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Life coach

Life coach may not be what they say they are

Beware of the life coach 

I had a call today from someone asking if I could refer them to a life coach. I had to tell them that I did not know any life coach that I would inflict on anybody. All the ones I had ever met were losers trying to tell other people how to live their lives. There might be genuinely useful ones out there, but I have never met them.

I was once a member of the local Chamber of Commerce and it seemed to me that most of the membership was made up of Life Coaches and Personal Finance Advisors. They appeared to be there for the sole purpose of marketing to each other. It also seemed to me that not one of them knew the slightest bit about what they were talking about. When I asked those 'Life Coaches" how much money they had in the bank, or what kind of car they drove, it was immediately obvious that they were complete amateurs. In fact most them had taken up these 'professions' because they had lost their jobs in the downturn. They had to do something to make money so this seemed like a good way to make a living.

Your Life Coach and the Management Sciences Paradox

It reminds me about what is known as the Management Sciences paradox. This says that the people who go into professions are the ones who should never be in that profession. The basis of the paradox is that people are attracted to study the things they feel weakest about. For example, when I was doing my psychology degree it was clear that most of the students were secretly hoping to find out what they feared what is wrong with them. And in my estimation all of the staff had psychological issues of their own.

People who are chronically disorganized, for example, realize they have a problem and begin to search for ways to not be so disorganized. So they learn more and more about what makes people disorganized and how to be less disorganized. They end up knowing more about disorganization than anyone else, but they are still disorganized. But when it comes to selecting people to teach about disorganization, who gets the job? The person who has studied it most - the person who is in fact fundamentally disorganized.

In this way you end up with Behavioural Scientists who alienate everyone they meet, time managers who are always late, therapists who secretly believe they are no good, and life coaches who are hopeless losers.

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Freudian slip

Freudian slip: Calling your current partner by your ex-partner’s name

 Calling your current partner by your ex-partner's name

Today I saw a client with a Freudian slip. He called his current partner, Rachel, by his ex-partner's name, Rebecca.

A very decent man, he worries deeply about whether he is doing the right thing for his partner. He divorced his wife, Rebecca some years ago. Now he's started a relationship with a new partner, Rachel. Last week they invited a valuer to their home as the first step to setting up a financial basis for their new relationship. David inadvertently introduced his current partner as Rebecca.

Rachel was upset. However, she got over it. Until he did it again the following day. He called her Rebecca again.

Rachel got upset again. She continues to be upset. She has accused David of wanting to reignite the relationship with his ex-wife. She refuses to be consoled. Rachel is now talking about breaking up the relationship.

And to top it all, David called her Rebecca for a third time.

David is distraught. He desperately wants this relationship to work. He will do anything to make it work. But he is now terrified that he is going to use the wrong name again. The very last thing he wants is to have anything to do with his ex-wife. He just cannot understand why her name keeps coming up.

What to do about a Freudian slip?

Most people would just laugh it off. However David isn't that lucky. Rachel has also been through a messy divorce herself. She has little confidence in relationships. She desperately wants this relationship to work but is always looking out for signs that might be another disaster like the last one. So being called the wrong name just confirms this to her.

What is actually happening is the result of a simple psychological process. When David was married to Rebecca he got used to having a woman in his life. That woman was always called "Rebecca". He called her "Rebecca" thousands of times. If there was a woman there, he unconsciously identified her as Rebecca, and use that name. After thousands of repetitions it became automatic.

Getting a divorce does not wipe your mind clean. David is so used to using the word "Rebecca", that when there is a woman nearby that he feels comfortable with, his mind automatically brings up the word "Rebecca". It doesn't mean anything. It is just an unconscious shorthand process. It may actually persist for many years in certain situations. But it still doesn't mean anything, except his mind is taking a shortcut.

Both he and his partner are going to have to dig deep into their store of compassion and understanding to get over this. But it is definitely not grounds for separation.

 

 

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Earliest memory Recall

Earliest memory Recall – How old were you?

Earliest memory Recall

Can you recall your earliest memory? Research suggests that the average age of a single first memory is three and a half years old. The few memories you have from an early age are scattered and unrelated until much older. This has been known for over a century, but still is not appreciated by the general public.

Many people still believe that memory is like a streaming recording. That everything that happens to you, everything you see and hear, is permanently held somewhere in your mind. They think that with the right technique you can recall your earliest memory. This is just not true.

Clients often think their memory is deteriorating, or they worry because they don't remember anything before age six. In particular, people worry that if they don't remember anything from their early childhood, then they must be suppressing something. Something bad must have happened. I have had clients worried that they had been sexually molested. They could not think of any other reason why they had no memories of being that age.

Don't trust your earliest memory recall

The age at which memory becomes more or less continuous varies greatly. Women in general have earlier memories than men. Your chance of having an early memory depends on how startling or emotional the event was. The more dramatic, the more you are likely to recall something, although it may only be a fragment. About one in thirty of people claim to have a memory going back to age one. And about one in thirty have no memories at all before age six or seven, or even eight.

All memory is very plastic, changeable. Research suggests that many memories are in fact false. This applies in particular early memories. For most people, what you think is a genuine memory is actually the result of visualizing what relatives have told you happened, or you manufactured after seeing photographs of the time. Even the real memories that we have are being constantly revised. Almost every time you think of something, you're actually mixing it in with other incidents. You basically remanufacture your memories continuously.

All of these are normal and of no consequence.

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Boxes inside boxes

Boxes inside boxes: a metaphor therapy case

I had another very interesting client today. This client allowed me to get an insight into how the human mind works, and gave very clear metaphors of how she saw her problem.

 This client was a woman in late middle age who had suffered from anxiety most of her life. She came to see me because she is having trouble playing the card game Bridge. She is actually a good and skilled player. But whenever she has to partner with someone she does not know, her game falls apart. She is sure that her new bridge partner will be better than her. My client gets anxious at the thought of what the other person might think about her play. She then worries about this until by the time she gets to the card table she is a nervous wreck, and she plays terribly badly. This therefore fulfils her own prophecy and the whole cycle repeats with the next new player.

Metaphor therapy

 I decided to use metaphor therapy. I got her to take some deep breaths to calm herself. Then I asked her to think about the last bridge game she had when she felt she just could not deal with it. I got her to associate into the feeling. "Think about the shape of the feeling," I told her. "What shape is that feeling?"

She is one of those clients who fidgets a lot, and moves around in the chair. I began to wonder if this method was going to work. Then she surprised me by saying "it's ovalish.". So I asked, "How  big is it?" She guested with her hands to indicate that it was about the size of a dustbin lid. I asked some more clarifying questions and she told me "it's a big piece of coal."

I then started developing the metaphor of the "big piece of coal". She describes in detail has been black and shiny and heavy with lots of sharp angles. I then asked "can you make it a little bit bigger?" "Yes," she said. "And a little bit bigger still?" "Yes," she said. This told me that she actually had some control over it.

I then asked "can you make it a little smaller?" "And a little smaller still?" There was a period of silence until she said "no, it won't get any smaller. It is just getting more dense."

Changing the first mental block

She had now found her subconscious blockage. When a client says they cannot change a metaphor it means that there is something in their unconscious mind which is defending that. This is usually a fear of being unable to handle the change that might come afterwards.

So I changed my approach. I started to suggest to her ways that this thing could change. The idea was to keep suggesting things until I suggested something that her mind would accept. I tried suggesting hammers, drills, crushers, anything that would break up that "piece of coal".

Nothing seemed to work. She steadfastly refused to think of anything that could affect this "piece of coal". I was running out of ideas until remembered that it was actually a piece of coal. Coal burns! So I suggested it might go on fire. She immediately said "No. No, that can't happen."

I wasn't sure what to do next and just waited for her to say something else. And then she said "it could be heated, and give off gas." Somehow, this was acceptable to her mind. I told her to go ahead and heat it.

I then asked her "what is it like now?"

She said "it is grey and porous and quite weak."

I then went back to suggesting hammers, drills et cetera. And while I was going through the list of possible tools she said "It is all dust now."

And I thought to myself "Job done."

So I asked her to think back to the bridge game and the feeling she had about not being good enough for her partner. "How does that seem to you now?"

"Just the same," she said.

Changing the second mental block

Okay… I had seen this behaviour before. Her unconscious mind would not let me anywhere near the real problem. Instead it had offered me some minor metaphor and allowed her to work through that. Her unconscious mind knew that it was safe to change that.  But, it also means that her mind is now receptive to change, because it had experienced some change without any psychological kickback.

So I started the whole process again. I got her to associate back into the original problem, to imagine being in that situation where she was sure that she was going to disappoint the other person and feel embarrassed.

This time I had to work a lot harder to get past her defences. Eventually she told me "there is a big wooden box." Once again I got her to describe the object in detail. She told me that it was "very old, and very strong."

I then set about trying to find ways I could get her to destroy the box. Nothing seemed to work. I sensed that this time was up against a major piece of resistance. I suggested it might go transparent, that it might get wet and rot, it could get eaten by worms and fall apart. None of these produced any response.  

Boxes inside boxes

So I asked "what do you think might be in the box?"

After a long period she said "more boxes. There are more boxes inside."

"How many boxes?"

"There are five boxes", she said. I then got her to describe each of the boxes. She told me "the big one is made of cardboard. Then there's another one made of metal. And one made of glass. And another cardboard one. And a wooden one." It was now obvious from her demeanour, that she had gone deep into trance, and was actually experiencing these things directly.

And then she said "and there are papers, and files scattered around." I did not know quite what to make of that, so I decided to explore the five boxes.

"And what do you think is in those boxes?"

And one by one she began to tell me about the contents of each box. The wooden box contains soil. The glass box contained a red light. The small cardboard box contained a wooden puzzle. The metal box took a long time to uncover. It turned out to be in two sections. The top section has five compartments, and each compartment was filled with a liquid colour. Each colour was different. I asked, "what do you think the are for?" She said, "I don't know."

So I suggested, "perhaps you can make something out of those things?"

She said, "yes, I think I might."

She then said "those papers have all the things I have done wrong in my life written on them. They are all neatly organised into files."

Burning her old anxieties

I took a while to appreciate the startling development.

So I asked her "what would you like to have happen to those papers and files?"

She said "I suppose I could get rid of them?"

I asked her "what would you use to get rid of them?"

She said, " I could use the red light to burn them."

So I encouraged her, "and you can use the red light to burn them all up."

And a lovely smile came over her face. I asked "what's happening in that place now?"

She said, "they are all getting burned up, and I'm putting the ashes in the soil."

The time between her responses got longer and longer. And the smile on her face got broader and broader. She was clearly enjoying burning up all her old mistakes.

The time between responses got so long, that I went off and made a cup of tea.

When I came back she was sitting there with her eyes open, smiling.

She said, "I didn't want to come back. I was having such a good time playing with the red light and I can still feel it swirling around me."

I asked her, "And what about that old feeling of not being good enough?"

And she said, "well, actually I think it's gone."

 

I finished the session then. I felt that she had undergone a profound change

And on the way out she said, "I'm looking forward to finding what's in the other compartment of that metal box."

 

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not who you think you are

You are not who you think you are

We can all remember ourselves as children. Most of us think that we are still essentially the same as we were then. This is part of a basic belief that we all stay pretty much the same person all through life.

Not who you think you are: different beliefs

There are other beliefs which disagree with this view. Buddhists in particular, believe that the "personality is an illusion." The Buddhist philosophy believes that we all change constantly, and that our belief that things stay the same is wrong.
It is well known that our body replaces all of its cells many many times in our life time. Some cells are replaced in a matter of days, some cells survive for years before finally being replaced. Even if you stay the same weight and height, there is a constant turnover of the physical matter that makes you up.

Science is now beginning to discover that is not just your body that changes. Your mind, your thoughts, your ideas, your beliefs, – they all change too. How you think can be changed by meditation. The basic functioning of your own unconscious mind can also be changed.

The evidence

A recent study compared the personality of a set of schoolchildren measured in 1950 with those same schoolchildren 63 years later. The study found no correlation between how teachers assessed the children's personality at the time, and how close friends assess their personality now. It appears that every one of these children had changed their personality over their lifetime. Other studies have suggested that for shorter periods, tens of years, your personality stays pretty constant. But this study shows exactly the opposite.

I'm sure that we are all familiar with meeting an old school friend after many years, and being amazed at how much they had changed. Well, it seems that the same applies to you.

Source:
Harris, et al. Personality Stability From Age 14 to Age 77 Years. Psychology and Aging. 2016 Dec; 31(8): 862–874. doi: 10.1037/pag0000133

 

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dealing with death

How to help someone dealing with death

Most people just don't know what to do around death.

Dealing with death is difficult. You want to help, but don't know what to do. Many people feel very uncomfortable when someone they know has a close friend or relative die. It is hard to know what to do or say. You don't want to make things worse by bringing it up, and at the same time you don't want them to think you're insensitive. The trouble is that no one ever tells you how to deal with it. It's something that we just don't talk about.

The first thing to realise is that the person involved already knows. You cannot make it worse by mentioning it. You cannot help them without acknowledging their loss. What you need to do, in every case, is to let the person know that you share their loss. Empathy, not sympathy.

Let them know you care

It can be very tempting to just pretend that it didn't happen. To just not talk to the person. This is the worst thing that you can do. What the grieving person needs is for lots of people to reach out to them. You don't have to be highly skilled are particularly empathetic. You just need to let them know that the person they lost was also important to other people.

The best thing you can do is to listen. Let them talk, and just listen. Do not offer advice. Don't tell them "it will pass". Do not tell them stories about how it also happened to you. Really listen. Hear their grief and acknowledge it. Many people are too busy thinking about what they are going to say in return to really hear what's being said. Talk about your memories of the dead person, share what you have in common. And don't sanitize the dead person. Talk about their faults as well as their virtues. Let the listener know they were a real person in your life.

Do something practical

It is always better to do something than to do nothing. The second best thing you can do is to help the person in practical ways. If they are not coping well, offer to cook a meal. Or to look after the kids for a night. Ask if you can do the ironing. Maybe suggest you go out for a walk at the weekend. Show the person you care by doing something useful for them.

The third thing to do is to be there for them. Even if you feel deeply embarrassed, do not just disappear. How are you going to rebuild a friendship, if you just dropped out of sight the moment they really needed some help? Call the person, visit the person, let them know that you are there if they want to call you day or night. Let them know that you are a resource, a friend.

Invest in a long-term friendship

And be a continuing friend. If you know they're still grieving long after the event, then don't be afraid to reach out on the anniversary. Being person may feel very down at that point, and your offer of friendship and company can make a difference.

But whatever you do, just be there for them.

 

 

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Hypnosis marketing

Hypnosis marketing – packaging or contents?

I was looking at some really slick hypnosis marketing recently on the Internet. It is a hypnosis based service to stop smoking. It looks very professionally done and is franchised through many local hypnotists. The benefits to the hypnotist are obvious. A small local hypnotist is able to on-sell a professionally made stop smoking service. And presumably they get a commission from hosting the advert or recommending it to their clients.

I have no doubt that it works for some people. I have no doubt that doing it this way is much cheaper than going to a professional hypnotherapist. And it is a good thing that smokers are able to get some cut-price help.

What I do wonder about however, is whether the marketing gets more thought than the therapy. This particular service offers a ten step program. The smoker downloads ten audio hypnosis recordings and listens to them over a period of weeks.

Why a ten step program? Why not six or eleven or some other number? What is so special about ten?

It seems to me highly unlikely that purely by chance stopping smoking requires ten separate stages. Or ten separate things to address. And yet, it is very common for all sorts of therapies to be packaged in this way. I think it is much more likely that the people selling such therapy packages are looking for something catchy to use in their marketing. The number of steps has absolutely nothing to do with what is needed to produce the result.

To me, this suggests that the therapy is being twisted to fit the marketing, and not the other way round. If the therapy actually requires six steps or nine steps or some other number, then the package must contain unnecessary padding. Or the actual requirements are being thinned out and possibly are less effective.

I am always suspicious of any over-neat package of anything to do with human psychology. Human beings just don’t fit into nice square boxes.

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Smoking blindness

Smoking blindness

My local health district has proudly announced a new smoke-free effort to help people to cut down smoking. It is the result of years of planning and the combined efforts of seven area health boards. The initiative is "employing expert staff dedicated to helping people across the regions to become Smokefree".

The new service offers face-to-face coaching and 24-hour phone support. "The quick coaches will support you through a six-week program and provide free nicotine patches, lozenges and/or gum."
The service is embracing all the latest in technology. As well as weekly face-to-face meetings, they are using texting, videoing, Skyping, and emails to keep constantly in touch with the smokers. And it costs nothing. People wanting to quit get any combination of nicotine replacement therapy patches, nicotine gum, and lozenges free and unlimited.
The government has said publicly that it intends to make the whole country smoke-free by 2025. This initiative is part of that policy. And I applaud anything that is being done to help people stop smoking.

Smoking Blindness

However, this looks like another case of smoking blindness. Everything in this new initiative is based on a model of smoking which regards smoking as a purely physical or biomedical affliction. This reflects the widespread view in medicine that smoking is the result of physical addiction. If you believe that smoking is the result of addiction to tobacco then of course the correct response is to help eliminate the addiction. This is done with pharmaceuticals and encouragement. In my view this is just official smoking blindness.

It is surprising to me that this entire multimillion dollar initiative seems to give no weight at all to the psychological side of smoking. Hypnotherapy is very successful at stopping smoking. It does not use pharmaceuticals, and does not offer ongoing multiweek support. This is because you don't need them.

Smoking is at least as much about the psychology of the smoker as it is about the physical side. In fact I believe that smoking is almost entirely a psychological issue. It is rather disheartening to see yet another instance of smoking blindness by the medical profession. I wish the initiative well, but I really think that they are working on a flawed model.

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anxiety making ill

Is anxiety making you ill?

Anxiety doesn’t just affect the mind

Does worry cause physical illness?

Is anxiety making you ill? Anxiety is linked to physical illness. Recent research has shown that anxiety doesn’t just affect the mind, it may also make you physically ill. To be specific, anxiety is associated more than would be expected with a wide range of physical health problems.

The DSM lists several common types of anxiety disorder: general anxiety disorder, social anxiety, panic attacks, simple phobias, OCD and PTSD. It is not surprising that anxiety is the most common problem presented to hypnotherapists.

A recently published review of 48 high-quality academic research articles has confirmed that anxiety is the most common psychological problem. Around 4% of people experience some sort of anxiety disorder. Women are twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder than men. Surprisingly, young people are more affected than older groups.

Common anxiety types

The most common form of anxiety reported was generalised anxiety order (GAD). Other common forms found were simple phobias, and the least common was full panic disorder. People with long-term health conditions such as cancer, heart problems, heart and lung diseases all show a consistently high level of anxiety. It is not clear which one causes the other, but anxiety is almost always present.

Anxiety is also very common with some mental health conditions, particularly bipolar depression and schizophrenia. Anxiety is also commonly found with various types of addictions, such as substance abuse, uncontrollable gambling and various types of obsessions.

The review found that people with an anxiety disorder are at increased risk for the development of other anxiety and mood disorders. Anxiety is also a predictor of addictive behaviour.

This backs up the assertions by many hypnotherapists that teaching people how to reduce their own  anxiety by self-hypnosis can have a positive effect on the quality of life.

 

Source:

O. Remes, C. Brayne, R. van der Linde, L. Lafortune. A systematic review of reviews on the prevalence of anxiety disorders in adult populations, Brain and Behavior, 2016; 6(7). doi: 10.1002/brb3.497

 

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Surprise Easter egg

A surprise Easter egg

I had a client today who reminded me of the deep and complex psychology that our clients bring to us. When I went looking for the origin of this client's problems, I had no idea what I would find. This one brought me a surprise Easter egg.

This client came to me several months ago, and at that time I treated her for the anxiety she felt during meetings at work. She felt unable to speak up and was afraid of conflict. She said that she felt a tremendous change after the last session and felt it was time to change some more.

I asked what her problem was today, and she said that she has a knot of anxiety in her stomach all the time. Her constant anxiety means she overeats and drinks too much to deal with the stress inside her. She also eats too much when she is "bored".

Visualising the problem

The problem seemed simple enough. I got her to close her eyes and become aware of the feeling inside her body. She identified it quite easily and said that it was located in her abdomen. I asked to describe what it seemed like. To my surprise he said it is like a huge oblong egg. I asked her to describe it and she told me that it had a shell, with a mottled black and dusky gold surface.

When I asked her to describe it in more detail it told me that it was womblike, that there was something like a foetus inside it. This really surprised me. I have never come across anything like this before. It clearly had deep significance to her. It is not often that a client gives you such a powerful and direct metaphor.

Chair therapy

I decided that the best therapeutic technique would be to use the Chair method. I told her to imagine a chair in front of her. Then I told her to imagine taking that egg and placing it in the chair. She said she had done that:that was the most critical part of the therapy done.

I then told her to just regard it. Look at it, be curious about it, to think about what she felt about it. She said there was something inside it. I asked her what she thought it was, and she told me that the thing inside was the true essence of her. She felt that this thing inside the egg shell had been trying to get out for a very long time.

Breaking open the surprise Easter egg

The next job than for me was to help get this thing out of the shell. I told her to imagine leaning forward and putting her hands on the shell. Then I suggested that the contact of her hands would begin to transmit heat into the egg. I asked her what the thing inside the egg wanted. She told me that it wanted to come out.

I then asked what was happening in the egg, and she said that it was now warm inside. Then I told her to move her hands around on the surface of the egg to see if thing inside would begin to follow the movement. After some time she said that it was moving and that it was ready. I told her to move her hands closer together at one point in the egg and to leave a space between them. I suggested that between her hands she would begin to feel bumps and tremors and little cracks begin. Quite quickly she said that yes it's happening. Then with out any more input from me she said "it's out".

Keep the change

At this point there were tears in her eyes, so I decided to consolidate the experience. I told her to take this thing (and at no point did I ask her to describe it) and hold it the way she would hold a new baby. I told her to love this thing and allow it to love her, to open herself up to it, to allow it into her body.

This brought more tears, and I spent some time getting her to take it into her body, to feel it spreading to every part of her.

She needed to have this change impressed into her unconscious mind so I did a kinaesthetic confirmation. This consisted of suggesting to her that she send a message of gratitude to her own mind for having allowed this to happen.  I suggested that she might get a message back. I told her to focus attention on her hands, and that she might feel a need, a compulsion to move a finger or perhaps the hand would move. She got a motor response in her hand. I told her that that was her guarantee that her mind had heard and would be applying the changes.

Visualise the outcome

I finished the session with lots of suggestions of her new ability to stand up for herself in meetings, ( the original thing she came for) and that she would no longer have any problems with eating or drinking.

She came out of the session saying that she felt completely changed. She said "I feel like I can do anything today".

I gently suggested that she would feel like that every day from now on.

 

 

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