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Experiencing Anxiety

It is natural for those who suffer anxiety to have a different view of it than those who have never suffered from it. An interesting survey from BeyondBlue, reported in The Age today looked at perceptions to anxiety in the community.  These included: 40% of respondents thought anxiety was just stress 50% thought anxiety was just part of someone’s personality For people who suffer from anxiety in its many forms, …Read More

Are you depressed about depression? – Don’t be!

Depression has such a major impact in modern society. At any one time, 20% of the workforce is suffering from ‘depression’.  They are less productive, absent more often, and are more likely to suffer other conditions at the same time. It goes beyond the workplace, with everyday people, in every day situations, feeling depressed.  The average age of first episode is dropping rapidly – it wont be long before Depression …Read More

Connect without fear

Recently I have been working in my Balwyn Hypnotherapy clinic with lots of clients presenting with ‘social phobias’.  For them, the modern world combines with our fundamental ‘human natures’ to create frames where socialising, connecting or even communicating has taken on a layer of fear.


The human brain cannot distinguish ‘real’ threats from imagined.  It cannot distinguish between rational fears and social fears.  In the end, the human brain does what it always does, and triggers a defensive (fear) response as an understandable ‘self protection’ mechanism. 


You may have heard of ‘fight or flight’, but we can also add ‘freeze and appease’ to the core fear / defensive responses that we can see in ourselves and others.  If you look at the way that you and others react in social situations, how often do you see these four attributes being present?


From a clinical perspective, it is interesting to see how social fears commonly link back to our innate desire to be included.  Throughout human history, being included was a critical success factor in our survival.  Imagine if you were ‘excluded’ from a tribe, and you had to fend for yourself.  Your chances of survival drop dramatically.  Therefore, inclusion is almost programmed into us as a basic survival need.


But the world has changed, and we don’t face those same risks any more.  Our brain, however, is still ‘wired’ the same, and inclusion is still seen as a key driver in our survival.  As humans we have not adapted to the modern world, but rather continue to seek ‘inclusion’ and fear ‘exclusion’ probably more than any other single thing –for many people it feels like a life or death scenario.


What is true for my clients is also true for everyone else around them.  It is not just them that feels the need for inclusion, and the fear of exclusion, everyone else does, too.  It is estimated  that more than half of the population have a deep seated fear of exclusion which impacts on how they behave socially (the others have developed strategies to manage it!).  The core belief that many clients run is that they are ‘not good enough’, too different to fit in or just don’t belong.


So what happens?  Two people meet – and it is likely that they both, at some level, have a fear of being excluded.  This means that they constantly look for signs in the other person that they are being rejected and excluded (because this is what they fear).  Because they are looking for it, they interpret almost any signal they receive as their worst fear. 


The other person might be thinking of something else, be scared of being rejected themselves, or just have a behavioural trait – and yet our fear encourages us to see it as ‘rejection’.  So both people are on high alert, over-analyse any signal and continuously tap back into their fear.  Is it any wonder that social situations make them anxious?


In reality, people love to be included.  A simple solution for some clients is to just set themselves the task of including others.  By doing so, the others feel comfortable, grateful and open to connecting.  If, on the other hand, they wait for others to connect to them, they can each allow their fears to cloud reality.


Working with social phobias is obviously more complex than this, however, but by including others (asking questions, showing that you are interested, considering their point of view) the opportunity to connect to others starts to become a reality.


My advice in social situations is “Go First”.  Give what you want and get what you give.

Here are two exercises to try:

1.  Go first.  Imagine that the other person is really scared of feeling rejected.  What would you do to make them feel comfortable?

2.  Connect and reconnect.   I encourage you to connect, or reconnect to three people in the next 24 hours.  See what happens!


What are your experiences with social situations?  Do you go first, or wait for others to take the lead?  Let me know what you experience as you try this exercise!


Live Well,



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Addicted to cravings

Craving and addictions seem to be one of the curses of modern life. When even someone like the ‘great’ Tiger Woods falls to an ‘addiction’, is there any chance for the rest of us?

As I often successfully deal with cravings and addictions in my Melbourne Hypnotherapy clinical practice, I take a more pragmatic view.

Addictions and cravings can be seen as a response by individuals to displace or cope with inner feelings of frustration.   As frustration builds up, the strategy of using drugs, sugar, chocolate, cigarettes, alcohol, pornography or other things allows the person to displace or reduce these feelings often as a method of coping.  It seems that frustration is almost a routine part of modern life and coping with this affects many people.

Craving is very common. The ‘urge’ to relieve frustration or the negative feelings that have developed with a person becomes focused on something which can distract, minimise or replace the feeling of frustration with some other more positive (or acceptable) feeling or sensation.

Consider the powerful hit of chocolate; the relaxation of alcohol or pot; the complete change in state caused by harder drugs; the release of sex or the ‘rush’ of illicit activities. Each of these allows the individual to displace or reduce the underlying frustration, rather than facing and dealing with it.

Addictions may develop later, when the client becomes ‘rigid’ in the way that they deal with their frustration. Often, the strategy of coping is dulled by the process of adaptation. The person becomes ‘used’ to the effect or impact of the thing they use to overcome their frustration, and it becomes a necessary crutch in their lives. The other alternative is it becomes part of their ‘process’ of keeping their negative feelings and frustration at bay.

It is common when dealing with clients with addictions and cravings for them to say something like: ‘I couldn’t help it. The feeling just grew and I just had to do it again. Afterwards I really regretted it, but there was nothing I could do.’

From a strategic standpoint, this typical statement demonstrates a number of principles that are common in cravings and addictions: Something external has control of the client, the problem process is a ‘thing’, there is a low tolerance to frustration, the problem is constant and pervasive in their life and they have an inability to negotiate themselves out of their problem.

Cravings can often be manipulated or shifted with simple clinical techniques. Addictions often require more in-depth work to realign cognitive processes around these principles.

There are reports of a genetic basis for addictions –  with some reports suggesting up to 50% of all addictions could be considered genetically based. Although the research is sound in describing ‘common’ genetic patterns in people with addictions, such research can also give ‘addicts’ a sense of helplessness and an excuse for giving up.  How can they fight their genetics?

Often my clients will report after successful sessions that they were surprised that the ‘label’ of addict and the concept that they had a ‘disease’ had kept them stuck so long, and how this was not not relevant or true.

I believe we generate each feeling in the moment. As we are more than our thoughts and our feelings, finding ways to more usefully deal with unhelpful thoughts, feelings and urges can be important in reducing, relieving or resolving craving and addiction.

Regardless of genetics, improving the way individuals choose to cope and create more useful living experiences is always valuable for clients. I see dramatic and long lasting improvements in the quality of clients lives as they find new and effective strategies and skills for dealing with cravings and addictions with hypnosis and strategic psychotherapy.

How do you deal with frustration?

What do you crave? D you let yourself succumb, or do you have strategies for moving beyond cravings?

I would love to hear your stories

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