Book Review: One Simple Idea

Mitch Horowitz begins his history of the positive-thinking movement with memoir, sharing a humble account of how he became interested in the topic. He ends his book with a challenge to others to test the principles. Between those brackets, he sets out a feast for those of us who have been starved for substance when it comes to the idea that “thoughts are causative.”

I became interested in hypnosis when I was very young — a sophomore or junior in high school — and I’ve always been a science-loving nerd. Most popular books on how ideation affects reality do not speak to me. They seem superficial, sloppy, hyperbolic, poorly edited, or all of the above.

Enter One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life. It makes me want to weep with gratitude.

I’ve never considered positive thinking as a theology or philosophy. I’ve always thought of it as a function of neuroscience and physics. Horowitz introduced me to a lineage of positive thinkers for whom positive thinking (or New Thought) was an aspect of spirituality. Their names were new to me, and Horowitz paints each one as a full-blooded, vibrant human being, with dreams, families, careers, obstacles, and victories (not always in that order).

Horowitz unfolds a fascinating history, describing vigorous personal correspondences, bitter feuds, secretive scandals, astonishing creativity, unrepentant plagiarism, and not so much an evolution of ideas as a dialog across time and geography.

Many of the people who populate these stories could easily support whole books of their own (and I hope they do). Helen Wilmans, for example, who said she wanted to start her own newspaper and was laughed at… before becoming a phenomenally successful writer, speaker, and publisher. I wish I could have met her. 

One Simple Idea isn’t just a series of biographical vignettes. Horowitz simultaneously traces how the actions of these individuals and their followers imprinted upon American culture to affect business, politics, and religion, in addition to personal conduct. As such, it confronts “the positive-thinking movement’s most serious and lingering dilemma: What are the ethics and moral credibility of a movement that considers the outer world nothing more than a reflection of an individual’s private outlook?”

Although one final chapter tackles these questions in depth, Horowitz taps this note throughout the book. This is one reason I’m loving so hard on One Simple Idea. There are no easy answers. Horowitz works hard to reach them. In doing so, he snatches the topic back from the hands of feel-good psychobabblers who bang out a version of philosophical Chopsticks in a concert hall begging for Mozart. Not to say Horowitz is Mozart, but he knows the difference between simple and easy. One Simple Idea is rigorous in questioning and reporting, and it cites its sources like a serious work of nonfiction, which I love so much that I want to kiss the damn thing, but that would leave lipstick on its pages.

The final reason this book makes me want to weep with gratitude is its language. It is rich, clear, scholarly, and nuanced. Horowitz has a deep respect and affection for his subject matter, and even as he writes with authority, there is an underlying humility and vulnerability. He does not pander or condescend. He challenges rather than criticizes, without being snarky or shaming.

And he appears to be incredibly prolific, so I look forward to reading many more of his books.

Self-care for busy people (especially, but not exclusively, moms)

I love how this article offers specific, simple tips you can take action on almost immediately.

It also focuses on CHOICES vs. blaming others. Richard Bach once wrote, “The best way to avoid responsibility is to say, ‘I’ve got responsibilities.'”

When you’re a mom, a business owner, or an executive, it can feel like everything and everyone depends on you, which makes it easy to deny yourself in order to take care of ourselves. After all, we should sacrifice everything for those who depend on us, right? It’s heroic.

Or are we called to hold ourselves to a higher standard of self care? Could it be that when we are tired, frantic, resentful, not thinking clearly, etc. we aren’t heroic at all? When we’re depleted, how can we give our best to those who need us to bring our A game?

The Busy Mom’s Guide to Doing Nothing

Book review: Before You Know It

Before You Know It: The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do is about how the nonconscious mind affects our choices, decisions, behaviors, moods, relationships, and performance. It’s an absolute must read if you want to get a better grasp on your thinking and habits.

John Bargh, PhD, writes about how we as humans are affected by forces within us and outside us without ever noticing it: The hidden past, the hidden present, and the hidden future.

  • Can the temperature of a room affect how generous or helpful you are?
  • What kind of music piped into a store will influence you to spend more?
  • What style of clothing should you avoid if you want to do well on a test?
  • Which imaginary superpower will turn conservatives into liberals?
  • When is it better to trust your gut?

Bargh has written a personal, funny, and engaging book. His ACME Lab at Yale (the Automaticity in Cognition, Motivation, and Evaluation Lab) invokes Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner as metaphors of the conscious mind (thinking it’s far more clever than it is) and the nonconscious mind (speedy and trumping all “supergenius” efforts). Bargh illustrates his research using everyday experiences that we all can identify with. If you didn’t believe that the nonconscious mind directs your behavior without you knowing it – you will be surprised.

“We strongly assume that what we are thinking and feeling is driven by what’s happening right now in front of us, and we hardly ever question that assumption,” Bargh writes. “Yet quite often something more than what is right here and now is acting upon us. It is the past – our species’ ancient past, our unique unremembered infant past, and our very recent past, just now receding in the rearview mirror of our day. All of these different yesterdays matter, because they are still affecting the most important moment in every person’s life – the only moment Einstein believed actually existed – the present.”

Some of the influences of the nonconscious mind are so invisible, that people confidently deny they exist, but scientists are measuring the effects. By learning about them, you can protect yourself from bad choices and live a more intentional and satisfying life.

“The most effective self control is not through willpower and exerting effort to stifle impulses and unwanted behaviors,” Bargh says. “It comes from effectively harnessing the unconscious powers of the mind to much more easily do the self-control for you.” He devotes a whole chapter to measurable steps toward taking better control over your thoughts and actions.

A terrific read.

Beliefs and Body Art

Writer Steven Barnes posted something on his Facebook page the other day about how someone who (1) acts with a generous heart on behalf of another, is then (2) criticized by that other person because the “generous” action is perceived as insensitive, condescending, clueless, or whatnot, can (3) become irritated by the recipient’s ingratitude and stomp off in a “to hell with them, then” huff.

It touched on something I’ve been mulling over lately: perception and offensiveness. How offensiveness is defined and how people react or respond when they encounter something they perceive as offensive.

I recently found a long-treasured and long-buried copy of RE/Search Modern Primitives, a book about body modification, its origins, and the people who practice it in modern settings. It’s a visually graphic book; not for anyone squeamish about the human body being scarred, tattooed, stretched, or squeezed.

 I love it because extremes fascinate me, and because it reminds me that “normal” is a moving target and probably a stupid concept better replaced with “typical” or “usual.” I love it because it shows me how small my imagination is in some areas; I feel a sense of awe similar to when I look up at the stars and try to wrap my head around how huge the universe is. I love the book because it makes me flinch uncomfortably, and I think when we feel uncomfortable, it’s an invitation to grow.

As I sat there reading the interview with Fakir Musafar (who died this past August at the age of 87), looking at the black and white photos of his work, I realized that some people would not simply feel disgust and quickly move along, but would want to burn the book. They would want to obliterate this type of desire and expression. That made me shudder, as did the thought that followed: There were people who would want to burn me for being curious about modern primitives.

That made me more uncomfortable than the book, and not in a good way.

I guess it’s an invitation to grow.

Kiera Knieghtly talks about hypnosis and PTSD

movie theaterWe make assumptions about people:
  • how successful they are,
  • what they like,
  • what they care about,
  • what they believe.
We don’t often make assumptions about what they are afraid of.
Photographers and other media workers so harassed Keira Knightley that it resulted in a PTSD diagnosis and fear of going out in public, among other things. She was only 22 years old. Hypnosis was one of the tools she used to get her life back.
I don’t think people realize how tough performing is. At any measure of success — a little or a lot  — the costs are high.
Some may scoff at Knightley’s story, but fear can be debilitating, whether it’s a fear of flying, of public speaking, of spiders, diets, or heights. No one should have to go through life constantly terrified.

Comedy hypnosis show!

Laughing woman Photo by gabrielle cole on Unsplash

I love comedy hypnosis, and I was fortunate last Saturday to see Doug Meacham perform in Gresham, at the SALT Academy.

Some hypnotherapists dislike comedy shows, because they think comedy hypnosis gives people the wrong idea about hypnosis. Despite the fact that the number one question I get from people is, “Are you going to make me cluck like a chicken?” (short answer: no) I still think comedy hypnosis is one of the best ways to demonstrate the incredible power of the mind, and that power lies within everyone.

As an audience member, a trained hypnotist will notice many details that an untrained eye would miss, and there was much to admire in Doug’s performance. In a short amount of time, he found and worked with those who were most responsive to hypnosis in the moment* and brought out the imagination of his volunteers. I especially loved the superheroes who appeared! I thought that was a great metaphor, too. Hypnosis can help you leverage the power of your subconscious, and that can often feel like having a superpower.

The next time you have the opportunity to go to a hypnosis show (Las Vegas is great for this, but you can also get on Doug’s mailing list or Facebook page), I highly encourage it!

*Being “hypnotizable,” in my experience, is an inaccurate description. People spontaneously drift in and out of the trance state all day long. The ability to enter hypnosis isn’t a set characteristic, like having brown eyes or being 5’7″ tall — it’s actually like most people’s handwriting. Everyone learns the basics, but with practice and paying attention, you get better and better.


Mind/body, sexuality, and coaching

Man and woman kissing
Photo by Scott Webb

A couple of weeks ago, I met with Kristine D’Angelo, of DoYourSexLifeAFavor. D’Angelo is a certified sex coach, which means she’s a coach (someone who listens, asks questions, gives homework assignments, reflects, encourages, holds people accountable, etc.) who helps clients with goals regarding their sexual lives – physicality, attitudes, experiences, communication (with self and others), blocks, barriers, history, and future – among other things.

She told me she’d always been interested in the topic, that life circumstances arose that sparked her curiosity and compassion and led to an extensive research project, and that she continued that way for awhile – researching and sharing – until discovering the professional niche and certification. What a wonderful service!

I consider myself lucky and blessed to have been born when I was, in the early ‘60s, a decade that launched a barrage of questions aimed at traditional gender roles. (Anyone who knows me knows I love questions.) I consider myself doubly blessed to have discovered science fiction when I was young. The SF of the sixties and seventies examined social constructs as often as it extrapolated from hard science. I read utopias and dystopias and speculative fiction and adventure, things like _The Void Captain’s Tale_ and _The Man Who Folded Himself_ and _Stranger in a Strange Land_. I grew up thinking that being gay was like being redhead: a normal minority. I had polyamorous friends. I was straight, monogamous, and Christian, but I really, really loved men and sex.

So the new Sex Positivity movement is near and dear to my heart. I think a positive body image is a basic human right. I don’t think we should settle for being comfortable in our own skin – I think we should enjoy and adore and delight in being in our own skin. When I hear women or men of any age – but especially my age – say they’ve outgrown the need for sex, or are too tired, or have better things to do, or think it’s shameful, or shocking, or whatever… well, it’s a big world full of all kinds of people, but those folks are not my tribe. For anyone who has been traveling with that tribe out of inertia or fear, stuck in embarrassment or longing and not sure how to shift out of it, Kristine brings wisdom, skill, curiosity, and a passion for healing.

Getting the most from your first hypnosis session

If you have never been to a hypnotist before, you may be wondering, “What will happen during my session?”

Previewing your session

You will have received an email with directions to the office, so it will be easy to find the building and a parking space. You’ll come into my first-floor office, where I will welcome you in the reception area. Depending on the day of the week, you may meet one of the other practitioners in the adjacent offices. We’ll go into my office, where we’ll be working.

You’ll fill out some new-client paperwork if you’re a new client, and sometimes if you’re a returning client.

You’ll pay for the number of sessions we discussed during your consultation, and we’ll finish scheduling the remainder of your sessions (if you’re coming in for more than one session).

We’ll answer any questions that may have occurred to you since your consultation, and I’ll gather any additional information.

Prior to the hypnosis session, we’ll do some receptivity exercises, which will

  • determine the methods of hypnosis that are best for you,

  • allow you to enter the state easily and deeply, and

  • strengthen and improve your hypnotic abilities over time.

Supercharging your session

Hypnosis is based on relaxing the conscious mind and allowing the subconscious room to work. Going into hypnosis is a simple and pleasurable process. In fact, everyone goes in and out of hypnotic states multiple times every day, spontaneously. It’s simply part of how our brains work.

When you go to a hypnotist however, you want to get the most out of your hypnosis session. You have a limited amount of time, and you want every moment to be productive. Here is a checklist of questions to ask yourself so that you are set up for success.


Come to your session ready to focus.


  • Do you drink a lot of water, coffee, tea, or alcohol? Avoid drinking large amounts of liquid immediately before your session.

  • Is your clothing comfortable? Wear something that is loose or that can be adjusted. At home, before your session, put on the clothes you intend to wear, and sit in a comfortable chair or lean back on a sofa or bed. In that relaxed position, are you free from pressure around your neck, arms, midsection, and legs?

  • Are your shoes comfortable when you’re reclining? If not, can they be removed easily?

  • Are you wearing jewelry or hair accessories that become uncomfortable when you lean back? Does anything itch, pinch, or poke you?

  • Do you know how to turn your cell phone off or put it in airplane mode? Check YouTube or ask a friend or relative to show you. Jot down the steps. Don’t lose precious session time trying to figure this out!

Removing these distractions will prepare you for a relaxing and powerful hypnosis session!

Finding the right hypnotist: Part 2

Finding the right hypnotist:

A checklist

Part 2: Questions to ask your hypnotist
(Read Part 1)
Now that you have an idea about some of the things that are important to you, it’s time to make a list of questions to ask your hypnotist.
  • How long have you been doing hypnosis? How long professionally?
  • If they haven’t been practicing for long, I would follow up with another question: What percentage of your training was done in person? I like this question more than, “Where did you get your training?” because it indicates they have done more than online classes. (There are some exceptional online classes that actually deliver more than many in-person trainings, which is why I think a combination of in-person and online trainings are ideal.)
  • Do you have a business license? Although municipalities have different requirements for who must have a business license, a hypnotist who has one demonstrates stability and professionalism.
  • Do you have insurance? If they say no, walk away.
  • What professional, business, or community organizations do you actively participate in? Hypnotists who are members of these types of organizations can offer several benefits.
  1. First, the practitioner has met a certain standard of educational or other requirements, so they have demonstrated quality. The National Guild of Hypnotists, the Oregon Hypnotherapy Association, and other professional organizations have membership requirements.
  2. Second, as active participants, they demonstrate a desire to improve their own abilities and make a contribution to their profession and their communities.
  3. Third, active members of these types of organizations are more capable of making knowledgeable referrals. Just as we occasionally need to find a new auto mechanic, hairdresser, or dentist, it’s nice to know someone who is plugged into the professional community.
  • Can you tell me about someone you’ve helped who had an issue like the one I’m facing?
  • What is your process for working with a new client?
You may have additional questions if you are looking for someone with a certain specialty or expertise, but these questions provide a nice base.