(This blog was originally posted on December 16, 2014)
|Photo by Rick Hustead|
One of my favorite holiday traditions is to watch the 1964 stop-action film, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Yes, after repeating this activity since I was a very young child, it is now a subconscious known for me. So, last week I curled up in front of the television and sipped a home-made eggnog latte while I enjoyed the familiar story one more time. For fun, I tried to notice “new” things in and about the show that I might have overlooked in previous viewings. I did: I saw a tuft of bright yellow hair sprouting between the tiny antlers of Dasher, Rudolph’s new friend at the reindeer tryouts. And then it dawned on me that that Comet, the “coach” of the reindeer tryouts, was sporting a baseball cap as well as a whistle. How had I never spotted those details before?
I know from my hypnotherapy training that it is normal and natural to not notice every aspect or characteristic about a person or an event. There are so many physical stimuli in the world that we could perceive that being consciously aware of each sensation would be completely overwhelming. To protect us from this kind of overload, the subconscious mind automatically associates and characterizes information (message units) as being “known,” or familiar; and “unknown,” or unfamiliar. Over time, we automatically ignore the known information because after repeated exposure, the SCM knows there is no associated danger with the stimulus and it can focus on other things. Conversely, a new piece of information can signify danger, and we will respond to that stimulus defensively until we feel safe and comfortable again.
This model forms the basis of Hypnosis Motivation Institute founder John Kappas, Ph.D.’s Theory of Mind. According to Dr. Kappas, the subconscious part of the mind is uncomfortable about and resistant to doing new or different things even when the conscious mind (logic, reason, will-power/free-will and reasoning) says that it’s okay to do so. The SCM likes and wants to stick to what is familiar, comforting and safe: i.e., what it knows. Guess what? The characters in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer seemed to behave according to their own specific set of known and unknown message units, too. Furthermore, the characters’ attitudes and behaviors mirrored a lot of our own (e.g., bullying, low self-esteem, specific beliefs about the holidays). Following are more of my observations about the program in the context of Dr. Kappas’s Theory of Mind.
- When Rudolph is born, his father, Donner, is horrified that his son has a shiny red nose. No other reindeer has a red nose. Even Santa Claus initially dismisses Rudolph as being eligible as a member of the sleigh team because of it. Donner immediately fashions a cover for the young buck’s nose to conceal Rudolph’s “nonconformity.” However, when the cover slips off to reveal Rudolph’s shiny nose after the flying tryouts (which he wins), his peers laugh at and ostracize him.
- Meanwhile, back at Santa’s Castle, an elf named Hermey is having a hard time in the workshop. His boss and colleagues ridicule him because he wants to be a dentist, not a toymaker.
- Even though their characteristics and talents are different (unknown) to each other, the fact that Hermey and Rudolph are social outcasts in their communities enables them to bond over this shared status. Later on, they also befriend Yukon Cornelius, a nonconforming mineral prospector who goes with them to the Island of Misfit Toys in hopes of finding someplace they all do fit in.
- The Abominable Snow Monster of the North (The Bumble) is initially presented as a fearsome beast that only wants to ruin Christmas and probably bring physical harm to other creatures. He is huge with shaggy white fur, sharp teeth and long claws. The first time we see The Bumble, Donner is teaching Rudolph the fine art of being a reindeer. Suddenly there is a ferocious roar; after evading the Snow Monster by hiding behind a snowdrift, Donner tells his son how dangerous the monster is and that everyone must always be careful to avoid it. He doesn’t explain why the Bumble is so frightening and dangerous, but the young buck immediately files the information his father provided and the memory of his terrifying near-encounter with the beast as a new known. By the way, this scene is a great example of how youngsters develop their suggestibility.
- Ultimately, as they become more familiar with each other’s differences, they become more comfortable with and even appreciative of their individual talents and characteristics. For example, Hermey the Elf’s dentistry skills also prove useful in rescuing Rudolph and his family when he removes all of the Abominable Snow Monster’s sharp teeth. Not only does this action make the Bumble far less scary to the citizens of Christmas Town, but also reveals the gentle creature he really wants to be. Meanwhile, Yukon Cornelius discovers that The Bumble’s secret wish is to be useful, and since he really is a nice guy and conveniently very tall, he’s given a job placing the star on top of Santa’s Christmas tree.
Of course, Rudolph’s shiny red nose wins everyone over when Santa realizes that the now-famous reindeer is the only one that can save Christmas by turning on his bright nose to guide the sleigh through a ferocious blizzard. And this outcome is probably the most famous “known” in the story—now legend—of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
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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 http://www.calminsensehypnotherapy.com/.