I was saddened to learn recently of the death of Richard (Dick) Sutphen who passed away on September 1, 2020.
So, who was Dick Sutphen? His website, now maintained by his widow describes him thus:
‘Dick Sutphen was a psychic researcher, past-life therapist, prolific author and speaker.’
I knew none of the above when I discovered him in the late 1980s. He first appeared on my radar as the the man behind a range of self-help brain/mind programming tapes offered by New World Music, a UK-based provider of holistic recordings for relaxation and inspiration.
I’ll explain why these were of interest to me later.
Unbeknown to me at that time, Sutphen was one of the first people – if not the first – to put hypnosis programming on tape for sale. Indeed, in the years between 1976 and 2011 he created over 900 audio products.
Whilst the ‘self-change programming’ market is now awash with recordings from a vast array of practitioners, Dick Sutphen’s remain my own ‘go-to’ favourite products. I find them to be incredibly effective. I have only to begin playing his recordings and his mellow, lyrical voice quickly lulls me into the required altered state of consciousness that permits ready acceptance of the suggestions and affirmations that follow.
At the time I discovered New World Music’s range of relaxation recordings I was struggling to cope with the mental and emotional problems caused by my life-long uncontrolled epilepsy.
I and my wife had recently moved from Lincolnshire to Cheshire following my acceptance of an attractive job offer. In addition to our house sale and cross-country move, my new role was apt to be stressful at times. Collectively, these major stressers exacerbated my seizures.
As anyone with an experience of epilepsy can attest – either from a personal perspective or that of a parent or partner – the seizures themselves are simply the ‘tip of the iceberg’ in terms of challenges. My own complex partial seizure events, although brief, are also frequent.
For me, one consequence of such daily random and debilitating incidents has been a near-constant state of anxiety. Over the years this has also impacted on my self-esteem and confidence.
Despite this, I’ve always striven to ensure that friends and colleagues were never aware of the disharmony. I did this by forcing myself to appear calm and controlled, often despite storms that may have been raging in my mind. Inevitably, the perceived need to appear confident and to wear a mask of pretense in both the workplace and socially also intensified stress levels. This was just one aspect that Dick Sutphen’s recordings helped me overcome.
For me, however, perhaps the most troublesome shadow with which I’ve wrestled has been that of fear. For it has been fear that has triggered so many other negative emotions.
It is rarely easy for someone with epilepsy to describe an event. Although asked to do so many times over the years, this is something I’ve always struggled to explain. I’ve generally tended to make light of the subject by being flippant. For example I would use a ‘Star Wars‘ analogy to describe a seizure’s preceding aura as:
‘A disturbance in the force.’
In 2015 I was asked by a neurologist to describe a seizure. On this occasion I felt it was necessary to emphasise that, rather than being stand-alone events within an otherwise harmonious existence, seizures impact on every aspect of life at all times throughout each and every day.
This is what I said:
Imagine if you will, driving your car down a busy road at night. It could be a narrow road such as those in North Yorkshire, flanked by dry stone walls. The walls have stood for over a century. They’re solid, rugged and unforgiving. As you contemplate the stone-cold walls, you hit black ice and spin out of control.
Please now focus on the nauseating fear you have in the pit of your stomach. Imagine removing your hands from the wheel—for you are no longer in control of your body’s motor function. Now, remove all your lucidity — your rational awareness of the likely outcome. Eliminate any memory you may have of previous such experiences. Disregard your earlier sense of logic— for at the onset of an epileptic seizure, logic no longer has a seat in the house.
You may fear crippling injury. You can’t influence the outcome.
Anxiety piles on distress. You may die. Your fate is out of your hands.
Imagine how that feels. But let me tell you, you’re still not even close to experiencing the all-consuming fear of a seizure.
Now, consider the sickening sense of relief you experience as you regain control. Your heart rate settles, the trembling in your limbs eases. Sweating ceases as your body and mind recover.
Contemplate the dawning realisation that this will happen again later in the day. It will happen twice, three times maybe. And you have no idea of when they’ll hit you or where you’ll be when they do. Imagine the dread at facing the same constant threat tomorrow— and every day of your life.
Now, put on a smile and carry on.
You see, the fear doesn’t come and go with the seizure activity. It remains a constant feature, albeit at a fluctuating level each day.
It may be considered unsurprising, therefore, that I would be drawn to Dick Sutphen’s self-help mind programming tapes when they first appeared in New World Music’s catalogue.
It’s important to stress that therapies such as guided visualisation exercises, similar to those contained in Sutphen’s recordings do not constitute a cure for epilepsy. However, based on my own thirty-year familiarity in using these, they can and do help with those issues that arise from prolonged exposure to such a condition.
This in itself lowers stress, improves mood, raises confidence and encourages a general sense of well-being. Consequently, I found they not only reduced my seizure frequency and intensity, but helped to make them more bearable.
The recordings also contained a great deal of wisdom which has helped me over the years. Here are some examples:
Be aware that life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You’re creating your own future right now and it all begins with your thoughts, which in turn become expressed as your words and deeds. Think lots of positive thoughts, and imagine wonderful, positive futures.
Understand that reality exists as that which you experience. The way you experience life is based solely upon the way you decide to view what happens to you. Your viewpoint is the deciding factor in whether you experience life harmoniously or hostilely.
Be who you really are. When you remove your fear pretences and expand yourself it increases self-esteem and generates self confidence.
Accept that what is is. In other words, accept the things you cannot change, change the things you can, and have the wisdom to know the difference. Acceptance brings peace and helps you to view life positively.
Give up attempting to control other people in any way, shape or form. The only possible reason for you to be upset by another human being is because you didn’t get your way. In other words, you weren’t able to control the other person’s actions or reactions to you. To avoid getting upset, accept that other people aren’t here on earth to do what you want them to do.
Remember that you always have the free will to choose how to react to any situation. If you value peace of mind and high self-esteem you will choose to react in a way that supports these values.
Never allow another person’s words or deeds to influence how you feel about yourself. One has nothing to do with the other.
Express your needs directly and honestly without resentment or hostility. In so doing you rise above the need to wear a social mask, and the resulting frustrations of suppressing you you really are.
In view of Dick Sutphen’s prudent mantras, I do wonder how he viewed the madness of 2020, with its irrational fear-mongering, media manipulation … and those ridiculous – yet highly damaging – mask mandates.
I believe a clue to this may be found in one visualisation exercise included on his recording ‘Confidence and Positive Thinking’.
In the exercise, designed to promote confidence in the face of adversity, this is what he had to say:
You find yourself in a strange land of people who all wear red hats.
Now, mentally perceive this unusual environment. The village streets, weird architecture, and the people and their hats. And notice how strangely the people look at you, because you aren’t wearing a red hat.
A strange little man approaches you, stops, narrows his eyes, tilts his head to the side and says,
‘You should be ashamed.’
‘Why?’ you ask.
‘Because you’re not wearing a red hat,’ he says. He then shakes his head and walks away.
You continue to casually walk through the streets, the people watching you, disbelieving. Notice how they point and whisper about you. And when you reach a street corner where a crowd has gathered, one man emerges from the crowd. He’s dressed in a uniform and you assume he is a policeman.
He raises his hand for you to stop, and you do, and wait as he approaches.
You smile at the officer, as he strokes his moustache.
He says ‘Why are you doing this?’
‘Doing what?’ you say.
‘Walking the streets of our village bare headed. Aren’t you concerned about what other people think?’
‘I’m more concerned about being who I am,’ you say. ‘I’m not a person who wears red hats.’
The officer’s mouth drops open, and he seems to have trouble accepting your words.
‘But no-one in our village will accept you.’
‘Oh, I’m sure there are people here who will accept me,’ you reply very positively.
The officer shakes his head. ‘No-one you’d want to keep company with. Please let me get you a red hat.’
You smile and shake your head, then move on down the street and around the corner. A few doors ahead, a sandy-haired young man without a hat steps out from one of the shops and notices you.
‘Hello, you look like a kindred spirit.’
You stop and shrug.
He continues, saying ‘I thought I was the only one in this town who values being more than acceptance.’
‘I don’t understand,’ you say.
‘The hat thing, you know. I value being who I am more than I value being accepted by the people of this village. People with self-confidence are a rarity around here. It takes a lot of courage – self-confidence, you know.’
The young man extends his hand. You shake hands. Then he says,
‘People with a lot of self-confidence are not necessarily well-liked, because they’re more independent and usually outspoken. They express who they are and what they believe, regardless of what others think, and this is often intimidating to those whose self-esteem requires that they conform to convention.’
You thank the young man for sharing this awareness, and you continue on your way, thinking about what he said.
For the person with self-confidence, being who you really are is more important than acceptance.
Thanks to Dick Sutphen I became one who was no longer crippled by fear and the need to wear a social mask. I gained confidence, self-esteem and the authority to express who I am and what I believe, regardless of what others think.
Whilst the world may have lost the man in 2020, his life-changing guidance, which has for many years helped me and countless others all around the world, will continue to be of immeasurable benefit.
‘Happiness and success are self-bestowed. Unhappiness and failure are self-inflicted.’Dick Sutphen