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Advanced Headwork

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What is Advanced Headwork?

We would say this is a subset of headwork that requires coordinated teamwork, more complicated strategies, more spoons, and significantly more time than the lighter-weight headwork (implementation intentions, litmus test, etc.) that has been previously described.

Examples of Advanced Headwork include (but not limited to):

See Self-Help Indexes New for many headwork paths through the site and related materials, some of which may be beginner or intermediate, but almost all work their way towards advanced.

When are you ready for Advanced Headwork?

There's no exact point, but let's say this is an adventure, and adventures come with potential risks.

Note, however, we aren't really sure what those risks are: without doing more advanced work on ourselves (whether in therapy or on our own) it's not like we're kicking back and enjoying a perfect life in the first place, and one great thing about doing advanced headwork is that you're taking back power over your situation.

But to use the adventure metaphor, you could encounter strange new worlds, you could meet horrifying critters, or uncover buried treasures, you might rescue some damn fine mortal in distress, you could recruit new crew for your adventures, you could potentially piss your crew off and them go off-duty, and maybe you could stub your toes or worse. It could always be worse. Worst of all you could let the fear of the unknown stop you from even considering change.

However, there are some vague benchmarks that you would be best off having reached before you do advanced headwork. We'll make a list with a disclaimer below.

Why not list all the vaguely possible but by all means not absolutely certain risks?

Because frankly, we don't know the risks. There's a point where listing the risks is more harmful than helpful (more in a moment), and we don't know your system. Only you do.

So to cover our ass, we'll say: Warning: Don't do this. Don't do it based on it being listed here. Insert scary potential risks here!!! It could be bad. Really bad. It could potentially be so bad that we have absolutely no concept for how really bad it could be!!!

You see, the big issue with putting a long bullet list of specific speculated potential risks is that plurals may, overall as a group, be more susceptible to suggestion than the average passer by. If that's the case, why not give a list of the overall or potential benefits and not focus on things which we can imagine but do not know may potentially go wrong? Why accidentally plant a bad side effect in your head when instead we could highlight the good parts. Our capacity for imagining the worst is huge — and imagination is a very powerful thing. So don't imagine anything bad. If you're planning to do this work anyway (how else did you get on this page??), why not imagine the good you could do!

So that said, how about a list of things we think should be accomplished before you attempt any advanced headwork, with the caveat that we're documenting these processes — not suggesting that you actually try it at home or without a net!!

  • Have enough people in a coconscious group that a group can take on the work while another group runs interference with life. No matter how much you try to set aside time, there will need to be pee breaks, food breaks, and unexpected phone calls. It's Murphy's law. Make sure there's some folk on standby for whatever happens. This means you already have at minimum say 4 or more individuals in your plural system who are coconscious. I guess you could do this with 2 — but we would suggest more conventional onboarding first if you have a much larger non-cocon group that needs to be onboarded. See the United Front Boot Camp for help with onboarding residents in your system before you work on this.
  • Experience, as a group, both periods of relative stability and handling panics or times of more frantic activity. Getting along during more peaceful and more panicked times, you'll have better benchmarks for what is "better" and what is "bad", plus you'll already have an idea of where y'all compliment each other and where you trip each other up.
  • Communication — before you start your headwork, start deliberate communications amongst the people who will be doing the work and those doing support. In some cases, try to reach out to those you're working with or on outside of the co-conscious group as well. Use several types of communication as well. Journaling is great for those who can speak or write, but you may want to implement some more unconscious other-side-of-brain techniques like mirroring and artwork/drawing, visualization, singing/humming/whistling, dancing, or light trancework if you want to open up communication to those who may be stuck or non-verbal.
  • Litmus test everything with your system, and listen to your own inner wisdom. Your body really knows best what you need, everyone's hooked into it even if they don't feel it, so when you ask a question and get an answer in your body, make sure you listen.
  • You have a good store of spoons on hand — i.e. you have resilience and mental energy to spare
  • You are not currently in a crisis situation,
  • You are able to set aside a large amount of time (days or weeks) to do this work
  • You are able to be left alone with your thoughts — more about that below
Note: all of this is almost dogma. It's not like you must hit every bullet on this as if it's a checklist of readiness. Readiness for advanced headwork is literally all in your own head. 100% — the tools, the players, the landscape in which you are doing your headwork, etc. — it's all upstairs in your brainpan. Thoughts and metaphors and ideas, feels, internal paradigms and programming, internal breakthroughs and progress and milestones and achievements — these are all entirely up to you.

It's still wise to have tools, to set aside time and a safe space for your internal work.

The real dangers

  • Don't listen to prerecorded guided headwork tapes or recordings without pre-screening them for problematic content. Learn what to look for that might be problematic (example, post-hypnotic suggestions that may hamper you, your own triggers, religious or spiritual messages, metaphors or imagery that may be an issue for you, etc.). We also caution folk against using external people as hypnotists or to do trancework, etc. Problematic messages aren't always intentional. Sometimes people use metaphors, messages, or suggestions that can bollux us all up, and you can't check the content when there's no script to pre-view.
  • Don't do deep headwork with a therapist who is incompetent. As much as doing headwork with others needs a disclaimer, putting your trust into someone who is bumbling around with your mind is probably one of the most damaging things you could do. If you have a superficially knowledgable therapist, then limit what you do with them to superficial work.
  • Similarly, it's ok to compare notes and ask for some external confirmations, but don't let friends, family, peers, etc. push you into doing headwork against your own good judgement.
  • We would also say don't work with folk whose methods are unquestionable. It's a partnership. You should be the one with your hand on the controls, start & stop, control the speed, and direction, as you wish. If someone else has a method that is considered "above reproach" and is unwilling to tailor their ideas to fit your situation, at your discretion, then that's a pretty serious red flag.

The Upshot

Basically if you keep everything within your own means and control there's only limited harm that can come from it. The moment you introduce unknown risk factors — and I don't care if you've known the hypnotist for 30 years they still carry unknown risks — then you no longer control all the factors to protect yourselves.

Trust your system to know what it's ready for and when. If it's not time, you'll get dissociative sleepies or procrastinate or avoid it anyway. If it's time, and you're truly ready, then there will be breadcrumbs to lead you right to their doorway and talking mice will help you find the key. Or something like that.

Keep in mind that therapists' main job is getting you out of your own way, encouraging you to heal yourselves, and teaching you tools that you already had access to, but lacked the knowledge that they were there or how to use them. There's nothing magical or mystical about what therapists do. They're freeing up your innate capacity to heal yourselves. It is entirely possible to work on yourselves without a therapist. Given how some therapists are, sometimes it can even be safer to work on yourselves without a therapist.

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