Hypnotherapy and Life Coaching can help women with all of these issues:

Claire Jack

Sex, Love & Dating for Women with Autism Spectrum Disorder

My partner and I met in quite an unusual way. He had temporarily been living at home with his parents, who were my next-door neighbours. At the time, I was 35 and a single mum to an 8-year-old and he was 31. 

One very hot summer night, he turned up at 3 a.m. and told me that some drunk guys had been hanging about around my car. I thanked him and went to put my car round the back. Half an hour later he turned up again, knocked on the door and told me he fancied me. I invited him in for what ended up being the first in an illicit string of meetings in the middle of the night. No phone calls or meals out. No dates or meeting parents. It was the perfect start to a relationship for me (13 years on and we have a fairly standard relationship). 

At the time, though, my friends wondered what on earth I was getting out of it. Some were shocked that I’d let a (slightly drunk) man into my house in the middle of the night, on the basis that “he fancied me.” 

What they didn’t realise was that this was the ideal way for me to start a relationship, doing away with the need for small talk, dates, or the subtlety of courtship. When you have ASD, it’s incredibly hard to read other people’s signals, including the signals of people who might find you attractive. I’ve had male friends who I’ve been desperately in love with who I discovered, years later, really liked me but felt as if they received no positive response from me. After a conference once, where I hooked up with someone who made his intentions very obvious, a few weeks later the man who I really liked told me he’d spent all evening trying to get my attention by chatting to me and buying me drinks. “I didn’t know what else to do except drop my trousers,” he told me. This lack of ability to read signals of attraction, which makes it hard for a relationship to even get off the ground, is characteristic of many women with ASD (1).

As well as the extreme bluntness of my next-door neighbour (the story he made up about the drunk guys hanging around my car was a complete fabrication providing an excuse to come to my door—I don’t pick up on lies and manipulation), I loved the fact that we didn’t have to go out together. The anxiety of getting ready for a date, the excruciating agony of making small talk, and the discomfort of wearing anything other than a dressing gown after 6 p.m. were horrors I’d experienced often enough. Being able to have deep conversation, a glass of wine, and sex with someone I liked without the hassle of leaving the house was, in my mind, fantastic. 

As well as making it harder to recognise potentially attracted partners, women with ASD tend to experience other relationship problems including becoming obsessed with their romantic interest to the exclusivity of everything else. Unlike men with ASD, who often become intensely focused on objects, women’s attention is often focused on people. My crushes well into adulthood would become all-consuming for me. I never understood how my friends could be in a room and find a few men attractive as I would hone in on one and become obsessed instantaneously. The first time I was dumped by a boyfriend (who I’d only been with for a few months) it took me three years to recover, during which time I regularly sobbed over the “Dear John” letter he’d written me. 

Another common relationship problem faced by women with ASD is in the expectation of being able to fulfill socially-expected gendered roles of being nurturing, caring, and available, given the need for women with ASD to have time for interests, hobbies, work, and time alone. My own clients, and those interviewed by Sarah Hendrickx, often report settling for anyone who was willing to be with them, partly due to the negativity they had experienced in previous relationships as a result of communication issues, sensory issues, intense behaviour, and low self-esteem stemming from problems due to ASD. 

My previous relationships have felt “wrong” and have been plagued with problems from the start. One of the things which is different about my current relationship is recognising that I can’t do things in a particular way just because that’s the “normal” way of doing things. As well as our middle-of-the-night escapades, my partner and I spent the first seven years of our relationship living mainly apart (despite having a baby). If we’d forced ourselves to continue living together, we wouldn’t be together now. Our current living arrangement consists of separate bedrooms. We have as close a relationship as you can imagine, but I need complete silence and space at night, as do many of my clients. I sometimes need to eat alone to recharge and can’t always manage family parties and my partner is accepting and understanding of my needs. 

It’s easy to put yourself down when you have ASD and are in a relationship because your needs don’t conform to the norms, but it’s vital to recognise your needs as completely valid and ensure that these are met within your personal relationships. Finding a supportive partner and constantly working on healthy communication is vital for women with ASD within personal relationships.

If you would like to connect with other women with autism for support and information please visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/womenwithautismauthentically

The Horrors of Small Talk When you have Autism Spectrum Disorder

I started a new Pilates class the other day. One of the women in the class introduced herself and started ‘small talk’ and I was immediately thrown into that familiar, confused state. From my anthropological standpoint, I can absolutely see the value of ‘small talk’ but from a personal point of view I just don’t understand or enjoy it and my responses range from inappropriate jokes to complete silence. I have to pull out my mental notebook with my list of neurotypical responses – gleaned from over 40 years worth of copying what other women do in social situations – which just about enables me to pass myself off as ‘normal.’

Some situations are easier than others. I’m fine on a one-to-one basis with someone with whom I have a deep connection. I’m quite happy teaching a group of students and enjoy attending anything which is organised, from a therapy workshop to a cookery class. Anything which has a structure and clearly defined roles is good with me. What really gets me are the informal, unstructured interactions, particularly in groups. Family parties? I can handle them for about an hour and then I’m so bored, drained and anxious that my go-to since being a teenager is copious amounts of alcohol

Another issue, which affects many people on the autism spectrum, is sensory overload. As a child, I would become stressed, confused and drained very quickly if there was loud music, strong lights and simply too many people. Although I’m less sensitive to this type of sensory stimulation now, too many people, conversations and activities can all bring up those familiar feelings of feeling sick quite rapidly. 

Before my autism diagnosis, I assumed I had Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). I certainly do suffer some social anxiety – and for many people with autism the two conditions can exist hand in hand – but the reason for my social anxiety is a difficulty in knowing what to do and say, problems reading facial expressions, a lack of understanding of the ‘point’ of many interactions and a lack of structure. 

Many people with autism can become isolated due to the difficulties involved in making friends, distinguishing friends from enemies, and acting in socially expected ways. People on the spectrum – in contrast to common perception – often have a need for social connections but it can be very difficult going about initiating and maintaining those connections. 

As an adult who still struggles – and having dealt with clients in similar situations – here are some strategies which can help:
Recognise that your social issues are not due (primarily) to social anxiety. 
Although, like me, you may have developed social anxiety it is important to recognise the impact that being on the autism spectrum has had on your social interactions and to treat this appropriately. Whilst the treatments for social anxiety may focus more on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and exploring the roots as to what’s happened in your past to make you socially anxious, other treatment options may be more suitable when you have a diagnosis of autism. 

Don’t rely on alcohol or drugs. Given the difficulties people with autism may face socially, alcohol or drugs can seem like an obvious choice to diminish the effects of sensory overload, temporarily dampen down anxiety and help conversation, of one type or another, flow. Previously it has been thought that people with autism were less likely to become addicted to these types of substances, but some recent studies have challenged this (1). 

Don’t overdo it. It’s important to be honest with yourself and others and recognise that some social situations are so difficult for you that you should be allowed to say ‘no’. This is vastly different from becoming socially isolated and, in fact, when you start to identify the activities which make you feel socially good from those which completely drain you, you’ll have the energy to do more of the things which energise and support you. I now know the types of events which are going to make me feel ill for up to a day or two afterwards and limit my interaction accordingly. I used to think I was being temperamental. Now I know I’m looking after myself.

Have strategies in place. When you know that you’re going to be in a situation that is likely to be difficult for you socially, have a strategy in place to minimize its impact. For instance, can you pre-agree with your partner exactly what time you will leave? Or could you arrange to pop out for a quick walk or even get some shopping to have a break? Will arriving earlier and having time to settle in or arranging a hotel room for the night help alleviate your stress levels?  

Recharge. It’s very important when you’ve been drained socially and/ or have experienced sensory overload that you give yourself time to recharge. If you need some time alone to do hobbies, read a book or whatever helps you to reconnect, make sure you do it. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is self-indulgent behaviour – it’s essential to your mental and physical wellbeing.

Learn the meaning of social interactions. If understanding the point of social interactions and being able to respond to subtle communication dues doesn’t come naturally to you, social events may always be a bit tough. Copying what other people do and say can help to ‘pass’ but it’s more useful to make an attempt to understand what the point is of things like small talk and lengthy family get-togethers. Why don’t other people want to leave at 6.00 pm on the dot even though that was the suggested finish time? Making an effort to understand what is going on can help you to respond in a deeper way than simply repeating things in a rote manner. 

Acceptance. Most importantly, it’s important to accept who you are and what you need. When you accept that some things are more difficult for you socially because you are on the autism spectrum, you can begin to put into place all the strategies outlined above to support your needs. You can build a social life, which allows the time and space for you to take care of yourself and ensure a balance between alone and social time which is right for you. 

Dealing with the Aftermath of Autistic Meltdowns

“Meltdowns” are something which many people with autism experience and which they may have experienced since childhood. Meltdowns can be distinguished from “tantrums” on the basis of having no end-goal in sight. You don’t have a meltdown because you want to achieve something from it (and the same goes for kids and adults). You have a meltdown because you have absolutely no other way of responding to a situation. In terms of emotional regulation, you’ve completely lost your ability to maintain control. 

Meltdowns may result in you screaming, crying, throwing things, shaking and yelling hurtful comments. They can be scary and damaging to people around you and, when you’ve had a meltdown, chances are you feel pretty bad about the fallout.

So how can you deal with the fallout?

Accept that you did not want to act in this way

If you have autism, your brain is wired in a way which makes it more likely to have meltdowns. Meltdowns can be a response to sensory overload, responsibility overwhelm and even being asked too many questions by someone who is trying to be helpful. Your reaction may have seemed extreme, to you and others, but it didn’t come from a point of purposefully trying to react in an extreme way. You may not like the way you acted and might resolve to work on strategies to help yourself in future situations, but hanging onto guilt and shame about something which you had little control over in the moment can affect your self-esteem and coping strategies.

Have a safe place for the immediate aftermath

Research has shown that people with autism tend to take longer to calm down and gain control after a stressful episode1. It’s important to have a strategy in place which is going to help you during the “calming down” phase and certainly to have a strategy in place which is going to help avoid escalating things again. Do you need to have a room to go to which is free from kids and partners? Do you need to listen to music or a guided meditation? Do you need to be held by someone close to you? Identify what works for you and ensure you go to this point as soon as you can following the meltdown.

Working with those people close to you

Meltdowns have an impact on people close to you and witnessing someone who is having a meltdown can be a disturbing experience. When you are ready to, it is important to discuss your meltdown with those people close, who may have been affected by it. It could also be useful to show them some autistic resources which explain the experiences of other people with autism who experience meltdowns as it can be a very difficult concept for other people to understand. It’s also important to discuss how people can support you in the aftermath of a meltdown. What do you need from your partner/ parent/ friend/ child? They may think that talking things through after your meltdown is helpful whilst you need complete silence for a while. Or perhaps they completely avoid you, whilst it would help you if they came to check on you. Some people might need to talk through the meltdown in order to process it. Whatever works for you, discuss this in advance with those close to you so that they know how they can support you. 

Recognise when a meltdown is coming

Sometimes, we find ourselves plunged straight into a meltdown situation with little or no warning but often we can experience the pre-meltdown signs. Are you starting to feel drained and worn out? Are you in an environment which is causing sensory overload? Are you starting to feel confused, frustrated and unable to express yourself? There is often a build up to a meltdown and, with hindsight, you might be able to recognise those early signs. Take a note of what those signs were for you. What triggered the meltdown? What was the point where things were beginning to feel out of control? How would you have handled the situation differently with the benefit of hindsight? Realising the types of situations which can trigger meltdowns, securing support in the build up period and taking action, such as removing yourself from a situation, can all help to prevent the meltdown from happening. Although hindsight is of no use when it comes to the situation which has passed, it can be useful to take learnings from this situation into future situations which might arise. 

Taking ownership of meltdowns

Nobody likes losing control and many people express feelings of shame about their meltdowns. It can be tempting, following the meltdown, to put it on the backburner and hope it won’t happen again, to ignore it and move on. However, if you have a history of meltdowns, they’re not just going to disappear simply because you’re not happy with the way you acted or because you want to move on from it. It’s important for you to take ownership of the fact that this is something which happens for you and to explore what you can do to help yourself, using all of the strategies listed above. Allowing yourself to engage in “stimming” behaviours, such as rocking, rubbing feet and hand-flapping can also have a calming effect on people in the pre-meltdown phase. Thinking about the meltdown as a peak in terms of a timeline which starts from having self-care strategies, such as ensuring you’ve had enough sleep and are finding ways to manage stress, to the immediate build-up, to the calming down phase can help you regain control. This is in stark contrast to simply hoping that it won’t happen again. 

Although meltdowns and autism tend to go hand in hand for many people, it is possible, with the right strategies in place, to reduce their intensity and frequency. 

Do You Think You Might Have Autism?

As my legs buckled under me, I lunged for a seat, leaving my elderly mum to deal with the doctor’s receptionist. By the time I made it back to the sanctuary of my own home, my partner found me sobbing and rocking in my bed.

I explained about the change in plans that had taken course during the day: the unnecessary trip to yet another supermarket because mum needed a particular brand of tea; the unexpected blood tests which added half an hour on to the doctor’s appointment; the incessant chatter with half a dozen people which meant there was no way I was going to fit a gym workout in. This was day five of my mum’s relocation 100 miles south to be nearer to me and I couldn’t cope with the chaos. 

Cocooned in the peace of my therapist’s chair a couple of days later, I described the mess, the disorder, the lack of structure, and the extreme pandemonium that had accompanied my mum’s move and that had pushed my anxiety levels—which were fairly bad even on a good day—through the roof. I described how her house, which I’d decorated in carefully chosen colour coordinated hues, was trashed already—strewn with plastic bags, dog food, old red cushions. I explained that my carefully constructed routine of school-run, gym, work—which helped to keep my anxiety levels at bay—was out the window.

After listening patiently, the counsellor said, “Have you ever considered that you might be on the autistic spectrum?”

“No…” I replied. Frankly, it wasn’t a thought that had ever occurred to me.

And yet, I began to wonder whether the problems which I’d experienced my entire life could, in fact, be due to autism. Going right back to my earliest childhood, I’d been described as “highly sensitive,” “withdrawn,” and plain old-fashioned “weird.” My numerous phobias, need for order, social anxiety, complete absorption in subjects and extreme sensitivity to noise all fitted with “autism.” But as a woman with a partner and two children, who displayed high empathy not only for my family but for my therapy clients, I didn’t fit what I thought was the autism profile. I was determined to find out more, though—as so much of what the therapist had said resonated deeply with me—so I began to research women and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)1

Here’s what I discovered:

  1. Many girls and women fail to be diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum because they do not meet the diagnostic criteria. When Asperger’s syndrome was first identified, it was thought that it was a condition that only affected boys. In reality, girls present differently and—for instance—instead of displaying an extreme interest in objects, they may display an extreme interest in people. Rather than collecting toy cars, they may “collect” facts about their favourite pop star and become obsessional about a celeb in the same way that a boy may become obsessional about trains.
  2. Girls tend to have more of a drive to be sociable which means that they learn about social behaviours and social cues and mimic the behaviour of other girls and women in order to “fit in.” Like boys on the autism spectrum, they lack the natural ability to pick up and respond to these social cues but they find it easier to “pass” because they put the effort into doing so.
  3. Autistic girls are often called “shy” and the quiet behaviour which characterises many (although not all) girls’ experiences can be considered socially acceptable. 
  4. Girls may become obsessed with characters in books which deviates from diagnostic criteria which identify a lack of interest in fiction as a diagnostic tool.

Like my female clients with Autism Spectrum Disorder, it was easy to see why I hadn’t been diagnosed earlier in life. I had learned to act “normally” in company. I overcame my huge discomfort of being part of a group by organising events, creating rules and structure. I found a career which could be creatively stimulating and allow me to create my own routine.

So why bother to seek out a diagnosis later in life, when you’ve managed to get by so far? Like many women with Autism Spectrum Disorder, I continued to have meltdowns when things didn’t go according to plan. I found it hard to fit with what was culturally expected of me as a “woman.” I suffered extreme anxiety, depression, and exhaustion from just trying to “fit in” and pass as normal. A lifetime of being called “weird” and “sensitive” took its toll on my self-esteem

For a woman with ASD, understanding that there is an explanation for her behaviour can be very empowering as a way of acknowledging the past and moving forwards in a positive way. A diagnosis of autism can also help women of any age to ensure that they are living a life which is right for them—no matter what they feel they “should” be doing.

Many autistic women experience anxiety because they try and accommodate others’ needs, meeting social obligations and putting the needs of kids and partners first. Knowing that she is on the autistic spectrum can empower a woman to say “no” when that is the right thing for her to do. Having a diagnosis of ASD can help a woman recognise that making time for interests, creating a supportive routine, and avoiding an overload of social obligations is crucial to her mental health. 

For support and information please visit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/womenwithautismauthentically

Dealing With The Aftermath of Autistic Meltdowns

“Meltdowns” are something which many people with autism experience and which they may have experienced since childhood. Meltdowns can be distinguished from “tantrums” on the basis of having no end-goal in sight. You don’t have a meltdown because you want to achieve something from it (and the same goes for kids and adults). You have a meltdown because you have absolutely no other way of responding to a situation. In terms of emotional regulation, you’ve completely lost your ability to maintain control. 

Meltdowns may result in you screaming, crying, throwing things, shaking and yelling hurtful comments. They can be scary and damaging to people around you and, when you’ve had a meltdown, chances are you feel pretty bad about the fallout.

So how can you deal with the fallout?

Accept that you did not want to act in this way

If you have autism, your brain is wired in a way which makes it more likely to have meltdowns. Meltdowns can be a response to sensory overload, responsibility overwhelm and even being asked too many questions by someone who is trying to be helpful. Your reaction may have seemed extreme, to you and others, but it didn’t come from a point of purposefully trying to react in an extreme way. You may not like the way you acted and might resolve to work on strategies to help yourself in future situations, but hanging onto guilt and shame about something which you had little control over in the moment can affect your self-esteem and coping strategies.

Have a safe place for the immediate aftermath

Research has shown that people with autism tend to take longer to calm down and gain control after a stressful episode1. It’s important to have a strategy in place which is going to help you during the “calming down” phase and certainly to have a strategy in place which is going to help avoid escalating things again. Do you need to have a room to go to which is free from kids and partners? Do you need to listen to music or a guided meditation? Do you need to be held by someone close to you? Identify what works for you and ensure you go to this point as soon as you can following the meltdown.

Working with those people close to you

Meltdowns have an impact on people close to you and witnessing someone who is having a meltdown can be a disturbing experience. When you are ready to, it is important to discuss your meltdown with those people close, who may have been affected by it. It could also be useful to show them some autistic resources which explain the experiences of other people with autism who experience meltdowns as it can be a very difficult concept for other people to understand. It’s also important to discuss how people can support you in the aftermath of a meltdown. What do you need from your partner/ parent/ friend/ child? They may think that talking things through after your meltdown is helpful whilst you need complete silence for a while. Or perhaps they completely avoid you, whilst it would help you if they came to check on you. Some people might need to talk through the meltdown in order to process it. Whatever works for you, discuss this in advance with those close to you so that they know how they can support you. 

Recognise when a meltdown is coming

Sometimes, we find ourselves plunged straight into a meltdown situation with little or no warning but often we can experience the pre-meltdown signs. Are you starting to feel drained and worn out? Are you in an environment which is causing sensory overload? Are you starting to feel confused, frustrated and unable to express yourself? There is often a build up to a meltdown and, with hindsight, you might be able to recognise those early signs. Take a note of what those signs were for you. What triggered the meltdown? What was the point where things were beginning to feel out of control? How would you have handled the situation differently with the benefit of hindsight? Realising the types of situations which can trigger meltdowns, securing support in the build up period and taking action, such as removing yourself from a situation, can all help to prevent the meltdown from happening. Although hindsight is of no use when it comes to the situation which has passed, it can be useful to take learnings from this situation into future situations which might arise. 

Taking ownership of meltdowns

Nobody likes losing control and many people express feelings of shame about their meltdowns. It can be tempting, following the meltdown, to put it on the backburner and hope it won’t happen again, to ignore it and move on. However, if you have a history of meltdowns, they’re not just going to disappear simply because you’re not happy with the way you acted or because you want to move on from it. It’s important for you to take ownership of the fact that this is something which happens for you and to explore what you can do to help yourself, using all of the strategies listed above. Allowing yourself to engage in “stimming” behaviours, such as rocking, rubbing feet and hand-flapping can also have a calming effect on people in the pre-meltdown phase. Thinking about the meltdown as a peak in terms of a timeline which starts from having self-care strategies, such as ensuring you’ve had enough sleep and are finding ways to manage stress, to the immediate build-up, to the calming down phase can help you regain control. This is in stark contrast to simply hoping that it won’t happen again. 

Although meltdowns and autism tend to go hand in hand for many people, it is possible, with the right strategies in place, to reduce their intensity and frequency. 

  1. Mazefsky, CA, Herrington, J, Siegel, M, Scafa, A, Maddox, BB, Scahill, L, White, SW (2013) The role of emotion regulation in Autism Spectrum Disorder, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 52, 7, 679-688

Clinical hypnosis – what is it?

What is clinical hypnotherapy?

There is some degree of confusion between what is clinical hypnosis as opposed to other forms of hypnosis or hypnotherapy. Hypnosis is simply a state of mind – similar to daydreaming or deep absorption. Hypnotherapy uses methods to create that state of mind in a person with a view to using it therapeutically – for instance, by making positive suggestions based on what a client has defined as their desired therapeutic outcome. Clinical hypnosis, or clinical hypnotherapy, is therapeutically oriented – as opposed to hypnosis which may be used for stage shows, etc.

Clinical hypnosis can be used to help people with a range of issues including weight loss, anxiety and phobias. Clinical hypnosis can also help with a range of conditions which are more usually the preserve of medical doctors – including IBS, chronic illness and pain management. Hypnotherapy can help with these types of conditions by helping with self-esteem and positive perspectives, creating change at a cellular level and providing people with highly effective management tolls. As hypnotherapists, we don’t look at the condition – we look at the person as a whole.

There is a strong connection between our thoughts and emotions and our physical health. We know that stress can lead to and exacerbate hypertension and heart disease, and it is also strongly linked with IBS. There are many other conditions, such as fibromyalgia, which have a strong link with previous life trauma. Clinical hypnosis not only focuses on the present but may also involve looking at and resolving past trauma in order to help people move forward.

If you feel that you would benefit from clinical hypnosis, please don’t hesitate to get in touch for a chat.

Our Diploma in Clinical Hypnotherapy covers all aspects of clinical hypnosis and we have a range of CPD hypnotherapy courses which cover the application of hypnotherapy to a range of medical conditions.

 

Children’s hypnotherapy – what it’s not!

Children’s hypnotherapy…on my kids-matters.co.uk website you’ll find loads of information about the benefits of using hypnotherapy to help children with a range of issues, but I just briefly want to look at some of the MISinformation which is out there.

  1. Using mind control with your kids is bad – Children’s hypnotherapy has absolutely nothing to do with mind control. You cannot make your child do something they don’t want to do. I’ve even seen this belief put out there by one hypnotherapist who claims she can ‘maker her husband and kids do what I want’. Hypnosis is not about mind control – it’s about helping children to access their own inner resources and skills to do lead the best life they can.
  2. Hypnosis for kids is unethical – being a child is tough. And when you are put in certain situations as a child which teach you that you are not good enough, or that every day things are scary, you carry these beliefs into adulthood. When I work with a child I make sure they are absolutely on board with their treatment. This isn’t about myself and the parent deciding what is good for the child – the child has to want to work on certain aspects of their life and be happy for hypnotherapy to be a part of their development. If there is a tool which can help a child before they develop unhelpful beliefs about themselves and the world around them which they take into adulthood, I’m delighted to be a part of that process.
  3. Hypnotherapy won’t work with children – Actually, children are highly receptive to hypnotherapy. Children slip in and out of imaginary, creative states on a very regular basis. Hypnosis is simply a creative, focused, receptive state – very similar to the state children enter during imaginative play. Using hypnosis with children is actually both easier, and often more effective, than when working with adults. A kid’s hypnotherapy session is fun, quick and effective as it taps into a world which is very familiar to them.

As long as a child is happy to have a hypnotherapy session and you visit a hypnotherapist who is skilled in working with children, the only outcomes you will have from a hypnotherapy session are positive. For more information please visit www.kids-matters.co.uk

Hypnotherapy Training Course Glasgow, Scotland – Diploma 2020

Hypnotherapy Diploma dates for 2020 – Glasgow. Train to be a fully qualified hypnotherapist. Fully GHSC Accredited hypnotherapy training. Course includes Life Coaching Hypnotherapy Certificate, support during and after the course, hands on experience, discount off future courses and expertise business start up support. Please contact us for a prospectus!

My ‘E’ in my A-Z of life coaching and hypnotherapy is ’empathy’

When you go for hypnotherapy or life coaching, a good hypnotherapist or life coach will always convey empathy towards you. Experiencing empathy during hypnosis is an integral part of the therapeutic process.

Before we go any further, it’s useful to know what is meant by ‘empathy’ as opposed to ‘sympathy’. Sympathy is when we feel sorry for someone else. If you’ve experienced difficulties, it is quite likely that your friends and family will be sympathetic towards you. Experiencing sympathy from loved ones can show you that they care about you and are sorry that you’re going through a tough time. But it can also be disempowering. If you are continually sensing that people feel sorry for you, you can begin to feel that you have failed somehow or have become a victim.

A good hypnotherapist or life coach will not display sympathy towards you, they will display empathy. First off, some clients who are thinking about hypnosis or life coaching have the idea that – because they are paying someone to help them – that the therapist doesn’t care about them. This is completely untrue. The vast majority of people who choose to become therapists do so because they have experienced difficulties in their own lives and they may well have experienced the benefits of therapy before choosing to train in that field themselves. These are people who care about other people’s well being. And hypnotherapists and life coaches want to do their best job by you. We’re all human and will be deeply moved by our interactions with clients.

So, back to empathy. A good hypnotherapist or life coach will not be doing you any favours by displaying deep sympathy towards you. By doing so, they may simply reinforce some unhelpful beliefs you hold about yourself. But they will convey empathy – they will let you know that they care about you, and that they really want to know about your experience. A good therapist will never pretend they are the expert in your life. They’re not. You are! They will work very hard to show you that they’re trying to understand your story. They will make sure you realise that you are a precious human being – because you are. And they will reveal themselves to you as being human too. This isn’t about over-sharing on the therapist’s part – it’s just about being approachable, accepting and revealing to you at times when they have been affected by what you have shared with them.

Experiencing empathy in this way is a wonderful experience. You become part of a shared experience with your hypnotherapist or life coach, a person who has no agenda, or pre-conceived ideas and who isn’t so tied up in caring about you that they can’t let you grow. Sympathy can sometimes end up being a control mechanism – empathy is the opposite. A truly empathic therapist will always be there, right beside you, supporting you without telling you what to do, and relating their own feelings and experiences to the process.

As you experience this empathy, you will feel valued and heard and you will begin to grow emotionally in a way which you may never have experienced before.

Getting off the roundabout of self destructive behaviour

One of the most common experiences that my life coaching and hypnotherapy clients talk about is a feeling of being out of control and – even when they are aware that certain behaviours are self destructive – they find it very difficult to break the patterns.

Whenever we engage in any self-destructive and addictive behaviour – such as drinking – there’s a sense of a loss of control. The other day, I was on a roundabout. It was one of these roundabouts with tons of lanes – and I was in the wrong lane. I ended up having to go round the roundabout twice before I got into the right lane (side note – I get confused driving sometimes, especially if I’m stressed – getting treatment for a driving phobia is what originally encouraged me to seek hypnotherapy treatment!). Anyway, back to the roundabout with all the lanes, and while I was on it, in the wrong lane, I felt like I couldn’t get off it. It felt like I was being controlled by the roundabout.

When we engage in self-destructive behaviour, such as drinking, it can feel like we’re on a roundabout and that we’ve lost some control. Imagine that somebody says or does something hurtful to you, just as you’re pulling onto the roundabout. Despite knowing which exit you want to leave at, you’re suddenly confused – you’ve forgotten which exit you need to take for your own good. You’re on the roundabout and you’re being pulled to the wrong exit – a route which is taking you away from where you wanted to be. Being on the roundabout feels scary and out of control.

Let’s retrack to the beginning. You knew which exit you wanted to take but something happened on the roundabout which affected you, so instead of taking that exit you went round a couple of times and then went off the wrong exit.

Let’s imagine that your drinking cycle is like being on a roundabout. You wake up in the morning and resolve that you will stay sober today, no matter what comes your way. You’re resolved – no matter what anyone might say or do to you, and no matter how hard your day is – to take the roundabout exit that says ‘sober’. But, at some point between leaving your destination and taking the ‘sober’ exit, something happens so that you choose not to take the ‘sober’ exit. You stay on the roundabout. You figure you’ll either get back to the sober exit or take another exit, which will probably take you back to the sober destination…or maybe it won’t…eventually you take the exit which leads to ‘alcohol’. Let’s face it, as soon as you dithered about taking the ‘sober’ exit, even though you had some vague idea you’d end up at the sober place, there was a likelihood you would end up taking the ‘alcohol’ exit.

It’s very easy to get thrown off track while you’re on the roundabout, just as it’s very easy for your resolve to stay sober to get thrown off track because of the events of the day. It’s easy to let your emotions take over from your logical brain. So how do you stop it happening and make sure you take the exit that you need to?

1.       Resolve which exit you’re going to take – which exit will enable you to follow your desire to stay sober?

2.       Identify the point at which you might get led away from taking that exit. Is it early on in your day, or later. What specific situations will make it more likely that you don’t take the sober exit? Will it be something that a particular person says or does? Will it be a particular time of day? Identify these circumstances which are bound to crop up and which may easily mislead you BEFORE they happen.

3.       Be aware that taking that exit might be hard – but you can do it. You’ve identified it’s the exit you want to take. It might take some effort to stick to that exit, but you need to resolve to do it, no matter how hard.

4.       Be aware of what happens if you don’t take the correct exit. Take a moment or two to think about the consequences. What happens if you let yourself lose control, be misled and end up on a route you really don’t want to take?

5.       Remember – humans are creatures of habit. It’s far easier to take the old exit that you’re used to taking, but it’s also very possible to take a new exit – it just requires effort and resolve.

6.       Finally, once you’ve taken that new exit, see how good it feels to have reached your desired destination for the day. How much better does it feel to have chosen to be in ‘place sober’ than to have been dragged to ‘alcohol junction’?!

 Hypnotherapy and life coaching can help you not only to identify self-destructive patterns, but to break them. Sometimes just having the support of an independent life coach or hypnotherapist can be enough to help make sure you take the right exit for you.

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