|Posted on 20 June, 2018 at 15:20||comments (0)|
It was so embarrassing. I was sure it was Judy, this morning in town. I saw this woman in the queue in the post office as I was leaving. I was so pleased, because I hadn’t seen her for ages, and we get on really well. She had her back to me, but when I put my hand on her shoulder and she turned round, it wasn’t Judy at all. It wasn’t a bit like Judy! How could I have made such a mistake?
What is happening in the above scenario?
The brain is pattern matching, but, in this instance, has got it wrong. It has linked characteristics in the stranger which are similar to Judy, and has come to the wrong conclusion.
Pattern-matching is a characteristic of the human brain, but is not unique to humans. It enables us to predict and expect what is coming. It also allows us to learn more quickly and be more flexible in our behaviour. Once a child knows what a chair is, he doesn’t need to be told again, even if he goes over to his friend’s and the kitchen chairs are different to those he has in his own home. Just as the adult brain is able to work out that an unusual chair never seen before, in a stately home, is a chair.
Driving becomes an automatic behaviour partly through pattern matching. When we drive along an unfamiliar route, the subconscious is constantly comparing it to previous experiences. If this didn’t happen, every time we came to a new junction, or an unfamiliar road, it would be like learning to drive again.
If you are already able to drive a car, learning to drive a tank is much easier because there are similarities. Otherwise, learning to drive a tank would be as difficult as it was when we first learnt to drive.
Pattern matching also allows us to read and understand language. We are able to communicate much more easily as we describe things by comparisons. When he told me the shocking news I felt as if I had been “knocked sideways”.
How does this work?
Every millisecond of our waking lives the brain is taking a snap shot of our experiences and logging it in the subconscious. It is like reels of cine film but these reels also include aspects such as temperature, smell, the food we have just eaten, and any discomfort we may feel in our bodies, and most importantly, our emotions. At the same time it is comparing each new situation with these reels of cine film. However, we are only consciously aware of about 7 to 8 bits of data at any one time. Taking the scenario involving Judy, imagine this snap shot as a very intricate jigsaw puzzle, made up of hundreds of pieces. This is compared to the jigsaw puzzle of my friend Judy. There are a number of pieces that are interchangeable, and it is these interchangeable pieces that the subconscious picked out which resulted in the mistaken identity. If it had picked out a different set of pieces, I would not have mistaken this lady for Judy.
All these cine films will have emotions attached to them, positive, negative and neutral. You may have had the experience of walking into a room and suddenly feeling uncomfortable. The brain has linked certain jigsaw pieces from this room to a previous experience which may have had fear or another negative emotion attached to it.
It can work against us!
So, pattern matching has many benefits, but, it can also work against us. The scenario of someone having a trivial car accident and a few months later being unable to get the car off the drive due to sheer fear, is all down to pattern matching. It was a small prang at a T junction. The next time on approaching a roundabout, the brain pattern matches, and decides that the roundabout is very much like the T junction, and is a dangerous place and it must be avoided. Then one day driving on to the motor way, the subconscious suddenly sees similarities of this to the roundabout and the original T junction. This could go on and on, until all possible situations are linked to the original accident resulting in the mere act of getting into the car triggers fear. General anxiety develops in a very similar way. A panic attack in a supermarket, could be pattern matched to the post office. If there was a person wearing a bright pink raincoat in the post office, the next time the brain sees something bright pink, in another situation it may trigger a panic attack and this situation is added to the list.
But we can take advantage of pattern matching in hypnotherapy!
One of the therapeutic techniques used in hypnotherapy is the use of metaphor, as this takes advantage of pattern matching. Metaphors are words or phrases used to compare objects or situations. The English language is full of metaphors such as the glass is half full, and children’s stories are often metaphorical – The Ugly Duckling. Everything passes via the conscious, logical brain to the subconscious. But before doing so, it is analysed by the conscious brain and compared with the files within the subconscious. A fear of visiting the dentist may be helped by visualising walking into a beautiful enclosed rose garden, entering through a rose arch. There is a comfortable garden chair which reclines, and on doing so the sun can be seen. On a table by the side of the chair is a glass of lemonade. Birds, perhaps a wood pecker, can be heard, and the gurgling of a distant stream. The emotions of feeling in a safe place are added. To the logical brain this is just a beautiful scene in a garden. But next time visiting the dentist, the subconscious pattern matches it to the rose garden, which is safe and secure, so presumes the dentist is also safe and secure!
|Posted on 20 June, 2018 at 15:15||comments (0)|
We all know that getting a good night’s sleep is important, and we have all experienced what it feels like after a bad night. And if I were to ask you why this is important you would probably say it is to recharge our batteries. But what does “recharging our batteries” actually mean?
There are many reasons why we need to sleep, because if we don’t get enough it affects our physical and psychological health as well as performance. Chronic sleep deprivation results in severe psychological issues and even hallucinations.
The sleep cycle.
Sleep is made up of cycles which we go through several times a night. These cycles take about 90 to 110 mins. Each cycle is made up of 5 stages each stage taking about 5 to 15 mins.
Stage 1 – light sleep. This is the first stage we go through, occurring between being awake and falling asleep, called hypnagogic sleep.
Stage 2 – this is the onset of sleep, when we start to disengage from our surroundings.
Stage 3 and 4 – this is the deepest sleep and is when the body repairs and restores itself from the wear and tear of the previous day. It is the most recuperative part of the sleep cycle. Tissue damage is repaired. Hormones such as Growth Hormone are released for growth and muscle development. Levels of cortisol increase to help alertness in the morning. It is during this period of sleep that the immune system is at its most efficient for fighting infection.
REM – rapid eye movement. In the adult this makes up 25% of the sleep cycle and uses as much energy as if we were awake. We are completely paralysed during this stage and this is when we dream.
Quality versus quantity.
Both the quality and the quantity of sleep are important. You must know people who say they sleep for at least 10 hours and still feel exhausted. That is because the quality of sleep is not good. Equally, there will be those people who have 6 hours of good quality sleep and also feel tired. They just aren’t getting enough.
So, it is important to get enough good quality sleep. And you can’t play catch up. You can’t go through the week, getting up early and going to bed late due to work, thinking “it will be ok, I can catch up at the weekend”. It doesn’t work like that!
For our psychological and emotional health the most important stage of sleep is the REM stage. It has been found from research on rats, that if they are deprived of REM sleep they will eventually die. If they are allowed to sleep normally after being deprived of REM sleep the proportion of REM sleep increases to catch up with what they lost, forfeiting the other stages of sleep.
In humans, if we are deprived of REM sleep, maybe because we go to bed too late, or have to get up very early the next day, the next night the proportion of REM sleep is increased to make up for what was lost. But that forfeits deep sleep which is important for our physical health.
Why is REM sleep so important?
It is during REM sleep that the brain lays down templates so that we are able to function. This is like up loading files onto your computer so that certain functions may operate. The unborn foetus is in continual REM sleep. It is constantly loading templates ready for when it is born. When born the baby spends 60% sleep in REM, and this slowly decreases to 25% as adults. Every new experience we come across is uploaded as a template. Parents often moan that teenagers spend so much time in bed, lie in late in the mornings. This is because their days are packed with new experiences plus learning at school. In the very elderly REM sleep reduces even further, this is because they have very few new experiences. REM also restores and updates these templates. If this doesn’t happen, we become unstable and vulnerable.
Why do we dream?
Dreaming occurs during REM sleep. Extensive research by Joe Griffin, author of Dreaming Reality, discovered why it is necessary for our survival to dream. We dream to process and clear emotions that have occurred through the day.
It is a bit like doing the dusting. If we don’t dust the ornaments regularly the dust builds up on them. If we don’t dream regularly our emotions build up in our subconscious. We dream in metaphor so that we don’t get confused between reality and our dreams. If we have had an emotionally packed day we will dream more. If something upsets us early in the day, we have all day to process it and resolve it. But if something upsetting happens late in the day, our subconscious tries to resolve it through dreaming. A reason why not to watch the late evening news before going to bed or to go to bed on an argument….
Dreaming also has another function. We often control our behaviour to fit in with social etiquette. If we went round behaving how we really felt, a bull in a china shop, this would cause us a lot of problems. So, when your boss has a go at you, and you really feel like shouting back, you don’t because it may have dire consequences. But at night you will play out how you really felt like behaving discharging those emotions, and it’s done in metaphor.
But dreaming uses as much energy as being awake.
If we dream a lot we may feel tired in the morning. This effects on our emotions. We may feel frustrated or grumpy, or impatient which then affects what happens during the day. This results in more emotions needing to be resolved the next night. The extra dreaming makes us even more tired. This can lead to a vicious cycle which ultimately affects us emotionally and psychologically. Eventually, this may lead to early morning waking, a symptom of “depression”. The brain decides that all this dreaming is just too tiring, so wakes you early to prevent any more dreaming.
So, in essence…..
The key is a good night’s sleep for emotional and physical wellbeing. Anything that disrupts this, such as ill health, chronic pain, or challenging life events, for any length of time, adversely affect it, perpetuating the situation.
|Posted on 5 March, 2018 at 15:00||comments (0)|
You have come off the phone from a conversation with a friend and your internal voice is raging at you. “You did it again! Why? Why? Why? I thought you said you wouldn’t do that again.” You feel angry with yourself, disappointed maybe, or even ashamed. You had promised yourself you would never EVER behave like that again. But you’ve just done it, yet again. What is happening to you? Why can’t you react how you would like to in these situations? You have been over and over it again and again and it seems so simple but in the heat of the moment it’s impossible. You react without thinking and before you know it have acted or said something that you wanted to avoid.
The above scenario is the result of the subconscious trying to protect us. The majority of our behaviour is controlled by the subconscious. It is automatic. When you first learn to drive, you have to consciously think about all the mechanics of driving -changing gears, steering, controlling the speed. All your attention is focused on driving. But eventually, with repetition, it becomes automatic, and you are able to also focus on other things such as having a conversation whilst driving. When you get into a different car and the indicator is on the right side of the steering wheel instead of the left, it takes a few goes at getting it wrong, and correcting yourself, to change the “indicator on the left” file to “indicator on the right”. This scenario is not emotionally charged and so is easy to update. It is the emotionally charged behaviours which are challenging to change.
The subconscious and conscious brains.
The brain is made up of the subconscious and the conscious. The subconscious brain makes up 90%, is on the right side. It is creative and its role is to protect us. It is the emotional brain. The conscious brain is the remaining 10%. It is on the left side of the brain and is involved in thinking, working things out. It is the logical part of the brain. When we are born, our subconscious is up and running but it is empty. Until about the age of 7yrs, the subconscious is uploading all our experiences, so that we know how to operate in the big wide world. So we take on board how our mother deals with spiders, how our father deals with confrontation with the neighbour, how they react to going to the dentist, how our mother greets a friend in the park. All these files are stored in the subconscious. Some of these will have emotions attached to them. If a spider is thrown at you in jest as a child aged 5, and your reaction is ridiculed by bystanders, the emotion of embarrassment may be attached to this file. Your subconscious doesn’t like that emotion, so you develop a phobia of spiders because spiders are linked with embarrassment. The subconscious can be compared to buying a new computer and before you can use it all the relevant files need to be installed on it with each file having a different function.
We have all heard the expression “push someone’s buttons”. Someone does or says something to another person and it sparks, usually, a negative reaction. So, what is happening here? Let us take the example of the spider. A friend teases you with pointing out a spider, knowing how you will react. This causes sudden panic, because the sight of the spider immediately links it to the initial incident when we were 5 yrs old. We just can’t help it. The subconscious is protecting us from being embarrassed again, despite our thinking very logically about spiders when we are calm and relaxed.
The above example is a very obvious file in the subconscious. But we have millions of files, controlling many different behaviours and situations, some of them often subtle. For example, you notice that you always feel uneasy in the company of men with facial hair. You can’t put your finger on why, and thinking rationally about it, there is no reason to feel like this. But, maybe, when you were at Primary School the head teacher had facial hair, and as a young child you were scared of him. This has been logged in the subconscious as “men with facial hair are scary”. You may not remember that you felt scared, but your subconscious does!
Addicted to Food.
Food is necessary for survival and so makes up an important part of our lives. For this reason many different emotions may become attached to food when we are children. A child falls over, and just won’t stop crying so the mother gives her chocolate to quieten her. Later in life, if someone has knocked this adult at work, or a friend has let her down at the last minute, she finds yourself reaching for the chocolate. When life becomes more challenging, she finds herself reaching for the chocolate even more. The chocolate seems to hit the spot, but she doesn’t know why, and even though she thinks about it logically, things don’t seem to change. This, again is the subconscious at work. As a child the subconscious attached a feeling of, perhaps, being comforted with chocolate.
Can these files be changed?
Yes, they can. We are always keen to talk about negative events that have happened to us. We do talk about the positive experiences, but negative events have more impact and last longer. Negative emotions are much more powerful than positive ones. As a result negative events can wipe out years of positive files in one go – a bit like your computer getting a virus and destroying the files. Years of enjoying flying can be wiped out with one traumatic flight, which involved going through a thunder storm, turbulence, thunder, lightning and petrified passengers. This one incident could, in the right circumstances, be enough to produce a fear of flying. Reversing this file back to feeling safe with flying through actively flying takes very much longer. What tends to happen is that the fear is so great that the subconscious forces you to avoid any more flights because that is safer.
|Posted on 23 February, 2018 at 4:25||comments (0)|
I have a variety of tools in my tool box, and one of my favourites is EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique. What I love about this tool is that it is so simple and gentle and yet so powerful. It can be used on absolutely anything and it is a great self-help tool. It works really well in conjunction with Hypnotherapy and other techniques. Most clients that I see have never heard of EFT and when I suggest that we try some tapping, I get a variety of looks – bemusement, scepticism, or a look of horror that I may even dare ask them to tap on themselves! But what is so nice about this technique is that the client doesn’t have to believe in it! It is also a great way of calming down and relaxing them. I gently say “so, why don’t we just try a new relaxation technique” and encourage them to start tapping with me.
How did it come about?
Dr Roger Callahan, an American psychologist, the founder of Thought Field Therapy (TFT), fell upon tapping therapy in 1981 whilst trying to help a female client with a severe water phobia. Out of frustration with not making much progress, he started to look outside the box of conventional treatments and one of these was traditional Chinese acupuncture. Mary was feeling her anxiety in her stomach, so he asked her to tap just below the eye, a point on the stomach meridian, at the same time thinking about water. To his amazement her phobia vanished. This was the start of tapping. Gary Craig was a student of Dr Callahan. He graduated in engineering but he was passionate about personal development. He was interested in resolving emotional issues and developed what is now called EFT.
Conscious or subconscious?
Counselling works on a conscious level, and hypnotherapy works on the subconscious level. However, EFT works on the conscious, subconscious and cellular level. When we think of a situation, or have a thought, it produces an emotion. This emotion causes a physical response. If I were to ask you to imagine standing in front of a large audience to give a presentation, you will probably notice yourself getting clammy, your heart starts to race and your breathing becomes shallow. You may even start to feel sick. These symptoms are due to an emotion such as fear. They are working at a cellular level. When we are fit and well, and life seems to be going well, energy flows freely along the meridians. Negative emotions and ill health cause blocks in the flow of energy. EFT unblocks the flow of energy.
What does it involve?
EFT involves tapping on a series of points, which correlate with Chinese acupuncture points located at the end of the meridians – pathways in the body along which energy flows. The distal meridian points are used to rebalance and clear the body’s energy system. So, EFT works like acupuncture, but without the needles. As we tap we focus on the problem or emotion putting it into a short phrase, saying it out loud.
What can it help?
So, what can EFT be used for? I said absolutely everything, and that is quite literally true. We can use it for past events, things happening right now, and also anything we are concerned about in the future. We can use it on children and adults and even pets! We can use it to improve our lives and attract better things into our lives. But generally we use it to resolve negative emotions and unhelpful beliefs resulting from traumas. These hold us back from progressing in life or sabotage our behaviour. Why can’t we resist that drink? What are the emotions and beliefs behind being unable to resist? It will also help physical symptoms as all symptoms have a belief and an emotion behind them. EFT can be used on incidents that we cannot recall or were too young to recall, but have been told about, such as a traumatic birth, or a spell in hospital as a young child. Although we cannot remember, our subconscious is already up and running, producing emotions even though we cannot name them at that young age.
What can be reassuring for clients is that details about past events do not need to be divulged to the therapist. So often clients don’t want to talk about that trauma “yet again”. By simply giving it a title or naming the emotion can be enough for the therapist to help work through it. Sometimes we have “this feeling” but we just don’t know why we have “this feeling” or we have physical symptoms. That is enough to work with. EFT helps relax and focus the mind, and often memories surface that we had forgotten about which helps explain things. Why do we always go for the cigarettes when someone has shouted at us? Maybe as a teenager, if our parents were rowing, we would escape to our friend’s and enjoy a cigarette, making us feel loved and secure. So reaching for that cigarette makes us feel loved and secure. No wonder we find it impossible to give up that cigarette!
A self-help tool.
I use EFT on myself on a daily basis as it is so good for clearing negative emotions. Emotions are like dust. If we don’t dust the ornaments regularly the dust builds up. If we don’t resolve our negative emotions, however trivial they are, they start to “clog up” our subconscious and start to affect us physically. EFT is so good to use in the moment. Ever walked away from someone and felt so angry with what they have said? By tapping on that emotion you will start to feel calmer quicker and to see the situation more realistically. Or maybe you have a phone call to make, but can’t get yourself to make it. Tapping again will help you.