Are you a Victim or a Volunteer? : The Hypnotic Power of Storytelling

Once Upon a Time…

You can probably relate to the experience of coming home from a vacation and, when asked by friends and family members ‘How was your trip?’, finding yourself repeating the same details over and over and over again.  In essence, you condense the event into a tidy little story. 

This story – and all of the images, words, memories and emotions that go with it – are reinforced with every re-telling.  Your trip, ‘Vegas 2012’, becomes firmly lodged in your brain as a familiar story which you can replay at will to yourself, and anyone else interested.

If you start to listen to people when they speak – or to listen to yourself – you will soon start to notice that, in fact, most everything we talk about is linked to a story.  Even the lady in front of you at the checkout counter has a mini story that she has concocted and is sticking to – “Organic bananas are too expensive…buying organic isn’t worth the price!”.  She’s gathered some bits of info, mixed in some personal beliefs and opinions, and concocted a tidy little story about a specific subject.

We tell stories about everything, all the time. Sometimes out loud.  And sometimes just silently in our own head.  Either way, every time our story is repeated, it is reinforced.

If you tell yourself something once, it’s a thought.

If you tell yourself something many times, it becomes a habit.

If you tell yourself something habitually, it becomes a story that defines the way you live.

Our stories are our life.

How many of you know someone – surely, not yourself! – who is constantly hung up on a sad story in their life?  They are a constant ‘victim’ of some unfortunate event that has befallen them, and you routinely hear them gripe about their misery and woe.

Here’s the thing.  Their misfortune may be very genuine and understandable.  Sometimes bad things happen, and sometimes life just does not seem fair.

However, while you cannot control the events in your life, you can control how you react and relate to them.

The choice is always yours.

Pain is inevitable.  Suffering is optional.

Many people get stuck on their sad story.  At one point they were a genuine victim of circumstance, but then they voluntarily chose to carry their misfortune with them.  It became a part of their identity.

If you choose to be a victim in your life – to be held back by the events and circumstances of your life – that is your choice.

But there are no long-term victims.  There are only volunteers.

That’s not to discount the legitimate and genuine pain and stresses of life that you have been through, or are going through.

But you have to let them go in order to move forward.

“The past does not equal the future, unless you live there.” – Anthony Robbins


So, what does this have to do with hypnosis?


You use language to hypnotize yourself all the time, whether you mean to or not.  You reinforce your stories and beliefs over and over again with the words you tell yourself.  They finally sink in to your subconscious and become a part of your reality.  And once they are there, they don’t easily leave.

If you lack self-confidence, for example, or are feeling sorry for yourself for some reason, you need to ask yourself…’What story have I been telling myself on a regular basis?’

Language is incredibly powerful.  But we need to make sure that what we tell ourselves is EMPOWERING and not destructive!

“We are not creatures of circumstance, we are creators of circumstance.” – Benjamin Disraeli

Three Takeaway Tips

Here are a few steps you can take to harness the power of your stories:

1)    What’s your story?

Try to become aware of the stories you are telling yourself, and others.  Are these serving you?

2)    Ask a better question, Get a better answer

During the day if you ask yourself a crappy question like ‘Why me?!’ your subconscious mind will oblige you with a crappy answer like ‘Because you suck!’

However, if you ask a more empowering question like ‘What else could this mean?’ or  ‘Where is the gift in the problem?’, your subconscious mind will come up with a helpful, positive answer.

3)    Put a Stop to the BS

One of the problems we have in society is that we condone, fuel and support each others’ bullshit stories.  When our friends and loved ones are telling us their sad stories, what do we do?  We commiserate…we validate…we sympathize.  Sometimes for months and years.

By doing so, we strengthen and re-enforce the person’s connection to their story.  This is not helpful.  An appropriate amount of compassion early on is excellent.  Anything beyond that risks becoming destructive.  Encourage others to be honest with you, and return the favor – give each other some tough love and extract yourselves from your bullshit stories.

Hurt me with the truth, don’t comfort me with a lie.

Of course, the easiest way of all for identifying and eliminating unhelpful stories is to go straight to the source – the subconscious mind.  A hypnotherapist can help you clearly identify your stories, and help you easily replace the bad with the good.  It is quick, simple and amazingly powerful.

So, don’t like your story?  Perhaps it’s time to write a new one!

Hypnosis, and hypnotherapy, can help you do just that.


Nichols Clinical Hypnotherapy in San Francisco & White Rock

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