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When There’s Nothing You Can Do…

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on July 26, 2013 | Comments (1)

Although I have been studying and practicing hypnosis and hypnotherapy for a long time, I took my first formal training in hypnosis just 15 years ago. Hypnosis and hypnotherapy are unbelievably powerful tools for personal change. It can help people change beliefs they no longer want to have. It can help people overcome behaviors that are hurtful to themselves or others. The list goes on and on.

One of the most difficult concepts a new hypnotherapist has to learn is what is called the scope of practice. Its formal meaning concerns what you legally may and may not do. For example, legally I cannot cure any phobia. Some people call any personal fear a “phobia,” but legally the term is a medical diagnosis, and as I am not a licensed medical professional I’m not allowed to diagnose anyone. Hypnotherapists can help a person quickly overcome the mental and physiological responses to deep fears, but if a doctor has diagnosed a person as having a phobia, to work with on this with that person requires a written referral from a licensed M.D.

So when a person comes to me and says, “I want to use hypnosis to help me with a phobia of…” I immediately stop them and tell them I don’t deal with phobias. I ask them to tell me about their fears and their emotional and physiological responses to those fears. I explain that hypnotherapists can easily help people overcome long-held and deeply-experienced fears quickly, effectively, and permanently.

But there is another aspect to the scope of practice that extends beyond the legal to the ethical. Specifically, I have no right to butt into your life and attempt to help you change. If I overhear someone saying, “I’ve tried to stop smoking for years and I just can’t do it,” that does not give me the right to walk over and tell the person, “Here’s what you need to do…” Knowing I could give a person help doesn’t mean I have the right to barge into their private life. In fact, that person may want to continue smoking and is simply using their failure to quit smoking as a means to gain sympathy from others.

I have to admit, however, that I’m far from perfect in this. While I don’t market myself in such situations with a cheery, used-car salesman sounding, “Hi, my name is Donald and I can help you,” I will try to open people’s minds to the possibility they can change. For example, when I hear people say they can’t stop smoking or they’ll never get over their asthma, or they can’t make money and have to be poor, I’ll often respond by saying, “That’s an interesting belief you have. I wonder why you choose to believe it?” My goal is to simply present the possibility of there being other beliefs and open their minds to other possibilities.

Sometimes a person is so shocked to hear someone disagree with their belief pattern they’ll give me one or a long list of reasons things must be the way they believe. I don’t disagree with them. In fact, I strongly agree. “Those are great reasons to believe the way you do,” I’ll say. “They’re 100% accurate and completely true. But did you know there’s another word for ‘reasons?’ That word is excuses.”

Again, my goal is to simply present the concept that maybe there’s another way; maybe there’s another possibility. Sometimes I’ll get puzzled looks and the shock of recognizing that maybe there are other possibilities. Sometimes I’ll get more reasons they choose to stay as they are or maybe the previous list of reasons is repeated more stridently. And sometimes I’ll get people angry with me for daring to question their dogma.* I usually don’t go beyond this and agree with whatever they say, not merely to be agreeable with them, but because their beliefs are absolutely true—to them. Perhaps what I said might lead to self-questioning and forward motion on an issue at some future time.

The bottom line here is that I can’t help everyone change, nor should I try to help people change to a way I think might be better for them. Each person needs to decide if and when they want to change. You and I may think it is weird that some people prefer to be unhappy and suffer, but that’s their choice. To them, suffering and unhappiness are the norm and they want things to stay that way…for now. In such situations I should ethically keep my nose out of their business and do nothing. This expands beyond hypnotherapy.

Magick and Doing Nothing

As a magician, I absolutely hate the concept of there being nothing I should do. Of course there is something I can do. There’s always something I can do to make a situation better. It’s called magick. The essence of magick is the ability to cause change. If what you do doesn’t cause change it may be ritual, but it’s not successful magick. So to acknowledge that I should do nothing is…difficult.

And yet, there are times when we are all placed in situations where we can and should do nothing. At work, if you frequently have to “fix” the work of someone who is not doing their job properly, you are preventing him or her from realizing their problems and getting the training they need. You’re taking away their chance to fail and then grow. Always covering for someone because they can’t do the job isn’t helping the person or the company. In such a case you need to do nothing.

Parents frequently invade their children’s experiences to “help” them accomplish something or “protect” them from emotional or even physical hurt. This prevents them from learning from their failure and growing. You can’t prevent a child from hurting when they have their first teenaged romantic breakup. If you build all of your child’s projects so they’ll look and function as you would like, your child will never learn on their own.

Of course, it’s important that parents do help when children ask for help and protect them from harm (there’s a difference between “hurt” and “harm”), but to take away the chance of failure also removes the thrill of true success.

So, in spite of knowing there are things you can do to improve a situation, sometimes you have to choose to do nothing. Sometimes there is nothing you can do. Even though you know you could change things via magick, sometimes the best choice is to do nothing.

It’s Not Always That Easy

When you realize there is a situation about which you should do nothing or about which you can do nothing, it seems logical—even easy—to do nothing. But often, people spend hours useless planning for things they could do but won’t do, or worrying about the fact they did nothing. They concern themselves over what is going to happen even though there is nothing they can do to change it. This worry can carry over into other aspects of their lives, draining them as much as spending hours at a gym or being emotionally or spiritually sucked dry by a psychic vampire. Spending all that time worrying about things when you shouldn’t or can’t do anything to change them can have deleterious effects on people mentally, physically, emotionally, and even spiritually.

Over the years, I’ve come up with some sayings I think are truisms, such as:

Magick isn’t something you do, magick is something you are.

You don’t die when you stop breathing, you die when you stop learning.

I don’t claim that these and others are necessarily original in the sense that nobody ever came up with them before, only that I came up with them on my own.

So to these I add a new one:

When there’s nothing you can do,
give yourself permission to do nothing.

Spending hours agonizing over things you can’t control—and I’ve known many people who do this—is nothing but a waste of time. If there’s nothing you can do, do nothing and move on to dealing with things where you can help. It sounds easy. It should be easy. For some people, however, it’s quite difficult.

 *   *   *   *

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*Recently, this happened on another blog. Without naming me, that blogger was clearly very upset in my questioning his dogma that he had no choice but to be poor and therefore he had the right to steal other people’s work! He gave an additional list of reasons/excuses why he chose to believe and act in accordance with his dogma. To him it was absolutely true.

Reader Comments

avatar
#1 
Written By Jan Vladimir Mostert
on July 26th, 2013 @ 11:20 am

Love the quote!! “When there’s nothing you can do, give yourself permission to do nothing.”

Usually not doing anything is riddled with guilt, giving yourself permission to not do anything helps you get rid of that “guilt” of not doing anything.

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