Margo looked closely at the Therapist. She just finished sharing her reason for seeking therapy and hypnosis and wondered if this woman could assist her. For years, Margo hung out with a rough and tumble crowd whose vocabulary had much to be desired. Anytime Margo or others within the group tried to rein in the colorful language, laughter and ridicule would reverberate. Because of groupthink and peer pressure, Margo or one of the other brave souls would concede.
Margo knew in her heart of hearts that she needed to change. At one point, she almost lost her job because she lashed out with the F word toward a coworker. More recently, she received a verbal warning. Her supervisor reminded Margo of her strengths but with gentleness informed her that the verbal behavior needed a 180 turn. Margo told the therapist that this crisis prompted her to make an appointment.
Margo felt a sense of relief as she saw the therapist was genuinely interested in what she had to say, so she continued divulging more.
The therapist asked her more about the issue. Margo embarrassingly answered. ”Well, I have this problem with swearing. My friends and I have been together for years, and when I am with them, we drink and start mouthing off.” Margo gulped and continued. ”I have been doing a lot of thinking lately after my boss brought me into his office. He reminded me that I have much potential, but if I don’t change the way I behave, I will go nowhere.” The therapist asked her what else she would like to change. Margo indicated that she wanted to distance herself from these people whom she believed were a bad influence in many areas of her life. “They convinced me not to attend college even though I managed to graduate with honors.” Margo then looked at the therapist with tears. “Yes, it broke my mother’s heart. She and I were alone for years. She told me she would have worked eighty hours to help me. I couldn’t resist the crowd at that point. Boy did I F up.” Margo turned red and whispered. ”Sorry. See what I mean about my swearing.” The therapist smiled and gestured no big deal. Margo felt a sense of relief as she saw the therapist was genuinely interested in what she had to say, so she continued divulging more.
Margo told the therapist that she knew she needed to start acting classier, or she would be out of this job soon. She explained that she loved her work and wanted to enroll in college courses to become eligible for more responsibilities within the company. Margo revealed that when she would disclose her aspirations to her friends, they would scowl and snicker. ”Seriously, Margo, who do you think you are? Don’t go getting hoity-toity with us.”
Margo repeated her desire to cut the cord with these friends. “I haven’t been going out as often with them.” Margo chuckled. “Last weekend, I stayed at home and read a good book. I guess I am becoming a nerd, and as I am talking to you, I plan on doing the same activity this weekend. How about that?” The therapist smiled again and gently stated, “The tribe is powerful and difficult to rise above, but your well-being is more important. Do you think you may have outgrown these friendships?” Margo welled up and nodded her head.
Margo sat for a moment, reflecting on this strange but helpful exchange. She looked at the therapist and asked if hypnosis could eradicate her use of profanity. The therapist answered. “Yes, because it sounds like this is a habit. Hypnosis can be very effective in managing habits. The question is, are you ready to free yourself from this?” Margo enthusiastically said, “Oh, yes, I am.”
The therapist explained the hypnosis process and all of the myths that ensue around this alternate treatment modality.
Since there was time remaining in the session, the therapist asked Margo if she would like a simple visualization to take with her to begin the process. ”Absolutely!” The therapist then suggested that Margo close her eyes, take a deep breath, and allow herself to go inward, breathing slowly and deeply. Margo began to relax quickly. The therapist then asked her to imagine a lump of coal. “Notice its appearance. There is nothing special about it. One-piece looks like another. Also, it is dirty and can stain. Perhaps, you might describe what it is you see.”
Margo noticed a surrounding of ash and soot, verbalizing the visual. The therapist continued, “Now something about the scene is changing. Notice one particular piece of coal and raise the index finger on your right hand when you do.” Margo raised her finger. “Now, just imagine that you can put that piece of coal into a special machine and apply heat and pressure to it. Perhaps you would not mind telling me what you see.” Again, Margo did. The therapist then suggested, “This machine can convert this lump of coal into a brilliant unique diamond like no other. Although only a moment of clock time will pass, you will feel like you had all the time you needed to watch this process occur. Please let me know when you are ready to put into words what you are experiencing.” Margo smiled, raising her finger again. ”I open the machine almost blinded by a gorgeous, sparkling diamond. It is one of a kind.”
The therapist now asks Margo to change the scene and see herself in a video of who she is already becoming. Margo answered. “I see myself in a conference room looking professional and speaking with confidence and ease free of any negative behavior. I look sturdy and sparkly like that diamond, prepared to take on the world.”
And so she did. After several months of therapy and hypnosis, Margo was exuberant about the growth she was making. She had ended her affiliation with the old friends and did an about-face with her language, challenging herself to expand her vernacular. Work was going so well that Margo was offered a promotion in another part of the country. She became excited about this new venture and was ready for this next chapter in her life. Reluctantly, she said goodbye to the therapist and let her know she would keep in contact.
Margo began her new life and became very immersed in her new endeavors. Although she only had time for calls to her mother, occasionally, she reminded herself of the lessons learned through therapy and hypnosis. Across the country, the therapist would frequently wonder about Margo. She sighed and told herself that experience taught her she might never know. Time passed, and like so many goodbyes, expectations lowered for any further contact.
After four years of silence, the therapist received a surprise. In the mail, an elegant card arrived with a return address from Margo. This unusual gesture from a client of long ago brought a feeling of gratitude to the therapist. Margo apologized for not communicating sooner. She wrote to the therapist that she always kept their work close to her heart and wanted her to know the rewards she earned as a result. Margo shared that she was about to acquire her Bachelor’s degree, planned to enter graduate school, and was a candidate for a significant promotion. Not only was the card beautifully crafted with a gorgeous Spencerian script, but the words inside were most eloquent. Margo highlighted the following: “The girl from long ago with the unsavory language is no more. I decided to take that hypnotic scene of the dirty, nondescript coal and work diligently on myself. I applied pressure and pushed to evolve into a new, unique me like that sparkling diamond unforgettably imprinted in my mind. Changing my language altered me. Thank you for helping me get UnStuck!
Author’s Note: Before I talk about the themes in this story, I want to thank my lovely BizCatalyst 360° friend and colleague, Myriam Ben Salem, whose comment on my last article referred to some words as gems. Also, I want to thank my fabulous BizCatalyst 360° friend Dennis Pitocco, for inquiring about my hypnosis as well as reposting my story on Elitism. As a result, I decided to write a story about language and behavior rather than an opinion piece.
As much as I am a subscriber to freedom of expression, I believe that language has mattered. Whether we like it or not, first impressions are powerful. If you present a certain way, you are perceived that way.
Many people use colorful language. I certainly have used choice words myself. Professionally, however, you must determine the purpose of it. If you are to entertain or want to exhibit shock value, so be it.
Perhaps, your profession or audience invites that. If not, you must ask yourself the question of how it brings value to others if you are trying to communicate a message effectively. Finally, how does it serve you? Are you exhibiting this behavior to be a part of the tribe? Is it really who you are or want to become?
I have written little about hypnosis, and I have never had a client like Margo, who is a figment of my imagination. However, my example is not so unique concerning other habits and forms of behavior. Never has such a remarkable treatment modality as hypnosis been so highly misconstrued. In the future, I will speak and write more about it.
In the meantime, I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the great Napoleon Hill, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
What do you think about our use of words and their ability to influence or create last impressions? I invite you to consider.