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binge eating

Binge Eating Metaphor therapy

Binge Eating Therapy

Today I had a repeat client. She came for smoking about two years ago. She told me she was able to give up smoking 30 a day, and hasn't smoked since. But her problem is that she is binge eating. It is not cravings. She got much heavier and then lost a lot but is still overweight.

The issue is binge eating after work. Not every day, but several times a week. Something in her head tells her that she should not be eating, but she just keep doing it anyway.  When I hear a client say "I know I should't but I do it anyway", then I assume that this would be a psychological problem associated with childhood.

Childhood roots of Bingeing

Her father was the High Commissioner for Germany. She was brought up there until she was 12. Then she came to New Zealand. At first they lived in the capital, but then they moved to a tiny town in a remote coastal area. She didn't mind that place, it was on the beach although there was nothing to do. Her parents divorced age 14. She moved schools every two years. She hated her stepfather so she left home at age 16, got married early and had kids early.

Her mother was a life long weight watcher member and seemed to be obsessed about her weight. My client said that her mother had never actually told her not to eat or directed her in any way about it. But I felt it was completely unlikely that growing up in that household she would not have picked up something about an emotional connection to eating.

It was notable that she didn't think there was anything strange about the multiple interruptions in her young life, and she didn't think it had any effect on her emotional state at all. Just a normal childhood. "Oh, and daddy had lots of affairs".

After some questioning she said that she was a bit worried that if she became little she would get noticed, and would be somehow 'out there'. Then she said that she realised it was a bit more than that. If she became little she would feel awesome, but then would be worrying about whether she was going to fail or not. And she feared the humiliation and criticism.

Metaphor Therapy for Binge Eating

There was so much going on in her life that I could not identify which bit to focus on. So I decided to do Regression and see what came up.

But even as I was talking, something in me changed. I was going to do regression, but chose to do metaphor replacement therapy instead.

After a Relaxation induction, I focused on getting her to think about the feeling of failure. Feeling isolated and embarrassed and being noticed. I asked, "What thing is that feeling like?" She said  "It's a little box". It was blue, same all the way round, hollow, no lid, cold and smooth, with sharp edges and it was light. I asked what she want to have happen to it. "I want it to go away. "

But I couldn't get it to say what that would mean for her, or what she would be able to do if it went away. I went back to trying to get her to change this box. She could make it bigger and bigger, but she could not then make it smaller from that size. When it got bigger it changed colour to white. I encouraged her to explore every aspect of it. But it stayed solid, huge, hard, strong, white. She really didn't want to change it. I tried getting her to imagine all sorts of tools she could use. I asked her to hit it with a hammer. No effect. She was able to make it bigger and bigger and bigger. But it remained unchanging, solid and enduring, and she really just couldn't get rid of it.

Eventually I suggested that everything gets old, and that started a process of change. Eventually, she could  imagine the thing crumbling.

Secondary Binge Eating metaphor

Then it turned into a grey rock. I tried to suggest that she could find tools with which she could hammer it, or scratch it, or break it up, or do whatever she wanted to it. But couldn't find anything. After much prodding, eventually the rock turned into a flat stone and she was able to break up the flat stone and throw it into a rubbish bin.

That got rid of whatever feeling the blue represented. I brought her out of trance. She said 'I feel much lighter now'. We talked some about how she feels when she is over weight. She said people regard you differently when you are big.

She said "I won't let people treat me as the funny little fat girl. I won't let people put me in that box" And I asked "Would that be a little blue box?"


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workplace bullying

Workplace Bullying Hypnosis

Workplace bullying

I had a client today who came in complaining of stress. She said that she was grinding her teeth at night. And much more worrying to her she had got into the habit of drinking a bottle of wine each night when she got home from work.

She said that she had an unhappy childhood. She could never do anything right, according to her mother. Her mother always made her feel like a failure. For most of her life she had low self esteem. But after she got out of her home situation and began working as an engineer, her life took a better turn, and she felt on top of things.

Workplace bullying and Stress

After some discussion it became clear that these feelings had really only come back in the last three years. It coincided with the appointment of a particular man in her consultancy group. This guy was loud, boisterous, domineering and bullied anyone he could. My client is the only female engineer in the company. And he set out to diminish her at every opportunity.

The company is aware of this guy's behavior. But her immediate boss is afraid to take any action in case he upsets the overseas controlling company who appointed this guy in the first place.

Workplace bullying and emotional stress

The result is that she goes home and feels bad, and can't see any way out of this. So she opens up her bottle of wine, and once started on that, she can't stop. A real fear is that she will end up like her father, an alcoholic.

So she is locked in this cycle of being constantly bullied at work, which opens up feelings of childhood abuse, which gives her stress, and she drinks to alleviate the stress.

The obvious answer is to get rid of the bully. She is not in a position to do that. She said that her current boss is due to be replaced in a few weeks with a female manager. She has met this woman, and feels that together they can address the problem of the bully.

Workplace bullying and self-hypnosis

We discussed various options but the best one seemed to be to just stick it out until the new manager arrives. In the meantime, I taught her self-hypnosis. By using self-hypnosis she would be able to prevent the stress from building up during the day. So that when she came home at night she wasn't totally stressed out. Even if she did feel stressed on getting home, she would be able to go into trance rather than disappearing into a bottle.

Too many times I see clients who are suffering because of someone else's actions. As in this case, usually there is very little that the therapist can do except try to stop the situation getting worse.

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Smoking Diagnosis

Smoking Diagnosis and Treatment

Smoking Diagnosis

I had an email today from a client who wants a smoking diagnosis.

Good morning Dave!
I’ve just made an appointment with you for two weeks’ time, and wanted to check in with you about it ahead of time. 

I see that appointments are about an hour long. Does this session include a bit of a ‘diagnosis’? As you’ll know better than anyone does, people smoke for a variety of reasons and I want to make sure that my reasons to smoke would be taken into account. 

For example, I had a hypnosis session yesterday, but it didn’t work because it was about hypnosis to relax instead of smoking to relax, and I don’t smoke to relax anyway—so my real reasons to smoke were neglected. 

Does that make sense to you? I hope you can reassure me!

Smoking Diagnosis is essential

My reply was:

When I deal with smokers, to me the most important thing is to find out why they smoke. In fact I will not go forward with a hypnosis session until I am completely satisfied and I know why they smoke, and it's also obvious to the client why they smoke.

If I don't know why you smoke, then I really can't do anything much for you in hypnosis. Treating someone for relaxation is only going to work if relaxation is their problem. People smoke for thousands of reasons. I had one this morning who smokes on the anniversary of her daughters death. But this year, unlike other years, she wasn't able to give up as normal. So in that case I dealt with the cause of the stress that was keeping her going, and did some work to let her let go of her daughter.

Smoking is always complicated. Smoking is always about emotion. I believe that tobacco is not addictive. I believe it is the process of smoking that is addictive. Many hypnotists treat all smokers the same. I do not. I am constantly fascinated by people's behaviours and why they do things.

So yes, the first thing I would do is to explore with you why you smoke, and what you get from it. Only then can we have a reasonable chance of getting you to change your behavior. Every behavior is a positive purpose. My job is to find out what that purposes and redirect it.

I look forward to meeting you.

Client's view of Smoking Diagnosis

Hi Dave,
Thank you for your very thoughtful reply.
I’m so glad you think that tobacco is not addictive, and I’m frustrated that so many professionals believe that it is nicotine that causes smoking addiction. I know that’s not the case for me.
I feel reassured by your reply, and I’m looking forward to my session with you.
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sexual abuse by therapist

Sexual Abuse by Therapist

Sexual Abuse by Therapist

I had a client today who made me feel both depressed and angry. This young woman came in, and when she settled down in the chair, I  asked her "and what would you like to have happen?".

She said, "I just want to be happy". This wasn't really something I could work with, so I tried probing a bit more.

"So what is making you unhappy?" "I don't know."
Okay, not a great start. I decided to broaden the scope, and asked her "if you could change only one thing in your life what would that one thing be?".

She thought about it for a while, and then said "I don't really know".

We were getting nowhere. So I asked her "what is the most important thing in your life?"

She didn't answer. Instead, her face crumpled and she began weeping quietly.

Testing for depression

Anyone who sits in my chair crying, most likely has depression of some sort. So I did the standard test for depression and sure enough, she fitted into many of the categories. We discussed the symptoms, when this had started, and what she had done about it.

She said, "I went to see a couple of counsellors, I don't think they helped".

I asked, "and did the counsellors say about what was causing you to be unhappy?".

She looked away, and mumbled something. I said to her, "sorry I didn't hear that, what was it you said?".

Once again she spoke very quietly and the only word I could make out was 'interference".

Sexual abuse by therapist

So I said "Interference? Interference with what?"

She looked deeply embarrassed. I realized what she was trying to tell me. "Are we talking about sexual abuse here?"

She nodded, and look miserable. I asked her very gently "when did this happen?".

She said, "I don't know. I don't remember it."

I asked, "how do you know you were sexually abused if you don't remember it?".

He said, "I was so unhappy, I went to see a counsellor at the Sally Ann, and she couldn't find any reason why I was so unhappy. She said that if I was unhappy and didn't know why, that meant I had been sexually abused. I told her that I didn't think I had been sexually abused, but she insisted that I must've been. There was no other reason why would be so unhappy."

I asked, "and what happened next?".

She said, "I didn't feel comfortable with that first counsellor, so I went to the local office of Rape Crisis. The counsellor I saw there also told me that I had been sexually abused. But I have actually no memory of it. I didn't go back to her either. "

Phantom sexual abuse

After listening to her story I actually felt very annoyed. I felt quite incredulous that counsellors are still insisting to women that they must have been sexually abused when they can find no other reason for that woman feeling unhappy. The fact that she got the same story from two different counsellors this made me feel depressed. I live through the whole sexual abuse hysteria.

In the 1990s There was a whole industry devoted to persuading women that there had been sexually abused by family members. There were books published on how to tell if you had been abused even if you had absolutely no recollection of it, and no reason to suppose you might have been.

Families were broken up, lives were ruined, innocent men went to jail, the whole thing developed until it got to such a ridiculous level at the whole thing was seen for what it was. A type of mass hysteria. And here it is, alive and well in my area, years after I thought it had all been put away and forgotten about.

As far as I'm concerned, this is just another instance of sexual abuse by therapists. The damage they do to vulnerable women is just as bad as actual sexual abuse.

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indicators of trance

Indicators of Trance

Indicators of Trance

I help out in training people interested in hypnosis from time to time. It is often useful to think back on how I used to feel about going into hypnosis, and how strange it can be for people doing it for the first time. It helps if you can recognize the indicators of trance.

Indicators of trance: Increased heartbeat

One newbie said to me "I was listening to a hypnosis CD the other night. I often find it quite difficult to get into trance, and I wonder if I'm doing it right. With this recording, I found myself sinking into what I thought was a trance, and feeling very pleased about it, when I noticed a sudden increase in my heartbeat. I don't know if it was excitement or alarm, but whatever it was, it pulled me right out of trance again."

In fact, this is one of the quite common indicators of trance. When you feel that increase in heartbeat it means that you are actually going into trance.  It is quite normal, nothing to worry about. If you find it bothers you during other inductions, then add in slow breathing to the induction. That should fix it.

Indicator of trance: eyelids flickering

Another physical symptom that people often complain about is that "my eyes start flickering uncontrollably". This is another one of these indicators of trance. It is quite normal, and harmless, and usually passes after a few minutes.

Indicators of trance: giggling with embarrassment

"I get the giggles when going into trance". This is another physical reaction and an indicator of trance. This happens with people who are anxious or analytic. As the induction proceeds, their breathing slows down, the muscles begin to relax, and at that point they start entering trance. But for this type of person, relaxing equals losing control. As the start to feel themselves losing control, the feel embarrassed, uncomfortable, and the embarrassment comes out as giggling or laughing. It normally only happens once or twice. Once the person is comfortable with going into trance and realises that nothing bad happens, then they don't feel that same embarrassment and they don't get the giggles.

Indicators of trance: muscle jerk jerking

if you people find that when they feel themselves going into trance, and arm, or a leg, will start jerking. Sometimes quite violently. This is often enough to pull them out of trance completely. Some people just cannot get into trance because it happens every time.

What is happening is that as their body relaxes, their unconscious mind feels that it is losing control. This control is usually manifested as a tension in the muscles. As that tension releases, the muscle will spasm. This impediment to trance is actually quite difficult to get rid of. It normally means that the person has quite deep-seated anxieties. And of course the hypnotherapy is for getting rid of those anxieties. But those anxieties are stopping the person getting into trance. So you have a circular problem. All they can do is to go through a long, slow induction and give themselves time to relax every muscle completely.

But everyone can be hypnotised eventually. It is simply a matter of repetition and practice.

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millennial depression

Millennial Depression

Millennial Depression

It looks like therapists will not be running out of work any time soon. A recent large British survey has shown that people born since 1990 are more likely to suffer from depression than people born before that time. Depression has gone up nearly 15%, and self-harm has gone up by 14%. These findings are not just due to having better instruments to measure depression, or that they're using a new research method. The survey used identical questions to those used in the first study 10 years ago.

But at the same time, the findings show that alcohol abuse and antisocial behavior has gone down in this population.

Millennial Depression and general health

The researchers suggest that the increase in depression may be linked to the general health of the population. In the last 10 years the average body mass index has increased in the whole of Britain. 29% of those surveyed agreed that they were overweight. It is also possible that high levels of youth unemployment, decreasing social services and the declining economy are all causing anxiety. All of these are potential targets for intervention, but none of them will be quick or easy to fix.

People with depression and anxiety related disorders are likely to still have them in 20 or 30 years time. Even if employment picks up and economic conditions improve there will still be a larger proportion of the public needing social and psychological help.

Millennial Depression and economic instability

The years between 1990 and 2010, included the global financial crisis, and the era of economic austerity in the UK. The period has been compared with the social environment in wartime. The constant stress, uncertainty, and the bleak outlook all contribute to long-term ongoing psychological problems. The same may be true of the US.

All of this means that there will be a constant demand for psychotherapists, counselors, and hypnotherapists. I guess every cloud has a silver lining?

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CBT therapy

CBT therapy is older than you think

The origins of CBT therapy

I was reminded today that nothing is really new in therapy. Paul Dubois was a Swiss neurologist who worked in the late 19th century and the early 20th century.

He introduced what is known as "persuasion therapy". This was a forerunner of CBT and rational therapy. He developed a way of treating "nervous disorders" by using a Socratic method of questioning. He challenged his patients to justify why they were feeling the way they are. This used the patient's own intellect and logic to challenge and eliminate negative thoughts and feelings.

His method was based on getting his patient to realize that their thoughts were irrational and could therefore be dismissed. His method was very popular in the early 20th century. It competed head-on with Freud's psychoanalytical treatment at the time. Dubois was also one of the earliest people to write about the importance of "mind over matter". His work is almost forgotten today.

Psychotherapy in classical times

Dubois's approach to psychotherapy was largely a response to the failings of the other popular psychotherapy, hypnosis. In the early 20th century hypnosis was thoroughly discredited after the scandal of Jean-Martin Charcot (1825–1893) and his fakery of hysteria treatments. Dubois also regarded Freudian theory as of little value. (Incidentally, Freud learned hypnotism from Charcot in the early 1890's)

Dubois was familiar with the writings of classical Greek authors such as Socrates, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. He realised that that the advice that they were giving 2000 years ago in teaching philosophy was almost identical to what he was doing in current psychotherapy.

Stoic Philosophy

In particular, he admired the work of the Stoics. Modern readers think of the Stoics as philosophers. But they thought of themselves as offering a sort of medicine for the mind. The Stoics believed that everyone has to take responsibility for their own actions. And at the same time accept that things happen by chance, and have no personal meaning.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

Albert Ellis developed Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy based largely on this ancient philosophy. One of his central ideas was that emotional disturbances and associated behavior are not caused by external events, but are caused by our own irrational beliefs about these events. “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of them.” (Epictetus, 80 BCE) Ellis went on to influence Aaron Beck and the CBT movement started from there. But basically it all goes back more than 2000 years to the Stoic philosophers.

Maybe we should be encouraging our clients to read philosophy?


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hypnosis for dating

Hypnosis for dating Fear of Commitment

Hypnosis for Dating

This client was a gorgeous young woman who had not had a romantic relationship for seven years. Many guys showed interest, but there was always a reason to not respond. Recently she went to the USA on holiday and met this guy. She felt free of any pressure because she was going home on a given date. Therefore she could just be herself without fear of consequences. They got on champion, and now he wants to see her again.

However, the idea of making contact again is terrifying. She just cannot bring herself to book a call to him. What if I run out of things to say in the 20 minute call? What if I dry up? He will think I am stupid. What if I babble on talking nonsense to fill the silence?

She is afraid that she won't be able to perform at the level she thinks he expects for that length of time. If he calls her, and it is spontaneous, like maybe she  is out on her bike at the time, then fine, she can talk to him. She could always say "Sorry, I have to go, traffic!" And she stays in control.

Fear of Dating

Her basic problem is that she is afraid that she will not live up to his expectations. That if he knew her well, he would see her as she really is, and she would not be good enough. So he would reject her. And she cannot accept that risk.

This is a sort of phobia. She is afraid of rejection and failure, and the feeling she gets when she is rejected. It is actually quite common. A lot of males have this fear too. It is one of the reasons why at party, a girl might just sort of fall into bed with a guy. Once they have sex, the fear of rejection is gone.

Regression Hypnosis for dating

So I had to work out how to deal with her current crisis. I took her into trance and then started on regression. We went back to the first time she felt rejected. She couldn't find a first time, so I asked for a memory to do with it.  She told the story of asking her mother for a hug. Her mother was with some female friends, talking. In front of her friends, her mother rejected her. Her mother told her to go away, and of course, she felt awful. This is likely the origin of her fear of rejection. She felt not loved, rejected, humiliated in front of all these women.

This was probably not the origin of her fear, it  most likely happened many times over many years. So I could not do Inner Child work. Instead I decided to lead her through a visualization. I got her to imagine her self as an angry little girl, kicking her mother in the shins. Then she told her mother off for being selfish and uncaring. This was something she dared not do at the time. Then I got her to visualize all the other other women scooping her up and comforting her, then rounding on her mother and shaming her for behaving so badly to a small child.  I worked on getting them to give her the love she never got.

Origin of her dating problems

She went on to tell me that her mother had poor parenting skills. Her mother never valued her, and taught her that whatever she tried she would always fail. So she spent her childhood trying to be good all the time to get loved. But her efforts were never accepted. She learned that whatever she did, she would be rejected, and came to fear that rejection.

Throughout most of hypnosis session, her lower lip was trembling, she was weeping and clearly very upset, but she was brave enough to  keep on developing and changing the memory.

I hope she has changed enough to call the guy, and maybe change her life.

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future of hypnotherapy

The future of hypnotherapy?

The future of hypnotherapy?

Researchers have found a bacterium that might alter the future of hypnotherapy. The bacterium lives in your gut and appears to have a strong connection with depression. Last month a different set of researchers discovered a collection of gut bacteria which only appear in people with schizophrenia.

This suggests that these debilitating mental illnesses are not actually genetic, but may be the result of an infection. Or, on the other hand, it may be that you get these illnesses when you don't have the benefits of the byproducts of various gut organisms.

Growing a cure for mental illness

It has been known for a long time that a healthy gut bacteria has many, many benefits for your health. One of the reasons for the immense popularity of yoghurt is precisely because it puts probiotic bacteria back into an unbalanced gut. Alcohol is a byproduct of yeast growth. There are tens of thousands of species of yeasts and bacteria in your gut right now. Some unknown number of these bacteria also produce byproducts. Some of these are highly beneficial, some of these may in fact be dangerous.

But there are so many different species that scientists have not yet been able to track down exactly what they are and exactly what, if anything, they do for you. The presence or absence of certain bacteria have been implicated in things like Crohn's disease and many other digestive problems. In fact faecal transplants are becoming the best way to treat diseases like this.

The future of hypnotherapy?

Schizophrenia, and depression are easily diagnosed illnesses. It appears that they may have a connection to gut bacteria, or may in fact be caused by gut bacteria. You have to wonder how many other less dramatic illnesses are also caused by gut bacteria.

Maybe in future we hypnotherapists will become largely redundant. We may be replaced by multi-spectrum probiotic injections. Perhaps the future treatment of mental illness may involved a simple transplant of some beneficial balance of gut flora and fauna. Who knows?


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losing weight and mental health

Losing weight and mental health

Losing weight and mental health

How much overlap is there between losing weight and mental health? Put it another way, should hypnotherapists focus on the weight, or look to improve mental health? There doesn't seem to be any quick fix when it comes to losing weight. Perhaps we should be looking at the reasons why people eat rather than worrying about how the eat or what they eat?

Most nutritionists agree that effective weight loss comes about because of a permanent change in thinking and behavior. The weight loss is actually a byproduct of these changes.

Eating and beliefs

I am not thinking here about anorexia, or bulimia or other eating disorders which clearly are clinical anxiety problems. I am thinking about people with normal lives who just cannot lose weight.

In my practice, I believe that behavior and belief is the thing to change when addressing weight issues. Focusing on losing weight instead of focusing on becoming healthy inevitably leads to putting the weight right back on again. In simple terms, even if all you do is to instill better habits and a positive attitude towards exercise, that still benefits them even if they don't lose any weight.

People who over eat seem to have built up a pattern of eating as a response to stress. If you take away the comfort and reward of eating, then this can just increase their distress. This triggers even more eating. Hypnotherapists should focus on teaching the client ways to deal with the stress.

Deal with the whole client and their lifestyle

We need to deal with the client, their environment, and their history, at the same time. This multidimensional approach will give better results than focusing purely on one one behavior. Eating involves a mixture of biological and psychological and social triggers and rewards. We need to address all of these simultaneously.

Laboratory studies have shown that drug addicts can get a high just by thinking about taking drugs to get a high. The habits and rituals associated with taking the drugs are an essential part of the high. It is likely that the same thing happens with people who use food as a distraction or a comfort. If you remove the eating and the associated preliminary behaviours then you are likely to over sensitize the person to environmental triggers. Changing their pattern of eating requires you to find substitutes for these emotional rewards.

If your client tells you that "maintaining weight is a constant struggle" or something like that, then it shows that you are dealing with a psychological problem. Look for the origin of that psychological problem and you will be on the way to helping your client take it off and keep it off.


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