Monday, May 21, 2018

Mutts Comics and the Systems Theory Approach

(This blog was originally posted on August 15, 2014)

Photo by Rick Hustead

I am a devoted fan of Patrick McDonnell’s Mutts© comic strip. During the week of (August 11-August 14, 2014, two of the regular “seaside” characters, Crabby and Mrs. Crabby, were having a marital crisis. Not only was the king crab feeling “happy” and content, he had suddenly become very kind and even solicitous to his wife. Mrs. Crabby was beside herself with worry because she had no idea how to deal with his sudden change in behavior or attitude. She literally did not “know” her husband since he was no longer grumpy and complaining. The Crabby relationship was in jeopardy because the basic system of their marriage had been disrupted. 

The source or reason for Crabby’s sudden attitude change wasn’t revealed; it didn’t matter that his gentler, more considerate nature might have ultimately improved the overall quality of their communication their relationship. Remember, doesn’t even matter if the “change” is for the better and could even improve the overall quality of their interactions or communication. According to John Kappas, Ph.D.’s Theory of Mind, anything new is unknown and, therefore, painful. This behavior was very painful to him and Mrs. Crabby—so painful, in fact, that they had to enlist the help of a marriage counselor (an octopus) to help restore the usual status quo and save their relationship.

Right away, I knew that a Systems Theory Approach would be the most effective way to address this conflict. The basic premise of the Systems Approach is: every component of a social/emotional system affects the entire system. Whenever one member of that social system changes his or her behavior in any way, that change could still destroy the relationship if the other parties are resistant toward it. The ultimate goal of a Systems Approach is to bring the original System back into balance.

According to Hypnosis Motivation Institute founder, this approach infiltrates all areas of therapy regardless of what the client’s problem or issue happens to be. Even if only one member of the family or one spouse or partner in a relationship is seeking therapy, that issue must be dealt with within the context of the client’s own system. Therefore, the hypnotherapist must address components in the person’s work, relationships, family past, the hypnotherapy he or she is receiving, plus aspects of the entire social system or relationship. If these other issues aren’t taken into account, the therapy won’t be successful and only the issue being addressed in therapy will be “treated” (improved or eliminated) per the client’s goal, Dr. Kappas warned.

The presenting issue of Crabby and Mrs. Crabby’s case was marital accord, a complete aberration of their normal interactions. If the (hypno)therapist doesn’t keep Mrs. Crabby in mind during the therapy, she is liable to walk out of the marriage because she has not been taken into account within the “system.” Fortunately, both of these spouses were willing to come in for (hypno)therapy to work on their marital issues and learned some techniques to help them restore the natural balance of the relationship.

I am pleased to report that the “therapy” worked, Crabby is back to being his usual “crabby” self and he and Mrs. Crabby is delighted with the results! You can read about their relationship at

 Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy®, please visit

Friday, May 18, 2018

Thoughts of the Day

Photo by Sara Fogan

Every now and then I like (and need) to take a few moments and remind myself about what is really important to me, in my life. If you follow me on my Calminsense Hypnotherapy Facebook page you may have seen some of these quotes before on this page, or will in the future. Many of these Quotes of the Day are beautiful examples and illustrations of the work I do as a hypnotherapist, so I will probably draw on them in future essays.

  • “Turn your wounds into wisdom and your stumbling blocks into stepping stones.” – Robin Sharma

  • “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” – Mother Teresa

  • “The hardest part of letting go is remembering to do it.” – Lolly Daskal

  • “Don’t be afraid of being outnumbered. Eagles fly alone; pigeons flock together.” – Unknown

  • “Just because you are happy it does not mean that the day is perfect but that you have looked beyond its imperfections.” ― Bob Marley

  • “Consistently investigate what gives other people energy. Be the fan that fuels it.” – Darren Rowse

  • The lower the price of your love, the higher its value.” – Bruce Van Horn

  • “If you touch one thing with deep awareness, you touch everything.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

  • “The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.” – Eckhart Tolle

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit
© 2018

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Slow Down to Speed Up

 (This blog was originally posted on September 28, 2014)

Photo by Rick Hustead

Have you ever noticed how it takes twice as long to complete a task when you rush to get it done? Whether it is finishing a homework assignment or a big project for work, somehow something goes wrong at the last, worst possible moment and totally messes up your projected deadline. What if you could avoid all that hassle in the first place and meet your deadline with time to spare?

The Automobile Association of America has a great television advertisement that perfectly illustrated this point. In it, someone in a flashy car speeds past another vehicle. At first, it seems like the driver in the second car gets ahead, but then he is stopped at an intersection with the driver in the original car waiting for the light to change. This pattern is repeated the same way several more times until the message becomes clear: driving fast and recklessly doesn’t get anyone ahead; in fact, it may cause more inconvenience (and waste more gas) than the apparent rush is worth. Similarly, in an episode of the police drama, Rookie Blue, one of the characters reminded an officer he had trained why he once insisted she take a sip of coffee or a bite of her sandwich before getting out of the squad car. Sergeant Shaw wanted her to take those extra couple of seconds so the other officer could mentally prepare herself for dealing with regardless of the situation she would be facing outside. The crime scene would still be there, he explained, but the officer needed to calm down and plan what she needed to do to apprehend the suspect or else risk getting seriously hurt or even killed making the arrest.
Often, when we are under pressure to complete a task, we rush through or even skip important steps so we can get the job out of the way and move onto other more interesting or “fun” things. Monty Roberts, an award-winning horse trainer and author, often advises: “Give yourself fifteen minutes and it will take an hour; give yourself an hour and it will take fifteen minutes.” In other words, when we work carefully and conscientiously—focusing only on the task at hand—we are in a better position to get the job done quickly and usually on the first try. However, when we rush through the job to meet a self-imposed or official deadline we are more likely to neglect important steps to complete the task which may ultimately undermine it. 

An unintentional byproduct of rushing to complete a task is that we can put ourselves into hypnosis. Consider John G. Kappas, Ph.D.’s definition of hypnosis: “Hypnosis is created by an overload of message units, disorganizing our inhibitory process (Critical Mind), triggering our fight-flight mechanism and ultimately resulting in a hyper-suggestible state, providing access to the subconscious mind.” When we rush around trying to meet a deadline, our minds are already whirling practically out of control as we consider what we need to get done and if/how many steps we can get away with “leaving out.” Even if we do not intend to take a short-cut to finish the task, in this naturally induced hypnotic state we may neglect an important step because our subconscious (not conscious) mind has taken over the behavior. We have literally “escaped” into hypnosis to avoid the anxiety and stress we feel trying to complete that project. 

Unfortunately, the stress we consciously and subconsciously tried so hard to reduce or avoid is likely to reappear, and be even more intense, when we rush to just “get it done.” When we take those extra few seconds or even an entire hour, at the end of the day the fastest way to accomplish a goal is to slow down.

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit
© 2018

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Mentors, Role Models and (Positive) Influences

(This blog was originally posted on July 2, 2014)

Photo by Rick Hustead

While I was trying to come up with a topic for today’s blog, two quotes popped into my mind: “What would Brian Boitano do?” and, “We stand on the shoulders of giants.” The first is a reference to DVDA’s song about the 1988 Olympic champion figure skater; among other things, the lyrics assert that Boitano would make a plan, and he'd follow through, that's what Brian Boitano'd do! (As I recall, the title of this song took on a life of its own for a while, whereby people would jokingly speculate what the skater would do to solve their dilemma.) The second quote is from Sir Isaac Newton, who credited the scientific discoveries of his predecessors in facilitating his own success. So tonight I took stock of Mr. Boitano’s projected response to a situation and took a loving look at some of the people who have inspired me on my journey through life.

  • Mr. Roland. He was one of my history teachers in high school, and probably one of the best at what he did. I remember more of the information he taught than any other teacher because he was such a good story-teller. Every lesson was like taking a step back in time and walking down the streets or across the battlefields that he described. He was very strict and terrified most of his students (including me). However, he was fair and enthusiastic about teaching the next generation(s) about what our forebears went through to make our country great.
  • Pet Shop Boys. From the moment one of my friends introduced me to their music 25 years ago, I knew I had found a group that represented how I felt as a Gen-Xer; coincidentally (or not), the lyrics of their songs on Behave described a lot of things I was going through between 1990 and 1994. To this day, “Left to My Own Devices” (from Introspection) remains my signature song.
  • Sandra and Robert, my friends (and former landlords). I had never really considered riding/training in dressage until I became their tenant in 1990. When I visited them in 2002, Sandra invited me to sit and “have a trot” on her Lusitano stallion. That ride marked the moment I officially returned to my first true love: horses. Robert is the first person to teach me how to drive stick-shift when he and Sandra let me cruise his Land Rover around an empty parking lot at a grocery store. It was the most fun I’ve ever had driving; by the way, this adventure was in England, so I had an extra challenge of driving on the side I wasn’t used to.
  • Diana, Princess of Wales. People who have known me for a long, long time probably remember me back in the days I had her haircut and wore dresses and hats to school. To high school. But it wasn’t her fashion that intrigued me, or even the fairy tale the public was sold (and bought) about her life. I was intrigued and inspired by her ability to stand tall and smile in public, to be gracious and carry on, when her private world was falling apart. The day moved home from England, for good, I was able to keep myself together by focusing on my mental image of the princess greeting someone at a fundraiser at the Serpentine Gallery in 1994. She was wearing that now-famous black cocktail dress and heels, smiling and extending her hand in greeting while her husband answered questions about their marriage for a television interview. I thought, “If she can hold it together so well—in public—while her world is falling apart, I can and will do it, too.”
  • Katie, one of the advanced riders at Silver Gate Farms when I started riding again after a 19-year hiatus from horses. She motivated (and reassured) me to relax and enjoy the ride the first time I watched her hand-gallop her horse before a jumping lesson. (She jumped big fences.) My trainer, Jim, pointed to them and explained, “See that? She is completely in control of her horse.” He explained how and why this was true, but the image of this ride is what really impacted me: she was smiling and adjusting her sunglasses as they galloped around the arena. In my memory, she was holding the reins in just one hand…but who knows? I was ready and inspired to get on a horse and canter, too.
  • Katie again. It took six years for me to feel really comfortable driving, let alone taking the freeway, when I returned from England. When I told her this by way of asking if I could follow her from a local showground to get back to the barn, she said of course. Then she added the insight (advice) I now share with clients when I help them overcome similar anxieties: “Freeways are your friend. Once you are on the freeway, you can only go one direction so you can’t get lost.”
  • Dr. John Kappas and my instructors at the Hypnosis Motivation Institute. Sadly, I never got to meet Dr. Kappas, as he had passed away before I started my hypnotherapy training. However, through watching videos of his lectures, reading his books and learning his teachings through the instructors at HMI who lovingly carry on his legacy, I continue to be inspired as a student and practitioner of hypnotherapy. Hands down, the Theory of Mind has changed my life. At least, it has changed (for the better) the way I look at my life so I can approach new experiences with curiosity, enthusiasm and interest rather than anxiety or discomfort.
  • Monty Roberts, Chris Cox, Robert Dover, Jan Ebeling, Gina Miles, CharlotteDujardin. Each of these individuals inspires me for different reasons and in different ways, but I consider them all role models for the work they do in handling and riding horses. Every time I work with or ride my horse, I remember his saying, “Low adrenaline equals high learning,” and exhale any anxiety, frustration or impatience I may be feeling. My first, most important priority is to make sure Galahad feels comfortable, safe and confident in his work, and I need to be the leader he would choose for that role. Mr. Cox’s advice that “you will never be on a runaway if you can ride a fast horse” has become my mantra when I feel nervous about trying something new during a lesson or if my horse shies at something. I just love the respectful way that Mr. Dover and Mr. Ebeling interact with their mounts during a ride: there is plenty of praise and long-rein/walk breaks to reward the horse while they are working. Ms. Miles and Ms. Dujardin are my inspirations in my riding: I want to be able to ride the way they do “when I grow up,” as I like to say. Or, at least to ride well enough to participate in one of their clinics one day.

So, that’s some background about people who have inspired me over the years. Who are your role models? Who has influenced your life?

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy®, please visit
© 2018