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Tag Archives: fear

What is missing?

Often, clients  will visit me and want to be rid of a habit, memory or process that is really unhelpful to them.  Naturally, they see these as important in how they currently suffering.  This is especially true in anxiety related cases and depression. There is an expectation that, as a therapist, I will ‘do something’ to take this problem away. How hard do you think it is to take something …Read More

Helping people deal with global crisis

Today I rang the mother of a young client (14 yrs) who recently attended clinic with severe anxiety, panic attacks and depression. Apart from ‘checking in’, I wanted to share an important message with his mum based upon current world events. After our session, he has been doing really well.  His parents were so grateful for the change in their son, his reconnection with the world and his new resilience.  …Read More

Is the ‘problem’ in the eye of the beholder?

When studying psychology, they love to ask the question “what is the difference between seeing and perceiving?”  How would you answer that? I once went to Egypt, and one evening the difference between perceiving and seeing was beautifully demonstrated. I was invited to attend the ‘sound and light’ show at the great pyramids.  We were ushered to our seats, the lights are dimmed and the show begins. All of a …Read More

Every problem has three trapdoors

For whatever problem you have, one thing that is true is that it has three in built ‘trapdoors’.  These trapdoors will take you out of your problem….and straight into your solution.

Each and every problem that you have has these three trap-doors.  Using one or more of these trap doors allows you to escape your problem and find a solution.

In the clinic, helping clients find these trap-doors and use them allows them to escape anxiety, fears, phobias, bad habits, addictions and depression.

Perhaps you can try them for yourself.  

Trapdoor 1:  Exceptions

Problems become all-consuming as we focus on them.  They consume our attention and seem to be everywhere, and in everything.  Regardless of the situation, there will ALWAYS be a time or place where your problem does not exist.  Often this is in a place where you do things that you love – perhaps in a sport, a craft, on holiday, socialising.  If you can find the exception, you could consider how that exception could apply at a time the problem exists.

If it is not always a problem, what is it really?

Trapdoor 2:  Evidence

It takes little to ‘convince’ ourselves that the problem is real and powerful.  We will find ‘evidence’ everywhere for our problem.  However, we are often very quick to dismiss any evidence that we are doing something that is NOT our problem.

The rule from cognitive science is 3:1.  That is, we would need three pieces of evidence that something is not a problem to match one piece of evidence that the problem still exists.  It is easy to find the one, and difficult to see the three.

What if you could pay attention (and accept) evidence contrary to your problem?  What if you could imagine three pieces of evidence.  Seek and ye shall find! 

If you could find three pieces of evidence contrary to your problem, what would that mean about what your problem was?

Trapdoor 3:  Expectation

If you consider your problem, does it come with a positive or a negative expectation about the future?

Normally, problems come laden with negative expectations – that is, people consider their future is going to be full of negative (bad) events based on their problem.  The expectation that the problem is going to continue and have a negative impact sets the person up to get what they focus on – more negative outcomes.

However the future is not written.  If you had a problem now, but managed to have a positive expectation about the future, what would that mean about what your problem was then?

Using the trapdoors:

The trapdoor within your problems leads to solutions.  Are you ready to give yours a test?  

OK, think about your problem.  Really get in touch with how it feels, what you see or hear when you are in it.

Now consider the trapdoors.  

What is the exception in your life to the problem?  As you consider that, how does that redefine what your problem was?

What is the evidence that you have something other than your problem?  As you consider and accept at least three things that would prove you were other than the problem, what would that mean your problem was?

If you were to consider that the future is different to the past, what would a positive expectation mean that the problem has become?  And if you looked back at now from when your positive expectation was a reality, what would you have done to the problem?

And as you consider these, you can think about any number of possibilities that would be a great solution for you now.  Which one will you now take forward?

I would love to hear how you got on with this exercise.  What did you discover, what has changed?

Live well,



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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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The princess and the pea

Have you heard the fairy tale of the princess and the pea? Sleeping on a great pile of mattresses, the princess could not sleep because somewhere, deep down in the pile, there was a pea between two of the mattresses.

Such a small thing, deep down, having a big impact on behaviour at the top level. And so it is with our deepest fears.

I often have clients who consider important to try to understand where and when certain things first emerged in their lives. Consider a client who feels that how he views the world is as a result of the way his brother used to treat him when he was a kid. Although it can be powerful to reflect upon where things come from in most clients, digging back in the past can also be a source of more frustration and pain – it can be like wallowing in the thick, black mud of our sordid past and can be unhelpful in moving toward a more fulfilling life.

It really depends on the client, and I make no hard and fast rule about reviewing the past – as long as it helps the client move forward and is helpful for them in the present and the future.

This particular client no longer lives at that time, and he no longer lives in close proximity to his brother. However, he reports that this event or events of his youth are what impacts upon all of his actions in the present. For him, it is the ‘pea’ under his mattress.

I don’t like to break it to clients so bluntly as I will here – but I find that unhelpful. Can this client ever go back into the past and change what happened? No. They are therefore ‘stuck’ with this as an excuse for all of his maladaptive and unhelpful thoughts and feelings. Anything that comes up for this client, he can blame something that is both external to him, and impossible to change, as the cause (his brother in the past).


I wonder if you can focus on a memory, good or bad. Now try your hardest to completely erase that memory from your mind. When you are done, now go back and test if that memory is still there.

What happened?

Memories are not physical things. They do not exist as specific entities within your brain. You recreate the memory at will by initiating the firing of specific brain cells, in a specific sequence. A memory is an hallucination. So why are hallucinations so powerful on our behaviour in the present?

The pea under the mattress does not lie in your past. It lies somewhere else. It lies in the view of yourself, which you carry through time. It is in this present moment, and in every present moment that has been (your past). It will also be with you in every present moment that will come in future. But like memories which are created only in the present – so is your deepest view of yourself. You create this as a ‘filter’ on experience and stimuli in every moment. It exists only in the present, as everything else that happens in your brain.

That is a challenging idea, is it not? We are so conditioned to seeing time in a continuous fashion that we can deposit things along it like things stuffed into a row of lockers. We can go back and open a particular locker and examine this or that which lies within. In fact, that is not true. We cannot access the past and open any of those lockers. We can only hallucinate that we can.

There is really only one ‘locker’. On the front, in big bold letters, it says “NOW”. Any memories are created NOW. Every thought about the future is created NOW. Every feeling is created NOW. Imagination and memory are wonderful examples of hallucination. And like everything, if it is helpful, then keep and utilise it. If it is unhelpful to you living a full and rich life, then do something about it.

We have deep seated beliefs about ourselves. These can be positive or negative. It is these beliefs that are the pea under our mattress. They impact upon how we interact with the world.

Have you ever looked to see what ‘pea’ lies in your self belief that drives and impacts your behaviours? What did you learn when you found it?

Live well,


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The dark side of social media

How does social media impact your life? Do you suffer from the dark side of social media?

Are you addicted to using your devices to stay connected to others – even when it means avoiding connection to the real people right in front of you?

Over the last 5 years social media has shifted from a ‘fringe idea’ to being integrated into everyone’s life. Everyone is joining the ‘conversation’, either on facebook, twitter, pintrest…and many more. Apart from this supposed ‘addictive’ nature of social media, there is another ‘dark side’ of social media that I see contributing to client’s situations in the hypnotherapy clinic. It all comes down to ‘status’.

When you post on Facebook, it does not say ‘feeling’ update or ‘what I am doing’. It is clear what it wants – a status update. It is about projecting your ‘status’ to your network.

Herein lies a big problem with social media – the increase in social comparisons. Humans are hard-wired to compare themselves to those around them. It comes from those times, 50,000 years ago, when being resources were often limited and those at the top of the hierarchy accessed them first. Those at the bottom could miss out or could be the first ones kicked out (and therefore at risk for survival). Humans would have to make comparisons and judgements about their social status and ensure that they were not at the bottom of the heap.

In modern times we are not exposed to the same social risk, however our brain is still primed to seek out social comparisons. Humans create ‘rules’ about themselves about how they have to be, and often these have a comparative nature. They hark back to primitive times, but they can be powerful drivers of modern behaviour.

Social media allows people to view the ‘status’ of others at all times – and therefore be open to social comparison 24/7. But what if the status updates are not ‘true’?

What people post as their status may reflect what they want others to believe about them (or what they think is true or good about themselves) rather than the full scope of good and not so good which would be a more real version of what any person is.

What we see in status updates is the PROJECTION of what that person wants in their status. Whether they do it on purpose or not does not matter – we have to regard all postings on Facebook, Twitter and other sites to be consciously or unconsciously self-filtered.

The dark side of social media comes about when we lose sight of the false nature of the ‘status update’. When we believe that every status update is reality, rather than really being a projection of the person’s desired reality, the problems begin. The natural human instinct to compare ourselves to others takes over and we drag out our primal social response. If we compare our internal reality (which for everyone is a mix of good and not so good) with the ‘shining’ status updates we read from others as if they were the complete truth about that person, we could easily create a very strong negative self-view of ourselves compared to others.

This can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, hopelessness, helplessness, frustration and engagement in unhelpful behaviours.

By remembering that everyone is the same – with an ‘inside’ of thoughts and feelings and an ‘outside’ which is filtered and projected – we can start to come to terms with this difference. The reality is that everyone has mixed feelings about aspects of themselves. What they project is often very different.

Whilst treating clients in my clinical hypnosis practice in Balwyn, I often see this comparison and negative self-messaging associated with a range of presenting conditions. I sometimes wonder how much the increase of social media and the ‘false status’ updates impacts upon the level of symptoms that I help the client overcome.

This is only one ‘dark side’ of normal online social media. There are many others.

How do you post in social media?

What do you want to project in your posts?

What do you see in the posts of others that affects how you feel – particularly about yourself?

What other ‘dark sides’ to social media do you see?

I’d love to hear your stories, please comment below.

Live Well


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