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Fear. Joy. Power: How Crowds Affect Us


Crowds can be uplifting and unifying, but they can also be claustrophobic and overwhelming.

Professor Stephen Reicher, a social psychologist, would make a distinction between the crowd at 7.23am and the one at 7.24am just as he would as between crowds on a train platform and crowds on a football terrace, shoppers on Oxford Street or worshippers at Mecca. 'The first is crowd in the physical sense only, where you are jammed, against your will, up against strangers', he says. 'The second is crowd in a psychological sense. People who physically and psychologically I feel an affinity with, so there is none of the repulsion you might feel with commuters on the train. Here proximity is actively valued'.

Many of us feel uneasy or frightened in large groups, and crowds generally get a negative press. The dominant, traditional view is one of mindless, marauding mobs and irrational thugs. Psychologist Gustave Le Bon maintained that crowds exert an hypnotic influence over they members, one that can compel us to act irrationally or even violently. But social psychologists have since acknowledged that crowds are not intrinsically irrational. 'Different crowds have different norms', says Dr John Drury, senior lecturer in psychology. 'They are not bad, just as they are not necessarily good. Each has their own ideology.

Many of us fear crowds. They test us on many levels — psychologically< morally< chemically even. 'There are some very real precedents for mass hysteria', says Dr Cynthia McVey. 'And there are suggestions that this hysteria is transmitted via subliminal emotional, psychological and chemical detectors such as fear pheromones. Biology aside, it takes real fortitude to keep your head while those around you losing theirs. We look to our peers for guidance.

In many ways our response to crowds will always depend, not only on our affinity for its membership, but also on how we feel in ourselves. The same crowd on a different day can make us feel invisible, crowded and insecure, or emboldened, comforted and liberated. But there are very real benefits to group participation. Benefits that, as Robert Putnam bemoans in his book Bowling Alone, we are increasingly, as a culture, foregoing. Crowds offer us a sense of belonging and community-think of the difference when you watch a film in cinema or alone at home. They also give us validation, a clarity of identity and the chance to change things collectively. 'In crowds little people can become important, powerful, someone of social significance', says Reicher. 'The classic view is that in a crowd you stop being someone whose history is made by others and start being someone who made history'.

We shy away from crowds more than we used to; our legislation discourages it and our schedules prohibit it. Yet to be validated and be united is a human impulse. After all, there is no substitute for physical and intimate, psychological and sensual camaraderie, whether standing shoulder to shoulder in silent grief, or with voice uplifted alongside those of strangers in united celebration or song.

Adapted from the article 'Fear, Joy, Power: How Crowds Affect Us' by Tanis Taylor, magazine 'Psychologies', January 2007.


Flying Freedom


What would you say if it was possible to comfortably shift your approach and response to what scares you most? In short order you could easily transition from white knuckle stress to pleasant memories of your carefree childhood anytime you chose. You have remarkable abilities to profoundly change how you view the world and to control the effect it has on you.

"It's okay to fly, I know I can fly." No matter how many times you repeat these words you still can't imagine yourself ever getting on another airplane again. You know all the statistics. You know flying is 29 times safer than driving. Since the tragic events of September 11th airport security is better now than anytime in our history. "It's okay to fly, I know I can fly." Nothing changes you still can't do it.

President Bush continues to urge us all to get on with your lives. You consciously understand that the economy depends on us to resume traveling and return to living your lives as free Americans. You intellectually know the importance of not giving in to fear and letting the bad guys win. However things have changed and you just can't get beyond your primal fear of flying.

In a short period of time this fearful message has been deeply planted into your subconscious mind. Messages go from our conscious to subconscious minds all the time. The conscious mind decides and evaluates what gets stored. Once a value is accepted and sent back it can grow and become a pattern for life.

The repeated viewing of airplanes flying into buildings was intense enough to send this fearful message on a direct express route to your subconscious mind. This warning message saying; "NOT ME, NO WAY, NOT NOW, NOT EVER!" With each passing day this message was reinforced every time you turned on a television. No matter how hard you try you know in your heart it will never be the same.

The subconscious mind is like a greenhouse. It gets a delivery from the conscious mind and its job is to store, nurture and grow. In a greenhouse you can easily grow beautiful roses or poison ivy with the same level of success. If the conscious mind delivers some bad information it is still received with open arms. Messages like: "Smoking is cool and sexy," or "Burgers and fries are good for my body," or" If I fly again I will surely perish."

Not only have you endured the recent tragic events in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania but you also learn that this new fear of flying is rooted deeply in your subconscious mind and is with you for life.

People routinely try to consciously make changes in their lives with issues like smoking, weight loss, public speaking and athletic performance. Results are inconsistent at best. It's like weeding your garden by clipping the weeds off at ground level. It looks good for a while but they always grow back.

Hypnotherapy is the only way to get to the root of the pattern, pull it out and replace it with healthy positive solutions. With hypnotherapy you relax your body and conscious mind while opening your subconscious. Once in the subconscious you can rearrange the furniture and put your house back in order.

A hypnotherapist creates this deep relaxation, offers suggestions and affirmations which support your rational thought, creates a way for you to instantly relieve stress at anytime and maybe even takes you on an imaginary flight which has you composed, comfortable and in control.

Once this blueprint for your flying success has been laid out the rest is up to you. Your fear of flying became a pattern because of your repeated acceptance of this suggestion. If habits are born out of repetition so are solutions. A good hypnotherapist will make an audiotape of your session and teach you the importance of reinforcing these new values. Many people report instant relief with hypnosis but by reinforcing the positive messages daily for about a month you position yourself for long term success.

Hypnosis is not new; the AMA accepted it in 1958. It is used in hospitals, clinics, in professional sports and fortune 500 corporations. It has no side effects, it feels good, there are no prescriptions, no interactions and once you know how to do it, it's free.

The impact of September 11 th may have forever changed how we view the world. By focusing and absorbing the news of each day we may create new irrational limitations with how we live our lives. There is helpful relief to your fears and concerns. You have the ability to create order and peace in your life. You can take back control and keep it.

Adapted from the Magazine For Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy By Paul Gustafson (uploaded 28/12/2001)


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