The British Society for Clinical and Academic Hypnosis (to which I belong) is the main group for health professionals and scientists who use or research hypnosis. They have provided this free resource for public use during the Corona Virus crisis. The document contains links to a range of self-hypnosis audio recordings.
When I was a child, children’s books were not as “nice” as they seem to be today. Perhaps that’s why I still remember some of them. There was one particular illustration, supposedly showing how “turtle soup” is made. I didn’t know if there was really such a thing- still don’t in fact- but the picture was fascinating. The turtles all looked very happy as they queued up to jump into a big warm bath. The ones already floating in it looked very happy and relaxed. At the bottom of the bath was a tap from which cans were being filled with turtle soup. At some point the turtles had turned into soup. But until then, they were enjoying a comfortable warm bath. And by the time they realised what was happening they were too weak and floppy to jump out.
Like those turtles, people can be changed into something they had never intended to become. If they’d seen it coming they’d have run a mile. Controlling relationships can feel very comfortable at first. You’re with someone who protects you (or whom you protect in some cases). They’re not like anybody else you ever met. And your life before you met them feels so different, it’s as if you were a different person back then. And perhaps you have indeed become a different person, moulded and re-created for your partner’s benefit, without you even noticing what’s going on.
There are dozens of articles on how to know when you’re in a controlling relationship. But they’re almost all focused on the partner- the one who’s trying to control you- and they all paint him (in the articles it always seems to be a him!) as a pretty sinister and tacky kind of guy. This is fine so far as it goes. Trouble is, if they’re any good at what they’re doing, you won’t recognise them from the article’s description.
So this is all about you. How would you know if someone has been working on you, possibly for weeks or months already, to change you into their dependent plaything? How to recognise when your warm bath is actually a saucepan?
As a therapist helping people re-create themselves I’ve had the opportunity to study how some people take control of others, erasing their previous personality. In most cases the controllers seem to have a natural talent for manipulation. But some may have actually taken online courses in it, or even had expensive personal tuition from experts on the dark side of the “pick-up” scene!
Their techniques can be detected through the changes in your own thinking and behaviour when you’ve been at the receiving end. Let’s take a closer look. For how long have you been cooking?
Do you feel safe in your partner’s company despite the scary things that are always happening when you’re together? Is your partner always part of every experience you enjoy? Is life boring or scary whenever you’re not with your partner? Does your partner already know your most embarrassing and humiliating secrets? Is your life with your partner an emotional rollercoaster, with rapid switches between anxiety and relief? Did you experience tremendous relief when your partner rescued you after having left you stranded in an unfamiliar place?
You may be in the first stage of being Emotionally Trapped. You see, in reality you could get on fine without your partner. So the controller must create the illusion that life without them would be long stretches of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. They take on the role of your protector. But what do they protect you from? Would you have even been in that situation if you hadn’t been with them?
Think of the last five really great experiences you’ve enjoyed. Did every one of them involve your new partner? Do they insist on being part of every event that your friends or family have planned?
Now think of the five most embarrassing or even shameful secrets you’ve ever shared with anyone, including best friends, family and professionals like doctors. How many of them have you already shared with your new partner? And how long did that take? Knowledge is Power, and you have given that power to your partner. What have they given in return?
Think back over a typical day or evening with your partner. Do you recall a frequent and constant rapid switching between sad and happy, safe and secure, worried and relieved? In particular, did you several times experience a wonderful feeling of relief? Relief from what bad feeling? How had that bad feeling been created?
You’ve seen the technique a hundred times in movies and on TV. It’s the good cop/bad cop routine, and it’s massively effective. Faced only with the “bad cop” you might discover unsuspected powers of resistance. But the “good cop” has you drop your guard, so you’re all the more vulnerable when the bad cop reappears.
When did you last see, or even contact, your family or friends? Has your partner now become “your everything?” Are you already living in, or contemplating moving to, a place where you won’t know anyone except your partner? Do you now feel you really don’t need anybody else? Have you come to feel that none of your family and friends are good for you?
The water is getting hotter, and you may now be in the second stage of the Bubble World. The most secure prison would be where the prisoners don’t know there’s anything outside the walls. Check your phone or social media to see how often you’ve been in touch with friends and family over the past month. Now pick another month from before you met your partner. Spot the difference. Now ask yourself, am I bothered? You used to value those relationships. How did you come to feel that they meant nothing to you? If you feel like you no longer need your friends and family, you may be entering a “bubble world” in which everything outside of your relationship is meaningless.
Let’s test the bubble now. Imagine for a minute that you’re not together any more. Just do it. Did that feel sad? Or did it feel terrifying? Could you not actually force yourself to imagine such a thing, even for one minute?
Think back to a month or so before you met your partner. Remember what you believed back then, what mattered to you. Has knowing your partner been a revelation to you that the world is quite different to what you formerly believed? Do you now feel that before you met your partner you were never really happy, even if you thought you were? Do you worry how your partner will react if you make a decision independently? How often in the past week have you asked permission? Does it always seem to turn out badly when you don’t? Have you done anything in the past week that your partner doesn’t know about, or won’t find out about? Do you often doubt your own memory, when your partner tells you what actually happened?
The soup is now simmering nicely, and you’re at the third stage of Personality Meltdown. Before remoulding you into the perfect image they require, your partner must persuade you to despise your old self and the values and connections associated with it. You won’t fight to hang onto something you no longer value. When you frequently or always feel the need to ask permission, your normal decision-making ability is already being ground down. You used to make decisions every day, and thought nothing of it. Sometimes they turned out well, and sometimes not. That’s life. Now of course couples normally consider each other’s needs and feelings. But think back to the last few times that permission was not granted. Was any real reason given? And if the reason was “because I say so!” did that feel okay? If it did then you are halfway to frog soup already.
What happens when you do make a decision? If it always turns out badly, how does that happen? Is the “badly” just your partner’s reaction? Does that now feel so much more important than any other outcome, good or bad? Your partner’s reaction doesn’t have to be spectacular by normal standards. By this stage in the process, a long cold silence could be as effective as a slap in the face.
Do you ever do anything that your partner doesn’t get to know about, either before or after the event? Do they know you’re reading this? How bad would it be if they found out? Are you preparing an excuse already? Like the living cells in your body, your personality needs a boundary to keep it from dissolving. That boundary is the privacy you have in your own mind.
Here’s where it can get really creepy. Your partner shows you something you’re supposed to have done- dented the car perhaps- and you don’t remember doing it but you realise you must have done because they say so. If your partner is sympathetic rather than critical your resistance will be disarmed, making the technique all the more effective. It’s called “gaslighting,” after the film “Gaslight” in which a man persuades his wife that she is going mad.
Is your favourite feeling the relief which you experience when you’ve done exactly what your partner wanted? Does the old you before you met your partner feel like another person, a fake? Do you now look and dress and talk completely differently? Are you nowadays doing things which used to seem dangerous or disgusting to you? Are you now living somewhere far away from your family and former friends? If not, does the idea attract you? Does everyone except your partner (and perhaps his special friends) now seem completely crazy or stupid? Can you hardly believe the kind of people whom you formerly hung out with?
You may have now reached the fourth and final stage, the Artificial Personality, where the controller gradually replaces your old personality with another of their own design. This is a simple training process. At first they will reward any behaviour that is more or less what they require. But later their demands will become more exacting. You will have to work much harder for the same reward. And by this stage you won’t even resent it. You’ll do anything to stay inside that bubble, you and your partner against the crazy, scary, stupid world outside.
Splitting from a controlling relationship is only the beginning. You will need to rebuild the capabilities and connections which the controlling partner took away, and recognise the false beliefs which they implanted. But here’s the good news. However deep into the process you have gone, you can retrace your steps and find your way out of the “Bubble World.” You can rebuild your personality stronger than before. And the next time a wannabe controller sneaks into your life, you’ll see them coming!
My Ebook “BREAKOUT! How to recognise or recover from a controlling relationship” is available as a free download from www.plymouth-hypnotherapist.co.uk Just click the “download now!” button on the homepage.
Many people feel tormented by things that happened in their past. It’s like the memory is sitting in some corner of their mind, ready to jump out at them, as vivid and powerful as if it only happened yesterday. Quite trivial events and experiences in the present can trigger
memories so powerful that the present-day trigger is forgotten, washed away by the surge of negative feelings. Bad memories leave us questioning- and the questions are another torment. “Why did that happen? Why did I let that happen? Did I deserve it? Will it happen again?”
It might be the memory of a traumatic experience, causing ongoing anxiety, phobia, or post traumatic stress.
Or it might be the memories of past hurts and betrayals which cause problems in present day relationships.
Unless they’ve caused physical injuries, or
ongoing problems like a criminal record that stays with us, most of these past events exist only in our memory. Everyone else who was involved may have forgotten or even died. Yet the memory remains powerfully alive. In extreme cases a horribly embarrassing memory can even cause major sexual problems.
How should we deal with such damaging memories? Should we just forget about them and get on with our lives, or should we dig
them up and examine them in detail? Or is there a third possible solution?
“Just forget about it” is the traditional solution. Unfortunately it’s nonsense. We can’t simply forget a horrible event, the way we might forget the name of some kid we went to school with. That’s because these are two completely different types of memories, which are stored in different ways.
Memories of things that don’t affect us emotionally- like the names of every kid in our class in school- are stored like the old files in an office. They’re kept for years just in case they’re needed- but probably in some basement or lock-up space, not even in the main office building. Those memories are easy to forget- because the mind feels no need to remember them.
The “problem memories” are kept close to hand because the mind thinks they could be needed at any time. They’re in a place where time doesn’t matter- everything is right here, right now. Something that happened 20 years ago is remembered every day, while things that happened yesterday are already forgotten.
This is why “just forget it!” is useless advice.
And it’s even worse when we’re told to “forgive and forget!” Many people use the word “forgive” to mean “pretend it didn’t happen.” This is very convenient for someone who has wronged you- they can do it all again and take you by surprise, just like the first time!
In further posts I shall look at other possible answers to the problems caused by “bad memories”.
Many people, seeing the bizarre behaviour displayed in stage hypnotism shows, might ask themselves is hypnosis real? Could it just be a fraud, involving paid stooges? Other viewers might take the opposite view and assume that stage hypnotists must be exceptionally powerful to achieve such effects. In fact, stage hypnotists have first “tested” the entire audience, to select a few people on whom to work. These people are suggestible extroverts who enjoy being the focus of attention. The power of hypnotism is enhanced by the pressure of the audience’s expectations. Although many hypnotherapists condemn stage hypnotism, some of the early hypno-psychotherapists actually learned a lot from stage hypnotists. During my own extensive hypnotherapy training I myself have learned from stage hypnotists such as James Brown, as well as from hypnotherapists. However we should remember that stage hypnotism is all about creating a powerful impression. They don’t put their failures on Youtube! As I discuss in my review of a recent hypnotism show on Channel Four, stage hypnotists select the most suggestible subjects from a large audience.
The thing I do dislike about many modern stage hypnotists is that they include crude sexual “humour” at the expense of the hypnotic subject. I’m pretty broad-minded personally, but I’m very careful what I say to someone in hypnotic trance. In treating people for sexual problems I’ve often found that these are caused by deep-rooted fears and memories which they might not have disclosed to anyone. Irresponsible sexual suggestions in hypnosis are therefore potentially dangerous, because the stage hypnotist cannot possibly check on past history in the short time available.
Apr 30, 2019 | Health, Life
Dementia is largely avoidable: six of the seven
main risk factors can be improved by changes in behaviour. But a new study by
Alzheimers Research UK shows that many
people believe the only way to avoid dementia would be to not get old!
In fact there’s plenty of scientific research into
how the risk of dementia can be reduced. The seven big factors that increase
the risk are heavy drinking, smoking, a family history of dementia, high blood
pressure, depression, diabetes, and lack of exercise.
Out of these seven factors, your family history
(genetics) is the only one you can’t do anything about. We can’t go back and
choose a different set of parents!
High blood pressure can generally be controlled,
often without even needing medication. Changing lifestyle can achieve a lot.
And even if you do need medication, it will only help if you take
responsibility for your own health by at least remembering to take the pills.
Same goes for diabetes. I’ve worked a lot with
diabetic patients. Their attitude to how they live with the condition is the
biggest factor that determines how much or how little damage will occur to
Heavy drinking, smoking, and an inactive lifestyle
are all behaviours that anyone can change, especially with effective help. And
depression is often connected to certain negative attitudes that persist in the
background even when the person has recovered from the acute depression. These
attitudes and habits of negative thinking can be changed just like any other
So dementia is indeed avoidable for millions of
people if they make changes now to reduce their risk. The sooner they begin
these changes, the easier the change will be. Think of your mental and physical
health as a house you’re building. You start from the foundations and build
upwards from there. What you put into your body, and how you treat your body,
these lifestyle behaviours are the foundation of good health.
Jun 10, 2018
Since many of you may have seen this show
broadcast last week, I thought I’d put my thoughts on it in writing. For those who didn’t see the show, it involved a young couple who have lived together for four years and felt the spark had gone out of their relationship. Supposedly they were to be hypnotised by Aaron Calvert, a stage hypnotist, and caused to forget that they had ever met. They would then each go on three blind dates, including one date with each other. The main theme of the show was to see how they responded to each other when meeting as “strangers”. Would they still be attracted to each other, or would they prefer one of their other dates? (Who, unlike them, had not been hypnotised and knew what was going on).
I have mixed feelings about stage hypnotists, thought I would really hate this show, but I
must admit I liked Aaron Calvert better than expected. I still disliked the show itself- Channel Four has evidently gone way downmarket since I last watched television in 2007!
A lot of reviewers have assumed the whole thing was faked, and that the couple were pretending. My impression though, was that
they had genuinely forgotten that they knew each other. Despite the nonsense talked by the commentator that Aaron had “erased their memories,” Aaron himself said he had not erased the memory, just “put it somewhere out of reach.” It wasn’t clear how long they remained in this state of selective amnesia- I’m guessing that all the blind dates were filmed on the same day.
What I did like about the show was that they
showed some of the selection process, in which it was made clear that Aaron had tested a great many other couples before picking these two. most stage hypnotists don’t do this, giving the impression that they could work their “magic” on anyone. Many of the applicants did not respond to Aaron’s hypnotic tests at all. This is realistic. There are very, very few people who could be so suggestible as the couple featured in this show.
There were two things I really didn’t like. The
first was that people as suggestible as this couple are so unusual that messing with their minds in this way seems very irresponsible. Since this has probably never been tried before, how could the programme makers know how this would affect them in the long term?
The other thing I didn’t like was the misleading statement by the commentator that “only thirty per cent of people can be
hypnotised.” This is just nonsense. I've been doing hypnotherapy since 1994 and in my experience at least ninety-five per cent of people can be hypnotised to a depth sufficient for effective hypnotherapy. The number who could be made to forget the person they’re living with would however be very much less than thirty per cent. For Derren Brown’s show “Apocalypse” he selected one man from 14,000 applicants. I suspect that
Aaron’s couple were also selected from several hundreds or thousands of applicants.
Incidentally, a lot of people do call me asking if I can hypnotise them to “forget” something traumatic or embarrassing that’s happened to them, or even to forget a previous relationship. Even in the case of very unusual people like the couple featured in “Hello Stranger” it’s not possible to cause permanent amnesia by hypnosis (even for the short period of filming Aaron was constantly on hand to provide top-up hypnosis as required).
What CAN be done however is to help people to stop thinking constantly about a past event. In my experience of helping couples to have better relationships many problems are kept going by the person constantly re-telling the story to themselves, fantasising conversations and actions, such as revenge upon someone who has wronged them. Their real need is to let go of the past emotionally, not to actually forget that something happened.