Category Archives: Basic & General

Possible Selves

I stumbled upon this article by the New York Times a couple weeks ago, and have been thinking about it. I do want to apologise for not updating my blog as regularly as I used to, I will probably write a personal piece to share why and what has been happening in my private life. 

So a brief summary of the short article:


Screenshot 2023-05-04 at 10.26.44 AM.png

Summary of content:

  • The “possible selves” describes how people envision their futures: what they may become, or want to become, or even fear becoming.
  • These possible selves, both positive (A violin student who wants to become a musician) and negative (A person whose feared possible self is an alcoholic may become a teetotaler.), are closely related to motivation.
  • Conjuring positive possible selves can improve well-being and alleviate symptoms of depression by holding out the potential for a better future.
  • So how do we construct that positive self and do what we envision?
    • Take action: Making the transition “requires you to say now, today, this week, these are the steps I can actually take” to attain that goal.
    • Find an expert companion: A supportive person who knows your strengths and weaknesses — and opens your eyes to potential selves you hadn’t considered.
    • Share your goal: Doing so makes you more likely to achieve it
    • Reach out to your weak ties: Whether you’re job hunting or seeking breakthrough advice, people in your larger network are more likely to help surface fresh ideas than those closest to you are.

So you might know that I’m trained in Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy and have been practising since 2013. One of the first exercises that students learn in the diploma course is a script writing exercise, asking your client or volunteer to envision how things will be like after they have achieved their goal. So say you have a goal to become a hypnotherapist (or working out every day, a dancer, a confident and eloquent public speaker, a calm mother etc), you will then ask about a specific situation once you have achieved that, where are you, what are you doing, what are you thinking, how are you feeling, what are your body sensations like, what are your facial expression and body gestures, what are the social and financial and other impacts etc. 

Doing so often motivates people to work towards their goal. It most likely increases the feel good hormones (like dopamine etc) when you see your goal achieved, and then these hormones keep you going. Of course, during the process if there’s any obstacles or any skills needed, we can use imagination or hypnosis to facilitate that too.

So what??

What is your first reaction when I say a “So what?” attitude?

Was your reaction quite negative or positive? (Assuming that it can’t be totally neutral)

What if I say, it’s an attitude the grandfather of cognitive therapy, Albert Ellis, said we shall all adopt? Yes, he said we shall all live with a “So What?” attitude.

What do you think?

(I started all 4 paragraphs with the letter “W”, so what?)

I can’t do this, so what?

I look so anxious, so what?

I can’t sleep, so what?

I failed my exam, so what?

Nobody likes me, so what?

What do you think? How would you benefit from adopting such an attitude?

I might not benefit from it, so what?

Seeing clients and students in the west (including those Asians who have lived in the west) vs those who live in Asia (mainly Chinese, Malaysians, South East Asians), I noticed that the first receipt of such an attitude can be quite different, although eventually all accept it and see and experience how much they benefit from having such a “I don’t care” attitude.

But for many Chinese and Asians, their first reaction is almost like, “this is rude”, “this is not what I would do”, “this is wrong”, “this is not part of our cultures/values” etc

Of course we are not talking about people should not care about their life, their studies, their family, their hygiene, their job etc. But it’s when you care too much and it doesn’t help (and often this care makes things worse). This is especially so in social situation and interaction. We worry too much about what others might think, how we look like, we stop being in our experience and connecting with the environment and the world because we focus internally worrying too much.

Try to apply the lens of “so what” in your social interaction and see how it goes?

Striving in reality

He told me he’s jealous of those kids whose parents can afford to let them go any school they want, including top universities in the world, the parents just need to “make some donations” and then the kids are there attending those schools.

“I worked my ass off to be here. Them? They are here because they were born into a rich family. So privileged”

Likewise, another girl told me “my roommate just flew back home last night, why? Because she misses home. That’s so rotten spoilt. I wouldn’t do that, but I’d like to have that option. But no I don’t. I miss my mum a lot, and I’m still here.”

Indeed, what we really want, is that freedom to choose, but often we don’t. It’s when we don’t have options that we work very hard, that we are always ready for any opportunities, that we fully utilise whatever we have, that we maximise our potentials, don’t we?

Maybe not having the options means we are living a fuller life, compared to those who grow up in a very well-protected environment, always have the privileges to choose, and can have a very laid-back life (should they wish)? Often they are kind of fragile, they don’t take up challenges and can’t respond to setback well. They are mostly in their comfort zone all their lives. Obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone born into that kind of family. But try to notice people around you, did you observe any pattern?

Yet this is reality. This means you are fully living, trying, learning, striving, maximising your ability and every cells. Isn’t this a life worth living, a lot more than a life you are given most of your needs and wants? Doesn’t it feel great when you work your ass off to achieve your goals? Doesn’t this make you a stronger and greater person too?

Who knows if you were born into that family and had all these options, you would be “spoilt rotten” and wouldn’t make any great choice and fully living like you do now?

Maybe you think I’m just trying to make you feel better. But this is observed in many places in the world, when a certain minority group is being deprived for some resources or opportunities (options), they try and strive harder, they become stronger and greater. This can be a certain ethnicity, gender identity, socio-economic class, differently-abled persons etc.. Any group of people really.

In the end he told me, “yeah! Maybe that’s true. I noticed most of the people who received the scholarships last year were those LGBTQ+, even when they don’t publicly announce it, but I guess inside, they are stronger like you said living unlike the cisgender, it’s hard, you know. But yeah they can achieve greater things”


昨晚马克向一些在中国的学院学生解释“目标可视化”(goal visualisation)(当然是我给他翻译,因为他不会说中文,而学生大多不懂英语)。然后一个学生问:“当我们告诉来访者想象他们的目标成功达成时,这不是与吸引力法则有关吗?”

吸引力法则 (LOA) 相信宇宙会创造并为你提供你的思想所关注的事物,因此如果你积极思考,就会吸引积极的事物。大多科学家都认为这是一门伪科学(pseudoscience)。但是仔细想想,它似乎是“存在”的,那我们如何从科学的角度来解释呢?




假设现在你已经决定在有能力的时候购买这辆川崎忍者(Kawasaki Ninja)摩托车。一旦这成为你的目标,不知何故,突然之间,你开始比平时更多地注意到路上的这辆摩托车。显然人们不会仅仅因为它现在是你的目标就开始频密在你面前驾驶它,那为什么呢?你的头脑现在认为它与你相关了,并开始允许与它相关的信息进入你的意识。换句话说,你开始更多地注意到它,因为这是你的目标,但一直以来它们一直在路上奔驰,只是被大脑过滤掉了。


我记得我买了一条迪卡侬(decathlon)的跑步短裤或优衣库(Uniqlo)的史努比 T 恤,在接下来的两周左右里,我开始注意到很多人穿着它。头脑现在看到这与我“相关”,而以前这会被过滤掉。



或许我也可以借此机会推荐一下John Krumboltz的《运气不是偶然》(Luck is No Accident),我们可以创造自己的运气,保持开放和好奇,不做太多计划,期待事情出乎意料。

这是中译版本,原文在此:How to explain “Law of Attraction” scientifically?

How to explain “Law of Attractions” scientifically?

Last night Mark was explaining “goal visualisation” to some of the College’s students in China (with me doing interpretation of course, since he doesn’t speak Mandarin and the students mostly don’t understand English). Then a student asked, “When we tell clients to visualise their goals, isn’t this to do with law of attraction?”

The law of attraction (LOA) is the belief that the universe creates and provides for you that which your thoughts are focused on, so if you think positively, you will attract positive stuff. But it’s very much believed by most scientists that this is a pseudoscience. Yet when you do think about it, it seems to “exist”, so how do we explain it from a scientific perspective?

So here is Mark’s answer.

We are perceiving millions pieces of information in every second, through our eyes, skins, ears, etc all parts of our body. But our brain filters the irrelevant information away just so we are taking in what’s relevant. For example, our eyes can only see a few words each time, but we have the illusion that we can see the whole page, or we thought we can see the whole room, but in fact the eyes can only see a small portion of it, and the rest is made up by the brain, based on information it has. We didn’t actually see it.

When we set up a goal and visualise it, what makes it more likely to come true?

Let’s say now you’ve decided that you want to buy this Kawasaki Ninja motorbike one day when you are able to. And once this becomes your goal, somehow, all in a sudden, you start to notice this motorcycle on the road a lot more than usual. Obviously people don’t just start to ride on it just because it’s now your goal, but what? Your mind now sees it as relevant to you, and starts to allow it to enter your awareness. In other words, you start to notice it more now that it’s your goal, all the while they have been running on the roads.

So when you set a goal and is committed to it, you start to focus on it, your attention is on it, you are motivated to achieve it, you become more open to related information and opportunities, your attitudes also get more active (as opposed to passive), so it seems that “you think positively, you get positive outcome”, but during this process, there are many psychological and biological factors involved.

I remember buying a pair of running shorts from Decathlon or a Snoopy tee from Uniqlo, and in the next two weeks or so, I started to notice quite a few people wearing it. The mind now sees that this is “relevant” to me, while previously this would have been filtered out.

So say now your goal is to look for a job. You would now naturally notice more of the job searching platforms, vacancy advertisements, career advisory services, job centres etc, and thus you would naturally be exposed to more opportunities. So it’s not that thinking about getting a job gets you a job, but your attitudes of becoming more open and your behaviour matter. If you think very positively and do nothing at all all day, does all the positivity still happen out of nowhere?

Likewise let’s say you think that you are an unlucky person, and you’re likely to “see” how unlucky you are and feel miserable about it. Well if you only focus on all the bad things that happen to you and also expect the bad things to happen, it’s difficult to become lucky, right?

Perhaps I can also take this opportunity to recommend John Krumboltz’s “Luck is No Accident”, we can create our own luck, by staying open and curious, not planning much, and expect things to go unexpectedly.

Calling all therapists, counsellors and mental health workers!!

There isn’t a better time to do this! Attend Dr Donald Meichenbaum’s “Essentials of Trauma Recovery & Treatment” workshop and help people in India to get through the Covid pandemic together!!

I’ve attended the workshop and I went over it more than twice and am going to watch it again and again, there is always more to learn from this legend, Dr Meichenbaum is 80 years old and has had experience in therapy for more than half a century!

The workshop is run on 16th July but you don’t need to attend it on the day if you have other commitments or are in different timezones like I do, you can watch the replay many times after that! (But you do need to register before 16th of July)

Please refer to this link for more information: