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Afterwardsness Nachträglichkeit Deferred action

Afterwardsness and increased significance

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

Increasing that old fear

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

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

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

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

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low fat diet mental health

Low Fat Diet Mental Health

Low Fat Diet Mental Health

About two thirds of your brain is actually made of fat. Ponder that for a moment. Is there  a Low Fat Diet Mental Health connection?  For more than 40 years scientists and dietitians have told us that eating fat is bad. The message has been that all animal fat is bad, and you should avoid it when you can. They urged us to eat light oils derived from plants, such as sunflower, safflower and soybean oil. Dietitians told us to replace butter with margarine.

The origin of  the low fat diet fad

And now it turns out that this advice was completely, totally, 100% wrong. This advice was based upon research done by a scientist called Ansel Keys. He found that there was less heart disease in countries where the population ate less saturated fat. He therefore concluded that saturated fat was the cause of heart disease. This message was accepted and promoted by US health agencies and became official policy of governments all round the world for decades.

At the time, many scientists challenged this thinking. However, those scientists were steamrolled out of the way, their funding was reduced, and they were publicly vilified. The result was that alternative theories quickly disappeared. The only acceptable research in nutrition was research that aimed to prove that saturated fat was bad. But it now looks like the Keys research method was flawed.

The role of sugar in mental health

Recent research is now pointing the finger at sugar. There is a movement gaining strength now that says sugar is the cause of heart disease. It also points the finger at other simple carbohydrates. These are things like wheat flour, cornflour, rice, and to a certain extent potatoes. More and more studies suggest that it is a combination of white flour and sugar that is causing the obesity epidemic.

I went into my local supermarket recently. I went searching for any food products that did not contain sugar, or wheat flour, or cornstarch, or rice starch. Only three products in five aisles of packaged foods had none. Makes you think,

This is of more than passing interest to therapists. The research into low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet has shown that as well causing physical diseases, it may well be responsible for a range of mental illnesses, and depression in particular.

Suggested reading on Low Fat Diet Mental Health

There is now more and more compelling evidence that changing your diet to high-fat, low carbohydrate can actually cure long-term mental illnesses.

It is very early days yet, and more research is needed. Maybe you need to look at your client's diet as part of your therapy approach?



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paranormal beliefs

Paranormal beliefs in hypnotherapy

Paranormal beliefs

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

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

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

What is a delusion?

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

What is acceptable?

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

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

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

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automatic drawing

Automatic drawing for hypnotherapy

Automatic drawing as hypnotherapy

This is an unusual way of using hypnosis to explore your own unconscious mind. Automatic drawing hypnotherapy is fun and creative. Sometimes you get nothing much from it. Oftentimes what  you draw will surprise you and give you an insight into what is happening in your unconscious mind.

The setup

Decide where you want to do the drawing. You will need something to draw with, a pencil, a ballpoint pen, a crayon – it really doesn't matter, whatever you feel comfortable with. And then you need something to draw on. This can be a notebook, some printer paper, a whiteboard, – again, whatever you feel comfortable with and is readily available.

Most people like to be sitting when you do the drawing, but you can also do standing up. I will assume you are sitting down. Get yourself comfortable in the seat. Get your paper on your lap or on the tabletop or whatever, ready to use.

First get yourself grounded

Now get yourself grounded. Take three breaths slowly and deeply. Consciously tense and release all of your muscles. Start with your facial muscles, then your neck muscles, then your shoulders, and then your arms. Just tense and release them and allow them to feel heavy and soft and relaxed. Do the same with all the other major muscle groups. Tense and release your chest, your waist, your hips, your legs.

When you feel that your body is heavy and relaxed in your breathing gently, focus your attention on your feet. Just imagine all that weight going into your feet. Imagine your own power and awareness going out through your feet into the ground, like the roots of a tree. Take a few moments and really become aware of the connection between your body and the ground beneath your feet.

Then imagine each of your problems, issues, worries, beginning to drain away. Draining out through your feet. Allow each one to let go from wherever they are and flow out of your body through your feet and into the earth below.

Start the automatic drawing hypnotherapy

When you feel you are really relaxed, when there is no noise in your mind, when it has all drained out of you, then you can start drawing. Allow your mind to choose where on the paper you want to place the pen or pencil. Don't force it, or think about it, just allow that you hand decide where to start.

Then, start moving the pencil in whatever way seems right to you. You're basically doodling thoughtlessly. Look at the paper, watching as the pen moves, and just being curious as to what it wants to do next. You might find yourself drawing straight lines like a fan, or drawing circles. You might find yourself shading in things, thickening lines, or filling spaces with dots. Some lines might just be tiny strokes, some will be long and sweeping.

All of these should be automatic, something produced by your mind. You might keep drawing continuously, or your mind might want to lift the pen and start doodling somewhere else. All you have to do is be curious about what your hand wants to do next. Just let it happen, and be an observer.

Using automatic drawing as hypnotherapy

As you watch the page will begin to fill up with your random doodles, circles, lines and curves, boxes or whatever. And even while your hand is drawing them you will begin to recognise in those doodles areas that look like faces or arms or sunsets or something else.

Don't try to interfere, just allow your hand to keep moving, making loops and lines, expressing whatever it wants to express.

At some point you will know that it's time to stop. Stay in your relaxed state and just absorb whatever your hand has created. Parts of the drawing will suggest things to you. Close your eyes and allow your mind to expand on those things. You can also turn the page on its side and see what that suggests. Keep doing that until you feel that you have extracted whatever meaning the automatic drawing might be trying to tell you.



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Misophonia Treatment and Anxiety 

Many people get enraged when other people chew loudly. This is called Misophonia. And it is not just chewing that sets them off. It also applies to drinking, slurping noisily.   Some people get angry when someone else makes a noise with objects, like clicking a pen. Or drumming their fingers, or even flicking from channel to channel on TV. Even just fidgeting in general will get some people aroused.

It is quite distressing. The sufferer gets aggressive for no real reason. You know your response is out of proportion to the offence, but you just can't stop. And then you feel stupid and embarrassed after. You feel awful, but you just can't let it go. Some people find that as time goes by more and more sounds set them off. Some people carry earplugs with them all the time, in case something unexpected sets them off.

Avoiding misophonia

Many people avoid it by choosing to eat alone. But of course that doesn't help if you must eat at a family table. The standard treatment is usually CBT. This often helps. CBT can help you understand the agitation you feel. It lets you realize that when a noise is bothering you don't have to project your feelings about it. It allows you to concentrate on challenging thoughts about the thing that is annoying you. But it doesn't do anything to prevent it.

I think the key to this behavior lies in the fact that he has a sudden onset, and an unreasonable aggressive response. 23andMe, the genetic testing company,   suggests that there is a genetic component to it. The most common psychological issue that is both genetic and  expresses as sudden irritation, is black and white thinking.

The real reason

Black and white thinking is an aspect of dysthymia, a common form of mild depression. Dysthymia is very prevalent in the general population. Various authorities suggest somewhere between one and eight and one in 12 people have dysthymia. The majority of dysthymia cases have never been diagnosed. They are just dismissed as unreasonable people. Dysthymia produces grumpiness, anger, irritation, isolation and circular thinking. These symptoms are so wide-ranging and confusing the dysthymia is often overlooked.

But black and white thinking is probably the most serious of the symptoms. Black and white thinking arises from expectations. You expect something to happen a certain way, and if it doesn't then you get irritated, possibly angry. When you feel that way you want to punish the person or thing causing your irritation.

I think that Misophonia is very misunderstood. In my opinion, it is basically an anxiety issue. People with Misophonia frequently have OCD as well or some other anxiety disorder. The answer is to treat the anxiety disorder and prevent getting irritated in the first place.



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false consensus effect

False Consensus Effect

False consensus effect

the false consensus effect is a cognitive bias that leads you to assume that other people think the same way that you do. It is natural, and inevitable, and leads to problems in therapy.

It is both good and bad. It is bad when extremists of any sort find confirmation of their own views in the general population. It is good when it allows you to feel more comfortable in a social group.

The self reinforcing effect

The false consensus effect causes you to overestimate the extent to which other people share your own beliefs, values, morals and behaviors. Once you believe this, you stop noticing evidence that doesn't support that, and you tend to reinforce your own view of the world.

You can test this quite easily. Simply ask someone to do something a bit strange, a bit out of the ordinary, something that you might think that would be socially unacceptable or potentially embarrassing. For example, ask your friend if they would dye their hair green. Note whether your friend says yes or no. People who say no, will say that the majority of people would also say no. People who say yes, will tell you that the majority of people would also say yes. They are projecting their own feelings onto the general population. Regardless of what the actual numbers are, people always overestimate in the direction that agrees with how they feel.

False consensus effect and therapy

What does this have to do with therapy? It is important because the way that you deal with your clients reflects your personal beliefs. Your personal beliefs about therapy were determined by how you were trained. How you were trained is determined by the beliefs of the trainer. So once you have these beliefs about how to do therapy, they tend to be reinforced by speaking to other therapist trained in the same therapy. You reinforce them, and they reinforce you.

The problem is that this process prevents you from being open to new ideas, to different modalities, to better ways of doing things. Unless you deliberately set out to challenge yourself, to talk to people from different backgrounds, two experiments with new techniques, you will tend to get stuck in a rut. You will tend to allow your techniques to fossilize, to become more and more embedded in your theory of psychology.

Avoiding the false consensus effect

This is one of the reasons why most therapy associations insist on annual professional development. Going to conferences gives you the opportunity to see a different view of the world. Getting trained in a different modality might well change your perspective on what you are doing, and why you are doing it.

It is something that we all need to be aware of, and something we should all try to avoid.


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caffeine addiction

Caffeine Addiction and Stress

Caffeine Addiction and Stress

I had a client today with a caffeine addiction. This man is driven, intense, and stressed out at work. He runs a cleaning business. He says he must be addicted because he can't stop drinking V, a strong caffeinated drink. Actually, he can give up V, but then he starts drinking Coke or Pepsi. But those don't give him the same satisfaction, so he always goes back to drinking V.

He drinks V when he is stressed. He gets stressed by work, by family matters, by staff problems, by irate customers.  It is a  a physical need to drink it. He does not get any mental distress about not having it. He has become a bit of a connoisseur of V. It has be V, it has to be cold, and freshly bottled, it has to have the right taste (apparently batches are different sometimes), it has to be from a bottle and not a can.

I could not find any mechanism causing this behavior. I was thinking of sending him home with no charge.

Caffeine Addiction is like smoking addiction

But it struck me that this was exactly how smokers behave when they can't give up. So I tested for depression. He had all symptoms. But when I discussed it, he was very reluctant to even consider the idea.

When he has to go to a cleaning job because one of the staff has failed to turn up, he has to motivate himself. He needs to  get over the feeling of frustration and annoyance with being let down. So even before he starts the job,  he is thinking of a cold bottle of V as his reward.

And this is the key to his problem. He has set up a problem-reward cycle where he can do anything provided he knows that he is getting his reward. But it has to be exactly right: cold, bottle, V brand only, correct taste. When he gets that, everything gets reset back to normal. But then the stress builds up again and he can't stand it until he has to have another V experience. The V is what motivates him.

Treat the stress and not the caffeine addiction 

When we went over the reasons for that it became obvious that his problem was black and white thinking. Once that was established it was clear that the right approach was to forget about the caffeine, and deal with the stress. Finally, he then revealed that his brother is bi-polar. He didn't want to hear about depression because he does not want to think he has a mental illness like his brother.

I spent some time outlining what depression is, and how he could manage it.  He left a much happier man.

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Smoking Diagnosis

Smoking Diagnosis and Treatment

Smoking Diagnosis

I had an email today from a client who wants a smoking diagnosis.

Good morning Dave!
I’ve just made an appointment with you for two weeks’ time, and wanted to check in with you about it ahead of time. 

I see that appointments are about an hour long. Does this session include a bit of a ‘diagnosis’? As you’ll know better than anyone does, people smoke for a variety of reasons and I want to make sure that my reasons to smoke would be taken into account. 

For example, I had a hypnosis session yesterday, but it didn’t work because it was about hypnosis to relax instead of smoking to relax, and I don’t smoke to relax anyway—so my real reasons to smoke were neglected. 

Does that make sense to you? I hope you can reassure me!

Smoking Diagnosis is essential

My reply was:

When I deal with smokers, to me the most important thing is to find out why they smoke. In fact I will not go forward with a hypnosis session until I am completely satisfied and I know why they smoke, and it's also obvious to the client why they smoke.

If I don't know why you smoke, then I really can't do anything much for you in hypnosis. Treating someone for relaxation is only going to work if relaxation is their problem. People smoke for thousands of reasons. I had one this morning who smokes on the anniversary of her daughters death. But this year, unlike other years, she wasn't able to give up as normal. So in that case I dealt with the cause of the stress that was keeping her going, and did some work to let her let go of her daughter.

Smoking is always complicated. Smoking is always about emotion. I believe that tobacco is not addictive. I believe it is the process of smoking that is addictive. Many hypnotists treat all smokers the same. I do not. I am constantly fascinated by people's behaviours and why they do things.

So yes, the first thing I would do is to explore with you why you smoke, and what you get from it. Only then can we have a reasonable chance of getting you to change your behavior. Every behavior is a positive purpose. My job is to find out what that purposes and redirect it.

I look forward to meeting you.

Client's view of Smoking Diagnosis

Hi Dave,
Thank you for your very thoughtful reply.
I’m so glad you think that tobacco is not addictive, and I’m frustrated that so many professionals believe that it is nicotine that causes smoking addiction. I know that’s not the case for me.
I feel reassured by your reply, and I’m looking forward to my session with you.
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sexual abuse by therapist

Sexual Abuse by Therapist

Sexual Abuse by Therapist

I had a client today who made me feel both depressed and angry. This young woman came in, and when she settled down in the chair, I  asked her "and what would you like to have happen?".

She said, "I just want to be happy". This wasn't really something I could work with, so I tried probing a bit more.

"So what is making you unhappy?" "I don't know."
Okay, not a great start. I decided to broaden the scope, and asked her "if you could change only one thing in your life what would that one thing be?".

She thought about it for a while, and then said "I don't really know".

We were getting nowhere. So I asked her "what is the most important thing in your life?"

She didn't answer. Instead, her face crumpled and she began weeping quietly.

Testing for depression

Anyone who sits in my chair crying, most likely has depression of some sort. So I did the standard test for depression and sure enough, she fitted into many of the categories. We discussed the symptoms, when this had started, and what she had done about it.

She said, "I went to see a couple of counsellors, I don't think they helped".

I asked, "and did the counsellors say about what was causing you to be unhappy?".

She looked away, and mumbled something. I said to her, "sorry I didn't hear that, what was it you said?".

Once again she spoke very quietly and the only word I could make out was 'interference".

Sexual abuse by therapist

So I said "Interference? Interference with what?"

She looked deeply embarrassed. I realized what she was trying to tell me. "Are we talking about sexual abuse here?"

She nodded, and look miserable. I asked her very gently "when did this happen?".

She said, "I don't know. I don't remember it."

I asked, "how do you know you were sexually abused if you don't remember it?".

He said, "I was so unhappy, I went to see a counsellor at the Sally Ann, and she couldn't find any reason why I was so unhappy. She said that if I was unhappy and didn't know why, that meant I had been sexually abused. I told her that I didn't think I had been sexually abused, but she insisted that I must've been. There was no other reason why would be so unhappy."

I asked, "and what happened next?".

She said, "I didn't feel comfortable with that first counsellor, so I went to the local office of Rape Crisis. The counsellor I saw there also told me that I had been sexually abused. But I have actually no memory of it. I didn't go back to her either. "

Phantom sexual abuse

After listening to her story I actually felt very annoyed. I felt quite incredulous that counsellors are still insisting to women that they must have been sexually abused when they can find no other reason for that woman feeling unhappy. The fact that she got the same story from two different counsellors almost made me feel depressed. I thought we had left behind the sexual abuse hysteria movement.

In the 1990s, there was a whole industry devoted to persuading women that they had been sexually abused by family members. There were books published on how to tell if you had been abused, even if you had absolutely no recollection of it, and no reason to suppose you might have been.

Families were broken up, lives were ruined, innocent men went to jail, the whole thing developed until it got to such a ridiculous level that the whole thing was seen for what it was. A type of mass hysteria. And here it is, alive and well in my area, years after I thought it had all been put away and forgotten about.

As far as I'm concerned, this is just another instance of sexual abuse by therapists. The damage they do to vulnerable women is just as bad as actual sexual abuse.

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indicators of trance

Indicators of Trance

Indicators of Trance

I help out in training people interested in hypnosis from time to time. It is often useful to think back on how I used to feel about going into hypnosis, and how strange it can be for people doing it for the first time. It helps if you can recognize the indicators of trance.

Indicators of trance: Increased heartbeat

One newbie said to me "I was listening to a hypnosis CD the other night. I often find it quite difficult to get into trance, and I wonder if I'm doing it right. With this recording, I found myself sinking into what I thought was a trance, and feeling very pleased about it, when I noticed a sudden increase in my heartbeat. I don't know if it was excitement or alarm, but whatever it was, it pulled me right out of trance again."

In fact, this is one of the quite common indicators of trance. When you feel that increase in heartbeat it means that you are actually going into trance.  It is quite normal, nothing to worry about. If you find it bothers you during other inductions, then add in slow breathing to the induction. That should fix it.

Indicator of trance: eyelids flickering

Another physical symptom that people often complain about is that "my eyes start flickering uncontrollably". This is another one of these indicators of trance. It is quite normal, and harmless, and usually passes after a few minutes.

Indicators of trance: giggling with embarrassment

"I get the giggles when going into trance". This is another physical reaction and an indicator of trance. This happens with people who are anxious or analytic. As the induction proceeds, their breathing slows down, the muscles begin to relax, and at that point they start entering trance. But for this type of person, relaxing equals losing control. As the start to feel themselves losing control, the feel embarrassed, uncomfortable, and the embarrassment comes out as giggling or laughing. It normally only happens once or twice. Once the person is comfortable with going into trance and realises that nothing bad happens, then they don't feel that same embarrassment and they don't get the giggles.

Indicators of trance: muscle jerk jerking

if you people find that when they feel themselves going into trance, and arm, or a leg, will start jerking. Sometimes quite violently. This is often enough to pull them out of trance completely. Some people just cannot get into trance because it happens every time.

What is happening is that as their body relaxes, their unconscious mind feels that it is losing control. This control is usually manifested as a tension in the muscles. As that tension releases, the muscle will spasm. This impediment to trance is actually quite difficult to get rid of. It normally means that the person has quite deep-seated anxieties. And of course the hypnotherapy is for getting rid of those anxieties. But those anxieties are stopping the person getting into trance. So you have a circular problem. All they can do is to go through a long, slow induction and give themselves time to relax every muscle completely.

But everyone can be hypnotised eventually. It is simply a matter of repetition and practice.

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