Addiction: Johann Hari’s Seminal Ted Talk

Johann Hari asks the question, what if everything you think you know about addiction is wrong. Hari takes a similar position to the Human Givens style of treatment. We don’t need to focus on the addiction, if we restore the things that everybody needs to thrive, especially socially, the need for drugs will go away. Drugs use is seen as a failed attempt to address a person’s genuine needs but failing in their method.

Based on his book ‘Chasing the Scream’.

HIV Diagnosis and The Process of Adjustment

This incredible story of Luke Alexander, who’s been HIV positive for just a year, shows us all how brave and well adjusted a person can be when responding to such devastating news.

BBC Newsbeat: Luke has been HIV+ for a yearThere are so many layers and levels to deal with.  There’s the initial ‘oh shit’ to deal with, there’s the ‘am I going to die’ and there’s the ‘who do I tell?’.  There’s guilt, remorse, regret, anger towards the self and the other person involved, it goes on.  These are not simple points to deal with and require an emotional maturity that you don’t often see in an 19 year old.

In some ways Luke is lucky to be young, there’s a big difference between Luke’s generation, my generation, and my parents’ generation – each of which has its own stereotypes about HIV and AIDS.  Luke lives at a time when HIV is a manageable disease akin to diabetes which can be managed by regular medication.  Nonetheless, it can be truly isolating for some.  Luke’s decision to be public and fearless about his condition means that the people he meets will ‘self-sort’ into those that can see past the disease and those that can’t.  There are enough HIV dating sites and social and support groups to ensure that he’ll be able to find loving, caring HIV+ people to surround himself with, even if he can’t find it in the general population.  His attitude is truly heroic.  His attitude is rare.  Even in gay circles, it’s rare for people to be so open about their HIV status.  There’s still a stigma attached.   There’s still fear about ‘people at work’ finding out, losing friends, or parents that might be devastated. And if you’re heterosexual or black the stigma can be much worse and much more isolating.

I don’t know how Luke managed in the period immediately following his diagnosis but, for most people, there is a lot of adjustments to make.  There is a process to go through.  It can be similar to what goes on when a person grieves: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance.  There are similar processes for people who go through other traumas, such as assault.  There is no time limit for the brain to make these adjustments but in my experience most can do it within a year.  It depends on the person, it depends upon their belief system and resilience and there are other factors we don’t understand yet.  And, there are some people who can’t.

Some people get lost.  Actually, some people get stuck.  I don’t know if there is a technical name for a person that can’t get over a bad diagnosis but for regular trauma cases, the analogue is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), for grief, it’s ‘Prolonged Grief Disorder’!  Just to set the context, in the case of PTSD, it is not a disorder to have nightmares, insomnia, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, etc.  It only becomes a ‘disorder’ when we don’t return to normal after a reasonable time.  We are supposed to be impacted, shocked, stressed, vigilant, etc. we are supposed to learn lessons, and then we are supposed to move on, that’s how it works.  And, some people can’t because they don’t know how.

This is when it becomes an issue for therapy.  Thankfully chronic trauma, in its many forms, is a treatable condition.  The symptoms are many, isolation, anger, guilt, addiction, etc.  If this applies to you or somebody you care about then it may be time to talk.

Author: Simon Bates, Freedom Hypnosis
Cognitive Hypnotherapist working with London’s YMCA Positve Health Programme.

 

Suicide and Young Gay Men

There’s a disproportionate number of young gay men committing suicide. Very disproportionate. If the figures from Stonewall’s 2011 study of gay and bisexual men is to be believed 27% of gay and 38% of bisexual men said they had considered taking their own life in the previous year – this compares to just 4% of heterosexual men. And this was a big survey – 6,861 respondents from Britain. It gets worse.

Of the respondents, 3% of gay men and 5% of bisexual men had actually taken steps to take their own life in the previous year. Apparently the comparable rate is 0.4% of all men. It gets worse.

What if we look at just the young men? 10% of gay and bisexual men aged between 16 and 19 actually took steps to take their own life in the last year. 1 in 10. If you go to a gay bar with lots of young gay men, look over into one corner – proportionally – all the gay men in that corner took action to kill themselves last year. If that doesn’t shock you, there’s something wrong.

We could spend hours debating the real reason for this: coming out early, coming out late, permissive society, disapproving society, too many rules, not enough rules, too much drugs/alcohol, not enough, too much internet use, not enough, freedom to be gay, not enough freedom to be gay, too many gay role models, not enough,  too selfish, too selfless, being able to marry, not being able to marry, too much coddling, too little, too much religion, not enough. I hope that clears things up.  Certainly, I’ve heard arguments for all the above.

We could ask those young men what’s wrong but most people aren’t good at giving you reasons when they’re an emotional mess.  Frankly, it could be your phone running out of charge that can push a vulnerable person over the edge.

Here’s what I think.  Think about the changes that most of these men are going through in their teenage/early adult years (most of which only apply to young gay men):

  • they are coming out (to mixed reviews!)
  • they are going through the difficult years that follow from puberty
  • they will likely have their most emotionally charged relationships and break-ups in this period
  • they are becoming independent and usually separated from their usual unconditional emotional support
  • they are more likely to have moved from home (young gay men move to the cities, actually they run…)
  • they are experiencing drugs and alcohol for the first time.
  • HIV infection, or constant fear of infection

It’s a lot to deal with for people without enough life experience.  These young men haven’t learnt yet about how to be emotionally resilient. The people they are attached to emotionally and provide emotional support (friends, parents, teachers, lovers) can, and do, suddenly remove that emotional support and even reject them.

Drugs and alcohol are huge problems for young gay men.  They lead to risky behaviour that leads to guilt and regret.  But worse, they lead to huge ups and downs, often days later.  So a normal day might feel like an unbearable weight, for no apparent ‘reason’.

Generally, we all learn to be emotionally resilient over the years – at least to some extent.  The question is whether we manage to do this in time and without too much damage along the way.  Thankfully this emotional resilience can be learnt through CBT and/or Cognitive Hypnotherapy. These are also good ways of dealing with excessive drug or alcohol use, as can issues of identity and self-worth.

And sometimes, people just need somebody to talk to.

Stop Smoking

Successful Smoking Cessation Through HypnosisSmoking cessation should be a simple and painless process, yet the perception and experience for many is anything but.

At the bottom of the market are the ‘off the shelf’ stop smoking CD and downloads.  These do work for some people but the results tend to be poor overall.  The main reason for this is that no two smokers are the same and the triggers, reasons, and emotional connections for every client is different.  Hypnosis works best when it’s specifically tailored to the client.

Even if you go to see a hypnotist, it may be the case that their standard treatment is already written out before you arrive.  The outcome for this is likely to be no better than purchasing a hypnosis CD.

I offer a premium bespoke smoking cessation treatment based upon the Simmons method.  This system is the new industry standard for all those who are serious in smoking cessation.  This system offers a comprehensive, bespoke service to ensure you have everything you need to become a non-smoker.  This programme includes a thorough assessment and treatment.  Hypnosis makes it easy to stop smoking but it doesn’t make it impossible.  A small number of people will relapse which is why follow-up sessions are included for free for the first year.

If you’re serious about smoking cessation please contact me to see if this service is right for you.

The Simmons method is excellent, I highly recommend it.

 

Ending Addiction / Less Excess

The cycle of addiction is one of the main causes of people waking up after decades and realising their life has passed them by.  Whether it’s taking a toll on your wallet, your relationships, your job or your life, a short set of sessions at Freedom Hypnosis can help.

Hypnotherapy has been used for decades as an effective and lasting treatment for all kinds of addictive behavior.  Now, the development of ‘Cognitive Hypnotherapy’ allows for a more tailored, faster and more effective treatment for you.

Because most addictions share a common structure, hypnotherapy is effective no matter what the subject of the addiction.  Cigarettes, alcohol, mephedrone, GBL, crystal meth, speed, MDMA, shopping, food, sex, porn, the internet, etc. all respond to hypnosis.  In some cases you might need to stop completely and in other cases reducing the compulsion is what’s needed.   There’s no judgment at Freedom Hypnosis, my purpose is to help return freedom to all areas of your life so you can lead the life you choose, free of negative compulsions.

The treatment will involve a detailed session to understand the habits and triggers that underlie your particular addiction and as well as getting clear on what you want in your life instead.  Both aspects are essential in treatment.  A smoker, for instance, might smoke to reduce stress and to be social.  By only addressing the smoking, you leave two reasons for the addiction to return.  A permanent solution involves treating all the pillars that support a problem not just the obvious ones and for that we need to identify exactly how your addiction affects your whole life.

In addition to the initial consultation, addiction usually requires a couple of sessions of actual treatment to break-down the parts of the problem, then further assessments and treatments as necessary.  Whilst some issues can be treated in one single session, you should expect a handful of treatments in most cases for addiction issues. If the addiction is used to hide from a painful chronic past, there is likely to be more work to cover before the reason for the addiction is lifted.

In most cases the addictive behaviour is usually chosen to reduce a low mood, or by the person trying to regain or restore a certain level of prior happiness.  Unfortunately as we all learn, using external stimulants to change internal emotions is a poor long-term solution and usually ends-up making things much worse (the ‘Therapeutic Paradox’).  The intention is pure, but the behaviour is poorly chosen.  Successful treatments need to address these issues, so come with an open enquiring mind.  Your full participation in these sessions is essential.  Some people choose hypnosis because they believe they can just turn up, be put ‘under’ and have the hypnotist do all the work. They expect to leave the clinic completely different but without any effort or insight.  This is somewhat unrealistic.  Our sessions will involve plenty of discussion, exercises, hypnosis and maybe even homework!

Whether you’re desperate or just feel you’re beginning to lose your balance in this area of your life, hypnosis can help.  This brief structured treatment is designed to enable you to put your addiction in your past and so return you to a normal healthy emotional balance.  Free to be you again.

Inner Wisdom vs. the Nutrition Nazis

I’ll admit that this is more of a rant than a blog post about hypnosis but sometimes I just get so mad with government experts, it makes me want to give Michael Fabricant a list.

I hate hypocrisy, I really do. I especially hate having to pay for it via my taxes; it really burns. I’ll also go on record as a ‘fussy eater’ i.e. a child that was victimised and bullied by an endless stream of adults who clearly knew what was good for me in terms of what I should be putting in my body. As a matter of principle, it is always wrong to bully people on this point – no exceptions. The stress this induces, I am sure, is responsible for a huge proportion of the neurotic eating disorders we see today coming through the clinic doors. Let me be clear, government advisors posing as health experts are no different than the catholic priests being the moral authority on sex. The more I hear these media reports, the more I’m convinced Nutrition is a pseudo-science.  I thought I was the only one until I did a Google search….

The more I hear these media reports, the more I’m convinced Nutrition is a pseudo-science.

Now, the reason for my rant was seeing our Government’s ‘Obesity Advisor’, Professor (no less) Susan Jebb on Breakfast Television calling out parents for the sin of allowing anything other than water on the dining table. Bread and water was the message. Heaven forbid they should ever develop a fondness for turkey twizzlers  or have a soda when they wanted one. What a joy her household must be.

Firstly, we are not a nation of obese people. Stand outside any McDonalds and count the obese people vs non-obese people. (If you can’t do this by eye, then clearly, the term obese, as used by government, has lost any connection to reality.)  If you get 5% obese in McDonalds I’d be surprised, yet governments blame fast food for a creating a nation where they claim 1 in 4 adults are obese. Now, if these islands of corporate greed were creating such a problem, clearly far more than 25% of their adult customers would have to be obese, it’s just simple maths.  If they are right, McDonalds should be the epicentre of obesity! Frankly, it’s a lie; it’s what researches tell governments when they want more funding. What really worries me is how, in this information age, people can be so deceived, replacing the evidence of their eyes by media reports from authority figures. As a hypnotist, telling the nation that “we’re are a nation of obese people – getting fatter by the day….” is a shocking suggestion. I wish experts would watch their language and stop lying for financial gain and prestige.

Certainly, there are many people that have problems with their weight but the answer is not listening to an external prescription of recycled mantras. This can only lead to a growing separation of mind and body. Listening to one’s internal wisdom and dealing with the cause of emotional eating is the only real way we will ever learn to eat more appropriately. Forcing children to eat anything against their will will only lead to neurotic behaviour. I’m not alone in believing this, a 2002 study found that:

“What is most interesting is the internal conflict the forcees experienced — 31% experienced strong conflict, 41% moderate conflict and 29% slight conflict. Forty-nine percent said they cried, 55% experienced nausea, and 20% vomited. Most of the responses to the experience were negative with feelings of anger, fear, disgust, confusion and humiliation. The forcees also experienced feelings such as lack of control and helplessness.”

Batcell et al (2002).

Is forcing Jimmy to eat his greens really such a success when the cost can be instilling the above emotions around food? Despite very little evidence for the necessity of a ‘balanced diet’ – the government still says yes – and parents listen.  We should be more used to lies from authority figures by now.  Let’s not forget, the whole ‘make sure your children drink milk everyday’ has nothing to do with milk being necessary (it certainly isn’t) it was just a way to begin reducing the huge european milk mountain created by milk subsidies.

I’m a huge fan of ‘listening to what your body needs’ following your inner wisdom. And if that’s ice cream – so be it.

Hominids have evolved over millions of years to be able to live off whatever is in the environment by synthesising almost all the nutrients we need for a healthy life from whatever’s available. In fact with the exception of vitamin C and vitamin D (from sunshine) we are almost entirely self-sufficient as long as we eat something. Don’t believe me? Take an extreme example; for thousands of years Chinese farmers lived to a ripe old age with little more than a paucity of rice each day and an occasional chicken. True, they weren’t giants due to calorie restriction but they were healthy enough. Imagine giving them the dire warning of eating a ‘balance diet’ and ensuring on pain of bowel cancer, they get their ‘five a day’? Imagine a authority figure preaching that to the farmer. Eat our way or you’ll die from disease – the science says so! False and certainly likely to induce neurosis. Please explain to me how our government policy is any different from this?

It’s not just food.  The government’s war on salt again causes us to embrace tasteless unsatisfying food and ignore our appetite. They’ve demonised salt despite its health benefits. This war on salt is despite meta studies indicating no risk between higher salt intake and cardio vascular disease. Where was the government retraction when this report came out? There was just tumble weed because that would mean they got it wrong yet again and all the millions wasted ‘educating’ people and harassing the food industry into making bland food was all for nothing. But let’s face it, governments are nothing if they have nothing to do – so let’s scare the chickens and create more jobs for the boys. (The good news is also that finally some experts seem to be back-peddling against the ‘eat low-fat foods’ craziness. For a decade the advice has been to reduce the fats, thus making people eat less filling, less tasty, sugar enriched foods, which only leads to spikes in glucose levels. Madness!)

Does this woman look well nourished to you?But back to Professor Jebb.  If you’re going to put out an expert on TV to tell us about nutrition, wouldn’t you find somebody that looked vital and healthy? Professor Jebb looked pasty and ill – probably enduring being covered up by layers of factor 50 inspired by another government expert; that and a diet of mungbeans and water. In this sense only, it appears that she follows here own advice.

This brief clip was just one of the many over the years trying to feed our nation another toxic version of philosophic Asceticism. Essentially their advice is no different than wearing a religious cilice, the war against authentic sex, and that old favourite ‘medicine and food must taste bad for it to be good for you’. Clockwork Orange has got nothing on Professor Jebb. Some academic fields are really messed-up.  They pretend correlation is causation and have no respect for context or rigorous scientific method. Nonetheless, they then write a scary report which finishes with ‘these findings are conclusive, yet more work needs to be done’ – in order to ensure they get the next round of finance.  And how did dietary advice get to be a proper function of government? That’s insane!

We are the only thinking animal. The only animal that can really be programmed to act against our self-interest and inherent wisdom. There are no anorexics aardvarks or bulimic beavers. It takes people of Profeessor Jebb’s expertise to create this stress based neurosis by launching an attack against our endogenous signals for appetite and hunger.

For most overweight people (and anorexics) it’s this inner signal we want to encourage as the guiding wisdom – not the obliteration of it altogether. Obesity is a problem for some but Professor Jebb is stuck in effect not cause. As a hypnotist my job is to find out why my client suddenly put on 10 stone when they hit 15 years of age. Once the ‘why’ of their obesity is resolved – the ‘how’ flows naturally. Significant over-eating is an indication of addiction – an emotional disorder. But as any decent addiction specialist will tell you, the object of the addiction (food) is not the problem, it’s the addict’s attempt at a solution to their problem.

Obesity is a problem for some but Professor Jebb is stuck in effect not cause.

Let’s be honest here, when an obese person goes to a nutritionist – they prescribe a food diet, a psychiatrist prescribes SSNRI’s, a surgeon makes holes in their chest and cuts out 90% of their stomach. Experts fight for control of the waterfront. As a hypnotist, I’m doing the same. But before the leaches make a comeback, can’t we at least admit chronic over-eating (comfort eating) is an emotional problem not a dietary one or surgical issue?  People don’t eat themselves to death because they don’t know about wholemeal bread.

But before the leaches make a comeback, can’t we at least admit chronic over-eating (comfort eating) is an emotional problem not a dietary one or surgical issue?

Beware of experts – they want your soul – and if you understand what I mean about listening to that inner wisdom, you’ll see that I mean that quite literally.

 

Simon.

p.s. I received several critical posts against my comments of Professor Jebb (some may be by her paid colleagues) pointing out her rigour and integrity would always trump my personal remarks against her. So without wanting to create a new twitter storm (5 tweets against me is a personal best) I’ll just say nothing apart from pointing out another report which lists Professor Jebb having previously having worked for CocaCola and the slimming industry. So I could end this post on explaining what integrity means but some people are just too far gone. As judge Judy often says, ‘Byrd, you’ve always got to follow the money.’

Resilience

I’m a big fan of resilience.  In fact, I believe resilience is the difference that makes the difference in determining who comes through my door and who doesn’t.

As Richard Bandler says, the reason we have problems is that we were born.  From the starving 10 year old girl sold into marriage through to the wife of a rich dictator.  Certainly, the scale or threat of the problems are different but over the course of a day, a month or a year we all have better times and worse times – and some of those times things will be substantially out of normal the normal range of which we define as comfort.

A one-off incidence of bullying, for instance, of a child, spouse or parent might result in little or no discernable behaviour but repeated bullying over a period or several severe incidents in a row have a tendency to push people through a threshold.  Resilience describes the limits through which a person is tested before emotional damage occurs.  As we can heal a physical injury if its small enough, repeated injury or a severe injury will not heal as well.  The levels of resilience to physical injury is mostly genetic – the limits of resilience to emotional injury are psychological.  As with psychological elements there are debates over nature and nurture (always they ignore personal effort and focus ….) but as resilience is very much a teachable skill, I’m unconcerned whether a person’s natural levels of resilience comes from his environment or his genetic endowment.

Phobias are strong emotional reactions to a learned stimulus – usually one trial learning from childhood.  Post traumatic stress disorder has a similar structure but is more often experienced after many traumatic evens and generally as an adult.  The emotional disturbance is less attached to a given stimulus but can persist over prolonged parts of a persons existence including their dreams.

In each case, the person was pushed past a threshold which put them into emergency.  The set of emotional and behavioural responses exhibited of the two tend to persist – fight, flight or freeze (the basic mammalian fear responses) and they can appear quiet childish – tantrum like – in  some cases since they have not updated as the person has grown.  Part of the problem is the lack of new information and emotional flexibility available to the person.

Although phobias and PTSD are considered quite extreme behaviours,  anger guilt and worry, can have the same structure, poor emotional and behavioural flexibility.

Thankfully, we know that once understood these patterns of behaviour are very open to change under the right circumstances.  The resilient person has these skills naturally, the chronic sufferer has to learn them.

Cognitive Hypnotherapy provide us not only with a framework for understanding exactly how these problems manifest themselves but also a wealth of techniques and treatments to systematically and comprehensively dismantle the automatic mental processes and update them so that new responses begin to occur naturally.