Finding Calm in the Face of Change

With kids, it sometimes seems like as soon as you’ve got a handle on what’s going on with them, it changes! It can be really hard, feeling like you’re constantly struggling to keep up, to figure out what to do next, and to understand what on earth is going on.

This time of year, with a new school year fast approaching, is one of the biggest times of change. Whether your child is just changing class, or changing school, there will be lots of shifts to get under your belt.

Here’s a quick tapping video to help you find your calm in the face of all these developments:

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How to break a bad habit

Everyone has habits, some good, some bad.

In the video below, I talk about how habits form, and how to change them, as well as offering a tap-along section from minute 9 to help you in this process:

What defines a bad habit is simply that it is a routine or behaviour pattern that doesn’t serve you.

Creating Habits

Habits develop as a way to make your life easier. For example, you don’t normally think about how you brush your teeth. It’s a habit, and you probably do it the same way each time, without even thinking about it. And that’s exactly why you have habits: so you don’t need to relearn things every single time you do them.

You have a habitual way that you walk, and talk, and get dressed, and drive, and so on.

The problem comes when you develop a habit which then stops serving you.

Bad Habits

For instance, smoking is often seen as something that relaxes you, that gives you a treat of some kind, some time for yourself. It can be a very social habit, if you are around other smokers. Yet, smoking is bad for your health and your appearance, as well as being anti-social around children or non-smokers.

Many smokers therefore decide they want to break the habit of smoking. And there are a lot of products and services to help these days. Hypnotherapy, for instance, has a very good track record helping to become a non-smoker.

In the same way, you might have the habit of biting your nails, or comfort eating.

Behaviour patterns

There are other habits which are less recognised as being behaviour patterns which can be changed just like stopping smoking. For example, if you suffer from anxiety, this is a pattern of responding to stressors in your life. Everyone will ‘do’ anxiety in their own, habitual way. You might get sweaty palms, and try to avoid the situation that causes you anxiety. Or you might get butterflies in your stomach, and get into arguments with people.

Whether you have a more traditional ‘bad habit’, or something you may not even consider a habit but which is a behaviour pattern you always ‘do’, you can learn to respond in a different way.

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Making a change

If you want to break a bad habit of whatever kind, the first thing to understand is that you cannot just remove a habit. You need to replace it with something else.

The first thing, therefore, is to figure out when you ‘do’ your habit, and what you would rather do. Often, people just think in terms of what they don’t want, but it’s important to get clear on what you actually want.

Try to make the replacement as enjoyable and dynamic as possible!

For instance, to replace smoking you could start doing some breathing practices to bring you calm. Experiment with which one/s you enjoy most. And create a plan for yourself: I notice I’m stressed, I take some time to breathe (does that involve going somewhere in particular? Will you close your eyes or keep them open?).

If you can imagine where you would be, you can make the visualisation more ‘real’, adding in details of sights and sounds and smells. Also, focus on the sensations you will have, of calm, of being able to breathe deeply, of feeling good for taking care of yourself. The more vibrant your imagined scenario, the easier it is to build your motivation to do it.

Hypnotherapy

As mentioned, hypnotherapy has a very good track record for changing habits. It can be used both to reinforce motivation to change and to build your ability to stick to a new pattern by helping you to ‘have already done it’ in your mind. As many people say, it takes time to build a new habit, and doing this in your imagination can reduce the ‘real time’.

Hypnotherapy can also be used to stop self-sabotaging behaviours, and strengthen your resolve by highlighting the negatives of a habit.

Tapping

Tapping is also a great tool to use when creating change. It can help release the emotions around a bad habit. For example, it is good at releasing cravings and uncovering the reasons why you might want to keep a habit, even though you know it isn’t good for you. Then, you can release those motivations and install new ones.

It is also good for ‘rehearsing’ a new habit, installing it in your subconscious so it becomes easier to actually follow through on.

Coaching

To create sustainable change, it is vital to get clear on what you want to achieve, and to put in place a realistic and practical plan. Coaching is great in this regard, helping you to define what you want and what you don’t want, and to clarify what the future should look like.

If you’d like some help in getting rid of an unwanted habit, why not get in touch: ceejaymccracken@gmail.com or call me on 07561 231 281.

Top 5 benefits of a group

Some people see groups as the poor cousin of one-to-one therapy, including some therapists. However, this is a very short-sighted perspective.

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While it’s true that groups are generally cheaper than personal therapy, this in no way relates to their quality, or what they bring to the individual. In fact, some people may benefit more from a group than from private sessions.

Why is that?

1) Community

One thing that a group brings is a sense of community. This can be particularly important for you if you feel isolated. Perhaps because you do not get the adult contact you would like: hi there, fellow work-from-home folks. Or it could be because your issue isolates you, such as anxiety and depression, or anything seen as embarassing or shameful.

Meeting a group of people who are in the same boat can be really eye-opening. You no longer need to feel isolated. And you can learn and share with others in similar situations.

Maybe one person has tried something they found really helpful, which might work for you, too. Or you can just commiserate together: there are good psychological reasons for the truism ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. Sharing with someone who really understands what you are talking about can be very freeing, especially compared to trying to talk to someone who looks at you like a freak (or who you fear will look at you that way).

2) Empowerment

In a group, everyone is in this together. The group is not just about the facilitator. Each member brings something of value. Each person takes responsibility for their part in the group.

You have something to share, something to contribute, and you have a wealth of knowledge about your situation. You are not just receiving, you are also able to give. And you are not just being talked at, you are adding your tuppenceworth. In this sense, it is a far more balanced situation, and one where you take ownership of your own participation.

3) Improved Communication

There are certainly challenges to getting along with a group of people. You are called on to communicate clearly and empathetically. And you may come face-to-face with some of your less appealing patterns of behaviour.

All this gives you the opportunity to find better ways to communicate. What does better mean in this context? You get your needs met more!

You can become clearer, better able to ask for what you want, better able to give others what they need. Your relationships outside of the group are likely to improve, too.

4) Accountability

There are plenty of studies highlighting the importance of accountability. When you say publicly that you are going to do something, you are far more likely to actually do it.

As part of a group, you can encourage and support one another, and also check in on one another. This makes achieving the changes you want much more manageable. It can help you feel good about what you are doing, rather than feeling stressed about what you should be doing.

5) Reinforce benefits

Any benefits that you gain from the sessions will be reinforced. Partly through feedback from others, and partly through actually putting new behaviours into practice in the group setting.

The group is a safe place to try out new ways of being and of feeling, before taking them into your everyday. And if those new ways don’t work out, you’ll get immediate feedback, so that you can adjust what you’re doing. All in a safe and friendly context.

You will also reinforce any new skills you learn, by practising them, rather than just talking about them. As they say: practice makes perfect.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, you have to find what works best for you. Groups may not work for everyone.

Still, a group can also be a great way to give something a go, if you’re not sure a particular approach or technique will suit you. If you end up loving what you’ve tried, you can always dive deeper, in the group or elsewhere. And if you don’t, you may still have made a new friend or two!

How high are your standards?

You might think it’s good to have high standards, and in some ways it is.

Still, one of the dangers of high standards is that you can become unrealistic in your expectations, both of yourself and of others. The Chambers dictionary says:

perfectionism noun 1) the doctrine that perfection is attainable. 2) an expectation of the very highest standard.

As noted in the wikipedia entry for  the use of ‘perfectionism’ in psychology, it is ‘a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.

Bringing this down to the actual experience and effects, Psychology Today says it is: ‘a fast and enduring track to unhappiness‘, and that it ‘often it leads to procrastination’.

Perfectionism

If you tend to perfectionism you may see yourself and the world in a very black-or-white way. If you do something that isn’t perfect, you think it’s absolutely dreadful. There is no half-way-house. It’s all or nothing, and most of the time that means like you feel you are nothing. Self-critical thoughts are very common.

And of course, self-critical thoughts and negative self-talk generally mean that you will feel bad about yourself. Although you are striving for perfection, you more often end up with low self-esteem, and potentially depression.

Catastrophising and Generalising

There are two related issues here. One is catastrophising, and the other is generalising.

With catastrophising, you think that if you do something a little bit ‘bad’, it’s absolutely terrible. For example, you think that saying something a bit bitchy is horrendous, and that the person you said it to will now hate you forever and tell everyone that you are a dreadful person.

With generalising, doing something a little bit ‘bad’ now means that everything you do, everything you have ever done, everything you will ever do, is bad. It means that you are a bad person, through and through.

While these might seem extreme examples, the thought processes are quite common.

I’ve Blown It

Another problem with perfectionism is that you may end up in what some term the ‘I’ve blown it’ state. For example, you do something you consider wrong, think ‘I’ve blown it’ and so you decide ‘may as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb’.

So, you might feel you shouldn’t eat anything with sugar in, but once you’ve had one biscuit, you figure you may as well eat the box. Rationally, you see that eating a whole box is far worse. In terms of your perceptions and your actions, though, the day is ruined so what the hell!

Procrastination

Ironically, as a perfectionist you are also often a great procrastinator. Seeing as you won’t be able to live up to the high standards you set yourself, you get overwhelmed and decide you may as well not bother trying. Better to do nothing than to fail. Yet that is also a failure, for which you will beat yourself up, metaphorically.

Even when you do get something done, you may spend ages checking and rechecking it, to get it ‘right’. So, a simple email to your boss (or boyfriend, or mother, or…) can end up taking hours.

Low Self Esteem

One effect of perfectionism is low self-esteem. After all, you can never live up to those standards, so you must be worthless! I’ve written about ways to combat low self-esteem before.

What is important to note here is also how low self-esteem is a stressor. It raises your cortisol levels and so encourages depression, poor sleep, and weight gain. Of course, there are other factors that can help with these effects, such as exercise helping with sleep. Fundamentally, though, it is good to approach the source of the problem, as well as addressing the specific effects.

Ways to Help

1) Challenge negative self-talk

One thing that you can do to help with perfectionism is to challenge that negative self-talk. When you notice you are being self-critical try turning it around with simple statements like:

everyone makes mistakes,
it’s okay to get things wrong,
nobody is perfect,
it’s alright not to be nice all the time,
everyone has a bad day now and then

2) Get a different perspective

Ask yourself some of the following questions, to try to see things from a different point of view:

How might someone else see this situation?
What would you say to a good friend who was in this situation?

3) Look at the big picture

Once again, asking yourself some simple questions can help you get out from being mired in the details.

Does it really matter?
What is the worst that could happen?
If the worst does happen, can I survive it?
Will this still matter tomorrow? How about next week? Next year?
4) Combat procrastination
I’ve written on this topic in depth already, so I’ll just link to that post, with numerous helpful tips 🙂
5) Face your fears
Along the lines of behavioural therapy, it can be useful to challenge yourself. For example, to purposefully not be perfect.

You could try being late for a change, or go into a meeting unprepared, or send an email knowing that you haven’t spell-checked it. Start little, and make sure it’s in circumstances where the consequences won’t be too serious.

6) Compassion, Acceptance and Forgiveness
Many different people, religions and therapeutic modalities advocate one or more of these as the way to find happiness. Buddhism, hinduism, christianity, islam, yogic practices, and therapies such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), to name but a few.

Castigising yourself constantly for what you are doing or not doing won’t lead you to be a better person, nor a happier one. For one thing, doing so causes you stress, spiking your cortisol levels. When you are stressed, you function in a fight-flight-freeze mode which is not good for joy, inventiveness or well-being.

This also goes to the question of negative self-talk. Critising yourself leads to low self-esteem, rather than to any actual behavioural improvement. And when your self-esteem is low, you are more likely to feel depressed and not do anything to help improve your situation.

On the other hand, forgiving yourself, accepting yourself, and offering yourself compassion do not mean that you don’t see room for improvement or the potential for change. What it means is that you accept where you are, who you are, and love yourself anyway.

How I can help

Tapping

Tapping is great for helping with perfectionism, as the concept of compassion and acceptance is built into the framework of what you do. Every round of tapping starts with stating what your current problem is, and that you accept yourself anyway.

If you really struggle with those words, you can change them at the outset. For instance, try ‘I’m okay’, or ‘I’m doing the best I can right now’ or ‘I forgive myself for not being perfect’.

Tapping is also excellent at removing emotional blocks and reducing stress. So, you can target beliefs that hold you back, the stress that mutes your innovative thinking, or perfectionism itself.

Here is a brief tapping session to demonstrate how you can target perfectionism and implement some of the suggestions above:

Hypnotherapy

Perfectionism often comes about due to internalised critical judgements from parents and others in authority during childhood. One thing that can be targeted in hypnotherapy is these critical inner voices.

Hypnosis can also be helpful in reducing your stress levels so that you can think more creatively. It can help you to emphasise the positives in your life, so that you can release negative self-talk and focus on the good, also improving your self-esteem.

Coaching

As part of the issue with perfectionism is connected with unrealistic standards, and failing to achieve what you feel you should, coaching can really help. Focusing on clarifying your goals, and making them realistic, can aid you to get more done, and feel better about it.

If you’d like some help dealing with perfectionism, why not get in touch? Call me on 07561 231 281 or email me at ceejaymccracken@gmail.com.

This is how to beat procrastination

Have you ever procrastinated?

Okay, that’s probably a silly question. Almost everyone falls prey to this time-wasting practice at some point, some of us often.

So, what’s that about? Why do you get tempted into doing anything but whatever it is you know you need to do, but somehow don’t want to?

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Procrastination as a coping mechanism

An interesting answer I heard to this recently was stress.

I’d thought about procrastination in terms of fear before now, and feeling divided. There’s a part of you that is afraid of failing at that task, so it gives you reasons not to do it, while another part of you gives you justifications for why you deserve to do something else, anything else.

Still, the idea that procrastination is a coping mechanism for stress fits within those ideas, and expands on them. It explains more forms of procrastination, without negating the parts model. After all, sometimes you may procrastinate because a task seems boring, rather than because you feel you can’t do it. It still makes you feel uncomfortable, even if it’s not difficult.

Whenever something feels overwhelming in some way – too hard, too boring, too uncertain, not enough time to get it done – a part of you wants to avoid it. And that’s when procrastination kicks in.

Does it matter if you procrastinate?

Dilly-dallying when you have something you need to get done can lead to serious problems.

It’s like the old saying: ‘A stitch in time saves nine’. If you sew up a hole when it first appears, it’ll take a minute, and a tiny bit of thread. If you leave it to get caught on things and cause a serious rip, you may not be able to fix it at all.

In the same way, at least here in the UK, if you pay a parking fine straight away, it’s far cheaper than if you drag it out. And if you don’t pay it until you’ve been taken to court, you’ll also be paying fines, interest and legal fees!

All told, it is really helpful to understand what causes procrastination, and to learn some techniques to help you beat the push to dawdle and defer what you know you need to do.

So, what can you do to overcome procrastination?

Top Tips to Stop Procrastinating

  • Give yourself a countdown

Mel Robbins talks in her book ‘The 5 Second Rule: The Surprisingly Simple Way to Live, Love, and Speak with Courage‘ about how our decisions and actions depend on what she calls ‘push moments’. These are times when you hear a voice, feel a push, to do something different. Yet, most times you just fall back into what you always do. So, you might know that you need to write a particular letter, but instead you just go to check your social media ‘only for a second’.

Mel Robbins suggests that if, in that moment, you give yourself a countdown, you can listen to that wise inner voice, and make a change. She likes a countdown from five to one, because it’s very quick – that’s how much time you have to make a change before habit drags you back into your rut. Also, once you get to zero, there’s nowhere else to go: you’ve got to ‘lift off’!

  • Get moving

Doing even a short amount of movement, HIIT-style, gives you a quick boost to your focus and willpower.

For example, you could get up and run up a couple of flights of stairs as fast as possible. Or do ten burpees. Or jog on the spot for a minute at top speed.

All of these get your blood flowing, your mind activated, and give you a boost. Then, it’s much easier to make a start on something difficult.

  • Release the emotion

Using EFT or tapping is a great way to release the emotion that is blocking you from getting on with whatever it is you feel hesitant about.

If you can recognise what the emotion is that is fuelling your procrastination, you can use the basic recipe to tap it away, or at least get yourself unstuck.

For example, tapping the side of the hand (karate chop point) you could say: ‘Even though I feel bored at the thought of this task, and it feels like it’ll take so long, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.’

Then, tapping round the points, you can either use a reminder phrase like ‘This boredom’ or ‘This procrastination’. Or, just say whatever comes into your head in the moment.

Once you feel calmer, it may suddenly be a lot easier to make a start on whatever you’ve been putting off.

  • Schedule the task in the morning

It’s been shown that you have a set amount of willpower each day. So, if you have something you know you are resisting doing, scheduling it first thing means you have the highest amount of willpower when you make a start.

  • Break things down

As mentioned above, one of the main reasons for procrastination is if a task feels overwhelming. Breaking it down into manageable chunks is a great way to ease into it.

It’s also good to start with the easiest chunk, if possible. Achieving a quick success gives you a boost in motivation that will help you through other harder parts.

  • Be compassionate with yourself

Beating yourself up for procrastinating just stresses you out more. Negative self-talk can become a vicious cycle: the more you berate yourself, the less capable you feel of doing anything differently, and the more everything feels like a struggle.

Instead, take some time to acknowledge that you’ve been struggling, and offer yourself forgiveness. When you feel less stressed, it will be easier to actually get the task done.

  • Ask for/find help

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, then getting a bit of help can be the perfect antidote.

Consider who might have skills or knowledge that would be of assistance to getting your task done. Or who might have a bit of time to lend a hand. Asking for help is a way to achieve the needed results, and shows awareness of the issue, and the strength to take a step outside of your comfort zone.

Obviously, if it’s a task at work that has been assigned to you, it may not be possible to ask for help (though don’t totally discount this). Still, there may be other resources that will help you: software or tools, either physical or perhaps online. Taking a bit of time to find something that will make your job more manageable, so it actually gets done, is a good investment. As opposed to going and surfing social media again 😉

Talking of asking for help, here are some other ways that you can make your task easier:

How coaching can help

A coach can help you with procrastination by helping you to get clear on why you’re finding a particular task so challenging. They can also encourage you to break down tasks into manageable chunks and to start with the easy stuff, so you get a little dopamine boost for having succeeded.

A coach is also there as an accountability partner, to keep you on track. And they can help you formulate your why: why it matters that you get this thing done. Having some positive motivation can be the little extra push you need to make a start.

How hypnosis can help

In a hypnotic state, it is easier to find a sense of calm. That can help relieve the stress so that you can see things more clearly, and think more creatively. Coming up with alternate solutions, or innovative ways of getting a task done, or simply boosting your feelings of resourcefulness, will all support you in getting down to things.

In addition, a hypnotherapist can guide you through some parts work. In this, you can find out what the positive intent of each part of yourself is, and negotiate with them to achieve the best possible outcome for the whole of you.

You can also bring in your highest motivation, and visualise achieving your goal, building more energy and enthusiasm for the task ahead.

How tapping can help

Tapping can not only be used to help get yourself calm enough to see things clearly. It can also release the difficult emotions and preconceptions around a task. And perhaps even more importantly, you can also tap in resources that will help you get the job done!

If you’d like some help getting over your procrastination, why not get in contact? Email me at ceejaymccracken@gmail.com or call 07561 231281.

Top Ten Ways to Improve Your Self-Esteem, and Why it Matters

In the social-media-filled world of today, there is so much evidence of what other people are doing. So much emphasis on how you should look, what you ought to eat, how you should act, even what you should feel. And so few of us seem to measure up!

This constant comparison to your own detriment can easily lead to a sense of low self-esteem.

The Tyranny of Expectations

Some people call this the tyranny of expectations: the expectations placed on you by society, but also the expectations you place on yourself. Always trying to measure up to some idea of perfection, or just of how your life ought to be.

And when you fail, which you always do because life is never perfect, then you blame yourself and feel worthless. Not only that, but the worse you feel about yourself, the more you undermine yourself.

It’s a bizarre fact that often, if you feel bad about yourself in one area of your life, this will generalise to other areas. Low self-esteem spreads a pall of malaise that undermines your happiness in all aspects of your existence.

For instance, if you feel you are not slim enough, you may not present yourself well. People at work will notice this reticence, and take it as a sign that you are not good at your job. Being down on yourself will also make it hard for you to believe someone else could love you, so you sabotage your friendships and more intimate relationships. So, what started as just weighing a couple of pounds or kilos more than you think you should can lead to a downward spiral of ‘I’m not good enough!’

This is why it’s vital to get a handle on your self-esteem and reverse this pattern. The great bit is that there are lots of ways to work on your self-esteem. And that by boosting how you feel in one area, that will also generalise across your life – to the positive!

Top Ten Tips to Boost Self-Esteem

  1. Stop negative self-talk – while this isn’t always easy, there are lots of ways to go about it. For example, try journalling the negative talk you most often fall into. Becoming more aware of it, you can start to notice it in the moment as it happens. And then remind yourself that this is just trash talk. Finally, remind yourself of something positive about yourself, to reverse this pattern.
  2. Meditate – closely related to the last point, meditation is great because it helps you to become more aware of the thoughts that float through your mind, and also to realise that they are not ‘you’.
  3. Focus on positives – this is not about being falsely happy. Rather, just as you journal about negative self-talk, also take time to reflect on the positives in your life. A gratitude journal is a wonderful support in this. Try to make these positives real and down-to-earth. For example, give thanks for the ability to see, or for the beautiful sunrise, or for the smile someone gave you on the way to work.
  4. Connect with others – it’s a truism that no person is an island. You are a social animal, whether you like other people much or not. Even people who tend to say they hate everyone still find people they can sit and enjoy a conversation with, or a book that engrosses them (which was written by another person). Cultivating any form of connection with others will support your self-esteem, as others will see your positives more easily than you do.
  5. Be more assertive – standing up for yourself, and defending your own positives and point of view, are goods ways to remind yourself that you really are worth it!
  6. Find something to stretch you – being in flow, doing an activity which challenges you enough to be interesting, but not so much as to overwhelm you, is hugely uplifting. You lose all sense of time, and feel very alive. This boosts your self-esteem, as you see what you are achieving, and have fun at the same time.
  7. Practice self-care – be it having a relaxing bath, rubbing on moisturiser, cooking yourself something delicious and nutritious, or any of the other myriad things you can do to be kind to yourself, these things all show you that you believe you are worth taking care of.
  8. Find healthy ways to motivate yourself – sometimes, people think that their negative critic is a good thing, as it pushes them to be better. However, this generally doesn’t work out, as you can never please that inner critic. Instead, find some positive forms of motivation. For example, remind yourself of the positive benefits of anything you want to achieve. Once again, a good use for your journal 🙂 Refocus on what you enjoy: doing something you enjoy is intrinsically motivating, rather than you having to fabricate motivation out of thin air.
  9. Self-appreciation – in the same way that you journal about things you are grateful for in your life, spend a bit of time each day thinking about what you appreciate about yourself. Try to find three things each day that you did well, or that you can simply appreciate about yourself. For example, you might have listened to a friend in need, or you might have taken time to do some self-care.
  10. Recognise that you are good enough – this connects back to the first point. Oftentimes, your inner critic is down on you because you aren’t perfect. So, take some time to recognise that you are good enough. This combines compassion and realism. For example, do you really need to have a perfect eating day to achieve your ideal healthy weight? Maybe you can recognise that just doing one small thing better than you would normally do is already an achievement. Walking an extra stop rather than catching the bus, or eating a piece of fruit instead of a piece of chocolate, these are all steps in the right direction. Not perfect, but good enough!

In line with that last point, try to adopt just one of these practices, or maybe one a week. You don’t need to do everything all at once! Making small changes will add up to improving your self-esteem over time, generalising it to your whole life.

How coaching can help

It’s all well and good to set goals for yourself. However, often these goals are chosen one day and abandoned by the next. To make lasting changes, it can be useful to have some support.

A coach can help clarify what the true purpose behind your end goal is, and in that way help you choose the best way to move towards it. They can also focus you on how realistic your goals are. Finally, a coach can  help you create a practical action plan to make your goals happen, and keep you accountable so you stick to it.

How hypnotherapy can help

Hypnotherapy can be especially useful in dealing with negative self-talk, or so called automatic negative thoughts. These thoughts do become automatic over time, and so an intervention like hypnosis can be just the ticket to break the habit! You can also use it to instil more uplifting patterns, to keep your focus and motivation.

In addition, using hypnorelaxation can be a way to try out different meditation techniques, to see which one/s work best for you in calming your mind and your inner critic.

Finally, you can use so-called pseudo-orientation in time to project yourself into the future. That way, you improve your motivation and unconscious goal orientation by seeing yourself succeed at what you’re intending.

If you’d like some support in increasing your  self-esteem and achieving your goals, why not get in touch? Email me at ceejaymccracken@gmail.com, or call on 07561 231 281.

 

This is why I use pictures with my clients

How often have you struggled to put into words something that you’re feeling? Maybe it’s a goal you want to achieve that you can’t quite articulate. Or something feels off in your life, but you’re unsure exactly what it is. Equally, you may struggle when asked to brainstorm, coming up completely blank.

To help in all these situations, I like to use images with my clients. However, it wasn’t always this way.

The Backstory

Back when I was training as a psychotherapist, I got into a few arguments with one of my tutors. He was old-school psychoanalytic, and a strong believer in the ‘purity’ and ‘neutrality’ of the therapy space. According to him, there should never be anything but two people in the therapy room. Well, a couple of chairs and a couch and maybe a painting on the wall, but you had to think carefully about what the picture showed, to be as neutral as possible.

The concept of using objects or images purposefully as part of the therapy filled him with righteous anger. Yet, for me, what he was saying was blatantly ridiculous.

There is no such thing as a ‘neutral’ space. As soon as you walk into the room with someone, you look at what they are wearing, you listen to how they speak, you notice their perfume or aftershave or lack thereof. Beyond the therapist’s person, you take note of the colour the walls are painted, the style of the furnishings, where the building is, what kind of building it is. Already so much information on which to base assumptions and judgements.

Using Imagery

If you get so much ‘extraneous’ information about someone from the first second you meet them, can there be such a thing as ‘neutrality’? My answer: No!

And if there is no neutrality, then bringing more things or images into the space isn’t a huge crime, a watering down of the therapeutic environment. In fact, it could even add to it!

If you’ve ever struggled to put things into words, using images or objects as a prompt can be really helpful.

Brainstorming

For example, if you need to brainstorm something, choose a couple of images at random and see what ideas they help you come up with on your given subject. You can do this using postcards, or googling for something: a situation, an object, a person, even an emotion.

A visual cue may activate quite different thoughts and ideas than just working around the question logically. And the randomness of elements in an image can spark ‘out of the box’ thinking.

Looking for a Feeling

It’s not just about coming up with new ideas, either. You can also use images to figure out what you are feeling.
You may know things are a bit off somewhere, without knowing precisely why, or being able to say what it is you feel about the situation.

A visual cue provides an external way to gain clarity. Through reflecting on an image, you can achieve a different perspective. Rather than your feelings being inside you, hard to see, you project them outside, onto a picture. Then, by saying what you see, you can then realise what is going on inside.

So many of my clients have had ‘aha’ moments when asked to describe an image, and then asked where in their lives they have that feeling or have experienced something similar. Until you can get that little bit of distance, it can be hard to see something that is within yourself. Once it’s outside you, though, suddenly ‘boom’ you can see it!

Imagining Your Future

Not only that, images can also be used to connect with what you want to be feeling.

Have you ever had the experience of wanting something – a new job, a better relationship, an exciting holiday – and then discovering that even with that thing, you still don’t feel happy?

Often, you may put your hopes onto a particular thing or person. In fact, what you are really seeking is to feel a particular way. Getting clear on how it is you want to feel can open the path to achieving that in ways that are real, rather than what your head tells you should be the solution.

Choosing an image that represents your desired goal, and then considering how it ‘feels’, rather than just what it represents logically, helps you figure out what you really want to achieve.

Equally, there is a large body of evidence for the effectiveness of visualisation in achieving your goals. This is one part of the science behind hypnosis. However, not everyone is skilled at visualising, even when in trance. Having an image to act as a springboard can be really powerful, and empowering.

Using Imagery in Coaching

In a coaching context, you are often encouraged to create a vision board. This helps with the process of clarifying what you want. It also helps in goal-setting, establishing what you would need to see, hear and feel to know you have achieved your goal.

You can also use a single image in brainstorming, or as a motivational tool. The old practice of putting a picture on your fridge to remind you of your motivation (or in more modern terms perhaps making it the screen saver on your phone or computer), really can work.

Using Imagery in Hypnosis

Some people find it really easy to visualise when in trance. However, if you are not one of them, it can be very helpful to have one or more images to use as a springboard for imaginal work. In this way, you can make your visualisations clearer and more powerful, helping you to achieve your goals faster and more effectively.

Equally, using images can be a way to determine the focus for a particular session. It can clarify what you need in the moment, and what you want to achieve. It can also be helpful if you are someone who has difficulty putting what you feel into words. In this way, it helps you explain your goals to your therapist, so that you can better design an approach together.

Using Imagery in Tapping

In tapping, like hypnosis, it can be important to hone in on what you are feeling in the moment, or about a particular subject. Using images can help with this, providing a safe distance so that you can explain something without having to go into the content of your material, if you don’t want to. You can also use an image as your ‘reminder’ – using the words ‘that image’ instead of having to define the emotions involved or name the situation.

This helps you to get in touch with the material you want to work on, without having to go into details you don’t want to discuss, or that are too painful for you to approach directly. In this way, you keep the power of the tapping, without having to disclose anything you don’t want to, or go into details that might feel too raw.

 

If you’d like to talk through how this approach might benefit you, please get in touch by phone (07561 231 281) or email (ceejaymccracken@gmail.com).

Here’s why you need to tap into emotion

Like the Christmas song ‘I saw Mommy kissing Santa,’ everyone has a story of something they experienced which affected them at a deep emotional level. Years later, the memory and the associated feelings and beliefs persist.

Memories are laid down when something happens that you get emotional about. That’s why you need to use emotion as a fuel to also unlock and release those memories.

People talk about situations that occur fuelling your anger or fuelling your desire. Actually, it’s the other way round: it’s your emotions that fuel the way you perceive things.

An every day example might be reading a trolling comment on the Internet. You get all angry and riled, and can’t sleep for being so annoyed. Telling yourself it doesn’t matter just doesn’t help!
This kind of thing happens to most people fairly regularly, a small but persistent source of stress. Or you may have bigger emotional issues or memories troubling you. Either way, stress is considered perhaps the biggest problem of modern society.
So, how can you de-stress?

Releasing emotions

Tapping, or EFT, is a scientifically validated way to very gently deal with stress and emotional blocks. It uses three basic tools, combined in an infinite number of ways.
The three basic tools are:
Gentle tapping on acupressure points
Reducing resistance to releasing blocks
Evoking the emotions to be dealt with
Let’s take a look at each of those.

Tapping on acupressure points

Emotional blocks create energetic blocks in your body. Just think of how you can get a tension headache, or feel sick to your stomach, due to emotional situations.
Psychoneuroimmunology is the modern scientific term used to admit that body and mind are intimately connected. Studies have shown that tapping on various acupressure points can encourage the energy in your body to flow again, releasing those emotional blocks in the process.

Reducing resistance

Though it may seem strange, you often resist releasing blocks. This could be for a reason as seemingly simple as being used to and ‘comfortable’ with the status quo. Or it could be something a little harder to shift: a deep belief that you are not worthy of happiness, for example.
Finding these limiting beliefs, and releasing them, is an important part of the process. Otherwise, they sabotage you letting go of your problems.

Evoking Emotion

Part of the tapping process is connecting to the problematic situation, emotion or physical symptom. In this way, you are targeting the problem itself, rather than just randomly moving things around.
For this, it’s good to use words that clearly remind you of the issue. You can also ‘feel’ the problem and describe it, especially with physical symptoms. Alternatively, you can visualise the problem, either internally, or using a picture or image as a cue.

EFT – Tapping

One of the great things about EFT is that you can use this tool for yourself. The basics are easy to learn, and there are a wealth of free resources available online to help.
Still, there are times when it’s helpful to have a trained person to guide you.
This is especially useful if you are not sure where to start. Or if you try by yourself but don’t seem to be making progress. Or if you struggle with motivation despite knowing you need to make changes. Equally, if you have more serious or complex issues such as phobias or a history of trauma.
If you would like to feel less stressed, calmer and more joyful, or if you have negative emotions you just can’t seem to shake, why not try a tapping session?
You can get in touch at ceejaymccracken@gmail.com or call on 07561 231 281.

Taking a Blogging Break

When life gets busy, sometimes it is necessary to prioritise. This is part of the approach I discussed last week, in terms of building resilience to overcome the everyday obstacles of life.

In that vein, I’ll be taking a blogging hiatus over the summer. While I’ll still be available for client sessions, I have priorities besides blogging that I need to focus on for the next couple of months.

If you want some help setting your own priorities and sticking to them, why not get in touch: 07561 231 281 or email ceejaymccracken@gmail.com.

How To Navigate Life’s Winding Roads

Problem-solving for particular issues is a great skill to develop. Yet, life has its ups and downs, its twists and turns, that must be faced everyday.

While there will always be practical things you can do to navigate these, perhaps the biggest strength you can draw on is your inner resources. Chief among these is resilience, the ability to bounce back after minor (or not so minor) setbacks, and to carry on with determination and enthusiasm.

Build your resilience

Problem-solving and building your external resources in the form of support networks are practical, action-based ways to respond to adversity. However, possibly the most important thing you can do to help overcome life’s road blocks is to build your inner resilience.

This may also be part of the previous point, about finding a support network. Finding someone to help you build your resilience can really help move you towards your goals.

Whether you plan to build resilience on your own or with help, what aspects help you develop the inner strength required to overcome obstacles?

Increase your self-confidence

If you can look at problems as something manageable, as opportunities rather than challenges, then you are more likely to come up with solutions.

For instance, remember problems you have faced before, and how you overcame them. Think about the skills and capacities you have.

Stay flexible

As the brainstorming exercise for Disney’s creative problem-solving shows, you need to stay capable of seeing different options. Getting locked into rigid ideas will box you in. So, think about how to stay adaptable. A playful attitude helps with this 🙂

If you are stuck with a problem, take a time out to get your body moving, or to do something fun. Many successful people build in ‘breaks’ on purpose throughout the day, to freshen their minds and approaches.

Get clear on your goals

It’s easier to find a way forward when you know what really matters to you. Sometimes, you find yourself fighting through road blocks, and then realise you have let these divert you from your actual course. Or else, you may find that if you focus on the big picture, rather than your next step, you can get to your goal a different, less blocked way.

What is it that you are really trying to achieve? For example, if you want to get a new job, what is the end goal? Do you want to be earning more money, or doing something more stimulating? Are you hoping for a better set of colleagues, or a more pleasant work environment? It may be that getting a new job isn’t actually the best way for you to achieve your goal right now. Perhaps you really just need to ask for a raise, or suggest the company hires a new catering firm…

Be organised

If your energy is dispersed in many different directions, it is very hard to move beyond obstacles. When things get tough is precisely when you need to focus your energy most specifically. A big push can get you over the hump, whereas if you fritter your strength away doing a bit of this and a bit of that, you may not have what you need to deal with the adversities you are facing. So, get clear, and then be organised and focused on what is most important.

To-do lists can help with this, or a clear timeline of when things need to be done by. Get clear on your priorities, too.

Let go of negativity

If you focus on what you can’t do, or on how big those rocks are, it saps your vitality. Releasing fears and worries, doubts and concerns, can help you get clear and focused, as well as increasing your feeling of self-confidence.

One way to up your positivity is some kind of gratitude practice of exercise. Think about the good things in your life, what truly makes you smile. Of course, this won’t in itself solve your problems. However, when you feel more positive you are also more creative and energised. That way, you are better able to solve your problems yourself.

How hypnotherapy and coaching can help

Coaching is a great tool for helping you get clear on what your real goal is, and the coaching session can be the perfect time to work on problem solving, goal setting, and being organised. Talking over what has worked in the past can also help focus you on the positives, and build your self-confidence.

Hypnotherapy is also perfect for all aspects of resilience building.

When you are in a light trance state, you are more in touch with your subconscious, which is the creative, imaginative, playful part of yourself. You are also more clear and focused, and can bring to mind aspects of the past that can help you now. And you can find and build other inner resources, to increase your self-confidence further.

Hypnotherapy has some wonderful tools to help you visualise your future as you want it, too. That way, your subconscious can provide answers about how to achieve it.

And hypnotherapy or hypnorelaxation can also be used to release negativity. For instance, try this brief meditation to release blocks: