Author Archives: Steve Tromans

About Steve Tromans

Hi I am Steve Tromans, hypnotherapist and NLP Trainer. I am based in Harley Street, London and I operate JustBeWell.com and this blog. I have spent the last 16 years learning more and more about NLP and hypnotherapy and it is still an adventure to me. I learn more from my clients than I ever did in my early years of training. I hope you find the contents of this blog interesting and/or useful.

Stop Procrastinating – Lists That Actually Work

Hello

This is the second blog in a series about how to stop procrastinating and actually get on with things. As with all these articles, please keep in mind that each of them is just ONE piece in a range of things that people can do.

The Need-To-Do List

Do you keep a list of what you need to do? Or have you ever? I know I did, years ago. There I would be, in the morning, getting out my list of things I needed to do, thinking about what I needed to do that day, maybe thinking about what I needed to do first.

It didn’t work very well, of course, and I didn’t realise that my list was actually a procrastination strategy. At the time I didn’t know it wasn’t working. I think I do now.

‘My List Is Getting Bigger’

One of the most depressing things about my list-of-things-I needed-to-do was that gradually, over time, it got longer, and I found myself spending more and more time each morning transferring what I hadn’t done from yesterday’s list to today’s new, fresh and usually slightly longer list. And this took a while as it was in the days before computers (yes, there were such times…).

Words That Don’t Help And Words That Can

Words can be tricky things and most of us don’t realise how much influence the things we say to ourselves have on our thinking, feeling and behaviour.

Try this experiment. Say to yourself the following.

‘I wish I could take next Monday off work.’ If you don’t work then find something equivalent. Notice what thoughts and feelings come to mind.

Now say to yourself…

‘I could take next Monday off work.’ Once again pause for a moment and notice what thoughts and feelings come to mind.

Now say

‘I would like to take next Monday off work’. Again, stop and notice what feelings and thought come to mind.

And now repeat this with the words should and might.

Now I am realistic enough to appreciate that a fair number of people reading this won’t actually bother to stop and think these things through in the manner I am suggesting. I know that I have read countless books with ‘exercises’ in them and have actually bothered to stop and actually do these exercises only rarely. There is a very funny forward in a book on meditation by the author Robert Anton Wilson where he goes on, page after page, either joking how important it is to do the exercises or being serious about how important it is to DO THE EXERCISES, to get true value from the book. He used capitals and bold type too.  I think in that instance I actually did do them, well a few of them…

‘Necessity’ words

Anyway to get back to the point, you could consider the above italicised words to be ‘possibility’ words. Actually they are classed as ‘modal operators of possibility’ within the field of NLP, but I like to steer clear of jargon where possible.

The next class of words I would like you to consider are what may be called ‘necessity’ words, so please do feel free to actually do this. Just stop for a moment and say to yourself

‘I want to take next Monday off.’ Once again notice what thoughts come to mind.

And now…

‘I need to take next Monday off.’

And then repeat with the words have to, must, and got to.

Usually there are different feelings and thoughts associated with these different words as you consider doing the activity.

The Magic Words

You don’t actually need much. On one level all you need is oxygen, water, food, a reasonable temperature and perhaps shelter from the elements. On this level a person might also need medication to stay alive…

Here are the words that work much much better. Stop and say to yourself…

‘I am going to take next Monday off’ or ‘I will take next Monday off.’

This is much more powerful, it’s a kind of commitment, when you think about it.

When ‘I am going to’ simply isn’t enough…

It isn’t enough, you know, just to say you are going to do something. Sure, it’s much more powerful than saying you should do something, might do something or need to do something, but it isn’t enough.

There are many people on the planet that repeatedly say that they are going to do something, and then never actually getting around to it. Consider the example of the guy who is constantly saying that one day he will start his own company, to eventually glance down and realise he has just been given his retirement watch…

The list of things you are GOING to do

OK, let’s get back to this idea of a list. Even if you didn’t really notice that much difference when you went through the ‘exercises’ above (if you actually did them, I doubt I would have done…), I do suggest you experiment with this whether it is with an actual physical list of things or just a mental ‘list’. Change the title of your list from ‘Things I need to do’ to ‘Things I am going to do’, and, crucially, do the following…

Decide WHEN you will do things and have an idea of WHEN they will be complete

Now your list (real or mental) may have a number of different things on it ranging from ‘feed the cat’ to ‘write my novel’ or ‘get fit’. So some things can be done in a few moments and some things are done over time. You aren’t going to write a novel in one day, however motivated you feel. So decide, in advance, how much time you are going to devote to writing your novel today, and when you are going to do this, today. You don’t have to write an exact itinerary of your day, minute by minute, just get a good idea of when, such as ‘I am going to spend an hour writing my novel early this afternoon.’

This can make a big difference, believe me.

How to screw this up…

Ok, there is a way you can really screw this up. However well you are phrasing your plans in your mind, or on paper or on your computer or smartphone, if, when saying to yourself, in your mind or outloud, something like ‘I am going to go to the gym this morning’ you say it in a whiny, tiny internal voice, or a bored, depressed sounding inner voice, you will not light yourself up with joy and excitement…

Use really powerful inner tonality

It’s a bit unusual for us to go inside and ‘change’ the way we speak to ourselves but I invite you to do it as an experiment. Imagine the richest, most wonderful most resonant, most loving voice you can, speaking from every single cell of your body, as you think about what you are going to do – bathe yourself in the sound of the voice. It can take a bit of practice if you haven’t done anything like this before.

There it is then, decide what you are going to do, decide when you are going to do it and use the most wonderful, full, empowering inner voice you can imagine, when you think about it.

Of course I am assuming that what you have on your list is reasonable and achievable and ecologically sound, ‘well-formed’ as some in the field of NLP would say, but that is for another blog…

Steve Tromans

PS Credit to John La Valle – I have heard John talk about modal operators in this manner on several occasions.

Read my first blog on procrastination here – http://www.justbewell.com/info/index.php/stop-procrastinating-one-important-step/
Visit the page on the main site here – http://www.justbewell.com/procrastination.html

Do feel free to leave comments and observations.

Stop Procrastinating – One Important Step

Hi.

My original idea was to do one blog with a bunch of bullet points, various tricks and tips and mental strategies to help people to overcome procrastination. But then I looked at other articles on the subject and discovered there were lots of similar articles so I decided to do it differently. So this article is essentially ONE tip, however I plan to cover the subject in a little depth. And OK, it may not be a critical step but I believe it is important. More articles on the subject of stopping procrastinating will follow…

Stop Trying

So you want to stop procrastinating. Well, there is one tiny word in English that can really get in the way of you getting on with things.

The word is TRY.

If you are trained in NLP, or in many schools of hypnotherapy, you may well know all about this. If you don’t, or even if you do, consider this…

If I say ‘I tried to finish writing all my emails last night’, or ‘I tried to remember to take the car to the car wash’, or ‘I tried to get to Italy last Christmas’, what am I actually saying?

I am saying I didn’t do any of those things, or at the very least I am implying that I didn’t.

So is this really such a big deal?

Oh yes, it can be a very big deal indeed, but the challenge can sometimes be getting a person to realise how important it is, to stop using this word in this way.

I find, like many things, it’s best done by example…

The Day Of The Three Bulimics

One morning, several years ago, I saw three women to help them to stop doing bulimia, one after another. I managed to help all of them to stop doing it, in fact the first two of the three stopped being bulimic after the first session, it happens sometimes. The third of the three, a law student, took me a few more hours, but for the purposes of this, she was by far the most interesting.

So we started by me asking her to talk me through a typical day, and what she said went something like this…

‘I try to get up in time’

‘Well I try and set the alarm for 6.30 because I like to try to get up in time to have a good breakfast. Then I try and get the 7.30 bus to college, and in the morning I go to lectures and I really try to be good with the food and I try and have something nice for lunch. In the afternoon I try and go to the library to catch up with some of the work, and then in the evening maybe I will try and call a friend and…’

If I could read your mind, dear, what a tale your thoughts would tell…

‘Stop!’ I said, ‘I can’t stand it! I bet you don’t get to the library to work much, in the afternoons, do you?’

And she looked at me with big eyes and asked me, in a hushed voice, if I was psychic…

‘Possibly,’ I replied, ‘but I’m not currently doing that, I am listening to you trying to do things’.

She just looked puzzled, naturally enough, so I started giving her examples like those already mentioned. I tried to finish mowing the lawn before it started raining, I tried to fix the dishwasher, I tried to close the window properly etc. She still looked bewildered.

‘Listen’ I said, ‘close your eyes and say to yourself, ‘I will try to get to the library this afternoon, and see what comes to mind.’ She did this and told me she had a fleeting thought of the library but then couldn’t get the thought of the canteen out of her head. So she asked me what she was supposed to think.

Use the word ‘just’, or the phrase ‘just make sure’, instead of ‘try’

That’s what I told her, so she closed her eyes and said to herself that she was just going to make sure she got to the library that afternoon, and then admitted that she did seem to be able to think of going to the library a bit more easily. I told her that it may take a while for her to retrain herself but from now on, every time she said the word try or even thought it, she was to stop, go back, and repeat what she had said or thought using the word just or the phrase just make sure.

She didn’t look impressed.

After all, she was there for me to help her stop doing bulimia and nearly fifteen minutes have gone by and I haven’t really mentioned that yet. But I guessed how important this may be for her, given that she had used the word so much, so I boldly carried on with the following story.

The ‘For Trying Hard’ certificate

My two eldest children spent part of their primary school education in a really good very small village school. In one school year they were in the same classroom. Like I say, it was a small school. Now, this school liked to reward the children for doing something well, you know, like doing a nice drawing, writing a good story, that kind of thing. However, we had a bit of an issue when the teacher started trying to give my children certificates which were entitled, ‘For Trying Hard’. Apparently, one of my kids told the teacher, a little uncertainly, that his dad (me) had told them they weren’t to try hard. And the teacher (nice guy) had smiled and told them that it was always important to try hard. And my other child had told him that they weren’t ever supposed to try they were just supposed to do it. And apparently my other child then added, ‘or not’…

I wish I had been there

My kids weren’t being cheeky, but they weren’t really equipped to explain this to the teacher. The teacher was fine about it all at the time, just a little puzzled, apparently. Next parents evening I was able to talk to him about it. I explained the reasoning and to his credit he dumped the certificates. I then saw that there was another pile of certificates that were entitled ‘for working hard’, and I asked him to dump those too. I pointed at them and asked him what those words meant. He said they meant ‘for working well’. I smiled and asked him why they didn’t say that then, as ‘hard’ can mean well, or diligently, but ‘hard’ can also mean tough or difficult or intransigent. I am not sure he got rid of them, but from that day forward my children’s always got ‘certificates of merit’ when they did well.

My client still looked puzzled

‘Can we talk about my bulimia now?’ She asked. I told that that we could as long as she promised to start using the word ‘just’ or the phrase, ‘just make sure’. She considered this for a moment and then, without even the slightest trace of irony said…

‘I’ll try to…’

So I stared at her, and I stared at her, and I stared at her, and I raised my eyebrows. A long minute went by, then suddenly she realised what she had said and laughed, a lot (often a very good sign, that).

‘Listen,’ I said,  ‘I know you don’t know how much of a big deal this is yet. Also, you may well find yourself catching yourself saying the word, or thinking it. When you do it would be a mistake to beat yourself up about it with thoughts like ‘Oh shit I just said the word, try, I must try not to do that again, OH SHIT, I just said it again…’. ‘Be patient with yourself,’ I said, ‘it can take a little time to fully integrate this learning, now let’s get this bulimia sorted as well….’

Seven Days Later

Seven days later all three women turned up again in the same order, on the same morning. As I said, the first two had stopped ‘buliming’ and I was delighted with that. When the law student walked in she actually looked even happier than the first two and I felt really pleased with myself as assumed I had sorted 3 out of 3 bulimics in one session each.

‘Stopped throwing up then?’ I asked.

‘No,’ she said, ‘I am still throwing up, though not as much,’ and she leaned forward, eyes shining and added, ‘but my life has completely changed!’

What a difference a word makes…

Or can make. She told me how she no longer struggles to get out of bed, she just gets up when the alarm goes. She just makes sure she gets to the bus stop on time, and last week was the first time she hasn’t been late every day. She is being better with food. She is going to the library every day and has almost caught up with the work. She is catching herself thinking things like ‘I will try and remember to call Barbara later, maybe go out for a nice meal,’ and amending those thoughts to ‘I will just make sure I call Barbara later’. The later in the day she is once again catching herself saying to herself something like ‘Ooh I must try and call Barbara in a minute ooh, YES, I WILL JUST DO IT NOW…’

Stop Procrastinating

Which brings me back to the subject of this article, namely, how to stop procrastinating and just get on with it. This is just one piece of what can be done, but better have one article in a little depth, I believe, than yet another list of bullet points similar to those you may well have seen before on this subject. Obviously, the word ‘try’ is OK in many contexts, such as ‘try this lovely cake’, ‘try this beautiful wine’, but the try of effort is one to be avoided unless you want to increase the chance of failing.

It can be good to fail

Well, it can. Often, at the end of a session with a client I will say something like, ‘now think about what was a problem before, and try to worry about it…’

Hope you find this useful. Just make sure you read it again… There is so much more to say about this subject, so more posts to follow…

Steve Tromans

Tel: +44 (0)7900 240192
Email: steve@selfhelprecordings.com
1 Harley Street London W1G 9QD

I Have OCD

Credit to Richard Bandler, most of the following I learned pretty much directly from him.

And if only all interventions were as fast as this one turned out to be…

Several years ago a man came to see me. He had been suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) for about half his life, in his case, about 17 years or so. When he was school, in the last year or so, he had developed some obsessive tendencies, nothing too overwhelming, as far as I could tell. However, the school got in touch with his parents and his parents booked an appointment with a top psychiatrist. There he sat with his parents, a nervous teenager, in the oak-panelled Harley Street consulting room of this psychiatrist and he was given the following verdict by the doctor…

‘I have spoken to your school, I have spoken to your parents and now I have had the chance to talk to you personally,’ he intoned, ‘ and I can say that without a shadow of a doubt, you have obsessive compulsive disorder…’

What chance did the man have…

So from that day forward, armed with the knowledge and certainty and that he had this problem, he became very good at OCD indeed. His obsessive behaviour had ‘morphed’ over the years, and he had finally settled into the habit of cleaning his kitchen for two or three hours before he went to work in the morning. And this was a kitchen always scrubbed so clean that open heart surgery would probably have been safe there anytime…

Contamination OCD

This is one of the most common ways people do OCD. For whatever reason, they have developed a huge overwhelming fear of contamination or disease, and that fear is so overwhelming it overrides any attempt at logical thinking. So a person who has developed this sort of thinking/feeling/behaviour pattern will find themselves seemingly driven to take some action to try to stop having the horrible feelings. This can be a big bad habit. And incidentally this has nothing to do with intelligence, in fact the guy who walked into my office that morning was a very successful lawyer…

‘What do you want?’

That’s what I asked him, after a minute or two chatting about his journey and the weather etc. I always like to get to the point.

Now if you are actually in this business you will know full well that no-one ever answers that question literally. They think they are answering you, but they aren’t. The answer you get will be either a description of their issue or a mass of information which is entirely opposite from the information you asked for.

They will tell you what they don’t want. Now this is totally reasonable from where the client is coming from. After all, they want you to understand why they are there, the nature of their issue, and if you let them, they will sometimes go into a long description of the history of their issue. I don’t usually let them, it doesn’t usually help, in my experience.

In fact I have to repeat the question, several times, before they can begin to understand what I am aiming at. And this all has to be done lightly, or it will begin to sound like a gestapo interview. And this is just the beginning…

‘I have OCD’

That’s what he said, plain and simple. So I was about to repeat the ‘so what do you want’ question, but I reconsidered. If someone is suffering from obsessive compulsive patterns they are often a bit tense, to say the least. But this guy, although quite tense, didn’t seem overly so, so I tried something else…

‘No, you don’t have OCD’

I said that to him and raised my eyebrows. He looked puzzled, understandably.

‘Yes I do,’ he insisted, ‘I have OCD, I am sure of it.’

‘So you have three letters of the alphabet,’ I said. It is important to note that the tone of the conversation was light-hearted, if it hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have been doing this.

‘You know what I mean,’ he continued, half laughing, ‘I have OCD, the abbreviation for obsessive compulsive disorder’.

‘No-one has OCD’, I said, flatly, and he began to look puzzled, though he was still smiling.

‘Look,’ he said, ‘you have a page on your website that says that you deal with people who have OCD, I’ve read it’. He had a point there. Mind you, if the page had said ‘you don’t have OCD please call now for help’, on-one would…

‘Listen,’ I said, ‘if you have OCD tell me where you keep it. In your pocket? In a cupboard in the kitchen next to the cleaning stuff? In a special place in the left hand side of your head or something?’

He was laughing now, ‘well obviously I don’t actually have OCD,’ he said. And then he stopped, and began to look totally bewildered and started swaying in his chair. If he hadn’t been sitting down I think he might have fallen over.

‘That’s right you don’t have OCD and you never did,’ I continued. ‘You can have a banana, you can have the complete works of Shakespeare, or you can have a nice holiday home. OCD isn’t something you can have, it’s obvious, now you think about it.

OCD is something a person DOES not something a person HAS

‘Obsessive compulsive disorder is something you have been doing not something you had, I told him, ‘a person can think  ‘obsessively’ about something, a person can act ‘compulsively’ at times, but that’s it, you don’t have OCD and you never had OCD, do you see what I mean? Do you hear what I am saying?’

I stopped and let him process this for a couple of minutes. Eventually he looked up and in a slow-motion voice said,

‘So…..I…..dont…..have…..OCD…..and…..nothing……is……making…..me…..do…..this?’

‘Well I don’t think so,’ I continued, ‘unless you think that maybe you are haunted by the demon of OCD, and as it happens I do have a bell, a book and a candle in the room, and I find a little light exorcise can often be illuminating.’

And I stopped and waited, and it was like the dawn slowly rising in his face and this sparkly light came into his eyes (at least that’s how I remember it), and he grinned.

Sitting in the beans

‘So,’ he said, leaning back with his hands behind his head, radiating confidence, ‘nothing is making me do this, so nothing is stopping from going home now, pouring baked beans all over the kitchen floor, sitting in them, cleaning up a bit, and going down the pub for a drink.’

‘That’s right,’ I replied, ‘though you may need to change your trousers first…’

And he stood up to leave but I didn’t let him, at first. I pointed out that he had had just fifteen minutes of a two hour session and that there were more things that could be done to ‘help make these old obsessive things truly a thing of the past’. He said he was happy to pay for the two hours and I told him that wasn’t the point. He told me he REALLY wanted to go and do this, so I argued light-heartedly with him for a while as this was building the desire to go out there and play, and after fifteen more minutes he left the office with a spring in his step.

I didn’t speak to him again though I got two voicemails from him and an email several months later. The first voicemail went something like this

‘HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAA, IM SITTING IN THE BEANNNNNS, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAA’

I remember thinking that it was just as well he wasn’t leaving that voicemail for a psychiatrist.

In the second voicemail, a couple of days later, he explained that it had only taken him 22 minutes to clean the kitchen after the bean-fest, and that that morning it had only taken him 16.5 minutes. OK, a little bit exact but, hey, 16.5 minutes is better than 3 hours… Then a few months later an email telling me he was quite ok and that he was going to refer someone to me.

If only it was always this easy

This client was the exception rather than the rule, I wish I could help people this fast all time. Usually the above is just one piece from a range of interventions designed to help the client to stop being obsessive, to build more flexibility into their thinking. It can be an important piece though.

Denominalisation – an approach that can often pay dividends

I am aware that this may well be read by a whole variety of people, from NLP practitioners and trainers and hypnotherapists and other therapists, through to individuals ‘suffering from OCD’, or people who know people who have been doing OCD etc, so I am avoiding jargon as much as possible, though really there isn’t much jargon is this field.

A nominalisation is a verb that has been turned into a noun, or an action that has been turned into a ‘thing’. When you work to denominalise, you are working to change the noun back into a verb, the thing back into the action, so to speak.

For example, if someone comes to see me and they tell me they have problems with their relationship (noun) with their husband, I will say something like, ‘in what way have you been experiencing problems with the way you are have been relating (verb) to your husband’. Because, after all, you may well be able to help someone to change the way they have been doing something (relating) but how on earth can you change someone’s ‘relationship’ when such a ‘thing does not literally exist?’

On one level this may seem to be just playing with words, but in my experience it can be a useful game to play…

Steve Tromans

Tel: +44 (0)7900 240192
Email: steve@selfhelprecordings.com
1 Harley Street London W1G 9QD

Visit the main page on OCD here – Help For OCD

Barbara Stepp in Chicago has recently put a short useful video on how to cure OCD – here – Cure For OCD

Pain Relief Hypnosis – Keeping The Change

OK so this is the third post in a series on hypnosis and NLP for pain relief. This is another piece, and a very important one. The previous two posts can be read…

Here – A Technique to Relieve Pain
and Here – Pain Relief Hypnosis, Further Thoughts
I also talk about it in this Skype interview here – Pain Relief Video

How To Make Sure Someone Stays Better

This is the story of a delightful man called Arthur who came to see me about fifteen years ago. Arthur was in pain, a lot of pain. He had twisted his back a little playing golf some thirty years earlier. It hadn’t really bothered him at first, and he had finished the round of golf and gone home.

That night though, Arthur hadn’t sleep well, and when he awoke in the morning the pain was much worse so he went to the doctor. He was duly given painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs and told to take some time off work and rest. He did that, but the pain got worse. So he went for X-rays, took stronger meds, spent some time in traction. The pain got worse…

Fast forward 30 years…

There he was, aged about sixty now, sitting in my office and he had been in complete and total agony for thirty years. But the first thing I noticed about him, apart from the fact that his face showed the strain of these three decades of agony, was this sparkle in his eyes, and he told jokes, lots of them, and was genuinely funny. And I thought, ‘there is an amazing spirit inside this person’.

I was, I will admit, a little anxious as to whether I could help him. I had seen people for severe migraines who had reported that they no longer had headaches but I had not seen anyone like Arthur. To be fair, I haven’t since. I had told him I did not know how effective I could be but that I would do my utmost to help and he was OK with that. After all, he had spent thirty years in various therapies, it had become a lifestyle…

He Had Tried Every Therapy And Treatment For Pain Relief Available

At least, that’s the way it seemed. This included hypnosis for pain relief. He had undergone procedure after procedure including nine operations on his back and legs, had had nerves severed in his back, the works. And the doctors still had no idea why he was in pain. He definitely was though. When I saw him, he had a box semi built into the side of his body. This box contained a cocktail of painkillers which were fed, by a tube, directly into the base of his spine… The only pain relief he had experienced over the years was when they had introduced morphine into the mix, and the effects of that had worn off after a couple of weeks, so he had come off the morphine. It was either that or being totally out of it, and he didn’t want that.

Calibrate The Feeling…

‘On a scale of one to one hundred’ I said, ‘if one hundred would represent total agony and one represents total comfort, how is the feeling in your back right now’. (I stop calling it pain and start calling it feeling pretty much straight away)

‘One hundred’ he said.

‘OK’, I continued, ‘what numbers does the feeling vary between day to day, do you think?’

He just gave me a look…

‘It doesn’t really vary,’ he said, and he had stopped smiling.

‘So what number would you like, then?’ I asked, and the look he gave me got blanker. In fact, I had to repeat the question three times before he could get his head around it. He was so used in thinking of the pain, or trying not to think about the pain, or worrying about the pain, or being angry about the pain, and so forth, that it was really hard for him to think of his back in any way which wasn’t related to pain. The idea of having a totally comfortable back was alien to him. Eventually, though, he said he supposed ‘one’ would be nice, so we proceeded.

And for the rest of that one hour session I went through the technique outlined in the link at the very top of the page.

The ‘Feeling’ Had Reduced

‘What number would your back be now, Arthur,’ I asked him, whilst he was still pretty spaced out from the work. He thought about it, and he thought about it and eventually he looked up in vague astonishment and said..

‘I think it is about fifty’. And his wife burst into tears. This was the first time in thirty years he had experienced any reduction in the pain, apart from the brief time he was on morphine. Of course I did my best to look like this was exactly what I had been expecting but to be honest I think I was as surprised as he was. It was a lovely, touching moment and I tried not to feel smug. I smiled at him and said to him…

‘We can do this Arthur, I am sure of that now’. I would have been pleased if he had said ‘ninety-five’…

Anyway, Arthur rang me back the next day with bad news…

‘It’s back to one hundred again’, he said, sadly. I remember not being too bothered about this at the time, apart from feeling sorry for him, as I was now sure I could help him.

The Pain Came Back

When he came back for the next appointment he was sorry to report that, unfortunately his back had stayed at ‘one hundred’ for the whole week. However, there was an important difference now. He knew that it was possible to experience a reduction in the pain, and so did I. This time we went straight into a slight variation on the technique described in the other blog (link at top of page), for pretty much the whole hour. I really went for it. And at the end, he opened his eyes wide and for a few moments couldn’t speak. Eventually he said…

‘I can’t feel my back’, and he started grinning. And his wife burst into tears again.

Well he could feel his back, but the number he now gave it was ‘one’, that is, total comfort. It was lovely. I was ever so pleased with him, and ever so pleased with myself.

That is, until he rang me back the next day, close to tears, and informed me that it was ‘one hundred’ again. Now if you experienced in this field you will know why his pain came back….

He Was ‘Used’ To The Pain

For years and years his daily life had been filled with the feelings of pain and the thinking about the pain. I realised what he had been doing in between sessions. He had been asking himself questions like, ‘is this going to last or is the pain going to come back,’. He would have been worrying about it, talking to himself about it, thinking about his back, looking to see how bad his back was feeling. And there is a fair chance others would have been saying things, unwittingly, that would have taken him back into the habit of pain. A simple question from a caring wife such as ‘how bad is your back today’, well meant, would not have been helpful;

So how was I going to get him to stop thinking about the pain?

Seven days later Arthur came back for his next session wearing a look of hope mixed with anxiety. I told him ‘we are going to do something new today,’ something to make the comfort more and more natural through time. We did a quick 20 minute version of the disassociation technique to begin with, and he reported that the ‘feeling’ was now about ‘ten’. He was pleased with that. And then I said this…

‘I know you are going to worry about the pain coming back’, I told him (in an incongruent way), and he relaxed a bit. After all, he had been worrying about the fact that he was worrying the pain would come back. I carried on, ‘I could tell you that if you start talking to yourself about the problem then I want you to learn to use a soft and gentle voice, or a voice with really silly tonality, or a cartoon voice.’ And I got him to practice this a bit. He didn’t realise he could learn to change the way he talked to himself. But mainly, I did the following. Because it’s fundamentally hypnotic, the grammar may look a little unusual in places, this kind of thing is best heard…

‘Whenever you begin to find that you are starting to think about the old ‘feeling’, I began, ‘I want you to look for comfort. Because whatever posture you are in, some parts of you, where the muscles are naturally more relaxed because of your posture, and this is only natural.’

I ignored his vaguely puzzled look and continued. I asked him if his left arm was completely comfortable and he said that it was, as far as he could tell…

‘Listen,’ I said, ‘in your mind, I want you to go to a little patch of skin, the surface of your skin, on your arm, in a place that’s soooo comfortable you aren’t even aware of it, now go to this little patch of skin, and imagine it to be the size of a small coin, and then, really, really, slowly, imagine that from this place, the comfort is beginning to spread, in time, and this will get easier.’

Arthur looked up uncertainly and told me he didn’t think he could do it properly, he couldn’t feel his arm relaxing, I was expecting that…

‘Oh you don’t actually have to feel your arm beginning to relax,’ I said, ‘just pretend to begin with. Now imagine what it would be like if a pretend feeling of comfort begins to spread very slowly into your arm, and along the surface of your skin, and around and inside, all the way, gently pretending to spread the comfort down into your wrist, do this slowly, and also ease the imaginary lovely feeling up into your elbow, and give it a colour if you like, a nice colour, a colour you like, now allowing your imagination to imagine, inside your mind, spreading the comfort slowly over the back or your hand, and into the palm of your hand, slowly up inside your fingers, and ease it into your thumb, into each knuckle, one knuckle at a time, up to the very tips, and also smoothly up into your shoulder, just pretending, and slowly imagining the relaxation easing inside the side of your neck, and now into your face, slowly into your chin, and easing inside your lips and into teeth and all around your tongue…’

Now you, the reader, will begin to get the idea. This is done slowly. very slowly, with very detailed descriptions of the areas and body parts that the imaginary comfort is spreading into. After a few minutes of this, I got him to begin to spread comfort from another place, this time, as his head felt neutral, from deep inside the mind, a little globe of comfort, gently expanding through the brain, and into and over the scalp, and gently into the eyebrows etc etc.

Pain Relief Hypnosis And Future Pacing

That’s the NLP jargon for when you do your very best to ensure that the useful, positive, ecologically sound changes, are lasting changes. I told him that EVERY time he had a thought about the old ‘feeling’ in his back, he was to STOP, pause, be glad he had noticed his thought, and immediately start the process of looking for comfort, being patient with himself, and being gently relentless. I told him it was quite ok to think it wasn’t making any difference, and to do it anyway. Arthur expressed doubt that he could do it well enough so asked him to stop and tell me what number his back was right now. He paused…

‘One’, he smiled.

Next day, when the phone rang, I just knew it was Arthur and when I asked him what the feeling was, he told me he thought it was about ‘eighty’. I was delighted. Obviously I would have been more delighted if he had said it was ‘one’, but on the other hand this was a major difference. In all, I saw Arthur seven or eight times, and gradually over that period the old ‘feeling’ became smaller and smaller until it had pretty much disappeared.

The Use Of Metaphor In Pain Control

So on one level the above can be a useful thing to do if you are suffering from pain. On another level it can be a useful thing to do if you are a therapist or practitioner who sees clients to help them with this kind of issue. But its use can be much wider than that.

I tell versions of this story to many of my clients, not just those seeking hypnotherapy for pain relief, as the entire thing can be viewed a metaphor for helping any client aim for the solution, rather than them trying to move away from the problem, when you think about it. Because many people are going to be out there wondering if their problem is going to come back, and we really don’t want that. What we do want is for them to aim themselves AT solutions, and in fact for this to become automated, and the use of metaphor can be a very powerful tool to help them to do so, in my experience.

And on the level of metaphor, with all the hypnosis herein, and all the presuppositions, and the overall structure of the story itself, the intention is also to help you, the reader…

Footnote

I have learned so much from many people, and hopefully continue to do so. That ‘spreading softness’ I first heard from Richard Bandler. It goes back much further though, it is a core principle, for example, in Chi Gung.

And of all the teachers I have ever learned from so far, my client Arthur was one of the best…

Steven Tromans

Tel: +44 (0)7900 240192
Email: steve@selfhelprecordings.com
1 Harley Street London W1G 9QD

To visit the JustBeWell main page on pain control and hypnosis please click here

Pain Relief Hypnosis – Further Thoughts

Hypnosis For Pain Relief – Further Observations

Following my recent post I thought it would be useful to talk a little more broadly about this subject. Even though I made that last post as brief as I felt I could it was still quite long, and there is so much more that can to be said on this subject.

Read previous post here – Hypnosis For Pain Relief

Firstly, there are many different reasons someone might be in pain. They may have pulled a muscle slightly, they may have had a physical injury to the surface of their body. They may have a serious illness, etc.

So, it is important to use hypnosis/NLP style pain relief techniques in context. It isn’t going to be useful to help someone not feel pain in their sprained calf muscle if they end up using it vigorously and causing more damage, for example. Similarly, I don’t see people for migraines unless they have been thoroughly medically checked out, in case it isn’t a migraine but something else that needs urgent medical attention…

Also, some pain seems to be ‘referred’. For example I’ve met several people who have a pain in their body that, basically, originated elsewhere. Head and neck problems can be caused by physical problems further down the body so it’s good to rule out these sorts of factors where possible.

As an example of this, a few years ago I suffered from tendonitis in my left arm/wrist/hand. The doctor (bless her), winced when she saw the livid red line down the inside of my arm. ‘That must be very painful,’ she said.

It didn’t stop there.

‘I’m going to give you a course of anti-inflammatory drugs,’ she continued, ‘they probably won’t work but it’s worth a try. At the end of the course you will probably need a cortisone injection directly into the tendon.’ She winced at this point, adding, ‘that really really hurts, I had to have it done myself’.

Very encouraging…

So, in my mind I told myself to cancel all the terrible suggestions, and I carried on with life. I wore a brace on my arm and wrist and it didn’t bother me at all. I took the drugs and just lived life as usual. However a few weeks later I was beginning to notice that my arm wasn’t getting any better, and I began to have a larger and larger vision of the big injection, and I said to myself, ‘you had better get this sorted’.

In NLP we call this style of motivation… ‘moving away from’

A friend of mine, John Forster, (now retired) was a specialist in muscle therapy, a little known therapy that never really took off because, as far as I could see, it was too effective. Every single person I referred to him got better, pretty much immediately. I wasn’t sure he could help with tendonitis but I called him anyway.

He was confident.

So the next day I’m sitting in his treatment room with my sleeve rolled up and he is looking at my arm and smiling.

‘Where do you think the problem is,’ he says.

Now as my tendon is inflamed to the point where it looks like someone has made a big heavy line down my arm in red felt pen, this seems a bit of a weird question. So I point at it and raise my eyebrows.

‘No’, he says, ‘it’s not there’. And he takes the weight of my arm in one hand and leans forward, pressing his large thumb just above my left collarbone.

‘It’s here.’

And immediately my whole arm is was filled with a big buzzing feeling. Not uncomfortable, just weird. A couple of minutes later he is pressing another point near the collar bone and the buzzing sensation continues. After about 15 minutes of this he stands back and says, ‘it is done, the healing is complete’.

‘Thanks’ I say, uncertainly. He then spends ten minutes or so rubbing his hand firmly up the muscles in my arm but that is pretty much that and I thank him and go home.

The next morning I wake up and I have absolutely no trace of tendonitis at all. No red line, just a comfortable arm and wrist. And I haven’t suffered in the slightest since.

John’s explanation was as follows…

‘Very often the pain that manifests in one part of the body is referred from somewhere else in the body. So if you see someone with a headache, ask them how their feet, legs, back are. In many cases you will find that something is out of alignment somewhere else. In my case what John did was release the tension at the top of the tendony bits (OK my anatomy knowledge isn’t that great…). I didn’t have any pain there, but the cure came from there.

Strange, huh?

So the point is, some pain can be more rapidly and effectively dealt with physiologically, and really should be.

Now John has retired I typically suggest to people that they do some simple Chi Gung exercises, or learn Alexander technique, or maybe see a chiropractor. Most people can’t be bothered to learn yoga, which is a shame, as it really can help on many levels.

Yes, we can help reduce or even eliminate pain with hypnosis and NLP. Yes, we can give a host of other suggestions to help the person to heal on every level and come more into balance as a whole being. Yes, we can help get them to visualise being fit, vibrant, flexible and radiant super-beings. Yes we can often help them feel more comfortable, more confident and more motivated. And most people in this field will have a number of stories about how they seemingly fixed someone’s chronic pain in a short time…..

However…

If the client’s chronic headaches are actually being caused by a dodgy bed causing tension in their lower back that makes them unconsciously adjust their posture in such a way as causes the headaches…

As practitioners/therapists/coaches/trainers, we owe a duty of care to our clients to be as holistic as possible, to explore every avenue for healing. And as individuals, we owe a duty of care to do the same for ourselves.

And I haven’t even touched on other causal factors, diet, lifestyle, drug abuse etc, but they will have to wait for another post…

Steve Tromans

Tel: +44 (0)7900 240192
Email: steve@selfhelprecordings.com
1 Harley Street London W1G 9QD

Third article here – Keeping The Change
JustBeWell page on Pain Control

Please do feel free to post observations, comments and questions

Hypnosis For Pain Relief

Well it’s a slightly misleading title as you don’t have to be a hypnotherapist to do this with others, or yourself, though the process itself is fairly hypnotic. I first came across a variant of this technique what seems like about three thousand years ago, when I started ‘doing’ NLP. I had joined a friend of mine who had stepped outside from the training room because he had, in his words, ‘a pretty bad migraine’.

It was then that one of the trainers, Michael Breen, happened by. Upon hearing of my friend’s headache Michael proceeded to do a variation of what follows and to my (and my friend’s) amazement, within a few minutes the pain had gone. And it stayed gone. I have used variants of this with severe chronic pain relief, phantom limb pain relief, cluster migraine relief etc etc, to great success through the years. As I say, although I’ve titled this blog ‘hypnosis for pain relief’, anyone can learn the following technique. If you were doing this on yourself, you would obviously have to read it through first as its an eyes closed thing…

Get Medical Advice
Now before I take you through this ‘hypnosis’ pain relief technique I really should point out that if you or someone you know is in pain, especially chronic pain, then for goodness sake do seek medical advice. That’s obvious to you, I expect, but it’s worth mentioning nevertheless…

The Pain Relief Technique
OK, this is basically a visualization disassociation thing. And the first thing to say is to do it slowly, very slowly and gently and patiently. For the purposes of teaching this to you I am going to pretend that you are the one who needs pain relief and that you are indoors. So if you are lucky enough to be reading this whilst sunbathing in the tropics then you will have to use your imagination…

Step One
Sit with your back supported and your feet on the floor. If you are laying down then get into as comfortable position as you can. Calibrate. Decide for yourself, one a scale of 1 to 100, with one being total comfort, and 100 being excruciating agony, what number you would ascribe to the pain, hereafter referred to as the ‘feeling’.

Step Two
Look at the room you are in, and look as if you are looking for the first time. See the contents of the room, the colours, the shapes, where the light is coming from, where the shadows are. Look at what you are wearing. Look around you and see what is behind you. Now close your eyes and see the room with your eyes closed in your imagination. In other words, remember what you were just looking at. Do this for, say, 10 seconds or so and then open your eyes and look at the room again. Now see what you weren’t seeing just now, add detail so that when you close your eyes again your picture, or memory, will be more complete. I repeat, do this slowly. Now close your eyes again and see the room with the additional detail added in. After 10 seconds (or whetever time seems right) open your eyes and repeat the process. Repeat this a few times until you have a pretty good idea of what the room looks like, sitting there with your eyes gently closed.

Step Three
Keeping your eyes closed float out, in your mind’s eye, so that you are pretending you are looking at the front of your body, from about 10 feet away. There may well be an intervening wall and/or furniture in the way so simply use your imagination and pretend you can see through any intervening objects. See what you would see from this perspective, how your face looks with your eyes closed, what is behind you, what is to the left and what is to the right. Perhaps remember tiny details, such as what is in a picture on the wall, or how the light may be reflecting of objects in the room etc. Remain looking at yourself from this perspective for 30 seconds or so (or whatever feels comfortable).

Step Four
Now float clockwise, gently, until you are looking at yourself from 10 feet away from the right. From this position see the right hand side of your head, the right hand side of your body. Remember what would now be behind the seated image of you, in your mind. Remember, once again, where the light is coming from, where the shadows are. Once again, do this for 30 seconds or so (or whatever seems comfortable).

Steps Four, Five and Six
Repeat the above, seeing yourself in your imagination, from 10 feet behind you, then then 10 feet from the left and then ten feet from the front again.

Steps Seven to Eleven
Now glide further away, so that you are 50 feet away, in your mind, looking at the front of you, sitting there in the chair. Everything is smaller now, all the details are smaller, your face is smaller, your body is smaller. Do this for 30 seconds(ish) again. Then drift away, and repeat the process in your minds eye, and see yourself from 50 feet to the right, then 50 feet behind, then fifty feet from the left, then fifty feet from the front again.

Step Twelve
Now glide, in your imagination, 50 feet straight up above yourself and look down. Look through the ceiling and the roof and/or other floors and see the top of your head, and the furniture, and the light and the shade. Spend 30 seconds or so looking down at the smaller you in the smaller room.

Step Thirteen And now drift up, in your imagination, higher and higher above the building. Imagine what else you may be able to see from up there, the rooftops, the buildings, the plants, the landscape. Keep floating up and up and up, gently. If the sky isn’t cloudless, pretend it is. It doesn’t matter if it’s night or day. Keep drifting up until miles of land becomes visible in all directions, and keep going. The tiny you in the tiny room is still down there, but will become too far away, in your mind, to see. Keep floating smoothly up until you begin to be aware of the curve of the earth. Drift higher and higher seeing more and more of the planet and being aware of more and more space. Then the planet itself, a blue, green and white ball, dwindles into the distance and you are drifting in deep peaceful space, surrounded by thousands and thousands of shining stars….

Pain Relief Hypnosis that works
Slowly open your eyes and ask yourself, ‘what number is the feeling now’. If you have done this really slowly and gently with yourself, or with a friend or a client, you or they will probably be pretty spaced out by now, in more ways than one. I find that the ‘feeling’ well almost invariably have either reduced significantly, or be gone entirely. Sometimes you may need to repeat the process. If you are doing this by yourself it’s going to take a bit of practice. It’s easier to begin with to have someone talk you through it. If you are the person talking someone through it then make sure you are as relaxed as you can be before you begin. Although I’ve described this technique as pain relief hypnosis, like I say, anyone can learn it.

If you have any questions about this then please feel free to ask. If you are a therapist then please do feel free to add your comments, tips, observations etc..

Steve Tromans
Visit the page on JustBeWell here – Pain Control
See a follow up article here – Pain Relief Hypnosis
Read a further article here – Keeping The Change

Tel: +44 (0)7900 240192
Email: steve@selfhelprecordings.com
1 Harley Street London W1G 9QD

 

PS here is a skype interview where I talk through this technique, apolgiies for the scary face….. To watch this directly on Youtube click here – Hypnosis For Pain Relief