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Who do you blame when things go wrong?

Why blame yourself?

Most people blame themselves for everything that goes wrong. It is a very human tendency. Your client can describe in great detail everything they do wrong. But they seldom consider whether their failings are actually their fault. Maybe the problem belongs to someone else? 

I sometimes wonder if there any need to diagnose the client at all. With some clients you can almost predict what their problem is from examining their family.  I had a client today who told me about her alcoholic mother, a father who was away at sea for one month on and one month off. And a brother with a temper problem and alcoholic binges, a sister with a permanent negative attitude to everything, and a grandmother who was strict religious.

People tend to personalize their failings

You could predict that she would be withdrawn, lonely, depressive. And of course she was. The problem she had was  lack of motivation and a life long history of weight problems. She told me that she never seems to be able to keep the weight off. She sabotages herself constantly, has relationship issues, her life is a mess. And it's all her fault. 

The strange thing is, that even with that cast of characters in her background, she still blames herself and personal weakness for her condition. I have endless sympathy for people brought up in disfunctional families ( I am one myself). But I never understand how people invariably see the problem as a personal one, and not a family one. They should consider whether their problems might be from something done to them, not something they have done?

Maybe therapists should get family health training?

I wonder if the curriculum of hypnotherapy training shouldn't include sections on recognizing the origins of disorders. Not just how to treat the symptoms.  Lessons in how to correlate clinical problems with family situations. That would be a major aid to accurate diagnosis and targeted treatment, in my opinion.

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can be hypnotized

How do you know if your client can be hypnotized?

How do you know if your client can be hypnotized?

Previous experience

There are questions that you can ask to establish whether or not your client can be hypnotized or not.

The first question to ask is "Have you ever been hypnotized?". I find that quite a high proportion of people who come to me for hypnosis have already had some experience of hypnosis. Some will have been hypnotized at a stage show. Others may have consulted a hypnotherapist at some point in the past.

It is always useful to ask "and how did that go?". Very often my client will say "I don't think I was hypnotized". This opens up the way to a discussion about what the client expects from hypnosis, and why it didn't work at the time.

If the client has been successfully hypnotized in the past it is often useful to ask "What induction method did the other hypnotist use?".  The answers are always interesting, and may give you some pointers as to which method to use.

Establish their expectations about if they can be hypnotized

You can also ask "do you think you'll be easy to hypnotize?". A "Yes" answer suggests that you should go straight on with your simplest induction. A "No" answer should lead to a discussion of why the client feels that way. It will very often bring out one or more false beliefs about hypnosis. Clearing these away will make your induction much easier. Then you can ask questions about how close they are to their subconscious anyway.

Establish how open they are to their own subconscious

If the client has never been hypnotized, then there are several ways to establish how susceptible they will be.

  1. Are you the kind of person who daydreams?
  2. Have you sometimes driven home, and realize you can't remember anything about the journey?
  3. Do you find that you can lose yourself in a book, or a computer game, or a movie, and forget about time and everything else?
  4. Do you often find yourself thinking in pictures instead of in words?
  5. When someone is talking to you, or you're watching TV, do you sometimes "zone out" and you can't remember what they said?
  6. Do certain events trigger vivid memories for you? So strong you feel like you're there?

A "yes" answer to most of these will indicate that you have a client who is highly susceptible.

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hypnosis conversation

Hypnosis Conversation in trance

I recently finished a script about Fear of Sexual Intercourse. As usual I got someone to look it over to check for typos and bad logic. They could not work out where the 'yes' and 'OK' were coming from until I used different colors to identify who was speaking.

You need Hypnosis Conversation to succeed

I was suddenly struck by the fact that in all thousands of hypnosis scripts I have read, only a handful have any interaction with the client. Almost never is there any conversation in trace with the client. In virtually all of the scripts I have seen, there is no hypnosis conversation, the only talking done is by the therapist. I think that in therapy, the client is the one with all the answers. If you need to know what is going wrong and why, you must have a hypnosis conversation with the client. If you don't interact with the client, if you are not getting the client talking back to you, you are wasting the main resource you have. Using a one-size-fits-all approach based on scripts will only produce second best results. I remember when I was beginning to do hypnosis I felt very uneasy. Part of me was afraid of asking for a reply and not getting one. The other part of knew that there was no other way to know what they were experiencing, and I had to ask.

The advantages of Hypnosis Conversation

I soon got into the habit of asking for confirmation of trance. Then I started asking them what they felt. Finally, I was able to have a full in hypnosis conversation about what was going on in their minds. Conversing with their unconscious minds later enabled me to understand Clean Language skills and to develop some expertise in metaphor.

But it does seem to me that too many hypnotherapists keep on talking at their client, instead of having a hypnosis conversation with their client. If you do all the talking, you will have no way of knowing how effective your words are, or what the client is actually getting from it. I suspect that many new hypnotists are too afraid ask, just in case the client isn't really in trance. And then get into the habit of one-way hypnosis.

The best way to check how you are doing is to have an in-trance hypnosis conversation.

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hypnosis 100% success

Hypnosis 100% success

Who get hypnosis 100% success?

It was originally believed that anyone could be hypnotized, and then that only a few could be, and later most could be, and to today we are back to thinking that everyone can be. But how realistic is that? Who gets hypnosis 100% success rate?

The first issue has be - what do we mean by 'everybody'?

The original Stanford Hypnotizability Scales were mostly used on students. They sat student volunteers in a chair and played the same taped induction to all of them. Some were hypnotized, some fell asleep, some thought about their lunch... and from this it was concluded that only a third of people can be hypnotized. Not very good science in my view.

As far as hypnotherapists are concerned, it really doesn't matter whether the general public can be hypnotized or not. What is important is whether the people who come to our offices are getting hypnotized. The people who come into my office have self selected. They expect to get hypnotized, they are happy to be hypnotized, they have come precisely for that reason.

Can your clients be hypnotized?

The question then is 'Can the people who expect and want to be hypnotized, be hypnotized'? The Stanford type experiments insisted that every person be treated exactly the same, which is why the inductions were done in the same chair, in the same room, with the same taped message. In our offices we have no such restriction, so we should get 100% success.

And in fact I find that I do get almost 100% success. I certainly don't expect any client not to go into trance, and I test each one to be sure that they are actually in trance. It might take me several goes at it, and I might have to try several different styles of induction before I get a result, but hypnosis what they want, and hypnosis is what I try to give them.

Clients who can't be hypnotized

However there are a few clients who I just cannot get into trance. I am talking here about maybe two or three a year. With some of these I have tried for up to three hours, and still never got them into trance. The common factor seems to be a terrible deep seated anxiety. Some of them have depression, but most are just hyper anxious. They tell me that they can feel themselves going into trance, but then panic and snap back out of it again. Even with instant inductions such people go into trance for a fraction of time and then snap back into control.

At the moment, my strategy is to give such clients three CDs to listen to in their own time. By playing them over and over, at some point they drop their guard and the next thing they remember is my voice counting them out, and they realise that they actually were in trance. After that they can go into trance as easily as anyone else. But I would like to find a better way of getting to them, so that I can have that elusive 100% success.

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Google Diagnosis

Google Diagnosis

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

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

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

Don't do Google Diagnosis

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

We then sorted out a plan for him.

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

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

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

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Should a therapist be crying?

Is it unprofessional to be crying during a session?  It is quite normal for clients to cry. In fact I regard it as a help to diagnosis. It is a sign that the client's emotions must be near the surface. It makes it easier to find the right feeling to use when doing regression therapy. However therapists cry as well. A recent academic article has looked into the issue of therapists getting emotional during therapy. The article reported more than half the therapists in the study admitted becoming emotional with a client at some time in the previous four weeks. 

Is detachment good?

When I started out in this business I was as damaged as any of my clients. I frequently heard stuff that echoed my own upbringing. I could listen to it with detachment, but I think the similarity to my own experience helped me understand and empathize more.

Listening was no problem. Using  a script of mostly direct suggestion was no problem either. But when it came to delivering a metaphor for an individual client, the closer it was to my own issues the more it resonated with me. The result was that I found myself getting emotional along with the client.

Empathizing with your client

I was quite startled by this at first, but I later realized that it was doing me good. And it if was doing me good then it was probably doing good for the client as well. Then I deliberately started writing metaphors that would cause me to cry, because that way I knew they were good powerful metaphors. By listening to my own emotions I got better at dealing with other people's emotions.

As I got more experienced I realized that in order to get into the client's mind, I first had to imagine what they were feeling. To get real empathy, I had to generate that same feeling in myself.  Once I had the feeling I would allow my mind to open up to whatever visualizations I felt might work for me. As the session progressed, I turned those visualizations into a continuous metaphor.  I described the images I was experiencing internally and just allowed whatever actions and events that wanted to happen, to happen. The metaphor wrote itself. Since I had to imagine the images and actions in my mind first, of course my mind was being affected by them  at the same time as the client's mind was being affected. This set up a feedback loop. The more I got into the client's feeling, the more focused the metaphor became. The better the metaphor, the more emotion it generated and that changed the metaphor to fit better.

Crying develops empathy

As I progressed, by fixing other people's problems in this way, I fixed more and more of own problems. Nowadays I no longer feel that same raw emotion to the same extent. But I think that I do in fact come close to tears with more clients, rather than fewer. Healing myself has allowed me open up to other people, to get more empathy with them.   I now feel the sadness of an abusive childhood probably more keenly than I ever did years ago.

In the study, only one percent of therapists thought that they had disadvantaged their clients by showing emotion. In my case I only get emotional after the client is in trance, and so the client does not see me, since they have their eyes closed by that point.

But I often remark to them  afterwards that they were not the only ones crying during that session. I think that the client appreciates sincere emotional contact.

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healthy body healthy mind

Healthy Body Healthy Mind

The health benefits of exercise are being demonstrated in more and more new research studies: Healthy body healthy mind. However it often difficult to get clients to be motivated to exercise, so some researchers are offering advice on that as well:

1. Get the client to compare their current level of exercise with what they used to do, to emphasize how it has changed.

2. Talk about the evidence that exercise can help with their problem, and show that exercise should be regarded as one part of their overall treatment.

3. Talk about how exercise shaped the health of their ancestors, that human beings were designed to work hard and be in constant motion, and that our current lifestyle is one of the things affecting their health.

4. Make it very clear that you expect them to start exercising more, and get them to commit to doing some specific exercise.

5. Encourage the client to identify what type of exercise will fit into their life style./Don't recommend a specific method. Point out that they can do simple things like walking and gardening to help get fitter.

6. Show them how to use motivational tools such as exercise diaries, goal setting.

7. Explain what resources are available from their local community, how to join groups such as cycle clubs and weight watchers.

8. Give clear instructions as to how much exercise they need. The usual recommendation is between half and hour and an hour a day, at least three times a week. However, not to take on too much too soon.

9. Discuss the benefits of aerobic and strength training.

10. Help the client to realise that exercise is not an all or nothing thing. Getting fit is a process, not an end, and they should expect some setbacks, and teach them how to deal with them.

I think that all therapists need to start treating the whole person.

A healthy body helps to ensure a healthy mind.

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what they don't want

It’s what they don’t want that is important

I had a question from a hypnotherapist:

What do you recommend would be the best script to use for Career Goal Attraction and also, the same client opening themselves to Attracting a new boyfriend, or girlfriend.

Whenever a client comes with a problem, the therapist really needs to think about what the client is asking for, and why? What they ask for is not always what they need. The therapist always should consider the other side of the coin. It is often a case not of what they want, but what they don't want. 

People want to lose weight, but never stop to ask why they have to eat. People smoke, but don't ask themselves what they get from it. Every behavior has a reason. No behavior in a normal person is random. And very often, the behavior is a reaction to that reason, without ever having the courage to tackle the reason head-on.

You have to get the client to ask themselves 'what is it that is stopping you having what you want?', and work on that.

In this case, the client wants to be open to attracting a romantic partner. The right question is therefore: "what do you think is stopping you?" You cannot influence the actions of others, you can only change your own actions. And what your actions will be depend on how you feel about yourself. How you feel about yourself depends on your own beliefs about who you are. 

Therefore the therapist should focus on investigating what the client is afraid of, what they think is wrong with them. In almost every case it will be quite clear: lack of self esteem, lack of confidence, or long term anxiety.

The correct approach would therefore be based on the script that most closely matches their particular circumstances.

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Hypervigilant client

I had an interesting client today with Hypervigilance. Even though I have done thousands of hypnotherapy  sessions I find there is always something new to learn.

This client was a man in his late twenties. He said "I lack the confidence to assert myself. My wife says I always gives in too easily. It is costing me salary and promotion. I just cannot stand up for myself". In the interview I learned that he will do anything to avoid aggression. He feels he has to keep people happy and never put forward his own views in case he causes aggression. He has to tell people what he thinks they want to hear.

It was obvious that he was afraid of confrontation but I couldn't find anything in his life that caused him to want to avoid aggression. Like many people he feared rejection and wants to be liked. But I noticed that every time I asked him about how he feels, he tells me what he thinks. This is the typical behaviour of the over-analytical person.

Symptoms of hypervigilance

One probing further I found that he has many symptoms of hypervigilance. Hypervigilance starts when a child feels that their environment is unpredictable and they become afraid of what is happening to them. The child then withdraws and puts up barriers to intimacy. The child's reasoning is that if they don't feel anything they can't be hurt. This client confirmed that he has no real feelings about anyone.

The client said he felt that he had a shell around him. That is the cue to start using a metaphor therapy technique. When I started with this client it did not work. He would not open up to his emotion. Instead he kept talking about what he thought of it.

Hypervigilant clients are hard to hypnotize because they analyse everything you say to them. Instead of reacting to your suggestions, they analyse the structure of the sentences or wonder about why you used that particular word. They are so busy analysing that you can't get through their defences.

Hypnotizing Hypervigilance

I thought that he would be hard to hypnotize and he agreed.
So I started the session with a rapid induction, he started smiling, and the impression I got was that he was feeling the induction but refusing to follow what his body was telling him. I then did a breathing induction and to my surprise his head started to nod, an indication of trance. I then did a deepener with a staircase induction, and he was in trance. Surprised me greatly. Tested with eye catalepsy. Worked.

So I learned that this hypervigilant client, at least, could be hypnotised. I think the key to it was using a kinesthetic induction to get him to focus on a feeling he had never before noticed, the feeling of the air inside his head as he breathed in.

The therapy was a long metaphor session.

Did the standard RIVERWALK with embelishments.
When he was looking at the town he saw someone like him at a table with friends doing all the things he wanted to do.
Had people following along the other bank.
Had him and his wife walking towards the town. Started with everything around stale and tired.
Then the little bridge where he says aloud what his problem is.

good session. What I learned from this is that even a therapy I have used many times can still surprise me. My own unconscious mind came up with a new twist to suit this particular client.

So what I ended up with is a new way of treating lack of confidence.

The power of the unconscious mind never ceases to amaze.

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Client won't give up control

Client won’t give up control

Client won't give up control

I had what I think must be my most difficult client the other day.

She was a young woman who came in because she has a fear of injections. However, that was only one of her multiple problems. She also has a fear that she will stop breathing when she is going to sleep. She has fear of losing control, she wants to have things remain the same, and hates change. For example rearranging the furniture at home sends her into a frenzy and she must move it back again. She is never on time and never seems to be able to get things finished on time.

All of these symptoms suggest someone with a touch of OCD. It seemed to me that these are all aspects of a collusive disorder. However, I am not a psychiatrist so I just deal with what is presented to me.

Why go to a hypnotist, if you don't want hypnosis?

She seemed very nervous, so I tried to create rapport and establish a common ground. Eventually she relaxed enough  to let down her guard and chatted in a friendly way until I brought up the idea of hypnosis. She was absolutely dead against it. She said she could never give up control and did not want to be hypnotized. I explained that hypnosis was natural and normal and that she went into hypnosis several times a day, and gave her examples of daydreaming etc. She agreed that she did all these things but still would not try formal hypnosis.

I explained what metaphor therapy was and she agreed that she could do that. So I moved her to the big comfy chair and said 'This is not hypnosis, I am just going to ask you to breathe.' This brought out an instant opposition. She was not going to focus on breathing because it would remind her of sleeping and the fear of stopping breathing. Ok, I said "just close your eyes". Again total opposition, not going to close her eyes, because it would be like losing control.

Progressing when the Client won't give up control

I then tried a simple relaxation routine. I asked her to raise her hands then then slowly let them down and feel the body relaxing as they are lowered.

Lowering her hands six inches took about five minutes. She was totally reluctant to do any thing that would make her relax because of the loss of control. So I abandoned that idea. I then asked her to imagine that her arms and legs were so tired that she couldn't move them. She said 'Oh yes, I know what that is like. I don't like it.' So that was out.

I then tried a progressive relaxation. I had her lift up her shoulders and let them slump. Then tense her arms and let go the tension. This generated lots of giggles, but eventually I persuaded her to tense and release her chest, tummy, hips etc all the way down to her feet. She was a bit less tense by the end, so I did it again. And after a third time she agreed that she did feel less tense, and would like to do the metaphor engineering to get rid of the needle phobia.

"Close your eyes." She still couldn't close her eyes. I therefore tried the oldest hypnotic trick in the book, a eye fixation induction. I told to keep relaxed in her body, but to fix her gaze on a spot somewhere. Then I did a long, gradual series of suggestions that her eyes were getting heavy and her eyelids wanted to close. This took so long that by the end,  my eyelids wanted to close! This was hard work.

How to give up control

Eventually she started flickering her eyelids. I then developed the safe place induction: imagine lying in some comfortable place etc. Her eyes finally closed and I could get on with the therapy.

I started with the therapy, and asked her to get the feeling she gets when she thinks about the needle. As might be predicted, even fully relaxed and with her eyes closed, she said could not get the feeling. More suggestions about relaxing and eventually she said that she could feel it. I was able to make some progress on the phobia and she agreed that it had been cleared.

I then gave her some general suggestions to help with the intrusive thoughts of the OCD pattern and brought her out. And the first thing she said was 'I just felt tired, that's why I had my eyes closed, it wasn't anything you did.'

I cannot recall ever having a client who was so unable to give up control.


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