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?

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Quit Smoking for Good this Stoptober!


Yes, it’s almost here.  The NHS’s “Stoptober” event designed to help smokers quit before Christmas.  They got a great support package and even a cute App to use.

In support of the event I’ve sent out a press release to local media addressed to those who are thinking of using hypnosis to support their efforts to quit.  Here’s what it says…

Local hypnotherapist provides support for NHS “Stoptober” Campaign

A Havering based hypnotherapist is urging the public to look for practitioners registered with the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) if they want to use hypnotherapy to help them give up smoking during the NHS’s Stoptober campaign.

Many people use hypnotherapy to help them to stop smoking. The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) was set up 18 months ago with government funding and support to provide a central registry of practitioners who are fully trained and qualified to  meet the standards and requirements of the CNHC and to follow their strict Code of Practice.

Keith Jefford, who was trained by the Institute of Clinical Hypnosis in London and is among one of the first hypnotherapists in the UK to be registered with the CNHC says: “Hypnotherapy is often used to help clients achieve the behavioural change needed to stop smoking and it’s so important they use someone who knows what they are doing.  In my experience, it is vital that the hypnotherapist has the training, skill and experience to be flexible.  Each client must be treated as an individual, and the hypnotherapist has to adapt their treatment to suit each person’s requirement and personality.  The CNHC symbol acts as a mark of professional quality and high standards of service”.

Keith added that: “members of the public can search the CNHC register at www.cnhc.org.uk  to find practitioners in their local area.  More than 170,000 searches have been carried out since the register first opened in 2009”

I know that I’ve blogged about this before, but the CNHC is there for the protection of the public and NHS therapy commissioning services alike, so if you know anyone who thinking about using hypnosis to quit the demon weed, please get them to check the CNHC Register first to ensure that they have the best possible chance of succeeding.

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

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

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.