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. 

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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?

Dealing with Anger issues


I’ve recently been dealing with a number of clients who have anger management issues and as a result have spent a lot of time trying to identify the most effective ways of defusing their anger.

Some people, of course, are just hardwired to have a short fuse, they are often very manipulative and turn violent if they don’t get their own way.  These are best left to proper psychiatric care.

For a lot of people though, anger is a natural emotional  response to events or issues which have shaken their world, creating issues which remain unresolved for years after the event and which gradually fester into a habitual sense of impatience and intolerance with the world around them.

Anger presents itself in sudden flare ups and inappropriate aggression towards to everyone from partners and children to shop staff and call centre operators.  Sufferers have an extremely low tolerance threshold of anything which requires them to deal with an issue, however trivial..  Those who are tolerant by nature suddenly become intolerant.  Those who have always had enormous patience suddenly start throwing things around in frustration or  threatening others with violence.  Frequently this violence is only verbal but sometimes it can go further.

By the time they reach my consulting room sufferers are usually at a cross-roads in their relationship – their partner has told them to get treatment or the relationship will be at an end. Sometimes, their partner has already found someone else, having been driven away by the frustration and fear induced by walking on eggshells every time Mr Angry is around.  At other times they might have been forced to seek treatment as a result of a restraining order or other court instruction.

When they sit down for their first consultation, sufferers are normally in a pretty poor state, feeling helpless and depressed, confused and fearful for their relationship, their family, the impact which their problems has had on their friends and colleagues at work –  their entire future in fact.  Some readily acknowledge their problem; other remain in denial that they have anything other than a low tolerance level for certain types of “provocation” or situation.

My job as a psychotherapist is to first establish the extent and intensity of the anger they experience and whether or not is hardwired or emotionally driven.   I then  identify the triggers which create the outbursts and the internal language which  it generates in the client, and the people who are most likely to be the targets.

From there I need to identify the type of fuel which is powering their anger.  Often it is quite apparent – the sudden death of a parent or very close friend or the loss of a child.  Redundancy is another common cause – it  can have a disastrous impact on someone’s sense of self-worth and identity.  Men in particular seem to have very fragile egos – they are often identified by their jobs – they are their jobs.  When those jobs are taken away, they become totally lost.  They seem like ghosts, with no idea of who they are or what they should be doing.  They become angry and frustrated at their ex-employers, their managers, the company and most importantly, at themselves for their seeming impotence, confusion and lack of direction and purpose.  These feelings then combine with all the unspent energy which would usually get used up during a busy working day to create a highly volatile cocktail of anger.

In addition, being let down by a trusted business partner, being ripped off by a crooked salesman resulting in the loss of income, house and the subsequent esteem of friends and family can make a normal loving father into a seething mass of anger – ready to erupt at the slightest provocation. This time the anger is fuelled not by loss of identity but at having the very roots of his masculinity challenged – he’s been duped, made to look a fool, lost respect amongst his family and peer.  His primitive instinct is to strike back, release the pent up rage in an orgy of physical violence against whoever caused him the hurt.  But he can’t do that; society doesn’t allow it.  And so he has to lock it up inside him where he tried to bury it, only for it to burst out in the  form of violent rage and anger.

Having got to this point of understand, both for myself and the client, I will usually use hypnosis to help the client release all this anger against an individual or situation in a safe way, by helping them to create scenarios and visualisations which allow them to burn off their anger, often in just a single session.  They can, in imagination, express their thoughts and feelings, rampage around, scream and yell, do whatever they feel they need to do to unlock their feelings, express them in their imagination and then emerge feeling cleansed and revitalised.

Having achieved this, they are they taught different ways of regaining control of themselves in difficult situations.  How to avoid indulging in knee-jerk responses to perceived provocation and learning how to take control of a situation before it gets out of hand.

And these sessions don’t need to go on for a long time.  I recently dealt with a case which was resolved in five one-and-a-half hour sessions.  The final session was held with his partner to help her understand how he had undergone such a transformation in  behaviour in such a short time, and to be reassured that without the fuel which drove his anger,  the  change she had observed was to all intents and purposes, permanent.

If you suffer from anger issues and would like to talk more please feel free to contact me via the blog or my website at www.keithjeffordhypnotherapy.co.uk

GET A FREE SLEEP MP3 DOWNLOAD


A recent survey showed that around half of the population suffer from sleep problems at some time in their lives. Some people can’t get to sleep, others wake at 2.00am or 4.00am, others can’t drift deep enough or long enough to go into the most restful state of all – Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. This last state is one of the most important because it’s the one where your brain processes the events of the day, sorts out things to go into long-term memory for instant recall and those which don’t need to be immediately available. It also processes the emotions attached to memories; that’s why you walk away from a bad car crash feeling really shaky and ill, then feel a bit better a week later, a lot better a month later and six months later can laugh about it in the pub. In contrast, people who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can’t process their memory of a traumatic event in this way. Their brains are stuck in a repeating cycle of memory and intense emotion which they can’t shift. Therapies like hypnosis help them go into a pseudo REM state so that the emotions can be gently processed so that the event can still be recalled, but it has lost its emotional sting and therefore its power.

So, to help you non-sleepers, I’ve arranged for a copy of my Deep, Natural Sleep recording to be available to anyone who wants to click on the following link. It will be available for a week and you can send it to anyone you want as long as you acknowledge where it came from and don’t try to sell it.

Points to note:-

a) This is a relaxation and sleep recording so shouldn’t be used when driving or operating machinery!
b) Although the recording refers a number times to hypnosis, It’s more a guided visualisation rather than deep hypnosis, so if you need to wake up in the middle of the recording, or something goes wrong with the recording, you can just slowly open your eyes and deal with whatever needs to be done. To be kind to yourself, you could just count yourself up from 5 to 1 very slowly so that your body returns to normally in a gentle, relaxed way instead of being asked to jerk back into instant action.  You can’t get stuck or drift off anywhere; the worst thing that can happen to you is that you go to sleep!!!!

c)  The recording is best used with a single in-ear headphone pushed into the ear that’s not resting on the pillow.  If you put the recording onto your phone or mp3 player and plug it into a charger, you can listen to it again if you wake up during the night.  You can listen to it as many times as you need to each night.

d)  If you don’t get instant results, just keep on using it every night.  Very soon you’ll find your brain will associate the sounds as being a signal to sleep and you’ll drift off quite quickly.

e)  Don’t try to listen to every word!!! Just let the sound of my voice wash over you.  You don’t have to be alert or remember or listen to what I say.  Just let the tones and the sounds help you drift off.
f) The background music being used in this recording is Light Awash by Kevin McLeod and script is adapted from one found on http://www.hypnosisonline.com (if its author would like to step forward I will gladly give him a name check).

Anyhow, the link is at: https://skydrive.live.com/?cid=602D8ABCFA125BD8&id=602D8ABCFA125BD8%21144&sc=documents#!/?cid=602d8abcfa125bd8&sc=documents&id=602D8ABCFA125BD8%21144

If anyone has a problem with the download or the recording please let me know straight away and I’ll fix.

Please also let me have comments and feedback on the recording itself.

Sweet dreams!

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….

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…

http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/nstv/2011/10/one-word-technique-produces-first-physical-evidence-of-hypnosis.html

… 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