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anxiety-health

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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black and white thinking dogs

Black and white thinking dogs

Over the last 15 years I have been trying to figure out exactly what is going on in other people's heads. And in my own. I'm beginning to suspect that a great many things that clients come to therapy for have to do with black and white thinking.

As I get more experienced in hypnotherapy, my ideas about what causes common problems has continually changed. When I came out of my hypnosis course many years ago my head was filled with NLP and Ericksonian Hypnosis and other good things. The approach to therapy was simple, obvious, and there was a solution to every problem.
Right from my first client, I discovered that this just was not true. Almost everything I had been taught in my course turned out to be simplistic and/or over-hyped. 

Black and white thinking

I was reminded of this by a post on another forum that I occasionally visit. A woman there posted a story of how she had many years ago moved to a house near the beach. On her first night there she found it delightful to be lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves and a distant foghorn. On the second night she couldn't get to sleep because of the incessant barking of many dogs. She tried to sleep but the barking went on and on and annoyed her so much that she got up out of bed, got into her car and drove towards where she thought the noise was coming from. These noisy neighbors had to be sorted out once and for all. She was just not gonna stand for this.

Then she found the source of the noise. There was a colony of seals on the beach. They were all doing the things seals do, and barking at each other in the dark. It wasn't dogs at all. Sounded just like dogs, but it wasn't dogs. So she went home satisfied that wasn't dogs and went to sleep. The seals barked on many nights, but none of that barking bothered her at all. She just added it to the list of pleasant noises you get when you live by the beach.

Theories about perception

The story illustrated a point about how her feelings changed when her perceptions changed. She was wondering how it is that our perceptions affect our emotions. If we can find a way to change our perceptions, then perhaps that technique could be used in hypnotherapy. There then followed a discussion by many contributors about the nature of perception and how everything is perception. 

I thought about this story. And I came to a different conclusion. I don't think her behavior, her ability to sleep after she knew the barking was seals and not dogs, had anything to do with perception. It is actually to do with black and white thinking. It is not that perception affects emotions, it is that emotions influence perceptions.

Personal Beliefs

The starting point for me, is asking why do barking dogs annoy her in the first place? Some people get annoyed by dogs barking, some people just ignore it. It's got nothing to do with the barking, and everything to do with our beliefs about barking. If you believe that dogs barking is just what dogs do, and it's meaningless, that a barking dog is just an unhappy dog, then it doesn't bother you.

If you have a personal belief that dogs should be controlled, that uncontrolled dogs are an indicator of bad training, and caused by inconsiderate people, then those people should be made to change. It is the compulsion, the call to action, that causes the emotions. The emotion is there to make sure you do something about it.  

I believe that a great many people, who would be horrified to learn it, actually have black and white thinking. When I discuss it people often say "Oh no. I can see things in shades of grey." But what they don't realize is that they have many rigid internal rules about right and wrong. And those rules are tied to emotion. The woman in the story was so annoyed about the dogs that she got up in the middle of the night to go and sort out the people allowing the dogs to bark. This is classic black and white thinking.

Consequences of black and white thinking

The essence is: "This is wrong. I am allowed to get annoyed about this. I have the right to punish people who don't behave the way I expect them to". My theory is, that for this woman, this was one of her personal beliefs. She has a black-and-white rule about dogs barking. It mustn't be allowed, and it fires off anger inside her when someone contravenes that rule. Anger makes her act. It seems irrational, but it is in complete accordance with her internal rule. And every time it happens she reacts the same way.

She has a different rule about waves on the beach, and foghorns, and for all I know, seagulls and rainstorms and many other things. I would speculate that she has a rule that natural things might be annoying, but they are things that must be accepted, welcomed even.

Reframing the perceptions

Therefore when she discovered that the source of the noise was seals barking, she realised that her rule was not being contravened. There were no grounds for getting angry, and she could sleep through it. It wasn't her perception that changed, the noise was just the same as it had been. What had  changed was the realisation that the rule didn't apply in this situation.

Probably, in that town, there were people who also believed that the barking of the seals was barking of dogs. But those people didn't get up in the middle of the night to do something about it. They have a different rule about barking dogs. So it is not about perception, it is beliefs about the rightness or wrongness of other people's behavior.

The woman in the story went on to ask about what she could do to alter her perceptions to stop her getting angry about various things. If she came to see me I would advise her instead to start searching her memory about what it was that created the rule in the first place. Change the rule, and you change the emotional response.

 

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yips

Hypnosis for the Yips

I had a client come in this week with the yips. It is what happens when the golfer is about to take an important putt. The pressure is on, and everything falls apart. A simple putt that can be done nine times out of ten on the practice tee just goes horribly wrong.

It doesn't just happen in golf, but golf is the best known example of it.  It's what happens when the player just chokes. Tennis players do it, footballers do it on penalty shoots, and darts players do it when they need a winning throw.

There are lots of folk remedies that are supposed to help. If you are right handed, supposedly, squeezing your left hand will help avoid it. Or you can try visualizing the shot before you take it. They don't help much.

Origin of the yips

I talked to my client about when and how it happens. She said it never happens on the practice course. She can sink all the putts all the time: she is actually a very good golfer. And that is the problem. She has become so bad at putting that her friends are now reluctant to play with her. Her yips are just embarrassing everybody. It only happens when she's about to take a shot and all her friends are looking at her.

And that is the key to the problem. The yips are a manifestation of a simple psychological mechanism. When my client goes up to address the putt, in her mind she is aware that her friends are watching, and she is aware that she could fail again. And that is where the yips set in. What is happening, psychologically, is that that a little tremor of uncertainty is triggering a childhood fear. It is triggering a childhood fear that was never resolved. The childhood fear was about being embarrassed, feeling stupid, feeling inadequate and wanting to run away. That memory comes out of the past and takes over. All the player wants to do is to get out of that situation, and the unconscious mind obliges by ruining the play.

Treatment for the yips

When I explored the situation with my client, she confirmed that it all started after she had made a very bad putt, and she did feel stupid and embarrassed. That single incident is what linked back to the childhood fear. And every time she got the same situation, that little bit of uncertainty linked to the childhood fear, and brought it to the fore again. The more times it was triggered the stronger the fear got. My client confirmed that her yips had got more and more intrusive to the point now where she was feeling like giving up the game altogether.

The treatment for the yips, is not to deal with the yips, but to deal with the childhood fear. I put her into trance, and did a simple regression. I used an Affect Bridge from her golfing feeling and got her to find the original embarrassment that it was linked to. This turned out to be a childhood humiliation that I fixed by empowering her to take control and change it.

Getting rid of the childhood issue means that when she next gets onto the green, she will simply be battling physics, and not her own past.

 

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Hypnosis depth scale

Hypnosis depth scale

The first hypnosis depth scale was developed by Theodore Sabin.  He was a social psychologist who developed a theory called role theory. The basic idea is that we all live out a number of well-defined roles. These roles are socially constructed. That means that we learn them from other people and we behave in certain ways depending upon what other people expect us to do. Each of these roles comprises of a consistent and repeatable cluster of behaviors, ideas, beliefs and attitudes.  Who we want the world to believe we are is the result of the learned roles we choose to play.

Each person has family roles, social roles, business roles, public roles and private roles. For example, I may have a father role, a husband role, a different role when interacting with my dog, another set of behaviors when I’m in the pub, and another role in the cinema. The role may be automatic, or I may be putting it on, pretending to be angry with a late employee. In all of these situations I behave according to a set of unwritten rules.  And so does everyone else. As long as we all play our roles, and we all do what’s expected of us, everything is fine. There are policeman roles, teacher roles, pastor roles, etc., which are actually different from the private values of the people carrying out those roles.

Role-playing and role taking are two different things. Role taking is where you knowingly take on another role and act it out. It is done deliberately in order to influence other people, usually so they will approve of you. Teenagers do it all the time. Go to any concert and you will see people taking on the role of a fan of a particular type of music and trying to behave as they believe real dedicated fan would. The difference is that the real fans are not acting.

The hypnosis depth scale

Most students of hypnosis will recognise something called the hypnotic depth scale, although few will know the origin of it. This was published by Friedlander and Sabin in 1938. It used a standard text that was delivered in a standard way under standard conditions. The idea was that some people would be hypnotised some people would not, and by using a standard text the only difference would be the susceptibility of the people being hypnotised.

People were classified according to whether hearing the suggestions in the text would induce eye catalepsy, muscle paralysis, finger lock, post hypnotic suggestions and so on. The more things that you showed under hypnosis was a measure of the depth to which you were hypnotised. This scale was later further developed into the Stanford scale.

Sabin believed that everyone acted out roles, consciously or unconsciously. His theory of hypnosis was that every person who was being hypnotized was actually choosing a role. You could choose the role of being highly susceptible, or you could choose the role of being unhypnotizable. Neither were true: they were both roles. So a person on stage being hypnotized would react in the way that they imagined someone on stage being hypnotized would act, and they would act accordingly. This became known as the Role Theory of hypnosis.

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Lucid Dreaming

Lucid Dreaming

Lucid dreaming is being aware that you’re dreaming while you’re dreaming. Some people claim to be able to do it, others claim it doesn’t exist.
Most of us have had the experience of realizing we were dreaming in the dream. Usually you just wake up and that’s it.
Lucid dreaming tries to do more. In a lucid dream, the dreamer interacts with elements of the dream. Really skilled lucid dreamers can bring other characters into the dream, such as famous power figures such as Einstein. Or they can create resources out of nothing, such as chain saws. They then use these to create changes in the dream. So if you are in a dream being pursued by some faceless monster, you create a flame thrower and destroy it.

The whole idea of lucid dreaming is intriguing. There is a minor industry claiming to teach people how to do it. Various psychologists are now investigating it as well. The attraction is that it might offer a way to deal with the thousands of service people suffering from PTSD. Every war produces thousands of cases, and they are very hard to treat.

I was reading about the latest research in this area and it struck me that lucid dreaming might be nothing more than a form of trance. The parallels are very close. They both involve REM thinking, and they both allow people to dissociate and enter states of imagination.

In fact many hypnosis techniques use exactly the same techniques. NLP has comedy transformation routines. These get the person to think of what they fear and get them to change more and more parts of it until it becomes ridiculous. Gestalt therapy uses metaphor transformation in a similar way. Symbolic Modeling and Clean Language get the client to visualize their issues as symbols and then change them.

So perhaps there is already a whole area of knowledge in existence.
If you want to try it yourself you can try ‘dream incubation’ to start you off. What you do is to rehearse some scene in your mind during the day in order to prime your mind for the night. You might want to think of an upcoming interview that you are worried about, or an exam. Go over it several times before bedtime, and then think of some symbol or object that sums it up. Then when you fall asleep your mind should create a dream about the situation. You will know you are dreaming when the symbol or object appear in the dream. You can then take charge and dream it into a successful conclusion

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cream of tartar smoking

Stop Smoking with cream of tartar?

Yesterday I was dealing with a stop smoking client. I saw her last week. I explained  to her the psychology of why she smokes in order to motivate her to stop. This seems to have worked.   Last week she thought she wanted  to stop smoking: this week she is determined to stop smoking.  And apparently,  is willing to try anything and is in fact is trying everything all at once. She is using nicotine patches, affirmations, hypnotherapy and cream of tartar.

Cream of Tartar? She told me she had read on the Internet that taking a teaspoon of cream of tartar mixed with orange juice would remove all the nicotine from her body. 

I had never heard of this so I decided to find out about it. After all, if it worked then I need to start telling clients about it. I quickly found a source on-line, in fact several sites described it. On examining the sites it became clear that there was just one site that all the others were using as their source. On checking that site, it became clear that there is no scientific study cited as evidence for doing this. In fact none of the websites offered any sort of proof at all. Most sites said something like 'it is said that' with no attribution and my conclusion is that they are all relying on each other. 

How likely is it that Cream of Tartar might work?

It is actually Tartaric Acid, potassium bitartrate,  a mild acid commonly used in baking. In very large quantities it is poisonous, but a teaspoon a day will do no more damage than altering the acid balance of your stomach perhaps and giving an incredibly sour taste to the orange juice. The sour taste is probably what influences the people who say it works. The strange taste will act as a placebo and will remind the smoker about how much they want to stop and could well have an effect. The orange juice contains citric acid, and ascorbic acid as vitamin C. And lots of sugar, so it is probably not a good mixture for most people. 

I won't be advising my stop smoking clients to start drinking it. 

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hypnosis personal fail

Clients who want to fail

Some clients want to fail. Some clients are afraid of failure, others are afraid of success. Being a therapist you have to deal with whatever the client brings. You put yourself under constant pressure to get the right result. We worry about whether we have enough knowledge, enough training and whether we are good enough at all. And we are very disappointed when we fail.

We always assume the client  wants to succeed too. But there are also clients who want to fail. I was reminded of this by a client I saw recently. She has a long history of drug abuse, emotional outbursts, destructive behavior and failed relationships. She is clearly unhappy, her life is out of control and she is afraid that she will attempt suicide again. 

And yet I got the distinct impression that she does not want the therapy to succeed. She is willing to go through the motions, to say the right things, to pretend to go along with what other people want for her. But deep down inside she is afraid of not being able to cope if she does change.

She feels that if she gets cleaned up from drugs then she will be on her own again. She does not believe that she has the strength to survive without drugs. Stopped taking them before has always left her feeling awful. That feeling just  got worse and worse over time until she no choice but to go back on the drugs and ended up more dependent than ever. She knows that stopping is not the answer for her. So she is not going to stop. 

This attitude is entirely understandable. She is simply protecting herself from future pain. 

What can you do when the client wants to fail?

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Fear of driving hypnosis

Fear of Driving Phobia removal

Fear of Driving is fairly common. A surprising number of people get the shakes when driving over a high bridge or into a tunnel. Usually it is hard to pinpoint exactly why.

Yesterday I treated a woman who wanted to end her Fear of Driving. She said that she was OK around the back streets and normal driving. But when she got to a road with a drop off at the side, or a narrow part, she lost all her confidence. 

The source of the fear

I asked when this started and she said it began about three years ago and had got progressively worse. She told me she was out driving one day  when suddenly, out of nowhere, came an overwhelming sense of fear. Since that day she has been afraid of the feeling coming back. She tries to avoid driving so that she will not be exposed to feeling again. 

This is a classic description of how phobia is created. You are doing something distinct like driving or flying, and then you experience an overwhelming fear, and then your mind links the fear to the activity, and you have a phobia.

Normally it is impossible to say exactly what created the link. But in this case, the woman recognised the fear. Her son had died suddenly ten years before and this was the same overwhelming pain she had experienced at the time. Something she was doing or thinking at that moment reactivated the initial feeling. The pain gets linked to the driving activity,  and the Fear of Driving phobia is triggered.

Most phobias are not about the obvious activity. Fear of Driving is not about the driving, it is about not wanting to get that old fear again. The cure for phobias is to eliminate the origin of the fear. 

In this case the mother had never gotten over the death of her son. She was still carrying around that dread that something else bad would happen. So the answer was to lay the old fear to rest. 

Removing the fear

I hypnotised her and put her into a deep trance. Then I suggested that she visualize a chair in front of her. Then I gently suggested that there was someone sitting in the chair, someone who wanted to talk to her. Someone who was taken away from her and didn't get the chance to say goodbye. I suggested that this person wanted to give her one last message before going away. 

I developed a dialogue saying to my client what a son would want to say to his mother. Then I  let her say to him what she wanted to say. I suggest that he was reaching out to her, and most movingly, she extended her arm out to where the chair might be. And slowly, tears rolled down her face. 

I finished the session by suggesting that her son had a gift he wanted to pass to her, and that he was saying "I'm OK mum. It's time to go now. I love you". He then got into a car and drove away, until the tail lights faded in the distance. 

I let her come back to the present in her own time. She said to me "I feel such a feeling of relief".  And that was the end of it.

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Hypnosis Tarot

Is New Age Therapy just for the gullible?

Are New Age therapy clients all gullible? I recently went to a Psychic Fair in my local town. It was well organised and well attended. All the usual New Age Therapy services were there: Aura Readings, Palmistry, Crystal therapy, Healing touch, Dream interpretation, Fortune tellers and various other New Age specialisms.
The attendees were what looked like ordinary people, mostly women, getting their fortunes told and getting their auras drawn and everyone seemed well satisfied.
And that was what bothered me. I understand about placebos, and I am comfortable that people sometimes need to believe in something a bit out of the ordinary. I also believe that some of these modalities are helpful and worthwhile. Previous places I had been to all involved a bit more scene setting, with low light, New Age music, costumes and exotic symbolism. But this one seemed more like an assembly line. People were all in one big open room, booking appointments, queuing up, moving in when the last person finished and moving on when their time was up. And the time was prominently displayed on a clock facing the client.
All these people were paying quite substantial sums of money without, apparently, ever questioning what they were getting or how effective it was.
They also didn't seem to be much bothered about who was delivering it, or if they were qualified to offer it in the first place.
It was the Tarot card readers who got me. I use Tarot myself. Sometimes they the best way of reaching a particular client. But it has to be done with conviction and confidence. What I saw was an extreme case of fleecing the gullible. One reader was laying out the cards, talking to the client, and then without the slightest sign of embarrassment looking up the book to see what the cards meant! The client just sat there while the 'psychic' read out what the book said.
In my view, if you are going to sell people nonsense, you should at least put some effort into it. Surely the client is entitled to believe that you have some sort of legitimate connection to the New Age universe? Would you continue attending a doctor if that doctor was looking up your symptoms on the Internet?