Category Archives: Psychological Problems

discussion about specific psychological problems

Questions I get Asked

At my first meeting with any client, the client generally has a lot of questions about how I work and how hypnotherapy could help them. I always enjoy answering these questions, and supplying useful knowledge that people aren’t getting from the media. My clients’ questions are always relevant and intelligent.

Outside of work, though, I do get asked some silly questions by people whom I meet. The one that quite annoys me is “does it work?” I mean seriously, would I have been doing it as a job for 23 years if it didn’t work? what job satisfaction could anybody get from that? and why would I get so many clients referred to me by their friends and family whom I’ve previously helped, and people whom I’ve previously helped coming back for help with a different problem? Quite apart from the scientific evidence- scientists have been studying hypnosis and its benefits since the Eighteenth Century.

The other old favourite is “can you make me cluck like a chicken?” Of course people are usually joking but one or two are asking seriously. So let’s get this one straight.

No, I can’t, in fact I can’t “MAKE” you do anything, and neither can Paul McKenna, despite what it says on the covers of all his books! Hypnosis is a powerful tool to help YOU make the changes that YOU want to make. The willingness to change has to be there already.

That doesn’t always have to mean 100% willingness. Change is scary. A problem you have had for many years becomes your “normal,” your comfort zone. Even prison can become a comfort zone if people stay there long enough.

That’s why the first step in successful therapy is realising how much better and bigger life is going to be, once you’ve cleared away the problems that have limited your life.

 

Getting Over It: The Problem of Bad Memories 3

In my last two posts I discussed the problem of bad memories- past events that still affect us because they feel like they happened yesterday. The emotion linked to these events seems always fresh and immediate. This is because these memories are stored differently from ordinary memories that gradually fade with time. We cannot forget them any more than we could jump twenty feet up into the air. And endlessly picking over them is even worse, because in our heads we’re putting ourselves back into that situation, where we cannot think clearly or constructively- we can only suffer.

Fortunately there are other ways of dealing with these problems that are much more helpful and effective. These methods work by disconnecting the memory from the extreme emotion that stops us thinking clearly about it. When the emotion (usually fear, anger or embarrassment) is removed, we can begin to see the memory as something that is in the past- over and done with. We can see that we were different then and didn’t have the power and knowledge we have now. We can see that we survived.

These therapy methods use the power of our imagination, guided by the therapist in specific ways. Hypnosis makes the therapy more effective by increasing the power of the imagination. Using these methods the person can be helped to deal with memories while remaining detached from the powerful emotions that the memories would normally arouse. The client doesn’t even need to disclose to the therapist any details of what actually happened.

In this way, the client can think clearly about what happened instead of being immediately sucked into a whirlpool of extreme fear, shame, anger, or other powerful and unpleasant feelings. They can understand that they are now a different person with more knowledge and power than they had then. They can understand that the past event is now over, left behind them in the past, and has no power over them today.

There are several treatment methods based on these principles. They include the Clearance Protocol (invented by Graeme Harvey), the Reflective Time Process (invented by Dr Geoff Ibbotson), the Rewind Technique (invented by Dr DC Muss), and the Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing or EMDR technique (invented by Dr Francine Shapiro). The first three use hypnosis, though it doesn’t have to be deep hypnosis. EMDR does not use hypnosis although a relaxed state of mind is needed. I personally use the first three methods.

To discuss further how I might help you with problems caused by bad memories, or with any other problem, you can phone or email me via the contact form on this site HERE.

Getting Over It: The Problem of Bad Memories 2

In my last post I discussed the problem of bad memories- how things that happened long ago can still torment us as if they happened only yesterday.

Such memories are not like ordinary memories that fade with time. The troubling memories are stored in a different place where time makes no difference- it’s as if they happened yesterday, even if they really happened many years ago. This is why the traditional advice to “just get over it!” is so unhelpful.

Nowadays people may be told to remember rather than forget. They may be told that they can only “get over” their bad memories by picking over them in great detail. They may have counselling for this purpose, or attend groups, or record their memories in diaries- many of which can be seen on the internet. These diaries typically go on and on without any change in how the person feels about what happened. Likewise with counselling, the person may have many sessions and each time comes out of the counsellor’s office feeling worse than when they went in.

As soon as they start digging up the details of the past they are plunged right back into the memory as if it was happening right now. That’s because these memories do not fade with time- they are always fresh and vivid. Nothing has changed. And when a memory feels like it happened yesterday, it’s natural to fear that it could happen again tomorrow. That’s how these memories can affect our whole attitude to life going forward. When we see or hear or even smell anything connected to the bad memory, powerful emotions are triggered before we have time to think or even notice what we’ve seen or heard.

This is because of how our brains are put together. The brain has separate areas for different things. There are seeing and hearing areas (visual and auditory cortex), an area for powerful emotion (amygdala) and a thinking area (frontal cortex). The nerves going from the visual and hearing areas to the emotion area carry messages faster than the nerves going to the thinking area. This is why we react before we’ve had time to think.

Fortunately there are effective ways of dealing with bad memories. I will discuss these in my next post.

Getting Over It: The Problem of Bad Memories 1

Many people feel tormented by things that happened in their past. It’s like the memory is sitting in some corner of their mind, ready to jump out at them, as vivid and powerful as if it only happened yesterday. Quite trivial events and experiences in the present can trigger memories so powerful that the present-day trigger is forgotten, washed away by the surge of negative feelings. Bad memories leave us questioning- and the questions are another torment. “Why did that happen? Why did I let that happen? Did I deserve it? Will it happen again?”

Unless they’ve caused physical injuries, or ongoing problems like a criminal record that stays with us, most of these past events exist only in our memory. Everyone else who was involved may have forgotten or even died. Yet the memory remains powerfully alive.

How should we deal with such damaging memories? Should we just forget about them and get on with our lives, or should we dig them up and examine them in detail? Or is there a third possible solution?

“Just forget about it” is the traditional solution. Unfortunately it’s nonsense. We can’t simply forget a horrible event, the way we might forget the name of some kid we went to school with. That’s because these are two completely different types of memories, which are stored in different ways.

Memories of things that don’t affect us emotionally- like the names of every kid in our class in school- are stored like the old files in an office. They’re kept for years just in case they’re needed- but probably in some basement or lock-up space, not even in the main office building. Those memories are easy to forget- because the mind feels no need to remember them.

The “problem memories” are kept close to hand because the mind thinks they could be needed at any time. They’re in a place where time doesn’t matter- everything is right here, right now. Something that happened 20 years ago is remembered every day, while things that happened yesterday are already forgotten.

This is why “just forget it!” is useless advice. And it’s even worse when we’re told to “forgive and forget!” Many people use the word “forgive” to mean “pretend it didn’t happen.” This is very convenient for someone who has wronged you- they can do it all again and take you by surprise, just like the first time!

In my next two posts I shall look at other possible answers to the problems caused by “bad memories”.

DUPLICATE POSTING FOR TECHNICAL REASONS ie BROKEN LINK

Getting Over It: The Problem of Bad Memories: Part 1

Many people feel tormented by things that happened in their past. It’s like the memory is sitting in some corner of their mind, ready to jump out at them, as vivid and powerful as if it only happened yesterday. Quite trivial events and experiences in the present can trigger memories so powerful that the present-day trigger is forgotten, washed away by the surge of negative feelings. Bad memories leave us questioning- and the questions are another torment. “Why did that happen? Why did I let that happen? Did I deserve it? Will it happen again?”

Unless they’ve caused physical injuries, or ongoing problems like a criminal record that stays with us, most of these past events exist only in our memory. Everyone else who was involved may have forgotten or even died. Yet the memory remains powerfully alive.

How should we deal with such damaging memories? Should we just forget about them and get on with our lives, or should we dig them up and examine them in detail? Or is there a third possible solution?

“Just forget about it” is the traditional solution. Unfortunately it’s nonsense. We can’t simply forget a horrible event, the way we might forget the name of some kid we went to school with. That’s because these are two completely different types of memories, which are stored in different ways.

Memories of things that don’t affect us emotionally- like the names of every kid in our class in school- are stored like the old files in an office. They’re kept for years just in case they’re needed- but probably in some basement or lock-up space, not even in the main office building. Those memories are easy to forget- because the mind feels no need to remember them.

The “problem memories” are kept close to hand because the mind thinks they could be needed at any time. They’re in a place where time doesn’t matter- everything is right here, right now. Something that happened 20 years ago is remembered every day, while things that happened yesterday are already forgotten.

This is why “just forget it!” is useless advice. And it’s even worse when we’re told to “forgive and forget!” Many people use the word “forgive” to mean “pretend it didn’t happen.” This is very convenient for someone who has wronged you- they can do it all again and take you by surprise, just like the first time!

In my next two posts I shall look at other possible answers to the problems caused by “bad memories”.

Hypnotherapy for Skin Complaints

I’m sometimes asked whether Hypnotherapy can help with skin complaints. Indeed it can- the use of hypnotherapy for skin complaints is backed by solid scientific evidence.

The “Oxford Handbook of Hypnosis: Theory, Research and Practice” is published by Oxford University, one of the most highly respected Universities in the world. Chapter 15 of this large textbook discusses the research into hypnotherapy for skin disorders. This chapter is written by Dr Grant Benham PhD of the University of Texas, and Dr Jarred Younger PhD of Stanford University in California. Stanford has produced 59 Nobel prize-winners, 30 living billionaires, and 17 astronauts!

Benham and Younger quote from 53 scientific studies supporting the effectiveness of hypnosis in treating various skin disorders, including eczema, psoriasis, and warts.

An important element of the therapy in many skin disorders is to get the patient to stop scratching. This is achieved partly through modifying the patient’s perception of the itching sensation, making it more bearable. A similar approach is effective with chronic pain. Hypnosis also helps by enabling the patient to notice when they are scratching and to stop immediately- because often the scratching is so habitual that the patient hardly knows they’re doing it.

Hypnotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Hypnotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a huge missed opportunity for the NHS. This common, very distressing problem responds well to hypnotherapy. The NHS gastro-enterology service in South Manchester has been offering hypnotherapy to help with this condition for many years now, with good results, which have been carefully researched and the findings presented in scientific journals. Yet despite this, no other NHS Trust has adopted this treatment method.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a common condition in which the intestines move either too fast (causing diarrhoea) or too slowly (causing constipation), without any physical disease to account for this problem. Basically it is an extreme example of the way the intestines normally respond to stress and anxiety. The bowels, like the skin, have a close connection to the nervous system, and respond immediately to mood changes. In IBS, a vicious circle is created when diarrhoea and severe constipation become causes of anxiety in themselves. Hypnotherapy works in these cases by promoting general relaxation, reducing anxiety, and suggesting a more regular and moderate action of the intestines.

Learning to Assert Yourself

Today’s blog post is another book recommendation. Many clients attending my Plymouth Hypnotherapy practice complain that other people take advantage of them, and that their more confident colleagues are listened to even when they’re talking nonsense. These clients are lacking in assertiveness, and the results of this can end in frustration, depression, and occasionally even violence when “something snaps”. The good news is that you can learn to be assertive, just as you can learn to drive. Assertiveness begins as a set of behaviours, which can be learned and practiced till they happen automatically. Once these habits are developed, other people will treat you more respectfully, and this “feeds back” into your own beliefs about yourself. “When I Say No I Feel Guilty” by Manuel J Smith is an excellent self-help book for those who want to learn to be assertive. It contains many exercises and scripts, and is written in a simple clear style. It was written many years ago, but you can easily find it second hand online, or perhaps even in one Plymouth’s excellent second hand book shops on the Barbican!

Recovery from Addiction

Every few months some tragic event reported in the news focuses our attention on the subject of addictions, and why some people find it so difficult to overcome this problem. Uninformed people often seek someone to blame, whether it’s the patient, their family and friends, or their doctors and therapists. Others seek simplistic explantions, claiming that addiction is a “disease” like pneumonia, or that tougher punishments for possessing drugs will solve the problem. All these simple explanations are misleading.
Three main factors that determine whether someone will overcome addiction. Firstly there is their environment, especially the people around them. It is normally impossible to stay off drugs and alcohol if you are surrounded by users. For one thing, drinking and drug use are often social activities. The company of drunk or drugged people is boring, irritating or even frightening if you are not “under the influence” yourself. Also, users often pressurise others to indulge more. The presence of a sober person seems to embarrass them. Non-using family and friends can also be a problem. The wives of alcoholic men often protect them from the consequences of their actions, paying their debts and fines, clearing up their mess, apologising and covering up for them. They mean well, but in fact their caring gives their husbands less incentive to quit drinking.
A second factor is the individual addict. No treatment in the world can work if the patient just doesn’t want to stop drinking or using. Most addicts actually have mixed feelings about their use of drugs or alcohol. On the one hand they may fear the effects of drink or drugs, but on the other hand they really enjoy taking them, especially if this helps them overcome shyness, stage fright or other problems. Many addicts only consent to quit when their doctor convinces them that they will die in the near future if they continue using.
Treatment is the third factor. A wise psychiatrist once stated that “if you want to be this country’s most successful addiction clinic, you must become the place where people go when they actually want to stop taking drugs or drinking.” In other words, it’s the patient’s decision that matters, much more than the treatment method. Some years ago, I saw a film of a remote monastery in the mountains of Thailand, which runs a very successful drug treatment programme. The patients work, meditate, and drink a foul medicine which causes severe vomiting. Some American doctors were trying to copy the medicine so they could give it to their patients in America! I do not believe that this would ever work, because the patients in America would be nothing like as motivated as those who had trekked all the way into the mountains of Thailand, knowing that they would be made violently sick on arrival.

 

Name that Emotion

In an earlier post I showed how “feelings” are made up of different components. These include the physical experience such as heart palpitating and hands shaking, the names we give to these sensations, the outcomes we imagine, and the beliefs we have about ourselves based on these emotions. In this article I’ll be discussing the second component- the names we give to our emotions.
When we feel a physical sensation, we will probably react quite differently depending on what name we give to that sensation. If we call it “fear”, we may run away, hide, play dead, surrender, grit our teeth, fight back, or even launch a pre-emptive attack. If we call the sensation “being madly in love” we might react quite differently, even though the physical feeling is the same. Someone who is swept up in passionate “love at first sight” may experience a palpitating heart, sweating, shaking, dry mouth- all the same sensations as sheer terror. Think how many people have a first date in a restaurant, only to find that they can hardly eat the food in front of them! And think how many people “bail out” at the last minute, “running away” from the one they love as if they were a mortal enemy. Even the “pre-emptive attack” is a common reaction to the “love” sensation, just as to the “fear” sensation that it so resembles. Most people have had someone being extremely rude to them, only later discovering that this person was greatly attracted to them.
Whatever name we give to an emotion, the problems arise when we react automatically to that emotion, without using our intelligence. If you study the biographies even of great geniuses, you will see how their intelligence flies out the window as soon as their emotions are aroused. If we can control our emotions we can control ourselves, and if we can control ourselves we will have a better chance of controlling our own destiny and choosing the sort of life we want to have. By naming a sensation as “excitement” rather than as “fear”, we are opening up different possibilities of how we could react to it. Most people enjoy excitement, whereas they see fear as something to avoid.