In his book, Unhypnosis, my new friend, Dr. Steve Taubman explains how most of us walk around hypnotized without even knowing it. His theory is that in our early stages of life, when we had very little defense, we were basically programmed by those around us to see the world and ourselves in a certain way. Some of us were fortunate and heard messages that contributed to our well being or somehow we managed to break free of the programming in order to create lives for ourselves that match the truth of who we are. Then there are those of us who from day one have been handed a script that is less than ideal and either we never realized we could do anything to change it or every time we tried something pulls us right back into the old pattern. Worse still though are those of us who interpret the world around us in a way in which we program ourselves negatively. Eventually we tell ourselves to give up. We stop dreaming and we allow ourselves and our lives to be dictated by circumstance. Steve says that the reason we keep getting pulled back in is because the thoughts doing the pulling are actually in our subconscious mind, working undercover to keep us at status quo or below. To make a long story short, check out Romans 7. In the mean time check out this chunk of goodness from that chapter:
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
In other words, Paul is saying that his subconscious mind is keeping him from doing what he knows he should do in his conscious mind. We all know what that is like. Maybe you think to yourself that you shouldn’t eat that next piece of cake or drink that next beer, but look what’s in your hand. Yeah you know what I am talking about. This battle is nothing new and no matter how lonely we might feel when we are going through it, as you can see, even ancient apostle dudes knew what is was like to struggle like this. No wonder they were loving Jesus. He gave them the option to be free from their unconscious mind and to see themselves as children of God despite their past and even their present. When I look at the script I was given, I know that believing that it was possible for me to have the mind of Christ was my X Factor and was what pushed me through a lot of junk and it still is. For those of you who think I can’t say that– read the Bible.
Still, those of us who call ourselves Christians can’t make Jesus an excuse for not cleaning house when it comes to mental garbage that is weighing us down. As Paul also wrote, “don’t be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” That’s what Steve’s book is about–renewing our minds. As you can see I haven’t posted a new blog in a while. It’s because I have been renewing my mind for the past two months. This semester in seminary called up a lot of subconscious junk for me. I spent a large portion of the semester crying through my readings and papers. I’m not afraid to admit it. Studying youth ministry and liberation theology (essentially the theology of the oppressed) at the same time can put some work on your mind if you grew up going to church as much as I did. And I won’t even go into the oppression piece. I’ll just say Black male, single mom, South, short on finances, short in stature, articulate nerd who carried a briefcase to school in tough neighborhoods, had a big mouth. You connect the dots. Anyway, these classes forced me to spend a lot of time in the past looking at what shaped me and what informed many of my relationships and choices through the years.
Since I was all over the place, I decided not to write any new posts until I could say something coherent and not simply born out of frustration. I’m sharing Dr. Steve’s book with you all because it was a good reminder to watch my thoughts as they emerged. One of the things that came up for me a lot was my tendency to get harsh with people when I feel like they are being full of junk. Growing up in my circumstances, I learned that I could not let other people’s projections define me. I was no respecter of persons when it came to junk and I wouldn’t let other people believe junk about themselves either. I’d just call it how I saw it. I didn’t care if people cried or punched me in the face I would say what I felt needed to be said for the greater good even if it was to my mom, the principal, or even a pastor. It wasn’t like I was a jerk. I just loved people too much to let them sit around feeling sorry for themselves or to put their junk on me or anyone else when I was in earshot. I gave them what I gave myself–tough love.
But after my divorce, I started subconsciously blaming that part of me for why we didn’t work out as well as for every other tough spot I found myself in in life. I started trying to avoid situations where my mouth might open up and say something “harsh”. Essentially I was hiding a part of myself from the world because I thought it was undesirable. In the mean time I started reading all of these books so I could learn how to say what I meant without it coming out like a jerk. I even went on an apologizing campaign contacting everyone who I still knew to say that I was sorry for being so harsh. The funny thing was it turned out that every single person told me that they understood why I had been that way with them. I won’t bore you with the details. I’ll just say that in holding myself back, I learned a lot of valuable lessons and met some cool people that have helped talk me out of my cave. Right now I feel like the groundhog who was afraid of his shadow side.
Besides all of my relationships that have helped me begin to reemerge, trying things like writing out my limiting beliefs and rewriting them in a more empowering fashion have helped. Steve talks about that in his book too. I reframed my belief that I was too harsh to “I am appropriately direct.” So if you ever get a mouthful from me, just remember that it is appropriate. Another tip that Steve mentions in his section on “Tough Love” is that when we hold ourselves back or rest with our excuses we are ripping off ourselves as well as everyone around us. He pushes the reader to “fix their dream machine and reboot their imagination computer” and calls doing anything less “a crime against humanity.” I think he’s also appropriately direct there.
Lately, I have been thanking God for my wife and my mom’s abilities to dream. They really have a lot of faith because they can see a world where all of their dreams come true despite what is right in front of them. I used to be that way but compartmentalized that part over the past few years until I could figure out how to get where I wanted to be without hurting anyone’s feelings. Well I woke up from that dream. Like they say, “to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs. That also happens to be true for making pancakes, cakes, and french toast. I’m hungry. Anyway, the point I am taking forever to get to is that I’ve realized that to truly live out your dreams, you have to be willing to bring your whole self out to the world–even the parts you think are undesirable. You have to emerge and see. (I’ve been trying to work that in ever since I came up with that creative title.) It might not feel easy, but it will definitely be worth it. If you need help, check out Dr. Steve’s book, my friend Rev. Sandy’s Daily Inspirations, and this blog. I will be sharing some other resources that I have come across and getting appropriately bolder over time so I’ll have your back if you make the choice to get unhypnotized.