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  • Can I be Hypnotised?

    Speaking at the Weymouth & Portland Ladies Probus Group last Wednesday, the often asked question “Can I be hypnotised?” was, as usual, very much in evidence.  I think it’s the one question that I can almost guarantee I will be asked at any gathering, whether I’m speaking to a group or organisation or it’s a more social setting.

    There are, in my view, a number of considerations when answering this question.  A stage hypnotist would tell you that you only need three things to be a good hypnotic subject, namely good powers of concentration, imagination and intelligence.  However, this is something of a dirty rotten trick as he is suggesting to you that if you don’t have these you are going to fail him if he tries to put you into a trance.  Nobody wants to appear stupid or that they can’t concentrate in front of a crowd, so they’ll do anything to be able to go into trance.  In truth, these qualities certainly help but are not preclusive.  The stage hypnotist uses this as he wants people he can hypnotise quickly.  There is no entertainment in watching him spend a long time with a difficult subject.

    The thing is, hypnosis is a completely natural state of being.  It’s a state we all dip in and out of quite naturally perhaps 15 times a day.  Day dreaming, for example, is a state of hypnosis just known by another name.  Waking up or nodding off to sleep we are transiting hypnotic states.  In this sense, one can see that hypnosis is completely natural, something we all do anyway and certainly not anything to be afraid of.

    So perhaps the question should be rephrased to “Can I be hypnotised when YOU want me to go into that state?”  The answer to this is, barring some clinical preclusions, YES.  But you have got to WANT to be hypnotised.  If anyone challenged me, perhaps in polite company, “You can’t hypnotise me, go on give it your best shot.” I wouldn’t even attempt it.  They have put blocks up and they want for all the world to prove me wrong.  Thankfully though, this is not something I come across as anyone approaching me to utilise hypnosis in addressing an issue have already sub-consciously said to themselves “I want him to hypnotise me and help me”.  True, they may initially still be  sceptical. I am quite used to being the last resort and seeing people that have tried everything else so despite their scepticism they come to see me.  But this can be quite simply overcome because they still want to be helped.  Going into hypnosis when we want to, however, is something of a skill but one which can be easily learnt.  Some people will quite nautrally take longer than others, but this is only an issue with those practicing the stage art.

    So in answer to this time honoured question, I say YES, usually you can be hypnotised.  So what would you like to do with it?

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  • Flexibility – Those That Can Remain Flexible Gain the Best Results!

    I though about this whilst with a client the other day.  Of course the premise that those remaining flexible enjoy the best results is another NLP Pre-supposition but my experience with my client demonstrated it even more vividly.

    Quite simply, despite my going to great lengths to educate the client (as I always do) as to exactly what hypnosis is, he was finding it intensely difficult to relax sufficiently to attain a workable level of hypnotic trance.  At least not with the induction I was using.  But remaining flexible I was able to switch inductions seamlessly to one which did work for him.  Had I not have been flexible in this way, I might as well have told him to open his eyes, make my apologies and leave without any therapeutic work having been done.

    Remaining flexible is so important in our lives, whether at work or in our homes, no matter what we are doing.  Remaining inflexible helps nobody, least of all yourself.  Flexibility gives us the room we need to change should it be required, otherwise we just remain stuck.  It gives us the room to compromise where appropriate.  The ability to give, just a little bit, is usually rewarded with far more than you gave in the first place.  Soldiers have a saying, “No plan survives first contact” (contact meaning a brush with the enemy) and so it is true in civilian life too.  Having the flexibility to “aim-off” for any and every eventuality means you will no doubt still achieve your goals.  You may not have achieved them in quite the way you intended or indeed in the time frame you set out in the beginning.  But, you achieved it!

    So next time you are faced with an issue that normally you know you would not have moved your position on, just look to see if you can be flexible.  I bet the results surprise you!

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  • The Drug Cocktail -v- PTSD

    It’s been a little while since I’ve blogged on my speciality of PTSD but catching up on the media reports connected with PTSD this morning I stumbled across this report in the New York Times

    There are some rather alarming statistics regarding how many veterans are dying as a result of taking a cocktail of prescribed drugs and I pray this is an issue that never darkens our shores in such high numbers.

    I feel sure there is more to this story as I would hope that no health professional would prescribe a set of drugs if their interaction had the potential to be lethal.  What I do find disturbing, however, is the apparent freedom with which drugs are prescribed in the first place when there are more natural methods available with which to treat PTSD.

    I still maintain that prescribing drugs is like putting a sticking plaster over a festering sore.  Yes the drugs may help numb the pain and assist with the outwardly visible symptoms of PTSD, but the root is still there, festering away.  The disadvantages of masking the problem by putting foreign substances into the body which can have so many other unrelated side effects far outweighs the advantages in my mind.

    We must continue to strive to utilise that which is natural and foster further research in it.  If we can show the efficacy of such therapies through robust, properly structured research, then perhaps the clinicians will be less likely to take the pharmacological route.

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  • Forgiveness

    To be able to forgive those that have wronged you or able to forgive yourself for the wrongs or mistakes that you have made.  Perhaps it’s coincidence that I have chosen to talk about forgiveness today, on the anniversary of the Dresden Bombings.

    Today is also a Sunday, that traditional day one goes to church if you’re that way inclined.  Growing up, I learnt that forgiveness went very much hand in hand with religion but that quite simply isn’t so.  I also grew up on the stories of the blitz from my mother who lived through it and by extension on stories of war in far away places from my grandparents, two of which who had served in the war.

    Terrible wrongs committed by both sides.  Wrongs that have echoed down through the generations.  Having spent many years living in Germany whilst still serving, I know that even their younger generations are not allowed to forget.  It is part of the school curriculum that all children in Germany must pay a visit to place like Bergen Belsen and Auschwitz to learn what went on there.  It’s almost like visiting the sins of the fathers on their children.  There are those on both sides unable or unwilling to forgive.

    Of course the events of the World Wars are events on a massive scale involving just about everyone on the planet.  But being able to forgive in our daily lives now carries no less power than our forefathers forgiving those on the opposing side of the wars.

    In conversation with a client the other day, it transpired that through divorce and the break up of a subsequent relationship, he was harboring an awful lot of negativity regarding what his ex’s had done to him.  He described it as a constant knot in his stomach which was leading to him using alcohol as a coping mechanism.  He was hanging on to it as if it was some sort of comfort blanket able to get him through daily life. 

    Ask yourself this;  If someone had done you a wrong which you feel unable to forgive, who is it hurting?  If you are harboring all the negativity attached to those events, is it hurting you or is it hurting them?  They possible might not even realise they have done the wrong in the first place so how can it hurt them?  By allowing ourselves to forgive those who have wronged us, we empower ourselves to be able to let all this negativity go.  By letting it go we foster a positivity in us that is much more a comfort blanket than holding onto it.

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  • First Impressions – Can we Trust Them?

    We’ve all heard the expression “Never judge a book by it’s cover”.  Certainly, I have always tried to create a good first impression as it makes building a rapport with any new client a lot easier.  I always wear a suit in session but no tie.  I feel ties are a little bit too formal for this line of work and I need to create the impression that I’m professional yet relaxed at the same time.

    So yes, I believe first impressions DO count.  If a prospective employer had a short list of ten applicants sat outside his office door and three of them have turned up in jeans, I’d be willing to bet that those three have probably been struck from the list before they’ve even been spoken too.  Add to that the couple that look well turned out but one insists on chewing gum and the other is listening to his Ipod while waiting and you’ll probably find the employers short list is down to five.  So in today’s society it is probably fair to say that first impression, both in the way we behave and the way we look are incredibly important.

    But should we always judge a book by it’s cover?  Should we always rely on first impressions?  Take the above example.  Who’s to say that one of the applicants turning up in jeans hasn’t got just the qualifications and experience you are looking for?  Who’s to say that actually he’s not the the best man for the job?  This guy might have fallen on hard times and can’t afford a suit or pair of trousers yet is tirelessly looking for work in order to better himself.

    Some time ago I met a guy that if you saw him walking down the street toward you, you’d probably cross over to give him a wide berth.  His hair was dread-locked and down to the backs of his knees.  He wore a collar with his name on it “White” and he insisted that is all you call him.  Black make up, fingernail polish and wearing nothing but black Lycra and a scruffy black overcoat, his almost knee length platform boots finished off a very Gothic look.  Closer inspection would reveal him to be in his late 30’s to early 40’s perhaps fostering the thought that he really should grow out of this look.  I confess that had I not have been introduced to him, I would be that person crossing the street yet when he first spoke to me I was almost struck dumb by the most beautiful spoken English that I have ever heard, almost shakespearean!  It turned out that this man, despite all his eccentricities was a lecturer in English Literature for the local university!  Not only that, he was possibly the kindest man I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  He’d think nothing of helping others and would drop anything he was doing for a friend in trouble.  What’s more he’d expect no thanks for his kindness, merely stating “It’s just the way I am”.

    What I’m saying here is, yes first impressions DO count, but don’t rely on them solely.  Sometimes, just sometimes, it’s worth investigating a little further with the willingness to have your first impression questioned.

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  • The Definition of Success


    Ok I’m going to ask you, what is your definition of success?  Apart from being able to spell it right, could it be to have enough money to to be comfortable and not have to worry about the credit card bill when you’ve bought that luxury item?  Is it rising to the top of the tree in your profession or work?  Here’s the dictionary definition of success:



    1.  the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors.
    2.  the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.
    3.  a successful performance or achievement: The play was an instant success.
    4.  a person or thing that is successful: She was a great success on the talk show.
    5.  Obsolete . outcome.
    Have you noticed how all the above centres around achievement or materialistic worth?  I grant you these are “nice-to-haves” and will certainly lighten one’s mood, but does it mean you are successful?  You can be extremely wealthy, but I think we all know that wealth can bring problems all of its own.  You could be extremely successful at work, rising to the top of the ladder.  But, has your work-life balance suffered because of it.  If you’re in that position, when was the last time you arrived home early enough to tuck the kids up in bed and read them a story?
    Of course you will not be surprised to learn that  I have my own definition of success.  Why else would I be writing about it this morning.  I have already alluded in other posts to the fact that the sub-conscious mind’s overarching remit is our happiness.  It protects us to keep us happy.  It has us behaving in certain ways to keep us happy.  Granted, what it does in order to attain this happiness isn’t always appropriate.  Nonetheless, our happiness remains it’s end goal.  So developing this line of thinking further, wouldn’t it be fairer to say that the definition of success is to be happy?  I think of myself as successful not because I have pots of money (I wish) or that I have achieved a plethora of letters in qualification after my name.  Not even because of the amount of clients I “successfully” help.  I think of myself as successful because I wake up in the morning knowing I’m going to enjoy what I do in the day.  The fact I am happy in my work, enjoy helping others and therefore, it doesn’t even feel like work!
     So ask yourself again.  Am I successful?  Or should that be, am I happy?
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  • Thinking Positively in The Quest for Happiness

    Having just had a naughty bacon sandwich for lunch, I found myself saying, quite offhand, “Happiness is a bacon sandwich”.

    Go to the self-help section in any book shop and you will find many titles there, all giving you various techniques to attain happiness in life.  In these austere times, it seems that this is one market that is booming.

    Quite simply, the mind is endlessly questing for your happiness.  Everything it does is a bid to keep you happy, from protecting you and keeping you safe, to not letting you remember a certain traumatic time in your life.

    Now one way to attain this happiness is to train your mind to think positively.  It’s the old “See your cup as half full, not half empty” cliche.  Training your mind to automatically re-frame the negative to the positive ultimately leads to positive uplifting feelings and emotions.  When your boss walks in at work, face like thunder, barely grunting a good morning to you, do you think “Oh! He’s in a bad mood, what have I done wrong, is there something I should have done and haven’t?” or do you think “Oh dear, he’s not having a good day, perhaps he’s had a row at home or is his boss giving him a hard time?”.  The first line of thinking clearly places all the negativity on yourself leading to negative emotion, whereas the latter questions the possible reasons within the boss as there is no reason or evidence to suggest that the cause of his bad mood is you.  This keeps all the negativity and resulting bad mood quite firmly out of your camp where it belongs.

    A simpler example perhaps – It’s raining and we so wanted to go out today, now we can’t, the weekend is ruined.  Full of negativity!  What about – It’s raining. So we wanted to go out but what a perfect excuse for a duvet day!

    Training your mind to simply reframe from the negative to the positive can take effort at first but you’ll find it becomes more automatic (as with any habit) the more you do it!

    Positive thinking does have its place in our quest for happiness, BUT you should never lie to yourself.  If there is an issue in your past that’s causing negativity, then that issue must be dealt with.  Merely masking it with an endless attempt at positivity is not only a quick fix but can lead to a negative energy all of its own!  In the words of the immortal Frank N Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show – “Treat the cause – not the symptom!”

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  • How Important it is to Smile – An Example

    A little while ago I blogged on the importance of being able to smile.  Not only can a smile lighten your own mood but it can be important for those around you too.  Certainly in some jobs, a smile can be worth every ounce of effort it takes!  Not that it actually takes much.  Just such an example happened to me this morning.

    Due to a particular incident a few months ago where my beautiful huskies threw me into a fence post, I have had cause to regularly visit the Physiotherapist at my local GP surgery to fix the injury to my shoulder.  Now the particular surgery shall remain nameless, but the reception staff need to read my posts on the importance of smiling.  They sit there in a line behind the counter looking like their mere presence in the surgery is putting them in a world of pain!  It’s almost as if one might be apprehensive at approaching them lest it interfere with their daily routine!  Thinking about it this morning as I sat in the waiting room watching them, I have very rarely seen any of them actually crack a smile.

    Having got into a conversation on the subject with others sat in the waiting room, it seems that this issue is something this particular surgery has become known for.  Also looking on patient reviews for this surgery on the NHS Choices website, the subject of the reception staff’s demeanour is a common thread.

    There are not many places that the power of a smile could be more important!  Generally, people are visiting a GP surgery through some sort of ill health and they bring with them all the worries and apprehension that this fosters.  A simple smile from the reception staff booking them in would do the world of good for them.  It would definitely be better than the feeling they currently get at this surgery that they are being a nuisance.  These people are feeling down anyway, why make it worse and by default make the doctor’s job harder into the bargain?  I actually witnessed one gentleman come into the surgery in a fairly bright mood.  By the time he had been dealt with and told to go and use the blood pressure machine he had a face like thunder poor man.

    So to the reception staff of [name omitted to protect the miserable] I say SMILE and the world will smile with you!  At the very least you’re not adding to the patients already anxious mood.

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  • Respect – Have We Got Enough Of It?

    Flicking through the TV channels this morning in an attempt to find something worth watching, I happened across the BBC programme “The Big Questions”.  Now I fully realise that the media will ask contentious questions and put guests together that WILL disagree, it makes compelling viewing after all.  But what I saw this morning was a complete lack of respect for our fellow man!

    Now at the risk of appearing political here, I really must have a rant about one particular guest on the show, Haleh Ashfar.  This is the man who burnt poppies on Armistice Day in the name of Islam showing a complete lack of respect for the country in which he has chosen to live.  Rhetoric and actions such as these incite nothing more than ill feeling amongst those who hold what the poppy symbolises dear.

    This lack of respect leads to people labelling the whole Muslim faith as extremist, something which I think you’ll find is far from the truth, yet label it they will.  If you have read some of the other posts I’ve made in the short time my blog has been live, you will know that I am not religious.  I favour scientific explanation over any religion any day and I abhor the the blood that has been shed over many many years in the name of religion.  But here is the important thing – I respect the deeply held beliefs of others and do not judge them by those beliefs. Now you might say I am not respecting Mr Ashfar’s beliefs by speaking out against what he has done.  But actually I do.  What I do have a problem with is the way he chooses to disrespect the beliefs and customs of others.

    As a therpist, it is paramount that I do not judge the people that come to me for help or disrespect the beliefs they hold.  Belief is incredibly powerful and any therapist goes against this at their peril.  We must find it within ourselves to respect the beliefs of others, not just in the therapy room but in everyday life.  I personally feel there is not enough respect in the world.  If there were then there would be far less conflict.

    Here endeth the rant – pass me the ladder so I can get off my soap box.

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  • Change is Everywhere – So Why Fear it?

    For those of you who are about to change, we salute you!

    Why?  Because, all courses of therapy, no matter what form the intervention takes, must involve change.  From Hypnotherapy to CBT to NLP.  All of them are setting up therapeutic change.  Anyone coming to see me (or any therapist) has already decided that they have an unwanted issue and they want to change or get rid of  it so that it no longer has any affect on their lives.  Sometimes, the resulting manifestation of an issue can be so severe as to seriously debilitate that person’s life.  For example an agoraphobic.  Imprisoned in their home, not daring to go out.  They can’t socialise properly, work normally or simply just get out for a healthy walk in the fresh air.  So in order to accomplish these things they must change.

    So why, when perhaps we know we have to change something about ourselves, do we find it so difficult?  Why would someone suffering from a fear of flying find it difficult to address it so they can go on that holiday they’ve always dreamed of?  Why does someone who knows they are overweight find it so troublesome to lose those extra pounds and keep them off?  At least they’ll be able to climb the stairs without getting out of breath.  Simply because the sub-conscious mind detests change.  It will dig its heels in and do everything in it’s power to stop you from changing.  It really is quite happy where it is thank you very much.  But why?  When consciously we can see how some issue is affecting us, why would the sub-conscious not want to change for the better.  It simply thinks it knows best.  As I have spoken about before, the sub-conscious is protective of you both mentally and physically, so whatever its doing it thinks its doing is for your greater good.  It’s only consciously that we realise that the fear or the unwanted habit or behaviour is irrational, self-limiting or just downright unhelpful.

    So I have the utmost admiration for anyone coming to see me regardless of the issue.  They are already battling their personal demons just to pick the phone up and ask for help.  They want to change and change for the better.  And when a person successfully changes for the better and you see their eyes light up that can be be a beautiful thing.

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