Positively Scottish Humans of Oz: James, the mastermind of change

In this series of regular articles, our Melbourne-based correspondent meets the Positively Scottish Humans of Oz

Hypnotism was first introduced to popular culture in the 1700s by German physician, Franz Mesmer. He believed humans could be influenced by a mystical force, or fluid, called ‘animal magnetism’, and for a while, his demonstrations had the wealthy of Paris…well… mesmerised. In 1841, Scottish surgeon James Braid, propelled by the Scottish School of Common Sense (the centre of academic psychology at the time), replaced Mesmer’s idea of animal magnetism with more rational ideas based around physiology and psychology. He popularised the word ‘hypnosis’, derived from a Greek word for ‘sleep’. In 1933, American psychologist Clark Hull published the first scientific studies on hypnosis, and since 1949, hypnosis has been a supplement to cognitive behavioural therapy. It’s now used to treat a wide range of issues, including sleep and eating disorders, depression, anxiety and PTSD. It’s also one of the tools James Clark, formerly of Aberdeen, incorporates into his work as a business and life coach.

I was in the army for about 10 years and deployed all over. My last deployment was to Bosnia in 1994. When my regiment was disbanded, I left and went into the corporate world. I worked in headhunting for a few years, then moved to Sydney and went into business and life coaching.

I do structured leadership development programs with corporations, but I can equally take it into very small, family-owned businesses, or just work with individuals who are having challenges in some areas of their life and can’t see the forest for the trees.

A lot of people have a real challenge dealing with change, both in their personal life and from a business perspective. People have a fear of change, but change is a good thing. People who don’t like change, or who don’t want to change, just become stagnant. If I’m coaching someone and they say to me they want to make a difference in the world, I’ll drill down and find out what that is. But if they’re not willing to accept and integrate change to get themselves to that point, then they’re going have some real struggles making that difference.

I’ve spent the last 15 years learning how to help create very powerful, profound and lasting change for people. I study mediation and mindfulness, and train in martial arts. When people are calm they’ve got a direct connection to their internal mechanisms and they can make better choices. I think from being in the army and then moving into coaching, I brought with me the skill of being empathic while remaining objective. Not buying into the emotion of the situation and quickly being able to decide what to do.

I also do hypnosis. Everyone can be hypnotised. Some people say they can’t, but I think people have different interpretations of hypnosis. There are hypnotic language patterns, and you might try and use a few language patterns to chat up a pretty girl at a bar, but you can’t actually influence someone to do something they don’t want to do. One of the prime directives of the conscious mind is protection, so it will always come up and go, “No, red flag, I’m not doing that.”

Working with someone in a coaching environment is about figuring out what they really want and what the emotions behind that are, what’s driving them. If there are objections, we do a bit of negotiating with the parts that are objecting to find out the reason. It’s about influencing someone to get to an outcome that’s favourable for them, and that’s also—and this is the really important thing—congruent with them. All I’m doing is facilitating—helping people derive outcomes more effectively and efficiently.

My philosophy is about finding the right tool at the right time. Unearthing the quickest way for someone to get the best outcome for the future. A lot of modern therapy is based around practical applications, but what they are possibility not exploring enough is the internal, the emotional. People can shut themselves off emotionally, so the first step is saying, “Ok, I feel crap, but that’s ok. I don’t feel good, but I’m alive. I’m breathing.” The next step is finding out how we move through it. What I do is help people dive in and find out what’s going on internally and then guide them on to the right path.

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