Hypnotherapy: Icebergs and Hidden Depths

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Quite often in psychology they compare the mind to an iceberg in the ocean. It was Freud who originally came up with the analogy. But why, and what purpose does it serve?

 

Well, very simply put, there is about ten percent of an iceberg above the waterline. You can see it. But, there’s about 90 per cent of that iceberg hidden below the waterline, and you can’t see it. It’s what can make them quite tricky buggers (or bergs) to navigate.

 

And there are two parts to your mind (again, very simply put): the conscious and the unconscious, but it’s not a fifty-fifty split.

 

Which is where that analogy comes in.

 

Your conscious mind is like the ten percent part of the iceberg visible above the waterline. It’s responsible for all your short-term memory ‘stuff.’ It’s responsible for your everyday thoughts. It’s the part of you that remembers that appointment you have at 1.30pm (if you remember that appointment, that is) and that phone number you only need to use once. It’s also the part of you that remembers to pick up a loaf of bread on the way home from work because your other half asked you to (and, because it’s cheeky and not entirely reliable, it sometimes only reminds you of that just as you cross the threshold to your home). And it’s also the logical, rational and analytical part of your mind.

 

But, what about the hidden bit?

 

What is actually going on with the 90 percent of the iceberg below the waterline? What is your unconscious mind responsible for?

 

Well, the short answer is, “everything else.”

 

Right now, as you read this article, you are blinking and breathing and regulating your body temperature, together with a thousand other process that you don’t consciously think about: your unconscious mind simply takes care of the for you. But, it’s also the database of everything you are. Everything you’ve ever learned and experienced, all of your skills and habits and all that you have seen and done.

 

To put it into a context, a 2017 study by tech giant Huawei found that whilst the brain actually makes around 35000 decisions every single day, we’re only ever conscious about a hundred of them. Most of our daily decisions then are made by the unconscious. We are not consciously aware of them. That means there’s a hell of a lot going on with that hidden beneath the surface part of you.

 

Now, a very nice thing happens in hypnotherapy and it happens to your mind. Hypnosis itself is a trance-like state, very similar to nodding off, daydreaming or losing yourself in a really good book. In this nice-and-dreamy, trance-like state, your conscious mind becomes more passive. It kind of takes a back seat for a while. When that happens, the unconscious part of your mind (that big old database of everything you are) becomes more alert and receptive to positive suggestions.

 

Especially when those suggestions are tied to goals you already know you want to achieve.

 

So, in a hypnotherapy session, the hypnotherapist can communicate directly with your unconscious mind and suggest new thoughts, feelings, behaviours and ideas. And these suggestions take hold because you are motivated for change; they take hold because those suggestions are totally in line with what you want to happen and how you want to be.

 

Pretty cool, huh?

Hypnotherapy: Why it is about the thing you think it isn’t actually about

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I’ve been in practise as a hypnotherapist since 2004. Over those years, I’ve lost count of the amount of articles I’ve read on the subject, written by journalists who all seem compelled, somehow, to kick start said article by saying, “You’d be forgiven for thinking that hypnosis is all about swinging pocket watches and pendulums but, it’s isn’t.” And, by doing so, perpetuating the idea that, somehow, hypnotherapy is, or was at some point, all about swinging pocket watches and pendulums. Again, and again, I’ve read the same stereotype being perpetuated, for over thirteen years. Enough, already!

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking, “Hang on a minute, but isn’t he starting his article off that way too? The hypocrite!” Well, yes. Yes, I am. But and the point really needs to be made, finally and for the last time, so that it need not ever be mentioned again: Hypnotherapy is not about being hypnotised by a hypnotherapist with either a swinging pocket watch or a pendulum. Except.

Except.

Except, it can be.

I have a pocket watch. A friend bought one for me as a present when I graduated from hypnotherapy college. And I have hypnotised someone with it, once, but only because they asked me to. I’ve also hypnotised someone with a sonic screwdriver. Not a real one mind, but one of those £10.00 plastic replicas. But, that’s only because A: I had one in my possession at the time and B: the person concerned was a Doctor Who fan and was absolutely over the moon when I waggled it in front of him.

The point of swinging pocket watches, or pendulums, or Doctor Who sonic screwdrivers, or anything waved rhythmically, side to side, in front of someone’s eyes, for that matter, is to tire those eyes; to make someone want to close their eyes, preferably with some relief. “Thank god they’ve stopped waving that bloody thing in front of me,” they mentally sigh.

This is known as inducing trance. It is the first stage of hypnosis. Once someone’s eyes have closed, once a trance has been induced, it can be deepened to the appropriate level. Once it has been deepened to the appropriate level, the therapy part can take place.

You can also induce a trance but having someone stare at the palm of your hand, or the back of their hand, or a spot on the wall, or by holding their arm in the air, or by listening to the sound of your voice, or to a specific sound around them and more. All to the same point: inducing trance, getting someone to close their eyes and begin to comfortably relax.

So, to journalists everywhere, I say this: You’ll be forgiven for thinking that hypnotherapy is all about swinging pocket watches and pendulums because it can be. And, now that you know that, you need not ever kick off an article about hypnotherapy that way again. Much to the relief of actual hypnotherapists everywhere.

Now, do not get me started on that old, “look into my eyes, not around the eyes, in the eyes you’re under” malarkey.

Anxiety Disorders: A Brief Overview

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As a rule, I tend to specialise in the areas of anxiety disorders and work-related stress management. Between the two, I cover a multitude of sins. And, but sins I mean I help people deal with a series of emotional and behavioural problems that have them thinking, feeling and acting in ways that they don’t like but don’t seem to be able to change.

The term ‘anxiety disorder’ on it’s own could mean any one of several things up to and including, but not limited to panic attacks and panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), psychosexual dysfunction, health anxiety and any and all types of phobias.

Broadly speaking, anxiety is your response to danger; it’s the fight, flight (or freeze, for those of you who experience brain lock) response to a threat or a danger. However, this response is being triggered in situations that aren’t that dangerous. Coming across a hungry lion whilst walking down your street is very dangerous, whereas sitting an exam is not. However, if you have anxiety, the same thoughts and feelings are being triggered in the face of an exam as they are when confronted by that hungry lion.

Anxiety problems are the number one presenting symptom here in the United Kingdom

Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are an extreme type of fear response. They are an exaggeration of your body’s normal response to danger, stress or excitement. They’re not much fun

Panic Disorder

This is where you have regular or frequent panic attacks that don’t seem to have a specific cause or trigger. It can mean that you are so afraid of having another panic attack that the fear itself can bring on a panic attack. Not good.

Social Anxiety Disorder

This is where your fear response is being triggered by social situations, such as pubs and parties, work and networking events. Basically, anywhere you have to talk to another person. This is also known as social phobia and it’s more common than you think.

GAD

Pity the person who is living with this condition, for they are experiencing regular or uncontrollable worries about many different things across most aspects of everyday life. It could be that there are many, many triggers or no specific trigger at all, making GAD a tricky little bugger to pin down.

OCD

This problem is made up of two parts, an obsession and a compulsion. Obsessions are unwelcome and intrusive thoughts, images, urges, worries or doubts that repeatedly appear in your mind. The compulsions are repetitive activities that you feel compelled to do in order to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsession. It could be checking that a door is locked, or repeating a specific phrase in your head and so on. Some people have what is known as ‘Pure O’ where they have the obsession but not the compulsion. This does not make it any less distressing.

PTSD

This is an anxiety problem that gets diagnosed after you have gone through something that you found traumatic. A close brush with death or a violent attack on you or someone near you can do it. PTSD can cause flashbacks and nightmares that make you feel like you are reliving the fear and anxiety you experienced during the traumatic event again and again. Who said the mind isn’t your best friend?

Psychosexual Dysfunction

When related to anxiety, psychosexual dysfunction is the inability to become sexual aroused or achieve sexual satisfaction because you are afraid of something happening or something going wrong. The problem is not physiological it is psychological. It can affect both men and women and, obviously can be quite miserable and debilitating.

Health Anxiety

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this means anxiety about your health. You will have an obsessive preoccupation with the idea that you have (or are about to develop) an illness. Common health obsessions including cancer, heart health, HIV and so on, but people can become preoccupied with any condition. Behaviours include researching symptoms, constant checking to see if you have them and many, many, many visits to your local GP.

Phobias

A phobia is an extreme form of anxiety that can be triggered by a particular situation or object, even when there is no danger. The sufferer knows that their reaction is out of proportion to the danger but they just can’t stop themselves. People can becoming phobic about anything and everything: spiders, mice, lifts, heights, thunder and lightning, buttons, ships, you name it.

Other anxiety problems include performance anxiety (stage fright and exam fears, for instance), body dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and more.

Thankfully, all forms of CBT are considered the gold standard of treatment for anxiety disorders. Hypnotherapy is also a highly effective adjunct to CBT. So, if you need to find a therapist to help you with your anxiety, look for someone who has CBT skills, or hypnotherapy skills, or both.

Obviously, there is quite a lot to digest here so I’ll leave the heady world of work-related stress (the number one cause of staff absenteeism) until next time.

Mental Health is Normal

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I think one of the most surprising things about psychotherapy is that, despite the many, many strides in mental health awareness, more than a fair few people are still loathe to admit that they just might have mental health issues. But, guess what? Having a mental health issue is completely normal. Read more

Travel in Time with Hypnotherapy

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Yes, you read that right.

 

With hypnosis and hypnotherapy, you can revisit the past and visit the future as often as is needed (therapeutically speaking) via regression techniques (to the past) and with what is known as pseudo orientation in time (to the future). But, why would you do so? Read more

Do You Want To Stop Drinking?

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In just a few short weeks Macmillan Cancer Support will be asking you to commit to 31 days of sobriety in their annual Go Sober for October campaign (click here). It’s a fun way to be healthy and helpful. But for some people, that commitment isn’t as easy as it sounds. What do you do if you think you have a problem with drink? What do you do if you don’t think you can stop? Read more

Think of a Therapist as a Mechanic for your Mind

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Some people are a little put off by psychotherapy, and so approach it with caution, while others are too scared to go for therapy at all, even though they know they need it. There’s still a lot of stigma attached to mental health issues, but therapy need not be such a scary thing. As the self-development guru, Wayne Dyer, once famously said, “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Read more

Hypnotherapy: Here to Help you Shed those Pounds

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Hypnotherapy is an altered state of consciousness, very similar to daydreaming, or losing yourself in a really good book. In this trance-like state, your unconscious mind becomes very susceptible to positive suggestion, especially when those suggestions are tied to a goal you already know you want to achieve. When it comes to weight loss, whether you goal is to shed a few pounds or a few stone, you’ll be amazed at what a good hypnotherapist can help you with. Read more

Mental Health: It’s all about the balance

Balance

 

Everything exists in a state of balance, or homeostasis; that never ending attempt to find an equilibrium, that place where opposing forces and influences are balanced, where a sense of calm is achieved and where everything can perform at its best. This is especially true of physiological processes, but it is also true of psychological processes. But, what happens when that balance is sent out of kilter?  Read more

Take the Stress out of Christmas

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Depending upon your point of view then, either sadly or happily, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. But, what does Christmas mean to you? For many it just means stress. What was once a celebration of the winter solstice, then an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ and is now, for all intents and purposes, simply an invitation to boost the economy as much as you can, has become a very stressful experience indeed. But, how can you mitigate that stress? Read more