Anyone who has ever worked hard to make lasting changes knows that it is one thing to want to live your best life as your best self and quite another to actually do it. Moreover, there are times when simply being dedicated won’t cut it. In spite of what Tumblr memes and Pinterest posts might tell you, the vast majority of people can’t effectively change the ways they approach their lives by simply deciding to be happy or positive or anything else, really. Most of us need to do some real work. I believe this happens in stages: first, by accepting where we are in our lives (and grabbing our own portion of the responsibility for being there) and then by working to develop the skills to do some cognitive restructuring. Once those things are done, we can really commit to doing things differently.
A few months ago, I realized that it was high time I did all of the above and made some real changes. After a lot of unnecessary self-inflicted struggle, it became very clear to me that I was living in a purgatory between a great life I had worked tirelessly for and the fear-based mindset that was keeping me from enjoying it. Just as I was starting to accept that I needed some help, a colleague in PR mentioned that she was representing a well-known hypnotherapist. “She works with top athletes and is incredible,” she said. “She changes people’s lives.” Needless to say, I was intrigued. I asked to be introduced and was connected with Pattie Freeman a week later.
Now, before we go on, I’ll tell you that I am not a cynic by any means. In fact, it’s fair to say that I am pretty open to things. I check Susan Miller’s monthly readings (props for being on time this month, Susan) and have been known to give some credit to a Tarot reading in the moment. Once, when a psychic in Nashville told me a few things that all came true, I developed a pretty strong idea that maybe there is something to that voodoo stuff. Still, I am not about to make any big life changes based on something in a $5.00 palm reading and I’ll still date an air sign, though reluctantly. I view these sorts of things as falling into the “kind of fun at the carnival” category. Having been hypnotized in the past on an adult camping trip (where I am pretty sure I drooled onstage), I tossed it into the same pile. Still, if Mets players were upping their batting averages with Pattie’s help, maybe there was something to it. Perhaps she could help me achieve a few goals or at least get me to put my keys in one place every time I came home. Over the next week, I mentioned my plan to a few friends, all of whom seemed genuinely intrigued in hearing about the process and any progress I may make. By the time our session arrived, I was ready to change my view of myself and my life, if a little skeptical as to the role she might play in that.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but talking to Pattie on our first call was more like speaking to a girlfriend who happened to be a therapist. She was engaging, open, nonjudgemental and truly funny. An hour after picking up the phone, I had confessed nearly every demon I had—from body insecurities and sleep issues to my repeated dating faux pas (oh, do I love those emotionally unavailable men). It felt freeing to get it all out, but also left me feeling quite vulnerable. She now had all of the information that I was both eager and afraid to share. Sensing my confusion, she assured me that nothing I had shared was all that different from anyone else nor would it ever be revealed. Though the specifics of each circumstance are different, anxiety, insecurity, lack of willpower, self-judgement and lack of know-how are all very common amongst us humans. Sad to hear, but a relief to know I wasn’t a completely isolated case. After asking for a few preferences such was what element soothes me (water), it was time to get down to business. “Are you ready for our first session?” she asked. I was. Pattie had me lie back and close my eyes. Gentle music began and our 20-minute visualization session started. She asked me to imagine walking down a path (Primrose Hill in London for me) and spoke to me until we finally arrived at a secluded beach. I felt completely relaxed and at ease as she walked me around the area, pointing out the many lovely natural elements. Suddenly, she asked me to look down at the sand and look at a collection of the negative words that had plagued me on a daily basis. I then watched the ocean waves come in and wash them all away, one-by-one. As each word was taken away, I noticed that I took a deeper breath. I walked around on the sand and played in the water and took in the beautiful sky. I was conscious the entire time, but very relaxed, and enjoying the holiday in the storage room of my office, no less. When the session was over, I opened my eyes. “How do you feel?” she asked. “Giddy!” I said. I also felt rested, as though I had been lying there for hours. Pattie explained this was because 20 minutes of hypnotherapy is equal to 1 to 2 hours of sleep.
We got off of the phone and I got ready for the date I was going on. This is when I got my first inkling that this was more than some Victorian parlor trick or Vaudeville sideshow act. Not only did I not experience my normal pre-date jitters (often so profound I have a glass of wine beforehand), but I actually didn’t do much of my anxious primping–a swipe of lipstick and a comb through of my hair was it. When my date told me I was “the most glowing and confident woman” he had met, I stopped myself from looking around. Placebo effect or not, I was into this. The next morning, I opened my email and saw that Pattie had sent me a download of our session. I began to listen to it daily. Within two days, my colleagues noted that I was more confident and in a better mood. I found myself saying positive things to myself in the mirror (so SNL, I know) and feeling really connected to my goals. I wouldn’t say this was a flip-of-the-switch life change, but there were enough noticeable differences that I believed it was working.
The following week, Pattie and I spoke for another hour and I went on another curated visual holiday (this time going down to a beach in an elevator which I decided had to be Parisian and playing Edith Piaf). Initially, I didn’t feel this particular journey had the same impact as the initial visualization, the changes in my approach to my days made it clear that Pattie knew what she was doing. This visualization focused on me feeling very grounded and making very specific choices about who I had in my life. According to Pattie (and so many of my friends) I had acquired a bad habit of “fixing people,” mainly men, which needed to be addressed. I also needed to learn to create boundaries with people who had a tendency to push me into a corner. Well, let’s just say in the week that followed this session, a few major steps were taken. First, I found myself drawing lines in the sand with people who had long crossed my lines of comfort. Second, I realized quite clearly and abruptly that the on-and-off relationship I was in was not going to ever be what I wanted or deserved and I ended it. Sounds reasonable, but suffice it to say I have been known to stay in said relationships years too long. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to say “yes,” “no” and “no more,” and the more I did, the more I realized how much easier my life became. It was around this time that I started promoting Pattie to every person who mentioned they wanted to change something.
Our final session in week three was, by far, my favorite. I started at the top of the stairs in a gorgeous mansion in London where I walked down, step-by-step, and through two large doors that opened into a Parterre garden full of beautiful roses (what can I say other than I like to live large in my hypnotic life). Pattie had me take in all I had achieved and how great it felt to have accomplished so many of the things I was still working on in my “real” life. She asked me to walk towards a waterfall where I watched the water moving at its own pace, through the rocks, doing what it needed to do to get where it wanted to go. Pattie spoke to me about many of my goals, paying special attention to some very big and private dreams as well as my desire to start a consulting and publishing company, launch Badass + Living, be more organized and feel more secure in my goals and vision for my life both personally and professionally. The session was soothing, deeply personal, positive and motivating in ways that almost seemed layered. Each time I replayed the download, something new would show up. I became somewhat addicted to the high I felt “experiencing” the life I was working so hard to create for myself. At the end of our session, Pattie asked me to choose a theme song which she would infuse with positive messages to help me continue my journey. I chose Rebel Heart by Madonna for so many reasons that it would need an article of its own. The next day, I received my bespoke recording which had me dancing and singing in my underpants with my dog, Tony Montana, all over my apartment (true).
Within two weeks of our final session, it became clear that all of the visualizations worked together to build a foundation that allowed me the space and confidence to go for it, and by “it”, I mean everything. I was shocked that in 13 short days, I had experienced more movement than I had in a few years. Not only had I formed my new LLC, but I built a new site to go with it. I signed with a new agent for my book proposal and started working with a developer on Badass + Living. I hired a senior editor and reached out to 50 potential contributors, 30 of whom signed up. My house and office were both much more organized (I lost my keys only twice which is pretty much a miracle) and I was sleeping better than I had ever before. Thanks to a busy schedule, I stopped doing the downloads daily and noticed that even if I didn’t need them the same way I did initially, I missed them and the way they made me feel. I decided to listen to one at least three times a week and each time I do, my body feels aligned and my mood changes almost immediately. Though every person is different and hypnosis isn’t an end-all be-all cure, nor should it be done for a serious medical ailment without consulting a doctor, it was a hell of a start for this anxious and slightly self-sabotaging writer who needed more than a mantra or a good talk over a glass of wine. Through Pattie’s 20-minute sessions, I learned how to relax, breathe, face my demons and see myself in a new light. I also began to knock out goals that had been dreams swirling in my head and tasks sitting on my to-do list so long they had begun to grow roots. I emerged from this experience feeling more confident in my ability to take control of my life, my mood, my insecurities and my career simply by really trusting myself, taking risks and making choices that were based on what felt most right to me in the core. In the months that have followed, people in my life have noted that I seem calmer, more secure, more patient, grounded and less likely to panic. Do I still have insecurities, impatient episodes and little freak outs? Absolutely. But with Pattie’s help, I have learned how to see these as momentary human setbacks and not debilitating character flaws. I have also learned how to hit the reset button, get up and go enjoy a beautiful walk, paying special attention to the sun shining through the trees.
To learn more about hypnotherapy, please read my interview with Pattie here.