the first person walking a little way inland, and see the footprints in the sand: the first human path on your virgin land?

From this simple beginning I want us to watch how new paths form and change and grow. By the time a month has elapsed the first settlers have created recognisable paths to a stream for water and to the woods for timber. If you imagine yourself as one of them you can see that it is nearly always easier for you to follow an existing path which will be more free from brambles and other obstructions, and as you use it you do your part to make it even clearer. This gives us one of the rules about paths:


But of course, from time to time new paths are made into the interior of the new land. It may be in search of food or better land, or it may be that one of those people who actually prefer not to follow the easier path sets out and accidentally discovers a better place. Once he has found the path and brings back the news, then others will follow. I wonder which kind of person you tend to be? Do you prefer the easy, populated paths of life, where there is plenty of company, or do you like striking out for yourself?

Notice that neither is good or bad in itself. Society has needs for both kinds of people. Without the trail-blazers there would be no improvements. But if everyone insisted on walking an unmarked path there would be no society at all. Now let us look at the country again after a few years. There are now a lot of paths running from the initial settlement to other places of interest, and they are much clearer, often big enough to be called tracks if not yet roads. If we were talking I would find it fascinating to explore with you these places of interest. It would tell us a lot about your deeper needs and motivations: your inner nature. What sort of places would you make paths towards? mountains or plains? sheltered spots for gardens? places rich in game? or streams rich in gold? What would you imagine into your new land?

But notice also that some of the initial paths have disappeared. Why do people stop following a path? There can be a number of reasons. Sometimes it is that there are two paths which achieve the same end. If one is significantly easier to follow than the other then the latter can easily disappear. As an example it was once the case that the only way to cross the river Tay to Dundee in Scotland by car was on the ferry. Then a bridge was built, making a second way. The ferry then disappeared at once. In the new land that we are picturing it might easily have happened that an early path took a long way around, perhaps by chance or perhaps to find a fording place across a river. When a shorter way is found, or a bridge built, then the early path may disappear. Equally a better source of food or water or timber may be found, so that the same end may be achieved on another path, and again the earlier path will fade.

A second big reason for a path to disappear is simply that there is no longer any need to travel it. If, for example, all the trees on a hillside have been felled for timber, then the path leading to the hillside would no longer be used and would gradually disappear.

A third reason is that the path may become blocked - by a landslide, for example, or by a fence or wall built by someone, a No Entry sign, a taboo, or by the more intangible barrier of fear of some danger: wild animals or enemies. I think that these are the three main reasons why a path may no longer be travelled. And once a path is no longer travelled it tends to disappear in time. I have wondered if there are any other possible reasons, but have been unable to find any that are not one of those three:

a) There is no longer any need for it.

b) There is a better path which fills the same need.

c) The path has become blocked.

Can you think of any others which do not fall into one of

these categories?

As an example of these three principles in quite a different context, consider the path of a rapist which runs: need for sex; desire for a woman; forceful possession of a woman. If we wanted to get rid of this behavioural path by method a) we would be thinking of what is called chemical castration: using hormones to remove the sex drive. There would then be no need to follow the path. If we were thinking along line b) we would, perhaps, see if it were possible to find him a wife, which would provide him with a more satisfactory path to fulfilling his needs. On line c) we find that threats of penal punishments might act as a barrier or deterrent.

Coming back to the picture of the new country, let us continue to picture its growth as more and more people live there. The paths have grown to become roadways, followed by thousands of feet, pack-horses and wagons. Small settlements have grown into towns. Then you can imagine the arrival of motor vehicles and with them more and more surfaced roads. So that what was once a solitary trail of footprints across the prairie became a footpath, then a mule trail, then a stage coach route, then a simple surfaced road, until in the end it becomes a multi-lane highway carrying more people in one minute than the first path carried in one year.

This picture is designed to give some feeling of how paths behave. Notice that a path never stays quite the same. This is most noticeable for the earlier paths in the picture. Each person, each horse, each wagon along a dirt track makes it clearer, or perhaps changes its course a little, or broadens it. It is easy to change these new paths: you can easily alter your through the woods. But when paths become more frequented it takes more than a few people to change their course. By the time the footpath has grown into a highway it is too expensive and difficult to do more than a very little re-routing or widening.

It is useful to find a single simple word to stand for this quality in a path which makes it hard to change. Notice that in searching for such a word we are creating a new mental path. So far, no-one has explored this field of thought in quite this way. The word we choose will tend to be followed by others and its use will become common in any talk of ways of changing our paths in life. After some thought I felt that the best word would be heavy . A heavy object is hard to move. A heavy path is one which is hard to change. A light object is easy to move. A light path is one which can be changed easily. These words are familiar and suggestive and easy to remember.

So in this language a simple dirt track is a light path, and a multi-lane highway is a heavy path. Next I am going to describe some other kinds of paths. Suppose you pick up the pencil and write your name again here:.

How many times in your life have you written it, I wonder? An adult who signs an average of three cheques or letters a day can expect to write it at least a thousand times a year. Some people have written their signatures over a hundred thousand times in a lifetime, and a very busy person, who has to sign 60 letters a day, can turn out a million signatures in a lifetime! Perhaps this will help you to estimate the number of times you have done it.

The point of this is that in writing your name you are following a certain path involving your brain, the muscles of your hand and arm and eye, and all the nerves in between. Each time you sign you are following the same path: the signature is recognisably the same. How easy would it be to make your signature unrecognisable?

Because the path has been followed so often it is normally quite a heavy path and is quite hard for most of us to change. The same is true of the style of all our handwriting which usually remains recognisably the same over a whole adult lifetime.

Let us think of another path: that of the language we are using. I am writing this book in English because it is the only language that I am really familiar with. The mental paths involved in understanding the language are heavy: I have followed them very often. It would be a very big job for me to change my mental paths so that I could understand a translation of it in, for example, Urdu.

Or again, consider the way in which we write numbers: 1,2,3,4.....9,10,11..... Countless millions of people have followed the path of writing them in this way. There are other ways, of course, such as the Roman I II III IV V VI ..... But our present way is sweeping the world and will, I suppose, become in time the only way used by mankind. You might suppose that this is because it is in some sense the best : that there are no competitors. But surprisingly there is at least one way which is arguably better. I discovered this some years ago, only to find that others had discovered it previously from the 17th. century onwards. If you want to know more about it you can read my article in the New Scientist for the 22nd. of April, 1982. But my only reason for mentioning it here is to say that even if this other system were quite overwhelmingly superior, it could still

not replace our existing method. We know it too well. It is a very heavy cultural path. Like a multi-lane highway it would be too expensive and hard to alter.

At another level, have you ever tried to change the views of someone with a life-long political or religious conviction? The paths of their thoughts on these matters are so heavy - they have followed them for so long, and so many times - that it is almost impossible for them to change. By contrast it is comparatively easy to change the views of a young person who has thought very little about such matters: their mental paths are lighter. Do you agree in general?

Again notice that I am not saying that heavy mental paths are any worse or better than light ones.

By giving these examples of paths, the idea that I wish to share with you will be becoming clearer in your mind. Each time you read the word "path", you are establishing new pathways in your brain all running roughly in the same direction. If this is your first reading of this book then the idea is as yet only lightly present. By the end of the book frequent repetitions will have made it much heavier: you will have a firm grasp of the idea. Can you see that this is the way in which we learn most things: by simply travelling over certain paths of experience many times?

In describing some further examples of paths I will be using a sort of shorthand which I find quite useful. I have used it informally above. You will soon see what it consists of. Eating: place food in mouth; chew it; swallow it; repeat.

Dressing: underpants; shirt; trousers; socks; shoes; tie; jacket.

What path do you follow in dressing? Dressing:

The amount of detail that you put into describing the steps on the path can vary enormously, and it is usually the case that any step is also a path which can be described in more detail.

Putting on trousers: pick them up; left leg in; right leg in; zip up; fasten belt. Do you know which leg you generally put in first??

Have you ever programmed a computer? In that case you will recognise that a computer program is an example of a very precise form of path. Name of program: first subroutine; second subroutine; ....; last subroutine. Each subroutine is of course also a path.

A quarrel: He is getting dressed; he can't find a clean shirt; he shouts to his wife for one; she resents his tone; she shouts back, "It's in the wardrobe."; he sulks because she did not come to help; he is sullen the whole evening; when they get home she screams at him; he goes and sleeps in the spare room.

One reason why it can be useful in life to look at what is going on in this way is the following. The things that really stick in the mind about a path like the previous one are the later, very unpleasant stages. If the couple start to think about the quarrel once it is over, those are the things that come to mind. But if you want to change the entire path, then it is the earlier steps which are usually the easiest to change. It will be a great deal easier to get that couple to change the arrangements about clean clothes than to try to change the way they behave when things have gone completely out of control.

Sometimes changing just one small incidental feature of the path can lead to great alterations. For example Erickson was once dealing with a couple who were quarrelling frequently, and all he did was to get them to agree to continue to quarrel, but they must do it in the bath! This was enough in that case - and Erickson was extremely adept at choosing the right change for each case - to eliminate all the nastiness from the quarrels and to bring the couple closer together.

Can you imagine quarrelling in the bath?.

How would you feel about splashing or being splashed?

Do you notice any change in feelings?

Returning now to the theme of paths: I have listed a number of different paths to get our minds running on those lines. But it should really be obvious that there are no isolated incidents in life: life is a movie and not a still photograph. Everything that we think or feel or do is part of a process, it lies on some path.

How do you think that men who are involved in managing giant constructional schemes - a new factory or oil refinery, perhaps - go about it? Do they just take a blind run at the problem? . No, they work with large and complicated flow charts on which each part of the work is represented by a line or path, joining up to all the others. There is a whole field of knowledge, going by the name of Critical Path Analysis, associated with such maps of big schemes, to ensure that they proceed smoothly and efficiently. Now I am not saying that we should try to run our lives as if they were businesses. What I am saying is that it is only by looking at the various paths involved that the Management of a big project can avoid the most embarrassing mistakes. And that if the Management of your body - the brain - fails to look at the paths involved in your life, rather than just isolated incidents, then it also will not be able to make things run smoothly.

Path: a woman wants to lose weight; she eats little for breakfast; works all morning; light lunch; more work; comes home; feels tired; prepares a meal; nibbles as she makes it; eats very large helpings; feels guilty; gets more miserable as the evening wears on; eats more to comfort herself; next morning is determined to be still harder on herself.

That path is a terrible one to follow each day. How could it be changed? What do you think would happen if it were changed at one point to: feels tired; makes warm drink; dozes off to some music for half and hour; makes a meal?

Or what if we could change: guilty; miserable; eats, to guilty; miserable; goes out dancing to comfort herself? Or perhaps some other pleasant activity?

All too often it is the case that someone trapped on such a path thinks only of the one step that she is worried about - the bingeing - and quite overlooks the possibilities of changing other steps on the path which could have a very beneficial effect on the whole of the life.

This might be a good place to pause and to see if you can take some problem in your own experience and try writing down a simple path description of it. It some ways it is easier to do this for someone else's problem, but perhaps more interesting to think of your own. There is no need to worry about going wrong: there is nothing hard and fast about it. It is just a matter of getting used to putting the "problem" in the setting of the whole of the processes leading up to it and on from it. I am leaving a space for you to do one or two examples here, though of course others can be done elsewhere.

Now I want to start to think about another characteristic of paths which can be very important in practice. What is the difference between a footpath across a common, and a walled path between houses? What is the difference between the path of a plane and that of a train?

The answer as I see it is that that it is much easier to move off the former of each of these pairs of paths. Some paths are very easy to wander off deliberately or by mistake. Others are as if they have walls on either side and you cannot leave them. As a shorthand for this quality I am going to suggest the following words: a soft-edged path is one which it is easy to wander off. A sharp-edged path is one which it is difficult to wander off.

The path of a boat in the open sea is soft-edged. The path of a boat in a canal is sharp-edged. The path of a child at school is fairly sharp-edged, though it used to be sharper in days gone by. The path of a child when playing is soft-edged. The path of an assembly worker is sharp-edged: there is little room for initiative. The path of a artist is quite soft-edged: a freshness of approach is to be encouraged. I wonder if these new words have now been met in enough sentences - verbal paths - for you to understand what I mean? Can you think of some examples for yourself of pairs of paths to illustrate the difference between softness and sharpness of the edges?

Let us look at an example of a man who is involved in sharpening up one of his paths in life. This is his golf swing: hold the club; look into the distance; look at the ball; swing the club; hit the ball; watch the ball fly. If you are quite an expert you may analyse this path into more steps, but you will still be describing a whole path of action. Now the beginner who follows these steps will follow quite a different form of this path each time, as will be evident from the erratic behaviour of the ball. The path is very soft edged: he very easily wanders off into sliced shots, misses and turf-digging. By contrast the professional will usually follow almost exactly the same narrow, sharp-edged path for each of his strokes. The process of learning to play golf better is one of sharpening up the path, which in this case is mainly one involving the muscles, nerves, sense of balance and eyes. But again notice that in the end it is the whole path that is important. If all the attention is focussed on the grip, for example, then the rest of the path may become worse, so that there is no overall improvement.

Now here is an example of when a sharp edge is not useful. When this woman was a girl of eight she came home from school proud of a new naughty word - "shut up." It seems mild to many of us today but her mother was old-fashioned or bad tempered and was incensed when her daughter told her to "shut up." She gave her a blow on the head which she recalls to this day. The effect of this was, I suppose, satisfactory to the mother because the girl stopped using that language. But the problem from the daughter's point of view is that this, and similar incidents, resulted in her being virtually unable to dispute anything with anyone, and as a result she has been taken advantage of very badly ever since. On the path of discussion she has a big wall to prevent her moving off onto the side of saying "no". On that side it is very sharp-edged.

There are other people who go to the other extreme. They are unable to say "yes", and seem forced to disagree with any suggestion made to them. I don't think that they have much choice in the matter. Their psychological paths have a wall to prevent movement in the direction of saying "yes": of moving in a direction that someone else wants. Have you ever come across someone like this?

Would you like to know how to handle them? Or perhaps you know already? The basic idea is simple. We will consider it for a young girl who refused to bath at night. The trick is then to say, "Now, whatever you do, don't get into the bath!" and display annoyance as when in fact she does a few minutes later do just that, and add, "Now, whatever you do, don't soap yourself!" And then she will. Of course she knows at one level that you do want her to bath, but taking this approach allows her to feel the independence that comes from disobedience but also allowed her the satisfaction of being clean. Can you see that we are softening the line between "yes" and "no" for her, giving her more freedom to decide on her own path in life?

By contrast if I make an issue of her having a bath because "I am your father. You do what I tell you." then one way or the other it would create a much more sharp-edged attitude in her to disagreements. If she wins then it would edge her towards being a person who will disagree on principle. If, on the other hand, I win, then it edges her towards being someone who could never hold her own. Perhaps you disagree with what I have suggested? I know that there are some people who would.

Does this story give you any ideas on how to handle a person who is forced to disagree?

It seems to me that a tendency to make paths more or less sharp-edged is often a basic characteristic of a person or even of a nation. In Europe the more Mediterranean peoples seem to follow paths with softer edges, while the more northern ones tend to be more sharp-edged in their writings, daily habits, morals, speech and structures of society. Compare, for example the fluid vowels of Italian with the rigid consonants of German, and you will get a feeling for the difference mean. This is not to say that one is better or worse than the other. People have a habit of wanting to make all differences moral differences. Most differences are just differences.

Equally some individuals tend to be very precise and exact in all their thoughts and deeds. All their paths are sharp-edged. Others can be very flexible. If these characteristics are disliked then they may be termed rigidity or pedantic on the one hand and sloppy or woolly on the other. Mathematics is a field of thought in which the paths are very sharp-edged. Concepts are very crisp, very clear and very well defined. Poetry contains very soft-edged paths, words are used in ways which make meanings sparkle from them like rainbows scattered by the multi-faceted diamond and feelings flow from them as living water from the fountain. I feel that neither is superior to the other: they are simply different, and each has its own value to humanity. What do you feel?

I hold the same position about sharpness and softness in general. There are times and places where it is essential to be able to break down barriers on the edges of our paths, if they have started to become prisons. But equally there are other times and places where it is important to erect barriers at the edges of paths, perhaps to prevent collisions between flows of traffic, or to hold back floods or other dangers. It is important to have the rigidity of the skeleton or we would flop into blobs of jelly. But we must also have the soft flesh or we would be no more than skeletons or robots.

Why, you may be asking, is this distinction important? There are a number of reasons. One very important one is that a great deal of misunderstanding and irritation can be caused by expecting others to be using the same standards of sharpness as yourself - and that you have a right to expect them to follow your standards. The very neat person, who follows very sharp-edged paths in every movement, can be driven wild by the behaviour of a husband who is very soft-edged in his movements, puts his things down anywhere and never tidies a thing. The very intuitive, emotional person, who is always following very fluid and soft-edged paths of feeling, can feel constantly crushed and trapped or bludgeoned by a mate who is unable to proceed except on very rigid tram-lines of thought and behaviour. These problems can be considerably eased if each can recognise that the other has a right to their own behaviour, just as they have to their own. Each kind of behaviour has its own advantages and its own drawbacks. A couple who go out of their way to look at the advantages of the other's approach, and to see how life can be organised to use those, can go a long way together on the path of life very amicably. On the other hand if attention is focussed only on the disadvantages , then life becomes hell.

Perhaps those remarks have set you thinking about your own situation? This might be a good time to think about how your paths compare with those close to you: perhaps your spouse, or parents, workmates or friends. Notice that it is much easier to compare the softness or sharpness of two people than to decide if someone is, in some absolute sense, sharp- or soft-edged in their behaviour. The other important thing to note is the areas in which the differences occur. It can happen that you are more soft-edged than him in one area of life, and more sharp-edged in another. A man may follow very sharp-edged paths where his car is concerned but very soft-edged ones when he is gardening. The slightest blemish to the paint-work may have him polishing urgently and fastidiously, while a whole mass of weeds may evoke only a cursory bit of digging.

So here is an example of a table that you might like to use.. The first column will contain the area you are thinking about. Then there are two other columns, the first labelled softer and the second sharper. In these you can put either your name or the name of the other person that you are thinking of. For example, I would have:

Area of Thought Softer Sharper
Spelling Dylan Trudi (my wife)

Another reason why this distinction is valuable is that it tells us a lot about how we can change our own paths in life, and those belonging to others. Different methods apply to sharp- and soft-edged paths. For example suppose we are dealing with a person whose paths are as sharp-edged and inflexible as a railroad track. There is then simply no use in suggesting that he changes "a little bit". It will make no sense to him. But if you can open up a branch line which attracts him, then once he has set off in the new direction he will go along quite happily under his own steam.

If you think on the other hand of someone lost in an open country, with no sharp paths at all, then it is very easy to change the path a little bit. But on the other hand it is equally easy to slip back again - there are no sharp edges - and so attention has to be paid to such a person for quite a long time to see that the initial changes are built on, and real progress is made.

On the whole, but it will not apply to everyone, people whose paths tends to be sharp-edged will come over as being high in self-motivation and independence. Those people, on the other hand, who tend habitually to follow softer-edged paths are easier to change for a while but the ease with which they will slip back makes it look as if they lack will-power and self-motivation. On the other hand a sharp-edged approach to life can lead one into a dead-end, with walls all around. Such a situation will typically be felt as depression. (I am not saying it is the only cause of depression.) I repeat that both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, just as planes and trains do.

(By the way, you probably realise that the answer to the question about how to deal with people who will always resist doing anything you want is to always give them the impression that you want the opposite of your real desires. One woman wanted her husband, who was a little older than she was, to take her out to livelier places. But he was the sort of person we are talking about, and he resisted the idea. I suggested to her that she should start to say things like, "Let us go out to the Jolly Geriatric. At our age it is so much more peaceful." And he promptly and predictably suggested spontaneously that they went to the younger and livelier places that she enjoyed. Of course the art of the thing lies in making the suggestions in just the right way for the person, but the strategy is always the same.)

Now it is often the case that the cause of a particular problem in life that is brought to me is caused by a person having the wrong degree of sharpness in a given area. I therefore need to find ways of sharpening or softening paths. And I hope that you will find it interesting to think about how this can be done. There are two key words which are important here. The process of sharpening paths in life generally involves paying attention to differences . The contrary process of softening involves paying attention to similarities .

Here is a little girl learning to speak: she strokes a cat; her mother says "puss"; the girl says "puss"; the mother says "puss" again, warmly; the girls says "puss"; later the girl picks up her teddy and says "puss"; her mother strokes the teddy and says "teddy"; the mother strokes the cat and says "puss"; the child begins to notice the differences between the two things and is able to call each by its proper name. What is happening here is that the mental path on which the word "puss" lies is initially very soft-edged, and could apply to any small soft thing. The drawing of the attention to the differences between cases sharpens up the verbal paths. It is probable that even at the end of the learning path I have sketched above the word "puss" would still be soft-edged enough for any small dog also to be called "puss".

For an example of softening let us suppose that the same child has, for some reason, become unable to sleep in any other bed but her own. There might be a very simple path: strange bed; fear; crying; sleeplessness. While at home the path is: own bed; security; relaxation; sleep. The key to changing the first path is to make the idea of "strangeness" much more soft-edged. And it can be done by drawing her attention to similarities . For example, let us suppose that her bed at home has a very distinctive cover, and she always takes her teddy to bed with her. Then, if the cover is taken with her to her grandparents, because "teddy will only sleep in his own bed, and wants to take it with him", then the sharp edge between "own bed" and "strange bed" is softened considerably, and it will become a much easier task to get her moving along the remainder of the good path, even when away from home.

These may seem rather simple examples, but I hope that you can see what I am saying. Perhaps you would like to comment, or to think of some other examples from the way in which you handle children, if you are a parent, of when you have in fact used one or other of these approaches without thinking of it in quite this way?

Here are two examples from adult life. The first is a woman who had developed the habit of sulking in childhood when her father scolded her. When she married she continued down the sulking path whenever her husband was angry. But while it always brought her father around, it simply made her husband worse. To improve the path of her married behaviour we must work to get her to notice vividly the differences between the two men when they are angry. The husband could help by changing his behaviour a little. This will help her to begin to work out two different paths: one with an angry father and the other with an angry husband. The second path will be lighter, because it will not have been followed so often, and so will be easier to change to a useful one. The change in the husband can be something quite silly - he could stand on his head or the table - and it can be enough to establish a difference from her known paths with her father, and get her to start off on a new one.

My second example is one that I have used to soften the edges of the path of a smoker to make it easier to get off it. First of all we pay attention to the smokers path: desire for nicotine; reaching for the packet; placing cigarette in the mouth; breathing out the smoke; the ash going into a special receptacle. We picture in detail the path that I have outlined briefly here. Then we go back a hundred years or so and picture in similar detail the similar path: desire for nicotine; reaching for the tobacco pouch; placing a chew in the mouth; spitting out the saliva; the chewed leaves finally following into the spittoon. Finally the smoker can visualise himself or herself smoking, with every step mirrored by the chewer across the room. Now there are some people who would regard spitting saliva across the room to be gross bad manners but have no qualms about blowing smoke across the room. If we soften the edge between these two paths then the disgust that exists on the one path can begin to flow into the other, and this will generally help such a person to change their smoking habits.

Now we can begin to see why some people follow sharper edged paths in life than others. Such people typically are always noticing differences : they are discriminating and selective or critical and judgmental. Others make a habit of only noticing similarities : they are undiscriminating and uncritical, tolerant and easygoing. Again I would ask you to notice whether you, or some of your friends, make a habit of one or other of these approaches to your lives.

There are some people who are like the gardener who has learned to prune. But only to prune. If a plant is thriving, he prunes it back. If it is ailing he prunes it as well. It is his only skill. There are others who are like the gardener who has learned the importance of fertilising. But only of fertilising. He will never cut anything back: never remove a plant however feeble it has become. When I try to picture the gardens each of these would produce I seem to see the first as an austere and joyless near-desert and the second a riotous near-jungle. Is this what you see?

Would it not also be better if each of these gardeners learned some of the other's the other's skill?

In the same way I am suggesting that it is of great use for us to be able to notice both similarities and differences: to be able to choose to make our paths either sharper or softer edged.

More abstract words for the processes of finding differences and similarities are analysis and synthesis. But in this book I am trying to keep the language fairly straightforward so that it can connect up with the paths of thought of a large number of people.

Next I am going to move on to describe quite an important kind of path. And that is a tunnel . A tunnel has walls all around it. You can only get in or out at the two ends. It is more sharp-edged even than a railway line, where you can at least see on either side. As I am writing these words work is well under way on the digging of the Channel Tunnel, linking Britain and Europe. The advantages of the tunnel are clear. It will provide a fast and efficient way of getting across the channel. A tunnel is immune to disturbances on the surface. The traffic flow in one-way, with no junctions or intersections, and so travel is smooth and usually trouble free. The disadvantage lies in the fact that if something goes wrong then there is a chance of being totally trapped in the tunnel.

The last paragraph should have made you think about tunnels. I wonder how you feel about them. Which looms larger in you, the advantages or disadvantages?

Now let me describe a spectacular example of a tunnel-like path in a person: the path of a post-hypnotic suggestion. This is the way it works. In a trance the subject is instructed that in response to a certain cue a certain path of action will be followed. The instruction will typically be repeated several times. (Remember the rule that repetition makes any path firmer, heavier, harder to change.) Then amnesia for the suggestion is induced. This may happen spontaneously, but more usually active steps will have to be taken to prevent the subject consciously remembering the words of the suggestion. This amnesia is what makes the path into a tunnel: "out of sight, out of mind". It prevents any connections with conscious paths of thought.

When this procedure is followed perfectly, then when the cue - perhaps the click of fingers - is later given, it will be followed by the requested behaviour. Have you ever seen this done on stage? The stage hypnotist has the advantage that the whole of the situation is unfamiliar to his volunteers, taken from the audience. Little of what happens lies on paths which connect up readily with everyday experience. It is therefore easier to create tunnels: sharp behavioural paths which are immune from the usual inhibitions and influences of familiar ways of behaving. Have you ever wondered what it feels like to perform a post-hypnotic suggestion? Well, it varies. In extreme cases there is no recollection of having done it at all. If it has taken a significant time to perform the action then there is going to be an unusual sensation at the end of the tunnel: "how did I get to be here?" Whether a person feels alarmed, bemused or amused depends on the personality. But these cases in which the whole thing is forgotten is the exception rather than the rule. More commonly people will execute the action, and if questioned about it say something like, "Oh, I remembered that he had told me to do it, but there seemed no reason not to, and so I went ahead." In cases where the path is followed with full awareness of what is being done, and why, then I would not call it a tunnel, though of course it is a result of the hypnotist's words.

Now many people find the idea of such suggestions repugnant. They feel that it is wrong for anyone to be forced to do something which they did not consciously agree to. What do you feel?

My feeling is this. I dislike the idea of making anyone do things contrary to their will, and I am deeply suspicious of anyone who desires to do this, by whatever means. It is my experience that it is a great deal easier, and more common in the world, for people to be forced against their will by lies, bullying and emotional manipulation, than it is by hypnosis. For one thing people can usually resist entering a trance quite easily. And there is also plenty of evidence on record that any attempt to make a suggestion running strongly contrary to other paths of the personality only results in the subject coming out of a trance.

My reason for following up the path of hypnotism a little is to give us a viewpoint from which we can look down on a lot of other, more common, experiences. Imagine that you nose is beginning to itch. Just a little tickle somewhere. The kind that you are only just aware of, that can happen at any time. That is a cue. What happens next, at least if you are in private, is that a hand rises to scratch it. The path that it follows is one that you have probably been following most of your life with little modification. It is probably quite a heavy path. If someone started to express irritation with the way in which you do it, it would be quite hard to change. On the other hand you are normally not at all aware of doing it: which makes it a tunnel. By the way are you aware of having scratched your nose since we raised the subject? Some people respond very readily to the merest suggestion of a cue like that. In fact I found myself scratching my nose as I was writing this. Of course one can resist the temptation, as one does in company, but there remains a good chance of the suggestion being carried out later, when the attention wanders. How does your nose feel? Have you noticed any itches?

There are plenty of other examples of tunnel behaviours. If you can drive then you may well have had the experience of arriving at your destination with no clear recollection of any of the details of the drive? It is as if you are on autopilot. At the beginning of the journey there was a decision about where to go. Then your consciousness can be on other things - work, friends or memories - until you arrive. Provided that there were no emergencies en route to draw your attention you will have followed the whole path of driving as smoothly and unconsciously as if it had been a post-hypnotic suggestion. By the way, how is your nose? Have you scratched it yet?

Then you probably know people who readily enter conversational tunnels. At a certain cue word or idea they start, "That reminds me of the time when ....." or "Have you heard the one about the...." Do you know the sort of thing? While the reminiscence or anecdote is being spoken there seems little awareness of any reactions from the audience, and frequently no recollection of having told it before. Here again we see something which follows the tunnel-like path of a post-hypnotic suggestion: a certain cue arises; it is the start of a given path; the path is followed with little awareness of the surroundings; at the end there is little recollection of having followed the path. Can you name someone who is often plunging into conversational tunnels?

I have now given three examples of what I mean by a tunnel as opposed to a simple path. Each should have helped us to sharpen up the edges of the idea as the distinction becomes clear. Because we are talking about human behaviour and not physics or mathematics we cannot expect to have very sharp-edged definitions of our terms. But it should now be clear what I mean when I say that in human terms the less conscious awareness there is of a path the more appropriate it is to use the word "tunnel" for it.

Most of the daily habits that I have mentioned earlier in the chapter are in fact tunnels. Walking, breathing, leg-crossing, posture, eye-movements and thousands of other actions are performed with no conscious attention. Most of the time it is not only important but essential that most of our actions should be automatic in this way. If, on typing this out, I was still having consciously to think about how to move each finger, and how to spell each word, the whole thing would take ages. When we are doing arithmetic the cue "5+9" should lead swiftly, by some neurological tunnel, to the answer "14". It would be terribly inefficient to have to do it on our fingers each time. A good memory relies on there being a neurological tunnel which takes us from the cue of a person's face to the end of the tunnel where we find the name that goes with it. Imagine the problems that would arise if it was still necessary to think consciously about keeping balance when walking, as a child has to. It is essential that there be tunnels so that the cue of a slight sense of imbalance leads swiftly and smoothly, with no conscious intervention, to the correct muscular adjustment. Can you see this?

Perhaps you could make your own list of some more of the thousands of things that we do automatically, without thinking of them.

There are of course examples of tunnels which are a nuisance, and people want removed. For example here is a common enough path: sight of a cookie (the cue); hand moves out; the cookie is eaten before the mind had really noticed what was going on. Sufferers from this tunnel feel exactly as if they had been given a post-hypnotic suggestion, "When you see a cookie, you must eat it." For many smokers, too, the path of smoking is a tunnel which they are seldom conscious at the time of having followed. Do you have any tunnel-like behaviours that you want to remove? If so, name them.

This naturally raises the question of how to change a tunnel, and in particular, how to remove it. Let us begin with the case of the post-hypnotic suggestion. You will remember that one of the important tasks of the hypnotist was to try to detach the suggestion from all other conscious paths: to build walls around it and a roof over. In short to prevent conscious attention to the path, so that it will act like one of the thousands of other tunnels which arise naturally, as we have seen. The reverse process is therefore to attach the path to other experiences by paying conscious attention to it.

This may be a little difficult at first, but any suggestion which produces a noticeable change in your behaviour is bound to draw your attention to the fact that something has changed. Or it will draw someone else's attention. If you have been told to take off your tie at an unusual time then it will soon be noticed. If you have been told to write with the opposite hand then the messiness of the writing will soon become apparent. Once you attend to it then the force of the suggestion is immediately weakened. (A post-hypnotic suggestion is seldom very heavy : it is not like a lifetime's habit.) Very careful attention to the feelings associated with the act of picking up the pen with the wrong hand is very likely to bring back associated ideas such as the hypnotist's voice. From this point the whole path becomes weakened and a small act of will can remove it.

There is a whole chapter on hypnosis later in the book which you may find interesting if you want to follow up some of these ideas. But for the time being I have only followed this path to give us a slightly unusual viewpoint from which we can look down on a lot of more familiar ground.

The point is that most habitual paths of behaviour or thought or feeling behave in much the same way as a post-hypnotic suggestion. The origins are forgotten. It is triggered by a certain cue. It is followed automatically with little or no conscious thought. Many motorists have had the experience of following a familiar route and arriving at their destination with no conscious memory of any event en route. This is a tunnel-like path. The path of driving my daughter to school had become a tunnel for me. A little while ago I was supposed to be going with her to the supermarket, which is half way along the same route, but ended up at the school. If I had been attending to the path this would not have happened. If you now imagine this problem becoming more severe so that I became incapable, once my daughter was sitting in the car of going anywhere but to school, then something would have to be done, wouldn't it? Does that sound silly? Well, is it so different from being unable to put down a drink once it is in your hand, or to resist a bar of chocolate on the shelf? The use of the silly picture is that it can suggest ways of getting someone out a tunnel behaviour. For example you could help me by coming along in the car for a few weeks, and ask me to take a different route each time. This would first of all jolt me into conscious awareness of driving again (take the roof off the tunnel), and secondly make me aware of all the ways off the route (connect it with other paths.) While these steps might not be enough to cure me if I had a very bad problem of tunnel-driving, I think that you can see that it would help me to weaken the force of it a lot?

These principles can be very useful if you are trapped in any tunnel-like behaviour. My next example is of a very severe emotional tunnel. This young man suffered from very black moods, ranging between panics and depressions. He had had them for a very long time: they formed a heavy path in his life. Now a key step was for me to accompany him and allow him to attend to the feelings in a more detached way and with a feeling of comparative safety. He then found that attending in this way brought to mind images of being very small, in hospital, alone, in pain and of being ignored by the doctors. It turned out that the actual experience behind these images was that he had been run over at the age of two. An ambulance had taken him to hospital. Years later, while I was seeing him, he dreamed of a flying saucer which landed outside the house, and of people emerging from it to take him away to another world. Not a bad picture of how a two-year old would see an ambulance! In the hospital the initial fear, pain and anxiety at being without his mother for the first time in his life would gradually be replaced by loneliness, isolation and depression. This was the first time he followed the path. But that one experience in childhood was so intense that it established it as a very heavy emotional path that persisted, and could be triggered by being too far way from his mother even when he was much older.

Now the power of this path was very much stronger than any hypnotic suggestion, but you will notice the similarities in the way it was weakened. In both cases attention to some detail - in this case the emotion itself - brings back to mind memories associated with the first impression of the path - in this case the hospital - and thereby opens up the tunnel, and reduces the hold of the path.

This process of bringing back into the conscious mind an awareness of some early traumatic incident is common in many schools of psychotherapy since Freud. It can go under the name of "release of repressed material from the subconscious", or "regression to a childhood state." It is well known that this process frequently produces benefits to the person in many ways in terms of release from problems. What I am saying is that, stripped of the technical language, the process is not very different from the method I have described to free someone from paths which do not have their origin in early traumas. In each case that I have mentioned above the crucial step has been the paying of close attention to the path. I have likened this to removing the roof of a tunnel so that it is possible to escape. Does this make sense to you?

With these ideas in mind I would like us to think of the word "subconscious". It is used very freely these days, but have you ever wondered exactly what it means? For many people the subconscious is little more than a very big bag into which can be thrown any human behaviour which cannot otherwise be explained. Do you have a clear picture of the subconscious?

Now I would like to propose for you a slightly more detailed picture of the subconscious. I would suggest seeing it as the sum of all the buried paths or tunnels in a person's experience. That is to say all those paths to which conscious attention is not readily turned. I wonder if you like this picture?

There are many other things which can be said about paths, some of which we will meet later. One thing I have said nothing about, for example, is the differences between people who only have a limited number of paths which they can follow, and those who are free to follow very many. Some countries are rich in roads and others poor: some people are rich in behavioural or mental or emotional paths and others are poor. Perhaps you would like to make a short list of people you know and see how they rate in this way?

We will also meet, later on in the book, circular paths. Paths that people go around time and time again. Often these can be destructive. You will have heard of vicious circles. These can be seen as circular paths which get worse for the traveller each time (s)he moves around them. Here is a little story to show the kind of thing I mean, and also show again the importance of looking at the whole path of what is happening, and not some isolated feature.

Once upon a time a father was watching his small son on a swing. The boy was naturally seeing how high he could go. At one point the father noticed that he was reaching what seemed to him a dangerous height. So he pushed the seat down firmly. The immediate effect was to make the boy go down, but of course it did not stop there, and the swing was soon soaring up to an even greater height. Seeing this the father again took action when the swing was at its peak, and pushed down even harder. Again his action seemed fine in the short term, but made things worse in the long term.

Now you may think that this is a silly story: no one behaves like that. But they do. There are many fathers who only pay attention to their sons when they are behaving badly. They then shout them down. In the short term this can make the son quieter. But in the long run it can build up more inner anger each time, and the quarrels can get more and more violent. Does this ring a bell? I hope that you can see that the path is almost precisely the same as the man with the swing.

And there have been sad cases in the medical world where a drug seems to have a good effect in the short term. It might be a tranquilliser for example. But as time passes it has been found that the problem keeps returning, and with greater and greater force. So more of the drug is prescribed. It works for a while. Then more is needed again. And the patient can get trapped on a vicious circle which it is impossible to get off because of the powerful dependency that has resulted. So in the long term the patient is far worse off than when (s)he started. I have met a few of such people, who have suffered enormously. Perhaps you have done so too?

I hope that as a result of my talking around and about the idea of paths, and the way in which they behave, you will have begun to see the paths in your own life. As you go further into the book you will meet many different kinds of paths and you will get more and more used to recognising them. And you will also find more and more ways of thinking about the different paths so that you can begin to change them usefully. It will therefore give you the power to take control of the Path of your Life so that you can walk it with greater confidence.

Finally I am leaving some space for you to jot down any thoughts that have come to you on reading this chapter. I hope that I have said something new to you, for in that way I will have helped your thoughts to move along new paths. On a new path there is always the chance of discovering something of value to you in your life. And you may find something valuable by disagreeing with me just as much as by agreeing. Remember that this is not one of those dogmatic "this is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" books. It is a "this way of looking at things has helped others, it may be useful to you at times" sort of book.


Chapter 2. Head Paths

In this chapter we will be thinking about thoughts. There will be a certain path of words on the pages which your eye and mind will follow. This is an example of what I will refer to by the phrase head path . As we continue, this idea will gradually sharpen, and in particular I will begin to distinguish it from another way of thinking which I will term imagination . At this point it is enough to think that head paths have to do with words for the most part, while imagination paths are much more likely to involve pictures in the mind. Head paths will also be distinguished from Heart paths, which are the ways of feelings, Habit paths, which are the habitual paths of action of the body, Heaven paths, which at this stage we can think of as to do with our spiritual aspirations and Health paths which have to do with the way the body copes with self-preservation. Of course in any particular life all these strands are interwoven, but since each has its own rules it is useful to understand something of each to make it easier to change.

So in the chapter we will be using words to describe something of the ways in which we use words. The human facility with words is the source of many of the differences between ourselves and animals. Using words we can strive for and attain new truths and understandings, but we can also lie. We can achieve far greater understanding of each other, which can lead to greater love, or use words like knives to cut deeper and hurt more. Words can be a great blessing or a great curse, like fire they can warm or destroy. They are good servants but bad masters. I wonder if you feel that you are happier in a world which has speech?

It is interesting to think for a little about how life would be if words and writing were to be removed from the world. In many ways we would at once revert to the nonverbal paths of communication used by our ancestors of some 5 to 9 million years ago, before the time we presume that mankind became distinguishable from the other higher apes. (And if you have not read my mother, Elaine Morgan's, book "The Aquatic Ape," describing the evolutionary path which was probably followed in making this change, then it is worth doing so.) In those days you had to communicate by gestures, facial expressions and pheromones: essentially smells. Learning in the child would have to proceed mainly through the instinct-driven tendency to copy its elders' behaviour, together with the basic conditioning reflex of tending to stop following behavioural paths which lead at once to pain. If jumping onto Daddy was followed by a swift cuff you soon stopped doing it. You did not have to balance complex alternatives like "If you don't stop doing that then you won't go to the zoo next week." If in your community all the men banded together to go further afield to fish, while the women remained with the children to cook or to gather shellfish or seaweed, then as a child you would have quite a simple path in life to copy and to follow. There would be no complexities such as having a truck-driving father whom you love and want (by instinct) to copy, saying to you "No, son you should become a qualified engineer. That's where the money is."

Suppose that words disappeared. What would the politicians do? What would happen to the legal system? Since there would be so few ways of communicating what has happened in the past, justice could only really be seen to by any witnesses present at the time of the crime. History would become little more than one person's memory. Science would become the slowly accumulated practical skills passed on, by imitation, from one generation to the next. Literature disappears. And so on.

If you play with this picture for a while you will, I think, find that very little of what we now call civilisation would, for good or bad, exist. Do you think that you would prefer it that way? Out of all these changes there is one that I want to single out. People can now lie. When all you know is what you see or hear or smell then generally what you sense is what you get. If, as a dog, you smell a bitch on heat, then you can proceed with little doubt about whether or not she is going to be interested. A bitch, though for some reason the word has unfortunate connotations, cannot think "I'll just act like I'm interested to get him going until I get a new fur coat out of him, then I'll drop it." What you smell is what you get. But once speech becomes possible a million lies can arise. "I love you" are three magic words. Spoken with truth they have opened a door to heaven in many hearts. But they have also been used very many times for lower ends, deceitfully. And to make things worse we may quite easily be told a lie by an honest person who has simply and honestly swallowed a lie himself. Beyond this are many misunderstandings, distortions and misconceptions which arise out of the fact that any word can mean quite different things to different people. Think of the words Jew, Justice and God, to take but three. What do they mean to a Nazi, a murderer, an atheist or a Jew, a Judge or a priest? A single word can mean totally different things to different people.

But one of the most common unspoken assumptions we make - and we are all doing this all the time - is that WHAT I MEAN BY A WORD IS THE ONLY REAL MEANING. Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland was at least honest and open about this when he said plainly that since he paid the words they had better mean what he wanted them to mean. The number of arguments and quarrels that arise out of an inability to recognise this fact is legion. Let us take those three words "I love you" again. They can mean anything from "O.K. for sex now?" to "I intend to devote my entire life to you, and put you before anyone and everything else." It seems to me that we can only grasp what a word means for a person by observing the many paths of thought on which it lies. Do you agree?

If a woman uses the word "Republican", then before we have any idea what it means to her we must hear it several times in sentences (verbal paths) before the meaning she has in mind comes also into our minds. The word "path" in my mind as I sat down to write this book was different from yours. I have now incorporated it into many verbal paths so that my meaning may be grasped by you. It does not mean that you have to agree with me, or the lady. But there is no point in agreeing or disagreeing until you understand what it is that the disagreement or agreement is about. This should really be an obvious fact, that most of us can agree with in theory. But it is ignored in practice to an amazing extent. Perhaps you could pause a moment and think of the names of some people that you know who are obviously unable to grasp what you mean by certain words?

The rule to bear in mind, then, is that if you desire to change any idea in anybody, including yourself, you should first pay careful attention to the paths on which the idea lies. For the whole meaning lies in the paths, just as the whole means of changing the idea lies in altering the paths.

I would like you to pause and think about this. A word means nothing unless you meet it on a verbal path. "Crwth." There was a word which was not on a verbal path. Does it mean anything to you? (It will only have done so if you have previously met it on a path, which is unlikely unless you speak Welsh.)

This path dependent quality of meaning is one reason why a person can hold quite contradictory views on a subject. It depends which path he approaches it on. A man is likely to say quite different things about parking regulations when they come up when he is given a ticket from when someone else has parked across his driveway.

In a smaller way many jokes and puns rely upon the fact that a word can lie on different paths, and the sudden jolt of moving from one path to the other creates amusement or some other, less pleasant, emotion. Groucho Marx is alleged to have said to a telephone operator "Extension 482? 482? sounds like a cannibal story." Some people like the sensation of being jolted from the path of numbers to the path of "four-ate-two", others hate it. But if you notice it then it is enough to drive home the fact that the meaning of the phrase depends entirely on the mental path on which it lies, and this is true of all we think, say and hear. I wonder how you feel about this kind of verbal humour?

And I wonder if you feel something of the same feeling about riding on dodgem cars, where again you can find yourself suddenly jolted from one path to another? Which is another experience which makes some people laugh and others feel upset.

I would next like to move on to look at some different patterns of thought. Again we all tend to assume that everyone else thinks in much the same way as we do ourselves, but we have to remember that this is not true.

For example if you read any book by Bertrand Russell, the famous British philosopher, then you will find a mind of enormous power and clarity. The picture that I would form of his mind would be of a great country with many straight, broad and sharp-edged roads. There are no fuzzy or meandering paths and no sympathy, I fancy, for the spirit of G.K.Chesterton writing warmly "The rolling English drunkard / made the rolling English road."

For a complete contrast listen to John Steinbeck in Sweet Thursday describing Hazel thinking. "Thinking is always painful, but in Hazel it was heroic. A picture of the process would make you seasick. A grey, whirling furore of images, memories, words, patterns. It was like a traffic jam at a big intersection with Hazel in the middle trying to get something to move somewhere."

Hazel's is a mind which is at the opposite extreme from Russell's, with few clear paths at all. It is all uncleared undergrowth. Notice how difficult would be the task of writing a book which would be of use to both of them. The fact that both can speak, and use words to communicate, disguises the enormous difference between them. Yet, in my experience, the same is true of each of us. As I have got to know many people deeply I am constantly amazed at how very different each person's inner world is. In one person each thought may be coloured by vivid associated pictures; in another thinking is like walking through mud; in another thought is little more than hopping from one feeling to another; or yet another is a running over old memories. Have you never listened to an old person whose paths of thought consist entirely of a few very well-trodden reminiscences of younger days which are gone over time and time again? Or to a young child whose paths of thought are like her actions, quick and quickly changing their direction? Or the man whose paths run only towards power and status? Or the new mother for whom the only paths are those on which the baby lies?

It would now be good for you to think about the minds of some of the people that you are closely involved with. Try to form some picture of the kinds of paths that their thinking follows, a little as I have done in the last few paragraphs. Try to notice particularly the differences between their world and yours. But first notice what Steinbeck said of thinking "it is always difficult": is this true for you? .

Why have I given all this all this emphasis to the difference between minds, the way they think, and the meaning they give to words? Because I have noticed time and time again the problems that arise when this fact is neglected.

Think of any kind of machine a TV, car or what have you. What do you think would happen if you overlooked the difference between different models and replaced a faulty part with one from a different model?

Or, if you are more sensitive to decor, how would you feel if, in a room that you had designed harmoniously, you were forced to include a piece of furniture that was hideously out of place there even though it might be quite a good piece in its own way.

Now something similar can happen in our minds: they can contain ideas which really do not fit in well with the rest. They may for example be ideas which suited your grandparents or parents very well indeed, but suit the rest of your modern thinking no better than their clothes would.

How many of your parents' clothes are you wearing, and how many of their things are you still using?

In a similar way we may have followed many paths of thought to which we have been introduced by friends or teachers or the advertising industry or books or newspapers, without ever really taking the trouble to check if they really suit us. "You are a really reliable boy", a mother tells her son. He grows up with this idea in his mind, using it to decide on career and lifestyle. It could have been that what the mother meant by the words was, "Don't be like your father, who is always chasing women, but the son interprets it as, "Be serious, always ready to help, never have fun." Such a severe attitude can lead to trouble later on in life if he really has a carefree and fun-loving side. One possible consequence is that he will find in alcohol a way of killing that "Be reliable" voice for a while, and break out into an exuberant personality. When he sobers up, however, the guilt will set in and he will remorsefully return to his "reliable" path again: until the next drink. This can lead to a dependency problem, or contribute to one. A path common to many alcoholics is this the rational self is very "good"; many paths of action are deemed "bad" and avoided; a drink anaesthetises the higher brain centres; a door opens to those forbidden paths; they are followed for a few hours or days; sobriety returns; the mind returns to the "good" paths; it finds again the verbal path "that was a bad thing to do"; guilt sets in; an attempt is made to close the forbidden door yet more firmly; the "good" paths are followed again; until the next time.

Here is another example. A girl of sixteen wanted to go off camping with some friends. She was something of a tomboy, and the friends included boys. Now her father, not too unnaturally, did not like this idea. What he said was "If you go you will become a slut." The trouble was that this idea stuck in her mind for years afterwards. So that when, in her twenties, she was trying to form close emotional relationships with men, those early ideas got in the way, and she would shy off the minute the relationship moved beyond simple friendship, because of a fear of becoming a slut.

We can perhaps think of ideas like that as being like sign posts on the path of life. Some people have a lot of "No Entry" signs or "Turn Right" or "Stop" signs. Let us see what some of these sound like. "I can't do that."

"It would be wrong of me to do this."

"I could not bring myself to do that."

"I have to stay in this job."

"I dare not risk upsetting him."

"I must say at home with my parents, they need me."

"I can't go out looking like this."

"Sex is dirty."

"I will never settle down."

"Marriage is for the birds."

"Only morons work for a living."

"I always speak my mind."

"I'll do it my way."

"All women are sluts."

"All men are bastards."

"Honesty is the best policy."

"Always brush your teeth."

I could go on and on. What I would like you to start looking out for are phrases or sentences like this in others first, and then in yourself. (It is always easier in others.) What you are listening for are things that come up many times. These are key ideas which the person is using to guide his or her thinking. They are the signposts. You could usefully jot down any that you hear.

The problem of wrong ideas arises not just in you and me but also in mankind as a whole.

"The world is flat."

"Heavier than air flying machines are impossible."

"The world was created in 4004 BC."

The history of thought shows time after time that highly intelligent men can nevertheless be very mistaken in the mental paths they follow, even in subjects that they have devoted their whole lives to following. So it is really no disgrace if we occasionally find that we need to change the way we think in our day to day lives as well.

How do we know if there is a need to change? Well, it seems to me to be a matter of common sense that there is no need to waste time worrying about whether we need to change unless there is some clear sign that we have a problem in life. There must be a feeling of "there is something wrong", or "nothing goes right for me", or "I feel terrible/depressed/anxious" or "why can't I manage to do this others can, easily?". Or to put it another way. If you are at present moving smoothly and happily along your path of life then there is no need to be concerned about whether your mental road signs are faulty. The time to start checking them is the time when the going starts to get rough or bogy or you no longer feel happy about the direction your road is leading you. Does this make sense to you?

What then should we do when we have some reason to feel that we have drifted off the right path in life for ourselves? Please notice that I am assuming here that the right path for one person is not necessarily the right path for another. The path your parents have taken, no matter how right it has been for them, may well be wrong for you. Your best friend may be a teacher, and happy. This does not mean that you will be happy following the same path. So the question is what should you do when you feel that you have lost your path.

The first step for most of us should be to find a sympathetic listener to talk the matter over with. As we talk we will be going over most of the mental paths relating to the problem area, and there is a very good chance that in this way we will find at least one idea on how things could be improved. I am a professional listener. And I find that at least the kernel of the answer to most of the problems brought to me comes out in the first session in perhaps half the cases. The client really knows the answer, but does not know that (s)he knows.

It is far better to choose a listener than a talker. A talker is usually far too fond of giving advice before really understanding the problem:

YOU: I am having a problem with my marriage ....

TALKER: (interrupting) Yes. I know what it is like. You should do what I did. I've been through it all. Let me tell you about it.

With someone like that there is no chance to go over your own mental paths, and every chance that their signposts will land you in an even greater mess since they have not bothered to find out where you are, or where you are going. It is as if you are on the phone, lost in the middle of nowhere:

YOU :I am lost on my way to ..

TALKER: (interrupting) Yes. I know what it is like. You should do what I did. I've been through it all. Let me tell you about it. I just drove straight on for two miles, turned left and was back on my road.

Abraham Lincoln had many difficult problems as President. On at least one occasion he sorted out his thinking in the way I am suggesting. He did not call in one of his experts but an old friend from his home town. The friend came all the way to Washington, sat down and listened. He listened for the best part of the day while the President walked up and down, talking, explaining things that were for the most part above his listener's head. When he had finished, the friend was thanked warmly for his invaluable help and went home. Notice that Lincoln did not need any advice. What he needed was a way of sorting out his own thinking. Thinking is about words. If even he found it far better to think out loud when it is was a matter of exploring and straightening out his mental paths, then it is no disgrace for you or me . So the best way to begin to sort out mental paths is to find a good listener .

There are a few alternatives. Some people are good at talking to themselves. Some are good at talking to a piece of paper: writing. Talking into a tape recorder may also help. Talking to the dog may be even better because you can often rely on more sympathy there than in most people. But for most of us a good sympathetic human listener is best. I wonder what order you would place these options in?

Of course you may do better than this and find someone who is not only a good listener, but having listened is able to ask questions that help you to straighten out your thoughts still more, and even offer advice. But remember that if you have lost your way you need to find someone who not only knows where you are, but also where you want to go, and something of the roads in between. Now most of us have acquired a reasonable skill in running our own lives and there is a strong tendency to think that the paths which suit us must also suit others. This is not true.

"Oh. So you are depressed? I was depressed once. I just went for a thirty mile hike, came back exhausted, slept like a log and have never had any trouble since. You try it." There are of course people for whom this is the best advice: especially fit young men whose "depressions" are the result of too much drink or study. The cause and cure for them are on quite different paths from those followed by someone suffering from postnatal depression.

So before you accept advice try to make sure that the person giving it does at least have some idea of who you are, where you are and where you want to go. Remember that there is a good chance that you have lost your way in the first place because of poor advice.

This would be a good time for you to think over the various people friends, relatives or professionals such as priests, psychotherapists, doctors who might listen to you and rank then roughly on a scale of ten, with the above ideas in mind. Who can you turn to when you have a problem to sort out? It is worth thinking back over your life. There may be a distant aunt, or an old school friend who excelled at that kind of thing, and it could prompt you to get back in touch.

I have said that the first thing to do is to find a good listener. What is the second? It is to keep talking, and to go over the same ground several times. When you start you may feel that you know all about the problem which concerns you. But as you cover the ground you will find that it changes. Remember the golden rule: To change a path, first pay close attention to it . Each time you run over the paths in your mind they will become clearer and clearer until what was at first a chaotic mass is reduced to a clear picture which you can describe in about five minutes.

I remember one couple who had had severe differences over religion all their married lives. Little had been resolved because they had never really discussed their respective feelings, only argued about them. An exercise I set the wife was as follows. "Ask him to tell you what he feels about all that has happened; write it down; do not comment on it; discuss it with me later; a few weeks later do the same thing again; repeat it a few weeks later."

What did this achieve? Well, each time there was less written down, and each time is was more succinct and clear. He was having the chance, for the first time, to really sort out the important things from smaller irritations which might have been cleared out of the way years ago if there had been the chance to talk about things. This process did not, of course, resolve the religious differences, but it did make them far less of a bone of contention. Could a plan like this be of any help to you in one of your relationships?

So at the end of repeatedly going over the ground a young man may reduce the verbal path of his problem to a simple "I have no confidence; I want a girlfriend; but I am too shy to approach a girl; so I stay in and listen to records and play my guitar; if only I were confident!"

Now with any luck a great deal of the self-pity will have gone as a result of just talking it over, and it will be easier to move on to the next stage. That is to talk over what would happen if he changed any one of the verbal steps on the above path. For example he could wonder about what he would do with life if he did not want a girlfriend. His thoughts might run, "If I did not want a girl, I would have no problems. I would go out with my friends, get involved in the band again, perhaps play some gigs: man, life would be sweet if I did not want a girlfriend!" This is a new mental path for him. It has taken him off the stale, heavy, circular path that he has been following in his mind for months. It can lead to further paths such as, "Well, after all, maybe I should enjoy life for maybe three or five years and then worry about being shy with girls."

I was once faced with a similar problem in a young woman. She desperately wanted love but because of that, and some traumatic experiences, was unable to bring herself to take any steps to find a boy friend. I asked her to defer the desire for a time, and within six months she was engaged, and got married not long after.

Incidentally there is a general rule here. IT CAN OFTEN HAPPEN THAT TOO STRONG A DESIRE FOR SOMETHING ACTUALLY STOPS YOU FROM GETTING IT. Often people make a mess of exams or interviews because they want so much to do well. This makes them tense and nervous. Perhaps they do not sleep well the night before and are drained and exhausted as well. Men can make themselves impotent because they have so strong a desire to prove themselves that they drive themselves into a corner of anxiety and self-doubt which produces the very thing they feared. In the same way a woman whose greatest desire is that her husband remain faithful can arouse in herself such furious jealousy that she behaves in a way that he finds intolerable. He is then more or less forced into the arms of another woman if only for some peace or because he may as well have the fun of it since he is going to get blamed for it in any case. I can put the rule another way. IF WE GREATLY FEAR A THING THEN OUR BEHAVIOUR IS VERY OFTEN EXACTLY THAT WHICH WILL BRING ABOUT THE THING FEARED.

Perhaps you would like to think about this aside, connect it to your own path in life, and see if this has any bearing on past or present problems.

Notice that the examples I gave above all depend on there being a certain idea in the mind which is no longer of value or is doing actual harm. "I must pass this exam." "I must perform perfectly in bed." "I must get married / have a girlfriend." "I must keep my husband faithful." And I have said that if we are running into trouble then we should look closely at the mental paths that we are following, and then just think of what would be the result of changing one step or another.

Picture someone who is in despair on a walk because there has just been a landslide behind him, and he had planned to return by the same path that he came. "What shall I do?" he wails, "I am trapped. There is the river on one side of me, a steep mountain on the other, and ahead I know that the path only leads to a gorge and a dead end." And he lies down in his despair and prepares to die. If you question him about his situation you will find the following mental paths.

"You could cross the river, there is another path on the other side." "Yes, but I will get wet.

"You could climb up the side of the mountain." "Yes, but that would exhaust me, and I might get lost."

"There are climbers with ropes at the gorge, they could help you to climb up." "Yes, but I am afraid of heights."

I wonder if you have come across people like this? They are the "Yes, but" people. They are incapable of getting out of whatever predicament they are in because they are incapable of removing any of the No Entry signs in their minds. Do you know any people like that, and who are they?

Here are some more "No Entry" signs:

"I am too old to change."

"I could never get another job."

"I am just a housewife."

"I must have nothing to do with girls / boys of another faith / colour / politics."

Now it seems to me that it is nothing but common sense to say that if life has run into what seems a dead end, then there is everything to be gained and nothing to be lost by exploring all around just to see that the ways that seem to be impassible really are.

Here is an example. This man was a salesman and enjoyed the job very much. He believed in his product and he enjoyed meeting people and bringing them the benefit of the product. He was so good that in due course he was promoted. to an office position. Some time later he started to wake in the night sweating and with violent abdominal pains. A visit to the doctor revealed nothing wrong. But he was still in pain and still losing sleep. What should he do?

Once we had isolated the above facts he agreed that it was probably the stress of the office job that was causing the upsets. But, like many men, he had the idea in his mind, "You are not allowed to reject a promotion." And again the next step was the one I described above for the unconfident youth. "Yes, it is of course foolish to reject a promotion, but what would happen if you did ?" This is like saying to our walker, "Yes, you would get wet crossing the water, but what would happen then?" or "Yes, it is a steep climb up the mountain, but where would that way actually lead?"

Well, when we thought about giving up his promotion, we discovered that he would then be earning a little more, would have more time with his family, and would feel a great deal happier. This made him think further, though he was still not quite happy with the idea of demotion. And what he came up with was an idea of a sideways move which was not technically a demotion, but which took him back on the road again. End of problem. The pains went and he was himself again.

The moral of this story is that is well worth thinking yourself well beyond any blockage, or No Entry signs on your mental paths.

Clearly some mental road signs are very useful. "I must not put my hand into the fire." is a pretty sound one, and so is "I must not kill." But we are all carrying thousands of signs, many of which are just simple rules of thumb impressed on us when we were children. They may be fine up to a point, but we may have gone well beyond that point and still be obeying the rules.

I know one man who had it very firmly impressed on him when he was a boy that he should eat what was put in front of him, whether he wanted it or not. His life and mind, when I met him, were in a terrible mess because he seemed to have learned this lesson all too well he was still accepting everything put in front of him, words as well as food and his mind was hopelessly cluttered with mental rubbish that was of no use to him. He could not get rid of it because there was a mental rule "I must take in any bit of information put in front of me, whether I want it or not."

I would like you to remember this case especially because it puts much of what I am saying in this chapter in a nutshell. I have found that many of us get into greater or lesser messes by not exercising the right to spit out of our minds mental food which is not to our taste, or is not what we need .

What does the phrase, "freedom of thought," mean to you? In many countries today this is a battle cry. There have always been rulers and pressure groups which are determined to force into other people's minds the ideas which they themselves have. They are people who cannot bear others to follow a different path from themselves. It would take me too far out of my way to explore the interesting question of why they should want this, but perhaps you would like to think about it and add to this short list: a genuine feeling that their way is the best; a fear that it is not the best, which can only be allayed by forcing everyone else onto it; being brainwashed by someone who stands to gain power of wealth as a result; ...

Many of us today live in countries where freedom of thought is being accepted as a right. But I am saying that this is only a real freedom if each of us, as individuals, actually has the ability to get out of our minds ideas which are not right for us. We must have the freedom to explore any avenue of thought, which must mean ignoring at times various No Entry signs on the way.

There are a number of factors which influence the number and strength of such signs. People who have had an authoritarian upbringing in which at least one parent issued commands forcibly, unpredictably and with no explanations given, have an early conditioning in sign erection. People who are timid can turn even the mildest rebuff in life into a permanent No Entry. Signs are generally planted much more firmly at times of great emotional intensity, whether the emotion is pleasant, like love, or unpleasant like fear. Then again some people's minds are simply more receptive to new ideas. They can make excellent hypnotic subjects but are also vulnerable to the stray suggestions made by anybody they meet, some of whom are actually in the business of manipulating minds.

Indeed, it seems to me that a great part of my job is not so much hypnotising people as dehypnotising them of getting out of their minds suggestions planted at some earlier time in life which are now blocking further progress on their path. ( cf. article. ) And then again people who, as we described in the last chapter, are fond of creating sharp edges to all their paths, are likely to have to use a lot of "Keep Off the Grass" notices. These are just some of the factors which can be involved in how the flow of out thoughts is regulated. But what is likely to concern the average person is the simple practical principle: If you are blocked on your path in life then exercise your right to freedom of thought and feel free to think along any avenue, ignoring all restrictions for the time being. Do you know how to do this?

In the world of business you will at times come across what are called brainstorming sessions. There are times when an organisation needs some new ideas perhaps to get out of some terrible mess. They will then get together a group of people in comfortable surroundings, with no interruptions, and these people then start to throw around ideas, however wild, for perhaps a few hours. The only rule is that no idea must be criticised. This is another way of saying that any path of thought, however unrealistic, however wild or mad, illegal or immoral can be followed. Later on, after the session is over, there is a very good chance indeed that a few really good and practical ideas will have come out of it. And the silly ones can simply be forgotten.

When he was a boy Einstein used to daydream about what would happen if you were to ride on a beam of light. Now that is a path of thought that may not at once grab you as being very realistic. Yet it led him on into that vast field of human understanding that we call Relativity. You can imagine the result if Einstein had had a father who had said, "What would happen if you travelled at the speed of light? If you don't start travelling pretty damn quick to that pile of logs and get chopping, my boot will be travelling somewhere even faster than light."

If you would like to go further down this path of finding and following new paths of thought I would suggest starting with some of Edward de Bono's books. He has coined the phrase Lateral Thinking to describe something of this process, and his book with that title is a good starting point. Your library or bookshop will get you a copy. You probably knew that. But quite a number of people seem to think that they are only allowed the books they can see on the shelves. There is an unspoken barrier in their minds, going back to childhood, which may say something like "If you can't see it, you mustn't ask for it." I know someone who has suffered from this problem: me. I sometimes wonder if it was related to a particular incident when was around 11 and went into an electrical shop to ask for a small piece of equipment I needed for something I was building. The assistant treated me as if I was dirt. Experiences like that can implant No Entry signs which are accepted without question for years after.

But even without reading books on the subject perhaps you could arrange a mini-brainstorming session for yourself? I wonder if it would be possible for you to get two or three friends around for a relaxed evening during which you begin by describing a problem you have and then let them all throw in any suggestions, however wild, just following the simple rule, "no suggestion is to be criticised by anyone, even you." Can you think of the names of anybody who might quite enjoy this game with you?

Of course even one other person might do if (s)he is prepared to follow the rule it might well be the same person that you have chosen as your listener. Good listeners are often also good at suggesting a variety of ideas in a tentative way.

What other tools are there for changing the paths of your thoughts? What tools are there for catching fish? My answer to the second question is that fish are caught either in a net or with a hook. If you turn a hook upside down then you get a question mark. A question is a very good way of fishing for new ideas, new paths of thought. You will have noticed how frequently I have used question marks in this book for this very reason, to bring up to the surface of your mind ideas which are there, but which you may not have known were there.

We have seen that Einstein used a question to fish for the Theory of Relativity. Newton may not have asked himself the exact question, "Why did that apple fall on my head?" but he will have asked himself a similar one in order to fish for his theory of gravitation. If such mental giants as these use the simple fish hook ? then surely you and I need not be too proud to use it in our small concerns.

But what kind of questions are most likely to be useful to us? Well to begin with, almost any one. Some are, of course, more productive than others, but any questions are enough to start you off fishing. Part of my stock in trade is a collection of the more useful questions, many of which are scattered freely through this book. You would expect a fisherman who had had years of experience to know the right kind of hook and bait for a certain water, wouldn't you? But even a beginner can catch a fish, though it might well take longer.

We have already seen in outline how I will often start my fishing. The first question I am looking for an answer to is, "What is the path on which the problem lies?" This might mean looking in detail at the path of a typical quarrel in a relationship, or the pattern of stresses in a day, or the path leading to bed and then out the next day in an insomniac, or the path of hunger and eating in someone who is overweight, or of drink in the alcoholic and so on. In practice it often takes a lot of questions to get this path clear. The most helpful ones are probably questions like, "And what happens before that?" and "And what happens next?" Next come a series of questions which are really all forms of "And what do you think would happen if you changed that step in this way?" or "Do you think you would be able to change this small step?"

Erickson once had a client who was retired and was eating and smoking himself to death. He discovered that the man was getting his food and cigarettes from the store just around the corner. The only change that was necessary for that man was to agree that any time he was hungry or wanted a smoke he would go to a different shop on the other side of town. This small change in one step on his path soon reduced both eating and smoking and he became a great deal fitter with the walking.

I am going to add here a number of other questions which I have found to be useful at times, with certain people. It is unlikely that they will all be of use to you, but each will be of use to someone who reads this book, and I expect at least one to be useful to you at some time.

What is the path on which my problem lies?

Can I think of three ways, however wild, of changing each step?

Can I actually make any of those changes?

Suppose that I had a friend with the same problem, what would I advise?

If I knew that I was going to die in a year's time, how would that change how I would feel or act?

Call to mind someone who loved you, but is no longer around: someone you trust. Then ask, "What is (s)he advising?" (One woman recalled her dead father. The question brought tears but also the recollection of his last words "Go out and lead your own life and let them get on with it." which was in fact exactly the advice she needed.)

When did I start thinking / feeling / acting like this?

If I had all the money I wanted, what doors would it open, and what would I do?

Can I imagine being in a situation, or being of an age, where this particular path would be really quite acceptable?

How seriously am I taking this problem? How much would I pay to have it solved?

If I were writing my obituary, or talking to St. Peter, so that I had to look back along the whole path of my life on earth, what would I see, and what would I like to see?

How have I solved other problems in my life?

And you might add any questions that you have found useful in the past, or that you would use if you were talking to anybody else.

Perhaps you are wondering about catching ideas with a net? Well to catch ideas wholesale you need to find a place where there are shoals of them so you can go out and buy and read a book like this, or find someone whose mind is full of ideas, or organise a brainstorming session.

I wonder what you think about the fishing analogy?

The point about it was that the question about how can we catch fish led to a new way of thinking about solving problems. Analogies and metaphors can be very useful when it comes to finding new paths. You will find many in this book for that very reason, including, of course the extended metaphor of paths. They are very powerful tools of thought, but they are not primarily verbal, and so I will discuss them in the next chapter.


I will end this chapter with a brief summary of what we have met on the way. Perhaps the central theme is that for most adults the greatest need is to GET RID OF OUTMODED ROAD SIGNS. We have all got ideas in our heads that are either plain lies that we have been told, misunderstood ideas, rules that we have grown out of, prohibitions which we hold too strongly and inflexibly and above all ideas which are fine for some other people, but are just not right in our heads. (I have written a poem on this theme, if you are interested.)

I have suggested that freedom of thought is only real if you have the ability to get out of your mind ideas which do not belong there. The process of getting them out is made easier if you can first find a sympathetic listener; then go over the paths that are worrying you until they become clear; then start to ignore No Entry signs; then explore all alternative avenues of thought at each step. In this way there is a much better chance of getting back onto your path. The path that only you will lead, and only you can tell if you are satisfied with.


Chapter 3. Imagination Path

In the last chapter I was dwelling on one of the ways in which we think with words. You will remember that this way of thinking has not been around long: probably less than ten million years or perhaps 20,000 generations. In this chapter I would like us to think about another very important process which goes on in the brain, which can actually be a very useful way of thinking, and yet does not directly involve words. This way is what I am calling imagination.

Suppose I say to you "Imagine that you are in another room of your house." I wonder what happens in your mind? There are some people who can at once picture themselves in that room almost as vividly as if they were really there. They are aware of the detailed textures of all the furniture, can describe the colours in detail and even note the way the shadows are falling for the particular time of day that they are chosen. Occasionally they may also notice vividly the scent of flowers and hear the ticking of the clock or the crackle of the fire.

At the other extreme we may have a person who has only the vaguest idea of the layout of the room and may, if pressed, say, "Well, there is a chair." Detailed questioning may reveal no more than, "It is an armchair." "Comfortable?" "Yes, I suppose so." "Colour?" "Umm... a sort of brown?" And the same lack of detail will be found in all descriptions.

This quality which I have described above is a very important feature of the imagination. I will call it vividness. It is very important to me professionally, as there is a big difference in the way in which I talk to and help those people who do most of their thinking verbally and those who do the greater part of it accompanied with vivid images.

Suppose that we rate the first person above, who has an almost perfect imaginative recall, as 10, and the second person, who can see almost nothing at all, as 1, I wonder where you would place yourself? Think about it for a few minutes. Note down as bonuses anything you can recall through the other senses touch, pain, temperature, smell, hearing or taste, again on a rough scale of ten.

Some people can recall sensations such as these very vividly too. I would still call them imaginative in a broad sense, but for most people the imagination works mainly through pictures or images as the very word imagination suggests.

You may be interested to know that I come very low on this score. I can see no vivid pictures. (I know what vivid pictures look like because I can have them in dreams.) I could describe the layout of furniture quite well and describe it in fair detail. I could tell you the colours of some of the things, without being able to "see" them. If I was asked to describe a room I had only been in once then I would have almost no recall of colours and only a rough idea of the contents. I would rate these abilities as about 2 on the scale.

There is another aspect of imagination that I also usually test for, and is revealed by questions like, "Now can you imagine that the carpet is removed?" or "Can you see that baby elephant in the armchair?" or "Imagine the room three hundred years ago", or "Look! All the furniture is beginning to float."

A person who can adapt to these sorts of unreality has what I term flexibility of imagination. They can readily picture things that they have never seen before, and might never be seen in real life. I am aware of no research which has been done in this area which would tell us whether people with strong vividness also tend to have high flexibility. My experience with hundreds of people suggests that they often do go together, but do not have to. On a scale of ten I would estimate my own flexibility at around 8, which you will see is much higher than the vividness. An artist I knew was, not surprisingly, high in both. But so was a barrister.

It is important to realise, however, that any figures must be rough and ready because for one thing a person's imaginative powers will always be stronger in some areas than others. The man who had no idea of the room in his house may turn out to have a perfect picture of the interior of an engine. A woman may have perfect recall of faces and yet be unable to recall places. It must therefore be very difficult to produce any standardised tests, which is probably the reason why there is little research done on this area.

But even so you might like to give yourself a rough rating on how easy it is for you to imagine the unusual scenes I mentioned above.

What can science tell us about this ability? What we do know is that the pictures are located in the visual cortex. This is a layer of cells that you have spread over much of the back of your brain. It is a long way from the part of your brain which deals with words, which is normally high on the left side of the head. When you look at anything with your eyes open it is almost as if what you see is projected directly onto a screen at the back of your head. You can think of the eyes as being the lenses of a video camera, and the visual cortex as being the viewing screen on which you see the picture. Of course the brain is a great deal more complicated than a video camera, and does a lot of things to the incoming pictures such as recognising partial patterns and completing them, making edges sharper, enhancing the image in various ways and so on, and we will see something more of these abilities as we go on.

The brain, like most video cameras, also has a playback facility. With the eyes shut most people can play back on the screen a scene that they have previously observed. At its best the replay is detailed and in full colour. But it can depart from this in many ways. I knew one man who was excellent at retrieving single frames still pictures but much poorer at seeing moving pictures. He

makes his living as a still photographer a fact that must, I think, be connected. So the quality of vividness that I mentioned has to do with the quality of the playback.

When we are talking about flexibility we are adding to the above simple video camera the image manipulation qualities that we are learning to associate with computer graphics. The brain, when the eyes are shut, can use the screen to play about with all sorts of images, mix into one scene something found in another, change the time scale, or the relationships of people, and generally move things around in all sorts of ways. You may well have noticed this sort of thing happening in your dreams?

Next I want to draw attention to something else that the brain can do that no video camera can do yet. My favourite example is a man I knew in Scotland, Mr. Compton, who could point out four-leafed clover from horseback while waiting for his polo game to begin. (What was I doing there? At that time my wife was working as a freelance journalist and I was doing the photography. Horse and Hound magazine paid quite well for pictures of the Scottish Polo scene. You will find that many people's paths through life take them along unexpected byways.) So I want you to picture Mr. Compton sitting on his horse and pointing with his polo mallet, saying, "Look, there's one." And I am down on my hands and knees trying in vain to spot it. "No, just an inch to the left of your hand. Nearly there. You are touching it now." And I was. I suspected at first that it was luck, but he could do it time after time, while all that I could find myself were the three leafed variety.

I have never met anyone else who could do that, but there must be areas of life in which you can do something similar. If you are looking for someone then it is often possible to spot them in the middle of a crowd, at a distance from which their faces are scarcely more than blobs. Or perhaps you have been looking for a particular dress or a car for some time, and suddenly, when you were not even thinking about it, you catch a glimpse of one out of the corner of your eye, and your attention is seized? Or perhaps you have just glanced casually at a newspaper and a particular name perhaps your own, or a friend's has leapt out at you or it might be a word "sex", maybe? Can you provide an experience of your own of this kind?

People are working hard to try to get computers to be able to do this sort of thing, which is called Pattern Recognition, but with only limited success so far. Our brains, and those of most animals, are extremely good at it by comparison, because it has been so important for survival. That rabbit which can most quickly realise that a heavily shrouded shape in the ferns is a fox, is the one most likely to survive. And the predator who can most readily see through the camouflage of its hiding prey is the one who is least likely to starve, and most likely to have healthy offspring. Any individual creature with poor Pattern Recognition ability compared with those around it would go to the wall. And so thousands of millions of years have gone into perfecting the systems we use compared with the tens of years which have gone into computers.

Now we cannot say what is happening in an animal's brain, but for most of us it is the case that if we are looking for something then the imagination presents us with some sort of a picture of the thing, so that the eye can know what to look out for. I wonder how true this is for you? The next time that you feel hungry pause for a minute and see if your mind's eye holds a picture of something that you would like to eat. When you are in love do you find that your mind is filled with images of your loved one in his or her absence? If you are looking for new clothes or a new car do you find that there is some sort of picture in your imagination to help your eye to spot it? If you have lost something about the house, do you find yourself picturing it in various places where it might be? If you are cold do you start to imagine warm fires, and if you are hot imagine cooling drinks?

What I am describing here is one function of the imagination which is to give us in the present a clear idea of what will be needed in the future to satisfy a present need. It has to do with guiding the person into the future.

There was a story I once read as a boy, and so I cannot recall where. In it a boy and a man were walking through the snow. The man said, "Try to walk in a straight line across this field." The boy proceeded slowly, watching to see that he was placing one foot straight in front of the other. At the other side of the field he looked back. His path had wandered all over the place. "Now," said the man, "look at that tree over there. Walk towards it." The boy walked briskly forward, keeping an eye on the tree. When he looked back he saw a perfectly straight line of prints.

One function of the imagination is to give us a distant goal to guide our steps. You will find a lot about this in books on positive thinking. If we are lacking in self-confidence then we should start with pictures of how we want to be. You don't bother about how to get there. If you keep that picture firmly in mind then your path in life will lead towards it. I have helped many women to slim successfully, not by concentrating on the individual steps of what to eat at meals, but by fixing in their imagination a very clear and firm picture of how they are going to look in a certain dress. The appropriate eating and exercise patterns have then arisen spontaneously. A strong and early picture of being a successful businessman is commonly necessary to becoming one. And Napoleon did not get to be Emperor by picturing himself as a contented small farmer.

I would like us pause for a few minutes for you to think about this. If you want to be the one who decides where your path in life is going, then you really have only two ways of going about it. You can either tell yourself in words where you are going, (the Head path), or you can picture the future to yourself (the Imaginative path). Of course you can use both, but if you use neither then you are a boat adrift on the sea of life allowing any current and tide to take you where they will. For if you don't take control of the words and pictures in your mind, then there are plenty of other people who will do the job instead, with no understanding of you or your needs. I have talked in the last chapter about getting rid of thoughts in your mind which do not really belong there. The same is true of pictures.

I have just been seeing a young mother who is extremely depressed by some pictures in her mind that were planted there by a television programme on child abuse. In particular she has been plagued by guilt because the idea keeps running through her mind that she might abuse her own small son. There is no danger of this, she is as sweet as a nut, and a perfect mother. What I instructed her to do and this is often a very effective, simple way to handle these problems is to picture a video tape in her mind on which these pictures of hers are recorded. She can then either choose to keep the tape or destroy it. She destroyed it with enthusiasm on a bonfire. I then restored some of the original, natural pictures of the developing love between mother and son right up to the time of the grandchildren.

Do you have any pictures of the way that you are going to be that you are not happy with?

Remember that the very fact that they are in your mind will tend to produce behaviour in you which act so as to bring it about. (This fact is one reason why the thing that we most fear will often happen.)

If you want to change them then some version of the following path is probably the best to follow: pay attention to the pictures; consciously decide to destroy them; replace them by a better set. Another way of saying this is: play back the video on which the pictures lie; consciously decide to destroy it, or wipe it out; record instead a video picturing your desired alternative. If you prefer you can do it with still pictures. There are people for whom one application of this process is enough. For others, and the more difficult problems, (heavy paths that need to be changed), the process may need to be repeated many times. In the later chapter on hypnosis we will meet this process again the hypnotherapist is simply using a mild hypnotic trance to get a more effective access to the powers of the imagination.

Now you might like to describe briefly a new tape that you would like to record to replace what you have thought of above (if you did). Then you could, if you choose, close your eyes and spend five minutes briefly playing through the pictures you don't want, deciding to remove them, and then picturing what you do want.

This function of the imagination is also used extensively by the advertising industry. It tries to plant in your mind a pleasant picture of the product being there in your life. Once this is done then the picture will tend to act, by non-conscious pathways in the mind, to bring about this desirable state of affairs. (Desirable to the manufacturer, anyway.) The natural path, which we have been following for millions of years is: an inner need arises (food, safety, mate, offspring, shelter etc.); an appropriate picture is presented to the imagination; actions are promoted which lead to the pictured goal; the need is satisfied. A good way for the advertiser to use this path is to proceed: arouse a feeling of need; then swiftly present a picture to the imagination which involves the product; actions should then follow to reach that picture. Not all advertising uses this path but you might like to think of one or two that do.

Have you ever daydreamed much? There are of course different ways of daydreaming, but it should be clear from what I have been saying that some of it is a valuable function of the imagination. Particularly in our earlier years, when we are uncertain about the direction of our path in life, it can be very useful to take time out and allow pictures of possible future states to come up on the inner screen of the mind. Running through the various paths which arise gives us chance to decide which ones seem to suit us best. The most satisfactory ones then serve as distant goals to guide us. I wonder if you can remember a daydream that you enjoyed when you were younger that has acted in this way?

I sometimes find that people have come to me at a time of life not long after they have accomplished some goal that they set years before, feeling lost. "What is life all about? I have got what I wanted. Why am I not happy?" They are not happy because they have no sense of direction any longer. Instead of proceeding along a path, they are wandering about aimlessly near one spot. One way out of this dilemma is simply to activate the daydreaming kind of imagination it can be seen as a form of trance state and start to look for pictures which, arising out of the present needs of the person, give a sense of direction into the future.

But of course the imagination is not only concerned with the future in the ways I have described above. It is also intimately connected with memory, which is to say the past. We can remember sounds and smells and other sensations as well of course, but for most people the memory of past events seems to be primarily visual. It also seems that the greater the intensity of the imagination, the better the memory.

Do you want to improve your memory? If you look at any book on the subject you will find that nearly all the methods rely on using the visual imagination more efficiently. The main trick is to turn the thing which has to be recalled into a vivid picture. The second fact that is used is that the more strikingly unusual the picture is the more attention it will receive and the better it is remembered. So, if I need to remember that this man I have just met, whose most noticeable feature is a large nose, is called Mr. Painter, I am asked to picture an elephant with a paintbrush in its long trunk of a nose, sloshing paint all over Mr. Painter's nose. This should fix the association for me. Have you met this idea before? Would you like to improve your memory? Then it is well

worth searching for one of the books on the subject, such as Develop a Super Power Memory, by Harry Lorayne.

Notice that what these methods are doing is to create paths from the visual cortex to the verbal centres. For the first few times, when I next see Mr. Painter and his nose, I will also see the elephant, and this will guide me to the word which is his name. After following this path a number of times the elephant will no longer appear and there will be a direct, unconscious link from the face to the name. I have called such unconscious paths tunnels in an earlier chapter. This is another example of a useful tunnel.

Can you see that nearly all of what we call memory is the creation of associations which is to say pathways in the brain between things?

I have now described two useful functions of the imagination. One is directed to the past memory and the other is directed to the future visualising goals. Now I come to a third, which depends on the flexibility of the imagination. This is the way in which it can be used to picture unfamiliar or hard-to-grasp things in such a way that we can begin to understand them.

We do this at many levels. One level is the level of this book itself. Here I am talking about some of the things that I have learned about us human beings. Some of it will be unfamiliar to a lot of readers. To help to make the unfamiliar familiar I am making use of certain pictures the very notion of a path that we started with is a prime example. As you go through this book you will find more and more of them. I wonder if you agree with me that it is very hard to understand something new if it calls no picture at all to mind? That is why academic text books can be such hard reading at times, when the author is more concerned with sounding erudite than with communicating. Try this: "It will be evident that the existence of psycho-cerebral differentiations necessitates conceptualisations of experience which do not necessarily have a one to one transformation between areas. The transformations involved in the communications between them are typically nonlinear encryption of information and the flexible processing capacity resident in the visual cortex provides a valuable resource in facilitating the transformation." I wonder if you understood that easily?

What I have said there is that one part of your mind deals with words, another deals with feelings, another with actions, another with appetites, another with memories and so on. Now really each of these areas has its own language in which to handle its own business. But there are times when messages need to go from one area to another. Your reasoning mind may need to be informed about your feelings, for example. How can this be done? I am suggesting that you picture each part as a different person, with a different language. Mr. Head speaks Wordish, while Mr. Heart speaks Feelingese. When they need to converse they go to the central super-computer of the brain which translates any messages into pictures or videos which both can see and understand.

Can you understand this picture? How does it compare for you with the more abstract description above?

I am expecting that most readers will find it easier to grasp, and find it easier to use. You see, in some ways I have the same problem in communicating with you, that the parts of the brain have in communicating with each other. I may find it quite easy to think in a specialised language such as higher mathematics, or the one I used above, simply because I am familiar with them. But in communicating my ideas to someone else I must use a language that they understand. And a word picture or metaphor is one of the best ways of doing this. I wonder what you think of this?

Christians will recognise the fact that when Jesus wanted to tell his audience about Heaven he also made extensive use of parables. He gave them moving pictures in the mind which served to guide them onto the Way or Path to Heaven. He communicated through the imagination.

Here is an example of the use of the imagination in communicating an idea from the mind to the body, which is a favourite among some hypnotists. You ask someone to sit comfortably with closed eyes. Then you ask them to imagine a beautiful balloon floating in front of them, lightly tied to a finger. The balloon is to be imagined lighter than air and pulling gently on the finger. Provided that this picture is held in the imagination for long enough usually about five or ten minutes has to be allowed you should find the person's hand beginning to rise gently into the air, just as if it were in fact being lifted. The interesting thing is that they have no sensation of willing the action. It seems to be happening all by itself. Perhaps you would like to try this yourself? You do not have to have someone else to help. The thing that is most likely to prevent you producing this effect is impatience. I wonder how quickly it will work for you?

There are more straightforward and everyday ways in which the Head sets the Habits to work by means of pictures. The strength of the effect varies in different people. But suppose that you decide to go somewhere, do you not find at least a fleeting picture of the place arising in your mind to guide your feet or your driving? Check and see next time. Suppose that you are going to make something, especially something that is a bit unusual, do you not find yourself running over it in your mind first? Have you noticed the way golf players spend a lot of time addressing the ball and planning the shot? They are busy picturing exactly what it is that they want to happen, programming the muscles to give them the shot they want. Perhaps you can start to look for examples of your own. For the most valuable thing for you to discover is the part that imagination plays in your life. It is interesting to know about the ways that others use it, but much more useful to find out our own uses of it, and then see if we can't use it to better effect. So you can begin to think of the times when you are most likely to be using imagination when deciding to do things.

Next I will give some examples which are going from the Heart to the Head. That is to say a communication from the broad area of feelings to the broad area of thought. Some people are very good at this, and others are much worse. Let us take the feeling of fear. I wonder if you can remember feeling fear or even nervousness about something that is not happening at the moment? It might be about an impending confrontation, or plane ride or any of a thousand things. If you then ask yourself what exactly are you frightened of, which is to say the Head turning to the Heart and asking what the fear is about, what comes into mind?

For many people the result of this is a picture. It may be a picture of mangled bodies by a crashed plane. Or one of falling through space. It may just be a picture of being shouted at. Once the picture has come though, then the Head can turn it into words. I wonder if you can now recognise this sort of thing in yourself?

There are some people who block off any communication from the emotions. They are unlikely to get very far in looking for the use of the imagination in this way. Some people have low vividness of imagination, and they will have to look very carefully for images. There are also people at the other extreme for whom the communication of emotions to the Head is so direct and frequent and clear that there is no need for an interpreter, and so they too may find that they do not often need to use the imagination. But for millions of people in the middle I would like to suggest the rule: IF YOU WANT TO LISTEN TO YOUR FEELINGS GO TO THE TRANSLATOR OF THE IMAGINATION.

The communication works the other way too. Suppose I say to you in words, "Feel angry," or "Now feel jealousy," can you do it? I usually find that if I suggest things like this, then people soon give up and say, "No, I can't. The feelings are not there now." But if I say, "Picture or remember vividly a situation in which you felt jealous or angry," then the feelings return with no trouble. Perhaps you would like to experiment for yourself? If so, choose an emotion that you have not felt today: good or bad. What have you chosen? Now try to arouse it by simply repeating to yourself, "I am going to feel ....." for as long as you choose. Then drop the attempt and begin to picture a situation, real or imaginary, in which that emotion arises. Do this for a similar length of time. What have you discovered about yourself?

Remember that in this example, as in all that I give, there is no question of success or failure involved. It is a question of knowing yourself. The majority of people who do the above exercise find, as I have said, that the emotions arise much more readily to the pictures than to the words. If his is not true for you than you have learned about a way in which you are different. It may help you to understand others better as well as yourself.

As an example of the use of the imagination in communication between the levels of the body and the mind, which is not to do with the emotions, I would like turn to level of Health rather than Habit. This was a middle aged man who was suffering from severe headaches. The only thing that medical science could do was to provide painkillers, which were not in fact much help, and advise him to learn live with them. He found this prospect almost unbearable and looked elsewhere for help. When we began to use the Imagination to tell the Head what the body was feeling the following picture emerged. There was something like a hose pipe, and there was a shadowy grey figure who would come and step on it. This would create a headache. If the figure went away then there would be a sort of bubbly sensation, and then the pain would go. And so the scene was set. The Head now had something to work on dealing with the grey figure. As time passed the picture changed a little. The pipe was up on pylons, and the figure was trying to climb to them. Every time the man turned his attention on the figure it faded away, but came back later. So he had learned partial control. Then, after one long battle he had, the figure got up to the hose and then ran along it into the distance, never to return! And neither did the headaches. Now I don't understand why it happened in this way. But I can explain something of what happened. The headaches seemed to be caused by a nervous constriction of a blood vessel in the

brain. There are many small muscles whose job it is to do this for good reasons. One was doing so for a wrong reason. The constriction build up blood pressure locally. The pressure made a headache. The problem was to regain conscious control of that muscle. The pictures were a link between the conscious brain and the subconscious tunnels: the hidden paths followed by small nerves and muscles. The grey figure stepping on the pipe is associated with the contraction of a muscle around the small pipe of the blood vessel. The going away of the grey figure is associated with the relaxing of that muscle. Does this make sense to you?

Notice that the communication is two way. The body is sending up a picture to the brain to indicate the nature of what is wrong. The brain is sending messages back in the same language to indicate the kind of actions required to improve things.

I will talk more about the use of such imagery in matters of health in a later chapter. At this point I simply want to mention it as a further example of the way in which detailed communication between different levels of the body and mind can be made easier by means of pictures.

And this brings me back to the other big area in which the Imagination plays a central part. So far we have met its use in memory and as a guide into the future, as a good translator between different parts. Now I am going to return to the usefulness of the imagination when it come to understanding difficult or abstract things. But this time it is going to be at a different level.

Here is an example. It is a woman who, when she was a girl, became involved in an unpleasant episode between her parents. I am not going to tell you what it was because it is confidential. But it was neither the sort of thing that she could understand as a girl, nor talk to her parents about. Even less could she talk to anyone outside the family about it. It was not the problem that she came to me with, and I only became aware of it when, in dealing with a minor problem, she started to visualise a room. It was not a room she had ever been in. The walls were of undressed stone. She was happy in it until she noticed a chest in the middle of the floor. Then she started to cry. Why would the sight of the chest make her cry? As I started gently to ask about the chest we discovered that she could not move it, and nor could anyone else. The only other person who could look inside was her small daughter. Inside there were mainly papers.

At that stage it was clear to me that the chest was a Family Chest and that it represented some emotional problem that she had inherited. It took her some time before she felt able to tell me about the actual problem, and cry about it. Once this had been done the chest was no longer the same problem. It could be painted and moved from its central position to an out of the way place, and was no longer a cause of tears.

It is this kind of work of the imagination that has attracted the attention of psychiatrists since Freud and Jung. Frequently when people talk about the subconscious they mean just this way the mind has of representing difficult or abstract emotional problems in some symbolic or visual way.

Here is another example. This woman, in a light trance, found herself in a certain landscape which she had never known in life. When we started to explore it there was a great deal she was unhappy with steep precipices and derelict houses, for example. It was possible to change a great deal of these details of this inner world, and as we did so, over the weeks, her inner feelings about life improved very much for the better. At times a particular change would bring back real memories from the past, which must have been related in some way, though the identification was seldom as close as the Family Chest.

I use the phrase "inner landscape" to describe such a model of the way in which life appears to a person. I have described one woman who used a room in this way, and another who used an actual landscape. Whole houses are fairly commonly used. There may be dark frightening rooms symbolising areas of life which are being avoided. There may be areas of neglect which, if tidied in the imagination, produce improvements in the corresponding area of life itself.

For example, here is an unmarried woman whose inner house has a very lived-in kitchen and plenty of children playing about, but a joyless bedroom. "Look into the husband's wardrobe," I suggest. She does not want to. She knows that it will contain severe suits and dark shoes. "Change those clothes for something better." She changes them to casual wear and then feels a lot better about the room.

Can you see what this was saying about her feelings about men?

Perhaps you would agree with me that it shows very clearly that she would like to have a family. But she cannot get married because she hates husbands. She hates them because in her mind the path on which they lie is severe and joyless. Now the act of simply changing the clothes in her mental wardrobe is removing a barrier in her mind. It makes it possible for her to look afresh at that area. And this in turn makes it easier for her to find the husband that she will be happy with.

In fact a few months later on she fell in love with a new man, who did not wear suits. Later they got married and the last time I heard they had the first of the children she had daydreamed of.

I wonder how you feel about this kind of thing?

The nature of what is going on seems fairly clear to me. Life presents us with many problems. Many are quite difficult. The brain has a natural capacity to invent simple, concrete pictures which in some ways represent the problem. If the problem can be solved in the simple picture, then it can be a big step towards solving them in real life. We can find this happening in dreams, though we are not always aware of it. The skilled therapist can help it along by speeding up the solution of the problems.

I suspect that people who have read a lot about psychotherapy will find it all very familiar, while many more, practical, people are rather doubtful about its value, if not its reality. And so I would like to make some comments addressed to each of these viewpoints.

The first thing I want to say is that I find that the content of the imagery is very special to the person. I have found NO evidence that a given symbol has a universal meaning, as some people, such as Jung, claim. But surely we would expect this? If someone has nearly drowned as a child then deep water could easily be associated with feelings of danger, and could be a good symbol of it. If another child spent many happy days frolicking in the ocean then it is equally likely to symbolise freedom and happiness. I have known trees to symbolise peace and security, but also to be oppressive. Moving downstairs deep underground can be associated with a deepening peace in some, but a deepening fear in others.

I first leaned that early on in my practice. I was following a method of hypnotic induction which is in fairly common use, and consists in getting the subject to imagine slowly descending a softly carpeted staircase, going deep underground. My client started to panic. For her, peace could only be found out of doors and in the open. The symbolism of the staircase had quite a different value for her than it has for others.

Incidentally this difference between people is the drawback to the cheap mass-produced hypnotic tapes that you can buy for a wide range of problems. They use imagery and ideas which are designed to communicate with the deeper levels of the mind. But many purchasers will simply not relate in the expected way. It is true that, for example, lying on the beach and letting the sun's rays sink in will make many feel relaxed. But there are many others who feel that this is a pointless activity. And others for whom it is hell.

I have known a case where the most relaxing situation chosen was dancing in a disco. I wonder what you would choose?

Now perhaps on the other hand you are rather doubtful about all this business of an imaginative subconscious. You may be thinking that it never happens to you, and in any case has no relevance to life. Well, the thing to remember is that I am not saying that this type of thinking happens in everyone . In my experience there is an enormous range over which people vary. There are some people who can do it with the slightest of prompting. Others can manage very little, no matter how much time and care I take. In fact, as I have said, I myself have a mind which is not apt at bringing these images to conscious attention, except in dreams.

If you want to explore your own capacity in this way then this is a good path to follow: Sit comfortably with your eyes closed; have a companion near at hand; keep looking at the blankness in front of your eyes; describe its colour (pink and grey are the most common to begin with) to your companion; sit patiently; the companion may prompt with gentle questions but not make any statements; look for changes of texture and colour; remark on them; when the changes grow into pictures start to describe them; continue to explore them until you have had enough.

At times I will vary this by making the starting point a memory of a vivid or repeated dream. This will then sometimes develop quite rapidly into an internal scenario of great emotional significance, which is of therapeutic value.

Do you think that you will decide to follow this exploratory path some time, and if so when?

Now that we have explored the field of the imagination in a little detail, I will spend the rest of the chapter in describing some of the ways in which you can use it. More examples will arise in later chapters which will cover the same paths of thought and so reinforce them.

Suppose that there is a problem at the level of Habit. It could be that I want to admire my nails and not bite them; not to eat between meals; to be more confident or to breathe better. Now many will try to achieve this by talking to themselves and saying, "I am going to...," or "I must ...." Of course this will work at times. If, as a child, you always obeyed a parent who said, "You must.....," then there can be quite a good chance of you obeying a firm verbal command. (I will often try to find out if a client has an early training in obeying direct commands, by parents, teachers or army. Perhaps you can see that such people are accessible to certain approaches which are quite useless with those at the other extreme, and disobey all direct instructions. I wonder where you lie on the scale: very obedient, obedient, neutral, disobedient, very disobedient?)

But even for an obedient person a direct order may give little idea of how to behave in the new way. And this is where the imagination comes in as a very powerful tool. The basic path to follow is fairly simple: allow a quiet ten minutes every day; spend the time picturing in as much detail as possible the desired path of behaviour; run over the path several times; repeat until the new habit is fixed. This is a very much more effective way of instructing the part of the brain dealing with habits than is a direct order.

I wonder if you have any habits that you would like to try to change in this way?

Next let us look at an example of a change which involves emotions. Again the message is that it is seldom all that much use telling somebody to change the way they feel about something or somebody. I will describe a very simple problem: a woman who was feeling extremely irritated by her new husband's snoring. Now how can she change this? Certainly there is no use in simply telling her that there is no need to be annoyed. It was a question of getting her to feel quite differently about the sound. This we achieved as follows: she imagined herself vividly as a small dog, out in the wild; it is getting dark, and she is tired; there are dangerous animals all around wolves and lions; she finds a cave to sleep in; but the predators could still get in; at this stage she discovers a very large, warm, furry, friendly bear (her husband) who will share the cave with her; he makes her feel safe; but she must understand that he will have to growl at any wild animals who approach the cave; she can sleep soundly when she hears the growling, because she will know that the growling is her guarantee of safety.

After she followed this imaginative path she no longer had any trouble with the snoring it simply reassured her and made her sleep better! Notice that there would have been no use in my simply saying , "you should find his snoring comforting." It is also important to realise that the pictures we used would not work for everyone: they were deeply rooted in the imagery of her own mind about herself, her husband, and their relationship.

The general path I have used in that case, that can be used in others as well is this: Identify the key emotional and factual elements in the problem; create a story which contains most of these elements, but in which the emotional implications are more positive or hopeful; tell the story in a way which uses the imagination as vividly as possible. (A hypnotic trance can help there, but is not essential.)

As another example take the emotional distress of a divorce. I have had many cases of this distress lingering for a very long time afterwards the person still feels tied to the spouse emotionally, and also feels guilt and the entangling feelings. Now for such people it would be far easier if the spouse had died a natural death: there would be shock; grief; tears; a funeral; sympathy from friends and relatives; an acceptance of the situation; a steady healing of the grief; an absence of guilt; leading to an acceptance of the single state. As a matter of observation there is really little difference between the outward states of having a dead spouse and a divorced one. But the former is much easier to cope with emotionally. It may surprise you, but I have often found that if someone is divorced, then getting them to imagine that they have actually followed the path of bereavement, in detail, is enormously helpful. On it they can experience the natural feelings that accompany the death of a spouse, and end up with a calmer acceptance of the resulting state. Does this surprise you?

Again I want you to notice that it is seldom enough to tell someone, "Well, (s)he is as good as dead to you. You would not be feeling all this guilt and resentment if (s)he were dead. Why do it now?" No, it is necessary to follow the emotional path in detail , through the Imagination.

I wonder if you have noticed the way in which people can use some of the arts for this purpose? In reading a story or watching a play our emotions follow a certain path. We are not so much thinking about what is happening as feeling what is happening. Someone with a good imagination can, when reading a book, or watching a film, really feel as if they are part of the action. There is no satisfaction in simply being told the plot. The value is all in the reality of the experience, as judged by the emotions. How true is this for you, I wonder? What kinds of story have the most appeal for you, and what kind of satisfaction do they have? Romantic? Adventure? Fantasy? Real life? Horror? They all have their devotees.

Even when we are not dealing with emotions, but with things which are really in the province of the Head, and reason, it remains true that the visual imagination is a very powerful tool. One picture is worth a thousand words.

Have you ever been in a crowd packed shoulder to shoulder? You know how crowded the world is becoming? How big a square do you think we would make if we were packed shoulder to shoulder? Well the answer is a square with a side of about twenty miles. Look up something this size on a map. It is a bit smaller than London. Does this surprise you? But of course it would not be possible to live shoulder to shoulder. How much space would we take up if we lived as close as they do in Hong Kong? Well, if I have my sums right then the whole of the world's population could live in a country about the size of Iran, and the whole of the rest of the world could be used as a Nature Reserve or for growing food. Can you picture this? What would be the point of using pictures like this? Well, they might make quite a number of people wonder if the "population problem" is not a matter of the number of people, so much as the fact that we are not making the best use of the planet. I am not concerned to change your mind on this point, but only to show that pictures can be an effective tool in conveying facts.

And throughout this book you will find quite a number of fresh ways of looking at things. These will frequently be presented in a form which can be easily imagined, because I am aware of the value of the imagination as a tool in getting to grips with new ideas, or old ideas in a new way. I would not like anyone to think that I am saying that imagination is the only tool for thinking. Nor that it is without limitations. At the mental level it must not become a substitute for reasoning. When we start to learn to count we may picture two apples, three oranges etc., but to make real progress we have to move beyond the pictures to the abstract ideas of twoness, threeness and so on. If we fail to make this jump we cannot get far in mathematics.

Equally the imaginative living of emotional paths has great value in helping us on our way, but must never become a substitute for a real emotional life, involving others. Nor must imaginative playing with visions of future actions become a substitute for actions. Neither of course should a vision of Heaven be seen as an end in itself, but only as a sign post on the Way.


Chapter 4. Heart Paths

In this chapter we will be paying attention to emotions and feelings. Have you ever fallen in love? Have you ever felt furiously angry? Have you ever felt the grief that can follow the death of a loved person, or even a pet? Have you ever felt a surge of triumph on winning or achieving something? I could go on. Here are just a few more words which stand for emotions: joy, misery, ecstasy, fear, contentment, satisfaction, jealousy, lust, loneliness, sorrow, mirth. If you like you can add to this list any that I have omitted which are particularly noticeable in your life. They may be your emotions or those of others you know.

Now I was able to write all those words without actually feeling the emotions, because it is usually possible to talk about emotions without actually feeling them. This may not be as true for you as it is for me, but I expect that you can share with me the fact that the experience of thinking and the experience of feeling are two very different things. And this is why is it useful to have one chapter for the Head and another for the Heart. The paths of the Heart are wilder, freer, more flowing and elusive and ancient, where the paths of the Head are more sharp-edged and disciplined and modern.

To emphasise this difference further I would like you to think about how to tell someone else how you feel. Pick one of the feelings that you might have experienced out of the above list and think of a few sentences describing the feeling.

Now imagine that you spoke those words to someone else. Do you think that they would understand your feelings? It seems to me that the answer would depend very largely on whether or not they had themselves felt the same emotion. If they have then your words should be enough to remind them of the feelings. If they have not, then no amount of words is going to get you much further.

If you are a woman, have you ever thought, "What on earth does he see in her?"? If you are a man change it to "What does she see in him?" I find that, no matter how I approach it, I can never really see what a woman can see in a man, sexually, because I am unable to feel anything like that about one. I can admire a man, and feel friendship for one. I can also feel the sexual attraction of women. But I am unable to put the two things together. What about you?

What I am saying here is that emotions are very personal things. You are the only person who can judge your own feelings. The only things that the rest of us can go on are what you tell us about them and a few outward signs. Neither of these things tell us very much. Words are very poor at conveying feelings, and the outward signs vary so much from person to person that they can be extremely misleading. Tears, for example, flow very freely in some people and never in others. We cannot use them to tell us reliably about the feelings inside. Even worse, tears may sometimes be of grief, but at other times of relief. They can come from great misery or great joy. They are not a very reliable guide.

It is this highly personal nature of emotions that makes them lie outside the area which science claims as its own. That area is the area in which things can be measured objectively, and compared. We can compare your weight with mine using scales, we can compare our heights with a ruler, our heart rates with a watch, our temperatures with a thermometer, and so on. But what can we use to compare our loves or our sorrows? There is certainly no piece of equipment in any laboratory which can do it. The best that we can do is to describe our feelings in sympathy and get, in that way, a very rough idea of how they compare.

Here are some questions to throw the matter into further relief. They make good discussion topics. Could a computer feel emotions? I know a man who worked for IBM whose opinion was that they could. And that they could feel pain. You see, his picture of people is one in which the brain is the real person. And that the brain is nothing more than a collection of electrical circuits. A computer is also a collection of electrical circuits which can be made to do anything the brain can do. Hence you should be able to see why he thinks that computers should also be able to feel. What is your quick reaction. Could computers be made which have emotions or not?

Now the interesting question is this. Suppose that someone had built a computer or robot which he claimed could feel emotion. How would we ever know if he was right? We all know people such as confidence tricksters who can act as if they have all sorts of benevolent feelings towards others, but are about as caring as sharks. How would we know that the behaviour of the robot was anything more than acting?

If we ask the same question about animals I suspect that we will find that far more people coming down on the side of answering that at least some animals have emotions.

On the following brief list you might like to give your quick yes/no response: chimpanzees, dogs, sheep, budgerigars, tortoises, frogs, goldfish, shrimps, earthworms, tadpoles, frogspawn, bacteria, viruses.

And again the problem is in finding any way of deciding between one person's list and another. For in each case we can only observe behaviour and never know if there are any feelings behind it.

Or you may like to play the game of deciding when, in the life of a human, it becomes possible to perceive feelings. I know one woman whose mother told her confidently, "Oh, you can do what you like with children before the age of five. They have no feelings before then."

Again it might be of interest for you to give a quick check to the time at which you think feelings begin on this rough chart: 5 years, 1 year, birth, 3 months pregnant, when the embryo has fully human features, 1 month, 1 week, 1 day, or perhaps you believe in a feeling spirit which existed even before the conception.

And again there exists no piece of equipment which can answer these questions. They are quite simply out of the scope of human science.

However science has not been idle in this area, and we now know a lot more about the mechanisms in the body which become active when emotions are reported. The centre of this activity has been found deep within the brain, and has been called the limbic system. You may have heard of the pituitary gland which lies in this area of the brain. This has the very important function of making hormones which flow through the rest of the body, affecting it in many ways and one of the most important is to get other glands in the body to produce their hormones in turn. You will have heard of adrenaline (sometimes called epinephrine), produced in the adrenal gland, and of the sexual hormones produced in the testes or ovaries.

Further specialised glands produce pheromones. If you think of hormones as being chemical messages between two parts of your body, then you can see pheromones as being like chemical messages between your body and mine. How do they travel? Through the air. Some sweat glands, especially in the regions of the arm pits and genitals, have become specialised in us for this purpose. As the sweat evaporates, the pheromones are released into the air. Someone else can smell them and this will in turn stimulate certain further secretions within their own hormonal system.

The most common example of this is the well-named "chemistry" which exists between a couple in love. Here the messages are mainly sexual. But fear is another emotion that can be transmitted by pheromones. Have you ever been stuck in a group of people where at least one was very nervous? Perhaps in a lift? Or a tense meeting? Or a waiting room? In many of these places it only needs one person to start to feel frightened and the feeling becomes infectious as it spreads chemically. Of course if people start to move and talk in an anxious way then it gets worse. But a dog who was allowed only to smell the air from that place would respond to the fear.

And this brings us to the next point. Most animals possess that same deep part of the brain, and the associated glands, as we do. All mammals seem to have systems that function in much the same way ours. And even reptiles and fish have them in a simplified form. So the chemistry that we are using goes back a very long time it has evolved over hundreds of millions of years, well before speech, well before humans evolved, well before the apes, and presumably at least as far back as the time of the dinosaurs when the first warmblooded animals were starting to emerge.

It is not very important for us to determine exactly how long life on earth has been using these chemical systems. What is important is that we realise that they have evolved over an extremely long time. They follow pathways that were first laid down hundreds or even thousands of millions of years ago. The chemical sexual messages exist in moths and other insects, in salmon and other fishes and indeed in almost all animal life that reproduces sexually.

They are very ancient. They cannot be lightly set aside. The paths of our fears and excitements, our loves and angers, our pleasures and griefs are all paths which, at least in terms of the nerves and glands, are the paths of our ancestors for millions of generations. We may have civilised them little, and controlled their manifestations with more or less success. But we have not changed their basic nature. It is this essential nature, the nature of emotional paths, that we will be exploring a little in this chapter.

But before you move on you may like to think a little about what I have said so far. You will have your own thoughts on what I have written.

Next I am going to move on to a new theme. That is, How can we talk about or think about emotions at the Head level, and how can we picture them in the Imagination?

Now if you listen to people talking about their feelings you may notice phrases like, "He has bottled up his anger," or "Just let your feelings flow," or "Sorrow welled up inside me," or "His love poured into me," or "I was carried on a tide of feeling." Can you see what all these phrases have in common? In all of them the feelings are talked about as if they were water which can well up, flow, be poured or bottled, or surge like the tides in the sea.

To some extent science would endorse these phrases because of our awareness that emotions are associated with flows of chemicals in the blood and body.

What I am going to do in this book is to take up these simple word pictures and make them into a more useful tool for you to use at any time that you want to think about or talk about emotions.

Let us imagine the bed of a stream, river or canal. It is the path of the water that can flow along it. Let us remember some of the things that I said about paths and see how they apply to the path of a river. We observed that a path will always change a little each time someone passes along it. The river bed too, is always slowly changing as the water flows along it. It is be deepening a little here, silting up a little there, and gradually changing its course over the years. We noticed that paths become more pronounced with use. I used the word heavy to describe a path that has become very hard to change. If you think of different efforts it would take from you to change the path of a stream and the path of a river, then you should be able to see that the former is usually much lighter than the latter. And we found that some paths were sharp edged and others were soft edged. In terms of flows we have the same distinction. In some cases the water can very easily overflow the banks a soft edged situation. In others there are steep sides which can never be flooded. This is the sharp edge of a mountain gorge.

Let us see how this kind of thinking can help us. Here is a little story. There was once a man, a farmer, who had a river flowing through his land. Then one day a big quarrel started between him and his neighbour downstream. Furious, and determined to hit at his neighbour somehow, the man finally decided to deprive him of the river. So with diggers and lorries he quickly built himself an enormous dam across the river at the point where it left his land. For the next few days he gloated, picturing his neighbour's dismay at finding no water for his animals. But then the night came when the water behind the dam overflowed its banks. He awoke to find his bed floating and half his livestock drowned.

Do you think that no man would be foolish enough to do such a thing? Well, think about it. Regard the river as being a picture of the feelings of goodwill flowing from him to his neighbour. Can you see that a man who holds a grievance will very often, in resentment, hold back or dam up those feelings of goodwill? And have you not experienced, as I have, the way in which those unpleasant, muddy and turbulent emotions then continue to well up inside day after day until the whole of life seems awash with them? Perhaps you are more sensible than I have been at times, but even so you may recognise that this sort of thing does happen.

There was another man who became angry with the river itself because it would flood its banks every so often and create a lot of mess. So he decided to dam it to prevent it entering his land at all. Again there was a high level of success at first. But you can picture what happened as time passed. As the water deepened inexorably week after week he had to keep attending to the dam, to raise it. After some months his entire time and energy were spent in repairing and raising that damned dam. And the water still rose. When the dam finally broke the enormous wave of water carried away all his property and destroyed him.

A foolish man? Perhaps. And yet many of us treat certain emotions in just this way. We just dam them up. The emotion may be anger or it may be sexual or it may be grief, or indeed anything. And there will always be people whose reaction to them is one of fear, and whose only response is

to try to block them off.


So what should we do instead?

When I was a boy I played on the mountain sides of South Wales. Rainfall was plentiful and there were many streams running down the mountain sides. I loved playing with these streams. It was fun damming them and fun diverting them. I would like you to share with me a little of this experience. Let us be children again for a while. We have no big earth moving equipment but we have sharp eyes and minds and active hands. Let us have the idea that it will be fun to change the course of the stream for a while.

The first task is to find another route for it to take. Now if you look around with me you will find there are places where, in the past, the stream has run in a different course, which has since dried up. Can you picture this, I wonder? This is a very promising place. We then go and investigate carefully the point at which the present stream moves away from the dry channel. We may well find that some big log, or stone had got washed to that spot and partially blocked the old channel. Then sediment collected around it, and twigs and mud, until the whole path was blocked, and the water was forced to move elsewhere.

Now we know where to begin work. Together we can dig away with our hands until, satisfyingly muddy, we manage to move the log out of the way. Do you enjoy watching with me the water beginning to flow again down the dry channel? It is very muddy at first, and carries a lot of twigs and dead leaves, rolling and turning and swirling as it goes. The rush of the water down the hillside is arrested now and again as it enters a hollow which takes time to fill into a pool before that in turn overflows, and the water runs on, a little tentatively at first as it explores the lie of the

land beyond the pool, but then flowing strongly and eagerly. And we can follow it downstream until it rejoins the other path.

If we return to the scene of our labours we will then find that the water is running clear, and that the force of the flow has done a lot more work in clearing the course that we have freed from the big obstruction. The stream is then dividing at that point. What shall we do with the obstructing stone or log?

One thing that we could choose to do is to use it to block the mouth of the other channel. This will divert more water still into our chosen one, and create a more powerful flow into it, which will in turn help to clear that path further. We could move smaller stones and soil to complete the damming, which can be fun, or we could rest on our laurels then and leave it for a few weeks. When we came back nature would have completed the job, as the usual debris which is carried down by the stream would have settled against the obstruction, now in the new position where we have placed it, until the flow along that channel became blocked.

I wonder what you feel about this story? Not everyone will like it. Some people are averse to any changes in the status quo. To them I would remark that the flow was only being returned to an earlier path.

Now, though I have moved from the valleys of Wales, to the valleys of the West Riding of Yorkshire, I am still playing the same games with people. I wonder if you can already see what I mean? I am talking about the very many forms of emotional problems that people can suffer from, which can be seen as being the result of their feelings having been diverted from a wholesome path and having been forced, for one reason or another, into a channel which is far less satisfactory, if not actually distressing. And the game that we play together is to find the cause of the diversion, and to find ways of restoring the flow back to normal.

There is no one best way of doing this. With some people we can use the pictorial language of the Imagination directly. One woman was suffering from severe jealousy over an earlier affair that her boy friend had had. We talked about it first at a rational (Head) level. Then I asked her to picture her feelings and this is what we found. There was a great river the size of Niagara. Into it was flowing another, also very large. But further up that second river there was a small, oily, poisonous looking stream which trickled into it. This poison water then flowed down and poisoned the two rivers from the point where they joined. We did not like the look of that poison stream at all. But since it was not very strongly flowing we were able to dig a small ditch which diverted it away, and into the desert, so that there was no longer any danger of the rivers being polluted.

You will perhaps see the symbolism: the first river is my client's love for her man; the second is his love for her; the poison stream is the effect the earlier woman in his life had on him; the poisoning of the united rivers is the jealousy and other bad feelings she is feeling now; and the diversion of the oily stream removes the influence.

You may not think that such a piece of imaginative stream diversion would have any effect. But it did at the emotional level producing an immediate feeling of improvement.

Here is another example. This man had a number of problems, one of which was dealing with men in authority over him. When we looked back into his past we found that most of his memories of his father were unpleasant. His father had been unable to express any love except by way of correcting his son. Not surprisingly the son was therefore unable to feel the love that he so much wanted. In order to get the love to flow in better channels we did the following. This was simply to imagine a number of scenes in which they went for walks together, or played football together. Just the sort of thing that the father might have done if he had been given the idea by someone. And when we imagined all this my client cried a bit, and experienced a warm glow of love for his father which had never been there before. His feelings had returned to a more natural channel. And this in turn made for improvements in his feelings about other people in authority. He is less likely now to look to them for the love that he had not felt as a child, and less likely to take their criticism personally.

I wonder what you feel about that story?

Some people feel that this sort of rewriting of the memories of the past is somehow cheating. They have a rather austere view that facts are facts, and that to change them in such a way is to lose contact with reality and to enter a world of delusion. I myself have an enormous love of facts and reality. But you will remember what I said about the need for a translator between the Head and the Heart. The father did love his son. How do we get this message through to the boy's Heart? Not by simply stating the fact: we must turn it into a picture that the Heart can understand. And that is what we did. The son now does not have false memories of the past, but a better image of the true reality, which includes that love. His feelings are now flowing in a more satisfactory channel.

Perhaps these ideas have some relevance in your own life? There must be very few of who have no painful times in the past, times when our feelings were flowing anywhere but in the proper channels. Before I come to another example perhaps you would like to spend a little while thinking about anything like this in your experience. We often feel reluctant to expose such areas, and you may find that you do not want to call details of such times to mind. Fine. You do not have to. But as your mind gets close to such memories you could at least make a mental note that one day you might feel able to sort it out.

For my next example I am going to use rape. This is a very distressing experience to the victim. I have seen a number of young women who have been victims, and the results are severe emotional distress, sometimes for many years afterwards. Now each case is different, and requires slightly different handling, but you should be able to see from one case how it is possible to relieve a lot of pain.

The picture we might have in mind here is of a poisoned pool. Perhaps the girl is sailing happily down the river of life (another image of following a path) when the banks are violently breached and her boat is floated down a side channel into a stagnant and fetid pool from which there is no escape.

In this example the woman, in her twenties, had been attacked in her own home at the age of 12, by a man who just walked in off the street. To make it worse her parents were in the house, watching TV in another room. She was too terrified to cry out. This incident was still very seriously affecting her emotional paths in life when she met me.

So what did we do? Well, very gently, after finding out about the incident, I travelled down that little side channel with her, to see what had happened. This is a delicate task, not to be undertaken lightly. The next thing to do was to let that emotion drain away. Now how is that to be done? There may be other ways, but the one I find most effective is something like the following. We pictured that man being arrested; we saw how scared he was; we saw him in court; we saw him in prison; we saw how scared he was; we saw the attitude of the other prisoners; they despise child molesters more than anything; we saw them beating him up violently; this was very satisfying to her; we saw him recovering; but his nose was permanently broken and disfigured; he would always remember what he had done.

You may think that this is rather a bloodthirsty path to follow. And it is indeed Old Testament morality: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But you will observe that no-one is actually injured. And it does, in the cases where I have used this broad approach, drain away feelings from that poisoned pool. In effect the path I outlined above is a new channel dug to let the feelings flow away to a satisfactory ending. It is cathartic.

You may wish to pause to think over clearly your own attitude to this, at this point.

Now some readers may be wanting to try out some of these ideas in their own lives. If so, this is how we go about it. In order to avoid disappointments I should say to begin with that it is not always easy at first to spot the best way to make the changes, nor to decide whether to work with realistic pictures as in the second two cases, or with more symbolic ones as in the first. This is where experience comes in. You call in a plumber and pay him well because his experience allows him to fix things much more quickly and efficiently that you can yourself.

The starting point is to set aside some time at least half an hour with no distractions. If you can find a real listener, of the kind I have described in an earlier chapter, so much the better. It is a great help to concentration to have someone to talk to. Then you start gently to explore the delicate area. At this point paths are going to diverge and I cannot follow all of them in the brief space of this chapter. So what I am going to do is to provide a number of suggestions to act as guides.

One approach is to concentrate on a painful incident. How clearly can you imagine it? It is best if you can recall the whole path of the incident, and not just an isolated moment.

If you can do that well, then the next step is to see if you can also feel clearly the emotions that go with the pictures.

It may be, on the other hand, that your natural starting point is some bad feeling which does not seem to be associated with an actual incident. In that case it is best to start by paying attention to the feelings. Let it come to the surface as much as possible. Then see if it can be turned into pictures. These are some of the questions I have used successfully to help people to do this:

You have probably felt this a number of times in the past. Could you go back in time, remembering each occasion as vividly as you can?

If this emotion were water, how would you picture it. Is it still or moving? muddy? poisonous? dangerous, and if so how?

Can you tell me anything else about it?

You know, a lot of our more powerful emotions come from times in our childhood. When you are feeling this emotion most strongly, what sort of age do you feel?

I once had a client who, when she was feeling distressed, saw very clearly a small girl curled up silently on the bathroom floor. We found that when we paid attention to the girl, and helped her to feel better, then the woman's problems disappeared. Now I wonder if you could picture how a child or other person would be behaving if they felt like you do?

Or perhaps you would find it easier to picture some animal. What kind of animal do you feel like right now? What is it doing?

You know, most of our emotional problems have been experienced by someone in every generation as far back as you can imagine. You may be able to picture some historical setting in which you are feeling much the same, but all the people and events and clothes are different?

I wonder if your body is telling you anything? At times I have found that paying attention to any characteristic aches or pains can bring to mind associated memories. So see if you can feel any such sensations. When you pay attention to them for five or ten minutes, what comes to mind?

Or you might be able to imagine for yourself a room, or better still a house, which somehow represents the feeling. Perhaps it is too dark, or too old, or too crowded, or too.

All of the above approaches are designed to lead to one end: an awareness of a certain flow of feelings a heart path and with it some form of video in the Imagination. You will recall that the Imagination can act as a translator between the Head and the Heart, and this is what we have been doing trying to find the right language in which to understand what the Heart is saying.

Some psychoanalysts would say that this process is one of gaining access to the subconscious. Two of the favourite tools of Freudian analysts are dreams and free association. In the former we rely on remembered dreams, and try to understand what they mean. You can see that there is some similarity to what I am doing, because a dream and the kind of Imaginative video we have been looking for will often be serving the same purpose to communicate to the higher centres of the mind problems which exist at lower levels. On the other hand you may have to wait a long time before you get the right dream. The process of free association, which involves allowing the mind to wander freely along paths of its own choosing, may also at times lead to some form of awareness of what is troubling a person at a deeper level. It seems to me that both of these methods are very time consuming, compared with focussing attention on the available clues in the way I have been suggesting.

Now suppose that we have got to the stage of discovering an Imaginative scenario together with its emotional associations. What do we do next? Well again, I can only tell you in a general way, because no two videos are the same. But the broad idea is then to begin to see what sort of changes can be made in the video, with most of the attention going into removing the negative features.

Here are some of the ways in which I might suggest changes in specific cases, to give you an idea of what I mean.

You say that the room is very dark. I wonder how you would feel about having a big window?

So you can see a lonely child. What could we do to make her feel better?

You can see a road which is coming down from the moor and then ends in a stone wall. Would you fell happy about removing the wall? Would you like any help? How about a bulldozer?

So there are snakes blocking your path? Have you ever seen a mongoose? They are small, furry, and very fast. They can kill any snake. Would you like a friendly mongoose or two?

You feel cut off by the rising tide? Well, there are often small paths cut in the cliffs for emergency use. Perhaps you could look for one?

You will notice that all the changes are offered in a tentative way. This is very important at the beginning. Some of the suggestions will be rejected. This typically happens in one of two ways. It is either a case of "No, I would not like that, it feels wrong." or, "No, I am trying, but the pictures won't change." I would not recommend trying too hard to push that one change. Look instead for another. If you are trying to divert the course of a river then it is highly unlikely that the first point, chosen almost at random, will be either the best or the easiest place to start.

If you are following this particular exercise with a friend then it is particularly important that (s)he should not make any forceful suggestions at this point, as it is unlikely that (s)he will have had enough experience to be able to be confident of making suggestions that suit your Heart. The guide must always be your own feelings, and what feels right to you.

So what effect can we expect as a result of these dialogues between Head and Heart?

While you are doing it, the most common characteristic is that emotions start to flow more readily. This is not surprising. We are paying attention to the Heart. We are looking at feelings. We want them to flow. This means that there will sometimes be tears and other outward signs of emotions. At times the tears go with feelings of grief, or of relief or even joy. At times a reservoir of unhappiness seems to be relieved, and then there is room for happiness to return. The next most common immediate effect is the rediscovery of lost memories.

Here is a picture of this process: There was once a village in a valley. Then men came and built a dam, right across the valley. And the water rose. And rose to cover even the tallest steeple in that village. Many years later the dam was removed, and the ancient village came to light again, and with it memories of earlier days and ways.

Over the next few hours there will typically be a feeling of inner relief, but also a need to sleep. Clients very frequently sleep better on the first night. I suspect that the reason for this is that further changes will follow on from what has been done. You recall that when a stream is diverted, then for a while after the initial change there are a number of smaller changes that follow naturally, such as the deepening and clearing of the newly opened path, and the silting up of the older one. A lot of these adjustments can be made more easily when the mind is not fully awake and dealing with daily concerns.

Then over the next few days everything settles down, and if the job has been done properly, life continues at a much better level. There are times when the problem brought to me are simple: the obstruction is quite recent, and not very massive. There has been no time for diverted flows to dig deep and distressing channels, or to do much other damage. In cases like this things may come back to normal quickly and easily with just one session. In other cases, if the diversion occurred a long time ago, and has led to many subsidiary problems, it is frequently necessary to pay attention to one aspect at a time, and achieve some improvement on each occasion.

Now it may be that some readers are thinking that all that I have said is very strange and unreal. And so I would like to spend a little time connecting it to some other areas of experience.

Let us think about the vast amount of time that the human race devotes to imaginative recreation. By this I mean the reading of books of fiction, the watching of films in the cinema or on television, not to mention all the dramas and soap operas. What is it all about? What is the reason for it all? I wonder if you would agree with me on certain things which are true for most of these productions? The first thing is that the thing is a flop if the viewer does not enter imaginatively into the world that is being displayed. And the second thing is that the viewers' emotions must become involved.

Of course the two things go together very often. If you try watching a film while all the time thinking of all the camera crews, and the lighting teams, and the director and all the rest just out of range of the camera, and reflecting on the private lives of the actors and so on which is just to say that you do not enter imaginatively into the world portrayed then you are unlikely to feel the emotions being displayed. And equally if the emotions mean nothing to you: like small boys who resent any romantic intrusion into their Westerns then it becomes difficult to take the whole thing seriously. So the two things often go together, while being different.

Now these two factors are shared by the type of experience that I have been describing. Here too we have a strongly imagined scenario, combined with an emotional involvement.

What are the differences between such an inner experience and an outer one, as presented in the imaginative arts? The main one that occurs to me is that the inner experience is very personal I have never met two people who share the same video. The outer experience is usually seen or read by hundreds of thousands of people.

I wonder if you can recall any film or book in your experience from which you feel that you have got "something"?

For some of us it might be a book or film about some profession or career nurse or musician that made a deep impression and moved us to follow that path. For some it might be some Western or War story that left us with a new courage and sense of what it means to be a man. For others it might be a love story which somehow deepens the romance in our own lives. Or again the story may be of some deep tragedy which is overcome against all the odds.

It is my belief that one of the things we find in such imaginative arts is a personal growth, and a way to resolve certain inner problems. Does this seem reasonable to you?

I am not saying that this is all we find, only that it is one of the uses.

If you accept this, then you should see that the kind of inner stories that my clients and I work with together are not so very different in their purposes. The differences are mainly that the purpose is first and foremost the resolution of some problem rather than entertainment, and that the story is highly personalised, and relevant in all its details to this person at this stage of life with this problem.

If you go long with me here, then you may agree that the methods that I have described above for dealing with emotional problems are not so different from our ordinary experience as they may at first seem. What do you think?

I have now spent some time describing one specific and direct way in which we can begin to alter the stream beds of emotion. For some people this is not the best approach. So I am next going to look at the control of emotions from quite a different angle. It is for you to decide what use you can make of either approach.

What do we use to control the flow of water into our homes? Taps. A satisfactory tap is one which can be turned on at will, and turned off at will, and can be turned smoothly to regulate the flow of water to just the force and volume we require. Agreed?

What taps then do people use to control the flow of emotions in their lives? Perhaps you have never looked at things in this light before, and so I will talk around the subject a bit.

Suppose that you are feeling bored. Here are some of the things that people do to change that feeling: switch on the TV; find someone to talk to; have a drink; go to sleep;

make something; go for a walk; eat something; pick a quarrel; bite their nails; read a book; phone a friend; plan a holiday; look for a lover; smoke a cigarette; ride a roller coaster; go skiing; play squash; spring clean; buy some new clothes; climb a dangerous cliff; dig the garden; drive out in the car; go to a show; watch football; steal something; masturbate; meditate; have a bath; go to the hairdressers; watch a horror video;...........

You can see that the list is virtually endless, though any one person is only likely to find a small number of these activities useful to relieve boredom. Indeed something that can be very effective for one person may plunge another into an even worse state. The audiences for ballet and for all in wrestling are usually quite different, though both are watching strong bodies moving together on a stage.

Although I have mentioned boredom I could have used almost any emotional state such as misery, anxiety or depression, and it would still be the case that someone would use the above activities to relieve them. They are all taps which can be used to regulate the flow of emotions into our lives. Notice that the thing that makes them like taps is that they can be turned on or off at will. We can consciously choose to do things. It is normally a great deal harder to choose to feel a certain way. If someone says to you, "Cheer up. Snap out of it." then it is very unlikely that you will be able to do it. But if they say, "take the dog for a walk," then that is at least something that you can do. Of course there is no guarantee that walking the dog will change your mood, but there is a fair chance that there is something that you can do which will change it.

For this reason I am always very professionally interested in the things people do and have done in their spare time. I can at times seem fanatically interested in such details. For it has often happened that one of these simple everyday taps has got stuck or overlooked.

The interesting question for you is: what means do you use to change your moods? In a little while I will suggest counting how many you have. But before then I will try to introduce a little order into the above list of activities. They can be roughly grouped into the following categories.

There are several things that we take into our bodies through our mouths which have a direct effect on the chemistry of our bodies, and thus affect our moods. The common and notable examples are alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and chocolate. On one side of these are the rarer marijuana and the heavy drugs. On the other side is food, with its effect on the blood sugar level among other things.

We also ingest medicines at various times. The most significant ones to mention here are the mood changing chemicals, which are becoming more varied, and are used in the hope of controlling depressions, anxieties and severe disorders of the emotional systems of the body.

The above substances are normally taken through the mouth. You might also like to think about things which commonly enter the body through the nose such as fresh air and its opposite, polluted air, which both affect the chemistry of your body. Scents, whether of flowers and aromatic oils on the one hand, or of stale odours, can also affect your feelings one way or another.

I am not taking a moral stance on any of these things. I am simply saying that all of the things that I have mentioned can have an effect on the kind and strength of our emotional states. And since we have some choice over whether or not to use these substances, and in what quantities, we can use them to control our feelings.

But it is not always straightforward. You may have noticed that a drink will at times make a person merry and at another sad. And a cup of coffee will at times be a stimulant, but at others be calming. And what is calming to one person may be an irritant to another. So the list that you will make is personal to you. Only you know what effects things have on you at different times, and only you can take control of them for yourself.

So you could find it very useful to reflect now, or later, on the way in which you use some of the substances above to regulate your emotional flows. It is useful to think of them in the following way which emphasises the path-like nature of life, with one thing leading on to another:

When I am anxious, it makes me feel more relaxed.

When I am calm it makes me happy.

When I am alone it makes me morose.

When I am in company it makes me merry.

These sort of statements can be abbreviated to:

When .... Then ....., as I have indicated above.

The other big category of things in my list is simply activities; things we do. It would be useful to note down the effect of all your activities on your moods, and to include on the list things that you used to do, but have now stopped. There are various ways of sorting them. One way is solitary: fishing or newspaper reading, perhaps or social: dancing or talking. Another is active: sports, for

example, or sedentary reading or TV for example. Another is exciting, adrenaline inducing, as against calming. I have mentioned these mainly as an aid to you in thinking about the things that you do, and how they affect you.

At this point, if we were talking together, we could well find ourselves noticing that, on the basis of what you have said about yourself, you have actually got far more taps for regulating your emotions than you are using at present, and we would consider how you could start to take advantage of this fact. But you don't really need me for that, do you? I have walked along this path for some way with you, and pointed out a direction that many find very valuable. You can go a lot further by yourself. Noting down the taps you have found or talking them over with a friend will help you further.

Now we are nearly at the end of this chapter, I would like you to plan to look out for the paths along which the emotions of those close to you flow. And how yours flow. In some people emotions are like flash floods, starting quickly, but disappearing as quickly as they come. In others the emotional level rises slowly and falls slowly too. Try to look out for such things. Look out for the things that start emotional flows as well as those that stop them.

Try to see them as paths. For example one person might follow the path: criticism is felt; anger; shouting; tears; calmness; tiredness; sleep; fine again.

Once you have done this you will be in a good position to look for ways to change the flow. I have given examples of ways of doing this through the Imagination and through various activities. But you may well find another way for yourself. I know that I very seldom suggest the same way twice. People are different. But what is the same in us all is that emotions behave like water flowing along a path, or being prevented from doing so.


Chapter 5. Habit Paths

What do I mean by the phrase Habit Path? I mean anything that we do which involves no conscious thought and no noticeable emotion. For most of us the following are pure habit paths: brushing teeth, writing the word "it", saying "good morning", singing a well-known song, being able to follow a moving ball with the eyes, walking, riding a bike, eating and breathing. There are countless more.

Of course we can be thinking consciously about these things when we are doing them, and equally it is possible for certain habitual actions, such as love-making, to be also associated with strong emotions. In such cases the Head or the Heart is also involved. But it is a great help in dealing with such combinations if we first look at the different components by themselves.

There are sums in which you have to use addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, but it is best to gain understanding of each by itself first.

Another way of looking at Habit paths is that they involve the use of muscles, where Heart paths involve the use of hormonal chemistry, the Imagination involves the visual cortex, and the Head paths involve mainly the speech and reasoning centres of the brain. I have told you which parts of the brain are associated with each of these other activities. The part of the brain that seems to be most involved with habits is the cerebellum, which you will find tucked away at the back of your head, close to the top of your neck. We will talk more about the cerebellum later.

Now Habit paths are, with no doubt or disagreement, very ancient in evolutionary terms. We may not be certain if an animal is thinking in any sense, or feeling in any sense, or imagining in any sense, but we can certainly see it moving. And moving in a regular way.

I would like to share with you something that I read in Konrad Lorenz' excellent book, King Solomon's Ring. It is a book which dwells lovingly on the behaviour of many animals, including a small creature called the water shrew which gives a very clear picture of Habit paths.

The water shrew is aquatic, as the name suggests, but it also spends some time on land. Now it is nearly blind, and finds its way around mainly through its sense of touch and long whiskers. If you watch it in a place which is unfamiliar you will see the very picture of nervousness and uncertainty. It will edge forward slowly, feeling its way. (You might imagine the feeling of walking in the dark through a strange and furnished room.) Every so often it will turn and find its way back to the safety of the water, always following the route it came by. The next time it follows its path inland it will do so with perfect confidence as long as it is on a known section of the path. When the path is fairly new to it this results in a stop and start progress: rapid on the parts of the path it has memorised, with occasional halts at uncertain sections. But gradually the missing steps are recalled until the whole path can be followed in one lightening dash. Note that. The learning of the path seems painfully slow to someone with good eyes. But the result is being able to move with almost incredible speed.

Once the shrew has learned a path it is bound to them, as Lorenz writes, "as a railway engine to its tracks and is as unable to deviate from them by even a few centimetres." In terms of our descriptions of paths, these are very sharp-edged. And you may remember that one of the advantages of sharp-edged paths is that, all being well, progress along them is swift and smooth. As it is for the shrew.

What happens if there is an obstruction on the path? Lorenz experimented by moving a stone which had been on one of the shrews' paths. This is what he found, "..the shrews would jump right up into the air in the place where the stone should have been; they came down with a jarring bump, were obviously disconcerted and started whiskering cautiously right and left, just as they behaved in an unknown environment. And then they did a most interesting thing: they went back the way they had come, carefully feeling their way until they had again got their bearings. Then, facing around again, they tried a second time with a rush and jumped and crashed down exactly as they had done a few seconds before. Only then did they seem to realise that the first fall had not been their own fault but was due to a change in the wonted pathway, and now they proceeded to explore the alteration, cautiously sniffing and bewhiskering the place where the stone ought to have been. This method of going back to the start and trying again always reminds me of a small boy who, on reciting a poem, gets stuck and begins again at an earlier place."

Lorenz' picture of the shrew is vivid. And he draws attention to the fact that we can often seem to work in a similar way in learning poetry in this instance. Perhaps you can find some other examples. Have you ever felt for your keys in pocket or bag, when they were not in fact there? You put in your hand without thinking much about it; your fingers know that the expected thing is not there; there is a slight sense of shock; the fingers search all over again, in a more desperate way; then the awful truth sinks in; only then does conscious thought really enter and you begin to think what has happened to them. Does that path seem familiar to you?

Perhaps you have not learned much poetry, but have you ever learned to play the piano, or another musical instrument? The learning of a particular piece follows much the same path as the shrew, I think you will find. It is slow at first; then certain sections become fluent, with hesitations over the harder bits in between; finally the whole thing becomes known.

Here are some other professions which rely heavily on the creation of strong and perfect habit paths: golfing, dancing, typing, most athletics, assembly work, singing, acting, and generally all jobs that involve the learning of a skill which uses the muscles including those which we use in speech or song.

I wonder what skills of this kind you possess, whether you use them at work or in your leisure time?

I hope you have not overlooked things that you take for granted, but some other people find hard, such as driving, or tidying or cleaning or cooking or packing for holiday or gardening.

In all of these skills, whether at the level of the concert pianist or the daily drive to work, use is being made of that same, primitive part of the brain that we share with many other creatures including the humble water shrew, and which is called the cerebellum. I am now going to talk about it a bit more. The word itself is Latin and means "little brain". Are you any wiser? I have also told you where to find it. Does that make you better at performing your skills? I can tell you that in recent times scientists have found out a great deal more of the structures in the brain cells of the cerebellum, and that if you are really interested you can go to a university library, as I have done, and find several good, but heavy, books on the brain which will have a chapter or two describing the neurology of the cerebellum in some detail. But I am not going to tell you what is to be found there, for the same reason that I would not begin driving lessons with long and detailed sessions on the internal combustion engine.

What I am going to do is to give you a vivid picture of how it works in practice, which you will be able to use. I have found that for most intelligent people who have little grounding in neurophysiology (and not many do, oddly!) the following is worth more than all the text books together.

Forget the word Cerebellum and see instead Sarah Belham. She is one of those housemaids from an earlier generation, illiterate and with very little intelligence, but accustomed to obedience. You may perhaps choose to see her wearing a bonnet and apron. Can you picture her? Now when she first comes to the house as a young maid she really knows nothing about how to do her job, so it is no use telling her to do such-and-such: she has to be shown. Then, after she has been shown a number of times, and her mistakes have been corrected, she will be able to go on doing that particular task all by herself until the end of life without deviation or complaint.

Here is a little scene involving Sarah Belham and her new Mistress.

"Now, Sarah, look. This is the way to polish the table."

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Now you try, Sarah."

"Yes, Ma'am." A crash is heard.

"No, Sarah. You must not press so hard on the table that it tips over."

"No, Ma'am. Sorry, Ma'am."

"Watch again. This is how I do it. Now try again."

"Yes Ma'am."

Some time passes.

"No, Sarah. You must polish it all. Look. Start at this end. Polish from side to side, like this. Then move along and polish the next strip, look. All the way to the other end. Do you see, Sarah?"

"Yes Ma'am."

"Try again, then."

"Yes Ma'am."

Then, after she has finished, "Very good, Sarah."

"Thank you Ma'am."

After that kind of training Sarah will be able diligently to go on polishing that table in exactly that way with no further supervision. She has learned that behavioural path and she will stick to it. With every day that passes the path will become heavier and heavier, and harder for anyone, even her Mistress, to change. When she is in her sixties she may be working for the granddaughter of her original Mistress, and we might see this scene.

"But Sarah. You don't really have to polish the table so thoroughly with the new polishes."

"Yes, Ma'am." Sarah replies, but goes on doing it in exactly the same way that she was taught all those years ago.

"Now look," says the new Mistress, grabbing the cloth in exasperation, "this is all you have to do." Thrown by this interruption of her routine Sarah stands dazed until she is handed the duster again. Since she has lost her place she, like the vole, will go back to the start again, and repeat her path, and will be quite unable to deviate from her path, to the exasperation of her mistress.

Can you can see how the new Mistress could do a better job of the retraining? I will make some suggestions in a few paragraphs. In the meantime let us look at another problem that can arise with Sarah Belham.

One day Sarah, in the middle of the table, notices a vase which gets in her way. She does not realise that it is precious, but she does realise that it is stopping her on her path. Her natural instinct then is to go to her Mistress to find out what to do next. Picture the following dialogue.

"Please, Ma'am, I can't polish no more."

"Nonsense, girl. Back to work this instant."

"But Ma'am...."

"Silence. Do as you have been told."

"Yes, Ma'am." (Sadly.)

A few minutes pass and then a crash is heard. The Mistress rushes to see what has happened. "You criminal! Do you know what you have done?"

"Yes, Ma'am, I've abeen an' polished..."

"Don't give me that insolence. I'll have you locked up. I'll call the police."

"But, Ma'am..."

Since this Mistress will continue neither to listen to any other Sarah who comes to work for her, nor to understand how to get her to work, she will continue to have problems with her maids to the end of life.

The problem there was that Sarah, alone, has no idea what to do about the unfamiliar. If she gets no guidance then she will be more or less forced to follow the path that she has learned no matter how the externals have changed like a stone not being there, or a vase now being there. You have to listen to her and be patient when the unfamiliar comes up. Can you see this?

Now what about that question of how the new Mistress should get Sarah to clean tables her way? Here is one idea. Picture this scene.

"Now, Sarah. You are a wonderful maid."

"Thank you, Ma'am."

"And the way in which you polish a table is absolutely perfect."

"Thank you Ma'am. I only does it the way your Grandma taught me."

"Yes, I know. And very good too. You have learned well. Now I want you to learn something else, something different."

"What's that, Ma'am?"

"I am going to reach you how to protect a table. Look here is a special can of protector. And here is a blue cloth not a yellow one like the one you use for polishing. Now I want you to watch me protecting the table."

And then she goes through the process of showing what she wants done, as slowly and patiently as her grandmother did. At the end Sarah will have learned to do what the new Mistress wants done, without having to unlearn the old, any time she is told to protect the table.

In terms of our path analysis is was clear that the old path was much too heavy to modify easily. We must simply start a completely new path far enough away from the old for there to be no danger of slipping back by accident.

How do you feel about my solution to the problem?

Perhaps you have another solution. Most problems have many solutions.

I hope that you enjoy these pictures of how Sarah Belham works. Of course you may be a little offended to be told that you have a Sarah at the back of your head, and may choose to replace her by one of her brothers who you might picture as a footman, handyman or gardener in the same big house. As long as you see him with the same simple character, which is to say that he is obedient and has no initiative of his own, but is hardworking and almost tireless, then you can choose your own picture. But I will continue to talk of Sarah Belham for simplicity.

Now let us see how these pictures help us to understand how to change our own muscular habits. I wonder if you have ever tried to change a habit?

Now many people feel that it should be enough to make a simple effort of will "Tomorrow I will change." and are continually surprised or disappointed to find that this does not work. It is no surprise to friends and relatives though.

All such people expect that if they say to Sarah, "Now, I want you to do such-and-such in a different way," then that should be enough. It seldom is. That is why I want you to get to know Sarah, because if you can figure out how to handle her it will help enormously in the task of handling your own habits.

Let us take an example. Here is someone who has decided to stop smoking when talking on the phone. The wrong way to do it is simply to say, "I must stop smoking on the phone." This might work for perhaps five minutes, but then, as soon as attention gets caught up in the conversation, a cigarette soon appears and is smoked, unnoticed. Why is this wrong? Well, let us look at this habit with Sarah in mind. It is as if when you were teaching her to use the phone you were smoking. You may not have intended her to copy that action, but that is the way with Sarah, she is not very discriminating. She noticed you smoking while phoning, and for all she knows it is an essential part of the operation: maybe the God of the Telephone will not answer unless a burnt offering is made! so she copies. And once she has followed that path enough times it becomes fixed and heavy, and she lights up at every phone call. Simply telling here once is just not going to work. Do you understand Sarah enough to see that?

To begin with we must understand is that it is going to take some time and attention to retrain Sarah. The following is then a possible path to follow. First of all watch her to see exactly what she is doing. Then say, "Look, Sarah. This is what you are doing." Repeat this several times, each time drawing attention to the crucial steps on the path, such as picking up the packet. The next step is to enact the required behaviour. "Look, Sarah. This is what you are going to do." Enact this several times, again drawing most attention to the points where the new behaviour differs from the old. Since it is hard to enact not doing something it is often easier to replace one action by another for example you can firmly pick up a pen instead of the packet or cigarette. Finally keep an eye on Sarah for the next few days, and if she slips back into her old ways remind her firmly but gently by again showing her the new way, paying careful attention to any small incident which may have pushed her back onto her old ways.

Can you see how much more effective this will be with Sarah? Again you may think of some alternative approach. It should also be easier if you change some of the other details at the same time: a different telephone, for example.

The bare bones of the path that I have described above are: pay conscious attention to the present path; decide clearly what the new path is to be; act it out consciously a few times noticing especially the places where the new path diverges from the old; any slip into old ways leads to a refresher course.

This path is essentially that used in those hypnotic trances which are used to gain access to the mechanisms of the cerebellum. Here the hypnotist takes over the role of the normal conscious mind, which sits on one side, watching, and (s)he then directs Sarah Belham firmly, clearly and repeatedly. In this case the paths are not actually enacted, but are commonly presented via the video facilities of the Imagination.

I must emphasise, however, that what I am saying in this chapter applies to pure Habit, which is to say those habits in particular which are not associated with strong feelings. In the above example I have supposed that telephoning does not arouse strong emotions in itself. If it does, then the smoking may be associated with strong tide of feeling, and if so the above simple retraining programme may not be enough in itself, and attention would also have to be paid to the Heart paths accompanying the action.

You will remember from the last chapter that there are a large range of activities which can alter your emotional patterns, and smoking is one of them. As an example I will mention a woman who needed help in overcoming a smoking habit. After the first session she had reduced considerably, but when she returned she was on the verge of tears. When we explored this we found that the state of her home was driving her mad. They had bought it five years earlier. She had been very happy with the location, but had wanted the kitchen on the other side of the house. Her husband (a builder) managed this change, but it had meant other changes to other rooms, and since he did not have all that much time, the house had been permanently in a state of disorder all the time they had been there. I wonder how you would feel about living under these conditions?

Some people would not mind, but like many other housewives, my client found it purgatory. And she had been using the nicotine to dam back the flood of unhappiness about it. So the second session was devoted to these emotional problems, mostly by letting the feelings flow, allowing her to express her resentments and by crying. With this emotional relief it then became quite easy to remove the rest of the smoking habit without distress.

Now then, I wonder if you have any simple habits that you would like to change? In a moment I will give you a chance to make a short list, but before you do I want you to think of something else as well, which is how much time or money you are prepared to devote to changing each one on the list. This is a good way of figuring out how important it is to you to change it. Now why not pause for a moment and ask yourself what habits you might want to change and how much it is worth to you to change them.

It is worth spending a little time pondering on the value of the change. There are many people who could add five extra healthy years to life if they were prepared to make some changes in their eating habits or drinking habits or exercise patterns or one of many habits that are leading them into stress situations. Yet they are not prepared to spend even a few hours or the cost of a weekend break on making these changes. Such is the force of Habit.

How much are the changes that you would like worth?

Think of the manufacturers of televisions or any other piece of machinery which is sold in millions. The successful manufacturer, often Japanese, devotes a lot of time to improving the efficiency and cost of making them. Suppose that he can find a way of trimming just one minute off the time it takes a man to make a set. Then, if the set sells a million, the total saving will be nearly eight working years. It would therefore be an excellent investment if that change could be thought out by one man in a week or two.

Perhaps in your life there are some purely neutral habits, that give you no particular satisfaction, but which you do most days. It might be reading the paper or tidying, showering or shaving, sitting watching TV after a meal, or pottering about before bedtime just one of those unnoticed commonplace activities. Now suppose that you could change that habit a little, so that without rushing it took you just five minutes less. Then simple arithmetic shows that you will have an extra 30 hours a year to do something else. That is nearly the amount of time which would be gained by taking an extra four days off work.

Of course it may be that you are perfectly happy with your life at the moment, and if there is nothing you would rather be doing with your time, then I would be the first to encourage you not to try to change your present habits.

In industry it is a fairly common practice to call in an outside consultant from time to time to look at the way things are going, and to suggest improvements. It pays them. Part of my job involves looking at people's lives in just this sort of way as an outside consultant. Normally, of course, I am called in because of some specific problem. But there are people who use me specifically because they feel the need of an objective and intelligent expert to look over the detailed pattern of paths in their lives and to draw attention to any that could be improved. It is usually quite hard to do this from within your life, you are too close to it. This is why businesses call in outsiders, also.

Here is a little example, a client who came last night. He is a very conscientious worker. And he had been in the habit of arriving home in the evening and then wanting to sit by himself to think over the day's work for half an hour or so, in case there had been any mistakes. His wife had been alone all day with her new baby and, naturally enough, was distressed by his coming in and disregarding her. This caused quite a bit of upset one way or another. Now he was also in the habit of leaving work last, about half an hour after the others. So, I suggested that he might try leaving his desk at the normal finishing hour, go and sit somewhere else in the building and go over the day in his mind for half an hour, and then go home. He tried it. He is an intelligent man. And he really enjoyed that half hour by himself. When he got home it was with a mind happy that there was no unfinished business, and he was able to play with his son and talk to his wife. Now that was not a big change of habit, but it had never occurred to him before, and yet it produced and will continue to produce for the rest of his life, a much greater harmony at home and efficiency at work.

Perhaps this story will remind you of some part of your life where there is friction between you and someone close. You might consider how much time or money it would be worth to resolve the problem, and then devote a fraction of that time to looking for some simple change in an habitual path of action which could avoid that trouble.

I would guess that a good half of my successes with clients are due to my habit of trying to locate precisely those daily Habitual paths which are wrong for the particular individual at that particular stage in life.

Now let us go back to look at Sarah. All this time she has been getting on with her work for you, quietly and without complaint. It is the great virtue of a good habit that once you start it takes no effort to continue. Reflect on this. You know how some things feel to be a great effort, while others are effortless. There can be a number of reasons for this. One is that generally things that we have got to do are far more effort than things that we want to do. You will find more on this later. But the other big difference is between things that can be handed over to Sarah Belham and things that you have to do yourself. When your cerebellum is handling a routine action - driving a car, perhaps - then it is effortless.

This is a wonderful thing. If we did not have the service of Sarah, life would be extremely difficult. I am getting Sarah to type this out for me as I write. Without her help I would still be at that stage of typing where you have to hunt out every single letter consciously, and press it laboriously.

It is worth thinking of one or two more things about how she can work better. Can you see, for example, what effect interruptions have on her?

As I see her, they have a very disrupting effect. Any break in the routine disorientates her. Afterwards, like the shrew, she has to hunt back a bit to find out what she was doing last. At times she will forget what it was that she was doing, though she knows that she was in the middle of something, and this will prevent her from getting on to anything else. Perhaps you have had these feelings yourself at times. I know that I have.

If you have recognised this, you should be able to see the sense in trying to arrange habitual paths as far as possible in sections which will not usually suffer interruptions. Furthermore it is a good idea to train Sarah to cope easily with the most common problems.

"Now, Listen, Sarah."

"Yes, Ma'am."

"You have learned to dust the rooms very well."

"Thank you, Ma'am."

"Now I am sure that you will be able to answer the door

as well."

"Yes, Ma'am."

"This is what you do. Look. I am polishing the table. The door bell rings. Brrring! Brrring!. Now I stop polishing. I put the duster down exactly where I stopped. I walk slowly to the door. As I pass the mirror I look and check that my hair is straight. I open the door and say "Good morning."

Then there will be instructions on what to say and do, which we do not need to bother about here.

"Then, when that is over, I return to this room, find the duster, and carry on from that point. Look."

With this kind of training Sarah will not be at all confused by the interruption of the door bell, and will be able to get back to the path of dusting smoothly and effortlessly. Can you see that this has been achieved by paying close attention to the junctions between paths?

We can use the mechanical metaphor of a train running along the tracks. For the train to move from one track to another it must be switched by points. If the points man has not been properly trained and cannot decide which way to throw the switch as the train comes by he can create havoc. Some people never bother to tell that points man in their minds how to do this job properly and they are constantly running into problems when they have to switch from one path to another in the course of life.

In my work I may be interrupted by the phone while I am talking with a client. I then have a choice of paths. Will I ignore the phone and let my wife answer it, or will I answer it myself? The decision is based usually on the present state of the client. Supposing that I choose in favour of the phone, then I excuse myself to the client; place a mental duster on the last thing we were saying; give my complete attention to the phone call; deal with the matter; put the phone down; pick up the "duster" and continue as if there had been no interruption. The smoothness of the transitions at either end of this change of path makes the whole process free from stress, strain or effort.

How about you? Can you think of any times in your life when you are being irritated or distracted when in the course of something?

It might help you to focus your mind if you were to write down a list of such things. In each case write down the thing that you might be doing such as writing a letter, baking, filing or phoning and then write down any frequent interruptions. These might include be a call from the boss; a baby crying, or a demand from husband or wife. Finally note down any better strategies you can think of to avoid having to be interrupted in that action or to work at smoothing the transition. In the former case you might think of doing whatever it is somewhere else, using prominent Do Not Disturb notices, arranging for someone else to handle the interruption in the way businessmen use their secretaries and so on. If you choose on the other hand to smooth the junctions then you can plan to retrain Sarah Belham in the sort of way I have indicated.

Notice that there is always likely to be the interruption that you had not planned - on a power failure or an accident to someone perhaps - that could still throw you. Funnily enough this happened to me just after writing the above section on how I cope with telephone interruptions. Undoubtedly it happened to teach me a lesson for sounding so pompous! In this case the action I was involved in was talking to someone on the phone. She is partly a client and partly a friend, and my wife came into the room wanting to pass on a message to her as a friend, while the conversation happened to be on the client basis. Since that particular change of path had never happened before it took me by surprise and I handled the switches from the client line to the wife line and back again roughly and tactlessly and ruffled a lot of feathers!

So that is one thing I have put on my list above, with the decision to smooth rather than to avoid, and have spent some time thinking how to get it right in future.

Here is another thing that you may notice about the way in which Sarah behaves. See if it makes sense to you. Once she has learned how to do something, then to continue to supervise her in detail generally makes her do it worse, particularly if there is an air of criticism in your attitude. The picture is of her going about her polishing jobs quite happily when the mistress comes in. So she stops at once.

"No. Go on, Sarah. I am just watching."

(How do you feel when someone is watching you do something?)

"Yes, Ma'am."

But every time the Mistress moves, Sarah looks at her, expecting some instruction. Because of this she does not follow her path as smoothly as usual, and is inclined to make mistakes. You can imagine her getting a little nervous. And, of course, if the Mistress criticises those mistakes, then it makes her more nervous still; there are more mistakes; more criticism; and we are soon in a vicious circle.

Because of this it is usually the best strategy to train Sarah as I have described above, AND THEN LEAVE HER TO IT. If you have confidence in her she will work faster and better without supervision. Think about it. Do you not find this is true? You may play a very good game of golf, then one day someone says, "What a curious stance you have!" If you start to wonder about the stance, and try to observe it, does your game not go to pot? Or you may have washed up for half a lifetime without a single slip, when you are asked to wash up some particularly precious glassware. And so you think to yourself, "I had better be particularly careful here." And then you seem to be all thumbs, and perhaps even drop something. Does this sort of thing ring a bell?

So, I repeat, when Sarah has learned to do her job, it is usually best to LEAVE HER TO IT.

What I have said so far gives you a broad picture of how the cerebellum works in most people and animals. Next I am going to mention some of the differences that we can find between people. One difference is that of the speed with which Sarah works. As far as I can see this is something innate. Some can really only work happily by themselves when they are going along very slowly and surely. There are others who can habitually work very quickly. There are tortoises and there are hares. So I do not want you to think that you have to be one or the other. The best thing is to find the speed that you are most happy with. What would you say suits you very slow, slow, medium, fast, very fast?

Another important factor is what is technically called the level of arousal. Some people are happiest at very low levels of arousal, when everything is calm and peaceful and there is no pressure. They can then get on with routine work well and tirelessly. But on the other hand there are those people who need the adrenaline to be flowing before they can give anything like their best. Such people thrive on deadlines, on extra pressure from outside. You find these people in competitive sports and high pressure jobs.

Another way of looking at such differences is to think of the lifestyles of our ancestors. On the one hand there were the farming communities, where steady hard work at a low level of arousal and adrenaline was the greatest virtue, and at the other extreme there were the hunting, fighting tribes who lived a life of occasional periods of intense activity at high adrenaline and arousal levels interspersed with times of comparative inactivity.

I wonder where you lie between these two extremes? Are you happiest at very low arousal, low arousal, average, high or very high arousal?

Now if you are close to the high extreme then you will have to modify the pictures I have given you above, for your Sarah is likely to seem rather lazy unless there is some pressure on her. It may be a case of, "Now, Sarah, you lazy girl, if you don't pay attention you will be out on the streets, begging." or "Now, Sarah, if you pay attention I will let you serve at the Hunt Ball." In other words excitement and fear will both do the job of arousing this kind of Sarah to a level where she will pay attention. You might like to think again about this from your own angle. Think of teachers or bosses or parents that you have known. Which do you find that you respond best to: those who remain calm and helpful and arouse little or no feeling of stress, or those who are keeping you on your toes with challenges or threats or occasional fun and excitement?

One of the reasons it is important to emphasise these differences is that it is fatally easy to think that everybody works in exactly the same way. In fact we do not, and coming to understand the way in which your own body works, and how that way is different from other people's, is a step towards freedom.

Next I want to draw attention to one very clever ability of Sarah's. Did you notice how often her Mistress said "Look"? I was in that way drawing attention to the fact that Sarah can learn remarkably well by copying. We should be able to see why. The cerebellum evolved well before detailed speech. If the young of a species are to learn behaviour which is not stereotyped and instinctive, then the ability to copy their elders will have great value. And there is plenty of evidence that this does indeed happen in all the higher social animals and birds.

But we do not have to go far to observe the copying ability at work. Watch any baby, even. Have you noticed that at an age where it can do little else, then if you smile at it, it will copy and smile back? Think about the fact that your child will grow up not only speaking the same language as you but will also control the fine muscles of mouth and tongue in such a way that the accent will be the same with no conscious thought. You will have seen children copying, acting out or playing at things that they have seen their elders do. At a much higher level it has been noted that a disproportionate number of Nobel Prize winners have been students of earlier Prize winners: it is as if simply working with a great and original mind teaches you, by imitation, those same abilities. If you are training to be a surgeon you will spend a lot of time simply watching your more experienced elders operating: this is not a field where there is a lot of room for trial and error, as there might be in carpentry. You really have to get it right first time: you cannot write off a few corpses to experience. The best way of achieving this is to rely on your ability to copy actions that you have seen repeatedly performed by others.

I am not saying that copying is the only way to learn. I am saying that it is a very efficient and common way. But think of it yourself. Suppose that you wanted to learn a new practical skill knitting or pottery or car maintenance might be examples which of the following paths would you prefer to follow? a) You are given a book, with no illustrations, which tells you in words what to do. b) You are simply handed the materials and told to get on with it. c) You are given the opportunity to watch someone silently going through the whole operation a number of times. Which of these strikes you as best? If you have answered c) then I would agree with you. Perhaps you would then agree with me that c) could be improved upon by a few remarks at key points in the operation such as "I stop kneading when the texture is smooth," or "You need to keep the tension of the wool even." and so on.

I suspect that this imitative ability is such a commonplace one that we take it for granted, and do not marvel at how wonderful it is. Perhaps the cleverness of Sarah in this respect can be emphasised by contrasting it with any similar ability that men have been able to programme into computer-driven robots. Now the best industrial robots can copy in a certain way. Suppose that there is a paint spraying job to do. Then the robot is "taught" as follows. A man, expert in spraying, holds the "hand" of the robot in which the spray gun is held. He then moves spray gun and "hand" together in the best pattern of movement to cover the part evenly and fully with paint. While this is happening the computer records in detail exactly the path followed by the "hand". It "remembers" this path. Then, at any subsequent time, the robot can be made to follow again, exactly, that same path, and so paint any number of similar objects tirelessly. Had you heard of these robots?

If you can understand and follow this example easily and some of my readers will be experts in this technology then you can use it to help you to picture one aspect of the cerebellum, for it acts is something of the same way. When you first perform an action consciously the cerebellum is just noting the movements of the muscles, and memorising them. Each time you perform the action the movements are memorised with more precision. Do you remember the water shrew? Then in time the whole process can be reproduced entirely by the cerebellum, with no conscious control at all.

You will notice that the robot is a faster learner: it only takes one pass. But on the other hand it is less flexible, it relies on the part being in exactly the right place. Now in real life the spoon that we want to move is not always the same size or shape or in the same place, and so in order to teach the cerebellum to pick up spoons we have to pick up quite a number in different circumstances before it gets the hang of all the different possibilities. A robot has a lot of trouble with this complexity.

And at present, to the best of my knowledge when I am writing this book, there is certainly no industrial robot that can learn how to do a task by watching a man or another robot doing the task. For notice what is involved. First of all we can imagine the robot taking a video of the action, from two angles so that it can judge distances. Then it has to make sense of the video and so far computers are very poor at recognising patterns compared with even simple animals. And finally it has to turn those patterns into a corresponding pattern of movements of its "hand", which seems to be something not yet attempted by programmers. (Though I would be happy to be corrected.)

But your brain can do these things with remarkable ease, daily. That is why I say that Sarah has a wonderful ability to copy.

I would like you to notice the fact that the video-processing department of your brain is involved very centrally in this process. You will remember that we met this department in the chapter on the imagination. And I would like you to see that because of this it is possible to train Sarah by showing her videos which are imagined. What do I mean by this? Well suppose that you want to learn to behave in a certain way and in a certain place where you have little experience yourself, and no chance to watch anybody else either. It is therefore hard to teach Sarah by actual experience. But if, on the other hand, you can construct vivid imaginings of the desired behaviour, then as far as Sarah is concerned it is virtually as effective as the real thing (a fact that I touched on lightly before).

Here are few examples to show how this might be used. Suppose that I am dealing with a man who wants to become a better salesman. There are of course many things that might be done to help him, starting with a discussion to find out why he is not doing as well as he might. (The reasons are usually different.) But one way in which he might be helped is this: I will spend a lot of time getting him to build up on his own mind a vivid picture of a salesman that he can admire and yet also identify with in some ways.

This last point is crucial. There are many different ways of being a good salesman, and you can get into a terrible mess trying to copy a sales style which suits a different personality. Many sales schools emphasise the positive, confident approach, but I know one man who was the best salesman in his company who traded on quite a different approach. He said, "Many people do not like to see someone coming in to sell them something looking as if he is on top of the world, with not a cloud in his life. They have got a nagging wife, or backache, or a weighty mortgage and half a dozen smaller problems. Why should the salesman be free from these? No, I find that it is best to make them feel sorry for me and a little superior. They then buy from me."

So we always imagine a salesman who is better, but not better in a completely different way. And my client can watch him in many settings, familiar to him, selling successfully. And this imaginary video is no different, as far as Sarah is concerned, from seeing that salesman in real life. And she is good at imitating. And so she learns from what she sees. And then the next time the real salesman is in a similar situation his body will act with much more of the style of the successful salesman he has imagined.

Or it may be that a young man is having trouble "finding himself". Again he can view a composite of perhaps his father, a teacher and some roles he has seen on film. And again this will tend to make him act in the same way.

Do you remember the theme of daydreams in the last chapter? And what was said about its value? Now you can now see from the perspective of learning new habits another of its values more clearly. Used properly it is a very powerful aid on our paths in life, to help us to reach goals which may otherwise be unobtainable. You can see it as a way of training Sarah Belham when there is not a real role model available, or as programming the computer to execute certain behaviours when required. This is a valuable activity, and one which I am utilising a lot in my day to day work, to help people to achieve the things that they want to achieve, but do not know HOW to go about it.

Now that I have drawn this imitative ability to your attention, is there any use that you can make of it, I wonder? Are there any ways in which you behave in which you do not feel you are doing as well as you might?

I would expect it to take a few minutes for something to come to mind. The next question is whether you already know someone who is already doing what you would like to do? If so, then you make a conscious decision to watch that person closely and frequently, so that Sarah has a lot of videos to learn from. If not, then you will have to create your own videos by piecing together things that you have seen at various times in various people. Finally you set aside ten or twenty minutes on a regular basis once every day or two days perhaps to sit or lie with closed eyes, and attend closely to the videos. If you do this your behaviour is bound to change in the required direction. Good actors and actresses can do this sort of thing with great speed and ease. All of us can do it with some success. But even if we are poor at it remember the rule about all paths: the more frequently you tread them the heavier or better marked they become. So you can make up in persistence for anything you lack in speed of change.

Before ending this chapter I will make some final remarks. I have presented one picture of how pure Habit works in some detail. But I have also touched on others that I will at times use with people. There is no one way of thinking which suits everybody. The other pictures or metaphors, each of which can be of some use, are the following. First we can think of the broad picture of the creation of paths that runs through the whole book. When you return to the chapter on paths you will find that quite a lot of it can be used as a picture of Habit paths. There is some choice over whether you prefer a picture of roads or railways to work with. I have also given you the picture of the water vole, from Lorenz. If you know a lot about training animals then this type of picture can be useful. For the relatively few clients who are familiar with computer programming I will at times develop the metaphor in which the learning or unlearning of a habit is described by analogy as a reprogramming of the subconscious.

There is one other image that I have used fairly frequently, which is useful for men with some experience of management. In this case we represent the workings of the cerebellum by the men and machines on the shop floor, and the workings of consciousness by the management. A bad management is one which knows nothing about proper training, is too dictatorial, is interfering and not supportive and so on. A good management pays careful attention to setting up working systems, in close cooperation with the work force; makes sure that they are working, and then LETS THEM GET ON WITH IT. The principles are very similar to those I have outlined with Sarah, they are just dressed up differently.

Any of these mental paths will help you to stand back from the Habitual paths that we all follow like the nearly blind water vole, and thereby to change them in yourself and others where necessary.


Chapter 6. Internal Health Paths

Health is one of those things that we mainly notice in its absence. There must be a thousand times more conversations about being ill than being well, just as there are enormously more medical books about illness than health.

Would you agree with me that this is just one instance of a general human tendency: to take for granted every good thing that we have, and to notice only those things which we lack? Would you say that this tendency is useful?

When I think about this question I find myself thinking the following. First of all it would be fatal to go to the other extreme and ignore every problem automatically. Any creature which ignores hunger, thirst or injury automatically will soon be dead. Any person who consistently ignores any problem which comes into life will soon find that life gets more and more of a mess. But on the other hand I find that many people who notice only the problems of life can easily get themselves into such a state of anxiety that they become unable to function effectively at all. On the one hand we see the bum, the slut. On the other hand we see the nervous wreck or the hypochondriac.

The right path must, I feel, lie somewhere between these two extremes. I would express it in something like these words: Count your blessings and enjoy the sunny spells of life; then tackle the problems that lie near to hand with a good heart. You might find it interesting to wander down this side road a little and to spend some time thinking about all the people you know and how they manage the balance between noticing blessings and problems. You will probably find people on either side of you. If you find yourself wistfully thinking that you rather envy those on one side rather than the other it could be a sign that you should start to take steps in that direction. In any case you might like to put into words your own ideas on how to strike a balance between the two extremes.

Because of this tendency to look at illness as soon as we start to talk about health, you may find that if you ask someone "What is health?" they have to think hard to avoid saying things like, "It is not being ill, not being in pain, not feeling well" and so on.

When I asked myself this question, this is what I thought. A healthy child is full of vitality. There can be seen laughter, energy, movement, shouting and times of quiet concentration. A healthy adult is following a more regular path, is applying effort more systematically and purposefully, and vitality shows in subtler ways for most of the time in a certain quality of voice or gaze for example. What picture do I have of a healthy old age? A deep serenity of soul and a happy following of a slower and quieter life. These are just sketches. The important point that I am making is that different criteria of health apply to different stages of our path through life. To ignore this fact is to court disaster. If we spend out thirties bemoaning the fact that we do not feel as energetic and full of life as we did in our teens, then we may well find that we will spend our fifties miserable because we miss the physical and sexual vitality of the thirties, and our seventies groaning that we do not have the health of our fifties, and will have travelled the whole path of life walking backwards.

Not only are different standards of health appropriate to different stages of life, but they also differ from one person to another. An athlete and a midwife will have quite different criteria. Standards of health for aeroplane pilots are not the same as those for computer programmers. A prima ballerina and a cashier will mean quite different things by "I feel well."

So when we are approaching the question of health from the positive side, which is to say what it is and not what it isn't, we find a complex variety of answers from different people. And if you start to listen to people talking about their health you will find remarks that refer to the Head, Heart and Habit levels, together with one new thing. At the Head level you will find statements like, "I am always ill", "I should be able to run a mile in five minutes", "I should weigh ten pounds less than this", "I am not getting the eight hours' sleep I need." All these are ideas, thoughts, that may be right or wrong. Then we have the Heart paths those feelings we have which go so badly into words, such as "I feel under the weather", "I feel low", "Oh, I am so lethargic", "I am in a black mood today", "I feel on top of the world." On the level of Habits we may associate health with a certain pattern of behaviour such as "I play squash", "I paint", "I am on top of the ironing", and its absence is associated with other habits such as "I lie in bed late", "I eat a lot", "I avoid people".

With these ideas in mind perhaps you would like to jot down some notes on your own health. First of all, what are your standards of health for yourself at your present age? Are there any ways in which you feel that your health is not as good as it should be?

I will return to these things later. But first I want to talk about the one thing that we have not met at the other levels and is associated in most people's minds with illness and that is PAIN. PAIN, the strongest sign that all is not well. It may well feature on your list above. The stabbing or throbbing or agonising pains that can come. Now not all ill-health involves pain. Some illnesses may cause little more than a sensation of discomfort. But PAIN looms large when it does come, and so no discussion of health can ignore it.

Scientists have discovered something of the mechanisms associated with pain, and it has become clear that what is primarily involved is a certain set of nerves which transmit signals from injured parts of the body to the brain, where they are interpreted as pain. This puts it in a different category from the other mechanisms we have looked at. It is distinct from rational, verbal paths, and from visual paths, and also from the muscular paths controlled by the cerebellum. It is even distinct from the hormonal systems associated with emotions, though I will have to say more about this distinction later, as the two can be associated.

But I don't think that we need science to tell us that there is a difference between Head, Imagination, Heart and Pain. Would you confuse a pain with a thought? Would you confuse it with a picture, real or imagined? Would you confuse it with a habit? And finally would you want to think of it as being like an emotion such as happiness, sadness, anger, fear and the like?

One thing that pains do have in common with emotions is that they are essentially personal. I cannot see, feel, hear, taste or smell your pain. Of course I can empathise, I can recall something of how it felt when I had a pain which sounds like yours, or how it felt after a similar experience. But this is no real guide. Two people going through the same experience: childbirth or tooth extraction, for example without anaesthetic, may seem to be experiencing quite different levels of pain, judging by what they say and the ways in which they behave. But in the end we have no way of comparing the pains directly. Is this woman simply over-dramatising? Is that one simply putting a determinedly brave face on things?

And there is the same question about animals. How much pain, if any, does a shrimp feel on being boiled alive? We have no way of telling. There is no instrument which can measure pain in such a way that we can compare them. I have said that pain is conveyed through certain nerves by electrical impulses to the brain. If you see the brain itself as being only a further collection of electrical circuits, then you might be led to think that one day we could build a robot with the same circuits which would also feel pain. What do you think? Could a computer feel pain as my friend from IBM thinks?

Friend: Yes, a computer could feel pain.

Me: So it might be that every time a computer is performing a certain operation it is experiencing the most hellish agony, with no way of complaining?

Friend: Yes.

Now it seems to me that we have no way of answering this question. How could an embryonic Computer Liberation Army detect the level of pain in a computer?

The only way in which pains can be compared with any reliability is when one person compares the intensity of a pain on two different occasions. If I am dealing with pains in people I follow the common practice of asking them to place the intensity of the pain on a scale from one to ten. Most people are able to do this quite easily, and this is a valuable way of allowing them to let me know whether the pain is increasing or decreasing. But this is of little or no value in comparing pains between different people because we have no way of knowing if their scales are the same.

Next I would like to make an important distinction, which is a commonplace to experts in the field of pain, but is perhaps not so well known to the average person. This is that we can distinguish between pain and the distress or suffering that is associated with it. At a scientific level it is possible to trace two pathways in the nerves that pass from the spinal chord to the higher centres of the brain. One just carries information about where the pain is coming from, and how strong it is. The other deals with the perceived suffering.

Perhaps you would like to think about this fact a little, and see if it seems true in your experience. It is rather hard to do this because pains are not readily called to mind. Perhaps the following picture will help to explain the kind of thing that can happen. Here is a man who has spent the day out in the wilds, hunting. His hands and face are covered with scratches because he has to crawl through brambles, his trousers are torn and there are deep abrasions on his knees after falling when climbing a steep cliff, one of his ankles was twisted when he stumbled badly and is hurting a lot, he is covered with stings from the time he walked into a wild bees nest and every muscle is aching because he also got lost and had to walk twice as far as he expected. Now that is a lot of pain. But it is the sort of pain he can glory in and brag about. So there is very little distress .

This same man can be in an absolute agony at the thought of a simple injection, where the actual pain inflicted will be almost negligible. Does this picture help you to see the difference between the pain and the suffering?

Now I would suggest that it is better to see the suffering as lying on a Heart path: it behaves like an emotion. We can suffer just as much at the loss of a loved one as we can at the loss of an arm, but there would not normally be any sensation of real pain in the former case. So if you were having difficulty in agreeing with me when I said earlier that pain is not an emotion it is possible that you will now think that I am being more sensible. Pain is pain. But the emotional distress or suffering that can be associated with it is a feeling which follows its own path.

As I have said there is a large body of evidence to support this distinction, but you might like to think through your own opinions based on your own experiences, before I move on.

Have you ever wondered how many cells there are in your body? Well, you know how worried people are over the number of people on the earth. Do you think you have as many cells as there are people on earth? In fact, there are, in your brain alone, about twenty times as many cells as there are people on this earth, and in your whole body about a thousand times as many cells.

Think of your body then as being like a vast assembly of that number of people all standing shoulder to shoulder. They have to be fed. They need water. Hundreds of millions of cells are involved in just regulating the flow of water properly so that each cell gets enough but not too much. Most of the transportation network for food, water and air consists of the blood stream, with its one-way system for traffic. You might see it as a mighty highway or canal with trucks or barges numbered in many billions transporting everything that is needed. Some of the most important trucks are the bright red ones that are carrying the most vital supplies of all: air. But notice too the white ones. They are bit like ambulances and a bit like police and a bit like the army. They patrol along doing nothing very much unless something goes wrong.

There are construction workers busy at all times repairing and renewing bones and flesh and skin. There are the food processors, taking the raw food and converting it into a form fit for the different cells to use. Then there are the billions of cells involved in refuse disposal, in purification and sewerage. Much of this passes from the cells into the main highways of the body and then is transported to liver and kidneys for processing and then to bladder or bowel for disposal.

Then there are the communicators in the nerves, passing messages of all kinds around. "We are getting very cold down here? Can we have some heating?" "Is there a famine on? Why is there no food coming down?" "Move the thumb." "Speed up the heart rate." "Remove some food from the reserve larders." There are millions of such instructions passing all the time.

Then there are the cells whose only job is to keep an eye on the whole system and to make sure that everything is done properly. They are doing the jobs which are handled by middle management in a business, or the civil service in a country.

There is a fascinating book called The Healing Brain, that you could find very interesting. It is written by two highly qualified Americans, Robert Ornstein and David Sobel who go so far as to say that the primary purpose of the brain is simply to keep us healthy and well. Is this a new thought to you? How do you feel about it?

If you were to read the book and decide that they have overstated their case, and conclude that no more than 50% of the brain is concerned with regulating the state of the body, you are still left with a number of cells bigger than ten earth populations devoted simply to keeping things running healthily. And if you chose to be very cautious and imagine only 5% of the brain as being involved, you are still talking about the entire population of the world.

Do you begin to see the complexity of all this? When I think about it I marvel at a state of affairs in which the brain of a child may be in charge of an organisation more complex than that society which we call the human race, by a factor of many hundreds. What do you feel about it?

In this chapter on Health I want to make use of just one part of this picture. And that is the fact that just as our society contains a large number of individuals whose vocation it is to make good any damage, so your body contains enormously more cells whose only job is to keep you well.

Let us start with two simple pictures. Let us suppose that there is a fire in a large block of flats. Fairly soon the alarm goes out; people rush to help; then the fire brigade comes; then the ambulances; and the police; the fire brigade tries to limit the damage; the dead and injured are removed by the medical staff; the next day workmen move in to clear the rubble; there are stories in the newspapers; the authorities are informed; inquiries are started; over the next few months a lot of work has to be done to demolish and rebuild; money has to be provided for this; lorries and workmen throng the area; plumbing has to be repaired; electricity restored; all this requires a lot of organisation but in the end it is all done and everything is as good as new. There is no trace of the fire left.

The second picture is of someone who has just had a small burn; there is a feeling of pain the alarm goes out; fairly soon the area goes red there is a rush of blood to the area; in the blood are the resources to try to limit the damage; in addition fluid forms a watery blister - not unlike the effect of a fire brigade; when the immediate danger is past there is a lot of work still to be done; a lot of dead cells have to be removed; others repaired; the higher centres of the brain have to be informed; thought is taken about how it happened and how it can be prevented in future; energy and resources have to be provided: diverted from elsewhere; in time the whole place is tidied up and renewed.

Can you see the similarities? The two paths do not correspond in every detail, but the broad outline is the same. Key steps on the path are an alarm signal which mobilises a series of defensive measures, leading in time to a complete renewal of the damaged area.

What do you think would happen if in either case no signal went out? There are in fact some rare individuals who never feel pain. The result is a body in which repeated injuries to flesh and bone, to which no attention is paid, accumulate and lead to an early death. There are businesses in which there is no way for the work force or salesman or accountants to get through to the management that something is wrong. These businesses go bankrupt. There have at times been societies in which those in power do not hear the cries from the mass of the people when something is wrong. Though this may be acceptable in time of war, it leads to increasing problems in times of peace, and often to a revolution. There are occasional parents who never pay any attention to children who cry. I know one woman who was locked up in a cellar if she cried when she was a girl. She suffered from many emotional problems later in life. I doubt if any family in which a child's crying is always ignored can be a happy family.

I am forced to the conclusion that if we did not have pain then we would have to have something very similar, some alarm bell or siren which is loud enough to demand your attention whatever else you are doing. Suppose you have sprained an ankle badly playing tennis, and that the only message that came from it was a gentlemanly, "Oh, I say, old chap. There is a bit of a problem down here, and it would be helpful, if it is not too much trouble, if you could avoid jumping about quite so much." Messages like that can easily be ignored and result in that ankle going from bad to worse until permanent damage is caused. If such damage has to be avoided there has to be a signal powerful enough to override most other things.

What do you think at this point? In a more abstract language I have been saying that in any organic system, whether it is a body, a family, a business, a society or a nation, there must be a mechanism for sending powerful, attention-riveting signals from any damaged area to the highest decision making centres. Otherwise that organic system will not survive long. In us the signal is pain. Perhaps you would like to comment on this idea?

What I am going to say next follows naturally from the above pictures of the purpose of pain. Normally pain is there to be PAID ATTENTION TO.

This may seem at first to be strange advice, because so much of our natural inclination is to get rid of the pain, and ignoring it seems at first a good way of getting rid of it. So we may need to think about this a bit. The question is: should we be aiming to get rid of the pain as such, or to remove the problem which is causing the pain?

You are in an aircraft. Unknown to you things are happening in the cockpit. A lot of red warning lights are flashing furiously to attract your pilot's attention. He can choose a) to attend to what they are saying, and take appropriate action b) to ignore them altogether and carry on as usual or c) he can attend to them with a hammer, smashing them beyond repair so that the nasty red lights are gone. Which course of action would you like him to take?

Or suppose you are working in some business where conditions have become intolerable. You go to your superior to tell him or her. (S)he can respond a) by listening carefully and assuring you that all that can possibly be done will be done, though it may not be possible to cure everything overnight, b) say, "Don't disturb me with your complaints. Go away." or c) Sack you on the spot. Which course of action would be best for you and the business?

Or perhaps you can remember what it feels like to be a child. You have just had a very distressing experience and run crying to your mother. She can choose a) to stop what she is doing and listen fully to you and comfort you, b) ask you to go away because she is busy or c) rage at you and hit you for upsetting her with your noise. Which course would you favour?

I am hoping that in all these cases you will have agreed with me that the choice a) attending to the problem, is the best one for all concerned. I will agree that there may be circumstances in which there are two or more insistent demands for attention, and that then all but one may have to be put on one side for a while, but then only so that the most important siren may be attended to.

Now here is an actual example of a man who suffered real pain after an operation. It lasted for decades. The injured tissues were crying out; the pain reached his brain; he chose to try to ignore it; it took so much effort to try to ignore it that his life reached a standstill. I suggested that he spend some time each day consciously attending to the pain instead of trying to ignore it. This did not result in the pain disappearing, but it did make it far less intrusive all the rest of the time, and less distressing, and he became able to proceed with life. He also began to take more positive steps to arrange life to avoid situations which would aggravate the pain and to encourage situations which would relieve it a bit. He became like the pilot who has stopped ignoring the lights and has started to do things which improve the situation. So this small change in attitude produced a large improvement in his condition. The pain got less and the distress very much less.

And here is another example. As I am writing this my mother is in hospital, having just had an operation for a combined knee and hip replacement. The surgeon is very pleased with her condition and amazed that she has not been asking for pain killers. But, as she explained, "It doesn't really hurt when I am just lying in bed. Pain is just a signal to say that something is wrong. If you listen to it and then explain that, yes, you know all about it, and that everything possible is being done about it, then the pain mutters to itself for a little and then shuts up." The surgeon wondered if her freedom from pain was due to the use of hypnosis. Would you be inclined to call the way in which she dealt with it self-hypnosis?

I have taken time to emphasise that pain is, in the end, designed only to sound a siren, in order to reduce, if possible, the amount of anxiety that many of my readers feel about it. For high levels of anxiety lead to a great reduction in the body's ability to heal itself. If you would like to read a more technical and detailed account of the way in which prolonged anxiety can in itself make you more vulnerable to a variety of illnesses then you could turn to The Healing Brain, which I have mentioned. But I can give you a simple picture of the effect of anxiety in the following way.

I would like you to think of the difference between the ways a society behaves in time of peace and time of war. If some calamity occurs in time of peace then there is a great turning of attention to the site of the disaster, and resources are diverted towards it, as I have described in the picture of the fire. But if the same calamity is perceived as being due to some outward, or unknown danger, then all the attention goes elsewhere. The society goes onto a war footing, all unnecessary services are shut down, resources are poured into the armed forces, everything is geared up for action, and little is done about any repair work until the emergency is over.

In a similar way, then, if you interpret a pain as being a very serious thing, which is to say that it indicates a very serious attack on your body, then the body will go onto an emergency footing: a state of extreme anxiety. It might be looking for someone to fight, or want to run somewhere to safety. But this means that the healing of the damage itself is given a far lower priority, and may be delayed or prevented. The pain will therefore continue; the anxiety and distress will gradually rise; there is even less chance of healing; the pain therefore increases, and things go from bad to worse. Can you follow the way in which this establishes a circular path on which things get worse each time it is followed? We normally call such paths vicious circles.

One of my favourite authors is James Herriott, who has written many books about his experiences as a vet here in Yorkshire. You might well enjoy them, if you have not already met them, for they are full of life and a deep love of people and animals. In one of them he describes an interesting treatment for two animals who seemed to him to him to be dying, and beyond hope. One was a ewe which had contracted a terrible infection after lambing, and the other a small dog which was vomiting whenever she ate, and so was dying of starvation. In each case he put the creature under deep sedation. This effectively removed the distress from which it was suffering. In terms of the picture of a society I have been using, this amounts to putting the entire government and executive to sleep. The conditions then become close to those in peace time, and healing can proceed because no resources are being demanded elsewhere. Healing did proceed in both animals, who became as right as rain within days.



So you will notice that I have suggested that on the one hand ignoring the siren of pain leads to problems, and on the other hand that an excessive reaction can lead to other problems. It is not so different from my general question at the start of the chapter about how we should react to all problems, is it? Do you remember what you thought or wrote about that? At this stage you might find it interesting and valuable to sit down and think about your own reactions to illness or injury. Are you more inclined to ignore or to overreact?

Go back to your list of things wrong. I wonder if there is anything on this list that might improve if you were to give it a little more attention? Are there, on the other hand, things that are causing you a high level of anxiety?

Before going any further I want to talk a little about something called the Placebo Effect. You have probably heard of it. It is one of the best attested scientific facts in the whole of medicine. The Placebo Effect is this. If you take a group of people with almost any illness, then there are some that will get better no matter what treatment you give them, provided only that they believe that it is going to work. You can cure perhaps a third of peptic ulcers with a sugar pill, if the patient believes that it is a new wonder drug.

The Placebo Effect is a bit of a pain in the neck for those experimenters whose job it is to test out new wonder drugs. It means that they have to divide the suffers into two groups. The first group is given the real drug, and the other is given a pill or medicine of similar appearance but without the active ingredient. To make it still more complicated it has been found to be important whether or not the doctor giving the pills knows which he is giving, and so further precautions have to be taken to make sure that (s)he does not know. So the Placebo Effect makes all the tests that much more expensive. But it is telling us something very important. That is tat just believing that you re going to get better will often do the trick.

Remember that this is not some fanciful idea, or the result of wishful thinking, or an anti-doctor bias. It is a hard scientific fact confirmed daily in every test of some new drug. Just believing that you are going to get better will often do the trick.

How does this happen? Scientists are beginning to find out the answers to this at one level. They are beginning to discover the paths by which the brain acts on the immune system to generate higher levels of recovery. There is no longer the idea that the brain and body are independent and have no effect on each other. We are beginning to hear of chemicals produced by the brain, which have a profound effect on the rest of the body. Names like endorphins, acetylcholine, serotonin are beginning to enter our general reading, and we have probably heard of the pituitary gland, hidden deep in the brain, and the part of the brain just above it called the hypothalamus, both of which are involved deeply in the immune system. In other words science is beginning to be able to unravel the neurochemical pathways which lie behind the fact that what a person believes about his or her own health can have a profound effect on it.

Now the immune system has been evolving over billions of years. The number of cells in the body involved in it are also numbered in billions: the populations of many earths. We cannot expect science to unravel this in a few decades. The important thing for us to realise today is the really extraordinary power of a living organism to maintain itself after injury, attack or illness, and that the mind is vitally involved in the process.

Next time you have a cold try thinking to yourself, "My body is going to kill off all these viruses by itself. If I had enough money to pay every living doctor in the world to attend to me they could not produce a cure. Medicine has yet to produce a drug that will kill the virus but not harm me in the process. I can do it though . I have in my body pharmacists and doctors enough. They will soon do the job faster if I let them get on with the job."

Next time you have a cut reflect, "No doctor could mend that if I were dead. No doctor can create new cells to match perfectly those that were cut away. I can do it though . I have within me craftsmen enough to produce the millions of cells needed, doctors enough to cope with any risk of infection. They only need a little time, and the right conditions. I will keep the dirt out and leave them to it."

If you have any illness it is worth thinking "I have enormous internal resources to cope with this. How can I produce the best conditions for them to work under?"

I do not wish these thoughts to minimise the enormous help of the medical profession. They are the experts in helping to bring about the best conditions for healing to occur. What I am emphasising is that they are helping an organism which is extremely good at self preservation.

How good? Well, let us look at any machine made by man. How many components has a typical road vehicle got? our guess may be a great deal better than mine, but even including nuts and bolts the number is only going to run into thousands. And you know how often something needs to be replaced or renewed, even in the absence of bumps. Imagine a machine that could run for 70 years, automatically repairing any damage and renewing worn parts. Could you design one? Then imagine that there were not just thousands of components, but many thousands of millions. Can you even think of how you would begin to design such a machine? Or perhaps you would like to live in a house where the paintwork was automatically renewed, lost tiles were automatically replaced, worn hinges automatically repaired, burst pipes automatically strengthened, aging mortar replaced by new, all household dust and dirt automatically extracted? If you think about it you will begin to see that even this is beyond our present technology though if we invested fabulous sums in research we might get close to it in a few decades. But your body does this type of repair work automatically, every day, on billions of different parts.

Take your lungs. How are they kept clean? Well, we do know the answer to that one. Inside there are millions of small hairs called cilia, which are constantly in motion sweeping up to the throat any small specks of dust and dirt that get in, together with small amounts of mucus which help to wash them away. You can picture yourself as having millions of maids called Celia, mopping away merrily day and night, keeping your lungs clean. If one dies another grows to take her place. If too many die then dirt and mucus collects and you are inclined to find your lungs getting congested and infected. Bronchitis and Pneumonia result when the defensive systems of the lungs break down. Certain gases kill Celia. Smoke both harms her and gives her more work to do. Can you see this picture?

This is to remind us that though our bodies have amazing powers of healing, it does not mean that we can expose them to any danger, and assume that they will take it in their stride.

With some of these ideas in mind, let us now look again at the Placebo Effect. And let us look at the path on which it lies. It goes something like this. A person has been following a path in life without illness; then there are signs that something is badly wrong; this arouses concern; a visit is paid to a specialist; (s)he pays attention to the signs; some explanation is given; something is done which, it is claimed, will remove the problem; the patient then goes away; and usually follows a prescribed course of action; in time the problem disappears.

People have been following this path since the dawn of history. The specialist has at times been called a shaman, or a witch doctor, or a doctor or a surgeon. With our present medical knowledge we can assume that very many of the "cures" that doctors of earlier generations achieved were due more to the Placebo Effect, than to the treatment. The practice of blood letting, which was once the treatment of choice for a wide range of ailments, has now disappeared, and with it a wide range of potions and purges that have been outmoded. I have no idea if any of these had some positive effect other than through their psychological impact - at times things are left behind just because they are old-fashioned - but I am pretty sure that the modern medical profession is right in regarding most of them as being far less effective than their present-day replacements. What do you think? Do you fancy returning to 19th century medicine?

Have you ever had a wart? A wart is a benign tumour caused by a virus. Did you think of warts in this way? There are hundreds of different ways of curing warts. You will find some ways in Tom Sawyer (by Mark Twain), involving burying a bean which has been smeared with blood from the wart, or dead cats. A couple of years ago my daughter started to have a few nasty ones on a foot. So I bought a nice new special soap and told her that we were going to rub some on the warts every night in the bath. This, I said, would get rid of them in about a month. And, of course, it did. They just fell away leaving clean and unmarked skin. As far as I know the soap had no properties in itself which kills viruses. So how did it work? You probably know other ways of getting rid of warts. Erickson once told a woman to bathe hers alternately in water as hot as she could stand and water as cold as possible. This worked too. So can the caustic that a doctor will apply to them. And so can repeating a fixed number of times each day, "warts go away."

It would be useful if we knew exactly how all these things work. But as yet, as far as I know, science has not learned enough about the body to explain the exact mechanisms by which these various approaches have all been successful in curing those mild virus-induced tumours called warts.

What we can see is that in each case of a cure we have at least the two step path: attention is drawn to the warts; something is done which stimulates a belief that they will go. From that point we can presume that some of the massive resources in the body's immune system becomes activated, and the cure follows.

In terms of the picture we have been using we might think of it like this. You know how occasionally some very small problem in one area of the country, which has been going on for years can be taken up by the press or TV? It might be a tip on which poison has been dumped, or some other danger area or eye sore. For years only the locals were bothered about it, and nothing was done. Then, with the media attention, suddenly everyone is aware of it, and the powers that be are forced to decide to get rid of it. Orders are given; money is allocated; contractors appointed; and in time the problem is removed. Does this strike you as a similar path to that followed in getting rid of a wart, which can also continue for a long time without causing much comment, but when conscious attention is drawn to it, and a determined intention of getting rid of it is made, then it goes in a fairly short time?

Notice that warts are not painful. So there is no natural siren call to put them right. So we have to draw attention in some other way. On the other hand the advantage of there being no pain is hat there is seldom any anxiety caused.

When anxiety is caused by something, then some other steps on the path of healing can become very important. A few days ago my daughter strained a shoulder while dressing. The unfamiliarity of the pain caused her a lot of distress and made her cry and feel shaky. I took her along to our local Health Centre to see our excellent doctor, Dr. Poulier. He very carefully examined it, to check for a dislocation; said that it was only a sprain; it would get better in a few days; she is to avoid swimming and sport for that time; and he prescribed an anti-inflammatory drug. Now the interesting thing is that following this examination my daughter felt immediately better. The pain seemed to have diminished enormously and her anxiety disappeared. She was still aware of the discomfort which warned her not to move the shoulder too much, but was otherwise fine. The strain did finally disappear in the predicted time.

This very small example shows how the two steps of diagnosis and prognosis can be very valuable in affecting the patient's state of mind and feeling. Do you find this yourself? If you can recall having a strange pain which you took to a doctor, did you find that the statement, "oh, yes, that is a common thing, called ...... " produced a great sense of relief? And when this was followed by a description of the natural course of the ailment, did it not make you feel more secure, even if that course was not totally trouble free? And finally if you were given a recommended course of medicine, did you not feel even better, because something could be done about it?

For most of us these are important psychological facts of life. And they are deeply involved in the Placebo Response, particularly in those cases where the natural path of healing is being hindered by the rule: Excessive Distress Hinders Healing.

If we put together what we have seen so far, I would suggest that it shows that as a general rule the optimum approach to any pain or illness is to pay calm, fearless attention to it . If you think about it, this is pretty much what we expect doctors to do isn't it? We neither expect them to dismiss it on the one hand, nor do we want them to get agitated or in a panic about it on the other. I am suggesting that our bodies can recover best if we adopt the same attitude.

We have further seen that if in addition we can include a feeling of confidence that the condition will improve then we will be maximising our chances of a rapid recovery.

It has been drawn to my attention by various clients that there are some doctors who, perhaps through over-reliance on the pharmaceutical industry, have lost what used to be called a good bedside manner. The skills which come under that heading were obviously of far greater value in days when far more cures were the result of the operation of the Placebo Response, which is to say self-healing under the conditions mentioned above. Nowadays, their neglect is at times leading to what I might call the Reverse Placebo. The doctor, by what he says and does, so demoralises his patient, that he completely undermines the benefit of the drug he is prescribing.

As an example of this I will quote the case of one client who had gone to her doctor because of her anxiety. He had recommended a certain drug, and when she seemed reluctant to take it he had said, "you should really come to see yourself as being long term mentally ill ." This phrase stuck in her mind. Would it not in yours? And for the next twelve months she was in a worse state than before.

When she had finally pulled herself out of her depression, and eventually confronted the doctor again over his diagnosis he seemed surprised that she had been upset over his remarks, "Oh, I only meant that you would need to take the pills for a few weeks," was his only attempt at an apology, "I can't help it if you misunderstood me."

I wonder if you can think of any examples from your own experience or that of a friend or acquaintance which further illustrates a Reverse Placebo effect.

One lesson that we can learn from this is that you will get a great deal more healing help from your doctor if you find that you have a great deal of confidence in her or him, and (s)he always makes you feel better. I suspect that one reason why the so-called alternative medical practitioners are gaining such popularity these days is that they still have the time to talk and listen to their patients, and to reduce their anxieties and to plant feelings of hope. Most of these practitioners, like doctors, have a great deal of faith in their own particular approach. As far as I know it is only certain hypnotherapists who are making conscious use of the Placebo effect. They realise that if the idea, "I am going to get well," is implanted firmly in the patient's mind, then it is one of the most powerful of healing agents, for the reasons that I have mentioned.

So here are some things for you to think about: Does your doctor help you to feel a lot easier and more confident when you have consulted him or her?

If not, and remembering that all doctors are prescribing much the same range of drugs these days, what quality is there in him or her that makes you unwilling to ask around to find one with whom you would get on better?

Are you inclined to get very anxious about illness? If so, it is very important that you should do all you can to arrange things so as to minimise your anxiety. Can you think of ways which have worked for you in the past?

Do you have some long term problem which you have more or less learned to live with?

Have you considered the possibility of treating it like a wart? That is to say, have you tried paying attention to it in a regular way as if giving steady instructions to the armies of cells in the body whose job it is to get on and improve things?

Have you ever noticed yourself or others administering Reverse Placebos to themselves many times a day? "I am always getting colds", "I will never get over this", "I suffer from ..."

Have you ever tried using the Placebo effect consciously? By this I mean aiming to achieve an untroubled confidence in the capacity of your body to heal itself, combined with giving it intelligent assistance to do the job?

I hope that these questions and the rest of this chapter have given you some things to think about which will make you see Health in a new light, and perhaps also some ways to improve your own. You will see that what I have been saying applies mainly to what is involved within the body in maintaining health and coping with problems. That is why this chapter is subtitled internal paths. In the next chapter we will pay attention to those things that we do, or which are going on around us, which are also very important to health. These I will call external paths.


Chapter 7. External Health Paths

In the last chapter I was talking about health as it looks from within the body, and the almost miraculous way in which your body defends itself against all sorts of attacks. You will remember that at the beginning of it I raised the question, "What is health?" and the broad ways in which this can be answered. There is a sense of well-being which goes with a healthy life, and though this may well feel different in different people, we can nearly all recognise it when we have it. We also saw that this feeling of well-being gets much less attention than any sign of ill-health.

Now most people would agree without thinking that ill-health will lead to a loss of a sense of well-being. And certainly the two things go together. But I wonder if it has ever occurred to you that things may be the other way around, and that a loss of a sense of well-being can lead to ill-health?

It is a medically attested fact that the emotional upset caused by the death of a spouse leads to a greatly increased risk of illness of one kind or another. Does this surprise you? And the same is true of many other big changes on the path of life. Losing your job, retirement, having a child, getting married: all these and more have been found to increase the risk of illness. In fact tables have been drawn up which place a numerical value of the health risk of many such big changes in life. They are rather different for different countries, which is also interesting.

But I want you to remember that the effect is statistical . It does not mean that everyone will fall ill after such an event. It only means that rather more people will.

The medical description of what is happening in such cases goes like this. Such big changes in lifestyle often cause stress. Stress tends to suppress the immune system. Illness is therefore more likely. In the last chapter I offered you more vivid pictures of the same thing, comparing the defences of a body to those of a country. There I mentioned such things as dealing with a fire in times peace and war. In times of stress or war there are not enough resources to cope with many disasters or repair work. And this can lead to further problems. Now I want you to think a little more about such things.

Have you ever worked in a business where morale was low? If not, perhaps you can make some pictures from what you have seen in dealing with such a business, or shop. Things are not done well, are they? If anything is suffering from wear and tear then no one has the heart to do anything about it. If supplies run out, then there seems to be nobody willing to do anything about it. If the roof leaks, then someone might fetch a bucket in a day or two. Perhaps you can put in details of your own.

In severe cases I think you would agree with me that such a business will soon die. If it survives it will suffer from all sorts of problems. There will be cash flow problems, stock control problems, personnel problems and the like. There can be many symptoms all stemming from an initial lack of morale.

I wonder if you would agree with me that you can see the same sort of thing in societies or countries? A low morale leads to increasing problems. It does not have to have anything to do directly with wealth. Some seemingly poor countries or societies nevertheless have a high morale, and so things are done which continuously improve things. Other poor societies seem to lack it and stay poor and miserable. Equally some quite rich countries can have it, and maintain everything in good order, while others seem to have lost heart and are plagued by all sorts of internal problems.

At another level there may have been times in your life when your own morale was low. Did you find yourself letting things slide, putting off until tomorrow, not eating properly, slumping in a chair too much and too late and so on?

All these pictures are there to illustrate the fact that at all levels of life a low state of morale leads to increasing problems . And what I am saying the statistics show is that if someone is on a path of life which shakes their normal sense of well-being, their normal level of morale, then this can affect all systems in the body. If it affects the immune system then it can result in infection. If it affects the normal vigilance system it can lead to accident-proneness. If it affects the digestive system then it can lead to ulcers, for example. Just as low morale in a business will show up in its weakest part, so low morale in a person is likely to show up in his or her weakest part.

Now let us look at it from the other side. I would suggest that someone who is steadily and happily in love is very unlikely to have to bother a doctor. I would suggest that a man who is totally and satisfyingly involved in his work is also a rare visitor. I would suggest that people who are deeply involved and satisfied in their community suffer far less from all diseases. All the facts that I can recall reading support the idea that these suggestions are true. I wonder if this is your feeling also?

So you will see that I am saying that a very large number of actual illnesses are a direct result of people's morale, motivation or well-being diminishing first. And therefore we might say that anything that lowers your morale for any length of time is bad for your health. For this reason unemployment can be bad for your health, so can retirement, or moving house, or divorce. If these things lower your morale and vitality then every system of your body is likely to be less efficient. And so the miraculous powers your body has to keep itself healthy are far more likely to break down in some way. Illness results.

I would like you to spend a little time thinking about this now. As always your own experience is the most important. Think about any times in your life when illness has been a problem. Then ask yourself if these were more likely to arise in times when, for one reason or another, you were feeling demoralised.

Morale, confidence, well-being, vitality, optimism. These are all words that describe a certain area of feeling about life. What I am saying is that if you start to move onto paths where these are missing then illness is a likely result. Of course the illness will lower your morale even further. But I am trying to correct the idea that the illness is always the cause of the problem. It is very often just a symptom of the real problem, which is that your sense of morale and well-being have vanished.

We hear a lot about Preventative Medicine these days. This is the idea that we should learn what to do when we are well so as to maintain our health. This is an excellent idea. By now most of us have probably got the idea into our minds that it is dangerous to be overweight, to smoke and to drink too much. We may have also got the ideas that we should exercise more, and know some of the foods that would be better for us. Can you add anything to this?

Now I am not disagreeing that these things are, for most of us, desirable things. If we happen to be following these rules then we are likely to be healthier than if we didn't. But I would like you to be aware that accepting the rules blindly, without looking at the paths on which the behaviours lie, can lead to trouble.

For example take a fat man and tell him that it is dangerous to be overweight. You have immediately created a fresh worry in his mind. If he cannot manage to lose much weight, (and this is much the most likely thing to happen,) then you will only have managed to make every mealtime guilt-ridden. His morale will plummet. He will become miserable. If this state of affairs continues then he becomes a good candidate for illness of some sort as well as the other problems that can arise out of misery alcoholism, depression, accident-proneness, violence and so on.

It seems to me to be extremely important to look in such a case for the reason why he is overweight in the first place. It is quite commonly a symptom of a growing lack of well-being. This might be due to a work problem or a marital problem, or it might be that he has dropped some pastime that he was enjoying and made him feel good. Any of these and more can lead to eating more, doing less, and a lowering of the metabolic rate. These in turn are what lead to the observed increase in fat.

Now see what happens if we are path- oriented and not symptom -oriented. We begin by looking for those paths in his life which are lowering his morale. We pay attention to them and see how to change them or avoid them. This can often be surprisingly easy: it is just that people are often not consciously aware of how they have drifted from better paths to worse paths. As he moves onto better paths his morale continued to increase. His metabolic rate is likely to be higher. He is likely to do more. He will be able to find more satisfactions which are not of the table. In that state he will also have more self-confidence and the will to eat more sensibly. The result is a happier and healthier and lighter life all around.

It is undoubtedly true that smoking is likely to damage the tissues of the body. And that for many people it will be true that to stop smoking will lead to improvements in well-being within a week or so. But I know cases, and perhaps you do also, where someone who stops feels so bad-tempered, deprived and wretched that (s)he is in a far worse state in most ways than before. Is such a person going to be healthier as a result? I don't know any research which has been done on such people. But we know that there is plenty of evidence that stress leads to illness. For such a person to stop smoking leads to stress. We can therefore expect illness as a possible result. Of course it may well not be a smoking related illness, but that is no comfort to the ex-smoker.

I don't want you to start thinking that I am therefore recommending smoking. What I am saying is that in many cases we have to approach changing the habit more intelligently, with close attention to the paths on which it lies. It is very common in my experience for people to smoke in order to deaden some sense of all not being well with life. Perhaps you will remember the woman I mentioned whose house had been in a state of upset for five years while her husband changed it around? The distress about this was keeping her smoking, and had to be dealt with before she could give up.

Here is another example to show how much better it is to look at the path on which a problem symptom lies, than to look only at the symptom. This comes from Erickson's case book. A young woman came to him in his capacity as a doctor for help with problems of nausea. Now if he had been symptom-oriented he would have prescribed some drug. But he was path-oriented and tried to find out when and why the attacks were occurring. And the picture that emerged was that this young married woman had very loving and caring parents who would invite themselves around to stay without notice. And she and her husband were too nice to ask them to go. She was clearly sick of this situation and her symptom was a graphic expression of the feeling.

You may be interested in Dr. Erickson's prescription. It was a bottle of cold milk straight from the refrigerator. When was she to take it? At soon as she saw her parents coming up the drive. What would this do? It would make her vomit the curdled milk and other stomach contents all over the front step as she opened the door to them. He suggested that she should then apologise weakly but very nicely, go to bed, and let her helpful parents clear up the mess. The happy result of this was that the parents very soon became concerned for her health and would always ring up first to see if she was well before coming. Also, if they were there and saw her holding her stomach with a worried air they were soon rushing for the door. That woman no longer thought that her stomach was a problem. It became one of her more useful allies.

Can you see what would have happened if she had gone to a symptom-oriented doctor? He would have tried this medicine and that drug and put her through one test after another. Though some of these might have had a temporary effect, none would have got at the cause of her sickness. She might have become hooked on one of the tranquilliser class of drugs that were once prescribed with gay abandon for all manner of things. Only in recent years are we discovering how horrendously difficult many people find it to come off them. Or she might have gone into a vicious circle of worry about her health which would have dragged her down more and more, lowered her morale still further and led to any number of further problems. Or it is possible that if her stomach had continued to respond to her parents in that way over long periods of time, then the result would be an ulcer. This would at least set the minds of the medical profession at rest. "It is an ulcer. Previously you were in a

pre-ulcerative condition, which is why we could not diagnose it properly."

I hope you are now seeing what I mean by the difference between a symptom- oriented approach and a path- oriented approach to problems. The latter does not ignore the symptom, but pays equally close attention to the entire path on which it lies.

I hope that I have also impressed on you the importance of getting onto paths of life where there is a greater sense of well-being. And that this is more important than trying to force yourself blindly to follow some health rule. Of course if following one of the rules does in fact increase your sense of well-being then it is right for you. But if eating less, or going jogging actually makes you feel worse, then, no matter how other people feel about it, I would think that we should look for other ways of increasing your sense of well-being. Once this is achieved, it might be possible to make the other change as well.

This might be a good time to take stock of your own life in this respect. Are there any things that you feel you should be doing to maintain or improve your health? You could list them I you like.

The next question is to ask yourself if it actually makes you feel better to be doing each of these things. Be honest. Recall vividly the experiences you have had with these healthy activities. It is likely that one of two things will happen. You may find a sense of dislike or at least reluctance. In that case you may as well cross that off your list for the time being. On the other hand you may find a sense of anticipation and satisfaction arising. In that case you might be able to start turning the feeling into action again. So you can divide your list into: "These put me off" and "These appeal".

The third thing that you might like to do is to think for a while about paths that you have followed in the past which have given you a sense of well-being. I often ask people this. It can be very useful. It is so common for people to overlook quite obvious causes for unhappiness. It might be that a woman has stopped meditating, a man has stopped going out with his friends. The minute they are asked the question above they realise what is missing in their lives. They return to that path, and all goes well again. Of course it does not follow that it is always easy to return to such paths, but it is well worth asking the question because of the many times when you can. So spend some time thinking back to find the kinds of things that have given you satisfaction, pleasure or a sense of well-being.

The answers that people give to this question are many and varied. Gardening, fishing, walking, going to discos, making model trains, entertaining and weight training are just some of the more common ones. But I will never force any of these things on someone. What suits one person does not suit another.

Once upon a time, on a cliff top, a rabbit and a seagull got talking. The gull got to admiring the rabbit's safe hole in which it could escape the fury of the storms. In its turn the rabbit envied the gull's ability to fly.

"How do you manage it?" they each asked.

"Oh, it's easy," the gull replied, "I live on a diet exclusively of fish, and ever since I was a chick I have waved my arms until they became strong enough. I then just jumped off the cliff, and flew."

The rabbit's reply to the question about digging holes was, "Oh, it's easy. I live on grass, and from an early age I practised scratching at the ground. When my legs became strong enough I could dig my own burrow, where I am safe from all dangers."

When they left each other the gull tried to eat grass and scratch the earth with its wings. It slowly starved, and the beautiful feathers became muddy and torn. The rabbit could only find a very few dead fish to eat, and they made it sick. When it came to try jumping off the cliff you can imagine what happened.

That little parable is to make the simple point:


Do any of the following remarks ring a bell with you?

"I have taken up jogging. I feel great. You should too."

"I have become vegetarian. I feel great. You should too."

"I have got a new job. I feel great. You should too."

"I am having an affair. I feel great. You should too."

"I am pregnant. I feel great. You should too."

"I have stopped smoking. I feel great. You should too."

"I have bought a new... It is great. You should too."

"I have joined.... It is great. You should too."

"I have read... It is great. You should too."



You could tick off any you recognise, and add a couple of your own.

Now many of these things are very good for many people. The question, though, must always be, "Is it right for me at my present stage of my Path in Life?"

I know some people who eat very little, get a lot of exercise, and stay at a comfortable weight. Do you? I know others who eat four or five times as much, and get much less exercise, but who also retain a comfortable weight. Do you know anyone like that? I am forced to accept that happy eating paths for different people can be very different.

I know some people for whom constant contact with others is as necessary as the air they breathe. But there are also people who start to suffocate if they see more than a little of a very few people in a day. You may label these extremes extrovert and introvert if you like. But we still have the fact that one man's meat is another man's poison, and what is heaven for one person is hell for another.

Or take another thing. How often have you found yourself thinking, "What does (s)he see in him/her?" Look at all the married people you know at work or in the neighbourhood. Then think about the fact that some man or woman loved them enough to marry them. Don't just notice the occasional attractive one. Go through the whole lot. Do you find yourself amazed that anyone would wish to marry most of these? Again I expect you to see how widely tastes differ. What suits one person in a spouse will not suit another.

And what about careers? One young man who came to see me had a life long ambition to be a butcher. His idea of a brilliant birthday present was half a pig to cut up. Would this suit you? If you sat down and noticed all the many of what seem to you run-of-the-mill occupations that someone does, I wonder how many you would like?

Yet there few careers that no one wants. I would not like to be a politician, a lawyer, a surgeon, a ballet dancer, a jockey, a chef, a gardener, a golf professional, a butcher, a baker ..... the list is endless. There is no end to the jobs I would not like and would not be particularly good at either. You might like to try this as a party game. Get everyone to list their top twenty "Jobs I'd Hate" and top ten "Jobs I'd Love". In a fairly mixed gathering you can expect to find a lot of cases where one person's Love is another's Hate.

I hope that I have now emphasised this point enough.


The lifestyle which gives them a sense of well-being may drive you mad. By the same rule there is no reason why a lifestyle which suite you perfectly should be shared by anyone else, or be approved of by them.

I wonder if you are one of those people who feel that they should not proceed on a path unless everyone approves of it?

A question that I expect you to ask at this point is, "So how do I know what the right lifestyle is for me?" Well, I don't think that there is one right lifestyle for you. I think that for most of us there are many houses that would suit us, many jobs that we could happily do, many people we could be happily married too, many diets we could happily eat, and so on. The human race is adaptable. If we had not been then we would be extinct. There are some species, like the giant panda, which are very unadaptable. They will only eat bamboo, for example, and as a result have moved into an evolutionary cul de sac and risk extinction. But the human race is adaptable, and each individual also has quite a lot of flexibility.

Let me repeat. There are many possible paths on which you can be healthy and happy, not just one. Would you like to comment on this?

I would next say that it is in fact usually pretty clear if we have taken a wrong turning, and are moving off onto roads which are getting us away from where we should be. The early signs are what I have been describing as a loss of a sense of well-being, or a loss or morale. And I am suggesting that it is often worth paying close attention to these early signs that you are leaving the healthful paths. It is usually much easier to get back onto a firm path if you have only wandered a little way off it. If you fail to do to so then you can get further and further away and then a more serious set of problems arises. If you are picturing a real path then the problems might be thorn bushes, ravines, bulls, irate farmers, bogs, thickets and the like leading to scratches, bruises, shotgun wounds or broken limbs. In the more everyday paths we follow there will also be problems if we wander too far. These problems then produce more serious signs that something is wrong.

It is these signs which are the things that usually bring people to the point of seeking help in the first place. Pains, anxieties, worries, poor health, depression, poor sleep, irritability, anger, quarrels, frustration, resentments, overweight, excessive drinking. All these can often be nothing but signs that you have wandered quite a long way away from the healthful paths of life for you. I wonder what have been the most noticeable signs in your life when things are going wrong?

If these symptoms are getting worse or more frequent then the chances are that you wandering further away from your healthful paths. But if you see these things getting better, you are sleeping better, or eating better, or getting fewer colds and so on, then that is a good sign that you are moving onto better paths of life. This is obvious, isn't it?

Don't forget that you should pay attention to the positive signs as well. These are the feelings of well-being, or satisfaction, or happiness or even joy which comes when we are following certain paths. If these are increasing or getting more frequent then you are doing well, but if they are getting fewer then that is a possible warning that you are beginning to drift onto a worse path. I wonder if you can put into words the feelings that you have had at certain times in your life when things have been going well, and you were walking your path of life with a spring in your step?

So I want you to be aware of the fact that you have a lot of messages coming from within you to tell you how well or otherwise you are doing. AND THESE ARE YOUR MOST TRUTHFUL GUIDES. As we saw at the beginning of this chapter, there is no shortage of people who will encourage you along their own paths. And they really are happy with those paths. BUT IF YOUR INNER SENSES DON'T LIKE THEM, THEN THEY ARE PROBABLY WRONG FOR YOU.

Let us see if this part of the book is relevant to you at present. First of all we can look to see if, in the past week, you have done anything you have not liked doing. Feelings of reluctance, annoyance, resentment, anger or just boredom are signs to look for. You can be useful to stop and write down any you find.

The next step is to try to figure out why you are doing these things. Some of them may be inevitable obstacles on a path that you have chosen. A mountain climber may at times find extreme discomfort and danger on his paths. Picture one in the middle of a blizzard, suffering from frostbite, dangling from a single rope over a cliff edge and a long way from base. Ask, "Are you enjoying climbing?" and the answer is likely to be unprintable. But this does not mean that (s)he will stop being a climber. (S)he has freely chosen to follow those paths in life, and at the deepest level will therefore accept the problems as a part of the Game.

Some of my readers will be at College or University. Some of them have made the choice themselves. They have thought about whether or not to study. They have listened to some advice. They ended up by deciding to go. Others had the decision made for them against their will. They really wanted to be car salesmen, actresses or drop outs or what have you. But someone - a parent or perhaps a friend - persuaded them against their will. The great danger for such students is that they will therefore never study with a good will . There will always be a little voice inside which says, "I didn't want to come. I don't see why I should enjoy it, or work hard or anything!" This attitude is fatal to almost any undertaking in life. I hope you can see with me that any student who retains this attitude is going to gain very little indeed from the years at college.

Are you doing anything which is against your will in this way?

Of course there are some students who are initially persuaded against their will, but in a short time discover that it is not as bad as they thought. If they then have a change of heart and throw themselves into it wholeheartedly then they can gain enormously. On the other hand there are people who themselves make the decision to go, but find that a slight upset throws them, and they then become reluctant students. In that case I would feel that they would be better leaving and finding something that they can cope with.

The idea that runs through these examples is this. It is not healthy in any sense to follow your path of life reluctantly, resentfully or against your will for any length of time . There are times when it may be necessary to do this for a while: some people will never even try new paths without at least some compulsion but if they do not come fairly soon to want to follow it themselves then it will prove a poor and unrewarding path for them.

Now return to your list of things that you have not liked doing. Because one part of you must have decided to do them, and another part was finding them unpleasant, you must have been to some extent divided in yourself. You cannot have been totally wholehearted about them. But we have seen that there are times when we can be doing something that is unpleasant in itself because it is a necessary obstacle on a path that we freely choose. So the things for you to underline or circle are the other ones. The ones where it is almost impossible for you to find any good reason in yourself for doing it at all. These are the paths which cause most problems. If you have found some of these then you will probably want to explain to me why you have to do them even though you don't want to, and hate doing them. You could at least jot down those reasons.

Now I cannot say whether you are right or wrong in what you have just reasoned, but I would suggest at least talking it over with a friend or two to see what they think. Together you may be able to think of a way out of these problem paths. (Remember how in the Chapter on Head paths we saw how at times we can get stuck thinking that we have to do things that we do not really have to.)

Now a lot of people come to me with problems of this kind: of very unsatisfactory paths. And they pay me to help them to sort them out. Although the art of helping is quite a subtle one at times, the objective is usually quite clear. I am questioning or listening, gentle or provocative, but always keeping the person's attention on the problem path until they come to one of two decisions. One can be "Yes, after all, this is one of those things that I have to accept with a good will. I see that I cannot give up this path without leaving others which are far too important to me. I will follow it more wholeheartedly now." The other decision is something like, "Yes, I see now, there really is no good reason to continue on that path. It is preventing me from moving onto many better ones. The reasons I started it are no longer valid. Even if it is difficult to do so, I must now wholeheartedly start to move away from that unpleasant path."

Perhaps you know the famous prayer:

  • God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.

Now there will be some readers who are suffering from illnesses that are NOT a result of being on the wrong path, and about which little can be done: there are many such things. Old age in itself brings on many of these. In such cases you will find that whether or not people respond to the illness with acceptance or resentment can make an enormous difference to their well-being. You might think of people that you know. Some people with physical disabilities accept, in the words of the prayer, it as something that cannot be changed and then go on with life. Others, with perhaps far smaller problems, refuse to accept them and their lives are miseries purely because of that.

A resented bereavement causes more stress, suffering and distress than an accepted one. A resented injury causes more distress than one which is accepted.

A nurse once told me of a good Muslim couple whose baby died in hospital. "It is the will of Allah," they said. They would have suffered grief, of course, but less than a couple who were unable to accept that tragedies DO happen. And once the grief was over they would have another child. A couple who were less accepting and had, perhaps, decided to sue the hospital, will follow a path on which they will find much stress and distress. By the time the legal process would be over they would have, if lucky, a cash settlement, but, if unlucky, have missed the chance to have another baby to love.

The prayer above has a lot of health and freedom from suffering in it. Perhaps I could rephrase what I am saying on the same lines.

God grant me the Good Will to accept the unavoidable problems on my path wholeheartedly,
Determination to avoid paths which lead only to problems,
and Wisdom to know the difference.

Let us have an example. This young man had, as a result of a number of problems, dropped out of Bar School, where he was training to become a Barrister. His confidence and happiness had disappeared. He did not know what to do. Should he try to return or should he give it up? Now the idea had not initially been his: his father had suggested Law as a profession. As we explored in more detail we found that the thing that frightened him most was the prospect of having to stand up in public to make any kind of address. We also found that he had no other real desires for any other career. The choice was clear. On the one hand he might decide that he had been over-persuaded into a course of life that he was not really suited for because of his stage fright, and then put all his effort into finding another and better one. On the other hand he might decide that above all he would like to overcome that fear, in which case he could put all his effort into doing just that. I wonder what you would advise?

To begin with I was thinking privately that the first course was probably the better one. This is because I have seen many sad cases of men who have suffered for a lot of their lives after being forced, by parental pressure, into careers that they had no heart for. But as he continued to talk about the choice, and as we analysed the reasons for the earlier failure, he became more and more sure in his own mind that he did want to conquer the fear. And so this is now the path he is following, with a whole heart. It is now possible for me to help him to do this: effectively there are many ways of helping someone to overcome a fear once they have decided to do so. You will find some in a later chapter. But I would like you to notice that the choice was his own. It was his own free will. Too many people - including me when younger - think that the way to help someone to make a choice is to look at the situation and then make it for them , and then put pressure on them to accept your decision. I believe that this is nearly the worst kind of help. What about you? Is that the kind of help you like? Do you prefer to have the responsibility for choice taken out of your hands?

Another common area where a choice of path has to be made is in courtship and marriage. We can take it that whatever your choice of partner there are going to be some problems. At times the problems are such that you may wonder if they show that it is time to end the relationship. Can you see that as long as you are in doubt it is going to undermine your whole life? It is very difficult to make any plans when you do not know if you will be together in a month's time. The uncertainty will lead to insecurity, and a feeling of being threatened. This commonly leads to quarrels and upsets. Your sense of well-being will drop, and following from this will be the loss of many good habits and the possible onset of minor illnesses. You will tend to lose friends because you are getting edgy or bad tempered. All these things may happen quite easily, and all because you are unable to choose one path or the other wholeheartedly.

It does not seem to me possible to say things like, "Married couples should always stay together," nor on the other hand that big problems should always lead to separation. Each couple is different. I have one friend whose father left home soon after he was born, and returned to his wife only when the son left for university. This is a very unusual arrangement but it does not seem to have done anybody any harm. The one rule that seems to be generally true though is that it is better to make a choice and follow one path, accepting the problems on it with a good will. There is then a good chance that many of the problems can be overcome, if not all. This was one of the virtues of the old view of marriage as a lifelong commitment. It meant that there was no choice in the matter. For millions of couples this will have made life better. In the absence of choice they had to put all their effort into making the best of the relationship they had. The drawback to this older view was that for many other people it led to a lifetime of misery or even slavery. For the women more often than the men I fancy. You may like to comment?

One of the special features of relationships is that it demands commitment from two people. It is very difficult to help a marriage in which only one partner has any desire to make it work. I have said that your life becomes far healthier and happier if you are single hearted. It is also true that a relationship is far healthier and happier if the couple are single hearted: both committed wholeheartedly to the relationship. Does this strike you as true? If so you might like to look at your own relationship in this light. Are there areas in which you are withholding commitment? Are there areas in which (s)he is withholding it?

There are times when a close look at these questions is very rewarding. You may find it an interesting thought that reconciling differences between couples is in many ways similar to reconciling differences within the individual: say between the Heart and the Head. In both cases harmony leads to improvements all around. "A house divided against itself cannot stand." You may have ideas of your own here.

Another common area of choice is over careers. Should you stick to the present job with all its problems, or move to another? In earlier generations it was the unspoken assumption that you would remain in the one job or trade all your life. Once a blacksmith always a blacksmith. Even more there was often the assumption that you would follow in your father's footsteps. Nowadays things are changing fast. It is not uncommon to follow at least two different career paths in a life, as I have done myself. Again the important technique is to look at the whole paths involved. There was a time when I was working as a Senior Scientific Officer at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, in Farnborough. Like all jobs it had its good and bad points. Now every so often there would be a little ceremony. Someone would be retiring after a lifetime of service, and there would be a few speeches and the presentation of a commemorative gift. This rather naturally got me to think about how I would feel when my time came in thirty odd years. I would then be looking back over my path in life. And I found that I was appalled at the thought. I really could not face that path in life. Almost anything else seemed better. This is not to run down the place or the people. Everyone is different and I would never dissuade anyone who wanted to from working there, nor encourage anyone to leave. It was simply not for me. So I resigned. My father was considerably perturbed at my giving up a good job with almost total security and an inflation-proof pension. But so far I have not regretted the decision for one moment.

I wonder if you would like to try the exercise of looking back over your life from a point near its end. There is no reason to suppose that it will show you on the wrong path, but it might just show you one or two points that would be worth changing a bit. How does it feel?

If you are drawn to another career, look at that clearly too. Take plenty of time over it. If I have a client in the middle of such decisions then we may take hours. You are having to weigh two paths with all their good and bad points. If this is relevant to you, you could ask yourself how you feel about the second path?

The result that you are aiming at is a decision to opt wholeheartedly for one course, being prepared to tackle the problems on it as they come. This will maximise your chance of happiness and success. If you are not in a state of doubt about your career, then you can still use the same idea about any course of action that are in doubt over.

I would next like to look at what I have been saying from a different angle. You will find the word stress used a lot these days. People easily fall into the error of thinking that certain activities and lifestyles are in themselves stressful. This is quite wrong. The stress or otherwise comes mainly from whether or not the thing is done wholeheartedly, from a free choice. It is the spirit in which it is done that is important. Is writing a letter stressful? If it is a letter I want to write I find it very stimulating or relaxing, depending on the letter. But entirely free from stress. But suppose that it is a letter I do not want to write, or resent having to write, then it is a different matter. I can feel exhausted and drained by it. Is breaking rocks stressful? A man breaking rocks for his own garden rockery can find it very stress- releasing . If he were ordered to do it in prison, and fought against it, then it would be very stress ful . A small domestic chore, done unwillingly, can cause more stress than any activity you can name, done willingly and wholeheartedly.

I had one client, a man in his thirties, who was suffering from stress. He was not sleeping well. He was getting panic attacks in supermarket queues. He was getting more and more tense and irritable. And all his friends told him he was suffering from stress, and advised him to relax and take things easy. They said he was doing too much. He had been working hard and playing hard. And his doctor agreed. But somehow he just did not seem to be able to relax. This worried him more. So things got worse. Now after carefully analysing the paths of this young man's life the advice I gave him was to start to play hard again. He had always spent every spare moment in some athletic pursuit or other,

and it had kept him well. For his body it was stressful to be prevented from taking violent exercise. When he took this advice he felt fine again. His head and his body were no longer pulling in opposite directions. He was wholehearted again in what he did. He was free from stress.

I wonder if you would like to look at your own life in this spirit. We have already had one look for things that cause you stress. Some more might have now come to mind as a result of these remarks.

And you might look for things that other people have told you are stressful and should be avoided, but are fine for you because you are doing them in the right spirit. In such cases it would seem better to ignore their well meaning advice, in case it takes you the way it took the young man I mentioned.

Now let us pause to look back over the ground that we have covered in this chapter. The broad theme is the question of HOW we are to achieve a healthier life. The first thing that came to light was that we should pay less attention to illness and more attention to feelings of well-being, the state of morale and so on. When these feelings disappear and you becomes demoralised then this is a sign that you are leaving the healthful paths. If this state continues then there is a good chance that your body will become more and more vulnerable to illness. This led us to think about the much broader question of what are the best paths for us to follow. I have put a lot of emphasis on the fact that you cannot blindly follow in another person's footsteps. There are too many differences between us. I have stated that nevertheless most people have a very good sense of what is right for them. And the more attention they pay to this sense the more useful it becomes. I have also drawn your attention to the fact that one of the key differences between paths is whether you are following them with a good will or not.

I will put this another way. The prescription for a happy and healthy life is, "Do everything wholeheartedly." Try to avoid things which you do halfheartedly, where your heart is divided, only partly wanting to do what you are doing and partly hating it. The more you can do this the less stress you will find. The more you can do this the more satisfaction and well-being you will find. The more well-being you have the better your morale. The better your morale the better every part of your body works. Your mind, your immune system, your digestion, your heart, your breathing: everything. A company with high morale will have every department working well, efficiently and enthusiastically. A person with high morale will tend to find every department of his or her body also working well and efficiently. This is not only common sense, it is common experience. When you are in this state then you will find it either totally natural or very easy to follow a lifestyle which is in the detailed ways healthy also. You are more likely to enjoy some form of exercise, and actively want to pursue it. You are more likely to enjoy a balanced and healthy eating pattern, and actively want to do the things to make sure that you get the right foods for yourself. You are more likely to get the right balance between effort and relaxation. You will have less or no need for nicotine or alcohol. All these things will come easily.

Once upon a time a man, who was no mechanic, found that his car came to a stop. "What is the problem?" he asked himself. "Ah, yes, I see, the wheels have stopped turning." So he got out and tried turning the wheels. They moved just a little. But stopped as soon as he let go. He then thought he would try pushing. This was a bit more successful. It carried on moving for a little even after he stopped. But he soon got exhausted of having to keep on making all that effort, and gave up. Later a mechanic came along and fixed the engine. The car then moved again.

It is sometimes possible to push yourself or someone else quite a distance. But it is an effort. If you can get the motor fixed, if you can use the power of a wholehearted will, then you can enjoy a long and almost effortless ride.

When I do therapy in this path-oriented way then it can be quite wonderful to see the results. I am not saying that all problems come in this category, nor that all people respond to this approach. It requires a certain intelligence and a certain kind of openness to change. But when it is working at its best the results are extremely satisfying because they seem to spread in all directions in life. New interests can spring up, new friends seem to come from nowhere, old problems of all kinds seem to disappear, the right kind of clothes appear in shops, the right jobs appear and so on. All these on top of the disappearance of whatever the symptom was that brought the person to me in the first place.

Perhaps this surprises you? Do I seem to be claiming too much? It surprised me at first too, but if you think of the paths involved you will see some of the ways in which these things work. For example, why should seeing me make a new boyfriend appear? Well, suppose that I have helped this young woman to abandon certain mental paths which were demoralising her completely, and have released a few emotional rivers which had been dammed by traumatic experiences. In brief I have got her onto better Head and Heart paths. As a result she becomes more wholehearted about life. Pretty soon she is looking better, with more of a sparkle in her eye and spring in her step. Her morale rises. She dresses better. She gets admiring glances. She is treated better at work. She is prepared to go out and enjoy herself. She can look around and notice other things and not her own misery. There is no wonder that she sees the young man who has noticed the new beauty in her. I think you should be able to see in this case how, on a good path, all sorts of things start to happen for the better. It is the reverse of the way in which, on a bad path, all sorts of things can start to get worse.

So in the broadest sense Preventative Medicine is far more than simply eating or exercising properly. It means looking at the whole of your lifestyle the broad paths of your life. It means keeping on the alert for signs that you are losing heart in some area. And it means deciding whether to tackle that area with fresh heart, or to leave it for pastures new. The Healthful paths of life are also the ones which are best for you in other ways too. Beauty is the bloom on a well-tended garden. Health is the bloom on a well-tended life.


Chapter 8. Heaven Paths

In this day and age this chapter requires some introduction. First of all I want you to understand that I am using the word Heaven in the same way as I am using the word Heart. The word Heart is a convenient, short and familiar word to refer to our emotional life. The word Heaven, beginning with the letter H, as do most of my big categories, is a convenient, short and familiar word to stand for what we might broadly call the spiritual aspirations of mankind.

It may be that you have a deep and strong spiritual faith already? In that case you will be patient while I direct this chapter to the very much greater number of people who have no strong faith, but do have a vague conviction that there is more to life than what shows on the surface. Many have not had the time to go into things more deeply. Others have been put off joining any faith or church by someone or something, though no fault of their own.

It may be on the other hand that you have reached the conclusion that mankind should have grown out of all superstitions, including anything which smacks of religion. In that case you can at least be assured that I know how you feel, because as a student I was for a time the President of the Oxford University Humanist Group, whose stated aim was to fight such superstitions wherever they might arise. So I suspect that you will find this chapter somewhat irritating, especially if you have found that I can be quite sensible in the rest of the book. You can choose to skip the whole chapter or formulate your own objections as you go along.

If you are one of the millions of people between these two extremes it would seem that you are in the majority both today, and over most of the recorded history of mankind. All down the ages individuals and societies have moved between these extremes. There have been nations which, for a time, have had rulers who were extremely religious men, and tried their best to get everyone to toe the line. But most of the people still spent most of their time dealing with their everyday concerns, and took from the official faith the little that they needed and ignored the rest. At other times there have been nations whose leaders had no faith at all in anything more than this material life. But even then there have been millions of the people in the street who retained a sense that there is something more, as well as the much smaller number of strong believers, who go underground in such societies.

So the first fact we have is that throughout recorded history there have been very many people who were convinced that there is another, spiritual, side to life. Would you agree?

And the second fact, equally clear, is that there has been a great deal of variety in the descriptions given of what it is all about. Agreed?

This is not surprising. It is true in all other fields. There have always been healers or doctors. At different times they have described what they are doing in different ways. But they were each getting some thing right, and helping some patients to get better. Of course each generation has turned out to be much more ignorant than they thought they were. But this does not mean that Medicine is discredited. It simply means that it is more complicated than men thought.

I feel that the same is true about Heaven. It is a more complicated subject than men have often imagined, and they have made mistakes in thinking about it just as they have in everything else.

Everything else that we have studied has turned out to be enormously complicated. The simplest particle of matter we know is the electron. We still do not know all about it, though we know a lot. You may have heard that it sometimes behaves like a wave? Quite probably you find it impossible to picture a particle which sometimes behaves like a wave? If you have six years to spare, and a very mathematical brain then you could learn enough to find out what we do know about it. And that is strange and complicated. An electron does not sit there quietly like a billiard ball. It is continuously emitting and absorbing virtual photons. What does that mean? Well, only the mathematics makes much sense, but in words it is as if the electron is jiggling about, juggling countless millions of bits of light of all colours, throwing them away but catching them again before they escape. And in some ways it behaves more like a wave than a particle. Strange isn't it? It is not what I would have expected. So even this simplest of particles turns out to be amazingly more complicated than you would think. Most of the early ideas that men had about the electron turned out to be wide of the mark. This does not discredit Science, but shows that it is more complicated than men thought. Men nearly always think that they know a great deal more than they do: had you noticed?

This leads to the question, "How complicated would a complete Theology be?" If the words "God" or "Spirit" have any meaning to you, how fully do you think we understand them at present?

"To become wise, know first your own ignorance."

It is my belief that there have been many men who have walked the spiritual paths and returned to tell us what they have found. But what they can tell us is still only the most infinitesimal fraction of what there is to find. I believe that, as in every other area of thought, men have got a lot wrong. But I do not believe that this discredits the whole science of Theology, but is simply a result of it being more complicated than men thought. A creator must surely be more richly complicated than her or his creation. If we still cannot understand the smallest particle of matter it would be farcical to talk about its Creator as if (S)HE were an open book. What do you think?

In the other sections of this book I have touched on other areas of life. In those areas too I believe that we only know a fraction of what there is to be known. But it is still helpful to have a rough map of the areas, however simple it is. A simple map that you can follow it more valuable than a more complicated one that you can make no sense of at all. So I am writing this section in the same spirit that brought you Sarah Belham. There will be some simple pictures and ideas which can be used to help a little on your path of life. They can give some little understanding good enough to make it easier to find your way. I hope that you will find it interesting, and perhaps a new way of looking at things. In any case it may stimulate new ideas of your own which is one of the most important uses of this book.

In earlier chapters I have been able to draw on a lot of modern research, but in this chapter little new has been found out for some generations. The simple reason for this is that comparatively little attention has gone into it. "Seek and ye will find", but equally if you don't look then you are unlikely to find. In earlier generations this was not the case. Did you know that Isaac Newton wrote more on theology than he ever did on science? and he was probably the greatest original thinker in science that the world has seen!

I always presume that our forefathers were as intelligent and capable as we are. There were stupid men then as now. But the practical men were as capable as those today and the clever men as intelligent. When we look at civilisations which followed the paths of construction, like the Romans, then we find buildings, roads and organisations which are up to our best, when you make allowances for the fact that they had fewer resources. How do you think our buildings will stand up to two thousand years' wear and tear? And what of those nations like the ancient Greeks, which followed artistic paths? Do you find their statuary inferior in quality?

Many earlier generations followed the Heavenly paths very enthusiastically. Mankind has built more temples, mosques, churches and synagogues than supermarkets. Those generations certainly got some things wrong, but we do not abandon architecture because a few buildings have fallen down. In this chapter I am simply going to describe, in a more modern way, the simple heart of the religious paths of life which our fore-fathers and -mothers followed. They were not stupid. They devoted much of their lives to these paths. I believe they knew more about them than we do, though they were certainly wrong in many details. What do you feel at this stage?

I would like to begin, in what might seem a strange way, by getting you to think about aeroplane pilots. Their job is a very responsible one, which, like every job, has to be learned. We all make mistakes when we are learning. An artist who makes a mistake can tear up the canvas and start again. In the early days of flying it was possible to crash and walk away. Nowadays this is not true, and anyway it would be a bit expensive to write off a few Boeings for every pilot trained!

So what do we do? One great help is the flight simulator. These are getting more and more realistic. You are seated in a cockpit which is identical to the real thing. There are dials in front of you which register altitude, speed, orientation, fuel, engine speeds, atmospheric pressure and a thousand other things. As you look ahead you see a computer simulation of the landing strip or the sky. As you handle the controls you find yourself in a seat which tilts as you climb or bank. In your earphones is the voice of the air traffic controller. It is all as real as possible, but in the end, even if you "crash", you can walk out quite untouched. But while you are in there and dealing with the emergency it is almost impossible to remember that it is not for real.

You will probably have heard of flight simulators? But I wonder if you have come across computer-aided role-playing games? [ I first wrote this in 1990 when these were something of a rarity, and have not updated the text to remind us how fast things change in life.] A number of people take part. Each has a certain role: Hero, Wizard, Princess, Evil Warlord or Goblin and the like. Each character has certain strengths and weaknesses and goals. If you are playing this game you are sat in front of a computer screen which shows the state of the game. You can control what your character is doing by typing in instructions, and read what the others are doing on the screen. There are often animated pictures to make it all more real. These games are usually played by teenage boys, who enjoy them most.

These two products of modern technology: flight simulators and computer-aided role-playing games are with us already. Let us take a leap into the future and see how they will have grown in a hundred years or so.

You have seen how many things are being controlled by computer these days. Already aircraft are nearly automatic. I can see the day when there will no longer be a pilot in the craft. But there will still be a human pilot. The only difference will be that he will be sat in what is effectively a flight simulator on the ground. He will be seeing the view from the actual aircraft on his forward screen. He will be seeing the dials in front of him, but they will be giving the height etc. of the real plane. His seat will be moving as if he were in the real plane. And when he moves his controls, signals will go back to the real plane and change its path. As far as the pilot is concerned there is almost no way in which he can tell that he is not in the real craft, except for the following. There is no noise so he can concentrate better, and hear the flight controller better. He is not suffering from jet lag, nor the exhaustion of rapidly changing climates and countries and time zones. He is probably a specialist. He is trained, for example, to land aircraft at his home airfield. He knows it like the back of his hand. He knows every possible danger. He has taken control of thousands of aircraft as they come in to land, and landed them safely and confidently. It seems to me that I would rather trust my life to him than to a pilot, however skilled, who has just been through hours of boredom on a long flight, is tired, and has just arrived at an airport that is comparatively unfamiliar. How do you feel?

I think that this will come; we already have most of the technology. But whether it actually does or not is not important for our present purposes. I just want you to see this picture of the pilot chatting easily to his colleagues in the common room over a cup of coffee. He then looks at his watch and says, "Only ten landings this morning," and walks in a relaxed way over to the door which leads into the flight simulator. Some hours later, having landed those planes safely, he comes out again for lunch, and chats to other pilots who, minutes earlier when he was sat in his simulator and they in theirs, had seemed to be in other planes taking off as he landed. If there had been the slightest problem they can sit down and discuss it easily. Can you see all this?

For my next leap into the future I would like to take the idea of role-playing into another sphere. Think of your favourite soap opera. (If you hate them please thing of your favourite film or play.) What is your favourite? Now suppose that you were offered a chance not just to watch it, but actually to be a character in the story. Is there a particular character that you would like to be?

This is what I see happening within a generation. Suppose that we have a story with perhaps six characters. The setting and broad plot is chosen by the scriptwriter, who also writes a lot of dialogue. Many video shots from the angles of each of the characters are made and stored in a way that makes it easy for a computer to pull out the most suitable one. If you are then watching passively you will see on the screen the story through the eyes of your character. If you are the heroine you will see the hero's eyes looking long and lovingly into yours, and feel as if he is talking to you. But after a while you may feel that you would like to change things a bit. You may want to change the dialogue. You have a microphone in front of you. When you switch it on then the prerecorded speech is cut out and your words are used instead, though for the benefits of the other players the computer changes the sound of your voice to the sound of the voice of the actress or actor who was used in the original.

You may want to change your point of view. To allow for this you have a few sensors attached to your head which register this and the scene on the screen will change just as if you had turned your head in the play.

Now of course there will be limits on what you can do in such a game. There would be no use trying to do something too far outside the script because the computer would not be able to cope with it. But remember that most soap operas rely very heavily on only a few sets, and plain dialogue two or three people talking together. Think of the fact that there will be real people running the other characters. You can play through this drama many times, exploring all sorts of ways of behaving, without danger. Perhaps you can then begin to see what great fun it would be? If not for you, then for millions of others?

But even this kind of game would leave people wanting more. So I am imagining the state of the game in a few more generations. I am seeing a group of friends discussing what game they will go to play, in the way we choose movies or videos today. Once they have decided, they go over the local Games room, which they have booked. They each go into a separate booth, where they put on a close fitting role-laying suit. This is equipped with tens of thousands of sensors to record the slightest movement of the body. It also has thousands of pressure pads to give you sensations of touching things or being touched. Imagine that you are one of the participants. You are wearing a helmet which provides a slightly different video picture to each eye, to give a three dimensional colour picture. (By the way, I expect these helmets to come along as a natural development of television within a generation.) [ Something like this is already available in 1998.] Within a short time you find yourself as the character of your choice in the story you have chosen together. You can turn your head down and see how "you" are dressed. Egyptian queen? Cavalry captain? As you look around you will see the setting, and the other characters. Again your voice will be picked up and turned into that of the character. But now you will also be able to feel the pressure of someone's arms around you. If there is a fight, you will feel something of the blows. All these sensations will be transmitted by the pressure pads in the suit.

In the Game you will have all the excitement and drama you want, as if you are really living it. It may well be that there will be battles and deaths in the script, or that you will be taking the part from childhood through to old age. You will undoubtedly become very emotionally involved in the whole thing. But in the end, when the Game is over, you will take off the suit, and walk out of the Games room, and join your friends for a meal. Over it you can discuss all that happened when you were acting together in the Game, and decide whether you would like another go at the same Game, or try another one next time.

I wonder what you think about this picture? Does it appeal? I know enough about people to know that desires for this kind of thing will create many millionaires every step along the way to their development. The first movies made millions. The first talking films made more. The coming of colour made Hollywood supreme and made fabulous fortunes for many. Television. Video. Home computer games. Each step along the way has made millions for somebody because of our desire for such experiences. The three dimensional vision given through a viewing helmet may be the next fortune maker. Something like what I have been saying will come when the flight simulators and the gamesmakers and the computer designers come together.

But my job is not to convince you that this is possible in the exact form that I have described. It is just to give you a picture which would have been impossible to give in earlier generations. It is a picture showing in a rough way how we may seem to be entirely immersed in one life, while really being elsewhere.

I am not sure how all this will be achieved, technologically. It could be that each story will have its own set, in which there will be super-robots performing. They will be like the pilotless aircraft, able to keep themselves going on autopilot if necessary, but transmitting back to the Games room what the video cameras in their eyes are seeing, and what the pressure sensors in their skin are sensing. They will also move in response to the way the player wants them. This will be by means of the sensors in the Games suit which will pickup slight movements of the body and convert them into instructions for the robots. The whole thing is going to need enormously more powerful computers than we have at the moment, but computer technology still seems to be in its infancy. A hundred years should see the necessary advances. It is possible, too, that computers may become so powerful that the whole thing can be handled in the computer, without any need for he robots. I can't tell. [ 1998: it seems that it is more likely to be run purely on computers and sooner than I imagined! ]

Now, with these pictures in mind, which it has only been possible to describe because of the scientific advances of the last quarter of a century, we can describe what earlier generations have believed, in a different language from theirs.

The physical world which we see around us, and which scientists study, it the set. The physical bodies of the people we meet, things made of atoms, are the equivalent of super robots. But the real you and the real me cannot be found inside the bodies, though we can control them. The real people are not made of atoms, nor of electrical currents. We exist elsewhere, outside the framework of the physical world. We are like the Game players who have a life outside the Game and its rules and scripts, though for a period they enter into it.

The Path of Life is then seen as a Game in which we are allowed to live the lifetime of one character. We have some freedom of choice over what happens to us, but the broad story line is outside our control. At the end of the Path we return to what I shall call Outside-the-Game, where we can meet the other players and discuss what has happened.

Shakespeare (1564-1616) expressed precisely the same idea in an analogy that was appropriate for the play-goers in his audiences:

"All the world's a stage,

And all the men and women merely players.

They have their exits and their entrances;"

-As you Like It

Though he was not alone in thinking of that analogy. Earlier, Du Bartas (1544-1590) in his Dialogue between Heraclitus and Democritus , for example wrote:

"I take the world to be but as a stage,

Where net-maskt men do play their personage."

In a simple way this gives you a picture of one of the biggest differences between a religious view of life and a materialist view. The argument between them has taken place at many levels and in many languages. But in the end the question boils down to: Is this Life All? Or is there life Outside-the-Game or Outside-the-Play. What views do you have on the matter?

Let us next see what difference it makes if we see this life in the light of a Game. Straight away it becomes clear that it is no use thinking that possessions and money are all that important. They are not. They are props. They do not exist Outside-the-Game. On the other hand the people you meet do exist Outside-the-Game. They may be playing the part of a King or a cripple, a beggar or a financier, when you meet them in the Game. But Outside-the-Game we will all meet on a different footing which will have little to do with our status in the Game.

You may like to think about this a bit. Suppose that we could get everyone else you know to at least act as if this was true. Would it make a difference to your life?

Do you think that people would be quite so selfish if they remembered that they were acting in a Game?

Do you think that people would be quite so cruel if they remembered that they would be meeting you Outside-the-Game where there would be some explaining to do?

Perhaps you remember being ignored or worse as a child?

Imagine a childhood in which the adults around you had remembered that Outside-the-Game you were on the same level as them. The fact that you were experiencing the life of a child only meant that your super-robot had not yet learned as many skills as theirs or that the software that was learning to run your part had not yet become very sophisticated. In short they had treated you as more of an equal. Would this have made a difference to your childhood?


I wonder whether you will agree with what I am going to say next? This is that, after meeting very many people, it seems to me that those who seem to get most out of life are those who treat it as if it were a Game . They are not deadly serious about everything all the time.

Here are two business men. One lives only for the business. It is the only important thing in the world for him. The other one also throws himself into it when at work. But afterwards he can be throwing himself into a party or into games with his children with equal enthusiasm. Which man would you like best? Which one do you think is getting the most out of life, is happiest?

Or perhaps you can picture two women. For one it is desperately important that she be admired. She spends fortunes on clothes. She spends most of her time making sure that her appearance is perfect. The other woman also likes to be admired, but she does not take it so seriously. When she dresses up to go out, it with a sense of fun. But at other times she can look a mess gardening or just messing about. She enjoys those times too. Which woman is enjoying life most? Which would you expect to like most?

The student who studies with grim determination, believing that his studies are the only important thing in the world is a joyless creature. Even worse, he is likely to do less well than he could in his exams because of this approach. And his attitude will do him even less good in the world beyond the exams.

The attitude of mind which says, "I am going to enjoy every minute of the Game, and throw myself into it wholeheartedly, while I know that it is not really serious," seems to be the best in practice. You can see it in politicians who fight their hardest for what they think is right, but are also prepared to have a social drink with their opponents after the debate. And you will see it in football players who don't spare themselves in the game, but are the best of pals with their opponents off the pitch.

Or, looking at it from another angle, think of the people that you know who take their lives very seriously. They just know that their life is the most important. They act as if the responsibilities of the world is on their shoulders, as if the whole world revolves around them. Do you like such people?

I know for a fact that a great deal of the stress and ill-health in many clients could be removed if they could only take life in the spirit I am suggesting.

Of course, many of the people who treat life as if it were a game to be enjoyed, do not believe that there is an Outside-the-Game. But what I am saying is that the natural consequence of a belief in an Outside-the-Game is a behaviour which actually works well in this life.

Perhaps you would like to comment on all this in the light of your own experience?

So far then I have pointed out two things that follow from the simple picture that I painted at the start of this chapter. The first is that if we accepted it we would treat each other a little better. The second is that we would get more out of life.

The next thing that needs to go into the picture is that there is somebody in charge of the Game. There is some disagreement between those of different faiths about the nature of this Somebody which is not, as I have said, surprising. But there is general agreement that we are not alone in the world. And this is the second big difference between the religious and nonreligious view of life.

Now I want us to think for a while of some familiar ways in which somebody can control a "game". If you are familiar with the role-playing games that I mentioned, then you will know that there is usually a Game Master to control the game. If we are thinking of the making of a film then the person in charge is called the Director. If we are thinking of an orchestral performance the person in charge is called the Conductor. If we are thinking of a football game then the man in charge is called a Referee. If we are thinking of a court of law then the controller is a Judge. If we are thinking of a nation then the person in charge would once have been the King or Queen, and is now more often a President or Prime Minister. In business the Managing Director is in control. In the creation of buildings it is the Architect. In the writing of a novel it is the Author. But in the production of the book it is the Publisher. Perhaps you would like to add to this list from your own experience?

In many of these cases there is a lot of delegation of authority to lower levels. You seldom deal directly with the Managing Director of a big business. In other cases there are no intermediaries. Authors do not usually delegate the job of writing in minor characters to someone else, for example.

A lot of the differences between faiths has to do with their pictures of the kind of Director the Game has and whether or not He (the Director is seldom pictured as female) acts on us directly all the time, or through others.

If I were to say that I knew the answer to the question: What kind of Director have we? then I would be a fool. What I can say is that there is pretty general agreement that He feels warmly about us players in the Game. And that the word most often used to describe that feeling is Love. Another is Just or Fair, as you might expect from someone who is acting in part the role of referee. Not surprisingly it is also said that He sets no great value on the things of this world: the props of the Game. That is to say that He does not feel more warmly about you because you have a good job, or a beautiful face, or are very fit or strong. But there does seem to be some quality about the way in which we play the Game that He does seem to value.

This brings us to a very important idea. In this picture there are two ways of being right and two ways of being wrong. But we only have one word for each. Let me give some examples to the sort of thing I mean. What is a good student? It could be somebody who is technically good turning in excellent projects and having an excellent grasp of the subject. Or it could be somebody who listens attentively, works hard and joins in all class activities. Of course the same person could be good in both ways. But you will know some people who are good in the second sense but never manage to get good grades. And there are students who are good in the first sense but are pains to teachers and other students alike. Can you think of someone like that?

And there are two ways of being a good driver. There are the technical skills the ability to handle the machine well. And then there is the question of attitude to other road users and traffic police and regulations. A man can be an outstanding driver in the first sense and yet be lethal because he regards the entire road as belonging to him, and everyone else as trespassers. Can you think of two people, each of which is a good driver in the one sense and not in the other? Who are they?

In music we can find the player who has excellent command of the instrument (technically good). And there is the player who is very responsive to the conductor and the other players. Again the two qualities might go together, but do not have to. Or on the sporting field football perhaps it is possible to find a man who has excellent technical skills with the ball, but with an attitude to fellow players, coach and referee which make him a liability to the team. Again there are people who are good players in the second sense but not in the first. And of course men who are good players in both ways.

Unfortunately we usually use the one word "good" for both kinds of quality, and they often get confused. Do you remember in the chapter on Head paths that I said that it is often important to be able to distinguish between two things? This is a case in point. I am going to suggest that we use the following two words to distinguish the two ways of being good at the Game of Life. The words are skill and will . They are not perfect, but they will serve for everyday use. A child may play a game or an instrument with poor skill , but a good will . An adult may play any of the games

of adult life with high skill , but a very bad will . There are many parents who have little skill at parenting, especially with the first child, but nevertheless bring a good will to it. I wonder if you find this a useful distinction? You will find it in some form or other on many of the Heavenly paths. And it is also generally said that Outside-the-Game it is the will with which we play the Game, rather than the skill with which we play it that is important.

I wonder how you feel about this? Think of those people that you share life with, at home, or work or leisure. Which do you regard as the more important quality in them as far as you are concerned? Is it their technical mastery of the skills of life, which includes common courtesy? Or is it their good will towards you and others, which may be combined with a lack of social graces? You could take some time to think about half a dozen people you know and rate them on how good is their will and how good their skill.

Now let me bring together what I have said so far. It is restating in simple language what has been taught in many ages and languages. There is really nothing original in what I am saying. I am only using a description more suited to many modern minds.

Our paths in life are parts of a large scale Game or Drama. The important thing about our paths is that we follow them with a good will. The central features of a good will are: First, to remember that there is a Director of the Game and to enjoy cooperating with him in the Game, and Second, to remember that Outside-the-Game we are all on much the same footing, so that we will treat each other in a fairer way, and with respect.

You may have read the first statement in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy in the words: Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (Chapter 6, verse 5.) And the second is in Leviticus 19:18: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. You will find these repeated by Jesus in the New Testament in Matthew's Gospel, Chapter 22, where he says that these are the two greatest commandments. If you prefer these stronger versions then I hope that you will at least agree that my weaker words are pointing in the right direction.

This might be a good time for you to pause and define your own thoughts to yourself about these rules of life.

After grasping these simple ideas you should be able to see the following quite easily. First of all, even if there is only one person playing with a very bad will then it can create havoc all around. One player in a band who goes his own way will soon throw everybody else out. Someone who has a poor skill but a good will is less of a problem because he will at least shut up when he is told to. One dictator with a thoroughly bad will can soon create so much injustice, resentment and agony that it will be difficult for others to keep a good will. A ruler with poor skill but a good will may make mistakes, but will be prepared to listen to advice and to correct them.

As a much more common example that comes my way I have many people whose problems are rooted in childhood. They have been treated badly in childhood by parents who had lost sight of the second truth, and treated them like objects and not fellow-players. In short they were not loved, or worse, they were physically or sexually abused. As a result they can grow up trying to control a body which is like a damaged or wrongly programmed super-robot. It requires a much higher degree of skill to keep going. Perhaps you have suffered a little from this yourself? It might be worth thinking about this a bit. How much of your suffering, and that of others that you know, are the result of somebody acting with a bad will, selfishly? And how much is the result of someone making a mistake as a result of a lack of some skill or knowledge?

Here is another thing to think about. It is usually the case that if you do anything with a good will then you will generally become more skilled as well. I think that this has led to a certain problem in many religious traditions. This is the path that is often followed: We have some people leading life with a good will; as a result they start to manage the skills of life better; they become happier; they have love to spare for others; they are generous with time and money; they act in ways which everybody can appreciate; they are called good.

But then people notice the behaviour and not the spirit behind it; they start making it a rule that you should behave in the way the good people do; you are called bad if you don't follow the rules; and good if you follow them; you are judged by your skill in keeping the rules; the entire religious side of life becomes dominated by the rules and the guilt that breaking them involves; the result is both a terrible burden on most people, and a neglect of the primary necessity for a good will. For those who read the Bible we can note that the Pharisees placed enormous value on skill in keeping the rules. Jesus condemned them, and instead placed all the value back on having a good will (like the Good Samaritan, for example.)

The next step is a reform, either from within, or by the creation of a fresh start outside; and this step usually involves a return back to the simple Truths that I have mentioned above: that having a good will to God and Man is the beginning and end of the path of life. I have met a lot of people who are suffering from having been brought up on the rules alone. Have you suffered in that way? Perhaps you know someone else who has?

Here is a particular example of this kind of mistake. It follows from my simple picture that a man of good will will often be setting time aside to step out of the Game to talk with the Director. This used to be called prayer. The man might use certain words and a certain posture or a certain place. Those who notice only the outward signs would then try to copy these details and set great store on getting them right. But in doing that it is possible to lose all sight of what it is really about. Prayer can then come to mean some formalised ritual which actually acts as a barrier to any real communication with the Director.

One area of life in which the present picture has a direct effect is death. The materialistic view of death is that it a massive and irreversible dysfunction of the complex electrical and biochemical organisations of the body. In simpler words, the machine has broken down and cannot be repaired. The end.

In the religious picture death is seen as: the machine, the super-robot, has broken down and cannot be repaired (or alternatively the scripted role does not go any further); attention returns to Outside-the-Game; the real person continues to exist there and can meet others in a real way.

Do you have any personal opinion on which view is closer to the truth?

Is this opinion based on personal experience? If so what?

Or is it based on something you believe because you have been told it or read about it. If so, whose experience are you believing?

Now I am going to tell you some of my experiences. Of course they are nothing like as valuable as your own experiences, because you don't know me well enough to judge if I can be misled. But they may help you to think about your own experiences.

As you know, as a part of my work I am often helping people to enter into trancelike states. One lady with a good ability to visualise things was taking an inner journey one day. It had led her to a large country house. Upstairs there was a lovely four-poster bed. When she lay on it there was a face painted on the ceiling which caught her attention. We took up this path again the following week, by which time the face had become a real person. This person was my client's aunt, also her Godmother, who had died of cancer when my client was a small girl. They had not seen much of each other in this life. The clever therapist in me thought, "This could be a useful image. I will encourage it to provide comfort for my client." But would she? No. For a long time all the aunt did was to sit on the bed and ask questions about her sister, my client's mother. It was exactly as if she had been out of touch and wanted to catch up on all the news. However the relationship was a close and loving one and improved my client's well-being greatly. Even more interestingly, for me, the aunt later took her Godchild on a walk back through the scenes of her childhood. In particular there was one traumatic incident, which I as a therapist recognised as having a strong bearing on her central problem. And the remembering of that incident produced a dramatic improvement. I was very much inclined to think that the Godmother was a better therapist than I was!

Speaking to the skeptics in my audience: I am aware that this experience could be interpreted as a creation of my client's subconscious. And in a gentle way I tested this. But the image and personality did not respond to suggestion in the way things coming from the subconscious usually do. And it is important to remember that the child had fairly little in the way of memories to construct an entire personality from. But I know that my experience will not change your views.

An alternative picture of what was happening was this. The particular trance state that my client entered can be seen as removing her attention enough from the Game of Life, so that she was able to be aware of somebody Outside-the-Game, somebody who has always loved her, and who, when she was in the Game, had acted the role of her Aunt and Godmother.

That incident was the first time that I had any personal experience of this kinds of thing. But since then I have come across similar things several times. Here is another example. This was a young man still in his teens who had been suffering panic attacks for a couple of years. He had been having various treatments, but he was getting worse. He had reached the point where he was unable to leave the house by himself. No reason had ever been suggested for this behaviour. He had always been a happy boy, from a happy home. He had enjoyed playing music in bands and also the church organ, in which he took after his grandfather who had died a few years previously. But now his panics were preventing him from doing much of either of these. And he would certainly not be able to get a job.

Now this is the unconventional way in which he became free from his problem. After finding out some more about the background I said, abruptly, "I am going to put you in touch with your grandfather." He immediately entered a panic state, which confirmed my hunch that this was the focus of the problem. Later, when he had accepted the idea and was calmer I led him down an inner path, by way of first hearing his grandfather playing the organ, to being aware of his presence in other ways. With his eyes closed he could easily see and hear his grandfather. And really that was all that was needed. He started to improve rapidly in all other ways, and not long afterwards got a job. He continues to enjoy his music.

In this case the client had been very close to his grandfather when he was alive, because they had spent most Saturdays together ever since he was a child, so they shared more than the organ together. So you can choose between the two following pictures. The first is that he had in his subconscious an internalised perception of his grandfather; the death of the grandfather led to an insecurity in life; the insecurity bred panic; I merely resurrected the internal image in his memory; but this was enough to make him feel secure; the panic vanished

. The second picture is that his grandfather was attempting to talk to him from Outside-the-Game; this very strange experience frightened him; once he learned that it is OK to talk with his grandfather it became a natural experience and the fear went.

Which picture do you favour, and why?

It would be interesting for you to discuss this kind of thing with friends. I find that very large numbers of people have had some strange experience after the death of someone close. But in many circles today it does not seem very respectable to talk about such things. You would feel very silly talking to your doctor about them. You fear that he would diagnose some mental problem. It has not always been so. For much of the history of mankind it has been easily accepted that not everyone who has just left the Game gives up all interest in those left. And that loved ones may still want to help you from Outside-the-Game if you will let them. So you could have a chat with those in your circle and see what you find. Then see how many of these facts you can fit into the picture which attributes it to some psychological function in the subconscious, and how many into the picture I am suggesting here. You can start here with any experiences of your own.

If you want to throw your net wider you can read some books of other people's experiences. One particularly interesting area is reports of near death experiences. These are accounts from people who in accident, or operating theatre, get very near to death, but return. There is a similar path in most of these: a feeling of moving out of the body; often along a tunnel; a sense of light; of peace; then there are other presences, helping; often there is one overwhelmingly loving presence; then there is the sense of being told that they are to return this time; and the feeling of returning to the body. You can read the books and judge for yourself. In the present picture you would say that they moved to Outside-the-Game, where they met some of the other players, but for reasons which are only clear Out there, it was best that they return to Within-the-Game for a while.

There is a great deal more that I could write and conjecture about this, but I would rather leave a lot of open ends for you to think about yourself.

There are just a few important things for me add about the ideas themselves. First of all I want to demolish a No Entry sign which prevents many people following any Head path which leads this way. This sign says something like "Science has proved that this is nonsense." Scientists have proved no such thing. We have largely ignored the whole area for a hundred years, but this scarcely proves that it does not exist. The advances of science, which are great, have come from accepting the facts of experience and trying to understand them. I am asking you all the time to judge what I say in the light of your own experience because this is the scientific spirit. Over the last few centuries we have made enormous advances in understanding those facts that can be measured with physical instruments. But there are many other facts of life, such as love and beauty, which are real but unmeasurable.

Newton, that giant among scientists, said, "I do not know what I appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy, playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now or then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." It is my guess that all the facts that technological science have fitted into theories are just more of the pebbles. Beyond this seashore Game there is a vast Ocean of truth that this chapter just points to. Remember that men always think that they know a great deal more than they really do.

I would also like to remind you that the picture I have given in this chapter is only a picture. It is useful to help you to think, just as Sarah Belham is. It is an analogy, because without analogies at all levels we would scarcely be able to think at all. It is not supposed to be a complete and detailed model. It inevitably leaves an enormous amount out.

I was once giving a Seminar at Dundee University about the transonic flow over the tip of a high speed helicopter blade. As part of my presentation I had projected a transparency of a rough sketch of a helicopter I had drawn. A Professor in the audience joked, "I know what that is, it is a helicopter." To which I replied, with a smile, "No, it is not. A helicopter is a massive thing of metal, much too big and expensive to bring into this room. This is just a cartoon of a helicopter." In this chapter we just have a cartoon of Heaven. But even a cartoon can be better than nothing.


Either this life is all, or it is not.

Those who have explored the second possibility come to the conclusion that this life is something like a Game or Play into which we enter for a while from another level or reality to which we return.

They also come with the message that at that other level it is the will with which we act or play and not the skill , that is valued and certainly not the wealth, looks or other props.

I suggest that following a path in life based on these very simple ideas leads someone to be happier in themselves and and more likeable top

Chapter 9. Defensive Paths

This chapter has to do with the way we relate to each other. You should find that it will help you to understand in a new way the strange, difficult or unpleasant behaviour that other people often show. It could also help you to understand yourself better. And it is going to introduce you to what I will call the Defensive Persona.

What do I mean by the phrase A Defensive Persona ? In the Middle Ages there were in Europe men who, when in their own homes, surrounded by family and servants, were genial and courteous. But in time of war they would put on heavy suits of metal, concealing even their faces. To the outward eye there would be no similarity between this hard, shining, sword-wielding thing, and the laughing man in his bright soft clothes. He put on the armour to defend himself, of course. But what would happen if, when the battle was over, he was unable to get it off again?

Can you picture a cat sitting by the fireside? She is all soft contentment. She is totally relaxed and approachable, ready to be stroked or to purr. But see what happens if a strange dog enters the room. Instantly that soft creature becomes a taut bundle of muscles, with claws extended, teeth snarling, hair on end, eyes glaring, nerves on hair-triggers, snarling and hissing. It is almost impossible to recognise the same creature. She acts in this way to defend herself, of course, but what would happen if, when the dog left, she were unable to relax again?

These two pictures will have given you a good idea of what I mean by a Defensive Persona. When any person or animal feels threatened then he, she or it will start behaving in quite a new way. And this behaviour will often seem to have nothing in common with the behaviour at other times. The whole path of thoughts, feelings, behaviour and appearance which a person follows when they are feeling threatened is what I mean by a Defensive Persona. Normally this behaviour is dropped when the danger has gone. But, as we shall see, if for some reason is stays permanently in place, then it leads to trouble.

There are many different kinds of Defensive Personae. One useful way for you to classify them is in terms of animal stereotypes. For example, consider the tortoise . When threatened it withdraws into its shell. And there are people like that, aren't there? When they feel attacked they withdraw inside, and refuse to say anything or do anything. Like the tortoise they will only open up again when the danger has disappeared. You can sometimes find this Persona in a hen-pecked husband. This is a common path: his wife would like some contact; she nags at him, "Stop reading that paper. Talk to me for once."; he puts down the paper; he feels more exposed and therefore threatened; he withdraws deeper into himself and says nothing; she is even more annoyed by his silence; she needles him, hoping to stir him into response; he feels more attacked; the tortoise withdraws still further into his shell. Only later, when he goes out for a drink with friends, and the threat disappears, does he come out of his shell again and becomes quite a different person. If his wife finds out, this only makes her more annoyed, and she takes it as a personal insult. Do you recognise this pattern? You may also call it the clam . Can you name anyone like that?

The hedgehog or porcupine also withdraws into itself, but in a much more prickly way. You do not get hurt by a tortoise's smooth shell. But if you start to prod a hedgehog you get some nasty pricks. Perhaps you know someone like that?

"(S)he is prickly," people say of them. If you get too close to them you will often find unexpectedly sharp and pointed remarks coming your way. It is surprising because most of the time this person can seem quite inoffensive. And the clue to the change is that you must have just said or done something which has made them feel threatened. The Defensive Persona emerges, all prickly and unapproachable. There is little that you can do except go away until (s)he unrolls again. If you try to unroll such a person forcibly, then you will suffer for it, as many a young fox, with spines in its nose, will testify.

The bear 's Defensive Persona is violent rage. (We will say of somebody, "He is like a bear with a sore head.") Notice again that a bear can be a gentle and inoffensive creature when it feels safe and able to get on with life without interference. It is only when it feels threatened in some way that the rage comes out. Do you know anyone whose Defensive Persona can be likened to a bear in a rage?

A similar Persona is the tigress particularly when defending her cubs. Her power is formidable and she knows no personal fear. Like the bear she acts on the principle that the best form of defence is attack. If you should be unfortunate enough to know anybody like this and incur her wrath, then you are unlikely to know what hit you. Although in civilised society she may not attack you physically, she will attack with all means in her power. Do you know any tigresses in life or on the screen?

At another extreme we have the rabbits . Their defence is to run to earth. And there are people like that. If they feel threatened they will make no defence they just try to run away. Once they are back at home they feel fine again. Notice that the difference between the tortoise and the rabbit, both of whom are quite unaggressive, is that the latter has a strong need to remove itself physically from the danger. Do you know any rabbits?

Here are some other pictures to add to your collection. The snake , if it feels under attack, will pour poison into you. And you may know someone who has the power to say really poisonous things, which hurt for a long time afterwards?

And what about the skunk ? The human equivalent might be someone who will slander you so effectively that people will stay well away from you as if you stank to high heaven. Can you name any skunks?

The dog. "His bark is worse than his bite." Usually you will find the dog making a great deal of noise, barking and growling, to give plenty of warning that it is feeling threatened. Only if you continue to approach in an aggressive way will it finally bite. In this way a dog is more civilised than the bear or tigress, who are not concerned to give any warning. Does this remind you of anyone?

I am not saying that this is an exhaustive list. Neither do you have to agree with the way I have described the animal stereotypes. What I have found that is that the use of these animal labels for Defensive Personae can help people to see what is happening in their relationships enormously. I usually ask them to choose the kind of animals themselves, according to their own ideas of their natures.

Problems often arise in marriages in which the partners have different defensive personalities. For an example suppose that a hedgehog is married to a sheep . (Sheep always like to come together in a close flock if attacked.) If they are under stress then the sheep wants the comfort of physical closeness, but the hedgehog is determinedly turning into a prickly ball. The sheep then feels rejected, because whenever she gets close she finds herself needled. You may wonder how they got together in the first place if they are so different. But remember that their non-defensive personalities were probably very pleasant and compatible.

You can also enjoy playing with these ideas as a party game. Identify the Defensive Persona used most often by the guests. Then, if you have that kind of party, you can act the roles out with more gusto. It is also fun to ask people to act out roles that do not come naturally to them. "Now, Sarah, you are a cat this time, and Bill is going to be a dog. You have just met in a strange house." And you see what happens.

The point of all I have said so far is to make clear one of the important Facts of Life, which is:


Or to put it another way:


Like many important truths this might seem obvious once it is written down. But if you meet someone who is being nasty, bad-tempered, irascible or sarcastic, how often do you bother to ask the question: "Is this behaviour only the result of feeling attacked?"

Turning to the animal analogy again. There are predatory animals. They enjoy hunting. A cat which is after a mouse is visibly a happy creature, and the behaviour is quite different from its defensive persona. It is because there are predatory animals that their prey have developed various defensive strategies. Now there are also predatory people. They will attack you because they want something from you. And you would be wise to defend yourself against them if possible. But if you think about it you should realise two things. One is that nowadays most of the predators you meet will be quite smooth operators, con-men or gold-diggers of one kind or another. They usually know better than to put you on the defensive. And the second thing is that you are mainly defending yourself against people who are unpleasant purely as a means of defending themselves. This kind of thing happens frequently in life and causes a lot of unnecessary distress.

For example let us follow the path of a honeymoon couple. It is their first breakfast together as man and wife: He remarks lightly, "This is the best morning-after feeling yet!"; she, feeling compared with other women, is inwardly threatened, and with an edge to her voice replies, "Oh? and who was second best then?"; he, reacting to the tone, and taken aback by the line the conversation is taking, snaps, "Well? And what about you and Bill then?"; this remark arouses her full defensive personality. From that point the path of the quarrel will depend on their respective Defensive Personae. She may run out, or weep, or become coldly sarcastic, or verbally angry or throw the coffee at him. He, in turn, may grow sullen or morose or violent or sarcastic and so on in reply.

You will notice that they both feel fully justified in defending themselves against the other's unjustified attacks. Notice also that there is no need to assume any deep Freudian, psychoanalytical or Transactional Analysis type basis for the problem. It is enough to see that neither recognised the de fensive nature of the other's response, and saw it as totally of fensive.

This might be a good time for you to reflect on your own experience. You might cast your mind back over some recent or vividly recalled quarrels. I wonder if it will fit into the pattern of the present chapter? You could try to write out the path of the quarrel, as I have done above. How did it start? How did you defend yourself? Is it possible that the other person was only defending herself or himself? What could have happened to arouse those feelings?

Much of the problem is caused by the fact that


Their function is to drive off an attack, to escape from a danger. These are some of the outward signs that can go with feeling attacked: anger, violence, frowns, grinding teeth, clenched fists, stony looks not to mention the various verbal responses. It is therefore only natural that they are interpreted as hostility. And that they produce a defensive response, which is in turn seen as hostile. And so the conflict escalates.

This path is followed at all levels of society and in all societies. Do you imagine that Al Capone, seen by others as an arch-gangster, saw himself as a villain? Towards the end of his life he is reported to have been very hurt at being attacked for what he saw as a life of "providing some of the lighter pleasures in life" to people.

At another level we can think about armies. How many nations see their armies as being anything but a Defence Force? But equally how many nations see other armies as anything but aggressive? Next I would like us to take a closer look as defensive paths, to help you to understand and recognise them better. I am going to begin at the level of Habit, which is to say the level of muscles and nerves, because this gives rise to behaviour which is easily seen from the outside. This behaviour varies from person to person.

Now it is easy to spot some of the obvious signs, such as shouting and banging things. But it is much more useful to spot the smaller signs, which give an early warning that a person is going onto the defensive in some way. Here are just some things for you to look out for: crossing of arms or legs, clenched fists, hunched shoulders, moving away, averting of the head, flaring nostrils, a change of colour - redder or whiter, a change of breathing - shallower in some Defensive Personae, and deeper in others; a change in speech - it may be higher pitched or faster, and some people become very voluble while others clam up altogether. There are also changes of activities that you can look out for. For example people often smoke or eat or drink as a way of reducing anxiety. So in some people these too are outward signs that the person is feeling defensive. You can also look out for the displacement activities. A displacement activity is something that an animal or person does which has no real purpose other than to discharge some of the nervous tension that it is finding in a situation. Common ones are nail-biting, pencil tapping, foot tapping and other fidgeting and moving about. But in social situations going to buy another drink or to help to wash up can also be displacement activities.

It is possible to buy books on what is called Body Language which may help you to notice and recognise some of these outward signs of inner feelings. If you do, it is important to realise that one gesture by itself can be very misleading. The same sign can mean quite different things in different people. When I was at the stage of trusting the books I often made mistakes. But if you look for whole sets of signs all pointing in the same direction then you will seldom misinterpret.

Here are very simple descriptions of two Defensive Personae. The first is a sitting posture, thumbs firmly grasped in fists, visible tension in the whole of the body, averted gaze, shallow breathing, sharpness of tone of voice and a desire for chocolate. The second involves an erect posture, legs apart, arms on hips, loud and challenging voice and a direct gaze. These actually come from the same person. You will see that the former is a very beleaguered defensive position, while the latter has the confidence of someone defending their own territory. But neither would be adopted unless there was some sense of being threatened. This illustrates the fact that a person can have more than one Defensive Persona.

For example a schoolboy may defend himself against the criticism of his teacher with sullenness, but if another boy attacks him he may fight furiously, while if a girl taunts him he may respond with a displacement activity: a display of bravado. Or again a woman may defend herself with bitchiness if her appearance is criticised, with fury if her child is threatened or with compulsive cleaning and tidying if she feels that the neighbours are not friendly.

But none of this is of much value to you unless it relates to people that you know. If you have the motivation it would be useful and fun to sit down with a friend at work, or with wife or husband, or in a small party, and start to collect Defensive Personae of people that you both know. I have given you two snapshots above. (Notice that these were not paths , because I was describing characteristics which were all present at the same time, not following one after the other.)

The above descriptions are mainly from the outside. When you come to describing your own Defensive Personae then there will be other symptoms to look out for as well, which you can include in your list. These would include headaches, an increased pulse rate, abdominal sensations of various kinds, such as "butterflies", nausea or pains, aching muscles, cold feet, trembling, sweating hands and so on.

There are a very large number of such responses. Most of them are there because they have been useful in some situation in our evolutionary history. There is nothing wrong with them in themselves. What is a very common problem though, is that the body's defensive response is inappropriate to the present situation. A tax demand is a piece of paper. It will often produce physical behaviour which would be very useful if a tax demand was a marauding Viking which could be met with rage, violence and bloodshed. But since it is only a piece of paper these feelings get no real outlet and lead only bottled up rage and impotence.

When you start to notice your own Defensive Personae, then you can note down any of the inner signs of defensiveness that go along with them. And of course, as well as the things I have mentioned above, there are the feelings. This brings us to the Heart level of defensiveness. Here there is one central feeling, which is: I AM UNDER ATTACK. Any behavioural path which is not accompanied by this feeling, coloured in some way, is not a defensive path.

The basic feeling I AM UNDER ATTACK is surrounded by a cloud a feelings which are generally combinations of a fairly simple number of components. If feelings were colours then we might picture anger as being red (red with rage), fear as being yellow (we call a coward yellow), and blue as frozen numbness (blue with cold). The red feeling of anger leads to aggressive behaviour the bear or tigress, the yellow feeling of fear leads to flight the rabbit, while the blue frozen feeling leads to immobility the clam or tortoise.

Then just as we can make up any of thousands of colours by mixing red, blue and yellow paints, so you can find thousands of different emotional states which are a mixture of the above. For example if you mix red and blue you get purple, and so you could see a state of frozen or bottled up anger as purple. If there is a mixture of red - a desire to fight, and yellow - a desire to run away, you get a state with a lot of tension and often a lot of displacement activity. It would correspond to a shade of orange. Mix yellow and blue and you get green. Mix fear with a frozen feeling and you can get a horrible sick fear. Finally if you mix the whole lot together then you get a dark brown or black. Such a confused state where there is no clear defensive path to follow will often lead to what would be called a black state of mind hopelessness or depression.

Now this classification by colours is a convenient shorthand way of describing the emotional colouring of the basic defensive emotion I AM UNDER ATTACK. Colours are soft-edged and flow into each other just like feelings, so there is nothing hard and fast about it. So you can say of somebody: He will usually go yellow, but if he is pressed too hard he can move towards the red. Or: When she goes red, she calms down quickly, but sometimes she will go into a blue state which lasts for a long time. To give yourself some practice you could think of some people that you know who are fairly clear examples of the main colours of emotions.

Now there are times when a person gets locked into an extreme Defensive Persona for a long time. (What happens if the knight cannot get his armour off?) In which case there can be trouble. And the troubles that people can get into often have clinical names. For example if the central feeling I AM UNDER ATTACK is felt as if other people are attacking, or are in a conspiracy to attack, then it can be labelled paranoia. I often feel that this is a bit unfair to the sufferer, because it must be said in his defence that in fact most people are, if not attacking him, at least disliking him. The reason for this is simple. It is because most Defensive Personae are unpleasant at least. If anyone is in a state of chronic defensiveness then it is likely that his every word and gesture will put people off him, and they will reply with their own defensive behaviours which he will, naturally, see as a further attack.

If someone is stuck in an extreme yellow state then, if they approach the medical profession, there is a good chance that they will be classified as suffering from an anxiety neurosis or something similar. Someone who is too long in the blue may be diagnosed as a depressive. Someone who is defending himself with a red state of anger is perhaps rather more likely to find himself ending up in court. But these extreme states are not of any everyday interest to most of us, and I mention them only as a warning that getting stuck in any defensive state can lead to problems. Let me repeat that a passing defensiveness can at times be necessary and a good thing. Defensiveness becomes a problem mainly when it is inappropriate or permanent .

Now one of the big reasons why a Defensive Persona can become too permanent lies at the Head level, which I want to discuss next. You will remember that when I was discussing Head paths, I mentioned the idea of NO ENTRY signs. Now I want to make a distinction. There are two kinds of NO ENTRY signs. Some are labelled DANGER and some are not. The ones labelled DANGER are the ones where you will feel fear if you were to go past them. For example, you may have an idea in your head, "I am not interested in sport/ballet/Russian." This functions as a NO ENTRY sign. If anyone wants you to think about that subject you will just not go along with them. It is not that you are frightened. It is just that you have decided not to go that way in life. You cannot, after all, follow every path. But there are many ideas we have which can prevent us from doing things because we are frightened. Most of these ideas can be expressed in the form IT IS DANGEROUS TO....... And here is a short list of things that some people feel to be dangerous:

...walk alone in the dark.

...get into debt.

...sleep with the windows closed

...sleep with the windows open.

...fly in an aeroplane.

...get cancer.

...get your head wet.

...not carry life insurance.

...walk under a ladder.

...eat without washing your hands.

...blush in public.

...be alone.

...be in a crowd.

...lose your job.

...go to prison.


The list is endless. There is almost nothing that you can think of that someone or other does not think of as being at least potentially dangerous. Now the above list mixes up things that you may think quite trivial with things that may seem to you very serious. But other people could see them quite differently. To help us to distinguish the seriousness of the warnings I would like to suggest a star system. A 5-star danger is the worst kind. A 1-star danger is just enough to make you feel noticeably uneasy. In a rough and ready way we then will be able to get an idea of how threatened a person will be in a day. You might be lucky and only have to cope with one 2-star and a couple of 1-star situations in a day. Or it could be that in your life you are faced with very many 5-star problems, together with a host of lesser ones. In the latter case it is necessary to be on the defensive so much of the time that there is a danger of it getting out of hand.

To get the feel for this you might like to go back and note against the above list of dangers the number of stars they represent in your own life. You could then go on to list the dangers in your life, which you might add to from time to time, as you notice things coming up in life. You don't need to bother to be too precise. This is only a rough and ready guide.

Here is an example of the way things can work. This man has the idea in his head that pains in the chest are a sign of a heart disease and that they are a 5-star danger. Now suppose that he feels threatened for any reason, and that this produces the common defensive posture which involves taking shallow breaths, straining from the top of the lungs. Since the ribcage is rigid at the top, this straining can easily start to cause aches and pains in the muscles and ligaments of the upper chest. This is immediately seen by the Head as a 5-star danger. The result is even greater fear, which makes the defensive response more pronounced, which in turn makes the pains worse, and there is soon a vicious circle set up. To get this man out of this state we require an authoritative doctor to state clearly, "You have NO heart disease. These chest pains have nothing to do with the heart. They are quite harmless and will fade away." In this way he can get rid of the problem on the Head path. If he can also get the patient to go for some energetic but enjoyable exercise which will start him breathing normally, take his mind off the worry, and make him feel life is worth living, then this will take his body and feelings out of their defensive modes as well, and improvement will be rapid. The entire problem was one in which he was locked into a particular Defensive state and did not know how to get out.

In fact a very large number of problems that come to me can be seen in this light, which is why I am devoting a whole chapter to the idea of a Defensive Persona. I have already given you some idea of how relationships can get very badly messed up by incompatible or hair-trigger Defensive Personae. Anxieties and panics are pretty obvious responses to feelings of being threatened. My job there is to find out what is making them either too intense or too frequent, and to bring them down to normal levels. (There will always be situations where it is healthy to be on the defensive.) Feelings of lack of confidence are usually associated with feeling threatened in some way in a social situation. And again it is common for a vicious circle to start: "I feel inadequate, others will despise me" (Head); At the Heart level this produces some Defensive feelings; at the Habit level this usually produces behaviour which is at best unobtrusive, but seldom attractive; the result is that people do indeed keep away; the Head is then confirmed in its judgment.

If the presented problem is blushing or stammering it is still clear that these are arising mainly out of a defensive feeling. And so very often the process is kept up by the Head saying, "This is a serious/dangerous problem." Very often, if we can get rid of this idea then the problem will disappear. For example, there was a client, a young man, who forever found himself mumbling whenever he felt nervous, in a social situation. And the more he did it the more he felt that people were noticing him, and so the worse it got. We solved this problem very quickly indeed. He was a bit of a comic in his circle, so it was easy to ask him to build into his comic repertoire a deliberate and exaggerated form of his mumble. This he did, and his problem disappeared. That was because he no longer felt that it was dangerous to mumble, because he knew that should he ever find himself doing it, he could always exaggerate it and get a laugh out of it. This removed the "It is dangerous," warning in his mind, and the defensiveness disappeared.

Some of the simpler sexual problems that come along are also based on a defensive response. It is common for a man to have the idea, "If I don't perform for at least x minutes at least y times a week, then I am a failure." Now there is also a biological rule that on the whole the more successful a man feels, the better his sexual performance. But conversely a man who feels a failure, for any reason , will find his performance waning. So you can see what happens. If he fails to live up to his idea then at once he becomes less capable, and so he starts to feel worse, and so on. Pretty soon he is locked into a very defensive attitude to sex, and this can begin to affect the relationship adversely, which will generally make the whole thing worse. Again my problem is to find the best way of getting him out of this downward spiralling path, onto an upward spiral.

Defensiveness is also involved very often in the very common problem of being overweight. I will mention just one mechanism which can be involved. This is an instinct, more noticeable in women, which is that if you are under attack it is best to put on weight, and to reduce the metabolic rate to make the best use of every calorie. You should be able to see why this was once of great advantage. If you go back a thousand years or so you will find that there were no freezers, and few other ways of storing food either. But at the same time serious famines were common, not to mention attacks from neighbouring tribes who might drive you off your land. Any woman who, when hard times came, was able to carry the maximum amount of food for herself and babies, would be at an enormous advantage, for she and they would be far more likely to survive. In those days the fat woman was likely to be the healthier one, and regarded as the most beautiful.

Now let us see what can happen, with that idea in mind. Take a woman who has inherited that biological instinct. (Not all have, which may seem unfair.) Place her in a difficult situation; she feels defensive; instinct then switches on the food-storing mechanisms; she gets fatter; at some point her Head starts to think, "I am getting dangerously fat."; this is then seen as another threat; this only makes the instinct stronger; so she goes on a diet; to the body this only seems a confirmation that the expected famine has arrived; it becomes even more economical with every calorie; each surplus calorie is turned into fat; because of the Head still saying, "This is bad/dangerous," she will become even more distressed; and the spiral path tightens.

Another mechanism, which may seem more familiar to you, which also involves a Defensive behaviour is the habit of using food for comfort. You then have the simple path, which has often been around since childhood: "I am feeling upset/threatened by life"; eat something sweet; feel comforted. You can see that anyone who follows this path often enough is going to put on weight. One way of tackling this sort of problem is to put a lot of effort into finding something else which is comforting, and then to establish a new path involving the new comfort. It might be a walk with the dog, or dancing or music, or making love. The choice is a very individual one. If you just try to put up a notice "It is dangerous to eat too much," then it may work for a bit. For a while you may feel upset; think about food; see the notice; then back off. But this is going to take you feel worse, more deprived and threatened. So one day an extra pressure will make you just too upset; you will start down the familiar path; see the notice; knock it down; and proceed to eat even more than before. You can see how futile the whole attempt has been. If on the other hand there is a notice that says, "Hungry between meals? You would enjoy a walk/talk etc.", and you get in the habit of following he new path, it can soon get to be automatic. Does this connect with anything in your life?

Smoking is another habit which can be tied in with Defensive paths. It is a very common pattern for people to need to smoke most when they are feeling under stress, or threatened by some problem or other. The chemical effect of the nicotine is then frequently to calm down the feelings. So if you simply take away the nicotine in such cases, then the ex-smoker has to find another way of coping with the feelings. If (s)he fails, then there is a much greater danger of a return to the old smoker's path.

Alcohol can also sometimes be used in the same way. If there is no other way of coping with the challenges of life, then an alcoholic will drink as his or her only defence. It deadens feelings for a while. And it kills for a while some of those notices at the Head level, "It is very bad/dangerous to ..." In quite a number of alcoholics I have met, the rules are very strict. When they are sober these people seem to be too good to be true. I have sometimes cured comparatively early states of alcoholism by simply softening one or two severe notices at the Head level. This made life seem much safer. It was no longer dangerous not to be a perfect wife, or never to be away from the phone. So the associated Defensive paths were never needed. And there was no need for the alcohol either.

Do you know anyone who is making life seem very dangerous to themselves by having a very strict set of rules in the Head?

Then there are the problems arising out of such events as divorces, bereavements and illnesses. These are very naturally seen as threatening. In divorce there is often a long period of accusation and counter-accusation while it is being settled. This can have a very bad effect on feelings of security and self-esteem, on top of the loss of a partner. A bereavement is less traumatic in that way. But it is final. Something vital has gone. It can lead to terrible feelings of loss. Life itself no longer seems secure. Everything seems threatened. A Defensive response at many levels is common.

Illness, especially in someone who is not used to it, can also be very threatening. Health had been taken for ranted. If it goes, then the deep security of a healthy body has gone. This can feel very threatening. An operation, even if successful, can leave the body feeling as deeply shaken as if it had been torn open by a wild animal. It feels threatened. I may have to work to restore a feeling of security after any of these events, if the Defensive reactions persist.

Can you think of anybody whose personality seems to have changed after one of those major events? Do you find that the change could be usefully seen as going into a Defensive state?

Another area is that of childhood trauma, abuse or rape. The child is often helpless to get away from such things. The best it can do is to change the way it thinks, feels or acts. It will do its best to defend itself against the pain. And the Defensive Persona it adopts will become a part of its adult personality, too. If your mother always rejected you it is easy to grow up unwilling to form a relationship with a woman because your defence was never to get close to one. If you father was always violent and your defence was to go into your shell, then you are likely to be stuck with the same Defensive Persona when anybody threatens you, even when you are grown up. One of the jobs of the therapist is to trace back inappropriate Defensive Paths to the time they started. (Do you remember what I said about tunnels buried paths?) Once the client can relive the original situations, recognise that the defence was appropriate then, but see that the situation is now different, then the problem is well on the way to being resolved.

You know the details of your own early life best. I wonder, if you think back, what situations can you recall that felt threatening in any way. How did you defend yourself at those times?

I have already touched on marital problems, but will mention it again in this list. Marital problems can be about a multitude of things. But always, at some point, one partner is putting pressure on he other to change; the pressure is felt as a threat; a Defensive Persona is adopted; this is in turn seen as threatening; the problem escalates. If you ever get involved in helping someone with a marital problem it is important to be aware of this. Each partner alone can seem totally reasonable, pleasant and justified. It is only when you see them, if possible, in the middle of a quarrel that you get the whole picture. That infuriating whining voice, that arrogant pointing finger, that sneer, that closed look. Little things that are not seen by their owner. But they are whip lashes to the partner. These Defensive Personae may not be the root of the problem, but they certainly get in the way of solving it.

Have you noticed this in your life? Can you think of a way of changing the way you quarrel? Some ways are: quarrel in front of a third person, do it in the bath, do it in the open air, do it in front of a mirror, record it and play it back later. How about you?

Finally on this list it is well worth mentioning that a very large number of illnesses are aggravated if not caused by a chronic state of defensiveness. One natural response that a body can have to attack is to withdraw circulation from the extremities and divert it to the more essential inner organs. This can lead to cold feet or hands. Again there is no problem unless this happens too often. Then it can lead to real circulation problems. And similar things can happen to all parts of the body. One client had had a pain in her collar bone for years. The doctors could find no cause and said that she would have to live with it. In fact it was noticeable to me that she was an extreme case of a person breathing from the top of her chest. This was putting so much strain on the bone that it was hurting. She was breathing in that way because she did not feel safe in this country. (She came from Italy.) Once I had helped her to overcome those deep fears, her breathing improved and the bone stopped hurting. Heart attacks and ulcers are just two of the more commonly recognised problems that can result from an over-frequent Defensive state.

There are many more examples, but there is not much point in simply listing them. Again, the useful thing is for you to ask yourself if any health problems that you have could be connected to feeling under threat in any way. You could also think about those close to you.

So far then I have discussed some of the ways in which Defensive Paths appear at the levels of Head, Heart, Habit and Health. That leaves Heaven. At this level the picture is fairly clear. You will remember that the important thing was to play the Game of Life with a good will. And that meant to play fair with the others, including the Director. Now let us see what happens if I adopt a Defensive Persona. This becomes like the suit of armour. It is all too likely to make me distrust everyone. I will want to go my own way. I will disobey the Director, or try to pretend He is not there. I will ignore or forget the fact that this is only a Game, and try to build security with money or power. I will ignore or forget the fact that in the end it is the relationships Outside-the-Game that are important. I will treat anybody and everybody as an enemy. My armour will defend me against love. Picture the Knight returned home after the Crusades to lie beside his Lady, in a soft bed. But he can no longer remove his armour!

You may have heard that Jesus said things like, "If a man hits you on the one cheek, turn the other to him also." This seems a strange thing to say, from a worldly point of view. But suppose I put it in other words: "If you always defend yourself against the other person you are in danger of locking yourself into an impenetrable armour." Does this make more sense, after reading this chapter?

Even at a spiritual level it would appear that we do need to defend ourselves at times. Those who are far ahead of me on those paths talk of rejecting evil influences. So how do we manage to walk a path where on the one side we seem to be told not to defend ourselves against people, and on the other hand we are told we must defend ourselves against evil?

You would hardly expect me to give a complete answer to this in a few paragraphs. But here are a few thoughts which might help you. Suppose a small child is having a tantrum and manages to pick up something sharp. And picture the situation in which it is trying to hit you with that object. Should you defend yourself? I would think that the answer is clearly "yes", you should remove the object from the child. But equally clearly you should not adopt a powerful Defensive Persona and act as if the child is a murderer. Would you agree? If so, then, you may agree that a simple common sense precaution is right. The thing to be avoided is a response which throws any goodwill out of the window.

When it comes to resisting real evil, then you might like to think along the following lines. The essence and root of evil is the loss of good will and the Two Recollections (love God; love others). If in my attempt to fight what I think of as evil I lose these things, then I have lost the fight. But if I can resist the spread of evil without loss of these things, then I have won a small victory. Would you like to comment?

One of the world's great religious books is the Bhagavad Gita, which comes from India. In a translation that I have, there are the words, "Be free from vain hopes and selfish thoughts, and with inner peace fight thou thy fight. Those who ever follow my doctrine and who have faith, and have a good will, find through pure work their freedom." The message here and throughout the Gita is that we have a Path to follow. And what matters is how we follow it. With an inner peace. With faith. With a good will. Free from fear. With mind set on the Supreme.

This message is the same as the one you find in the Gospels. Jesus is never recorded as telling a soldier not to fight. He was always concerned with the question of how to lead life. For him the most important thing was that we should be always seeking what He called "the Kingdom of Heaven, which is within you." In the language of this book: pay attention to your real life in the Outside-the-Game, you will find it within yourself. For Jesus, and for most of those who have gone far along the Heavenly Paths the message comes through time and time again, in many different languages and many different words: Do not do things or think things which will build permanent barriers between yourself and others, or between you and God. That is the downward path. If you follow it you will end up in a private world, in which there is nothing but your own fears. If Love comes and knocks on the door, it will be heard as thunder. The Loving voice, asking you to open the door, will sound like Threat and Anger. The Loving hand on the latch will be resisted with all your strength, as if it is the greatest Evil. This, in the end, is Hell.

I wonder if you know anybody who is in the process of building their own Hell? The walls of Hell are built with fears. Do you know people who are so frightened of being hurt that they are always defending themselves against others? They are unable to accept help of any kind? They may be using cynicism or sarcasm as an armour for the mind? Or they have decided never to trust anybody? Or to listen to anybody? There are so many ways. Can you think of some?

You do not need to accept the picture of Life-as-a-Game to see that chronic defensiveness can lead to all these problems that I have mentioned. What I would like to have done is to have drawn your attention to its potential dangers, and how it can crop up in all sorts of places. I would like you to be able to recognise it in your own life, and those around you.

When Benjamin Franklin was still a young man he suddenly became aware that he had many faults. Now he might have become defensive about them and said things like, "Well, nobody is perfect," "So-and-so is like that and it hasn't stopped him," "It is too late to change now" and so on. But he did not. He made a list of them. Then he devoted a few weeks to overcoming each thing on his list, as far as he was able.

This chapter may have helped you to recognise, as the various levels, Defensiveness in your self. Defensiveness that you had not thought about. It has been controlling you and not you controlling it. And behind every Defensive response there is a Fear. You might think of copying Franklin to the extent of writing down a list of Defensive Characteristics that you have at the end of this chapter. And then spend a few weeks on each one, to try to overcome the Fear, and regain control of the Defensiveness. Be free to remove your armour. Does this sound like a good idea?

In the next chapter I will be discussing in much greater detail the fear which underlies the Defensive Persona, and how to cope with it, which should help you with the task.


Chapter 10. Fear Paths

In the last chapter I gave some idea of the many problems that can result if a Defensive Persona gets fixed. Now each Defensive Persona is only there as a result of some Fear. If there was no Fear, there would be no need to feel Defensive. And so in this chapter we will be taking a closer look at Fear the feeling of being attacked, under threat. The Fear that is at the centre of all Defensive behaviour.

We are going to look closely at Fear, because it turns out that this is one of the most important steps on the path to be free from its power. As you know, there used to be the idea that the ostrich, when threatened, would bury its head in the sand. Because it could not then see any danger, the story went, it felt that it had removed the danger. You can add this to the list of animal stereotypes if you like. Do you know any ostriches?

Now there may be times when this is a useful defence against certain dangers. If I have to walk a narrow plank high above the ground, then it is best to shut out of the mind any sense of the height, for example. But this defence seems to be generally the worst one if you use it against Fear itself. Fear has to be looked in the eye.


This rule is a very good guide on your path through life. In the last chapter we saw many of the outward signs which show that there is Fear inside somewhere. We also saw the ways in which the fear can be coloured. That chapter will help you to Find Fear, to recognise its presence and nature. Now this chapter is about how to deal with it.

Let me mention a case. A young man came to me because he was starting to have sudden and terrifying panic attacks. They would come right out of the blue, seemingly for no reason at all. Naturally they made him feel extremely frightened in the times in between. Was he going mad? Was there a brain disease? People can start to imagine all sorts of things. He was starting to be frightened of recurrences, which only made things worse, because he had no way of stopping them.

This is a particularly clear case of something which is common to many problems of persistent Defensiveness, which is Fear of Fear itself. We had to stop him becoming frightened of the Fear that overwhelmed him in that sudden way. If we had not, then he could easily have followed a path trodden by too many millions, of becoming incapacitated by anxiety or addicted to tranquillisers. So how did we do it? Well he did it himself. I only advised. He was brave enough to FACE FEAR. I asked him to go away and determinedly bring on a panic attack so that he could look at it. He did. It took him longer than he expected. It lasted about 5 minutes, and was not quite as bad as he had imagined. I said, "Very good! Now take a day or two off, and then try again." He did so. This time it was much harder work to FIND FEAR. But he managed it, and FACED it. It lasted little more than a minute this time, and was even less troubling. "Very good! You can take a few days off again, to give any anxiety a chance to build up, and then do it again." He did so. That time it took him the best part of a day to FIND FEAR. And when it came it was a miserable little thing that he could look in the face with scorn. He has never had a panic attack since.

What I would like this example to help you to see is the difference between being frightened of something, and being frightened of Fear itself. This is a very important difference, and to help to remind you of it I am using a capital letter when I am talking about Fear itself, but a small letter for a fear, when talking about a fear of public speaking etc. Do you see the difference? This young man was becoming frightened of Fear itself. Can you see that this is bound to lead to a vicious circle? For if you are frightened of Fear, you naturally create more Fear, which in turn makes you more frightened and so on. If I am only frightened of something dogs, or rats, or flying then usually the fear does not feed on itself.

Have you been in a hall with a poorly adjusted loudspeaker system which has started to screech? A slight noise in the microphone is amplified and comes out of the speakers. This sound is in turn picked up by the microphone and amplified again. It is usually the high notes that get picked out. And soon the hall is filled with a high pitched screech. The sound is going around in circles from mike to speakers, and from speakers to mike. Only the limits of the equipment prevent it from getting loud enough to break your ear drums. This screeching will continue forever if nothing is done about it. Can you see the circular path here? This is technically called a positive feedback loop. Being frightened of Fear gives a positive feedback loop of the strongest kind.

Here are some other ways of looking at it. It may start with the Heart being aroused to fear by something. It sends messages to the Head. The Head, instead of attending to the danger, sees the signals themselves as dangerous. It may attempt to block or smash the signals, but in doing so arouses the Heart to greater levels of Fear.

Perhaps you would like to picture the Heart as a Boy and the Head as a Man. Suppose that the Boy is frightened of something. And that the Man, angered by the display of fear, shouts at him or beats him. This will generally make the Boy even more frightened of life. The Man will see him cowering or angry or crying more and more often. He will get more and more angry. The Boy will get more and more afraid. Can you see the positive feedback loop?

Or we can remember the river picture of feelings, and look at a flood of Fear. If we allow this to flow, just watching or facing it, it will go away. But suppose we get frightened of it and try to dam it. The water level rises. When it breaks down the dam we will have an even greater flood of Fear. So we set to work to build an even higher dam against the next flood. Inevitably, and perhaps at a quiet moment, the dam will break. This gives the unexpected panic attack that the young man had. If we had allowed him to continue as he had been doing, he would soon be using all his internal energies to erect larger and larger dams, which would cause larger and larger floods of fear. What I said in effect was, "Don't bother with building dams. Practice demolishing them. You will find that you will then stop getting dangerous floods of Fear." Does this picture seem right to you?

When you read this book a second time you will notice a number of other examples of positive feedback loops involving Fear in earlier chapters. For example in the chapter on Health we saw how Fear would tend both to delay healing and to intensify pain. But delay and pain both tend to increase Fear, and so we have a vicious circle. The removal of Fear breaks the circle and makes it possible for healing to proceed.

Here is another example: Insomnia. The typical insomniac has a Head path that runs, "It is dangerous for me not to get enough sleep." He does not question that idea. It is an article of faith. Now it is generally a rule that Fear arouses the body and, except in very rare cases, makes you tense and alert, rather than relaxed and sleepy. Agreed? . So we get this path which is a loop: for some reason sleep is delayed; the thought enters the Head, "I must get to sleep"; the increased anxiety arouses the body and brain; sleep is further delayed; the Head starts sending more and more urgent messages, "I really must get to sleep, it is getting dangerously late"; the whole body is aroused to greater and greater levels of anxiety and fear. This positive feedback loop will continue for much of the night. Finally sheer exhaustion will force the mind and body into an uneasy sleep. The next day is dreadful. This is mostly a result of the stress of the night before, rather than loss of sleep. If the sleep had been lost because of a wonderful party there would be little problem. But the result is that the Head becomes even more convinced of the DANGER of not having enough sleep. So the scene is set for another bad night. This gives more positive feedback.

Erickson would generally break the vicious circles of the insomniac in this way. "So you can't get off to sleep? Well, that is fine. It gives you a great opportunity to catch up on the reading / cleaning / letter writing / exercising that you have been telling me that you have no time to do. So if you are not asleep in five minutes just get up and do an hour of that." In nine cases out of ten this is enough to break the circle. Can you see why? It is because the sign in the Head that says, "Not going to sleep is a DANGER," is replaced by one which says, "Not going to sleep is an OPPORTUNITY." This removes much of the Fear from the loop. If, in addition, the suggested activity is rather tedious, then the thought of doing it leads to feelings of reluctance and then to tiredness. And sleep then comes quite easily.

In fact this book that you are reading is a result of my using a reduction in the hours I was sleeping. For no obvious reason I started to wake up an hour earlier. If I ad stuck to a Head rule saying "It is dangerous to sleep less than eight hours", then I would by now probably be hooked on sleeping pills, and be in a bad way. Instead I thought I would use the time to do some writing. I have enjoyed it. I hope that you feel that it has benefited you, too.

Here is another case that came my way as I was writing this. This man works in a canteen. His body reacts to Fear with an attack of Diarrhoea. But the feeling of an impending attack fills him with fear. He is terrified of the embarrassment of everyone noticing and mocking him. This particular reaction goes back to a time when it happened in school. You can see what happens: he is in the canteen; he feels a slight urge to go to the toilet; at once he starts to get uneasy; he is the only one on duty and so he can't keep running away in the middle of cooking bacon and eggs; he starts to worry some more; the diarrhoea starts to increase; he gets more frightened of an uncontrollable mess; the pressure increases some more. Soon he can be spending all his time worrying about the fact that it might happen, which of course makes it more likely that it will happen. This is all very difficult for him, but just another example of the sort of problem that can arise when you start to fear some of the symptoms of fear, so that a positive feedback loop is created.

I would like to say a little about the word positive, in the phrase "Positive feedback loop". The way I have been using it is the original and correct way. But in some circles people would want to use the word negative, because I am talking about negative feelings. The thing to remember is that positive feedback leads to bigger and bigger effects. Negative feedback leads to smaller effects. The effects can be good or bad. For example, here is a case of beneficial positive feedback. Two strangers meet; one gives a slight smile; the other gives a slight smile back; the first is encouraged to make a light remark; the other replies with a friendly tone; the first opens up some more and talks about something deeper; the other replies. Can you see that this is a positive feedback loop, in which the friendliness increases every time? Of course we could equally have had a positive feedback loop in which an initial frown became amplified, though scowls, defensive remarks, angry remarks, shouts, violent gestures, blows to bloodshed.

You are getting positive feedback if the response encourages you to carry on in the same way. You are getting negative feedback if it discourages you from carrying on in the same way. If you have smiled then a returning smile gives positive feedback you smile some more. But a returning frown gives negative feedback it wipes out the smile. If you start with a frown, then another frown gives positive feedback: your frown will deepen. But if your frown is met by a smile then it is getting negative feedback: your frown will be wiped out. Does this make it clear what I mean by the words now?

We have taken time to look at positive feedback paths, because they are very important in life. It might be useful if you were to think of a few in your own experience.

I will now return to those paths involving Fear. A situation in which Fear is being amplified by some positive feedback is serious. It leads to chronic Defensiveness, and all the problems that can arise from it. And I have said the best thing to do it to recognise the presence of Fear, and then to Face it.

What does it mean, to Face it? I have given one example, of the young man who sought it out. In a milder form it can mean thinking something like this: "Now this is Fear that I am feeling. It is only a feeling. If I just watch it, it will flow away. Indeed if I encourage it along, it will flow away all the quicker. I can at least refuse to be frightened of such a natural emotion. There is nothing unnatural about Fear. People are experiencing it all the time. I have experienced it many times. It has always gone away."

It is then very useful to ask questions about it:

"How do I know I am frightened?

"What colour of Fear do I have? (See the last chapter.)

"What physical symptoms are there?

"Can I make them more intense?

"What kind of animal might feel fear in this way?

"What does Fear seem to make my body want to do?

All such questions are, you see, a facing of Fear itself. You have stopped running away from it. You have turned to face it. You have named it. And you have started to question it.

It can sometimes be useful for you to have some picture of Fear itself. Perhaps you could see a cowardly bully, the kind who loves to pick on weak and timid people, but who turns and runs the moment someone calls his bluff. Or as a mischievous imp. Or a spider that loves to lurk in dark corners, but scuttles away if approached. Or a lump of metal in the chest. Everyone seems to have their own best picture of such things. If you are one of those people fortunate enough to have a good Imagination, then it is well worth finding some concrete picture of Fear itself. It makes it easier to Face, if you can see it. What would be your choice?

Now it is a fact of life that directing attention in this positive sort of way to Fear itself will soon get it on the run. It might try to bluff you a little more at first, and grow larger for a short while. But in the end it is only a feeling, and will flow away.

One very useful way of turning your attention to Fear is the following. You need to become aware of how great it is, on a scale of 10. This is very important indeed from my point of view as a therapist, for I have no direct way of knowing how big someone's Fear is, and therefore no direct way of knowing if we are managing to improve things. A scale is therefore invaluable. But it is very important for the sufferer as well. Can you see why?

Here are some pictures which may help. Think of being a blind person trying to learn what it is to steer a car. You have no idea how near a side you are until you hit it. So all you will know is that you have either hit the right hand pavement (US: sidewalk) or the left, or are drifting towards one or the other, helplessly. You are unlikely ever to improve. But suppose you have someone in the car who keeps on telling you, "Four yards from left , two yards, three again,

four, four, three, four, five, five from right now, four, three, four again from right." Can you see that it would in time be possible to learn how to steer?

In the same way, if you become aware of how near total relaxation or total panic you are, the greater your chances of being able to steer a course confidently through life. There are times, don't forget, when some fear is appropriate. There are real dangers in life. Problems arise if Fear gets out of control, because it then feeds on itself, and leads to chronic fear or anxiety with the resulting dangers.

There is a general principle here. It is a thousand times easier to learn to control anything if you can recognise degrees of success or failure. Think of any subject you have done at school. Now imagine a teacher who "marked" every piece of work you did by either tearing it up or handing it back without comment. You would have no idea what you got wrong or right. You have no way of benefiting from what you have done. Agreed? What you need is more detailed information on what you have got right or wrong.

It is worth thinking about this general rule a bit. Is there any area of life which you feel to be out of control?

Is it possible that this could be improved if you had a better way of seeing how well or badly you are doing? This may not mean arranging a scale of ten. It might mean asking someone to comment on how you are doing. It may mean sitting down and asking yourself questions like, "well, how exactly am I going to measure success?" It could be worth pausing to think about this for a bit, to see how it applies to YOUR life in life.

Returning now to Fear, the following rule is very important. If you find yourself behaving Defensively or Fearfully, your first attention should be to the Fear itself. Only afterwards should you start to pay attention to the fear the thing feared. Can you see why this is best? The following path seems to be a common one. Suppose that I am frightened of something. If I start to think of the thing, then the Fear which it arouses creates a cautious, defensive frame of mind. I start to picture all sorts of ways out. And then to picture all sorts of calamities that could then result. Each of them arouses more Fear, and so fears spread and multiply.

Here is an imaginary example of the thing I mean. A man is worried about some large bill. "I can't pay it," he thinks. "What will that mean? A court appearance. Perhaps they will send me to prison. Then I will lose my job. How will my wife cope? Perhaps she will find someone else while I am inside. And what will happen to me in there? There are some pretty tough types in prison. Will they attack me? And I might catch any number of diseases Syphilis, for example. I wonder how I will know if I've got it? None of my friends and family will want to know me. I'll be a down and out. A penniless bum. God, what a wretched life! Why does it always happen to me?" And this man in half an hour can have presented twenty or thirty horrifying pictures, via his Imagination, to the Heart. Each of them is obviously highly frightening. There is no wonder that his level of Fear will rocket.

Contrast that little story with the following. He has just got the bill. He starts to moan to a friend, who says, "You're scared, aren't you?" "Who, Me?" "Yes, you're scared of that bill, I can see it in our eyes." "Like hell I am! Me, scared of a piece of paper? No way. Sure, I'll have to work a lot of overtime, and cut down some, but I'll beat it. You see if I don't!"

In this version his friend has directed his attention towards the Fear. Because he is man enough to resent the suggestion that he is a coward, he squares up to the Fear. Every word that he says, and everything that he does then acts to reduce the Fear.

But after paying attention to Fear, and recognising that it is the central problem, then it makes sense to face the cause of any fears also. What I mean by this is to start to think on the following sort of lines: This thing - hospital, swimming, debt or whatever - is causing me a lot of trouble. I am not going to stand for it. I am going to find some way to make it less of a nuisance. I am going to sit down and see if there is something I can do about it.

And these are some of the questions that you can ask yourself if you should have a fear to tackle. Thinking about these questions can give you answers which will help you in your situation.

Is there anyone I can talk to about it?

What exactly is it that is arousing Fear in me?

How much Fear, on a scale of 10, does this thing cause me?

What can I do which will reduce the Fear it causes me by one point?

Suppose someone else had this problem. What would I advise them to do?

Suppose I was paid a month's salary to solve this problem, what would I do?

These are just a few questions. There are many more which can be asked about a particular fear. the important thing is that they should help you to look the fear clearly in the face. I do this a lot with people. It is so very, very common for someone to have shied away from a fear for a long time. And I then calmly and patiently lead them towards talking about the fear, usually by asking questions. And the fear always turns out to be less of a problem than had been imagined. This works because my presence, and my attention, keeps any Fear well down on the scale. It is then safe to approach the thing feared, and look at it clearly. In many cases we do not need to do very much more. My clients can often find the solution to the problem which was causing all the anxiety, once it is faced fearlessly.

This principle of facing the fears is used in the common and simple technique known as Desensitisation, or Progressive Desensitisation. Suppose, for example, that someone has a severe fear of deep water, so that they can never even go near a swimming pool. And yet they want to swim. The path of Desensitisation is as follows: look at a picture of a pool; let the Fear arise; and then subside; repeat daily until the picture arouses no Fear; go and look briefly at the pool; let the Fear rise; and then subside; repeat for longer periods until being at the pool arouses no Fear; change into a swimming costume and walk around the pool; again let any Fear arise and subside until it no longer appears; sit on the pool side and dangle feet in the water, again until any Fear has subsided; continue step by step, with no hurry at all, and each time allowing any Fear to arise and fall before moving on to the next step; stand in shallow water; walk in shallow water; sit in shallow water; move to deeper water and back; float in shallow water; swim in shallow water; float into deeper water; swim into deeper water.

Provided that the person has the determination to beat the Fear, and the patience and lack of selfconsciousness to follow this path, which may take a long time, then (s)he can overcome the fear. It can be greatly helped by having someone at hand to give support and encouragement, of course.

Some fears, such as the fear of flying, cannot be easily broken up into small steps like this. You either take the flight or you don't. You can't get out after take off. In cases like that the Imagination can be used to fill in some of the steps in between. I will commonly take people into a light trance in which they can see and feel themselves vividly in the necessary situations. But the path is basically the same as above. It again means going step by step, taking the Fear out of each step before moving on to the next. The progress can be quicker using a trance, because it is then possible to give suggestions of confidence and freedom from Fear at the same time.

Perhaps you have heard of this method of Desensitisation? But perhaps you have thought of it as only being useful for people with obvious phobias.

Pause for a moment and think if there is any situation that makes you nervous or uneasy. I suppose that most of us have something in this category. If you have something that is best called an outright fear, then you can think of this as well.

The next thing to do is to find five to ten steps of increasing anxiety on the way to the full-blown situation. For example a shy person can be terrified of finding someone of the opposite sex, though they very much want to. We might think of the following steps for a young man: exchange a few words with a plain waitress or shop assistant; pay a compliment to one; exchange a few words with a girl at work; pay her a compliment; find out what she likes doing in her spare time; ask to her to do that once with him. The exact nature of the steps will depend a lot on the man, what he is able to do, and the things that he finds most frightening. But you will see the point. He is to arrange a series of steps, in an increasing order of anxiety: a path for him to progress along.

It is like crossing a river which is too wide to jump by means of a series of stepping stones.

It is like climbing a wall which is too high to clear at one leap by means of a series of steps up a ladder.

How about you? Would you like to take one of the things that you feel uneasy about and see if it can be broken down into a series of steps, which can be tackled one at a time?

Perhaps you will notice the importance of having an underlying idea of life as consisting of a path, a process, a series of steps. Some people limit themselves enormously by failing to realise this. They will think only of whether a person is rich or poor, they do not see the processes by which a poor person can become rich. If they think of becoming rich at all, it is only through some windfall, a legacy or a great gambling win. But this is not the most common path to wealth. Or they will think that the only way to learn to swim is to jump in the deep end. Or the only way to get married is to suddenly meet the perfect mate, and fall deeply in love and be instantly perfectly compatible. Or that you are either frightened of something or not, with nothing in between. So that the only way of losing a fear is suddenly. These sudden leaps can happen, but they are not common, and can never be relied upon. Does this paragraph make you think of anyone you know? Or of anything that YOU would be able to deal with better one step at a time?

Another important avenue to explore when you are dealing with fears is of early influences. There is an instinctive mechanism by which a child will feel frightened of something if it notices an adult feeling frightened of the same thing. You can probably see that such an instinct would once have had considerable survival value. If a child in stone-age days saw a parent start away from a snake or other danger and paid no attention, there would be a good chance that that child would die from snake bite before it grew up. Can you see how valuable this instinct would have been?

As a result of this we often find that a fear of mice, for example, will run in families. If the mother screams with fear at the sight of a mouse, then her child will be automatically conditioned to feel the same.

Incidentally this should suggest to you a way of teaching your child to be frightened of something that really is dangerous. Nowadays we rely a lot on giving children verbal instructions, often when they are at an age where it is not that effective. But if you can manage to act a convincing panic at the potential danger then it will often be more successful than a thousand words. You will at times find parents saying, "Don't do what I do, do what I say." But sadly the power of the instinct to copy the behaviour of an adult goes back further in time than speech, and is deeper and more potent than the power of speech.

So you could explore the possibility that some of your fears are rooted in your childhood days. It is often easier to get rid of them if you can find their origins. So, have you picked up any fears in this way, do you think?

Now I have told you quite a lot about Fear, and fears, and how to face them and overcome them. It is natural therefore that you will be thinking that they are Bad Things. I want to correct this impression. First of all I want you to reflect on the fact that most things in this world are neither good nor bad in themselves. Fire can be used to warm or to destroy. The invention of gears and pulleys made light of much backbreaking labour, it was also used in the torture chamber to break backs. Electricity has been used to make your life much easier, it also has been used by torturers and executioners. Sexual desire can bind a man and woman into a lifelong and deeply satisfying union, ut it can also lead to rape and prostitution.

So what of Fear? I have shown how it can lead to severe problems in life if it is inappropriate or chronic. But what of the positive side? From your point of view it is fortunate that other people have a natural fear of walking into your house and walking off with your possessions. Would you agree? It is also fortunate that they have a natural fear of accidents and death which makes them take care in driving along the road that they do not bump into you. Agreed? Very occasionally there arises a psychopath who has lost all sense of Fear, and combines it with a hostility which leads him to slaughter others with no restraint. Most of us would agree that it would have been better if he had retained his sense of Fear, even if he had lost his sense of compassion. Agreed?

I invite you to think in more detail of how life would be for you if everyone else were to lose all sense of Fear, while at the same time not being perfect in love and compassion. I think you will find that even if a society of such people existed, it would be inhuman.

Now turn to the other side of the picture. What advantages are there to you in having Fear? By what I have said above, it is in the interests of everyone else that you have some. But that will probably not influence you much. So I will ask you instead to remember what happens to those rare individuals who have no sense of pain. They die young of multiple injuries which they did not notice. I would suggest to you that since there really are dangerous things and people in life, some Fear is a natural and life-preserving emotion. If you lacked it then you would get into some really nasty situations. What do you feel?

I can go further than this and point out that many people actively seek out Fear. You may be one yourself. If not, then I want you to think about the fortunes that are spent buying spine-chilling books or watching horror movies. If a viewer were not frightened by the story, then (s)he would be disappointed. And then there are the white knuckle rides in amusement parks. They are designed to be frightening. My local one, in Lightwater Valley, recently opened a Rat Ride. This features an underground ride through rat-infested sewers. It can only attract people who want to find some Fear. And what of the world of sports? Rock-climbing, pot-holing, bob-sleigh riding and the like typically attract people because of the dangers, rather than in spite of them.

What is the difference between these Fears that people are actively seeking, and the ones I described in the first half of the Chapter, which were causing such problems?

I don't know how you see it, but here is how I do. I would like us to begin by looking at people on a roller coaster. The game is to try to tell, by looking at them, which of them will want to go on again. Some will be screaming but it is often very hard to tell whether they are screaming with excitement or fear. Most will be holding on very tightly but again this can be caused by excitement as well as fear. Some will be holding their breaths but again this can be as often a result of excitement as of fear. If you could inspect the state of their bodies you would find high levels of adrenaline which are produced by excitement or fear, and you would find sensations in the stomach area but again they could as easily be a result of excitement as of fear. Are you beginning to see that there is quite a narrow line between what we call Fear and what we call Excitement? In terms of the body's reactions they are almost indistinguishable. And yesterday I had a client who has got into panics about her driving test. When I asked her to feel the panic, she felt it and burst into tears. When I asked her to feel the joy she will have when she passes, she felt it and burst into tears. Her body reacted in exactly the same way. I could not tell the difference.

So what is the difference? In its simplest form I would suggest that if, in your mind, you are facing the experience, leaning into it or willing it, then it can be called Excitement. If, on the other hand, you are turning away from the experience, leaning back from it or wanting to escape, then it will be called Fear.

If the Head is saying, "This is Dangerous. I want to get off." then the feelings will be regarded as panic. If it is saying, "Whee! This is Fantastic. Give me more," then virtually the same sensations in the body will be regarded as Exhilaration.

With these ideas in mind we can begin to see why people look for Fear. They are like surfers looking for a giant wave because of the fantastic ride it can give. They look for a wave of Fear knowing that if they ride it with a good will then it will be extremely exciting. If there were no danger of a wipeout on the wave, then there would be no excitement. If there were no danger of losing control and falling into a sea of Fear, then there would be no exhilaration in facing the fear-filled experiences that I have mentioned. So all over the world there are people taking themselves to that knife edge. The game is to build up the sense of danger as high as it will go, so that the Fear that goes with it will also rise, but all the time to keep balanced and to lean forward into life. The great Fear is then felt as great Excitement and Exhilaration. For many this is one of the greatest rewards that this life has to offer.

Does what I have said harmonise with your own experience of life? You might name some people that you know who seem to court the Knife-Edge of Danger.

These people are making use of the feeling of Fear, and so they are not, at the deepest level, afraid of it.

There is a very strange consequence of this, which you may come upon in life. That is that many people are drawn in life towards the things that they fear most, and come to excel in them. Let us look at this path, and see how it goes. We will suppose, as an example, that there is a person who starts with an extra helping of a very natural fear of standing up in front of a crowd. Now suppose that this person also has the courage to face this fear, and begins to try to overcome it. (S)he may start by taking a small part in a school play, or by learning to tell jokes to a small group of friends, or by daring to sing or play an instrument at some occasion. Now before each small performance there will be a lot of "nerves", a lot of Fear. But provided that this is kept just on the right side of panic it generally leads to an improved performance . Other things being equal it is the performer or athlete who gets his or her whole body keyed up beforehand who will do the best. And the one who is most terrified of failure who will prepare hardest. There is therefore often the positive feedback of success, on top of the exhilaration of the performance once it has started. This acts as a spur to go further in the same direction, and to try again. The next attempt will be at a higher level, with higher levels of potential Fear. And so the path circles to higher and higher levels of success.

I would like you to bear this thought in mind the next time that you read some biographical details of successful people. There are other spurs to success of course, but you may look out for little telltale signs that a person has been using Fear. You will find millionaires who have never lost a terrible fear of poverty. No matter how much money they have, they cannot shake off the fear of the poverty they knew as children. You will find performers of all sorts who never lose the feeling before a performance that they are going to be too terrified to go on. I have found out from experience that the woman who looks like a fashion plate model on the outside, can feel on the inside as if she dare not face the world in the morning until she has spent two hours on her hair and face. And some of the most dominating and authoritative men have become like that because they have a deep fear that no-one will take them seriously, unless they take every opportunity to take control of every situation. I can also recognise the way that Fear has functioned in my own life. Would you like to know how? Well, for much of my early life I was nervous of people; frightened because I did not understand people. And my work is a facing of that fear. Because of it I have to try harder to listen and to understand. Because it tends to key me up I will tend to do better than I otherwise would. I recognise that this is making me increasingly effective in helping people, and so there is some general benefit.

Perhaps you would like to reflect on these ideas for a while. Think of some successful people you know. They may be perfect mothers, or perfect husbands, or be outstanding in some other way. Then start to wonder if they have become like that because of a deep fear which drove them to try harder in that way. It does not have to be the case, of course. But it does sometimes happen. And more often than you would expect.

Then you can reflect on your own life. If you look back over your path, can you see times when you have been driven to higher achievements in some area or other by Fear?

And can you think of some area where you would like to do better? And is there a fear of some kind that can be used , provided you are on top of it and not under it, to drive you forward?

All of these things that I have been saying about Fear should help to stop you feeling afraid of Fear, or its symptoms. If you can come to see that you can ride Fear and control it, then it can become like a great wave for the surfer, a mighty stallion for the rider, a high performance engine for the driver or a never-failing river of water to power mighty turbines. The greater the Fear that you feel, the more advantage you could get out of it, should you determine to control it.

Now that we have discussed Fear in some detail I will return to the subject of the Defensive Persona. You will probably notice that the Defensive Persona is usually adopted in response to some fear associated with other people. And it is even more true that chronic Defensiveness has to do with other people.

There are exceptions, of course. The hypochondriac can be locked into a cycle of fear involving the health of his or her own body, for example. But the fear of other people, in one form or another, is the most common of all fears, in my experience. And this is not too surprising when you think how deeply involved we are with others. I will therefore devote most of the rest of this chapter to aspects of our fear of people.

A very common one is the fear of criticism. "I will be blamed if I do such and such." Here the central fear is of something like guilt. If you have this fear, and are involved at home or at work in a relationship with someone who is generous with his or her advice (as they would see it) or criticism (as you see it) then you have the ready-made materials for a permanent Defensive Persona. Again you can think about this. First see if you know anyone who is suffering from an extreme form of this. Most people dislike criticism. But now look at the Defensive Personae of those around you with an eye to what is setting them off. Try to find someone for whom criticism, however mild, sets them off into their stereotyped Defensive Persona.

Next think about yourself. Notice how you respond the next time you are blamed for something. How do you defend yourself?

Another thing which can arouse fear is anger. Of course if someone is angry with you then they are probably blaming you for something. But it could be that you are only frightened of anger itself, and are able to handle calm criticism constructively. It is useful to know exactly the

triggers for Fear. There are also people who are frightened if they think that someone is blaming them for something, but keeping quiet about it. They would feel better if someone was shouting at them!. So, looking at yourself, how do you react to anger? What Persona do you adopt, and, on the scale of 1 to 10, how frightened does anger make you?

To play fair, I will give you my answers to the above questions. As a young man my fear would hit the roof 10 if I was shouted at. My response was what you might call the frightened fawn immobility. I would feel very tired. If I had carried it through I suppose the natural instinct would be to look dead, in the hope that the danger would pass by. My response to most criticism however, was different. It would generally arouse my Head to a very strongly reasoned case in my defence. Fear levels would probably be under 5. As I have grown older these patterns have changed. Anger directed at me is no longer likely to arouse Fear levels as high as 5. My response tends to be one of detachment, "I wonder why (s)he is going over the top like this? (S)he must have a lot of background tension in life. What a very dog-like Defensive Persona." And I will generally wait until the furore has died down before doing anything, and then take a calm line, rather as I would with a yapping dog. I have also moderated my automatic Head defence to criticism. It stopped me from learning a lot. I am now much more inclined to react to it with a "Tell me more" response. Instead of resisting, fighting, defending I will try to encourage. By asking a few questions, and listening carefully to the answer I will find out something important about how I appear to others. I know that I will not be able to please everybody all the time. Some may like my eyes brown, others may prefer them to be blue. I cannot do much about that, but I can learn to adapt my behaviour to make it easier for me to communicate or cooperate with others. (But of course I can still make mistakes!)

Then there is the very common fear of making a fool of yourself in public. This might not seem a terrible thing. But just today I have read a story in my local paper about a youth who has killed himself. And this was because he was being mocked at school for the way he behaved at a party the night before. There is a very strong instinct which makes for social conformity, which is stronger in some than others. Do you have a lot of it, I wonder?

In this day and age, where there are so many life styles and subcultures, I find myself frequently suggesting to people that they look for the people that they feel easy with, rather than try to conform to the standards of the people that they happen to be with. Does this remark have any bearing on your life?

Another fear in people is what they may call the fear of being hurt. If you have had the experience of loving and trusting someone, only to find that they let you down with a crash, then you will know this feeling. "You can't trust anyone." "People always let you down." This deep mistrust of close relationships is often well founded on actual experiences. It is obvious that some people are far luckier than others in this way. But it is also true that there is something about these fears which tends to bring about the very thing feared. This is how it works. Let us imagine a man who has some such distrust of people. As a result he behaves in a cautious, grudging way. This endears him to nobody, and arouses in many a desire to get the better of him. So every day he is getting a lot of little signs which confirm him in his judgment. A few years later he might meet a man who knows how to handle him. This man agrees with him totally, "No, you can't trust anybody. I quite agree. Don't even trust me. This deal is quite open and above board. We both stand to make a fortune from it from it. But you ask so and so about me. I want you to feel quite free to check me out. You are so right about not trusting people. I am the same. I know that you won't mind that I have had you checked out pretty thoroughly? And I found that you could be trusted up to the hilt, not like so many people. Your only fault is that you can be slow about grasping opportunity, so I'm told." Lulled by this spiel our man is taken in hook, line and sinker by the professional con man, who knows how to play on his caution and his greed and his pride. After going through the subsequent bankruptcy his conviction that you cannot trust anybody is of course a hundred times stronger.

This might be a good time to remind you of the general rule:


If you are afraid that your boyfriend will leave you, it is all too likely that you will behave in such a jealous, clinging way, or in such a pathetic, abject way, that he will soon get sick of you. The Defensive Persona you adopt in response to the fear of him leaving is seldom appealing. If you are afraid that people don't like you, then you are almost certain to behave in a Defensive way in company, which will in fact be unappealing, so people will not like you. If you are afraid of losing your job then you are more likely to be sacked in hard times than the man beside you who makes it known that he is looking for a better job. Your defensive behaviour, caused by the fear, is unlikely to look good in your superiors' eyes. Your colleague's confidence will tend to make Management want to hold on to him. If you are frightened of illness then, as we have seen, the very fear prevents the body healing itself as well as it might, and things get worse. If you are walking on a roof top, then the fear of falling is the thing which is most likely to make you fall. Do you see the pattern? But remember that this rule applies mainly to those cases where the fear is in control of you, and not you in control of the fear. Think of your own fears. Get someone to help you, if possible, and ask the question, "Are my fears controlling me, and getting me to act in ways which actually make it more likely that what I fear will happen?"

To end this chapter you might think about and list what it is in other people, or social situations that you fear. You could list people, or places, or types of people. This would then give you something to work on, and to apply some of the principles of the rest of the chapter to. I would also like to mention the two best selling books by Dale Carnegie, "How to stop worrying and start living", and "How to make friends and influence people." The former is full of useful little ways of disarming Fear, and the second will help with many fears of people. Not everyone likes their style, but their continuing popularity testifies to the real value that is in them.


Chapter 11. Hypnotherapy Paths

This chapter is in some ways different from all the rest. In them I am talking about things that happen to most of us a lot of the time. We are always following one path or another, thinking, feeling, using our imaginations, or doing things. Health and illness, defensive behaviour and fear are themes which are common enough in all out lives. There may be two opinions on the existence of a spiritual life but it has daily meaning to an enormous number of people. On the other hand very few people would say that Hypnosis has any part to play in their lives. Most people know little about it, and many are very sceptical about what they do know. I wonder if you could summarise your own feelings about it in a few phrases?

So why should I be writing about it? Well one answer is that I would be giving an unbalanced idea of my work if I left it out. On the other hand there may be people who, on learning that I do Hypnotherapy, will want to dismiss everything else I say because they have already decided that it is the province of charlatans. Naturally I would like the chance to explain to them a little more about what I am doing to give them a chance to revise their judgment. Then again I have used the light word "trance" in quite a few places earlier in the book, and it could be useful for you to know a bit more about what I mean by this. Finally I think that you will find that those features of the human mind which are involved in hypnosis are much more common in every day life than you may have realised. But if you want to you can regard this chapter as being a bit like an Appendix and skip it.

One of the problems about the word Hypnotism is that it conjures up in people's minds a certain kind of picture of a Hypnotist. He is a man. Would the word conjure up a woman to you? He has a forceful personality. Agreed? He has the power to subject other people's wills to his own. Is this part of your image? His eyes are bright and dominating. Do you picture this? He can bring people into a state where they will do all he says unquestioningly. If he clicks his fingers and says, "Do this," then it is done. That is the picture. Do you recognise it?

Now it seems to me that there are men who are rather like that. But I do not see them working either as stage hypnotists or as hypnotherapists. I see then as charismatic politicians, driving businessmen or military officers. Men at the top of whatever it is that they are doing. They can use authority or charm or naked force to get people to do what they say. The Newspaper Proprietor says, "You will publish a story on this!" and the Editors say, " Yes, Sir." The Movie Mogul says, "Get me Clark Gable for this movie!" And those around him say, "Great idea!! At once!" A Commanding Officer says, "Charge!" and men will move forward to their deaths. Do you recognise the kind of man I am describing?

I am not saying that such men are necessarily good or bad. Hitler was like that on the one hand, and there are few today who would regard him as an essentially good man, but you can probably name some men that you admire who are or were also like that. If you like the man you may say that he is a charismatic leader. If you don't you may call him despotic or dictatorial.

I would like you to think for a bit about why it is possible for some men to act effectively in this way. Why is it possible for them to get so many of us to do what they want? My ideas about it are as follows. You can see if they make sense to you. It seems that many if not most of us have an innate response which inclines us to obey those who seem to be higher than us in our society. Without this, discipline in schools would be virtually impossible. Without it an organised society would be extremely unlikely to evolve. Dogs have the same instinct and can be trained to work in groups and to obey a leader. Cats lack it. Some individuals are in this respect like cats. They are loners, and can seldom be made to join in or do anything that they do not choose to do. If everyone were like that then there would be no groups of us acting together. On the other hand there are far more who are more like dogs and are ready to respond to authority, to join in the pack or group, and to obey the highest individual in it. Among these there are, not surprisingly, those who are very responsive indeed. These are the people who leap to please the slightest whim of someone in authority. Perhaps you know someone like this?

And you may know someone who, catlike, does not recognise what authority is, and always walks his or her own path?

Now a man who has a desire or need to be in a position of dominance over others can usually find it easy to acquire a following of some of the people in whom the dog-like pattern of following the leader is particularly strong. They are drawn to him as moths to a candle, by the displays of authority he makes. There are various behaviours which will enhance the effect. He may use wealth, power, speed. He will be surrounded by an entourage. He may be unpredictable and free from many of the normal conventions. In anyone else his behaviour would often be called downright rude. He may make strong demands and display strong anger if they are not met. He will never confess to a mistake. He will be forceful and definite in all he says and does. There are a whole set of such behaviours, and naturally different selections are appropriate in different settings. The leader of a Democratic country needs to display different leadership qualities from hose needed to head a military dictatorship. The leader of a charismatic church, or a guru, must not behave like a leader of the Mafia. But unless they have some of the characteristics of leadership, unless they can somehow evoke in enough people the feeling that they are to be looked up to and followed or obeyed, then they will simply not be taken seriously. And people will ignore them. (Even a consultant surgeon will have his status underlined by his different clothes, his attendant doctors and nurses as he makes his rounds, his authoritative air, and at times, to his juniors, his arrogance.)

Now the key point here is that in all these cases the authority figure is narrowing the scope of his personality. He will only act or talk in a way which enhances his prestige. This will evoke a similar narrow matching personality in his followers. The narrower the attention the greater is his effect. He does not encourage thoughts which might suggest that he is, after all, just a normal man when he is not in public. That he has piles; was once a baby in his mother's arms; makes a lot of mistakes of all kinds; is selfish and egotistical; a pain in the neck to his wife: none of these things, which could easily be true, enhances his image of authority. And so they are, wherever possible, kept from the public.

Perhaps the starkest and strongest images we have of men in authority are the kings of earlier days. With no degrees in psychology they instinctively used all the most effective triggers to evoke the obedience response in their subjects. Magnificent displays of pomp and power. High thrones. Courtiers all around to obey their slightest whim. Even the worst king could, in these ways, evoke a slavish devotion in his subjects.

What has this got to do with Hypnotism? Well simply this. There are some Hypnotists who are basically trading on the same response, though in a much smaller way. The Hypnotist that we pictured at the beginning of this chapter will be trying his best to persuade his "subject" (notice the overtones of this word a ruler had subjects) to accept his authority and to do what he says. Nowadays you are unlikely to come across a Hypnotherapist who is using this effect in a blatant way. A stage Hypnotist, who needs rapid and dramatic responses, is much more likely to be taking a dominating approach. If you have ever seen one of these performances I would like you to ask yourself whether, even so, he ever achieved very much more than could be achieved by giving a good party in which everyone has had a lot to drink, and then are told to do silly or amusing things.

He will certainly never have the capacity to get someone to go to nearly certain death. Though this, as I have mentioned, can be produced by the intensive conditioning in an army to respond to orders.

Now let us think of some of the other ways in which people can enter a state where they will do anything that another person asks. Let us take a more pleasant one. Love. Here is a young person who has just fallen totally in love. No-one else exists except the loved one. All the lover can think about night or day, the sole focus of attention, is the beloved. Do you recognise this state? Of course it can be more intense in some than in others. There are some people who never seem to feel this, just as there are some people who never respond to authority. But for those who do it is usually accompanied by a desire to do whatever possible for the beloved. It will be done willingly and happily, no matter how far it leads the lover from her or his customary paths. If you love someone totally you will want to do everything they ask. If they love you totally then they will do all you ask. A seducer is one who cynically exploits this, and by acting in such a way as to evoke love in a woman, is then in a position to ask her for all he desires.

One case I came across recently went like this: This man knew how to be very attractive to women; he attracted my client; in the modern age she had no objection to sex indeed his great ability in bed was one of his attractions; she got to love him and her whole life started to revolve around him; that was when he let it out that he was a pimp, and had several women working for him in houses; it dawned on her that he wanted her to do this too; she was absolutely furious; but she ended up working for him; it did not make her happy.

The Hypnotist never has the power of that pimp or the common seducer. One reason I have for mentioning this is that there is in some people's minds the idea that a Hypnotist may use his "power" to seduce his female clients. Now, I am not saying that this is impossible, though it would be extremely difficult for him to prevent an unwilling subject from coming out of a trance the minute he started to make his licentious suggestions. What I am saying is that he would get further by taking the woman out to dinner, confessing himself to be irresistibly drawn to her beauty, and head over heels in love with her. Can you see this?

Another deep motive in many people is filial duty the feeling of obligation to care for and obey your parents. This, also, can be a good thing. But it can also be abused by parents who use it selfishly. Do you know cases where a daughter, or less often a son, has never had a life at all because they have been forced to look after a cantankerous and demanding older person, and obey their every whim?

No Hypnotist has that kind of power, because he is not in a position to elicit filial emotions towards himself.

There are many other desires as well that people can play on to get others to do what they want. The feelings of insecurity, or greed, or guilt, or ambition.... There are so many. And an astute salesman can use any of them to help sell you a product that you really do not want or cannot afford, as if against your will. Have you ever met one of these gentlemen, and come away secretly angry with yourself because he has somehow got you to do something that you would never have done if you were in your right mind? I have. It is not a matter of hypnosis. It is a matter of applied psychology. Salesmanship is the art of getting the customer to realise that your product is the answer to his or her desires. At the good end, it really is the answer. At the bad end you have been manipulated into believing that it is .

Now let us look at some of the things that can be achieved in the name of Hypnosis which seem to lie further from the realm of things which are normally possible. Let us take anaesthesia, for example. This is a state in which normal sensations of pain are removed. Many dentists are trained nowadays in these techniques, for the benefit of those patients who are frightened of, or perhaps allergic to, anaesthetics. Does it seem strange to you that it should be possible to remove sensations of pain without anaesthetics? Yet, if you think about it, can you not remember a time when, in the middle of some exciting activity you were injured in some way, but did not feel any pain until later? If you have no recollection of your own, then you could read some autobiographies of ex-soldiers, or some of the first person accounts of all manner of accidents in the Readers Digest. Time after time you will find accounts of maiming injuries: of a neck deeply wounded by a chain saw, of an arm being blown off, and the like but with there being no pain . I have read one account in which there was even a case of a boy with an iron stake through the heart from which he recovered: and even HE had no pain at the time!

This does not last for ever, but it underlines the fact that there are mechanisms in the brain to prevent consciousness being clouded by pain. Scientists believe they are on the rack of the mechanisms with the discovery of the endorphins and other pain suppressing chemicals in the brain. But what is important to us is simply the fact that the mechanisms are there.

So how does the hypnotist elicit the response? He does it by focussing attention. There are many ways of doing this. In the last century it was often the custom to make "passes" over the body. The hypnotist would run his hands repeatedly down the patient's body, without necessarily touching it. Nowadays it is more common to tap the power of the Imagination and to suggest to the patient pictures of a soft glove over a hand, for example, with the suggestion that it will take away the pain. It is at times even easier: I have done this by calling to mind a picture of an anaesthetic injection in the affected part. The feeling of pain will then go away. Any of these methods keep the attention on the area of interest, and will generally produce the required effect in time.

By and large the greater the motivation of the subject, and the greater the confidence in the initiator, the quicker the effect. But we are still talking about quite a long time compared with the effect of an anaesthetic. In the days before anaesthetics were discovered there was a period when hypnosis was used to induce total anaesthesia before major operations. This might take five hours of a skilled practitioner's time. It is the time and therefore the cost, together with the fact that not everyone responds, which makes chemical anaesthesia the first choice, and by far the most common today.

Let us take another phenomenon: amnesia for what has happened under hypnosis. Now no one can say that we do not have an ability to forget things. Indeed the most common complaint is that we forget things too easily. We forget most dreams within seconds, and vast chunks of our everyday experiences are never recalled. Most of us have sat through lessons or lectures or sermons at the end of which we would be lucky to remember one word. This natural ability to forget can be enhanced by suggestion, which is to say by concentrating the attention on the idea that what has been said will be very easy to forget, very hard to remember.

This is an everyday experience that you may recognise: you want to recall a name; but it does not come to memory; you try harder; it gets more elusive; you may think, "I will never remember it", or "I have a hopeless memory"; and these thoughts just make it worse; the more you try the worse it gets. Someone once said that every time you say to yourself, "I have a memory like a sieve," you punch another hole in it. In other words you can suggest to yourself quite easily that you will forget things. It should not surprise you then that a hypnotist who has your full attention can bring out the same ability.

Another little trick, that I have mentioned earlier in the book is that of "levitating" a finger, hand or arm. If you did the little experiment that I suggested then you will have experienced it in a small way. What is happening is based on the fact that there are two systems of nerves controlling your muscles, one set controls the normal voluntary movements, the ones that you decide to make in the usual quick way. But there is another set which is not normally under voluntary control. These will respond however to various stimuli. It is common, for example, for someone who is frightened to find that certain sets of muscles have tightened up involuntarily. At times this can get so bad that there seems to be no way of releasing them. You will have heard of the saying that a drowning man will clutch at a straw. In a desperate situation the muscles of the hand can indeed automatically clench on anything that seems to offer safety with a grip of incredible strength. Now what you may well have discovered for yourself is that if you present suitable pictures, via the Imagination, to the lower centres of your brain which handle this, autonomous, nervous system, hen it is possible to get it to respond appropriately. If the Hypnotist markets this phenomenon as indicating the power he has over the person, then it can feel quite impressive to the subject. This in turn can lead him or her to be more responsive to further suggestions. But in the end all that is happening is that a certain ability of the human body, which can arise spontaneously in certain circumstances, is being produced more or less deliberately by the concentration of attention on that feature.

I have now perhaps given enough examples for you to understand what I mean when I talk about Hypnosis. It is a broad collection of techniques which, by controlled focussing of attention, can be used to enhance functions or abilities which are naturally present in most of us.

By way of contrast I want you to notice that it is quite easy for many people to imagine themselves flying or floating through the air. But the human body cannot do this unaided. And so no amount of hypnotic suggestion can produce this effect in reality. Or again, there is a very amusing children's book called Woof by Alan Ahlberg. In it the boy hero finds himself turning unpredictably into a dog. It turns out in the end that the transformation is a result of the intense desire of his baby sister for a pet dog. It makes a very nice story. But since there are no natural mechanisms for making this sort of change, there is nothing for Hypnosis to activate, and so no amount of Hypnotic suggestion could turn a boy into a dog. If you think otherwise then all you have to do to convince me is to find a hypnotist who can do it.

There are natural mechanisms involved in healing and pain, thinking and feeling, anxiety and its relief, remembering and forgetting, resolving inner conflicts, coming to terms with tragedy, sleeping, eating, digesting, sex, breathing and so on. They are in daily use, or misuse. These are therefore all areas where the techniques which go under the broad heading of Hypnosis can be used.

There are also a number of trance-like states that people enter quite naturally. Have you ever said or been told, "You are miles away"? The person concerned will usually be quite still. The eyes are fixed and unblinking. Breathing will usually be shallow. There will often be a start of surprise when the state is broken into. During the time the person is in the state there is little or no awareness of anything around, or even physical discomfort. Afterwards there may be pins and needles or pains in the limbs if they have been held in an uncomfortable position. It may also be very difficult to recall what was going on in the mind while all that was happening. Do you recognise this state in yourself? If so perhaps you might like to think about what you are doing? Perhaps you have noticed others doing it? Who? When?

This kind of trance will be familiar to many teachers, for whom it is a sign that the pupil is no longer paying attention, and they therefore discourage it. There is another kind of open-eyed trance which can be found in class which is more desirable. In this state the pupil is again fairly motionless physically. There are no signs of restlessness. (S)he is again unaware of most of the world around, or of bodily sensations. But now the eyes are fixed on the teacher's face. Every so often there is a slight nod or smile of inner agreement. The attention is totally focussed on the teacher and every word is taken in as a thirsty man may drink water or baby its milk. Indeed it is not uncommon in this state for the lips to be slightly open as if "drinking in his every word."

You may also find a similar kind of open-eyed trance in lovers. "She only has eyes for him." You will have seen this any times, if not experienced it? There is total attention. And most of what is heard in this state is remembered and made a part of oneself.

In these states people are very open and receptive. What is heard in these states, whether it be the "you are beautiful" of the lovers or the "Jane Eyre is a work of genius," of the English class, is accepted unquestioningly. All critical faculties are set on one side.

Now any therapist who knows his job should be able to recognise these receptive states, and, gain if he knows his job, take advantage of them to introduce gently and naturally the new ideas which are necessary to help that person to change. If someone naturally enters this state then why bother to go through an elaborate or formalised Hypnotic Induction Procedure?

So I want you to see again that what I call Hypnosis is the production of states which happen quite commonly in life, but in a purposeful and directed way. Hypnotism cannot elicit any response that is not potentially there.

It is quite easy to allow a lot of people to drift into one of the open-eyed daydreaming trances that I mentioned first. The only difference from the everyday state is that the client is reporting quietly on the things being seen in the Imagination. The attention is all in this inner world. With just a little left over for me, so that I can ask a few gentle questions or make a few small helpful suggestions. This kind of trance is the one in which the exploration of inner landscapes is possible. I have spoken of these at greater length in the chapter on the Imagination. The daydream is the natural working of this faculty: the resolving of problems by forming pictures of them, and then playing with the pictures. The night dream is often doing a similar thing. Many schools of psychotherapy regard such dreaming activity as the world of the subconscious, and place value on knowing the meaning of each symbol in the dream. I find that the elements of dreams have quite different meanings for different people as I have mentioned before. Neither do I see any necessity to know consciously what each thing in the dream represent. The natural faculty has been working for millions of years before Freud lay in his cradle or suckled at his mother's breast. Think about this.

What is required by the person is the resolution of the problem represented by the images. And it is generally clear enough what the problem is in the picture, because of the feelings of distress which are felt about certain things. So my task as therapist is normally to provide the gentle hints, within the world of the imagery , which will allow the problem to be resolved more quickly and easily. I am enhancing a natural faculty, not creating a new one.

Here is another example. This young lady was in distress as a result of problems in her personal relationships. In an inner-world type of trance we looked at a house in the country which she conjured up to live in. It was fine. The main problem was that there was no porch and the door was left open. As a result anybody could enter and anything could blow in. You can see that the results will be unpleasant after a while. My gentle suggestions were that she should build a porch, turn away doubtful characters before they got any further, and not let anyone further than the living room until she knew them well.

This is common sense in the world of the images. It is not really necessary for me also to have realised that her problems with relationships were all caused by her becoming far too deeply involved with the men she met, far too quickly. She had little discrimination. And it naturally led to problems when they turned out not to be what she imagined them to be. Can you see how her behaviour in the outer world is imaged very well in the open-door house?

I would like to put in a little warning here. You will have noticed that I use words like gentle and small when dealing with the changes I introduce into such trances. This means that I will, in a quiet and totally non-compelling voice say things like, "I see, the room you are in is dark. Perhaps you would like there to be a window." Sometimes a window will then appear, sometimes not. But in either case they may remark on their feelings about it. All I have done is to draw attention to the absence of a window. Or I might wonder if there is any sign of life that I have not been told about. Awareness of this possibility might bring to their mind a dog or a person. And this will increase the richness and value of the pictures.

The warning is this. If someone starts to tamper with your inner world on a massive scale then it can lead to trouble, unless they are very skilled. Here is an example to illustrate what I mean. This young woman went to a Hypnotherapist with some emotional problems. He is a good therapist. He followed many textbook procedures. But she was an uncommonly sensitive subject. And she ended up worse than before. He used a standard induction routine in which suggestions of relaxation are accompanied by the repeated phrase "heavier and heavier". She was then of normal weight. She is now five stone heavier! He used an image of her riding up an escalator, and throwing off her problems, symbolised by bags of rubbish. But he failed to check if she was happy about it, or if she had got to the top. In fact she was still on it, and terrified, somewhere in the depths of her mind, years later. I had to help her off. He used forceful suggestions of confidence. hey had an effect. They made her behave and feel differently. They made her feel as if she was wearing a great heavy man's coat, and made her behave in a way that was quite unnatural for her. He suggested that she would have a mental shield which would protect her from people. She still had it years later, but it had cut her off from people. She felt imprisoned. She breathed an enormous happy smile of relief when we got a window open in it.

Now I must emphasise that this is a very exceptional case. Very few people are this suggestible. You might compare it with the occasional person who responds violently and adversely to antibiotics. By far the most common problem is the opposite a lack of response. But I want you to see that the basic error in this case was that the therapist imposed his own imagery instead of listening to the existing imagery and working with that. With this particular client I always spent 90% of the time listening. She slipped into open-eyed inner worlds very easily and naturally, so we could talk about the escalator or the coat as if they were really there.

I would suggest that the rule you should follow with therapists as with all other relationships is this. By all means walk a little way with the person. But if you start to find yourself getting uncomfortable, then you should call a halt, until you find out why. There may be more suitable companions or guides or doctors for you, after all. I certainly have no delusions that I am the best therapist for everybody. Though by the same token I will be the very best for some , and of little use to others. You may have already formed some idea of how you would relate to me? But remember that I can tailor what I say and the way I say it very much more to the individual when we meet face to face.

Do you remember the story of Procrustes? Legend had it that he offered hospitality to travellers who were benighted on their long journey. But the hospitality was of a particularly pressing kind. He only had one bed, but was determined that it should be the right size for each traveller. Consequently if the bed was too small for his guest he would trim his guest to size with a sword. On the other hand if the bed seemed too large, he would stretch his guest on the rack until the fit was exact. Needless to say, few travellers got far beyond his bed.

Now it seems to me that there are many "helpers" who are like this. They have an approach to healing which might be based on a certain range of drugs, or on spiritualism, or on a certain school of psychoanalysis, on acupuncture, or homeopathy or one of many other specialities. The thing about them I am thinking of is not whether they are highly qualified or not, but whether they are determined to fit the patient to the bed of their expertise, or adapt their expertise to the patient. I find in all schools of help dogmatic and unimaginative individuals who say, "Mine is the only way!" Do you recognise the people I mean? Perhaps you could name some? Now I would suggest to you that IF you find that they actually help, then their enormous confidence will help you still further. (Remember the Placebo Effect.) And then you could stick to them until you have a problem that they cannot help. (At that stage look out for the suggestion that somehow the fault is yours !: you do not have enough faith, or you cannot be helped until you lose weight or stop smoking or whatever.) Then you may look around for an alternative. This sounds like common sense to me. What do you think about it?

Returning now to Hypnotherapy. You probably know that the Hypno part of the word means sleep. What has sleep got to do with it, you may ask. Well, let us first say that with modern EEG machines, which can be used to monitor brain functions, it has been found conclusively that Hypnotic states are not the same as sleep. This was clear to common sense before. If someone is fast asleep then nothing that is said to him or her will have any effect. What the hypnotist says does have an effect. Therefore the subject cannot have been asleep, no matter how much it looks like it.

The word sleep is used because the subject will very often look asleep. How does someone look when asleep? If you see someone sitting or lying quite still, with eyes closed and breathing regularly, then you would normally take that to be sufficient evidence of sleep. Would you agree? Now you will find that it is a very common practice among Hypnotherapists to begin by going through some procedure which is aimed at getting the client in a very relaxed state So relaxed in fact that it looks like sleep, and on top of the signs I mentioned above there will also be other less obvious signs such as the cessation of the swallowing reflex. This is the reflex that causes us to swallow frequently when awake. It stops when asleep. Close inspection will also reveal smaller signs of absence of muscle tone in the face and neck muscles. You probably know how, if you are dropping off to sleep in a chair, there comes a point at which your head gives a sudden nod, as the neck muscles relax. The client's head will normally be supported, but it is still often possible to see when this point it passed.

Well there is really nothing very unusual about relaxing like this, for most people. So what is the point of it? Well, remember the chapter on defensiveness. When we want to resist anything; when we feel defensive; then the most common response is to tighten up. We may cross our arms, clench our teeth, tighten our fists, frown or tense one of a thousand muscles. The tightening is automatic. If I am with someone that I feel is trying to influence me against my will then I feel my face tightening into a mask, and my whole body becomes tense. I wonder if you would like to notice what you do in future and see if it is similar.

You may have heard of William James. He is sometimes called the Father of Psychology. I admire him greatly, and if you can cope with the elaborate Victorian syntax he uses I would recommend his book, The Principles of Psychology . In it he mentions what he found in himself, when thinking "no" about something. It was a certain tightening of muscles at the back of the throat. It is possible that these muscles first tightened when he was a baby and had had enough milk to drink, and had remained ever since as a part of his response to anything he did not want. (It would then be what I called a tunnel, a buried path at the level of Habit.) But whether or not that was the origin, it was a fact that his body did respond in that way.

Now I am suggesting that if he were in a state where he was so relaxed that his body was unable to make that muscular response, then he would be virtually unable to think "no". Unfortunately he is dead. Otherwise I am sure that he would be pleased to try the experiment. But since his day various "truth" drugs have been discovered. They work on the same principle. They induce a high degree of physical relaxation, and prevent muscles from tensing. As a result the person injected cannot tighten up in the way (s)he normally does when denying things, or when adopting a Defensive Persona. It is therefore harder to deny things or to resist answering questions. And the truth is more likely to come out. Does this make sense to you?

I should add that such truth drugs are not used much these days, as far as I know. The problem is that they are not that reliable in getting at the truth. One reason is that many people in a very relaxed state will simply feel a desire to tell the questioners what they think that they want to hear. And this may not be the truth.

Perhaps you can now begin to see why Hypnotherapists will often be aiming for a very relaxed state. It is a fairly reliable way in the greater number of clients of removing any Defensive Persona. There is likely to be far less resistance to any suggestion. It is therefore a very useful state provided of course that the Therapist has some idea how to use it, which is to say what paths need to be altered, and what suggestions should be made to effect the changes. Can you see this?

But now that I have drawn attention to this fact that a relaxed person is less Defensive and therefore more easily influenced, you should be able to see that this fact is used by many people very day. Take business lunches. Most people feel more relaxed after a good meal. This is a biological fact. So after lunch your business partner is likely to be less Defensive, more prepared to compromise and you are more likely to get the deal you want. (Of course, you should avoid giving meals to men with ulcers or severe indigestion, as it will have the reverse effect.)

Alcohol will often relax people also. Being relaxed they are often less Defensive. It is therefore often used to break the ice at gatherings; to make people more friendly than they would otherwise be. On the whole I would suggest that it is easier to get someone to agree with you after they have had a couple of drinks to relax them than otherwise. Would you agree? And I suppose that drinks are used for this purpose all over the world millions of times a day.

Laughter also relaxes. Many an expert speaker will start off with a few jokes. It helps the audience to relax. They become less Defensive, more receptive to what will be said. If you want to get your message over to the meeting or conference - and why else are you bothering? - then there is no use addressing a hostile audience whose hearts and minds are set against you. You have to get their Defences down before you will get anywhere. Jokes are one of the tools you use. In all these examples from daily life we have seen that:


And this fact is one which is frequently used by the Hypnotherapist. If he knows his job.

I hope then that I have helped many of my readers to see that in my work I am not dealing with something that is totally outside their experience. I and others are using facts about the way people work to achieve certain ends. Let me summarise some of them.

It is normally true that a relaxed person is more receptive. A very relaxed person is therefore generally very much more receptive.

It is commonly true that someone who believes that they are going to get well has a better chance of recovery than someone who does not. (Remember the scientifically attested Placebo Response.) A person who can be got to believe strongly that they will get well has an even better chance.

It is commonly true that a lot of life problems are worked out though the medium of the Imagination, whether in dreams or daydreams. A person given active help in using these mechanisms will generally resolve problems better and faster.

It is commonly true that your morale and confidence will improve after talking with someone who understands and who says things to boost you. If this happens in a state in which your suggestibility is heightened, with someone who is highly skilled in understanding people, then your morale and self-confidence will rise all the more.

I expect you can see the pattern. In each case we are seeing the enhancement of a natural mechanism.

Of course I recognise that I do lose one thing by describing my work in this clear light. I do lose the mumbo-jumbo factor. It is definitely the case that if I could induce a great sense of awe in my clients; if they believed that I had wondrous powers beyond the ken of the ordinary human; if they believed I was an initiate in deep and mysterious wisdoms; then it would make them much more highly suggestible. Early hypnotists, such as Mesmer, whether consciously or not, used elaborate props and suggestions to achieve this effect, and did very well as a result.

But I fear that if you start by pulling the wool over other people's eyes by pretending that things are not as they really are then you end by pulling the wool over your own. The truth is too precious to me. And I prefer to impart a truth which will help a person not only to resolve the present problem, but to avoid future ones. Simply to give a quick external fix to your problem gives relief in the moment, but leaves you no wiser about what to do in the future.

Would you agree or disagree, I wonder?

If I don't have quasi-mystical powers, then, you may well ask, what powers do I bring to this work. The qualities that I am aware of include the following. A cool mind, able to listen to each person afresh, without preconceptions. An inventiveness in finding new ways to help each person to change their paths in ways which come naturally to them. Experience my own and also that of others passed on in books. Some of the many skills involved in establishing rapport, and helping people to see things in a fresh way. But at the centre of all these is, I suppose, the quality of concentrated-attention. I have mentioned the importance of guiding my clients' attention into useful paths of all kinds. It is obviously necessary for me to be paying attention to do this.

And this is one area where things have happened which may perhaps be bordering on the extra-normal. It is most noticeable in certain inner-world trances. The client is sitting with closed eyes, reporting in a conversational way about what (s)he is viewing. There has been no special induction, no attempt to induce a deep trance. I am listening, with just an occasional question or interjection, but paying close attention. Then there might come a time when I feel that we have done enough. I then switch off my attention, without comment. And they have no visual cues. The client will then report, "The pictures are fading." This seemed strange to me, when it happened. Many clients seem so adept at doing this kind of trance that I imagined that they must be able to do them at will, but for some reason it seems that the attention of someone else is necessary to make it possible. Other phenomena which I have been unable to account for satisfactorily are a very strong sense of activity in the front of my brain at certain times with clients. This is quite distinct from anything I have felt when talking socially to people, or thinking about anything. Another is a sense of being enormously drained after some sessions, for no obvious reason. Finally I will add a very curious incident. This client was working silently with some internal pictures. I id not want to interfere for a few minutes, and yet did not want my attention to lapse. So I concentrated on picturing my attention like a beam of light focussing on the centre of her forehead, as if it were something that she could then use. Very much to my surprise, when she was back to normal she described this strange sensation, which she had never known before. It was as if her brain had felt like a plastic bag full of water, in the front of which someone had gently pressed a finger to make a dent. This result seemed to be too strangely connected to my mental actions to be a coincidence, though I suppose that it might be.

Experiences like these, including the results of trances in which communication seems to arise between a client and a loved one who has died, which I have mentioned, have led me to believe that there could be an enormous amount yet to be understood. I know that many people go a lot further than me, and accept totally all manner of paranormal phenomena quite uncritically. You probably know me enough by now to see that my thinking is deeply rooted in common sense, in the scientific tradition of accepting things only if they fit experience and in thinking hard about things. I am aware of the enormous aptitude of the human mind to delude itself with wishful and fearful thinking, and therefore approach all anecdotal evidence with caution. I expect you to do the same with my anecdotal evidence.

Another area that you may wish me to comment on is that which goes under the name of past-life regressions. Have you heard of these? If you have not then I will say briefly that books have been written about people who sometimes spontaneously, and sometimes under Hypnosis, seem to recall details from a life lived perhaps decades or centuries previously.

I have certainly had clients who have had trances in which they report things which answer this description. The first case I recall was a man who went back to the time of the English Civil War. On the one hand it could be argued that this was not surprising as he was very interested in history, and knew a great deal about that period. On the other hand, the weapons and articles that he found in a tent surprised him. They were not what he had expected. More recently I have seen a client who has come up with three different death experiences. One was drowning in a storm at sea. One was being killed in a duel over a woman, also at sea. The third was of being an old man dying of thirst in some American desert. So far I have not come across any cases of famous people, or of any where there are details which could be checked independently. I therefore have no hard way of deciding whether what the clients are describing are simple imaginative constructions, or something more. Since I am being paid to help to solve problems, and not to research into such things, however fascinating, I have to be content with such experiences as come by chance. I am at present fairly open-minded.

If I wanted to I could incorporate such experiences readily into the over-simple picture of Heaven I mentioned. It would be easy enough to say that the trance simply involves slipping Outside-the-Game enough to be able to recall other, earlier games that you played. The parallel is this. If you are deeply immersed in a film then you forget everyday life and all other films you have seen. (Can you recall this strong an involvement it is commoner in the young I fancy?) But if you withdraw a little from the world of the film, then you can remember other films as well. And this pattern would fit the recall of previous lives, too. In a trance it could be said that you slip enough out of this role that you are playing to make it possible for you to recall other roles you have played.

But there are other theoretical possibilities that past-lifers seem to overlook. They always assume that they have personally lived the past life. But consider the following picture. Suppose that you have opened the door to Outside-the-Game, and there you meet someone who imparts vividly to you details of their roles. There are certainly enough people in this life who love to tell you all about their experiences. You return to this Game, with all that they have said still fresh in your mind. It is easy enough to see that this could be hard to distinguish from a memory of your own. I have sometimes been half asleep listening to something on the TV or radio. It becomes mixed in with something I am dreaming, as if it were all happening to me. Have you found this? There is nothing to stop the same kind of thing happening with material from Outside-the-Game.

Yet another possibility is this. Mediums claim that their bodies are taken over by a Guide in the spirit world to pass on messages. In earlier civilisations it was believed that great artists of all kinds became possessed by a kind of spirit called a Muse or a Genius, who guided them in the creation of their music or poetry or sculpture. The idea of spirit possession is one which comes easily to many people's minds. So why should these apparent past-life experiences not be a case of temporary possession by the spirit who led the life that is being recalled?

You see the problem? The large amount of anecdotal evidence of certain types of experience does not yet allow us to make any firm judgment about what exactly is happening. I have moved from a position of total scepticism, which I held happily when I had no experience to go on, to my present position of thinking that there could be something outside the bounds of contemporary scientific thought happening. But this something is very poorly understood, and probably very complex. Greek chemistry went little further than to say that all matter was made up out of the four elements earth, air, fire and water. They were right about there being elements. And that is about all. Since then we have found the 92 naturally occurring ones, NONE of which are the same as the Greek ones, and made a few extra. Enormous textbooks now exist on the theory of how and why these elements combine. There are still surprises and some small gaps in our understanding, but we know enough to see how little the Greeks knew, though they were feeling their way along the right lines. I suggest that our present knowledge of all those things which might be called paranormal or to do with Outside-the-Game is at least as poor as was the Greek knowledge of chemistry. Perhaps the next two thousand years will see advances which will emulate in the field of spirit the achievements of the past two millennia in our understanding of matter. Perhaps it will take two million years, or even ten?

And it is possible that then a book on Hypnosis will be written which will include large sections on how to lead the attention onto those paths on which all manner of Out-of-the-Game experiences may be utilised. But until then I am content to confess the extent of my ignorance. The recognition of ignorance is the beginning of wisdom. And I tread gently in places that I know that I do not know.

Well I hope that you have found some interest in this chapter, and that it will have made you think a bit. I wonder what comments you have to make?


Chapter 12. Your Path

You are now approaching the end of the path that we began when you first started this book. On the way we have looked down on life from many viewpoints which have given us a broad view of the land. It is as if I have taken you to he tops of a number of high mountains or buildings which you may not have visited before. And then, like a Guide, I have pointed out the main features of life which can be seen from each, spread out down below.

There are great advantages in stepping outside life in this way. You can see connections that you would not have guessed from ground level. You can see a long way along roads and beyond obstacles. When you are down there, in daily life, you can be so jostled that it is as much as you can do to see a few yards ahead. From on high you can see attractive places which you would not have guessed at if you had remained on the streets or familiar valley roads. If you are getting lost, then a high place is a good place to go to take your bearings again. And this is what I hope that you have got from this book a new perspective and sense of direction.

Soon you will be returning to your daily paths. And this is the right thing to do. Only very few people are called to live permanently in high places. Down there, in the fertile plains and valleys, in the rich loam of daily life, that is where most of us live our lives. And prefer it so.

But you can live life with new vigour and a new sense of direction if you return from time to time to the high viewpoints. What form can a journey to a high place take? At times it can be a real walk to a real mountain. From the window of my study here, on the top floor, I can see the Cow and Calf Rocks on Ilkley Moor. At times I can find the combined weight of my own and my client's burdens too great. I will then take the steep and narrow path that leads to the Rocks. When I look down at my room here it is a small speck. And the burdens seem smaller too. I once composed a sonnet as I was climbing which expresses something of my feelings on that occasion. Click here to read it.

Do you have a place to go where you can leave the deep and heavy paths of daily life and chores? A place to be reborn?

Another form of high place is a person who somehow lifts you out of the humdrum and bustle of life. I can do this for some people. The person you choose may be a parent or grandparent, priest or psychiatrist, friend or stranger, the Samaritans or Alcoholics Anonymous. You may look in monasteries, retreats or ashrams. Or for God. Or the arms of a lover. The choice is yours in the end. Is there anyone you already know who can lift you out of the heavy paths of life for a while?

It might in any case be a good idea to search your imagination to see if you can find there an image of someone who would be ideal for you in this role. This image could guide you towards a real person. Why not pause and think about who would be ideal for you?

A third form of high place can be found in books. Here you are being led somewhere you have never been by the author. It may be a book like this, which is directly aimed at escorting you to vantage points above the daily paths of your life. Or it may be a work of fiction which takes you outside your present life, so that you return with a new perspective. It may be worth your while to wonder if you are making enough use of books in this way. There will have been books in the past which have opened doors for you. Can you recall any, fiction or otherwise?

Every book is a journey to somewhere more or less new. Where will you find the Travel Agent? There are other ways of stepping outside the daily paths of life. Music is one. Church is another. Sport is another. I am not recommending one above another for you. What I am saying is that you should now, while still looking down on your life, make a list of those things which help you to leave the daily paths and find a new spirit, a new viewpoint, a new feeling. People all too often get bogged down in the same rut, up to the elbows in worry, and churning the mud up still thicker with every laborious trudge along the same path. They lose sight of the high ground. And lose hope. So how do you intend to find high ground?

Soon you will be returning to your daily life. But on each of the vantage points that we have scaled, I hope that you made some notes of personal importance. These will have started you thinking. And it will be useful if you make a point of looking at your notes again on the first day of each month. It should not take long just to read them through and notice if you have changed your views or life at all. Or perhaps you would prefer to make it on that day of the month on which your birthday falls? That would make it the third for me, what would it be for you?

Next let us use the high ground of this last chapter to look back over a little of the path that we have followed. Can you remember the way we have come? We began of course by becoming more fully aware of the fact that life in all its aspects is a process. We are never frozen in a moment like a still picture. We are always moving like in a video. And to underline this fact I have used, throughout the book, the language of paths. In doing this I have been helping you to think more and more automatically in terms of paths or processes. For example, if we simply use the word "marriage", it may call to mind a static and unchanging state. Which it is certainly not. If I have encouraged you to think and talk of "the path of a marriage", then you are much more likely to think about the real thing, which is always changing.

Life is a journey, on a path, or a river. We travel on it daily. The second big thing that you will have learned from this book is a way of seeing each of us as being composed of a number of different processes at the level of Head, Heart etc. By now these will be familiar to you. But here I want you to realise that there are individuals who seem to spend almost all of their life on one of these levels, and to know nothing of the rest. And I would like you to think if you can find examples of people you know for each category. Ideally I would like you to think of at least one famous person, or an archetype, and then one person that you know personally. The first paths I came to were the Head paths. This is natural because you are reading a book and a book like this moves mainly along such paths. (Just as a Novel is mainly about Heart Paths.) Think of people who personify the Head. Einstein? A Professor? Who?

Then I came to a second important way of thinking. The Imagination. This is all to do with the ability of the mind to work with pictures. Who would you choose to personify this? Van Gogh? A Film Director? A Writer of your choice? There are many individuals whose whole life is lived in the area of the Imagination. Name one or two.

Then we watched the streams and rivers of the Heart. The feelings. Who does this make you think of? An actress or actor? Who do you know whose life seems to be almost entirely a matter of the emotions?

Then we came to the area I have called Habit, but it includes all things to do with skills, and muscular movements. So I don't want you to think only of boring habits. Here we already have an image of Sarah Belham, but I would like you to think of some of your own. Someone who is only alive when they are doing something: a sculptor, a dancer or gardener perhaps.

The area that I called Health is of great importance to many of us, which is why I have given it such attention. It is less often that you find people whose whole life is centred around their health, though this can happen. At one extreme we might have the keep fit enthusiast and at the other the hypochondriac. The idea of a doctor or nurse may also come to mind as an image to stand for this area of life also. Who might you think of?

The final broad area that we came to was Heaven. Is there anyone of whom you have thought that they did not belong to this world, or that they were saints, or that they were very spiritual in some sense? Mother Teresa? Who would you like to picture as representatives of Heaven?

One reason I have asked you to think of examples of people who walk the different kinds of path is that it will help you to remember them. (You will remember that the memory is greatly helped by using pictures.) But it should also help you to remember that there is room for many different kinds of people on this world. This fact is also something that you will have found repeated in different ways throughout the book. Over and over again I have insisted that there are many differences between the paths we tread. And that though many people insist on making these differences moral differences and labelling some paths good and others bad in reality the differences are often just differences, and nothing more.

I would like to give you a picture of this. It is a bit like a picture that I gave in the chapter on Health, but reversed. I would like you to think again of the similarity between that very complex society of cells that we call a human body, and that very complex society of individuals that we call the human race. All the cells need food and water to be provided and waste to be disposed of. So do all the individuals. All these things have to be provided by other cells. And by other individuals. Some cells are specialised for the task of processing and transporting food. And we have cooks and food manufacturers and transporters. Some cells the nerves are specialised to deal with the communication of important messages from various groups of cells to others. And we have journalists, telecommunications experts, mailmen and so on in their millions to do a similar job. Some cells specialise in preserving the health of the whole. And the human race has doctors and nurses. Some cells are specialised as muscles, to do things and move things. And there are also groups of people who do most of the physical moving of things. I could go on, but it would be more interesting for you to play this game yourself. Skip about between thinking of jobs that somebody does to thinking if there are some cells in the body which do a similar job. Then go the other way. Think of a bodily function and see if you can find a human equivalent. And think also if there are things in either picture which do NOT have counterparts in the other.

Not everything has a counterpart, I think. For example, the reproductive organs of an individual only make sense if there is another individual involved. And there is no sign of there being another race which can be to the human race what one sexually mature adult can be to another. Is there?

The point about this analogy is that it is essential for the well-being of the body that different cells should follow different behavioural paths. We do not expect the behaviour of one of the muscle cells in the heart to conform to that of one of the light sensitive cells in the eye. They have the same basic needs for food, water, warmth etc., but their functions are quite different. A muscle cell is not a deviant eye cell, nor is a brain cell a deviant muscle cell or skin cell. Are you happy with this as a statement of fact?

Now it seems to me that a lot of people are unhappy for no other reason than that, although they could function very well in one area of society, they find themselves in another area where their behaviour is regarded as deviant. Think about this. Have you ever found yourself in the past in a group of people with whom you felt an outsider, a fish out of water, a nerve cell among muscle cells?

I hope that since then you have found a more congenial place in life. If so, then you can see if I am right in saying that the change does marvels for your self-confidence and well-being?

If you want more than your own experience to draw on then you could read some autobiographies. You will find that time after time there is the same pattern of the person having a lot of unhappiness in the first part of life until they find that place in society where their natural abilities find a natural place.

Do you know someone in your circle who does not fit in? Can you think of some other group where that person would fit in naturally and happily?

There are many men who would be heroes in war time who are locked up as psychopaths in peace time. Behaviour which is quite common among actors and actresses would be regarded as madness in a group of bankers. (Just picture one banker rushing up to another, to give a big kiss and a hug and to gush, "You were simply marvellous, Darling!") There are people who are treated as Saints in one generation who would be in mental institutions in another. Joan of Arc would be on some psychotropic drug to "cure" her inner Voices.

Remember that all deviance is relative. Most inhabitants of present day New York would be regarded as highly deviant by the Pilgrim Fathers, and vice versa. It may be worth remembering that much of the population of the United States is descended from outcasts: people who could not find a place in their own society but had the courage to move.

Perhaps there is a moral there in your own life?

This brings me to another big theme which runs through the book, which can be called the importance of courage. It is found very strongly in the chapter on Fear. In the chapter on Heaven it is found as the importance of tackling life with a Good Will. In the chapters on Health it is seen as the importance of approaching life wholeheartedly. These are but different faces of the same quality, for which courage is yet another name.

Find your path. (It may lead you far away from the paths of those who are close to you at present.)

Follow your path with courage and goodwill and a whole heart.

And you will remember all the problems that we saw arising if we fail to do this, and become Defensive in our attitude to other people and life. We saw how chronic fear of people and life leads to problem after problem. The knight whose armour has rusted up. The perpetual anxiety states. The incipient paranoia. Alcoholism. I will be provocative, to make you think, and say that nowadays 95% of all suffering, emotional and physical, in the developed countries is a direct result of someone following an excessively Defensive path. You could refresh your memory on the many problems that people bring to me which have their roots in Defensiveness and then make your own assessment of the percentage.

And what of the end of the path? Where are we going? And why? We do not normally make any journey without being able to answer these questions, do we? But I wonder when you last asked yourself these questions about your journey on the path of your life? Perhaps you would rather not. Human nature is such that we will usually shy away from asking questions when we feel either that we are unlikely to get answers, or that they may be rather uncomfortable. We often prefer to play the ostrich. Do you know some people like that?

Now one of the facts of life that no-one can do anything about is death. That is a fact. Every doctor dies. Every patient dies sometime. No body lives forever. This fact can make quite a difference to people's lives. To some it casts a gloom over the whole journey. A train ride which you know is taking you to the gas chambers of a concentration camp is unlikely to be as full of fun and frolics as one which is taking you on vacation, after all. The fact of death does not have to have that effect. Once I was firmly convinced that my path would end at the grave. I was quite happy about it. Since then I have changed my views. I am still quite happy about it. (I have not told you my present religious affiliation. I will let you guess. You know a lot about the way I think by now.)

But the interesting question is how much your journey is being influenced by what you believe about death. Some people have views about a life to come which seem only to make them more selfish, or frightened or filled with pride: in short to make them far less satisfactory as companions on the journey. For others a conviction that this life is all there is has the effect of making them live more fully each day, and to enjoy everything and everybody. They will not waste the precious moments with vain regrets or envy or bitterness.

I have given you a very simple picture of the end of the life on earth in terms of returning to Outside-the-Game. Now it is your chance to make clear what ideas or mental paths you have on the subject of what will happen to you when your body dies.

And next, what effect do those ideas have on the day to day running and quality of your everyday life?

Now on this last high place, I wonder how far into the future of your life on earth you can look. We want to look at where you want to be going and where you are actually going. The notes you make here are important. But remember that it is well worth discussing these things with someone as well.

I have described in an earlier chapter how looking ahead in that way led to drastic changes in my work-paths. At present my path seems to fit my inclinations, and I can jot down the outline path: publish book; more people get to know about my work; more clients come; learn more; write more books; invitations to speak and give courses start to come; learn more of the skills of addressing groups; more books; years later my ideas and name become well-known in certain circles; more demands made on me; start to learn to ration time and attention more effectively; a younger generation takes up the ideas and improves them no end; towards the end of my life retire to a back-seat position, seeing relatively few, selected, clients; look forward to the next step on my path the return to Outside-the-Game.

Now this may not happen, but when I step off my path and compare it with the paths of others who have walked a similar way, it seems quite likely. At present the direction that I seem to be going is one that I am happy to follow to the end. If this were not the case then I would again need to pay attention to either changing my path or my attitude to it.

There are other paths in my life besides work, but I won't take up your time with detailing my personal paths. It is far better for you to be thinking of your own. What do you see your path to be like from your present perspective.

Next it could be useful for you to collect together a list of the small paths that you are following at present that you want to leave, and a similar list of paths that you are not following at present ut which you want to follow. (It is a good idea to write them down wherever possible.)

An example of the first kind might be spending time with someone who bores you to death, or some physical ailment, or a bad habit anything that is a problem.

Examples of the second kind might be: make a new friend a month, grow pumpkins, talk to booksellers, be married, go to Church. These are definite paths, which are things that you want to do. What are top of your list at present?

Very occasionally it may be possible to change a lot of these paths in one blow. For example the choice of the positive path of marriage may free a woman to get away from a job and associates that she hates, allow her to move to a new house that she loves, encourage her to take up new career and give her the incentive to drop a couple of bad habits into the bargain. But massive changes like this come rarely in life. We are more often making smaller changes to our paths. So the best ways of dealing with the above lists is the following:

Each first of the month look at your list again. Spend some time daydreaming happily of the vision of yourself no longer following the first set of paths and instead following the second set. Do it as vividly and in as much detail as possible. In this way you are using your Imagination constructively. You then focus on no more than one item from each list. These are the only paths that you are going to pay conscious attention to for the next month. These are the only paths that you are going to think about changing. If possible it is useful to choose a matching pair of paths, so that one can be made an alternative to the other. For example, suppose that we have found that you regularly overeat in the evening. And suppose that you also want to learn to swim. Then a bit of planning makes it possible for you to take the path to the pool several evenings a week instead of the path to the food cupboard. Both changes will help with your overall health and weight. Do you see the point? If you just block a path that you do not want to follow, then it leaves you at a loss as to where to go instead. It is much easier if at the same time you decide on another path that you really want to follow.

Do you have a matching pair in your lists at present, I wonder?

So for a month you will from time to time be putting into practice, as far as possible, the changes in these two paths that you have thought of. At the beginning of the next month you can look at your lists again, and see how well you have done. It may well be that the change was not as easy as you thought. But because you have been paying attention to the changes for a month you will have a clearer idea as to why the change was hard. You are more likely to know if the obstacles are at the level of Head, Heart or Habit, for example. Or whether the problem lies outside you, in the attitude of others. You can note down these problems, or talk them over with somebody. You can look back through the book to find ideas that will help. And then think again about what steps on your paths could most easily be changed.

And in this way, month by month, you can find yourself getting better and better in the ways that you have decided. And better still, you will have learned more about how you can take control of your own life and change it.

Another way of looking at things is to ask yourself what value this book has for you.

But first let us ask some easier questions: How valuable is a hammer to you? Clearly it has no value if you do not use it, and the more you use it the greater the value.

Next question: Assuming that you have listed some good and bad paths for you, I wonder what value you would place on each? It is worth spending some time thinking about this. That is why I am repeating this exercise which you may have done a little of earlier in the book. I see many people who have been smoking for twenty years. They have spent about 5% of their income on tobacco. So they have spent one entire year of their lives working just to pay for the tobacco. If they stop they can gain the equivalent of a whole year's wages, over the next twenty years not to mention an extra five years or so of life. But the value that they are prepared to put on this is sometimes only a day's income. There seems a big difference between the value of the change and the price they are prepared to pay for it. I think that a big reason for this is the fact that we do not naturally weigh up the value of an entire path, but only the first few steps. And over a period of a week or two I must agree that paying for help to stop smoking does not always look as attractive or cheap as continuing to carry along the old path.

So now, remembering that one of the themes running through this book is the importance of seeing life as a system of paths , not of isolated incidents, you might like to write in, beside each of the paths above, the value to you of the change.

Next let us think about the way in which you cope with such things as plumbing problems, alterations to the house, decorating and so on. Broadly speaking you either have to pay the going rate to get someone else to do them, or you can save a lot of money by doing them yourself. I wonder which you prefer?

Is there very much difference between improving your house and improving your life?

Some of the differences that do exist are: it is much easier to sell a house and buy a new one than it is to sell a life and buy a new one. The practical skills you learn in doing things to the house are limited, but the practical skills that you learn in changing your life can be of value every day of your life, and in every part of life.

Even so, you have similar choices. You can leave things as they are. You can try to change things yourself. You can pay an expert who will make the changes for you. You can ask someone you know to do it for nothing. You can call in an expert who will teach you some of the skills involved in making effective changes for yourself. Or you can buy a book which will teach you some of the same things. Which course do you favour, and why?

Now this book contains some (I do not pretend that it contains all ) ideas which will help you to understand and change your path of life. But it is like a hammer or washing machine, in that it is of no value unless it is used. You have already used it a bit by actually reading it. But the more you refer to it the greater the potential value. So now you can jot down a figure to represent the value you have had so far. Now the value to you if you manage to change, with its help, just one in five of the paths you have chosen above. That gives you a better idea of the value of the book to you.

You are standing on a high place, looking down on the paths and lives below. There are those who say that before we are born, our souls are given a choice as to which life we are to lead: that before we put on our Games-suits and enter the Game, we can choose the character we want to play. Why not look down on life in that spirit now. Look all around you. There is your life down there, with all its problems, but with all the special things that makes it yours and no-one else's. And there are all those other people, in their bodies and their lives. Are there any you would truly want to make a complete exchange with? I do not mean that you can just choose the best bits out of a number of lives, you have to think about exchanging with the whole life of one other person, with the parents, health, spouse, work, body and so on that go with that path. Can you name any you would want to exchange with?

(By the way I do not think that it is quite fair if you have chosen a fictional character.)

If you have chosen someone you want to change with then I think that you will find that you are exceptional. I have rarely found people who want to do that. What most people seem to want is to remain pretty much themselves, but with perhaps a little change here or there. You might like the extra money that she has, but could never stand her husband or friends, or parents, or the job that she has. You might envy him his charisma, but not want to have anything to do with the lifestyle that it has led him into. Even people with what seem to me to be horrendously difficult lives do not seem to wish for much to change.

If you are in the minority and truly want a complete change of life, then you have a goal. I will suggest to you that one of the most precious things in life is a goal, because it gives you a sense of direction, and makes life into a journey with purpose. I want you to remember too that it has been remarked down the ages that travelling hopefully is better than to arrive. So search for your goal in a spirit of adventure. Like Columbus who, searching for one thing, found a whole New World. You are going to leave this life some time, whatever you do, so why not do it on a path that is leading in the right direction? In the Eastern traditions of reincarnation it is said that your desires in this life will carry you forward into the next by the force of Karma. So that even if you do not find your goal in this life, you will have a better chance in the next. In a spirit of adventure then set your sights on that new life and see how far you can go.

Often the worst that can happen to people who travel in that spirit is that after travelling some way, they turn and look back at the life that they have left behind. And find that it looks more attractive than they thought. They can then return to it with renewed enthusiasm. Think of the Prodigal Son, or Dick Whittington "Turn again, Whittington, Lord Mayor of London." Though these may be stories yet they contain much truth about life.

And if, on the other hand, you decide on thinking about it that your life down there IS the one that you choose, for all its faults, then go down to it with all the power that a free choice gives you. It is yours and yours alone. You have the power to change it for the better if you tackle it wholeheartedly, or to make a complete misery of it if you are scared and reluctant about the whole thing. Your life is yours and no one else's. Your decisions are yours and no one else's. If you look down on the path below you will see that here are many places where the road divides, and you can choose which branch to follow. There are many places where you can wander off the main road into pleasant byways. You can even go back quite a long way to take a turning that you missed. Everything is impossible if you believe it to be so. Every road is blocked if you put up NO ENTRY notices for yourself. There is treasure to be found, pearls of great price, but not if you just plod around the same weary and deeply rutted daily path. There are whole New Worlds to explore, and millions of people to meet, but not if your mind is shut behind walls, and your Heart encased in concrete.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is within you." Under whatever Name you know It, the Spirit within you is known to you by the quickening it gives to life. You know the best times you have had? You have felt It then. And I cannot believe that those were the cautious, doubting, reluctant times.

"Seek and ye will find." You know something of what you seek, and it is not in the objects around, nor even the people, but is something within you, which makes you most truly yourself, though strangely it is usually closest when you are least aware of yourself.

Remember the parable of the Talents. Three men were each given something. Two of them took what they were given and made the best they could of them. They were praised. "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord." The third man, from cowardice, did nothing with his life gift, and was therefore not worthy of more, and had taken away from him even that which he had. Look around. Does this parable apply one way or the other to people that you know?

In the Bhagavad Gita, which enjoins a life of devotion to God, there are also the words: "If thou wilt not fight thy battle of life because in selfishness thou art afraid of the battle, thy resolution is in vain: nature will compel thee."

In the parable of this book, we are each playing parts in this Game. If we choose to do the best we can, to put our most into it, to play Wholeheartedly, then we will get far more out of the Game, and also be rewarded in the Outside-the-Game, in Heaven. "For neither this world, nor the world to come, nor joy is ever for the man who doubts." - The Gita.

Now I hope that you can re-enter the Game with a new understanding, to put into practice some of what you have thought, with all the strength of your Free Will. Look for Your Path and follow it with enthusiasm. And I wish you all the rewards that come from such a course.