How ‘Therapied’ Is Your Hypnotherapist?

Medical hypnotherapy

In the grand scheme of things, you know something might have gone wrong when you’re heating something up in a microwave and there’s a sudden loud bang, a shower of sparks and the house is plunged into sudden darkness.

Like most ordinary people, I know what electricity does, but not how it does it. I can change a lightbulb and, if the circumstances are right and there’s a diagram to work from, a plug. When there’s a normal power cut – in other words, the sort that isn’t accompanied by loud noises and sudden fireworks in the kitchen – I also know where to look to see if a fuse has blown (though what to do next would elude me).

But that’s pretty much as far as my expertise goes and you’ll probably agree that when the Fourth of July is going on in the middle of your kitchen, that probably isn’t quite far enough.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was fairly reluctant to investigate whatever electrical mayhem had suddenly befallen my kitchen and robbed me of a bag of popcorn. I did, however, manage deduce two key facts:

First, the loud explosion was not, as you may have been thinking, the dying moments of an implausibly large popcorn kernel; and second, the circuit breaker steadfastly refused to be reset, giving rise to a suspicion that this was an electrical problem of a magnitude several times larger than the one caused a few months back by a pair of overheated hair straighteners.

This, I quickly realised, was the domestic equivalent of a Defcon 1 situation and fully deserving of a bonafide Expert, with, as you will note, a capital E.

So I called my butcher, David, to come and have a look at it.

I know there are some of you now thinking that this is a strange course of action to take, given the mysterious and quite possibly lethal situation in which I found myself and I have a certain sympathy with your point of view, if I’m being completely honest.

But you need to understand that David has been on – and passed – a 20-week electrician’s course held every Saturday and so holds a recognised and certified electrical engineering qualification. Crucially, he’s also really, really cheap, charging me £30 an hour rather than the £90 an hour plus £125 call out charge that an electrician registered with the Electrical Contractors Association would charge!

It’s a no-brainer, right?

Wrong. A decision so far wrong it couldn’t be more wrong if it marched up your garden path and knocked on your door brandishing an enormous piece of card with the word WRONG printed on it.

If my microwave really had blown up my kitchen and taken the entire electrical supply to the house with it, I would obviously have called out the best-qualified electrician I could possibly find and the cost be damned, because why would anyone cut corners with their personal safety?

Yet people do, all the time. Perhaps the circumstances aren’t always as spectacular, but the false economy of scrimping on cost is common in all areas of life. Sometimes saving money is a good thing but there are sometimes in our lives where a perceived saving actually costs you more.

I’ve long worried that my own profession doesn’t do enough to offer protection from people like David the Butcher. Well-meaning though the Davids of this world undoubtedly are – often to the point of fundamentally believing they are perfectly qualified to offer treatment for even the most acute problems – the fact is they are likely to do more harm than good, especially when it comes to vulnerable patients who have experienced serious trauma.

Just as David the Butcher can get an electrical engineering qualification in what amounts to no more than four weeks, so it is also possible for someone to get some form of recognised hypnotherapy qualification in a fortnight.

At Zoe Clews & Associates, I and my colleagues have spent years training in hypnotherapy methods and then practising them and I’d argue that the best and most qualified therapists are those who, like us, have practised first on themselves.

So, what do I mean by that? Well, for me that’s about having done the necessary processing work on our own emotional state to ensure we’re not taking any of our own ‘stuff’ into client sessions. 

Unfortunately hypnotherapy is still an unregulated industry. If you look at psychotherapists, they not only have to train for five years but they also have to have five years of their own psychotherapy too. And there are good reasons for that. It means they are, for want of a better phrase, emotionally ‘clean’ and therefore highly unlikely to transfer their own issues or agendas onto the clients. They’re also less likely to be triggered emotionally themselves by the client’s presenting issue.

So at its heart, the reason why psychotherapists and other practitioners working in the field of mental health have such rigorous training is safety – for their clients, and for themselves.

This isn’t currently the case in hypnotherapy, which means that there are a lot of unprocessed – often well meaning and well intentioned, but nevertheless unprocessed – people working as hypnotherapists who haven’t worked through their own issues and are consequently way out of their depth.

The concern I have over the prevalence of practitioners who don’t have a high level of training and who aren’t what I might describe as ‘therapied’ themselves has nothing to do with the added competition in the industry, either. It’s a concern about the potential to cause greater emotional damage to someone rather than to heal them.

There are a great number of examples where inadequate training and practice conspire together to have a shocking effect on a patient.

I have beef with much of the public promotion and advertising around hypnotherapy, but the one that fills me with cold dread is the promise that all issues will be resolved in one session. That’s a massive over-promise which no credible hypnotherapist would ever make.

Smoking or nailbiting cessation? Yes,  and depending on the client and the underlying issues, they can be resolved with a single session. But serious and complex trauma? Quite apart from the ethics involved here – and they are at best seriously flawed – what is the impact on the client when they are not miraculously fixed in one session from something that was never going to be fixed in one session?

The legacy of that is a client who is even more despondent than ever that they are incurable or beyond help – and having had to do a lot of fixing around people who’ve had this experience, I know only too well the damage it causes. 

What really gets my goat, though, is the current vogue to peddle a ‘bish-bash-bosh’ Del Boy-style of hypnotherapy that proudly claims not to delve into the past or dig up old memories, all gift-wrapped in a wafer-thin veneer of ‘we’re-serious-therapists-and-we-don’t-do-fluffy stuff’ packaging.

It’s as if talking about the past and honouring and acknowledging the deep impact it’s often had on the client is somehow harmful.   

There are some issues, such as weight loss, smoking, habits and stress, where laying bare the past is unnecessary; but for other, serious issues, true healing – by which I mean real, long-term freedom from the issue and not just feeling good after the session (which is easy, because we all feel good after hypnosis) – the past absolutely has to be acknowledged, grieved for and released.

One of the worst horror story techniques I’ve experienced came from a client who had been abused as a child. Her previous hypnotherapist’s solution? To put it into a box marked the ‘past’ and ‘shove it away’.   

Another client came to see me after her child suffered a severe injury because of a drunk driver. Her previous hypnotherapist had told her in her first session that she needed to ‘forgive’ the driver. We never ask anyone to forgive and no hypnotherapist ever should. Forgiveness is the choice and prerogative of the client and I have a serious issue with hypnotherapists who push for what I call the ‘forgiveness bypass’ 

That’s not to say there isn’t a place for some sort of ‘lite’ version of hypnotherapy – though I absolutely believe there should be restrictions and regulations in place that prevent such a service being available to all.

But care certainly needs to be taken when choosing a hypnotherapist to work through your issues with you. At Zoe Clews & Associates we are always very pleased to share details of all our associates’ training so you can be sure of receiving the very best care from us.

None of us is perfect. I doubt there’s a person alive who can honestly say they’re totally without their own issues. But at the very, very least any hypnotherapist who wants to be considered credible should have gone through a some sort of meaningful process of self-healing and discovery.

Just as you wouldn’t ask someone with a month’s training to rewire your house, neither should you give responsibility for your mental and emotional well-being – your psyche – to someone who hasn’t extensively trained and practised – on themselves as well as others.

  


Why Is No-One Talking About The ‘Why’?

We’ve probably all been in a situation at least once where we’ve been caught up in a debate with someone who has a point of view which is the polar opposite of our own.

Often these conversations revolve around subjects which might be contentious or controversial or simply evoke tension. During the exchange, it’s likely that you’ve spent a fair amount of time laying out a logical, well-considered argument with examples to illustrate the message you’re trying to convey.

And when it comes to the other person’s time to respond, they simply regurgitate their own opinion – which, of course, barely offers a nod of recognition to your carefully manicured opinions. 

And in your head you’re screaming: BUT YOU’RE MISSING THE WHOLE POINT!!

As Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close, it feels like the whole debate about mental health is circling round and round the subject without ever really getting to the heart of what’s at stake.

We’ve become exceptionally good at understanding the ‘what’ of mental health. We are more aware of what we might describe as the common mental health conditions – anxiety, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), autism and Aspergers, phobias etc. The list is endless. 

Broadly speaking, we’re able, to one degree or another, to recognise some of these conditions – particularly when we are confronted by people who present their mental health in an extreme or exaggerated way. 

And, again broadly-speaking, most of us are aware of the sort of solutions that are available to help treat people facing those challenges daily or episodically, whether through clinical mental health care via the NHS or private medicine or through a counselling approach like hypnotherapy.

There’s nothing wrong with that per se. Treating the ‘now’ is not only necessary but also highly desirable. But the problem is, treating the ‘now’ doesn’t do anything to address what happens tomorrow.

In the UK a quarter of all people will report some form of mental health problem every year. Just think about that for a second. 15 million people a year, every year. And the fact is that the system that exists to meet mental health needs in this country isn’t up to the task.

The current Prime Minister says her Government is spending record amounts on mental health care, yet in a recent survey nearly 60% of the UK’s 200-plus Care Commissioning Groups said they were reducing their investment in mental health services due to a shortfall in funding. 

So, what’s the truth? Beyond the lies, damned lies and statistics, there is only one real truth and that’s the fact that we need to fundamentally rethink our position on dealing with the UK’s mental health crisis.

Instead of talking about the ‘what’ of today, we need to start to consider the ‘why’ and how we deal with that.

Since Zoe Clews & Associates opened its doors in Harley Street 12 years ago we have seen an alarming rise in the number of people seeking treatment for conditions which can be directly linked to potentially serious mental health issues. A very high proportion of these are triggered by events in the past – often in the long past.

A 15-year-old girl doesn’t suddenly wake up one day and decide to become anorexic. No one makes a conscious decision to live with depression. Yet much of the publicity around issues like these seems to simply start from a point of acceptance. 

We have come to see poor mental health in a similar way that we see the common cold – as some sort of unavoidable and inevitable by-product of life – rather than looking more deeply at what brought that person to that point at that time.

If we can teach people – parents, families, teachers and employers, for example – to recognise the early signs of poor mental health and at the same time raise awareness of how to then support that individual through structured care provision we will also begin to erode the instances of a relatively simple issue such as bullying or exam pressure or bereavement leading to chronic mental health issues later on in life. 

By tackling the ‘why’ of mental health we can then get to a place where early appropriate intervention, either clinical or not, starts to have a long-term positive effect on the future.

The wonderful charities that support people with mental health challenges are struggling to cope with the ‘now’ and while they are investing what they can in the ‘why’ they struggle with inadequate support and funding. 

So we think it’s time to challenge the Government and mental health agencies, charities and practitioners to unite in the battle to turn the public’s focus to why people suffer with mental health issues rather than concentrating on how to treat them. 

Whichever Government is in power come June 9th, it needs to prioritise support for the NHS and other agencies to work with the mental health industry of private practitioners and charities to promote public awareness and education around mental health.

That’s our gauntlet. Does anyone care to pick it up?


The (Vital) Difference Between Hope & Fantasy

For two words with such distinctly different definitions, the tendency for hope and fantasy to be confused for each other is remarkable. They are, of course, linked – but mistaking one for the other can have toxic outcomes.

We can’t live without hope. That’s why, as the old saw says, it dies last. And given the uncertain and turbulent times in which we currently live, that’s nothing if not reassuring: there are worse ways to live than in the enduring belief that things will ultimately get better.

Fantasy – the imagining of impossible or improbable things – also has its place. As the 19th Century Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin observed, by striving to do the impossible man has always achieved what is possible. Without fantasy to fuel the hopes and dreams of humankind, it’s entirely possible we would still be drawing on the walls of caves.

Fantasy is an essential part of our thinking. It drives creativity and ambition, it impels our desire to reach beyond the expected, to overcome, to succeed and to mould our future. Without it, our world would be bereft of the many great works of art and literature and inventions that define our history.   

If we never fantasised about life with someone or something we’re attracted to – a new partner, job or house for example – how would we ever be motivated chase our dreams and hope we might succeed in that pursuit?

The problems start when fantasy, rather than the (possibly hopeless) reality, becomes our day to day existence.

As Circa Survive so insightfully sang:  the difference between medicine and poison is the dose

The truth is, it’s easy to become seduced by fantasy and popular culture is littered with enduring and disturbing examples of it: the story arc of the recent BBC miniseries Apple Tree Yard centred on two people caught, with catastrophic consequences, in one character’s delusion; more extreme, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho revolved around the character Norman Bates, who not only kept his mother’s skeleton his attic, but also assumed her persona physically and emotionally;

And then, in terms of portraying how fantasy can often hide behind a chilling normal façade – and in re-defining the notion of an ordinary person becoming fatally delusional – there’s the ultimate bunny boiler, Alex Forrest, the character played by Glenn Close in the film Fatal Attraction.

Yes, these fictitious examples are extreme. But you need not be that deeply entrenched and wholly removed from reality to experience the pernicious effects of being detached from what is really going on.    

A life lived more in fantasy than reality is, by its nature, inhibiting because it is finitely defined; leaving that ‘comfort zone’ is painful. But as Susan Jeffers, author of Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway illustrates, every time you step out of your comfort zone your comfort zone – and therefore your life – become bigger.

Put another way, by Anais Nan, ‘life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage’.   

Being entrenched in fantasy is more likely to apply to people who find reality unbearable. Traumatic childhoods, painful life experiences and, negative self-belief are all pre-cursors to fantasy-addiction and blocks to doing the hard work of making a necessary change.  

The good news is that you can heal and recover from these things with the right work and the less unconscious pain we are trying to escape the less we need to ‘use’ on fantasy as a coping tool for life.   

When we are continually engaging in fantasy and escapism what we are really doing is avoiding the ‘self’. We choose social media, mindless TV, binge eating, video games, obsessive shopping, drugs and alcohol rather than spending time with ourselves, learning what we really want out of life or engaging in meaningful interaction with others or making our goals happen. Constant distraction and escapism is an exercise in self-administered anaesthesia and is, in many ways, the exact opposite of mindfulness.

Nowhere is fantasy often more present than romantic relationships. It doesn’t help that the media drip-feeds us a daily diet of romantic fantasy nonsense based on intensity, extreme chemistry and bad perfume adverts – but, again, the roots of this are often based in childhood.  As children, we often form a picture of what real love looks like based on fantasy rather on the genuinely admirable qualities that we will actually one day desire in a partner. We use fantasy to fill perceived gaps, to correct perceived mistakes and to perpetuate consciously unwanted, yet subconsciously comfortable familiarities that might recreate an important figure from our youth or obscure our own sense of low self-esteem.

If you have been burned by fantasy relationships and situations it’s really important to flex your ‘hope’ muscle here but also learn to do things very differently next time round. It’s vital to conduct everything from your place of wisdom – friendships, business situations, and romantic relationships. Slowing down is essential to be able to access this. 

Fantasy can also present itself very much in the most unhelpful sequence of four words in the human language: what could have been.

We have to let go to make room for the new – and this is impossible in if we’re always hooked into old fantasises of the past and the ‘good times’ and how it might be in the future.   Living in reality means a commitment to how things are now, not to how things might be when someone else changes their behaviour.

This is where hope is essential, because hope allows you to exercise choice. Hope allows you to make good life decisions. When fantasy outstays its welcome, it can keep us stuck in one place. 

When a situation looks hopeless the thing that has been lost isn’t hope at all, but perspective.

Hope lives in the present moment, don’t waste another second.   


The Silent Agony Of Grief

All of us have, at some time or another, experienced grief. While it’s an emotion we most commonly associate with death, it’s not limited to the loss of a life. We can grieve for friends or family who move far away, for a lost item that had powerful sentimental worth or for an opportunity we should have taken but didn’t.

As children many of us have lost treasured pets or older relatives. And as we get older, death’s footsteps fall closer to our daily lives, claiming friends, parents, siblings and others we cherish.

Grief in all these circumstances is entirely normal. In fact, it’s also entirely healthy. And most of the time it’s transitory, a process with a beginning and an end that we move through on the way to reclaiming emotional equilibrium at some undefined near-future point.

For some of us, though, the sense of loss is so great and so overwhelming that it’s impossible to find what we often describe as ‘closure’ – that point where we can allow ourselves to close the door on the past and concentrate again on today and tomorrow. Often this inability to move beyond grief has strong links to guilt.

Just as chronic grief can manifest itself in all sorts of ways, so different people will find different coping mechanisms for it – a process that often involves compartmentalising the raw emotion and boxing it up out of sight of our conscious self. Our subconscious, though, is adept at opening up those boxes from time to time, sometimes most unexpectedly; and unless we deal with the root cause of the grief, we can never be completely free of it.

Most of us experience grief in a relatively safe environment made up by people who know and love us, understand us and with whom we are comfortable sharing pain. Talking about loss is an integral part of healing because it allows us to articulate how we feel and, more importantly, why we feel the way we do.

Others, though, have to live through their grief in a very public way, never finding the personal space needed to recognise, acknowledge and deal with the pain they feel.

When it comes to grief in the public eye, there can surely be no greater example than the experiences of Prince William and Prince Harry following the death of their mother, Princess Diana, in a car crash as she and her consort, Dodi Fayed, fled paparazzi through a Paris tunnel.

Listening to Prince Harry talking this week about the two years of what he describes as ‘total chaos’ in his late twenties probably did more for raising awareness around grief and its effect than this blog or any newspaper article or interview could ever do.

Admitting to spending the last twenty years not thinking about his mother because ‘why would that help?’ will have resonated strongly with the thousands of people who are still living with grief long after the loss itself occurred.

As he spoke of feeling anger, of succumbing to dark periods where he felt violent tendencies and of struggling to cope with his grief in the public eye, it turned out that Harry, who always seems to have been something of a barometer for normality within the Royal Family, is, well, exactly that: normal.

In a podcast with The Daily Telegraph’s Bryony Gordon Prince Harry talks about how the pent-up grief affected his ability to work, aspects of his personal life and how it was his brother who eventually persuaded him to seek help.

He also describes how talking about grief makes you realise you’re part of a very large club and that it’s okay to feel the way you do. And that’s why hypnotherapy for grief is a really effective way of removing the subconscious blocks that prevent people from coming to an acceptance of their loss and then moving beyond it.

Coincidentally, yesterday we received some wonderful thanks from a mother whose 11-year-old son was not only being bullied at school but was also experiencing acute grief trauma following the sudden loss of his grandad.

In her note to our amazing associate Elaine Hodgins, who treated her son, the mother wrote: “We cannot thank you enough for the help you gave him. He enjoyed seeing you and you made him aware that it’s okay to feel certain ways and that he can control things. We think you are awesome. Much love.”

If you, or someone you know, is suffering from chronic grief please get in touch and see how we can help you come to terms with your feelings and rediscover the happy life you deserve.

Grief may feel like agony, but you really don’t have to – and shouldn’t – suffer it in silence.


The Invisible Pain Of Growing Up

It’s the hardest job in the world. There’s no interview to see if you have the right skills for it, no fail-proof training to give them to you if you don’t. The original product is something you’ve never dealt with before and it arrives with dozens of accessories but no instruction manual.

In the early days, it emits all sorts of alarms, all of which relate to different operational issues but which, to your spectacularly untrained ear, sound exactly the same.

Through trial and error, you learn how to fix these problems. But no sooner do you resolve one than another, completely new problem arises for you to work out. And pretty soon you’re wondering if you’re worthy or capable of doing the job at all.

To make matters worse, everywhere you turn there seem to be magazine articles and blogs and TV shows about people who seems to know how to do your job better than you are doing it. Possibly better than you can ever do it. Which is at once irritating and also scary; because you also know that this is a job you can never, ever leave. There are no weekends, no holidays, no breaks. It’s yours, 24/7, 365 days a year.

It’s called parenting. And it’s hard work. 

When it all comes down to it, we just want our children to be healthy and happy. They are the benchmarks by which we measure our performance in this most demanding of jobs. If we do well – and amazingly, most of us do – our children grow and develop into lovely, kind, understanding, intelligent and, eventually, independent young adults.

But how do we get to that point? It’s difficult enough with one child. But every child is different, so when we have a second, or a third or more, we find the fixes, rules, systems and approaches we used with our firstborn don’t necessarily work with the others.

Some general rules will work – things like bedtime and rules at the dinner table, for example – but managing multiple children requires adaptability and a flexibility of approach that’s not always easy when we’re also trying to find space for our own busy lives.

Parenting of an anxious child is harder still. Some children are naturally more anxious than others. While some degree of childhood anxiety and fear is perfectly normal, some children have excessive worries which can severely disrupt their daily lives.

Each child will show anxiety in different ways – some will internalise it and may say “Mummy, I feel sick” or “Mummy, I’ve got a tummy ache”. Others show outward signs of anxiety by going into meltdown – crying and screaming etc.

Toddlers may fear loud noises, being separated from a parent or sudden movements, while pre-schoolers have different fears, such as fear of the dark, noises at night, people in costume or certain animals.

Older children have different anxieties again: lightning and thunderstorms, doctors and hospitals, bees and wasps, being home alone and fear of rejection

Knowing when to intervene can really be a great help to your child. So, when do we need to worry?

A child with general anxiety may exhibit excessive worry about normal everyday things, restlessness, poor concentration that affects schoolwork, regular tummy aches, sleep issues, irritability, aches and pains in muscles or tiredness.

A child with separation anxiety may refuse to go to school, have frequent tantrums, nightmares, headaches or tummy aches.

Phobias are another form of anxiety and need to be treated promptly. The most common ones are around animals (usually dogs), spiders, dentist and doctors, clowns, balloons, water, buttons and coins!

Teenagers and young adults tend to suffer more with social anxiety. They avoid answering questions in class for fear of looking stupid if they get it wrong and they hesitate to join in conversations and avoid meeting new people or making new friends. If it gets very severe they may even take to their room and become agoraphobic.

I was seeing so many children at my clinics for anxiety that I created a four-session programme to teach them how to regulate and manage their emotions and feelings, helping them cope with frustration, teaching them self- esteem and how to improve it, and to help them with their assertiveness skills.

Most mums reported that their child improved markedly after only the first session and that teachers had commented on improvement at school, too.

And although anxiety will usually show up at various points during childhood, a child who knows how to cope with it will be so much better prepared to work through it and return to a calmer state.

Happy children aren’t simply kids who are permanently free from anxiety and worries – they are children who are confident in their ability to work through certain anxiety producing situations and find their own way through it!

You can find more information about our treatments for children’s anxiety here. If you want to have an informal chat about your child’s condition, you can also telephone us on 07766 515272           


Relationships, Boundaries & The Power Of ‘No’

The greatest way to nourish your heart is to discover the power and beauty of honouring your own boundaries. To do this well, you have to be clear enough in your own awareness to know who you really are and what you truly want. Have you ever said yes to someone when it was really a no? It doesn’t feel good. When we abandon ourselves like that we tend to retract a little from the world. Our spirit pulls back, we are likely to resent the person that has asked us and we lose faith in ourselves a little bit. In some small we have betrayed ourselves and the knock on affect overtime means we are not fully safe or self-expressed.

That is why there is great beauty to be found in deepening your capacity to lovingly say “no”.  By being clear about what feels good and right for you in the moment is a fundamental part of loving yourself and living a life that feels good. This means it is likely you will be able to trust yourself more and it also means that other people will feel a greater depth of confidence from you. When we can manage our own boundaries more clearly people begin to trust us more. If there is someone in your life who always says yes and is always willing to do anything for you, there will be some wise part of you that knows that you don’t really know where you stand with that person. You can feel their willingness to betray themselves to “please” you. They think they are being generous and kind but actually it feels more like they are trying to win or buy our affections. That isn’t authenticity and it doesn’t feel good.

When we are really clear about what we want and we can relax into our right to protect our boundaries, each “no” is actually an act of self-love. That means in contrast that when we say yes, we can be fully there, heart open, happy and generously giving of ourselves. This is a real gift worth sharing. The more we love ourselves the more loving we can be with others when they ask us to do something and the answer is no.  When we are guilt free the whole exchange can be breezy. That makes asking you really easy. There is no heaviness or awkwardness.

When we can say “no” with love in our hearts for ourselves and the other, our “no” is often met with peace.

When we feel guilty, embarrassed or groundless in our right to say no, people are more likely to feel let down. They will feel the negativity and are more likely to think that you are “wrong” not to say yes. The more relaxed we get within our boundaries the more people trust and respect us.

Unapologetic authenticity is the key to freedom.

When we can be ourselves completely without fear of how our truth will upset others, we begin to operate with a kind of loving serenity that people find most appealing. We are relaxed about our “no” and deeply committed to our “yes” but more than that, we are deeply at peace with ourselves. From this place we are much more comfortable asking for our needs to be met and we are much more relaxed around other people when they are asking us to meet their needs. When we are caught in people pleasing, every interaction involves the possibility of being overwhelmed or overstretched. When we drop that, our system trusts us more and we can engage more fully with the world. Relationships can deepen without threatening our identity and so that means we can open our hearts much wider than before. We can truly let life and love in.

It is a worthwhile endeavour to connect with yourself and recognise when you may have said yes when you really meant no. Check in with yourself and apologise to yourself for letting yourself down. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Sometimes we don’t even realise that we have transgressed our own boundaries until the event has passed. With awareness the gap between what you want and what you are aware of needing will shorten. Ideally you will be so in touch with yourself in each and every moment that you will protect and love yourself with all of your choices all of the time.

So, yes apologise to yourself if you haven’t always been there for yourself and make commitments to start honouring your own boundaries in all of your interactions.

This is the best way to nourish your heart and bring your life back into balance.


Hypnotherapy In Later Life

There’s a tendency to look at older people and envy them the simplicity of their lives. Unless there are obvious signs of failing physical, mental or financial health, it’s easy to see people in their twilight years as a generation that’s found contentment.

As the rest of us hurtle pell-mell through the frenetic hub of an eat-sleep-work-repeat existence, it’s easy to look on with some degree of jealousy at how the pace of life has slowed for those of a certain vintage.

In our eyes, they have acquired the greatest wealth of all: time. And at the same time, we envy the fact they are unburdened by work or financial worries. It’s easy to tell ourselves that those beyond working age are care-free and happy.

But in many cases, it’s fallacy.

Behind the façade of a simplistic life, older people face vastly more complicated challenges than do those of us of lesser years.

Older people are more inclined to suffer with serious or chronic sleep issues.  They are many times more likely to be affected by grief and are at greater risk of being increasingly afflicted by debilitating physical and mental health issues like Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease. They are far more inclined to become socially isolated (which can cause further mental health challenges such as depression and, at its worst, can pose the same risks to physical health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day). And they are more likely to face anxiety over personal finances and are many times more likely to be inclined to malnourishment.

And all the while, the NHS and local government are creaking under the burden of providing adequate social care for a population that is ageing fast and requires increasing health provision.

Yet many of the wellbeing issues that older people face don’t require clinical intervention. In fact, everything in that list above – and many more besides – can be improved or eased simply through hypnotherapy.

Hypnotherapy is particularly suited in treating older people because it is gentle, non-invasive, focuses on softening the muscles and relaxing the mind. And in cases where there is a pre-existing diagnosed physical or mental condition, a hypnotherapist may work with the individual’s health care provider to complement any clinical treatment.

Hypnotherapy can help with:

Pain management: Hypnosis has proved remarkably effective at helping to ease chronic pain, which can affect people as they age

Sleeping disorders: from insomnia to restless leg syndrome to persistent unpleasant dreams that affect sleep patterns, there is much evidence to show that hypnosis is effective at unravelling the subconscious blocks that usually lie at the root of the problem

Dementia: Quality of life can be improved and patients can be helped to live more positively with everyday challenges. Hypnotherapy can aid improved memory and recall of significant life events as well as assisting socialisation and concentration.

Parkinson’s Disease: Hypnotherapists are able to teach self-hypnosis. This can then be used by the individual to improve muscular and mental relaxation in order to help reduce the severity and frequency of shakes.

Palliative care: As an adjunct treatment for cancer patients and survivors, hypnotherapy can be effective in treating pain, nausea, fatigue and hot flushes.

Depression & Anxiety: We all feel down from time to time, but sometimes the challenges of later life can cause depression and anxiety and this can also lead to issues with physical health. Hypnotherapy is a gentle and effective way of properly re-setting the belief structures of the sub-conscious and giving you a new and positive outlook on life.

Bereavement: Older people are inevitably more likely to lose people they are close to. Bereavement can have a damaging effect on mental wellbeing, but hypnotherapy for bereavement can be remarkably effective in helping people come to terms with loss.

Self-esteem: The sense of self-worth can be an increasingly common factor in later life. Left unchecked, low self-esteem can lead to loss of confidence, depression and social isolation. Hypnotherapy can be tremendously effective way of helping people to understand and appreciate their true value, helping to build the confidence to cope with the everyday challenges that ageing can bring.

Zoe Clews is the founder of Zoe Clews & Associates. She is one of London’s most recommended hypnotherapists. To find out more about how hypnotherapy can help you or someone you know, please visit www.zoeclews-hypnotherapy.co.uk or telephone Zoe on 07766 515272


The Imperfect Pursuit of Perfection

Life, it seems, has become an endless pursuit of perfection. The perfect partner, the perfect job, the perfect body, the perfect house, the perfect car, the perfect face. 

Except, of course, it’s never enough. No matter what we achieve, we keep redefining what we mean by perfection. Yet I’d argue that when we define perfection, we’re instead allowing ourselves to be defined by how we want to be seen by others.

This is certainly true of celebrities. The rock stars, film icons and sporting heroes who occupy the unrelenting attention of the world’s media live in a strange and terrifying alternate reality in which they are presented with an image of themselves and experience the suffocating pressure of trying to live up to it.

A life of celebrity can be almost Orwellian, where the definition of self can become so blurred that the person in the spotlight in turn becomes convinced that the image they see on the news, in the papers and on film is actually who they are or should become.

That’s a road fraught with danger, because the sheer pressure of trying to live up to an ideal is so great, so all-consuming that it becomes destructive.

This manifests itself in many different ways – often in acute depression or anxiety or, as we’ve so often seen, in some form of serious addiction.

I could write at length on why celebrities are so prone to becoming lost to themselves to such an extent that their mental health is seriously compromised, but it’s enough to say that the nature of stardom is such that it tends to happen when we are young and unprepared and the industry of stardom often – though not always – isn’t qualified to offer the sort of protection needed.

And when I talk of about the industry of stardom, I’m not referring to the film or music industry or a particular sport (though they certainly play their part), but rather to the amorphous machine that exists to service the uber-famous – the agents, the PR gurus, the security and the seemingly endless hangers-on that make up the entourages of the famously rich.

Like all stress, the pressure of living up to an ideal is enormous and breeds a near-genetic imperative to find a release valve. Addiction, whether to alcohol or drugs, is an apparently attractive escape route because it offers immediate relief from the stress of living under public scrutiny and, by and large, the tools of addiction are relatively easy to come by – particularly when you have people on hand whose job description is focused on meeting your every need.

Consider, also, that a great many of the world’s superstars spend a great deal of time alone. Separated for long periods from friends and family, confined to an endless blur of hotel rooms, dressing rooms or trailers and often befriended by people whose only wish is to live in your reflected glory, being an icon can be a desperately lonely existence.

And because drugs and alcohol give the illusion of washing away the stress or unhappiness or boredom almost in an instant, it’s easy for addiction to be the wolf in sheep’s clothing you invite in.

The equation of addiction is as simply as it is destructive: stress + relief = repetition.

Those who have good people around them probably find it easier to reject the empty solace that addiction provides (though not all of them have escaped, or will escape, its clutches).

There are also those who, like Robert Downey Jr., for example, found a way to beat their addiction and managed – through enormous hard work – to rebuild their careers and lives with a greater sense of perspective.

Yet the world’s graveyards are filled with the headstones of those who were unlucky; the stars who failed to see the monster under their bed until it was far too late: in the relatively recent past addiction has claimed the lives of Prince, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Winehouse, Corey Monteith, Joan Rivers, Whitney Houston, Heath Ledger and George Best.

The ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle’ is such a cliché yet it perseveres because there is something other-worldly about it. It’s associated with money and the high life and good times. It’s linked to applause and adulation and validation. And we revere our icons because they represent a life we think we want.

Our idols are, to us, the personification of perfection, even though the people we see are merely products we have ourselves manufactured through the prism of the media.

And in that lies a profound irony.

That the perfection celebrities feel bound to project in public masks the greatest imperfection of all: that of their own emotional wellbeing.

Zoe Clews is one of London’s most recommended hypnotherapists and the founder of Zoe Clews & Associates.


Have We Forgotten How To Be Cool?

Have we forgotten how to be cool?  And no, I’m not talking about being able to wear a beard, an ear stud and a mandigan all at the same time without appearing to be the unsuspecting victim of some sort of haute couture drive-by shooting.

I’m talking about the ability to hide razor-sharp elbows behind a winning smile and effortless charm and appear sufficiently interested to be engaging, yet aloof enough to not be threatening.

Think Steve McQueen in The Great Escape. Cooler King cool.

The reason I’m banging on about this comes hot on the heels of a conversation with a good friend of mine after we’d both been on the receiving end of a particularly brutal hard-sell.  

As we recovered from the ordeal, he said: “People have forgotten how to be cool’. And it got me thinking.

Although he and I were discussing business, the abandonment of cool is evident in all aspects of life; it’s that distinct whiff of Eau-de-Desperation which invariably has the opposite effect to its intention. It’s also known as The Law Of Reversed Effect.       

If we look around we see evidence that we have become a nation striving intensely for success, recognition and validation in every area of our lives all of the time. Baring buffed up body-parts on Instagram de rigeur on an almost daily basis.

How did this creep in? More to the point, how did it come to be considered ‘cool’? 

There is, of course, nothing wrong – and indeed many things good – with wanting to do our best. But when that healthy desire to achieve tiptoes into the murkier territory of ‘convincing’ mode, it gets out of whack. 

We become so obsessed with what we’re chasing that we no longer have the room (or perhaps the perspective) to listen to the natural ebb and flow of checks and balances that help us to determine if whether what we’re chasing is actually right for us.     

The hard sell is still employed in business but I think one of the problems with it is that it involves trying to make a sale without considering what the individual wants or needs.  

They can feel pressured to join, without having their concerns addressed. And of course inherent in the sharp-elbowed sale is the danger that if they don’t buy right then, their experience has been so negative that it’s a near certainty they won’t come back. Worse still, they’re also highly unlikely to refer either. 

And just as it’s true in business, so it’s also true relationships. Seriously, when was the last time you felt yourself drawn to someone wearing Eau de Desperation? Exactly. This is where the hard sell is a sure-fire self-esteem corrosive. 

The romantic hard-sell, whether in the context of an existing relationship or one we’re trying to get off the ground, puts us firmly in the love danger zone.

Nonetheless I’ve worked with people who have wasted months and even years because they acted as though the object of their desire was the last man or woman on earth and it was their personal ‘mission’ to win them over without considering what the other person wanted or needed.

When it comes to love, I truly believe in the maxim If it doesn’t flow, let it go …  

Yet we continually ‘kick the can’ in terms of our happiness. We convince ourselves we’ll be happy when we secure the partner, buy the new car,  close the deal, get 30,000 instagram followers. We’ve become a nation of ‘chasers’ and forgotten the beauty and power in the inherent simplicity of letting go and being cool.

Yes, we should work hard. But we also need to know the difference between ‘giving up’ and knowing when you have had ‘enough’. We need to be able recognise that sometimes, and in spite of our best efforts, it’s time to just let it go and take stock. 

But we chase and we chase and we chase – never stopping to wonder whether the problem might actually be the intensive chasing itself. We chase the goal and when we reach it, we upgrade the chase and go for the next level. Trying can get really trying and the whole thing gets rather … well, exhausting!    

And the irony is that things will never be perfect. But they can be great. There’s a difference between knowing your limits and accepting second best – but moving towards your dreams and goals in a steady and focused way allows you to identify and address what’s unsatisfactory in your life.

Emotional self-flagellation over what you’re not is a sure-fire way of keeping you stuck where you don’t want to be.     

Most things in life benefit from being seen as ‘long game’. Be easy with yourself and believe that what’s for you won’t go by you. Life isn’t a series of one-shot deals – there are always more opportunities.

And herein lies the paradox:  the more relaxed and cool you are with who and where you are right now, the more the things you do want begin to flow towards you.

So the next time you find yourself wanting something badly, remember that Eau de Desperation has never been the fragrance of success. Self-acceptance and the personification of happiness will always be the smells that sell.


Why Meeting Yourself With Love Is So Important

Nourishing your heart involves making a practice of loving every aspect of yourself. This is about embracing all of your inner world too. This includes those parts of you that are responsible for some of your greatest challenges. Many people have parts of themselves that are closed down to love, push away opportunity and sabotage their best attempts to make positive changes in their lives. It can be tempting to attack these parts of your mind, making them wrong and blaming them for everything that is difficult in your life.  Unfortunately that only makes matters worse. If you do have parts of yourself that seem set against you, they are working on some level to serve you. They always are. Yes, those parts may be serving you in wholly destructive ways, underpinning any number of terribly limiting behaviours and beliefs but those parts will be doing that with your best interests at heart. Somewhere in the middle of their motivation is a desire to keep you safe.

Changing behaviour only works in a real and lasting way if we can get every aspect of ourselves into alignment. It is about negotiating with yourself so that every part of you comes into agreement. Then it no longer involves any will power. Will power is when one part of you wants one thing and another wants something else and you go to war against an aspect of yourself.  True transformation comes from realising on a deep level what truly serves you. This is not a chore, a duty or a loss. It is a gift of love. From there, there is no more struggle or effort required. So, how do you bring those parts of you into agreement?

Alignment comes with love, respect and faith.

To do this try the following negotiation exercise. Once you become familiar with this exercise, it is possible to do very rapid negotiations with yourself. However, sometimes I f you are working with something big, you might want to take a long time over this, spending time getting very deeply relaxed before you begin. Sometimes, negotiating with yourself can involve a few rounds of internal discussion. To do this close your eyes, relax your breathing, become still and then invite this part of yourself to come into your awareness. This could be a part of you responsible for smoking, over-shopping, overeating, never stopping, angry outbursts etc. You may see this part in your imagination or you might just sense that you are talking to yourself on some deeper level. Either way is fine. You then first of all thank this part for everything it is doing to help you. You let it feel that you have faith that it is trying to help you. Do your best to feel sincere gratitude for this part. Then let it know that you are not here to force it to change. You are here simply to invite it to think and feel differently about this behaviour or habit. There is a more loving way of living and loving yourself and you are here to give this part a chance to find even more beautiful ways of loving you.

Sometimes we can happen upon an aspect of ourselves that seems absolutely dead set against us, that wants to pull everything down and ruin all hope. That part more than anything needs your love not your hatred. It will simply be trying to hold you responsible for everything that went wrong in your past. It will be protecting you from painful thoughts and feelings that you once couldn’t bear to be conscious of. If you find that part in you, let it know that you are finally here to help it. You are finally here to feel the feelings and to think the thoughts that you were once too afraid to think and feel. By meeting every part of us with love, the battle and the blame begins to dissolve. Peace moves through our choices and a sense of adequacy transforms the pain of imagined inadequacy and failure that drives all of the behaviours that cause damage and pain in our life. From there what we truly want gets exciting, we act in healthy and harmonious ways because we really want to. No will power is required. We are no longer battling against some sense of something being wrong, something needing to be different. That primary resistance simply isn’t there so we naturally find balance.

Meet every part of yourself with love.

Bring every choice into your conscious awareness, trusting that you will make the perfect choice at the perfect time when you can relax into the process of simply bringing more love to life.


Additional Credits

Video by Weeks360.

Photography by Liz Bishop Photography.

Production by Mark Norman at Little Joe Media and Joanne Brooks.

Hair by Jonny Albutt.

Make up by Olly Fisk and Nabeel Hussain.