I became intrigued by self mastery in my early twenties having stumbled upon a book called ‘The Master Key’ in a dusty second-hand bookshop.
It was written over a hundred years ago and influenced much later, new-age books. Some of its ideas still ring true today – but only some.
The thing is that our understanding of human psychology has advanced enormously since then.
I’ve been studying psychology and matters of spirituality all my adult life and on this page I’m going to list the 10 Steps to Self Mastery that have personally helped me – and the many clients I’ve worked with over the years.
These are practises, techniques, and ‘ways of being’ that will help you master your emotional brain and assist you with your personal evolution.
These are the steps we’ll be looking at…
- 1. Learn all you can about hypnosis and the REM state
- 2. Turn off the survival brain when it’s not needed
- 3. Assess your emotional needs
- 4. Separate yourself from the problem and reclaim your true identity
- 5. Access your observing self – be in the world but not of it
- 5. Develop your strengths and resources
- 6. Clear any trauma or negative memory patterns
- 7. Learn to use your imagination more positively
- 8. Make sure you get sufficient sleep
- 9. Unleash your creativity and lose yourself in something you love
- 10. Look after the mind-body connection
- Self mastery – summary
1. Learn all you can about hypnosis and the REM state
As we find out more about hypnosis we’re coming to understand that it is the number one agent of change. However, the outcomes depend on how you make use of it.
The thing is that hypnosis happens naturally; we all go into trances to varying degrees every day but much of it is ‘negative hypnosis’.
How often do you find yourself caught up in the same old mental loops?
Hypnotherapy purposefully uses hypnosis to access the REM state – nature’s optimal programming state. The REM state is your ‘reality generator’ where you can change memory patterns, break free from old conditioning (including trauma), and mentally rehearse new skills.
Make sure you’ve got your free copy of my ebook where I speak more about hypnosis and the REM state.
Then check out this free hypnosis course…
2. Turn off the survival brain when it’s not needed
If you suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, or stress I’d encourage you to learn how to do 7/11 breathing (or what I call Zen Breathing). It’s changed the lives of hundreds of people I’ve worked with over the years.
Just a few minutes a day can help you calm down and regain a sense of control. This technique relaxes your body and mind at the same time and will lower your general stress levels if you practise it regularly.
Once you have mastered it — and it’s fairly easy to do – you can calm down quickly in any situation.
3. Assess your emotional needs
Doing an ‘audit’ on your emotional needs can help you identify the stress points in your life.
The thing is that we are all born with emotional needs and if these go unmet our stress levels rise, leaving us more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, anger, addiction and the like.
We’re talking about: the need to feel safe and secure, the need to feel in control of our lives, the need to connect to others, the need for attention, and the need for meaning, to name but a few.
As Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell point out in their ground-breaking book, The Human Givens, when emotional needs are met in healthy ways you cannot suffer from mental illness.
I speak in detail about this in ‘being fully human – meeting your emotional and spiritual needs‘.
4. Separate yourself from the problem and reclaim your true identity
Always remember that you are not the problem – the problem is the problem. The problem doesn’t define you as a human being; there’s far more to you than that!
Remember, high emotional arousal makes us feel stupid because it hijacks the more evolved part of the brain – the neocortex – resulting in our survival brain running the show.
We then over-identify with our problems. We say, “I’m just an angry person,” or, “I’ve never been any good at relationships,” or, “I’ve been depressed all my life,” (which cannot be true!)
Anger, anxiety, and depression are all trance states – states of locked attention – and they say nothing about who you truly are as a human being.
So ask yourself, “When the problem isn’t occurring how different do I feel and behave then?”
Look for exceptions. Remember, the problem doesn’t exist 100% of the time.
5. Access your observing self – be in the world but not of it
One of the ways to separate yourself from the problem is by developing another resource – the observing self.
The thing is that most of us are tossed hither and thither by the machinations of our minds, caught in spiders’ webs of our own making.
If we’re going to evolve as a species I think this is a key step toward self mastery as it enables us to come out of negative trance states.
Indeed, it was 20th century mystic and philosopher, G.I. Gurdjieff, who said that humanity is sleep-walking; we wander blindfolded, from one trance state to another.
It’s not until we can step back that we can see the bigger picture. This is what the observing self is all about. It is about ‘waking up’ and in so doing expanding your own consciousness.
One of the ways to develop the observing self is through meditation and mindfulness practises where you learn to be present and watch the ‘contents of your consciousness’ rather than getting hypnotised by them.
You can learn to observe your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and sensations without getting attached to them or drawn in to the story they might tell.
Here’s a neat little video that explains the concept of the observing self…
5. Develop your strengths and resources
Along with the observing self, nature has been generous in providing us with a whole host of other resources – and the potential to develop more.
Previous successes – however small – can serve as a resource. They remind you that ‘You Can Do It’! Mastering how to relax can be a resource, as can developing better communication skills or managing anger. Having a network of supportive friends is a resource; people who are there for you through thick and thin.
However, sometimes these recourses can be damaged (through trauma), undeveloped, or misused.
Trauma puts the survival brain in charge, blocking access to new learnings, keeping us trapped in negative memories and flashbacks. Luckily there is a way to break free from this…
6. Clear any trauma or negative memory patterns
A vital step toward self mastery is to free yourself from any trauma patterns. This is because unresolved trauma will keep you on red-alert. You sleep with one eye open. Your stress levels, fuelled by cortisol and adrenaline, are always higher than they really need to be.
I’ve treated hundreds of people over the years with a specialised technique that de-traumatises the brain, helping you finally break free of those memories that have been haunting you all this time.
All negative memories can be ‘re-coded’ in the brain so that the past is finally laid to rest. And this is why this step is vital for self mastery…
When you free yourself from such memories you actually unlock your potential; you free up spare capacity. Your mind-body system literally gets re-booted as new neural pathways are laid down in your brain.
Don’t suffer in silence! Trauma can be undone. Contact me to ask any questions you might have.
7. Learn to use your imagination more positively
Once free of negative memories, it’s far easier to use your imagination more resourcefully. Indeed, the imagination is one of your most powerful and helpful allies – if used correctly!
But misusing it can lead to all manner of problems…
We now know that the main cause of depression is worrying, which is a misuse of the imagination. It wasn’t designed to keep going over negative scenarios!
So, instead of ruminating on all the woes in your life and all those ‘what ifs’, learn to focus your attention differently.
Getting yourself calm then tapping into your imaginative capacity to rehearse things going well, forms the bedrock of hypnotherapy. This is where new blueprints get laid down.
One of the rules of the mind states that the brain will try to bring about whatever you focus on the most. So, be mindful of where you are directing your attention and how you are using your imagination. This is why developing the observing self is so important.
8. Make sure you get sufficient sleep
Sleep is both a physical and a psychological need. We need slow wave sleep to repair and regenerate the cells of the body and we need REM sleep to process unresolved stressors from the day before.
Most of us need about 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night to function at our best but this needs to include the right proportion of REM and non-REM sleep.
Too much REM sleep will result in you feeling tired come the morning, even if you’ve slept all night. This is because excessive dreaming – which occurs in REM – is tiring for the brain, leaving you exhausted and de-motivated.
RELATED CONTENT: Find out about the link between worry, dreaming and depression
If you’re having trouble sleeping there are several simple methods you can apply to start improving things. I’ve tried these myself – and they all work!
- Write all your worries or concerns onto a note pad and tell yourself you’ll deal with them in the morning
- practice the 7/11 breathing technique, maybe guided by a hypnosis download
- If you are awake for more than 30 minutes set yourself an ordeal…get up and do something around the house that you absolutely hate, such as scrubbing the kitchen floor, cleaning out the cat litter or reading the most boring book you can find whilst standing up. This sends a powerful message to your brain – now is not the time to be awake!
RELATED CONTENT: find out more about how to sleep better
9. Unleash your creativity and lose yourself in something you love
We all have creative abilities whether that’s drawing, painting, playing a musical instrument, flower arranging, needlework, graphic design, writing stories, poems or songs, doing the gardening, re-arranging the furniture, or whatever.
What creative things did you enjoy when you were younger?
When we lose ourselves in such things we get into ‘flow states‘; the piano plays itself, the picture emerges onto the canvas as if by magic, a poem or story is birthed through your fingertips and onto the page.
Being out in nature is another way of losing yourself. By ‘losing yourself’, I’m not just referring to escaping the trappings of your mind. Spending time in nature is a wonderful way of connecting up to something bigger than yourself. This is why ‘forest bathing‘ is proving to be good for alleviating depression.
By becoming absorbed in something you enjoy, you can access an expanded state of consciousness – the kind of ‘wonder state’ young children experience – where you are more in touch with All That Is.
10. Look after the mind-body connection
And finally, step 10…
When striving for self mastery it’s all too easy to overlook the physical aspects: the need for a good diet and exercise.
We were not designed to sit slumped in front of a screen all day.
Twenty odd years ago, suffering from a bout of S.A.D. I got better simply by taking St. John’s Wort and walking to work instead of taking the car. The natural remedy and the daily exercise lifted my mood and energy levels in no time.
Simple steps such as increasing your levels of vitamin D and omega 3 have been proven to boost mood and immunity (1).
And on my ‘Van-Life’ website (2) I talk about the many brain boosting foods that help stave off brain degeneration.
Making sure your diet is rich in vitamins and nutrients and that you’re getting the right amount of physical activity (along with practising all the steps above) gives you a real chance of achieving self mastery.
Self mastery – summary
I believe that if we’re going to evolve (or even survive) as a species it’s vital we apply as many of these self mastery steps as we can. Otherwise we’re stuck in the same old trances that have been running the show for decades.
All of the above steps can be seen as skills to develop or ‘practises to live your life by’. I include all of them when working with clients. Change happens more easily when working holistically.
Make sure you check out the other self-help articles covering topics such as: self esteem, social anxiety, self-confidence, shyness, public speaking and lots more.
And if you have any questions or would like to find out more about how I could help you achieve self mastery just get in touch.
It would be a privilege to work with you.
(2) In my spare time I love nothing better than to get out in my campervan and reconnect to nature. Read about my adventures at ‘motorhome hobos‘