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Imagination – dig deep, live better, be healthier

Let me start by painting you a little picture:

Two men, both in their late 20s, have been made redundant by the factory where they had been working on the shop floor since leaving school at 16. Up until now, they had been bumbling along quite nicely, fairly secure in their employment, promoted a couple of times. This redundancy has come completely out of the blue. After the initial shock wears off and real life sets in, the two men start to look for work.

Man 1, we’ll call him Jim, blames his management for not warning them, and his union for not protecting him. He has difficulty accepting what has happened, and fears the future is looking bleak. His colleague, let’s call him Pete, is none happier than Jim, but is more accepting of the reality of the situation. He starts to imagine that in reality this redundancy could be a real opportunity to change his life and focus on his dreams, rather than clinging to the security net that was his previous job.

Six months later, which do you think has moved on in their lives? While Jim spends all morning in bed blaming everyone from the postman and his pile of rejection letters to the government for his run of bad luck, gets signed off by the doctor with stress, and just feels powerless in a downward spiral of increasing depression. Meanwhile, Pete has crystallised his dreams, using the knowledge he gained during all those years on the shop floor to create his own business – his imagination has become reality.

Both men are from similar backgrounds, with the same education and gone through the same life experiences, but they both had a completely different outcome to the same life devastating incident.

Why?

Because whereas the one has an external locus of control, the other has an internal locus of control. In other words, one looks to external forces as an influence on his life, whereas the other looks to himself. So while Jim had an understandably negative reaction to his redundancy, his negative, pessimistic and paranoid outlook on life plays havoc with his ability to move forward from this situation. On the other hand, Pete’s positive visualisation for what he believes he can now achieve gives him the mental strength to overcome any obstacles and hurdles, and to turn any negative situation into a positive.

Jim and Pete are fictitious characters, but I should imagine any of you reading this can fit friends, acquaintances, work colleagues, family members into either personality. Likewise, any situation can apply – losing a loved one, being diagnosed with cancer or some other life threatening illness, trying to give up smoking, alcohol, drugs, fighting obesity. In fact, the link between positive thinking and good health is well researched and documented – though much of the research goes deeper than just positive thinking, demonstrating a need for internal strength rather than just fluffy thoughts. A piece of research carried out in 2001 by S.C. Lewis, M.S. Dennis, S.J. O’Rourke and M. Sharpe called Negative Attitudes Among Short-Term Stroke Survivors Predict Worse Long-Term Survival, highlighted this:

“Patients’ attitudes toward illness vary, and questionnaires have been developed to identify them. The Mental Adjustment to Cancer (MAC) Scale categorizes the attitudes of cancer patients toward their illness into fighting spirit, helplessness/hopelessness, anxious preoccupation, fatalism, and denial/avoidance.  An attitude of fighting spirit or denial/avoidance, as opposed to helplessness/hopelessness or fatalism, predicts a greater likelihood of remaining alive and free of recurrence in patients with breast cancer for up to 15 years.  A more recent study showed that helplessness/hopelessness was associated with decreased survival in breast cancer patients followed up for at least 5 years. We adapted the MAC Scale for use in stroke patients. We sought to test the hypothesis that helplessness/hopelessness and fatalism are also associated with reduced survival after stroke and to examine whether these effects are independent of demographic, physical, and mood factors that have been associated with poor outcomes after stroke.”

Note how the study linked fighting spirit with denial/avoidance – a move taken to minimise the effect of the stroke on one’s life. The study concluded:

“Patients’ attitudes to their stroke are associated with survival. Patients who are fatalistic and feel helpless or hopeless, ie, who feel that there is nothing they can do to help themselves,  do not survive as long as other patients. This seems to remain true even when physical factors, such as stroke severity, are accounted for.” 

The ability to turn bad situations into good ones is within everyone’s capability – if they want it and if they believe they can have it. Enhance the positive aspects of your imagination and then harness its power until you achieve that goal.

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Watch Your Language!

“Words have a magical power. They can bring either the greatest of happiness or deepest despair, they can transfer knowledge from teacher to student; words enable the orator to sway his audience and dictate its decisions. Words are capable of arousing the strongest emotions and prompting all men’s actions.” Sigmund Freud.

Our Austrian friend certainly knew a thing or two about the human mind. The use of language and how it affects our daily emotional life is a fascinating subject that has undergone much research.

All over the world people are chewing breakfast over their morning papers and harrumphing over the latest governmental shenanigans. In billions of houses people are logging into various social networks and on-line forums, and venting spleen and vitriol about every subject under the sun. In fact it seems that the less a subject affects one personally, the more vitriol is generated – the upset caused by cyber-bullying and tweeting trolls (as demonstrated in the case of diver Tom daley) certainly seems to illustrate this.

Yet it is interesting that I have started this article focusing on the negative reaction to provocatively negative language. Language, and how we use it, has a huge impact on our daily emotions. Albert Bandura, who wrote a paper entitled Self Efficacy Conception of Anxiety (1988) commented: “People frighten themselves with scary thoughts, they work themselves up into anger by ruminating about social slights and mistreatments, they become sexually aroused by conjuring up erotic fantasies, and they become depressed by dwelling on gloomy scenarios.”

For the purpose of research for this article I re-opened up one well known ex-pats forum recently that I had actually abandoned a year ago because much of the language was negatively inclined, aggressive, slightly hysterical and unbalanced, and at times downright rude and unpleasant. For someone who hates any form of conflict I used to find my stress levels rising because of it, even though none of it had anything to do with me. Whereas I absolutely applaud people’s right to free speech, I do not always like to listen, particularly if it has a negative impact on my emotions. So I made the decision not to look again. Now, over a year later, I found those same negative emotions rising to the surface as I hovered over the address on internet explorer. I lasted about two minutes before I clicked off and removed it completely from my browser.

I sometimes categorise people in two ways – radiators and drains. A ‘radiator’ is someone who fills your life with positive energy. A ‘drain’ is someone who makes you want to lock yourself away in a dark room. We all like a good moan at times, but it is important to watch your regular use of language if you want your life to take a positive turn.

Rob Kelly wrote in his Thrive manual: “Just in the same way that our body reacts upon our mind and our min reacts on our body, our thoughts and beliefs affect our language, and our language affects our thoughts and beliefs. If you speak and think negative words, you will lower your mood, anticipate negative outcomes, make yourself stressed, feel powerless and contribute to an external locus of control. If you use positive words, you will feel positive, feel powerful, anticipate positive outcomes, create less stress and contribute to an internal locus of control.”

If you find yourself feeling low, take a look at the tone of language that surrounds you. Do you dwell on the negative, bad news type stories in your choice of reading matter? Do you revel in the bad luck and misfortunes of others, and subconsciously use their experiences to reinforce your own bad experiences? Do you flick from news channel to news channel, fixated by the various crises all over the world?

Changing your language is not about changing your reality, but it will do a lot to strengthen your ability to cope with your reality. If you have a debilitating illness, using positive language will not cure you indefinitely, but it can go a long way towards helping you to be able to deal with it and aim for a better outcome.

If you are prone to depression, gloomy thoughts, an Eeyore mentality, be aware that mass media is designed to generate and sensationalise stories and reactions, but understand that you should no longer allow their words to have an effect on your everyday reality. And if you struggle with separating the two (your reality and gloomy journalism), then stop reading that newspaper, stop watching ceaseless news bulletins.

“Fear is presented in the mass media, especially the news media, as a feature of entertainment,” wrote David L.Altheide in Notes Towards a Politics of Fear. He goes on to say, “The constant use of fear pervades crises and normal times: it becomes part of the taken-for-granted word of ‘how things are’, and one consequence is that it begins to influence how we perceive and talk about everyday life, including mundane as well as significant events. This produces a discourse of fear, the pervasive communication, symbolic awareness, and expectation that danger and risk are a central feature of everyday life.”

Be aware of the tone of language used by yourself, and those around you. Give yourself a challenge – spend a couple of hours today being consciously aware of all your negative thoughts and sayings, and changing them into positive ones. Even if you are feeling negative, try and change it into a positive. As Rob Kelly put it so succinctly, “Even if you’re feeling like shit, never say it!”

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I’m feeling a little blue today

‘Feeling depressed’ can cover a wide spectrum of emotions, from the ‘I’m feeling a little blue today’ misery on a cold, grey wet morning, through to the gaping black hole that  looms ever larger in our lives when we’re feeling particularly low.

There are many things which may have triggered off these feelings in the first place, with time and circumstances adding to the overall sense of despair – getting over the loss of a loved one, divorce/splitting from a long term partner, difficult events during childhood, job and money worries, family tragedies, dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic event, the baby blues – modern life is fraught with events which appear to be designed to trip us up along the way.

Yet how is it that one person can overcome the death of a loved one (for example) and still continue a happy and fulfilled existence, whereby the same severity of an event can completely floor someone else? How can one person who has had a rough and abusive childhood, grow into a strong, vibrant and hugely capable person, while another succumbs continually to feelings of anxiety, stress, loss of control?

Or maybe you just do not know where these anxieties are coming from. Maybe you have lived with them for so long now that they almost seem ‘normal’ to you.

Admitting that you are feeling anxious and low is a big step. For some it is like admitting defeat, that you are finally acknowledging that life is getting on top of you and you are not coping.

Seeing your doctor is an obvious and important first step to dealing with your issues.  We will assume for the purposes of this article that your doctor will have ruled out any physical reasons for your depressed feelings. We may also add here that if you are already undergoing any medical treatment for a particular condition, your depressed and low feelings, may be related to your treatment, but may just as equally be triggered by other reasons, rather than the treatment and /or medication itself.

So, you are feeling depressed, low, unhappy and negative. But to make things worse, you are feeling powerless to do anything about it. The more you think about it, the more depressed you feel about it, and the vicious circle keeps spinning.

The Didim Hypnotherapy Clinic practices two very specific, very successful programmes which help to alleviate the symptoms and causes of depression, and open up a much brighter future for the sufferer.    

Your low and anxious feelings may have no graspable root or cause. You may just have this constant low level, but ever present, feeling of anxiety that hovers constantly just underneath the surface of your consciousness. You have never been able to pin it down to anything, and possibly have just written it off as part of your personality. You can imagine it like a jellyfish, with long tentacles disappearing into the darkness of your subconscious. You know it starts somewhere down there, it just looks too frightening to go there!

Pure Hypno-Analysis (PHA) is one of the world’s most effective, and quick, forms of analytical therapy with some outstanding results. It creates a safe, trusting and confidential environment where the natural therapeutic process can work, allowing the client to slowly bring all the bottled-up emotions to the surface. It doesn’t rely on therapist insight, ‘fishing’ techniques, regression techniques or any other ‘invasive’ techniques in order to work effectively. Create the right relationship, show the client how to utilise the natural therapeutic process, and in eight or so sessions the bottled-up emotions can be resolved.

The key thing to remember is that you are not looking for something specific, you are not poking around looking for incidents in your past that may have contributed to your overall feelings of anxiety. You are in fact very relaxed in a hypnotic state and simply letting your subconscious do all the work for you. The journey will undoubtedly be emotional (that is after all what is causing the anxieties in the first place), but will also be therapeutic and you will finish the course with a feeling of lightness and relief.

If, however, you feel that your anxieties can be pinpointed to a specific incident, that they are a culmination of a series of events that have brought you down, or simply that you are a bit melancholic by nature and that you do feel that you allow life to get the better of you too often, then you can only benefit by undergoing Rob Kelly’s Thrive programme.

The Thrive programme is NOT hypnotherapy, is NOT therapy, is NOT counselling, but has been created as a training programme. It is designed for people who want to overcome anything which is holding them back in life. Whether it is fears and phobias, low self-esteem, stress and anxiety, depression, anger, illness, sports performance, weight, smoking, alcohol or any other issues that are preventing you from moving on with life, and being happy and successful. In fact any situation in which stress and disordered thinking are making things worse.    

So if you are feeling low spirited, depressed, blue, totally powerless about your ability to be happy and productive and healthy, the Thrive  programme concentrates on building the three core psychological strengths we use to fight any negative belief or symptom:

  • Putting you back in control
  • Building your self-esteem
  • Reducing your social anxiety

Once you have built up these three core strengths, you will feel much more able to deal with your problems. You will be able to manage your self-esteem, learning how to top it up and keep it at a high level. By doing this you will also be lowering your social anxiety to a level where it doesn’t bother you anymore.

The programme then goes on to illustrate how you can take control of your thinking processes, banishing negative thoughts, and being more capable of dealing with difficult and stressful situations.

So make 2013 the year that you finally take control of your life and really start to Thrive!

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Develop better coping skills for everyday stressful situations

I was struck recently, when hiring a car, how much anticipatory anxiety is used by businesses to try and get more money out of us. The car hire company was painting a very gloomy picture of what might happen out on the roads, and how much it was going to cost me if I decided not to buy additional insurance and thereby decrease my excess.

Now, I’ve been driving now for the best part of 26 years, and consider myself pretty competent on the roads. Yet the way they were ‘selling’ this to me set off a cognitive freight train that was rattling away, completely out of control, with frightening speed – I saw white vans pulling out in front of me at busy crossroads. I saw me skidding precariously on black ice and tumbling inelegantly into a ditch. I saw great big lorries ramming into the back of me and wiping out my whole family! I could feel my anxiety levels rise. I could feel my confidence faltering. I felt powerless. I could sense my grasp on reality tunnel-visioning to this additional insurance premium being the only thing to keep my family and me safe on the British roads!

So, what was a simple task on my ‘to do’ list – to pick up the hire car – suddenly became a source of increasing stress and anxiety. Add to this the fact that I know my husband hates paying out on anything unnecessarily, nor does he believe in insurance (he thinks it is a big con) I felt suddenly assailed by doubts, fears, insecurities, and an increasing lack of confidence in my own ability to make the right decision.

Albert Bandura (1988): Self Efficacy Conception of Anxiety, states:

“People who believe that can exercise control over potential threats do not conjure up apprehensive cognitions and, hence, are not perturbed by them. But those who believe they cannot manage potential threats experience high levels of anxiety arousal. They tend to dwell on their coping deficiencies and view many aspects of their environment as fraught with danger. Through such inefficacious thought they distress themselves and constrain and impair their level of functioning (Beck, Emery and Greenberg, 1985; Lazarus and Folkman, 1984; Meichenbaum, 1977; Sarason, 1975).”

So to go back to the car hire shop, there I was, a competent driver of many years experience, suddenly assailed by feelings of doubt and insecurity.

It is at a point like this when your Thrive training kicks in. You apply the cognitive brakes and re-examine what it is that is making you feel anxious. To which, the answer was myself – I was bringing this anxiety on myself by questioning my own (more than proven) abilities. I know I am a good driver. I know that I have been driving for 26 years with no more than one mild prang to my name (nor was it my fault!). I know that if I paid out that extra insurance then I would be throwing good money into the void. I also know that all my conjured up images and fears were of external dangers over which I had little or no control. So really there was no point worrying about them as I could do nothing to change them.

Without my knowledge of Thrive, my experience could have been a lot different. I may have paid out on that extra insurance, which would have increased the financial burden (stress levels up), and incited the irritation of my husband (stress levels up). I would have fretted about both the money and the annoyed husband for several hours/days afterwards (stress levels up). I would also have got into that car with the various frightening images of the car being involved in a number of potential incidents (stress levels up). Due to my increased anxiety levels, my judgement of the road may be impaired and Coue’s Law would kick in – ie: I may well have an accident. OK, I may be indulging in some catastrophic speculation here, but I want to illustrate a point highlighted in Bandura’s research paper that….

“Cognition plays a broader role in human emotion than simply labelling physiological states. Physiological arousal, itself, is often generated cognitively by arousing trains of thought (Beck, 1976; Schwartz, 1971). People frighten themselves by scary thoughts, they work themselves up into a state of anger by ruminating about social slights and mistreatments, they become sexually aroused by conjuring up erotic fantasies, and they become depressed by dwelling on gloomy cognitive scenarios.”

Thrive training – increasing your internal locus of control, giving you power over your thoughts and emotions, will significantly help you to reduce your anxiety and stress levels brought on by events which you may previously have thought were out of your control.

Simply recognising that worrying thoughts and images are simply a figment of your imagination, and not a part of your reality anytime now, or in the future, will go a long way to bringing down your stress gauge to manageable levels.

“It is not the sheer frequency of intrusive cognitions but rather the inefficacy to turn them off that is the major source of distress”. (Bandura, 1988). It is human nature to think the worse, to be pessimistic, to be wary of any dangers and threats in our environment. But to be hypervigilant about perceived threats, to ruminate and brood on them, even when they are proven to be imaginary, is detrimental in the long term to the human spirit.

So after about 10 seconds of such hypervigilant rumination, I stood tall, looked the hire guy in the eye and said No Thanks! I think I laughed it off by making some joke about my husband not believing in insurance. And do you know, I drove that car for 10 days without a single incident. More importantly, I drove on some very congested roads, in some fairly horrific weather conditions, with my most precious cargo (kids) in the back, and I was pretty much anxiety free.

Modern life has a habit of creating a raft of potentially anxiety inducing situations. The car hire is an example, but a typical daily life involving car journeys, dealing with children, workmen, colleagues, bosses, bureaucracy, financial worries (particularly in these trying times)… the list is endless…all add to potential sources of anxiety. And without effective coping skills many people increasingly fall into feelings of powerlessness and inability to cope. Thrive gives you that power back.

If you want to find out more about how the Thrive programme can help you to control runaway thoughts and increasing anxiety levels follow this link http://www.thriveprogramme.org.

Kate Ashley-Norman

Thrive Consultant and Blogger

www.thedidimhypnotherapyclinic.com

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DON’T LET YOUR INNER ‘(MRS) TWIT’ CONTROL YOUR LIFE

Let Thrive show you how to take control of your thoughts

I have recently been re-reading some of Roald Dahl’s stories with my seven year old son, and hooting at the antics of that rather repulsive couple, The Twits. I couldn’t help thinking though what kind of life Mrs Twit might have had if she had gone through a course of Thrive when she was younger.

Now Mrs Twit had a ‘fearful ugliness’. But as Dahl was quick to point out, she was not born ugly, she had actually had a nice face when she was younger. She had grown uglier the older she got, and Dahl had a very profound explanation for this. He wrote:

“If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until it gets so ugly you can hardly bear to look at it.

“A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

Now Mrs Twit is a particularly repulsive character being used by Dahl for comic effect, but his words are very wise and we would do well to remember them in the context of the Thrive programme. When someone walks into my office who has all the physical attributes of a successful attractive person, yet their whole body language and spoken language is negative and depressive and cloaked in failure and doom and ugliness, then I just know that their mismanaged ugly thoughts are compelling them to don their ‘ugly’, ‘shit-tinted’ spectacles. When turned onto one-self, these shit tinted glasses can have significantly negative effects on the way you feel about yourself, the way you feel about other people, and ultimately about the way you feel about life as a whole.

As we all know and experience at times, the more negative you feel about life, the more difficult it seems to extricate yourself from that downward spiral. As Lyobomirsky and Tkach (2004) so eloquently put it in their research, – “Numerous studies over the past two decades have shown that repetitive ruminations about the implications of one’s depressive symptoms actually maintains those symptoms, impairs one’s ability to solve problems, and ushers in a host of negative consequences.”

The younger, prettier Mrs Twit had so many ugly thoughts about herself and life in general, that her self esteem only allowed her to marry a man she thought she deserved – the ‘foul and smelly’ Mr Twit. And together they perpetuated each other’s ugly approach to life. Their only ‘joy’ in life was to play cruel and disgusting tricks on each other.

Poor Mrs Twit. You can only imagine how her younger, prettier self may well have once dreamed of leading a happy life. But for those caught in a whirlpool of negativity and stress and anxiety, any chance of happiness can only seem like an increasingly unattainable concept. And once on that slippery slope it is easier to just keep slipping down into a depressed and self-flagellating pool, than it is to stand tall and fight it.

And so you get caught in the vicious circle of unhappy, negative, depressive thoughts, feelings of powerlessness, feeling physically and mentally tired, anxious, stressed and unable to cope, and too weak and unmotivated to do anything about it. As a result your immune system is weakened, and opens you up to every bug and virus going. (Anybody who wants to look into the mind-body connection need just Google psychneuroimmunology, PNI).

So don’t be a Mrs Twit and let those ugly thoughts take control and ruin your life (and looks!). You can be powerful over your own thoughts, and the Thrive programme is uniquely positioned to make you understand why, and how you can take control.

If you want to find out more about the Thrive programme and how it can help you and those you love, you can by following this link http://www.thriveprogramme.org.

Kate Ashley-Norman

Thrive Consultant and Blogger

www.thedidimhypnotherapyclinic.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yo-Yo Dieting – Why oh why!?

FAILED BROKEN DIETS – CONSTANT DISAPPOINTMENT IN YOURSELF – SCALES THAT HAVE GONE UP AND DOWN YEAR IN YEAR OUT – INCESSANT SELF LOATHING – YOYO DIETING – BINGE EATING – COMFORT EATING – INSIDIOUS WINE CONSUMPTION………

Have you ever considered that your weight issues are nothing to do with food and exercise, but the psychological barriers you inadvertently build to ‘protect’ yourself. Probably many of you know this to be the case, but doing something about it seems impossible. In fact, when it comes to your weight, you are feeling pretty powerless.

Do any of the following situations apply to you:

You can’t just have one biscuit, you have to have the whole packet! If you break your diet, you might as well not bother continuing at all – it’s already ruined! You might as well scoff for the rest of the day/week/weekend!

You are feeling a low, or stressed, so the only way you’re going to feel better is if you eat a bar of chocolate, or a glass of wine, NOW! (This is a strong trait for those who comfort eat).

OMG! Why did I have that piece of chocolate cake???!!! I’ve COMPLETELY ruined my diet. I’m going to put on soooooo much weight. I’m a COMPLETE AND UTTER failure.

If these sound familiar, now is the time to GROWiT – Get Rid of Weight Issues & Thrive!

This specially formulated online training programme is based on the Rob Kelly Thrive Programme, and teaches you the fundamental psychological reasons WHY you are constantly going through these vicious weight loss-gain-loss cycles. Once you have that understanding, you learn skills and techniques to help you ‘grow’ strength and resilience that will not only help you lose weight, but which will also have a profound effect on all other areas of your life. In short, you will start to THRIVE!

This is NOT a diet and weight loss programme. This is about getting a grip on your thinking, and applying it to those areas in your life where you feel powerless and out of control.

If you are interested in hearing more, email me on hypnotherapyinturkey@hotmail.com, and I will send you further information, costs and instructions on how to join the programme.

Thinking time management

I was talking about time this week with some of my Thrive trainees. They were saying how they struggle with finding the time to fit in the reading and exercises I set which are designed to help them build psychological resilience and ultimately live a happy and full life. The problem is, their lives are fraught with constraints on their time, which means less dedicated time to actually concentrate on the work they need to be doing for the programme.

As ‘not having enough time’ is a major part of all our lives, I thought it an interesting topic to touch on (especially as some of you may be frantically trying to get everything done before the summer break!)

Time is one of those things which is both fixed and abstract – fixed because one minute is 60 seconds, and you’re never going to change that. But abstract as well because that one minute can feel like a lifetime (cue embarrassing pause in a job interview when you can’t think of anything to say), or can slip through your fingers like sand (imagine being stuck in a crowd of people when you’re running to catch a train that leaves in one minute! I can feel the stress already!)

With four kids, two businesses, a Turkish husband and a weakness for UK soap operas and other crappy TV programmes, the demands on my time can be pretty horrendous at times. But these days I practise ‘thought management’ rather than ‘time management’, and this is why…

The pressure you feel about what you do with your time come from external demands (children, work, household chores, responsibilities and duties), and your own internal way of thinking – for example, if you are a particularly perfectionist type of person and obsessive in your way of thinking, then the pressure you put yourself under must at times be unbearable!

What happens is this, the more stress you are under, the less clarity in your thinking. You lose perspective. You become very tunnel visioned. Your head is full of things that you need to do, swirling round and round but never settling. You’re stuck on this ‘worry-go-round’ which just goes faster and faster and faster.

Learning to better manage your thinking is the first and most crucial step you can take if you want to create more time for yourself. Thought Management creates a clarity of the mind that allows you to see your world with greater perspective. How you manage your time after that becomes child’s play!

Mercury Rising!

We’re a mercurial lot really – our emotions colour every second of our waking and sleeping hours…. those first flutters of love, that surge of happiness when things are going your way, the welling up of tears when you hear a sad song, the prickle of fear as you narrowly avoid yet another collision on the Ataturk Boulevard.

Thrill seekers look to extreme sports for their highs. Compulsive eaters load up on the doughnuts to seek comfort from emotions they would rather not face. Smokers go through a gamut of emotions every time they light up – from irritation and grumpiness, to relief, to guilt.

Negative emotions have been demonstrated as an aid to our ancestors’ survival in life threatening situations, priming the body physically to deal with whatever threat is looming. When in this ‘fight or flight’ state, generated by emotions such as fear or anger, the heart starts beating faster and pumping blood to the muscles where it is needed most.

In our modern world we recognise this as stress and anxiety. And it is a commonly accepted fact these days that stress can lead to a greater risk of heart disease. “Recurrent emotion-related cardiovascular reactivity appears to injure inner arterial walls, initiate atherosclerosis, and impact vascular responsiveness”, (Kaplan, Manuck, Williams and Strawn, 1993). Big words, but basically, the more stressed you are, the more you’re damaging your heart.

But if you are leading a ‘stressful’ life, struggling with financial pressures, a strained marriage, demanding children, social anxieties, a shaky job/business situation, health issues, and the myriad problems that life has chosen to throw at you, then reducing the amount of stress seems a far-fetched and impossible feat.

But is it? Really?

You know that, short of getting rid of your wife/kids/business/job and living in splendid isolation on a desert island, turning your life around seems a pretty impossible thing to do. So let’s turn the problem onto its head and examine it from the emotional angle.

How many times have you said that your emotions are all over the place? How often do you wake up teary eyed and bad tempered and look at the day ahead with despair, feeling too ‘emotional’ to be able to cope? How many of you reading this today feel that your emotions are something that you have to deal with depending on what life has thrown at you.

Appropriate emotions at appropriate times are essential in helping us to process events properly. The ‘fight-flight’ response to imminent danger can save lives. Feeling grief over the death of a loved one is entirely appropriate. It gives you time and space to mourn that person, remember that person, miss that person, and process that person’s death as a factor of your own life.

However, feeling the same depth and intensity of grief two or three years later indicates that you have not properly dealt with that loss, and your continuing emotional reaction is doing more harm than good. Similarly, physiologically remaining in the ‘fight-flight’ state even when there is no imminent danger puts tremendous pressure on the systems of the body. We become tunnel visioned in our lives, focusing on the ‘dangers’ of our daily stressful existences. We brood over our problems, we fret over them, we ‘chew the arse’ off them until the problem itself grows out of all perspective.

Imagine your problems now as the glowing embers at the bottom of a barbecue. Then see your emotions as the firelighter in a squidgy bottle of obsessive thoughts. Every time you obsess about a problem, you squeeze that bottle and the fire-lighting emotions feed the dying embers until they are full blown flames again. This is what you do every time you worry and fret about something that you feel is out of your control.

If I were to say to you that you do and can have complete control over your emotions, and that you could dramatically improve your life and health by knowing this and implementing it immediately, can you feel a positive emotion start to wash over you?

Think about the emotions you go through when watching reports of disasters on the news. I know that when tragedies such as the Connecticut School Massacre were reported I had to switch off – just the mere thought of such avoidable tragedies brings tears to my eyes. But therein lies my point. The THOUGHT of it made me emotional, so I made the CHOICE to switch off.

If you come home after a stressful day at work, and then get worked up by upsetting news, then have a little rant, which upsets your spouse and children, then you eat a bowl of ice cream to make yourself feel better, so feel immediately guilty, all the while fretting over work and projects and social pressures – all you’re doing is squirting fire onto those glowing embers and not actually getting anything positive from it.

There are many techniques that you can be taught to stop this spiral of negative emotions, but I want to leave you with the most important thing of all. Once you have grasped this point, everything else follows on quite easily. IT IS YOU WHO IS CREATING THESE EMOTIONS!  When you see a barking dog, the initial fear will put you into fight-flight mode. But then if you feel fear every time you see a dog it is YOU creating that fear, and blowing it out of proportion. You create the emotion. You feed the emotion. You blow the emotion out of proportion. To understand that is probably going to be the most empowering thing you’ll do – ever!

The Solution Always Lies Within Yourself

In this fast paced, consumer oriented world of ours, anyone looking for a quick easy fix of our myriad problems is going to be faced with an almost overwhelming array of solutions to choose from.

Weight loss and smoking – the two issues I deal with most of the time, are also the two most difficult issues to deal with as we want solutions which fit in with our lifestyles, do not require too much effort, and give fast results.

The smoker wants to be cigarette free without all the irritability and craving apparently associated with nicotine ‘withdrawal’.

The overweight person wants to lose as much weight as quickly as possible, while still enjoying as much of his/her ‘comfort food as is possible without breaking the ‘diet’.

In response to these demands the market place (and our inboxes) are flooded with products and pills promising, “INSTANT DRAMATIC WEIGHT LOSS!”, “LOSE 7lbs IN 7 DAYS!”, TAKE THIS PILL AND STOP SMOKING NOW!”, “STICK THIS PATCH ON AND BREAK THE FAG HABIT OF A LIFETIME,”……

The trouble with these types of products is, when you read the small print, they more often than not say something along the lines of “will only promote weight loss if used as part of a calorie controlled diet.” So that £50 pot of miracle pills will make you slim, but only if you reduce your food intake and increase your exercise output – which in its simplest terms is all you need to do to lose weight.

And for anyone thinking about using Zyban to give up smoking, Zyban is actually the antidepressant Wellbrutin repackaged and remarketed as a smoking cessation drug. The following paragraph comes from GlaxoSmithKline’s own prescribing information which is freely available on the internet:

“Although Zyban is not indicated for treatment of depression, it contains the same active ingredient as the antidepressant medications Wellbrutin.”

And the document itself starts off with a pretty stark warning:

“Serious neuropsychiatric events, including but not limited to depression, suicidal ideation, suicide attempt and completed suicide have been reported in patients taking Zyban for smoking cessation.”

On the NHS Choices website, the side effects state that more than 1 in 100 people who take Zyban may have ‘depression, thoughts of committing suicide or attempted suicide.’

Wow! That’s pretty low odds. So the choice here is pretty stark – continue smoking and risk lung cancer, or take Zyban and risk suicide!

On another website advertising the drug, it states somewhere near the bottom that bupropion (the active ingredient in Zyban/Wellbrutin) ‘does not ‘make’ you stop smoking. You still need determination to succeed, and to break the smoking habit.’

And therein the head of the nail is well and truly bashed… to break any habit, whether smoking, chocolate, nail biting, picking your nose, you need to put in the effort, you need determination, you need self discipline. The minute you label any compulsive habit as an addiction and start looking for a quick fix pill, you are greatly reducing your belief in yourself to break what is really just a silly habit that for various reasons unknown to you (but in most cases known to me!) you are clinging to.

Even hypnotherapy will not work in the long term if you do not believe yourself that you can do it. Which is why, when I am working with people, I am spending more and more time concentrating on the reasons why they cannot break their habits, and giving them the psychological skills and strengths to break the habits themselves.

In other words, you develop resilience, tolerance, empowerment, you break negative thinking patterns and limiting belief systems – all skills which will help you to not only achieve your immediate goal of losing weight/stopping smoking, but more widely will also help you to truly thrive in your life.

CPI – The first step to really getting better

Any trauma or tragedy, whether from your recent past or indeed going back to childhood, can have a serious impact on your well being.

As a hypnotherapist I am used to seeing how much the frailty of mankind is often attributed to a single, or a number, of disturbing events that occur during one’s lifetime.

You only need to read about the experiences of some of the now pensionable victims of Jimmy Savile and his crew. An incident from their teen years, which may in itself have lasted a matter of minutes in reality, has by their own admission had a severe and lasting impact on their whole lives. Over the years they may have got on with their lives, often propped up by anti-depressants or other pharmaceutical interventions, but always there has been a nagging, shameful event that they have unsuccessfully kept at bay. Their relief in now being able to openly talk about, and thereby finally start to positively process their experience, is palpable.

At a recent IAPH and Thrive conference I had the great fortune to meet a wily and lively Irishman turned Essex boy called Paul Connolly. Paul is credited with developing the Boxercise fitness craze in the eighties, and being a personal trainer to a number of celebrities. He also wrote an autobiographical book entitled ‘Against All Odds’, detailing his childhood of abandonment (at two weeks old by some rubbish bins in Stepney Green), neglect and abuse at the hands of those that worked in the childrens’ home where he was living during his teenage years, St Leonards in Essex.

Despite an almost unbelievably horrific early start, this man has made an incredible success of his life – not specifically in financial terms, but rather he is happy and fulfilled and most importantly in a secure relationship with two children of his own – something he would never have even imagined during those early years.

Yet what is more significant is that of the eight boys who shared his dormitory during those St Leonards years, by their early 30s only two of them were still alive. The other six had all died, either dramatically and quickly by their own hand, or through years of self administered abuse of drink and drugs.

What is it that can make the lives of eight boys, all of whom went through similar circumstances, end with such tragedy, yet Paul is thriving?

Paul ultimately managed to process his experiences in a positive and helpful way. It did take him many years, and he was in danger of going down many a wrong path. But ultimately he was able to find a way of processing his experiences and integrating them into a positive perspective. In his own words – “I realised that, if I wanted my life to be good and meaningful, the only person to ensure that was me.”

The IAPH has developed a way of achieving such results in a much quicker way. This new method – Cognitive Processing and Integration (CPI) has been four years in the making and is a natural progression from its original Pure Hypno-analysis cousin. It is based on a far greater availability of research, making it professional, ethical and evidence based.

If you have recently undergone a traumatic and emotional event or upheaval – maybe a burglary, a physical attack, mugging or rape, if you have lost someone close to you and are having trouble dealing with the emotional fallout….

If you had had a major accident or illness, and may be healed physically but not mentally…

If you have had a particularly abusive childhood and have not ‘put it to bed’ yet…

If you find yourself suffering physical symptoms that seem to have no physiological causes – migraines, psoriasis, asthma, unexplained aches and pains, increasing levels of stress, anxiety and depression, increasing dependence on food, alcohol, cigarettes and other substances….

If you just feel that something about your life is not right, then CPI could play a crucial part in your future well-being, happiness, and more importantly your ability to move on with your life in a positive and meaningful way.

The first important thing to note is that NO hypnosis is involved. Rather CPI crucially provides a safe, non-judgemental and relaxed environment for the ‘un-burdening’ process.

Secondly, using Cognitive Free Association (CFA) you are encouraged to verbalise any thoughts, experiences, images, sounds, smells, memories with zero intervention on the part of the therapist.   There is NO analysis, NO interpretation of events, NO second guessing what might have happened. CFA will enable you to bring to light any previously unprocessed or badly processed experiences, and then re-process them in a positive and helpful way.

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, and the nature of the incident – whether it was a one off experience or a number of experiences taking place over several years – CPI can be carried out over a number of sessions, from a single session to maybe up to a dozen. This is significantly less than the years it can take in traditional therapy. It is non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical. And combining CPI with the powerful psychotherapeutic techniques of the Thrive programme to help change negative thinking styles and belief systems, then the opportunity to finally lead a truly happy and fulfilling life – free from the paralysing anxiety of your own negatively spiralling thoughts – is there for the taking.

Emetophobia – The Phobia of all Phobias!

Warning: If you suffer from emetophobia you may want to skip over the next paragraph as it may cause you undue stress. But do persist in reading to the end of this article – it may just make a huge difference to your future happiness!

Vomiting, being sick,  puking, chundering, spewing, throwing up, chucking up, heaving, gagging …

These are terms for vomiting that I pulled from the top of my head, though I am sure there are many more if I put the request for some out on Facebook. For most of us there is an almost comical element to the act of being sick. But, almost unbelievably, for about three million mainly, but by no means exclusively, women in the UK (so goodness knows how many worldwide) the mere mention of vomit would induce intensely negative reactions which were seriously life inhibiting.

Emetophobia – also known as a fear of vomiting – tends to be a secret phobia. Those who suffer tend not to tell anyone about it, normally out of anxiety or embarrassment. And it can also be probably the worse phobia you could possibly have. If you have a fear of flying, you can avoid travelling on a plane. If you have a fear of dogs, you simply don’t get a dog (and avoid Altinkum’s streets!)

But emetophobia seeps into every single area of your life. You avoid alcohol because the last thing you want is the churning stomach of a hangover. You are scrupulously clean and avoid anyone who may be sick, because the last thing you want to catch is any vomit inducing bug. You are sensitive to the slightest twinge and gurgle of your stomach, frantically worried that something may lead to you being sick. You avoid going to certain places or doing certain activities simply because you are afraid of being caught out in an unfamiliar place. You develop obsessive compulsive tendencies as this reassures you that you are doing your utmost to guarantee a vomit free environment. You may even be morbidly afraid of dying, and spiralling into depression because you are so convinced that the slightest retch is a sign of worse to come.

Emetophobia can even be masked by a myriad of other phobias – each endeavouring to enable you to maintain a high degree of control over your environment to avoid any situation that could make you sick.

The chances are that every single person who reads this article probably knows someone who suffers to a greater or lesser degree from emetophobia – they just don’t know it. Three million people in the UK alone is a significant number of people who are living severely limited lives purely and simply because they are not managing their thinking well.

And that is what it is all about – managing your thinking.

The good news is, that every phobia, no matter how severe, how debilitating, how well entrenched over the years, can be overcome simply by managing your thinking better. Just like building muscle tone, it takes time, it takes patience and practice. But once it all clicks into place the feeling of liberation and release is fantastic.

Deal with your reality effectively, and with minimum anxiety

This week’s blog is dedicated to my 97 year old grandmother. No, she’s not dead (yet, bless her) which is exactly why I am writing about this amazing lady. It also illustrates how the concepts of Thrive do not shield you from the reality of your situation, rather teaches you how to deal with those realities with minimum stress and anxiety.

My grandma, Denny Bailey, has just got back to her own home after a somewhat gruelling two months in hospital with a bout of pneumonia, followed by a perforated bowel. Her innate determination, fighting spirit, and hugely internal locus of control gave her the strength and courage to battle through the pain and indignity to make sure she got home.

Now, at 97 you would have thought that the fight may be too much for her frail and ageing body – the doctors would not operate on the perforated bowel because of her age. When it was diagnosed, we were all steeling ourselves for the inevitable.

But grandma wasn’t!

She knew she had a fight on her hands, but no way was she going to give up her ghost in a hospital. She wanted to be at home, sitting in her chair, and welcoming the spring once more.

Denny Bailey is what Thrive is all about. She has a deeply internal locus of control, she has very little social anxiety (anyone who can fart in polite company with such elegance and humour deserves immense respect), she has bags of self esteem – all of which shine through blue eyes which still sparkle to date with flirtatious joy.

The following extract is taken from a study by R.A.Emmons and M.E.McCullough called ‘Counting blessings versus Burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. (2003).

“A grateful response to life circumstances may be an adaptive psychological strategy and an important process by which people positively interpret everyday experiences. The ability to notice, appreciate, and savor the elements of one’s life has been viewed as a crucial determinant of well-being (Bryant, 1989; Janoff-Bulman & Berger, 2000; Langston, 1994). Frijda (1988) stated that ‘adaptation to satisfaction can be counteracted by constantly being aware of how fortunate one’s condition is and how it could have been otherwise, or was otherwise before….. enduring happiness seems possible, and can be understood theoretically”.

Now Denny is extremely aware of, and grateful for, the fact that she has enjoyed pretty rude and robust health all her life. But she has, all her life, carried herself with a sense of control and power over the direction of her life, despite her role as a non-driving stay at home housewife reliant on her husband. She has always demonstrated a steely determination, bordering on selfishness, which has carried her through many ups and downs over the years.

And it was with this determination that she understood that she had to put a lot of effort and work into getting herself strong enough again to get home. This was the reality of her situation, and no amount of sugar coating was going to change this. And in spite of the severe disappointment of several missed release dates (inconclusive last minute blood tests meant the docs wouldn’t commit to signing her off, despite her being well enough to skateboard down the corridors of the rehabilitation home) she finally made it last week – tired, weak and frail, but HOME!

If you want to find out how Thrive can help you cope better with the everyday up and down realities of life, check out www.thriveprogramme.org.