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When panic attacks

Imagine going through your life, always afraid that at any moment – wham! – a wave of absolute terror and panic will overtake you. Welcome to the life of a panic attack sufferer. People who suffer panic attacks describe them as intensely unpleasant, overwhelming and even debilitating. They can last from short intense ‘moments’ to long, continuous sessions of panic and fear. Panic attacks usually fall within the ‘anxiety’ cluster …Read More

Wedding cold feet – or a cold sweat?

It is supposed to be the happiest day of your life – but many brides (and grooms) struggle with the lead up to – and enjoying – the wedding day of their dreams. Wedding stress and anxiety can start to build up weeks and months before the big day. Unfortunately, it may show up in physical or emotional symptoms, including obsessing over every detail, sleep disturbances, constantly worrying, being angry …Read More

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

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 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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