A French philosopher once said, “Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains.” No other phrase quite describes the struggle between our desire to be unique and our compulsion to fit in. Yes, we admire those who show us what it is like to be truly different, only to crucify them in the media as we hunger to find their imperfections. The recent Tiger Woods scandals, a spat of US governors resigning due to disclosures of immorality, and billionaires going bankrupt come to mind has glaring examples.

We like the familiar, the common place, and the expected. As our daily routine manifests as part of our becoming acculturated to the values and behaviors of our parents and peers, it leaves me wondering if we can truly break out of the pack and be just a little different.

Think about this for just a moment. Chances are that your favorite sports team, your political views, and your religious preferences – or lack thereof – are more a factor of your environment than the conscious choice of an intelligent mind living in a civilized world. Even the brightest minds among us – our scientists – very rarely deviate from the norm as their ideas are subject to the shackles of peer review. Yes, most of us wear a uniform and stay in step with the mediocrity that surrounds us.

Nevertheless, there is something inside us that still relishes the urge to admire the maverick – at least before we insist on destroying their reputations in the weekly tabloids. Even our institutions honor the rarest of humanity as they canonize saints and award Medals of Honor – ironically two events that occur only after the honoree’s death. Yet, we still yearn to find our uniqueness.

My previous writings and courses frequently discuss my theory of patterns. By philosophically seeing most of physics, nature, and human interactions through the filter of my pattern theory, the first conclusion that I came to was that a pattern’s first instinct is its self-preservation. It does not like change. Therefore, humans are designed to fit in. Any deviations are quickly and aggressively addressed in our media, our religious institutions, and our court system. Even when the inevitable forces change, the next pattern instinct is to adapt to a new entrainment – that is to say, a new level of mediocrity.

Is this all there is to life? My opinion is that it is most certainly not. A review of history ranging from the ancient to the contemporary gives us continuous examples of those among us who through their behavior or their ideas have created an opportunity for humanity to adapt to a new direction – sometimes good and sometimes not. So, what does this mean to our individual ability to be unique, to be different, and to provide antithetical examples to others?

Each and every one of us has a tremendous unleashed potential that is suppressed by society’s natural tendency to enforce our common, mediocre existence. Conversely, there are too many stories of terminal patients going into remission, athletes breaking unbreakable records, and normal individuals performing miraculous feats under duress for one to continue blindly accepting our limitations. Likewise, studies of the prodigious savants and stroke survivors give us countless examples of the hidden and suppressed potential of the human mind. There is too much unleashed human potential for us to continue feeling that we are doomed to remain within the dark ages of our complacency. 

After over 30 years of training and experience in various fields to include NLP, hypnotherapy, mind/body modalities, and others, it was during the writing of my doctoral dissertation at age 53 that I finally started putting the pieces together. It was that document and the writing and designing of The Neurology of Suggestion IHRI course and the follow-up courses that have permitted me to share my ideas with medical and psychotherapeutic practitioners from around the world. My theories and strong belief in unleashed human potential – together with my students’ feedback as they apply my ideas with actual clients and patients – point to a new approach. Although I continue to see the dilemma between the urge to be normal and the desire to find uniqueness, I maintain that those who choose to be mavericks are stopped only by their willingness to begin a path toward achieving brilliance. Change is a matter of choice rather than imposed limitations.

Individuals will choose different subjects and venues to express their brilliance. For some it may be a spiritual pursuit. For others it may be learning a language, increasing their business success, improving their golf game, or a myriad of other topics. What is important is that once an area is selected, you can unleash tremendous unused potential in your body and brain to start the journey toward a life of your creation.

It may seem to many – the purveyors of the banal and uninspired – that what we think we are is what we are. This illusion – this myth – stands contrary to way too much publically available evidence. The truth is that each and every brain has a vast untapped capability that will when accessed allow us to find our own personal genius within. Everybody is capable of more than we ever imagined. The only difference is the choices we make. It is a personal choice to remain with the herd or take the rare and too often avoided evolutionary path to a drastically different life. The American poet Robert Frost once wrote about two paths. One is well worn; the other not. The path you choose will make “all the difference.”

Tim Brunson, PhD, is the Executive Director of The International Hypnosis Research Institute, a member supported project involving integrative health care specialists from around the world. We provide information and educational resources to clinicians. Hypnosis self-help and clinical CD’s and Downloads

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