The weather has turned, the cool rain of this morning having ended, replaced by chill and a stiff breeze out of the northwest. Here and there, the overcast parts to share blue sky and allow shafts of sunlight to filter down to the earth. Wanting to be on the safe side, we’ve brought in the geraniums.
My attitude towards books is a lot like our New England weather, highly changeable and demanding. Being a avid reader, I have developed a suspicion that, like the Great Weathers, almost any book can change one’s life for good or ill, and that timing has a lot to do with the outcome.
Lately, I’ve been reading quite a bit, sampling here and yon. This week I’m engaged with Michael Yapko’s, Treating Depression with Hypnosis, a handbook for mental health clinicians. Michael understands that depression is shorthand for life lived under a regime of fear and hopelessness, a malaise characteristic of our time. He offers the reader hope, and urges us to resist the influence of those who sell programs of self improvement, and those who encourage us to ignore the real problems in our lives and the world.
The book was written more than a decade ago, yet remains a smart, useful, compassionate read. One of the takeaways is that when one is a change agent, the best gauge of success is whether one’s work actually leads to change. Michael warns against allowing the drive to “do it right’ trump our joy in watching others make the changes in their lives they wish to make. I so appreciate his straightforward urging that we allow our clients to tell us how we are doing!
He makes two other strong assertions: it is useful to be focused on the future and to tolerate ambiguity; these strategies, he insists, spark relief and enhance compassion. Michael argues convincingly that an orientation to the past pretty much assures we will fail to notice new options in the present. It’s not that we should ignore the past, rather, he encourages us to learn from the past while being open to a future that is not governed by it. He also suggests we practice “not knowing,” and allow things to be not only ambiguous, but perhaps unknowable. If we do so, he believes, we may find ourselves more thoughtful and kind, and better able to address the challenges of our client’s lives and the world.
My teachers insisted that the task of the change maker is to awaken the Healer Within, and I have come to believe that the best books do that as well, be they texts, plays, novels, or thin volumes of poetry. These books awaken me, guiding me to be more accomplished and effective at aiding others while reminding me to reach for, and nurture, what heals me. They stir things up and get me moving.
I’m not certain why this book landed in my hands at this time. Perhaps it chose me, in part, because I was recently at a hypnosis training that left me feeling a bit dispirited. Or, maybe, after a period where I have not utilized hypnosis as frequently as I might, I am just drawn back to it. I do not know, so I am seeking to simply be curious as to what is at play here, to trust my spirit and allow it, and my unconscious (whatever that may be), to guide me. I know from long experience that when I am able to do this, to trust and be curious, change comes more easily and becomes something akin to contagious. As a result, I become a more effective healer, and a happier person.
Speaking of change and weather, my beloved just came in from a wildflower walk on this day of leaf-out. She’s about an hour early; it seems everyone got cold, and having seen enough of spring’s splendor for one increasingly uncomfortable day, decided to go home.
I imagine she may shortly settle down near the fire with a good book, one fitting the fickle weather of the day. Chances are, her reading will lead to a rich conversation. I’m looking forward to that; after all, deep conversations help me feel alive, to experience belonging in relationship and the world. As a result, they, like good books, are often profoundly healing. Ah, but that is something to write about another time.
– Michael Watson
© 2016, essay and photograph, Michael Watson, All rights reserved