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skin picking

Skin Picking Sexual Abuse

Skin Picking Sexual Abuse

I saw this client previously and tried to help him with his skin picking psoriasis. He told me that there had not be much change. "I am still picking my skin." He does not see any change in the severity of his psoriasis.  He sleeps in a separate room from his wife because he doesn't want her to waken up with blood all over the sheets.

However, after seeing me, he decided he could do something about it, and has started seeing a counselor. "I feel the counseling is helping me."

In the first session he mentioned that he did not get on with his father. This time, he began speaking more openly about the behavior of his father. We spent some time talking about his family situation. He now talks to his father but does not talk about the childhood abuse. His brothers and sisters are still not talking to his father.

Therapy for Skin Picking

I decided that I had to focus on his abuse and to clear his feelings about that. I got him to think about the pain, the abuse, how he feels about it, everything to do with how his father treated him. He clearly didn't want to go there. But I kept at it until he obviously was feeling it. I began to see tears in his eyes.

I got him to focus on what the feeling was like. He was crying and withdrawing into himself, but he said it was "red, it was blood". I try to develop that. I asked him what it was like as an object. He said it was a box. Then he changed it to a cube. He said "it's made of clear glass, glass like a milk bottle. About one liter. It is soft and warm and smooth like skin". I asked him "and what happens to skin over time". He said "it gets old".

I developed the idea of changing the object so that the skin was "old and wrinkled and sagging" and the whole box thing was losing its definition.  Eventually I got it small enough that he wanted to hold it in his hand. It became clear that this represented his father. I asked "what do you want this thing to do?" He said "Say sorry". I try to get a dialogue going between him and the object but he just wouldn't do it. I asked him to ask the object why the behavior had happened. He said "I know why it happened. I was in the way".

Externalizing his emotional abuse

I got him to put the object into a chair. This got it out of his body and into something he could deal with. The thing started changing but he got very emotional about it all. I realised then that he was back to being that painful lonely little child. So I did inner child work with him. I got him to go back to the child, to hold the child, all the normal therapy progression. He did very well at this: he clearly was there, he was crying, he was holding the child, and he took that child away from there. I got him to tell the child "you did not do anything wrong. It was not your fault. You were born perfect. You are a beautiful deserving little boy."

I did more direct suggestion for strengthening his feelings about himself.

Outcome of Skin Picking therapy

By the end of our session he was crying freely and allowing his emotions out. I suspected this is the first time is ever done that. I asked him "when was the last time you cried in public?" He thought for a while and said "once, at a funeral".

He told me that this was the first time he had ever talked about his background to anyone else. "I thought that if I could keep it inside, I could avoid thinking about it, and avoid the pain". It is quite common for skin problems to be the result of unresolved emotional issues. His skin picking was a symptom of his inner turmoil. I told him that he had now started on a  journey that would end in catharsis, the release of his bottled up feelings, and a gradual end to his skin problems.

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NLP Stop Smoking

NLP Stop Smoking technique

NLP Stop Smoking 

I don't often use NLP stop smoking techniques, but sometimes they are the best tools to use. After our previous session, my client had stopped smoking for just one day. But even then, she still felt cravings. A favorite aunt had a 90th birthday. Looking at a photo of the aunt,  she saw her ex-husband in the photo. This reignited feelings of resentment and failure in her. She started brooding on this. Then she ate till she felt uncomfortable, and that made her feel bad. Feeling bad made her reach for the smokes. As soon as she lit up, she felt better.

I explored why just deciding to smoke again instantly made her feel better. "I was so dominated by my husband. He made it all my fault, I was angry at him. Smoking was the only thing I had a choice about. Everything else was taken away from me. He made me feel ugly. I started smoking sometimes to show I could defy him. Smoking gives me control."

NLP Stop Smoking Picture Visualization

I got her to think about the resentment of her husband. How he got away with with it all, and she has ended up losing everything. I probed for a feeling. She said, "All I can see is his face." So used the NLP visualization technique. I got her to imagine some paint pots and brushes. I got her to visualize painting a big Ronald McDonald smile on his face. Then I asked her to paint big clown eyes on him. I told her to then put big dangly earings on him. Then put him in a ballerinas tutu little short skirt. I told her to paint on his forehead the word that sums up how she feels about him. Then I told her to jam the paintbrushes up his nostrils.

Public Humiliation of your enemy

I told her to imagine him dancing in the street with his great hairy legs dressed as a ballerina. And all his family and friends were standing around laughing at him, pointing at him, mocking him. At that point I suggested that two large dogs came out and started barking and he started running away. The dogs chased him, and one bit him on each buttock and he was running down the street with these big dogs hanging off his buttocks. Eventually he was lying on the street begging to take the dogs away. But all the people round about just pointed at him, and told him he was pathetic, a loser and they would never forgive him.

Public acclaim from your friends

Then all the people gathered round my client and picked her up. Two strong men lifted her on their shoulders and paraded her around and everyone was clapping and cheering and shouting out "you're the greatest. You're a hero." And then one by one, they all came up and asked forgiveness for being so horrible to her. Then I gave her a visualization of seeing herself a few months from now, surrounded by friends and family. Acting as the matriarch, the role model, the one that everyone consulted. I gave her a visualization of being surrounded by her beloved grandchildren again. And somewhere in the background, tiny, her husband was still crawling around rejected, despised, miserable.

NLP Stop Smoking  Action Visualization

To make sure the visualization had worked, I asked "what do you feel about your husband now?" She said, "I can still feel something in my chest." I got her to focus on that feeling. I told her to imagine the feeling as a thing, and to imagine how she could change it. My plan was to do a standard metaphor transformation, but almost as soon as I started she said "I'm slicing him up." Then she proceeded to tell me how she was cutting him up with a big sharp knife. She continued with what could only be described as "butchery". She cut off various parts of his anatomy and really had a good time destroying him totally.

She said she felt great. Now ready to make a new start. She told me that she was going to keep practicing the visualization idea. Every time she thought about him she was going to find another way to destroy him.

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emotional abuse

Emotional Abuse Hypnotherapy

Shame and emotional abuse

This client feels guilty about her body size. Her pattern is feeling bad about herself, eating, then feeling guilt, shame and anger about eating and food choices. And it all stems from emotional abuse.

"I feel ashamed of my body, and what I am doing to myself. I eat because I feel worthless." "Every day, I meet people I went to university with, who knew me then, and I know they remember my behaviour. People are still judging me for what I was then".

"And what were you?" "At Uni, I was the party girl, the girl who got drunk at the student bar most nights,  and went off with anybody. I was always first up for the wet tee-shirt competition, the one who struggled with every assignment. A loser. A waste of time. An embarrassment."

History of emotional abuse

We discussed her upbringing at some length. I wanted to try to identify where these feelings came from. Her mother was mentally unstable, a prescription drug addict, only focused on herself.

She told one story of when she was eight years old. Playing with her brother and a knife, she cut her finger badly. She preferred to let it bleed rather than risk another outburst from her mother. Eventually her brother made her go and tell her mother. The mother immediately screamed, "Look what you have done to me, my day is ruined, now I have to take you to the hospital!"

All her life, she was told "Stop crying, get on with it, harden up". She was not allowed to show emotion growing up, and now she can't. My client grew up feeling not wanted or valued. She always felt not good enough.

Reacting to emotional abuse

After a while she began to realize that how she feels is the result of the emotional abuse she went through. She is now examining the effect it had on that child's beliefs about her self. It explains why she was the class drunk at uni. She wanted love and affection and would do anything to get it, including throwing herself at anyone.  I  told her there is no basis for guilt about that, "You were merely trying to get what you never got at home".

Reversing feelings of emotional abuse

She said she feels angry all the time. I did the WHY-WHY-WHY exercise on why she resents her mother. She was not able to get any image or memory but liked the exercise. I told her to do it when she gets some spare time.

Then I did Metaphor Replacement Therapy MRT on her feelings of anger. She got a feeling of boiling lava. Seething, red, constrained in something. She said it was like in a beaker. Then she said "there is more, much more, huge outside as well".

I decided to do the therapy in stages. I got her to change the smaller flow of lave, the one in the beaker. After guided suggestions, the lava in the beaker got dark, and solid. Then she broke the chilled rock into pieces with a hammer.

Then I turned her attention to the massive lava flow. After a lot of persuasion, she got it to shrink and cool and go dark. Again she broke it up into pieces with a hammer.

It is early days yet, but she said afterwards, "I am feeling that I have made progress and I understand my own feelings better now."

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smoking for attention

Smoking for attention

Smoking for attention

This client could not stop smoking. She went into hospital recently with some sort of pulmonary obstruction. She did not smoke or even feel like smoking when she was in hospital. But the moment she left hospital she started back smoking.

Clearing the need to smoke

I got her to think of a picture of her feelings about smoking. She said "It is a huge cigarette rammed into my gob". I used this as material for a Metaphor Replacement Therapy. I got her to describe the cigarette she was picturing. "It is black and brown. It is being pushed down into my throat." "I can't breathe." I asked her "What would you like to have happen to that huge cigarette rammed into you gob?" She said "blow it up. Or shred it." I asked "which do you prefer?" "Blow it up" So we did. She blew it up in a great explosion. Bits were floating through the air and she could breathe.

I then asked her to check if there was anything left of those feelings of smoking. She said "there are still some cravings."

Working on her cravings 

MRT on her feelings of cravings. So I asked her what the cravings looked like. She said they were there in her chest. They were "black with a bit of yellow. Not that big." I encouraged her to start making changes to the images she was getting. "Getting more yellow." The yellow was getting stronger, but she could change the image more than that.

I was thinking of lungs and the image of balloons came to my mind. I used this imagery to convert the cravings into black and yellow balloons and get them to rise up into the sky. She was comfortable doing this. They shrank and went up and popped in the air.

I finished with some direct suggestion about "feeling good, capable, worthwhile, having a role in the family and so much to look forward to, etc."

Then I gave her images of flicking a switch, going through a closed door, changing clothes, and suggested she would find the right thing to represent how she was changed.

Smoking for attention

We started talking about her upbringing and why she felt bad about herself.

Her mother was a total slut, she went out drinking, fighting, totally ignored her children,  but brought her daughters up to be complete prudes. She mentioned that her mother and other men were into voyeur sex and all sorts of things. She mentioned a rumor that her supposed father might not be, and her grandfather was the real father. Nobody knows.

We talked about smoking. She smoked since she was fourteen. "It was surprising that I kept at it, because is made me really sick. So sick my grandmother had to nurse me. It was lovely."

I then suggested that perhaps she kept on with the smoking because that was the only way she ever got any attention? She thought about that and said "You know, I think you are right". She then told me about moving to a new school and pretending to be sick so that she could have time with her mother. "Maybe I am smoking for attention". "I have felt rejection all my life."

This client hated smoking when she started, they made her sick. But being sick meant she got attention.

Smoking for attention maybe a common reason for smoking.

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metaphor in therapy

Metaphor in hypnotherapy

The role of metaphor in hypnotherapy

Sometimes it happens in therapy that you just don't know what to do next. For me, it is usually when I ask a client to try to access the feelings about their behavior, or perhaps about things that happened earlier in their life, and they're can't find an emotion for me to work with. When that happens, I always use Metaphor in Hypnotherapy.

If your client cannot find an emotion then your options are fairly limited. You cannot go for a regression to the Initial Sensitizing Event, because you need an emotion to link to the original event. Or you can focus on the surface problem and use Direct Suggestion hypnotherapy. Another option, is to put your client into trance and either just give them a very relaxing experience, or teach them how to do self hypnosis. This often reduces the stress that underlies their problem, and gives them a temporary relief.

Metaphor in hypnotherapy

Sometimes your client cannot find an emotion, or is too frightened of the emotion. In that case, metaphor therapy is the best way. You can use behavior-centred metaphors, or you can opt for using a generalised metaphor.

What I mean by behavior-centered metaphor is something that is specific to this client and their particular behavior. When you first talk to your client you are trying to find out what their problem is, and how they see it. If the problem is  procrastination, then you can narrow it down to a phrase your client uses to define their problem. They might say "I feel like I'm stuck". Or "I just cannot get started, and I'm easily distracted". For each of these  you can invent a vivid story about someone just like them, who does some action which is metaphorically identical to what they need to do.

Generalized Metaphor in hypnotherapy

Alternatively, you can ignore the specific problem the client has brought to you. In almost every case, your client's problem is actually connected to some issue they had when growing up. You can use a generalised metaphor as a non-specific therapeutic approach. Put your client into trance. Then tell them a long metaphor story about how they can let go of whatever it is that is causing the anxiety. The traditional method is about "dropping the stones". In that metaphor you suggest in trance that they are carrying a backpack. The backpack is full of bricks. They can take the backpack off and tip out the bricks. The basic metaphor is usually dressed up in some fancy location, with added details that relate directly to the client's personal experience. If you are not good at making up stories, then there are many collections of healing metaphors you can use.

But there is never any reason to feel "stuck" yourself when you don't know what to do next in therapy.

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My friend John

My Friend John Induction as therapy

Combining the My Friend John Induction with Therapy

This client has a long history of emotional abuse by his parents. We spent a long time going over his recent past and his early childhood. He used to be a heavy drinker. Now he is ashamed of his behavior in the period when he was drinking. He still meets people from that time and feels embarrassed about what he did, and what they think of him. I think he is very afraid of any sort of public humiliation such as he had as a child.

On the other hand he doesn't like people telling him what to do. He said that he has "contrariness".

Clearing Feelings of Shame

I decided to do metaphor replacement therapy on his feeling of shame about his past behavior. He said it was like a purple cloud. Full of smoke. I asked him "and what do you feel about that purple cloud?" He said "sad". I got him to change its shape and I asked him "what happens to clouds over time?". He said they get smaller. I got him to imagine the rain. He said it was yellow. I eventually got the cloud to disappear.

He said that it was great to get rid of that feeling but he still wanted to be able to stop smoking. "Are you not going to do anything about my smoking?".

I felt I had to do something about his smoking even though we were well over time. I really wasn't sure what to do that might help him stop smoking. He smokes because he is trying to avoid his feelings. If we can eliminate the source of those feelings, we will eliminate the need to smoke at the same time. But he wants to stop smoking right now.

My Friend John Induction

I didn't actually have a plan at this point, so I did a simple relaxation induction. He kept squirming around and scratching and moving and clearly was not in trance.

So I decided to do a My Friend John Induction. As I started on the induction I realized that I had the option of changing it. At this point I had still not worked out what I was going to do in terms of getting him to stop smoking. It suddenly occurred to me that I could get him to tell himself to stop smoking since he didn't like being ordered to do things by other people. I could take advantage of his "contrariness".

So I suggested to him that it wasn't a stranger who was in the other chair. It was a copy of himself. I told him to imagine that another version of him was sitting on that chair and wanted to go into trance. I told him to repeat the instructions "get yourself into a comfortable position, allow yourself to relax, feel your breathing slowing down, et cetera." Then I continued with the rest of the My Friend John Induction until he was in trance.

My Friend John the Therapist

As soon as I was satisfied that he was in trance, I use the other copy of himself to do a sort of reverse My Friend John. I got the other "him" to tell him to repeat the instructions in his own mind. The instructions were along the lines of "You are ready to stop smoking. You know it is time to stop. You know that you can stop smoking. You are the kind of person who can stop smoking easily, quickly, and permanently." And so on.

Once again I learned, if you're unsure what to do, trust your unconscious mind, and it'll come up with what you need. I think this might become my standard way of using the My Friend John Induction and combining it with therapy.

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Benefits of depression

Benefits of depression

Surprising benefits of Depression

I had a client come in to me today who complained of procrastination. He is a successful manager of an IT team with 50 people reporting to him. He is very well paid, and highly respected, and an expert in five IT disciplines. And he is very unhappy.

He told me that he was frustrated at not achieving enough. And yet at the same time, he feels resentful at the way other people take advantage of his success. Other people dump work on him, give him extra responsibilities, put him in charge of things. Because they know that he will get it done. And he lets it happen because he always puts other people first. He has no boundaries.

I have seen this client twice before. In our first interview, it became clear that he has dysthymia, a form of depression. This  is very common, but usually not diagnosed. People who have dysthymia just think that they are lazy or angry or withdrawn by nature. They are in fact ill. Dysthymia and anxiety underlie a great deal of the behavior that I deal with every day.

Reframing depression

This client had his 50th birthday coming up, and felt that his life was slipping away from him. He was working endless hours and felt that he was getting nothing but money in return. Even that didn't help. His wife was using him and spending the money as fast as he earned it. He told me that he "just feels empty".

I pointed out to him all the good things he had in his life. And he said "Yes, but think of what I could have achieved if I hadn't felt this way." He looked very surprised when I said to him "the reason you have your success at work, and your high salary, and your ability to run complex international projects is because of your depression. Depression is making you successful."

"What are you talking about? This depression has been the curse of my life." I then had to explain to him that in fact all of his professional success was a side effect of his depression.

Benefits of depression

Mild depression causes circular thinking. In circular thinking you go over the same things again and again. You over analyse things. You worry about things all the time. These are ideal traits in a project manager.

Mild depression also causes perfectionism. People with perfectionism are always looking to be better and better. And they get annoyed when they don't reach their own expectations. And this causes them to take action, to get angry, irritated, and to be moved to do something about it until it does reach their high standards.

Another side effect of depression is the inability to form deep and meaningful relationships. You are not unfriendly, but you are completely comfortable in your own company. Again, this is an ideal trait in a project manager. You can communicate well with people on a business level but don't get bogged down in social relations when you have to put the hard word on people.

Similarly, people with dysthymia are easily bored. They have to be doing something all the time. And need constant stimulation. So they check every last detail of whatever it is they're working on, and build checklists, and schedules, and plans, and everything else to keep their mind occupied.

The fifth main area of depression is around self esteem. People with depression feel not good enough, worthless. When things go wrong is always their fault. They get validated by achieving external results. They can perform extremely well on some external task, but when it comes to looking after themselves and their own interests they tend to self sabotage.

Accepting the benefits of depression

This is exactly what my client was doing. He is working himself into an early grave. He is getting lavishly rewarded by his employers, but inside it all seems pointless. And he still feels worthless.

I have met several clients were very successful in business because they need to check every detail, they're willing to spend endless hours at work, they are constantly striving to reach a level of perfection that is unreachable.

It is ironic that the thing that makes them unhappy is also the thing that makes them successful.

 

 

 

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collateral damage

Collateral damage from childhood

Collateral damage

It is said that "nobody escapes childhood unscathed". My client today told me about a very bad childhood. His mother was unemotional, withdrawn, and seldom showed him any affection. His father was erratic. The only real interaction with his father was constant criticism and being told that he was not good enough. Nothing he did was ever right. He grew up feeling empty and alone and alienated.

His parents were not just abusive to him. They were constantly fighting, throwing things and insulting each other. Each of them moved out at various times and came back. The family atmosphere was a constant battleground of tension and occasional violence.

I would not have been surprised if the client came to me to deal with the fallout of this emotional abuse. What he actually came to me for was something quite different.

The real cause of the collateral damage

He has recently learned that his father is autistic. This explains the erratic behavior and the irrational parenting style. It doesn't make the emotional abuse any less damaging, but it does put a different perspective on it.

My client was struggling with this part of his life. He resented, even hated his father for what he had done to him. But now he realizes that his father was actually ill. In some ways his father really couldn't avoid his behavior.

My client is now conflicted. He hated his father, and sort of felt comfortable with that. But now he has to reassess everything he ever thought about his father. He still has to suffer from the emotional damage he got as a child. But now he also has to suffer again as an adult, and try to see his upbringing as something that he should forgive and understand. And this comes very hard to him. He still feels angry, but now he feels guilt about feeling angry.

Damaged parents cause damaged children

In our society we are familiar with the idea that parents can be very disappointed by their children. Some children have ADD, or other behavioral problems and make life hell for their parents. But we don't seem to have any kind of ready-made response about abusive parents.

As we grow up, those are the only parents we know, and we assume that they are perfect. In fact, society expects all parents to be perfect.  In this case, after talking to the client, I'm fairly sure that his mother has some form of depression. It seems likely that his mother and his father got together because they both recognized a damaged person in each other. And were willing to start a relationship because they probably felt they weren't going to get a better deal anywhere else.

The effect on my client was basically just collateral damage. Maybe we should get clients to bring their parents to therapy?

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Stop Drinking Start smoking

Start smoking to Stop Drinking

Start smoking to stop drinking

My client was an events manager who cannot stop smoking. He says that when he stops he gets cravings. He read the Alan Carr book one time, and stopped for three years. Then he started again.  Nothing unusual about that.

He stopped himself smoking for four months. Then he deliberately started again in order to be able to cut down on his drinking. He works in the hospitality industry and tended to binge drinking because it was available all the time. He thought that if he started smoking, he could stop the drinking. Apparently it worked. He did stop drinking but now he is smoking, and he can't stop.

Patterns of smoking

The pattern of repeatedly starting smoking, then stopping, and then starting again is a good indicator of Black and White thinking. A lot of smoking is caused by B & W thinking. I suspected that this client was smoking because he had high expectations and a touch of depression.

I showed him the list of symptoms of dysthymia, and he said that he recognized parts of his behavior in every section. We discussed this for a while. I explained how dysthymia is a common form of depression, and affects many parts of your life, including your habits. I told him it was mainly an inherited problem, and he likely got it from his father or his mother.  He told me that his father in fact is an alcoholic. And it was clear that his father has all the symptoms as well.

Inheriting Smoking

I explained that his father probably had dysthymia. We spent quite a lot of time going over how his behavior fitted perfectly with the drivers of dysthymia. This all came as a revelation to my client.

He could now see that many of the things that he was using as excuses or reasons for his own behavior were in fact not true. Depression was a much better explanation.  He confessed that he had long worried that he might have depression. But refused to go into it, because he was even more worried that he might have schizophrenia!

He recognized that his dad was driven by some sort of 'demons'. At some level he feared that he too had these demons. And didn't want to end up an alcoholic as well. Having dysthymia as a rational explanation was a great relief to him.

Ending stop smoking to stop drinking

I did a standard hypnosis session aimed at helping him deal with his emotional problems. Once he has stabilized his behavior he will be ready to tackle the smoking. One step at a time. The real issue is not that he felt he had to start smoking to stop drinking. The real issue is that same unconscious behavior was driving both, as it had with his father.

He was amazed and delighted by hypnosis and the calming effects of trance. He said that "I want to come back and do this every week". Great.

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Permission to stop smoking

Permission to stop smoking

Permission to stop smoking from beyond the grave

My client today was a farmer's wife from Middleton. She wants to stop smoking. In the past, she has been able to stop for short periods but always starts again. She is on medication for depression. She shows many symptoms of lassitude, indifference and inability to let go.

Although she has depression,  she does not show the typical busy mind or black and white thinking. I think the medication is protecting her from these things. She said she smokes because of stress and lack of willpower. When she stops she starts overeating. She needs to stop because she has emphysema. But she has this whole depressive "what's the point?" attitude to things, including her own health.

Cause of her depression and smoking

She has felt this way for seven years. Her daughter died after a long illness of cancer. She partly feels guilt because she might've been able to do more, but mostly it is just depression and grief as far as I can see. I suggested to her that she needs to get a goal in order to give her something to live for.

She said that every night when she closes her eyes she sees her daughter. She finds this very distressing.

Stop Smoking Visualization Therapy

So I first tried metaphor replacement therapy on the grief. She could not get the feeling. I did notice that her eye lids were flickering. She said her basic problem is that "I cannot let go". I could not get her to visualize any feeling, so I stopped that therapy. It was obvious that I needed to do something to resolve the issue about her daughter.

I then did a visualization of walking along a river bank, and coming to a bridge to the other side. In the visualization there is a person standing on the bridge.  I suggested that the person on the bridge was female by constantly using the pronouns "she" and "her" but I did not suggest it was any particular person.

The person on the bridge said 'I have been waiting a long time for you to come here." And the person on the bridge encourages the client to shed any guilt or regret. Then that person gives a form of power to the client.

Permission to stop smoking from the Other Side

Finally, there was a long dialogue between her and the person on the bridge. The talk was of forgiveness and acceptance and moving on. I then had the two of them hug, and whisper a special message between them that no one else could hear.

After she came out trance, she said "It was my daughter waiting on the bridge!" "We said goodbye, and I won't be seeing her again at night. I can rest now."

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