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Representational systems

Do representational systems matter in hypnosis?

Do you need to pay attention to the representational systems that clients use? I was asked this by a newbie the other evening. He had recently finished a hypnosis training course, and was full of enthusiasm about NLP, wordplay, and the scientific approach to hypnosis.

Representational systems theory

What he was talking about was the old NLP belief that people tend to represent the world using one dominant representational system. These are generally known as VAK, standing for visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (feeling).
I was rather surprised that this is still being taught, or rather that it was being given so much importance. Even the founders of NLP have said publicly that is perhaps a little overdone.

Representational systems reality

When I started my hypnosis practice I was fully convinced that VAK was important to success. I used to start every session by asking the client to close their eyes and imagine a horse. Then I would ask them to describe their horse and note the type of words they use to describe it. I did this hundreds of times. Eventually I concluded that it was a waste of time. I could find no evidence for consistent VAK.  Dominant primary representational systems do not exist.

I did get some very interesting answers. One woman told me that her representation was in fact auditory. What she was getting was something like a race caller's patter "and now the leader is rounding the bend, and the second favourite is coming up the outside…". Another woman told me that she could feel the horse. I said so you can feel what? Its back, its legs? "No, I can feel this much". And she demonstrated with her hands that she could feel about two palms width on any part of the horse she chose to. Another told me that what she got was patches of random colour in her mind.

Now these were all very interesting, in fact fascinating, but not really useful in therapy.
What I found much more useful was listening carefully for the metaphors that the client uses. In my opinion, these give a much more accurate representation of how the client is feeling and where their problems lie. And unlike VAK, they also give you a very good idea of where to direct your therapy.

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organ language

Organ Language

Organ Language in the treatment of pain

I was asked recently about the use of organ language for the treatment of pain. This is something I had heard of but never used. The person asking had no idea what it was.

Theory of organ language

Organ language is a concept introduced by Leslie LeCron in his writings in the 1920s. The basic idea is that the language that you use, the words that you say, can affect the organs you talk about. NLP uses similar ideas about the power of words to influence feeling.
According to LeCron, if you repeatedly use a phrase such as "this guy is a pain in the neck" then saying the phrase over and over will actually give you a pain in the neck.

The theory is that constantly mentioning the organ in everyday phrases focuses attention on that organ. That causes it to malfunction. If your illness is being caused by the overuse of a metaphor such as "I'm sick of seeing my team lose every Saturday" then the answer is to stop saying it. If you change your language to something different such as "I'm really looking forward to our next win" then that will keep you healthy.

Overused Metaphors

Personally, I just don't believe this simplistic logic. Most of us use metaphors all the time, and we don't know the origins of them. These are known as lost metaphors and are basically a lazy way of speaking. These metaphors used to be bright and fresh and colourful but overuse has dulled them to the point where they lose all their force. Telling someone "I was taken aback" nowadays simply means that the speaker was surprised.

The phrase "taken aback" originally referred to a sailing ship. Sailing ships are designed to take the wind from behind. If the wind suddenly 'backs' to come over the bow then the masts get pressed backwards instead of forwards. Masts are not designed for that. They can snap. Being "taken aback" is very dangerous. The image is of immediate panic and the crew running around to save the ship. But that original colourful meaning of the phrase has been lost through time.  

 I suspect that someone saying "it's a pain in the neck" really is not thinking about the neck or anything else. All they're doing is substituting an overused phrase in place of original thinking. To suggest that someone using the phrase "I was taken aback" has in mind an image of a sailing ship suddenly plunged into danger is just not believable. Our minds are not as literal LeCron suggests.

Treatment

I think the truth is more straightforward. When someone says "I feel stabbed in the back", then they probably do feel that. It's not the metaphor that is causing the pain, is the pain that is causing the metaphor. And therefore the correct course is to use the metaphor to alert you to their pain.

Simply telling the person not to use the phrase again is not going to work.

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Hypnosis aversion

Why hypnosis aversion works

Hypnosis aversion works

Hypnosis aversion works.

All psychotherapy is aimed at changing behaviour.  Hypnosis aversion is a very powerful technique for changing behaviour.

The basic theory of behaviour change is that people will stop doing things they get punished for but will do things they get rewarded for. This is the basis of behavioural therapy.

However, behaviour can only be changed while it's happening. For example, suppose you have a situation where a child is constantly interrupting adults while they talk. If your response is to remove the child from the room, then the behaviour is no longer happening. Problem solved.

But the child is learning nothing. The child may in fact be learning resentment or hatred towards you, which is not actually what you want. The child may in fact be reinforced by the bad behaviour. There might be things to do outside the room which are just as enjoyable. What the child is not getting is any instruction on how to behave while adults are speaking. You can only change behaviour during the behaviour.

External punishment doesn't work

That is why punishment seldom works. The first response to any kind of unwanted behaviour is to punish the person doing it. If that doesn't work then you punish them some more. If that doesn't work punish harder. However the basic problem with that approach is that the punishment is applied after the behaviour has finished. It is too late then. In the criminal justice system people are often punished long after the crime. The criminal may in fact have forgotten the crime by the time they get to court. It is the time difference between the behaviour and the punishment which is crucial. If your finger broke every time you stole something there would be a lot less theft. If your car refused to start after being illegally parked, illegal parking would soon die out. 
It is the immediate link between the behaviour and the punishment which is critical. And the punishment has to happen at the exact time that the behaviour is happening.
That is the critical difference between hypnosis and behavioural approaches. When a bad habit is treated with Hypnosis Aversion a link is formed in the unconscious mind between the behaviour and a feeling. The feeling is usually disgust or fear or some other negative thing. The critical difference is that as soon as the behaviour starts the unconscious mind brings out that horrible taste or fear or whatever it is immediately. There is no delay. There is no gap between the behaviour and the punishment.

And that is why hypnosis aversion works.

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funeral depression

Funeral Depression Case Study

Funeral Depression

I had an interesting client this morning. An older woman who came to see me because she feels that she has no motivation to go out. She has lost interest in life. In fact she is afraid to go out.  She is afraid of seeing old friends and feels that nobody likes her.

Over the last year she has had to go to funeral after funeral as all the people of her generation and her mother's generation are dying. She  got so tired of going to funerals that she just didn't want to go to any more. So she made excuses to not go. And now she is afraid to face the people who did go to the funerals. She thinks that they will all think badly of her. They might not say anything to her face, but she just knows that they think that she is putting herself above them. They will think that she is arrogant and won’t want to be with her.

I spent a long time talking with her, about her feelings, about her beliefs of what other people think of her. She is really driving herself to stay home because she's afraid that if she goes out she could meet one of her friends, one of her friends who went to the funerals. Her fear is that that friend will reject her because she didn't go to the funeral.

I tried to explore around this irrational belief and finally realized that she is actually suffering from black and white thinking. She has a form of depression. She has allowed her thoughts to run away with her. Her black and white thinking is dictating to her that people will either accept her totally reject her totally. And because she has guilt about not going to the funerals, it can only be that they would reject her.

Finding the caused of her funeral depression

I therefore spent the rest of the session exploring how she can change her thinking. We discussed rational emotive therapy, challenging her thinking, and other forms of cognitive behavioral therapy.

I think she has now come to appreciate that what she believes about her friends is just not true. The reality is that her friends understand perfectly why she didn't go to the funerals and they do not think less of her because of that. I think it is also likely that the reason she didn’t go the funerals in the first place had nothing to do with being tired of them. It was actually the onset of her funeral depression.

The job now is to get her to accept that and to change how she thinks. Then she can begin to live life again and get back to a healthy relationship with her friends.

 

How would you deal with a case like this? Leave a comment. 

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chinese restaurant phobia

Chinese Restaurant Phobia

Chinese Restaurant Phobia

I saw a client today with Chinese Restaurant phobia. This is one of the more unusual phobias I have come across. My client went to a Thai restaurant about two weeks ago and was enjoying the meal. But something in the ingredients set off an extreme allergic reaction. He ended up being stretchered out of the restaurant barely breathing and into hospital dangerously ill.

He was discharged two days later and swore to avoid Thai restaurants in future. However this week, when he went into a Chinese restaurant he immediately felt dizzy and frightened and had to go outside again. After ten minutes we went back in to join his friends. But again he was seized with an overwhelming fear and actually vomited when he ran outside.

It is interesting to see so clearly the process of how a phobia forms.  His unconscious mind has identified something in the Thai restaurant as being associated with the sudden onset of a dangerous illness. It is therefore primed to protect him  by forcing him out of any place where he might get harmed. It is now in the process of broadening out the possible indicators to include other types of Asian 'things'.  Over time, if left untreated, his unconscious will start to include an ever wider range of possible indicators. It may eventually end up as a full size fear of any restaurant, or even of food.

Treating the phobia

I like to treat phobias by going directly for the feeling. I ask the client to think about the feared situation and feel the fear. If they can get the fear as a feeling in their body I can clear it immediately using Gestalt Metaphor Therapy.

In this case the client could not summon up the feeling, probably because it has not had time to create a strong repeatable feeling.

So I put him into trance and tested to make sure he was under. Then I suggested he think about the Thai restaurant and the Chinese restaurant and the feeling that he got there. The client turned to be one of these people who go corpse-like in trance, and give no indication of what is going on inside. I therefore could not do a question and answer session with him.

All I could do then was assume he had the feeling and try to remodel it without feedback. I suggested that the feeling could become an object, that it  had a shape, a size, a color and so on. Then in several different ways I suggested  that the object was changing, shrinking, changing color and transforming itself in ways it wanted to. I really had no idea what was going in his mind or whether he was experiencing anything at all.

I brought him out of trance and asked, a bit nervously, what object had looked like. "Oh, a big concrete square," he said, "and I crushed it".

Looks like the job got done.

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Bored

Bored – a special word in hypnotherapy

Bored is a special word in hypnotherapy. When a client says to me "I  [do something] when I am bored" this immediately sets off a warning signal in my mind. Then I know I am dealing with a case of anxiety.

Boredom is better defined as a lack of stimulation. When you lack stimulation one of two things happens. You either get up and seek external stimulation, or you allow your inner thoughts to come out. Both of these alternatives have good and bad aspects. 

Seeking external stimulation is least bad of the outcomes. Some people get motivated to do useful things. Others just go aimlessly looking for something, anything, to do. The old saying 'the devil finds work for idle hands' applies here. Much petty crime is the result of too much time and not enough planned activity. 

Allowing inner thoughts to intrude also has several outcomes. Some client are so afraid of their inner thoughts that they spend their life in frantic activity, keeping busy all the time. Other people so hate the thoughts that they play music all day and keep the radio on all night. Having an external noise drowns out the the disturbing internal thoughts. 

Most people do not go to such extremes. But the fact that they are having these thoughts is disturbing, and makes them feel anxious. So they do something to fill the void. When things get quiet is often when people start on their bad habits. Snacking is a classic response to boredom. Smoking is another. As is hair pulling. 

So when the client tells me that they do it when they are bored, I start seeking the cause of their anxiety.  Fix that and you fix the behavior. 

 

 

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ethical

Is it ethical to give the customer what they want?

Is it ethical to do what the client needs, rather than what they came for? The customer is not always right, especially in the hypnotherapy business. In fact, in hypnotherapy, the customer is usually wrong. When a client comes in and asks for say, Gastric Band Hypnotherapy, or Past Life Regression, that is what they want, but it is not usually what they need.

The fact is, if the client knew what they actually needed, they would do it themselves, and they wouldn't need a therapist at all. The client therefore seeks  a solution based on faulty reasoning. They decide what it is that will cure them, and demand that you do it. They know what outcome they want, but usually how they want to go about getting it is wrong. 

As a therapist, is it ethical to do what the client asks for?

You can always outright refuse to do the procedure. But what is the Ethical position if you recognize that the client is showing symptoms of depression, or childhood trauma? Do you give them what they want, or what they actually need?

Suppose a clients says they want to explore a Past Life. Some friend told them they are being punished for some bad thing they did in a previous life. Do you just do the Past Life Regression as they ask, or should you first explore what is going on in this life? And if it becomes clear that their problems are all caused by something in this life, should you persuade the client to accept a different procedure?

Or should you agree and then do what they need? It is quite easy to do anything you want, within limits, when the client is in trance. You can disguise your therapy in a metaphor, or you can 'accidentally' go back to an early trauma and clear it with Regression to Cause. The client probably would never realise that what they got was not what they asked for. 

But if it works, is that ethical? Equally, is it ethical do what they ask for, when you know it won't work?

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Lucid Dreaming

Lucid Dreaming

Lucid dreaming is being aware that you’re dreaming while you’re dreaming. Some people claim to be able to do it, others claim it doesn’t exist.
Most of us have had the experience of realizing we were dreaming in the dream. Usually you just wake up and that’s it.
Lucid dreaming tries to do more. In a lucid dream, the dreamer interacts with elements of the dream. Really skilled lucid dreamers can bring other characters into the dream, such as famous power figures such as Einstein. Or they can create resources out of nothing, such as chain saws. They then use these to create changes in the dream. So if you are in a dream being pursued by some faceless monster, you create a flame thrower and destroy it.

The whole idea of lucid dreaming is intriguing. There is a minor industry claiming to teach people how to do it. Various psychologists are now investigating it as well. The attraction is that it might offer a way to deal with the thousands of service people suffering from PTSD. Every war produces thousands of cases, and they are very hard to treat.

I was reading about the latest research in this area and it struck me that lucid dreaming might be nothing more than a form of trance. The parallels are very close. They both involve REM thinking, and they both allow people to dissociate and enter states of imagination.

In fact many hypnosis techniques use exactly the same techniques. NLP has comedy transformation routines. These get the person to think of what they fear and get them to change more and more parts of it until it becomes ridiculous. Gestalt therapy uses metaphor transformation in a similar way. Symbolic Modeling and Clean Language get the client to visualize their issues as symbols and then change them.

So perhaps there is already a whole area of knowledge in existence.
If you want to try it yourself you can try ‘dream incubation’ to start you off. What you do is to rehearse some scene in your mind during the day in order to prime your mind for the night. You might want to think of an upcoming interview that you are worried about, or an exam. Go over it several times before bedtime, and then think of some symbol or object that sums it up. Then when you fall asleep your mind should create a dream about the situation. You will know you are dreaming when the symbol or object appear in the dream. You can then take charge and dream it into a successful conclusion

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Loose Bowels and stress

In hypnotherapy you never know what you are going to meet next. Today I had a case of loose bowels. The client was a lovely woman with a terrible secret. She has to go to the toilet every time she has to meet with another person. Her job involved constant meetings and briefings, so this really is a major problem. 

She gets the squitters with stress.  I dug into the cause of the stress and discovered it was really about the fear that she would have to leave the other person alone. In her mind this is unforgivably rude. If she was called away or something then the other person would be thinking bad thoughts about her due to her behavior. She had no problem with three people. She could meet three people, because if she had to leave then there would still be two people to talk to each other, and they would not condemn her for being rude.
I discussed this with her looking for the source. She said she had a great childhood. There was no reason for the anxiety.

Therapy

When dealing with a specific stress like this my normal approach is relax the client. Then I get her to imagine the exact situation and feel the feeling she gets. The idea is to use the feelings as a bridge to the original event that was causing the stress.  She tried but could not get the feeling without being there.

I therefor put her into trance. I did a general exploration of her subconscious using the Leaky Shoes script and she started crying. Crying is always an an indication of an emotion coming to the surface. She was now in the feeling that she said she could not find.

I got her to express the feeling as a metaphor.  The feeling transformed into a brown ball full of moving clouds of black.  I worked on changing this and got her to shrink it. It gradually got smaller and when it was a golf ball size she stopped. She couldn't shrink it any more. This kind of halt is common in metaphor therapy. So I asked her if she had ever sliced a tomato and that did it, the image of the tomato allowed her to start cutting into the ball. Then I got her to think of  dicing something and she got rid of the thing completely.

Outcome

Whatever the source of her stress was, it was now gone. I brought her out of trance and talked about what she had just done in her mind. The result was that she started talking about her upbringing. Somehow it was now something she could talk about. It turned that she in fact had not had a good childhood. 
She had been bought up with an adopted older brother, her mother expected perfection, and there were constant arguments that she escaped by joining a girls' organisation and spending as much time as possible out of the house. Somewhere in all that mess was the source of her unique fear.  

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secret hypnosis resource

Finding your secret hypnosis resource

Sometimes when you are doing hypnosis for smoking you need to utilize a secret hypnosis resource. You need to be always on the look out for things the client says that you can use. It comes down to really listening to your client. If you listen to your client the client will tell you exactly what they need.

I had a client come back to me several months after I had hypnotized her to stop smoking. She had started again and wanted me to fix it again. She told me that there had been a big family bust up. Her father had died and all sorts of unpleasantness between family members had come out. My client just couldn't take the arguing and spite and got stressed and started smoking again. 

It is a mistake to just take things the client tells you at face value. When I started probing about why the arguing had upset her so much I found the real reason. She loved her father and missed him desperately. With the family clashes and the loss of her dad she just couldn't cope. So she went back to the thing she had always relied on in times of stress: smoking. 

She was sitting in the chair weeping and it was clear that was not even near being over his death. As long as she felt that way she was not going to be able to stop smoking. So that became my secret hypnosis resource. 

I put her into trance and changed my standard stop smoking routine to include the secret resource. In trance I had her imagine a journey where she is going up a mountain path. The path gets steeper and harder and she can't go back and she can't go forward. Then along the path comes a person. This person is not described but it become obvious who it is. The person then tells her that he knows she is carrying some awful burden. He helps her let it go and it tumbles down the mountainside. Then he asks her to do something for him. He asks her if she will give up smoking for his sake. 

By this time my client was in floods of tears and promising to do anything for him. I then let the two of them reconcile and he told her it was time for him to go. He told her that he was happy where he was and it was time to let go. They embraced and then he continued down the path and she continued upwards. 

She me afterward that she felt such a feeling of relief. The path was exactly how she felt. And nothing would ever make her betray her father. She would never smoke again. 

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