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taste hallucinations

Why don’t you have Taste Hallucinations

Why don't you have taste hallucinations?

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

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

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

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

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

Can you hallucinate a strawberry?

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

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

Can other people summon up tastes on demand?

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Procrastination attention seeking

Procrastination attention seeking

Reports of the recent shooting death of the US rapper XXXTentacion revealed some significant detail about his tragic life. The BBC quoted his early life as "grim and confusing". According to the BBC, his mother was a teenager when he was born and she was absent for long periods when he was growing up. He was brought up mostly by his grandmother, family friends and babysitters.

This is a classic example of dysfunctional family circumstances which lead to antisocial behavior by the child. And sure enough, XXXTentacion had a long history of criminal behavior marked by violence. Various reports suggest that the success of his music career was partly the result of his ongoing violence. Being violent was part of his attraction to his fans.

Desperate for attention

But in his case, his violence may have been more than just random behavior. The BBC reports that he "once said that he used violence to make his mother pay attention". He used violence quite deliberately to deal with his own emotional needs. "I used to beat kids at school just to get her to talk to me, yell at me," he said.

It seems that that neglected little boy desperately wanted his mother's attention. And would do anything to get that attention. If the only way she would notice him was when he was violent, then that was what would do. Bad behavior was his strategy to get noticed. It did not matter that it was "yell at me": attention is attention. Any kind of attention is better than none.

This makes perfect sense from a behavioural psychology point of view. Children want their parents' attention and will do whatever it takes to get that attention if it is not freely offered.

Procrastination attention seeking

This is an extreme case of a child using extreme behavior to get what he wants. But I think it is actually much more common than we suppose. Not the violence, but the strategy of behaving badly to become the focus of a parent's attention.

For much of my own life, I have procrastinated. I would put off starting things, Or not finishing them. This applied to things that were important, valuable, that I was going to get into trouble for if I didn't do them. And that I suspect is a direct parallel between me and XXXTentacion.

I also grew up in a dysfunctional family. My father was usually away at work. My mother was distant and distracted and not the slightest interested in her children. From an early age, I was very aware that my family was different from other families.

It is only now, long after my mother has passed away, when I look back over the things I did not achieve in my life, when I look at the wasted opportunities, I can see the parallels.

Procrastination attention seeking and work

I suspect that the things I procrastinated about had a common factor. There were things that authority figures wanted me to do. Quite legitimately in most cases. Employers want you to work. They want their projects finished.

But I learned as a child that if I didn't do whatever my mother wanted me to do, at some point I too would get yelled at and perhaps beaten. But at least I was being noticed.

I think I have transferred that behavior to my adult life. Still seeking attention.

I wonder how much procrastination in other people reflects a similar need?


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yoga, meditation and hypnosis

Yoga, meditation and hypnosis

Yoga, meditation and hypnosis

The link between yoga, meditation and hypnosis is evident. All of these practices can make you feel better, quiet your mind, and improve your quality of life. Why they make you feel that way is a matter of belief.

Yoga and meditation are passive techniques. The basic intention, according to Buddhist beliefs, is to empty to your mind, to think of nothing, to experience a complete loss of self. The idea is that you just open yourself, the essence of who you are, to the universe. By connecting to the universe, you become one with it. You become aware of just how small and insignificant you are in comparison. In theory, this quiets the ego-self, and turns off all feelings of your own importance.

How does Yoga, meditation and hypnosis work

However, recent research shows quite the opposite. It has been known for more than a century than getting skilled at anything makes you more proud of yourself. This is the exact opposite of what yoga and meditation are supposed to do. Ironically, it seems that the better you get at meditation, the more impressed you are with yourself. This actually makes you focus more on yourself rather than less.

Researchers found that people who had done yoga in the previous hour felt higher self-esteem than equivalent people who had not. Similar results were found with meditation. Regular meditators who had meditated in the previous 24 hours scored more highly on measures of self-esteem than people who had not meditated.

Ego-quieting doesn't 

Ego-quieting is offered as the reason why yoga and meditation work. By quieting the chattering ego, by diminishing it, you make yourself feel better. But this study has shown a different mechanism. The study suggests that by being successful in your yoga meditation practice you actually boost your ego. It is the ego boost, not the lack of it, which increases well-being.

Presumably this is why self-hypnosis produces the same result?


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attract luck

Can you learn to attract luck?

Are some people just naturally born 'lucky'? Or is luck actually the outcome of hard work and natural talent? Suppose you are one of the 'unlucky' ones. Does that mean that you don't work hard, and have no talent? Clearly not.

And yet, some people just seem to be in the right place at the right time. Lucky people just seem to have some sort of magic attraction. What is it that lucky people have that others don't?

Can you learn to attract luck?

This question has actually been researched. It turns out that lucky people actually have a set of specific skills that make 'luck' happen to them. They have learned to maximize life's opportunities.

Obviously, there is more to success than luck. People living in extremely poor countries are not simply unlucky. But even within poor communities there are people who somehow get ahead.

Are you lucky?

Psychologists have run simple experiments to see if they can tell "lucky people" from "unlucky people". In one experiment, the researchers left a $20 note in the street. They discovered that those people who define themselves as lucky noticed it. People who said they were unlucky didn't notice it.

Similar results were found in other experiments. Another study asked volunteers to count the number of photographs in a newspaper. On the second page there was a large plain advertisement saying "stop counting now – there are 58 photographs". The advertisement did not have a photograph in it. Just the words. The "lucky" people noticed it and stop counting. The "unlucky" people scanned right past it, and kept counting.

The differences seems to be that lucky people are always open to opportunities. Unlucky people worried about the task and didn't even notice.

Principles of attracting luck

From these and other experiments four basic principles of "luck" are:

  1. Maximize your chance of opportunities
  2. Listen to your intuition
  3. Expect good things to happen
  4. Find ways to turn your bad luck into good luck

The strategies for learning how to attract luck will be familiar to every hypnotherapist. They include: meditation and self-hypnosis to increase intuition. Relaxation to reduce anxiety. Visualization of success and luck. And Socialisation, making a point of making one new friend or acquaintance every week.

It seems that being lucky is closely associated with good social skills. Other researchers have taught people how to be open to new experiences, relaxation techniques, conversational skills, and interpersonal skills. The key seems to be making yourself open to what is going on around you, and how you feel about yourself.

Bad luck linked to anxiety

What these skills are really doing is reducing anxiety. If you are totally wound up inside, if you're afraid of meeting new people then you are less likely to notice opportunities around you. It is not that lucky people attract more opportunities. Lucky people are just open to seeing opportunities when they arise. Anxious, introverted people are not.

If you are searching for a new job, and you are so anxious that there won't be one there, then you actually will not see what is right in front of you. When you're anxious you lose your peripheral vision. Your body goes into fight or flight mode and creates tunnel vision. You literally do not see the opportunity.

People who are anxious are caught in a circular trap. Because you're anxious, your unconscious mind focuses on threats, and excludes everything else. Anxious people are less likely to talk to strangers, and less likely to develop new friendships. The more people you know, the more supported you feel, and the more likely it is that you will hear about opportunities.

Teaching clients to attract luck

Being lucky is something that can be learned. Once you realize that there opportunities everywhere, you begin to see them.

This means that hypnotherapists really can help their clients achieve and become "lucky". A lot of what we do is called reframing. Reframing is simply seeing the good in bad situations. Once you enable your client to reinterpret their circumstances you are opening the door to them becoming "lucky".

Do you personally attract luck? Leave your comment below.

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procrastination perfectionism

Procrastination Perfectionism

Every day brings an interesting client. My client today had procrastination. He is finishing university this year. He has one more course to finish and his degree will be complete. He failed the course last year and now he cannot get down to studying what he has to do for this year. If he fails this time he will fail the whole degree.

Typically a therapist would suspect that this client either is afraid of failing or is afraid of succeeding. And indeed when he gets his degree he will be taking up a job overseas. He will have to give up the comfortable life of a student, so there is the fear of the unknown.

Procrastination Perfectionism

However, when I questioned him further it was obvious that he was actually suffering from undiagnosed depression. He had all the symptoms, and in particular, black and white thinking. In his case this was in the form of perfectionism. Procrastination Perfectionism is very common. 

He felt that if he was not going to do well in the exam and pass with outstanding marks then he was a complete failure. He had failed before so he wasn't sure that he would pass this time. That little voice in his head was saying  'You might as well not bother'. And so he was demotivating himself over and over. As the deadline crept nearer it got more and more likely that he would indeed fail. So it became an ever diminishing circle of anxiety and recrimination, and negative thinking. And the more pressure he put on himself the less work he did.

Once the situation was explained to him he could see what was happening and that the key to preventing his procrastination was dealing with the negative thoughts first. We will have to wait and see how this turns out, but it is interesting to me that in all the books I have read on procrastination none has ever suggested the link with depression, expectations and perfectionism.

I think it might be worth researching further.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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three positive things

Three positive things every day for wellness

Therapists often get too involved in theory. We make things more complicated than they need to be. We tend to overthink things. It is easy to come to the conclusion that the world is full of difficult problems.

Sometimes the simplest things are the best. It is said that the mind pays twice as much attention to negative things as it does to positive things. This is the mechanism behind gloomy thinking, pessimism and depression. It means that we all need to focus twice as much on the positive events in our life. We need to try to see the good as well as the bad.

Three positive things to make you feel better

One of the great things we can do for clients is to give them simple rules that they can use to improve their lives. There is one simple habit that really works. It is to encourage the client to write down at the end of every day three things that happened to them that were good. These do not have to be super wonderful things, anything will do. For example, seeing a lovely flower display, getting to the bus stop just as the bus arrives, a kind act by someone at work - anything. Looking out for the three things makes you more aware of all the good things that actually happen in your life.

The simple act of writing  down three positive things seems to impress them on the brain. It has been shown that people who do write down the three positive things become more resilient. You get a more cheerful attitude after only a few days. And doing it for longer makes it automatic. You will learn to focus on the positive. 

What do you think?

Have you tried this? What ways do you use to cheer up your clients?

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year left to live

If you had one year left to live…

The most important question 

There are many questions in therapy designed to make you examine your own life, your own values, and even your own place in the universe. There is the Dare question: "what would you do if you knew you could not fail?" Then there is the Funeral question: "imagine that you are lying in your coffin, and friends and family are gathered round to farewell you. What would they say about you, to sum up your life?" And then there is the Focus question: "what would you do if you knew that you had only one year left to live?"

Life coaches and therapists use these questions to focus your mind what is really important in life. The question is a measure of where you are, as opposed to where you want to be. These questions can be very powerful in concentrating your mind. Do you really want the people at your funeral to be saying "she was really good at watching television"? Sadly, for too many people that is the reality.

The man had only one year left to live

I mention these because recently I had a client come to me who is interested in Past Life Regression. He told me that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He had approximately eight months left to live. His visit was because he wanted to find out if there was anything to this past life business. After all, he would be finding out the actual answer quite soon.

I was totally taken aback by his matter-of-fact approach to his own impending death. He didn't look unwell. He seemed quite calm about the whole business. "I have come to terms with it", he said. I thought it was an amazingly healthy attitude to the worst thing that could happen to you.

He said that he gets quite mixed reactions when he tells people that he has less than a year left to live. The most common reaction apparently, is "So why don't you go travelling around the world? Go and dine in all the world's finest restaurants? Do all the things you always wanted to do?"

He surprised me with his answer. He said "If I had wanted to do any of those things, I would have done them by now. Just because you know that you are going to die doesn't make you into a different person. You like what you always liked. And your instinct is to keep doing what you've always done." 

So I guess I now have a better insight into the answer to the question "what would you do if you knew you had just a year left to live?"

Makes you think, doesn't it?

What do you think? Leave a comment.

What would your reaction be on learning you had only a short time to live? Have you ever met anyone in the situation? How did they behave?

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no past life

The Empty Bridge: no past life to explore?

What if you have no past life to explore?

I had a client yesterday who wanted to explore his past lives. He said it was purely out of curiosity.  He was of East Asian origin, and has a long history of mental awareness training.  Each day he chants for an hour and a half.  Despite the chanting, and having studied meditation, he told me that he has never succeeded in getting into trance.

I discussed past life regression with him, what I was going to do,  and what to expect. He seemed quite happy with my proposed approach. I was a little worried about the fact that he had never experienced trance. 

Leading him into trance

So I set out to teach him self hypnosis. I used a Progressive Muscle Relaxation induction. He went quite quickly into trance. Then I deepened him with a countdown deepener. Then, to be totally sure, I did an eye catalepsy test. In trance, I got him to try to open his eyes to prove to himself that he was in trance.

I then brought him out of trance and talked to him about the experience. He was delighted with trance experience. He reported that his body felt numb from the neck down. We discussed self hypnosis and depth of trance. He asked how he could go back into trance again.  To show him how easy it was, I got him to close his eyes, relax his body, and then I put him back into trance with the vanishing numbers induction.

Testing his subconscious recall ability

I then use this as the lead in to PLR. I deepened him again and led him to a river. He was walking along a riverbank when he came to a boat tied up at the side. He got into the boat which was filled with luxurious fabrics. I told him to sink down into the fabrics, and I deepened him again on those. Then I set the boat drifting down the river and suggested to him that he was seeing memories of his own life as he went down the river. He told me that he saw his parents,  teachers, and recalled some  incidents from his childhood. I was satisfied that he could visualize, and he could find memories from his own subconscious mind. 

Searching for his past lives

Then I told him that the boat was drifting into a long tunnel which was completely dark. Then his boat drifted out into light on the other side. In that place everything was mist. I suggested he could see things but he could not describe anything. I tried several other ways of getting him to experience a past life but he did not get a connection. He said there was something holding him back from going into the mist.

I brought him out of trance and we talked about it. He suggested that he was perhaps not ready for it. I told him that he would have to practice a great deal more so that he could go into trance easily, quickly, and certainly. He agreed that he now knew how to do that. He was looking forward to testing out his own mind in trance. We ended the session on that note

Even though we found no past life, he seemed quite pleased with the session overall.

How you can have no past life

I have an open mind on the whole Past Lives concept. But if it is true, then for it to work, there must exist a soul that was in somebody else before you. However, it is said that there are more people alive right now than have ever lived in the whole of history. Ancient populations were tiny compared to the vast global population today. So if there are more bodies than there every have been in the past, then logically there must be people being born today who cannot have had a previous life. Perhaps my client was one of them?

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dream experiences

Dream Experiences of smell and taste

Dream Experiences and sensory perception

Dream Experiences are often strange. You are often trapped and unable to move, or being pursued, or one thing suddenly merges into something else. But the strangest dream experiences may be what you don't dream of. Do you smell or taste things in your dreams?

I was revisiting one of my favorite books: Awake This Dreamer! by Walter de la Mare. It is a collection of poetry and short essays on the subject of sleep and dream experiences. I have always been interested in dreams. They have a lot to tell us. I think they reflect what is being processed by the unconscious mind. In particular they let us know when the unconscious mind is moving on from some blockage that previously was preventing you from living your life fully. A dream is a metaphor, and very often you can recognize elements of your current life in the metaphorical parts of the dream. Parts about changing or leaving something show that you are discarding old beliefs and attitudes, and replacing them with different, more flexible beliefs.

Dream Experiences haven't changed much, it seems.

One poem particularly caught my attention. It was written four hundred years ago. The author reflects on his personal dream experiences. He observed that no matter how sweet a flower might be in your sleeping mind, you never smell its fragrance. And it struck me that he was right: you don't dream of smells. I have not heard of anyone reporting an actual smell in a dream, or a taste for that matter.

I wonder if that is because the sense of smell is located in a primitive part of the brain? Perhaps only the more recent developments of the brain that deal with shape and color appear in dreams because they are located in the outer cortex. The outer cortex is accessible to consciousness. Your sense of smell and taste is located in the primitive reptile brain stem. Maybe that is why smell does not appear in dreams?

From my own personal dream experiences I notice that in dreams I always have perfect vision. I am quite short sighted, and I need glasses. But I never need glasses in my dreams. Everything is always in perfect focus.

I wonder if that applies to everyone?

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weird dreams

Weird Dreams

Last night as we put the light out I was about to say to my wife 'sweet dreams' when I realized that 'sweet dreams' is actually the last thing you would want to wish on someone.

What weird dreams are for

The purpose of dreams is to allow the mind to resolve things that have not been resolved during the day. Dreams also are an outcome of processes by the unconscious mind. All dreams are expressed as metaphors. This is why then seem so bizarre. Each element is a symbolic representation of something that is held in your mind and the action of the dream represents the interaction between different parts of your mind. The essential aspect of a specific dream is that everything represents you, every part of the dream is a part of you.

My Weird Dreams

I recently had a weird dream of having to go into a large multistory building. Outside was an Indian looking couple in a four poster bed with rich drapes hanging down. Around the couple was a large group of angry people. The couple in the bed were looking very apprehensive. But I felt compelled to leave them there and go into the building. Inside the building I got lost in a confusing mess of different rooms, stairs, lifts etc. While trying to find my way out I realized that the couple in the bed were going to be stoned to death. I thought that I had to get out and stop it but I couldn't find the way out.

Eventually I did get out and back to the place but the crowd had gone and there was just a huge pile of rock there. I thought to myself' 'well, there was nothing I could do about it really, it is not up to me to interfere in other people's cultures' and I went on my way.

Analyzing weird dreams

This sort of dream is full of violence and feeling trapped and is the exact opposite of a 'sweet dream'. However what the dream represents is two parts of my mind. One part is not longer useful to me in living my life: old ideas, self beliefs and outdated rules. That part is represented metaphorically by the couple in the bed. I suspect they were 'Indian looking' because that represented 'foreign' in my subconscious.

The other part of my mind wants to get rid of those old beliefs, feelings or whatever: represented by the angry crowd. I got lost in the building as a metaphoric way of not interfering consciously in the cleansing process.

It only through this type of dream that you make changes in your mind and learn and mature. The person who first came up with the wish for 'sweet dreams' didn't know what they were talking about.

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