To P – a reply to a question re Anosmia, Hyperattention and MCS


I recently received an email from someone who had read my Anosmia blog (about loss of the ability to smell).  I wasn’t able to reply directly so hopefully P will tune back into this blog looking for an update.

He felt his problem was undiagnosed MCS – Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.

I don’t know if this view was based on negative results from medical testing or an internet based self-diagnosis, but in either case his wish was to turn off his obviously distressing hypersensitivity to smells.

Having given this some thought, I drafted up the following reply which I hope might be of help to P and anyone with similar problems…

“… I would be very dubious about trying to suppress or alter your sense of smell given its role in keeping you safe –  in new or unfamiliar environments, as well as in everyday life,  your ability to detect smells protects you from harmful chemicals,  fumes from petrol, leaking gas, car exhaust etc.
That said, I quite often work with people who are tormented by Tinnitus noise or optical floaters, both of which are currently incurable and which can distress people to the point of considering suicide.
Such individuals have developed a hypersensitivity to the symptoms of their problem  – creating a constant unconscious attentiveness, their minds always looking for the noise in the ears or the shadows in the eyes that then trigger off immediate fear/hate/anger/grief emotional responses.
In such cases I use hypnosis to reduce these stressful emotional responses, making symptoms less scary, hated and stressful.  As a result, the client becomes less and less angry or upset by them.
I help clients become more accepting and relaxed about their symptoms and thus less and less hyperattentive to the problem.  As a result they live with their symptoms, often going days or weeks without noticing them.
Treatment includes the use of post hypnotic suggestions such as, for Tinnitus… “…every day you will find that you are less and less aware of your problem…you find that you remember more and more all the  times you haven’t heard the sounds and you forget the times that you hear them.  In fact, you can choose to forget to remember those times you hear the sounds or maybe remember to forget when you hear them.  It’s your choice.  You decide”.
This deliberately confusing suggestion is decode by the subconscious and allows the hypersensitivity it has created to slowly ebb away.
In this way the client is given power over their problem and within 3 sessions or so I find that they are far less disturbed by their problem, if at all.
In your case P perhaps the suggestion should be along the lines of “…every day you will find the smells you once found overpowering don’t upset you quite as much as they used to.  You can still recognise a particular smell, know what it is, put a name to it, but the overpowering edge has gone from it.  It’s no longer overpowering.  It’s just like it used to be.  And every day you find you are less and less hypersensitive to smells…you find that you remember more  and more the times when smells have just seemed normal… like they always have…and you forget the times  you come across smells which are overpowering.   In fact, you can choose to either forget the times you encounter overpowering smells or choose to remember to forget them.  I don’t care.  It’s your choice.  You decide”.
 I hope this proves helpful to P and anyone else in his situation.
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A Different Approach to Sleep Problems


Having constructed quite a large page on my website (www.keithjeffordhypnotherapy.co.uk) about sleep issues, I thought that I had run out of things to say about the topic.  However, a couple of recent clients have reminded me that when it comes to the brain, there is no end to the ways in which we can bring rapid change to peoples lives.

The clients who drew this to my attention both suffered similar problems – a history of going to sleep and napping for 15 minutes or sometimes an hour and then waking up feeling fully refreshed and alert.  The rest of the night would be spent tossing and turning dreading how bad they would feel next day.  The day-times, needless to say, were spent dreading the coming bedtime and the strong fear that they wouldn’t sleep then either.  Both had good jobs which weren’t too stressful (by today’s standards!), had good childhoods and family situations and had experienced their problems for a decade or more.

They had done all the usual things recommended in books and one had had hypnosis, which had been successful for a while but had gradually been eroded by his bad old ways.

What caught my attention was that both clients “lived by the clock” and thus went to bed at exactly the same time each night (as recommended by the experts) and rose at the same time every morning.   When I enquired into this further, I found that they both became quite distressed if their “sleep” routine got disturbed – even going to the extreme of leaving parties and family events early so that they could get home by bedtime.  

On relflecting about what I could do to help these clients who seemed to have tried everything, it occured to me that their problem was not a lack of functionality (they could sleep well when ill or on holiday) but a very strong anxiety about not sleeping.

So I decided to categorise their lack of sleep as a symptom of what was really wrong with them and concentrate on dealing with the cause of  the problem – their hyper-anxiety about the consequences of losing a night’s sleep,

Having explained this to my clients individually, I then made them tailor-made mp3 recordings which addressed their own particular issues and made it clear that it might take a little while until normal sleep patterns returned  (because our first job was to make them care less and less  about not sleeping and then allowing normal sleep to return quite naturally). 

Client One, unfortunately, fell victim to his own anxiety to rid himself of this long term problem.  Having felt no change after two sessions, he decided to quit and look elsewhere for a solution.  

Client Two, however, persevered and by session 3 was reporting that although he still wasn’t sleeping any better, he felt much more relaxed about it and realised that in reality, he didn’t really feel that bad at losing sleep and that he was less anxious about it, even to the point of looking forward to going to bed.  By session 5 he reported that that he had achieved not only one, but  a number of consecutive nights sleep where he had slept deeply and continously.  Whereas he had previously been self-medicating with alcohol to try to make himself sleep, he had succeeded without it and without using the mp3 I had made him.  At that point we terminated treatment and agreed that if the problem should begin to return, he’d contact me for further reinforcement.

These cases taught me several lessons…

i)  In treating any emotional disorder, it is important to clearly separate the symptom from the cause of a problem.  In this, inability to sleep was not the problem but merely a symptom;  the real problem was an overwhelming anxiety around the whole issue of sleeping.  By treating the anxiety, sleep followed.

ii)  Both clients wanted hypnosis to provide a quick fix.  Client One was not willing to invest  time in seeing if he could reduce his levels of anxiety in order that he could sleep properly.  This is no criticism of the client;  I see it quite often in people who are so anxious to deal with a problem that their anxiety for a speedy fix means that they go from one treatment to another without ever giving something the time it needs to work.  It’s a bit like taking an antibiotic and expecting it to work in two doses instead of the fourteen or twenty one it requires to do its work.  In contrast to many other therapies, hypnotherapy is a quick fix, but change only happens at the speed that the subconscious mind will allow (see Who’d win a fight between the Subconscious and Conscious Mind?” later in this blog).   So in future, I need to spend more time enouraging anxious/time conscious clients to be kind to themselves and loosen their hold on time/speed and their anxiety for a quick fix/rapid change.

Just as being told “not to think about Pink Elephants” generates an immediate mental image of pink elephants, so insisting that sleep will happen at exactly 11pm will result in sleep not happening at 11pm or maybe not at all.   By not caring about going to sleep and allowing it to naturally occur (perhaps with the help of a relaxation or hypnosis recording), the natural order of things is reinstated and sleep becomes an enjoyable and relaxing part of the day again, just as it was in childhood.   (As an interesting aside, both clients slipped easily into hypnosis…a natural sleep state!).

iii)  Finally, this experience reinforced the view that “letting go” is the hardest part of therapy for both client and therapist.  Letting go of a fear or phobia, an anxiety or a mistaken belief can immediately remove a problem.  As long as the subconscious mind has decided that whatever it fears or feels frustrated about not receiving is no longer important – that it is no longer a serious threat or a vital need – then it will change its response from one of anxiety and stress and fear to become accepting and relaxed and happy.  Fear of flying becomes relaxed about flying.  Believing one is unlovable and thus  rejecting anyone who tries to offer love,  becomes accepting that it is possible to be loved and to thus accept love when it is offered.  And, of course, anxiety about sleeping becomes the ultimate “letting go”, to enter into restful, peaceful relaxation and deep, fulfilling sleep. 

We should all have one of these….


This is a great idea.  If only we could get it miniaturised and slide it into our hippocampus and wire it up to our limbic system.  Bingo!  Instant sunshine every day…

http://www.psfk.com/2012/10/happiness-machine-internet-printer.html

How being a Perfectionist can damage your life


I attended a course last weekend which started me thinking about how much we all damage ourselves and our quality of life by indulging in Perfectionism.   We often think of Perfectionists as having some form of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) where all can labels in the cupboards have to face forward and the cans and bottles have to be ranked in size order and by colour and content.

Most of us have some element of the Perfectionist within us – liking a tidy home or desk or having a regular place to put the kitchen scissors.  This type of behaviour helps us have more efficient and pleasant lives and avoids wasting hours of effort trying to find a roll of Cellotape.

However, our Perfectionism can become a problem when we start to apply it to ourselves and how we feel the world should treat us.  For instance, when the mechanism of the subconscious (which builds our map of the world and the everyday rules for living), starts to create rules which build an unrealistic expectation about the world around us and the way it should (must) treat us.

If we aren’t careful, we can begin to construct unrealistic rules for ourselves and then try to live by them, expecting the world to treat us well in return.  Examples of these beliefs could be  “I should never turn down the chance of doing something” or  “It must be 100% right.  Not even a tiny error is acceptable” or “My employer must always treat me well because I am a such a good worker and he really values my contribution”.

The result of creating these types of rule is that you put a massive amount of pressure on yourself and those around you to deliver something which is, in reality, unachievable.

“I should never turn down the chance of doing something” means that instead of having a varied and interesting life you are manically running/driving from one event to another.  Getting up early to get somewhere; leaving that event early to get somewhere else; frantically changing clothes for the next activity;  driving furiously to get somewhere else; always looking at the clock, cursing buses, trains and planes for being late; fretting and agitated in traffic jams; dragging friends and family around behind you in a frantic hurry to get somewhere and do something else rather than the thing you are actually doing!

Many people also apply this same “never turn anything down” rule to their work lives by never turning down a job or a project.  Clients tell me “it’s because they know I’m the only one who can  do it,”  “It’s my area of expertise”, “no one else can meet that kind of deadline”.  What they are really telling me is that their employer is exploiting their mistaken belief.  The Manager handing out the work probably thinks that my client is a mug for taking on more and more work; that they don’t really care what happens to one of their team when they eventually break down.  That as long as the job gets done and the Manager looks good, they’ll keep on piling on the work.  If it all goes wrong, they can blame the overworked and Perfectionist who has moved heaven and earth to make sure that they deliver a 100% perfect job.

The self-delusion that one is valued at work and that a company cares still runs deep in the veins of many employees, despite the evidence in front of them every day.  They will tolerate bullying, abuse and overwork because they fear the effort of finding a new job and lack the confidence to rise to the challenge of being given tasks without the right training, timescale or resources.  The chances are that if your boss never has to say “do it or I’ll find someone else who will” when loading another massive burden on your already overburdened back, then it’s YOU who’s the one taking on the work others have already said is impossible to do in the time/for the money/without more resource etc!

Another corrosive belief is that “it must be 100% right, otherwise the rest of what I’ve done is useless and worthless and I am a useless and worthless person who doesn’t deserve thanks or praise”.   No amount of praise can be meaningful to his kind of Perfectionist.  It rolls off them as their subconscious mind rejects what it sees as hollow words from people who  “just don’t know how much better the result could have been if only I could have done a better job”.  This creates in the Perfectionist a deep well of frustration and dissatisfaction with everything in their lives.  They feel bad all the time.  They might turn to drink, drugs, sex or food for comfort in order to achieve that elusive feeling of control over their lives. They might begin to blame others for their lack of perceived achievement, or break up relationships or just work harder and harder until they eventually break down.

The payback which comes from all this manic behaviour is often the firm belief that “My employer must always treat me well because I am a such a good worker and he values my contribution so much”.  Perfectionists believe this of their families too “because I work until 2am every night cleaning the kitchen the family must love me more and show me their appreciation”.

But because everyone views the Perfectionist as neurotic and unreasonable, they don’t value that person more.  In fact, they probably value them less than they would if they just worked 9-5 in the office and spent their time enjoying relaxation with the family playing games and doing trivial things.

As I’m always telling my clients, it’s OK to want to do things to the best of your abilities, but only within the context of the time, energy and other commitments that you have.

If you find yourself under constant pressure, ask yourself why.  What are the beliefs which are driving you to be under that pressure?  What makes the rules you’ve created for yourself true?  What less pressing rules could you create?  Are the rules you are currently living your life to actually out of date – were they right for when you were younger but are they appropriate to life as it is now?

Try writing down the rules which trouble you most and think about them.  How much do they ruin your life?  What would happen if you didn’t obey them?  What would you lose  AND, more importantly, what would you gain?

Why not take a look at the Perfectionist in your own life, and see how your own work and home life could be improved?

AN INSPIRING & THOUGHT PROVOKING MOVIE


I watched a tremendous film called Temple Grandin last night on Sky.  It takes us into the world of someone with autism and the extraordinary talents they have.  Instead of the usual Hollywood slush it has a really uplifting hard-edged narrative taking us through her life and her remarkable achievements.  Wikipedia says about her…

Temple Grandin (born August 29, 1947) is an American doctor of animal science and professor at Colorado State University, bestselling author, and consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior. As a person with high-functioning autism, Grandin is also noted for her work in autism advocacy and is the inventor of the squeeze machine designed to calm hypersensitive people.

Grandin is listed in the 2010 Time 100 list of the 100 most influential people in the world in the category “Heroes”.[1]

Look up the film. A very rewarding couple of hours.

Happy Stress Awareness Day


Yes, today is National Stress Awareness Day!

So to do it justice here are my top ten tips for reducing stress in your life:-

1.   Forgive Yourself – Some people spend their lives beating themselves up for things they should have done or things they shouldn’t have said.  The past has happened.  That’s done business.  To mark your act of self-forgiveness, why not do some selfless act of good for someone else, as a kind of penance. While you’re doing it, concentrate on truly letting go of the emotions which you’ve been carrying around for so long.  Visualise them just sliding away down the side of a very steep mountain, getting smaller and smaller until they are out of sight.  Or tie them to a big helium balloon in your mind and watch them drift off and over the horizon.  Feel the weight of anxiety and stress lifting from your shoulders as you forgive yourself forever.

2.  Forgive Others – As well as forgiving ourselves, we also release stress and anxiety by forgiving others.  Perhaps it’s something they’ve said or done, or not said or done.  Perhaps you can’t forgive someone for not being the person you wanted them to be – a mother who found it impossible to be the caring loving person you wanted her to be, a bullying employer who wasn’t democratic leader who listened to the wise counsel of others.  All these hurts are like thorns in your side, they have no impact on anyone but you and the more you focus on them the more power they have over you.  But you can  break their power by giving forgiveness to the person who hurt you.  Sit with your eyes closed for  a while and image that person tied to a chair, bound and gagged and helpless.  Then march up and down in front of them telling them how they hurt you, how what they did affected your life; really lay into them so that they are in no doubt about how much you loathe what they did.  Look into their eyes and see how they react.  You might even remove the gag and let them answer for themselves.  Hear their excuses.  Maybe their apology.  And then…. FORGIVE them for what they have done.  Because your forgiveness will remove all the power of the hurt they inflicted on you.  Forgiveness renders them and the hurt powerless.  It’s like releasing a massive clamp around your heart and your head;  to forgive is to let go. And with that letting go comes peace of mind and freedom from hurt and the anxiety and stress it causes.

3.  Value Friends –  we are all so busy that we often don’t value the support and security we gain from true friendship.  True friends share our anxiety and stress, taking some of the load and helping us keep perspective.  So take time to show your true friends how much you appreciate them – a small gift or a funny email with a YouTube link can make a friend’s day and remind you of how precious they are to you.

4.   Be in the Now – We get stressed and anxious because we are all trying to do too much in one day.  We might think we are taking time for ourselves at the gym but how often are we looking at the clock and thinking about what we’re going to be doing next?  We are somewhere else, not enjoying the rhythm of feet pounding or the movement of breath through our lungs or feeling our muscles being stretched.  Being In the Now is simple and highly effective.  Just stop and be aware of where you are, how you’re feeling, all the sensations in your body, the sounds, smells, colours and textures around you. Give it a try; you’ll find yourself feeling calmer, more relaxed and more in touch with the real things in life.

5.   Slow your Thoughts – When you’re stressed and anxious, your thoughts speed up.  And the more stressed you get, the more they accelerate.  So, as soon as you find yourself thinking fast, close your eyes and imagine your words running across a computer screen.  See how fast they are running.  Often, it’s a single phrase that’s going round and round.  Now try slowing the words down.  Make them run at half speed; then at quarter speed; then have them appear a word at a time filling the screen; and then have them appear at five second intervals, one at a time.  Maybe even a letter at a time. And then just enjoy the feeling of control and absence of anxiety and stress which comes with the slowing down.  When you open your eyes you will feel calmer, more relaxed and reinvigorated.

6.   Only do What’s Necessary –  Many of us have high expectations of ourselves.  Often much higher than we would have of other people.  We drive ourselves to clear our To Do lists each day, whether it has 10 jobs on it or 100.  We’ll get in early, work through lunch and work late to clear it.  And when arrive at work in the morning, we’ll have yet another long list of things to do.   So we get increasingly anxious and stressed as the days go by and more and more exhausted and less and less effective.  As an alternative strategy, why not try prioritising the five most important things to do today.  And do them. Then see how much of the day is left and tackle the most urgent of the remaining tasks.  And leaving the rest until the morning.  Strangely, rather than having things build up, you’ll find that the five urgent task are done more quickly than you anticipated.  And that you clear more of the secondary tasks by going home time than you thought you would.  And that the overspill until tomorrow clears faster than you expected.  You might even find yourself with time on your hands as the days go by.  All because you are working in a more focussed way on what needs to be done NOW and have more energy left over to tackle what’s left, more efficiently and with more concentration.

7.  Stop Rehearsing –    Anxiety comes from over-concentration on preparation for action.  From the piling of one piece of preparation onto another, over and over again in the course of the day.  Many people find that this constant rehearsal becomes such a habit that they’ve had a day’s worth of meetings before they step out of the shower in the morning!  Think about what needs to be done, prepare notes and imagine how the meeting might go, sort out any additional things you might want to take to the meeting, and then let it go. Stop rehearsing.  You’ve done enough.  Reward yourself by…

8. Take a Holiday on the Train –  this is an easy an effective stress-buster.  Find somewhere you can be undisturbed for five to ten minutes.  You can do it sitting on a train or in a coffee shop.  Turn off your mobile.  Close your eyes and let all the tension drain out of your neck and shoulders.  Move up through your body, starting at the tips of your toes and then moving upwards, relaxing every muscle and tendon bit by bit – toes, feet, lower legs, knees, thighs etc. right up to the top of your head and down over your face to the tip of your chin.   This should take a minute or so.  Then, keeping this feeling of relaxation,  decide on a place you’d like to go.  Somewhere you’d feel relaxed and safe and could have fun for a while.  A favourite holiday destination would be good.  Then feel yourself drifting up from your seat, moving up towards the nearest window, through it and up into the sky.  Imagine yourself travelling across roof tops and fields towards your destination.  Really feel yourself travelling, feeling confident and happy and excited about your trip.  See your destination coming into view below you and slowly descend to a place you know really well.  You are now in a place where time has no meaning.  Clocks don’t exist.  A minute in real-time could be a day, a week, a month or a year in this special time.  So now, just go and enjoy yourself. Have adventures, visit places and people.  Enjoy the sun.  Swim.  Do whatever you want for however long you want to.  And when it’s time to come back you’ll know.  Just return to the spot you landed.  Drift up and travel back, right back to the window, through the window and into your seat.  Cares and anxieties will just drop away as you open your eyes to continue your day.

9.  Be Kind To Yourself – in what you eat, what you think about yourself, how you dress and how you occupy the space around you.  You are unique.  The only one.  Love and respect yourself and others will too.

10.  Avoid Quick Fixes –  nicotine addiction depresses your natural mood.  It means you must have a cigarette to get you back up to where you would have been anyway; alcohol depresses you – you might feel good when drunk but depressed when you’re sober – alcoholics need a drink to get them back up to where they would have been without the drink;   cream cakes taste good for the moment they’re in your mouth and then they make you feel bad – and then you want another cream cake to make you feel better about feeling bad.  Result – anxiety and stress.  Because you can’t cope without the quick fix.  Avoid the fix, avoid the stress!

Happy Stress Awareness Day….

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.