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Body image

Body image worries fixed

Much of my work is about weight and body image. I see people who overeat, or can't lose weight. I get people who are always thinking about food, or who yo-yo diet. They usually have no idea why they behave like that. I also get people who are actually thin, but still obsess about eating.

Body image sensitivity

This client was a successful young mother of three. But she was obsessed with food and the fear of getting fat. She felt that people were looking at her all the time and hated it. She had felt that way since she was a teenager. To start with she just accepted it as part of  who she was, and worked round it as best she could.  But now it was getting more and more intrusive and affecting her life.

She was so sensitive about her body image that she could not undress in front of her husband. She could  not even undress in front of her young children and fretted constantly about putting on weight.

As we talked I explored when this had started and she identified an event that almost certainly was the trigger. She had been a happy child with lots of friends. She and her friends got interested in horse riding. They all went to horse riding school where they were taught about how to approach horses, how to sit, how to groom and look after the horse and so on. My client loved it and felt really at home there.

Body image origin

Then one day the instructor started a lesson on how to help other people ride. The instructor explained how to help disabled people to get up on the horse. Then said that fat people need a special way to get into the saddle too. And she selected my client from the crowd of girls to demonstrate how a fat person gets on a horse.

From that moment everything changed. My client suddenly felt exposed to ridicule, that she was fat, that secretly every other girl thought that she was fat. She knew instructor had singled her out from all the other girls because she was overweight. She wasn't actually. She had never given a thought to her weight, but now deep inside she knew, somehow, that everyone had been looking at her body all along. She had just been too stupid to see it.

Now she became acutely sensitive to her body. She felt every moment people were looking, judging, criticizing. And thus started a life long obsession with her body image.

It is not often that you can trace the exact reason for the weight issues to a single incident. But in this case  we can pinpoint the exact moment that body size became an issue for her.

Knowing the source,  it became easy to help her with hypnosis. I used regression to revisit the incident in trance, and make it come out differently. By re-experiencing the event she was able to come away with a happy memory, and her body image problem ended right there.

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how to word suggestions

Self Hypnosis Suggestions

Self Hypnosis Suggestions

I received a query about Self Hypnosis suggestions:

I have a question about self-hypnosis. Is it better to give self-suggestion like:

I am now a billionaire

0r

You are now a billionaire

Okay this is just an example I am just wondering which is better to word, in first or second person? Or should you do both within the script???

This question has been debated endlessly. No one has ever come up with an answer that satisfies everybody. It is not simply a matter of wording. 

  1. Can you do anything in self hypnosis? Self hypnosis refers to the process of putting yourself into trance. Once you are in trance, you are not actually capable of forming logical thoughts. If you can, then you are not in trance. So if you can't form coherent thoughts then you can't form sentences and the words don't matter.
  2. Do you mean creating a recording you will listen to so that you put yourself into trance? I have never met anyone who has done this successfully. It is no problem to write out a script and record suggestions. But few people like the sound of their own voice, and since you wrote it you know what comes next and why you used those particular words. It is hard to get enough detachment to go into trance as you would if someone else was doing it.
  3. If we are actually talking not about hypnosis but about affirmations, does the exact wording matter? Again, millions of words have beer written about affirmations and there is no clear answer.
  4. If you have been brought up being told you are stupid and useless, then constantly reminding yourself that you are smart and capable will help to overcome your early programming. If you are an idle layabout then no amount of telling yourself 'I am a winner, I am a millionaire' will work. You just become an idle layabout with an inflated view of yourself. Changing the wording to 'You are a winner, you are a millionaire' doesn't really help.

You can play the recording (without the induction) over and over as you drive or at home doing something else and the words will eventually work their way into your subconscious. Whether they work or not is unknown. We are exposed to a massive amount of advertising but not all of it hits the mark. It is the same with self hypnosis suggestions.

The best way is to take yourself into trance with some relevant image in mind, and let your subconscious work on that for you. That process doesn't use words so the difference between 'I' and 'you' doesn't apply. 

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fear of driving

Fear of Driving Phobia removal

Fear of Driving

This phobia is fairly common. A surprising number of people get the shakes when driving over a high bridge or into a tunnel. Usually it is hard to pinpoint exactly why.

Yesterday I treated a woman who wanted to end her Fear of Driving. She said that she was OK around the back streets and normal driving. But when she got to a road with a drop off at the side, or a narrow part, she lost all her confidence. 

The source of the fear

I asked when this started and she said it began about three years ago and had got progressively worse. She told me she was out driving one day  when suddenly, out of nowhere, came an overwhelming sense of fear. Since that day she has been afraid of the feeling coming back. She tries to avoid driving so that she will not be exposed to feeling again. 

This is a classic description of how phobia is created. You are doing something distinct like driving or flying, and then you experience an overwhelming fear, and then your mind links the fear to the activity, and you have a phobia.

Normally it is impossible to say exactly what created the link. But in this case, the woman recognised the fear. Her son had died suddenly ten years before and this was the same overwhelming pain she had experienced at the time. Something she was doing or thinking at that moment reactivated the initial feeling. The pain gets linked to the driving activity,  and the Fear of Driving phobia is triggered.

Most phobias are not about the obvious activity. Fear of Driving is not about the driving, it is about not wanting to get that old fear again. The cure for phobias is to eliminate the origin of the fear. 

In this case the mother had never gotten over the death of her son. She was still carrying around that dread that something else bad would happen. So the answer was to lay the old fear to rest. 

Removing  fear of driving

I hypnotised her and put her into a deep trance. Then I suggested that she visualize a chair in front of her. Then I gently suggested that there was someone sitting in the chair, someone who wanted to talk to her. Someone who was taken away from her and didn't get the chance to say goodbye. I suggested that this person wanted to give her one last message before going away. 

I developed a dialogue saying to my client what a son would want to say to his mother. Then I  let her say to him what she wanted to say. I suggest that he was reaching out to her, and most movingly, she extended her arm out to where the chair might be. And slowly, tears rolled down her face. 

I finished the session by suggesting that her son had a gift he wanted to pass to her, and that he was saying "I'm OK mum. It's time to go now. I love you". He then got into a car and drove away, until the tail lights faded in the distance. 

I let her come back to the present in her own time. She said to me "I feel such a feeling of relief".  And that was the end of it.

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Dream Interpretation

Dream Interpretation with hypnosis

Have you ever considered Dream Interpretation as part of your hypnotherapy?

I love hearing about dreams, and doing dream interpretation, because they reveal what is going on inside the subconscious mind. It is often difficult to know if your hypnotherapy has actually been helping your client. This is especially the case when you are using Metaphor Therapy or Gestalt Therapy techniques. These indirect methods are designed to make subtle long term changes, sometimes so subtle that even the client doesn't realize they are happening.

I always ask the client what changes they have experienced since our last session. Usually the client can say what has or has not worked, and how they know that. But quite often the client will say that they haven't feel any change, even though I know that I have done some powerful work  with them, and they should have noticed some changes.

In that case I always ask if they have been having any dreams. Dream interpretation often gives deep insights into changes in the unconscious.

Dream interpretation example

One of my recent clients said that she felt that something was happening but she couldn't really say what, exactly. So I asked about dreams, and she told me the following vivid dream.

In my  dream I was laboring up a steep hill and there were other people going up as well. At the top was an airplane and we were going towards it. As I got closer the plane began to slip, and then it started sliding down towards me. I got frightened of being squashed and looked around for help, but I could only see two people, men, and when the men turned towards me I could see that they were unreal, with faces like cardboard cutouts from old cartoon comic strips. I realized that they were no help. The plane was sliding down towards me, so I put out my hands and was surprised that  the plane was pushed out of the way and passed by me harmlessly. That was the end of the dream.

I gave her my interpretation of the dream. Understanding dreams is simple. Everything in the dream is you. Other people are parts of you. Objects are metaphors for what you want to happen.

Using these rules, the going up the hill is a metaphor for struggling to change. The plane at the top of the hill is a metaphor for a means of escape. The other people on the hill are various parts of who she is. Metaphorically she want to get on the plane and fly out of there,  but is afraid of it, afraid of what might happen after the change. So that fear is translated into the plane turning into a threat. She seeks help from other parts, but sees that they in fact are cardboard cutouts, not real and not of any use any longer. So she gets the courage to deal with the threat, and deflects the plane and realizes that it actually can not harm her.

This was a perfect summary of her situation. She wants to change, but part of her is afraid to, so her mind shows her resolving this problem in dream. After the dream turns out OK, her mind can accept that she can change, and she starts the process of change on her own.

Later sessions actually confirmed this. She told me she no longer cared what she wore, or how she looked, because in fact 'Nobody cares what I look like. I have been obsessing for years over something that is not real'.

So her mind has now released the constant worry of having to look perfect, to be perfect. At some point she got on that plane.

Another case of dream interpretation helping with hypnosis.

How do you value a hypnotherapy business?

hypnotherapy business

How much is a hypnotherapy business worth?

As with any business there are two ways of valuing a hypnotherapy business. There is the asset value of the business if it was closed down tomorrow. This is he difference between how much the assets are worth if they are sold at auction, minus any liabilities.

Then there is the going concern valuation: take the average of annual income minus expenditure to get the gross profit, then deduct the salary the therapist wants to earn and what is left is the net value stream generated per year.

To value the business you calculate how much money you would need to have in the bank to earn the same amount in interest as the net value stream each year. That figure is how much the business is worth as a going concern, minus some percentage to account for the risk of being in business as opposed to the nil risk of interest earned from a bank.

Calculating the risk discount is not an easy question, and the answer depends on many factors.

1. WOULD YOU WANT TO BUY A HYPNOTHERAPY BUSINESS ANYWAY?

If you have an established brand then buying and continuing another business might only dilute your own brand presence. If you already have a hypnotherapy business in the same catchment area then the best thing to happen might be for the other business to just shut up shop and disappear. It reduces  your competition and so should reduce your marketing costs.

If you are a new entrant, or your current practice isn't doing too well, then it might make sense to buy the business.

There is also the question as with any business - why is it for sale? Obviously a therapist can die leaving a thriving business, or the therapist might want to retire. Or it might just be that the therapist could not make the practice pay enough, and wants to unload it and move on.

This is where accounting records become crucial. The business needs to be able to show audited financial records of income and outgoings. If there are no audited accounts then the business has been run by an amateur and it might be best to leave it alone or risk inheriting tax problems and unexpected claims. If there are no certified accounts, then there is no basis to make an objective valuation.

2. WHAT IS THEIR BUSINESS MODEL?

Success in the hypnotherapy business is essentially about attracting a stream of new clients.

Dental patients will go to the same office for years, and so taking over the dental practice means taking over the patient list, patient records and goodwill. The value of the business comes from the ongoing value of the repeat visits for years to come.

To a certain extent, professionals like dentists and accountants are standardized. They all have the same basic qualifications, and cannot practice without these government controlled qualifications. They all offer the same level of expertise, more or less, and have to strictly adhere to fixed regulations and procedures and are subject to being struck off if they don't.

A hypnotherapy business is not like an accountancy service or a dentist. Hypnotherapists typically do not have repeat business in the same way. If you treat a client for smoking, say, they should not be ever coming back for the same thing.

To get over this lack of repeat customers there are several different business models underpinning any hypnotherapy business. The difference is how the clients are recruited.

You get high profile 'showbiz' type therapists who spend more time on self promotion and publicity than they do in seeing clients. Then you get the type who spend a lot on constant advertising and business promotion. These businesses are further split into those who promote a brand name such as "Key Hypnosis" and those who promote the person named "Jane Smith Hypnosis". Sometimes these specialize in segmented markets, such as stopping smoking, weight loss, or self confidence.

There are
High Cost and Low Cost strategies

Low cost practices use a different strategy. They focus entirely on their local area. Many just have a website and rely on localized search engine results and maybe some paid entries on local business listings. Some low cost practices are integrated with medical centers and get referrals from health professionals.

Why does the business model matter? Where the hypnotherapy business is based on the personality of the therapist, the business effectively is the therapist. When the therapist goes away, the business goes away.  In that kind of business hypnotherapists are not interchangeable in the way accountants are. People want to see a particular therapist, not just any therapist. So you may not be able to convert past customers into future sales because the clients will not go to someone they don't know. Similarly, if the business model is based on referrals from medical professionals you may have to spent a lot time trying to persuade them that you are as good as the person you are replacing.

If it is a low cost internet based service for a localized brand name business, then effectively what you are buying is the Google ranking. You might be better spending the money on Search Engine Optimization to increase your own ranking.

3. ARE HYPNOTHERAPY BUSINESS ASSETS WORTH PAYING FOR?

A hypnotherapy business is a service industry like computer software training. In a training business all of the income comes from face to face interaction with the trainer. The trainer basically sells their time. They may own a few incidentals like tables and chairs, but this type of business is really about contacts and reputation. The software trainer doesn't own the software, or the intellectual property rights, or the trademarks, or anything else enduring.

A hypnotherapist does not own 'hypnosis' and usually has little or nothing in the way of exclusive intellectual property that can be resold. There may be books or CDs on sale, but once the original author has moved on they

Assets
and Liabilities

are difficult to keep up to date. Most therapist CDs are actually 'home made' and few have formal legal rights to use the background music on them. The 'scripts' are unlikely to be worth much either since the basic procedures are common throughout the industry and any script can be easily and transparently paraphrased. So the value of any claimed intellectual property needs to be carefully assessed.

There are also liabilities. If you buy a practice, who is responsible for comeback from past clients? If a client for stopping smoking comes back and says it didn't work, are you responsible, or is the previous owner going to fix it? If a previous client kills themselves, and the relatives find hypnosis a convenient scapegoat, are you going to court to defend the previous therapist as the owner of the company responsible?

Arriving at any sort of valuation can be very difficult.

Do you have second hand anxiety?

Anxiety

I had a client who came to me for anxiety: it turned out to be second hand anxiety. The cause of her anxiety is direct result of her upbringing, which was a direct result of events.
Her father was Polish, and was conscripted into the army early in WWII. His unit was captured by the Germans. He was imprisoned in a labour camp. Thousands died through brutality, starvation and disease.

The Russians over ran the camp but instead of liberating them all, he was conscripted into their tank battalion. As part of that battalion  he endured the horrors of fighting on the Eastern Front right up to the end. Eventually they let him go due to pneumonia. 

The result of his privations and captivity was that he had lung disease for the rest of his life. He also had survivors' guilt, night terrors and PTSD. So she was brought up in a household where her father was constantly in and out of hospital, he was often absent or lying sick in his room, there was never enough money, and constant worry about the future.

My client had a lifetime of caring for him, not having a real dad, and not having a settled home life. She became anxious and constantly stressed. Most likely this triggered her own life long anxiety. It also led to her becoming a professional nurse.
What is notable about all this is that my client is in her late sixties, and still suffering from something that happened in the 1930's, long before she was born. The evils of the second world war are still with us today.
It is quite remarkable how long historical events can reach into daily life. And if my client's children are in turn affected by her behavior then they, in their old age, will still be suffering for what happened over a century before.

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Solution Focused Therapy

Solution Focused Therapy

How can Solution Focused Therapy be used in a normal hypnosis session?

The essence of Solution Focused Therapy is the idea that it is the client who is the expert, not the therapist. All forms of psychotherapy involve talking. Hypnotherapy is unusual in that a lot of the time the talking is one sided. Hypnosis is not a conversation; the therapist is talking, but a client in trance only responds when prompted.

However, the hypnotherapist needs to know what to talk about. So a session typically consists of first finding out what the client wants. Finding out exactly what the client needs is one of the key skills of hypnosis.

There are many different techniques that can be used to extract what the client's real needs quickly and accurately. One of the most useful is Solution Focused Therapy.

Solution Focused Therapy

SFT focuses on identifying the best solution for the client. It does not ask about past problems, or how the client got into the situation they are in. SFT focuses on what the client wants to have happen, how they want to feel. SFT examines what can be done now, not what happened in the past.  It is about what is possible given the client's present situation.

It is based on the principle that whatever the client can do that helps in some way should be noted and encouraged. Therapy is based on the idea that it is the  client's current behavior that is causing or maintaining the problem, so keeping on doing more of the same is wrong. Therefore anything different, any change, is success.

Anything that leads away from the present unhelpful behavior is useful. The therapist's job is identify what can be changed and to help the client make that change.

Success

Therefore, the first thing to do is to identify exactly what the client would consider a success. Then to identify what successes, of any kind, the client has had in the past and what the client can find as possible new behaviors in the present.

On this basis the hypnotherapy can incorporate things that will lead to the goal of the client. Visualization can be done featuring the client in their ideal situation, doing the things they want to do, and having the life they want to live. The therapy can also use examples of past successes to remind the client that they are resourceful, that they can succeed. That way they can zoom in on what they want to change. And then the hypnotist can use standard techniques to help the client identify key new behaviors.

That way the therapist can use the principles of SFT to make the hypnotherapy more effective.

What do you think?

How do you use Solution Focused Therapy? Is it even possible?

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Eating motivation

Eating motivation hypnosis

Eating, motivation, and overeating

It's hard to create eating motivation. I had a consultation this morning with a woman who I had last seen in September. She she came  to be hypnotized to stop smoking. She was back, not because she had started smoking again: she hadn't, but because she was suffering from cravings for fatty food.

Her background was that she and her husband had broken up a few years ago. Then her mother died about one year ago. Her daughters had left to start their own lives. The economic downturn meant that her job was safe but slow. Basically she felt she nothing to live for. She had no one to look after, an empty house and a boring job. Her focus was just to get through the day.

The consequence was that she no stimulus, got bored, and started thinking about eating. In the absence of any other calls on her time she fantasized about what to eat. With with nothing else to think about  food became a consuming obsession. She thought about it and thought about it until she just had to get up and go buy something 'nice'. She ate that and then then boredom set in again and the whole cycle repeated.

The result was massive weight gain. Previously she had smoked instead, and whenever she was bored she would go out and have a cigarette. So snacking was now filling the the gap she used to fill with smoking. 

What causes overeating?

The root cause was the same: a lack of purpose in life. She was drifting from day to day and filled in the void with whatever activity gave her a little pleasure, smoking or eating. 

It was only after a long session of question and answer that she came to realize what was happening to her. She learned to consider her way of life from an outsider's perspective. She needed to become aware of her own eating motivation. She was overeating because she was just living by default, drifting, with no plans, no goals, just one day after another.

So I encouraged her to think about what she could do and she came up with a plan. She was going to use the spare time at work to do online courses on her computer to challenge herself to get more skilled at her job. In the evening she would go to evening classes to learn Cordon Bleu cooking. That would  to gradually build up her confidence and her social life by getting family and friends round to share meals she would be proud of.

Hypnosis and Eating Motivation

I therefore devised a hypnosis script to make her dissatisfied with her current life. It focused on her weight and her aimlessness in order to motivate her to seek change. Then  I added a visualization of a happy future to give her a goal to go for. Then I included direct suggestions to emphasize how she has succeeded in the past and how she can succeed now. Then I finished with a kinaesthetic feedback technique using hand movements to convince her that her subconscious had agreed to make it all happen.

I cannot decide to change people's lives to what I think they should do. But this was a way to use hypnotherapy  to motive her to find her own resources to move forward in the way that was best for her.

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self sabotage hypnosis

Self sabotage

Self sabotage stopping with hypnosis

Humans have a strange ability to self sabotage. We all know how to eat better than we do. We all know how to drive better than we do. We all do things that we know are bad for us, will stop us achieving what we want, will make us feel unhappy. And yet we still do them. Why?
What is it about humans that makes us self sabotage? I'm not thinking about suicide, that is a different issue. I'm talking about buying chocolate when you have diabetes, smoking when you know it is going to kill you, not exercising when your cardiologist tells you you must.

How can people be so disconnected from their own behavior? Take a simple thing like eating fruit. We all know we should. There is not doubt about the health benefits. Fruit is delicious. And yet, we leave the fruit and take the pastry.
I see clients who tell me that they want to stop smoking. It costs them money, makes their clothes smell, makes them outsiders, will certainly make them ill, and most likely will kill them. And yet they keep on smoking. They sabotage themselves. They stop for a while and then start again. Part of their mind is screaming at them to stop, and part of their mind rejoices in taking the next puff.

It should be simple. Just don't buy any more smokes. That's it. But it is like exercising: we all know we should, and we don't. We all know we are putting on weight, and somehow we don't care. We should get on and finish the school assignment, clean the house, tidy the garden: we know how to do it, we know it needs done, and yet we don't.
Procrastination is the name for not doing something we should.
What is the right word for keeping on doing something we shouldn't be doing?

Shame and how to let it go.

I got an email from someone asking about what techniques to use to deal with chronic shame.

Shame is a feeling about who you are. It is a belief that something about you, something core to who you are, is permanently wrong, bad, not fitting with what other people expect.

Nobody is born with shame. Shame is something that other people put there. You might have done something, real or imagined, that other people told you was unforgivable, or that you personally decided other people could never forgive or forget. When you believe that your actions are unforgivable, then you walk around with that shame permanently on you.

However, nothing is unforgivable. There is nothing a person has done that they can not make amends for. And in most cases, the shame is something imposed by the person on to themselves. It is a personal belief, created and maintained and carried by that person. It is in fact that the person cannot forgive themself.

So the way to get rid of the feeling is find a way to get forgiveness.

There are many techniques available.
The right approach depends on whether the shame is due to something you did and remember, or if it is some general feeling not attached to any particular action.

The NLP technique of reframing might work to put the action into a different perspective.
Gestalt change techniques can be applied directly to the feeling in your body, and change the feeling.
Ordeal therapy might be appropriate here, depending on your personal spiritual beliefs.
Metaphor in hypnosis can be used to get a Power Figure to give you the forgiveness you need. That is the one that I would try first.

However, everyone is unique, and it is always best to seek help from some experienced therapist who can spend time finding the source.

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