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Becoming Mindful

How does Mindfulness fit with other therapeutic approaches such as NLP, Hypnotherapy and EFT?

Often when we seek therapy it is because we have identified a problem in the way we are feeling. We are stressed, anxious or overwhelmed by our circumstances or the challenges we are experiencing. In NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) we would refer to this as a problem state. It is helpful if we recognise how this state is being created. In order to do so we need to become mindful of (that is aware of) what we are experiencing – what we are feeling emotionally and physically, and what we are believing about ourselves and the situation. From here we are able to establish the steps we need to take to move out of that state towards something that feels better.

A mindfulness practice such as daily meditation that asks us to be present and to notice our thoughts and feelings encourages us into a state in which we are calm, centred and connected. A state where we aren’t worrying about the future or ruminating about the past. When we experience this on a regular basis we are more likely to be able to access that sense of calm within our daily lives. This can be very helpful if our tendency is to get caught up in our thinking and feel overwhelmed by stress or anxiety. 

NLP techniques work with our conscious and unconscious minds to help us to access more helpful states when we need to. For example, if we are feeling anxious about having an interview and worrying that we will feel tongue-tied and overwhelmed, it would be helpful to anchor in a state of calm in which we feel grounded. If we have experienced this state before, for instance through meditation, it is easier to access it in the moment when we need it. It is a bit like when an Olympic athlete gets into “the zone” just before a race.

Jon Kabat Zinn defines Mindfulness as a “means of paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally”, that is the intention. During hypnosis, we have a single point of focus, but unlike with meditation, the aim in hypnotherapy is to positively influence the subconscious mind by by-passing the conscious mind. It can be described as being like “meditation with a purpose”, the benefit of which is to bring about change, for example to help us feel more confident in a certain situation or to let go of an unwanted habit (not to cluck like a chicken on stage as some people think!).

For Emotional Freedom Technique or tapping to be most effective we must bring attention to our current experience as it is, therefore it is a mindful practice. By tapping on acupressure points on the body while focusing on how we are feeling emotionally/physically, what we are thinking and what we are believing to be true, we are signaling to our body and mind that all is ok and that we are safe. This allows us to experience acceptance of what is. In doing so we release the negative feelings and energy. 

In addition, Mindfulness encourages us to cultivate certain attitudes which can be helpful for us to apply to ourselves and others in our daily lives such as: non-judgement, patience, beginners mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance and letting go.  Also, encouraging curiosity and compassion. These attitudes are the foundation of both a mindfulness practice and a helpful relationship with ourselves. That helpful relationship to ourselves is what the different forms of therapy aim to encourage.

I am an accredited practitioner of NLP, Hypnotherapy, EFT and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. If you would like to work with me please get in touch here.

Living Sensitively

When it came to creating my own Facebook page and now Instagram account I decided to name it ‘Living Sensitively’. Why, you might ask? And how is that relevant to therapy or coaching (or therapeutic coaching)?

‘Living Sensitively’ encapsulates many things. But mainly it encourages a particular attitude. I have come across various definitions for the adverb ‘sensitively’. My favourite one, which feels most fitting here is living ‘in a way that shows awareness and understanding of other people’s feelings and needs’. This is something to aspire to – a way of living in which we are considerate of the emotions and needs of others. But importantly, I would go further and include one’s own emotions and needs. We must live with an awareness and understanding of our own emotions and needs as much as those of the people around us. By holding a personal intention to do so, and with the help of therapy, we are able to foster this. We can’t be truly attentive to the needs of others if we haven’t to some extent attended to our own. That is why when flying in an aeroplane parents are instructed to put their “own oxygen mask on first” before helping a child with theirs. Also, acknowledging the truth of our own feelings allows us to have more empathy for others.

Sensitivity isn’t always seen in a positive light. Often, as children we are encouraged to ‘toughen up’ and to ‘stop being so sensitive’. Over time we can develop beliefs about what is acceptable when it comes to expressing emotions or even allowing ourselves to feel them. We can unconsciously start to suppress our emotions (to numb out in various ways). We can lose touch with how we really feel and what we really need and want. Equally we may feel overwhelmed by our emotions and experiences and may tell ourselves they are unacceptable but be powerless to change them. Therefore, we can feel unresourceful and ill-equipped to deal with life’s challenges (big or small). 

‘Living sensitively’ is, for me, about gaining awareness of what is. Through recognising and understanding our inner experience (our ways of thinking, our beliefs, our feelings, our sensations) we can identify how it affects our behaviour and relationships with others. We can cultivate compassion for ourselves as well as for others and find solutions, so that we can make changes and undergo powerful transformation. 

Living sensitively encourages you if you like, to be your own barometer and take a reading of your internal weather patterns. By gauging how you feel, it gives you clues as to what you might need – full rain gear to weather a storm or just shorts and a t’shirt as the outlook is bright and sunny. 

About 15-20 percent of the population are what has been termed “highly sensitive”, according to Dr. Dr. Elaine Aron, author of the book ‘The Highly Sensitive Person’. I would include myself in this group. It took me a while to accept and respect my sensitivity. I had to learn some hard lessons about what could happen if I didn’t. These learnings have been invaluable though and have radically changed my life. Fortunately, sensitivity is a positive asset when it comes to therapy and coaching – the ability to be sensitive to and have an understanding and awareness for the feelings and experiences of others. 

Wherever you fall on the sensitivity scale, it can benefit your life to have the space to explore your inner experience. It’s about finding balance, in order to live a full and satisfying life. It helps if we gain an understanding of what it going on for us and find new ways to support ourselves. The therapeutic coaching model I use integrates NLP, EFT, hypnotherapy, life coaching and mindfulness. These can all help in finding this balance. See here for more information about this approach.

If you would like to, please follow my Facebook page @livingsensitively and Instagram account living_sensitively.

Becoming Unstuck

We can all feel stuck at times. 

Our thoughts lead us to feeling a certain way, which encourages us to behave in a certain way. While feelings lead us to thinking in a particular way which then leads us to behaving in a particular way. Behaving in a certain way leads us to feeling and thinking in particular ways. It’s a complicated relationship – a bit like a tangled ball of different coloured strands of string, which it seems impossible to separate out and unravel. 

So how can we create change?

Well what if it could be as easy as A,B,C?

In this case, the A stands for ‘Awareness’– in order to make a change we first need to become aware of what’s going on for us. What is it we are thinking, feeling and doing that we would like to change and in what context (at work, home…)? This enables us to establish where we are – our starting point and from here we can identify where we would like to be. It can often help to work with someone else to achieve clarity. It will be helpful to set an intention – the direction in which we want to travel, which could be as practical as “I would like a new fulfilling job in six months” time” or more emotive such as “I would like to feel more positive after this relationship breakup”.

B stands for ‘Beliefs’– the crucial next step is to probe a bit deeper and to identify the underlying limiting beliefs that are driving the current thoughts, feelings and behaviours and getting in the way of change occurring. For example, we would like a new job but find ourselves putting off applying for roles, and feeling despondent, while telling ourselves that it is pointless because we won’t get any of them anyway. Underneath all of that there could well be a limiting belief such as “I am not good enough”. There could also be some beliefs relating to our capacity to experience change that will get in the way of creating it, such as “it’s too hard to change”. Identifying these beliefs enables us to work with them which is the next step.

C stands for Choice– in order to bring about the change we would like we often need to work with both our conscious and unconscious minds on the thoughts, emotions, behaviours and the underlying beliefs, to create a greater sense of choice for ourselves. In the words of Einstein “problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them”. This is where working with a therapeutic coach using different hypnotic, NLP and EFT techniques can really help. Doing so opens us up to a range of new possibilities and resources, enabling us to choose something different. It allows us to move from a state of ‘stuckness’ to a more resourceful and creative one, from which we can make more positive choices for ourselves in the way we think, feel and behave.

To aid this change, we will need to bring a sense of curiosity, in order to understand what is going on for us. We also need persistence as change rarely happens overnight (although it can). It will also be essential to cultivate or strengthen our sense of self-compassion – changing the way we relate to ourselves can be a key ingredient to lasting change – so that we can encourage ourselves rather than berate ourselves along the way. With this approach, just as when unravelling the different strands of a tangled ball of string, we are more likely to succeed. 

It is a balancing act between acceptance of where we are and the intention to move forward towards what we want in the future, using curiosity, persistence and self-compassion to take us there. Could this be the winning formula for becoming unstuck and moving forward in your life?

If you would like to arrange a therapeutic coaching session with me please get in touch here.

How does that make you feel?

This phrase has become a bit of a cliché when it comes to therapy. But it’s a very important question for a therapist to ask their clients, which can’t be avoided. What the therapeutic hour offers is exactly what the question suggests – an opportunity to explore your feelings, as well as the events and thoughts that have given rise to them. Therefore, you do have to be ready to feel when you come to a therapy session and you have to expect to be asked that question. 

However, you won’t be asked to feel anything you aren’t ready to. Just to feel into your current experience and emotions. In the language of NLP, this is referred to as ‘pacing’ – which means appreciating your current experience – where you are right now before trying to jump to where you want to be. This is the starting point in therapy.

A misconception about therapy, in its different forms, is that it will enable us to get rid of or find a way to transcend our feelings. But emotions come and go and when we recognise this we don’t have to fear them. Exploring beliefs and thoughts and their relation to our feelings is very helpful. There are tools we can use to work with the thoughts and beliefs, as well as the emotions they create. EFT is a very effective one for working with our feelings.

EFT stands for Emotional Freedom Technique – the name may give the impression that you will become free of your emotions. But that isn’t how it works. You gain freedom through allowing your emotions to surface and working through them. It is however a tool that helps this process along. It allows us to feel, while tapping through the acupressure points on our body simultaneously calming down the stress response within our brains. 

Some people find it hard to speak about emotions. Perhaps is seems like an indulgence – a sign of self-absorption. Perhaps there is an underlying belief that we should just get on with things and stop complaining. But this strategy has limited success rates. More likely the suppression of emotions will play out in other dysfunctional behaviours and result in less resilience overall. Increasing our emotional intelligence helps us to navigate our lives more successfully. When it comes to our emotions, it’s no good being an ostrich and burying our heads in the sand, hoping that they will go away. That is how we become stuck and unable to move forward in our lives.

We all feel differently. Another person, even a psychologist or a therapist, cannot guess what we are experiencing (and mostly we wouldn’t want them to!) as each of us is an individual with our own unique experience of life. It’s important to be able to express and pinpoint in our own words or imagery what this is like for us. True connection comes from one person attempting to enter another person’s world – to gain an understanding of how they are feeling and helping to explore this – not on an intellectual level but on a feeling level. 

Therapy sessions give you an opportunity to explore your own individual experience – your thoughts and feelings and the impact they have on you. It isn’t a place to go and be fixed, it’s a place to go and to feel and through that process to transform. That is the invitation.

Why is it so important to look after our emotional wellbeing?

Emotions, we all experience them, but it can be hard to pin down exactly what they are. A standard dictionary definition of emotion is “a strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances, mood or relationships with others.” The Latin root of the word is ‘ex’ meaning ‘out’ and ‘movere’ ‘to move’. Perhaps this can help us to understand how we experience our emotions, in that they ‘move us out’ of a calm, peaceful state into a stronger and not always desirable feeling state, such as fear or sadness.

We are programmed biologically to have emotions such as fear in order to alert us to danger – the feeling comes first to allow us to react and then come the thoughts about it. We sense we are in danger and so we run, milliseconds before having the conscious thought “I need to run”. Had we waited for the thought we may already have been eaten by the sabre-toothed tiger chasing us. However, our thoughts alone can also create emotional responses. These thoughts will often come from our unconscious programming and be driven by deeply held beliefs about ourselves and the world around us (for example feeling fearful caused by the belief ‘I am not good enough’ or ‘the world isn’t safe’) learnt from previous experiences.

We are conditioned to believe that certain emotions (such as happiness and joy) are acceptable and welcome, while other emotions (such as sadness, anger, fear) are less acceptable. Because of this conditioning we often try to suppress what we see as negative emotions and in doing so we adopt behaviours as coping strategies, these include cravings – causing us to reach for the chocolate cake, addictions – causing us to reach for a large glass of wine, unwanted habits – like overworking or binge-watching box-sets, and in the way we react to situations – going into a rage at the smallest thing, as well as in the body as physical symptoms – such as tension headaches and feeling tired. These are all important messages for us.

Exploring how we are really feeling and working to uncover suppressed emotions helps us to resolve the underlying issue, which enables us to experience the changes we want in our lives, such as being healthier. Emotions are important guides worth listening to. If we do we can make the most of this inbuilt guidance system (like our own personal Sat Nav). When we try to suppress the negative emotions we also end up reducing our capacity to experience positive ones. Developing a healthy way of relating to the whole spectrum of our emotions will benefit us, allowing us to become attuned to what they are telling us.

EFT is a very powerful and effective tool for working with emotions. Different studies have shown that tapping on acupressure points calms down the amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for activating the stress response) and lowers the stress hormone cortisol. This allows us to focus on what we are feeling without becoming overwhelmed. We can feel the emotion and have the accompanying thoughts, while the tapping moves us back into a calm and peaceful state. Also by focusing on the problem and giving ourselves permission to acknowledge how we are feeling, instead of resisting doing so, allows for a sense of relief and encourages self-acceptance and self-compassion. The irony is that this acceptance is what allows us to let it go. As Carl Rogers said… “the curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

Working with our emotions when we recognise that we are out of balance helps us to heal and change, learning to process our emotions as they arise helps us to stay healthy and well in our daily lives.

In a later post, I will explore how EFT, NLP and hypnotherapy allow us to work with our thoughts and limiting beliefs driving our emotions.

You can find more information about EFT here: