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home invasion anxiety

Home invasion anxiety removed

I had a client yesterday who told me she needed help with anxiety. She said she had been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. She said she had been on anti-anxiety medication for five years. Five years ago her marriage was on the rocks, she was being made redundant at work, and a parent was seriously ill. In her own words 'she went into meltdown' and had to be put on anxiety medication. This is a fairly normal description of a cluster of life events that triggers anxiety. However, I wondered why she was still anxious five years later.

Home invasion anxiety

I asked her what she thought the cause was. She immediately said "it is all about a home invasion I had when I was a kid. I woke up to find some man sitting on my bed". She was convinced that she had dealt with that. However, her current anxiety focussed on night-time, on being left alone, and on a fear of someone harming her.

I recently read a book by Peter Levine 'In an unspoken voice'.  His belief is that almost all anxiety comes from being in a situation that you feel powerless to escape from. Not dealing with the situation properly at the time leaves you trapped in that feeling for ever. The symptoms of this client fitted that description completely.

I thought this might be an ideal opportunity to try out the therapy recommended by Levine. This treatment basically involves muscle memory. You get the client to remember the incident, if possible to get into the fear. Then you get the client to use their muscles as they would have if they had made their escape. His theory is that the fear is 'frozen' into the victim's muscles, and needs to be released.

Releasing the home invasion anxiety 

He does not mention hypnosis at all but his recommendations lend themselves ideally to application in trance. I therefore put her into trance used a modified form of regression. I took her back to the home invasion, but instead of getting her to relive it, I suggested that she focus on the feeling. Then I told her to tense and release the muscles in her shoulders, and then her chest, and so on down her body.

I then suggested that she focus on her hands, and to become aware of what her hands wanted to do. I encouraged her to make micromovements as she thought about what she wanted to do. Then I asked her to imagine what muscle movements she would do if she was to fight the intruder, or she quickly got out of the bed, or if she pushed an alarm button. I took her through various scenarios that I thought might be appropriate ways of dealing with the situation. I tried to get her to talk through what she might have done, but she was unwilling or unable to hold a conversation while in trance.

After that, I brought her out of trance, and showed her how to go back into trance by herself using self hypnosis. I did this to teach her a technique that would allow her to turn off her chronic anxiety by resetting her feelings back to a calm level.

Clearing the Home Invasion anxiety

At the end of the session I asked her what she felt about the micromovements. She told me that had felt a tingling all over her body as she tensed and relaxed. She then said that the feeling of 'waiting for something to happen' that she always had, was gone.

I wonder to what extent the 'cures' that are credited to hypnosis are actually the result of the induction that most therapists use, the Progressive Muscle Relaxation Induction? It may be that it is the progressive tensing and relaxing that are doing the work, and all the 'patter' is actually irrelevent. It is maybe something to think about?

 

What do you think of this technique? Do we hold fear in our muscles for years? Share your ideas below.

 

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smoking procrastination

Smoking Procrastination Fear of doing it wrong

You never stop learning in this business. My smoking client today said she loved smoking but had to give up because it was affecting her health. I asked what she loved about it and she told me that it calmed her down. It turned out that she had anxiety all the time. Smoking was how she self medicated. She actually had smoking procrastination.

Smoking Procrastination

I discovered that she came from an alcoholic family. This led me to suspect that she would have some form of depression and I started probing gently about that. When we got to the questions about Black and White thinking she said that she was a procrastinator. She would stay in bed in the morning and her husband would bring her cups of tea. And with every cup she would have a cigarette. She said that sometimes she would stand in front of her clothes closet and not know what to put on, so she would have a cigarette and think about it.

I traced this to the perfectionism associated with B & W thinking. She agreed that rather than take a decision that might be wrong she would put it off: smoking gave her an excuse to drag it out by another ten minutes. I think that she was fearing the wrath of her parent and wanted not to commit to anything in case it was the wrong action. In childhood when she got things wrong  she would get shouted at, and an argument would ensue.

It seemed that she was mainly smoking to avoid taking action. If she didn't do anything then there was no danger of anything that would trigger those old feelings of fear. This fear of doing things wrong was also the source of her ongoing lifelong anxiety.

Have you dealt with procrastination? How can it be overcome? Share your ideas below.

 

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supernatural ability

Everyone has a supernatural ability

Would you like to learn a supernatural ability? The hypnotist Milton Erickson was famous for his powers of observation. People believed he had some supernatural ability. He seemed to be able to tell what a person was thinking and feeling just by looking at them.

Forced to observe 

He explained that he got this power because he had polio as a child. After his illness he was almost totally paralyzed and could only observe. He was left in chair all day and his large family went about their daily business around him. After a while, since he didn't speak or move, they forgot he was there. Silently, day after day he passively observed. And then he began to notice that what his sisters said did not agree with their actions. Somehow, he could tell how they felt by how they dressed and moved. He realized his sisters were communicating by more than words.

This was the skill that he brought to his therapy sessions as a psychiatrist. For many years, people assumed that it was something that was unique to him because of the special circumstances of his upbringing.

Everyone can get a supernatural ability

However, a book by Oliver Sachs shows that this is not so. Sachs is neurologist who studies the effects of damage to the brain. Some damage knocks out  parts of the brain but leaves other parts working. In some cases it affects speech, or motor skills, or the ability to recall concepts but not words.

In the book, Sachs describes how strokes cause some people to lose the power of speech and writing but otherwise are completely lucid. Some of these people made a full recovery and were able to describe what was going on in their minds while they were partly disabled. What is interesting from a therapy point of view is how being unable to communicate affected the rest of their thinking.

Several patients reported that after some weeks of total frustration, to the point of wanting to scream but being unable to, they gradually began to acquire different skills. By being unable to talk, but being able to play cards, they began to notice facial expressions, body posture, clusters of movement. They knew what people coming towards them were going to say even before they got within talking distance. And they reported that as their isolation went on, they got better and better at it.

After recover the common message was 'I realized that I never really listened before'. The interesting thing to me is that apparently everyone can learn this skill.

Why wait until you have a stroke?

What do you think is the key to listening? Share it below.

 

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switching to vaping

Should smokers be switching to vaping?

Many smokers are switching to vaping. Most assume that the change will be beneficial. By switching to vaping they are trying to avoid the well-known health problems of smoking tobacco. But is vaping actually better for you? And how exactly?

A recent pilot study looked into what effects vaping has compared to smoking. It only investigated a small number of people but it is the first research into smokers versus vapers. It suggests that vaping actually is better for you. But for a very surprising reason.

Switching to vaping

The study looked at the bacteria living in the gut of people who used vaporizers and people who smoke tobacco. The study found that participants who used vaporizers have the same gut bacteria as non-smokers. But the tobacco smokers had a significantly altered gut biome.

The term "gut biome" refers to the total collection of bacteria, viruses and fungi living in your gut. We all have trillions of bacteria working away inside us. Most of them are harmless, some of them are potentially hazardous, and a very large proportion of them are actually essential for good health.

Scientists are realising more and more that we have a symbiotic relationship with all the critters that make their home in our intestines. It is becoming clear that the gut biome can have significant health effects. Gut bacteria have been shown to influence obesity, depression, confidence, and even some quite severe mental health issues. So a healthy biome is of critical importance to everyone.

More research will have to be done but the initial results are intriguing. Who knew that smoking could adversely affect the bacteria living inside you?

How many of your clients are switching to vaping? Share it below.

Source: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-04/nu-van042718.php

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weirdest reason for smoking

Weirdest reason for smoking

Today I had what I thought was a very ordinary, normal client. But she actually had the weirdest reason for smoking ever.

She wanted to stop smoking. Then she gave me a long list of all the things that were going wrong in her life. This was all delivered in a quiet monotonous voice. She sat there with her head down, avoiding eye contact and radiating unhappiness.

Smoking to respect grandma

She knows that she has depression but chooses to do nothing about it. Her mother died a few years ago. The issues she had with her mother were never resolved. She loved her grandmother. Her grandmother was the best and brightest thing in her life. And all her memories about her grandmother include her grandmother smoking. The client said that part of the reason why she smokes is to honor the memory of her grandmother. Somehow, if she stops smoking, this disrespects her grandmother.

She wants to have a child, so she thinks it would be best if she stopped smoking. On the other hand she fears that she might be too old to have a child. Overall, I felt this client's despair. I really wanted to help her.

There was no point in trying to address the depression, because she's already said that she is not going to do a thing about it. So I did what I could with standard stop smoking therapy. To my surprise, she went into trance quite easily. I later learned that she had done a lot of meditation in the past, which would explain it.

Different realities

I took her through a series of hypnotic metaphors and visualizations. In trance I got her to look at her own reflection in a pool of water. I encouraged her to look at the reflection as if she was someone else. I encouraged her mind to consider different perspectives, alternative realities and to re-evaluate her own role in life. She was taken to a place where all her friends and relatives were assembled. There she proclaimed that she was changing, that she was stopping smoking, improving her lifestyle. And she outlined what her goal was and how she was going to get there. Among the people gathered there were people who had been a bad influence on her life in various ways. She identified those and banished them from the place.

Ego strengthening

I then did a series of ego strengthening statements. I sought out her personal beliefs and tried to establish a connection between her body, and her soul, and her mind. By the end of it, I had really pulled out all the stops and done everything I could to get this woman to a good place.

I brought her out of trance, and asked her how she felt. She told me that she felt relaxed and clearheaded and was seeing everything differently. And that was a problem.

Weirdest reason for smoking

She then told me one of the most extraordinary reasons I've ever heard why someone smokes. She said that she smokes because it "fogs her mind". When she doesn't smoke, she has "a sharp mind". Having a sharp mind, seeing everything clearly, means that she sees all the faults of others. Noticing those faults makes her angry at them. So she becomes unpleasant, and unsocial. And that's why she smokes, so that she can get on with people.

So my work with her was the exact opposite of what she wanted!

 

What is the weirdest reason for smoking you have heard of? Share it below.

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smoking and mindfulness

Smoking and Mindfulness

I have been reading Alan Wells' excellent book on metacognition and depression.  It is perhaps a  bit hard for the lay person to follow. But with the academic jargon stripped out it makes a lot of sense.

He introduces the idea of Detached Mindfulness; a state of being able to observe thoughts without acting on them. He differentiates between able to experience a thought from the point of view of an observer, and experiencing a thought as some thing that fuses together reality, belief and behavior  into one unbreakable unit.

Smoking and Mindfulness

I was thinking about this in the context of how to use it to get people to stop smoking. Smoking and Mindfulness are not often linked but there may be a way to combine them in therapy. I got to wondering about how it fits into the classical psychology conditioning model. That model sees learned behavior as the result of conditioning: stimulus →  response → reward.

However all these studies were originally based on non-sentient being like clams and worms. Humans are different in that they don't have to respond instinctively to everything. If you blow a puff of air into a person's eye, they will  blink. No matter how often you do it, they never unlearn it, and they cannot not do it.

But many stimuli cause different responses in different people, so perhaps the model needs another element: stimulus → thought → response → reward.

If that is a better model of how people actually respond to stimulus then it suggests that intervention based on changing the thought should work just as well as intervention based on changing the reward.

What do you think? Share your ideas below.

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shape shifter

Shape shifter hypnotherapy technique

I had this enquiry from a therapist today:

I have a young man coming in who believes he’s a shape shifter and who has had a kind of paranormal experience with a green lizard/Shapeshifter. He wants me to regress him to that experience so that he can understand and remember more about it. He also has a lot of anger at this father, mother and grandfather. Today is the first session and I’ll simply be trying to understand more about this experience and having him experience hypnosis. I wonder if you have any suggestions that will help me at this point be the support he needs.

I replied:

It sounds like you have a very interesting client. It seems to me that he has two issues. He has fairly standard resentment and anger towards certain people, and he separately has experienced some sort of hallucination that he doesn't understand. The two may well be connected.

I would approach this by suggesting to your client that we treat it as an exploration. It would be useful to find out the exact circumstances of when he had this experience. He may have been having them for quite a long time. I suspect that if you put him into trance, and deepen him into somnambulism, he will spontaneously regress. When he is in the state of experiencing his shape shifting then you can guide him to a place in his mind where he can safely observe what is going on. The shape shifter imagery will most likely be a metaphor for his basic fears. You can use any of the metaphor transformation therapies as a way of getting rid of the shape shifter thing. Or if he wants to keep them, then you can suggest that he is able to transform them into a source of personal power.

I would go on with exploring his shape shifter experiences until he has either resolved them or come to some sort of understanding about what they mean for him.

I think you then have to address the issues of anger and resentment against his family. I'm sure you know how to deal with them so I won't comment further on that.

I think you have a very interesting case there. I wonder what will come out at future sessions?

 

How would you deal with this ? Share your ideas below.

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say nothing

Train yourself to say nothing

I got an email today from someone looking for help with their client.

I'm looking for a script that will help eliminate a person from using aahs and ands when he is speaking to groups. He strings his sentences together with and and when he is thinking what to say next he says aah. Do you have anything that would work or that I could tweak to help him?

My reply was:

I have been a university lecturer for over 40 years. Like most speakers, I too used to uummm and ahhhhh during lectures. I only became aware of it after I had to  transcribe some of my lectures. It was embarrassing the number of 'hesitation' noises I made when talking to my classes.

I set out to get rid of them and I have succeeded totally. The trick is to become aware of them. As soon as you become aware of them you can avoid standing there making noises just to fill in the gaps. I found that there are two methods you can use.

Make sure you have something to say.

The first one is to not start speaking without knowing what you're going to say. When you are a teacher or a lecturer you feel there is an intense pressure to talk all the time. You need to show that you have something to say. This in fact is not true. It is immensely freeing to be able to say "I don't know". You can then say "what do you think the answer might be?" Or you can say, "I'll do my best to find out and I will explain it in class next time we meet." Or  just say "let me think about that for a moment, talk amongst yourselves". Once you realize that that is no need to keep up the continuous flow of speech your speaking becomes much more natural.

Train yourself to say nothing.

The second thing you can do is when you don't know what to say next, say nothing. This is my preferred method. When I am searching for the next word, looking for the right phrase, or even when I got no idea whatsoever, I just pause. I make no sound whatsoever. And the great thing is, that most people don't even notice. And certainly, nobody cares.

That is by far the easiest way to get rid of the unnecessary Ummms, Ahhhhs, "youknow", 'like' and all the other fillers. So what I suggest you do with your client is to plant a post hypnotic suggestion that he will become acutely aware of every time he utters a filler noise. And that when he is about to say some pointless syllable he actually stops, pauses in silence, and gives his brain time to catch up with his lips.

I think that will be the easiest way to help your client.

 

How would you deal with this ? Share your ideas below.

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western philosophy

Western philosophy of psychotherapy

The town I live in has been getting more and more immigrants from various parts of Asia. They now make up a noticeable proportion of the local population. This means that I am getting more clients from an Asian background.

Most of these clients are in every way comparable to people who have lived here all their lives. But I do notice that there is a distinct cultural difference with some groups. Indian clients seem to be quite comfortable with standard methods, but it is different when dealing with clients from traditional Chinese or Taiwanese backgrounds.

Western philosophy of psychotherapy

The Western philosophy of psychotherapy is based on the idea that you are what you are because of how you were brought up. If you have a psychosocial problem then it came from your childhood, or at least most of it does. Western psychology does not accept that you are born with predestined problems. Nor do cosmic forces shape who you are, or the alignment of the planets, or anything else.

Blaming your parents is emphatically rejected by many clients from Chinese families. They are so set with the idea that parents have to be venerated and respected. The idea that their parents could have done something wrong is just unthinkable. If the client has a problem it can only be because of some fault that the client has. Even the possibility that you could think of tracing your personal problems back how your parents treated you is unacceptable.

I have tried linking to their beliefs in chi and other external forces with some success, but I feel it is not ideal. I am not at all sure of how to deal with this issue.

How do you deal with different cultural expectations? Share your ideas below.

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newsletter-materials

Newsletter materials available

I received this email the other day:

Dear Mr Mason,

A year or so ago I purchased your excellent book of scripts and have enjoyed studying them. I am at present engaged in writing a doctoral dissertation.  I would like your permission to quote and use a selection of your scripts in my paper, with proper acknowledgement of course. My committee needs proof that I have gained your permission even though you indicate that for educational purposes I would be free to do so.

I of course wrote back giving permission. I am always happy for people to use my scripts for education and training. In fact I have special offers for people who train others and hypnosis schools.

I also am always happy for the editors of newsletters to use any of my material. In the past I have supplied hypnotic metaphors and scripts for the journal of The Australian Society of Clinical Hypnotherapists,  the Hypnotherapy Journal, and the journal of the National Council for Hypnotherapy in the UK.

Everybody wins when we share newsletter materials

Hypnotherapy is a sharing profession. Everyone can improve, and the easiest way to improve your own performance is to learn from others. If the whole profession became more open to sharing then we would all benefit. I subscribe to a lot of blogs from other hypnotherapists. Unfortunately, a great many of these use their blogs for self-promotion. Every blog entry it seems is trying to sell training or appointments of the authors book. For most of these blogs, this format defeats the point of a blog. The blog is supposed to be about sharing your personal opinions and communicating with other people about a particular topic. I guess the trouble is that producing original interesting material is actually quite difficult. On the other hand, genuinely held beliefs and observations are always interesting. That is why newsletters are so popular and such a good way of reaching your membership.

If you run a newsletter or a magazine feel free to contact me.

Should there be more sharing in the hypnotherapy community? Share your ideas below.

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