Blog Posts

Cultivating Self-Compassion

Posted by on Jul 30, 2014 in Blog Posts | Comments Off on Cultivating Self-Compassion

Cultivating self-compassion The cultivation of self-compassion isn’t something that most of my clients are focussed on when they step through the door for their first session.  Most people come (understandably) with the desperate hope that I will rid them of the anxiety or panic that has been plaguing them.  Whilst relief from the anxious state is at the top of the priority list, it’s also important to realise that when we are stuck in states that we don’t like or that make us feel bad, we are often really mean to ourselves.  Those of you, who have already worked with me, will know that there is an added and welcome by-product to using the NPR treatment approach to recovering from anxiety.  During the process of recovery, you also develop a healthy and loving connection with your previously abandoned self.  This isn’t some touchy feely self help claim, it really is a natural function of coming to understand that no matter how anxious you are, your body and your mind are not your enemy. All living creatures are designed to move away from what is uncomfortable or painful, so when people find it impossible to move away from the anxious state being created by their survival brain and body, they often begin to feel angry, critical and frustrated with themselves.  The consequence is that on top of already feeling distressed and anxious, people begin to feel useless, helpless and worthless, due to the unkind way they respond to their thoughts, their bodies, in fact their whole selves.  It doesn’t help that other people respond to the anxious state with disbelief, frustration and impatience, confirming to the sufferer that they are doing something wrong and are disapproved of.  All of this can lead to depression, and isolation. Realising that we have a choice about how we respond to and treat ourselves comes as a revelation to most people.  But once we realise that we can turn towards ourselves, even the bits we don’t like or enjoy about ourselves and our experience, and offer ourselves the kindness and patience we would show a dear friend, something begins to change.  Recovering from anxiety and retraining the brain is undoubtedly an inevitable consequence of using the NPR process.  Becoming your own best friend is just one of the added bonuses....

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States and Phases

Posted by on Jul 30, 2014 in Blog Posts | Comments Off on States and Phases

Phases or States The physicist Andrea Sella points out that in physics and chemistry there is a tendency to use the word phase rather than state, which is to distinguish the possibility that there are structurally different arrangements of matter, such as in a solid, there will be orderly arranged atoms, in liquids there is more mobility and in gas the particles are further apart.  The different phases take place as a result of the varying conditions of energy and it’s interactions with the matter itself, such as with water, the conditions dictate the temperature of the water, through a whole range of states, from ice, to liquid, to steam, not ignoring all the subtle differences in between.  This theory of matter always being in a different phase dependent on the environment seems really relevant to me with regard to the function of anxiety. I realised as I was listening to the physicist talk, that describing anxiety as a ‘state’, although preferable to an illness or disorder, seems too solid a description. What I have observed is the fluidity of the experience of anxiety, as it ebbs and flows, quickens and slows, softens and intensifies, based on what we are encountering or thinking.  The word state might imply something more ‘fixed’ rather than a responsive and active process going through many different phases on a moment to moment, reactive basis. When I work with people they sit in front of me and before my eyes they experience shifts and changes, which are not fixed and solid.  Depending on how they, think, perceive and react to their experience, the set of physiological and emotional sensations that make up the phenomena that we call ‘anxiety’ is in constant flux.  This helps us to realise that the anxious experience itself is not something we need to be stuck in, it’s an experience to which we can bring about shifts and changes, as we learn to interact in ways that allow the solidity of the sensations to soften and dissipate, just as ice melts into water and then dissipates into steam as we alter the conditions that we impose upon it.   What conditions are you imposing upon the anxious experience right now?  Try bringing warmth, allowance, acceptance, just for a moment, and observe without judgement any shifts that may be beginning to take place now. ...

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Self-Compassion

Posted by on Jun 26, 2014 in Blog Posts | Comments Off on Self-Compassion

Cultivating self-compassion The cultivation of self-compassion isn’t something that most of my clients are focussed on when they step through the door for their first session.  Most people come (understandably) with the desperate hope that I will rid them of the anxiety or panic that has been plaguing them.  Whilst relief from the anxious state is at the top of the priority list, it’s also important to realise that when we are stuck in states that we don’t like or that make us feel bad, we are often really mean to ourselves.  Those of you, who have already worked with me, will know that there is an added and welcome by-product to using the NPR treatment approach to recovering from anxiety.  During the process of recovery, you also develop a healthy and loving connection with your previously abandoned self.  This isn’t some touchy feely self help claim, it really is a natural function of coming to understand that no matter how anxious you are, your body and your mind are not your enemy. All living creatures are designed to move away from what is uncomfortable or painful, so when people find it impossible to move away from the anxious state being created by their survival brain and body, they often begin to feel angry, critical and frustrated with themselves.  The consequence is that on top of already feeling distressed and anxious, people begin to feel useless, helpless and worthless, due to the unkind way they respond to their thoughts, their bodies, in fact their whole selves.  It doesn’t help that other people respond to the anxious state with disbelief, frustration and impatience, confirming to the sufferer that they are doing something wrong and are disapproved of.  All of this can lead to depression, and isolation. Realising that we have a choice about how we respond to and treat ourselves comes as a revelation to most people.  But once we realise that we can turn towards ourselves, even the bits we don’t like or enjoy about ourselves and our experience, and offer ourselves the kindness and patience we would show a dear friend, something begins to change.  Recovering from anxiety and retraining the brain is undoubtedly an inevitable consequence of using the NPR process.  Becoming your own best friend is just one of the added bonuses....

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Neuro-plasticity

Posted by on Sep 21, 2013 in Blog Posts | Comments Off on Neuro-plasticity

Neuro-plasticity N-P-R and Neuro-plasticity, theory and practise finally meet. It has long been assumed by practitioners of Neuro-linguistic programming, that we all hold a conceptual map of experience in our minds via which we navigate our lives. Alfred Korzybski made the statement, ‘The map is not the territory’ meaning that the map is just a representation of our reality and experience, but it isn’t the reality itself. Just like a normal map of the world, the map is a scaled down visual representation of the real world that we can use to navigate our way through the real geographical area. Click here to learn more Our conceptual map houses our beliefs about ourselves, our world, other people etc, based on the experiences we have had, and where we have been before. No one could create a normal map of the world without first going and seeing where it all was. Only what was seen and experienced got put in the map. No one map is the same as another, as we all experience the world through our own unique set of senses, and according to our individual experiences. That’s not to say our maps don’t have a lot in common with other maps. I believe that we also have societal and cultural maps, from which we operate, but more about that in a later post. If you have ever played one of those computer games where you start as a character in a virtual space you will grasp this very easily. As you move around the space a ghostly map will emerge on the screen that shows you where you have already been so that you can either retreat back to the safety of the known, or expand the map by venturing further with your character around the virtual environment causing it to grow ever more complex and vast. What you find is that once you have covered the territory available in the game, you are then limited by it. You can’t go out of the boundaries of the map to find treasure or slay virtual enemies, so you operate within the constraints of it. In real life, our maps can operate in a similar way. We experience our world through our senses and perceptions, our actions and interactions; this creates a map of our experience that includes memories of the outcomes of previous actions and experiences. If we have painful experiences that we don’t want to experience again, these can become the boundaries over which we won’t step because they don’t feel safe. They are self imposed limitations that operate mostly at the unconscious level and we only become aware of them when we try to step over them and feel a discomfort and lack of safety. The map is reminding us that last time we did this, something hurt, something negative resulted, so lots of us learn to remain within the safety of it. The internal map is not fixed; there are no real boundaries. New experiences and ideas can overwrite old ones to expand the map creating new territory for exploration. The map can grow and reorganise itself eternally when you know how it operates and what to do to change it. Questioning your map and altering the parts that don’t help you to experience life as you want to is fundamental to change, and the latest Neuro-scientific findings are turning out to be as useful as the conceptual map theory in the area of change and growth. Neuro scientists have been fighting for years about the idea of neuro-plasticity. Neuro-plasticity is the theory that the...

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Thought Monsters

Posted by on Jun 10, 2013 in Blog Posts | Comments Off on Thought Monsters

Making Friends with the ‘Thought Monsters’ Yesterday one of my clients described her thoughts as ‘monstrous’.  She had been having a really tough week and the thoughts her mind was generating felt as though they were tormenting her, frightening her, ruining the happiness she had been feeling and convincing her that she was the most useless unworthy person in the world. The problem wasn’t that her mind had been creating these ‘thought monsters’.  The problem was that she was treating them as though they were real, true and accurate. One aspect of the NPR approach to anxiety is to recognise thoughts as activity of the mind.  People often go through life treating thoughts as if they are true, factual and accurate, when in fact, they are just the mind, presenting our experience of the world to us through the form of words, pictures, sounds, feelings and sensations.  Thoughts offer a running commentary of what is going on in the now, what has gone before, and what could happen in the future.  They zip around busily, often dishing out opinions, stories, judgements, ideas and viewpoints, sometimes bossing us about, criticising us, delivering cautionary tales and generally getting carried away.  That is, until you learn how to work with them. One of the most common things my clients say to me is ‘I just want these thoughts to shut up’, ‘I hate them, they go round and round and won’t leave me alone’.  (all said in an angry despairing voice).  I spend quite  a lot of time teaching people how to work with their brains, rather than in opposition to them, and when it comes to thoughts, working with rather than in opposition to is essential if you wish to experience peace of mind. This week one of my new clients told me, every time I feel my heart beating my mind tells me I’m going to die of a heart attack!  How long has your mind been telling you that?  Months!!!  And yet when I said  ‘and yet here you are very much alive’…….. We both laughed! ‘so I am’ she realised. Thoughts are not reality.  Thoughts are how the mind represents it’s experience of reality to itself.  Thoughts are how we communicate with our internal selves, while we navigate our way through the environment of our world.  Our memory of yesterday’s dinner is nothing more than a representation of how that dinner looked, tasted, was created, etc… but is not the dinner itself.  It is a representation of the dinner, brought through time, since yesterday, by our thoughts, and yet when we think the thought, we can imagine it, taste it, smell it etc.  It’s the same with traumatic memories, they are representations of experiences that we have had in the past, brought through time into our current lives by the process of thought, and when we think of them, we can feel at least some of the original pain and upset from the trauma.  However, how we treat the thoughts impacts how we experience them.  If we treat them as though they are true, real and accurate, we respond and react to them as if they are happening in reality, when in fact they are not.  This is very much the case for people who are experiencing anxiety.  The anxious mind tells threatening and cautionary tales (with the positive intention of making us cautious and careful in order to keep us safe), however, when we treat them as if they are the truth, we restrict our lives by adhering to the warnings of the mind.  If we want...

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