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Friday, August 29, 2008

What Is Hypnosis

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Uncommon Hypnosis Master Series
What is hypnosis

I'm a hypnotherapist trainer and I use hypnosis with my clients every day.

As a hypnotherapist, it can be a good idea to have an alternative professional title on
hand - such as the innocuous 'trainer' - to avoid the inevitable questions. I was chatting
at a party the other day when a friend of a friend asked me the dreaded question - "What
do you do for a living?" I say 'dreaded question' because as soon as you mention
'hypnosis' you usually get a barrage of all kinds of half-baked assumptions and

Instead of saying 'hypnosis', I actually prefer to talk about 'updating instinctive
responses' or 'enabling your unconscious mind to work for your best interests' but, you
know, people like the word hypnosis. It conjures up all kinds of weird and wonderful
images and - let's face it - people like drama!

How many times have I heard: "Where's your swinging watch?" or "Can you make me
eat onions?" So anyway, this friend of a friend asks: "Can hypnosis make me more
confident? And how does it work?" Bearing in mind that I was off duty!

Well, firstly, how it works is pretty easy once we clear away all the piercing eyes,
swinging watches and black-caped mumbo jumbo. Hypnosis is a natural state akin to
night time dreaming, which happens during the Rapid Eye Movement phase of sleep,
otherwise known as REM.

REM sleep is called 'paradoxical sleep' because brain wave patterns are similar to how
they are during wak-ing hours. During the last three months in the womb, the human
neonate experiences more REM than at any other time during its life. It's during this time
that many human instincts are 'programmed' - such as empathy, fear of heights and the
ability to learn language.

By this time my new friend was looking glazed - quite trance-like, in fact. But by now I
was warming to my subject and continued...

So if instincts are laid down through the REM state before birth, then it makes sense,
during life outside the womb, to go back into the REM state in order to change your
responses to things. Which is what hypnosis does.

Your instincts try to help you out, but sometimes they've just learned the wrong
response. So your instincts may have learned to produce anxiety when it's not actually
helpful - such as during public speaking, dating or socializing.

I've never heard anyone say they consciously decided to bring on a panic attack or a
blush - these things just get switched on instinctively. So for 'hypnosis', think 'instinctive
programming'. You can understand why you have a problem, but if you want the problem
to disappear, it's your unconscious responses that ultimately need to change.

When hypnosis has done its job we hear things like: "I didn't even expect to feel different
but, you know, as soon as I got into that interview room I just felt so much more relaxed!"
When people talk like this what they are telling me is that their instincts have updated.
This is not the same as consciously learning something. And this is why we use

Gamely trying to keep up and perhaps wishing he hadn't asked, my new friend's next
question was: "Is this why hypnotists used the swinging watch method - so they can
artificially induce the REM state in their subjects?"

"Yes, I replied - now you're beginning to understand what most people never do, what
hypnosis is and why it works." But you know the watch swingers hadn't made the
connection between the REM state and the eye movement caused by the watch
swinging induction - they just knew that somehow it worked.

The first step to being confident within a situation is to truly imagine being confident in
that time and place. Your imagination is aligned to your instincts, and so can program
them. People can imagine something scary, sexy or annoying, and their instincts can
produce emotional responses - even when those these things aren't actually happening
in reality.

The more dream like and rich this imaginative experience is, the more fixed the new
hypnotic blueprint or 'template' will be for actually being more confident in those times in
the future.

Using hypnosis for confidence means that you no longer have to try to be confident,
because the confidence starts to become and feel natural.

But my new friend hadn't finished yet. "What about problems? Can people cause them
by doing negative self hypnosis?"

"Sure they can," I said. If you think about an upcoming event at the same time as feeling
nervous, then you are priming your instincts to feel anxious in that future event. But we
use hypnosis to get people performing to the best of their potential.

You know the rest of the party was a bit of a blur, but I recall thinking that all truly
successful people have learned to use hypnosis positively whether they realize it or not.

In summary

So to sum up, hypnosis mimics the REM state to help you program your instincts to
create the sort of responses you require.


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Suggestibility: How to be an Einstein
Mark Tyrrell
I was pounding the treadmill at the gym the other week, not looking at the clock, trying to
forget how slowly time was passing. Suddenly I noticed that the programme on the TV
monitor had changed from a quiz show to some sports event where athletes were running. I
was looking at people doing what I was doing. And a strange thing happened. As I watched
this pack of long distance runners, these lean mean running machines, I suddenly became
aware that my own pace had speeded up and that I was feeling more energised! This
happened quite unconsciously until the point where I happened to notice it. What would have
happened to me if there had been a show about elderly people getting about on their Zimmer
Seeing a `type' makes us act differently
Students were `experimented on' (no rats were available!) by psychologist John Bargh. He
wanted to prime their unconscious minds very specifically to influence their behaviour. He
asked students to walk down a corridor into his office where he gave them a test. They had to
make grammatical four word sentences out of apparently random lines of words as quickly as
possible. The students didn't know that many of the words were associated with the state of
being old ­ in other words, the `stereotype' being subliminally presented to the unconscious
minds of these young students was that of an old person. So they found themselves re-
arranging words like `grey', `old', `lonely', `bingo', `wrinkle', `Florida', etc. These words were
embedded among lots of other words and were not necessarily specifically linked to people at
all. What happened next was startling.
What Bargh was really testing for was the effect of this experience of subtle exposure to a
particular `type' on the way the students then walked back down the corridor away from his
The vast majority walked out much more slowly than they had walked in. Their behaviour had
been influenced by words which fitted a stereotype (even though they were unaware of the
`elderly' words they had been exposed to!).
People exposed to words suggesting the type `rude' behaved more rudely afterwards. While I
myself was gym running, my mind was exposed to a `type' ­ fit, fast and athletic ­ which had
speeded up my running! Students subtly exposed to word tests more weighted with words
such as `strong', `firm', `young', `quick', `fast', `sporty' walked out more quickly back down the
We are creatures who are easily influenced beyond our conscious awareness and who will
automatically try to fit the type or stereotype presented to us ­ especially if we are not
conscious of exactly what it is. So teenagers adopt the type they are exposed to on TV and
socially, and talk and dress and act accordingly (rather than imitate their parents). And we
tend to eventually adopt the accents and phrases and attitudes of those we mix with.
So if you want to score better in a fitness test, here's what to do. Watch athletes (or imagine
them) before or (ideally) while you are exercising. Or even think of as many `fit' words as you
can, like `able', `fit', strong', `stamina', `athletic', just before you exercise. You need to bring up
the stereotype `fit athlete' in your mind.
But now ask yourself this: Who do you surround yourself with?

Pick your type
Environments which contain a majority of one `type' (stereotype), for example, old people's
homes, are likely to produce more of the behaviour associated with that type (infirm
behaviour) than a more mixed environment would. In Germany, nurseries and old people's
homes are being built side by side in some areas, with great results. The elderly residents
see and interact with the young and vibrant and therefore have the blueprint of `young' and
`lively' presented to them. The very young have a check on the `type' they are normally
exposed to, and have a chance to learn self restraint and thoughtfulness towards their older
And here's what to do if you want to score better in an IQ test.
Think like smart people
Two Dutch researchers carried out a study asking groups of students fairly difficult questions
from the game `Trivial Pursuit'. The groups were split into two, and half were asked to spend
the five minutes before the test thinking about what it means to be a college professor ­ e.g.
smart, glasses, air of academia, etc ­ and half were asked to think what it means to be a
soccer hooligan ­ e.g. rough, loud, trouble maker, drinking, arrests, etc. They wrote down all
the associations they could think of.
The `hooligan' group got an average score of 42.6 percent of the questions right. The
`professor' group's average was 55.6 percent.
The test was repeated several times with different groups, and allowances made for IQ and
even how familiar people were with Trivial Pursuit. The results came out the same. Thinking
about smart people (the stereotype) makes you smarter! Thinking about dumb people and
words you associate with stupidity makes you dumber!
All this has huge implications for communication. The words you use in your conversation, if
weighted to form a specific type, will have powerful effects on people you talk to ­ and you
will similarly be affected when you listen to others.
Bad therapy
If a therapist (or doctor) primes a patient with words like `difficult', `painful', `hard', `upsetting',
and so forth, the client is much more likely to fit their behaviour and experience
(unconsciously) to the `type' of a depressed or anxious or even physically pained person. All
good therapy schools teach their students how to use language effectively. If you pepper your
language with `comfortable', `calm', `good', `excellent', etc you will be presenting a positive
type for your listener to fit in with.
A doctor or surgeon who primes their patient with words like `heal', `comfort', `active', `better',
`rapid', `healthy', and so forth will activate the pattern of health and faster healing in their
patients more effectively than the health professional who is less aware of the power of
But here's where it gets even more interesting. Having a hero or an idol can be bad for you
and make you perform less well!
Einstein and the supermodels
When people were exposed to pictures of groups of professors, they did better in intelligence
tests because the stereotype `professor' activated the bright pattern in them. However, when
they were shown a picture of just one brilliant man ­ Einstein ­ they scored less well in the
tests! Why? Because Einstein is seen as a one-off `I could never be like him' kind of genius ­
making you feel dumber in comparison, and so scoring lower on the test.
Students who were shown groups of supermodels responded to the unconsciously activated
`not so bright' pattern and scored less well in intelligence tests. But when they were shown

pictures of just one very well known supermodel, they scored better. This was because they
were feeling `I am not like her at all'.
So impossible exemplars like Einstein, Babe Ruth, or Mother Theresa, if we hero worship
them, can lower our performance when trying to attain their qualities. Being exposed to a
general type is what shapes our behaviour. When the great religions talk about the dangers of
idol worship, maybe they are not really being moralistic at all, but are drawing our attention to
quite sophisticated psychological truths. There are dangers of idolising individuals which
threaten your own self-development. Idolising even the founder of a religion may actually
prevent you from developing their qualities because of this phenomenon ­ unless you also
see `enlightened people' as a type.
Similarly, having talented figureheads to organisations can lower the talent of people within
the organisations if they look up to that figurehead as a `one-off genius'. Going for a strategy
which highlights a positive stereotype of `very clever people' rather than one which highlights
`one very clever individual' is thus more likely to encourage the general adoption of the
desired positive behaviour.
And now?
All this shows that we adopt role models as long as we feel we can model them and replicate
what they do well rather than idolise them and consider what they do to be beyond our reach.
So how do you live your life?
Are you surrounded by intelligent, enthusiastic, optimistic people? There's a great type to
conform to! Remember that those students could get a stereotype pattern activated just from
being exposed to words ­ so think what happens when we are exposed to particular types of
TV shows, movies or books.
A continuous diet of true life crime shows will activate a type in you. Watch a diet rich in
intelligent conversational shows and your IQ is likely to rise to fit the pattern. Watch a
biographical show about Einstein ­ a `one off genius' ­ and your scores on intelligence tests
are likely to plummet.
We are all much more suggestible than we realise. We are even more suggestible when we
think we are not! I'm off to the gym now. I hope they've got something good on the TV...

Success Hypnosis

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Uncommon Hypnosis Master Series
Hypnosis for success
Every year I train thousands of people in hypnosis and the role of positive psychology
in overcoming difficulties and maximizing success. So I see every day how crucial
attitude is for human performance and happiness.
So why do I link attitude to hypnosis? Well, another word for `attitude' is `focus'. And
when you narrow your focus ­ either inward or outward ­ you begin to go into a hyp-
notic trance. When your attitude is strong, then you have strong focus and a strong
focus is always hypnotic. Now the content of that focus is vitally important. A negative
attitude means you expect things to go wrong or to be difficult or unpleasant. A posi-
tive attitude, on the other hand, means you expect things to be fun or productive or
worth the effort. In other words, you expect success.
Hypnosis can help create success because hypnosis is about creating expectations.
These expectations aren't the so called `positive thinking', or just hoping for the best.
They are a part of you. They become your instincts. Now because your instincts work
for you automatically, this positive attitude means you're freed from the effort of trying
to be positive ­ which never really works. You just can't help it. You can't help being
positive. You begin to expect the best quite naturally.
With hypnosis you can change unhelpful patterns so your expectations and instincts
start to work productively for you. The advantages are huge. Even setbacks are seen
in positive ways. Positive people learn from setbacks and often say afterwards that in
fact they didn't see them as setbacks at all.
So where do you get your attitudes from? Well, you learn attitudes in two ways. Ei-
ther they get conditioned into you by others, or you condition yourself through natural
self-hypnotic experiences. Every time you learn something new to the extent that it
becomes automatic, then you've been hypnotized. Remember, hypnosis can last just
a few seconds and your eyes can be wide open. This is why we talk about anger,
pessimism, anxiety, addictions and depression as hypnotic trance states, because
they all require a restrictive, narrowed focus combined with a use (or misuse) of
People trance out just as much when they're being negative as when they're strongly
positive, because your instincts are essentially programmed through natural hypnotic
focus states. So it's perfectly possible to program yourself to believe unhelpful or lim-
iting things about yourself. The argument of pessimists usually comes back to what
they call realism. You know the kind of thing. I'm just being realistic. Things really are
that bad.
In our work we don't use unrealistic and simplistic positive thinking ideas, but we do
encourage life transformation through developing productive creativity, optimism and
staying power. Remember, expectation is powerful. Your brain works towards what
it's been programmed to expect. This principle can be much more powerful than you
may currently realize.
I've sometimes set my alarm clock for seven and then ­ due to high expectation in
my brain ­ I've woken up one minute before the alarm goes off. Friends and col-
leagues tell me of similar experiences. People often talk of consciously struggling to

remember someone's name ­ so creating expectation for their brain to manifest.
Hours later they may have been mowing the lawn or taking a bath and suddenly the
name pops up, even though they were no longer thinking about it consciously. Ex-
pectation is powerful stuff and works below the level of your conscious mind.
It's the power of unconscious expectation that determines your attitudes in life, and
attitude is really a subconscious expectation; and, as any medic will tell you, expecta-
tion can even cure some illnesses. This is why placebos work in reducing swelling or
pain even when they're just sugar pills. Placebos also make excellent anti-
depressants. It's the expectancy produced by the positive belief that these sub-
stances are powerful healing medications that produces the positive result.
Hypnosis is a medium through which positive subconscious expectancy can be pro-
grammed and maintained. The more the patient's attention is locked onto the pla-
cebo and the more their imagination is engaged, the more successful the placebo will
be in actually reorganizing cellular structures in the patient's body. This is the hyp-
notic part and the success of the placebo is the completion of the expectancy. Few
doctors understand that the working of a placebo pill is a post-hypnotic response, but
that's exactly what it is.
If you truly believe that things are going to work out well, then you'll feel confident
and have more staying power to keep trying longer. You'll also have more energy
and enthusiasm, which is more likely to attract others to your project, and your crea-
tive mind will be working for you, so you'll produce unexpected solutions and ideas.
Your subconscious mind will be constantly working towards manifesting the expecta-
tion and your brain is a powerful engine and what it is geared towards is absolutely
crucial. Research shows that optimists have better immune systems, live longer, be-
come less stressed by challenges and persevere longer, meaning they're more likely
to ultimately succeed.
Hypnosis is a natural learning state and happens spontaneously and continually, and
most of the time we're unaware of it happening. This means we can easily get hypno-
tized by the attitudes of people around us, and by TV and advertising.
Fortunately, optimism is a strategy that anyone can learn and the quickest way to do
this is also through hypnosis. Optimists see positive things as part of who they are ­
permanent and relating to life as a whole. It's as simple as this. The more times you
enter positive and productive hypnotic trance states relating to your life, the more
positive ­ and likely to be successful ­ you become.
Because negative emotional states also work on people in hypnotic ways, we can
use hypnosis as the optimum tool to overcoming depression, anger and other condi-
tions. Similarly, because determination, inspiration and the ability to enter perform-
ance flow states are also hypnotic, we can again use hypnosis to create and en-
hance positive states until they become a lasting way of relating to your life.
Of course, anything worthwhile takes perseverance. But individuals who can keep
creative, upbeat and determined and see through the limitations of negativity are the
ones who'll thrive.
In summary
All psychological limitations are learned through natural trance states. Likewise, all
skills, abilities and positive attitudes become fixed through hypnotic experiences.
Negative attitudes produce negative expectations ­ which makes people give up too
early and miss opportunities. Positive expectation means more energy and likelihood
of success and happiness. Both optimism and pessimism tend to be infectious. Posi-
tive expectation and focus can be programmed through regular and effective hypno-

String Psychology

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No strings on me: Is there a psychopath in your

I've got no strings
So I have fun
I'm not tied up to anyone
They've got strings
But you can see
There are no strings on me!

Lyrics form Pinocchio: 'I've got no strings'

What is a psychopath? Do you know one? Ever been the victim of one? The chances are that
the answer is yes, even if you may not realize it. The scientific consensus is that one in a
hundred people is psychopathic and this breaks down evenly between men and women. (1)
Scary thought, huh? What is your idea of a 'psychopath'? A serial killer? A crazy person
foaming at the mouth? Think again.

Movie madness - muddling psychosis and psychopathy

Hollywood loves psychopaths and psychotics because they make such wonderful (or terrible,
depending on your point of view) baddies. But if you think that because you've seen lots of
movies featuring baddies who are 'mad' in some way you will therefore be able tell a
psychotic from a psychopath, you are mistaken, because the movies regularly mix them up.
Perhaps the most famous 'mad' movie baddie of them all, Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's
Psycho, is regularly branded a psychopath, although he was no such thing. He was a
delusional psychotic. 'Hearing voices' or 'seeing things' that aren't there can be symptoms of
psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia, but does not mean that you are a psychopath. Of
course, schizophrenia itself is another condition often misrepresented in the movies, which
pursue the dramatic possibilities of 'split personality' while failing to acknowledge that it has
nothing whatever to do with schizophrenia.

To see a more accurate movie psychopath, turn to the eponymous cold hired assassin 'the
Jackal' in The Day of the Jackal, or the scheming and manipulative Tom Ripley (brilliantly
portrayed by Matt Damon) in The Talented Mr Ripley.

In reality, most psychopaths are not criminal - although many criminals are psychopaths - but
they are certainly amoral. The great majority are not killers; they are 'bad' rather than 'mad'.
So how do you tell if there is a psychopath in your life?

The charming manipulator
No strings on me: Is there a psychopath in your life?


The socialized psychopath is likely to be too smart to end up in jail.

The socialized psychopath can appear extremely charming. You have to know them really
well and have a fair amount of insight yourself to spot that they always and only ever do what
suits them. As long as they are getting their own way, they can be as charming as you could
wish, and the most delightful company. But they will lie at the drop of a hat, without the
slightest twinge of anxiety or guilt (so the old 'lie detector' polygraph test wouldn't be likely to
catch them out). They will use other people for their own ends without the smallest concern -
treating them as no more than chess pieces in their 'game'. They have no sense of guilt or
remorse and will always be able to come up with plausible rationalizations for their behavior
which allow them to lay the blame for any subsequent disaster on other people. And, of
course, once chess pieces have served their purpose, there is no reason why they should not
be discarded.

Is it surprising that politics and show business are thought to have more than their fair share
of socialized psychopaths?

Cruel yet magnetic

The socialized psychopath can be very attractive for the very qualities that make them
psychopathic. This is not as contradictory as it sounds. A person whom we sense is not
encumbered with the same inhibitions, doubts, uncertainties and sensitivities that plague the
rest of mankind can seem very attractive. They can have such an aura of confidence and
freedom about them. They may be enormously fun sensation-seeking risk takers. There are
'no strings on them' - or so it would appear. They may even seem like heroes to us. And they
will keep us onside while we are useful to them. If you watch them carefully, however, their
humor will tend to be on the cruel side.

Cult leader Jim Jones was very magnetic and attracted a great number of followers to his
'Jonestown' settlement where they met their tragic deaths. He was reported to have enjoyed
dissecting live animals as a child - a common childhood indicator of psychopathy. Other
people's suffering does not shock the psychopath as it does ordinary people, although they
can look as shocked as anyone on the surface. How so?

Feigning empathy

Someone with Asperger syndrome (a mild form of autism) finds it difficult to empathise with
other people because they are to some extent 'emotion blind'. They find it hard to read the
emotions of others, or to see a connection between the emotional responses of others and
what they themselves have actually done or said. As a consequence, they can sometimes
seem cruel or insensitive, but they don't mean to be. They assume that other people see the
world in the same way as they do themselves, and struggle to comprehend that there really
are different perspectives. This makes someone with Aspergers actually less likely to lie or
attempt to deceive - they see no need for it.

A psychopath is a different kettle of fish altogether. A psychopath is not 'emotion blind'. They
can 'read' other people's emotions perfectly well, and mimic them perfectly well. And for them,
other people's emotions are just another counter to use in their games. They themselves
rarely get worked up about anything except not getting what they want.

No strings on me: Is there a psychopath in your life?


How do you deal with someone who has no empathy, guilt, remorse or fear?

A psychopath may understand other people frighteningly well. They can watch
dispassionately, with a cold and calculating mind, going convincingly through the motions of
empathy on the surface while focusing on how to turn the situation to their advantage. The
only way to spot them is to observe them carefully over a significant period of time. Do they
regularly say one thing and then do another, more than other people? Do they use people
emotionally, sexually, professionally and then discard them casually? Do they sometimes
seem strangely un-shocked by shocking events?

Cold hearts

Not surprisingly, many two-faced bullies show strong psychopathic tendencies. As they say:
'You can't turn a lion into a vegetarian by throwing veggie burgers at it.' Trying to appeal to
the better nature of a person who hasn't got a better nature is a losing strategy. Psychopaths
do not feel guilt or shame. They won't feel genuinely sorry for you and will only put up a front
of convincing looking sympathy for as long as it suits them.

If you suspect there is a psychopath causing havoc in your life then you need to avoid them
as much as possible. Collect and record evidence of their manipulative behavior. Try to avoid
seeing them except when other people are around. Psychopaths leave a string of broken
hearts, disappointment, bewilderment and empty wallets in their wake. Romantic relationships
with a psychopath (of either sex) are fraught with dangers to your emotional and even
physical well-being.

Why do psychopaths exist?

It seems strange that nature sprinkles psychopaths so liberally around human populations.
But it could be that just as, in order to be successful overall, human populations need
'creative innovators' and 'caring people', they also need a minority who are cold and ruthless
enough to make things work without consideration for other people 'getting in the way'. Such
attitudes can have particular social or economic benefits in certain circumstances. For
example, it is probably the case that the Special Forces have a higher proportion of
psychopaths (albeit acceptably channeled because of the nature of the work) than the social
work profession. We may sometimes need the cold detachment of the psychopath.

How do you treat the psychopath?

Traditionally psychopaths have only been 'treated' when they have been caught in criminal
misdemeanor, and that 'treatment' has often been no more than punishment. Psychopathy is
seen as a 'personality disorder' and therefore pretty much untreatable. Psychopaths may be
very happy with being the way they are and there is some evidence that their brains, in some
respects, work quite differently from other people's.

In a fascinating study, researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, (2)
showed six psychopaths and nine healthy volunteers' pictures of faces displaying different
emotions. When looking at happy faces (as opposed to neutral faces), the brains of both
groups showed increased activity in the areas involved in processing facial expression,
although this increase was smaller in the psychopathic group.

No strings on me: Is there a psychopath in your life?


In contrast, when processing faces full of fear compared with neutral faces, the healthy
volunteers showed more activation and the psychopaths less activation in these brain
regions. Psychopaths can be very emotional themselves if they feel thwarted, but they are
less concerned with other people's emotions accept as a hook by which to manipulate them.

The psychopathic continuum

We can all behave psychopathically sometimes, given extreme enough circumstances. Even
whole cultures may be more psychopathic than others. Societies that encourage individuality,
material gain and personal power while glorifying violence at the expense of the community
display psychopathic tendencies just as surely as individuals do. And some people may
manifest some psychopathic tendencies while still on occasion having genuine empathy and

The vast majority of people do care about others, are shocked and upset by the suffering of
fellow creatures and won't tread over all and sundry just to get to the top. And we can all be
manipulative, calculating, selfish or ladle on the false charm at times. But for the true
psychopath this is par for the course. You have been warned.

· See Robert D Hare's excellent: Without Conscience: The disturbing world of the
psychopaths among us

· This research was conducted by Professor Declan Murphy and colleagues at Kings
College London and published in 'Facial emotion processing in criminal psychopathy',
British Journal of Psychiatry, 2006 189: 547-555

Stress Symptoms Of Modern Age

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Stress: symptom of a modern age?
Mark Tyrrell
A while ago I was at a prize giving ceremony at my son's school. Prizes were flying out all
over the place for art, maths, sport, you name it. One prize sticks in my mind. The beaming
teacher announced: 'And the prize for dealing with stress goes to...' What's this? The stress
Now I'd really heard everything. As a bemused seven year-old wandered on to the stage, we
all looked on sympathetically, wondering what had caused the stress this child had coped
with so prize-winningly.
Everybody's doing it!
'Stress' is the modern pariah. It's a cover-all term. 'Stress' can make people physically sick,
suicidal, depressed, unable to think clearly or learn new things, unable to digest food, less
able to fight bacteria and disease, uninterested in sex and unable to work. In short, it can
make life seem not worth living. Yet I can say I am 'stressed' if I'm late for work because I
mislaid my keys and am therefore a little irked!
So how can 'stress' cause a person to suffer so much physically and emotionally?
Hungry lions and mortgage repayments
To be stressed, you need something to give you the stress; a stressor. The stressor will be
real or imagined. If you react with stress to something real (a hungry lion coming towards you)
you experience fear. Your adrenal glands pump your system full of adrenaline, speeding
heart rate and breathing, you begin to sweat and basically things become set for exercise.
Your body is primed for fight or flight (for me it's flight!). Safari so good, this is when you need
your stress response.
But what if you merely imagine something stressful?
Producing stress from within
If you experience your stress response kicking in when merely imagining a lion might be
around, you have anxiety.
· Fear is the response to something actual happening now.
· Anxiety is the response to something imagined and anticipated in the future.
Unfortunately your stress response can be triggered by stuff you make up in your head, which
is why what you imagine is so important. Worry and anxiety fire off the stress response
continuously, which leads to the physical consequences of stress.
But how does stress produce so many physical symptoms? There are good reasons why long
term stress sufferers can develop lowered immune response, reduced digestive capacity, loss
of sex drive, impaired thought, heart disease etc.
Stress: Symptom of a Modern Age?


Major stress reaction: what you were designed for
In the first couple of minutes of you responding to a stressor ­ that lion again ­ your auto-
response system makes rapid changes in your body, gearing you for flight (which might be a
better idea if the lion is large and undomesticated!) or fight.
At the first press of the stress button (you see or hear the lion), your adrenaline starts to flow
and continues to do so for about two minutes. Adrenaline is wonderful stuff and temporarily
turns you into a survival machine. And that's just the start.
Turning into a survival machine
The lion is coming closer. Your breathing becomes short, high in the chest and rapid ­ just
the way it needs to be for running at your fastest. Your skin produces sweat, and your palms
become sweaty so that they will have better grip when the sweat dries off. Your heart beats
faster to send more blood and oxygen surging around the body ­ again to help the anticipated
exercise involved in fleeing a super feline attack.
This is all well and good, but your stress response doesn't just 'switch on' functions like
quicker breathing. Any functions not crucial for fending off lions get automatically 'switched
off' during the emergency.
Stress switches off some of your functions
Fleeing a lion is a short term survival crisis, so many of your long term survival functions are
not required during the emergency. Stuff inside you that gets switched off includes:
· Digestion and salivation Eating is long term survival. You really don't need to be
eating lunch whilst trying to avoid being lunch. Blood flow gets shunted away from
your stomach and your mouth gets dry.
· Sex drive You don't need to be sexually excited when fleeing a lion (trust me it won't
help!). So sex drive gets switched off during the stressful episode.
· Immune response You don't need to be fighting off little pathogens in your blood
stream when fighting off a lion in your back garden, so your immune response takes
a break.
· Intelligence You don't need to be a smart intellectual and learning new things when
under attack, so the thinking brain takes a back seat.
· Growth hormone You don't need to be repairing damaged skin and bones whilst
fighting off the unwanted advances of the super feline so, yes, you guessed it, growth
hormone takes a back seat.
"Wait!" I hear you cry, "These adaptive and (in the short term) essential adaptive responses
sound suspiciously like the very symptoms of long term stress!"
Now you're getting it.
Long term stress response symptoms
All this is great in the short term. However, if after two minutes either you or the lion has not
cleared off ­ your adrenals will start producing the long term stress hormone cortisol, with the
resulting stress symptoms. Cortisol continues to keep your breathing fast, your heart rate up,
and your sex drive, digestion, immune system and clear thinking switched off. On top of that,
your blood pressure will stay high, putting you at risk of possible hypertension and heart
disease ­ in the long term.
Stress: Symptom of a Modern Age?


No lions round here
The stressor may not be that hungry lion after all.
It may be an unhappy marriage, working life, financial situation, bereavement, etc. So the
'symptoms' of stress ­ raised blood pressure, exhaustion, loss of sex drive, digestive
problems like IBS and so forth are actually adaptive and essential functions that are now out
staying their welcome. On top of that raised blood pressure .
And the stress relief solution?
The ultimate stress reduction is relaxation ­ lots of it and regularly. Whether that's through
hypnosis, yoga, diet, exercise, or making time to do the things you enjoy.
In fact, if you do anything you wouldn't dream of doing when confronted with a lion (such as
reading for pleasure), the stress response will switch off and you'll start feeling and
functioning better. The instant you relax, stress symptoms begin to recede: your immune
function works better again, your blood pressure normalises, your sex drive gets a look in and
clear thought raises its sensible head once more. This means you'll be more likely to manage
the difficulties that had been causing the stress in the first place.
The symptoms of stress aren't mysterious ­ they are in fact functions which have evolved to
serve us but which are now being over-used to the point of working against us.
And that little boy at prize giving sure was good at managing his stress levels. I noticed him
snoozing contentedly throughout the second half of the award ceremony.

Stop Smoking

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How hypnosis helps people stop smoking

Hypnosis, when used well, is a
g diverse
highly effective tool for helping and curin
conditions from clinical depression to post traumatic stress disorder and even physical
conditions like warts and burns.

But the public have a strong association with the use of hypnosis for curing something
else. Something that kills around 5,000,000 people a year, that incapacitates and ages
the body and brain, that destroys sex drive and yet whose victims pay for the privilege,
spending tens of thousands of pounds over the course of an ever shortening life span.

So why it is that millions of people are prepared to throw away their lives for cigarettes?
What is it about the human brain, otherwise set up for survival, that makes seemingly
sensible people puff away their heart function, healthy cells, energy, virility and fertility as
well as their time and money? Why would anyone do this?

Well firstly, people smoke because they are human. We all do things to excess
sometimes ­ whether it's eat-ing, sex, work, exercise, surfing the net, gambling or
drinking alcohol. For some people the pleasure they get from their addiction is
so g eat
that it's impossible to imagine life without it. Although on another level they can see what
it is taking from them ­ things such as dignity, health and even friends and family.

And the pattern of smoking addiction isn't any different from these other addictions.

Addictions hijack and misappropriate the brain's chemical reward mechanisms, which
exist to make learning pleasurable, so enabling human beings to develop and thrive.
Having a so-called 'addictive personality' really means having great potential to learn
and develop.

To be addicted to something you need to have an expectation that it is going to be good
in some way. The excitement we get when we are keen to do something locks our
attention into an addictive trance state. This excitement is produced by a natural
cocaine-like chemical in the brain called dopam
ine. And the warm feelings of satisfa tion
we get after we've done something such as mastering a new skill or puffing on a longed
for cigarette is caused by chemicals called endorphins.

Dopamine and endorphins exist to encourage us to learn and master new skills and to
do things essential for survival like having sex, eating, drinking and resting when we are
tired. If we didn't feel internally rewarded for doing these things then we wouldn't do
them ­ and therefore wouldn't survive. It's ironic that the reward system designed for
survival can be hijacked by behaviours that threaten survival, such as smoking.

There is another aspect to addiction and this is habituation. This means the more you
have of something, the more you need to get the same level of satisfaction. This also
makes sense from a human development perspective. When people master new skills
they get a dopamine and endorphin rush which is pleasurable. But when those new skills
become second nature then the person builds up a tolerance and needs to develop
further skills to get the same buzz as before. Hence you are driven to continue
developing yourself.

hink of the
buzz you might get when you learn your first piece on, say, the guitar. Your
dopamine and endorphins reward you for mastering a new skill but after a while you
build up a tolerance to that experience, just like an addict, an
d have to learn more to g
the same buzz.

ur ancestors
had to develop a tolerance to the pleasure of just collecting fire from
lightning strikes, so they discovered how to light
fires and eventually invented the ele tric
light bulb. This progression happened because just using fire, after a while, just wasn't
that exciting any more. People needed more to 'light their fires', so to speak.

his addictive pattern ­
building a tolerance to one level of experience so more is
needed to give the same buzz ­ is what develops human beings, and so enabled
civilizations and new inventions to come into being. If it wasn't for addiction, we'd all still
be swinging from trees.

his natural
pleasure/satisfaction drive explains how people become addicted and why
they end up needing more and more of the addictive experience.

moking is a type of self harm. I used to work with self harmers who'd cut
their own
arms. The more they did it, the more they wanted to do it. Because the chemical rush
from cutting themselves a little quickly became standard for them, they h

ad to cut more
and more to get the same rush or sense of release. On one level this is no different fr


o become addicted to
anything you need to repeat it and practise it, just like learning a
new skill, so that eventually it feels natural. And if you repeatedly do one thing in
conjunction with another, eventually the two feel as if they naturally go to
gether. E n
hardened smokers report they can go on long haul flights without feeling the need to
smoke, or go swimming without wanting to light up, simply because these things have
never become associated as triggers to smoke. This associa
tive factor is more importa
in addiction than so called physical addiction.

o we become addicted to something in the same way we le
arn new things. If you were
crazy enough to click your fingers every time you got up in the morning, every time you
had a cup of coffee, every time after sex, after a meal, whenever you had an alcoholic
drink, when you felt relaxed, bored, stressed and so forth then, eventually, clicking your
fingers during these times would start to feel instinctively right. As if the two things
naturally went together.

Imagine if you clicked your fingers for twenty years fifty times a day. How weird would it
feel to suddenly stop? What would you do with your hands? Having a drink without finger
clicking would feel, well, unnatural! You might even believe the withdrawal you'd feel is
because of physical addiction rather than association. When a person first starts

smoking it doesn't feel natural then but, through repetition, it becomes natural, just like
mastering any skill.

Reading words didn't feel natural at first but through repetition and practice it became
instinctive, and now feels right and natural. Anything we do over and over becomes part
of our instinctive repertoire and therefore eventually gets to feel natural. Many smokers
feel there is a natural association between drinking coffee or alcohol and smoking. But
non-smokers drink without smoking.

When we seek to cure someone of smoking we need to look at these factors and use
our knowledge of how the brain keeps the addiction in place to help free them. When a
person is addicted, and they suffer because of that addiction, they become split down
the middle, they want to stop and they don't want to stop. Hypnosis can build up the part
that wants to stop so that it starts to dominate the part that wanted to side with the
destructive smoking habit.

When I work with smokers, I don't try to scare them out of smoking. The smoking habit is
more cunning than that. It gets them running for a cigarette when they are scared. It's
got that covered. I tell them they don't need to hear it from me that smoking rots the
arteries into the penis, causing impotence, or the arteries into the eyes, causing dimming
eyesight, how it softens the gums or causes 90% of lung cancers, how the serotonin
destroying properties of the 2,000 destructive chemicals in tobacco cause depression
and anxiety in smokers and how had scientists been commissioned with the task of
creating a drug to age hu
man beings rapidly they couldn't have done much better tha
invent nicotine.

I do tell them this though: I tell them that in order for the rich tobacco industry to exist,
people need to serve it by being willing to sacrifice themselves for the 'cause'. The
cause, of course, is profit for the tobacco giants.

herever there is a cau
se, there are people willing to lay down their lives for it.

ou see, pe
ople aren't prepared to die or be maimed for something unless they have
been conditioned by certain beliefs. A perfect example of this, of course, is religion.
Throughout history people have died for beliefs that seem totally insane t
o others. Th
wouldn't do it without these beliefs. And so, too, is it with smokers. So many smokers
have been conditioned with beliefs about smoking in order to enable them to be willing to
lay down their life and health for it.

eliefs are interesting th
ings. The conscious mind is often employed by the unconscious
mind to justify and defend destructive behaviours. An example would be when someone
defends the abusive person who is beating them with the words 'Yes, but he's so nice
really!' or 'He's great with the dog.' The common smoking defensive beliefs seem to
originate from within the smoker, but in fact they are conditioned into them from the
outside. People need these beliefs to consciously or unconsciously defend the very thing
that is seeking to destroy them.

If they weren't part of the belief system, then people actually wouldn't smoke. In the
same way that no one would be prepared to die for a cause unless they had specific

Hypnosis can help unhook past conditioning very quickly; we regularly see life-long
chronic smokers cured of smoking in one hour. What's more, they can heal quickly as
non-smokers and they don't even have to turn into rabid anti-smokers. If you hate
something you used to love, then you are still too emotionally wrapped up in it.
Indifference is what we are after in the ex-smoker. I like to think of people 'growing out of
smoking' rather than 'forcing themselves to quit'. When you were very young and your
feet grew, then your shoes began to squeeze and the squeezing let you know it was
time to give up the old shoes, becau
se they didn't fit you any more. Smoking squeeze
peoples' lungs, hearts, skins and money. When it's time to be free, it's a relief, not a

Sports Performance Hypnosis

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Sports Performance hypnosis
I use sports hypnosis in three ways to greatly improve performance.
Firstly, it is used to narrow the focus of attention ­ like a super laser beam ­ so that,
when you are doing your sport, nothing else exists.
Recently a sports psychologist attended an Uncommon Knowledge introductory
hypnosis workshop. She had been studying some of the top racing drivers of the world.
Her research concluded what we already know. What distinguishes the very best in the
world from the rest is an amazing ability to shut out distractions and narrow the focus of
attention until all else around effectively disappears. She had devised a series of tests
on a screen. The drivers had to complete these tests while increasing levels of noise and
other distractions were presented to them. The best drivers were the ones who were
less distracted by these outside influences ­ and some of them later reported they hadn't
even been aware of them!
Now her description of the psychology of world-beating racing drivers is also a good
definition of the hypnotic trance. When you are in trance you become less aware of
sounds around you ­ the deeper the trance, the less you notice.
So teaching people to enter a sports trance improves performance and encourages what
we call the state of 'flow', or being 'in the zone', where everything seems easy and you
feel a wonderful, dream-like inevitability of success.
When you are in the zone, you are purely process focused ­ and not outcome focused.
What I mean by that is that a great racing driver won't be thinking about the last bend, or
a world-class golfer about their last shot. And they certainly won't be considering how
their performance will bring them money or status. People call this 'being in the moment',
which means being totally focused on the process, and entirely at one with the activity
Your attention is like a beam of light. If it is too diffuse, the strength of the beam
weakens. If the beam is narrowed and tightly focused, it becomes a powerful force ­ like
a laser. In fact, we can go as far as to say that all great achievements in the world come
down to people being able to repeatedly extend focussed attention.
The second way sports hypnosis is used is to change limiting beliefs.
Consider this! It used to be widely believed that to run a mile in less than four minutes
was just not humanly possible. In the early 1950s, the four minute barrier may as well
have been a solid object. Belief stopped people breaking through it.

Then in 1954 Roger Bannister ran a mile in under four minutes. And so ­ suddenly ­ the
sub-four-minute mile moved into the realms of the possible. The barrier in runners' minds
evaporated and the following year over one hundred people ran the mile in under four
minutes. This sweeping away of limiting beliefs is known as the Bannister effect, and
holds good for all areas of life, not just sports.
Recently I worked with a young high jumper. This seventeen year old had a mental
block. He believed he just couldn't jump higher than two metres. I asked him whether he
would be able to jump two metres in length. He laughed, and said that of course he
could do that, with very little effort. I then hypnotized him and encouraged him to think
about the height of the bar in terms of length ­ suddenly two metres didn't seem so
much. He hypnotically rehearsed approaching the bar with the sense that it was
measured in length rather than height. During his very next competition he jumped two
metres and five centimetres. We had reframed his limiting belief by talking in terms of
two metres not actually being that much distance if we thought about it as length. This
may sound strange to the logical mind, but in hypnosis the laws of physics don't apply!
I worked with a sixteen year old racing car driver who had already been sponsored by a
major car manufacturer and was destined for Formula One stardom. He had started
becoming anxious about being in the lead. He would get out in front, then worry what
was going on behind him instead of focusing on what he himself was doing. He said that
it had got to the point where he didn't like being in the lead! I suggested to him that in
fact he was never really in the lead. He was always behind something. He was curious
about this and I then told him that time was always in front of him ­ he was always
chasing his next best time!
This idea totally reframed his belief about being out front in the lead. We expanded this
idea hypnotically and he found that he started to relax with being in front and he started
improving his times.
So the way sports people look at things is very important.
Which brings us on to the third principle of sports hypnosis: hypnotic success rehearsal.
When you practise something in your mind, whether a golf swing, a high jump or a piece
of music on the guitar, then ­ as far as your brain circuits are concerned ­ you really are
practising for real. This is why you can practise the guitar even if you've left it at home!
In fact, you can improve by hypnotically imagining an activity without even doing it for
real. In the 1970s an American soldier who had been imprisoned in Vietnam was
released after four years in captivity. On his release, the first thing he wanted to do was
play golf. All he'd been able to do in prison was spend hours every day playing one
perfect round of golf after another on as many imaginary and remembered golf courses
as possible. Such was the success of this intense and prolonged self hypnosis that,
even though he was in poor physical condition and hadn't actually played golf in years,
his handicap had improved as if he'd had intense professional coaching for those four
years. When you rehearse something in your mind you are using hypnosis. If you
rehearse something going well then you are setting up your brain with a blueprint for
Some sports people we have helped had made the mistake of using negative hypnosis
by imagining future sporting events going badly. I teach them to rehearse absolute
success when in hypnosis. One young ten year old gymnast had stated dropping scores
because of anxiety in major competitions. I hypnotized her to the point that she could

feel completely relaxed, then I just got her to get perfect scores of ten over and over in
her mind, in all the events she took part in. When her mother brought her back a couple
of months later, she told me that not only was her daughter much more relaxed about
competing but she was getting perfect scores in many of her competitions, which was
previously unheard of. The final study I want to mention involved basketball players.
They were shown a new move then one group practised it for real for three weeks and
another group hypnotically rehearsed it for three weeks. After that time, the hypnotic
group were actually better than the group who had physically practised the new move!
This was because the ones who had practised purely in their minds had been able to do
it perfectly every time, whereas the ones who had practised for real had also learned
how to make mistakes.
So to sum up, for great sporting performance you need to:
1. focus your attention like an intense laser beam while staying relaxed
2. dissolve any limiting beliefs as to what is or isn't possible, and
3. perfectly hypnotically rehearse performing at your very best time after time.
I love working with sports people because the results are so easy to see, and they are
generally highly motivated. These rules hold true for other areas of life too. Test it