Burning Commitment

This month’s ‘newsletter’ takes a bit of a different approach – I’ve written a story about my experience last month training Hypnotherapists in Bangkok. There are lessons in every experience and story…

Often we hear of individuals doing amazing things to save themselves or others, or surmount dangers and difficulties in the name of something greater. Often these feats of heroism are boiled down to ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances making certain choices.

Here’s a question. What would you do to learn hypnosis? Would you walk through streets lined with snipers, or past piles of burning tires to get to your hypnosis training course? Would you remain in a class learning about the power of the subconscious and practicing inductions as armed demonstrators walked towards your classroom? Would you train in the middle of friction to gain the skills to help people out of their own mental, physical and emotional distress in the future?

In May 2010 I planned on conducting an NGH Hypnosis Certification Class in Bangkok, Thailand. Bangkok is a beautiful city, from its busy klongs (water streets), royal palaces and Buddhist temples, to its thriving international business community and local commercial center. Known as the “Land of a 1000 smiles”, the people of Thailand are gracious and buoyant. And Bangkok is a capital that hums with a vibrant heritage and a raw presence. There is always something happening in this city.

Thailand is one of the only countries in South East Asia not to have been colonized. The country is ruled by a much loved and respected King. Yet, on occasion in the past, there would be passionate protests which would slow city trade and disrupt international tourism. This pattern would occur every few years and would last several weeks to a month. Having lived in Asia for 15 years, and having had a hypnosis practice in Singapore for eight years, I was aware of this civil unrest blueprint.

So it did not bother me much when there was instability amongst groups known by their color of shirt (yellow, red, blue). I proceeded to make plans to continue as planned, buying my ticket with the security of assuming it would all be over before I arrived. However, the fighting continued and escalated over the weeks, and some of my students (especially those traveling from outside the country) were getting nervous. Several dropped the course in the weeks leading up to my departure, but I still felt confident that all would be fine, and I had committed to training those who were willing to learn.

My flight took me approximately 24 to 30 hours due to stopovers in various locations. With a time difference of 12 hours, it ended up that I was off the communication grid for two days. When I arrived, my host, who was a graduate from the previous year and had a successful practice in the city, was very relieved yet a little surprised. “Weren’t you afraid of the trouble that’s going on in Bangkok?” So I admitted that on one hand I had been assuming an earlier resolution, but on the other hand was heartened by the emails from students who were still committed to the course.

The city center had been closed due to strife between government soldiers and the ‘Red Shirts’, and there was an eerie presence of road blocks and detours. The course was being held on a high numbered floor in a building along the periphery of the red shirt held area. But the coordinator, from South Africa, assured me that, compared to what had gone on in her country in the past, there was nothing to worry about. Withdrawals continue but I was still fully committed.

The first day of class was probably the most memorable. I awoke to the sound of helicopters. There was a popping noise I couldn’t place as I readied my course material. In Bangkok, conversations about the state of slow traffic replace talk about the weather, but today the streets were sparse. I was told that the popping I had heard earlier was gunfire, and that conflict had escalated. My host was concerned for her children in school and for the possibility of the looting of downtown to extend to her part of town.

I arrived to an extremely small group of students. It felt that there was already a bond between them as the ones to ‘show up’. Before starting the class we looked out the window at a plume of black smoke from a massive tire fire set further to the west. Then we closed the blinds and began.

This first day of class was unlike any other class I’ve run. While I usually have a policy of no mobile phones in my class, we allowed for emergencies on this occasion as a few of the students had spouses in embassies and UN security who might know better the situation and its impact on us. One phone call came in to say that the protesters were marching en masse towards our Soi (street). Ten minutes later, we were told that they had turned back. The incredible focus and determination of my students was periodically punctuated with little disruptions and distractions.

Then, in the early afternoon of that first day, one of the students shouted out. Her eye had caught a vision from behind the curtain. Opening it up revealed an incredible sight. Bangkok was burning. Shopping centers, office buildings, even the Stock Exchange a mere two streets away had been attacked and set on fire. A quick check by opening a window revealed the smells of burning rubber and buildings. We were ushered away from the windows as one of my students warned that there were snipers who had been picking off protesters on balconies.

Everyone phoned their loved ones to see that they were safe. Most schools had closed and children had either been shuttled home or it was planned that they would stay the night in the school complex. Embassies had been closed so there was nowhere to go for a downtown safe house – downtown was just not that safe. A curfew had been placed on the city, so we needed to finish the day on time or need to stay in the classroom all night.

While the outside world was in chaos, an amazing sight was actually happening in my classroom. In spite of all the danger and upheaval, my students were learning about the mind and how it works, and beginning to learn the basic components to the process of hypnosis on their first day. These students were living proof that the power of the inside could surmount any obstacles presented on the outside, that the work that we as hypnotists do with our clients can bolster them, excite them, direct them, and commit them to making a better world for themselves often contrary to situations or others around them.

I am so proud of my small class of graduates. I know that their initial commitment to the profession is only the beginning of their dedication to supporting themselves and others. Like diamonds created under pressure and heat, they will be the hypnosis gems of the future.

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