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The Onion that tastes like an apple

A lot of people ask me if what we see in hypnosis stage shows are real. Or are they just stooges on stage? Well, I don’t use hypnosis for entertainment purposes, I just use it to help people change their lives. But to answer the question, if someone believes that an onion tastes like an apple, then that’s what it will taste like to them at that particular time, because it has been accepted as part of a suggestion given in a particular way and a connection is made between two normally unassociated components put together, (and of course people can find this very amusing). But we don’t necessarily need to go into any deep trance to use our imagination to put together two normally unassociated events. Imagine that you start your car and it sounds like a jet fighter. This simple exercise demonstrates how our unlimited creative imagination can be used to create a scenario that isn’t actually real but it can appear real, even if it‘s only momentary. However, under hypnosis, suggestions seem to be more readily accepted.

If something appears to be real and it feels that it’s real, then it’s only natural that we believe that it is totally real, and we act based on that belief. It’s that simple. (Your subconscious mind doesn’t actually know the difference between what’s real and what’s imaginary, and yet it triggers the brain into producing the relevant neurotransmitter signals regardless). So whether this perception is based on something harmless like the onion tasting like an apple, something pleasant like a bedtime story as a child, or an adult sexual fantasy when we are older, something scary like reading a dark novel or watching a graphic horror film. Whatever the stimulus, a very powerful signal is triggered and your body will react accordingly, based on what the mind believes is happening at that moment. So what pattern of behaviour could we expect if this same process of imagination and memory recall had been recurring since an early age to program and trigger an un-necessary emotional fear response to a number of situations that in reality (based on evidence)  were actually  harmless events, but believed to be real.

Let’s look at the actual word fear letter by letter for a moment… False Expectations Appearing Real

Let’s say that your Mother was scared of mice and as a young child you witnessed her screaming and running from the room leaving you on your own when the mouse ran across the floor. Such a reaction  would no doubt send some strong alarm signals into your mind that mice must be very dangerous and that when there is danger you are abandoned. Therefore it’s very likely that you immediately make an imprint into your subconscious mind’s library in the ‘danger’ section (based on the emotional response) and grow up holding onto the belief that mice are indeed very dangerous (ignoring the actual evidence) and to add to that, when there is danger, you’re left confused and on your own with the monster (an associated conditioning). But do you question this at the time when you are merely a very small child? After all, our parents know everything don’t they? This type of childhood programming event can contribute to common causes of many phobic fears carried into adult life. But of course not all beliefs stem from childhood. They continue to be formed all through our lives. Perhaps we don’t use aircraft anymore due a spate of extremely turbulent flights, or maybe we’ve grown to believe every member of the opposite sex is nasty after a terrible relationship, or we were bitten by a dog and now we believe all dogs, even the most placid ones will attack. We can only touch the surface of a small selection of specific examples here, but we can definitely say that all beliefs (both good ones and bad ones) establish themselves and evolve through a chain of command with one condition leading to the next, and so on. The cause and effect principle. If we look at the chain below we can see this cause and effect in action.  

The Power of Our Beliefs

What we believe shapes our lives.

Even before we were born, as we developed in the womb, we were processing information from our surrounding environment, and of course we continue to do so throughout our entire lives. We are influenced by the actions and the reactions of others, and no more so than by those closest to us. Every piece of this gathered information is stored in our brain and our body and mind, and contributes to our beliefs and our behaviour. Our learning patterns in our early formative period (birth to 2 years) was based on emotional energy response within our environment. We instinctively know a number of base instincts e.g. the difference between laughter and crying (safe or threat). Nature provides us with many instinctive primary survival mechanisms for us to follow. For example ‘I must breathe air’ I must find food and water’ are basic commands for survival. We know these to be true, and these beliefs are unquestionably followed. These primary templates are so strong that a even a new born baby knows how to swim in water and will find its way to the surface to breathe air in order to survive. Let’s be honest though, most parents don’t believe this and actively discourage letting their babies anywhere near deep water, because of a protective fear they already possess regarding the risks of drowning, and subsequently passing that very same fear onto baby. A small child then has to learn to overcome this passed on fear and believe it can swim all over again. There are a lot of adults who believe they still cannot swim. As adults we subconsciously and constantly refer back to all of our own learned information that we’ve been taught, and our current behaviour is influenced by what we have previously learned, often programmed from an early age.  As babies and children, we continually learn primary differences between the things that are comfortable and safe, and those which threaten our safety. We know that when we touch something very hot, we learn very quickly it’s dangerous and therefore not to get too close to the fire or the hot water next time, and even though we may need to remind ourselves a few times along the way, we recall this vital sensory template. We certainly don’t have a problem believing  hot = ouch! We learn something very useful from  feeling that pain (No pain, no gain).  Long before we have learnt communication through language, we also learn and apply many other beliefs too. As we develop  our linguistic cognitive skills, we continue to absorb even more detailed information to add to our beliefs, these being increasingly influenced from what we hear at home, our peers in the nursery and at school, and let’s face it, we are taught to believe in some pretty big concepts, from an early age, but not necessarily based on much in the way of hard evidence. God, the Tooth fairy, Father Christmas, the bogey man, ghosts, to name just a few. Based on much of what we are taught and what we subsequently believe is true, we really begin to tune into the things we like, what we don’t like, how we define ourselves in life, who we mix with, what their beliefs are compared to our own, what we believe can and cannot be achieved, who and what we engage with, who and what we prefer to avoid etc, etc.

Primary vital skills are learned instantly and are never forgotten. Others, like learning to walk are also vital for survival but need practise in stages (crawling), and need  time and repetition before we master the skill, but the evidence that is possible to walk is demonstrated all around us. Therefore, we believe we can learn to emulate what we see. When we practise other behaviours skills and when we are encouraged to do so by our parents and peers and siblings, we don’t just survive, we begin to thrive also. However, if we are taught negative practises and behaviour that is repeatedly being demonstrated by those around us, (e.g. Mother’s monster mouse) we can begin to struggle with certain issues as we grow. As a therapist, I have helped many people get rid of false beliefs, and whose lives are now filled with much more positive and productive feelings of self worth.  

So we can clearly see the power of the belief system of the mind is vast and infinitely varied. The knowledge contained within it doesn’t just keep us alive, it can either help us grow or it can severely limit us. Therefore, it is imperative that we do something to change self limiting beliefs and engage with the positive thinking cycle to embrace a productive belief system that allows us to reach our full potential. When we truly believe that something is possible we engage with this process, and even though they may be challenges to overcome along the way to fulfil that belief, we can do it knowing we are doing the very best we can. If however, we strongly believe that the very same thing is impossible to achieve, we probably won’t even attempt to make it happen. Ask yourself… Which of your current beliefs are based on evidence and which are based on false expectations appearing real (fear)?

Let’s have a few examples of common phrases based on positive and negative belief systems. The phrases aren’t necessarily true. But let’s think about what message each statement has hidden behind the scenes and consider the effect each statement has in our chain. .

“Once a smoker, always a smoker”

“You will never be a success”

“You can achieve anything you want”

“It’s in my genes”

“Like father like son”

“It’s too late to change”

“It’s never too late to change”

“My doctor told me I am going to die”

“My body knows how to heal itself”

“This injection is going to hurt”

“Don’t worry, you won’t feel a thing”

“One day I will be rich”

“I told you I’m rubbish”

“Don’t do it, you’ll only show yourself up ”

“Just do it, it doesn’t matter what others think”

All of us will have probably used or heard these or similar words at some point in our lives. These are some random examples. The point here is that if you believe something is real or if influential information received leading up to an event is perceived as real, it will affect the outcome because your belief is strengthened.  One thing’s for sure. The placebo and the nocebo effect are both very real even if they sometimes defy logic.  So If there’s a restricting belief or perception about yourself that you know you need to change, and deep down you know it is holding you back in some way, the first thing to do is recognise that’s the case, the second thing to do is to do something about it. And you never know, with the right belief system firmly instilled it may well turn your life around………… believe it or not!


I strongly believe that I have no particular belief

    Belief (noun)  (Definitions according to Oxford English Dictionary )
    an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof’

    Believe   (verb)
    ‘accept that (something) is true, especially without proof’

Such is the power of the mind that it can be influenced into believing something is real. Of course this begs the bigger question, what is actually real? First of all, let’s take a look at something known as the placebo effect.

    Placebo  noun (Definition)
    ‘a medicine or procedure prescribed for the psychological benefit to the patient rather than for any physiological effect.     a substance that has no therapeutic effect, used as a control in testing new drugs’
Placebo Effect (Definition)
    ‘a beneficial effect produced by a placebo drug or treatment, which cannot be attributed to the properties of the     placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient’s belief in that treatment’:

If you haven’t done so already, have a look at the videos on the left. These  clearly demonstrate some of the powers of a belief system, and the incredible things that  happen when we engage and connect with that belief. When we go and see a doctor about an ache or pain, most patients already have a belief that the doctor knows best. Imagine that we were prescribed medication that we are told will sort out the problem in a week. This could trigger a strong belief mechanism in our mind that we will now get better in a week, even if the medication was in fact a placebo. But what if the doctor said that you only had 3 months to live…. Even if the doctor was completely wrong. What then?

The opposite of the placebo effect is called the nocebo effect.

     Nocebo Effect  (Definition)

     ‘a detrimental effect on health produced by psychological or psychosomatic factors such as negative expectations of       treatment or prognosis’.

We can see on the videos just how much how our mind
and our body respond to our beliefs and anticipation of an outcome. That belief can alter dramatically according to all associated thoughts.

It’s what you believe that’s the important thing



Environmental Stimulus

Emotional Response


Pass it on

Self definition

Repetition & Reinforcement

In order to make something possible, first of we need to think something is possible.

Don’t just walk….. when you can run….. skip, jump….. and everything else too…….. Believe in yourself !

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More information about the Brain & Mind and how they relate to our emotions and beliefs

Bruce Lipton, Author of ‘The Biology of Belief’ Talks at IONS 40th anniversary

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“Whether you think you can,
or you think you can't…you're right.”