An orange cannot be an apple!

 

In a world which is seemingly obsessed with positive thinking, positive action and success we can feel like failures as people if we experience sadness, a dead end in our plans or a broken relationship.  People are neither simply successful nor failures.

It is our actions, behaviors and judgements which are central to a success or failure. Those central elements will be influenced by either the presence or absence of luck, opportunity and education and both physical and mental health.

We judge ourselves to be a failure when we compare our life unfavorably to that of our peers; we judge ourselves to be successful when we compare our lives more favorably to that our peers.

Success and failure are merely snapshots of a given moment in time. Neither are permanent and both are fluid – they are what they are just as each of us is what we are, a combination of successes and failures. Comparing ourselves to others is nothing more than smoke and mirrors, a constantly changing illusion.

Accept where you are, enjoy the moment. Remind yourself that hard times don’t last forever and that things change, don’t compare you to others – be you, be unique.

Winning starts with winning words

 

The impact of how we think and what we allow ourselves to focus on has been highlighted during this World Cup as we’ve witnessed some of the giants (Germany, Argentina, Spain and Portugal) knocked out by teams from countries without such a successful World Cup history.

The England sports psychologist, in preparation for a potential shootout situation, has been helping the team to approach it unburdened by the history of previous disappointing England shootouts and with calm nerves.
Even this morning ahead of the England game against Columbia, Gareth Southgate, the team manager has urged them to ‘write their own history’. What can often hold all of us back is the narrative of our past, whereas when we actively and decisively focus on creating a new story we free ourselves to move forward with a new perspective and a new belief in our abilities. The past does not equal the future and only when we truly believe this and when our self-talk mirrors this belief can new feelings and actions flow.

There’s always a way, even when you can’t see it

In my work as a solution focused hypnotherapist one of the things I help clients do is to recognise and believe that there is a way for them to make positive change despite whatever challenge they may face or disappointment they may have experienced. We all want change to be immediate and to take all our problems away instantly yet deep down inside we all know that this is not realistic. Change is rarely a single event but is mostly the result of a process.

The biggest hurdle to change is mindset. A negative perspective will highlight only what has gone wrong in the past and what will go wrong in the future and will lead us to despair, demotivation and at times depression. Our problems can cause both physical and emotional pain; physical pain from illness or injury, emotional pain from relationship breakdown, career uncertainty and financial stress. It’s human nature to want to run away from pain and stress and primitive man found this to be an highly effective strategy in his world where simple survival was an everyday struggle. In modern times our desire to run away from pain and stress can lead us to seek solace in alcohol, drug use, nicotine, food, gambling etc. and yet these types of solace are often addictive but overtime lower our mood even further and also compromise our physical health.
A former client of mine was a professional sportsman who had suffered a bad injury whilst playing. His rehab was frustrating him as he continued to experience physical pain and to lose belief that he would ever regain his previous level of fitness. Not surprisingly his increasing low mood was exacerbated by poor sleep and by him continuing to over-analyse what had gone wrong in the match that led to him being injured. In our first consultation he admitted that he re-played the match over and over in his mind and whilst he realised this was not helping him, he felt unable to stop. His hopes and ambitions for the future had gone as all he could envisage was the loss of his career, source of income, loneliness as well as feeling unqualified to do anything else.

I firstly explained a little bit about what Solution Focused Hypnotherapy was (no swinging pocket watches in my consulting room nor any lengthy analysis of the past!). Drawing on evidence-based research in the field of neuroscience I introduced him to the workings of the brain and how when we allow negative emotional to overwhelm us the resulting ‘amygdala hijack’ would lead us on a roller-coaster of worst case scenarios thereby robbing us of rational thought and the problem solving ability of the pre-frontal cortex. We also touched on the relationship between high levels of stress hormones, inflammation and pain as well as my explaining how his sleep needs to be improved. He seemed intrigued and was able to apply our discussion to his situation – he also said he felt more optimistic than he had for quite a while! Music to my ears!
As I knew he played competitive team sport which had rules I established two initial rules for our sessions, punctuality and no complaining or moaning – this was solution focused therapy after all! And we were retraining his mind to focus on noticing the positives, no matter how small they might appear to be – just like learning a new set-piece for the playing field.

Over the course of our sessions we were able to reduce his stress levels and his sleep quickly improved. He reported feeling brighter in himself as well as being as being able to consider his future more positively. He also said that his rehab was feeling more manageable and even enjoyable and that his pain had reduced dramatically. I’m happy to say that his injury healed and he successfully continued his playing career.

Solution focused hypnotherapy is becoming more widely recognized as beneficial within the sports and medical environment; helping with depression in terminally ill patients, with young patients, rehabilitation of wounded and injured, aiding pain management, needle phobias etc. We are not doctors, nor physios, nor osteopaths. What we are able to do is recognise our client as being an individual who exists as separate to their illness or their injury, we recognise them as being the expert in themselves and whilst we are solution focused we offer them acknowledgement of their struggles as well as helping them recognise and draw on their own inner strengths and resources during their treatment or rehabilitation.
Yvonne Morgan
Clinical Solution Focused Hypnotherapist 07899 625 156

Chasing the cure on the outside

It’s human nature to want to find a ‘cure’ as quickly as possible and due to the advances in science and medicine we naively hope there is a cure for everything but sadly this is not  always the reality.   Not only is there not a cure for everything but there are some conditions for which even the causes are not agreed on, such as tinnitus.

Tinnitus sufferers  often experience a near-constant ringing or buzzing in the ear(s), resulting in extreme frustration which in turn negatively impacts on the quality of many areas of their lives such as relationships, work,         sleep and mental health.

By the time a tinnitus sufferer comes to see a solution focused hypnotherapist they will have tried many things in a desperate attempt to find a cure; referrals to ENT clinics, elimination diets (no salt, no caffeine, no alcohol), losing weight etc.  Understandably with no recognised single cause or solution (exposure to loud noise is often thought to be a contributory factor), lack of sleep, due to the constant ringing,  can often be accompanied by anxiety and  depression together with an increasingly  negative focus towards both the tinnitus and life in general.   Anxiety and depression also contribute to poor sleep and so a negative spiral quickly sets in.

Solution focused hypnotherapy can  help such a client accept that in the absence of any identifiable physical cause, relief and better management of the condition if often achievable  through regular stress bucket emptying.  Whilst stress as a cause of tinnitus is not  universally accepted within the medical profession, high levels of stress make tinnitus seem worse and more difficult to deal with.

Improved quality of sleep is one of the first benefits of relaxing the mind through regular stress bucket emptying, as it allows for a more rational perspective and calmer response towards life’s challenges.   The use of self-distraction via hobbies such as exercise and seeing friends, can be of particular value to a tinnitus sufferer as enjoyment captures our attention away from pain or frustration.   Regular stress reduction, improved sleep and enjoyable activities also   boost serotonin, a mood regulator, as well as another mood regulator dopamine, which is also associated with motivation.

Acceptance that there is no cure or magic quick fix  is the first step towards a new calmer perspective and an ability to shift focus towards the more pleasurable and positive  aspects of life because as the Buddhists believe, everything on the outside is a reflection of what’s happening on the inside.

Solution Focused Hypnotherapy appointments: face-to-face in Bristol and elsewhere via Skype/Zoom/Botim.  Yvonne Morgan 07899 625 156

 

 

 

Your ability to self-soothe

 

Life brings us all challenges.

Sometimes these challenges are in our relationships, our family, our careers, our finances, our health; sometimes the challenges stimulate us, sometimes they knock us over and rock the foundations of our world like a runaway train with a pain that is so unbearable we doubt we will ever enjoy life again.

If we are lucky we have friends and family to support us but rarely is that support available 24/7 as they too have their own responsibilities in life and may also be struggling. The pain of being alone at a challenging time often adds to our feelings of despair and hopelessness and yet it provides the opportunity for one of life’s greatest lessons, we will all be alone at times and to be able to get through these times we need to be able to self-soothe.
Self-soothing is the ability and acceptance that you can comfort yourself when you feel stressed, anxious, abandoned, rejected, alone etc. Self-soothing often takes the form of distraction through escapist, short-term techniques which, if repeated, can become addictive. A reliance on alcohol, food, gambling, smoking, drugs actually worsens anxiety and depression which in turn increase problem-focused negative introspection and negative forecasting.

Beneficial self-soothing techniques include the acceptance that pain and challenges are a part of life for everyone, despite the barrage of social media posts that create a false reality of permanent success and happiness. Accepting life as it is and not how we think it should be is the first step in self-soothing as it allows us to recognise that we have coped with difficult times in the past and can do so again even if we can’t immediately see how. Techniques such as listening to calming music, meditating, going for a walk, reconnecting with nature, not only reduce our emotional arousal but allow us to view things with a more rational perspective and recognition that hard times might last longer than a day or a week but they aren’t permanent.

 

Empty your bucket!

Why self-care is essential even when life is going well

We’ve all had experiences of realising self-care is vital when life is challenging; we try to get more sleep, eat better food, fit in some exercise, maybe have some therapy etc. but often as our challenges subside or are resolved we believe that we can ease off or even give up looking after ourselves! Maybe unconsciously we believe that no stress = no need for self-care when we believe we are coping well with life and are back in flow.
If we make self-care a permanent part of our daily routine we are better able to cope with stressful situations when and if they arise as we will already be more resilient both physically and emotionally.

Each of us has an internal stress bucket and most of us underestimate how full our stress bucket is. Unlike the big tankers that cross the oceans, we do not have a visible plimsoll line to tell us how much of a load we are really carrying. Regular bucket emptying is vital as it allows us to off-load anxiety create more mental space and mental resilience and this in turn allows us to deal with life’s challenges more calmly and with a more rational perspective from a solution based focus rather than a problem based focus.
Exercise is a really good form of bucket emptying as is taking time each day to relax the mind through either self-directed meditation, guided meditation or solution focused hypnotherapy. There are hundreds of free examples to choose from on YouTube and just 25 minutes a day is beneficial when done consistently.

Habits and the fork in the road


As a hypnotherapist and coach for the last 15 years I have seen many clients who want to break a negative habit. Negative habits such as smoking, binge drinking, binge eating and negative thinking are all created through repetition and on a chemical level they bring comfort and reward no matter how ‘negative’ they might be to our health.

Often negative habits are our way of seeking comfort during stress –we turn towards substances that bring both pleasure, with the release of dopamine, and distraction from the stressor; however both the pleasure and the distraction are short term and yet this experience is recorded by the unconscious mind for future use when we encounter stress again. With repetition the habit is created and functions automatically along with the recollection and promise of the same good feeling which offers us ‘escape’ from the pain of the stressor.

It is because our habits are automatic and run by the unconscious mind, that the first part of any change process is to re-engage the conscious rational mind so that we can raise our awareness of our habit triggers. This process begins by reducing stress with hypnotherapy or meditation both of which increase alpha brain waves and serotonin production – a calmer mind is capable of more rational thought and of noticing the times and situations that trigger the habit and therefore, in a more relaxed and rational state of mind, we can begin to choose not to have the cigarette or not to eat whatever is in the fridge. Michael Yapko (‘Treating Depression with Hypnosis’) describes these moments of conscious choice as ‘forks in the road’. In her poem ‘An Autobiography in Five Short Chapters’, Portia Nelson uses a similar idea of walking down a different street. Habits don’t change by themselves or by magic but by reducing stress and being willing and able to make a new conscious choice. A therapist can’t make you give up a habit but can help you take a different turning at those moments of choice.

Simply back to basics

 

None of us can escape stress in life and it comes in many forms, emotional, financial, family problems with our children and ageing parents etc. Stress can be overwhelming and the overwhelm is increased when we place unrealistic expectations on ourselves by thinking we can deal with any stress whilst also continuing to manage the rest of our lives as we previously did.
Not only is this expectation unrealistic but in our struggle to meet it we inevitably flounder and instead of accepting that we can’t carry on as normal we stagger on battling against a weakened immune system and increasing stress; this leaves the door wide open for physiological symptoms of stress (digestive issues, frequent colds and infections, elevated blood pressure, weight gain or loss etc) and the psychological symptoms of poor concentration, memory and focus as well as insomnia, anxiety and depression. The result is that we find ourselves even less able to deal with the original external stress.
Our natural response to an external stress is to want to take some sort of control and to fix the issue but often there is no way to fix a situation and so the only control we can take is control of ourselves in the form of self-care. Often we confuse self-medication for self-care.
Self-medication comes in many forms, high sugar foods, alcohol, smoking, spending money and provides only short term comfort and relief. Positive self-care offers long term comfort but needs to be consistent and comes in the form of the basics such as regular exercise, relaxation or meditation to de-stress and promote good quality sleep, a low sugar diet to avoid spikes in blood sugar and unwanted weight gain. In the midst of a stressful situation or crisis it’s easy to overlook the importance of active and positive self-care, in fact it’s easy to overlook ourselves.
If you are currently feeling overwhelmed by a stressful situation give yourself permission right now, yes right now, to make time to look after yourself in positive ways – time to simply get back to basics.

Anger – don’t go up in smoke!

Everything you do involves the minds – yes the minds. You have one physical brain but 2 minds, the conscious rational thinking mind which deals with data and facts and the unconscious mind which deals with emotions and the stress response patterns of depression, anger and anxiety. These three stress response patterns date back to primitive times and were responsible for surviv

Primitive man often faced life or death situations and food was not always readily available so if a neighbor tried to steal his food his very survival would be under threat – in response to this threat he would probably ‘shout’ or ‘rage’ or ‘lash out’ at his neighbor.

In the modern world we also feel under threat, when we perceive that our need for security is being threatened (unemployment, economic recession ) or when we perceive ourselves as being attacked emotionally, disrespected or unfairly treated by others. Stress hormones are released into the body preparing us for the ‘fight’, the rational mind shuts down as the emotional unconscious mind takes over in the stress response mode, and with no regard for the consequences our judgement is impaired and our responses and behavior often escalate to levels which are inappropriate and potentially dangerous and illegal.

Hypnotherapy can help with anger in several ways. Helping you learn how to actively relax your mind, and de-stress after a bad day; how to reduce negative thinking and become more assertive in order to better manage the various stressors in your life by adopting new techniques which enable you to think and act from a more rational perspective when faced with both perceived and real threats.

Don’t get stuck in your cave

Everything you do involves the minds – yes the minds.

You have one physical brain but 2 minds, the conscious rational thinking mind which deals with data and facts and the unconscious mind which deals with emotions and the stress response patterns of depression, anger and anxiety. These three stress response patterns date back to primitive times and were responsible for survival.

Imagine during the winter months when primitive man looked out of his cave and saw torrential rains and winds, he would stay inside and wait for the outside conditions to improve. He knew hunting and going to visit his friend in the next cave would be potentially dangerous against the inclement weather. Instead he chose to stay inside, opting out of normal everyday life, seeing no-one whilst he waited for life outside the cave to improve – he would sleep and eat.

When we experience depression in the modern world we also often react in the same way as our primitive ancestors, we opt out of everyday activities, withdraw from friends and retreat to our ‘cave’ often eating and sleeping too much while we wait for life on the outside to improve. Primitive man had no influence over the weather and so could only wait. When we are depressed we focus on what’s wrong in our lives and we take no action but instead we retreat to our caves and wait for things to improve. We wait to lose weight, to feel more confident, for our job to improve, for relationships to fix themselves – however these are all things we can influence and can change but only when we are proactive.

Depression focuses our attention and our thoughts on the negative and blinds us to the fact that things change and improve when we take action. Taking action is empowering and allows us to feel a sense of control. Action comes in many forms, taking exercise, consciously looking for the positive, meeting a friend, deciding to focus on solutions, getting help – action creates momentum and momentum creates optimism.
Staying in the cave was appropriate for our primitive ancestors, they had no choice, but today in the modern world, staying in the cave is inappropriate because we do have choices, many choices which allow us to make positive change and enjoy life.   If you would like help to lift your mood and break the cycle of depression call 07899 625 156  to make an appointment and start enjoying life again!