Most people have a reasonable understanding of what constitutes a healthy lifestyle. We’ve all 'tried', at some point, to make positive changes, but somehow we usually find ourselves slipping back into those old habits.
Conscious thoughts are just the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to the mind. That’s why it’s so hard to stick to those new, healthier choices. You might be able to battle through with willpower for a while, but as soon as you relax a bit you find yourself doing the same old things.
It’s a bit like getting rid of weeds without digging up the roots. As soon as you relax your vigilance, you’ll find you’re right back where you started.
Hypnosis is a great gardening tool for the mind!
Instead of battling the beliefs, habits and emotions that are holding you back from being healthy, it can help you to understand and replace them. Instead of focussing on contraband foods, restrictive diets and punishing exercise regimes, it can allow you to take your cues from your body, learn to enjoy a range of foods that nourish you and move in ways that feel good.
Research has found that hypnosis and guided visualisations were over 30 times as effective for weightloss than dieting alone(Cochrane, Gordan; Friesen J.1986).
In a comparison between normal diet programmes and those using hypnosis, those in the hypnosis groups lost more weight than 90% of non hypnosis participants and had still maintained the weight loss two years later (Alison DB, Faith MS 1996).
Why don’t diets work?
The problem with slashing calories is that our bodies have been built
to cope with times of scarcity and they respond by reducing metabolism, storing precious fat and lowering energy levels.
It’s much more helpful to focus on eating smarter, focussing on maximising nutrition, rather than reducing calories. A calorie counter might be tempted to cut out foods that are rich in
healthy fats, like oily fish, nuts and avocados, but a nutritionist will tell you that those foods
are crucial to your health and may even help you to lose weight.
Most diets are restrictive, some even leave dieters feeling physically hungry. When you are focussed on what you ‘shouldn’t’ have, it’s hard to think about anything else. Have a go. Think about not eating your favourite food. What happens? You have to think about it before you can unthink it. And, if you’re hungry, it’s natural that you’re going to be obsessing about food.
Often, the habits and behaviours that are keeping us from our healthy weight have been around for a very long time. They’re deeply embedded in the subconscious mind as default reactions. Like muscle memory, often they happen without us even thinking about what we’re doing. Until we identify these patterns and learn to change them, we are likely to keep repeating them.
Amend your inner dialogue
A great place to start is to really listen in on what you say to yourself about those less than
healthy habits: What is it that you tell yourself when you pick up that family size chocolate
bar in the supermarket? What excuses do you make for eating that generous slice of cake
for a mid-afternoon snack? What drives you to ignore those signs of fullness and finish
everything on your plate?
Those thoughts and beliefs provide fantastic clues about the subconscious drivers of your behaviours which makes it easier to tackle them. That inner voice might be doubting your willpower, urging you to buy the snack now or regret it later, you might tell yourself you deserve a treat, or you might feel guilty leaving food on your plate when so many in the world are hungry.
Try carry a notebook around with you for a few days to jot them down or use the notes app on your phone. You might struggle at first because these thoughts and beliefs are often unconscious. Pay attention to what comes up when you try to change these behaviours and you’ll soon notice valuable insights surfacing.
Once you have identified the thoughts that support your unhealthy behaviours, you can
begin to replace them with more empowering statements instead. For example: ‘I enjoy
making healthy choices’, ‘My body deserves healthy, tasty and nutritious food’, ‘I choose
snacks that support my health and wellbeing’.
Top tips for creating positive affirmations:
• Start with “I am”, make it personal
• Your thoughts need to be believable
• Keep it present (take out ‘will’ & ‘want to’)
• Focus on the positive –what do you want to add?
• Be concise
• Be specific
• Avoid words like: not, don’t, try, can’t, but, hope, attempt, failure, better, bad, right, wrong, should, shouldn’t, worse, hurt, pain, won’t...
Am I hungry?
One of the simplest and most effective tools that my clients use is the question: ‘am I
We so often eat for reasons other than hunger. We eat because we’re happy. We eat
because we’re sad. We eat because it’s mealtime. We eat because it's polite. We eat
because we’re bored.
Asking that simple question before you eat can bring awareness to the differences between
emotional hunger and physical hunger.
Emotional hunger is sudden and comes on quickly and without warning. It often craves a
certain food – and that isn’t likely to be salad! It feels urgent and might be accompanied by
a strong emotion. It doesn’t feel sated by physical signs of fulness and is often followed by
unresourceful emotions like regret, guilt and shame.
Physical hunger, in contrast, builds slowly and can be satisfied by a wide range of foods. It is
accompanied by a gnawing or empty feeling in the stomach. It comes sometime after you
last ate and is more patient, recognises fulness and is followed by a feeling of being sated.
Identifying the emotional needs behind our habits gives us an opportunity to explore better
ways of supporting those needs. Don’t worry if you don’t know the answer right away.
Asking the question is a huge leap forward.
Am I sated?
Another simple but powerful tool at your disposal is to listen to your body and recognise
when you’re sated. Eating slowly allows food the twenty minutes it needs to travel to the
stomach so that you can stop eating before you feel uncomfortably full. It sounds
ridiculously simple, but we’ve been conditioned to ignore our bodies. To eat when it’s time,
not when we’re hungry. To eat everything on our plate, not finish when we’re sated. To eat
food as a reward, a comfort, a celebration, not because our body needs and deserves
quality fuel. Your body has all the wisdom you need to eat well and maintain a healthy
midlife weight. You just need to learn to listen.
If you would like more support to unpick the beliefs and habits that are holding you back and make lasting changes in your relationship with food and with your body, join my next Tranceform Your Body 12 Week Course: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/259380884207
Or, book in for a private consultation: https://www.appointfix.com/book/kerrydolanhypnotherapy
Your heart races, it feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest, your inner voice babbles nervously, your palms feel damp and the jangling feelings of panic crowd in.
You’ve been ambushed by anxiety.
Anxiety can be frightening. It often seems to appear from nowhere. It can undermine your confidence, steal your social life and rob you of the things you used to find joy in.
And yet, anxiety is your own, personal alarm system.
Your amygdala is your own personal guard dog, watching over you and listening in on your innermost thoughts. It’s poised to trigger your fight or flight response if it suspects danger. This, in turn, rallies your body’s resources to fuel a rapid retreat or an attack. This area of your brain stores emotional memories and remembers situations that have been difficult for you in the past. So, for example, the amygdala of someone who was bitten by a dog will respond quickly to the sight of a dog, gearing them up to run away or stay and fight. The pounding heart and oxygen pumping to your skeletal muscles are all designed to carry you to safety, but this response isn’t usually the most appropriate in modern life, where your trigger is more likely to be a crowded room or an awkward conversation than a raging tiger!
Interestingly, the fight of flight response can be triggered by events that are real. Or imagined. The amygdala can’t distinguish between what happens in your mind and what is real. If we get into the habit of worrying a lot, this internal alarm system can become a bit over sensitive, like a fire alarm whose high-pitched ring reverberates through your home when you burn the toast. The alarm is deliberately unpleasant so that you won’t ignore it and you’re forced to investigate. Having checked that there’s no real fire, you simply turn the alarm off, and everything returns to normal.
Often, the unpleasant symptoms of anxiety can be enough to make you more anxious. The physical responses are designed to fuel action so when we don’t use that energy, the racing heart, narrowed focus, shallow breathing and oxygen drenched muscles can feel uncomfortable, to say the least. If you don’t know how to turn it off,
over time, heightened anxiety can become something of an over-zealous security guard, overreacting to every trigger.
How to reprogramme your anxiety alarm:
Our thoughts shape our feelings, so changing our thoughts can change the way we feel. If you’ve ever tried to push a beachball under the water, you’ll know that it always bursts right back to the surface. Trying to supress your thoughts has a similar effect. Instead, you need to challenge them. You can do that by asking these questions:
Most people have heard that deep breathing is helpful when you feel panicked or anxious but taking big gulps of air can mean taking in too much oxygen, which makes you feel worse. What you need are calm, controlled breaths through your nose, breathing into your belly, for a count of four, and out for a count of eight. You can adjust the count to make it comfortable.
Just as you can be triggered into a panicked or anxious state, you also have triggers, which tell your body it can relax.
Think about what these are for you: perhaps you have a place where you feel calm, a calming hobby, a person or pet in your life that you feel safe with. It might not be possible for you to actually go to that tropical beach, be enveloped in the arms of a loved one or pick up your knitting needles right now but, closing your eyes and imagining a soothing trigger will have a similar effect.
One of the simplest ways to calm your anxiety alarm is to interfere with its wiring.
Because this activity involves both sides of your brain, keeping it busy, it becomes difficult to keep ‘doing’ the anxiety.
Another useful tool is mindfulness. For our purposes, mindfulness is simply the deliberate effort to be fully present in the current moment: a cuddle with a loved one, the sound of bird song or your favourite tune, a tasty meal, a beautiful sunset.
Use your senses to pull yourself into the here and now. Whenever you notice that you have drifted into thoughts or visions of potential problems, gently tug yourself back with questions like: what can I see? What can I hear? What can I feel? What can I smell? What can I taste?
Create A System That Works for You
To successfully reset your inner alarm, you need a routine so, try out the techniques and find the one(s) that work best for you then use them consistently. Each time you interrupt anxiety, you are reassuring your body, and resetting your inner alarm system.
For many people, struggling with infertility, the workplace can be full of triggers. The seemingly endless conveyer belt of other people’s pregnancy milestones can stir-up a whole range of challenging emotions for someone who is struggling to conceive. It can often feel like running the gauntlet.
No one should be denied the opportunity to relish those precious moments on the way to meeting their very own miracle, but there is so often a broken heart waiting in the wings that deserves just as much consideration.
It’s estimated that infertility affects one in seven couples in the UK – and that doesn’t include the many same sex couples and single women who want to conceive. But it’s not a journey that many couples choose to share. It can be too raw, too painful. Every pregnancy announcement, every baby shower, every growing bump, can be agonising.
Those feelings don’t mean that you aren’t happy for other people – although, those ‘we weren’t even trying’ comments can make it tough! It’s just that every special moment for an expectant friend or colleague is a special moment that you increasingly fear you may never have. That doesn’t make you a bad person – it simply means that you really want a baby of your own.
My clients often feel terrible about their reactions to pregnancy news from those close to them, but it can be hard to separate the very real happiness they have for a friend from the cocktail of sadness, fear, inadequacy, anger, grief and insecurity that infertility often brings.
It is a terrifying statistic that, of those who struggle with fertility, 90% will suffer from depression at some time. If you’re finding it tough, you’re not alone.
Though there are tools and techniques/mindset that offer some protection, often, if you are going through infertility, you will need to create boundaries to protect yourself during what can be a very vulnerable time. That might mean saying ‘no’ to social events that feel too hard, avoiding particularly triggering situations at work or even taking some time off. At a time where it feels like you have little control over something so important, choosing to take control of those things you can is really important.
A common misunderstanding about infertility is that it’s something you can ‘get over’. It’s not that simple. It’s an ongoing, open wound. It can be years before a couple either holds that baby in their arms or runs out of options; until then, there will be no closure. And only then can the healing truly begin.
A client was recently told, by her well-meaning but misguided boss, that it was time to ‘get over’ her infertility, to find some coping strategies. Little did she know how many coping strategies this woman already has in place in order to show up for her job every day, build relationships with the children of friends and family, and find joy and gratitude for the wonderful life she has – even though the fear that she may never share it with a child breaks her heart.
For her, the combination of line managing a pregnant colleague, a national lockdown, an endless stream of informal team catch ups on zoom, where the main topic was pregnancy- all whilst waiting on the results an NHS funding application that could change her life - was too much.
It took guts for her to talk to her HR manager about the arrangements that she needed to have in place in order for her to continue working, and her workplace’s response was exemplary. She has, temporarily, handed over line management duties for her pregnant colleague and, she says, she’s also ‘been given carte blanche to duck out of whatever informal online team catch-ups I want. So, this morning I didn't login and I've had one of the most productive days I've had in recent weeks. Just knowing I don't have to brace myself for those conversations every morning already feels like a weight off my shoulders. I'll dip into one or two a week (show people I'm alive) but the decision is mine.’
Seeking support in the workplace:
Records of the use of hypnosis for therapeutic purposes go back at least 6,000 years. Cave paintings have been found showing priests who appear to be in a state of trance; in ancient Egypt, people came to the sleep temples for healing and guidance; in the 18th and early 19th century the hypnotic state was utilised as a sedation tool for surgery; folk healers from indigenous cultures around the world have used elements of ritualised hypnosis in their practices for thousands of years and even Freud explored the benefits of hypnotherapy.
Hypnosis is a state of focus or concentration where awareness of your immediate surroundings is reduced, and the mind/body connection is enhanced. You naturally slip into these trance states throughout the day: when you daydream; getting worked up about something you anticipate might happen in the future, that strange feeling when you are just on the edge of sleep; losing yourself in a good movie; arriving at your destination, not really remembering your journey or when you’ve been listening to someone drone on for a long time and start to zone out.
In the 18th Century, curiosity around hypnotic phenomena spawned a form of parlour entertainment which ultimately evolved into the stage and TV shows that we’re familiar with today.
Whilst hypnotherapy and stage hypnotists utilise the same hypnotic phenomena, your experience in the hypnotherapist’s chair will be a world away from the razmataz and mysticism we’ve come to know from the likes of Derren Brown and Paul Mackenna. Instead, this heightened state of awareness of your inner world, creates opportunities for deep healing and transformation. In the words of one of my clients, ‘I never drifted off into a trance where I was made to crow like a rooster (thanks Paul for that misconception!). Instead, the relaxation techniques enabled me to face my painful experiences in a way that wasn’t overwhelming and actually made me feel quite refreshed.’
The purpose of hypnotherapy is radically different from that of stage hypnosis.
A stage hypnotist wants to entertain their audience, they ‘wake’ participants at the end of the show with no long-term changes. A hypnotherapist, in contrast, will work with you to establish goals for long term change (that might be improving confidence, changing habits, healing trauma, managing stress or anxiety and generally increasing your health and wellbeing).
‘I felt lighter and confident that I have the tools in hand to be able to face any challenge, from telling family members about my infertility struggles to dealing with pregnant colleagues and friends, to even preparing myself for possible fertility treatment’
For entertainment purposes, the stage hypnotist wants to create the illusion of having ‘control’ over their participants. There is a long selection process which weeds out the most suggestible subjects, those who are most likely to go along with the silliness and not disappoint the audience. A hypnotherapist is not interested in pretending they can control you. Instead, they want to help you understand the way the mind works so that you can take control in areas of your life which may have seemed out of your control. Whilst stage hypnotism only ‘works’ on those that are naturally suggestible, effective self-hypnosis techniques can be taught to anybody
‘I felt that you helped me establish a dialogue with my inner self, rather than leading this dialogue yourself. I never had a feeling that you were taking over, but rather that you supported me in exploring my inner resources, for me to be able to access them anytime on my own, whenever I need them.’
‘I very much like to be in control and so thought hypnotherapy wouldn't work for me and it would be a waste of money. Or that I just wouldn't get it and find it uncomfortable or come across as rude if I laughed or something like that. So, I was amazed that, after a few short sessions, I felt so much calmer and for the first time in long time, much more in control. The big benefit for me is that I am now much more aware of how I feel - I am more receptive to how my body feels and how my behaviour changes when I am pushing myself too hard.’
Most people will feel, at least a little, uncomfortable on stage in front of an audience. Add, to this experience, the presence of a mysterious and charismatic character, reputed to have the power of mind control and most people will already be feeling an altered state of sorts. The human tendency to go along with the crowd means that a highly suggestible volunteer is likely to play along.
Hypnotherapy, in contrast is a very relaxing experience. There is no audience, and your hypnotherapist’s goal will be to make you feel comfortable and relaxed as they guide you through the process of change. Unlike stage hypnosis, it is common to come up against resistance in hypnotherapy. Someone may have conflicting desires. For example: the desire to smoke AND the desire to stop smoking. In these instances, the hypnotic state can be a good place to resolve such conflicts and garner motivation.
'My hypnotheraphy experience was life changing! And I don't say that lightly, in only 4 sessions, I felt so comfortable and amazed by how much progress me made. The experience was entirely focused and bespoke to my situation.’
We all recognise the various rhythms and cycles of nature: the daily orbit round the sun; the predictable wheel of the seasons; the eternal loop of life and death and the waxing and waning of the moon. They shape and guide our routines from the daily voyage through wakefulness to sleep and back again to the miracle of planting a tiny seed in spring and harvest its fruit in autumn.
Woe betide the farmer who fails to work with the wheel of the seasons or the sailor with no regard for the tides.
Studies have shown that there are more accidents on the road and in the workplace when the clocks go forward. The week following daylight saving also sees a rise in heart attacks. Anyone who’s taking a long-haul flight will have experienced the symptoms of jet lag - our body’s protest at having its regular rhythms disrupted.
Menstruation is as vital a sign of good health as your pulse, your temperature or your breath. It relies on the sequential rise and fall of a variety of hormones throughout the month. Each of these hormones has a distinct personality, heralding shifts in our abilities, moods and desires. Testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone are just a few of the key players.
Testosterone – which despite rumours to the contrary is not just a male hormone – brings us conviction, confidence and courage. At its peaks, we can feel hornier and more orgasmic.
Oestrogen boosts our energy and sharpens our brain function. In balanced doses, it’s a mood enhancer and can make us feel more sociable. It even makes us more attractive: plumping our tissues and making our features more symmetrical.
Progesterone is a more homely, inward hormone. It can call for a more introspective, tranquil setting, driving us to spend quiet time with loved ones. Out of balance, it can be a real passion killer and might make you feel down and anxious.
The seismic shifts in our hormonal profile every month and throughout our life spans are carefully designed to support us in our reproductive role. At times, they domesticate us, soothing us like the mother’s little helpers of the natural world. They encourage us to nurture and care for our families (or friends, colleagues and projects) and dosing us up for much of the month to make that easier (you may well recognise the withdrawal effects of these drugs as their levels drop dramatically in the lead up to your period, lifting the rose tinted veil on your life – an opportunity to check in). So huge are the hormonal tides in women’s bodies that medical science has largely avoided including us in its studies. Caroline Criado Perez, in her book ‘Invisible Women, exposing data bias in a world designed for men’ says ‘Female bodies (both the human and animal variety) are, it is argued, too complex, too variable, too costly to be tested on.’ Yet what allowance is made for these shifts in the day to day lives of women and what are the costs of ignoring our intrinsic tempo.
Premenstrual Syndrome is the catch all term for a huge array of symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle. According to Perez’ figures, it affects 90% of women to some degree, yet she claims grants are denied to researchers ‘on the basis that ‘PMS does not actually exist’’
An inexperienced sailor is likely to capsize their boat in high winds but place someone with experience and understanding of the winds and tides at the helm and they will gather speed. The consequences of not understanding our inner tempo can be debilitating for women, but how can we attune to our cycle and harness our inherent power?
Our menstrual cycle is carefully designed to allow us to access, at some point every month, all the women we need to be! It can be a map of self-care as well as a planning tool. One way of understanding the cycle is to look at each stage as the female archetype that best exemplifies our emotions, drives, skills and abilities at that time.
The Wise Woman:
During our bleed (from day 1 of our cycle), all of our hormones are at their lowest ebb. You can feel tired, both physically and mentally. You might feel quite inward. Operating in the world at this time can feel challenging but, with the fog of hormones lifted, your intuition and creativity are strong. This is a time for renewal, rest and regeneration. A time to retreat from the world in any way you can. Letting go of responsibility (wherever possible) and allowing yourself to do the things that feed your soul. It is during this time that you might come up with wonderful ideas that you can carry out later in the month.
Ripening follicles in the ovary encourage oestrogen levels to rise towards the end of our bleed. Testosterone jumps in and you begin to feel more energetic and sociable. You might feel momentum building, finding yourself keen to emerge to explore to ideas. This particular hormonal concoction can make us curious and playful, a little naïve even. Energy is outward. We may well be looking for company.
As oestrogen and testosterone rise to peak levels for ovulation, progesterone joins the party. With growing confidence and self-assurance, you are at your most gregarious. Having tested your ideas in spring, you can now choose which ones to run with and you have the energy to see them through. It’s a time of outward glory, when the multi-tasking we women are famous for is really possible. This is the time to give your all. You are magnetic and attractive you have plenty of energy and love to share. Go easy though – keep some of that energy for yourself.
The Wild Woman:
If pregnancy doesn’t occur, our progesterone and oestrogen levels fall dramatically. Testosterone levels are erratic so energy and sex-drive are unpredictable – all of which can be quite unsettling. This infamous stage of our cycle is often misunderstood. Our irritability and the emergence of our inner critic are often a backlash from previous weeks. Perhaps you were blown off course and used your energies for others rather than your own projects? Maybe you didn’t manage to get the rest you needed? However uncomfortable, this part of the cycle is a valuable check in, a progress report. It challenges you to recognise needs that you aren’t meeting, gifts that are languishing in the shadows or feelings you may have repressed. This is a time for editing and letting go of that which no longer serves you. Beware of acting too hastily at this time though, sometimes our inner critic can sometimes be a little rash.
Keeping a journal or keeping track of your emotions and physical changes on a chart can be a great way of working out your own unique cycle and the effect that those hormonal cocktails have on you. It will allow you to navigate through and harness the energies of your body’s rhythms. Acknowledging and rectifying the neglect of a particular stage of your cycle (not taking time to rest is, by far, the most common) can result in powerful and positive shifts in your physical and emotional experience of living in a female body.
Madness has long been the accusation levelled at those who don’t fit neatly into society’s expectations of them. Like the ginger bread dough that is thrown away after the perfect (or perhaps normal) ginger bread man has been extracted from it, madness is often the excess of difference we all sacrifice in order to remain in society.
Our childbearing years are shaped by domesticating hormones. Estrogen enhances the effect of the brain’s feel good hormones, we become more sociable, more socially connected, hornier and more nurturing. Progesterone, in moderate doses, can help is feel quiet, calm and home focused. These qualities encourage us to mate, procreate and, crucially, take care of our families.
As our hormones dwindle around peri-menopause, we often find that we are less patient, less biddable. The veil begins to drop and the needs, the hopes and the dreams we had forgotten come bubbling to the surface. This sudden waking up, particularly alongside the sometimes-challenging physical symptoms of menopause can feel a lot like madness, as each woman tries to make sense of this crazy transformation in her own way! And society, which much preferred us docile, is quick to reinforce this.
Uma Dinsmore Tuli (in her amazing interview with Alexander Pope) describes menopause as a super power! She says that this ‘super power is only evident when we get together and realise that each woman’s perceived insanity is another aspect of herself coming to light.’ The taboos around menopause have kept us separate and played into the idea of the crazy middle-aged woman but as the taboos are broken down some women are finding that the menopause is, in fact, a gateway to a more authentic expression of themselves.
Someone recently told me that if you gently help a butterfly out of its chrysalis it will never fly. Apparently, the strength required to break out is a necessary trial, enabling it, ultimately, to take flight. Change can certainly be challenging and uncomfortable, especially as women are often meeting the menopause stressed, exhausted, unhealthy and unfulfilled, but what emerges can be spectacular.
Trance For Menopause is a group course, bringing women together to share their experiences as they navigate this maligned rite of passage. This 5 week course offers you the space, understanding and tools you need to support the transition through your perimenopausal years and into the wiser half of your life.
Combining my own experience of perimenopause with a wealth of training and research, I teach mind/body techniques to help you manage physical and emotional symptoms as well as enabling you to reconnect or connect more deeply with yourself and your life.
What other ladies have to say about the course:
'You're magic! Each time (I used the snow globe technique) I got a cool breeze sensation!'
'Kerry used her wealth of knowledge on this course, to create a great balance of quick and easy, everyday techniques; practical info; discussion and longer meditation/ hypnosis exercises that could be taken home and used as needed for our peri-menopausal and menopausal symptoms.'
'Kerry held the course with openness, humour and compassion, which helped me to feel at ease. I would recommend 'Trance For Menopause' for any woman struggling with her menopausal transition, not least because it opens up an honest discussion with like-minded women, in the same phase of life, about what actually happens, eliminating myths and bringing empowerment and choice.'
‘I have used (the Snow Globe Technique) so much since I saw you! It has really helped me! Actually, during my course, I had a moment…felt it (a hot flush) rising and managed to deal with it whilst learning!’
Thirteen years ago, I arrived in paradi. My husband had convinced me to quit my job, rent out our flat, don a backpack and head to South East Asia for six months. After a long flight, the craziness of Bangkok and a miriad of saeng taws, ferries, night trains and tuk tuks, we finally emerged into my personal utopia. A perfectly white, sandy beach and balmy waters were held in a tight embrace by huge, softly shaped rocks and a jungle adorned mountain rose magestically behind us. My heart soared.
A sprinkling of simple beach huts adorned the sand and cliffs. We approached one, idyllically perched on one of the wave worn rocks, jutting out to sea. The owner gave us s price within our tight budget and we lugged our heavy back packs inside.
As I dropped my backpack, my heart sank in synchrony. The place was a derelict shell. The window: a gaping hole in the wall. The bed, covered by an I'll fitting, worn sheet and moth eaten mosquito net, homes a spider the size of my hand. The back wall, only partially patched, sported a forearm size lizard and the bathroom had been equally reclaimed by the inhabitants of paradise. My panoramic vision closed in on these unnerving details and anxiety rose like bile in my throat. I can't stay, I sobbed to my husband, this was a mistake. I would have to go home.
Ten minutes later, my vision opened again to the panoramic post card view. Surely, paradise and I could find a way to make things work.
I decided to look around for a bit where I would feel less exposed. The first place we looked at was perfect but way out of our budget. It gave me hope though. I spotted a sign for Silver Cliff Apartments and began the sweaty hike up a steep set of steps where I found a picturesque bungalow which provided some semblance of protection from the prolific wildlife.
Fast forward thirteen years and we emerge onto the same beach, this time with our three children. They are excited to begin this utopia which we have talked so much about and we are excited to share it.
This time we have splashed out on a slightly more luxurious, family bungalow on the rocks. We have hot water and the electricity stays on all night!
We dump our bags gratefully after our long, sweaty journey and head for the glimmering waves of the ocean. Within seconds, all three of my children are crying. I become aware of the stinging sensations all over my body: jelly fish larvae! Like a scratch in a record, it seemed like paradise had, again, vanished. Our vision closed in from the panoramic of paradise to the irritants in the water.
Defeated, my husband and I slumped down in the shade with our sobbing children. Their disappointment felt like stinging criticism.
We underestimated them.
Before long, they were braving the water again and, later, they discovered the perfect spot where the river fed into the sea and we could all bathe comfortably in the refreshing fresh water.
In my experience, paradise is more a state of mind than a state of absolute perfection. There are always compromises and adjustments to be made and it's important not to get drawn into the details, losing sight of the beautiful panoramas of our lives.
Foveal vision or centrally focused vision. In the west we use this a lot, focussing intently on what is directly in front of us, our computers, our phones or whatever task is immediately in front of us. Using foveal vision is associated with the sympathetic nervous system or fight or flight response and tends to trigger the release of stress provoking hormones. Widening our vision to include the full panorama of our peripheral vision connects us to the parasympathetic nervous system which is associated with calm and healing.
Try to notice when you are using foveal vision and take peripheral vision breaks or use it as a tool to snap you out of anxiety or stress.
Take a deep breath while focusing on a central point.
Keep focusing and allow you eyes to soften and relax. Soon you will notice your field of vision starts to spread.
Become conscious of aware of the colours and shapes above, below and either side of your central vision, whilst not looking directly at them, just being casually aware.
Notice the effects on your body and mind.
Image by Kate Cudden
The truth is, you already do.
Hypnosis is a state of suggestibility and your kids are already incredibly susceptible to your suggestions -even though it may not always feel that way! From the moment they were born, your children mimicked your facial expressions and, as they grew, they tried on your mannerisms, your language (especially the bits you didn’t want them to hear) and behaviours. Even as adults, we are sometimes jolted by the sudden recognition of our parents echoing through us.
Young children are wide open to suggestion from any trusted source in their lives: TV, teachers, relatives, friends and any other adult who takes on a cameo or starring role in their lives. Prior to the age of 8, we do not develop the critical consciousness that acts as a firewall of sorts, protecting us, in part, from the constant barrage of influence.
Understanding the process of hypnosis and becoming conscious of how you and others are hypnotising your kids is a crucial part of parenting.
Hypnotherapists are experts in getting past this firewall, empowering you to gain conscious control over your own programming as well as gaining insight into the ways you may be programming those around you.
Did you ever play Simon says as a child? You are given an instruction, but unless the instruction is preceded by the phrase ‘Simon says’, you don’t do it. Simple enough? But, processing the negative involves the critical factor: you first have to think of thing you’re not supposed to do, then decide not to do it. This takes time, particularly in children, which is why it’s such a great game! The instruction itself, however, is processed quickly so the action is often performed before the critical factor has figured out that it was not supposed to be.
How often have you told your child not to do something, only to find they just go right ahead and do it?
Try to change the language you use to give them positive, easier to process, instructions. For example:
‘Don’t run by the pool.’ becomes ‘Walk by the pool.’
‘Don’t hit your sister.’ becomes ‘Step away from your sister.’
You might want to think about these in advance as it can be very difficult to come up with a positive instruction in the heat of the moment.
Teach your child to become the director of the movie in their mind
Nightmares, anxious thoughts and worries are all the product of our imagination. They are the result of seeds planted in our unconscious mind which, left untamed, can grow wild and frightening. Teaching your child to take charge of their mind jungle is one of the most valuable gifts you can give them.
Recently, my 6 year old son was having nightmares about zombies. After a few nights of disturbed sleep, I decided to teach him this hypnotherapy technique:
Our thoughts create our emotions. If you are not already convinced of this, take a moment to close your eyes and conjur up a happy memory. Be sure to see it through your own eyes and to use your memories and imagination to breathe life into it. Remember what you were seeing, hearing, smelling, even tasting and you will begin to feel the familiar sensations of being happy, in your body. Do that now.
What did you notice? Perhaps you felt lighter/ Perhaps the corners of your mouth turned up? Perhaps your posture changed? Maybe your breath became deeper, slower?
Now, try a less resourceful state like anger perhaps? Again, remember a time when you felt this feeling and bring back the sensory memories. Pay attention to how they feel in your body, now.
What did you notice this time? Did you feel more tension in your body? Did your breathing become shallower? Did your posture and facial expression change?
Now, think of a state that would be useful to you right now: calm? Productive? Confident? Allow a memory of feeling this way to come to you and step into it, using your senses.
Children move from one state to another much more easily than we do. We’ve all seen a child sobbing their heart out one minute and totally absorbed in an activity the next. With young children, you can help them to access more resourceful states using distraction, drawing their attention to something new. With older children, you can teach them to find their inner resources simply by remembering a time when they used them.
Building pathways in their brain
For the most part, our brains are on autopilot. When we have learned a process, it gets downloaded almost like a computer programme and we no longer have to think about it. Picture a piece of open park land. If you want to get from A to B, you plot a course and walk across it. In doing so, you begin to wear a pathway. The next person to cross the park may well notice your pathway and follow it, flattening the grass and reinforcing the path. Before you know it, the grass has been worn away and no one thinks of making a new path. This process of repetition is the same way that our brains learn. If one thing happens and then another thing happens, our brains connect the two and a pathway is established. For example: if a child whines and is given a sweet or treat to distract them, the child begins to draw a pathway between these two things so, when they want a treat, they automatically whine. Unchecked, these behaviours will often continue into adulthood!
If you notice a behaviour in your child that is not helpful, try to identify their goal. Then teach them new ways to reach it. For young children. Role play is a great way to do this. For older children, you can get them to imagine using the new behaviours. Through repetition of the new behaviours through imagination and play, they will build more favourable pathways.
Have fun exploring these techniques with your child and feel free to contact me for more information on how hypnotherapy can help your child.
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I stood frozen to the spot, in the apartment I rented with my then husband in Atlanta, Georgia, a dragging ache in my heart.
I recognised the truth that I did not belong there, that this life was eating away at me, that I barely recognised myself anymore. But, as I hunted through my mind, I could find no where that I did belong. There were places I had been, with people who I cared about, but I could not picture a future life that would play out in any of them. Not one I wanted. I had lost sight of what I wanted.
Like one of those dream sequences where you try to run and your legs don't work, every atom of my being screamed at me to leave but with no destination to navigate myself by, I stayed firmly rooted to the spot. I felt stuck. My life was so entwined with this man’s that I no longer knew where he ended and I began. My knees gave way in despair and I sank to the ground, my sobbing from somewhere deep and primal, escaping in long, strained guttural yelps.
I hadn't studied NLP or hypnotherapy at this point in my life, but, if I had, I would have done exactly the same thing as I did in that moment:
I asked myself where I would be and what I would be doing now, if I was just me?
The answer came back simply: I would be studying by the sea, in England!
With that, I created some momentum. A rope appeared over the edge of my pit.
Day by day, my dream grew and became clearer, more vivid. I would go to Brighton, a beautiful seaside town I had visited once with my family and had fond memories of. I would study for my MA in Philosophy.
I began saving and arranged a trip to the UK to check out the university. It turned out that a friend of mine had a connection to the head of philosophy so she was able to arrange for me to meet with him for a chat.
As my vision grew, everything fell so neatly into place.
That trip to Brighton was a huge turning point for me in so many ways. I travelled independently and relished, for the first time in a long time, the ease of my own company. Renting a room with a sea view and haggling for a good price, my confidence began to return to me. I spent time, buffered by the wind and gazing out into the expanse of unpredictable water. By absorbing myself in the changing moods and tempo of the sea, I somehow found peace with my own tempestuous emotions.
At the end of a very varied and fascinating conversation with the head of Philosophy, I asked, tentatively, whether I would be need to come for an interview.
'You already have.' came the reply.
Having visited my goal in person, momentum snowballed and in only a few more months I was unpacking my belongings in a flat with a sea view- for contortionists.
I found myself there. And, once I had, I vowed never to lose myself again. I decided that I could be happy alone; that I was certainly better off alone than with the wrong person.
But, of course, Brighton would, in time, bring me the right person...
For anyone reading this who is in despair right now, I recommend you too throw your thoughts to the future you want. I promise they will come back, like a rope, to rescue you from your pit. You don’t have to know exactly what’s at the end of the rope. You just need a direction and some momentum and, once you are out, you’ll see a whole world is waiting for you.
Kerry Dolan Hypnotherapist and nLP practitioner