Sunday, June 28, 2009

Managing Self Doubt

From time to time we all get hit by self doubt. It haunts some of us everyday. However, the absolute knowledge that success is assured can make us almost superhuman. Confidence is like a steamroller. Resistance is futile.

Hypnosis can instill confidence - just as conditioning can. In the clips below, Derren Brown - an amazing English hypnotist, takles the issue of self doubt. It's a very surprising outcome. Keep in mind this is a British TV episode, and has none of the restraint of a North American TV show. No one sues you in England for electrocuting a kitten...


Part 2:

Part 3:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why do Hypnotherapists use regression?

Regression is one of the most powerful tools we have in Hypnotherapy. Here's an example. I had a client that gave up smoking successfully, however would restart after two or three months. Her pattern went back years. When she came to me she was skeptical because she knew she would stop, but did not want to restart.

In regression it turned out the causes originated far back as a four year old child. She had gone to a fair that was visiting town one day with her mother. She'd enjoyed a couple of hot dogs. Her father had taken her with her sister later that day, and she enjoyed two more hot dogs.

Later she threw up and it was quickly evident that the hot dogs were giving her severe problems. She had food poisoning. While she was not in a life threatening illness, it was a very disturbing tie for the young child. She couldn't keep anything down for days, and had to stay home from school. Her mother would read to her and looked after her. As she recovered this became a time she even enjoyed - with all the attention from her mother. By the third day she was able to drink water, and began slowly eating again.

About this time her father had the chimneys swept. The chimney sweep, however, managed to block a flew, so the next time her father lit a fire, the whole house filled up with smoke. This smell of smoke was so strong that she remembers it clearly - and associates it with the recovery from her illness, and a time she felt very cared for and loved.

We could see clearly that each time my client restarted smoking, it was when she was recovering from a cold or an illness. This proved absolutely accurate and explained why she was always returning to her habit.

Once she understood the reasons, things were simple. Just a case of reframing the issues - and guess what? She's still smoke free a year later.

Sometimes, clients don't want to use regression. I understand this. In many cases it's not necessary. To some degree, just because there's a dent in the front of the car, we don't necessarily have to know what colour the lampost you hit was to fix it. There are however times when regression can provide a clue to what triggers a behaviour. In those cases, it's a very powerful tool.


It's not just about cigarettes...

Just when you think you’ve seen everything a regular ‘non smoking’ therapy can be, something new comes along. This is the true story of a client who had come with his wife and had achieved deep trance levels, with every expectation of a successful outcome.

I had done my usual exploration of reasons why he’d started smoking, history of addictions in his family, search for trauma in his background. Not only was he an extremely confident and comfortable individual, he seemed the perfect husband and provider. He was a genuinely nice guy, affable and easy going.

Once he’d gone through induction he swiftly went into a trance and accepted suggestion readily. Using two or three tests I could see he was clearly in hypnosis. I was somewhat surprised when two days later his wife called to say he was having trouble remaining smoke free. Whilst he had not smoked, he was clearly struggling. He was agitated and anxious, mostly at work.

I got him straight back into the office during a slot the following morning. In hypnotic regression the following three issues emerged:

As a child he had been asthmatic. His sister would hide his inhaler, and spray it to waste the medication, often bringing on an asthma attack through anxiety. On one occasion she had tossed it out of the window, and he’d gone out into the garden in his pyjamas. She’d then locked him out of the house. This was in Ontario in the winter and the temperature was 20 below. He’d been outside in the snow in his pyjamas and developed hypothermia.

His mother had once come on the back of a motorcycle, and found him smoking. He’d been standing on the sidewalk, holding a pack of Marlboro, with one in his mouth. He didn’t realize it was his mother in the leathers and helmet. She’d reached out and taken the cigarette from his hanging jaw as he’d been so surprised, and disappointed in himself and for letting his other down through his behaviour. It had troubled him over the years and he remembered her words exactly – “I’ll be taking those!” He was caught, literally ‘red handed’.

In his first workplace his boss had been a heavy smoker, a bully and entirely incompetent. He would come to work wondering what he would be blamed for this time, as the youngest member of a crew. Work was unpleasant, and a smoke break was a sanctuary of sorts.

So – first things first. The sister, the inhaler taken away – a horrible picture rekindled by the removal of his recent ‘inhaler’ – his cigarettes. This needed substantial reframing and deconstruction – including homework to go and see his sister and chat about the entire episode and desensitize it.

Next, the mother. He felt sad to have let his mother down, not to mention surprised and shocked at her sudden appearance. In this we have an ally. After getting him to re experience the episode in hypnosis I asked him to go and see his mother, photograph her, and paste the picture to the dashboard of his truck with the words ‘I’ll be taking those’ written on the picture. His truck (part of his work) was an area he’d had difficulty avoiding smoking.

Finally, at work – He was as much afraid of being like that first incompetent boss, as he was of giving up his ‘sanctuary’ – the smoke break. This man had extremely high personal standards – he was a model husband and an extremely practical individual. He was the leader of his work crew and treated them well, having experience bad leadership in the past. We examined the work situation he’d experienced all those years ago, and then compared it to his current situation – and looked at the fact that his leadership and kindness to his colleagues marked him out as different. It established him as a role model. No role model would condone smoking. He was motivated to set an example in the workplace, the principle area of challenge for him. As a leader he had been struggling to suppress memories of a difficult workplace experience with each cigarette he’d lit.

This really is a case of being torn in two directions at once. On the one hand, ending the relationship with cigarettes rekindles memories of being without the inhaler, and remaining a smoker challenged his desire to be a good leader in the workplace (was he turning into his incompetent first boss?).

We not only took care of the issues in hypnosis, my client also committed to going to see his mother and his sister and chat about these issues n a non challenging way. If you can laugh at the causes of an issue, then you can take its power away.

Two or three days after this second session my client reported he felt great, had had the best sleep he’d experienced in months, and he was closer to his family than ever before. The moral of the story? It’s never just about cigarettes.

The covert consumer in the midnight kitchen.

In hypnotherapy we hear many times of the careless act that leaves a child scared for life. An unjustified scolding, or a bullying episode that a parent never learned of finds its way deep into a child’s memory, only to surface many years later as a trigger for later anxiety. And yet, from time to time we see this flow from one generation to another move the other way. This was one such situation.

My client was a gentleman who was successful at the highest levels in the performing arts. His high profile, abundance of talent and ability to bring joy to so many contribute to what appears a happy and successful life. However, like so many of us, he also has a secret habit he feels ashamed of and embarraseed about, which he hides from even his closest friends.

Many mornings when he gets up, he comes into the kitchen to find remnants of food. These are often left overs of the most elaborate dishes, always prepared for one. He has no memory whatsoever of any visitor, or providing any such meal. It is just as though someone has come into the house, feasted plentifully and then left without clearing anything away. This sometimes happens twice a week.

My client knows it is impossible that anyone could be getting into his house. This is not an isolated incident, it has happened periodically over many years, sometimes lasting months with a frequency of about twice a week. At times it fades for a few weeks, only to start happening again. As disturbing as the situation has become, my client has known for a long time there is only one explanation for the situation. It is he himself that is enjoying this feats, though he has absolutely no memory of it whatsoever. He even went to the extreme of weighing himself before sleeping, and on waking up to look for weight shifts.

He came to me when he found there was really no credible solution to this habit. On my suggestion he went back and plotted the last few incidents and we looked at the results. While there was no particularly obvious cause for the night eating episodes, it was evident that they would often take place on Fridays or Saturdays. At first I thought we were looking for something he did himself at weekends, that would trigger the resulting action.

It was evident that the sources of stress in my client’s life had increased significantly in recent years. Although he’d raised a daughter alone, he’d had a life relatively free from tension up until the teen years of one of his daughters who had acted out quite severely in her teens, until finding her path. She is now an acclaimed singer in her own right. She did however provide a good deal of grief, particularly as a fifteen year old.

It turned out that when in hypnotic regression my client revealed his deep seated fears about his daughter during her teen years. She would go out at weekends, sometimes with men her father resented and distrusted. The fifteen year old would stay out till all hours of the night, sometimes returning drunk. For a father raising his daughter alone this was deeply upsetting. His daughter was reacting against her only parent, a father who loved her dearly.

Although his daughter came through this period relatively unharmed, her father would wait up many nights – generally at weekends, waiting for her to arrive home. He’d wait up in the kitchen, sometimes preparing the most elaborate dishes. He found this kept him awake and took his mind off whatever was happening to his daughter. In hypnosis it became evident that the later feelings of insecurity and anxiety were triggering a repeat of these lonely nightly vigils. It was a behavior that had served him well in the past. His mind simply decided to re-enact the same activity to deal with the new and unrelated stresses of his life. He was quite literally still sitting up at night waiting for his teenage daughter to come safely home. The fact that she has been married for the last twenty years to a loving husband in California was something his subconscious mind had conveniently overlooked in its desire to find a coping tool for stress.

Once identified this was a simple situation to remedy and my client left feeling greatly relieved and three months later has not had a single instance of night eating since. He was able to chat with his daughter about the situation and laugh about it how it had affected him for all these years. His daughter, incidentally now has three daughters of her own, just entering their teenage years.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Working with Anxiety

Understanding anxiety

Anxiety is an issue that afflicts most of us at some point in our lives. Our tendency to play own its importance and to try to ‘tough it out’ can often exacerbate its effects. It is worth for a moment looking at the idea of anxiety in a historical context.

When I was very young I remember an old man that lived on our street in London. We would see him working on the tiny garden in front of his house from time to time. On the other side of the road was a churchyard with old iron railings painted a gaunt black. The years of painting had softened the look of that fence. One day I remember seeing a young boy run alongside the fence with a stick held out – as it rattled along the iron railings it gave out a loud rattatatat sound. These were the sounds of life in our street.

Now, another look at that apparently ordinary scene. The old man was on his knees weeding his garden when he heard the sounds of the rattatat. For him, in an instant he was transformed back to that moment in 1916 when he was first deployed to the Somme. As a frightened teenager he had been quite literally terrified, uprooted from his childhood home to fight a horrific war he had been deployed to the Western front into the thick of the fighting. Like so many of Englands youth of the time, he had no idea what to expect. He quite possibly had never left home before. As a young man, hopelessly badly prepared he would have been as afraid of the process of being dispatched to war, as he was of the enemy. Seeing his friends and brothers killed right before his eyes with industrial efficiency he was exposed in a short time to enormous trauma.

Finding himself in a wet trench surrounded by heavy fire, the sound of machine guns in his ears at some point he literally shut down at a neurological level and ceased functioning. It used to be called ‘Shell Shock’. Nowadays we call it Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The immediate effects were obvious – he would have found himself rooted to the spot, unable to function and quite terrified of everything going on around him, until he shut it all out. Blacking out, or feinting or simply going into catatonic shock is an immediate result of such trauma in some people. Unable to function, much less to fight, he would have been shipped home.

What is less understood is the long term effect of shell shock. For the old man in the street, the sound of that stick being rattled along a railing transported him back to the trenches in an instant. For him it was the sound of the machine gun all over again. In a moment he was transfix and then collapsed in absolute terror shaking on the ground.

Just as Pavlov’s dogs salivated on hearing the bell, so he played out the response he experienced with the sound of the ‘machine gun’. Some of the kids playing in the street saw him collapse and ran and got an adult. As I remember it, one of the parents went and helped the old man; they’d seen this before periodically. It was something which happened now and then and had been a part of his life these past fifty five years. The people in the street knew of the old man’s trouble and helped him back inside and calmed him down whenever he had one of his ‘turns’.

This enduring memory from childhood is an extreme example of how anxiety can affect us. In this case it’s a response to a very defined trauma. Both the original trauma and the response were extreme, which both go to illustrate the point. For some, that trauma is less defined. It could be fear of an accident, or fear of being alone, or even something as apparently benign as not being asked to be in the Sunday school play.

In each case a response of anxiety – extreme or otherwise – can be debilitating and hugely impactful on our daily life. Not all of us will end up cowering in a flowerbed, with bemused children playing in the distance. For most people it will feel more like an increasingly present feeling of unease in our stomach. From time to time it will well up in waves and make itself felt with a malevolent darkness that is unmistakable.

From the point of view of hypnotherapy, we often see a trigger of some type, and a response to it. The hypnotherapists job is to try to uncouple those two elements. Going back to Pavlovs dogs, we need to get the dog to stop salivating involuntarily when that bell rings.

Before we go too deeply into the efficacy of hypnotherapy in this field let’s take a brief look at what has been done by medical doctors over the years. In the middle ages the mentally ill were driven out of the house and condemned to wander homeless depending on the charity of passers by. Here we have the origins of the ‘village idiot’.

If you go back a couple hundred years there was a belief in an idea called ‘degeneration’. This was the idea that ‘madness’ was hereditary and passed down the generations. It may start as an eccentricity and in the following generation come out in the form of manic depression. The next generation may exhibit a family member with epilepsy or another increasingly evident manifestation of the problem. Ultimately the family line would terminate in a dementia laden generation of cretins. This idea was expounded in the 1850’s by Benedict-Augustin Morel. Anxiety was merely a stepping stone on this path.

Morel was both hugely influential and an idiot. His idea contributed to some of the most hideously unjust results of mental illness. Families in England would literally hide away their mentally ill relatives, for fear their condition would become known, and condemn the family line. Who would want to marry into a family so clearly and scientifically known to be headed to the asylum? This is where we get the idea of the mad brother chained up in a secret room behind the library.

Now keep in mind this idea had some currency until not that long ago. One hundred and fifty years is not so far back, and the idea stayed around for a while. Doctors these days are a little more on the ball. But who is to say that in a hundred and fifty years time we will not look at the ideas of today and scoff, the way we now do about ‘degeneration’?

The modern solution is to anxiety is often to prescribe an antidepressant. Let’s just think about that for a moment. Firstly, many anti depressants are now known to actually have a side effect of – wait for it – causing anxiety. Secondly, there really is no question about the fact that this is a prime example of treating the symptom rather than the problem. (‘We’re not worried why you experiencing anxiety; we’ll make you feel better about it’… This is much the same as saying ‘We’re not worried why your legs just became paralysed, but we’ll make you feel better about it’.) Thirdly, in an antidepressant solution, most doctors readily admit they do not know how long you’ll stay on the medication, what the side effects will be, or even why they work. It’s a little like saying ‘stand on one foot, face the wind and say abracadabra three times – I don’t know why it works but it does…’ These are not promising indicators of the current solution being any more relevant than Morels idea of degeneration.

So, why hypnotherapy? Firstly, hypnotherapists do try and find the root cause of the problem. Secondly, it’s generally accepted that anxiety is a psychological issue. Hypnosis works on that level. Why should a pharmaceutical solution that does not address the root cause, solve a psychological problem? We are not talking about chemistry here. We are talking about how we live.

Rob Hadley.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Working with addictions in hypnosis.

My client, a wealthy financier, said quite seriously “I only use the best stuff. Like my food, I like to eat organic. Everything. Organic vegetables, meats – I mean everything. If I could get organic cocaine, I would.”

Great, I thought. Maybe a ‘Fair trade’ version would be next.

And yet, this client was not unusual. It’s quite normal amongst cocaine users of a certain genre to have very high personal and ethical standards. Their use of cocaine is an anomaly in their lives. Often it’s the only anomaly. Most of my clients are extremely affluent and in the above case, he was maintaining a $1000 a day coke habit while remaining essentially a fully functional human being. For the time being. Not many people can do that for long. The heart eventually simply stops.

I work with many drug users treating their addictions. I am a clinical hypnotherapist, and I specialize in addictions. From cigarettes across the spectrum to crack. Treatment requires a number of steps but is extremely effective.

First of all clients are prepared for a successful outcome. It will require them to amend their diet, and work at an effective exercise regime. There is unlikely to be a successful outcome without these elements in place. Hypnosis is used to create motivation to eat healthily and to exercise.
Then a weaning process is set in motion. The substance used is reduced over a period, and eventually eradicated entirely. Some substances have to be gradually reduced, others can be swiftly stepped down. It entirely depends on the substance type. A rapid cessation of either alcohol or cocaine (from high consumption levels) can place the client under enormous pressure, and even result in heart failure.

During the weaning process there is time to develop an exploration of the original causes of the addiction. This is where hypnosis and hypnotherapy really comes into its own. Learning what caused the original addiction, and reorganizing the way the client allows certain activities to trigger drug use is the single area that is most effective in this form of treatment. For this reason addicts that go through hypnotherapy are among those least likely to slip back into drug use at a later date.

Ultimately hypnosis is used to maintain a healthy lifestyle and motivate the client into a set of behaviors likely to exclude any form of drug use. Apart from hard drugs, I also work with alcohol, pot, pornography and gambling addictions.

The hardest addiction to work with? Crack?

No, actually crack is not that hard. The toughest of all is gambling. The reason being there is rarely a physiological element to it. One has to wait for a ‘life crisis’ before the addict is ready to deal with it. Most drug addicts can’t help but notice when certain parts of their body just cease to function properly. But Gambling is different. The addict is only going to be ready when a crisis happens, and gives them a wake-up call. One has to hope it happens before things fall apart completely.

My worst addict?

$1,600 a day betting on game results. Every day. Yes, I did get him clear - after about two weeks.

My $1000 a day cocaine addict? Yes, I got him clear. And a year and a half on he’s still clear. The jury is out on how long he’ll stay clean, but I think he’ll be fine.