All Transformation All The Time!

Who is Carol Hicks?


I spent five days at my first Enlightenment Intensive in February of 2001 contemplating this question from 6am until 10pm each day and reporting my inner answers to my attentive partners. I found the process simultaneously grueling, terrifying, and ultimately validating. I learned that the superficial descriptors were burned off in about the first ten minutes and then I had a long time with nothing to do but go deeper. It was a pivotal year for me to be reviewing my identity. I had turned 50 late in 2000 and had committed to following all heart urges as a gift to myself commemorating this passage. I felt that I could see with equal clarity into my formative past and my yet unformed future and I was seeking the truth in both directions.

The first truth I bumped into was that I was not used to letting myself be seen and known at that level of honesty and vulnerability. As a therapist for over 30 years, I was very comfortable sitting with others and focusing all of my attention on them in service of clarifying who they were and what they needed and felt. But when that spotlight of attention was focused directly on me, I wanted a place to hide. So I hid behind explaining that I am a middle child of five siblings with a mother who loved all of us endlessly; that this formative loving became the driving force of my most prized accomplishment – being the mother of two children who I love with an intensity I didn’t know existed before I entered into that magical realm. An unexpected breakthrough arrived in the form of suddenly realizing that I was deeply sad about never really being known by my father who was present physically but not with his full attention. I had fallen in love with the legendary Milton Erickson in my early twenties before I even met him and my life changed dramatically when I finally stood in his presence and received the gift of his undivided attention. I realized in that moment how rare it is for any of us to ever truly give or get undivided attention, and how healing it can be when we do.
My personal journey to becoming a mental health professional was probably first inspired by snippets in the Reader’s Digest my mother read to me in the early 60s about stunning new research on the mind-body connection and how what we think and say to ourselves actually manifests in literal symptoms and diseases (or health) in the body. For example, a person might routinely say ‘this just burns me up’ and then develop a burning stomach ulcer. Though highly skeptical, I was fascinated and studied psychology in college despite even more skepticism from my father who kept asking me what in the world a person could do with a degree in such a vague science. With my bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Alabama, I started my first job as a psychometrist at the Bay County Guidance Clinic in Panama City, Florida but I still didn’t fully know the answer to that question. But thanks to the development of a skin condition featuring angry red spots all over my 21 year old body, I had another learning beyond what my formal education had included. Briefly, the dermatologist I consulted explained my condition as exzema but admitted that there was little he could do to cure it. He suggested that it might be stress related. The mind-body connection strikes again! I wondered if I was blocking the ordinary expression of anger through words such that my skin was trying to do it for me. At any rate, Jim Hord, a psychologist in my clinic, offered to try hypnosis with me. We sat together in his office and he said: ‘which side of your body would you like to let clear up first?’ I was so pleased by his congruent presupposition that my cure was inevitable that I really don’t remember anything else of my first hypnosis session. I do know that I picked a side and amazingly, this side cleared up first and then we ‘let’ the other side clear. It was my first experience of encountering the answer within. Hypnosis was simply the key that opened the door and provided access to this inner wisdom and power.

Thereafter, I completed my master’s degree at the University of West Florida and worked from 1972-1979 as a therapist in the Northwest Florida Mental Health Center, learning more from each unique client about the wisdom of the unconscious. I was endlessly fascinated by examples of ever present resilience and the inherent capacity to grow stronger through transformative trauma that we humans have in common. I have been in private practice since that time in various locations and have authored books and conducted hypnotherapy training for mental health professionals to promote this belief that we have far more power than we usually believe and that the answer within often manifests in surprising and delightful synchronicities. My approach to consultation, whether with individual clients, mental health professionals, or corporate groups is informed by my ongoing recognition that we have all of our feelings and perceptions by virtue of being alive and that often our greatest strength lies in those hidden aspects of ourselves that we may have been reluctant to reveal, believing them to be evidence of weakness or inadequacy. I, like Milton Erickson, assume an inner storehouse of unconscious treasure and my job is to inspire the necessary courage to illuminate and retrieve it.

And back to my personal path in 2001, trudging along on the Enlightenment Intensive quest to know myself, I finally found the courage to simply open the previously locked doors and haul out every painfully vulnerable aspect of myself I had been trying to hide all my life. And in that moment, I realized that hiding really gets in the way of acceptance and connection. My current philosophy is to immerse myself in the river of ongoing experience with the conviction that I’m always going to be able to learn something from everything that happens and thus to remain open to that learning process and grateful to it, no matter what. The ancient poet, Rumi, expressed this same philosophy in his poem, ‘The guest house’:

“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”

From The Essential Rumi, page 109, translated by Coleman Barks