Mind-Matters Series Video #10: Refresh Your Mind & Body


This is a short video about refreshing your mind by moving your body. It’s based on the simple principle off doing something positive for yourself when you feel good and making it a habit, because when it becomes a habit, it makes it much easier and more natural do something positive for yourself when you feel negative or unwell.

Get started today no matter how you feel and begin to make your new habit.

 

Mind-Matters Series Video#9: Why Do We Limit Ourselves?


It’s a strange thing about human beings, we are often our own worst enemy because of how and what we think. We deny ourselves the opportunity to improve and grow purely because we limit ourselves through a lack of self-belief, lack of confidence and all because we think we can’t do it, can’t have it, can’t be it, don’t deserve it. These thoughts come about through conditioning from other people as well as our own homegrown rhetoric and are often developed through a lack of focus and understanding of what it is we actually want for ourselves.

This lack of awareness and focus can be hugely detrimental to our lives in terms of achieving what we want, yet it can take just a few minutes a day of learning to focus our minds, clearing the crap (thoughts and behaviours) and setting it on the right path at the beginning of each day enables you to become aware of what does make you happy, what really flicks your switch and then you can start to take action and make changes in your life and design the one YOU want and not one that others want for you.

I hope this video gives you food for thought and is a starting point and/or a catalyst for you to start from.

As always I’m here for guidance.

Simon

Creative Reframing


A wise old gentleman had retired and bought himself a modest home near a school. He spent the first few weeks of his retirement in peace and contentment. However, when the new school year began, the very next afternoon three young boys, full of youthful exuberance and post school enthusiasm, came down his street, banging merrily on every dustbin they encountered. The crashing percussion continued day after day, until finally the wise old man decided it was time to take some action.

The next afternoon, he walked out to meet the young percussionists as they banged their way down the street. He stopped them and said, “You boys are a lot of fun. I like to see you express your exuberance like that. In fact, I used to do the same thing when I was your age. Will you do me a favour? I’ll give you each a dollar if you’ll promise to come around every day and do your thing.” The kids were elated and continued to do a bang-up job on the dustbins.

After a few days, the old-timer greeted the kids again, but this time he had a sad smile on his face. “This recessions really putting a big dent in my income,” he told them. “From now on, I’ll only be able to pay you 50 cents to beat on the cans.” The noisemakers were obviously displeased, but they accepted his offer and continued their afternoon ruckus. A few days later, the wily retiree approached them again as they drummed their way down the street.

“Look,” he said, “I haven’t received my Social Security check yet, so I’m not going to be able to give you more than 25 cents. Will that be okay?” “A quarter?” the drum leader exclaimed. “If you think were going to waste our time, beating these cans around for a quarter, you’re mad! No way, we quit!” And the old man enjoyed peace and serenity for the rest of his days.

Why Are Our Beliefs So Important?


Mainstream psychology and related disciplines have traditionally treated belief as if it were the simplest form of mental representation and therefore one of the building blocks of conscious thought. Philosophers have tended to be more abstract in their analysis, and much of the work examining the viability of the belief concept stems from philosophical analysis.

The concept of belief presumes a subject (a person) and an object of belief (the idea). So, like other propositional attitudes, belief implies the existence of mental states and intentionality, both of which are hotly debated topics in the philosophy of mind, whose foundations and relation to brain states are still controversial.

Beliefs are sometimes divided into core beliefs (that are actively thought about) and dispositional beliefs (that may be ascribed to someone who has not thought about the issue). For example, if I asked you “do you believe tigers wear high heels?” you might answer that you don’t, despite the fact you’ve never had to think about this situation before.

This has important implications for understanding the neuropsychology and neuroscience of belief. If the concept of belief is incoherent, then any attempt to find the underlying neural processes that support it will fail.

Philosopher Lynne Rudder baker has outlined four main contemporary approaches to belief in her controversial book Saving Belief:

Our common-sense understanding of belief is correct – Sometimes called the “mental sentence theory,” in this conception, beliefs exist as coherent entities, and the way we talk about them in everyday life is a valid basis for scientific endeavour. Jerry Fodor is one of the principal defenders of this point of view.

Our common-sense understanding of belief may not be entirely correct, but it is close enough to make some useful predictions – This view argues that we will eventually reject the idea of belief as we know it now, but that there may be a correlation between what we take to be a belief when someone says “I believe that snow is white” and how a future theory of psychology will explain this behaviour. Most notably, philosopher Stephen Stich has argued for this particular understanding of belief.

Our common-sense understanding of belief is entirely wrong and will be completely superseded by a radically different theory that will have no use for the concept of belief as we know it – Known as eliminativism, this view (most notably proposed by Paul and Patricia Churchland) argues that the concept of belief is like obsolete theories of times past such as the four humours theory of medicine, or the phlogiston theory of combustion. In these cases science hasn’t provided us with a more detailed account of these theories, but completely rejected them as valid scientific concepts to be replaced by entirely different accounts. The Churchlands argue that our common-sense concept of belief is similar in that as we discover more about neuroscience and the brain, the inevitable conclusion will be to reject the belief hypothesis in its entirety.

Our common-sense understanding of belief is entirely wrong; however, treating people, animals, and even computers as if they had beliefs is often a successful strategy – The major proponents of this view, Daniel Dennett and Lynne Rudder Baker are both eliminativists in that they hold that beliefs are not a scientifically valid concept, but they don’t go as far as rejecting the concept of belief as a predictive device. Dennett gives the example of playing a computer at chess. While few people would agree that the computer held beliefs, treating the computer as if it did (e.g. that the computer believes that taking the opposition’s queen will give it a considerable advantage) is likely to be a successful and predictive strategy. In this understanding of belief, named by Dennett the intentional stance, belief-based explanations of mind and behaviour are at a different level of explanation and are not reducible to those based on fundamental neuroscience, although both may be explanatory at their own level.

So after all that, how do we define Belief?

Definition: A belief is a Driver (usually Unconscious) we hold and deeply trust about something. They can trigger our Values, Emotions & Behaviours. Beliefs tend to be buried deep within the subconscious. We seldom question beliefs; we hold them to be truths even when there is no solid evidence to support the belief.

A Belief is aroused by an Event e.g. without being aware of it, Andy held the belief that it was ok to openly criticise people. Alienation of his friends caused him to identify, question, and change this belief about what is acceptable to others.

We each behave as though our beliefs are true. What we perceive defines what we believe and this belief or perception is what guides our behaviour. A Belief is a form of judging something to be true, sitting somewhere between opinion and knowledge. Opinion is a subjective statement or thought about an issue or topic, and is the result of emotion or interpretation of facts. Knowledge is learnt expertise, skills, facts and information.

A simple definition for a belief is: A belief is an assumed truth. We create beliefs to anchor our understanding of the world around us and thus, once we have formed a belief, we will tend to persevere with that belief, sometimes even when holding onto that belief is detrimental to us.

Change begins with awareness. Awareness begins with learning about how beliefs and emotional reaction are created by choice.

Some fundamental information about beliefs:

  • They may or may not be based on truth
  • They can also be easily formed out of emotion relating to one or many incidents
  • They may or may not be supported by irrefutable evidence
  • They usually have an emotional attachment, which strengthens belief
  • They do not update themselves automatically and therefore are stored at the initial stage (emotional state, etc.)

There are 3 Basic Types of Beliefs

1. Casual Beliefs: Everyday, practical beliefs that don‘t matter much if we get them wrong such as – I believe it will rain tomorrow

2. Conditioned Beliefs: These come from an assessment of what has happened in the past and then predicts the same results in the future. So we get beliefs such as I‘m no good at this or I can‘t do that. These beliefs, if negative, can stifle our potential and limit our lives.

3. Core Beliefs: Can be positive or negative, lead us to be an optimist or pessimist and decide the answers to such questions as Who am I?, What is life about? What we learn and experience in early life shapes beliefs about the world and ourselves. Core beliefs are like a mental framework that supports our thoughts, beliefs, values and perception. Core beliefs are the deepest of all because what we believe “deep down inside” underpins our value system and our attitudes and opinions. This is one of the reasons why core beliefs are seldom questioned even when they are causing enormous problems within the person who holds that core belief.

Last of all, there is a fourth type of belief that overlaps all three previous types and these are Limiting Beliefs. These can be hugely destructive and even lead us to the point of complete hopelessness and suicide. Now of course, this does not have to be the case and is rare in the grand scheme of things, however, these limiting beliefs that we all have from time to time can really hold us back from achieving what we want to achieve in life.

“Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone.”

Damn right it does.

The one common false belief holding you back is that you think that your past determines who you are. If that were true, no one would ever overcome adversity, benefit from a second chance, or improve themselves through education, self-discipline, or perseverance.

Your past actions, good and bad, can be judged by you and by others. You can learn from your errors as well as your successes. Others can think what they will, but neither your reflections on your past nor others’ opinions of you determine who you are now or in the future.

Believing that your past defines who you are is a toxic fallacy. Consider a circus elephant chained by one leg to a stake in the ground: Why doesn’t the elephant just pull the stake loose and wander away? Because it couldn’t do so when it was young. And so the adult elephant is still restrained—not by the chain, but by its past, or rather, the learned associations from its past (Chain around leg means “can’t walk”).

Cognitive dissonance is the culprit that motivates us to maintain the belief that what we were in the past is all that we ever will be. Leon Festinger originated the concept back in the 1950s. He also proposed the principle of cognitive consistency—that is, that we seek to maintain mental and emotional balance by thinking and acting in compliance with who we think we are. And who do we think we are? The same person we have always been. And so when we attempt to think and act differently, cognitive dissonance sets in.

Here’s the trick— metacognition. That simply means being able to observe one’s own thinking and feelings objectively and unemotionally, so that one can assess what may be “pushing our buttons.” If you want to change but experience cognitive dissonance in the process, metacognition can help you identify dissonance as a normal but unhelpful reaction. With effort you can then master the dissonance and proceed with the changes you want to make, until those changes become the new normal.

Are you chained to the past? If so, that chain exists only in your mind. You can remember and reflect on the past without being defined and limited by it.

What’s stopping you? Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Negative_thinking-limiting-beliefs

Limiting Beliefs are beliefs we have that limit the way we live, or from being, doing or having what we want. We all have limiting beliefs from time to time in our lives, particularly when we have to learn something new that is way out of our comfort zone, beyond our current skill set or just so completely different from anything we’ve done before.

If you speak to any Olympic athlete they will tell you that there have been times when they wanted to quit because at times they felt it was just too hard to achieve that small improvement in performance to throw or jump further, to swim or run faster. They constantly have help from their coaches to reframe these negative thoughts that create limiting beliefs.

I remember very clearly several occasions during my time in basic training to become a Royal Marine where I wanted to quit. There were a couple of key tests that pushed me way beyond my limits at that time and the self induced pressure from that put my mind into a negative spiral of doubt and self criticism. My training team new I could do it, it was purely that stress and pressure had sown that seed of doubt and reframed my usual positive outlook into a limiting belief about these key tests. Just as the Olympic coaches do with their athletes, my training did the same for me and reminded me of everything I had achieved so far and what I was working so hard for, that elusive and exclusive Green Beret. Something I had wanted for a long time and this stirred the fire in my belly and revved up my determination, motivation, commitment and desire to refuse to quit until I had that beret on my head. They reminded me of the Royal Marines Corps Spirit, Values and Ethos which are:

The Commando Spirit

These four elements of the Commando Spirit; courage, determination, unselfishness and cheerfulness in the face of adversity, were etched into my mind during my basic eight months training and are well known to all Royal Marine recruits by the time they complete their Commando training. But these constituents of the ‘Commando Spirit’ are what make the Royal Marines individual ‘commandos’. What shapes the way they work as a team, giving the Royal Marines its special identity, the way they carry their duties, is a second set of group values laid out below. They should seem quite familiar. It is the combination of individual Commando Spirit qualities, coupled with these group values, that together forms the Royal Marine ethos.

Royal Marine ethos = Individual Commando Sprit + Collective Group Values

  • Courage
  • Unity
  • Determination
  • Adaptability
  • Unselfishness
  • Humility
  • Cheerfulness in the Face of Adversity
  • Professional Standards
  • Fortitude
  • Commando Humour

These elements collectively are what have stood the test of time for me and all of my clients that I have worked with over the last twenty years in smashing Limiting Beliefs, these beliefs fall into five main categories:

1. Any ‘feelings’ that you can’t feel: If the description you give yourself or someone else gives you which, when you “try it on,” is something you cannot feel without hallucinating substantially. Eg ‘I feel I have to worry’. Also, where the word ‘feel’ could be replaced by ‘believe’ and the sentence still makes sense, then that could indicate a limiting belief. Eg ‘I feel (believe) people don’t like me’.

2. Negations: Anytime there is a negation describing anything, which might be an emotion eg ‘I’m not clever’, ‘I can’t have a good relationship’

3. Comparatives: Whenever there are comparisons. Eg ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘I can’t make enough money/friends’

4. Limiting Decisions: Whenever a Limiting Belief is adopted, a Limiting Decision preceded that acceptance. A Limiting Decision preceded even the beliefs that were adopted from other people. Eg ‘I should know all the answers’, ‘I should get it right every time’.

5. Modal Operators of Necessity: Words such as have to, got to, must, ought, should.

The Pygmalion effect refers to the phenomenon in which the greater the expectation placed upon people (such as children, students, or employees) the better they perform. The Pygmalion effect is a form of self-fulfilling prophecy. Within sociology, the effect is often cited with regard to education and social class. The principle works in both ways, if you have high expectations then people will generally respond positively and achieve what’s expected, equally on the other side of the coin, if we have low expectations of people then they will respond according to our attitude and behaviour towards them.

Pygmalion_Effect

Some examples of Limiting Beliefs are as follows:

I must stay the way I don’t want to be because__________________________________

I can’t get what I want because______________________________________________

I’ll never get better because_________________________________________________

My biggest problem is______________because_________________________________

I’ll always have this problem because__________________________________________

I don’t deserve_________________because____________________________________

I’m not good enough to_____________________________________________________

NB. It is important to distinguish between statements of fact/truth, and limiting beliefs, for example:

POSSIBLE TRUTH/FACT ————————— LIMITING DECISION

I don’t have any money ———————— I can’t make any money.

I am not a good athlete ———————— I cannot become a good athlete.

I don’t have any qualifications —————- I need qualifications to succeed.

I don’t trust people ——————————- People are not trustworthy

Below is a little exercise that explains how to change or reframe a limiting belief so that you change your beliefs/thinking/attitude/feelings which changes your actions/behaviours which changes the results you achieve in your life.

Beliefs-Behaviours-Results

I would really like you to  consider this exercise and take some time to think about the times in your life where you have doubted yourself and created a limiting belief or had a long held, conditioned limiting belief that held you back from achieving something you really wanted, perhaps not permanently but something that slowed you down and got in your way. Use this exercise to draw out the detail of a limiting belief/s and use this knowledge to reframe it into an empowering belief that drives your life in the direction you want it to go.

EXERCISE:

Every single one of your beliefs is important to you because what you believe determines who and how you are.

I would like you to use this cheat sheet and take some time to think about the times in your life where you have doubted yourself and created a limiting belief/s that have held you back from achieving something you really wanted. Perhaps not permanently but something that slowed you down and got in your way. I recommend writing a description of each belief in as much detail as possible so that you really understand what it is made of, this makes it much easier to identify what you can, want and need to change in order to reframe it and change it into a positive, empowering belief.

Answer the following questions and write your answers down:

  • How does it make you feel when you think about that limiting belief?
  • Can you identify what changed and when, if it did?
  • What limiting belief/s do you have right now? How does that make you feel?
  • What do you want to believe about that situation, person, people etc that would change the outcome to one that is positive for you?
  • How does changing the belief about that situation make you feel?

Part 1: What are My Limiting Beliefs

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Part 2: Now I Know My Limiting Beliefs, What Can I Reframe Them Into Empowering Beliefs

Use this section to reframe and rewrite your old limiting beliefs into new Empowering beliefs that bring a whole new spin, a new energy to them as they transform you and lead your life in a direction that you may have been striving for and now it will happen all by itself as you change your thinking, behaviour and results.

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My final thought is this.

Screenshot 2017-03-28 12.24.49

References:

Bell, V.; Halligan, P. W.; Ellis, H. D. (2006). “A Cognitive Neuroscience of Belief”. In Halligan, Peter W.; Aylward, Mansel. The Power of Belief: Psychological Influence on Illness, Disability, and Medicine. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-853010-2.
Jump up: Baker, Lynne Rudder (1989). Saving Belief: A Critique of Physicalism. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-07320-1.

Are You Designing The Life You Want?


It’s always struck me as an almost impossible decision to make when you’re a kid at school, that choice that’s thrown at you to decide your future at 16. How can you possibly know what you want to do when you’ve done bugger all at that point?

It has taken me until my 40’s to figure it out and with several attempts to find out along the way. Even though I have made my own choices as to what to do, mostly,  and I have enjoyed what I’ve done, I have never felt truly comfortable with the jobs I’ve had. It’s like there was something missing, something not quite right and it was purely a gut feeling.

As bizarre and paradoxical as this may sound, if you’re feeling the same way right now I believe that precisely because of that, you are on the right path. Because when you don’t know which direction to head in, when you feel lost, it is this simple yet powerful realisation that you are lost that enables you to actually begin to find yourself. It is only when you reach this point that you know what all those difficult questions about life are and you can then ask them of yourself and clear the fog to begin to reveal your path, your purpose.

I have been lost several times in my life and always experience the most amazing shifts in my consciousness as a result of it. It makes me feel so different in so many ways, and, these changes can feel uncomfortable at first and all I can say to that is enjoy it, embrace it and know that good things happen as a result of these kinds of shift, because you awaken to other ways of thinking and being and that you are responsible for your own life’s direction.

When you awaken to the responsibility you have for your own life, it can give you a sense of heaviness initially, it can even feel overwhelming, because you now understand that you are the only person who can be held accountable for the life you choose to lead. If you want to turn your dreams into reality, it is you who will have to take control and make that happen.

After realising your responsibility for your success in life, you may begin to experience a sense of doubt in the back of your mind; a fear that if you try to turn your dreams into reality, you put yourself at risk of failing. This fear can grow extremely fast when you reach the inevitable conclusion that you have no choice but to drive that change if you are to achieve the things you hold close to your heart. This is where your mental strength comes into it’s own and where you find out if you truly, deep down want what you thought you wanted.

When you make that decision that change is inevitable, it can be so easy to become intimidated and overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that you all of a sudden, want to change. If this happens just pause, breathe and remember everything else you’ve achieved in your life and how previously, you didn’t think you’d be able to handle so many things at once, and you did. Remember that you are capable of doing what needs to be done when you break them down into smaller bite sized pieces.

And do you know what, sometimes you can’t figure out a way to put your plans into action straight way, perhaps because you feel that time is not on your side. The weeks, months and years seem to fly by and you sense that you don’t have enough of them left to reach your ideal destination. This is just an illusion created by doubt and fear. The only reason time seems to alter is because we are either extremely busy or extremely quiet in our lives, the fact that it seems to speed up and slow down is just an illusion. You have the time you need if you plan your changes wisely. Even when your life right now seems so hectic to you and some days leave you feeling drained of energy physically and mentally. Putting in the effort to plan your changes wisely helps to set you up for success, and then you can look forward to your holidays and take a well earned break from life cycle of repetitive habit and duty.

These big shifts can leave you feeling unwilling to put up with two faced people whose words and behaviours betray their negative and hurtful actions. The best thing you can do now is put as much distance between them and you as possible, because their very presence can bring you down at times and steer you temporarily off course. Never let anyone or anything stand in the way of your dreams and just remember that the path is never straight and easy, it will throw challenges and detours at you and it is down to your strength of mind and commitment to you, that will get you where you want to be.

I don’t know about you but I can’t understand why so many people are obsessed with the way they look and the things they own. Of course it’s good to look nice, but there are so many people that I have met in my life that live for their designer clothing, fake tans, cosmetic surgery, bling, and many other traps of meaningless, materialistic bullshit. The way people look has no bearing on what they are like as individuals and more often than not, the people with the shallow, materialistic approach to life are the ones who are prepared to hurt others in order to get what they want. It’s a sad reflection of modern society and one that I’m sure most of you have no time for either. This is another reason that you can know that you’re heading in the right direction because all the crap and irrelevant bullshit has little or no meaning for you.

My perception of society is that it doesn’t appear to be heading in a positive, progressive direction. The modern world is creating more problems than it is solving, and that it is only a matter of time before things go seriously wrong, the markers are everywhere. I would love to see a fairer, more caring future where everyone has greater opportunity and wealth isn’t controlled by the richest 1%. I appreciate that this is a huge generalisation and that there are people out there and organisations that are doing some amazing things and we need more of them. I don’t recall thinking like this when I was younger and I am aware that it was part of a shift a few years ago and it has helped me refine my direction in life for the better.

Now as we all now society is changing, and among some there is a complacency and sense of entitlement. I have found that when we all try to do our bit to inject enthusiasm, positivity, a sense of responsibility and possibility and perhaps even a desire for adventure in people, that it makes a difference to some peoples lives. I hope that this injection of positivity spreads like a happy virus round the universe, because this would make our planet an amazing place to live if we can stop destroying it and ourselves in the process.

When you think about the universe it is easy to feel as though we are just a tiny, unimportant piece of an infinitely complex puzzle and that our achievements don’t really mean much in the grand scheme of things. Not true. The good things you do for others, as well as yourself, may not have any effect on Neptune or in the Andromeda Galaxy, but a small gesture of kindness can have a huge impact on the person you do that for, so keep doing it, because it does matter and it all counts and helps to keep shifting you in the right direction too.

And as rewarding as it can be to do nice things for people you don’t know, it matters just as much when it comes to friendships, because that is a genuine bond, one that isn’t necessarily founded purely on a long history of knowing each other. Even if you drift apart from those friends that you have this connection with and your circle of friends grows smaller because you’ve moved away for work etc. You will never lose those kinds of friends and you will meet new friends and create amazing friendships wherever you go. I have been fortunate to make friends with people in what are classed as some of the most dangerous countries on this planet, some who risked their lives for me. That I will never forget and I will never forget the ones who are no longer here. Respect for others is something that I think comes with age and experience, particularly in understanding who deserves it more than others.

I wonder of you’re like me and often like to take time alone, I enjoy that time to reflect on my life and sometimes those friends who have sadly lost their lives all too soon. I don’t do this to feel melancholy or depressed, I find that by spending time alone I can throw off the worries and anxieties of life and feel the freedom that this provides to reflect and take stock of things. It’s particularly useful and way more enjoyable heading out into nature and escaping the hustle and bustle of society where you can be at one with your thoughts and with yourself. When you get closer to your purpose you naturally appreciate different things, things you may not have noticed as much until now and this is a very good thing because it brings about positive changes.

Sometimes you can see yourself changing before your very eyes and this can be a little scary, perhaps because you have a sense that this change is now unstoppable and you’re afraid that the important people in your life – your family and friends – might not understand what’s happening to you. You worry that they will try to resist your change or even resent you for changing. And that’s ok because wherever you are on your journey, you can’t help but feel that there are pieces of the puzzle still missing. And you can sense that there is so much more to come, but you aren’t yet able to see what this may involve or whom. All you know is that what you have now, and what you can see of the future, isn’t all that there is.

It’s ironic that change is everywhere and so many people fear it. The thing is it almost inevitably involves some element of risk, and can give you an underlying sense of fear about what these risks are and what they mean for you and the people in your life. Whether they involve your physical security, your mental wellbeing, or your spiritual serenity, it’s natural to feel a little uneasy about the potential harm that might come your way. The funny thing is though, as inevitable the risk may be with change, the seriousness of that outcome from taking that risk is often far smaller than we imagined. We tend to err on the side of caution and make things worse in our minds as part of our self defence mechanism. It’s up to you whether you see this as a positive or negative element.

When this happens it’s important to have your say, even if you’re not sure how to say it. Stand up, be heard and make your vote and your voice count, be bold instead of hesitant and don’t worry how this might be perceived by others because this is about you finding your voice, who you are and knowing your purpose and telling people about it. And, that is hugely important in driving you and your life in the right direction and opening up new possibilities as a result of it. When you realise that laid out before you are the almost never-ending possibilities of your life, you can begin to figure out how you will choose between them. Each and every choice you make allows you to become even more aware of the endless possibilities that are yet to be realised by you, and this can either make you anxious about making the right decisions or excited at those possibilities. The choice is ultimately yours, I know what I would choose.

The thing is, knowing what you know now, you are able to look back on your past and see many things that perhaps you would do differently and that is an awesome realisation, because it means you have learnt from your mistakes and are all the wiser for them. And it’s not about feeling regret about how you acted, how you treated others or what your priorities were. You made your choices based on the information, knowledge, skills and experience you had at that time and you did the best you could with all of that. No one sets out to make a shitty decision, that’s pure madness, and as yet I have not met anyone who has told me that they got up in the morning with the intention of fucking everything up that day. Strange I know 🙂 All this means is that you appreciate your mistakes, you’ve taken the value from them and you know what to do should you ever be in a similar position, and you are definitely on the right track.

From time to time in our lives we can lose sight of the grand meaning of it all and we wonder whether there is any purpose to it whatsoever, and you know what, it’s actually ok to feel numb from time to time. In fact it’s completely natural and despite this feeling confusing, the reality is that confusion is a good thing because after the confusion has gone, we will have learned something new.

Sometimes in amongst all the frenetic hustle of life I find it such a relief to not know who I am, where I’m going, what I want to do etc, because not knowing takes the pressure off for a moment while I just allow my self wander through the curiously strange, meandering corridors of my mind and open some of the doors I haven’t opened yet. And the great thing is I know that I will walk back out of that crazy and wonderful maze with a clearer understanding of what I want and what I need to do.

My aim was to give you hope, let you take heart from my own experiences so far with losing my identity, direction and purpose because wherever you are in that process right now, know this. You will come out wiser, clearer and calmer with the knowledge that you need.

Happy trails

Simon

Hypnosis and Fear of Dentists


stay-connectd

Unsurprisingly for many of you, a fear of dentists and dental treatment is a very common phobia in the UK and elsewhere around the world.

  • Almost half of UK adults have a fear of the dentist.
  • 12% of these suffers from an extreme dental anxiety.
  • Women are more likely to suffer from extreme dental anxiety than men.
  • Visiting the Dentist is ranked number one (22%) for making people nervous, even more popular than heights (19%).

Direct experience is the most common way people develop dental fears. Most people report that their dental fear began after a traumatic, difficult, and/or painful dental experience. However, painful or traumatic, dental experiences alone do not explain why people develop dental phobia. The perceived manner of the dentist is an important variable. Dentists who were considered “impersonal”, “uncaring”, “uninterested” or “cold” may develop high dental fear in patients, even in the absence of painful experiences, whereas some patients who had had painful experiences failed to develop dental fear if they perceived their dentist as caring and warm.

Indirect experiences

  • Vicarious learning
  • Dental fear may develop as people hear about others’ traumatic experiences or negative views of dentistry (vicarious learning).
  • Mass media

The negative portrayal of dentistry in mass media and cartoons may also contribute to the development of dental fear. This negative portrayal may come from such films as the 1932 comedy film The Dentist, the unrelated horror film The Dentist, its sequel, the 1933 cartoon The Merry Old Soul, and Marathon Man (the antagonist, Dr. Christian Szell, is a Nazi war criminal who tortures with dental equipment).

Stimulus Generalisation

Dental fear may develop as a result of a previous traumatic experience in a non-dental context. For example, bad experiences with doctors or hospital environments may lead people to fear white coats and antiseptic smells, which is one reason why dentists nowadays often choose to wear less “threatening” apparel. People who have been sexually, physically or emotionally abused may also find the dental situation threatening.

Helplessness and Perceived Lack of Control

If a person believes that they have no means of influencing a negative event, they will experience the feeling of helplessness. Research has shown that a perception of lack of control leads to fear. The opposite belief, that one does have control, can lead to lessened fear. For example, the belief that the dentist will stop when the patient gives a stop signal lessens fear. Helplessness and lack of control may also result from direct experiences, for example an incident where a dentist wouldn’t stop even when the person was in obvious pain.

Diagnosis of Phobia
Phobia of dental care is sometimes diagnosed using a fear measurement instrument like Corah’s Dental Anxiety Scale or the Modified Dental Anxiety Scale

It would be very interesting to read your experiences of dentists and how you feel about your 6 monthly appointment. In the meantime here are some case studies and also additional references at the end.

 

Study 1: Hypnosis in Pediatric Dental Treatment Using elements of hypnosis prior to or during pediatric dental treatment.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23635894

Results: A review of the relevant research and literature shows that the advantages of using hypnotic elements and hypnosis in pediatric dentistry are evident.

Notes: Most dental practitioners are familiar with pediatric patients expressing dental fear or anxiety. Occasionally, the dentist may encounter a situation where all behavioral techniques fail, while, for some reason, premedication or general anesthesia are contraindicated or rejected by the patient or his/her parents and a different approach is required. Hypnosis may solve the problem in some cases. The purpose of this study was to review the literature about techniques that use elements of hypnosis and hypnotic techniques prior to or during pediatric dental treatment. There is a limited amount of literature regarding the use of hypnosis and hypnotic elements in pediatric dentistry. Induction techniques, reframing, distraction, imagery suggestions, and hypnosis are identified, although mostly anecdotally.

Pediatr Dent. 2013 Jan-Feb;35(1):33-6
By: B. Peretz, R. Bercovich, S. Blumer, Department of Pediatric Dentistry, The Maurice and Gabriela Goldschleger School of Dental Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel

Study 2: Hypnosis for Dental Procedure Pain
Effects of Hypnosis as an Adjunct to Intravenous Sedation for Third Molar Extraction: A Randomized, Blind, Controlled Study
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00207140903310782?journalCode=nhyp20#preview

Results: Intraoperative Propofol administration, patient postoperative pain ratings, and postoperative prescription pain reliever consumption were all significantly reduced in the hypnosis treatment group compared to the control group.

Notes: This study aimed to evaluate the use of hypnosis/therapeutic suggestion as an adjunct to intravenous (IV) sedation in patients having 3rd molar removal in an outpatient setting. The patients were randomly assigned to a treatment (n = 46) or control (n = 54) group. The treatment group listened to a rapid conversational induction and therapeutic suggestions via headphones throughout the entire surgical procedure along with a standard sedation dose of intravenous anesthetic. The control group listened to only music without any hypnotic intervention. Intraoperative Propofol administration, patient postoperative pain ratings, and postoperative prescription pain reliever consumption were all significantly reduced in the treatment compared to the control group. Implications of these results are discussed.

International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Volume 58, Issue 1, 2009
By: Edward F. Mackey, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, West Chester, Pennsylvania, USA

Study 3: Use of Imagery to Make Easier Injection of Anesthesia for Dental Work
The use of imagery suggestions during administration of local anesthetic in pediatric dental patients.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10997242

Results: The authors of this study conclude that imaging/imagery techniques may be successfully utilized in the administration of local anesthesia to young children (from three years of age) in an effort to mitigate untoward, pain-related stress.

Notes: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of suggestion before and during the administration of local anesthesia to children. Eighty children between the ages of three and sixteen years and who required at least one injection of local anesthesia were monitored. Retrospective examinations of their dental records provided the information regarding the behavior and dental treatment histories of the patients. All other data were provided through observation during the dental treatment phase. During the first treatment session, before the injection, each child was asked to select a favorite, pleasant memory or image. Where children had difficulty in identifying an image, one was proposed by the dentist. After an image had been chosen, the patients were asked to concentrate on the image and to visualize it during the procedure. The majority of children had chosen their own images, and significantly visualized the same images throughout the injection procedures. Image selection and visualization had no association with gender, age, the parent’s assessment of the child’s behavior, previous dental experience, behavior (both past and present) or, management techniques (both past and present).

ASDC J Dent Child. 2000 Jul-Aug;67(4):263-7, 231
By: B. Peretz, E. Bimstein, Department of Pediatric Dentistry, Hebrew University, Hadassah School of Dental Medicine, Jerusalem, Israel

References

  1. Bracha HS, Vega EM, Vega CB (2006). “Posttraumatic dental-care anxiety (PTDA): Is “dental phobia” a misnomer?” (PDF). Hawaii Dent J. 37 (5): 17–9. PMID 17152624.
  2. Milgrom P, Weinstein P, Getz T (1995). Treating Fearful Dental Patients: A Patient Management Handbook (2nd ed.). Seattle, Wash.: University of Washington, Continuing Dental Education. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0528.1996.tb00893.x. ISBN 1-880291-01-0.
  3. Erten H, Akarslan ZZ, Bodrumlu E (April 2006). “Dental fear and anxiety levels of patients attending a dental clinic”. Quintessence Int. 37 (4): 304–10. PMID 16594362.
  4. Stabholz A, Peretz B (April 1999). “Dental anxiety among patients prior to different dental treatments”. Int Dent J. 49 (2): 90–4. doi:10.1111/j.1875-595x.1999.tb00514.x. PMID 10858738
  5. Locker D, Shapiro D, Liddell A (June 1996). “Negative dental experiences and their relationship to dental anxiety”. Community Dent Health. 13 (2): 86–92. PMID 8763138
  6. Bernstein DA, Kleinknecht RA, Alexander LD (1979). “Antecedents of dental fear”. J Public Health Dent. 39 (2): 113–24. doi:10.1111/j.1752-7325.1979.tb02932.x. PMID 287803
  7. Hilton IV, Stephen S, Barker JC, Weintraub JA (December 2007). “Cultural factors and children’s oral health care: a qualitative study of carers of young children”. Community Dent Oral Epidemiol. 35 (6): 429–38. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0528.2006.00356.x. PMID 18039284
  8. http://www.dentalfearcentral.org/abuse_survivors.html
  9. Lundgren J, Carlsson SG, Berggren U (May 2006). “Relaxation versus cognitive therapies for dental fear—a psychophysiological approach”. Health Psychol. 25 (3): 267–73. doi:10.1037/0278-6133.25.3.267. PMID 16719597

Mind-Body Health and Your Vagus Nerve


For me, being a therapist, counsellor or coach is just like being a good host at a dinner party, because a client is a guest in my practice and they have come because they need something from me that I can give them so I invite them in.

If my guest is thirsty, I give them a drink. If they’re belly is rumbling with hunger, I give them food. This is a basic duty of being the host with the most. And in my mind, the same principle applies to a client suffering from stress (and almost every client I see is).

When treating a negatively emotionally aroused client, the first thing I need to do is calm them down.

Don’t get me wrong, calm empathic listening can take the wind out of the sail of rising cortisol. But sometimes clients need immediate help. Their level of stress has become an emergency, and until you apply therapeutic psychological first aid, other diagnostics and treatments have to wait.

It’s equally useless to try to get someone who is dying of thirst to think about their long-term finances, you won’t get anywhere by attempting to help a stressed person until you address their need for relaxation and calm.

But why do people suffer stress in the first place?

People become stressed when they are not meeting their needs, or fear their needs will stop being met. (What if he/she leaves me? What if I lose my job?) A great visual for our needs is this image below which is an adapted version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. When these needs, starting from the bottom up, are not met we begin to suffer psychologically and then physically.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Emotional stress is a signal that needs are not being met adequately, just as thirst is a physical stress signal that the body is dehydrated. Knowing how to deeply relax stressed clients – offering ‘psychological & physical first aid’ – is a prerequisite skill to make any other therapy or coaching remotely possible.

Quench That Thirst 

Using talk therapy or getting all analytical when someone is crippled by stress is like giving salted food to a dehydrated guest. Quench their urgent thirst first, then work out how you can help them in the long term.

Stress is the one thing almost all psychological conditions have in common. Depressed people always have more of the stress hormone cortisol in their bloodstreams (1). Addicted people are stressed because they aren’t meeting their needs, and they try to relieve that stress through the escapism of addiction (2). People develop panic attacks when they’re generally stressed. Emotional problems are caused by stress, but in turn cause more stress.

So, to me, it seems almost unforgivable for any therapist not to be exquisitely skilled in the art and science of relaxation. And this is why I believe all people helpers should be able to heal through calm – and why I have always trained coaches and therapists to do this.

Here are three reasons why it’s not just ethical but essential to know how to relax your clients deeply.

1. You can’t help your client until they’re relaxed and ready

sp_image_role_of_vagus_nerve

Pete was clearly on the brink of either exploding or imploding, I wasn’t quite sure which one at first. His facial muscles were rigid, and the deeply etched creases in his face indicated long term tension and stress. Sitting in front of me his breath was shallow, fast and heavy, just like he’d run to my practice – yet he looked frozen in place. It was blatantly obvious that he needed help and right now.

Crucially, as I began engaging in conversation I found that he couldn’t think. Every time I asked a question I could see his mind wander off somewhere else. He did say one very important thing though.

When I asked what it was that he wanted, he looked straight at me and said “Not to feel like I’m dying inside!”

“I can’t relax, ever”, he said. Yet relaxation was precisely what he needed. Natural, mind-clarifying relaxation, that is, not the alcohol and sleeping tablet induced semi-coma that he’d become accustomed to.

We know that depressed brains are stressed brains. Pete was depressed because his needs weren’t being met. And the double bind was that in order to help meet his needs, he needed to become less stressed.

Long-term stress inhibits the function of the left prefrontal lobe, which generates feelings of enjoyment and satisfaction (3) and facilitates calm cognition (4). To put it simply, stress inhibits cognitive function. We can’t think or learn when we’re highly stressed.

Without wanting to overcook the analogy, you can’t teach someone calculus when they are desperate for water. And good luck trying to do cognitive therapy with someone whose thinking brain is crippled by anxiety.

I gave Pete what he needed in that first session, which was deep rest and relaxation. He was a different person at the end of that first session: clear, calm and hopeful. I didn’t just tell him he could feel different. I showed him how to feel different. Pete now had some clear space in his mind to really think about what else he wanted from therapy, beyond the relaxation.

Constant stress and failure to relax makes people feel hopeless, disassociated from their personal resources, and therefore helpless. From there it’s not far to go to reach crisis point.

Of course, we can’t disentangle body from mind – it’s a false dichotomy. Helping your clients relax will also greatly help their physical wellbeing.

2. You can’t heal the body without healing the mind

vagus nerve

For me, a good therapist, counsellor or coach should be able to improve the physical health of their clients by quickly improving their emotional health.

High levels of stress are correlated with increased risk of obesity and diabetes (5), and can damage immunity (6) and working memory (7). Prolonged stress (ongoing activation of the sympathetic nervous system or ‘fight or flight’ response) also increases inflammation in the body (8), which can adversely affect digestion (9).

Stress-induced inflammation is also implicated in the onset of some cancers (10), heart disease (11), and the physical manifestations of depression (12). This is hardly surprising, as depression is essentially a sense of nervous exhaustion from the stress of unresolved worry and rumination (13).

On the other hand, good immune function, clear thought, and feelings of wellbeing can all be promoted through an amazing mechanism that is closely tied to the relaxation response. Let me explain.

The Vagus Nerve and Your Mind-Body Health

As a therapist or coach, your job is to help people feel better, to give them the calm and confidence to pursue their goals. When the mind is troubled, the body is troubled – and vice versa. Fortunately for us, there’s something we can use to dramatically improve mental and physical health and reduce inflammation throughout the entire body. It’s called the vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve is an incredible meandering bundle of nerve fibres that extends from the brainstem, through the neck and thorax, and finally to the abdomen, where it supplies the gut. This is the widest nerve distribution of any nerve in the body.

The function of the vagus nerve is closely tied to your health, both mental and physical. It interfaces with your parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response) and controls the healthy functioning of the heart, digestive tract and lungs.

Low ‘vagal tone’ has been linked to higher levels of inflammation in the brain and body (14). Conversely, when the vagus nerve is stimulated and strengthened, inflammation is lowered throughout the entire body.

Social connections (15) and healthy diet (16) both stimulate the vagus nerve, but perhaps the most important and practical way of stimulating the vagus nerve is by practising deep relaxation. In fact, just the simple act of breathing slowly in and out (the exhalation needs to be longer than the inhalation) activates the vagus nerve (17).

Relaxation helps our clients feel healthier, not ‘just’ physically but mentally too. Relaxing distressed clients is not just dealing with the symptom – it’s also helping alleviate the cause. When people improve their vagal tone they become more able to make emotional, cognitive and behavioural changes.

But as well as all the benefits of relaxation in and of itself, the relaxed state offers a perfect medium for psychological change. It’s during relaxation that we can best help our clients by treating the cause of long-term distress – and here’s how.

3. Relaxation primes your client for inner work

vagus-nerve-x

I remember a client coming to see me who used to have CBT. He recounted how the ‘therapy’ would make him feel so stressed (with all the health implications that entailed) because the practitioner would ask him to replay in the sessions by focusing on all that was and had ever been bad in his life.

He learned to schedule the sessions on Fridays because he’d tried other days but found he had to take up to three days off work to recover from the ‘therapy’. So his weekends were ruined which added more stress from frustration.

This is absolutely insane. Our clients should feel better after every session.

Pete found that after months of building stress, the simple act of relaxing was incredibly therapeutic in itself. But we needed to deal with the reasons for the stress to prevent it from happening again in future.

All coaching and counselling uses inner work and what I mean by that is that even if you just ask a client what they want or ask them to think about the past, you are inviting them to go inside their minds to find the answer, to forget the room for a little while and enter a kind of light trance.

As a therapist, counsellor or coach, you are using a kind of trance focus whether you know it or not. Relaxed trance (and note that not all trance is relaxing) is the gentle medium through which change work can be done more powerfully and quickly. The relaxation part of any session is also the perfect time for a client to psychologically process earlier work.

People make intuitive leaps when they are relaxed and the unconscious mind has a chance to form new possibilities and solutions. Sometimes a reframe won’t take when a person is too stressed, but can be offered and digested in the mind during a state of deep calm and rest. It’s during deep relaxation that we can encourage real insight by having the client calmly use their dissociated, ‘Observing Self’.

You can help your client inwardly rehearse new positive behaviours by talking to them gently while they are deeply calm, resting with their eyes closed. This kind of rehearsal makes it more likely a client will actually carry out the behaviours required to help them toward their goals. And there’s more.

Relaxation is also the medium through which severe PTSD and phobias are lifted. The brain works through association but sometimes, as with phobias, addictions or low self-esteem, those associations can be harmful. We can use relaxed trance states as a way to unhook damaging pattern matches.

To put it another way, relaxation isn’t just the part of the medicine that makes it ‘taste good’. This natural and wonderful mind/body medicine also packs a real ‘nutritional’ punch.

Pete learned to relax himself once I’d helped him do it a couple of times. We used deeply relaxed hypnosis to not only help his vagus nerve adjust to a new, more generally relaxed Pete, but also to de-traumatise an old memory so that his flashbacks stopped and his nightmares faded away fast.

It was during deep relaxation that I helped Pete rehearse new, healthy behaviours to help him meet his needs better in future. What he said as he left the final session was brilliant:

“I never knew therapy was so enjoyable – I actually had fun!”

This is why I strongly believe that every therapist, counsellor and coach must to know how to deeply, quickly, easily and conversationally relax their clients.

Never let a client leave a session in need in any way, ever.

References:

1 http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/abs/10.1176/ajp.2007.164.4.617
2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao8L-0nSYzg
3 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2907136/
4 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0896627301003592
5 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159103000485
6 http://www.nature.com/nri/journal/v5/n3/abs/nri1571.html
7 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10253890600678004
8http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/07/chronic-stress-health-inflammation-genes_n_4226420.htm and http://www.nature.com/nri/journal/v5/n3/abs/nri1571.html
9 https://dl.sciencesocieties.org/publications/jas/abstracts/87/14_suppl/0870101
10 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159112001833
11 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022399901003026
12 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006322308015321
13 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24444431
14 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17192580
15 https://genomebiology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/gb-2007-8-9-r189
16 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17192580
17 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3216041/

Life Design


For a long time I thought I was happy with my job, I was doing what I’d set to do in joining the Royal Marines. I worked with like-minded people, got paid to stay exceptionally fit, got fed four times a day and was provided with a roof over my head. The trade-off was that I was expected to do what I was told do whether I liked it or not and, some of the things I was asked to do I really didn’t like. However I was still happy living my dream.

Or so I thought.

Continue reading Life Design

Hypnosis and the Brain – Body Connection


I found this article on research at Stanford University School of Medicine that has identified three specific areas of the brain that are altered by hypnosis. It goes on to explain how effective hypnosis can be in using our minds to control our perception and our bodies and also, that there is a brain-body connection that helps the brain process and control what’s going on in the body.

So many benefits to using hypnosis to your advantage.

http://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2016/07/study-identifies-brain-areas-altered-during-hypnotic-trances.html

Key to Your Mind.001

The Language of Success


Now I realise that this may sound a little odd to some of you, but often, “trying harder” doesn’t always make things better or solve your problems. Sometimes you need to do something radically different to in order achieve your goals.When you find yourself stuck in one spot for too long you often need to break out of your comfort zone or pattern of behaviour in order to get to where you want to go.


This is the case with many things including work, relationships and also your physical fitness.

Whats really interesting (and encouraging) is that this does NOT always mean working harder.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you don’t need to work hard to achieve your goals, in fact, if the goal/s set yourself are enough of a stretch then you will have to work hard for sure, you will also have to work smart too. I love the quote from Gary Player, the golfer renowned for being able to get himself out of trouble with consummate ease, when he overheard a guy in the crowd say, “he is so lucky” and Gary Player replied, “It’s funny, the more I practice the luckier I get.”

It’s just that sometimes working harder is not the right answer to being successful, sometimes we just need to work smarter.

Not everything can be fixed with a hammer, no matter how hard you swing, sometimes you need a different tool.

Over the past two decades I have worked with thousands of people both online and in person and along the way I have discovered little words/phrases that can pretty much predict a persons success or failure.

In fact, whenever I hear these words I can pretty much guarantee that the person saying them will not be successful.

These words are:

  • I’ll try to get the work done.
  • I’ll try to make healthy food choices.
  • I’ll try to start exercise or exercise more often.
  • I’ll try to get to bed earlier.
  • I hope so.
  • I hope I can do it.
  • I hope I can achieve that.
  • I hope I’ll make it.

Words and phrases like this tend to lead us to presuppose that we will fail and that we don’t really believe that we can achieve, so when we don’t we aren’t too disappointed. In essence we set ourselves up for failure.

If these are your answer to ANYTHING that you know you must do in order to achieve your goal, then I suggest you revisit just how important your goal is to you and listen to the kinds of words and phrases you use and write when talking about your goals.

Small changes in how you think, speak and write can make a huge difference to your ability to succeed.

I want you to succeed and I know that you can when you set your mind on the track from the beginning.

Here’s to your success.