Reflections on Hypnotherapy
|Posted on 15 May, 2017 at 6:25||comments (1)|
There is a great image that hypnotherapists sometimes use, of watching leaves floating down a stream. You sit on the bank and watch the leaves come down the stream, pass, and float on by. You know that you yourself are separate from the leaves, the leaves are not you. These leaves can represent our thoughts, feelings and sensations. You watch them come, pass, and float away.
The point of the image of leaves floating down a stream is that we let go of our usual identification with our feelings and thoughts, both the seemingly negative and seemingly positive. So that we can observe them without being absorbed by them, and see them come and go by themselves. You yourself are not your thoughts.
However, it can be useful to pick up a leaf now and again to examine it, though you still know this leaf is not you. For example, a negative automatic thought can be examined and tested. What is the real evidence for this thought? Is it a product of distorted thinking? Is there a more positive and realistic one that can take its place? If so, then the negative thought is soon blown out of your hands into the stream.
Positive helpful thoughts also come and go in the stream of life, but you choose whether it is the helpful or unhelpful thoughts that occupy the centre of your attention.
Noticing feelings without making any judgments is a good thing - not thinking about them, but using sensing of the body. For example, if I am anxious, the muscles in my abdomen are tense; I sense my lower abdomen; the more I can sense here, the more the possibility of relaxing these muscles occurs; and the more I can relax these muscles, the more I am able to sense them, and so on.
Many worsening of physical conditions, ‘flare-ups’ and such like, are brought on or exacerbated by anxiety, or even by anxiety about anxiety. The body usually does a very good job of healing itself, if we don't interfere with needless worry. It is always possible to find a still point within, no matter what storms may be raging outside.
The lightning and thunder,
They go and they come;
But the stars and the stillness
Are always at home.
- George Macdonald
|Posted on 7 February, 2016 at 16:55||comments (0)|
When it comes to anxiety and its associated physical symptoms, I often hear from people that they wish to fight them, to get rid of them, and so on. However, I am sure that fighting because of fear is never good for people; things are almost always made worse that way. But fighting the fear of fear does work. This means having the courage to approach fears and not run away from them. When you do this, transformation begins.
What does it mean to approach a fear or an anxiety? It means in a way to let yourself be vulnerable, to approach that dragon or demon, that uncomfortable sensation or feeling, or whatever it is, and be there, live with it, let it teach you. If you do this, then things change marvellously.
There are many fairy tales that describe transformation of something ugly and seemingly menacing into something very beautiful and of great worth. They seem to me to be describing, in a metaphorical way, great truths in our own lives, and how transformation can occur for us.
For example, in 'Beauty and the Beast,' Beauty turns towards her fear, goes to the Beast's castle, lives with him, learns about about him, and eventually marries him. Throughout all this there is a gradual but sure transformation, up to the amazing acme of the story where the Beast is transformed into the Prince.
Did you read, or have read to you, fairy tales as a child? If you did, I recommend re-reading them with new eyes, and be inspired by the rich symbolic meanings in them. And if you never read them, immerse yourself in them and discover a new world. Many old fairy tales have immensely deep teaching in them and an astonishing understanding of human psychology. Remember, the hero or heroine is you, and the dragons, wild beasts, evil opponents, are part of you. And the story of transformation is describing your possibilities. So take up the staff of courage, and set out on the path of self-discovery and self-creation now!
|Posted on 29 December, 2015 at 18:00||comments (0)|
Hypnotherapy can be a very useful tool in helping improve performance, whether it is in as a musician, a sports-person or actor, or for things like driving, public-speaking, studying for exams, and many other things. Hypnotherapy enhances focussing on the task, optimising skills, reducing anxiety and distractions and increasing pleasure.
The musician who wishes to excel in their art, to leave performance nerves behind, and to engage and move their audience, can find a great resource in hypnotherapy. Here hypnotherapy can also be combined with various helpful psychological techniques. A key aspect is training in the placing of attention, for example, on the sound itself and on the emotional effect of the music, on the movement of the fingers, etc., rather than uncomfortable sensations and thoughts, thus moving away from awkard self-consciousness and fears. Focussing on the music and being absorbed in it is itself hypnotic. Symptoms of anxiety, such as sweating fingers, trembling, can be simply accepted as being something that may come but will also pass. In addition, hynotherapy can be used to help minimise these and enable relaxation.
An example of a helpful autosuggestion to repeat to oneself is, ‘The performer is nothing, the music is everything.’ Also helpful is the recognition that adrenaline is the musician’s friend, giving edge to the performance and the experience: it simply needs to be concentrated in the right way by focussing on what really matters. A goal of inspiring and uplifting others through the music, and being transformed by it oneself, puts things in a truer perspective.
It can be useful to have a task to deliberately pause without moving for a planned period of time (e.g., while counting slowly to ten to yourself) before beginning to play for your audience. One might think that this would increase anxiety, but once it is tried it is likely that you will find that although there may initially be an increase in anxiety, this intentional act can bring a great sense of increased control and inner power: the slightly delayed action of playing increases focus and concentration in both the player and the audience.
Learn simply to notice any feelings, sensations, thoughts, without judging whether they are good or bad, and focus on the present moment, rather than worry about a mistake that has just been made or what might go wrong a few bars ahead. Also, visualising can be very useful. For example you can visualise yourself dancing while playing, which can not only bring the music to life and the rhythm into the body, but also helps direct the attention away from any anxiety about making mistakes. If the music and the mind of the performer are dancing, then even mistakes are submerged in the whole, and become unimportant to the listener. The music is everything.
"Music in the soul can be heard by the universe." - Lao Zi
|Posted on 5 October, 2015 at 14:40||comments (0)|
Melancholy, the dumps, the dark night of the soul, these states have been known and described for many hundreds, even thousands, of years. How can the black dogs, or black thoughts, be banished? Or rather, how can they be transformed? Is this emotional wilderness and desert even sometimes a necessary stage before the lush-growing meadow appears with its myriads of flowers and birds?
Hypnosis can help enable a new Springtime to come, even after a Winter of depressive blackness, for example, by helping to focus and build on positive, useful thoughts, by imaginative strategies for change, and the transformation of perceptions and experiences, both of the present and the past, and therefore also of the future.
In a similar way to how sunlight tends to brighten our spirits, a practice of visualising light can have a very uplifting effect on your whole outlook and demeanour. The late Dr. Dylan Morgan, hypnotherapist, wrote a wonderful children's book called The Everlasting Well, in which the heroine, Elaine, is taught a special song which would help protect her from dark thoughts and feelings:
The love of light is in my head,
The love of light is in my heart,
The love of light is in my body,
The love of light is in my soul.
These are great words to use while visualising light within yourself, and letting light enter every part of you. Regular light visualisation, either as part of hypnotherapy or incorporated into daily life, will soon make you feel and look radiant!
NB. Significant depression should be treated by hypnotherapy only in close liaison with your family doctor.
|Posted on 9 September, 2015 at 19:05||comments (0)|
What is the purpose of anxiety? Is it just a primitive fight/flight response gone wrong in our modern life? I tend to think that there is a lot more to it than that. Anxiety can be an immense motivator for change. And have you noticed how close the emotions of anxiety and excitement are? Just a little switch, and an uncomfortable anxiety can turn into a life-enriching enthusiasm.
I like to think one should become friends with one's sensitivity. So that it works for you not against you. I also think it's good to remember that you yourself are not your body. You are not even your mind. But you are something beyond all that. There is no need to be identified with anything, except what you really wish in life.
It is good to foster a habit of seeing the whole process of an experience. So often we have half-experiences instead of experiencing things to the full. Even experiencing something that is usually anxiety-provoking, to the full, can transform anxiety into something completely different and beneficial. There is a Sufi saying, “Look at the thorn and see the rose.”
And regarding things from a panoramic or “God's eye view,” as it were, enables you to open up the area of vision, rather than just seeing through chinks in the cavern.
So I say, let an inner smile flow throughout your being, and an inner stillness amidst any outer turbulence. And if you have a sensitive nature, value it – it is a precious thing.
I leave you with a quote from Gandhi: "There is force in the universe, which, if we permit it, will flow through us and produce miraculous results."
|Posted on 1 August, 2015 at 15:40||comments (0)|
Hearing aids - these can be a good thing! Hearing is very important. It's important to hear what you want and need to hear!
I also think "filtering aids" are very important! As well as perceiving things, filtering is what the brain is doing all the time to a greater or lesser degree. Filtering out unnecessary distractions, noise and worry. So we can concentrate on what we wish.
But sometimes these filtering aids need cleaning out and renewing. And practice is needed to use them to their full capacity. And hypnotherapy is a kind of filtering, among other things.
An inner "selective hearing aid" can help us to tune in to what we wish to hear within our own mind, filtering out unnecessary and distracting thoughts and feelings, and allowing us to focus on what is important and helpful. Relaxation and hypnotherapy can help us do this.
|Posted on 7 July, 2015 at 16:20||comments (0)|
With the hot weather we have been having recently, it is good to know that you can cool yourself down with the help of self-hypnosis.
Those who continually complain to themselves about the heat, how they can't bear it, that it's too hot, that the heat is killing them, just make themselves hotter! Hypnosis works both ways.
Be cool, calm and collected.
In the heat, slow down, be still, and bring cooling images to the screen of your mind. For example:
- lying in a cold and clear mountain stream, the cooling water flowing and bubbling over you.
- sucking an ice cube, or ice cream, noticing cool sensations spreading throughout your head and body.
- wearing soothing cold wet flannel, perhaps coloured white or blue.
- being gently wafted by a cool refreshing breeze.
- being blown by a freezing Scottish north wind – the kind that penetrates to the very marrow of your bones!
- sitting on a high mountain top in midwinter.
- lying in a soft bed of pure white snow.
You can even imagine first of all an increased heat, followed by cooling images, just to let your body and mind know that you can easily take it. This sense of control with the perception of sensations enables calmness and equanimity, and alters one’s physiology.
|Posted on 7 July, 2015 at 15:00||comments (0)|
Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, most of us have at least some superstitions. Usually these are fairly harmless, but sometimes people let themselves be completely hypnotised by them, and suffer the consequences of seeing everything through the lens of their superstitions.
So what happens if an anxious person breaks a mirror, and one part of them has a leaning towards believing that seven years of bad luck are now coming, and another part of them wishes to be free of such a belief because they can see how unhelpful and irrational it is? It can be very powerful to speak to yourself as if to a friend, and say, for example, something like:
“This is an immense piece of good luck you breaking that mirror! This is a perfect opportunity to use the energy from destroying an old false belief to revitalise your way of seeing things. It needed smashing!”
Nourish helpful beliefs and they will come true, and vice versa. If someone believes they are due bad luck, of course bad luck will come to them. However, believe in good luck and good luck will come to you! Both of these may be superstitious beliefs, but which is helpful? You attract your luck. Make sure it's always good luck. Benefit from everything, both what seems good and what seems bad. Use everything.
Don't let a tyrant rule your life. If you are married to an unhelpful superstition, go quickly and get a divorce! And don't do it amicably! Give him a good hiding! Chase him out of the house!
Intentionally make helpful superstitions. My mother's lucky day is Friday 13th.
A friend told me an old Scot’s rhyme:
Oh dearie me, my granny caught a flea.
She peppered it and salted it, and took it for her tea.
An unhelpful superstition can be looked on as like a kind of flea, tiny in size and importance. But you might as well dispatch it with gusto, like granny! Add spices of laughter and roast it on the fire of rational examination, then eat it right up!
See blessings in every moment. We truly make our own fortune, through our actions, our decisions, and above all, our beliefs. So I wish you good luck, good fortune and endless blessings. All this is indeed yours if you look for it, and it is waiting to pour its goodness upon you.
|Posted on 10 August, 2014 at 19:30||comments (0)|
Hypnotherapy and learning how to modulate the attention can be very helpful for those who struggle with tinnitus, or 'ringing in the ears,' Here are some thoughts for those who have tinnitus.
Tinnitus, like many other symptoms, including chronic pain, is often a manifestation of an underlying disharmony or imbalance in the body-mind system. I also believe that a problem with tinnitus can be approached in two quite different, yet mutually reinforcing, ways. One way is to look at and harmonise underlying anxieties and stresses and other exacerbating factors, both physical and psychological (though remembering that one's 'physical' and 'psychological' parts can never be separated). And the second way is to approach the symptom itself, not with a view to suppressing it, although it may well settle and diminish or resolve itself, gradually or even suddenly, but to approach it, and as it were give it something that it needs.
Tinnitus, like pain, almost demands our attention. And where we place our attention, whether involuntarily or intentionally, becomes a place of increase of force. This is particularly noticeable for negative emotions. For example, concentrating on being irritated or afraid of tinnitus can make the strength of the tinnitus, as well as the irritation and fears, escalate to unbearable levels.
But tinnitus brings its own energy, and wherever we experience a sensation or feeling of energy, there is the possibility of using it for healing, for harmonisation of functions, and for the development of oneself as a human being. Whether this energy is experienced as positive or as seemingly negative or uncomfortable, there is a possibility of turning it to use.
So what happens if you direct your attention to the pure sensation of tinnitus without any attached emotion? That is, to the sound primarily, but also perhaps to any physical discomfort that accompanies it, a sensation of pressure, or deafness, then does the sound etc increase? Strangely, this is not usually the case. As long as you simply notice, reject nothing, and quietly accept, as is said, mindfully. This in itself is inwardly calming and gives a quiet power.
Tinnitus can be compared to muddy water. Entering a place of stillness allows the particles of mud to sink and settle, leaving the rest as pure clear water. The mud is still there, but is collected and remains in its place. In a place of stillness, the noise of tinnitus recedes and settles in the background. If you take the stick of agitation and stir the water, it will soon become muddy again. So put that stick down and come to rest. Let the sound of tinnitus do what it needs to do, but know that it need not enter the quiet place of peace deep within you.
What is the sound of tinnitus like? If it is like bells, you can bring to it for example the sweetest imagined bell-like sounds, or the most evocative bell ringing. If it is like crickets, bring to it a peaceful Summer evening in Southern Europe with cicadas chirping their calming and soothing monotonous song. If it is a single tone, bring to it a pure heavenly tone to meet it. Whatever sound it is, meet it with some gift and welcome, then enter into the sacred space of quiet and peace deep within.
I have a special interest in tinnitus and also intentionally evoked 'inner sounding' as a means for healing change. If you would like to discuss this further with me or arrange a session, I would be very happy to hear from you.
(I have also done a hypnotherapy recording specifically aimed for those with tinnitus, 'Entering the Silence Beyond the Sound.' This is available from me for £10 via Paypal.)
|Posted on 15 March, 2014 at 21:25||comments (0)|
The alteration of pain through hypnotherapy is a huge untapped resource. Whether acute pain or chronic pain, hypnosis and suggestion can produce some astonishing effects.
The relationship of hypnosis to pain is of two kinds: firstly, you can use it to disconnect from the pain, which I think of as like a kind of mental painkiller. Secondly, you can work through suggestion with the pain and alter its character and effect, and also encourage blood flow and healing.
The first method, a disconnection or dissociation from pain, is what I regard as an emergency short term help. It is quite easy to do, and lacks the side effects of analgesic drugs. However, the removal of pain by itself is of questionable value. I tend to think that in the longer term pain should be replaced by something, or transformed into something.
So it's relatively easy to dissociate from pain, even severe pain. You know, if your leg is hanging off, it's not painful, you automatically dissociate. It's only later when the various inflammatory chemicals are circulating round the body, particularly in the region of the injury, that the pain is more difficult to dissociate from, though it is still very possible. But is this altogether a good idea? This is a kind of con, if you like. It's like painkillers - they're not treating anything, they're just bringing symptom relief, and perhaps hiding what the pain needs to bring to you. Dissociating from acute pain in my view should simply be a short term emergency measure.
Milton Erickson was a master at using hypnosis to help with pain, and he had a lot of personal experience of pain himself. He describes one method he used for himself while undergoing dental work in that he would put himself under his favourite oak tree in the woods and sit there, as it were, during the procedure and ponder life. His attention would then be so taken by this pleasant and wonderful place that what would be pain under any other circumstance simply was not there. This is a straightforward self-hypnotic technique. And it is very nice to be sure. You can be in a completely different world and oblivious, or almost so, to any pain. But although it may be good as an emergency or short term measure, I have my doubts as to its longer term helpfulness. It would ignore the evolutionary reason for pain.
Secondly, a more substantial way to deal with pain is to intentionally attend to the pain instead of simply being unwillingly sucked into and identified with it. With intentional attention to pain, the pain can be voluntarily intensified or reduced, changed in its character, lose its emotional identification, or even removed. There are many ways of doing this, and hypnosis can facilitate these techniques. With hypnotherapy, you might imagine the colour of the pain, and then change its colour, see the shape of the pain, then change its shape, the location, and change the location, change the intensity, increase it, decrease it, and so on. This is a playing with pain. And this playing with pain is a step above the simple dissociation from pain. You're doing something with the pain. You're not ignoring it, it is still in awareness, but you're changing it. This puts it on a higher level. It is a kind of transformation of pain. But there is a bigger transformation of pain, much bigger.
One much bigger way of transforming pain is through the use of vibrations, particularly sound vibrations and imagined sound vibrations, the vibrations of one's own voice, certain words, and directing the sound to the location of the pain. But the most interesting is, for want of a better word, visualising sound. So for a visualised sound, or an auralised sound, your inner sound-making apparatus, as it were, produces an inner vibration, a resounding, an echo, of a certain word or words, or even a single tone, in the region of the pain. The intentional reverberation of this inner sound causes a vibratory sensation of the tissues in the region where the attention has directed it. And the mindful repetition of this inner sound, and reverberation, will produce a transformation and receding of the pain and its emotional impact, and a transformation of the sensation around that area and beyond.
Even pain in a paralysed limb can be a friend and helper rather than a foe. It is demanding attention, and wherever attention is there can be an increase in blood flow and neural activity, both in the body part and in the associated brain part (unless perhaps one specifically imagines the contrary).
Now going back to the word dissociation, this has all sorts of connotations in psychiatry. It is associated with certain illnesses, the dissociative disorders, including, for example, what used to be called multiple personality disorder. And dissociation is also quite a good word for this thing that you can do with pain, where you can disconnect or dissociate from it. However, when you look upon pain as if from afar, when you have the pain but YOU are not the pain, is something which is very useful and is taught as a 'mindfulness' technique, though it is sometimes also described as dissociation. However, I prefer not to use this word in this context, because looking at pain from afar is still keeping the pain very much in the awareness, whereas the first described dissociation is not. Here, you lose the emotional identification with pain. And the emotionally identified, anxious side of pain is a very potent factor in perpetuating a problem with pain. Simply the ability to look on calmly at pain, to accept it, and know that the pain is not you is a powerful ‘dehypnotic’ technique, as hypnosis implies focus and disconnectedness, whereas here we have connectedness and collectedness. This mindful disengagement from pain does alter its character from the very fact of observing it. The pain is transformed as our attitude to it is transformed.