One of my teachers in high school was excellent with chalk or a whiteboard marker.
She wrote quickly and legibly – and her handwriting was beautiful, too.
She knew how to draw simple pictures and diagrams in a way that was simple and effective. That’s harder than it looks, you know.
But there was one subskill in the vast discipline of whiteboard work she struggled with:
Writing in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.
Whenever she did that, she’d make typos.
Being the charming and precocious young adults we were, we’d point out her mistakes to her. I’ll never forget what she said:
“When I look at a word, I see the shape of it, so I can spot a mistake because the shape is wrong. With all capitals, the shape is less familiar and distinctive.”
What an interesting insight.
If you ask most people how they read, they’ll be confused by the question. “What do you mean, how? I look at words.”
Some will say something like they infer meaning from the symbols, chunked into semantic groups that they then scan for meaning…
Those explanations are true, but incomplete. In the spirit of my former teacher, let me draw a simple diagram:
see symbols on a page -> infer meaning
But that’s not how you read, is it?
It’s missing a step.
How do you infer the meaning?
Do you look for the shape of the word, like my teacher? That leaves you vulnerable to certain typos, like words in all capitals or swapping Ls for Is.
Do you sound out each phoneme?
Maybe you have synesthesia, so each word has its own “colour” or “texture”.
As for me, I rely on the word’s shape a little bit, but also its sound and its relation to other words. I’m susceptible to making strange typos – writing ‘for’ instead of ‘more’, or ‘you’ instead of ‘how’.
If you’re not sure how you process words, it’s not a big deal. That’s not a useful thing to learn for most of us. And it happens to fast, so automatically, that it’s harder to tell than it might seem.
Anyway, it means the earlier diagram looks more like this:
see symbols on a page -> automatically process them -> infer meaning
It’s so smooth that it often feels as though the symbols themselves have meaning, rather than you being the one to add that bit.
Still with me?
The same thing happens with phobias.
Let’s say you have anthophobia – a fear of flowers. The process feels like:
see flowers -> feel fear
But that’s not the full picture. The proof of that is simple – most people see flowers without feeling fear.
So something else must be happening.
And something else is:
see flowers -> automatically add meaning to what you see -> feel fear
Something happens between the flower and the fear.
Something fast and automatic.
But not immutable.
This might seem strangely abstract, little more than an intellectual exercise. It’s not – it’s one of the most powerful and subtle lessons in hypnosis I’ve ever learned.
Because you can use hypnosis, plus this insight, to resolve any emotional response that bothers you – including phobias.
Sure, if you’re familiar with the NLP Fast Phobia Cure, you can use that.
But this works for anything – from bad habits to pre-game jitters to binge-eating and -watching.
Because with hypnosis, you can rewire your automatic responses and make them healthier.