Seven effective first-aid tips for panics and phobias

bullet waves 12 mauve aa-img030First aid for panics, fears and phobias

Here is a first-aid kit for dealing with panics, fears and phobias.

Fear thoughts pop into your mind automatically and you can’t just choose not to have them so that. But you always have at least some choice about whether you focus your attention on them or not.

The more you exercise this choice, the more power to choose your thinking you develop, until you have so much power to choose the calm and the positive that the negative thoughts vanish. The earlier in a panic episode you choose to focus on useful things, the easier it is. It may take several minutes (5 – 10) for doing the things below to take effect, so don’t expect instantaneous change. Persist.

  1. Don’t be afraid of feeling panicky. Panic may be unpleasant, but it won’t kill you, won’t make you ill, won’t last forever, doesn’t mean you are dying, doesn’t mean you are crazy. It’s just a feeling. Remember the ancient Eastern wisdom: “This too will pass.” The more you let yourself feel it, the quicker it will pass.
    If you get into an internal fight: “I MUST NOT PANIC” for any reason at all, you will make things only worse.
  2. Breathe slowly and deeply, making sure the out-breath is longer than the in-breath. Count to four as you breathe in, and six or seven as you breathe out. It is your own breathing and there is no need to let your breathing run away with you – you can choose to breathe slowly.
  3. Recognise that thoughts and images of things going wrong (the plane crashing, falling from a cliff, a spider crawling over you) are not right now, or not right here. Decisively change your focus to things which are physically right here, right now. See (4).
  4. Focus on things which are physically present right here, right now: sounds you can hear, colours you can see. You need to focus to do this and it may take you into a pleasant mildly trance-like state. Make the effort to pull your attention away from the suction of the negative onto simple, obvious, real, physical things.
  5. Don’t say things to yourself like “I mustn’t panic,” “This is terrible,” “I can’t cope” etc. Ask yourself what is useful to say, and say that. For example: “Right now, I am safe,” “I can cope,” “This won’t kill me,” “This may be unpleasant for a short while, but it will pass.”
  6. Pretend that everything is OK. Instead of saying to yourself “Ohmygod! It’s the first flash of panic and it will get worse and worse,” instead say: “Ah, I’m having a twinge of panic. I wonder what will be the first tiny sign that even so, everything is going to be OK?” And look for that sign and focus your attention on it. It may well be the same as (7), or different.
  7. If you focus on the panicky feelings, you set up a feedback loop and make them worse. Instead, feel the place in your body which is already calm and peaceful. There is always such a place. Resolutely choose to place your attention there. (You can do this while you do the 4-6 breathing.) This is just like (4), except that you are focussing on the safe place inside your body right here, right now rather than on everyday sights and sounds which are outside your body right here, right now.
  8. If you know it, EFT is good though not necessary.


A relaxation method that really works

C bullet 8 blue swirls aa-img022_crA relaxation method that really works

This is my version of “the relaxation response”,  a simple way to bring calm into your day. It is a natural bodily mechanism, first scientifically studied by Dr Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School. Practised regularly for 20 minutes a day, it can cut stress by a half or more over a few weeks. (more…)

Frequently asked questions about hypnosis

bullet from banner 1 blues aa-img034Frequently asked questions about hypnosis

Hypnosis is a state of relaxation combined with imagination. It’s just like reading a novel or watching a film, but in a safe and easy way hypnosis takes you much more deeply into this imaginative state.

Here’s a quick imagination experiment you can do. Imagine your favourite food – that’s easy. Now – a bit more work – focus your imagination on it systematically for a full, timed five minutes. Say to yourself over and over “As I eat this food I smell …. and I see … and I taste …. and I feel … and I hear …. and I smell … see … taste … feel … hear ….”, slowly, over and over. Ignore any boredom. The imagination doesn’t get bored. Just let yourself imagine that food more and more fully and vividly. As you do, you are already beginning to  enter a hypnosis-like state. It’s just that in everyday life, we don’t normally focus our imagination like this. [>> Don’t be worried if you only get one or two of the senses, that’s normal. >> And, obviously, not while driving or similar activity!]

What does hypnosis feel like?

There is no one single experience to wait for and it differs a lot between people. Most people feel a dreamy state of relaxation, perhaps with the body feeling light or heavy or floaty, perhaps with vivid imaginations, perhaps a marked feeling of peace or safety or calm.

Think of it as a delightful relaxed feeling, entirely natural to you. It’s often rather like lying on the beach … or in a meadow or lawn … half asleep … half awake … hearing the birds  … feeling the sun …. so warm, so pleasant and safe … all cares a thousand miles away …. and then there’s the muffled sound of a mobile ringing … and you think “that’s my phone …. oh … I can’t be bothered … I’ll just leave it …it’ll stop in a minute …”

Is hypnosis a quick fix?

No. Some websites present the idea that hypnosis makes problems vanish. It is indeed very helpful. But as with any therapy at all, small problems vanish quickly, major problems take time, and it is in the end your responsibility to make life be different. That said, there certainly are some situations where hypnosis-based therapy can be very much quicker than non-hypnosis therapy.

Is it safe?

Hypnosis is completely safe and has no negative side-effects. It is exactly the same as relaxing in an armchair or meditation.

Clearly in situations like stage hypnosis care needs to be taken that people don’t, for example, fall off the stage, but even then the actual experience of hypnosis is safe.

Can everyone be hypnotized?

In laboratory tests the vast majority of people can be hypnotised, though some can’t. In therapy this is never a limiting factor, so don’t worry that “I can’t be hypnotised.”

What is depth of trance? Does it matter how deep I go?

A small number of people go so deeply into hypnosis that they can anaethetise themselves and  undergo surgery without pain. At the other end of the scale, hypnosis has hardly any effect on some people and they don’t enter an altered state at all. Most people are in the middle. For therapeutic purposes it doesn’t matter; for the few that really can’t go into hypnosis, I just use another method.

Am I unconscious or asleep?

Neither. You remain present, somewhere between dreamy and very alert. Your everday thoughts continue, more or less, in the background, commentating about what is going on. We simply ignore the everyday mind and focus on the imagination mind.

Will I lose control?

No. If we are talking, you know perfectly well what I am saying and what reply you choose to make.  All that hypnosis means is that you are giving a  very relaxed reply.

No-one can make you say or do anything you don’t want to and should you choose, you could wake up at any time. In any case, if someone seriously fears losing control, they won’t go very far into hypnosis in the first place.

How much will I remember?

You remember normally, which means you mostly remember most things, and forget some, as with any other event.

Hypnosis in the news

A bullets 11 red stripes on red aa-img027_crHypnosis in the news

“Hypnosis really works” … “a magnificent therapeutic tool” … “Hypnotherapy cures panic attacks” … “a powerful medical treatment” … read more that the press say about hypnosis.

In the last few years, hypnosis has gone mainstream. Here are a few of the many news media reports which have appeared.

Hypnotherapy in The Guardian

Hypnosis really works” … “a magnificent therapeutic tool

Hypnotherapy cures panic attacks The writer experienced panic on the London underground after the terrorist bomb attacks.

Hypnotherapy in The Independent

“a powerful medical treatment”

Hypnotherapy on the BBC

Hypnosis ‘reduces cancer pain’ Childhood cancer patients suffer less pain when placed under hypnosis.

A knee operation with purely self-hypnosis as anaesthetic – amazing!

Hypnosis ‘doubles IVF success’ Hypnosis can double the success of IVF treatment by helping women to relax, say researchers.

Stranded boy flies back from Dubai under hypnosis

Hypnosis for the people All doctors should know how to perform hypnotherapy on their patients, according to a US expert.

Pain-free labour under hypnosis Women are increasingly turning to hypnosis techniques to help them beat the pain of childbirth.

Hypnotised patients ‘feel less pain’ Giving patients a form of hypnosis helps them cope better with the pain and anxiety of minor operations, doctors have found

Hypnotising the pain away Hypnosis can help to cut down the use of general anaesthesia in surgery, a hypnotherapy conference will hear.

The power of the mind Some uses of hypnotherapy within the NHS

Hypnosis for IBS

Hypnosis brings effective long-term healing of IBS The latest medical research shows that the very high success rates which hypnotherapy has with IBS are sustained long-term after the course of treatment has finished.

“Imagine your guts as a river…” An interview with Dr Peter Whorwell, the British doctor who is one of the international leaders in theuse of hypnotherapy to treat IBS on the methods he uses and the popularity with patients.

Hypnosis “can ease bowel illness”  A report in the British Medical Journal recommends that psychological treatments including hypnotherapy be recognised as best-practice for dealing with IBS, and laments the shortage of appropriately trained staff within the NHS.

Hypnotherapy in Newsweek

From Newsweek’s edition on mind-body health

Research into relaxation on diabetes

Hypnosis in National Geographic’s website

Some science behind hypnosis

“Stop hassling me!” – the voice of eating disorder

A bullets 9 mauve flowers on mauve aa-img027_cr“Stop hassling me! There’s nothing wrong!” – the voice of anorexia

Routinely, people suffering anorexia nervosa (and its milder variant, diet obsession) do not feel they have any problem. They like being thin, they like the feeling of being in control and in women a good many even like the cessation of their periods. Far from wanting to gain weight, they feel that if their thinness is taken away they will be losing their dearest (perhaps only) treasure and achievement.  Yet underneath all that, there are likely to be profound wounds, feelings of inadequacy, deep family dynamics, and a terror of change.

While I am clear that extreme underweight is medically unhealthy, I don’t assume that someone who comes to see me wants to put on weight. Provided their health is not acutely at risk, I am happy to offer a safe and un-pressured opportunity for someone in this situation to explore their feelings and work on whatever aspect of the situation seems important to them, and come to their own conclusions about what to do.

Paradoxically, often people can change more easily when there is no pressure from outside to change. The pressure to change is a kind of conditional love. It’s a message, “you are OK! – provided you eat.”  As long as health is not in danger, then it is much the most useful thing to make friends with all parts of the person, the part that doesn’t wants to eat as well as the part that does, the part that fears change as well as the part that wants change. From this truely radical self-acceptance arises the safety to change.  This is not being laissez-faire about people starving themselves to death. It’s just an honouring that the problem has a perceived validity and a respect that people can make their own best choices, given the opportunity,

That said, if however I were to feel that the person may be at serious medical risk, then I am in professional duty bound to not continue to work with that person unless their doctor is informed of the health danger. Treatment of eating disorders where there is medical danger and the person is unable to see their weight loss (or binge/purging) as a problem, requires specialised treatment and typically a multi-disciplinary team approach. In general, I work with people with mild to moderate anorexia or bulemia. When people have severe or life-threatening eating disorders they need to be part of the Bristol NHS “STEPS” programme. I hear good reports of this from my clients. I have worked with people post-STEPS whose weight has stabilised and who want to bring healing to deeper emotional aspects.

My approach with emotional eating is warm, human and sympathetic, with an emphasis on self-love and self-forgiveness. To take the first step to re-gaining control of your eating, please ring me directly. Leave a message and I’ll call you back. I’m happy to answer questions or arrange, in Bristol, a free, no-obligation half-hour introductory meeting. My approach is friendly, respectful, and very effective. Please click here for contact information.

Understanding depression – 10 key facts

bullet waves 8 grey-blue orange img030_crUnderstanding depression – 10 key facts

In a strange way, recognising “I am depressed” is good news, because depression isn’t something you have to just put with. Before knowing you were depressed you thought “things are hopeless.” Afterwards you know, “there’s a reason I feel things are hopeless, and I can do a lot to change that feeling.”  Here are some key facts about depression.

  • Depression may come on:
    >>> for no apparent reason at all, or
    >>> it may result from life-events such as: bereavement, adversity, trauma or stress including problems in relationships, career, money, redundancy, health or relocation to a new town or country or
    >>> it may arise from long-buried unconscious emotions or from childhood circumstances
  • Depression comes in different types and flavours. It can be mild, with breaks in the clouds during which you are happy, or it may be a terrible darkness which crushes life: “I just can’t go on”. It can be unipolar depression (always down), or bipolar manic-depression (wildly up and down.) It can be associated with events such as winter (SAD) or giving birth (post-natal depression.)
  • People with mild depression often don’t realise that the continual grey lack of enjoyment is, in fact, depression. Recognising that it is is excellent news, because depression is something with an excellent prospect of cure.
  • Most depression is psychological. Only a small percentage is an organic brain dysfunction. The word depression covers a spectrum from feeling sometimes down but sometime OK (purely psychological), through feeling permanently down (mixed, very often psychological), to, at the very far extreme end, profound depression which is entirely medical. It is not easy to cleanly divide medical from emotional depression, and nor is it needed to. See also next item.
  • Most depression is related to life events or life history, perhaps from long ago, maybe even in childhood. The best way to help such “reactive depression” is the right kind of talking therapy. Depression which is not caused by such life events is best dealt with by anti-depressants. In between is an area where both anti-depressants and psychotherapy have value. Post-natal depression could be of either type.
  • Depression may be severe and crushing, or a mild greyness which comes and goes.
  • It may be long or short term. Depression can vanish quickly.
  • Stressed and depressed go together. Stress is a key cause and many of the symptoms overlap with those of stress.
  • An existing very pessimistic or negative mindset can contribute to depression, as can genetic factors. Buried childhood emotions are commonly found to be the source of negative mindset, and healing of these is possible.
  • For many, depression carries a stigma. As a result, some people are unwilling to tell their friends they are depressed, or seek help. Actually, recognising “I am depressed” is good news, because you don’t just have to cope with depression, it very possible to ovecome it. A combination of emotional and action-oriented therapy has enormous potential to get back your energy, motivation, joy and aliveness. My combination of solution-focussed counselling, hypno-psychotherapy and CBT-style self help is very effective. That is so even if the depression is of long standing.

To take the first step to beat depression and get your life back, give me a call today and find out how I can help. Please don’t be shy, I’m happy to answer questions or arrange, in Bristol, a free, no-obligation half-hour initial meeting. Please click here for contact information.

Tablets or talking?

bullet waves 7 dark blue purple aa-img30Tablets or talking for depression?

Many people who discover they are depressed wonder “Should I take anti-depressants or go to a therapist?” It’s good to talk to your GP. But unless depression is severe, talking like likely to be very effective; and sometimes, at least for a short period, medication is definitely the right choice.

(See below for a link to a checklist for when when you should for sure go to the doctor.)

Most depression is not a disease, but is caused by life-events, how we think about things, whether we are getting our needs met, and by unconscious feelings and emotions.  In this case, the right type of talking therapy is an excellent way to help you get back your aliveness and motivation.

Sometimes medication is a life-saver

At the same time, in some situations, medication is the life-saver. I’m not suggesting “Prozac in the drinking water.” But doctors now have some subtle and helpful medicines available. In correctly targeted cases of depression, well-chosen antidepressants can relieve the acute pain sufficiently for therapy to help the sufferer change their life. In some cases the anti-depressants are all that is needed. See here for one set of symptoms which can indicate that medication is the right way to treat your depression.

But depression generally isn’t a disease

Here’s one proof that depression is generally not a disease: it is ten times more likely in those born after 1945 than those born earlier. That’s even after factors such as more access to doctors and higher recognition by doctors are rigorously excluded. This has been attributed by researchers to the breakdown of communities and of religious, social and economic certainties, unbridled consumerism, and massive exposure to news media filled with bad news.

Despite that, it is a fact that depression does go hand in hand with altered brain chemicals, in particular, low serotonin levels. And from that fact, the drug companies are keen to argue that being depressed is caused by altered brain chemicals. So, they imply, profitable anti-depressant drugs such as Prozac are the treatment of choice.

However, the facts behind the hype are that Prozac-like antidepressants targeting serotonin levels work in around one third of patients, do some good for another third, and fail completely for the final third. Side effects can be severe and relapse rates are high. Antidepressants are by no means the happy-pill which the pharmaceutical companies claim. [Other, non-serotonin medications exist and have real value for severe, clinical, depression.]

In any case, many people know in their bones that the way to happiness is not a pill. They know that they need to change their lives. And they are right. Brain chemicals change how we think, but happily, how we think changes our brain chemicals. Serotonin levels are only a symptom. Drugs target effects, not causes.

There is excellent evidence that if you are depressed, what really works is the right type of talking therapy. Such therapy:-

  • is more effective than anti-depressants,
  • has no noxious side effects,
  • is much more effective long-term,
  • and above all puts control of your life into your hands.

The more feeling depressed comes from your life situation or life history, the more it is talking therapy which can help you get back your vitality, drive, motivation and joy. To take the first step today, give me a ring.  I’m happy to answer questions or arrange, in Bristol, a free, no-obligation half-hour initial meeting. Please click here for contact information.

What works with depression: (2) emotional healing

bullet waves 3 red on green aa-img029_crTreatment for depression (2) Emotional healing

The depressive spiral is what happens when a person turns away from life. That can be inner life as well as outer life. For example, one common cause of depression is stuck grief.

Let’s say that a woman’s husband dies. And she loved him very much, and she’s just so very sad to be without him. If she surrenders to her grief, a paroxysm of bitter pain will seize her. It will feel like her heart is being torn apart. But it is only short-lived: the peak of grief only lasts for a few minutes. And she might feel that peak on a finite number of occasions. And then, while still keeping a place for him in her heart, she can get on with her life.

But maybe she can’t or won’t feel that grief. Then she is turning away from an essential part of her aliveness – her grief. The grief is painful, but it is also a nourishment. Only feeling the grief can give her the gift of a fresh start and a bright future. Without feeling it, she is likely to become depressed. [Stuck grief can manifest in other ways too. Also, stuck grief has an opposite: endless grief, unending tears. This means that there is some other underlying emotion, perhaps guilt or anger, which the person does not acknowledge to themselves.]

Authentic pain is part of aliveness

A key step in her healing process will be, at the right time, to face the fact that her husband is dead. She may weep bitterly, and it may look for a moment as if the depression is worse. But it is not. Authentic pain is part of our aliveness; when you feel it you are alive, not depressed. These are not tears of misery and hopelessness, these are healing tears. This is not understanding, insight, rumination or analysis. It is a courageous step to face reality. It looks as if it is focused on the past, but it is not. It is a strong action, overdue but entirely in the present: the action of saying good-bye so that life can move on.

The un-acknowledged emotion doesn’t have to be grief. It could be anything at all. Depression is also commonly caused by anger which can’t be expressed outwards and then gets turned inwards towards the person’s own self.

These wounds often originate in childhood. Inner child healing (ie hypno-psychotherapy) can be a key tool in therapy for depression.

Fighting depression and winning is entirely possible. The right type of talking therapy works. My combination of life-dynamic counselling, hypno-psychotherapy and action-oriented CBT-style self help can help you to effectively restore your energy, motivation and enjoyment. To make an appointment and take the first step to get your life life back, give me a ring.  Please don’t be shy, I’m happy to answer questions or arrange, in Bristol, a free, no-obligation half-hour initial meeting. My approach is friendly, respectful, and effective. Please click here for contact information.

Past Life Healing

bullet waves 12 mauve aa-img030Past life healing (regression) in Bristol

If you explore far enough, life contains strange and wonderful experiences. Past lives are among a whole range of experiences with meditators, shamans, and other inner explorers may encounter.  They are not just dream-like images, but real and vivid experiences in the inner world. The impact on everyday life can be dramatic and uplifting. As with experiences such as meeting angels, I don’t worry whether they are “real” or not or whether historical evidence can be found. The healing is real and that is all that counts.

True and pseudo past lives

True past lives are the realm of karma – choices and decisions we make which affect our destiny. It is the realm of harm which befalls us which we create ourselves, unlike childhood regression which is the realm of hurt done to innocence, which we are not responsible for.  Typically in therapy you only get to the stage of looking at how you create your reality y your choices after your have healed your childhood in this life. So true past lives are rarely the business of the beginning of therapy. For this reason I nowadays mostly do not seek them out at the beginning of therapy in the way that I used to.

I do regard some past life memories as “true past lives” – they have a clear, distinctive quality and are often spine-tingling to encounter. The feeling is “I did this, and I am paying the price.” These are often agonising matters of adult decision – for example, in a famine, deciding which child to feed and which to let die. It really doesn’t matter about historical reality, because it is indeed difficult to see how a child born today could receive an imprint from any source of such a strong emotional crisis. So no matter whether historical or not, something strange is going on. Others, while also profoundly healing, strike me as being family memories from the first months of life, before the brain is fully developed. While not “before birth,” they are in the realest sense, “before everything – before ‘I’ came into existence.” Others are generational memories which happened to grandparents or great-grandparents.

I don’t normally start by looking for past lives, but wait until they come up naturally. Otherwise, you risk getting one of two things:

  • A pseudo-past life, which is daily life events disguised in a historical skin. The healing achieved can be done more directly.
  • A true past life which doesn’t resolve. Inner child healing is about the pain we carry due to being hurt as innocent children. Past life healing is ultimately about the pain we carry as a result of our choices and responsible actions; in other words, our karma. Only at an advanced stage in a person’s development are they ready to say “This situation is my responsibility – I created the mess I’m in by my choices.” If you do an exercise which opens up past life experiences before the person is ready, they gain information on what went wrong, but they aren’t ready to re-choose their decisions. There is no value whatever in believing “I was Nefertiti in a past life.” The question is, how did the choices and actions you made in that life affect your everyday life now? And do you now have the maturity to re-live that situation differently?

That said, it is also true that often the first past life to come up contains innocent suffering and is not the one containing the karmic choices. It may take some time before the root past lives, where you can re-choose your destiny, emerge. Contrary to almost universal belief, there is commonly more than one of these. That doesn’t make sense, but there it is.

An exception to not starting with past lives is that sometimes a person will come into the room and carry a past life with them – the whole room fills with a certain vibe. One client comes to mind who as he spoke of unrelated matters, filled the whole room with a vivid impression of being a prisoner in solitary confinement. He was surprised when I suggested past life work as the starting point, but agreed, and we resolved many things rapidly.

If you are sceptical about past lives or spirit releasement, I offer a quotation from someone who we think of as a scientist, but who was also a great modern mystic, Albert Einstein. He’s referring to the time when radio waves were first discovered, and were laughed at as self-evidently ridiculous:

Do you remember how electrical currents and “unseen waves” [he means radio waves] were laughed at? Our knowledge about man is still in its infancy.
Albert Einstein

Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing

bullet waves 9  green on green img030_crEugene Gendlin’s Focusing

Focusing is another therapy which I like a lot. It teaches you how to tune into your body and sense how you are feeling. (That’s feeling in the sense “I feel restless” rather than “I feel global warming is a major problem.” ) It is a wonderful therapy.

Normally, we ignore or over-ride our feelings. But life is the life of the body, and feelings are the truth of the body. So as you tune into your feelings, you are tuning into a deep source of wisdom about how to live. And when you attend to feelings respectfully, they automatically flow through in a healing way. Focusing teaches you how to achieve that.

In fact, all effective therapists who work in any depth work with feelings in this way. It’s proved by research to be a core part of any transformative process.  Carl Rogers’ Client-Centred therapy is a first cousin to focusing, and EFT (Emotional Freedom technique) achieves a similar effect. So it’s not unique. But Rogers brings to centre stage the therapist’s understanding of the client, so Rogerian work is not a self-help technique. Focusing is the only therapy school to systematically teach in detail this foundational personal development skill.

Strengths as a stand-alone psychotherapy: An excellent therapy and also a self-help tool which can help you move really deep. In harmony with the natural human emotional healing process. A valuable half-way house between therapy and meditation.

Weaknesses as a stand-alone psychotherapy: Not at all action oriented and weak on challenge and honesty. Entirely concerned with the moment-to-moment feeling process to the exclusion of other aspects of change. Lacks a body of wisdom about how emotions interrelate and how they arise from relationships, and no practical psychology for pragmatic change.

NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming)

bullet from banner 1 blues aa-img034NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming)

NLP is a valuable toolkit with lots of unique plusses, including a creative set of techniques, and a masterful way with words.  But as an in-depth life healing tool, it is in my view, like CBT, unaware of its limitations. (Happily while CBT sometimes appears to claim to be the best or only brief therapy, NLP is too smart and graceful to think that.) I should say that this applies to the NLP method as a movement. There are many excellent individual NLP therapists, trainers and writers for whom I have the high respect and to whom this criticism does not apply.

Technically, NLP is a cognitive-behavioural therapy. This means that you directly change the thoughts in your head without too much concern why you were thinking them in the first place. It is therefore effective in business settings exactly because of what I find its drawback – it can deal with things in an unemotional, cognitive way.

Here’s an example of what I regard as both the strength and weakness of NLP. It relates to jealousy and is from a mass-market book by a well-known author.

“Eliminate jealousy and obsessive thoughts with this simple technique …. If anyone is going to feel jealous, they have to go through three stages. First, they have to make a picture of something they want that they havn’t got. Second, they have to see someone else having it. Third, they have to say to themselves ‘That person has it, I want it and I can’t have it.’

Whenever a picture that makes you jealous comes into your mind, immediately turn up the brightness up and up and up until it whites out. … If you repeat this process over and over again, it automates to the point where it is almost impossible to think of the image any more.”

Now for rootless obsessive thoughts, this is a good technique – indeed one I use. But it doesn’t begin to heal the emotional roots of true jealousy. First of all, there can be “good” jealousy, a natural protective force in relationships. “Bad” jealousy may have roots where one person secretly feels unlovable, or secretly fears being abandoned, and is actually unconsciously pushing their partner away. Or they may be repeating a pattern of rejection handed down in their family perhaps for generations, or the jealously may represent hidden guilt about a former partner whom the jealous person feels that have abandoned. Facing all this may need real courage and openness to the truth.

So the whiteout method is quick and simple. Sometimes it is all that needed, for example for a jealousy which is no more than a shallow habit of thought. But for true emotional jealousy, it is only a sticking plaster.

Strengths of NLP as stand-alone psychotherapy

Shares with SOBT an emphasis on resources, not problems. Action-oriented, with a good balance of inner process with action. Emphasises that you are in the driving seat of your life, and that quite a few thoughts can be changed ever so quickly. At its best, uniquely precise about the micro-details of how the mind works internally – NLP has no equal for this. Many ingenious and clever techniques including the very successful “rewind” technique for phobias and trauma. Excellent with words, and applicable in sales and business. Attractive coherent vision of life, but like coaching, this is incomplete.

Weaknesses of NLP as a stand-alone psychotherapy

All that skill with words leads to unfounded hype in much NLP advertising. (As a rule of thumb, divide NLP advertising by five!) Can be superficial and quick-fix. To some extent depends on buying into the whole NLP values system. Vision is Americanist and is too oriented to change and excellence and only partly understands acceptance, let-go and dis-identification. Cannot deal with life and death issues.

Breakthrough sessions – explanation and fees

A bullets 3 red stripes on yellow aa-img028_crIntensive (breakthrough) sessions in Bristol and London

An intensive session, often called a breakthrough session, is an extended-length session, normally between 5 and 8 hours (with breaks!), designed to make a real breakthough in a concentrated time.

If you live close enough to Bristol to do regular 1.5 hour sessions, then I do not usually do breakthrough sessions. I prefer in that case to do normal sessions.

And in London, I curently do only breakthrough sessions – though many people from London find it is cheaper and easier to come and visit me in Bristol.

I wish in all cases to advertise honestly. I aim to offer “hope without hype” – to give the inspiration that radical change really can happen, and, at the same time, there are realities to be faced. No matter what their claims, no therapist can guarantee a breakthrough. I do however have a good degree of success.

Not all issues are suitable. Weight issues in general are normally not suited because weight takes time. Many other issues including emotional and confidence issues of all kinds work well in this format. Relationship issues, when a couple come along, are very suited.

To book an extended-length session we first need to talk at length on the phone.

Obviously we have a good lunchbreak, not charged, during such a concentrated process.

In Bristol: I work from Unity St, near the Council House (ie town hall) and close to a great selection of cafes and restaurants.

Fees for intensive / breakthrough sessions in Bristol are simply my standard hourly rate times the number of hours.

In London: Please see here for my London fees and venues.

What helps with depression: (1) action

bullet waves 2 grey on yellow aa-img029_crWhat helps with depression: (1) Action

Depression is in a way a kind of turning away from life.

The thing that really gives help with depression is action. Action is the enemy which depression fears above all others. Depression is a slumped, collapsed, inward state in which the person lives in their heads instead of in their bodies, and lives in their toxic imaginings rather than engaging the real world head-on. Action breaks free of that. That is why the depression monster always says “nothing will work.” Action is what the monster fears most. The key remedy is to start to do even tiny things which are enjoyable.

To put the same thing differently, a depressed person is in many ways addicted to saying to themselves things like “Nothing will ever go right,” “I know I won’t enjoy it,” “There’s no point in anything.” The person thinks these things are true, and feels that as a consequence of these “truths,” is it inevitable to feel depressed. Actually, it’s the other way round: these are very depressing things to say you oneself. Repeating them in your head over and over is a toxic negative self-hypnosis: if you say over and over “there is no hope,” then of course you will feel hopeless. And it is wierdly addictive to say things like this to yourself. As you break the addiction to saying them, the depression starts to clear.

Typically, depression zeros in on people who either have very negative core beliefs (“I’m no good”) or who attribute very negative meanings to situations (“If I lose this job I’ll never work again.”) . Again, these thoughts and meaning typically carry a strong sense of unquestionable truth: “this is how things are and I can’t change it.” Hypnotherapy allows the person to step right past these beliefs and meanings and discover their own intrinsic treasury of positive and life-affirming beliefs and understanding, and to re-programme the mind positively.

Types of actions that help treat depression

The action-oriented side of coming alive again involves the following.

  • Looking at the future you’d love to have, and working to create it in even tiny steps
  • Starting to get your needs met despite every inner voice which tells you you are worthless, don’t matter, a failure, not good enough and so on.
  • If necessary, learning how to get your needs met..
  • Learning new ways for dealing with people and emotions.
  • Doing things which are fun and nourish you.
  • PHYSICAL ACTIVITY which your body enjoys is hugely important. Exercise is a great natural cure for depression.
  • Pulling free from the depressive suction by focusing on the positive no matter how small at first.
  • Looking at how you think about things and the meaning you give to events. (If you don’t get a certain promotion, or if someone rejects you, is that really the end of the world?)
  • Recognising that negative thinking is an addiction, not a truth, and breaking that addiction.
  • Stop waiting to feel happy and energised before taking action. Waiting and waiting to feel good before you can act, is a trap. Instead, discover that actions, even small ones, bring happiness and energy.
  • Coming eventually to a point where you tackle life head-on, and deal with difficult issues and situations: either taking external action to change them, or internal action to accept and let go of them. Some of these may be known about, others may be unconscious.

No matter how long you have been depressed, if you would like to take the first step with the potential of reclaiming your vitality, energy and enjoyment of life, then give me a ring.  Please don’t be shy, I’m happy to answer questions or arrange, in Bristol, a free, no-obligation half-hour initial meeting. Please click here for contact information.

Carl Rogers client-centred therapy

A bullets 13 blue rings on white aa-img024_crCarl Rogers’ Client-centred Therapy

Pioneer US therapist Carl Rogers is one of my heroes, a great therapist and a very beautiful human being. Rogers made the bold and profound step of dropping all techniques and psychological theory from his psychotherapy. Instead, he concentrated on the relationship between the therapist and the client. He maintained that if the therapist

  1. possesses empathy,
  2. is caring, respectful, and warmly accepting of the client, and
  3. is real and genuine in his or her responses,

then the client will change and grow. In the 1940’s, psychotherapy was still a world in which the expert therapist diagnosed what was wrong with the client, and then told the client how to get better. Rogers trust and respect for his client’s self-healing was utterly revolutionary.

Today his work is called the client-centred “approach”, not therapy, because of its wide value in all types of relationships, in schools, at work, and in the family. Empathy, warm accepting respect, and genuineness are indeed the bedrock of all relationships.

Rogers worked extensively in education, and would have been appalled by the present emphasis in the UK on testing in schools:

“I believe that the testing of the student’s achievements in order to see if he meets some criterion held by the teacher, is directly contrary to the implications of therapy for significant learning.”

Rogers has been validated by research which shows that in all forms of therapy,  the relationship with therapist is a very important important factor.

Modern psychotherapy owes Rogers a profound debt and I’m sure his work continues to have immense value.

However, techniques do count and the psychotherapy world has moved on. The popular image nowadays of client-centred therapy is of Rogers’ minimalist phase, a reaction against psychoanalysis. In this he did nothing except repeat back what the client had said, in slightly different words, to show that he had understood according to these three criteria. (That doesn’t sound much, but it was the WAY he repeated things back – he heard underlying nuances on such a deep level and repeated them back with such compassion, respect, and presence – amazing to behold.)

The minimalist phse was a step in his own development, and that of modern therapy. But some therapists, in particular counsellors, still today practice nothing else. To me it is a mistake to cling to a stepping-stone methodology which even Rogers in the end left behind. I get many clients who have had such counselling and they all say the same thing: “I understand where my problems come from, but nothing has changed.” So while the way I do things embodies Rogers’ three principles, it goes beyond that: I want your everyday life to change. With modern Rogerian minimalist counselling, too often it doesn’t.

Human Givens – a therapy without a heart?

A bullets 12black loops on green aa-img028_crHuman Givens Therapy – a critique

Human Givens therapy is a rich eclectic toolkit of techniques from various types of therapy which have been supported by academic research. Of all the therapies discussed here, it is with CBT perhaps the one most rooted in theoretical academic psychology. Though its founders call it a “new therapy”, I would not call it new in the radical way that Family Constellation therapy or Solution-Oriented Therapy is. A considerable amount of the actual techniques seem to be drawn from, or amount to, hypnotherapy, NLP and CBT. What is new, and valuable, is that they have succeeded in placing these tools in the hands of a wide variety of mainstream practitioners who previously used less effective methods.

The Human Givens attitude is that no existing therapy is complete on its own, and that’s right. They have identified underlying principles of abstract psychological theory which they claim underlie successful therapies, and constructed a synthesis. They also emphasise stepping back from specific problems to look broadly at  “are you getting your needs met?” Again, that’s right. Its founders, Joe Griffin And Ivan Tyrrel, have among other things identified from psychological research a list of obvious human needs which they call “human givens” and have created an integrative synthesis of therapy techniques, based around getting these needs met without the need for much inner exploration. Such exploration they broad-brush largely condemn as “introspection” and to be avoided.

In addition, they take a valuable step beyond CBT by recognising the importance of emotion. But they regard this with regrettable sweeping simplification as something always bad and to be got rid of.

So it’s a highly action-oriented storehouse of useful techniques in a clear framework of what works for, basically, Type 1 therapy on my classification above. In that respect it is, as is solution-oriented therapy, a power for good in the world of counselling and social work, where a surprising amount of what is done just does not work at all.

But where is the heart?

However, I confess to not having the enthusiasm for Human Givens all this might seem to deserve. Partly that is their simplified and hugely incomplete dismissal of introspection and emotions. But there is more. If you read other parts of this guide, you’ll know that I am interested in the overall vision of humanity which a therapy school holds. And something, it’s hard to put into words, some vibe or poetry about their work stops me falling in love with Human Givens.

One thing is that in their book Griffin and Tyrrell seem to regard the valid way of knowing, from which therapy is to be developed, as theoretical academic research and intellectual argument. But there are other ways of knowing – the heart, the intuition. It deeply troubles me that a form of therapy claiming to liberate the human condition appears to place so little value on the knowing which comes from the heart and the intuition. Of course, these forms of knowing are not valued within university psychology departments (studied yes, but as part of the operation of the department, stamped out.) Yet to me, in therapy these must have primacy. Carl Rogers, Alexander Lowen, Milton Erickson, Virginia Satir, Insoo Kim Berg and Bert Hellinger first developed their therapies from their heart and their intuition, then validated them by research. This feels right to me.

Psychologists telling you how to live

Then, there is to me a quality of exalting the psychologist as expert. In Human Givens, change comes because the expert tells the person to get their needs met and teaches them how to do it. I’m not quoting directly from Griffin and Tyrrell here, but the subtext that to me comes across from their book is: “Psychology knows your needs, psychology can tell you how to get them met.” Now of course this has an element truth for any therapy, especially with certain client groups. And yet, and yet. Carl Rogers, or the Solution-oriented school, have made such radical and courageous experiments in recognising the client as the expert in their own lives. This radicalism seems to have passed Human Givens by. In Human Givens it is firmly the therapist who is the expert in the client’s life. For me, while there may well be a first stage like this in any therapy, a further message has to be present. This is the subtext to the client, “Look into your own heart and you will find all the answers you need.” Personally, I cannot locate this in the book Human Givens. All I can find is intellectual knowledge flowing from academic research into the therapy expert, who then therapises the client. In my belief what the world needs is power returned to the human heart, not to intellectual psychology and not to any expert cadre within society.

Remember, all the appreciations of therapy on this page are just my personal opinion. In everyday application by its practitioners, there is very much which is excellent about the Human Givens approach. In some contexts, Griffin and Tyrrel’s work will be a revelation (as is Solution-oriented therapy) and will no doubt benefit many people. All I can say is that just as I aim to inspire others to trust their hearts, I trust my own heart. And, somewhere, somehow, despite what they have achieved, in reading Griffin and Tyrrel’s book, my heart does not fall in love with their work.