There’s a very popular branch of psychology now studying happiness. One of the founders of this effort is a guy named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who began working on creativity and discovered a state he calls flow. That state — what some people call being "in the zone" — is about being totally absorbed in what you are doing, finding just the right level of challenge in it. If what you’re doing is too easy, you’re bored. If it’s too difficult, well, you’re frustrated. Flow is not the same as pleasure, although it can be pleasurable. It doesn’t even have to be fun, although it often is.
Being a hypnotherapist, for me, is all about flow. I’m doing work I believe in, with people who amaze me. And I don’t easily believe in much.
I call myself "the practical hypnotherapist," being sort of a poster-child for the scientific approach rather than a woo-woo attitude. Yet when I want to describe what hypnotherapy means to me, I can’t avoid a little sentimentality. I don’t know if any of us are put on this earth for a purpose. But if we are, this is mine.
In previous careers, I’ve used my love of language, my curiosity about people, my desire to help and an urge to create. And being a skeptic has been important to me.
I started out as a newspaper reporter. I sold my first publication, drawn by hand, to my neighbors for a nickel at age 6. I had the amazing luck and intestinal fortitude to become a foreign correspondent based in Bangkok, Thailand, at the age of 24. I attended Indira Gandhi’s funeral, was shelled on at the Thai-Cambodian border, wrote about folks living in the garbage dump in Manila. I had a year of living dangerously and I loved a lot of it. But that wasn’t flow.
In the 1990s I became a licensed private investigator in San Francisco. Again, a combination of luck and pluck allowed me to train with some of the best PIs in the country. As a legal investigator, I worked for lawyers on both sides of civil litigation or defense attorneys in criminal cases. Investigation was like reporting except with more immediate results: I did research, I interviewed witnesses, I wrote witty and descriptive reports. I worked on cases ranging from sexual harassment in offices to helping some of the most dedicated lawyers in the world file appeals for death-row inmates. It was an adventure. But it wasn’t flow. It was more like a constant knot in the stomach. My husband had to remind me to breathe.
When I moved to Los Angeles, I went back to another childhood dream. I began working in theater. My parents both were theater people. My father was a professor of technical theater and I loved being backstage with him. I still love it. I am a proud member of IATSE local 33, the branch of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees that does lighting, props, sets, sound and more for live theater and some television here in Hollywood. The technical aspects of being behind the scenes at soap operas, news programming and arena rock shows have been fascinating. A side benefit was doing physical labor for a decade. Instead of paying personal trainers, I get paid to work. But blue-collar work is not a gentle trade and I’ve learned first hand about the need for non-drug pain control. My shoulder will never be the same. Once I ran over my foot with a prize car on a game show. This work has been interesting, but it’s not flow.
I had been interested in hypnosis for years and finally got serious about it. Because California, like most states, does not license hypnotherapists, I could have put out a shingle and begun practicing without any training at all. Instead, I sought out the best teachers I could find.
Now I can proudly say I’ve qualified three times over as a hypnotist. I’ve learned several different methods and can tailor each session to match the needs of individual clients. After interviewing thousands of people and working with hundreds of union brothers and sisters, one thing I know is how differently each of us think. Now, when I talk with people who want to change something about their lives, I can do more than report or commiserate. Relaxed and confident that we each carry inside us all we really need, I help people release old patterns and make better decisions.
As a reporter I observed the pattern of human behavior. As an investigator, I helped them deal with the consequences of their behavior. As a hypnotherapist, I help people choose their behavior. This is flow.