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subconscious or unconscious

Subconscious or Unconscious difference

Subconscious or Unconscious. is there a difference?

Recently I have been revising some pages I have not looked at for a while. I noticed that sometimes I use the word 'subconscious' and sometimes I use 'unconscious'. I realized that I do not actually know when to use subconscious or unconscious. On looking into it, I discovered that no one else does either.

Consciousness is an emergent property

There are no shortages of definitions or prescriptions, but there appears to be as many different meanings for these words as there are people writing about them. Almost all of the meaning assigned is based on metaphor, or arguing by analogy. There appears to be virtually no scientific agreement on either term. The basic problem is that "consciousness" itself does not have a clear definition. If you dissect a brain you will not find "consciousness". Consciousness is an emergent property.

This is the same as your voice. You make the voice with your breath and the muscles of your throat. But you cannot investigate the voice itself. It is an emergent property. Your voice is not part of your body. In the same way, consciousness is not part of your brain. Therefore, trying to be exact about subconscious or unconscious is not possible. If you don't know what "consciousness" is, then you cannot really know what its opposite is.

According to Wikipedia, when used in general conversation the words subconscious or unconscious are interchangeable. You can use either of them to refer to the causes of behavior you are not aware of doing. For most purposes this is good enough.

Subconscious or unconscious

The term unconscious was introduced by Freud. He regarded the unconscious as a part of the mind in which primitive drives, demands, feelings and memories exist. The unconscious is different from the conscious because no amount of introspection, no amount of thinking, will allow you to access the contents of the unconscious. He believed that the contents of the unconscious could be hinted at through dreams, hypnosis or free association.

In psychology, the term subconscious is used to refer to whatever part of your consciousness you are not currently paying attention to. Psychologists today do not really accept Freud's view of the non-conscious part of the mind. Even the term "mind" is contentious and difficult to define. Modern psychology tends to avoid addressing or studying the "subconscious".

So the best technical definition would be at the unconscious is totally unknowable, while the subconscious is simply that part of the brain's normal function that you are not aware of at the moment, but which you can become aware of if you direct your attention to it.

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handicapping yourself

Handicapping yourself to fail: extreme procrastination

Every hypnotist has to deal with procrastination. (Either their own, or in the client). It can be very hard to clear. Many procrastinators are really skilled at putting things off and come up with wonderfully inventive reasons for not getting on with it. But the underlying reason is fear.

Handicapping yourself to fail

One common fear is fear of being criticised for not doing well enough. The most common way out of this is to handicap yourself, usually by restricting the amount of time available to complete the task. A common strategy to get round this is put off and put off starting until five minutes past the last possible minute, and then slamming into the work and getting something out of the door by the deadline. The rationale is that you can't then be criticised for not living up what is expected because you didn't have enough time to do it properly. So in your mind, you are safe from the pain of being found not good enough.

Handicapping yourself to fail: extreme procrastination

Some people have taken this to extremes, making it a part of their life. The world chess master of the early nineteenth century from 1800 to 1820, Alexandre Deschapelles, used to take the pressure off his chess matches by giving away one or two pieces before each game. That way he handicapped himself: his opponent had eight pawns and he only had six. So if he lost it was not because of his lack of ability, it was because he had fewer pieces than his opponent. And if he won, well it just showed how good he was, but he avoided the pain of not measuring up, and therefore did not have to procrastinate about playing a match.

Eventually he became recognised as the best player in the world at the time. But then someone else came along, who beat him consistently. Deschapelles realised that he would always be beaten, so he gave up chess completely, never played another game, and took up the card game whist, later known as Bridge.

And once again he handicapped himself by wasting his highest card. He went on to be an outstanding card player but always only after imposing a handicap on himself.

This habit is remembered today in the Bridge technique known as Deschapelles Coup, beating your opponent by deliberately sacrificing a high card in order to spoil their planned strategy.

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artist's mind

Exploring the artist’s mind in hypnosis

Looking into the artist's mind with hypnosis

I had a client the other day who is an artist. She is a well respected and well known artist. She came to me to sort out some personal difficulties. In the process of interviewing  her, she talked about her art and her ideas about art. She is   highly intelligent with a lively artist's mind. Her art is quite avant-guard. She designs installations that visitors can walk into. It gives them a full immersive experience. Inside her art work they will find rooms with no corners, with no obvious lighting sources. Colors merge into each other. There are strange designs of wall that leave you disoriented and unable to find a way out.

And that is exactly how she described her life to me. She feels disoriented, directionless and with no way out.

We went on to deal with some of her issues, but it left me wondering whether this a recurrent theme in art, and whether with enough skill you could work out the state of the  artist's mind by examining what they produced.

And whether it doesn't just apply to artists, whether what all of us produce personally and collectively actually reflects our inner states. Perhaps culture is a by-product of the collective psyche. 

Changing the artist's mind

It also brings up some issues specifically related to hypnotherapy. This woman is successful precisely because her art reflects her artist's mind. What happens to her art if I take away the issues that are driving her? Am I destroying her artistic source? Will I make her unemployed? Or perhaps she will use her existing talents to produce a different kind of art? Will her new artist's mind produce a new artist's output? 

The ethical implications of changing personalities and attitudes are quite profound. What happens if what I do causes a man to no longer put up with his wife's behaviour? Suppose I change a person's limiting beliefs and they go out and start a business, and fail at it? Is my hypnosis ethical?

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proprioception exercise

Proprioception exercise the forgotten sense

If you want to expand your sensitivity try this Proprioception exercise. We are accustomed to think that we have only five senses, but we actually have many more. For example, you have a sense of balance, a sense of heat and sense of proximity. One of the pervasive senses that we use all the time but people sometimes overlook is the sense of proprioception. This is the sense of knowing the spatial relationship between parts of your own body.

Proprioception exercise increases sensitivity

To test your own sense of proprioception try the following exercise. Close your eyes. Then extend one arm and then wave your hand around at random in circles and jab it out all over the place, move your hand above your head and behind your back. Keep moving your hand around and at the same time move your head, shake and nod and turn it in circles. Then move your hand to your face and place your index finger right on the tip of your nose. Most people can do that with absolute accuracy, even though it does not involve any of the other senses. With practice you can improve the sensitivity of this sense. For example, become aware of the position of inside of your left knee. Then focus your attention on that area and imagine that it is become hot, or that you can feel a tingle in that area.

Proprioception exercise feedback from body muscles

This ability can improve with practice. You can then try to become aware of your own abdominal muscles, or your back muscles. Getting in touch with your own body can help with sports performance and with easing muscle pains. Once you can identify will all the major parts of your body, relaxation become much easier. And relaxation of the body leads to relaxation of anxieties so it is worth exploring this ability we all have.

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stop stuttering script

Stop stuttering script

A client emailed me to ask: can you sell me a good script to stop somebody stuttering? I do not have a stop stuttering script. I have dealt with stuttering before and improved the guy's speech tremendously, but in my opinion using a script is not the way to deal with stuttering.  

Origin of stuttering

Stuttering is the result of childhood trauma. A some point,  the child was made to feel nervous in some situation.  The child then got into the habit of being overwhelmed with nervousness in more and more situations. I once knew a man with a stutter who was brought up in France. He moved to the USA as an adult. He stuttered all his life in French, but had no stutter when he spoke English.
The correct way to treat stuttering is removing the cause of the chronic nervousness. This can be done by several hypnotherapy methods. Maybe most often by regression to cause, and you don't need a script for that.

That got me thinking about what other things scripts are not good for. The main class I suppose are substance abuses. They can all be helped, even stopped by hypnosis. But in most cases a script is not the right way to go. In my view all addictions are due to underlying unhappiness. People take drugs to escape from the way they feel now.

No Stop Stuttering Script

The correct approach is to find out why they are unhappy, why think they are not good enough, not wanted, whatever... and treat that. It will take several sessions. Once you have cleared whatever their particular unhappiness is that is driving them to take the drugs, they will stop by themselves. They won't need what the drugs are giving them any more. But every case is different and has to be understood differently. You can't use a standard script.

What other common conditions are not treatable with a standard script?

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placebo effect

Placebo Effect belief and psychology

The placebo effect

The original meaning of ‘placebo’ comes from the latin word placer – to please (in English "placate"). Placebos were inert substances given to patients to please them so that the patient felt that they were getting some sort of treatment when nothing else was available (Moerman, 2002 p11).
The common meaning of placebo is some inert substance, or some procedure that should not have any medical benefit, but does. 
Moerman (2013) argues that the placebo lies not in the substance, but in the meaning that the receiver takes from it. "I will argue that in most of these, the results usually make more sense if we try to determine how a meaningful interaction occurred, rather than trying to understand the effectiveness of … “nothing.” Whatever form the substance takes, in the mind of the patient it represents the whole of medical knowledge, and is imbued with power."

This has been known for centuries: the King’s touch was believed to cure scrofula, a visit to the doctor makes some people feel better, Chinese Americans born in years associated with ‘earth’, years ending in 8 or 9, disproportionately die of diseases such as lumps and tumours, traditionally associated with earth in Chinese culture.

The placebo effect has been tested extensively

Moerman (2013) cites ten different studies showing the placebo effect. In one, patients got more relief from headaches when they believed the aspirin was a heavily advertised branded version, as opposed to an identical unlabeled aspirin.

In dentistry, the dentists were told that their patients were or were not getting an active drug, but the patients weren’t told. The patients whose dentists were told they were using the active drug actually reported less pain, despite having no knowledge of the experiment at all. Another dentistry study proved that belief in the placebo caused measurable physiological changes in the brain, and produced active opiates to relieve pain.

IBS patients were told that they were getting placebo pills, containing only sugar, but that had proved effective in clinical trials in the past: 97% of the patients who knowingly took the sugar pills proved to be healthier on all measures a week later. In trials of depression drugs, placebos did almost as well and produced much the same results.

The placebo effect also exists with active drugs. After surgery all patients were given Tramadol, but some were injected with it and told what it was, while others had it delivered through their IV line without being aware of it. The injected patients reported much more pain relief from identical doses

The conclusion is that people do not respond to placebos, what they respond to is their own beliefs, to the beliefs for of the carers, to their cultural background and to the words that accompany the intervention. It is the totality of the experience that matters.

Placebo Effect and the cycle of healing

Of course there may be no psychological effect at all. One possible reason is regression to the mean. Many diseases get better on their own. The common cold for example takes about a week and a half to run its course if untreated, but if you get the finest treatment that medical science can provide, it will last only about ten days.

Whatever you do for a cold has no effect, but the cold does come to an end, so you can credit whatever you did as curing it. Many diseases are cyclic: you get unwell, then you get better on your own and then you feel unwell again, but there is no cure. The episodes may well be years apart.

The placebo effect comes in because patients seek help when they are unwell, when the cycle is at or near its peak. Left on its own, the symptoms will subside back to average, and whatever is done has no effect at all because the disease is just running along its cycle. The treatment seems to work, but actually has no effect, so whatever you do the outcome is a placebo effect.

This is most likely the reason for many of the strange folk remedies that people believe in. 

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paradoxical intervention

paradoxical intervention therapy

A paradoxical intervention is a non-hypnosis way of treating people. It seems to be the opposite of what you would think is needed.

Paradoxical Intervention for Smoking

For example, the late Alan Carr wrote a book about stopping smoking. One of the first rules in the book was that the reader was not to stop smoking now, and make no attempt to give up. They have to keep smoking until they have finished the whole book. Now, I have no idea what he intended with this instruction, but the result is that the smoker starts reading the book, and then feels pressured to keep smoking. They didn't want to smoke, but must. You can't stop until you have finished the book.

That means that every time you turn a page you are reminded that you are not allowed to stop smoking yet. That increases the desire to not be forbidden to stop, which increased the desire to want to stop. Which is precisely the feeling you want the smoker to have. So paradoxically, by ordering them to not stop, you increase their desire to stop.

Paradoxical Intervention theory

The basic idea in a paradoxical intervention to reduce the resistance of the client. Normally a client wants to do the problem behavior because they have some unconscious programming or need that needs to be fulfilled. Normally the unconscious need is outside of awareness. If you give the client permission to go on doing the problem behavior, then the client is able to get some awareness of why they want to do it. By thinking about that, the client becomes aware that they actually do have some control over their own behavior.

Paradoxical Intervention examples

The interventions can be anything. For example, telling a child that they should scream some more and see where it gets them. Or telling a person threatening suicide to go ahead. There is of course a danger in this, so in practice things are usually less dramatic. A typical paradoxical intervention would be to tell a procrastinator to set aside an hour a day to do procrastination. Tell them to get really good at it. This forces the individual to think about the consequences of their action, and possibly to reconsider its usefulness.

Milton Erickson Paradoxical Intervention

Milton Erickson described many paradoxical interventions. His best known is probably the case where a couple were having sexual problems. The wife didn't want to initiate sex. He told them to go home and to not have any sex, to never have sex again. The result was that the couple lay in bed and for the first time, didn't feel any pressure to have sex. Which soon resulted in them thinking about sex more, and in actually having sex again. Together they proved the therapist wrong.

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Life coach

Life coach may not be what they say they are

Beware of the life coach 

I had a call today from someone asking if I could refer them to a life coach. I had to tell them that I did not know any life coach that I would inflict on anybody. All the ones I had ever met were losers trying to tell other people how to live their lives. There might be genuinely useful ones out there, but I have never met them.

I was once a member of the local Chamber of Commerce and it seemed to me that most of the membership was made up of Life Coaches and Personal Finance Advisors. They appeared to be there for the sole purpose of marketing to each other. It also seemed to me that not one of them knew the slightest bit about what they were talking about. When I asked those 'Life Coaches" how much money they had in the bank, or what kind of car they drove, it was immediately obvious that they were complete amateurs. In fact most them had taken up these 'professions' because they had lost their jobs in the downturn. They had to do something to make money so this seemed like a good way to make a living.

Your Life Coach and the Management Sciences Paradox

It reminds me about what is known as the Management Sciences paradox. This says that the people who go into professions are the ones who should never be in that profession. The basis of the paradox is that people are attracted to study the things they feel weakest about. For example, when I was doing my psychology degree it was clear that most of the students were secretly hoping to find out what they feared what is wrong with them. And in my estimation all of the staff had psychological issues of their own.

People who are chronically disorganized, for example, realize they have a problem and begin to search for ways to not be so disorganized. So they learn more and more about what makes people disorganized and how to be less disorganized. They end up knowing more about disorganization than anyone else, but they are still disorganized. But when it comes to selecting people to teach about disorganization, who gets the job? The person who has studied it most - the person who is in fact fundamentally disorganized.

In this way you end up with Behavioural Scientists who alienate everyone they meet, time managers who are always late, therapists who secretly believe they are no good, and life coaches who are hopeless losers.

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How to Hypnotize Coming out of Trance

Freudian slip: Calling your current partner by your ex-partner’s name

 Calling your current partner by your ex-partner's name

Today I saw a client with a Freudian slip. He called his current partner, Rachel, by his ex-partner's name, Rebecca.

A very decent man, he worries deeply about whether he is doing the right thing for his partner. He divorced his wife, Rebecca some years ago. Now he's started a relationship with a new partner, Rachel. Last week they invited a valuer to their home as the first step to setting up a financial basis for their new relationship. David inadvertently introduced his current partner as Rebecca.

Rachel was upset. However, she got over it. Until he did it again the following day. He called her Rebecca again.

Rachel got upset again. She continues to be upset. She has accused David of wanting to reignite the relationship with his ex-wife. She refuses to be consoled. Rachel is now talking about breaking up the relationship.

And to top it all, David called her Rebecca for a third time.

David is distraught. He desperately wants this relationship to work. He will do anything to make it work. But he is now terrified that he is going to use the wrong name again. The very last thing he wants is to have anything to do with his ex-wife. He just cannot understand why her name keeps coming up.

What to do about a Freudian slip?

Most people would just laugh it off. However David isn't that lucky. Rachel has also been through a messy divorce herself. She has little confidence in relationships. She desperately wants this relationship to work but is always looking out for signs that might be another disaster like the last one. So being called the wrong name just confirms this to her.

What is actually happening is the result of a simple psychological process. When David was married to Rebecca he got used to having a woman in his life. That woman was always called "Rebecca". He called her "Rebecca" thousands of times. If there was a woman there, he unconsciously identified her as Rebecca, and use that name. After thousands of repetitions it became automatic.

Getting a divorce does not wipe your mind clean. David is so used to using the word "Rebecca", that when there is a woman nearby that he feels comfortable with, his mind automatically brings up the word "Rebecca". It doesn't mean anything. It is just an unconscious shorthand process. It may actually persist for many years in certain situations. But it still doesn't mean anything, except his mind is taking a shortcut.

Both he and his partner are going to have to dig deep into their store of compassion and understanding to get over this. But it is definitely not grounds for separation.



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Earliest memory Recall

Earliest memory Recall – How old were you?

Earliest memory Recall

Can you recall your earliest memory? Research suggests that the average age of a single first memory is three and a half years old. The few memories you have from an early age are scattered and unrelated until much older. This has been known for over a century, but still is not appreciated by the general public.

Many people still believe that memory is like a streaming recording. That everything that happens to you, everything you see and hear, is permanently held somewhere in your mind. They think that with the right technique you can recall your earliest memory. This is just not true.

Clients often think their memory is deteriorating, or they worry because they don't remember anything before age six. In particular, people worry that if they don't remember anything from their early childhood, then they must be suppressing something. Something bad must have happened. I have had clients worried that they had been sexually molested. They could not think of any other reason why they had no memories of being that age.

Don't trust your earliest memory recall

The age at which memory becomes more or less continuous varies greatly. Women in general have earlier memories than men. Your chance of having an early memory depends on how startling or emotional the event was. The more dramatic, the more you are likely to recall something, although it may only be a fragment. About one in thirty of people claim to have a memory going back to age one. And about one in thirty have no memories at all before age six or seven, or even eight.

All memory is very plastic, changeable. Research suggests that many memories are in fact false. This applies in particular early memories. For most people, what you think is a genuine memory is actually the result of visualizing what relatives have told you happened, or you manufactured after seeing photographs of the time. Even the real memories that we have are being constantly revised. Almost every time you think of something, you're actually mixing it in with other incidents. You basically remanufacture your memories continuously.

All of these are normal and of no consequence.

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