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afterwardsness

Afterwardsness Nachträglichkeit Deferred action

Afterwardsness and increased significance

When dealing with Fear of Flying, the fear is never really about the aircraft, or the actual flying. Most people with Fear of Flying only get the problem after they have flown many times. What happens is that something happens on a particular flight that frightens you. It might be sudden turbulence, or engine noise, or even something disturbing that you read on the flight. Whatever the cause, your unconscious mind searches for something like that feeling. You are searching for an older feeling so that your mind can know what to do immediately. But instead of finding a solution, your memory finds an old fear that was never dealt with. This intensifies the original fear, and links that original fear to flying. The psychology term for this is Afterwardsness.

Increasing that old fear

Seeking for a matching memory sometimes increases the perceived importance or intensity of that original memory. If you are afraid of flying, then every time you re-activate the memory trace, you also make the original memory more frightening. So your current fear of flying becomes more frightening. This process feeds on itself until it can become quite overwhelming.

This mechanism has been known for a long time. Sigmund Freud called it Nachträglichkeit. In English this becomes  'afterwardsness' or 'deferred action'. He refers to it many times when discussing the theory of psychoanalysis. He believed that memory traces are revised after the fact in response to fresh experiences. The second event gives extra meaning to original event. It becomes more meaningful than it originally was.

The problem of course is that you cannot consciously recall the original event. So you are left puzzling why something today is giving you severe anxiety. This explains the underlying cause of most phobias.

In a wider sense, every time you think about something it gets stronger.

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paranormal beliefs

Paranormal beliefs in hypnotherapy

Paranormal beliefs

What do you do when you meet a client with strong paranormal beliefs? My policy has always been to accept the client's beliefs as real and valid and work with them. For example, a client might come to me to me and say that they believe that their current problems are because of what they did in a past life. In that case I'm quite willing to accept their beliefs. And even tell them that I agree with the belief. I will then go on with past life regression. My job is to  help to identify whatever is bothering them, in a way that is acceptable to them.

A client who wants to find a lost object is entitled to get help if they believe that hypnosis will reveal its location. A client who believes that they have lost memories and want to recover them should not be prevented by my personal beliefs.

Similarly, a client might tell me that they have a close and personal relationship with Jesus.  And Jesus is telling them what to do. As long as it's not a danger to anyone else, I am happy to work within any psychological framework.

What is a delusion?

It seems to me that a great deal of what is presented to therapists as "delusions" are simply a metaphoric way of speaking about normal, real things. If someone tells me that they feel that they have a spiritual guide, I have no problem accepting that is being just a way of talking about intuition. The fact that this particular spiritual guide appears as an Indian chief, I don't think that changes the basic situation. If people tell me they get messages from the "other side", again I am happy to interpret this as their understanding of the messages from their own unconscious mind. An over rigid insistence on scientific, logical thinking can often get in the way of good therapy.

What is acceptable?

This is not to say that psychosis is not real. People do have schizophrenia, and paranoia, and all the other mental disorders that humans are subject to. I do not believe that joining people in their psychoses is going to help them at all. We all have to recognize our own limitations of competence. We should refer on as soon as we feel that there is something outside our own approved skill set.

I once had a client tell me that he was hearing voices. These voices were telling him to kill his girlfriend. In that instance I immediately stopped the session and referred him to a psychiatrist.

So I accept that other people do have paranormal beliefs. And I believe it is not up to me to decide what they should or should not believe. There is a very broad spectrum of what is acceptable in human thought and behavior. We owe it to our clients to work with whatever they bring to us.

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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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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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find past lives

Why people can’t find past lives

My reason for wanting to visit you is that I am interested in my past life regression (if any) and a stronger connection/understanding of Higher Power and Spiritual awareness.

This client seemed quite bubbly and outgoing. She was very well dressed. Actually dressed very young. I was much surprised later when she said that she was 50 years old. I got the impression later that it was all a façade.

She put out this image of being up, and alert, and outgoing but in fact she felt quite differently inside. She feels disconnected from everything and everybody. That longing for connection is why she thought it might be good to find past lives.

Hypnosis Childhood Regression

I was not at all sure that she was a candidate for past life regression. Nothing in what she told me about herself and her feelings seem to have anything to do with the standard past life regression requests.

I decided to do the regression with her anyway. I took her into trance using a walk along a river. "You will find something significant from your younger life that has a bearing on what you are feeling today." After a long time, she told me that she was seeing a horse.

I questioned her about the horse. It was a horse that her parents had given her. I asked her how she felt about the horse, did she love the horse? "No, I just feel confused". She had no idea what to do with the horse. She could not ride it, she knew nothing about horses.

When she had been given this horse all she felt was confusion. Her parents had taken down to this place in the country and just said to her "this is your horse". No preparation, no training, no nothing. Apparently this was quite typical of her upbringing. Her parents really were quite clueless about children. Her parents were very cold and distant people.

Regression to past life

I tried to take her back to a time before this present life. She told me she was getting nothing, feeling nothing. I pressed on with finding a life.

Still nothing. Then I asked her what she was feeling. She told me she felt small and lonely. I used that feeling to start an Inner Child therapy. But part way through she said "I am not seeing any child" so I stopped that and deepened her again.
Since she was already in trance I decided to try to work on her feeling of loss of connection.

Parts therapy

I took her to a place where she was floating in a void. In that place a Presence told her that it was the part of her that controlled all the other parts. It showed her the part of her that was causing the connection problems.  She visualized getting other parts of her to repair the damaged part that could not connect.  She was able to repair the part of her that was causing the connection problems.
I then brought her out of trance we talked about her experience for a while.

Holding on to control

She described how as she was going into trance she felt herself constantly fighting against what I was saying. This matched what I observed as I was inducing her. I led her into trace with my standard induction of  Breathing, Favorite place, Stairs. She seemed very susceptible, except that she was one of those people who keep moving around. After the stairs induction  I always test with an eye catalepsy. I suggested that she could not open her eyes, and then suggested that she test it. She was unable to open her eyes. But about 10 seconds later she did briefly open her eyes then close them again.

I then decided to make absolutely sure she was in trance, so I did a beach induction. I asked her to imagine lying on a beach somewhere comfortable, relaxed, nothing to do. Then I asked her to focus on the waves rolling up the beach and back down again. I suggested that as the waves pulled away she felt herself being pulled with them. But every wave was taking her deeper and deeper.

She told me that as I was saying that she could feel herself being pulled down by the waves but was frantically clawing back up again all the time I was talking to her. I then do the vanishing numbers induction and she did finally go into trance. She clearly does not like giving up control.

The real reason for lack of connection

Then I started asking about her own feelings. I asked her "would you say your mind is always busy?" She said, "oh yes".
I showed her the anxiety questionnaire and she agreed that she was all over it. I suggested to her that her feeling of disconnection was much more likely due to a mild form of depression, rather than having anything to do with a past life. I asked her "would your mother be on that list of symptoms?". At that point she told me "I was adopted".

We then talked about her relationships with her brother and the couple who brought them up. She said that she always felt quite distant as a child. I explained that this was a symptom of dysthymia. We then spent 30 minutes talking about how depression affects her.

Why people can't find past lives

I think that the undiagnosed depression completely explains her feelings of not belonging anywhere. It also explains her need to never give up control.

I have done quite a few past life regression is recently. Comparing my notes on each of them, I have come to the tentative conclusion that people who have no past life, or at least are not willing to allow themselves to submit to the idea of a past life, are actually people who are trying to keep control of their own consciousness. Their desire to stay in control is incompatible with letting go enough to experience past lives.

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super visualizer

Are you a super visualizer?

Are you a super visualizer?

This month's edition of Scientific American Mind deals with something which might be of interest to hypnotherapists. Recent research has shown that about 2% of the population are unable to visualize anything. When you ask them to recall say, what they had for breakfast this morning, they are incapable of picturing it in their mind's eye.

They are also unable to imagine the face of their children, or their kitchen, or the school they went to. Hypnotists have long known that some people do not respond well to hypnotic inductions that require them to visualise.

You don't have to be a super visualizer to go into trance

Hypnotists have also learned that you don't have to be able to visualise in order to be able to go into trance. Avoiding visualization words allows people to understand things in their own terms. You do not need to be able to see a picture of a staircase in order to imagine going deeper by going down one.

The new research has shown that people who cannot visualise are not handicapped. Many of these people have successful careers in design, programming and the arts. It appears that they have invented other ways of experiencing the world to make up for the fact that they cannot create a mental image.

In one test people were asked whether the grass was a darker or lighter green and a pine tree. Non-visualizes insisted that they were not seeing a pine tree grass, somehow they just knew that the pine tree was darker.

How to spot a Super Visualizer

The researchers developed a questionnaire which reliably classifies people who have aphantasia. MRI scans have shown that the brains of these people react differently when asked to visualize. The normal visual part of the brain shows almost no activity, but parts of the brain to do with decision-making and error prediction were busy.

It turns out that aphantasia has been known for more than 100 years but no one had ever bothered to look into it closely. Once it began to become widely known, hundreds of people came forward to say that they also could not visualise.

They had all assumed either that no one could, or that there were oddities. Most of them felt a great relief to know that there were actually thousands of people just like them.

Interestingly enough, at the other end of the scale there are people who are superbly good at visualising. This group has not been studied scientifically either.

Maybe this is something you should look out for in your clients?

 

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taste hallucinations

Why don’t you have Taste Hallucinations

Why don't you have taste hallucinations?

I had a client yesterday who told me that she cannot go to sleep without a radio playing or the TV on. This is a common behavior. Many people use music to drown out the sound of the voices in their head. Or more correctly, the feelings that they experience as if there were voices in their head.

And that got me thinking. Hearing sounds, words, or voices is very common. Visual hallucinations, seeing things or people who aren't there is the most common. They are not necessarily an indicator of a  serious mental condition.

But I have never come across an Oral hallucination. Why do people not get hallucinations of having a taste of banana in their mouth? Or curry, or any other taste? If the mind can produce the other types of hallucinations why not the taste one? In dreams we think we see and hear things, but I personally have never had a dream where I tasted something.

There is a condition called synesthesia where colors are experienced as smells, and noises as tastes. The various sensory pathways get switched over, but that is not really a hallucination. Tinnitus is an imagined roaring in your ears, but that also is not really a hallucination.

People with schizophrenia sometimes believe that they have an unpleasant smell in their nose, or a bad taste in their mouth. It seems never to be an actual food or a specific smell. These types of taste hallucinations are clearly associated with mental illness.

Can you hallucinate a strawberry?

I wonder if there has been any attempt to hypnotize people to experience tastes and smells? When stage hypnotists persuade people to eat an onion, is the subject just ignoring the taste of the onion? Could the hypnotist persuade the eater that the onion actually tastes of strawberry?

I personally can vividly picture a strawberry. I suppose I could imagine the sound of the food processor making a strawberry smoothie. But I cannot summon up a memory of what a strawberry smoothie tastes like. I recognize the taste, but I cannot recall it in advance.

Can other people summon up tastes on demand?

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website engaging

Is your website engaging?

Is your website engaging?

Telemedicine has been around for many years. But has not really been accepted by mainstream providers, or patients. We are actually behind developing countries, where it is sometimes the only thing available.

The problems are social, not technical. Providers are often not willing to invest in it. This is not just due to personal resistance. There are also problems with unfamiliarity, training, finding time, hardware and software needed. And structural constraints: liability, insurer regulations, professional body restraints of competition, problems with jurisdiction.

Patients have similar problems: access to suitable hardware and software, fear of the unknown, privacy issues, lack of support from insurers.

Making your website engaging

There is now an irresistible move  to connect caring professionals to their patients through online means. But before this can get started you have to have enough clients to make it worthwhile investing in the necessary infrastructure. This is not just having a computer and internet connection. Everyone has got that. You also need scheduling software, booking and payment methods. Many traditional doctors' methods are not easy to convert to something suitable for online intimacy.

Therefore, it is a chicken and egg thing. You need patients ready to sign up, but you need everything in place first before you can sign them up, and they won't sign up until they know you have everything ready for them.

Creating and engaging online presence

So the first move is for the providers to create an online presence, something that lets potential clients test the water so to speak. Each provider is setting out a welcome page designed to reassure the patient. This features a video profile of each health provider explaining who they are, their qualifications and outlining the sort oft thing they do. The patient can then shop around for someone they feel comfortable with, test out the connection quality and then make contact online when they are ready. At a minimum, every therapist should have a Skype or Zoom service.

For hypnotherapists the hardware and software already exists and is easy to use. Some hypnotists already use it, but few integrate it into their marketing plan. Maybe it is time for us to start to focus on creating a front page not as an internet business card, but as a website engaging with clients electronically?

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wearing your metaphor

Wearing your metaphor to hide your fears

Wearing your metaphor

It was a cold day earlier this week, and I had the heating in the office going full blast. I thought it was nice and warm, but my client came in and sat down in my big chair with a bulky coat on.

I invited her to hang it up, but she refused, saying she was feeling cold. It clearly wasn't cold and there was no logical reason to sit and get hypnotized wearing an overcoat.

But this client just sat there, all wrapped up. As we talked,  I asked her what she needed. She punctuated all her remarks by slapping the side of the chair as if batting away my inquiries.

I noticed from time to time she was swung her leg up as if kicking away some uncomfortable idea. She was pretty much refusing to reveal anything personal.

Signalling with clothes

Fortunately I had seen this before and I knew what to do. I have seen it at a dinner party in my house. One guest insisted she was cold and sat at the table eating dinner with her outside coat on.

She was later invited to other dinners with us. The next time did take her coat off, but wore a dress that came right up to her neck and covered her legs and arms completely.

At later dinners the dress became less severe. Her next dress had no arms, and then at the next dinner the dress was a bit shorter. Finally, she wore a dress that showed her shoulders but with a scarf there, just in case.

I am sure she was totally unaware of her own unconscious behavior. She was signalling that she was keeping all wrapped up in the presence of strangers, and only gradually let her guard down.

This was exactly what my client was doing: coming for help but keeping everything wrapped up, and slapping and kicking away all efforts to get her reveal anything. The metaphor couldn't have been more clear.

I was able to hypnotize her despite her reservations, and the session ended successfully.

But she still hadn't taken the coat off.

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