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27 February 2014

What Breaking Bad teaches us about therapy

Breaking Bad is considered by many to be the greatest TV programme of all time. It’s as watchable today as when it was first broadcast, and it quite dramatically demonstrates a key aspect of therapy that comes up with clients almost every week.

As a trained clinical hypnotherapist helping people with everything from panic attacks to self confidence issues, I understand the idea that ‘behaviour is not the purpose of someone’s intention’ – it’s commonly talked about in therapy circles.

Essentially, it means: don’t judge or perceive people’s actions as necessarily being linked to what they want or need.

In fact, it can be far from the case. Trying to prove this to clients and having a client accept it, however, can be a challenge. When I saw Breaking Bad, it became clear that the writers also understood this premise.

A very untimely Breaking Bad plot spoiler

If you’ve been living on Mars, you may not know that the plot revolves around a chemistry teacher, Walter White, who gets diagnosed with cancer.

He earns very little, and – as you’ll know – medical bills in the USA are huge. When he becomes ill, he does the one thing he can do very well: he starts manufacturing illegal methamphetamine to pay his medical bills and provide a nest egg for his family. 

Breaking Bad – the link to therapy

The link to therapy in general or the kind of NLP & hypnotherapy in London we do at Fix My Mind, is really clear. Walt’s behaviour – making illegal drugs – is clearly not acceptable. However, the intention of his behaviour is positive, because he is trying to provide for his family when he dies. 

Taking comfort from Mr White

How many times have you done things that are at complete odds with what you want to get out of life? Such behaviour can be both conscious or unconsciously driven and motivated. Think about how many times you’ve said or done something stupid because you’re hurt. We all do it.

From a therapy point of view, it can be helpful to understand that ‘bad’ things we do aren’t always because we’re bad people.

Anxiety and panic attacks are usually caused by something traumatic in your past – over which you had no control.

Your smoking habit probably started gradually – perhaps as a way to fit in at work or school.

Your fear of public speaking might havce arison out of a disastrous performance in front of the class when you were seven – and not just be a case of you being awkward or not wanting to go the extra mile at work.

In other words, don’t be too hard on yourself. I’m not condoning what Walter White did, but take a peek behind the curtains and there’s often more going on than meets the eye.

3 questions that can help you understand what’s motivating your behaviour

There are three very powerful questions that you can ask yourself if you find yourself doing activities that you either know are not what you want, or you have a deep doubt about if they’re the right thing for you. 

The next time that happens, find yourself somewhere comfortable to sit and answer the following three questions. Use the first answer that comes into you head:

1. What’s the purpose of the behaviour?

All behaviour like Walt’s has a purpose. What’s yours?

2. What’s the positive intention of your behaviour?

As our minds can’t process a negative (if you say “Don’t think of a blue tree”, you will automatically think of a blue tree), try re-framing the answer positively. So, instead of aiming for ‘not hurting’, which focuses on a negative, ask would be a positive way of saying that. It may be being calm or happy, for example.

3. What’s the behaviour you are doing also an example of?

For example, people who are defensive in meetings or who avoid public speaking can often be ‘protecting’ their shyness. This can be worth knowing – especially when you accept that all of us are different and that are uniqeness is what makes each of us special.

Keep at it for up to 10 mins, always using the first answer that comes to mind. Eventually, by repeating the questions you will purposely reach an abstract answer that’s something pretty deep and meaningful.  

This is your intention.

What you can do about your intention once you know what it is

They say that half of dealing with a problem is acknowledging its existence. With the information you have to hand, you could try and stop your behaviour. Give it a try.

Of course, that’s often easier said than done. If you’d like to do something about behaviour that may not be helping you get what you want out of life, why not get in touch and find out how hypnotherapy could help? Sessions take place either face-to-face in London or Winchester or online, and they can be a great way to adjust the way you approach things.

If you’d like to discover how I use online hypnotherapy to help you overcome whatever is holding you back, contact me today and claim your free, no-obligation, 20-minute consultation. I’m also offering 10% off my standard fees to new clients for a limited time.

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