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Archimedes spiral induction

Archimedes spiral induction

Hypnosis is associated in the public's mind with two things: a swinging watch, and a rotating spiral. The hypnotic spiral is actually called an Archimedes spiral. Whether it actually has any connection to Archimedes is unknown. 

It is also known as Plateau's spiral, after the Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau (1801–1883.) Plateau published a description of its use in 1878. The spiral is generally mounted on a card about 15 cm in diameter, with a little motor behind it that causes it to rotate slowly. The original spiral, in the mid-19th century, was driven by a sort of windmill affair, by the hot air given off by a spirit lamp.

Archimedes spiral induction

The Archimedes spiral induction is quite  effective. It is caused by a physical effect called a "spiral motion after-effect". After staring at the spiral for a while, if you look at something stationary, it appears that the stationary object is actually turning. If you look at the hypnotist's face, it appears to expand or contract, depending on the direction the spiral was turning.

The Archimedes spiral induction uses this optical illusion to put people into trance. The hypnotist tells the person that what they are seeing is their mind taking them into trance. The hypnotist suggests that every time the face expands and contracts the person will go deeper into trance. The effect is quite strong, so the suggestions are easily believed. The listener cannot deny what they are seeing. Therefore the suggestion that "this means that you are going into trance" is accepted by the unconscious mind. Most people will sink into trance immediately.

The Archimedes spiral was an immensely popular scientific toy in the mid-19th century. This is probably why it was picked up by hypnotists. The spiral, and other mechanical aids, has fallen out of use. Those objects were associated with the "direct command" style of authoritarian hypnosis. That style has largely been replaced by more permissive styles of hypnosis.



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not who you think you are

You are not who you think you are

We can all remember ourselves as children. Most of us think that we are still essentially the same as we were then. This is part of a basic belief that we all stay pretty much the same person all through life.

Not who you think you are: different beliefs

There are other beliefs which disagree with this view. Buddhists in particular, believe that the "personality is an illusion." The Buddhist philosophy believes that we all change constantly, and that our belief that things stay the same is wrong.
It is well known that our body replaces all of its cells many many times in our life time. Some cells are replaced in a matter of days, some cells survive for years before finally being replaced. Even if you stay the same weight and height, there is a constant turnover of the physical matter that makes you up.

Science is now beginning to discover that is not just your body that changes. Your mind, your thoughts, your ideas, your beliefs, – they all change too. How you think can be changed by meditation. The basic functioning of your own unconscious mind can also be changed.

The evidence

A recent study compared the personality of a set of schoolchildren measured in 1950 with those same schoolchildren 63 years later. The study found no correlation between how teachers assessed the children's personality at the time, and how close friends assess their personality now. It appears that every one of these children had changed their personality over their lifetime. Other studies have suggested that for shorter periods, tens of years, your personality stays pretty constant. But this study shows exactly the opposite.

I'm sure that we are all familiar with meeting an old school friend after many years, and being amazed at how much they had changed. Well, it seems that the same applies to you.

Harris, et al. Personality Stability From Age 14 to Age 77 Years. Psychology and Aging. 2016 Dec; 31(8): 862–874. doi: 10.1037/pag0000133


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change the metaphor

Change the metaphor to fit the 21st Century

It is time to change the metaphor hypnotherapy uses

Time to change the metaphor

I am always trying to think up new ways of dealing with old problems. I like writing scripts that use a fresh approach. However, on looking through some recent scripts I realized that I have unconsciously been using the same tired old metaphors as everyone else. It is time to change the metaphor.

The classic example is the NLP Fast Phobia Technique. This consists of imagining you are sitting in a cinema and watching your phobia play out on the cinema screen. Then you are told that you can change the speed of the movie or run it backwards. This metaphor has to be sixty or seventy years old. It is based on technology that was once glamorous and exciting, and part of everyone’s life. But that time is long gone. Cinema attendances plummeted years ago. People now get entertainment from their cellphones. 

Think of all the standard induction scripts. They are all about stairs and escalators, opening doors, walking through a pubic park. We still do all these things but walking through public gardens is hardly an everyday event for most people. In fact going for a walk isn’t a daily event either, or even something a lot of people look forward to. And what about the swinging watch. When was the last time you saw someone wearing a pocket watch? Kids don’t even wear wristwatches these days.

Change the metaphor to include new technology

So I think we need to re-connect to the technology that people use every day. I have never seen a script that uses GPS as the metaphor, although it has been around for ten years. I have never seen a script about getting a fax. Or email. What about a script about Facebook? Are there any scripts about self-driving cars?

And what about popular culture?  Where are the scripts based on Harry Potter. Or Star Wars? Sherlock Holmes is a major TV event. How about using Sherlock as a way to find the source of your problems?

I think I need to start thinking about what technology is new and exciting today. The world is full of marvelous, almost magical technology, and we need to use that to make a better connection to our clients. We really need to bring our metaphors into the 21st century.

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dealing with death

How to help someone dealing with death

Most people just don't know what to do around death.

Dealing with death is difficult. You want to help, but don't know what to do. Many people feel very uncomfortable when someone they know has a close friend or relative die. It is hard to know what to do or say. You don't want to make things worse by bringing it up, and at the same time you don't want them to think you're insensitive. The trouble is that no one ever tells you how to deal with it. It's something that we just don't talk about.

The first thing to realise is that the person involved already knows. You cannot make it worse by mentioning it. You cannot help them without acknowledging their loss. What you need to do, in every case, is to let the person know that you share their loss. Empathy, not sympathy.

Let them know you care

It can be very tempting to just pretend that it didn't happen. To just not talk to the person. This is the worst thing that you can do. What the grieving person needs is for lots of people to reach out to them. You don't have to be highly skilled are particularly empathetic. You just need to let them know that the person they lost was also important to other people.

The best thing you can do is to listen. Let them talk, and just listen. Do not offer advice. Don't tell them "it will pass". Do not tell them stories about how it also happened to you. Really listen. Hear their grief and acknowledge it. Many people are too busy thinking about what they are going to say in return to really hear what's being said. Talk about your memories of the dead person, share what you have in common. And don't sanitize the dead person. Talk about their faults as well as their virtues. Let the listener know they were a real person in your life.

Do something practical

It is always better to do something than to do nothing. The second best thing you can do is to help the person in practical ways. If they are not coping well, offer to cook a meal. Or to look after the kids for a night. Ask if you can do the ironing. Maybe suggest you go out for a walk at the weekend. Show the person you care by doing something useful for them.

The third thing to do is to be there for them. Even if you feel deeply embarrassed, do not just disappear. How are you going to rebuild a friendship, if you just dropped out of sight the moment they really needed some help? Call the person, visit the person, let them know that you are there if they want to call you day or night. Let them know that you are a resource, a friend.

Invest in a long-term friendship

And be a continuing friend. If you know they're still grieving long after the event, then don't be afraid to reach out on the anniversary. Being person may feel very down at that point, and your offer of friendship and company can make a difference.

But whatever you do, just be there for them.



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Smokers getting marginalised

Are smokers getting marginalised into extinction?

Plain packaging works

In Australia, there is evidence of smokers getting marginalised into extinction. Australia was the first country in the world to introduce plain packaging. Plain packaging is anything but plain. The front and back of all cigarette packs have sickening photos of tobacco related illnesses. All logos and corporate colour schemes are removed and replaced by a drab brown background. The only indication of the brand is a tiny panel on the front.  Every brand name is laid out in exactly the same size and  typeface. There is almost no way of telling one brand from another.

The result of this is that the percentage of people smoking is plummeting in Australia. The government has pledged to keep increasing the cost of cigarettes each year until they are unaffordable. All of this would be expected to lead to what is being seen, a fairly rapid reduction in people smoking.

Smokers getting marginalised

But the government campaign has had an odd side effect. It is not just targeting smokers. It is also having an effect on non-smokers. Over many years laws and regulations have restricted where smokers can smoke. It started with banning smoking in restaurants. Then smoking was banned in pubs.  Later this was extended to every public indoor area. Smoking was banned in jail. Employers started banning smoking in the workplace. So smokers started congregating outside.

This led to the creation of "smoking hot spots" where smokers congregated. To break up this "public nuisance" many states have extended the bans even further. Smoking is banned within 10 m of any playground and on railway platforms, taxi ranks, and bus stops.

The result is that smokers are now being herded into less and less attractive places. The only place they can smoke are places no one else wants to be. The result is a change in public perception. Smokers are getting associated with the places where they smoke. Dirty unpleasant places equals dirty unpleasant people.

So there is increasing social pressure from non-smokers to clear out these smoking places. In the long run this may be just as effective as putting up the price.

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Stop smoking NLP

Stop smoking NLP

Stop smoking NLP programming

I have just noticed the new stop smoking NLP service being offered on the Internet. The marketing approach is low-key. It avoids the common hype of screaming banners and flashing pop-ups. Which is nice.

What I find interesting is the approach. The marketing for this service says that it hypnotises you in order to remove the programming that makes you smoke.

Whether this works or not depends on whether smokers are actually "programmed". If you are not programmed, then you cannot be deprogrammed. The whole idea of "programming" is at the heart of NLP. NLP started back in the 70s when computer programming was the latest and greatest technology. Every business idea wanted to use the term "programming".  But there is no direct evidence that the human mind is actually programmed, in the same way that computers are "programmed".

The marketing also claims that NLP can program you to feel that you have never smoked. And if you feel like someone who has never smoked, then the idea of smoking will just never occur to you. In my experience, this kind of modelling works for a couple of days, at most. At the first touch of stress, the person reverts back to their standard way of responding.

Smoking to feel sad

The second part uses NLP to associate smoking with a feeling. The advertising says that the CD put you into hypnosis, then get you to think of something in your life that made you sad. Then they use NLP to link that feeling of sadness to smoking. So that every time you have a cigarette, a period of sadness overwhelms you. The marketing says that you will find no difficulty in giving up smoking, if every time you have a smoke you feel sad and tearful.

A separate part of the process uses NLP to link not smoking to some joyous event in your life. So that every time you think of not having a cigarette, those feelings rise up in you.

It is certainly an interesting idea. However, NLP has a very spotty record of success. I studied it personally for many years. But I came to the conclusion that most of it just didn't work. The NLP community has never managed to prove that "programming" is anything more than a metaphor.

I would be very interested to know if this actually works.

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Cigarette smoking habits

Cigarette smoking habits are now changing

Cigarette smoking habits are now changing

Cigarette smoking habits are now changing all over the world. But there is nothing new about this. During the history of smoking cigarettes have gone in and out of fashion. When first introduced to England, tobacco was seen as a sign of international travel. Then it was banned totally.  Then it was accepted by everyone, and created huge fortunes for tobacco merchants. Then there was a reaction against cigarettes. Cigarette smoking was blamed for mental illness. Then it flipped again. Tobacco was seen as being good, and smoking was recommended by doctors. And now smoking is evil.

In the 1700's the normal way of smoking tobacco was with a pipe.  Everyone, from the highest to the lowest; men, women and children, smoked clay pipes. However, fashions change. In the UK the more sophisticated classes took to using snuff. Some chewed it. Then, by the 1800s, the upper classes switched to cigars. Only the poorest people used cigarettes. In the USA it was different again. By the middle of the 1800's, the most common way of using tobacco  in the US was chewing it. 

Cigarette smoking habits in the Victorian Era

In Britain, the Crimean War changed smoking habits forever. The Crimean War was immensely popular in Britain, in part at least because of the mythology of the Charge of the Light Brigade. When the troops got home people started to copy what the returned soldiers did. During the war, British troops found themselves fighting in bitter cold and so were allowed to grow beards to avoid frostbite. This started a fashion for beards in all levels of English society.

The result was that most images of people in late Victorian times show them being covered in beards and sideburns. The British troops got to know Turkish troops, their allies. And the British troops started to copy the Turkish habit of rolling tobacco in paper and smoking it. They brought this habit back with them. Ordinary people wanted to copy their heroes, so cigarettes became fashionable. 

At that time manufactured cigarettes were available, but they were handmade, and relatively expensive. The first effective cigarette making machine was patented in 1880. In the next few years, cigarettes dropped in price dramatically. Machine-made cigarettes were much more practical. However, they still had the stigma of being associated with the lower classes. The upper classes in the UK still smoked their cigars. King Edward IV even had cigars named after him.

Cigarettes as social protest

The switch to widespread cigarette smoking was started by artists. At the turn of the 19th/20th century many doctors believed that cigarette smoking caused mental disorders. Therefore anyone who smoke cigarettes was defying social convention. And this suited members of a developing art movement. They wanted to show that they rejected everything that was normal and accepted. Artists were mostly from the upper class at this time. Ordinary people couldn't afford to be artists, they had to work.

So these upper-class artists started smoking cigarettes publicly, in the bars where they met. They started painting cigarettes into their portraits. This was shocking to the rest of the class they lived in. Which delighted the artists. They saw themselves as revolutionaries. They saw themselves as defying all conventions. Added to that, they were openly defying advice about risking sending themselves mad. And could use cigarette smoking as an excuse for any kind of wild behaviour.

Gradually, the association of cigarette smoking with glamorous artists, bohemian living, free love, open sexuality and all the rest of it, gave cigarette smoking a sense of glamour. Movie stars started smoking. This had an immense effect on public ideas about smoking, particularly seeing women smoking on screen.

Cigarette smoking habits dying out

Manufacturers and advertisers jumped onto the boom and promoted cigarettes everywhere. There was so successful at this that public perception changed totally. Cigarettes were now seen as a good thing. The Army actually gave cigarettes free to their soldiers. In the 1950s, doctors would recommend you take up smoking as a way of dealing with stress. Smoking reached epidemic proportions. In some places 80% of people smoked. You could smoke anywhere.

And then major health problems began to be seen in the population. There is nothing new about this. As far back as the 1890s, cigarettes had been called "coffin nails". It was obvious that smoking was unhealthy. But it took another 60 years for public awareness to turn into alarm.

Today, smoking is universally condemned. Governments are moving to stamp out smoking in their populations. So this may well be the very last stage of the history of tobacco consumption.

And we hypnotherapists can play our part too.




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Fear of birds

Fear of birds – clearing the phobia

This morning I had just finished a client, and I was working at my computer waiting for the next client. I heard a message arrive on my cell phone. Having nothing better to do I checked the message. The message said that the sender was on a train and needed to see me urgently.
The message said something like "I am coming into SilverStream station and will be there within the next 10 minutes. I am shaking with fear. At one of the previous stations the doors opened, and a pigeon flew in. It was under the bench seat next to me, walking around, and I could see his head going back and forward as it walked. I have a bird phobia. I saw hypnotherapist several years ago, and that moderated most of my fear. But this incident today has shaken me badly and I need to see somebody right now to get this fixed."
I texted back to say that I had my next client at 1 o'clock, but I would be happy to see her either before then or afterwards.
She immediately texted back to say that she would be at my place in 10 minutes time.
She duly arrived. And she did look shocked and frightened. She seemed very relieved to see me.
I only had 20 minutes or so to deal with her before the next client arrived. There was no need to spend any time finding out what the problem was, it was completely obvious. She was still highly emotional, so I used this this to start the therapy.

Treatment for fear of birds

I got her to focus on her feelings. She really didn't want to, but I got her to associate into her feelings of fear and anxiety. As soon as I was sure that she was experiencing the actual feeling that the bird had generated I asked her to describe the feeling in terms of an object. "If that feeling was an object, what object would it most resembles?"
She said "A triangle." She described it as a grey triangle, with smooth sides, that was just sitting there. I asked "what would you like to have happen to that triangle?" She said "I would like it to fade into the background." "And if it faded into the background what could you do then?" "I would be able to walk past it, and I wouldn't be looking for the triangle everywhere I went."
So I started to develop the metaphor object. I asked her "can you make it a little bit bigger". She said she could. "And can you make it a little bit bigger still?" "Yes", she said. Then I asked her "now can you make it a little smaller?" And she immediately said "it's become black." This meant that she had changed the metaphor object. Changing is the first step to clearing the emotion.
So I asked her "and how does that seem to you now, that whole bird thing?" She said "I can walk past it, I don't have to look out for it any more."

And that was the fear of birds phobia banished.

The whole thing was done in less than five minutes.

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Smoking behaviour

Finding patterns in smoking behaviour

Smokers do not know why they smoke

I had an interesting smoking client today. This man has given up several times but always starts again. He started smoking three weeks ago, after having given up for four months using Champix. Previously he had given up for a year and half , also with Champix.

I kept asking him why he smoked, and what he got from smoking. He said he did not know. I kept pressing him and he said "I'm not the kind of person who analyses things deeply." He did not know why he started smoking again. I asked him how he felt when he give up smoking. He told me that he felt stronger and more active but it stopped him sleeping well. The information about sleeping made me suspect that in fact he had "black and white thinking".
I showed him the dysthymia grid I use. This shows all the signs and symptoms of dysthymia. And he began smiling as he recognized himself there.

Indicators of dysthymia

We talked about dysthymia and it gradually unfolded that he had had it all his life. I explained to him that it was partly genetic and partly environment. I said you will probably find that some members of your extended family are angry, alcoholics, loners and so on. He immediately said "Yes, my grandfather was a drinker. And my father is a worrier".
We went back to talking about why he smoked and what he felt just before he smoked. He could not identify any particular feeling, or situation, which prompted him to smoke. He said "I just like to go outside and have a break now and then".

And that was the clue to why he smoked. He actually had a fairly mild form of dysthymia. He had expectations of how things should go. When he had done what you thought was right at work, and things still went wrong, he got irritated. This is classic dysthymia behavior. In his case he dealt with the irritation by stepping outside and having a smoke. He admitted he often didn't actually want the smoke. He would like one up, smoke half of it, and throw it away. And pace up and down for a while. But he couldn't give up.
He was smoking as a way of dealing with his frustration. As long as he did not understand the source of his frustration he would continue to start smoking again whatever the level of frustration got high enough.

It's not about stopping smoking, it's about stopping starting.

He had already stopped smoking many times. His problem isn't stopping smoking. He knows how to do that. His problem is stopping starting again. So we spent some time discussing how he was going to deal with his frustration. He said  that instead of going out for a smoke he would take my suggestion and go out for a walk around the block.
I therefore put him into hypnosis and used my standard stop smoking routine. But I added in some extra suggestions about monitoring his own level of frustration and using this is a trigger to get more exercise.

I think it very interesting that so many smokers never give a thought to why they smoke, or when they smoke, or look for patterns in it. The pattern is usually fairly obvious once you look for it.

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The mystery of dysthymia

Discovering dysthymia

Today I was talking with one of my students and she asked me "How are you today?" I said what I usually say "Average." She said "Well, that's not very good." And I said "doesn't everyone feel average every day? Isn't that what average means?" So she said "shouldn't you try to appear cheerful all the time?" 

I said "I have never believed in pretending that I'm something I'm not. Sometimes I am up, sometimes I am down, but most of the time I'm just average." And then she said to me "Unless you tell yourself that you're feeling great you are going to stay that way all day." So I asked her why she felt that she had to try to boost how she feels all day. She said "Well, I woke up this morning feeling very grumpy, I really don't want to feel like that all day."

And I asked her if she felt grumpy a lot. She agreed that she felt grumpy sometimes. I asked her how well she slept. She told me that she sleeps badly. My psychology training began to get interested. I asked "would you say your mind was always busy?"

"Oh yes, always".

"Do you often get irritated with other people? Like when they don't do things you think they should do."

"Oh yes, too much. In fact my sisters were telling me at the weekend that I'm always snapping at them. They think I'm just bad tempered all the time. I don't think there's anything wrong with me."

Discussing the symptoms

At this point I realised I was talking to someone with a form of depression, who was totally unaware that she had it. I asked a few more questions and every one of them built up a picture of someone who sleeps badly, eats badly, can't concentrate, has a busy mind, gets down a lot and somehow just can't get around to doing her studies. I explained to her, gently, and I thought she actually has a form of depression. We discussed the symptoms of dysthymia back-and-forth and once she had got over the initial shock, she seemed to accept it. In fact she seemed quite relieved. It was as if that at last she had found something  which explained all the different aspects of her behaviour.

We talked about dysthymia and its effect on day-to-day life for most people. She very rapidly realised that she in fact had all the symptoms. And not only that, she could identify them clearly in a niece of hers. And then she named several other relatives who also had odd behaviour that could be explained by this.

Finding out more

I got her to look it up on Google. I even had to spell it for her. And there it was, laid out in great detail, the classic symptoms. She was both appalled and delighted. Now she knew exactly what was going on, and what to do about it.

I have no doubt that she will follow the advice and gradually get rid of her long-term anxiety. I was very pleased to be able to help her. The tragedy is, that so many people have it, and don't realise. Dysthymia is an unnecessary drag on people's lives and happiness. And it is easily cured.

Perhaps there should be a public awareness campaign to bring it into the public consciousness. The mystery of dysthymia is why something has not been done up till now.



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