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altenativetherapies for phobias

Alternative Therapies for Phobias

Alternative Therapies for Phobias

My client was a young woman who I saw previously about her problem with public speaking and dealing with authority. This week she said she had a problem with dating. Friends want to set her up on a date with a nice man. And she cannot bring herself to meet him. So we started talking about her reluctance to go on a date.

She hates the idea of being forced to do something. I began to explore this idea. "Why do you hate being forced to do something?" "I hate feeling judged." She then told me that her sister once said "I know exactly why you are shy in public".

Creating the phobia of authority

When she was 10 or 11 years old my client went with her school class to the swimming bath. The teacher asked "Can anyone swim a whole length of this pool?". My client tentatively put up her hand. The teacher told her to go ahead and try to swim it. She swam about halfway, then got tired, and pulled herself the rest of the way along the side rail.

The teacher said to her "No, you didn't swim the whole length. Go back and do it again". My client protested that she had done the  length. But to no avail. The teacher made her get in again and try to swim the whole length again. She tried and tried, and then said she wouldn't do it. The teacher then said "well, no one else is going to go swimming until you have completed a length."

By this time the whole class was standing around the pool looking at her. All the kids wanted to swim. She was stopping them having fun. My client felt awful. No one else would be allowed to go swimming until she had completed a length unaided. So she tried again, and again, and finally was able to complete the whole length of the pool without touching the side or the bottom.

She got out of the pool and went to the changing room and just felt that she wanted to disappear. She felt humiliated. The teacher came along afterwards and said "Now, don't you feel much better knowing that you have done the length?" All my client felt was resentment.

One incident many phobias

This story perfectly illustrates how incidents in childhood can get converted into adult phobias. It explains the reluctance to go on a date. It also explains the fear of public speaking, and the fear of speaking to people in authority.

Her three problem behaviors are all metaphoric to the swimming pool incident. In the swimming pool incident there was an authority figure telling her to do things that she didn't want to. There was a whole group of people looking at her, and in her mind, judging her. She was under intense pressure, if she could not complete the length, no one in her group could go swimming. And in her mind, they would all blame her. She couldn't complete the length, she couldn't not complete the length. She was being judged by a teacher, and being judged by all her classmates. This is a perfect example of a psychological bind.

One incident, many therapies

What I thought was most interesting about this case is that we had already cleared most of her issues before we knew the actual cause. I had seen this client previously. I had used metaphor replacement therapy to deal with the feeling she had about speaking up in a room full of work colleagues. She had reported back the following week that the feeling of dread had disappeared and she was able to speak freely at a meeting that she had organised. At the second session, she wanted to get rid of a fear of speaking to people in authority. This was cleared by metaphor parts therapy. After the second session, she reported back that she felt entirely comfortable talking to her bosses now.

If I had known about the story of the swimming pool I would have used some form of regression most likely. I am fairly sure that regression would have worked just as well as the metaphor therapies.

Reframing as therapy

Just to make sure, I told my client to close her eyes and think about being back in that swimming pool. I told her to imagine that she is in the water looking up at the teacher. I told her to imagine the teacher is saying "You're not getting out until you do another length!". And then I told her to imagine reaching up, grabbing the teacher by the ankles, and tumbling her into the water, while saying "Now you do the length, bitch!".

My client laughed at this. And I told her that she would never be able to un-see that incident again. This seemed to afford her no end of amusement.

She later emailed me:  "Over the weekend I traveled for a birthday weekend with friends. We visited a beautiful waterfall near Napa. As you know, I'm not the most confident swimmer and will avoid swimming over my head. At the waterfall, it had a giant rope swing for the public to do 'bombs'.

I walked up to take a look at the view (its very high). I decided I was going to do  the cliff jump. This is by far one of the most terrifying things I've done. Particularly, as the water was well over my head below.

It took me a few minutes to compose myself, but my final words before jumping into the murky green waters were "take that *teachers name*" (or words along those lines). I was with a group of 5 friends who all cheered me on. It was an exhilarating feeling. Now, when ever I reflect back to that terrible instance at school, I'll be thinking of the new (more positive) experience I had."

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clearing childhood abuse

Clearing Childhood Abuse

Clearing Childhood Abuse

My client today told me that he had three things wrong with him. Fear of spiders. Loss of memory. And he couldn't remember the third thing (!). Later on he said the third thing was frightening dreams.

He was carrying a red-and-white tea-towel. He kept pushing it into his mouth and rubbing it around and pulling it out again. I had extreme difficulty understanding what he said.

I thought that he said that he had no tongue. But I thought that can't be right because how could he speak at all if he had no tongue?

He later told me that he had tongue cancer and eventually had to have his tongue removed. He showed me a patch on his forearm where surgeons had removed some skin and sewed it onto the stump of his tongue. To everyone's amazement he was able to speak after a fashion. It took a while to get my ear attuned to what he was saying. But eventually I could understand him quite well.

He has had a terrible life and what is most remarkable is that he is still quite cheerful about the whole thing. He said that he had a very bad childhood. His step father constantly beat him, terrorized him, made him fear for his life. Even though her father had died 20 years ago, he was still terrified by the thought of him.

Clearing Fear of Spiders

I really didn't know what to do with him. He had so many things going on, and he was so bad at speaking that I decided to go with the original thing, the fear of spiders. He wasn't just afraid of them, he was terrified of them.

"I have a memory that I think has  something to do with my fear of spiders." I told him to think about that fear of spiders that he gets. He immediately began to get a feeling. It was filling his chest. "What  is it like?" "Like a lot of spikes." It was black, rough, heavy, and hot. It seemed to be made of hard metal. He said that if it was put away he could be happy and he could do anything.

I got to think about what happens to metal over time. He said "it rusts". I developed the idea of rust and eventually the thing began to crumble. I got him to imagine stamping on it, and breaking it down into a pile of rust and he just swept that away.

Clearing Childhood Abuse

He was already in trance so I decided to keep going. I told him to remember his father's abuse. And how he felt about that. He immediately started exhibiting extreme distress. He was moving around in the chair, obviously frightened of getting a beating. I asked him what that feeling was like. He said "a ball of fire". This ball of fire was so troubling to him, so terrifying that he couldn't go near it, he couldn't see it, couldn't touch it, couldn't do anything.

Because he couldn't get near it, I told him to imagine a chair in front of him, and to put the ball of fire in the chair. He said it was black. A ball filled with much anger. It was red and black. It was hot. I suggested to him that there might be something else there something that he could use. Some asset. He said "my mother is there".

I asked him to imagine his mother standing next to a sink. My idea there was that she could use some water to put the burning ball out. I developed this idea and he was able to see his mother putting water on the ball  to get rid of the ball. She put it out. After that it became a fairly simple process to clear it. I gradually got him to allow the ball of fire to cool down and he started blowing it out. Eventually it was on the floor and it turned into a pile of ashes. He then scattered them into the water somewhere.

Outcome

He was very impressed by the process. He sat there almost stunned for a few minutes. And then he said "I don't know what it is, but something has changed. Something has really changed. For the first time in years I think we have got to the heart of it. All those other counselors and therapists were just going round the edges. You really got to it."

I had trouble getting him to leave.

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drinking problem

Problem Drinking Bind

Problem Drinking Bind

My client came because she is having problems in her relationship with her husband. This is making her feel very bad about herself. This is a follow on from our previous session. She originally came because of problem drinking and couldn't control it.  I now learn that her husband has depression and is blaming her for everything goes wrong in his life. She is reacting to this tirade of blame by drinking.

And when she drinks she is saying things back to him. He is then taking the things that she says, and throwing them back in her face.

And the process is deteriorating. He is deep in depression and throwing out any kind of insult to her that will make him feel better. He is only interested in how he feels right now. He is unhappy, nothing works, he is fully depressed.

Problem Drinking Bind

He is attempting to trap her by saying "I can only change once you have changed". Then he makes it impossible for her to  change. He says that he won't change until she stopped drinking, but she is drinking in reaction to his behavior in the first place. They are busy building a negative circle. They are in a problem drinking bind. The more depressed he gets, the more he hurts her, and the more she drinks to escape it. But drinking makes her lash out at the unfairness of it all, and he feels justified in blaming her for that. He won't change until she does, and she can't change because of what he does.

So now she is reacting to what he is saying by blaming herself. He is triggering feelings from her childhood. Growing up, she got beaten for no reason, and nothing that she did was right. So these unjust accusations are sending her into panic mode. Reliving  all these feelings are making her drink at night. And so the cycle continues.

The way out of problem drinking

I told her that she had done nothing wrong. Her husband is a victim and she is a victim. She needs to stop reacting to him with intellectual analysis. She needs to start putting up a shield project to protect herself from all the things that he is throwing at her in his pain.

I told her that perhaps the best way forward is to get some sort of pharmacological solution. Not for her, but for him. He needs to get some medication to help him deal with the pain that he feels. As soon as he is begins behaving rationally again she can get into the pentathlon of exercise, diet, thinking challenges, socialisation and planning. That is the way out for her.

She knows how to do that. But she has been so focused on her own pain that she hasn't really thought about how to get out of this thing.

Sometimes the way to fix yourself, is to fix somebody else.

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smoking yourself to death

Smoking yourself to death

Smoking yourself to Death

Today I found yet another reason for smoking: Smoking yourself to death. This client could not stop smoking. She tried, and it worked for a few days, and she just had to start again. It is a very common smoking pattern. It is always because of some underlying psychological problem.
Normally, I can talk to the client, dig into the childhood, and find out what is so threatening that she needs to smoke to escape from it.

In this case, when I started digging, the most horrific story of family violence and abuse emerged. My client grew up in an ethnic minority household. Everything was deeply religious, and secretive, and closed to outsiders. She described growing up in a family where her mother was mentally unstable. Nothing and nobody was ever good enough for her mother. Her mother was totally wrapped up in herself. She had no interest in the children. As a little girl my client felt rejected and worthless, and was constantly told "Shut up and be quiet. Stop making it all about you!"

Overcoming inter-generational abuse

Eventually, my client learned why there was always a cloud of secrecy around the family. Her mother was the result of incest. Because of the huge taboo, her mother married the first man who would have her. He turned out to be a wife beater and drunkard.

So she grew up in this dysfunctional household, emotionally abused by both her mother and her father, and ended up convinced that she was worthless and stupid, and constantly told she was no use to anybody.

And yet, somehow, she overcame all this. She got married and had children. Her children were loved and cherished and gradually she began again. Through heroic efforts she got an education, went to university, and became a schoolteacher. "If I am a teacher, I can't be dumb!"

Reason for Smoking yourself to Death

She was doing well in her family life and her work life when a catastrophe happened. She learned that her own husband had been sexually abusing two of her daughters for many years. My client had no idea it was going on. Nobody believed her. "You must have known something was going on." She was devastated.

They immediately divorced and she began again as a solo mother. Her daughters grew up, married, moved away and started their own families.

And then to her horror, the whole cycle started again. It turned out that one of the relatives of her daughter's husband had started sexually abusing one of the granddaughters. This caused the whole extended family to split into factions. The whole issue of sexual abuse and incest was brought up again and again, fingers were pointed, wild accusations made. And now nobody is comfortable talking to anyone. Most of my client's daughters will not talk to her at all. And to top it off, my client has now been forced economically to move in and share a house with her mother.

Nothing to live for, might as well keep smoking.

She feels her life was ruined. A wonderful family that gave her fulfillment and happiness has been torn apart by sexual abuse. She now blames herself for not seeing her own daughter's abuse, and her granddaughters abuse. Nobody loves her, or wants her. Now she has no role to play, she is barred from seeing her own grandchildren. Her daughters are alienated and won't talk to her.

The outcome is that she feels she has nothing to live for. She is consumed with guilt, and regret, and can see no way out of it. So she actually said "I'm smoking because I don't want to be here any more". I couldn't believe my ears. I said, "You are smoking yourself to death?". "Yes, that's right. I don't deserve to live".

Hypnotherapy Response

She wasn't suicidal, but she saw smoking as an acceptable way to kill herself slowly and get out of this bind. Well, I wasn't about to allow that to happen. The basic problem appeared to be displaced guilt. So I started on therapy to allow her to see her situation for what it was, and clear away any blame. The session went very well and I think I have been able to get rid of that feeling that "is crushing my heart ".

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secret drinking

Secret Drinking Causes Fixes

Secret Drinking

My client today was a tiny Spanish woman who runs a day spa. She was beautifully made up, well dressed and clearly looks after herself. Anyone looking at her would say that she was totally in control. In fact, she is a secret drinker.

Her problem is that she has gradually got into the habit of drinking too much. She drinks a bottle of wine every night, sometimes two bottles of wine. She believes it's because she has stress from her business.

It started two years ago when she had particular issue at business. But later on she said "it's been much longer than that". She has actually been secretly drinking for many years.

Her husband is now noticing the drinking and disapproves of it. "I have tried to give up. Usually I am able to stop for three to four days. But then something just makes me start again."

Finding the real cause of secret drinking

This "something" suggested to me that she is not dealing with her feelings. I suspected that she is drinking as a way of medicating herself. My first step was to test for any basic psychological issues.

I asked "Would you say your mind is always busy?"

"Yes".

"Do you keep going over and over the same things in your mind?"

"Yes."

These strongly suggested that she might have some form of depression.

So I then showed her my diagram of the symptoms of dysthymia. She was quiet for a long time. Then she pointed to the top part, and said "I have both of these!"

She was pointing to the Circular Thinking part, and the Fixed Thinking part. On further discussion she realized that she also was in the part with the Social Withdrawal symptoms.

A plan to stop secret drinking

I then briefly went through some basic dysthymia counselling. I emphasized that she had to get exercise. It was ironic that someone who was in the health business actually did virtually no exercise.

She also needed to learn how to deal with her thinking patterns. I got her to do a simple NLP thinking exercise to show how she could control her own thoughts. This was very successful. But I noticed while doing it, that her eye lids were obviously flickering. From this I deduced that she would be easy to hypnotize. It turned out to be the case.

I took her into trance and did a Metaphor Parts Therapy. This involved letting her experience her need to drink as a defective part. I then gave her a visualization where she was able to repair the defective part and turn it into a source of strength to deal with stress.

Outcome

Previously, a psychologist in London had told her to go back to Spain. She did that and moving back to Spain took her away from the stress. She felt much better. But going back to running her business brought it all on again.

This was another case where bad news is good news. It was bad news that she had depression. The good news was that she now understood why she drank, and why she kept starting again. She seemed really relieved to know the origin of her problems. And that at last she could see a way out of her secret drinking.

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porn addiction

Porn Addiction is it real?

Porn Addiction

I received the following message “I’m not sure if my problem would be in your areas of treatment. I am very addicted to masturbation/porn/adultery. I don’t have control of myself. I try to stop but whenever I am left alone at home or in my day off I am just wasting my time into such. I have positive approaches to life and I have many skills, but due to this addiction and feeling guilty about the energy wasted and leading to a waste of my day and weeks and months leaving the unproductive. I’m not sure that my problem is something you can deal with, but maybe you can help me come out and live life in a more productive way.”

Porn addiction has been in the news ever since the Internet made porn available to everyone. I have never been happy with the explanations I have read for porn addiction.

Is porn addictive? Most of the writing about porn addiction assumes that it is real. But can you actually be addicted to porn? And if so, how?

Theories of Porn Addiction

This is an important question, because the type of treatment to offer depends on your theory of why people watch porn. Most assume that because watching porn and masturbating is enjoyable, then it must be like substance abuse. This is a behavioral model. You enjoy porn, and therefore do it more, and build pleasure pathways in your brain. The more you do it, the more want to do it. And that is what your addiction is.

However, there are several models of addiction. I wanted to meet this man and find out why he felt addicted. He turned out to be a young married man with a good job and no obvious reasons to do this. I asked him about his life and quite quickly realized that he was showing signs of depression. He had low self esteem, lack of motivation, no goals, and felt no emotional connection to anyone.

Cause of addiction to porn

He had recently left university so was too young to recognize the cycles in his own behavior. But going over the symptoms showed clearly that he did have depression.

This actually explained his ‘porn addiction’. He wasn’t attracted to porn particularly. He was doing it because it was enjoyable, and took his mind off the depressive thoughts he was having. He was doing porn because he felt he was worthless, and empty and he had no goals in life. So why not? But then his critical voice started up for doing it, and made him feel bad again. Until he did more porn to get away from it.

So it wasn’t so much that he was attracted to porn. It more that he was self medicating with porn. He was trying to use porn to get temporary relief from his negative feelings.

In the session, I helped him see what was really going on. Then I gave him some guidance on how to manage his condition, and how hypnotize himself to reduce his anxiety. Once has learned to manage his depressive tendencies, he won't need the porn to feel better. 

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Automatic Depression Detection

Automatic Depression Detection

Automatic Depression Detection

Depression is probably the most widespread mental illness in the world. It affects millions of people and is a huge burden on the health services. Any sort of automatic depression detection would be a wonderful breakthrough.

The way that people speak can  suggest whether they are in depression or not. But as long as therapists were just taking notes this knowledge was not very useful. Today, there are millions of people on the Internet, on social media, and in chat rooms. They are all exchanging ideas in text. This means that there is a vast body of text, millions upon millions of words, on every possible subject. Scientists are analysing these texts to try to identify depression. The results are quite surprising.

Machine learning for depression

Language has two parts: content and style. Content is what you talk about, style is how you say it. Analyzing content shows that depressed people use a higher proportion of negative words. These are words such as "sad, lonely, unhappy, miserable, can't cope". Depressed people also have a different focus. Automatic depression detection software shows that depressed people talk much more about "I, me, myself" than they do about "they, them, people". It seems that depressed people are more inward focused, on themselves.

Of course, it is not possible to tell which comes first. Does depression cause you to focus inwards, and use the 'I' word. Or does focusing inwards cause depression?

Depressed people also have a different style of speaking. They tend to speak in absolutes. "Everything, nothing, everybody, never". Research is showing that these 'absolutes' are a better indicator of depression than words about negative emotions.

These results are very encouraging. Automatic depression detection is fast, cheap, and appears to be effective. In fact, in many areas of mental health, automatic analysis is proving faster and more accurate than experts in those fields. As more and more text becomes available for analysing, the results will get even more accurate.

 

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Eating is out of control

Eating is out of control

Eating is out of control

My client today was a huge obese woman.  She told me "I can't stop putting on weight. My eating is out of control".   looking after son's kids

She said that she had always battled with weight and issues of control. Right now she feels she is out of control. She said "It got worse six months ago. Before that I had lost 15 kg. Now I have put it all back on again, plus more". This is a common story with people to come to hypnotherapy for weight loss. In my experience, issues with weight are always emotional issues. When you trace it back to the origin it is usually rooted in how the client was treated in childhood. In this case, the issue was emotional, but was actually rooted in the recent past.

Why eating is out of control

Six months ago, one of her children dumped her four children on her because they couldn't cope. Her child and the partner are into drugs and alcohol. They can't cope with life, can't cope with their children, and abandoned them with their grandmother. It was supposed to be for two weeks. But the parents went off and gave everything over to their drug habit.

My client now feels that imposed upon, but cannot do anything about it. She feels that this is so unfair. She brought up her own children, launched them into adulthood, and was looking forward to spending the next 10 years as an indulgent grandma to her grandchildren. And now she's back having a full-time job looking after for young children. She sees no way out of it and no one else in the family is offering to help.

Longing for an empty nest

She is beginning to resent the children and acting grumpy with them.  She cannot sent the children back to their parents. Social security will not take them, because they are not in danger where they are. Her other children reject the parents as losers who need to front up to their responsibilities, and won't help.

There is no way out.  Her expectations of a lovely retirement hasn't happened.  She expected things to be perfect, but it has all turned out wrong. It's all getting too much for her and she sinking into despair.

This a classic case of late onset depression. She has just given up and eats to comfort herself.

How to treat eating is out of control

I talked about how to deal with her depression. The first thing is to recognize that it is not her responsibility. I told her to have some compassion for herself and her situation. She feels guilt over resenting the children, and somehow having failed her own daughter. I am not a counselor, but I suggested various ways that she could seek help. Together we agreed a goal to get these children looked after by someone else within six weeks.

Then to help her get the energy and confidence to reach that goal, I used hypnosis. I took her into trance and did an extended parts metaphor therapy to identify the parts she needed, and to get those parts energized.

Afterwards, she said 'I can find a way forward now. I am not going to put up with this any longer. Thank you."

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avoiding thoughts

Are you just avoiding thoughts?

Avoiding thoughts 

In hypnotherapy, I see many different types of behavior. People often tell me stories about why they behave the way they do. The reasons are usually something that was done to them. They offer this as the excuse for why they behave the way they do, and why they are unable to change their own behavior.

It is a very human tendency to try to find explanations and excuses for your behavior. This is perfectly understandable. However, most people do not really understand what is driving their own behavior.

Rationalizing behavior

I was reminded of this today. I had a client come to see me who felt that she was always thinking of all the worst things that could happen. For example, if her husband was late coming home she would think "I know he's not dead, he's just a bit late, isn't he? I would have heard of that had been an accident". She would catastrophize endlessly about almost anything. Her explanation was because she was the third child of four. She had an elaborate theory of how the first child acted a certain way, and the second child acted a different way, and the third child acted in yet another way. And that was why she was behaving the way she was. In fact, she had an undiagnosed case of depression.

It is not uncommon for people to totally miss the real reason for why they do what they do. In therapy, I am more often interested in what people are not doing, than in what they are doing. I often tell my clients, "every coin has two sides".

Doing something to avoid doing something else

People will tell you for example that there are workaholics, that they have to be at work all the time, that they can't let go of the details. When I hear a story like this I always think to myself "and what are you trying to get away from?" A person who is a workaholic is not attracted to work. There are not simply trying to get a job done. What they are trying to do is to get away from emotional problems they have with their family. Being at work and gives them a reason for not dealing with their own emotional inadequacies. They are avoiding thoughts.

Many years ago I had a client who was a motorcycle racing champion. He told me that when he was a teenager, he would go for long rides on his motorbike. He said that when he was riding, and was coming up to a corner at speed, he had to focus totally on getting round the corner. There was no space in his mind for any other thought. He used the dangers of motorcycling to get his mind clear. It was not that he was attracted to motorcycling, it was the only way he knew to stop the constant nagging in his mind.

Marathon Mind

I also spoke to someone who had been a marathon runner. He told me that one of the attractions of marathon running was that at some point you get so tired that you have to focus totally on just getting through the next mile and the next mile. This forces you to concentrate on just getting one foot in front of the other. And it drives out any unwanted thoughts. The attraction is not the running or the winning. The attraction is having a break from the relentless feeling of emptiness, or doubt, or self-hatred.

I know a bridge player who has something similar. When she is sitting down to play bridge, she has to focus totally on the cards. Every hand is challenging, every hand is difficult and intricate. When she is playing in a tournament there is no space in her  head for any other thoughts. That is why people become bridge addicts.

So think about what you do. Think about your own behaviors. And then think about the other side of the coin. Are you doing something not because you like it, but because it lets you avoid something else?

 

 

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reasons for smoking

Reasons for smoking

Reasons for Smoking

My client yesterday was a middle aged woman who just could not give up smoking. She could not give any reasons for smoking.

I asked if she had ever stopped smoking. She said "I stopped when I got pregnant". I then asked her why she started again. "About a year ago. A friend offered me a cigarette, and said it might help, so I took it. And then it was a case of another one, and then two, and then very quickly I was back smoking again."

I asked what else was going on in her life at that time. She said "I discovered that my husband was having an affair with my best friend."

The real reasons for smoking

It seems strange to me that someone would blame starting smoking again because a friend suggested that it might help them, and totally ignoring the fact that their life had fallen apart around them. It is a peculiar kind of blindness that seems to affect people who start smoking again. They will blame the smallest thing, and completely ignore overwhelming emotional changes.

It is also strange that even after years of not smoking, people can believe that smoking will help them. I have had many clients who told me "I took the first cigarette. It tasted horrible. I felt sick and dizzy. But I kept on with it, until I had started again."

I asked "how did you feel when you stop smoking when you were pregnant?" She said, "I felt that I had to quit, and I resented it. Even though I stopped for 11 years I still resented being made to stop. Especially at the beginning of the pregnancy when my husband did not stop smoking but I had to. I hate it when I cannot do what I want and other people make me do things."

And there was the real reason for smoking. It was also the best indicator of how to go about helping her stop smoking again.

 

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