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?

Painkiller Headaches & Hypnosis


This week has seen media coverage of a problem affecting up to 1m people in the UK who are suffering from “completely preventable” severe headaches caused by taking too many pain killers.

“Medication Overdose Headaches” have been brought to public attention by the latest NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) Guidelines on the topic.

It may surprise readers to learn that no one knows exactly how painkillers work or how it affects the brain in the treatment of headaches.

The new NICE Guideline to GPs is that patients suffering from MOH be advised to stop taking painkillers immediately, despite the fact that they run the risk of suffering potentially agonising pain as the headaches continue without the benefit of analgesia.  Having been through this period of withdrawal, symptoms are expected to gradually improve if not disappear altogether.

Dr Massio Riccio, a leading addiction specialist at the Priory Clinic in Roehampton is quoted by the BBC News website as saying that “those trying to kick a serious codeine habit may suffer symptoms not dissimilar to someone weaning themselves off a class A drug.  You may well experience increased perspiration, cold sweats, stomach cramps, a runny nose, and generally feel unwell.  Psychologically you may feel more irritable and may not sleep well”.

If YOU think that you might be affected by the problem of MOH then the first thing to do is to consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

If you are advised to stop taking painkillers with immediate effect and suffer painful withdrawals symptoms, you might consider consulting a hypnotherapist.

Hypnotherapy can help in a number of ways:-

  • For Tension headaches, it can help you relax and release the tension which is creating the pain.  It can also be used to help you deal with the source of the anxiety causing the tension and thereby help provide a long term solution to the problem.
  • Migraine can also be helped by hypnosis.  In addition to release tension caused by an attack it can also help reduce the fear of future attacks and help you deal with the severity of the current  symptoms,  including the nausea and sensitivity to light and sound which accompanies it.  It can also help you deal with the stressful things which might bring on an attack and teach you ways of protecting yourself from frequent re-occurrence.
  • For those suffering from Cluster headaches (causing swelling around the eyes – making them red and watery – together with  severe pain around the eyes and sides of the face)  it can help reduce the stress of the attacks and the sensitivity to the pain it produces.

For all kinds of headache conditions I always teach a variety of pain control techniques and self-hypnosis to help put the client more in control of their own particular set of triggers and symptoms.

If you’d like to know more about how hypnotherapy can help you, please refer to my website at wwww.keithjeffordhypnotherapy.co.uk

Are you suffering from Burnout? Try this quiz…


There seems to be a worrying increase in the number of clients who visit me with all the symptoms of what used to be called “executive stress,” but is now more accurately described as  burnout.

To find out how well you are coping with the pressures of life, try answering the questions at the foot of this blog, giving yourself a score ranging from 0 for “Not At All” up to 5 for “All The Time”.

If your score is 0-30 then you are one of the lucky ones who enjoy their work and are able to cope with the pressures of life.  However, before you get too smug, just look at any of the questions which scored 4 or 5 and think about how you could improve things for yourself.

If you scored 31-55 then you need to start looking after yourself.  Think about how you might change what’s happening.  You are very rarely without the power to effect change, you just need to find the right levers to pull.  If you really do feel helpless, then it’s time to seriously consider a change of job, career or circumstances.

If you scored 55+ then you are definitely at risk.  Now is the time to do something about it.  Take back some of the time the company is stealing from you.  Don’t get in quite so early.  Take a lunch break, even if it’s only half an hour.  Leave a bit earlier every day.  Make it a rule to only work a set number of hours at the weekend – and then only if you really have to.  Weekends should be for you, not your employer.  If you don’t make changes, then you are running the risk of burnout.

I always explain the process of burnout to my clients in terms of our personal energy being like petrol and diesel oil.

Our everyday energy is like petrol; it is lighter, more easily consumed but is easier to regenerate with a good night’s sleep.  It’s what nature provides to keep us fit and healthy, both physically and emotionally.

By contrast, the heavier energy is thick and oily, like diesel.  It is the energy which we need to dip into at times of prolonged stress and difficulty.  It burns more slowly and we have deep reserves but it is replaced only very slowly.  So working longer hours than are sensible, worrying and fretting continuously, feeling frustrated and trapped leads eventually to this heavy energy becoming exhausted, creating a feeling of being unable to cope with anything at all.  At this point the brain goes into a self-defence mode which creates a state of exhausted torpor.  I experienced this years ago and for a week couldn’t make the decision between wanting a cheese or a ham sandwich for lunch.  I was physically too tired to even think about it.  I just wanted to sit and either cry or sleep.  After a week or so my heavy energy began to reassert itself and my brain began to come back on-line, but for weeks afterwards it was very difficult to do more than just go through the motions of daily life while my body continued to replenish my energy store and restore my normal vitality.

If you wonder if you are close to burnout, then perhaps this questionnaire will help you take an objective view of life….

Do you find yourself feeling increasingly tearful or sorry for yourself?
Do you have repetitive negative thoughts  running through your head, especially relating to your job?
Are you increasingly impatient with the people you work with?
Do even trivial problems become huge ones in your mind?
Do you feel that you are doing other people’s work for them and that you can’t take on any more?
Are you feeling trapped by the need to earn money but not being able to find another job?
Do you feel bullied by senior staff or that you are given unachievable targets/tasks?
Do you dream of getting a new job or a new career with less hassle and stress?
Do you work evenings and weekends to the detriment of your family & friends, and yourself?
Do you feel unfilled by your work?
Are you  frustrated your job and the management structure around it?
Are you angry at having to take short cuts or having too little time to do a thorough job?
Do you find that you are too busy dealing with today to plan properly for tomorrow?
Do you find that you sleep poorly and/or have stress dreams (eg. trying to find your way to a meeting through a maze of corridors, wearing only a bathrobe to work, being anxious to get somewhere but being frustrated at every turn etc)?
 Do you feel totally exhausted at the end of each day?

If you’re looking for a hypnotherapist, check this out…


I recently received the following enquiry from a prospective client which I though my readers might find of interest…

I found your website through Google. Although I work away I am at home most weekends. I am considering hypnosis to help me get over a difficult emotional time. I have been advised by my GP to check any therapists credentials thoroughly. I hope you don’t think this rude in any way. Can you let me know which organisation you trained in for your CTB/REBT, NLP, EMT and counselling. Do you have insurance and how long you have been a therapist. Do you offer Friday evening or weekend appointments and how much per session. Many thanks Sue

I hope that my reply might help those considering hypnotherapy but are unsure how to find  a properly trained and qualified therapist…

Hi Sue,
Many thanks for contacting me with your questions.  No, I don’t think they’re rude at all, they are very sensible and I wish that more people would ask questions of their therapists!!
Because your questions are so fundamental to finding a good therapist this reply is probably more fulsome than you might have expected.   I plan to add the information below to my blog as a guide to others looking for help, so you might as well have the benefit of a sneak preview of the content…
So, to answer your questions:-
a)  Your GP’s recommendation to check out credentials comes from the fact that the term Hypnotherapist, is as yet, an unprotected title.  In other words, ludicrous as it might seem, anyone – trained or not – can set themselves up as a hypnotherapist. This appalling situation is an historic anomaly which is being addressed by the profession and regulatory bodies right now.  However, for now, caveat emptor is the byword in choosing a hypnotherapist.
b)  I received my training at the Institute of Clinical Hypnosis (www.ichynposis.co.uk) in London. It might  be useful for you to take a look at their website and click on the Courses tab where you can read details of all the elements of training which I received.  I consider the training I received to have been not only thoroughly enjoyable but also very comprehensive.  Since completing my training and going into practice, I have never found myself at a loss as to what to do with a client and I have (modestly!) a very high success rate.
In addition, and as part of my membership of this and other professional organisations, I  undertake annual Continual Professional Development training.  This usually takes the form of weekends training in a particular technique or aspect of therapy.  So far my CPD has covered advanced elements of therapy such as Eye Movement Therapy, Weight Loss strategies, Advanced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Use of Metaphors in Hypnosis, Current and Past Life regression analysis,  Deep States Training plus others.   I also undertake a set amount of reading of technical papers/instructional books etc each year and attend quarterly meetings of the Association of the ICH where we attend lectures and brief training sessions on a wide range of topics. I also attend a number of ad hoc  events during the year such as Professor Windy Dryden’s recent revival of the 1930’s tradition of doing 45 minute CBT therapy sessions in front of an invited audience and the Royal Society of Medicine Hypnotherapy Section’s meeting on Pain Control.
These activities allow me to meet and network not just with hypnotherapists but also with therapists from many other disciplines and thus create a support network of people who have particular and very specialist knowledge which I regularly tap into for ideas and advice.
c)  I am a Registered Practitioner with the General Hypnotherapy Register (one of the largest registers of reputable hypnotherapists in the UK) and the CNHC (Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council), a government and NHS sponsored organisation which registers practitioners with recognised qualifications and experience.  CNHC registered practitioners are preferred suppliers to the NHS (take a look at their website for more info).   You can look me up on the register of both organisation too!
I would advise you to avoid anyone who has trained online.  The essence of successful hypnotherapy is not just about knowing facts but in the practice and the advice and support of tutors/supervisors.  It  requires the development and practice of “bedside manner” skills and empathy, and tuning of techniques, which simply can’t be learned over the internet IMHO.
c)   Yes, I am insured through Towergate Insurance who seem to handle a lot of the professional indemnity insurance for hypnotherapists.
d)  I have been qualified since July 2008 and immediately started practice.  I work full time from a purpose built therapy room in the Havering area.
e)  I offer weekday & evening appointments starting at 9.30am and starting the last appointment at 7.00pm.  I do Saturday’s from 9.30 to midday.  I can also do Sundays by exception.
f)  I charge £60 per session which includes the cost of a CD given at the end of the first session, any tailor-made CD’s provided thereafter and any advice packs or special instruction sheets required.
I hope that these answers give you the information you are looking for.
 One more word of advice I would offer is to always speak to a prospective therapist on the phone to briefly discuss your problem.  Things to look out for are i) whether or not they are genuinely interested in discussing you problem and learning more about it or just anxious to get you to book an appointment b)  if their questions demonstrate a knowledge or understanding of your issues c)  if their comments have some insight and good sense.  Ask yourself “do they sound like my kind of person?”.  Some therapists specialise in the “that must be dreadful” school of sympathy.  Personally, I don’t do a lot of sympathetic clucking but a lot of empathic understanding (or so my clients tell me).  So a phone call is really worthwhile.  The question is “can I really work with and trust this person?”
If you’d like to chat further, or you’ve any questions unanswered, please do feel free to give me a call.  I’m always happy to discuss concerns and make sure that you’re happy with whatever you decide to do.
In the meantime, best wishes with your search.  Keith

Can Anger Management therapy really work?


I’ve worked with several people lately who have come to me with Anger management issues.

Sometimes they had already lost people they love or jobs they really enjoyed because of their flashes of anger or uncontrollable and intimidating outbursts of physical or verbal abuse.

Others have arrived looking stunned and in a state of shock.  Often they’ve been told by a court or a partner that they have to seek out treatment to deal with their problem or suffer the consequences.  They often have only just begun to realise the devastating consequences of their actions.

Some people realise their problem; others are in denial, claiming that they just have a quick temper – “I just have an outburst and then it’s all over” – without realising the damage it is doing to the recipient of the outburst.

As I therapist I have no magic wand that tells me who’s telling me the truth about the extend of their anger or its true causes; all I can do is work with what I’m told at our first consultation and then explore possible causes arising from upbringing, life experiences etc.  as we progress.

Anger has many causes.  Sometimes an individual might have an ongoing psychotic mental health problem (paranoid schizophrenia for example) which requires specialist diagnosis and the help of psychiatric healthcare professionals who are able to create drug and therapy programmes designed to help patients control their illness and return to normal functioning.   I refer to this as a functional problem, and is beyond the remit of therapy to resolve.

In many cases, however, anger can be the product of emotional trauma, such as being betrayed by a trusted partner in business or in love, or the sudden loss a parent or child resulting in unresolved grief, or the outcome of a sudden traumatic event leading to creation of symptoms of (or even full-blown) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

In other cases it can be a learned behaviour – the result of being raised in a chaotic or combative family where aggression is the norm, or is the only way of protecting personal possessions or avoiding being picked on.

I therefore start therapy by taking a thorough Case History.  This is only a three page questionnaire but by the end I know everything I need to about the client’s life, family relationships and major life issues.  From this information I can begin to isolate and investigate those issues/events which might be driving anger.

In effect, what I do is identify “buttons”.  The buttons which get pressed by a partner, or an innocent customer standing in a pub.  The words which, when spoken, provoke an instant and frightening verbal or physical attack.

Couples who’ve been together for a while know all about buttons.  They know exactly what to say  to provoke an instant fight – “You’re lazy”, “You’re selfish”, “It’s no wonder the kids hate you”.  But while their arguments might be loud and unpleasant, most couples arguments don’t end up in the casualty department of a local hospital or in the police being called.

My job as a therapist is therefore to identify the buttons and then to help defuse them.  To drain off the emotional fuel which drives them so they no longer cause volcanic eruptions of rage. 

I therefore approach Anger Management in two main ways:-

i)  To straight away teach a client a number of methods for becoming aware of what drives their anger (the Buttons) and then fast ways of controlling rising anger – in effect, changing the response to the things which make them angry – thus teaching a client right from the outset how to keep themselves and others,  safe in stressful situations.

ii)  At the same time, I try to establish the reasons for a client feeling angry.  Often this is obvious; at other times it has been blocked and needs exploration before it emerges in conversation.  Either way, I look to deal with the emotions and feelings of frustration, fear, anxiety etc which have led to the anger emerging.  These unresolved emotions are the fuel for anger. If we remove the fuel, the anger just evaporates.

iii)  Having done this, I then help the client to see their lives in a new way. To notice the change in the response of loved ones, friends and workmates to this new calmer person.  How new opportunities arise in their lives.  How they become more secure, more loved and valued.

And the therapy need not take lots of sessions.  I have completed work with one client in five sessions – the last of which was a session to explain to his partner how we had managed to bring about such a dramatic (and hopefully) lasting change in his behaviour!

One last word.  To all those women who think they can change a violent or abusive man.  You can’t.  Leave the relationship and put the experience behind you.  Protect yourself and your children.  You must understand that you are a catalyst to your partner’s anger. Whatever you do, whatever you say, you are part of the problem. You will never be able to effect change alone.  Your partner needs to be evaluated to eliminate functional causes and then to work with someone independent of your relationship who can use the therapies needed to bring about change – if change is possible.  The best thing you can do for your partner and yourself is to remove yourself to a place of safety and to urge them to seek professional help and resolution before it’s too late.