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The '5 Whys' to transforming negative emotions

When I lived in Japan during the Nineties, one concept that really struck me was the '5 Whys'. This model for introspection was developed by Sakichi Toyoda, a Japanese inventor who founded the Toyota Motor Corporation. Like many great ideas, it's deceptively simple.

Toyoda developed the habit of asking himself 'Why?' whenever one of his inventions hit a snag. Whatever the answers were, he then repeated the same question four more times. With each repetition, Toyoda found that he was able to reach a deeper understanding of the presenting problem.

When working with people therapeutically, 'why?' is often not the best question to ask. People will always give you a reason, justifying their problems, and investing further in them. So it rarely leads to a solution. But it does help to pinpoint the inconsistent and illogical thought-loops that lie at the root of our problems.

I worked with one guy who had a particular vice which he concealed from his friends, employer and family. I taught him the 5 Whys, and after running through it, he looked up in surprise and said: "I'm afraid of authority. I think it comes from my dad." The silliness of running from his fear by doing something which increased his fear - in this case, the fear of being caught - hit him like a sledgehammer.

There are five main areas of life in which a person seeks help from a hypnotist: money, love, heath, personal development, and family. As you think about problems you may have in one of these areas, ask yourself 'Why?'. Whether it takes three, five or six repetitions, keep asking 'Why?' until you feel like you've uncovered a deeper reason. Usually, the deepest reason will be an emotion. In the example above, fear was ultimately feeding this young man's addictions.

Once you uncover an emotion that's been holding you back, you're ready for the solution. Mindfulness is a self-help approach which frees up emotional blockages. It's like a massage for your psyche.

Contact me for a free mp3 on how to transform negative emotions.

  • Joseph Pond is a clinical hypnotherapist, an acupuncturist, and a mindfulness instructor. He is co-founder of Hypnosis Explorers NI and conducts workshops in hypnosis with PowerTrance. Reach him at or at Hypnosis/?ref=hl/?ref=hl

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