The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Entrance Into The Human Soul

I thought I'd mention a wonderful application of the "Secret Formula", one having to do with the way odd happenstance comes into your life if you are fully occupied in your conscious path.    One major milestone in my coaching career came during a financial down-turn almost a decade ago.    Due to an odd set of circumstances I found myself lecturing a roomful of MDs at a Neuralfeedback Conference in Palm Springs about eight years ago.    I was actually teaching at  a story conference being held in the same hotel, and the sponsor was holding the other event as well.

At lunch, I got into a conversation with the sponsor and one of the Neuralfeedback attendees, and mentioned the research and study I’d done for one of my novels, in the arena of releasing fear through a specialized somatic technique rooted in Russian research (I’d learned it originally from Scott Sonnon).   They were fascinated and asked if I would be interested in making a presentation at the medical conference.

To say I was nervous was an understatement.  I mean, I’d dropped out of college, and there I was explaining to a crowded room the technique and theory of using an obscure aspect of neuroplasticity to reduce fear even in neurotic or deeply phobic patients.

They were polite and mildly skeptical as I explained and offered examples of what we refer to as “The Spider Technique” because my first application was with a client with arachnophobia.  I was a wreck.  Probably looked confident on the surface, but underneath was all of the “Impostor Syndrome” stuff you can possibly imagine:

1) What was I doing there?
2) What are they thinking!
3) Am I a fraud?
4) I don’t have double-blind experimentation!  I don’t have a degree! What right do I have to speak about these things!

And on and on.  All that kept me going was the practical knowledge that I’d used it in my own life and with at least ten clients, and that in every case it had decreased their fear by about 20% per application.  I can promise you that I wish I’d had the time to apply it myself before the talk!
After I finished there was silence.   Then one of the doctors said: “damn.  That would work.  Why haven’t I heard about this before?”

I was congratulated after the talk, business cards were exchanged, and my heart sank down out of my mouth. One of the attendees introduced himself as  clinical director of psychology at an exclusive Counseling/Stress relief clinic in Santa Monica, and he wondered if I’d be willing to come out and give a presentation to his staff.

I said yes.   A week later, I found myself at one of the most prestigious, exclusive clinics in the United States—(certainly one of the most expensive!), catering to what satirist Tom Lehrer once referred to as “Diseases of the rich.”  It was an amazingly beautiful site, every decoration and furnishing seemingly chosen to sooth and comfort.   The people I spoke to were experts in a dozen different disciplines, PhDs, MDs, licensed therapists of many kinds.

And now they weren’t out in an audience somewhere.  They were touching distance, and if I made a single misstep, I was toast.

But I’d had time to use the technique myself in the intervening days, and was dead calm.  I simply told them the truth: I was a life-long martial artist, and science fiction writer.  Where other writers specialize in history or physics or biology, I’d just specialized in the technologies of human mental, emotional, and physical improvement, and if anything I’d encountered or studied was of use to them and their clientele I was humbly grateful.

I explained the method, gave it historical and psychological context, related it to other spiritual practices, and gave specific instances of its application, as well as suggestions for integration with their own practices, ways they could test, and possible other supporting techniques.

They were…agog.   There was silence for a moment, and I wondered if they were about to call the guys with white coats and straight jackets.  Then I thought: “oh, wait.  These ARE the guys with white coats and straight jackets..!”

One gentleman cleared his throat, and was the first to speak.     “Excuse me,” he began, “but when you are applying what I can only refer to as The Barnes Technique, are you…”

I was laughing so hard inside I could hardly answer his heartfelt, respectful question.    I was offered a chance to work with their clients as a movement counselor (years before I’d been a recreational therapist at Whitney Young Jr. Memorial hospital, so I guess there was precedent) and this became an income stream at a time when we SERIOUSLY needed it. 

And I had an opportunity to test my chops, work with a variety of very, very stressed people with extreme demands on their minds and bodies: athletes, heirs, entrepreneurs, mega-stars, even a Saudi prince.  

I was operating as part of a wellness team at the highest level, and just loved it.  And I most remember a plaque in one of the alcoves, a wood sculpture and fountain that seemed derived from a Balinese art form. The plaque read: “The entrance into the human soul is the highest privilege and most sacred obligation.”

I always believed that to be true.  Always used that to guide my work and practice at every level.   It was a beautiful statement of my personal truth.

 My three years working at The Clinic, while simultaneously working to rebuild my Hollywood career, were some of the most rewarding of my life.  There, in an actual clinical environment, surrounded by actual medical and psychological professionals, I had the opportunity to hone my skills, and see how the knowledge I’d gained over the years purely for research or my own health fit in with a high-level wellness team.  I learned my strengths and limitations, and had an opportunity to get pain to grow.

That was wonderful, something I’ll never ever forget.   Oh…and the receptionist, who booked clients, told me very privately that the clients asked for me more often than requests for anyone else on staff.

If that is can only be because I knew I was nothing special, but have been blessed with the very best and kindest teachers...and never wanted to do anything but help people heal.  If I've succeeded in that, I am grateful beyond measure.


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