Male Rape – A Problem That Persists

 

This post is inspired by the very emotional programme about male rape shown on the BBC in December 2017.  It covers the stories of a number of victims of male rape and how it affected them and continues to do so.  The programme included the estimates that one in six men will be the victims of rape or sexual abuse, and that approximately eight men are sexually abused every hour.

eight men are sexually abused every hour.

It’s difficult not to be shocked by those figures but, as a therapist, I found myself angry and frustrated at the fact that so few of them had been able to connect to services that would allow them to recover.  The programme ended with the statistic that ‘On average, it takes a man 26 years to speak out.’  That means there’s lots of people that take substantially longer than 26 years, to finally open up.  How are we failing these people so badly that they either don’t know where to get help or feel too ashamed to ask?  This seems to be much worse for men, the macho attitude of ‘just getting on with it’ and not wanting to be seen as a victim.  The fact is that for far too long, many of the services offered have not met the grade, whether NHS, charitable or private, and I hate to say it but the support groups on in the programme left me with the same depressing feeling, let me explain why.

Here, it’s important to make the clear distinction between ‘care and support’ (typically counselling) and ‘treatment’.  In the case of an assault, the proper approach is care and support where the person is able to be open emotionally in a safe environment that supports their return to normal emotional balance.  But all of the ‘victims’ and I’m trying so hard not to use that term in this article, showed all the signs of still be traumatised by the event many years later.  It is normal to be impacted by these events, you are supposed to lose sleep, your mood be effected, the constant re-living of events, to be hyper-vigilant following an event …. and then you are supposed to return to normal.  That’s the healing process.  The diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not that they have these symptoms but that they are not getting better after three to six months – that is the ‘disorder’.  And in each case on the BBC programme, I saw people that remained traumatised years after the event.  Each re-telling came with stuttering, tears and a wealth of other tells that showed they hadn’t escaped from the pain yet.

It’s difficult to know why some people spontaneiously recover from trauma and some don’t (about a third don’t).  Often there’s an unconscious strategy to try and go back and change what they did “If only I’d taken a taxi” or they feel they need to explain what happened, or to find some reason that will satisfy them as to why they didn’t report it or why they didn’t scream for help….   None of these approaches work in healing the trauma.

When the problem has persisted over years, a proper treatment is required, not care and support.

More often with men, they are so devastated by the attack that they can’t tell anybody at the time, they feel ashamed they couldn’t/didn’t fight off the abuser, the trauma leaves them unable to deal with life’s struggles, they are emotionally erratic, they drink, take drugs, relationships fail, life seems on hold.   A little care and support (counselling) might have prevented them from becoming traumatised (PTSD) at the beginning.  The problem is that ‘care and support’ is not treatment for PTSD.  Care and support, which often involves the re-telling and re-experiencing of the event, over and over, often in a support group, only keeps the trauma alive.  When the problem has persisted over years, a proper treatment is required, not care and support.  Thankfully there are many treatments available which effectively go in and recode the memory so that it’s no longer frightening and over-whelming.  As a therapist, in most instances, I don’t want the story, I don’t encourage the re-telling of the circumstances, it’s not needed for therapy; if it is needed we can retrieve the information in a way that is safe for the client.

I wish I could give my full support to ‘Stay Brave UK‘ and similar services because I know they are well meaning, their heart is certainly in the right place and I know they do good work.  But people that need to go to such support groups over and over and feel the need to tell their story, are still crying, are showing all the signs that they are still traumatised.  Their lives are still highjacked by it, even if the support helps them to cope better.  I’d love to see them continue to educate the community that help is available and to offer timely care and support for those able to seek it.  But they also need to understand when care and support must give way to proper treatment so they can regain control of their lives and refocus on their own values and goals make that the most important thing in their lives.

 

Eye Movement Treatments For Depression Are Here To Stay

There are a number of effective treatments for depression. As a Cognitive Hypnotherapist I know that there is no single treatment that works for everybody which is why I have many treatment options for my clients with depression (and anxiety). I trained in IEMT over five years ago and nothing in my arsenal has been more useful in helping clients quickly and easily recover from this debilitating condition.

By treatment, I do mean treatment. I don’t consider anti-depressants to be a treatment. When they work, all they they tend to do is allow a little comfort within the shrunken world of the depressive. Anti-depressants temporarily cover the symptoms, they don’t address the causes of the depression, they don’t teach the client to make the necessary adjustments to their lives to make a full recovery.

How Does Depression Start?

Before discussing the Eye Movement treatments, it’s worth asking the question, “How does depression start?” We aren’t born depressed, we’re born inquisitive, excited and energetic. Life and parenting teaches us where to set boundaries on our behaviour by teaching us what behaviour is likely to be painful, unproductive or outside of our skill set. Sometimes the boundaries are appropriate (not touching a hot stove) sometimes they are over-cautious, such as “dogs are dangerous!”  One of the problems is that, for many people, they often fail to update as our age and competences increase.  Martin Seligman coined the phrase ‘learned helplessness’ to individual tasks, that after a period of no improvement easily becomes a chronic ‘hopelessness’ that is central to depression.

As an example, the guilt that we felt about the way we broke-up with out first love, can generalise to the idea of relationships generally, making them something to avoid.  After that turbulent flight, the panic that we feel about flying makes the idea of a foreign holiday too painful to consider. Being bullied at school filled us with rage when we couldn’t prevent the unfairness, the same uncontrollable rage that now emerges at the bullying behaviour when somebody cuts us off whilst driving. At each stage some behaviour which could add to the quality of our life becomes a cause of pain.  It also affects our self-esteem through our assessment of our own competence (I failed at this before) and worth (I’m ashamed at how I behaved before).  Self-esteem is an unconscious assessment of our ability to thrive as well as an assessment of whether we deserve to thrive.  When our self-esteem is challenged we no longer feel capable of meeting the regular challenges of life.  The usual motivation we feel from the anticipation of engaging with life’s activities are replaced by hopelessness and fear.

Eye Movement Therapy (IEMT/EMI/EMDR)

Eye Movement Therapy works by removing the support structures of depression, by undoing the hold of these poorly learnt life lessons. There are several similar ‘Eye Movement’ therapies, such as IEMT, EMI and EMDR which are becoming common in therapeutic circles. Each therapy fits well within the Cognitive Hypnotherapy treatment methodology and IEMT, in particular, which was developed by Andrew Austin, incorporates the ‘Three Pillars of Depression’.

In terms of treatment, each method essentially acts in the same way.  The therapist elicits the problem state and associated memories and then gets the client to deliberately move their eyes in a pattern, whilst they try to maintain the memory.  It doesn’t sound much but the results are often astounding.  The memory of the break-up, the plane journey, or barking dog doesn’t go away, but the emotion does!  In most cases. In five years, I’ve never had the same painful experience come back once successfully treated.

How Does Eye Movement Therapy Work?

With my background in Cognitive Science I’d like to say that I have the answer to this question.  I don’t, but what’s been clear for several decades is that when the eyes move to the periphery, the brain tends to switch to a different conscious experience.  When you ask a person ‘what colour is your front door’ – typically their eyes go up and to your right.  Now, that’s not where the door is but it does allow the client’s eyes to stop looking and go and grab an image of the door from memory, put that into consciousness, so the question can be answered.  When a therapist moves the client’s eyes through a sequence, the client will struggle to maintain his problematic memory, as the brain is taken through a number of shifts in consciousness (auditory, visual and kinaesthetic).  This has the effect of desensitising the memory.  Cognitive Hypnotherapists often deliberately interrupt problem patterns but this intervention seems much more useful, often leaving the client with a very different and relaxed attitude to the event that a minute ago was problematic.

I don’t typically say much about this intervention to a client.  When they call, I don’t tell them, ‘well for £90 I can move your eyes around a bit.’ because I’d certainly have no clients.  When I do explain it to clients, it’s usually afterwards, it bypasses any natural scepticism because they’ve just had a very clear experience of a painful difficult memory one moment, followed a few minutes later by a client who’s only frustration is to not be able to get that feeling back.  It’s usually at that point that the client completely relaxes, a new trust is established and they feel able to take on other areas that need a quick detox.

 

The Three Pillar Model of Depression

The Three Pillar Model (specific to IEMT) separates emotions into PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE. Painful memories from the past (Guilt, Shame, Regret, etc) makes us worry about how we will respond to events in the future (Panic, Anxiety, Worry, etc.) which tends to create distress in the moment which can lead to loss of control in the present moment (Rage, Anger, etc), which leads to incidents that make us feel Guilt, Shame, Remorse – and so the vicious cycle continues. Depression and anxiety are often diagnosed separately by doctors and, on the face of it, they seem at opposite ends of the diagnostic spectrum but in my experience, they nearly always appear together in my clients. They are two sides of the same coin.

The good news is that by treating the Guilt, Shame, Regret, etc. or the Rage, Anger, etc. we remove that pillar from the cycle and start to restore freedom of movement for the client.  They are no longer crippled by their past, or scared of their future.  This new freedom restores behaviours they can enjoy and builds their self-esteem. In most cases the client won’t know about the old emotional conditioning until it is brought out in the therapy session. Whilst some memories are fresh, clients are often surprised about how some earlier and often long-forgotten memories have created a wave of havoc throughout their lives.

IEMT is a great way of treating these learnt emotional responses. We look for an emotional memory associated with one of the stand out emotions (e.g. Guilt) and by holding that memory in mind whilst the eyes are moved in certain precise ways, it quickly disrupts the memory. Within a few minutes a very painful memory can be reduced to something my client is totally indifferent about. It doesn’t always work but nearly always!

This might not be the only treatment offered but as each painful emotional experience is treated, the freedom is restored, the anticipation of the future becomes brighter and more engaging. The depression and the anxiety just don’t work the way they used to.

Objectively Measured Improvement

I use IAPT questionnaires which are widely used to assess levels of depression and anxiety. By talking with the client and using these measures in every session it becomes clear how effective the treatment has been and typically a three-four week treatment is enough to restore the client to where they are no longer clinically depressed or anxious. After each treatment, the client will know that something is different, they don’t need to worry that ‘something will shift after eight weeks’ their internal experience is different from the start. Some clients need more help or a different treatment and that’s easily established from early on.

Many people that struggle with depression and anxiety for years or decades feel their condition is hopeless. Unfortunately NHS mental health treatment are very hit and miss and the standard treatment of using medication won’t change the behaviours or emotional conditioning that lies at the heart of these conditions.

If you have any questions about eye movement treatments, please get in touch at simon@freedomhypnosis.co.uk.

Simon Bates.
MNCH(Acc)  BSc Cog. Sci.  MNLP

Abuse Stays Fresh Until It’s Treated – PTSD, Football, Rape

Nobody could have been left unmoved by the revelations of retired football players this month.  First a lone footballer speaks out about the sexual abuse he suffered as a child from a coach, then the floodgates opened up as we realise the extent of the abuse for the first time.

BBC Victoria Derbyshire – Footballers Speak Out

The numbers don’t surprise me, that culture was toxic in many ways, it still is.  What surprises me is that so many adults including those in the know actually think those men should just get over it, put it in the past, bury it, ignore it, take one for the team (again). It was clear that hadn’t, they couldn’t, they didn’t know how. The memories were as vivid, painful and frightening today as they were 30 years earlier. Several of the victims said that not a day had gone past when it hadn’t affected them. Many suffered from anxiety, many would drink too much, undoubtedly there was shame, anger, guilt, difficulty in moving on to the next phase of their lives.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is characterised by intrusive stressful thoughts, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, anger, loss of sleep, irritation, shame, depression, suicidal. This mental health condition is notorious for it longevity. Even depression, left untreated, has a tendency to go away on its own for many suffers. Not so much for PTSD.

It’s worth remembering that it’s not a disorder to be upset, to ruminate over the incident, to lose sleep, to be on alert when we go through something over-whelmingly negative, such as loss, injury, abuse, tragedy. The disorder is to not to return to normal emotional comfort within a month or two. I’m not sure why but about 70% of the population that goes through trauma spontaneoiusly get better. The remaining 30% struggle to recover and can stay in that emotionally wounded state for decades. Typically they resort to coping strategies, repression, anger, drink, drugs, sex, becoming an abuser, isolation, just surviving.

Thankfully, over the last few decades psychological research has identified methods to quickly and painlessly deal with memories that are too painful to process normally. Now, treatments for PTSD are typically just a handful of sessions from a qualified therapist – sometimes just one! (It’s important to make the point that counselling does not qualify as a ‘treatment’. Counselling is care and support which is quite different and may be appropriate immediately after the trauma but it is not a treatment for PTSD and can, in fact, make things worse.)

There are many reasons why people don’t seek treatment:

  • fear of the pain of reliving it
  • failure of previous treatments or distrust of therapists
  • loss of faith in NHS/state provision of care
  • concern over lengthy or costly treatment
  • shame/guit (ironically)

Thankfully modern therapy such as Cognitive Hypnotherapy is able to work without you needing to discuss any details of the trauma and a good therapist will ensure the session is an entirely positive experience. Private treatments can be arranged at short notice with a therapist of your choice and therapy should give you improvements from the first session and rarely last more than four or five sessions. Ask a friend for a recommendation or look for a Cognitive Hypnotherapist near you for a fast and effective treatment so that you can take control back of your life.

End the suffering.

Simon.

Anxiety

Firstly, a simple reminder that anxiety is not a disorder.  Anxiety is a normal feeling, rather uncomfortable, but one that we need to be able to experience in order to stay healthy.  Without anxiety, blowing the rent money on restocking your fish tank becomes really easy.  We need to be able to anticipate feeling really bad or injured when assessing certain future scenarios so we can take steps to avoid them.  Anxiety is, after all, entirely future focused.  (If we are anxious about having cheated, it’s really an anxiety about what happens in the future as a natural result.)

So why do we often refer to feelings of anxiety as being bad for us?  Why do we go out of our way to stop those feeling, to repress them, avoid them, drink or drug them out of existence?

In most cases, this comes about when our brains mistakenly learn to treat more and more non-threatening situations as threatening, or to over-emphasise the danger.  This is further exaggerated in people of low self-esteem since their assessment is ‘I don’t have the ability to deal with this situation or these feelings’.  Under these circumstances anxiety becomes a chronic (persistent over time) condition and is worsened by simple day-to-day challenges.  This is when anxiety becomes a disorder, or Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) to give it its proper name.

Common experiences that can lead to GAD are earlier traumatic experiences where the person was unable to deal with the situation and became highly emotional and unresourceful.  For instance, being embarrassed in front of a classroom at age 8 can lead to severe anxiety in the office whenever called-upon to present material.  This creates avoidance behaviour, such as calling in sick or not taking promotions which might require speaking to groups.

In this instance the exaggerated response is irrational.  The adult knows the material, knows how to stand and talk at the same time and knows that with a little good humour mistakes are easily tolerated.  The exaggerated emotional response, however, is not governed by logic, the response is triggered automatically when a certain environmental pattern or stimulus is present or anticipated.  Rationally, the adult knows he has the information and skills required and that he knows that no physical injury will result from his failure to recall last quarters sales figures.  Unfortunately, the Limbic system, which manages emotional responses to threats, literally doesn’t listen to reason, it’s not part of the same brain structure and nor does it use the same methods of internal communication.  It’s like two computers with no connection between them, each coming up with a different assessment.  Logical new brain: fine, whatever.  Emotional old brain: you’ll be humiliated again like before, stay home.  The result is always the same, a win for the emotional brain, since this is the part evolved to protect us from urgent threats (spears, tigers, fire).  The logical brain doesn’t even get the information once the fight, flight and flee mechanism is triggered.  It’s left to assess things only after the immediate threat has past.  Evolutionarily, it’s better to over-react to a threat than to not react, certainly when spears, tigers and fire were more of a problem…. it’s less well suited to the Facebook generation who only have to worry about being de-friended.

Catastrophisation is a feature of GAD.  Small problems become huge in the mind of the GAD sufferer.  There also tends to be over-generalisation, so from a small car accident, the GAD sufferer might believe all transport is dangerous and become home-bound.  Or the one-time threat from a large aggressive dog becomes an anxiety towards all animals all of the time.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is one system of treatment that helps sufferers to understand how they mis-assess their surroundings and try to gradually train their emotional mechanism to be more ‘reasonable’.  This process works for most but can be a slow process.

Cognitive Hypnotherapy uses a number of different methods to treat anxiety sufferers, primarily looking to remove the damage done by the initial traumatic memory so that it no longer serves as a base to launch negative emotional assessments.  We also work to reset the brain’s natural filters to ensure that attention is used productively; focusing more on positive environmental activity and less on counter-factual scenarios that can cause irrational fear.

Recent research indicates that Cognitive Hypnotherapy achieves as good or better results than CBT and does it in fewer treatment sessions.

If anxiety is ruining your life and you’re ready to tackle it, book a session with me so we can put it behind you.

 

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’.

Eye Movement Therapy (IEMT, EMDR & EMI)

I’m the first to admit that there are a number of ‘alternative’ or ‘complimentary’ therapies out there that raise eyebrows.  Even hypnosis is a stretch for some sceptics despite clinical evidence.  Some of these therapies rely very heavily on the skills of the therapists to leverage the placebo effect to create a strong and lasting change.  But there are a number of other therapies including EFT, Havening, Acupuncture and Eye Movement Therapy, which seem to utilise some physical mechanism within the body to create change.

I find that using IEMT on these strong emotions creates a ‘clearing-out’ for my clients that gives them their lives back.  They describe it as having a huge weight lifted.

I’m using the term ‘Eye Movement Therapy’ here to refer to several fairly similar brands of treatment that all have the same basic method.  The original therapy was EMDR based on the work of Francine Shapiro and is recognised by the American Psychiatric Association, Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defences and WHO as an effective treatment for PTSD since 2004.

The original version of EMDR was pretty basic.  Later versions of eye movement therapy, such as IEMT and EMI, were created by hypnotists that combine the skilled use of language to create a more effective framework for treatment.  Additionally, hypnotists use eye movement models within their work generally and were able to intelligently expand its use to increase its effectiveness.

The basic EMDR treatment was to have the client think about the traumatic memory and then have them follow a light source that moved back and forth across their visual field.  It doesn’t sound much but the outcome for some people was life saving.  EMDR was used in the treatment of PTSD initially.  The ‘T’ of PTSD is Trauma and it is this ever-present, trauma that the eye movement work helps with.  Rather than being ‘present’, the client/patient is stuck in an over-whelming and emotionally hijacking memory which creates high levels of anxiety and depression.

 

How does Eye Movement Therapy Work?

We don’t know but we can make educated guesses.  If I ask you to access a memory a chain of mental processes kick off.  Typically your eyes defocus and you stop seeing me, you’re eyes will go up and to your left (usually).  At this point the visual information in consciousness is not the room you’re in but the content of the memory; the requested information is identified, the eyes move back towards centre and re-focus and you’re ‘back in the room’.  This was a quick trance and probably lasted 200 milliseconds.  A difficult memory can involve the eyes going all over, left, right, up down, to get the answer.  We see it all the time, it’s called a ‘trans-derivational search’ but most people don’t notice it.

Theorist Andrew T Austin, who invented the IEMT brand of eye movement work, has suggested that the ligaments and muscles that control the eyes are neurotically hard-wired to certain parts of the brain.  Certainly, when eyes go up we know there is a lot more visual processing going on, when they are level, the temporal lobes (voice, sound) are most active.  This has two consequences for hypnotists.  One, that we can easily follow the basic brain strategies that people use to get themselves stuck and this has been utilised by Neuro Linguistic Programmers since Richard Bandler popularised this finding in the 80’s.  The second, more recent, finding is that by forcing people to trace a different pattern with their eyes when thinking of a traumatic memory, you start to create confusion in the replaying of that memory.  Most importantly, if the memory’s not the same, it wont feel the same.

 

What Makes a Movie Scary?

Or how do we scare ourselves?  One of the basic premises of NLP is that the brain encodes similar memories in similar ways.  Scary memories might be experienced as vivid, colour, ‘in your face’.  Pleasant memories might be less focused, softer colours, more panoramic and distant.  Most people aren’t aware of these differences but the information is there with a little introspection.  These differences vary from person to person although there are some factors are quite common, such as distance and brightness.

An NLP treatment for a bad memory might involve trying to change how the scary movie is experienced, perhaps making it fuzzier, further away, less colourful and this works extremely well since the bad feelings just fall away.  The skill is in making the memory stick in the new way.  And this is where the eye movement therapy is particularly good.  Thinking of a traumatic memory and moving your eyes in a different way whilst trying to access the memory makes the usual access of that memory different.  All of a sudden the memory is fuzzier, less focused, further away, oh, and it just doesn’t feel important any more.  I shouldn’t be surprised any more when that happens but it still amazes me when it happens time after time.  The transition can be night and day for most clients and with a little persistence and a little skill, a scary and imposing movie that’s 10/10 becomes a 1/10 boring and old and “I’m done with it.”

 

Wider Application

I use IEMT for at least a part of the session in about a third of the clients I see.  It’s faster than traditional hypnosis treatments and the client knows the issue is done before they leave the room.  Whilst therapists use it primarily for PTSD, I think this misses the point and this is part of the problem of labelling our clients.  The originating cause for many of the clients I see is something traumatic that happened to them that have not properly dealt with.  This comes out in many ways such as avoidance, anger, temper, regret, shame, guilt, worry, panic attacks.  These are the emotions of depression and anxiety (see ‘The Three Pillars of Depression’).  I find that using IEMT on these strong emotions creates a ‘clearing-out’ for my clients that gives them their lives back.  They describe it as having a huge weight lifted.

If you’re troubled by trauma, or strong negative emotions, the likelihood is that these can be treated quickly and easily, without any need to go into your childhood or beat-up furniture.  Book a session now if this sounds like a good idea.

 

Simon Bates
Freedom Hypnosis.

 

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.

 

I’m Scared of the Dentist – Dental Phobias & Hypnosis

I’ve asked around and I’m a bit shocked.  There’s a really big question that many really good therapists don’t ask when somebody comes to them with a fear of going to the dentist. The question they don’t ask is: ‘Well, is your dentist any good?’  They completely ignore the fact that you really should be very scared of some dentists.  There are some really bad ones out there and I think it would be negligent of me to send a client to one of these clinics with a smile on their face.  All dentists are not the same.  I’m all for getting rid of irrational fears but not the rational ones.

But this post is not about how to find the right dentist for you; this post is about phobias in general and dental phobias in particular.  As a therapist, I understand the structure of phobias, how they start, how they develop and what needs to happen to make them go away.  Phobias are great examples of ‘one trial learning’.  Something bad happens, it’s highly emotional, threatening and painful; our unconscious mind takes a snap-shot of what’s going so we can avoid this situation in the future.  It’s a useful mechanism, it helps to keep us alive, it keeps us away from edges and stops us playing with fire.  This mechanism is really old as well, part of the limbic system which we’ve had since we were birds.  Unfortunately there’s far more evolutionary pressure on things that don’t scare us enough as opposed to being scared more often than necessary. The result is that we’re stuck with this primitive, somewhat over-protective, yet extremely useful mechanism.

Because the limbic system is pre-conceptual and outside of our conscious awareness or control, we don’t get much say in how it operates. Phobias and the whole fight and flight mechanism actually kicks in before the information gets to higher level of consciousness where the danger can be assessed more objectively.  In fact, when this extreme fear is triggered, one of the first things to happen is the inhibition of the frontal lobe, the modern part of our brain, that helps us to deliberate and make decisions.   Evolution has decided that it’s unnecessary for us to deliberate over the best action when faced with a predator; in this instance our attention it riveted to these intense feelings of wanting to run away.  Control is ceded to our bird-brain.

So we have this mechanism and once triggered it’s in total control.  As to what events the mechanism responds to – these are learnt.  We’re not born with a fear of dentists, lifts, planes, etc.  So what typically happens is the young child, who will be more sensitive to discomfort than an adult, is taken out of his usual routine and dragged to the dentists.  This is an unfamiliar and scary environment for most children.  A good dentist takes time to ensure the child is calm and comfortable before beginning.  The other dentist, with his eye on the clock, exudes frustration and irritation toward the child that won’t sit still and this sets-up a sensitivity to be scared and hurt.  If the dentist is clumsy and doesn’t use modern pain control methods, the pain or discomfort triggers the child’s fight or flight mechanism. A mental snap-shot is taken and stored in the child’s memory.  Typically, the child will store ‘this dentist is a danger to me’, ‘dentists are a danger to me’ or ‘whirring, grinding noises are a danger to me’.  Any part of the memory can be a stimulus for the phobic response.  The adult and rational response would be, ‘I’m never going back to this dentist again.’   But in the future, the primitive brain is in control any time the stimulus from this snap-shot is triggered; the fear response closes down any rational response until the person is away from the stimulus.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has many ways of dealing with phobias, such as gradual desensitisation where the client is encouraged to face their fear a little bit more each session – sitting outside the dentist’s clinic one week, inside the clinic the next week, in the chair the next if they are able.  They might learn breathing exercises to help control the fear as it starts to get out of control but that doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to me.  This approach can easily take several months and often only leaves the person coping and (less) afraid.

Cognitive Hypnotherapy, on the other hand, takes a different approach to phobias.  By understanding how these early, traumatic, memories are encoded, we can recode these early memories in a way that no longer trips the fight or flight mechanism in the brain.  Many simple phobias (those having a single stimulus) can be treated with as little as a single session.

Some dentists and doctors are actually trained in hypnosis so as to ensure their clients remain stress-free through treatments.  In fact, shortly before modern anaesthesia was developed it was quite common for both dentists and doctors to train in hypnosis for the purpose of pain control.  The introduction of cheap, safe and effective anaesthetics effectively ended this development for decades.  I’m delighted that trainee doctors in the UK now have an option to learn about hypnosis in their early training.  Many dentists are also beginning to re-discover the benefits.

If you suffer from a dental phobia or know somebody that does, I highly recommend getting this treated.  It’s not necessary to be scared of your dentist.  The second step is to seek out a dentist that will offer an un-hurried service, one that understand your needs and that can incorporate relaxation techniques into any clinic visit.  (Unfortunately, the NHS does not offer un-hurried treatments. You get what you pay for.)  I would also recommend that you choose a dentist that uses modern pain control methods, such as topical numbing treatments prior to injections, or the use of modern equipment that can numb individual teeth.  Treatments might still be uncomfortable but there’s no reason you should experience pain from a modern dental exam or procedure.

And if you’re London-based, I highly recommend my own dentist, Covent Garden Dental Practice (www.cgdp.com).  I’ve been sending people to these wonderful dentists for well over a decade and you’ll be in very good hands.

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.’