Kristin Rivas: The Life-Changing Power of Words at TEDxRainier (Transcript)

Kristin Rivas

Here is the full transcript of hypnotherapist Kristin Rivas’ TEDx Talk Presentation: The Life-Changing Power of Words at TEDxRainier conference. This event occurred on November 9, 2013 in Seattle at TEDxRainier.

Listen to the MP3 Audio: The life-changing power of words by Kristin Rivas at TEDxRainier


Could your life forever be changed in an instant through the impact of one sentence? By just one idea? Isn’t that why you’re here to have your mind blown by at least one idea worth spreading?

Reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite movies. It’s a story about a man named Cobb. This character played by Leonardo DiCaprio is a skilled dream invader who gets paid to extract people’s secrets while they sleep. Cobb is offered a chance to regain the life he once lived as payment for a task considered to be impossible: Inception and planting an idea in someone’s mind. Cobb says: “What is the most resilient parasite on earth? Bacteria? Virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient, highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain, it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed, fully understood that sticks right in there somewhere.” A single idea from the human mind can build cities, transform the world and rewrite all the rules.

Professionally speaking, as a hypnotist, I am intimately familiar with the skill, the science, the arts on the inception of ideas. I use the power of words as suggestions to help your mind adopt an idea or a belief. What you picture or imagine as I speak and how you react to the words I use can give you the transformations you’re wanting.

Personally speaking as somebody who has been a subject, I’m intimately familiar with the desperate search for a transformation.

I’d like to tell you about a sentence that changed my life. Two sentences actually. The first sentence changed my life for the worst. In fact, the impact of just those four words haunted me so severely, their effects caused me to become a college dropout, attempt suicide and wear helmet having to use a wheelchair to get around because I became an invalid.

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The second sentence changed my life for the better. The second sentence is why I’m able to stand here speaking in front of you today as a happy, healthy professional sane person. As you listen to my story, you can understand the totality of what I mean, and believe me when I say that your life can be radically changed in an instant through the power of words.

“Bethany Didn’t Make It”

When I was 18, a freshman in college visiting home one weekend, my dad woke me up from my sleep to give me the news, that dreadful life-changing sentence. My older sister Bethany, by just 15 months had been in a car accident: the driver had been drinking. The next four words my dad spoke to me slammed into my awareness with such sudden shock I became shattered in the wake of ensuing devastation. Bethany didn’t make it.

The impact of that crash and those words on my life, on my psyche it wasn’t just immediate; it was ongoing. I didn’t consciously realize it then but the idea that began to overtake my mind upon hearing of my sister’s death was this: what happened to my sister was not OK, nothing could ever make it OK. I could never be OK with it. Therefore I could never be OK. You may be able to imagine or relate in some way to how I felt.

Fast-forward it to few years later. It’s my senior year of college and I’m a newlywed. I’m folding laundry when all of a sudden everything looks blurry, I start having double vision, I hear ringing in my ears; my tongue feels swollen and numb, a mental fog comes over me, I pass out.

Later that night, I find myself in an emergency room. Doctors give me a series of tests but the results are normal. What I experienced isn’t normal. So how do you explain what just happened to me? Well, ma’am, could be due to stress, like a panic attack. I take that to mean they have no freaking clue what just happened to me.

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So I go home that night and on to school the next day, hoping it had all been just a bad dream. But the same thing happens again the next day. And then two more times that week. After two weeks, my ability to concentrate and remember rapidly declines as more mental fogs with slurred speech and fainting spells become a daily occurrence. Attacks of vertigo, panic and involuntary movement mostly to my left side occur without warning. The movement ranges from slight periodic twitching like somebody with Tourette syndrome to hard jerking. It looks as if I’m being yanked by an invisible leash around the neck.

A complete loss of muscle tone, tingling and numbness invades my limbs so strongly I experience sudden fall-downs that leave me in a heap on the floor. Repeated trips to different doctors, emergency rooms, neurologists yield no help nor explanations to me. I’m referred to the Mayo Clinic and wait for my case to be considered.

My husband and I have no clue what to do in the meantime. I’m getting kind of tired of banging my head while trying to peacefully go about my day. So we go to a Walgreens and buy a seizure helmet and a four-pronged cane.

The next day, getting ready for my classes, I carefully choose a stylish outfit to hopefully distract from my new helmet and cane. I quickly realized there is no way that I nor anybody else could pull off this look, especially when my husband adds the final touch — an envelope safety pin to my chest with my emergency contact information and what to do instructions if someone finds me. I take one look at the mirror and I’m reminded of my first day of kindergarten when my dad safety pin a note on my shirt to give to my teacher. I burst out crying and tell my husband I’m dropping out. I can’t do this anymore.

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Unfortunately, the more time I spend trying to take it easy and follow doctor’s advice the worse my symptoms become. Seizures begin striking at any moment, not just any kind of seizures but violent fits I can experience while I’m wide awake or fast asleep. The seizures are resistant to medication or become stronger when any is given to me.

I find my spells occurring whenever I back up, view images of anything zooming in or out, or from a first-person perspective, and every time I enter an area with any kind of fluorescent lighting. Imagine how you would feel: losing control over your body, your life, any sense of freedom, health or security, people you meet assuming you’re unintelligent because the way you look. Because by this point I’m having a text up to nine times a day and having to use a wheelchair to get around for my own safety.

So if people aren’t ignoring me, they’ve been down, talk louder and real slow. Do you need any help, young lady? I got the door; thanks. Going to stores, too many lights, no reading or studying, memory concentration too poor, no watching TV or movies too much motion or driving or riding around in cars.

By summer of 2008, I’m finally taken on as a patient of the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. Tedious diagnostic testing goes on month after month, with no answers nor successful treatment. I am in need of constant care. My husband and I can’t afford to pay the bills. So we move in with his parents.

My appointments become more specialized, the time between them growing further apart and my spirit fades, my symptoms escalate.

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