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Fear of dentists

Fear of dentists

A client phoned me and asked if I was able to help overcome a fear of dentists. This client has totally rotten teeth but just cannot bring himself to go near a dentist. Fear of dentists is basically a simple phobia. Phobias are created when something dramatic happens to you, that makes you experience a deep and sudden fear.

Your unconscious mind creates a powerful association between the event and that fear. And forever thereafter your unconscious mind does everything possible to keep you away from that situation, or anything that is similar to that situation. If it means that your unconscious gives you a terrifying fear of dentists, then that keeps you away from them, and your unconscious mind has done what it should do – it has kept you safe.

I have dealt successfully with many people with the fear of dentists. It is usually not a needle phobia, it is a generalised fear of being near a dentist at all. When I questioned the client about the origin of this fear in every case it can be traced back to a specific time in childhood. For some reason, the client was taken to the dentist and got spooked. The child did not want some stranger poking round his mouth, sticking needles in, giving him pain, whatever. The child just wanted to get out of there and go home with his mother.

The origin of the phobia

What actually happened next was that the child is forcibly restrained, held down and operated on. The result was a child who is frightened of a strange situation, by strange people, and a link to pain and the knowledge that he can't get away. It is the "can't get away" part which is most important. The phobia is a combination of feeling trapped and knowing that you are going to get hurt. Your mind knows that this is going to happen, and so does everything possible to stop you getting into that situation again.

It is no different from a fear of public speaking. Fear of public speaking can usually be traced back to an incident at school. The child was suddenly asked to say something, said what they thought was right, and then got humiliated by the teacher. The humiliation was totally unexpected, and undeserved, and every other member of the class laughed at them. It's the same combination of pain, unexpected, and being unable to get out of the situation.

The way to deal with the fear of dentists is to go back to the source. Using regression, or other techniques, you get the client to experience the fear in your chair. Then you lead the client through the situation again. But this time you allow the client to feel that they are in charge, that they can control it, that they decide what happens.
When you do that you get rid of the unconscious association and allow the client to react naturally and rationally. The phobia is then instantly cured.

Nothing to it really, when you know how to deal with it.

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Think about eating

I think about food all the time

I had a client today who was overweight, but certainly not obese. We talked about her eating habits, and she told me that she doesn't overeat. She doesn't snack, or binge or eat over-large portions. On the other hand, she said "I think about food all the time".
She told me "on the way to your office I was thinking that afterwards I would have a lamb chop breaded with pesto and some nice vegetables". "In fact" she said, "when am eating breakfast I'm thinking about what to prepare for lunch". "I think about food all the time".

I listen carefully to what clients tell me. I also listen to what they don't tell me. One thing I have learnt over the years is that when a client is doing something all the time, they are not doing something else. I said to the client "if you're thinking about food all the time, what is it that you're not thinking about?". She had no idea what I was talking about.

I explained that if someone is thinking about food all day, I always suspect that they are doing it to avoid thinking about something else. They are filling their mind with some acceptable subject, so that they do not have to examine their own feelings and emotions.

Origin of the overeating

I started to explore this client's emotional background. I was trying to nail down what it was that was so terrible in her early life that she could not bear thinking about it now.
She told me that she had been brought up in Australia. Her mother had severe depression, had attempted suicide, and was constantly threatening to do it again. Her father was angry and distant. The wider family resented the marriage and constantly told my client that she was an outsider. The result was that my client came home from school every day dreading that she would find her mother hanging. Even as a little girl she stayed away from home as often as she could to avoid her father's sudden rages. She never felt she belonged there. The constant criticism from the family wore her down, and she escaped into daydreaming.

She grew up with a terrible feeling that something awful was going to happen, that whatever she did she was never going to be good enough. It was this feeling that she was trying to avoid by thinking about food all the time.

The treatment

I put the client into a light trance. I asked her to think about the place she had grown up in, how she had felt in that place. After a while, with repeated reminders from me based on what she had said, her eyes began to fill with tears. She was now back in the feeling, not reliving  a specific memory, but connecting to her feelings about growing up there.
I asked her to think about the feeling, to become aware of the feeling even more, and to think about the feeling as if it wasn't object. I asked her to describe the object. She told me it was like a purple diamond. This purple diamond was rotating so fast that she couldn't think. Then she said the purple diamond was turning into a swirl of cloud and then back to the purple diamond. She told me that the spinning of the purple diamond was always putting her on edge. When it was spinning she felt overwhelmed and her throat closed up. Its constant relentless spinning made her angry, and she lashed out at other people.
I asked her what she would like to have happen to it. She said she wanted it to stop spinning. She said when it stopped the sun could come out and its glow would give her strength.

Using her own resources

I then asked what would have to happen to make the diamond slow down a little. She mumbled something I didn't hear about "water". I suggested that the spinning diamond could meet water. Then I asked her "what happened with the water?" She said "it has stopped now". I asked her to look at it carefully now that had stopped. She said, surprised, "it's actually an oval". The change in shape indicated that the transformation of emotions had started. I continue to develop the oval by suggesting various things that could happen to it. Then she told me it's turned into a balloon. I tried to develop the balloon by suggesting that it could get bigger and bigger. She told me "it's inflating, and then deflating, and then inflating again". This indicated to me that she does not have the resources to clear it unaided.

I needed to get her to destroy the balloon. So I suggested that she allow it to get bigger and bigger. This worked for a while and then she said "I'm afraid it will pop". I said to her "that's exactly what needs to happen". Again I suggested inflating the balloon until she said "I can't get it to go any bigger". At this point she needs more resources. I then suggested that she inflate that balloon with her own energy, with her own refusal to accept what was going on, what was being done to her. I was trying to get her to summon her own energy and resources.
She then said "it's popped".
I got her to confirm that there was nothing left of the balloon. By destroying the object, she has removed the negative feelings.

I brought her out of trance, and asked her to go back inside to check how she felt. She said "it feels calm in there. And I can feel that sun come out now". I got her  to check how she felt about her parents and the whole situation. She said "it all feels calm there now". That feeling and the theory generated has now gone forever.

It really does not take a lot of therapy to deal with even the most debilitating feelings. I hope this client is now able to get on with her life free of anxiety. And I predict that she will be able to lose weight now.

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Ending compulsive gambling

Ending compulsive gambling

Gambling is reaching epidemic proportions in Australia. There are pokey machines (slot machines) everywhere. It is becoming a major social problem. There is a constant need for ending compulsive gambling.
I saw a client today who feels that her gambling is out of control. Even on the way to my office she passed the local pub and thought to herself "I wonder if it's open", so that she could go in and play the pokey machine. Last week she put the entire household shopping budget, over $400, into a pokey machine.
When we started talking about it, she told me that the noise, the lights, the high she gets just puts her into a zone. As long as she has money, she just keeps putting it in to stay in the zone. She said that she feels she is spiralling out of control.

Source of the compulsive gambling

In my experience gambling is always an aspect of anxiety.
I started asking her what it was that she was trying to avoid by gambling, and she told me that she was having troubles with her job, her marriage, and felt that she was failing her daughter. I asked her if she had always been anxious. She told me that since she was 11 she has been pulling her eyelashes, and goes through periods of trichotillomania. And to my surprise, took off her hat, to show that she was near bald.

She was clearly unhappy. So I asked her about her childhood. She told me that she grew up on a farm. She said that she had a very happy childhood. When someone tells me that a happy childhood, my heart fails, because usually they are deluding themselves. They would not be sitting in my chair if they had had a happy childhood.

I started asking about growing up, and it turned out that for her mother she was never good enough. Her mother was a perfectionist, her father was always working. Her sister was always academically bright. So she never felt good enough.
When she was 15 years old her father lost his job, and that was when the anxiety started.

To me the suggested that her mother had anxiety, and her father had some sort of need to be always busy. I asked her she had ever been diagnosed with depression and she said she'd been on pills for 20 years.
Digging deeper revealed a history of failed relationships, single mom, unsuitable relationships with married men. All of these suggested to me that her basic problem was insecurity.

I think that her gambling puts her into the zone where she can forget all her worries. Her unconscious mind is driving her to do that because it doesn't have any other way of dealing with her overwhelming feeling of not being good enough.
Her gambling binge had only been going on for six months.

Six months ago, she and her husband went to a bar, for no particular reason put some money into a pokey machine, and won $900. This was a godsend and got them out of a financial problem. In her unconscious mind, she associated ending her problems with winning on the pokies. She started using them occasionally, and then continuously.

The solution to compulsive gambling

The solution was to deal with the anxiety. I asked her to relax, and breathe deeply. Then I got her to focus on her own feelings of insecurity, anxiety, and inadequacy. It was immediately obvious that she had found the feeling so I began to develop it as a metaphor. I helped her to develop it into an object. It was a grey object like a brain. I encouraged her to think about how it might change, and gave her suggestions as to how to do that.

She transformed into a very small green thing that she felt good about. I got her to take that somewhere outside where it could grow and flourish. Then I got her to fill the space where the brain thing had been with something nice. She chose her daughters smile to fill it with.
I use that feeling to fill the whole of her mind with a feeling of contentment. Then I use that new feeling to go fishing for the anxiety deep inside. I suggested that her mind had found the source of the anxiety, lifted it out of where it had been hiding, and destroyed it.
I then brought her back to the present.
She said to me that she felt as though she had been asleep for hours. She said she felt such a relief. And she was now ready to go back and get her life back on track.

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personalised embodied metaphor

Using a personalised embodied metaphor to stop smoking

Occasionally I get a client who gives me a wonderful example of how people naturally use embodied metaphor. In hypnotherapy, metaphors are usually discussed only as parts of speech. Metaphors are seldom discussed when they represents an embodied feeling. This is a case of using a personalised embodied metaphor to stop smoking.

I had a smoking client this morning who told me that she can stop smoking OK, but something always makes her start again. It's like this thing on her shoulder constantly egging her on to smoke. As the days and weeks go by of not smoking, it gets stronger and stronger until she just has to give in and have a smoke.
This kind of personalised embodied metaphor has always intrigued me. For some reason, I have always been attracted to metaphor therapy. I like the visual element to it, and I like the way metaphor therapy can remove even the most stubborn unconscious behaviour. In this case I did not have a client after this one, so I felt I had some spare time to experiment.

Developing a personalised embodied metaphor 

I began the induction by asking the client to take three deep breaths. Then I stopped the induction and asked her to become aware of the thing on her shoulder. I got her to think about this feeling of smoking, this thing that was always on her shoulder when she stopped. I talked about noticing its colour, size, and how it felt physically on her shoulder.
Even after only three deep breaths, she was clearly in a light trance. She began to describe the thing that appeared on her shoulder. She described it as being a brown mass. Then she said there was white. She said it is tall. I asked how big it was. She told me "about the size of my finger". I asked what it looked like. She said "it's a cigarette", like I was an idiot.

This completely surprised me. Metaphors are usually just that, a metaphor. In other words, something that represents something else. This woman was experiencing it as the thing itself. Usually when I do this exercise I find an imp, or something like a gargoyle, something that represents an evil spirit of some sort. This woman was visualising just a cigarette with a filter tip.

Using the personalised embodied metaphor to stop smoking

However, a metaphor is a metaphor, so I just went with what she gave me. I asked her to confirm that this represented her feeling of needing to smoke, of having to smoke. She said, "Yes, that's what it is". So I asked her what she would like to have happen to it.

She said "I want to break it up into little bits". I told her to do that. I then asked "And what is happening now to that thing?". She said "It is scattered on the ground". I then encouraged her to squish it all into the ground, to utterly destroy the cigarette.
Then I went over it all again. I used the suggestion that any time in the future when she might feel like starting smoking again, she would become immediately aware of this thing on her shoulder. She would reach up, break it into little pieces, scatter it on the ground, and utterly destroy it.
I brought her back out of trance, and we discussed it. She said "I don't quite know why, but I feel that I'm in control of it now".

Metaphor therapy can be quite amazing. Fast, flexible and powerful.

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hypnotherapy and virtual reality

Hypnotherapy and virtual reality

Hypnotherapy and virtual reality may be coming to a screen near you. Is the future of hypnosis about therapy over the Internet?

Anyone who has been doing hypnotherapy for a long time, will quickly realise that a lot of it is repetition of standard routines plus a personalised twist. Several companies have set up in business to exploit this fact. They offer personalised recorded therapy for stop smoking, weight loss, confidence, and other common problems. The basic deal is that you email your name and an idea of what your problems are and they will record an induction using your name, and try to adjust their standardised therapy routines to suit what you ask for. They then post the CD to you.

The business proposition is that it is much cheaper than seeing a therapist face-to-face, and more personalised than just listening to a CD or MP3 recording. Modern audio technology is cheap enough, and easy enough to use, to make this possible. It is only a very short step to imagine the whole thing on simulated video. As well as choosing what you want to be cured of, you could also choose the gender, race, age and accent of your virtual reality hypnotherapist.

The question is: is this actually a useful form of therapy?

There are several problems with this. The first is that clients are very often do not know what it is that they want. The origin of a behaviour problem can often be hidden under layers of old programming. Even where the problem is a very straightforward thing, like stopping smoking, a successful treatment often depends upon working out why the person smokes. You then address that reason.

The second problem is that everyone is unique. It really is too simplistic to think that a standard routine will work with everyone, or even with a high percentage of people.

The third problem is that not everyone is equally hypnotisable. The advantage of seeing a therapist face-to-face is that the therapist can judge exactly how the words are being received, and adjust the delivery to suit.

There is nothing wrong with delivering therapy by CDs. I have listened to CDs myself, and found some of them to be very useful. However, even with a full money back guarantee, I feel that there is going to be a very great number of people for whom it just won't work. Most of those won't bother asking for their money back, and will just assume that the problem is them. The danger is that the failure will leave the client even more in despair, believing that they are incurable.

None of these personalised recording services have any sort of follow-up system, and is hard to see how they could have one that worked. But a face-to-face hypnotist can take the extra time to work out why you are not getting the changes you want.

It does cost more, but isn't it better to have a service that works that costs extra, as opposed to a cheap service that doesn't work?

 

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stop smoking aversion

Spiegel’s method for stopping smoking

Herbert Spiegel was an American physician in North Africa with the US Army during the Second World War. He had learnt to use hypnosis clinically before the war. As an army doctor he had to deal with hundreds of soldiers who were physically injured, but also hundreds more who had what is now called PTSD. As always in any wartime situation he was short of morphine and other drugs. So he turned to hypnosis. He discovered that he was able to greatly reduce the amount of morphine by using hypnosis instead. He was also successful in using hypnosis to reduce battlefield induced psychological injuries.

Spiegel's method

When he returned to civilian life he began to apply hypnosis in his normal medical practice. He published extensively and his ideas on hypnotherapy were widely taken up in the medical profession. Spiegel  moved hypnosis out of the area of stage hypnosis and into the area of proper academic study. He applied his hypnosis treatments to weight loss, depression, and in particular smoking.
He was able to claim consistent success with a single session hypnosis technique known as Spiegel's method. Spiegel's method encourages smokers to keep reminding themselves of three basic ideas. A) smoking is poisoning your body. B) if you keep poisoning your body you will die. C) if you don't want to die, then you have to respect and protect your body.

The method consists of teaching smokers self-hypnosis. The self-hypnosis installs a post hypnotic suggestion to encourage the smoker to repeat A, B, C every two hours, and any time they feel the craving to smoke.
The theory behind this method is that motivation is the key factor in stopping smoking. Spiegel believed that concentrating on preserving your own body is the key to changing any destructive behavior.

Testing Spiegel's method

Academics tested and repeated his technique several times, under scientific controlled conditions, and got consistently good results. About 25% of random smokers will be smoke free a year later.
However, a great deal of research and development has happened in the 40 years since Spiegel introduced his method, and modern hypnotists claim a much higher rate of success.
It would be interesting to go back to the motivation method, and see how today's  smokers accept the idea, and whether it works any better now than it did then.

 

Source: Spiegel, H. (1970). A single treatment method to stop smoking using ancillary self-hypnosis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 26, 22-29.

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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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fear of earthquakes

Fear of earthquakes

I live in an earthquake zone, but up until today I had never actually had a client with a fear of earthquakes. My client was a young mother who had lived in New Zealand all her life.  Earthquakes are a monthly occurrence here. But since the last big earthquake she had been getting more and more fearful. Her anxiety was now becoming a serious problem. To the extent that she was seriously considering moving her family to Australia to avoid earthquakes. Strangely, it was not the earthquake itself she was afraid of, it was not being able cope with the aftermath. 

Not an irrational fear

She was very embarrassed about having such an irrational fear. She asked her husband if anyone else where he works was afraid of the next earthquake, and he said no. It was well is the fear is suffering from acute embarrassment.

I said that it seems to me like a simple phobia. She told me that her mother had also been terrified of earthquakes, and as a child, he had been disturbed by her mother's distress. It seemed to me that this might be a case of phobia by proxy.

I told her that as far as I was concerned, her fear of earthquakes was not irrational, although it was unusual. I told her that it wasn't irrational because it was actually based on a childhood fear that had never been dealt with. Something in the last earthquake  had triggered that childhood fear, possibly about an earthquake, possibly about something else. And now, every time she thought about it, that childhood fear was triggered back into action. The way to treat her fear of earthquakes was to treat the childhood fear.

Treating her fear of earthquakes

She was easily distressed just by talking about it and so I explained about Gestalt metaphor technique. I talked her through feeling the fear and got her to feel it in her body. I developed it as an object. She told me that she felt something oblong in her stomach. It was black and wobbly and soft and cold like jelly. I asked what she wanted to do with it. She told me she wanted a stamp on it. Gradually, I got her to change the object until it became like a teardrop, but she could not change it any further.

I asked her if she had ever done any baking. I talked about rolling, spreading, flattening, twisting, to seed the idea in her mind. This worked and she said that it had now become like a balloon. I got her to expand it and expand it, until it popped. She then put it down the sink disposal unit.

Then I got her to think about the place where it used to be. I encouraged her to fill it with something nice, like a flower, or a candle, or a child's smile, or something else that she liked. He decided to fill it with the view from her new house.

Replacing the fear of earthquakes

I then deepened her into a safe place, where she had everything she needed, and felt safe and comfortable. I suggested that her baby was there with her. Together they were surrounded, protected, and loved. In that place they were not affected by what happened outside.

Then I added some personal resources for her. I suggested that she was the type of woman who shines in an emergency. The type of woman who takes control, the type of woman who is in charge of herself and everything else. I suggested that she was ready, and in control, and a survivor. That she was the type of person that other people rely on.

Then I allowed her to bring herself back to the present.

That she felt very tired, but now thought of earthquakes quite differently.

I guess we shall just have to wait for the Next Big One to find out. 

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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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Self diagnosis

Self-diagnosis technique

I think I may have discovered a new self-diagnosis technique. My client yesterday was overweight. Overeating in my experience is normally associated with some sort of childhood trauma. However, after much questioning this client said that she could not remember anything about her childhood that was bad. She did say that she had lots of feelings but for the whole of her life she has just pushed them back, refused to deal with them.

I decided that the best approach would be to do Gestalt metaphor therapy. I used a breathing induction with her, and gently lead her into trance. As soon as I was sure that she was in trance, I began fishing for the dominant feeling in her unconscious mind. This involved suggestions such as  "There is a feeling that you get, a feeling you have had many times". "It is a feeling about not being good enough, a feeling of being worthless, no good". "A feeling from long ago, and as you think about that feeling, as you get that feeling, this something will come into your mind about that feeling".

And sure enough, she immediately began to cry as the memory that she had tried to push back began to emerge. Gestalt metaphor technique is a way of dealing with the feeling in terms of a metaphor. It is a safe way of dealing with trauma, because you don't have to access the memory directly.

So I got her to express her feeling as an object. She told me it was like a white ball, then it turned into a jelly bean-shaped thing,  hard and smooth and lodged somewhere in her chest. I then started the process of suggesting to her that it might change. Eventually it shrank and wrinkled and ended up like a deflated balloon. The next step was to ask if she had ever used a chopping board. That prompted her to imagine chopping up the limp balloon. Whatever that feeling or memory was it was now gone, for ever.

A self-diagnosis technique?

After she came out of trance, we discussed the nature of metaphor healing therapies. She is an intelligent woman, and is very interested in the process. So I decided to do an experiment. I told her I was going to teach her self hypnosis, so that when she was in trance in her own time she could explore her own subconscious mind.

I used a progressive muscle relaxation induction, followed by an eye catalepsy test. She, like many overweight people, had a rapid, shallow breathing pattern. So I deepened her until her breathing became regular and slow.

In this induction, I spent some time emphasizing the power of her own mind, and how strong it was. I told her that in trance her mind would open up to a large empty space and in that space perhaps her mind would show her something. Something to do with the feeling that she gets, something to do with that need to eat, something to do with why she is unhappy. This was something I had not done before. I really wasn't sure what to expect. My hope was that her mind would reveal to her something that she had spent a lifetime trying to hide, but who knows?

 

She came out of trance, telling me she felt a very profound feeling, unlike anything she had ever experienced before. We wound up the session and she still didn't say anything about seeing something or not. So I asked her if she had seen something. She said "Yes I did, but I'm not telling you what it was", and laughed.

It seems it did work. And I will be exploring this technique in future.

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