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  • SMILE! God Damn You!

    Why have I entitled this post as if I where shouting?  Because I am!  If we could all smile just that little bit more then the world would be a lot better place.  Yes I know we’ve all heard the tired old cliche that it takes fewer muscles to smile than it does to frown but smiling really can lift your spirits!  Now I hear the sceptics among you crying out “How the hell can the movement of a few small muscles in your face have any effect on your mood?”

    Ok, indulge me in a little exercise:

    • Read right through this so you know what you’re supposed to be doing.
    • Close your eyes and think of a particularly sad time in your life.
    • Really notice everything about the memory, see what you can see, hear what you can hear and really FEEL everything about the memory.
    • Once you’ve got that, attempt to smile.  Give it a good go… with all your effort SMILE!

    Now one of two things will have happened.  Either the memory you recalled was so powerful or sad that its lead to a complete inability to smile, or the power of your smile has made it intensely difficult to access the memory and it’s dissipated!  Usually the latter happens, but it really doesn’t matter which as its proven the point.  The power of a smile really is amazing!

    So why does this amazing example of the mind-body link happen?  The mind indexes memories by emotion.  It doesn’t do it on a timeline or alphabetically, but by emotion.  If you think about it, of course this is what happens as we had no knowledge of time or the alphabet when we were conceived (and yes memory goes back that far).  So when we start filing our earliest memories we have to do it at the most basic level.  Emotion.  When I asked you to recall a particularly sad time in your life, your sub-conscious went to the box labelled “Sad Memories” and started to rummage.  That box has got nothing whatsoever to do with smiling, an action attached to the “Happy Box”.  Thus the mind finds it incongruous to smile while recalling something sad.  One of them has to give, either the smile, or the memory.

    So as you go about your business in the days and weeks to come, remember the power of a smile and if you’re feeling sad, out-of-sorts or even annoyed, do just that:

    SMILE!

    A smile is infectious, so I also think you’ll find you’ll lift the spirits of those around you too.  Don’t smile like a loon though.  This might get you arrested!

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  • Job Satisfaction and The Power of a “Thank You” or Compliment.

    Some of you that are following my blog will have already noted what motivated me to take such a startling turn in my life to go from serving soldier to hypnotherapist / psychotherapist.  Looking back on it, it was quite simply the power of a simple “Thank you”.  When I’d spoken to a colleague who had been through similar psychological trauma to me and he took on board all the little tips and tricks I’d learnt that made me feel better, he went away and put it into practice.  The thanks he gave me some months later made me feel the best I had for a long time!  It was no secret that I was not enjoying the Autumn years of my Army career, yet I was in the pension trap and I was damned if I were going to get out and not see my pension for years to come.  So I stuck with it, not enjoying it and really finding it a struggle to go to work in the mornings.  So when I started nervously looking at just what I was going to do when my time was up, I found that possibly the most important thing for me was that whatever it was I was determined that I was going to ENJOY IT!  I wanted to be doing something that gave me job satisfaction again.

    I certainly do enjoy what I do as it pursues an interest I have had since a youngster.  But the added bonus is the job satisfaction!  From the first vote of thanks I got from my colleague many moons ago until now, I’ve found a simple thank you or small compliment can lead to increased motivation, the person feeling positive and good about themselves and a profound feeling of achievement at a job well done!  I’ll be completely honest here.  There are days that I could just hang up my therapists cap and go find something different to do.  They are rare but they are there.  I am only human after all.  Yet a “thank you” can blow that feeling out the water!  Yesterday wasn’t one of those days, but I did receive an email from a client I’d been seeing over Christmas.  She had been sceptical at the efficacy of Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to delete cravings.  When I told her the process would delete her cravings she even went as far as to say “That’s a very bold statement”.  However, delete them we did, somewhat to her surprise and I think the sceptic in her was expecting the effect to wear off. Her email though, stated quite positively “Your magic is still working on me – Thank you”.  Now I don’t pretend that anything I do is “magic”, it’s all evidence based therapy, but I did think what a lovely turn of phrase and the old job satisfaction came flooding in!

    So my tip for you today is – Say “Thank you” for a job well done or a service well received.  Even pay a small compliment.  The power of these small words has a profound affect on those receiving them.  I’m not saying lay it on thick.  That can appear insincere and in the case of compliments make the recipient rather uncomfortable.  But “thanks” is a word that lamentably seems to be underused in this day and age.  Make a point of thanking the people around you, whether at work or in your personal life.  Not only is it polite but I think you’ll find it comes back to you in spades.

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  • FEAR – The Enemy of Change.

    FEAR!  That most primitive of feelings that can stop us from achieving our goals or changing for the better.  It’s the one thing that is present in every client I see.  It really doesn’t matter what issue they are presenting me with, FEAR is in there somewhere.

    A number of things have happened to me personally in the past couple of weeks where it has struck me that a timely post on the subject might be a good idea.  Fear is possibly the oldest most primitive response we have.  Fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of certain situations.  It is the sub-conscious’ safety mechanism.  One of the overriding remits of the sub-conscious is to keep us safe, both mentally and physically and it cleverly uses fear to stop us from doing things IT thinks could be dangerous or have an unwanted result.  From the time of the cave man, evolution has hard wired fear into our make-up and it is the one single thing that stops us from achieving much greater things.  It is the tool of the phobia bringing about actual physical reaction through the “fear, flight or fight” response.  Fear is the enemy of natural childbirth, causing pain simply because of the physiology of the female’s birthing process.

    I was chatting with an ex-client recently who said that it took her TWO WEEKS to pick up the phone and discuss her issues with me.  She’d seen my website, researched my name and after comparing me with others, had decided I was the man for the job.  Yet it still took her two weeks to pluck up the courage to ring me.  Quite simply she was fearful of what else might be brought to the surface in addressing the original issue she wanted to see me about in the first place.  That fear was stopping her from changing for the better.  The sub-conscious detests change!  In it’s remit of protection IT thinks that where we are now, with our beliefs, perceptions and behaviours is quite comfortable thank you very much.  So when we consciously ask for change, the sub-conscious will dig its heels in using fear as it’s primary weapon of choice.  It will throw in little questions like “What if…” and “Why would you want to…” etc.

    I often ask a client to turn the word FEAR into and acronym i.e. F. E. A. R.  So what would that stand for?

    F – False

    E – Evidence

    A – Appearing

    R – Real

    Just because you have the evidence or memory of a certain situation leading to an unwanted result the last time or even that you know of the expereince of others that had this same unwanted result, there is no reason to suggest it will happen the same way if you attempt it again.  Of course there are constants.  I’m sure that most of us have burned ourselves in some way in the past.  This has led to us not sticking our hand in the fire or being extremely careful when getting the Sunday roast out of the oven.  But fire or heat is a constant.  It doesn’t change.  People and situatuions do change, so why be fearful of trying to change something in a different way?  Just because doing X led to Y in the past doen’t mean that it will be the same now.  This is where evidence of the past can be FALSE and because the sub-conscious cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality it also appears REAL.

    FEAR is something I could write on ad nauseum and perhaps I will post on the subject again in the future.  “FEAR Part II – The Sequel” in the style of the movies.  But for now, let me leave you with a well know phrase popularised by the writings of another therapist:

    FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY!

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  • Sleep Disorders Equals Poor Health.

    In my meanderings through the BBC News Health Section last night, I have to admit I had to stifle a hoot of laughter when reading their report “Insomnia Damages Relationships According to Study“.

    Reporting on the study by the Mental Health Foundation, it states how lack of sleep can be responsible for depression, lack of concentration, poor relationships and immune deficiency.  It further suggests how these issues can go on to effect the economy as a whole, obviously through decreased productivity.

    This is where I laughed!  Talk about stating the perfectly obvious!  We’ve all expereinced late nights or not getting as much sleep as we should and then having to work the next day.  Can’t concentrate, everything seems to be more of a chore than usual and all you want is for the day to end so you can go home and back to bed.  I remember one military exercise in particular when I was still serving where they purposely allowed us very little sleep.  They crashed us out every few hours.  It got to the point where I was laid in my shell scrape on guard duty and I was hallucinating badly!  Sleep is the body’s way of rejuvenating, healing and resting.  It follows then, that a lack of sleep is bound to have an effect on our immune systems, laying us open to anything from the common cold to more serious diseases.  The mind is also affected as a few nights poor sleep starts to set up and expectancy that you’re not going to sleep well in the nights to come.  This is a real downward spiral!

    In my experience, insomniacs tend to fall into two distinct categories.  Those who cannot, for whatever reason, get to sleep and those who cannot stay asleep.  People who cannot get to sleep tend to find they cannot quieten their minds.  They need to learn how to empty their mind and to stop it endlessly flitting from one thought to the next.  Those in the latter category usually have a disrupted sleep pattern and need to learn a more routine pattern into which to settle.  This can mean initially keeping themselves awake until the early morning so they sleep right through.  Once that is achieved they can start to go to bed a little earlier each night.

    So the trick is learning new habits and how to relax the mind, both of which hypnosis is highly efficient at achieving.  It can be a miserable feeling to be constantly tired or not able to sleep.  But there is no need to put up with it!  It can be addressed.

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  • Virtual Reality (VR) to Assist in Reducing PTSD Symptoms

    Reading through some of the latest mentions on the Internet regarding PTSD I stumbled across this article in the online Times of India.  It describes a research project utilising Virtual Reality (VR) games to plunge the traumatised individual back into combat situations in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Based on an original X-Box game this “therapeutic” version even uses smells to immerse the participant in every aspect of combat.

    Funded by the US Army, researchers from the University of Southern California have apparently reported good results in bringing down anxiety levels and PTSD symptoms.  The hypothesis is that by progressively raising an individuals feelings of anxiety up to a moderate level while simultaneously encouraging them to mentally process and talk about their traumatic experience , they can bring down anxiety levels and decrease PTSD symptoms .

    This type of hi-tech therapy for PTSD has been around for a while yet I remain as sceptical now as I was when it first hit the news.  It occurs to me that we are attempting to process and desensitise the emotion, anxiety and stress from traumatic memories of combat incidents.  Whether we do this by hypnosis, EMDR, CBT or one of any number of talking therapies is a moot point.  Trying to desensitise or process these emotions while providing the individual with new experiences, albeit in virtual reality, does not seem to be a good idea to me.  Nobody knows if these new experiences will be encoded into the brain in the same way as the original trauma, thus running the risk of setting up PTSD for the future.  It is well known that the sub-conscious cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality, so what is the sub-conscious making of this virtual reality world?

    I am all for research into new ways of dealing PTSD or any other issue for that matter.  Let’s face it, therapies that were “in vogue” in Freud’s era have long since fallen by the wayside in favour of better understanding and processes.  But calling on my specialist experience in this area, my gut instinct is that this particular avenue of research is dangerous!  Not least because PTSD can take many years to manifest, so we’re not likely to know about any negative side effect until years after this therapy would go main-stream.

    I remain, as ever, open minded though.  As with many avenues of research I will be keeping an educated eye on developments in the hope that my insitincts are proved wrong in this case.

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  • Perceptions – We all Perceive the World in Different Ways.

    For today’s blog post I am going to write about another NLP Pre-supposition that many people find it difficult to get their head around when challenged with it.  Yet understanding it can lead to a much deeper understanding when communicating with others.  So here it is:

    The map is not the territory!

    Ok, clearly I am going to have to elaborate on that for anyone to understand it properly.  The map is an individuals map of the world around them. It resides deep in the mind.  It is based upon that individuals experiences in the world right up until the present time.  Put simply the map is that person’s reality!

    The territory is everything around us.  Out there!  The actual world around us.  Everything external to our minds.

    So “The map is not the territory” is basically referring to the fact that everyone perceives the world in different ways.  Have you ever heard a couple in some DIY store arguing over colours?  Often you will hear something like “No way is that light purple, it’s pink for God’s sake!” or something similar.  So taking this example, what colour actually is it in reality?  It’s both!  Who is right?  They both are!  Because you’re dealing with two different realities!  In HIS reality, based upon HIS experience, learning and map of the world, the colour is pink.  But, in HER reality based upon HER experience, learning and map of the world it’s light purple!  So it follows that reality (the territory) is merely a perception, nothing more.  What may be “normal” for one person is cloud cuckoo land for another.  A huge example of this would be different cultures.  Men brought up in many middle eastern cultures find it quite normal for their women to wear face coverings.  It is their belief and their perception of normality.  We in the west find this practice demeaning and distasteful. 

    So the trick here when involved in argument or conflict is just to think for a moment and ask yourself “Is this persons map of the world fundamentally different to mine?” because I think you’ll find it is.  If we could all respect each other’s map of the world, I think you’ll find far less conflict going on.  It’s not about right and wrong.  It’s about respect.

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  • Our 350 and the Holocaust Victims.

    It is perhaps with some irony that we hear the awful news today of the sad death of Pte Martin Bell of the 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, the 350th soldier to be lost in Afghanistan.  Irony because this sad news comes to us on the same day as the Holocaust Memorial Day.  We should all pause for a few moments to remember not only those in the forefront of our minds through current conflict but all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom over the years in whichever conflict, from the Holocaust to the present day.

    “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
    We will remember them.”

    My heart felt condolences go out to the family of Pte Bell and to the families of all the other 300+ service personnel that we have lost in this latest conflict.  The first line of that well known verse also bares some reflection though.  The suffering of those that are left.  Those that come back from operations bearing physical and mental scars.  Their families who see a different person to the one they knew prior to their deployment.  I’m not detracting in any way from the loss felt by the families for whom they will never see their loved ones again.  Just spare a thought for those that continue to suffer, yet must still live their lives.

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  • Encouraging Results from the NHS “Have Your Say” Event.

    Yesterday I blogged about my attending the NHS “Have Your Say” Event in Blandford.  I had submitted questions in advance and had a further question which, lamentably, there was no time to ask.  As I drove over to Blandford I admit to thinking that this was going to be just another fruitless exercise where I was going to come away with the feeling that I’d got no further forward in promoting the profession with the NHS, however, this morning I say with some caution that I am rather encouraged.  See below the questions and the answers I received:

    1.         Shortly before Christmas (2010), the field of hypnotherapy achieved the status of “Voluntary Self-Regulation”.  This has been achieved with the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council(CNHC) acting as the external independent regulator.

     a)         As a Department of Health funded organisation (at least presently), what “standing” does the CNHC enjoy within the NHS?

     b)        Would registration with the CNHC afford the therapist better recognition within the NHS?

    The Dorset PCT Director for Public Health Dr David Phillips answered both parts of this question generally.  He admitted, quite honestly I thought, that he was not particularly familiar with the work of the CNHC, however, he congratulated the hypnotherapy profession as a whole on achieving this regulation and the panel believes it is an important first step for the profession in becoming more main stream and recognised, akin to chiropractors physiotherapists and acupuncturists for example.

    Perhaps worthy of note in this answer is Dr Phillips’ unfamiliarity with the CNHC.  The CNHC itself says that they routinely ask GP’s to consider their registered practitioners when considering a referral.  Clearly this statement is disparate to the answer I received and the CNHC has some way to go to promote themselves within GP surgerys.  This may be the reason that the CNHC asks it’s registrants to download their publicity and deliver it, under covering letter, to local surgeries.  It may be that as Dr Phillips “day job” is that of Director of Public Health, he wasn’t familiar with the CNHC as he is somewhat removed from the coal face, but there where other GPs on the panel who could have chipped in if they were more aware of the CNHC’s work.

    My second question:

    2.         Clearly, the NHS must practice evidence based medicine when commissioning services and get value for money, especially in these austere times.

     How does a health care provider, with a firm and robust evidence based (and probably money saving) outcome driven idea, present this idea to the NHS for proper consideration?

    Again, Dr Phillips answered this question saying that the NHS remain open minded to all ideas and interventions where the evidence as to their efficacy exists.  He further suggested that I keep an eye on the newspapers and other advertising media so I can find out about forthcoming procurements and I can submit my ideas through the normal tendering process.  In a cautionary note, however, he did state that the evidence backing up the use of hypnosis appears very weak in the clinical arena.  I challenged this by respectfully asking him to go to the National Institute of Clinical Excellence’s (NICE) own website where you can obtain access to the NHS Document Library Database.  Further instructing him to put the term “Hypnotherapy” into their search engine, I suggested he might be surprised at the amount of results he received!  I also said that I and my skill set has been registered with the NHS’ procurement agency ever since I became qualified and not once has anything come up in the procurement world that would use them.

    The encouraging bit though is the brief, yet honest and frank discussion I had with Dr Phillips after the meeting had concluded.  He stated that the advanced submission of my questions had caused him to put some serious thought into the whole area and just how it might assist the NHS.  I found Dr Phillips to be very open to the fraction of ideas that I had the time to convey verbally!    I asked, how or to whom I could present ideas so that hypnotherapy services might actually start appearing on the procurement process.  Encouragingly, both Dr Phillips and one other have both asked me to prepare and submit a paper on the various areas that hypnotherapy could assist with in the modern day NHS.  I’ve got some work to do now haven’t I?

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  • Attendance at the NHS “Have Your Say” Event – Blandford 26 January 2011.

    Today I will be attending the NHS “Have Your Say” Event being held in Blandford.  I was invited to send my questions in for the panel which I did, but with the advent of The Health & Social Care Bill being read for the second time in parliament at the end of the month, I have more questions up my sleeve for which they will not have been able to prepare so well.

    Now I know that many of you will be saying “Oh but this is just another example of the NHS paying lip service to public consultation”, and to some degree I would agree with you.  But we have to start somewhere!  The fact that this meeting is being attended by Dorset PCT’s Chief Executive, Paul Sly, and the Director of Public Health, Dr. David Phillips, presents a good opportunity to put some awkward questions to the top brass.

    So what are my questions?  Clearly they will be coloured by my profession, however, this makes them no less awkward in my view:

    1.         Shortly before Christmas (2010), the field of hypnotherapy achieved the status of “Voluntary Self-Regulation”.  This has been achieved with the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council(CNHC) acting as the external independent regulator.

     a)         As a Department of Health funded organisation (at least presently), what “standing” does the CNHC enjoy within the NHS?

     b)        Would registration with the CNHC afford the therapist better recognition within the NHS?

     2.         Clearly, the NHS must practice evidence based medicine when commissioning services and get value for money, especially in these austere times.

     How does a health care provider, with a firm and robust evidence based (and probably money saving) outcome driven idea, present this idea to the NHS for proper consideration?

     These questions were sent in in December 2010, so I’m expecting them to be prepared for them.  But depending on thier answers I have another for them:

    With the likely break up of the PCT’s under the much publicised Health & Social Care Bill and the “purse strings” being passed in the main to GP Consortia, will this make it easier for GP’s and hospitals alike to retain the services of a properly registered and appropriately trained hypnotherapists where the efficacy of that treatment can be shown?

    I for one, am certainly looking forward to their answers!

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  • Regression – Past Lives and Other Stories.

    I can hear some of you saying “Uh oh, he’s going weird on us”, however, since starting my blog, which is still rather young, I have fielded a number of questions regarding past lives or past life regression (PLR).  So I thought it prudent to talk about it and give, what you will understand, is my opinion and experiences of this controversial subject.

    I say controversial because many hypnotherapists quite simply don’t believe in it yet many specialise in the area.  If you have taken a wander through my website then you will note that I don’t actually mention PLR anywhere so am I a disbeliever?  Far from it.  I have seen subjects have wild and wonderful experiences and utilised some of these myself.  I have done PLR with a number of clients where appropriate and one or two that have asked for PLR and nothing else.  I feel it would be difficult to do this if I were a devout sceptic in this area.

    When I was training no one subject was more divisive of opinion and the memories of  learning this particular discipline are ones that perhaps stand out the most as what I experienced caused me to shift my thinking in a very profound manner.  I remember thinking “Oh, here we go!  Here comes the hokum part!” but staying true to my beliefs I kept an open mind.  Now I held the notion that to believe in past lives you would at least have to be religious and further believe, at least in some way, in the notion of reincarnation.  People that know me personally know that I am probably one of the most unreligious people you can meet.  I’ve seen far too much blood spilt in various places around the world in the name of religion for me to care much about it.  I have nothing against those who are and have the utmost respect for their beliefs.  Belief is an incredibly powerful thing and frankly shouldn’t be messed with unless it’s faulty in some way.  Religion doesn’t necessarily equal faulty.  So prior to this particular part of my training you can probably guess in which camp I was firmly sat!  Of course, once we’d tackled the theory it was time for practical work and something very strange happened.  The lecturer had warned us you might go into hypnosis and actually find nothing, no past life, not even a hint of one.  Conversely you might get flooded with them and not know which one to look at first.  Now my logical mind was of course thinking, ok the believers will get flooded and the sceptics will get nothing.  Wrong!  Some sceptics, including myself, got some wonderful results!  Some believers, you guessed it, got nothing (and were were rather disappointed into the bargain).

    So I was shaken.  Something I believed quite firmly to be the case, quite clearly wasn’t!  Did I have some sort of epiphany and become religious?  No!  I reasoned that if religion or belief had something to do with it then ALL of the believers would have had some sort of result.  So my reasoning, logical mind was set adrift somewhat floundering to find an explanation for what I had experienced.  I delved into many a book and nosed across the Internet eventually settling on Carl Jung’s theory of Race Collective Memory or Genetic Memory.  Jung questioned what made certain behaviour instinctive both in animals and in humans.  For example, when a baby is born, it only has the memory of it’s mother’s womb and the rude awakening of being birthed into the cold brightly lit world.  So how does that baby know to search for it’s mother’s breast in order to feed?  It has no empirical evidence to say that this is the right thing to do.  Why does any baby eventually feel the urge to haul itself up on two feet and attempt to walk?  You’d think staying on all fours was quite comfortable thank you very much.  On the race side of things, why do the Chinese (or any other race of people for that matter) have a certain predisposal to their own racial traditions ethics and values?  Jung postulated that it was all part of a race collective memory, handed down from generation to generation.

    Taking this further, would it not be possible to inherit a memory that belonged in the first instance to your great great great grandaddy?  Memories are indexed by emotion.  Happy memories are in this box, sad memories in that box and so on.  So if the emotions of a particular memory are that powerful might it be that they get put in a box labelled “Stuff to burden my offspring with”?  We know that certain disease can be hereditary.  How often have you been to the doctor with an issue and they asked if there is any history of “X, Y or Z” in the family?  So why can’t we inherit memory and in so doing certain cultures etc label it a past life?  Scientists have mapped a mere fraction of  human DNA.  Frankly they haven’t got the first idea what the rest of it does!  So what if just a tiny part of this unmapped DNA is given over to genetic memory?  Surely some of it must be; reference the example of the baby above.

    Anyway, for what it’s worth, that is mytheory of how past lives work.  Yes, I feel that belief can play a part but I also feel there is a more scientific explanation.  Can PLR be used for therapeutic effect?  Yes it can.  I had a client once who wanted to address her overriding feeling of negativity, low self esteem and confidence.  As always I looked for the cause but found none.  Nothing in this woman’s life would or should have led to these feelings.  She’d had a privileged upbringing with no real evidence of trauma anywhere.  So I offered PLR to which she readily agreed.  What we found back there was enough to have an effect on the next few generations not just her!

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