Archive for May, 2012
Why do you think we have emotions? Wouldn't life be simpler without them? Do we have emotions to give middle class people something to talk about or to provide soap opera writers with script material?
Of course not. As with everything else in human makeup, emotions exist to keep us safe and alive and able to thrive.
Emotions motivate movement
Embedded in the word "emotion" is another word: "motion". Emotions are there to make us move. Either towards something or away from it.
We all have deep basic needs - for warmth, security, love and connection and, of course, food and shelter. We have needs for status, significance, attention and to feel safe in our lives. We need stimulation, to exercise our creativity to learn and produce in the world. Some emotions drive us toward experiences that would help meet these needs and ensure our survival. And other emotions serve to drive us away from experiences or situations which, we feel, would prevent us meeting our essential needs.
But what happens when we get directed the wrong way by our feelings?
You are pulled towards social contact by your needs, and away from it by social anxiety
The "motion" in "emotion" has us moving either towards what we feel we need or away from what we feel we don't want. Think lust, love, anger, greed, hunger - all feelings that motivate us towards an experience. And think about feelings that drive us away from something - fear, terror, disgust.
Hopefully, our emotions get it right and drive us toward what is good for us and away from what is bad for us. But sometimes they don't.
The social phobic both wants and doesn't want social contact. They are pulled and pushed in different directions by their feelings. If social contact was bad for us, it would be great to be terrified of social events because it would be life saving. But a socially anxious person instinctively knows they need social contact at the same time as fearing it; they are pulled and pushed at the same time by their emotions... tricky! And it gets worse.
We avoid what we fear - but also fear what we avoid
One problem is that the more you avoid something, the more the fear around it increases. It's as if your "emotional brain" draws conclusions from your behaviour: "She's avoiding this situation all the time, so it must be genuinely dangerous. So I'll ramp up her fear of this situation even more to make sure she won't go near it."
On the other hand, people can switch off their fear around stuff they should fear simply because they have made themselves go towards it. I'm thinking of the old-time circus lion-tamer calmly putting his head in a lion's mouth, and of those perennial favourites, the human cannonballs, getting themselves fired from a cannon. Not hobbies I'd recommend. The point is that even dangerous acts like these can start to feel "normal" to your emotional brain if you voluntarily and repeatedly do them (the "emotional brain" concludes "This must be safe, else why are we doing it?").
So yes, we avoid what we fear, but we can also come to fear something just because we avoid it so much.
A number of approaches have been tried over the centuries to overcome the difficulties this presents. None are as successful as hypnotic therapy. Consider, for instance, what happens with "exposure therapy" and "cognitive therapy" in the context of dealing with fears like shyness and social anxiety.
Exposure therapy: A step too far?
The understanding that emotions are physical drivers away from or towards something is extensively used in exposure therapy. (1) This approach typically has you gradually having more and more contact with what scares you. So the spider phobic might on week one see a drawing of a spider, on week two see a photo of a spider, on week three see a toy spider, on week four touch the toy spider, week five has them seeing a movie of a spider and week six an actual live spider. This can be very effective if the person can be induced to remain calm through the gradual exposure (sometimes known as "systematic desensitisation"). (It would be easier and faster to use hypnosis and the rewind technique.)
The idea is that spiders need to start to feel a "normal" part of experience, and this is done through forcing oneself to go towards rather than away from; classic behavioural therapy, and probably what the lion-tamer did to get the nerve he needed...
Another kind of exposure therapy takes a less gradual approach and is known as "flooding". Yikes! This might see the spider phobic being put straight in a room full of spiders, with the idea that fully experiencing your worst fear - and surviving it - will put an end to that fear.
So does it work?
Therapy for the therapy
Yes, it can work - provided the person undergoing the therapy is taught to relax deeply. But (you knew there was a "but") I can't tell you how many clients I've had to treat to help them recover from the effects of this kind of therapy when it's gone wrong. These are the ones who didn't get better, the ones who couldn't get past the photo of the spider on week two, the ones who were deeply traumatised by being thrown in at the deep end of having to speak in front of a hundred people when they were still chronically shy.
There has to be, and fortunately is, another way.
The beauty of hypnosis when treating fears
Hypnosis, used sensibly, is the perfect way to expose someone in a safe and relaxed way to a situation they had been avoiding. As far as your emotional brain is concerned, if you have relaxed deeply and felt spontaneous at a party a few times while in hypnosis, this is a sufficiently strong indication that this situation is not dangerous, and that this kind of social event can now be "retagged" as something you can potentially go safely towards - before you've even been to an actual party. Someone who hasn't left the house for years can "leave their house" in hypnosis and "experience it" before they go out the door in real life. The exposure therapy is fully within their own control, in sync with a relaxed mind and body.
When they then "do it for real", it will already feel more familiar and therefore not as threatening. The previously dreaded social event may even, dare I say it, turn out to be relaxing and fun.
It's important to understand here that we are talking about more than just what a person believes.
Feelings and thoughts can be at odds
You can fully believe something is good for you and still fearfully flee from it. You can fully believe something (or someone) is bad for you but still be emotionally driven towards it (or them). Cognitive approaches to dealing with fears often come unstuck over this, as fears aren't driven so much by "faulty thinking" as by more primitive emotional conditioning geared towards survival. It is much easier to access, and modify, these primitive drivers through the use of hypnosis than through reasoning.
When we help someone with social phobia it's generally obvious the phobia has gone the moment they open their eyes, because calm, disassociated hypnotic exposure to the previously feared trigger while feeling completely relaxed has transformed their response. They know it wasn't "real" - but nonetheless a new positive blueprint for responding with calm and being in flow when in social situations has become established in their subconscious. Being socially relaxed is the new "normal".
The new 10 steps to overcome social anxiety course, like all the ten steps courses, has a hypnotic download for each step of the way. This is partly because social skills can be developed and honed during hypnotic rehearsal but also because we want people to experience hypnotic "safe" social experiences before they go into these situations for real. In this way the horrible away from feelings of fear can gently be replaced with the happier toward feelings of pleasure and positive expectation when it comes to socializing and meeting new people.
The full download for Stop Emotional Eating will be released on May 29th, 2012 although you can get it 1 week earlier and save 15% by creating a free account.
Transcription of Stop Emotional Eating preview
Maybe you're listening to this because you've been using food as a way of dealing with stress, or you've found yourself binge eating whenever you get upset. This might be a pattern of eating that you developed in your childhood or your teenage years, or it could be a reaction to a recent period of heightened stress in your life. This emotional eating pattern can really get in the way of your efforts to lose weight or to live a healthy lifestyle, and the fact that you're listening to this means that - rationally - you know perfectly well that this habit isn't serving you. However, emotional eating isn't something you do consciously and rationally. It's an unconscious pattern that you've learned as a way of dealing with unpleasant emotions.
And of course the truth is that food doesn't actually deal with unpleasant feelings at all, it simply masks them. Food can only properly satisfy a feeling of hunger, just as water only satisfies thirst, and if you've got other emotional needs in your life - like needs for company, for sleep and relaxation, for stimulation and excitement, for meaningful relationships and a sense of purpose - and you're trying to meet those needs with food, you'll ultimately still end up feeling empty. If you're feeling lonely, and you have an emotional need for love and connection, or if you're feeling anxious, and you have an emotional need for safety and security, then using food to mask those feelings is like having a gaping hole in the roof of your house that's letting in the rain, and trying to fix that hole by choosing a brand new colour to paint the walls of your kitchen. It's the wrong solution to the problem.
This session is going to focus specifically on breaking this pattern of emotional eating, and the deeply relaxing hypnotic techniques you're about to experience will guide the unconscious part of your mind to firmly and clearly separate your emotional needs from the sensation of physical hunger. To help this process become fully integrated into your life, it's a good idea to consciously avoid high sugar food products, like sodas, cookies and candy bars, and anything that your body digests rapidly, and that leaves you craving more, like French fries, potato chips, or slices of toast. I'm not directing you to follow a specific restrictive diet here, and you're free to experiment with what works best for you, but it's worth keeping in mind that sugary or high carbohydrate foods will tend to cause fluctuations in your blood sugar levels, leaving you craving more of them, and thus making you more prone to getting moody and engaging in emotional eating.
By contrast, a diet that includes more fresh vegetables and fruit, fish, meat, eggs and good sources of fibre and protein will tend to support a more balanced mood, more balanced emotions, and consequently more balanced eating patterns.
Now, before you begin to relax, I'd just like you to select in your mind one memory of when you were eating out of emotion rather than hunger. Just take a moment now to choose a time. It could be a recent memory, or from longer ago.
And each time you listen to this download, you can either work on the same memory some more, or choose a different time, it really doesn't matter. Because each time you hypnotically transform one of your memories of acting in that old way, your unconscious mind gets the message that it's time to start acting differently in the future.
The full download for Managing Bipolar Disorder will be released on May 29th, 2012 although you can get it 1 week earlier and save 15% by creating a free account.
Transcription of Managing Bipolar Disorder preview
The symptoms of bipolar disorder, or "manic depression" as it's sometimes known, can vary from person to person. The most common pattern is a period of depression which can last several months, followed by a period of feeling more balanced, followed by a period of heightened energy and mood which can turn into mania, and then this cycle typically repeats itself over a course of months or years. But your own symptoms may vary from this pattern considerably. Some people rapidly cycle between a depressive state and a euphoric state over a period of days. Others only experience irritability and restlessness during their manic phases rather than any sense of euphoria, and some people can experience a mixture of depression and mania at the same time.
But whatever your specific symptoms, bipolar disorder can be a distressing condition because it makes it harder to trust your own judgement. I've worked with clients with bipolar disorder who lost huge amounts of money by maxing out their credit cards or investing in dubious business ventures while in a manic phase. They often reported that afterwards they felt wracked with guilt at all of the damage they'd caused to their finances or their relationships with friends and loved ones, and sometimes they couldn't even remember doing some of the things they did in their manic phases.
There does seem to be a genetic element to bipolar disorder, but this doesn't mean that there is nothing you can do about it. It is possible to manage it effectively and to stabilise your mood, and many people with bipolar disorder learn to live fulfilling, balanced lives once they understand their condition and how to deal with it. The hypnotic part of this session is going to train you in a very valuable technique to help you to manage your emotions, so that you can think calmly and coolly and rationally, instead of getting caught up in emotional thinking. As you learn to access this calm, balanced state on a regular basis, you'll find it becomes easier to spot the warning signs of a bipolar episode, so that you can take the appropriate action to deal with those symptoms, and you may also find that you generally feel calmer and more balanced in your day to day life.
This session is not intended to be and should not be used as a substitute for treatment from a medical professional. Think of it as a valuable supplement to your basic self-management strategies for maintaining good mental health, like making sure you get a good night's sleep, taking regular exercise, having social contact with people you can connect with and talk to, and doing things that are mentally stimulating and challenging. There is also promising evidence that certain dietary changes can be helpful for bipolar disorder, particularly the addition of omega three fatty acids into your diet, from oily fish or in a supplement form, along with magnesium rich foods like nuts and dark green vegetables. It also helps to avoid sugary sodas, high sugar food products and too much caffeine. By regularly relaxing to this download you'll be adding a further strategy to help you maintain mental clarity and emotional balance in your life. There may also be specific medication that your doctor has prescribed you to manage your condition, and when you combine all these principles as a whole package, you'll find you can begin to trust yourself again, as you notice yourself feeling calmer, more balanced, and capable of dealing with any symptoms if and when they arise.