Jake: Hi, I’m Jacob Krueger, and thank you for tuning into a very special episode of The Write Your Screenplay Podcast. This is our 100th episode. I’m so incredibly excited, proud and grateful to all of the listeners that have made this possible for 100 episodes.
So, I was thinking, “What am I going to do for my 100th episode?” I wanted to do something special? So, I decided to go back to the source.
And for that reason, today I’m going to be interviewing my mom, Audrey Sussman.
I’m excited to talk to my mom on this podcast for a couple of reasons.
First my mom taught me everything that I know as an artist. I have the only Jewish mother in America who found out that her daughter was going to be a doctor and responded, “Oh, my God, but you could have been an Opera singer!”
So, I’m incredibly lucky to have had a mother who supports my artistic life, and that is something that a lot of people don’t get.
in addition to that, my mom taught me everything I know about writing, and not because my mom is a writer, but because my mom is a hypnotherapist.
Her work is about the stories that we tell ourselves, not on the conscious level but on the subconscious level, and how those stories take us on journeys of change– how we can actually change who we are by changing the stories.
In this way my mom taught me how to induce a trance in a reader: how to allow a reader to experience a fictional story as if it was real.
She taught me how to use image and sound and feeling, and the other modalities that allow writing to feel real and stories to feel real.
She showed me how to build structure– how the human mind puts structure together.
And she taught me how to do rewriting– not how to rewrite a script but by how to rewrite your life! How to change the way you tell yourself the story of your life—not by making it fake, but by finding different layers, and different values to the truth.
Another reason I’m very excited to have my mom here is she teaches classes at the studio. She teaches two classes: The Inner Game which is our class about how to take care of the inner challenges to your writing—the subconscious challenges, the fears, the confidence, the procrastination, and also how to connect to your characters on a more profound level. And she teaches our Writing Lab, which is our experimental laboratory where we really push the edges of how writing works.
So, thank you, Audrey, so much. It’s weird to call you Audrey– but thank you, Mom, for joining us here today.
Audrey: I’m really delighted to be here. As I was listening you tell the story of how you learned from me, it is interesting because all I was doing was being a mom who knew how to listen. That just was natural––it was such a natural way of interacting where you are always looking for the good in the person. You are always figuring if a person is feeling a certain way, especially my child, there must be a reason for it. Looking for those stories that you might have been telling yourself– that was just how I parented and I was always looking for the good. And it sounds like you do the same with your students. I hear you when you teach.
Jake: That is probably the most valuable thing that you can learn as a writer. It is so easy to find the bad, and a lot of us, as parents to our inner creative children– if we ever said to another child what we say to our little inner artist child, someone would be calling child services immediately.
And part of being a writer is learning how to be a good parent to that creative child. Because we do need to be a parent to that child; we can’t just neglect that child and leave that child out in the wilderness, or that child will experience a lot of the negative things that happen to artists.
We have to be a parent to that child, we have to help guide that child towards the places that they need to go creatively, to learning the skills that they need to learn to succeed.
But, a lot of us get way too aggressive with that child, and I wonder if you could talk a little bit about that.
Audrey: I was thinking of a story. A parent plants some seeds in the ground, and they are supposed to be flowers. And three days go by, and the parent is like, “Well why aren’t these flowers yet?” And they dig them up and they’re still seeds! Covers them up, waters them. Next day, waters them. A week goes by and the parent is like, “What is going on here, where are the flowers?” and he starts stamping on the dirt.
That’s sometimes what we do to ourselves. “Why don’t I have this done? Why didn’t I write the pages I said I would?” And instead of just watering the seed and saying, “Hey let me just spend five minutes doing something, fifteen minutes, let me look for the good,” we are stamping on it, because we are angry that the flower hasn’t bloomed.
It doesn’t work like that.
Jake: I think that metaphor that you just gave of digging it up is such a powerful metaphor. Because we do this to our scripts all the time. You start something and it is something you believe in, but it is in an early form. It is still a seed. It isn’t a plant yet. Or, you expect it to be a flower, but it turns out it is a beautiful tomato plant.
And instead of trusting that the material is going to take the shape that it needs to take, sometimes we end up just digging it up, or reinventing it, or throwing it out, or giving up on it, or trying to shape it into something that it doesn’t want to be.
Audrey: You know, it’s funny, when I was a kid I used to write poetry. And I never thought much about it; I never thought it was good or bad, I just wrote.
And that is the freedom of a child– who knew that this was poetry! It is beautiful poetry. Some of it was a little deep and sad, but I look back on it as an adult and I think, “Oh my, if I sat down to write with all that stuff we do to ourselves as adults, I wouldn’t have had that beautiful poetry.”
Which makes me think about– I call them filters through which we see life. You know, if you write something and then you think it is great, and then you look at it the next day and you are like, “Oh this is a piece of trash!” Don’t throw it away.
Because three weeks or a year from now you might look at that and you are like, “Oh my God, did I write this?”
Even daily our own filters change.
Jake: Yeah, it is interesting because that happens with feedback as well. Most scripts that go out aren’t really ready to go. Most people rush it. They still have the seed, and they are trying to pretend it is a plant– it is very easy not to put enough time in as a gardener, or to kind of see the beginning and go, “Let me duct tape and chewing gum some leaves on there and we will just pretend it is full grown.”
But, every once in a while you have a script that really is ready to go. You have really done the work and you have created something that is beautiful to you, that is surprising to you in some way– that maybe goes even beyond what you expected it to do.
And sometimes that happens and you have to recognize that other people have filters too. You are going to get a lot of very negative feedback sometimes. And it is important to recognize what happens as an artist that if you let all that feedback bounce you around, if you react at every bit of advice and every bit of feedback.
Don’t get me wrong , I believe in mentorship. I would be nowhere without my mentors. And that is what we try to provide here at the studio, that kind of mentorship so that you have people to bounce ideas off of. But, there is a big difference between bouncing ideas and being told what to do. And there is a big difference between the kind of feedback that opens a door for you, and the kind of feedback that tries to force you to do something that serves somebody else’s filters but not necessarily your own.
Audrey: And that is one of the things in The Inner Game that we are doing. If any artist knows the core is safe, the core of who they are is safe, it is so much easier to hear feedback, because it’s not about you.
And so in The Inner Game what we are looking at is: how do we change the voice in the back of your head, so that you know you are safe no matter what? And then you can hear what we call criticism or whatever, take in the parts that work and still stay true to your voice and what you believe.
Jake: I always think of it like going to the ocean. It is wonderful to get wet, but you can’t take the whole ocean home with you. So when I’m getting feedback, I want to let the waves wash over me.
It is a process. Like all writing, it is a process of trust. You need to trust that the part of you– the parts that you hold on to, the parts that actually seep into your clothes, or that actually gets you wet when that water washes over you– those are the parts you need right now. And sometimes that means letting other parts wash back out to sea.
That doesn’t mean that they won’t be really valuable things to learn later. But there is a trust process that happens– that the sea is going to bring those ideas back to you. If you just keep on pursuing your art that those waves will keep coming in.
Audrey: Oh my goodness I must have been in my late 20s, I was taking a class, every week I would just argue with the instructor and I was like, “But this doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t make sense.” At week number six she said probably the same thing and I said, “Why didn’t you say that five weeks ago?” And she said, “But I did!” Either she changed the wording slightly or finally I was ready to hear it.
Jake: I had a teacher like that too, Joe Blaustein, who was a wonderful painter that I was lucky enough to study with in Los Angeles. And I learned a lot about feedback from Joe because Joe would never tell you what to do.
Joe would come around, he would look at your painting and he would be like, “Just take a look at this area right here,” and you would be like, “Oh cool,” and you would work on that area.
And he would come back and he would point to the same area and he would be like, “Just take a look at that area right here,” you would be like; “I already looked at that area?”
And then he would come back and be like, “Just take a…” and by the time you would be like, “I have looked at that area, I did everything with that area!” And he would come around the last time and say, “Just look at that area…” and you would be like, “Ohhhhh!”
Oftentimes we want these quick fixes. We get so many calls here at the studio like, “I just want a script consultation, just tell me if it is any good.”
And we will do a script consultation for someone who wants it. But I always try to talk people out of it. Because what we need isn’t the one quick fix. What we need is to give ourselves room to actually grow as an artist. To come back to that spot again, and again and have the person to keep guiding our eye back to that same spot, so that we can actually expand who we are and how we are, and actually build our skill sets.
Every script that you work on is like a little awkward baby in some way. And it doesn’t know how to walk yet, and it drools on itself, and it is chubby, it can’t really speak right, and it cries a lot, but you love it because it is your baby.
And then over time you nurture it and you help it grow, but you are still seeing this as your baby and you are seeing all the beautiful things about it but you are also seeing the vulnerability. You are imagining who it is going to be when it grows up, but you know maybe it isn’t totally grown up yet.
And there it reaches that point where you have to be like, “Okay that baby has got to leave the nest and it has got to go on its own journey,” and that is a hard thing for writers.
Audrey: And again back to the parenting metaphor– nobody is perfect, so parents make mistakes. Even the best parent in the world is going to make mistakes. If we could learn– we literally can go back and repair some of the negative stuff that happened– and it is like re-parenting your own you, the younger you, because you have lived it. You know how it felt when it wasn’t done the way that would have been best.
Jake: We are parents to our characters as well. Just like a child is a part of you, your character is a part of you, it is a little piece of you. We want to be the parent that nurtures that character and accepts them for whoever they are.
But, because we fear that that character is a reflection of us, sometimes we really try to manipulate that character.
Or we are like, “Okay, you are going to grow up, and you are going to be straight, and you are going to become a lawyer and you are going to go to Yale.” Sometimes we have these expectations that we put on our characters that don’t actually allow our characters to show us who they really are.
If you find yourself manipulating your character, if you find yourself forcing your character to be something they aren’t, but you know that you need your character to end up somewhere– like “Hey this is a film noir and eventually some noir stuff’s got to happen, but right now my character just wants to sing songs and make jokes.”
How do you find a balance there, how do you point that character in the right direction without manhandling them?
Audrey: There’s like 10 different ways of doing that, I think I will start with one that just happened to me this morning. I was working with one of my private clients and we were doing Parts Work, where you look at what the part of the client– which in writing we call the character– is trying to do.
And she said, “I don’t like what that part just said.” And I said, “Okay would you be willing to tell me why?” She says, “Well the part says it is trying to get attention and that isn’t me, I don’t want to be getting attention.”
I said, “Stop. Let’s not judge it, let’s ask the part what it is about attention that is trying to do.” And it turned out the part wasn’t trying to get attention by having anxiety, the part was trying to say, “Pay attention to this thing that is happening in your body.”
So that’s one way of asking the question little differently.
Jake: Which means paying attention to what is really going on for that character.
Audrey: When I work with writers my intent is to help them to form better stories that work for them to enhance their life rather than the negative. But in the character, whatever that story is, that’s a perfect place, to start from. As long as you can get to, “I wonder what the story is?” Not the fact, but the story that the character is telling themselves.
Because, I guarantee that whether it is you or your character, if a character is doing something that seems like, “Why are you doing that?” there is a reason.
And instead of judging it, if you go, “Huh? I wonder what my character is trying to gain by doing X,Y,Z?” Boy you are going to get some great stories!
Jake: You are kind of pointing to the idea of Super Objective. You are pointing to the idea that when your character does something strange, or when your character does something that you don’t expect, or something that you might judge, that if you can uncover what is actually underneath there– that might actually be the key to your whole script.
That might be actually understanding, not the little objective like, “I want a cup of coffee,” but the Super Objective, the huge subconscious thing driving your character. What the Super Objective actually is.
Audrey: That is where you can use some hypnotic languaging. Some people like to call it meditation. I like to guide it a little bit more, so that we can actually get underneath and find out what is that character, what is the Super Objective?
And by using a little bit of hypnotic languaging you can get to that story a lot easier. Because when you try it just on the conscious level, it won’t make sense. But if you get underneath, like you said, to the Super Objective… that’s where the real character exists. And there are techniques to do that.
Jake: It is such an issue in screenwriting. You don’t really have this issue if you take a novel writing class, if you take a playwriting class, a poetry class, painting class– literally in any other art you aren’t going to run into this issue that we run into in screenwriting.
And the problem is just not enough screenwriting classes are taught by actual screenwriters!
So many of them are taught by critics and by professors, because working screenwriters make a lot of money and most of them don’t have to teach.
And there are people who love teaching, and we are lucky enough to have some of them here, but a lot of the people who are teaching screenwriting aren’t the people doing it, or are the people who are struggling to do it, not the people doing it successfully.
And so you get these very rational approaches, these very formulaic structures, “This has to happen on this page and this is a rule that you have to follow..” And when you look at the movies that are coming out, the ones that are successful, the ones that people love, those movies never pay attention to the rules at all.
But a lot of the people teaching screenwriting are teaching rule, rule, rule, and what ends up happening is they do all the teaching for the conscious brain, but of course the real writing happens on the subconscious level, and it creates a real conflict for writers.
Audrey: Because the exciting writing is happening on the unconscious, the subconscious level, the boring stuff is usually what comes out of the conscious.
Jake: Yes so often it’s in the stuff that doesn’t make sense that the real heart of the story lies
Just like in your life– we all do stuff that doesn’t make sense. And we all want to dismiss it. But if you actually look at it, that is what allows you to make a big change, that is what allows you to grow.
Audrey: You said something in one of your lectures. As we go through life, we don’t think, ‘oh I am in the mid-point…” No! We just live life. Then at the end, we can look back and say, “Oh that was just the middle.”
And that really struck home with me. So much of the time when someone is writing they are trying to fit it into that formula. We don’t live like that, and neither do our characters.
Jake: Whenever somebody asks, “Can I do this in the script?” I always say, “If it happens in life it can happen in a movie, and if it doesn’t happen in life then it can still happen in a movie… but you better be careful, because there is a good chance that you aren’t building something true.”
I know for me that is the hardest part of being a writer. When you’re not experienced, it is a little easier just to be truthful, but the more experienced you get and the more tricks you know,.
We were talking about Joe earlier, Joe Blaustein. Joe reached this point where he was obsessed with obliterating his own art.
Joe was I think 95 years old when I was studying with him. And he would paint these beautiful paintings, and then he would paint over them with house paint and then do another layer and then paint over.
And I asked him why he was doing that and he said, “At this point in five minutes I can paint a picture that makes you want to cry.” He said, “it is so easy for me now that it isn’t challenging me as an artist. In order to do something real now, I have to push myself beyond that place where my craft works, I have to push myself to find what is beyond what I already know how to do.”
And I thought that that was such an interesting lesson for art.
So, I am wondering if you could talk a little bit about how hypnosis works and how it relates to writing. And also what is some of that stuff that gets in our way. What causes procrastination? How can you use hypnosis and how can you use writing to actually clean that stuff up?
Audrey: The way to prepare hypnotically is to set the foundation; we talk differently to the unconscious part of the mind than we would talk to the logical brain.
If you have a program, let’s say, that tells you, “This isn’t good enough,” that works to motivate you towards excellence to a certain degree. But when it starts limiting you then it isn’t working anymore.
So, we need to then be able to talk the language of the unconscious to fix erroneous programs that aren’t working.
Jake: What I am hearing is actually two things at the same time: the one is the belief systems that you have– you call them programs– the programs that you have in yourself that cut you off from your characters, or your best ideas, or your best lines of dialogues, or your best images.
But also there are the programs that cut you off from your career goals, or your dreams, or calling that producer, or sending that script, or realizing the opportunity that is right in front of you.
I wonder if you could talk a little bit more about procrastination, because I don’t know a single writer, who doesn’t struggle with that, and I know you do so much great work with that in The Inner Game.
Could talk about what causes it, and how do you stop it?
Audrey: A lot of times procrastination is about fear, it could be fear of failure; it could also be fear of success.
Hypnotically what we do is we ask questions of ourselves that actually get to the unconscious part, the answer that comes up people are like, “Oh my God that’s what it is,” rather than the logical answer. Unfortunately when people ask logically, “Why am I procrastinating?” they get, “You are being lazy,” or, “You don’t care enough about this. If you cared you would do it.” That is never the real answer.
If you are procrastinating, it is usually because there is something that you are telling yourself, or there is some fear, or you are giving yourself an image of “it’s not good enough.”
And we all do it. And the more that something matters to you, the more you probably will procrastinate! Because it really matters.
Step one is to identify what is causing the procrastination, and to do that you just take a breath, and you focus in and notice where in your body you are feeling it– because there is a feeling that goes with procrastination.
What I am doing is I am saying, “Let’s get away from the judgment, because it is never true. It is easy to say, “Oh just accept yourself,” but people don’t know how to do that.
So, instead of just accepting yourself I say, “Okay take a breath, let’s just focus inside and see where you feel that feeling, what is the feeling?”
And maybe the feeling is, “I’m angry with myself for procrastinating.” Okay we start there. Or maybe you are so in tuned that you say like, “My heart is tense, I am so afraid that it won’t be good enough.”
A lot of times with procrastination, especially with creative people, they are afraid somebody else will be disappointed. Sometimes they are afraid they will be disappointed, but more often they are afraid of disappointing someone else.
They have these conversations going on in their brain that are horrible. It is like negative talk radio going on; so we change the channel to some nice positive talk. I am not saying we should coddle ourselves. I am saying that instead of the negative stuff that isn’t working, let’s see what is really going on.
Jake: A lot of artists have a belief that “If I were to heal myself that I couldn’t create my art anymore. If the pain went away then I couldn’t write these beautiful scenes… or if I let go of that sadness… or if I ever let go of that relationship that is still torturing me… or if I ever forgave my parent…” that they would somehow lose that creative connection.
A lot of people think that like the line between genius and madness that if you blow that line somehow you lose something.
That is obviously not what I believe—but I wonder if you could talk a little bit more about that belief system. How can a person, how can a writer, heal themselves emotionally without losing their access and their drive creatively?
Audrey: I have had many writers and actors say, “But if I am healed maybe I won’t be able to be the actor I am, or the writer I am.”
You don’t have to be a suffering artist to write beautifully! You have already had your experience. You can always dip down into that experience if you chose to even after you have healed it. The difference is you don’t have to struggle with it every day.
One of the people who I am working with right now, she is a beautiful writer, and she had a very sad thing happen to her when she had twins and one of them died very young. Every day she cried. For 17 years, every single day.
It was getting in the way of her writing her story, which is what she was trying to do. We healed that. She still can feel sad. She will never forget that baby. The difference is she is having a life where she isn’t struggling and suffering, and now she is writing her story and it is flowing because the trauma of it isn’t getting in her way.
Jake: There is a difference between living it and accessing it.
Audrey: Most people who write are going to have had some trauma in their life. The creative part of them has led them to be different in some way so they aren’t going to fit into the mold that maybe teachers expected.
So there is going to be some heartache. They can always tap into that, but they don’t have to struggle with it every single day.
If you believe that you aren’t enough that is going to get in the way of your writing.
If you know you are enough but you can go back and remember how it was for that six year old whose parent is screaming at them when you thought you were doing something nice, you could access that in a minute.
Jake: Some writers struggle with emotions that they can’t access, places where they go numb or where they try to write this character and they just can’t. They can’t connect to the feeling of the character or even positive emotions like, “Well I am trying to write this character who is primarily positive or joyful but I don’t know how to access that,” where the character feels cut off from them.
How can hypnosis be used to access emotions that are otherwise cut off?
Audrey: I had a client who was trying to access her feeling good about herself and she said, “There is no time in my life when I felt good about myself.” I said, “How about brushing your teeth?” she said, “I don’t even do that well.”
We were just trying to access something where we could anchor the feeling. She finally came out with a 30 second clip in her life where she was holding her mom’s hand, licking an ice cream cone and feeling happy. Now, 30 seconds later it didn’t stay that way, but she was able to access it.
Sometimes there is so much trauma that joy isn’t available until you clean out the trauma. On the other hand sometimes the trauma is so great that trying to get in touch with it is difficult. Let’s say your character is sad and you just go numb– well, if there is so much sadness in your life that as soon as you approach it you know that it is going to create real emotional distress, you are going to go numb or dissociate from it.
So, by hypnotically going back we can release that emotion. Not just the one event of sadness– think of a string of pearls and each pearl represents an emotional state and let’s say this particular one is sadness, and you are able to unknot the string at the end of the emotional state of sadness and hypnotically pull the string out and all that sadness disappears.
It doesn’t mean you won’t be sad in your life, you just won’t have that vibration of all that sadness.
Jake: I love it, because what you are really talking about is structure. An event happens when you are young, or in a movie what we call the inciting incident, or in a television show the end of the cold open, something happens that creates a feeling, or that leads you to make a choice, or decide, “I am never going to let that happen again.”
That sends us off into a new movement where another action happens that resonates up against that and then another one and another one.
And sometimes in rough drafts, it is like all those pearls are disconnected. There is one pearl that feels like joy and there is one pearl that feels like sadness and there is one pearl that feels like triumph and they don’t feel like they are connected at all.
In writing, through structure, we string those pearls together so that each event of your story starts to speak to the ones before and that by the time you get to the climax or the catharsis, all those pearls on that string are all resonating together.
And that is what we build and that is why we rewrite.
I have always thought what is really cool is that we have the same job but we do an opposite thing. My job is to connect those pearls, and your job is to connect the pearls on the positive ones, but to take the ones where we have too much vibration, vibrating from the present all the way back to birth and to disconnect those pearls.
Audrey: I also look at it when the individual writing has a string of pearls of such pain, it is going to make it difficult to get in touch with your character’s pain, because it is too heavy.
So, when we release the writer’s pain string, then they still know what pain feels like, then then you could weave them together into a whole.
And again, for the characters, we don’t heal their pain, that is what the movie hopefully is doing, is some sort of resolution towards the end… or non-resolution. In our own lives, if we have too much heaviness, it makes it that much harder to get in touch with our own characters.
And one of the fun things like in The Inner Game is when we do a hypnotic going back to the child self, we are able to actually come up with writing that flows without any effort. It is just flowing because you are writing what your younger self is seeing, hearing, feeling, doing, and you are just letting your pen write.
Jake: What is really cool is that this is more than just journaling. Last time I sat in on the class, we did an exercise that was incredible where we were writing from personal experience but we were passing that experience onto our character.
And I found that an incredibly transformative exercise because even though I was writing a character who was a girl from a different time, it was such an exciting way to tie her experience to my own and to feel like the part of me that she represented.
Audrey: When I was doing that exercise in our class– I believe in past lives– so I actually took an object, a tangible object, and used that object to help everyone in the classroom to track back all the way to great, great, great grandma or granddad or whoever and access those emotions.
And it is funny because I didn’t say, “Now your character is going to do this.” I just pulled you back and you wrote and it was funny how everyone in the class ended up having some interesting writing that overlapped a little bit even though we all had different experiences.
So talking it is so much harder consciously than when you are in trance-state. In a trance-state the unconscious lets it all happen and it is never journaling. It is really writing a character from the emotional core.
Jake: We should probably do a different podcast where we just watch movies like Get Out together or just watch Zoolander together and talk about everything Hollywood gets wrong about hypnosis. I don’t think in the history of film making anyone has ever seen real hypnosis.
Audrey: Yes, Svengali, one of the old ones, where he makes people do his bidding. It isn’t true.
Jake: I think that all screenwriters and all writers are hypnotists, I think that we are hypnotizing ourselves when we write. That’s why when we are really in the zone we lose track of time. Sometimes we feel like we didn’t even do the writing– it just flowed through us. Or, they talk about “the muse,” which I just see as the inner artist child.
We are all hypnotists in that we create words that people translate into experience. We allow people to weep over characters who don’t exist, to get their adrenaline pumping over chase sequences that we know are not real, to feel shame for things that people do that we know they have never done, and to actually process those emotions as if they were real.
As a writer you are already a hypnotist and you are already a self-hypnotist. But I think a lot of writers don’t actually realize that is what they are doing. A lot of beginning writers don’t even know how to get to that place where that real writing can happen.
And so I wonder if you could just talk a little bit about that. What are some of the misconceptions of hypnosis, and how does the hypnosis that you use in your classes, how does that work?
Audrey: Let’s just call hypnosis, or self-hypnosis, “creating an altered state of consciousness.”
Any time you go into your own brain and start making up stories about something, you are in a trance-state.
So, hypnosis is something we do normally. I doubt if there is a person alive who doesn’t at some point have some thoughts going through their mind that aren’t happening right now. They are in a trance-state.
So, you can either use a trance-state purposefully, or you just let it run, and then you not using it purposefully.
If you take the mystery out, you can create a trance-state purposefully and use it for different things. You can use it for healing, you can use it for writing. You can be awake and aware.
There is another type of trance-state which most people are more familiar with which is called classical hypnosis where “you are getting sleepy… you are getting relaxed.” I use them for healing; they are wonderful.
You mentioned mantras before. I can’t tell you how many times a client will come in and say, “For five years I have been telling myself this mantra, it is a positive one, it is all set in the positive, but it isn’t working.”
The reason it isn’t working is not everything inside is in alignment for believing that. For a mantra to work—they can—you have to get rid of the stuff you don’t really believe. You could say it a million times in a way that is cognitive, you could even go into a trance-state and build it. But if there is some part of you that isn’t accepting it, we have to fix it that part.
There is another kind of hypnosis which I love doing where we actually go out to the future. The reason I do that is we can check what we call ecology of it.
So I had one of the writers who I was working within a group. She wanted her movie to win big awards, and she saw herself on stage accepting the awards and she was so excited, and she felt so respected, and I said, “Okay go out there and see how that is.”
And she went out in her future image which is all positive and then she came back and I said, “Okay what happened, something changed there.”
She said, “Yeah, but I feel like I will not be able to do it again…”
You think you have built the future that you want, but if there is something still broken, a hole inside that still needs to be fixed, the tangible object doesn’t give you what you thought it would.
So, hypnotically, we could find out anything that has to be corrected too.
Jake: It is funny because that relates to structure as well. Sometimes you write that beautiful ending and you don’t feel anything, and you think, “Oh my God I must have messed up that scene.”
But sometimes it isn’t the scene; sometimes it is the ecology of the script. It is the way all the other scenes work together to either support that scene or not support that scene or contrast with that scene. So, it is interesting that you are talking about ecology in that way.
Because you really do a couple of things, you do Ericksonian hypnosis…
Audrey: Neuro-linguistic programming, using neuroscience to reprogram the neural net, the way you react.
Jake: So classical hypnosis is?
Audrey: Suggestion, relaxation, it could be healing, it is very good stuff.
Jake: A lot of people’s experience in classical hypnosis is like seeing stage hypnosis. When I got my training in hypnosis they showed us this video. Every stage hypnotist has a couple of tricks because a lot of people think hypnosis is mind control and it is the opposite. In a state of hypnosis you actually have much more control over your mind than you do in your everyday life because you are actually in touch with your subconscious as opposed to your subconscious running a program around you.
But, they basically showed this guy and the stage hypnotist had hypnotized him to think that he didn’t have a butt. Every time he went to sit he would be just tickled to realize that he couldn’t because he didn’t have a butt.
The guy also made him forget the number 6. So he would count his fingers and he kept on ending up with 11 and he just couldn’t figure out how we was ending up with 11. So this guy was incredibly hypnotized.
And then they did the session where they had everyone licking an imaginary ice cream cone and they had them all having an orgasm with every lick. And we were watching this line of people and they are all in a state of ecstasy, and here is the same guy who forgot he had a butt, who forgot the number 6. He is just licking a pretend ice cream cone and nothing is happening.
And they stopped the tape on him and they said, “Okay, why was this guy not hypnotizable to do that?” And everyone had all these guesses. And they finally said, “No, his daughters were in the audience!” He was totally comfortable forgetting the number 6, or forgetting he had a butt in front of his daughters, but he wasn’t comfortable– you were talking about ecology– it didn’t fit his belief system.
Probably a lot of my listeners don’t know this, but growing up with a hypnotist– if I had a problem as a kid, we didn’t just talk about it my mom would hypnotize me and I would feel better. And so…
Audrey: Let me just break in because interesting people don’t understand hypnosis isn’t like controlling. I would just ask you certain questions and you would go there and fix it yourself. Although it sounds like I was fixing, no, I was just getting you in touch with your own creative inner self that fixed it better than I ever could.
Jake: Which is exactly what we try to do for our students here. That’s what ProTrack is about. It isn’t about having some wise person tell you what to do; it is about having somebody guide you to really understand what your goals are, and then to show you the tools that you need to do it.
The goal here is like to help you get in touch with your belief systems, not to change your belief systems.
Hypnosis is terrible for getting people to do things they don’t want to do. I can’t hypnotize you to clean your room if you don’t want to clean your room, if messiness doesn’t matter to you.
But, to hypnotize somebody to do something that they do want to do, where something is getting in the way– that is where hypnosis is so powerful. Because once you tap into the real belief systems, the junk that gets in the way is so minor in comparison.
Audrey: So, just to give you an example, I saw a hypnosis show where the guy was dancing like a ballerina. He was quite good. If his inner system was, “That is ridiculous, I am not going to do it,” he wouldn’t. I don’t care how great the hypnotist was– this was a very outgoing guy who probably always loved dancing and was told as a boy don’t do this– and now he has an opportunity.
As hypnotists we always kid around and we say “Yeah, and he is dancing like a ballerina because he could say, ‘She made me do it!’” Because he is freed up.
But the reality is, if it wasn’t right for him, it wouldn’t happen.
There is a difference between our values and our beliefs, Let’s say I believe in being honest, or I believe in taking good care of others, you probably couldn’t make me kick a dog no matter what, my value is kind to animals and children and people.
But my beliefs system might be different. I could have different beliefs. So I could believe that I am not– I don’t happen to believe this– I have always believed I am very athletic and very good at things athletic, I also believed I am very good in math and science.
But there are people who believe they aren’t good in math. That belief can actually be changed, even though their value of being kind, that value doesn’t change. Beliefs that don’t work can be changed.
Jake: So, a person who believes they aren’t good at math can actually be hypnotized to feel confident in math.
Audrey: I want to take the mystery out of the hypnosis. I cannot say to this person who believes she isn’t good in math and say, “I am going to hypnotize you, make suggestions that you are going to be a great mathematician.”
That I don’t believe works. We have to actually fix the real problem.
So instead we might go back to first grade where this poor kid is learning math and the teacher makes this child stand up in front of the room and the kid can’t figure out something, and the embarrassment is so great that from that time on, math became an embarrassment;it brought back that emotion.
We can go back to that first grader and fix that, change the story, change the movie.
I always say, “let’s change the script!”
You know, in our own lives, we want to change those scripts that don’t work. And when we change the script, in a hypnotic state, the mind accepts it. And all of a sudden, that is let go! And now we have an opportunity to start finding ways of math becoming easier, if that is important.
Jake: It is interesting that you are talking about math. A lot of artists believe they aren’t good in math, but also, a lot of artists have had a similar experience with their art. And sometimes it is from a well-meaning teacher. At Dartmouth there was a novel writing class I tried to get into and I kept getting rejected.
And I finally, because I was very persistent, I finally got a meeting with that teacher who was just really unsupportive: “Well, you know, I don’t think you really have it, but I guess if you keep on applying I will let you in.” This person really didn’t believe in me. Thank God I had you and a lot of other people who did! So she didn’t actually get in my way at all; her words didn’t resonate in my ecology.
I was like, “Oh wow this person definitely doesn’t understand my writing.”
But for a lot of people, especially if that had happened young or if I didn’t have the support system around me, that one person going, “Well this is really bad,” or “people don’t talk that way,” or “your work is really disturbing,” or whatever that thing is– even from a well-meaning person…
Or, you know, “Some people have this talent, your sister has this talent.” Sometimes we actually create these belief systems that don’t match our values. Where our value might be about expressing yourself in art, but our belief system might be: “Everyone else gets to express themselves. But if I were to express myself, it would hurt people or people would laugh or realize I am a fraud, or whatever that missing thing is.”
Audrey: And luckily, like you said, if a person had learned early that they had to do things by formula, the way the teacher said, they would have had a much different experience than you had when the teacher said, “No, no you don’t write.”
When you applied to Dartmouth you sent them a poem. But when you wrote that poem I remember saying to you, “Jake, do you think maybe you should write an essay like what they want?” And you said, “If they don’t like the way I am applying then I don’t want to go there.”
That is a real sense of self. And it started earlier– I mean as a three or four year old we were painting– and you may not remember doing all that painting, but I still have some of that. The belief system was laid very early.
Jake: What you are saying is to become the person you want to be now isn’t just about what you are doing now. It is about going back-and actually doing that work in that little movie in our mind. Actually doing that rewrite.
Audrey: All our memories are affected by the filters we see them through. We might as well change the stories and the movies that we have to something that enhances us and makes us successful and feel good about ourselves.
And it’s not a false sense of acceptance. The funny thing is the more positive you feel about yourself, the more you can fail! You can take risks, because it isn’t about your core.
Like your art teacher. He was able to just completely cover over this beautiful art, because it wasn’t about the need to fulfill himself. He knew he was already good. Now, he was pushing himself.
And that is what we want to do with the writers too; we want to push past what they are already doing to even more.
Jake: We are about to wrap up. I always like to leave my writers with something they can do right now, and I wonder if there is some kind of hypnotic exercise, or some kind of technique– I hope everyone takes The Inner Game class– but for anyone who is listening to this podcast, who is curious and who is struggling with some kind of block, an emotional block, a procrastination block, any kind of writer’s block or even a success block, is there something that they can do or they can focus on right now that will be helpful for them?
Audrey: Let’s just start with some small little things. I wish I could just give them my little magic wand and just wave it over and it’s gone. But let’s just start with the first step. We want to change the state you are in, whenever you get stuck, and the fastest way to change your state is using your breath.
So on my website there is a breath called the “Hah” breath.
Jake: You can give your website.
Audrey: It is AnxietyControlCenter.com/stress-breathe and there is a seven minute video guide. But I am going to give a different breath.
So the first thing you want to do is stop, take a moment, close your eyes, focus inward, notice what you are saying in your mind, what are the thoughts… have a piece of paper so you can write them down…
As you are going inside focusing on whatever it is that you are thinking, notice where the feeling or the block is…
So, even as you are maybe procrastinating, say “okay I am really…” and here is the wording you use— “I am really curious what that is about, I am curious what my unconscious mind is trying to tell me by creating this feeling of anxiety, or this need to get up and wash the dishes instead of writing?” Just be curious.
So the first step, again. You stop, you breathe, you focus inward, and notice any thoughts that you are having, notice where in your body you are holding any emotion, and also notice any images you might be creating.
That is the first step, because you are identifying the triggers by doing this.
The second step is you just begin to notice as you are breathing– and you just say it out loud to yourself– “ahh… I notice my heart is beating quickly, I notice there are multiple thoughts flowing through my mind, I notice there is a tension in my back, I notice I am beating myself up for not doing this…”
So you are just stating whatever it is you are seeing as you are focusing in, anything you are hearing, anything that you are feeling.
As you get more advanced at this, you can actually take the feeling in your body and think, “hmm, let me let that feeling…” Let’s say it is a tightness in your chest, “…take me back in time to an earlier time.” Maybe it was a day, a week, a month… you could go just let the feeling pull you back to earlier events where you had that same feeling.
And as you do that, your unconscious mind might be able to take you all the way back to the very root of that feeling. And it may be quite young– usually it is before the age of six– being very simple and easy. All you are going to do when you get there, if you see that younger you, you are just going to send a smile to that younger self, a smile of acceptance, acknowledging the feelings, and letting that younger you know it isn’t your fault. It is absolutely normal to have emotions.
And if you want to add one more piece, you might even tell that younger you that you will be there with the younger you, so she or he doesn’t have to do it alone. That you will be there to accept and love no matter what, even if that child who is you makes a mistake, you will still be there, you will walk by their side, and appreciate them just because they are them.
So, the younger you doesn’t have to do anything other than be to be enough for you to love and cherish that younger part of yourself…
And after you have practiced that a number of times in different situations, you might then want to journal whatever comes out, because it will give you some deeper understanding. And then if you need more help healing some of this, either come to The Inner Game class or give us a call and we will be happy to see where we can guide you.
Jake: Alright, thank you so much, Mom, for making me, and thank you so much for being here for the 100th podcast that was really awesome.
Audrey: Thanks for inviting me, and I am so happy and proud of you as my son, no matter what you would have done, I would have been very proud of you.