Performance psychologist Gerry Hussey's live show manages to be inspiring without being cheesy. Self-professed cynic Amanda Cassidy ended up dancing in the aisles.
Here we go, I eyeroll as I take my seat at the Awaken Your Power Within event at the National Concert Hall for a five hour long day of motivational speaking, performances, chanting and personal development.
There’s a giant screen above us with a starscape. Change Your Thinking, it says, Change your world. The girl beside me is a stranger. Also here alone through a mutual PR connection, she admits she’s as chronically cynical as I am.
We agree to try and sort the wheat from the chaff and try to take at least some nuggets from this experience. “I’m keeping an open mind,” I explain as the lights dim.
The event has been organised by Soul Space – an empowering movement founded by Miriam and Gerry Hussey that focuses on raising consciousness, awakening inner potential and inspiring greater health and performance. This is done through integrative Mind, Body and Soul Programs, Speaking engagements and events.
So far so woo-woo.
But then it began.
Gerry Hussy is a performance psychologist. He is also the author of the bestselling Awaken Your Power Within – a book outlining Gerry’s own background and charting how he let go of fear to access the power of our own thoughts.
He’s also such a wonderful soothing presence. He’s articulate, interesting and engaging. After a stunning and spine-tingling performance from the O’Neill sisters and a short guided meditation by Miriam Hussey, Gerry begins telling his story which, because of the set layout, feels more like an extended TED talk (in a good way).
There isn’t a sound in the room, which is packed by the way, with over a thousand people who have paid concert-prices for their tickets.
Hussey describes a little boy, an 11-year-old who struggles to get out of bed, who struggles to even feel the hot water of the shower against his skin because of the “avalanche of icy emotions inside”. That little boy is Hussey. “I want to scream at the sun not to go down, to stay up and keep me away from the terrors of the dark,” he remembers. “The clock ticks and time moves on, but I stay the same, locked in a never-ending, frozen present of anger and fear. I imagine all the happy people going to bed, resting and closing their eyes, surrendering into a gentle sleep of happy dreams while I like awake fighting demons.”
(He describes it more concisely in the live show but here I’ve used some of the extracts from his book)
Gerry Hussey admitted he hated himself for the sad and lonely person he was. As he grew up he created a mask to hide his inner child, his inner weakness. When he sought help, he was offered only medication. Desperate to find some way of stopping the pain of his negative thoughts he realised how important the mind body connection was.
“If I was to have a strong healthy and connected body then I would need to change my mind from one of negativity, disconnection and self-hurt to one of strong, healthy thoughts, though that would both nourish and heal. I needed to let go of and release myself from the cycle of negative thinking. To heal my body, I would have to heal my mind”.
Of course, thinking happy thoughts can’t cure depression. But as Hussey gets deeper into his story, his belief system, something resonates. I begin nodding my head at some of the things he says about trauma, for example. My new friend next to me, Jess whispers that “It’s not what I thought at all”.
“When we encounter a situation or life experience that’s outside of what we believed it would be” Hussey says expansively. “It triggers a sense of panic in our central nervous system, sending it into high alert. Your mind has no way of knowing whether the threat is real in the world or simply imagined but, as long as you are thinking about it – remembering and replaying the trauma, or even anticipating trauma, the very act of thinking about it means your body will not only believe that it is real, but will believe it’s happening right here right now.”
In other words, your body is firing specific pathways that create all the same physical, mental, emotional chemical and physiological responses as the original incident.
“The power of your thoughts makes that trauma present in your life, so now that trauma isn’t in your past, you are living in it unable to move on”.
The answer of course, is releasing that – freeing yourself.
We lean forward. Everyone in the room wants to know what comes next. A good motivational speaker will draw you in and bring you on the journey with them – transport you to a place where you are inspired to achieve the same enlightenment.
“Your central nervous system isn’t some kind of foreign or mechanical system that controls you. Your central nervous system is part of you, it is you. It’s actually connected too all of you; your thoughts, your emotions, your self-talk, the memories you replay, the stories you tell yourself. Just because your central nervous system is overloaded doesn’t always mean there is something intrinsically or biologically or chemically wrong with you; very often it is simply a manifestation of your unresolved emotions and fears.”
So Hussey began tapping into that connection – his goal was to rebalance his central nervous system – it involved breathing, recovery, rest, self-talk, healthier food, moving. “As I began to experience the power of being able to slow my central nervous system, the benefits of understanding that it was me who controls it and not my central nervous system that controls me became clear. I started to experience moments of inner calms, moments of inner peace and moments when I was still and listened to my inner world”.
Hussey breaks for a show-stopping performance of The Greatest Showman by the Sword’s Dance Hall Academy Irish Dancers and singer Denise Brennan.
There were so many more snippets of wisdom that didn’t feel contrived or forced. The psychological aspect drew me in too. I don’t consider myself ‘broken’ or someone who needs fixing. I value my own self-council and have a strong connection to my inner self.
What I did enjoy about this experience was the sense of community, the delving into the power of humans to be the best version of ourselves. I loved the choice of uplifting performances and haunting music and enjoyed hearing the other speakers – The Good Glow’s Georgie Crawford and AskPaul’s Paul Merriman speak about facing and overcoming their adversities.
And I left feeling ten foot taller.
I can see how the ‘Americanisation’ of personal development can be a turnoff for some, like me, who dismiss it as drivel and tosh. But Soul Space have managed to get the balance right. Excellent performances, uplifting speakers and just enough psychology to motivate us all to live our best lives without being OTT.