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fear of public speaking

Fear of Public Speaking therapy

Fear of public speaking

Today's client was very nervous and fidgety when she sat down.  She told me she's got a new job, and hates it when they all sit around and everyone has to introduce themselves and say who they are. So it seems that she has a simple  fear of public speaking. That is usually easy to clear, and very quick.

Finding a feeling to work with

I explained about metaphor replacement therapy and how it works. I told her what I was going to do. Because I expected this to be a very short session, I treated this is a bit of an experiment in getting people to go into trance without formal induction. I used a breathing induction to settle her down. Got her to take two big deep breaths and then on the third told her to close her eyes. I told her to think about being in a large room with many people  It was slowly coming round to her turn to speak. The start of the sort of therapy is to try to get the client to move into the feeling. Once the client is fully experiencing the feeling, they are pretty much in trance. It is then easy to manipulate images in the unconscious mind.

In this case she said she was feeling the anxiety. But it was very difficult to get her to say anything. I kept prompting her about the introduction ceremony, checking that she was feeling the anxiety and she just wasn't speaking at all. I wasn't getting any feedback from her.

Finding a different scenario to recreate her fear of public speaking

So I decided to offer her a different scenario that would generate her fear of public speaking. I asked her to imagine being the bridesmaid at a wedding. She had to stand up and address the whole audience. To increase the fear I said "everyone is looking at you". "You are the center of attention, the success of the whole wedding depends on you getting it right". "It will be remembered forever".

I asked what she was feeling. She said "a little nervousness, tenseness". I asked her where she was feeling it, and she indicated it was in her chest. So I went on with that and after a lot of prodding, persuasion and encouragement, she finally said "it's like a cloud".

I asked her what she would like to have happen to the cloud and she said "go away". Then I asked "what would that mean for you", and she replied "no fear". And finally, I asked her "what could you do then?" And she replied "anything". This set up the logical link between her actions and the outcome.

Reluctance to speak = reluctance to change?

I tried to get her to make the cloud bigger. After a lot of prodding she could get it to become a little bigger, but she could not get it to go any smaller. I explored the properties of the cloud with her. It was a black cloud, heavy, floating in front of her, it was round. I asked her to look at it from the back. After a long, long silence she said " it is just the same". I asked if she could move it to one side of the other. "No." I suggested the cloud might rain. it might shrink. it might get thinner, it might change colour. all the things I could think of. Still she sat there absolutely silent. Eventually in desperation I said just imagine that you could push that cloud. That seemed to work. She eventually said, it's much further away. I kept persuading her to push it away more, but was getting no response. "How are you experiencing that cloud now?" "What it look like now?" After another long silence she finally said "It's disappeared".

Clearing her fear of public speaking

Something that usually takes two minutes took over forty. This woman seriously did not want to talk about her problem even in the metaphor. However, I tested her by making her think about the whole wedding thing again, and she said "the feeling has gone, just not there". I tested her again later on, and she said "no is definitely gone". "I usually get the feeling of tension in my chest. That just isn't happening now".

My feeling is that the fear of public speaking was actually linked to a much earlier fear from somewhere deep in her childhood. I think that she was afraid of something very much deeper, and was not going to allow me to get anywhere near that feeling. When I put that to her, she agreed. She couldn't say how she knew, she just felt that that felt right.

Her experience of trance was interesting

That would have been the end of the session, but I was anxious that she did not leave with the idea that she had not been hypnotized. So I told her that what we had done was a form of hypnosis.  And she said something very interesting. She said "when we were getting rid of the cloud I felt that I had gone inside myself. That I was very small and my body was very large. In particular I felt my hands were huge".

I commented "you're a very unusual client, this usually doesn't take very long, and the client talks all the way through it. You seemed very reluctant to speak?" She said that she wasn't speaking because she felt she was not sure what to say or what was wanted. I wonder if that had anything to do with her reluctance to speak in public. Although I did not pursue it.

Given that I was trying out ways of inducing trance without a formal induction, her reaction was very interesting.

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Better Hypnosis WOOP Scripts Suggestions

Better Hypnosis WOOP Scripts Suggestions

Better Hypnosis WOOP Scripts Suggestions improves the structure and effectiveness of your scripts. Hypnotic suggestions will only work if your words create changes in how your client thinks. To make sure that you get these changes you need to structure your suggestions properly.

Direct suggestion will only work if it matches the logic and belief of the client's unconscious mind. Anything that conflicts with the client's present beliefs will be ignored. Therefore your suggestions need to take into account any negative beliefs that the client holds about what you want to change.

Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan WOOP

WOOP is a structured way of approaching Positive Thinking. Positive Thinking will not work unless it is tied to action. Structuring your suggestions with WOOP means that you prepare your client's mind to deal with anything that would prevent them achieving the change they want.

Suppose your client wants to have more success with dating. Tell your client to visualise meeting someone, being cool, saying all the right things, really enjoying the experience. This is the Wish part. Then ask your client to imagine what develops next, and getting all the happy things their longing for. That is the Outcome part. Next, get your client to identify any behaviour that would normally stop them from getting that wish and outcome. Identify whatever it is inside them that stops them having what they want.  That is the Obstacle part. Finally, get your client to come up with a plan, some way of avoiding or eliminating the obstacle behaviour. Get them to think of some action, some positive definite thing that they can do that will prevent them missing out again. That is the Plan part of WOOP.

Better Hypnosis WOOP Scripts Suggestions

So instead of simply using a direct suggestion to your client that "You will be successful in dating", you use the WOOP structure. This helps your client to overcome the client's inner resistance. Find out from the client what they believe is stopping them being successful. Your WOOP structure would therefore be;

WISH "Imagine now that you are in a dating situation. You are with your ideal partner. You're talking confidently, behaving naturally, and the date is going smoothly. You feel in control, you're making the other person feel good, comfortable with you, you are both interacting smoothly. Everything is going perfectly. You pause and smile, and you get that confident understanding between you. You know that everything is going right for you."

OUTCOME "And as the date progresses you get more and more comfortable together. You share feelings, ideas, hopes, and memories. And then you leave the place together, arm in arm, going someplace where you will have the experience you always dreamed of. The perfect end to a perfect evening."

OBSTACLE "And as you think of that perfect date you become aware that old feeling, that thing inside that always seems to stop you having what you want. That thing that always seems to sabotage you.

PLAN "But now you feel something different. Now you are determined to have that perfect date. And plenty more of them. And as you think about that perfect date a different feeling arises within. You go over the whole process in your mind. You play over all the different stages like watching it on a screen. And that lets you identify the moment when that self sabotage comes up. The moment when it all goes wrong. As you see yourself doing that you become aware of something else about it something you never noticed before noticing that means that you can change it. You get a brief flash of some kind of image memory and then that flash you just let it go, you alter it, you change into something else. And that lets you become free of it for ever."

"So now you can play that scene again. You can go through the whole process and see yourself at every stage. See yourself succeeding. And as you get to the stage where it usually goes wrong you wipe out that old behavior and it just goes on smoothly, so smoothly that no one even notices. Because you deserve it."

Using the WOOP structure in your scripts will allow you to design your direct suggestions in a way that will lead to the outcome you want.

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improve hypnotherapy

Simplest way to improve Hypnotherapy?

A simple way to Improve Hypnotherapy?

What is the easiest way to improve your hypnotherapy results? I asked this in a discussion recently.  The group agreed the simplest way to improve hypnotherapy was avoid talking too much.

We all do it. We are supposed to find out what the client really needs so we can plan the session. But the therapist's enthusiasm often results in talking instead of listening.

True, hypnosis is one of the talking therapies.  You are supposed to talk. But talking therapies are based on getting the client to talk, not the therapist. Counselling is about making the client feel heard and understood. Psychoanalysis is about allowing the client to talk about their thoughts by free associating. Clean language is about removing the therapist from the conversation as far as possible. Therapists desperately want to help. But they are human too. Therapists get nervous and flustered. So the tendency is to jabber on. It is very tempting to talk about what you think instead of listening to what your client thinks. 

Silence improves hypnotherapy

Asking the right question is a key skill. Listening to the answer is a more important skill. Sometimes saying too much is the wrong thing. Silences can tell you a lot. But too often the therapist jumps in because they don't like the silence, and feel that have to be doing something. Although some therapists feel uncomfortable with silence, silence is a very effective technique to allow the client to collect their thoughts. And if it goes on too long, the right thing to do is to ask 'and what are you experiencing now?' and let the client tell you what is going in their mind.

Rule 1. Don't be the next person to speak after you ask a question. When you ask a question, and the client does not answer immediately, the silence can be deafening. Many therapists feel uncomfortable with prolonged silences. They panic, thinking that the question was badly worded, or the client has and understood it. So they say "What I mean is…" and either answer the question themselves or dilute the power of the original question.

Rule 2. After a brief reply to an open-ended question, wait a few seconds before saying anything. Very often, this will prompt your client to expand on the question, to tell you things that were being held back, to open up about their worries and reservations. Clients are also uncomfortable with silences. They will usually blurt out something that they were keeping back just to fill the silence. This technique can be very useful, but don't turn it into an interrogation method.

Rule 3. Allow some silence after you have delivered  bad news. When the therapist has to deliver some bad news, sometimes it is the therapist who feels nervous, and talks too much. If you have to tell a client for example, "you have depression", it is better to say nothing more and give the client time to process this information.

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hard case smoker

The hard case smoker

Last weekend I had the kind of client we all dread. The hard case smoker: Someone who didn't believe that he could give up, ever. He had tried everything. He was only coming to hypnosis because it was the last thing on the list of all the things he had tried that didn’t work. Now he wanted to be able to  show that he done everything possible and nobody could get him to stop smoking.

He started smoking at 15. As a teenager, he was rebellious and resentful at home. He didn’t get on with his dad. He reckoned that as the youngest child his parents had expended all their energies on the older kids and he was of no interest to them. Smoking started when he joined the rugby team. He loved being part of the team, of feeling he belonged and was part of a group. He left home and joined the army. The Army made him feel included, somebody, a tough guy, always loved the camaraderie, the inclusiveness.

He later returned home and from the moment his father picked him up from the airport they began to reconcile. As time went on they became closer, and then his father got throat cancer and died suddenly. He was devastated by this. It was in 1982 but he still feels it keenly.

He is scared of dying and convinced that he cannot stop smoking and that the smoking will kill him, but he is powerless to stop.

Finding a metaphor for the hard case smoker

 I ask my clients a question to establish their feelings about smoking. I say what comes to mind when I say ‘You will never have another cigarette as long as you live’?  When I asked him what he felt he said "dubious".

I asked what smoking looked like and he said a group: him and all the group smoking. Then I decided to develop this and got him to describe the feeling he got with the group. He said the feeling was of being at peace, happy, not wanting it to end. I asked what colour that feeling was and he said red, and square. I asked if he was inside that square. He said, Yes, with all the group. Then I asked if he could drop his cigarettes and get everyone else do that too. He said he could. What has changed? He said nothing.

So I developed that in metaphor. I got him to imagine that they all dropped all the tobacco and lighters and stuff and there was everything on the floor, ash, ashtrays, cigs etc. I asked if he could sweep it up and throw it out of the red square. He said no. So I used incrementalism and got him to put one shovel-full out and if that was OK. He said that would be OK. And then another shovel, and then more shovels, and then all the group were helping and cheering on and he was a leader and the most popular guy in the red square. He eventually cleared out all the smoking stuff and still had all his friends with him in the red square room.

Anchoring the hard case smoker

What was particularly interested about this process is that he had gone into trance with no induction. I notice that when I get a client to focus on a feeling, and follow that feeling they normally go into trance. As long as I do nothing to break the spell, they will stay in trace and not even notice. In NLP this is called revivification. NLP asks the client to think about a memory and get into the memory so as to anchor the feeling. Then when you fire the anchor the client goes into the feeling, in effect goes into trance. This method just starts with the feeling. 

To finish the session I  got this client to go on a journey where he met his dad. His father released him from the smoking and told him that he could live a long and healthy life. I finished off with my standard stop smoking direct suggestions.

It remains to be seen if this client has in fact stopped for ever, but at the end of the session he said ‘It is weird, but I feel different. When I left that square room it had changed color!’


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Nervous Bowels

Nervous Bowels

Many people have Nervous Bowels. This client was a lovely woman, elegant, composed, and with a terrible secret. She gets immediate diarrhea every time she has to meet someone.

It is not uncommon for people to get shaky bowels whenever they think they're going to be judged. It happens to sportspeople just before they have to perform. Entertainers get it before they go onto the stage. Most people feel some sort of unpleasantness in their gut in the face of a stressful situation.

Living with nervous bowels

In this case the client had been pretending for years. She had a high level position in education and was widely respected for her skills. But she had been hiding the need to rush to the toilet every time she was introduced to someone. After some questioning, it became clear that this was not a normal case of stress induced diarrhoea. This woman could happily address the groups of people. She  had no problem with public speaking. She could facilitate small group meetings, and do it very well. Interacting with two people was OK also. But the prospect of talking to just one person sent her running for the bathroom.

After some investigation I discovered it was really about the fear that she would have to leave the other person alone. In her mind, this was unacceptably rude. So her fear was that she would be called away to something else and have to leave the other person on their own. It was really about what that other person would think of her for doing that.

I tried to get to the cause of this. She said she had a great childhood. She could find no reason for this anxiety. The only worry she could find was that she was very nervous about her own parenting skills. However I could not find any direct cause for why leaving one person alone should generate these feelings.

Treating nervous bowels

I decided to use metaphor therapy on her feelings of anxiety. I asked her to put yourself into the position of being forced to speak with one person. The objective was to get her to go into the state so that I could work directly on the feeling. She tried and could not get into the feeling without being there.

So I put her into trance. I did a simple metaphor therapy about allowing her unconscious mind to search for the source of the feeling. Her unconscious mind found the source of the feeling and pulled it out of its hiding place. Then her mind took that thing and broke it open. The contents turns to liquid. I told her the liquid was pouring down inside and leaking out through the soles of her feet until it was gone.

Clearing the problem

This metaphor triggered something, because she started crying. I use that to associate into her feeling of distress. I then asked her to focus on the feeling and describe what object it most resembled. She told me it was like a brown ball full of moving clouds of black. I worked on this representation and got her to shrink it. She was able to shrink it until it was the size of a golf ball. But she was completely unable to get it to go any smaller.

From experience, I know that this is her unconscious mind resisting my attempts to get rid of it. So I changed the metaphor.  I asked her if she had ever sliced a tomato. Slicing a tomato is something that everyone has done. It is easy and familiar. The moment that I said it, she was no longer stuck. She told me that she was now able to slice the golf ball. I then told her to think about dicing vegetables or something like that, as she got rid of the thing completely and she got rid of the thing completely.

I have no idea what the origin of the problem was, and neither does she. But by using metaphor therapy we were able to get rid of it completely.

The origin of her nervous bowels

After talking about the process and the outcome for a while, I asked again about her upbringing. Now that her unconscious mind had removed whatever it was, she told me a different story about growing up. It turned out that she had a not so good childhood. She had an adopted older brother who caused problems in the family and bullied my client. Her mother expected perfection, that my client felt she could never deliver. Her mother was into Guiding, and loved rules, and discipline, and expected nothing else from her children. I suggested that she didn't have to look very far to find the source of her anxiety, and she agreed.

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Retraining unconscious beliefs

I had an email from a therapist about retraining unconscious beliefs.

I have a client who is limited movement in her left side from some childhood illness, yet when I do ideomotor questions she always responds with her left hand. She has shown me out of trance how little she can move her finger....basically she can't.

What can I do with this, what does it mean?

Retraining unconscious beliefs

If I understand you correctly, the client has limited voluntary use of her left hand but can use it in trance. I believe this means that she has been told by somebody long ago that she is not able to move that hand. She has believed that, and still beliefs it. Therefore she has not been able to move it.

Put her into trance and get the bad hand working with ideomotor suggestions, just as you have been doing. Then, still in trance, get her to open her eyes and see the hand moving. Ask her to confirm that it is moving, that it can move. This should be a revelation to her unconscious mind. It will cause her mind to rethink what it can do with her left side.   Suggest to her that because she has witnessed this, it means that she can now begin to exercise that hand until it becomes fully functional again.

Other techniques for Retraining unconscious beliefs

You can also use other techniques. For example, when she in trance and after moving the finger, ask her if you can talk to the unconscious mind. If she agrees, ask her unconscious mind if it will agree to giver her back the power of movement. Stress that this has to be done gradually and carefully, at the right pace for her. If not, ask the unconscious mind why it it is restricting her movement. You should be able to persuade it to allow her to get back full movement. 

Another technique would be to take her back to the initial event. Find the scene where she it told or concluded that she cannot move that side. Then use Inner Child work to re-imagine the event and give her a way to be able to recover the movement she lost. 

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Perfect childhood problems

Perfect Childhood problems

Yo-Yo Dieting

I had another interesting client at the weekend. She told me "I am tired of sabotaging myself". This woman was heavily overweight. She told a familiar story. She could not control her intake of food. For years she had been yo-yo dieting. Her weight drops by ten kilos, and then thinks that she can now do what she wants to do, and goes back to eating.

Eating problems are always due to unhappiness, so I always start by asking about the client's upbringing. This client said that she had been spoilt and gets on really well with her parents. Every time a client tells me they had an idyllic childhood, my heart sinks. I hear warning bells go off in my head. Anyone who had a perfect childhood would not be sitting in my office. I know they are lying to themselves, so I start probing.

Perfect Childhood Problems

Soon the client was telling me that her strongest memory from childhood was her brother going away to boarding school. She was left feeling devastated, empty and lonely. Then it turns out he went to boarding school because their parents went overseas for three months. Oh, and she was placed with a couple who mistreated her and she was terrified her parents were never coming back. Oh, and yes, the parents went overseas nearly every year, and parked the kids with couples they hired to look after them.

And when they were home, the parents had freezing silences and sulks that lasted for days. And her sister has anorexia. And her brother was always the favorite until he stopped doing so well at school and he got rejected. And she was sent away to boarding school. And she is terrified to this day of being abandoned, of not having anyone, of not being good enough. She has to be constantly pleasing people, making other people happy. Apart from that it was a perfect childhood!

It is always amazing how people can refuse to examine their own life. It is so easy to convince themselves that everything was lovely, because the truth is too painful to contemplate.

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affirmations suggestions emile coue

Affirmations Suggestions Emile Coue

I have been thinking about the use of suggestion in therapy. This arose from having a discussion with someone over 'suggestion therapy'. We were arguing about what exactly is 'a suggestion?' And that got me to thinking about all the different forms of suggestion. There are direct suggestion, indirect suggestions, stories, sayings, covert hypnosis, stealth hypnosis and all the rest. 

One of the most commonly used is self-suggestion, or affirmation. Affirmations have been around since Antiquity: Aristotle said 'A vivid imagination compels the body to obey it'.

Affirmations suggestions and Emile Coue

Modern affirmations started with Emile Coue (photo above). He was French pharmacist (1857-1926) who noticed that his customers got better the more he puffed up the power of the medicine they bought from him.  The same medicine sold without his praise didn't seem to work so well.  He believed that when willpower and the imagination were combined the results were unstoppable. He believed that conscious auto-suggestion was superior to hypnosis. He was the first person to state that "you are what you think". When you think about something, your mind forms an image of it, and your unconscious mind will strive to achieve that image. If your thoughts are always dark and negative and self-critical, then your mind will tend to dwell on that, and make you unhappy. He developed the famous affirmation 'Every day in every way I am getting better and better'. This affirmation was designed to counteract negative thinking.

Suggestion can work with the conscious mind

Coue's work showed that you don't have to access the unconscious mind to make changes, you can also make changes through the conscious mind. With affirmations, people are giving themselves suggestions while fully conscious of what they are doing. Coue taught that willpower is not enough. No amount of willpower is going to overcome negative thinking. He emphasized the need to imagine what it is that you want first. Then think of ways you can achieve that. Finally you reinforce it with an affirmation.

There is an extensive list of affirmations on this site. 

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Healing Cloud Script

Improve your induction success by personalizing

Get the client to design their own induction.

There is a simple way to improve your induction success when doing hypnotic trance. Before the hypnosis session starts, ask your client to describe some outdoor place where they might relax while watching some clouds. It can be a real place they remember, or some imaginary place where they could really relax totally. They might be lying, or sitting, or even steering a boat. Leave it open to them, as long as it is a place where they can imagine relaxing easily and deeply. You can ask them for it during the interview, or you can give them some notice and get them to write it out and bring it with them to your session. The idea is to get something that is unique to each client, and to match the induction to exactly how they would like it to be.

Use that special location to personalize the experience

You can then use that as the core of your induction. Get the client to close their eyes and talk them through relaxing their arms and legs. As they relax their body, do a count down and take them down stairs, suggesting that with each step they are relaxing more and more. Finally, suggest that at the bottom of the steps there is a way out and they are in their favourite relaxing place. They are watching the clouds go by and letting go of all tensions and worries.

Then tell them to focus on one particular cloud. That cloud will slowly descend and surround them. They will begin to feel themselves becoming absorbed into the cloud, becoming weightless, and losing all connection with the earth around them. Embellish and expand on the idea depending on what their chosen relaxing place offers.

Then you can suggest that they are transported in the cloud to wherever you want to start the therapy. Or simply state that now they can see a screen showing them doing something, or some other visualization.

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put myself into trance

How does an experienced hypnotist do self hypnosis?

I was recently asked what I thought was the best way of going into trance, and how I put myself into trance.

I find that my preferred method is simple bio-feedback.

I sit in a quiet place and focus on my breathing. Then I imagine relaxing my arms, my legs, etc. I very quickly (not more than ten seconds) go into a deeply relaxed state.

Then I just allow my mind to ‘open’. If nothing comes, then I focus on enabling a finger life. This usually opens things up as well making me even more relaxed.

I tried it just a moment ago so that I could check what I do do. Initially it was like a whole jumble of things came into my mind. After a few seconds, one or two of them in particular began to emerge and fade. While this was happening I felt my body relaxing more and more, my head began to fall back. Then I got an image, something like a roiling cloud, with something like an elephant’s trunk coming out of it. This then turned into something more like an atomic mushroom cloud. Then the important part became the two areas on each side of the “trunk”. And then I became aware of a feeling. I realized I was worried about money. (I have recently retired from my university lecturing post and my university income will stop at the end of next month. Clearly this has been weighing on my mind unconsciously.) I waited a few moments to see what would develop from that, I got the feeling that this would take a long time, but several solutions began to suggest themselves to me.
Because I was writing this blog post I chose to come out of trance. I still feel a bit spacey. But I have no doubt that I was in trance and beginning to go into my unconscious mind. The whole process probably took less than a minute.

I’m sure that everyone has their own way of going into trance, and mine is not necessarily the best, but that’s how I do it.

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