Explaining the mechanism behind hypnosis

Almost everyone can be hypnotised if they want to be. And it can be a very fast process. I used to take up to twenty minutes to take someone into a trance, I now do it in 2-3 minutes and then just deepen it to the level I want.

Some recent research reported in New Scientist…


… demonstrates how a subject can go into an instant state of hypnosis and then identifies the parts of the brain responsible for inducing and maintaining this state.

The article sadly makes no mention of how much training was needed to achieve this – presumably because the main point of focus for the research was the identification of the areas of the brain which are switched and those which are switched off during hypnosis.

Th findings of this work reinforce my own view that hypnosis is more a meditative state than a sleep state and that as long as the subject wants to hold it, they can continue to function in daily life.

It is important to understand that they are not Zombies or acting wierdly, but just choosing to remove themselves from distractions and emotional involvement in the present, so that they can focus on the task in hand.

Take a look at the link and let me know what you think

PSTEC – A powerful form of therapy

I am an Advanced Practioner in a therapy called PSTEC and am often contacted by people who find me on the PSTEC Register wanting to know more “from the horses’ mouth” as it were. So, here’s my take on it. Apologies to Tim Phizackerley who created this wonderful therapeutic tool for any misrepresentations I might appear to be making to the purist view of how PSTEC works and how it should be used. These comments are based on my own experience and my own way of working.

OK, PSTEC stands for Percussive Suggestion Technique. It has been around for a couple of years now and marks a real advance in tapping therapy technique.
Without going into tedious detail, tapping therapy came into public view with the growth of EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique. This is a therapy whereby repeating a mantra such as “Even though I eat like a pig, I still completely love and respect myself” whilst tapping a number of acupunture points around the face, neck, chest and hand areas, helps the mind to process negative thoughts and feelings. This in turn leads to the elimination of negative self beliefs and behaviours and leads to a change in behaviour (in the case of the example above, a change in eating habits to a more healthy and controlled attitude towards food and eating). EFT works, I’ve proved that on myself, but I have never been happy with the acupuncture pressure point explanation. Although medical science reconises that these points exist and that they can be stimulate through use of needles, the idea that tapping “roughly in the area” a dozen times or so three times a day can bring about change has always bothered me. It seems to be imprecise and haphazard, even though I know it works!

PSTEC also uses tapping, but combines it with a number of other very effective therapeutic techiques, to form a treatment session which lasts c.13 minutes.

It involves the client tapping right or left hands,or both, on a hard surface as instructed by a recording made by Tim. Its cleverness comes in the way in which the recording is constructed. The client responds to tones representing left, right and both hands. So their mind is busy trying to remember which tone represents which hand. At the same time they are instructed to recall the event/emotion which is causing them distress and to keep that event/emotion strongly in mind as they follow the tones. On top of this, they listen to Tim speaking very quickly, using a combination of Ericksonian confusional language, NLP reframing, CBT-style logic language and a host of other things designed to bombard the mind with ideas and concepts which alter the mind set of the client, their perception of their problem and emotional response to it.  All the while  they are also trying to remember which hand is represented by which tone and trying to follow the tapping patterns of the random and rapidly changing tones. If this sounds exhausting, it is! After 13 minutes, a client begins to feel fatigued and is only too glad to stop.  We might do two or three rounds of tapping, taking a new score at the end of each round, before using hypnosis to reinforce the gains made during the session.

The remarkable thing is, that it we score the anxiety/fear caused by the thought of driving a car again after a serious accident at 10 out 10 (zero = not at all worried about driving; 10 = too terrified to get back in the driving seat), after one 13 minute round, the fear will often have dropped to perhaps 7. After another round it might have dropped further to 4. And these changes are more or less permanent.

PSTEC works because the client’s mind has processed their negative thoughts and emotions and released feelings of fear/anxiety/anger etc, during the struggle to follow the instructions on the CD.  Tim generously allows anyone to download this great therapy to try it for themselves.  You can find it at http://www.pstec.org.
Whilst working alone, without a therapist, can work for a number of people, the calls I receive tend to be from people who’ve tried it on themselves and for whom it hasn’t worked. They understandably want to know what they are doing wrong.
The answer can take a number of forms – some are just being too impatient and not using it enough times or with enough frequency or enough energy to deal with their issues thoroughly. Others have not correctly identified the issues or the emotions which need to be dealt with (sometimes people are just too scared to approach the real deep underlying emotional problem and so focus on one they feel more able face. As a result, of course, the therapy doesn’t do what they want it to). Others just don’t want to lose their problem; they are identified by it; they get secondary gains from it – agoraphobia is an illness which stops sufferers from going out, socialising, visit friends and relations. It’s a horrible and suffocating problem. But for some, it also carries  the secondary, subconscious gains of not having to struggle to earn a living, deal with difficult people, deal with difficult situations. They are not CONSCIOUSLY doing this, It is simply their unconscious mind trying to protect the individual from harm or further stress. So it won’t let go of it without additional stimulus.
As a result, I usually recommend that people who have not been successful with PSTEC on their own find a local practitioner who can use PSTEC plus other therapeutic interventions in combination.]

With my own clients, I use PSTEC for anyone suffering from stress or trauma. But before we begin, we examine the causes and effects of the emotions and thoughts created by the trauma, sort through the mental debris left by the event and isolate the most powerful feelings. Often, these are not the one’s the client presented with at the beginning. Fear might become anger during discussion. Or anger might become regret. By identifying and dealing with the right emotion, PSTEC is a powerful weapon in the therapist’s armoury.
In three years, I’ve never had a negative reaction to it (though sometime I’ve had a reaction I didn’t expect!), and every time it has helped a client to lower their levels of anxiety, fear, anger, or whatever their life is being dominated by.

Low Self Esteem

It staggers me how many people suffer from low self-esteem as a result of teasing by schoolmates, family or friends about their weight, perceived physical defects (which are in reality minute or non-existent), their looks or their intelligence.  These throwaway comments, often made in the heat of the moment, will have been forgotten a week later by the perpetrator but are revisited over and over again by the victim for years and years afterwards, shaping and distorting their view of themselves and the way they live their lives.

As adults we often forget just how fragile the evolving ego of a child is.  Particularly in their early teens when they are beginning to individuate themselves – trying to find out who they are what they are capable of doing and imagining what they might be in the future.  A careless word, a running joke in the family, a critical response to a failure – anything in fact which  a child might take as marking them out as different or deficient -can go straight to the heart of their view of the world and themselves, causing a lifetime of damage.

That’s not to say that we should never say negative things to children – telling them when they are doing wrong, making the wrong decision, how they might do something better etc.  They need to be helped to understand why something is wrong or how something can be improved in order for them to grow in life.  The criticism, however,  should be focussed on the work, the decision, the effort NOT on the child.  They are not stupid because they got it wrong, unloveable because they upset their sister, ugly because the are struggling with their weight.  What they need is kind, loving guidance which will help them to grow as people and to regard themselves as useful, constructive, independent adults who have earned and deserve their rightful place in the world.

Food for Thought

I saw this YouTube clip over the weekend.  Wearing my cynical ex-ad man hat, I though it was a very nicely produced schmaltzy film pleading for understanding of US troops written from the point of view of their loved ones and ignoring the fact that to many of the people of the country’s they are currently engage in, they have the appearance of intimidating, threatening robocops.

However, on reflection, isn’t the message of this film just about what we all truly want for ourselves and from our families?



Letting Go

I suspect that one of the recurring themes of this Blog will be the idea of Letting Go.

When we have fears or phobias, we have to learn to let go of the phobic reaction and replace it with a new response.  Without letting go, we can’t create the space for the new learning to take place.

The same with eating and sleep disorders, we need to let go of the emotions which drive us to eat innapropriately or which wake us up at 4 o’clock in the morning.

Being in control of everything in our lives is impossible.  Yet still we can’t let go of the desire to put things in order, keep painting, mowing, mending, tidying, watching everything everyone else is doing, keeping pace with fashions, trying to do our jobs 110% right, hanging onto old wrongs and regrets, reliving painful memories.   We simply don’t know how to loosen the reins; give ourselves a bit of slack.  Stop the world from spinning us around so fast.

Yet meditation, self-hypnosis, mindfulness and yoga are all about learning how to let go.  To slip away from the world or to see the world as it truly is.  To let the mind stop churning and to give it space.  These practices don’t solve problems; they don’t make bad things go away.  All they do is give us a space in which we can let go of them all for a while.  To stop hugging them to us like so many toxic teddy bears.

Agoraphobics have to learn to sit on buses and planes and let go.  They must trust the driver and the pilot to get them to their destination safely.  Those who have been abused as children need to be helped to resolve emotions which have haunted them for so many years and to let them go.  To create the space into which new, positive feelings and emotions can flood.

For many with emotional problems, letting go is so hard to do.  What’s going to replace the fears and the anxieties?  Is it possible to live without them?  How should one feel when they’re gone?   What if their departure leaves even worse feelings behind?  What am I going to be like when they’ve gone – after all, I am my illness.  What else can I be?

Yet when all’s said and done, when those with problems learn how to shed their painful load, they are suprised at how quickly and how delightfully the space is taken up with new ideas, new people, new interests and new perspectives of empathy and positive power.

It’s amazing how many of life’s true achievers, the people who light up a room with happiness and optimism when they walk into it, have trodden the path of Letting Go.


I have developed a bit of a passion for working with sufferers from agoraphobia (a fear of being away from home/travelling/strange places).

It is a general principle that such people are often mentally very strong, intelligent, creative people who find it difficult to say “No” or who have been put into positions where they are under continuous stress and pressure, day in, day out.

They often want to please people and don’t want to let them down. They’ll often go the extra mile in their work and in their relationships with people. As a result, they can find themselves trapped in situations from which less determined people would walk away.

But because of their mental strength and determination to get through, to not back down, to deliver what they’ve undertaken to do, they find themselves becoming more and more exhausted until they finally have a breakdown through nervous exhaustion or come very close to the edge.

At some point in this process they might start to experience panic attacks, exacerbated by tiredness, stress, too much coffee/Red Bull etc. These add to stress and so a repetitive cycle begins to build,  creating a desire for avoidance of panic/stress inducing stimulus.  The client might find working from home less stressful than travelling to work; or they might try to minimise the amount of stressful travel undertaken. They might also notice that they feel sad when they leave home to go to work or anxious when away (properly known as separation anxiety). And so, they try to minimise their time out of the house or away from close family (wife/husband/partner). Their partner might also start travelling with them “to help”.

Without realising it, the agoraphobic is beginning to draw a mental circle – inside this circle they can move safely without stress; outside they become anxious and liable to panic attacks. They may live in London and have travelled the world in their work, but suddenly France becomes too far away from comfort, then anywhere outside the M25 corridor, then the top of the road, then their front gate and the back garden.

By the time they reach my door, they have usually had a psychiatric assessment, might be in touch with their local NHS Mental Health Unit, be on RSSI’s for depression or beta blockers for anxiety. They might have also had REBT/CBT therapy, again via the NHS, with little success.

I have to make it clear that hypnotherapy is no quick cure for their problem. By the time someone contacts me, they have usually had agoraphobia for a few years and it is quite deeply engrained. Usually I conduct home visits until they are able to visit my consulting room.

But such is the willpower of the sufferers, that they will gladly use the CD’s I tailor-make for them, do the silly exercises they are given and push themselves to take just one more step in a short walk to the front gate and beyond to aid their recovery.

Agoraphobia will rarely disappear completely, but these intelligent and resourceful individuals learn how take the best of what they are taught and  use the most appopriate parts to rebuild their lives so that they can once again travel and  function and feel comfortable and safe when away from home.

Working in this area has brought me to have a greater respect for the unconscious mind.

It can put up with an aweful lot of abuse, until it is brought nearly to the edge of breakdown or beyond, and then it rebels.

It creates fears and phobias which become defence mechanisms to prevent the body and mind being driven any further to the brink. Agoraphobia is just one such thing, but a fear of bridges might be just as effective in preventing someone doing a lot travelling, or a fear of public toilets, or people wearing uniforms. The list is endless.

But the unconscious mind is just so ingenious that it can create fears which it feels are best suited to that individual and their own circumstances. They feel the fear which will best protect them, despite themselves, and the fear will only abate when the unconscious is convinced that it can once again trust the conscious mind to take more care and be more sensitive to the needs and safety of the whole organism.