So what is a symbol and why should we care? A symbol is by definition something that stands in for something else. Not in an ‘In tonight’s Performance the role of…’ kind of way. As someone once said the map is not the territory, or was it the menu is not the food, either way, you get the picture. Literally! Semiotics is the study of symbols, our everyday life is saturated with them; they are unescapable. People across the world are paid vast amounts of cash to design them for companies to create their identities and even more to create subtle variations of them, just take the new google banner as an example, all that changes is the font, but that itself is hugely significant. Ok another example, think of The Sun, now depending on a number of variables, such as culture, modality preference and personal experience, some people reading that would of instantly felt the heat on their skin, others the sounds of the waves lapping on the shore, others an iconic child-like image of a big yellow circle, some may even of imagined a headline or a page three model, the point is no two people reading this would of had the same “symbol’ in their mind, and what’s more all of you are correct, the fact is ‘The Sun’ are two words, made up of six letters in a certain order in a certain font in a certain colour; all of which also mean something. But you may of skipped right past these six letters when written another way happen to spell ‘He Nuts’, but that is a whole other image. My point is a symbol is unique to whoever generates it. We are not talking symbolism here, used by art movements such as the Pre-Raphaelites, this type of symbolism is more of a code, where specific items such as flowers and fruits all have specific meaning for anyone else in the know to understand and interpret, much in the same way as you or I would read the letters in this sentence.

So where do we create our own symbols? Your subconscious mind is a veritable symbol factory, and warehouse, you have millions of them happily stored away, they are your own personal short cut keys to a million different things. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but so is a sound, a touch, a taste and who hasn’t been instantly warped to another time and place at the mere whiff of an iced finger baking? No? That’s just me then.

Your dreams are your night shift of symbol generating minions at work, how dull would it be to process your day’s activities, by simply re-running them as if they were real. I mean why would you do that when you could be sorting out the boss whilst mounted aloft a dragon with photocopies of wings, again, no?

Metaphors and stories too are symbols, did I mention a symbol doesn’t need to be flat, still and two dimensional? Erikson the master of vague ambiguity crafted this little technique like Michelangelo finding out David was hiding in a huge block of marble all along. A while ago I studied illustration to Masters Level and explored the realm of fairy tales, during which I detrimentally discovered the worst thing you can do with a fairy tale is illustrate it. You may have noticed that there are very few characters in fairy tales that have actual names, they are mostly described by some physical or personal traits, snow white, little red riding hood, the big bad wolf, who for all we know may of been called Frank; but it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. To illustrate a fairy tale is to deny the listener, (not reader per-say as these were a narrative tradition) the right to create their own symbols, and consequently cast themselves as the hero, the villain or even the house made of sweets, if they chose. As soon as an illustrator ‘defines’ the visual for you, you no longer have the same access to the story and its meaning as you would have done without it. It’s the same reason the old 70’s horror films, the ones where you never actually see the beast, just the two red dots for eyes hiding under the bed, that my grandma made me watch at the ripe old age of 6, still scare the stuffing out of me, and why I still can’t look at my TV in standby mode. Because your own imagination will create something much more horrific than a production designer on a tight special effects budget ever could.

So now we know symbols are as unique to us as our fingerprints, how can we use them to help generate change in ourselves and our clients? I’m sure you already know several processes that already utilise them, in fact you would be hard pressed to name any that don’t. As a Hypnotist and Energy Psychologist, as well as an artist, I find symbols of all VAKOG flavours are a huge part of my work. I use them with clients all the time. I also specialise in working with resistance and dissociated clients and symbols are a fantastic way-in past the most confrontational Critical Faculty, if you know how to use them well that is. The point is to stay impartial, to not impose your own interpretation on to them, and to persuade your clients to allow the first thing to come up for them to be the right thing in that moment, without analysing and interpreting it. I have helped clients transform phobias using as diverse symbols as the smell of carrots for a flying phobia and a snow flake for a fear of spiders. Logically that doesn’t make sense, but that’s exactly why it works. We are nowhere near the land of logic so why would we use it? As Erikson once said, all issues are a conflict between the subconscious and conscious mind. Analysing subconscious symbols is the equivalent of poisoning them. I am going to present one of the techniques I use with all my clients that utilises symbols in a simple but hugely effective way. It can be used in or out of trance on its own or alongside tapping or any other energy technique you may use already. It is also one of the best routes in to self-hypnosis I have ever come across. I am confident you and your clients will find it as gentle and useful as I have.


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