Hypnosis is an extremely powerful tool in helping anyone recover from an addiction. Whether it be alcohol addiction, gambling addiction or drugs. In fact any addiction (and there are many) is very suitable for treatment with hypnosis.
However to get help for addictions and achieve the results the client is expecting the route to success is in the quality of the therapy and the desire of the client to engage in the process of letting go of their addiction.
We have all seen the street hypnotist appear to immediately put a passer by into a deep trance. Although that is possible there really are only about 10% of the population who will respond this way. Impressive but obviously it’s not therapy.
Therapy implies that there is work to be done and of course that is the case. The words “Sleep” from a hypnotist are not likely to change anyone’s mind over a deeply ingrained psychological and physical habit in 5 minutes. However a good therapist will make the process much easier for the client and offer tools and strategies that they can take with them and keep that change for life.
The famous Canadian psychotherapist Gabor Mate says of addiction “Once you’re in the store you can’t leave!” And he should know since he suffered for many years from an addiction to buying classical music CD’s.
Vagus in Latin means wandering and the vagus nerve is the body’s 10th cranial nerve. It runs from the brain down the body connecting with virtually all the organs from the larynx to the digestive tract. It helps regulate our breathing, our heart rate, blood pressure and digestive system. Even our voice and hearing.
The vagus nerve has a profound effect on the body helping calm us by engaging the parasympathetic (relaxation) part of our nervous system. It is interesting that until the research by Stephen Porges the vagus was almost like the forgotten nerve in the body which seems quite remarkable since it has such an effect on our everyday life.
In a medical environment the vagus nerve can be stimulated with mild pulses of electricity to help with epilepsy and major depression. However we can all stimulate the vagus in a healthy way using very simple everyday exercises without any medical intervention.
Modalities such as Hypnotherapy, Emotional Freedom Technique and Yoga all help activate the relaxation ability of the vagus. When we are in relaxation with hypnosis we are helping to engage the part of the vagus nerve which can switch off the “Fight and Flight” response. This helps return mind and body to a state of safety. We then feel ready and comfortable to re-engage fully and naturally in our lives and with the people around us.
This is why Porges calls it the “social engagement” nerve. We don’t want to be stuck in our primal brain all day looking out for danger. Healthy communication engages our ”happy” body chemicals such as endorphins and oxytocin rather than adrenaline and cortisol.
Interestingly our voice can also change and develop a more relaxed and resonant frequency in this state. Working with clients in a therapy session I often hear the change and so can they. This change is important for our confidence and when our voice is resonating and relaxed this extra resonance will feed back to us and give us more confidence. Extremely valuable if we are giving a wedding speech or a work presentation.
Many people look for hypnosis for help giving a speech which is not surprising since it ranks as the number one phobia)
A toned vagus nerve will adjust our hearing to relax and filter out the “danger” frequencies so that we can “leave the jungle” response where we would need to be on constant alert. (No need to worry though, your “fight and flight” system will always switch on instantly if required) We just don’t want it switched on all the time.
We can easily tone or engage the vagus nerve by using such simple exercises as humming or singing, diaphragm breathing, yoga and dancing. Healthy and rewarding social relationships also contribute to our everyday life satisfaction and that is the vagus nerve at work.
If you would like to find out how you can use a few of these simple techniques there are short videos below.
When I am working with a client with an autoimmune issue the first thing I would ask is “have you been given a medical opinion?” It is extremely important from a professional stand point, for the client and their Doctor to know that they are taking medical advice.
However although autoimmune diseases will show in bodily symptoms there is often much beneath the surface that cannot be pinpointed by an xray or resolved by drugs. So what else could be below the surface that is triggering the event?
It is becoming more and more recognised that these physical symptoms can have their roots and origin in past trauma. The acronym ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences and it has been shown that a large majority of people suffering from illness such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, dystonia and many more will have had experience of abuse, neglect or difficult childhood. Also a lot of us at some point in our lives will also have experienced traumas such as a car accident, losing a loved one, having an operation that we may seem to have recovered from but without necessarily being aware of the emotional scars that may still be there.
To help the body heal the mind must also heal and hypnotherapy is an empowering route to help release past traumas, disappointments and negative experiences.
We are rapidly beginning to realise just how intertwined the body and mind are and to treat one without the other will not always complete the healing process. If we have a broken leg then that can be fixed with a standard operation but autoimmune diseases can have their roots in places we may never have looked at for a long time.
Hypnosis could be described as the royal route to the mind. It can help release issues that we remember and issues that we could not remember. For instance our DNA is passed on genetically through our parents and their parents. But with the right tools the unconscious mind can release negative conscious and unconscious material in a safe way. Then the healing can begin to take place.
Healers, therapists and medical professionals are beginning to realise that one of the underlying reasons for our Dis Ease is in our minds and our bodies.
So things are not “all in the body” or “all in the mind” but they are all connected and in fact communicating with one another.
Although the term imposter syndrome sounds like the title of a Netflix movie it certainly does not bring anything like that to mind if you are someone that suffers with it.
Imposter syndrome is a state of mind where people don’t believe that the talents and abilities they have are real, that they are a fraud and will get caught out sooner or later. However skilled they are at their job, however high their celebrity status they feel that they are an imposter who will soon be exposed for the inadequacy of their knowledge and abilities. This is a psychological phenomenon that has no grounding in the reality. In fact we all know of people who may be totally unaware of the inadequacy of their skills yet have no idea that this is the case.
High profile personalities such as Kate Winslett, Lady Gaga and Michelle Obama have all admitted to suffering from imposter syndrome and I have worked with very successful business people who, however far up the ladder they may climb always have the feeling that they will be “found out”.
Low self esteem and high anxiety are just two of the symptoms and we all know how uncomfortable it must be to live with those feelings following one around all day.
However it is not necessarily a difficult issue to release with the right treatment. As I often say telling ourselves to “feel good”, “snap out of it” really doesn’t work since our cognitive mind won’t readily accept the message. Using the unconscious creative mind is much simpler and very effective.
What are the best ways to engage the unconscious mind? Hypnotherapy and Emotional Freedom Technique are two of the best tools I know to help release messages that have been lodged in our psyche and seem to be immune to whatever we throw at them. Since these thoughts were seeded in the mind unconsciously it makes sense to use the unconscious to “unseed” them.
Hypnosis helps quieten the conscious allowing it to step aside and let the mind create the new scenarios and feelings that we would like to experience and deserve. EFT can rapidly put us into “free association” where we can channel and get in touch with the true feelings of self esteem and worth that we deserve. No need for 5 years on the psychiatrist’s couch when this can successfully be turned around in two or three sessions.
Pain is a very important message that lets us know if our body is in danger. The pain message helps prevent us from doing something that may make an injury worse than it already is. However these messages are processed not at the place that is hurting but relayed back from the brain to the injury.
The problem with this system is that these signals can become switched on even when the body has physically healed. The brain is actually controlling the amount of pain that we are experiencing and in effect, opening and closing “gates” that govern how much of the signal from the injury to let through. The brain can also choose to close these gates by releasing endorphins that will block that signal.
Now when a client comes to see me with pain issues it is important for them and myself that they are in touch with their GP or surgeon since we want to be sure that the sensations they are experiencing are not part of an underlying ongoing issue. Once that is clear then it really is possible to look for other ways to quieten down the constant messages that the brain has not yet switched off.
Hypnotherapy and Emotional Freedom Technique can be exceptionally effective in helping the mind safely bypass the “switched on” pain channel. By accessing deep relaxation, engaging the creative mind and releasing unconscious negative thinking around the issue I have actually witnessed clients who struggled to reach my office on the first floor actually walk out with hardly a limp in their step.
As with most of the work I do there are so many factors controlling our unconscious behaviour that it is virtually impossible to access and deal with them all using conscious thinking. Telling myself it doesn’t hurt just won’t cut it. The unconscious creative is the part that will help us access much deeper levels of safety and healing. Hypnosis and trance are the pathways I use to access the part that knows how to help us make important unconscious change.
Working in this we way we can begin to “rewire” the old connections and replace them with newer, healthier and more appropriate connections. Scientists call this process of rewiring neuroplasticity.
I have long held the view that most of us who are wanting to resolve past traumatic experiences would probably rather not talk about and revisit the experiences again in their lives, in their minds or in their therapy sessions. Most of my clients suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) may well have had many sessions of counseling, psychotherapy and retold their story over and over again revisiting each of those traumatic experiences in detail.
Now many people may prefer to talk through their issues and that is fine but in my view at the end of the day we are using therapy to let go of the past so that we can fully engage with our present and future. I am of of the opinion that continuing to visit those old traumatic experiences will only trigger more anxiety and stress.
This is why I use a mix of Hypnosis, EFT, and EMDR. (Emotional Freedom Technique/Eye Movement Reprocessing and Desensitisation. The real value of using these three together is that they can guide the client into a state of altered awareness or trance, both of which I would class as a form of hypnosis. However that is an argument for another day and has been going on for decades!
Once we engage the creative part of the brain on a deep hypnotic level we no longer need the conscious mind to do the work. This means that the client is free to let the unconscious mind do the work instead. Then the changes and release of past sensitive material can be processed unconsciously beneath the conscious awareness which is far less distressing.
Also, a lot of traumatic material is not, and never could be available to the conscious mind. I can’t remember being born and neither can you but that would have been a major traumatic experience at a time when we were at our most vulnerable.
I regularly work with clients with these issues and many times at the end of a few sessions they will have turned this issue around and I still know very little about the events they have been through because they would rather not talk about it. If a client wishes to talk through the past it is important to do so but certainly not necessary.
One of the amazing things about the human brain is that we can think and work things out in our head. This process helps us navigate through our complex daily lives. We can arrive at the right place at the right time and manage all those everyday tasks almost automatically day in and day out.
However thinking can also get us into a lot of mental complexity. Especially when it becomes obsessive thinking such as obsessive compulsive disorder. Now we don’t even need to have OCD to start getting stuck in a loop of nonsensical personal arguments with ourselves. This type of thinking can bring stress and anxiety into our daily lives without us even knowing it.
For instance we may have spoken to someone and felt they were a bit offhand or rude. But we don’t know anything about that person’s feelings or experiences that day, or maybe we just feel a little vulnerable ourselves. This does not stop our inner conversation getting straight into gear and giving all sorts of reasons why they “should have behaved better”, “what is wrong with them?”, “what is wrong with me?” etc. etc. This is our primal brain trying to justify our dominance or position in the primate hierarchy and since this thinking is developed from our primal feelings it is very hard to switch off.
Once our cognitive mind recognises that our brain is making a lot of this up it can help release us from this interminable loop of nonsense that seems to take up a lot of our everyday thinking. And it often is nonsense, or as I call it “Fairy Tales” since these thoughts are not based on facts but on us making up stories in our head.
The brain likes to make up “Fairy Tales”, stories, so that in effect we can “Feel Safe” and “Right”. To feel relaxed and safe is the state we would like to be in but unfortunately when we try to generate our “happy, feel good brain chemicals” by making up stories we won’t feel happy for very long.
So my 21 day challenge is to interrupt that “Fairy Tale” and call it out for what it is. It may feel a bit weird at first but after a while you will notice less of that sort of thinking taking up space in your mind. Don’t waste any more time telling yourself “Fairy Tales” that really have no basis in reality.
Then you really will feel safe, relaxed and comfortable.
As many of us thought when lock down started it would only be a matter of weeks before life would return to normal again. Unfortunately as we all know that was not the case and at the time of writing we are still in a state of not knowing whether things are getting better or worse.
What we will have noticed is how the stress of these restrictions, the changes in our everyday habits and lack of regular social interaction has taken a toll on our mental health.
Not that we may have particularly noticed it at first. It just creeps up on us and we don’t notice it eating away at our confidence, our self esteem and our relationship with ourselves and others.
It is in fact rewiring our brain and we don’t know it. So what can we do to protect our mental and physical health during these difficult times? One of the most important things in my opinion is to stimulate or tone the vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve connects right through the body from the base of the skull to the base of the spine. It affects so many important functions of the body and mind that it is surprising it has not been taken a lot of notice of until recently. It relaxes our voice, helps control our blood pressure and pulse rate, adjusts our breathing and gut function just to name a few examples. Pretty important I would say.
Now when the vagus nerve is functioning well, even if we have no idea what it is, we will be in a state of balance and relaxation emotionally and physically, whereas when it is out of sync we will be in a state of fear (Fight and Flight).
In lock down we are understandably sending out more messages of fear and worry and the vagus nerve will respond appropriately to the messages we send it. Even everybody walking around in masks will trigger it because we don’t see the face and our primal brain becomes worried whether we are safe.
Although the vagus nerve is controlling so many complex body responses the actual things we can do to help it and our lives run smoothly are in fact very simple.
Here are some simple suggestions that I use regularly and you can seamlessly add into your everyday life.
1/ Hum, whistle, sing. This stimulates the vagus nerve to send comfortable messages around the body. Even 2 minutes a day will make a difference and will probably become addictive after a few days.
2/ Meditation, Yoga, Hypnosis are all excellent ways to tone the vagus nerve.
3/ Simple stretching and yoga type exercises are very beneficial for mental and body health.
4/ Cold showers! Or just splashing cold water on the nape of your neck will engage the vagus nerve
in a good and stimulating way.
5/ Avoid too much social media and news. This can quickly put us back into the sense of danger and
we won’t even know why we feel so depressed.
6/ Go for a walk
See how simple that is! Give it a try and if you like those you can also try my 3 minute relaxation
video as well.
Hypnosis is an ideal tool for helping clients with anger issues. Although anger is a natural human emotion if it gets out of control it can have severe and devastating effects on our health, relationships, self esteem and even our employment prospects.
Once the rush of brain chemicals takes over and the “red mist” descends it can be impossible to step back and take stock of a situation in any reasonable manner.
However if we can find strategies and techniques to help guide our body and mind back to more balanced feelings then it is possible to dissipate these negative feelings. This will then help lead us away from situations that at best could be very uncomfortable and at worst cause us a lot more trouble than we could imagine.
Using hypnosis to learn how to interrupt those old patterns will really help you control those negative emotions and save you from spinning out of control.
Help with upcoming presentations is something that clients regularly ask for help with. So how can hypnosis help with presenting to a packed hall or a group of coworkers?
This area comes within the realms of public speaking which often appears as a number one phobia. Fear of giving a presentation is ranked amongst social phobias which makes a lot of sense, bearing in mind that one of the top presenting issues of a social phobia is feeling excessively self conscious in public.
Now anyone can give the advice “pull yourself together, take a deep breath and just give it your best!” But we all know that it is a very different story when you are standing up there wondering what you are going to say.
The big problem is that these panic feelings are not coming from the part of your brain that is your logical thinking frontal cortex. These feelings are coming from the primal part of your brain which is there to protect you from danger and the primal brain’s answer to danger is to RUN.
That part of the brain is four times stronger than the thinking part of the brain so we need to bring in other resources that will help quieten the primal brain and allow the logical brain to operate at it’s best.
For this hypnosis is an excellent way of helping overcome phobias. It helps quieten and control the adrenaline rush so that you can get your well worked out speech or lecture confidently and presented in a logical and concise manner.
As a therapist I know that using Hypnosis alongside Emotional Freedom Technique and NLP plus other empowering techniques will help clients regain and vastly improve their confidence and self belief in these situations.
This turns what at first appears to be a threatening situation into a life and confidence