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smoking to relax

Smoking to relax

I had another interesting client today. This was another smoker who just can not give up. His story was that he was smoking to relax. He doesn't smoke a lot, five to fifteen a day, but must have his cigarette at various times of the day. He smokes on the walk between the train and his work, then at break times, at lunchtime and on the walk back to the train. But he does not smoke in the house. The reason he gave was that smoking was his time to himself. I have heard this many times and never paid much attention to it.

Smoking to relax?

However I couldn't find any reason why this man was smoking.  I will not go on with hypnosis until I know why they smoke, or I get a way into their world that I can use. This man said that he gave up once for a week, when he went on a camping holiday in Scotland on his own. He stopped for the whole week and never gave it a thought until he returned home. And immediately lit up again. He also said that he gave up when he came to this country for a job interview and spent three days in a hotel preparing and actually forgot that he smoked. He does not normally smoke as a response to stress at work, and if he is really busy will forget to smoke all day. Not smoking on a plane for ten hours doesn't bother him either.

I have a theory that you always have to examine the other side of the coin, what people are not doing, as well as what they are doing. I asked him what it was that he needed time to himself for. He said he had responsibility for his family and always worried about them. I pointed out that this could not be true when he started smoking. We pursued this idea of what it was that he was trying to avoid. I asked how he got on with his parents and siblings. He said he never got on with his dad. Then I dug into that and discovered that his father had divorced from his mother when the client was thirteen years old. He also said that he was afraid of his father. And that put the whole thing into perspective.

Reason for smoking

As a boy he felt he had to defend his mother in her time of need, and look after her, but he was not prepared for it at that age. He also knew that he could not in fact deal with his father and protect her, so he had he classic childhood trap. He had to do something but was prevented from doing it. This set up a life long anxiety. The only time he got away from it was when he had a smoke. It started with being with his friends as a teenager, and carried on. The reason he gave up in Scotland was because he was totally on his own and no one was relying on him for anything. So he had no anxiety, and no need for time out, so no need to smoke.

Knowing this I knew how to tackle his smoking - remove the source of the anxiety.

I did that and he is now a non-smoker for life.

I felt that this case has given me an important insight into the motivation of a lot of smokers.

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fear of public speaking

Fear of Public Speaking therapy

Fear of public speaking

Today's client was very nervous and fidgety when she sat down.  She told me she's got a new job, and hates it when they all sit around and everyone has to introduce themselves and say who they are. So it seems that she has a simple  fear of public speaking. That is usually easy to clear, and very quick.

Finding a feeling to work with

I explained about metaphor replacement therapy and how it works. I told her what I was going to do. Because I expected this to be a very short session, I treated this is a bit of an experiment in getting people to go into trance without formal induction. I used a breathing induction to settle her down. Got her to take two big deep breaths and then on the third told her to close her eyes. I told her to think about being in a large room with many people  It was slowly coming round to her turn to speak. The start of the sort of therapy is to try to get the client to move into the feeling. Once the client is fully experiencing the feeling, they are pretty much in trance. It is then easy to manipulate images in the unconscious mind.

In this case she said she was feeling the anxiety. But it was very difficult to get her to say anything. I kept prompting her about the introduction ceremony, checking that she was feeling the anxiety and she just wasn't speaking at all. I wasn't getting any feedback from her.

Finding a different scenario to recreate her fear of public speaking

So I decided to offer her a different scenario that would generate her fear of public speaking. I asked her to imagine being the bridesmaid at a wedding. She had to stand up and address the whole audience. To increase the fear I said "everyone is looking at you". "You are the center of attention, the success of the whole wedding depends on you getting it right". "It will be remembered forever".

I asked what she was feeling. She said "a little nervousness, tenseness". I asked her where she was feeling it, and she indicated it was in her chest. So I went on with that and after a lot of prodding, persuasion and encouragement, she finally said "it's like a cloud".

I asked her what she would like to have happen to the cloud and she said "go away". Then I asked "what would that mean for you", and she replied "no fear". And finally, I asked her "what could you do then?" And she replied "anything". This set up the logical link between her actions and the outcome.

Reluctance to speak = reluctance to change?

I tried to get her to make the cloud bigger. After a lot of prodding she could get it to become a little bigger, but she could not get it to go any smaller. I explored the properties of the cloud with her. It was a black cloud, heavy, floating in front of her, it was round. I asked her to look at it from the back. After a long, long silence she said " it is just the same". I asked if she could move it to one side of the other. "No." I suggested the cloud might rain. it might shrink. it might get thinner, it might change colour. all the things I could think of. Still she sat there absolutely silent. Eventually in desperation I said just imagine that you could push that cloud. That seemed to work. She eventually said, it's much further away. I kept persuading her to push it away more, but was getting no response. "How are you experiencing that cloud now?" "What it look like now?" After another long silence she finally said "It's disappeared".

Clearing her fear of public speaking

Something that usually takes two minutes took over forty. This woman seriously did not want to talk about her problem even in the metaphor. However, I tested her by making her think about the whole wedding thing again, and she said "the feeling has gone, just not there". I tested her again later on, and she said "no is definitely gone". "I usually get the feeling of tension in my chest. That just isn't happening now".

My feeling is that the fear of public speaking was actually linked to a much earlier fear from somewhere deep in her childhood. I think that she was afraid of something very much deeper, and was not going to allow me to get anywhere near that feeling. When I put that to her, she agreed. She couldn't say how she knew, she just felt that that felt right.

Her experience of trance was interesting

That would have been the end of the session, but I was anxious that she did not leave with the idea that she had not been hypnotized. So I told her that what we had done was a form of hypnosis.  And she said something very interesting. She said "when we were getting rid of the cloud I felt that I had gone inside myself. That I was very small and my body was very large. In particular I felt my hands were huge".

I commented "you're a very unusual client, this usually doesn't take very long, and the client talks all the way through it. You seemed very reluctant to speak?" She said that she wasn't speaking because she felt she was not sure what to say or what was wanted. I wonder if that had anything to do with her reluctance to speak in public. Although I did not pursue it.

Given that I was trying out ways of inducing trance without a formal induction, her reaction was very interesting.

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Past life regression case results

Past Life Regression Case Results

Past life regression is a fascinating part of hypnosis

This client wanted to do a past life regression simply out of curiosity. She felt that there was more to life than appeared on the surface. I explained the procedure for past life regression to her and in particular about using Clean Language so as not to lead her.

I used a progressive muscle relaxation induction and tested several times to make sure that she was in trance. Then I deepened her so that she was relaxing in some safe place. "In that place you can forget about your body, you can forget about who you are, you can forget about everything."

The next stage was to suggest that she was floating in a cloud. I then told her "that cloud is thinning and clearing. As the mist clears you find yourself back in a place before you were born".  

Past Life 1

She said that she was looking through a hole, like in a wall. Everything was purple. There were people on the outside looking in at her. She wasn't sure what was going on. I tried to get her to explore her surroundings, but she couldn't get anything else. She told me afterwards that this was a dream that she had quite often.

Past life 2

The second regression started with her saying "I feel I am underwater. I can't see anything". Then she found herself at ground level looking at horses. She was aware that there was a war and she was helping one side against the other. But the people they were going to fight were not people. They actually were monsters , they were very big, like dragons. "I have no idea what I'm doing here. I have no idea how I'm going to help anyone else."  And then she said, almost laughing, "I am a blade of grass. I can see it all but I am a blade of grass".

Past life 3

The third regression took to her to a place in Dakota. She was a man. She was some sort of shaman or medicine man. I asked her how she was dressed. She said "I am all dressed up in ceremonial gear. I'm wearing feathers over my usual clothes. A full Indian headdress." "And what is going on in that place?" "I am leading my people in a ceremony. We are begging for rain. The land is dying".  I asked her "and how does that make you feel?". She said "lonely". Then she she said, "I know that everyone else is going to die. I am the only one who will survive. And that makes me sad". 

Past life 4

The fourth regression took her to a place that she described as "beautiful, beautiful, beautiful". She seemed filled with wonder at being in this place. She sat in the chair and her head was moving with her eyes closed, as if she was looking around someplace that she was in. I asked her to describe it. "It is a temple filled with gold. I am dancing in the temple. I am sad because there is a man going away. A man I love. I cannot love him. I am not allowed to love him". And she said, "I am too old to do magic. I cannot prevent this. I want to be with him but I have to stay in the temple." She went on to describe the temple "it's a beautiful place, a wonderful place. And I will be forever dancing in the temple. Because I am trapped here now". 


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Google Diagnosis

Google Diagnosis

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

I had a client come in last weekend who  reminded me of the dangers of Google Diagnosis. He told me he had OCD and wanted me to cure it. I asked him "How do you know you have OCD?" He said "I started making a list of my symptoms, and then I looked them up on Google". He went to lots of different sites and the more he read the more he was sure that he had OCD. And now he wanted rid of it.

I started asking about his symptoms. He told me what they were. I pointed out that in fact there are many things that could be causing them. And some of the symptoms he was listing were contradictory. But he was adamant. He had OCD. Here was here to get me to fix his OCD. He wouldn't hear of anything else. OCD was it. He wanted cured. My job was to get on with it.

Don't do Google Diagnosis

It took a lot of patience and counselling and persuasion to get him to consider that perhaps he did not have OCD. What he actually has is a form of depression. When we went over that, he found that all of the symptoms were better explained by that. And just as importantly, there were other symptoms he had been ignoring that were predicted by the depression.

We then sorted out a plan for him.

But it is just too easy to get information from the Internet and half understand it, and then base your life on that. How many other people have convinced themselves that they are suffering from this thing or that thing, and are self medicating themselves into ill health?

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.

Alexander Pope (1688 - 1744). An Essay on Criticism, 1709

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Self sabotage with alcohol

Self Sabotage with alcohol

 I had a client today who binge drinks to oblivion. She hates doing it, but every disappointment seems to trigger something deep inside. The result is she reaches for the bottle and drinks until she goes unconscious. She does it about once a week.

My initial reaction was that she was drinking to try to avoid something. I got her to talk about her childhood and her upbringing. That was a mistake. She wouldn't stop talking. Words poured out of her. I had real difficulty keeping her focused on what I was asking her. You get some clients who just won't talk about their emotions. With other clients, getting them to talk about themselves at all is like asking them to pull their teeth out. This client just kept talking and talking.

I finally got control of the monologue and asked her for a specific instance of when she felt she had to drink. She told me that she and her husband are trying to buy a new house. They found a house that seemed ideal. She put an offer in on it, and then learned it had been sold to someone else. Her immediate reaction was to start drinking, and keep drinking. Her husband is distressed by this, she is distressed by this, but she just cannot stop herself.

Self Sabotage with alcohol

She wasn't able to explain why she felt this way. She just cannot handle disappointment. I asked her about her feelings in general and it seemed to me that she had quite extreme black and white thinking. Things either went the way she thought they should, or she fell off the wagon. In her case falling off the wagon means self sabotage with alcohol.

She revealed that she hates the idea of others judging her for her drinking. She started crying and said "I don't want to end up like my mother". It turned out that her mother was a nasty drunk. As a child she got verbal and physical abuse when her mother was under the influence. I asked if her mother also had black and white thinking. This opened up another torrent of feelings, memories, and opinions. I was able to work out from that that her mother was almost certainly depressive and angry. All of the stories that she was telling were basically about her mother taking out petty spite on her own children when she was drunk.

Reason for self sabotage with alcohol

Despite an obvious abusive childhood she took a long time to open up to her real emotions about her mother. She finally acknowledged that her current behavior was really all about trying to cope with the stresses of her childhood. Every time she felt disappointed, that something had happened to put her down, it triggered memories of the same thing happening when she was a child. Her drinking was an attempt to drown out those unhappy feelings.

I went on to do some inner child work with her, and that seemed to help. I think she's going to need a lot of help to deal with the conflict between loving her mother, and accepting that her mother is the cause of her problems.

On the other hand, I learned something that I hadn't realised before. I learned why some people talk all the time. It is to stop them having to deal with their own anxieties. 

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Better Hypnosis WOOP Scripts Suggestions

Better Hypnosis WOOP Scripts Suggestions

Better Hypnosis WOOP Scripts Suggestions improves the structure and effectiveness of your scripts. Hypnotic suggestions will only work if your words create changes in how your client thinks. To make sure that you get these changes you need to structure your suggestions properly.

Direct suggestion will only work if it matches the logic and belief of the client's unconscious mind. Anything that conflicts with the client's present beliefs will be ignored. Therefore your suggestions need to take into account any negative beliefs that the client holds about what you want to change.

Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan WOOP

WOOP is a structured way of approaching Positive Thinking. Positive Thinking will not work unless it is tied to action. Structuring your suggestions with WOOP means that you prepare your client's mind to deal with anything that would prevent them achieving the change they want.

Suppose your client wants to have more success with dating. Tell your client to visualise meeting someone, being cool, saying all the right things, really enjoying the experience. This is the Wish part. Then ask your client to imagine what develops next, and getting all the happy things their longing for. That is the Outcome part. Next, get your client to identify any behaviour that would normally stop them from getting that wish and outcome. Identify whatever it is inside them that stops them having what they want.  That is the Obstacle part. Finally, get your client to come up with a plan, some way of avoiding or eliminating the obstacle behaviour. Get them to think of some action, some positive definite thing that they can do that will prevent them missing out again. That is the Plan part of WOOP.

Better Hypnosis WOOP Scripts Suggestions

So instead of simply using a direct suggestion to your client that "You will be successful in dating", you use the WOOP structure. This helps your client to overcome the client's inner resistance. Find out from the client what they believe is stopping them being successful. Your WOOP structure would therefore be;

WISH "Imagine now that you are in a dating situation. You are with your ideal partner. You're talking confidently, behaving naturally, and the date is going smoothly. You feel in control, you're making the other person feel good, comfortable with you, you are both interacting smoothly. Everything is going perfectly. You pause and smile, and you get that confident understanding between you. You know that everything is going right for you."

OUTCOME "And as the date progresses you get more and more comfortable together. You share feelings, ideas, hopes, and memories. And then you leave the place together, arm in arm, going someplace where you will have the experience you always dreamed of. The perfect end to a perfect evening."

OBSTACLE "And as you think of that perfect date you become aware that old feeling, that thing inside that always seems to stop you having what you want. That thing that always seems to sabotage you.

PLAN "But now you feel something different. Now you are determined to have that perfect date. And plenty more of them. And as you think about that perfect date a different feeling arises within. You go over the whole process in your mind. You play over all the different stages like watching it on a screen. And that lets you identify the moment when that self sabotage comes up. The moment when it all goes wrong. As you see yourself doing that you become aware of something else about it something you never noticed before noticing that means that you can change it. You get a brief flash of some kind of image memory and then that flash you just let it go, you alter it, you change into something else. And that lets you become free of it for ever."

"So now you can play that scene again. You can go through the whole process and see yourself at every stage. See yourself succeeding. And as you get to the stage where it usually goes wrong you wipe out that old behavior and it just goes on smoothly, so smoothly that no one even notices. Because you deserve it."

Using the WOOP structure in your scripts will allow you to design your direct suggestions in a way that will lead to the outcome you want.

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improve hypnotherapy

Simplest way to improve Hypnotherapy?

A simple way to Improve Hypnotherapy?

What is the easiest way to improve your hypnotherapy results? I asked this in a discussion recently.  The group agreed the simplest way to improve hypnotherapy was avoid talking too much.

We all do it. We are supposed to find out what the client really needs so we can plan the session. But the therapist's enthusiasm often results in talking instead of listening.

True, hypnosis is one of the talking therapies.  You are supposed to talk. But talking therapies are based on getting the client to talk, not the therapist. Counselling is about making the client feel heard and understood. Psychoanalysis is about allowing the client to talk about their thoughts by free associating. Clean language is about removing the therapist from the conversation as far as possible. Therapists desperately want to help. But they are human too. Therapists get nervous and flustered. So the tendency is to jabber on. It is very tempting to talk about what you think instead of listening to what your client thinks. 

Silence improves hypnotherapy

Asking the right question is a key skill. Listening to the answer is a more important skill. Sometimes saying too much is the wrong thing. Silences can tell you a lot. But too often the therapist jumps in because they don't like the silence, and feel that have to be doing something. Although some therapists feel uncomfortable with silence, silence is a very effective technique to allow the client to collect their thoughts. And if it goes on too long, the right thing to do is to ask 'and what are you experiencing now?' and let the client tell you what is going in their mind.

Rule 1. Don't be the next person to speak after you ask a question. When you ask a question, and the client does not answer immediately, the silence can be deafening. Many therapists feel uncomfortable with prolonged silences. They panic, thinking that the question was badly worded, or the client has and understood it. So they say "What I mean is…" and either answer the question themselves or dilute the power of the original question.

Rule 2. After a brief reply to an open-ended question, wait a few seconds before saying anything. Very often, this will prompt your client to expand on the question, to tell you things that were being held back, to open up about their worries and reservations. Clients are also uncomfortable with silences. They will usually blurt out something that they were keeping back just to fill the silence. This technique can be very useful, but don't turn it into an interrogation method.

Rule 3. Allow some silence after you have delivered  bad news. When the therapist has to deliver some bad news, sometimes it is the therapist who feels nervous, and talks too much. If you have to tell a client for example, "you have depression", it is better to say nothing more and give the client time to process this information.

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hard case smoker

The hard case smoker

Last weekend I had the kind of client we all dread. The hard case smoker: Someone who didn't believe that he could give up, ever. He had tried everything. He was only coming to hypnosis because it was the last thing on the list of all the things he had tried that didn’t work. Now he wanted to be able to  show that he done everything possible and nobody could get him to stop smoking.

He started smoking at 15. As a teenager, he was rebellious and resentful at home. He didn’t get on with his dad. He reckoned that as the youngest child his parents had expended all their energies on the older kids and he was of no interest to them. Smoking started when he joined the rugby team. He loved being part of the team, of feeling he belonged and was part of a group. He left home and joined the army. The Army made him feel included, somebody, a tough guy, always loved the camaraderie, the inclusiveness.

He later returned home and from the moment his father picked him up from the airport they began to reconcile. As time went on they became closer, and then his father got throat cancer and died suddenly. He was devastated by this. It was in 1982 but he still feels it keenly.

He is scared of dying and convinced that he cannot stop smoking and that the smoking will kill him, but he is powerless to stop.

Finding a metaphor for the hard case smoker

 I ask my clients a question to establish their feelings about smoking. I say what comes to mind when I say ‘You will never have another cigarette as long as you live’?  When I asked him what he felt he said "dubious".

I asked what smoking looked like and he said a group: him and all the group smoking. Then I decided to develop this and got him to describe the feeling he got with the group. He said the feeling was of being at peace, happy, not wanting it to end. I asked what colour that feeling was and he said red, and square. I asked if he was inside that square. He said, Yes, with all the group. Then I asked if he could drop his cigarettes and get everyone else do that too. He said he could. What has changed? He said nothing.

So I developed that in metaphor. I got him to imagine that they all dropped all the tobacco and lighters and stuff and there was everything on the floor, ash, ashtrays, cigs etc. I asked if he could sweep it up and throw it out of the red square. He said no. So I used incrementalism and got him to put one shovel-full out and if that was OK. He said that would be OK. And then another shovel, and then more shovels, and then all the group were helping and cheering on and he was a leader and the most popular guy in the red square. He eventually cleared out all the smoking stuff and still had all his friends with him in the red square room.

Anchoring the hard case smoker

What was particularly interested about this process is that he had gone into trance with no induction. I notice that when I get a client to focus on a feeling, and follow that feeling they normally go into trance. As long as I do nothing to break the spell, they will stay in trace and not even notice. In NLP this is called revivification. NLP asks the client to think about a memory and get into the memory so as to anchor the feeling. Then when you fire the anchor the client goes into the feeling, in effect goes into trance. This method just starts with the feeling. 

To finish the session I  got this client to go on a journey where he met his dad. His father released him from the smoking and told him that he could live a long and healthy life. I finished off with my standard stop smoking direct suggestions.

It remains to be seen if this client has in fact stopped for ever, but at the end of the session he said ‘It is weird, but I feel different. When I left that square room it had changed color!’


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Everything makes me nervous

Everything makes me nervous

Everything makes me nervous

I had a first today with a client. The client was a tiny woman but grossly obese.  She seemed to be almost as broad as she was tall. She was also excessively nervous and fidgety.   And that was the problem she wanted to deal with: anxiety. Anxiety makes her overeat. She said she had been anxious for as long as she could remember. I asked her "what make you anxious?" She said, "Everything". I assume that this was a joke, but she told me she was deadly serious. "Everything makes me nervous."

So I started to look for the reason for the anxiety and the overeating. I expected that there would be something in her childhood. So I got her to tell me about situations where she feels nervous generally, and any specific situations where she felt nervous today. She couldn't find any. She just said "everything makes me nervous."

I started to talk about her overeating and what she might do to prevent anxiety. I outlined some situations where this or that might happen. As she thought about these, she began to get visibly anxious.  

Not how to deal with anxiety

She reached down the side of the chair to get her handbag and put it on her lap. Then she opened it up and said to me 'Do you mind if I eat?' I thought I had misheard. I asked her to repeat what she had just said. To my surprise, she took out a packet of cookies. Apparently she carries around a bag of butter cookies everywhere she goes. She nibbles on one every time she feels anxious. My questions were making her feeling anxious right now, so she wanted to start eating a cookie while lying in the chair talking about overeating!

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weird dreams

Weird Dreams

Last night as we put the light out I was about to say to my wife 'sweet dreams' when I realized that 'sweet dreams' is actually the last thing you would want to wish on someone.

What weird dreams are for

The purpose of dreams is to allow the mind to resolve things that have not been resolved during the day. Dreams also are an outcome of processes by the unconscious mind. All dreams are expressed as metaphors. This is why then seem so bizarre. Each element is a symbolic representation of something that is held in your mind and the action of the dream represents the interaction between different parts of your mind. The essential aspect of a specific dream is that everything represents you, every part of the dream is a part of you.

My Weird Dreams

I recently had a weird dream of having to go into a large multistory building. Outside was an Indian looking couple in a four poster bed with rich drapes hanging down. Around the couple was a large group of angry people. The couple in the bed were looking very apprehensive. But I felt compelled to leave them there and go into the building. Inside the building I got lost in a confusing mess of different rooms, stairs, lifts etc. While trying to find my way out I realized that the couple in the bed were going to be stoned to death. I thought that I had to get out and stop it but I couldn't find the way out.

Eventually I did get out and back to the place but the crowd had gone and there was just a huge pile of rock there. I thought to myself' 'well, there was nothing I could do about it really, it is not up to me to interfere in other people's cultures' and I went on my way.

Analyzing weird dreams

This sort of dream is full of violence and feeling trapped and is the exact opposite of a 'sweet dream'. However what the dream represents is two parts of my mind. One part is not longer useful to me in living my life: old ideas, self beliefs and outdated rules. That part is represented metaphorically by the couple in the bed. I suspect they were 'Indian looking' because that represented 'foreign' in my subconscious.

The other part of my mind wants to get rid of those old beliefs, feelings or whatever: represented by the angry crowd. I got lost in the building as a metaphoric way of not interfering consciously in the cleansing process.

It only through this type of dream that you make changes in your mind and learn and mature. The person who first came up with the wish for 'sweet dreams' didn't know what they were talking about.

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