My own personal theory of imprinting, which I have pieced together is rather elaborate in one sense though actually quite simple to grasp in its essence. I am of the view that probably from conception and certainly from birth in any case, we are immediately forming imprints in our mind and neurology of behavioural patterns we need to have in order to increase our chances of survival. These imprints are as permanent and resistant to change in direct proportion to the emotional content that was present when they were formed. It is no wonder then that it is quite probable that some of the deepest and most global in their influence are created at a time before we even have speech. A baby is essentially a wordless little bundle of sensations. If you ever watch a baby cry you can tell the action involves his or her whole physiology and hence neurology. Right away we develop one of about four general patterns (those more interested in this can research attachment theory in more detail) though of course the specific imprints or filters we create are as unique as human beings are diverse.
These imprints essentially become lenses through which we filter all of our life experiences and we are continually adding more of them as we continue to grow and experience and learn. Some of these imprints might be more beneficial than others, however, impossible as the concept sounds, perhaps an ideal solution would be to mute or dissolve as many of them as possible or at least as many of the ones that have a negative effect on our lives as possible.
It is my theory that those persons in human history that managed to do this essentially are either known to us as personages of great historical significance or in some way nevertheless changed the world for the better.
I think to some greater or lesser degree, people like Bodhidharma (Buddha), Jesus, Einstein, Ghandi, Tesla and yes Erickson, had achieved either a certain attenuation or dissolution of the more negative imprints. Although most people are unaware of the work of Tesla, the fact is that he single-handedly probably had the biggest impact that one single person has ever had on the human race (certainly from a purely practical view point at least) in the last thousand years or so. Some would argue that Jesus or Buddha has similarly changed the world, though opinions might differ as to whether for the better or not depending on their views.
In any case, the dissolution of imprints of an ever increasing depth and resistance to change certainly changes your life in dramatic ways. Tony Robbins essentially does this by getting people into an emotionally charged state that he then uses to blow out old imprints and old patterns. His seminars reach attendances well in excess of 12,000 people at a time so I think it’s fair to say he’s onto something, given that many of these people report positive changes in their lives as a result of attending these events. Just so you know how I “measure” this “effectiveness” (in what is obviously a subjective way) is that I tend to give more credence here to those that also do not necessarily feel the need to keep attending every event Tony Robbins (or his many similes) puts on.
Dissolving imprints can and does result in the change of behaviour you might have thought so deeply wired into your system as to be permanent. “Instinctive” reactions are in my view seldom truly instinctive and most often the result of imprints acting out. I define instinctive as being a positive and healthy ability to respond correctly in any given situation without hesitation. I believe we all have this ability if we are able to operate from an unfettered, uncluttered and essentially pure psyche (unconscious). This is easier said than done, and yet eminently possible.
A skilled hypnotist can actually bring a person into a deep enough trance to begin to affect some very deep imprints. It is my contention that a hypnotist is only able to do this (consciously and safely at least) in direct proportion to his or her ability to have plumbed his or her own depths through self-hypnosis. If I have any success in the sessions I have with my clients, and sometimes manage to achieve results that have escaped others for years I would ascribe it mainly to two factors. Firstly, my almost obsessive research and continued study of Erickson’s works as well as a continuing exploration of the subject of hypnosis on a daily basis. And secondly, my own daily use of self-hypnosis and indeed experimentation with it. I have not met many hypnotists that place themselves into 4 hour trances where they experience massive time distortion, spontaneous amnesia and negative auditory hallucinations. Whilst described so simply, the prospect can sound frightening to the lay person, I can only assure you that learning the capacity of your own mind to even just a slightly higher degree than what is considered normal would give you so many more choices in life as to leave you awed by the truly incalculable power you actually have at your disposal and command. Besides which, I would be ethically and professionally uncomfortable with leading someone into a trance deep enough that it can seriously affect their most basic mental patterns without having a clear understanding of the process which I have personally experimented on myself first.
It would be a bit like an army leader leading from the rear without ever having experienced battle conditions first-hand. It may be very popular with modern “leaders” in nearly every field, but popularity does not make it any more just or correct or ethical, or perhaps even more importantly: effective.
Dissolving some basic patterns that have afflicted us from our very earliest origins or which in any case, regardless of when or how they were created in our lives have a noxious effect on our lives, relationships and thus potential for freedom of expression and happiness is essentially what hypnosis is all about. In this respect I would say that hypnosis (particularly self-hypnosis) is the safest, most natural and most effective way of mentally restructuring yourself into what you need and want to be in order to fulfil your role here on Earth.
There are other methods, however they generally carry risks that are higher by an order of magnitude or more than hypnosis. Martial arts taken to certain extremes can and does restructure certain patterns over a number of years. Mostly these are beneficial and in my personal experience I can only recommend Systema as the most effective martial art in this respect. I say this despite having previously trained in Shotokan Karate-do up to Nidan level, and as usual for my nature, being quite obsessive about it, particularly in the first couple of years of training. I think it would be fair to say that any of the people I used to train with would be utterly stunned to hear me say that a martial art other than Karate-do is “better” for human self-development.
Certainly military training is also geared to essentially create specific imprints (as is Karate-do) that generally could be considered positive (however this depends on the context and interpretation of the situation, which could be, —and often is— flawed on principle). Systema in terms of martial training is the only martial art I know that purposely is designed to release imprints and dissolve them rather than create new ones whilst simultaneously fortifying the mind, body and spirit in a holistic fashion not based on the creation of new rigid imprints.
The use of LSD in laboratory conditions was undertaken for a number of years, primarily by Timothy Leary prior to the drug being essentially banned. Tests on over 40,000 convicts showed that those treated with LSD under laboratory conditions in what could essentially be described as a guided “trip” resulted in extremely pronounced levels of lowered recidivism even three years after release from prison. Convicts that underwent the treatment re-offended within three years only to about one quarter of the frequency that is normally expected (and remains current).
I believe almost any physical discipline taken beyond certain limits will foster a certain amount of dissolution of imprints. When George Leigh Mallory was asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, and he replied, “Because it’s there”, he was very concisely expressing why this phenomenon works. I believe that our psyche, like our body is constantly trying to heal us, ensure our survival and essentially better our lot. Part of the human drive to go beyond established limits is undoubtedly the result of wanting to face situations so emotionally intense that they will have to result in the dissolution of imprints of a lower order of intensity. In this respect then, it certainly is better to reach the end of your life with a leathery, well-used body than a perfectly preserved corpse. At least that is my view. Of course if you want to really use your body to such levels, it’s a good idea to do all you can to keep it in shape. Climbing mountains, pushing yourself into regular physical activity of a risky nature and essentially being on a more or less constant search for an ever higher pinnacle of sensation in a physical discipline is work you will not be able to do for very long if you don’t take good care of yourself.
There are undoubtedly other means of restructuring or dissolving your imprints, however the ones I have briefly touched on above (with the exception of the LSD induced restructuring) are the ones I am most familiar with personally. For most people and in the vast majority of cases, I think hypnosis is not only easier and faster as well as being permanent and precise, I also think it is in any case a fundamental part in the objective of restructuring your mind into a healthier, more efficient and generally happier mode of existence even if you choose one of the other methods as your primary way of restructuring your psyche.