Online Therapy During The Coronavirus Pandemic
Online Therapy: As the coronavirus outbreak restrictions grip the nation, its effect is undoubtedly having an impact on the way we live, work and spend our leisure time. It is important to follow the government guidelines to minimise the spread of infection. Wash your hands, keep surfaces clean and cover your sneezes and coughs. Self-isolation and social distancing has been advised to contain the coronavirus.
Online Therapy: Pre-existing health conditions
Changing your lifestyle to protect yourself from the coronavirus can have a negative effect on your emotional health. Your may have had emotional issues that caused you distress before the coronavirus outbreak. Now with the need to self-isolate, many of these emotional issues will be intensified, increasing feelings of fear, anxiety and loneliness.
Coupled with anxiety is the inability to manage uncertainty. Your mind will dwell on catastrophic outcomes, anticipating the worst case scenarios if you (or someone you know) has underlying medical conditions. If you have pre-existing health anxiety, you may be convinced that minor benign symptoms are a sign that you are infected. If a medical test proves negative, you might dismiss it and fear that any new symptoms will need a retest. During calmer moments of rationality, you will feel guilty that you are wasting the very limited resources available at your GP surgery during the pandemic. Panic disorder, characterised by random panic attacks, will also be more distressing with the current level of communal fear.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is another pre-existing condition that can be intensified during the coronavirus outbreak. OCD can include a number of repetitive thoughts and behaviours such as counting, checking, arranging items in a specific order and hand washing. With a fear of contamination, compulsive hand washing can be excessive. You are convinced that your hand washing is not thorough enough. You then start the hand washing routine over again until you feel comforted.
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, some OCD sufferers may have self-isolated as a “safety” behaviour, unconvinced that in normal conditions there was sufficient protection against infection from others. With the government advising self-isolation, the OCD sufferer will be “proven right” to be in fear and may become near-agoraphobic even after the coronavirus pandemic is over.
There are similarities with OCD hand washing and certain phobias, such as a mysophobia (fear of germs). With both conditions, you spend an excessive amount of time washing hands but rather than being a comforting ritual, mysophobia stems from a fear of contamination. A fear of contamination sufferer can have both conditions.
Other phobias will generate more anxiety during the coronavirus crisis including monophobia (fear of being alone), thanatophobia (fear of death), xenophobia (fear of the unknown) and nosocomephobia (fear of hospitals). Those with social phobia (fear of embarrassment) and agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) may ironically experience a reduction in anxiety with the current self-isolation and social distancing advice, compared to your gregarious and extrovert counterparts.
Looking ahead beyond the coronavirus pandemic, the situation will have an impact on those who have a predisposition towards health anxiety, OCD and certain related phobias. The crisis can act as a “traumatising” event, activating fearful, obsessive or compulsive behaviours. It will undoubtedly act as a reinforcing event that will exacerbate many of these pre-existing conditions.
Online Therapy: Lifestyle changes
With the major change in your lifestyle during the coronavirus pandemic, the need to self-isolate and social distance throws the usual demands, routines and ways to relax into chaos. For example:
- For some people, work can normally act like a distraction giving you something to focus on when there is anxiety.
- People will feel loneliness without the comfort of face to face human contact.
- Stress will be higher with the closure of many resources. Families with small children may find it difficult to entertain their children for what could be months (?), especially with their usual physical activity outlets closed e.g. parks. Bad weather will also deter peoples from wanting to go outside.
- An absence of goals and increased boredom can heighten feelings of depression.
There are a number of other lifestyle issues that can be worsened during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Increased anxiety can affect sleep
- Family home life can be more stressful particularly for teenagers with their usual social venues closed (e.g. pubs, nightclubs, wine bars etc.)
- Normal eating patterns can be affected without an established routine. Snacking can become an activity to fill time causing people to gain weight.
- Boredom and isolation can be a trigger for intensifying negative habits and addictions.
- With boredom, people can self-medicate more than usual, drinking more alcohol at home and smoking more cigarettes.
- People who are socially motivated to exercise may find it difficult to motivate themselves to exercise during the coronavirus pandemic.
Online Therapy: Finding a way through
It can take time to settle into positive lifestyle patterns and accept the emotional impact of the coronavirus pandemic. But there can be effective ways to cope:
- Wash your hands but… – If you have contamination OCD or health anxiety, it’s likely that your rituals will be excessive. Keep to the advised guidelines of 20 seconds. Consider if you are washing hands as a ritual for it to feel comforting or for the purpose minimising the spread of infection.
- Work and study from home – Working from home where it is possible will minimise exposure to the coronavirus. Check on government websites if you are entitled to any financial assistance (benefits or loans). As with home studying for many pupils and students now completing their study courses, working from home demands self motivation to assign quality time to your work/studies.
- Limit media exposure – Look at reputable media sources no more than once or twice a day. Ignore social media gossip as these often unreliable sources are likely to increase your fear about the coronavirus; they usually lack evidence to back up their claims. Appreciate that just because you think or read about something on social media, it doesn’t make it right or always mean that it will always come true.
- Plan ahead for routine medication – With many medical services feeling the strain, ensuring that that you request repeat prescriptions early will minimise the fear that you may be without important medication.
- Use phone/video calls to communicate – Where you have access to electronic forms of communication, devote some part of your day to social interaction, keeping in touch with close family and friends.
- Other ways to exercise – Find other ways to exercise safely to reduce stress and physical tension. Uninterrupted walking is a good form of exercise. If you have no medical conditions, running or circuit-based activities on YouTube can motivate you to exercise a variety of different muscle groups. Just getting some fresh air by stepping outside your door and connecting with nature (if it is in easy reach of your home) can help clear your mind.
- Devise an effective home routine – Working from home with small children can be challenging. How and where you each spend your time in each part of the house will need a discussion to accommodate everyone’s needs. Spend time with your children helping them to understand the facts about the coronavirus pandemic and how it has changed your lifestyle. Consider any hobbies that you can (re) start, especially the ones that you keep saying “if only I had more time…”
- Learn to relax – There are various forms of relaxation techniques. Self hypnosis could be your chosen activity and try simple breathing techniques to reduce anxiety and feelings of panic.
- Allocate some time to worry – Using some of the relaxation techniques above, devoting some “active worrying time” can help you appreciate the difference between the present and being in fear of the future. It’s ok to feel anxious during a pandemic, but the feelings need to be placed into perspective with hopeful feelings too. By acknowledging worries as wasteful thoughts you can work on disposing them during your “mindful” exercises. This will also help you to…
- Focus on what you can control – Focusing on what you can influence in your life will help you feel like you have more control over it. This approach is very different to focusing on concerns which tends to be worry-based and has very little impact on outcomes.
- Take care of your lifestyle issues – Set home based goals that are realistic under the present conditions, take moderate exercise, eat healthily, learn how to sleep well, quit destructive habits like smoking and reduce your alcohol intake. By taking care of your health and wellbeing, it may prepare you to fight the coronavirus should you become infected.
- Help your community – Where it’s safe to do so, helping others will lift your mood. Even small acts of altruism, like taking an elderly neighbour’s rubbish can make you feel virtuous.
- Grieving during the crisis – Whether you (and your family) are grieving the death of someone caused by the coronavirus or due to other circumstances, it may be a useful time to seek professional online help with social distancing measures in place and the ability to hold large funerals is restricted.
- Pace your days, weeks and months – Long term goals need to be placed to one side until the coronavirus pandemic is over. By focusing your energy on short to mid-term goals, it help to you feel that you are achieving something tangible. Your normal life experience will be different for some time to come.
Seeking Online Therapy: Coronavirus anxiety and related disorders
During the coronavirus pandemic you may feel an overwhelming sense of worry due to health anxiety and related disorders. With the current uncertainty about when it will end, some people can lapse into feelings of depression and anxiety. Persistent anxiety can trigger the release of stress hormones that keep you in “high alert” also known as the “fight of flight” survival state. Being stuck in this mode for long periods can lower your immune response and cause persistent panic attacks. This continuous state can have a negative impact on your personal wellbeing, ability to work or study, maintain close relationships and your ability to take care of others.
If you tend to struggle with anxiety, online therapy could be a great solution to help you cope during the coronavirus crisis. With online hypnotherapy you will access the same level of professional care that would receive with face to face therapy. Online therapy ensures that you can access help in the safety and comfort of your own home without any of the health risks to you or your hypnotherapist.
How suggestible are you to hypnosis? Try this hypnosis test to assess your level of suggestibility.
The benefits of online hypnotherapy
The benefits of online hypnotherapy include:
- Deep relaxation to alter the affects of continuous anxiety.
- Suggestions designed to accelerate the achievement of your specific goals.
- Regression therapy to treat the “cause” of your condition.
- Immune system-directed suggestions which could improve its efficiency.
- Treating lifestyle issues that are also being affected by stress, anxiety and depression.
Click this link for more information about online hypnotherapy.
For more information about online therapy during the coronavirus pandemic, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff
Understanding Addiction Relapse Triggers
Addiction relapse triggers: Quitting an addiction should always be understood as a process rather than an accomplished goal. If you are an addict who has overcome your addiction, the job is not finished. The effects of a long-held addiction are likely to be deeply attached to many aspects of your life, including your emotional, mental, environmental, and social levels.
One of the causes that can restart your addictive habit is termed as “addiction relapse triggers”. This can be understood as a phenomenon that occurs when an alcoholic, for example, goes back to the habit of drinking again after a period of abstinence. What makes a relapse occur is the influence of a trigger or group of triggers that drive you right back into your addiction.
These addiction relapse triggers can exist in many forms, but they are also varied enough to range from very obvious triggers to subtle triggers that escape your attention. Visiting the location that is associated strongly with habits of gambling or drinking will obviously draw you in emotionally, creating addictive cravings that lead you to try it “just one more time”. Whereas seeing an advert that promotes what you drink in excess might take you by surprise, playing on your mind until you submit to frustration.
The ability to quit an addiction is achievable for most people. It is usually your surrounding emotional issues, conflicting habits and lack of self-management skills that create triggers that are difficult to resist or subdue. This is why many addicts return to their addictions; you are unaware that your life is littered with triggers and problematic situations for which you have not developed a recovery plan.
With the help of a qualified professional, you can work together to treat the many issues that surround your addiction and identify your personal addiction relapse triggers. Through this process, you can then establish which ones you are ready to confront and which ones you should avoid until you have dealt with the background issues that might destabilise you when you are outside of the rehabilitation centre.
Some of the more common addictions include alcoholism, cocaine, heroin, cannabis, gambling, video Games, sex, pornography, food, Painkillers, benzodiazepines, and tobacco. There is a growing list of obsessions and compulsions related to modern lifestyles. They are commonly, and in many cases, mistakenly referred to as addictions. This list includes eating disorders, work, television (especially celebrity gossip and reality TV), internet, exercise, mobile phone usage, teeth whitening, retail therapy (or shopping addiction/oniomania), tanning (tanorexia), plastic surgery, coffee, chocolate, Facebook, junk food, beauty products, hoarding and checking finances.
Addiction Relapse Triggers
Listed below are some of the most common addiction triggers that are likely to cause a relapse.
Contrary to popular belief, the bad and tragic times associated with your addictions are not the strongest triggers to cause your relapse; it’s the good times that deceive you best and weaken your resistance. Think back to the experiences where you achieved something special and your addictive substance symbolised your celebration. Was this when your self esteem was soaring and you had the best fun with your drinking partners? Or did the achievement inspire the gambling activities which drove your adrenaline and excitement to the highest levels as you played your riskiest bets and won the games, giving you another euphoric “high”?
When you have quit your addiction for months and restricted your sources of pleasure, these “good times” cravings can return to seduce you for one more mood lift like they did in the old days. It’s seducing because it’s during this period that it seems so unlikely that you will to go back to your addiction now.
Then consider how your brain physiology is so susceptible to the imprint of these joyful memories because it formed deep attachments to higher levels of dopamine during the long periods of your addiction. You cannot deprive yourself of good times, but caution needs to given to how you manage your mood variations, finding new ways to celebrate and new ways cope with your emotion lows.
Places can make incredibly strong connections to your memories, whether they are negative or positive. Even people and objects inside these places act as relevant triggers to the emotions that you have experienced there. Just seeing a single picture can create a wave of negative emotions about a tragic loss or past abuse, whilst the location of your friend’s house can be linked to excitement and fun of wild parties. Even though these location-based triggers are below the level of your consciousness, your addictive behaviour can come to the surface and control your decision-making when you step through the door. It doesn’t take long for the addiction tide to pull you in, only to wake in the morning regretting that you have once again binged on several bottles of beer during the previous night, despite your strong motivation to commit to the recovery plan. And when you revisit the location that you associate with past drug use for example, the environmental trigger rapidly unsettles you. This is because the wiring between your reward centre and memory part of your brain has been welded, raising your expectation to use the drug.
For some time to come, your way out is an uncompromising avoidance to all of these places. If you are surrounded by these triggering places and people (e.g. you take drugs in your family home), continuing support with your therapist will help you maintain control until you are ready to confront your location-based addiction relapse triggers again.
Stress is a constant feature of modern living and the way that you manage it is important for you to feel emotionally balanced. When stress is managed poorly, it can lower your mood and influence anxious and depressive thinking. Additional adrenaline in your system caused by stress inhibits the production of dopamine, something that an addict’s brain has been hard-wired to expect and satisfy on demand from your addictive behaviour. Effective stress management is the key to long-term success in your addiction recovery. As your therapist establishes your emotional profile, stress management techniques will be individualised to help you develop new habits to reduce your stress.
Stress is often considered to be having excessive demands, but a lack of demands can also be stressful if you find it hard to cope with boredom. When you are bored for long periods your time becomes meaningless and you will fill it with whatever is easily available in that moment. Boredom is a major trigger for habits and addictions, and needs to be managed with setting and working towards achievable and realistic goals.
H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired)
HALT is an acronym for some of the states that are considered high risk situations and can make you an easy victim to relapse. According to Ego Depletion theory, when hunger, anger, loneliness or tiredness reaches an excess, your willpower to confront your addictive urges is weakened and you will seek immediate comfort. If your comforting strategy is not rehearsed, you are more likely to find comfort in your addiction.
Understanding your own ego and when you are vulnerable to its depletion can help you to take charge of these (and other) excess negative states from overwhelming you. Giving attention to the common healthy lifestyle areas (e.g. eating healthily, managing stress, maintaining social interaction, exercising regularly and sleeping well, practising meditation etc.) are key to preventing relapse from a depleted ego.
Negative emotions from the bad times are at the heart of addictive behaviour and impaired dopamine production. You may have to go back further than the first day that your addictive behaviour kicked off to appreciate this connection. Anxiety, neglect, abuse, betrayal, worthlessness and insecurity are just some of your childhood influences that have created a pathway of dependency. When you found your addictive escape, it temporarily numbed the pain. It was easier than challenging authority figures or trawling back through your emotional history to resolve it. Your “high” remains the reactive mechanism to similar emotions that you feel in your life now. When confronted by negative emotions to resolve, you are tempted to reach for the quick fix because the pain still runs deep.
Gradual exposure to these emotions and their solutions are huge strides to make for someone whose “solution history” is marked by addictive retreat. Embracing the other road is effortful but with therapeutic support, it’s a journey that changes your behaviour and the past emotions that connect them.
Over-confidence is one of the most dangerous addiction relapse triggers that betray you into believing that your addiction no longer exists. Just when you think that you are over it and months (or years) have gone by, you become complacent. Over-confidence deceives you that it’s fine to quit your relapse prevention plan and test the “I’m over it” hypothesis. “Just one more time…” can seem like a reward for all of your efforts and repairs that you have made. And then you realise how foolish you have been and you are back inside your addiction chains again!
Don’t confuse over-confidence with self confidence. With self confidence, you accept that your addiction is a chronic disease and your recovery is a life-long process; you choose never to want “just one” ever again. With self confidence, you embrace your commitment to this choice.
The attention from a new relationship can be hard to resist, but new relationships can come loaded with emotional rebounds that are likely to jeopardise your recovery plan. Rehabilitation programs are very aware of these risks and advise staying clear of new relationships for at least a year during recovery.
So why would rehabilitation programs advise this? Any recovery plan demands commitment and your commitment to it can waiver when the honeymoon period of a relationship is in full swing and the excitement of it can be so seducing. Moreover, this relationship phase is so euphoric that it can deceive you into believing that your new partner’s special attention is a sign of your addiction treatment cure. It’s as if your addiction high has been replaced with a relationship high, without the necessary time to naturally balance these changes.
After a few months, when this honeymoon phase settles down, all of those normal things like arguing and temporary break-ups generate mood changes that need open communication to fix them. If your partner isn’t ready to communicate a solution, then anger, resentment, jealousy, loneliness and abandonment fears can drive your stability downwards. During those emotional lows, you will seek immediate relief from your addiction.
There are many individual and social addiction relapse triggers that can compromise your “clean” intentions. A social situation where your addictive substance is the main event is undoubtedly a risk to your recovery and needs to be avoided in the early stages due to the pressure of social compliance.
When you look back on your addictive pathway, peer pressure may have been the factor to start your addiction and it continues to be your vulnerability when you fear offending a close friend’s offer of another “hit”. Even without an offer from a friend, just being surrounded by your peers who are under the influence (when you are not participating) can cause you to feel lonely and alienated from the surrounding social mood and force your relapse.
And social unease can still be your weakness even when you are with acquaintances, colleagues or strangers who are not addicts. You may struggle to blend in with them and then feel the pressure to look as if you are having a good time. A quick hit can momentarily take the edge off your social anxiety.
If you are convinced that your addiction is the source of your “better self” or your social confidence, you may believe that you need it to be “the life and soul of the party” and without your substance, you are inadequate, dull and a “nobody”.
How you believe that your addiction defines your self esteem and social esteem is an essential part of your recovery treatment. When you have worked through these issues, a return to your social life is no longer a threat to your recovery.
Reminiscing Times of Addiction
The reason that your addiction gained power over you is because at some level you gave it a reward. It convinced you that it numbed the pain of abuse or control, gave you an escape from depression or anxiety, or relieved the stress from work. You persisted with it until the need for it became automated. Then the balance changed. It took over and became the problem that controls you. It destroyed the relationships and situations that are important to you.
In your mind it needs to stay loathed with all memory traces of the addiction’s glory completely eliminated. Only then can you be free from it. But there’s an internal danger to its security; it’s called reminiscing. Reminiscing is also known as replaying the “good old times” where you glamorise your addictive past, boasting about how much more you could “use” compared to your peers and of the power it gave you.
When your mood is low and you are searching for a way out of a problem, the frustration can put you into a daze. You are doing what is natural though, delving into the depths of your subconscious mind to access a solution. You are entering a reflective state of “self-talk” that some would call self hypnosis. When your resolve is strong, your internal voice will reject your romantic past with your substance. When you are down, reminiscing the times of addiction can seem like an attractive activity. Without developing assertive thinking however, it will be a trigger to a relapse.
Learning to stay firm with your intentions is an essential part of your treatment. When you can access an assertive and positive thinking attitude, it takes charge of how you handle those situations. It also guides your mental rehearsals and reflections when you are away from the situations. Learning to take control of your mind will help you eliminate fondly thinking about your past addiction as a glorious period in your life. You will reframe your addiction’s past as a betrayal that it deserves.
Many of the social pressures that can cause your addiction to relapse are listed above in “social settings”. On the opposite end of the continuum is social isolation. Having your own space is important but the mix needs to be applied effectively to avoid loneliness, as this can be another one of the many addiction relapse triggers. Shy introverts are justified to argue a case for avoiding some social interaction, with the degree of social anxiety that you experience, but consider if your addiction has really become your substitute best friend.
Developing self confidence and self worth is an important part of your recovery and this pursuit needs to be placed in the context of welcoming enough external help to support your recovery. During times of social isolation, you can reinforce your negative state of mind. Strong feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety, blame, depression and embarrassment then drive you back into your cycle with no positive disruption from others to pull you out of it. Developing a close network of trustful friends can offer you this help, regardless of how much you might view the support of others as a reminder of controlling behaviour from previous authority figures.
Another source of loneliness assistance outside of this friendship circle is the help from your addiction support group. It allows you the opportunity to share experiences and manage situations with those who have similar backgrounds, but in a non-judgemental framework. You can also gain valuable insights into the destruction that other addicts have suffered in their journey, helping you to place your own experiences into a social context. As another benefit of support meetings, it’s natural to form acquaintances and friendships from these support meetings too.
You may personally prefer to avoid group meetings or think that you have exhausted all of the benefits from attending previous addiction support meetings. Individual therapy can still help you to challenge your own negative self limiting beliefs and moderate some feelings of social isolation.
Returning to the situations where you have previously accessed your substance should be avoided during the early stages of your treatment. In these early stages, the trigger is often too strong and complex, and is likely to cause your relapse.
As your therapy progresses, your therapist will help you deal with the surrounding issues and set up a controlled exposure plan to confront those situations again. So if social situations are your vulnerability, treating your self confidence and social confidence is fundamental to the re-exposure of social situations. Your treatment will prepare you to engage with social situations in controlled stages, dealing with craving control and specific relapse issues that are contained in the situation.
Avoidance of these situations can last for a period of months because even though you may believe that you are ready, there’s usually more therapeutic and developmental work to be done before you can confidently confront those situations without feeling vulnerable.
Addiction Relapse Triggers: Summary
In summary, the achievement of quitting an addiction is already a great milestone, but it doesn’t end there. Being aware of and treating the issues that surround your addiction are important stages of your continued recovery. It takes time to dissociate these triggers with the reward of using your substance and reconnect it with the new reward of abstinence.
As you embrace your therapy plan, understand that these triggers are not only diverse and complicated, but also very unique to your specific physical, mental, emotional disposition and life experiences. Your commitment to your therapy will help you identify key techniques and management tools to prevent a relapse.
There are many therapeutic approaches. Hypnotherapy can help you disconnect the triggers to your addiction and anchor new and positive responses to these triggers. Hypnotherapy can also treat the surrounding psychological issues which influence a relapse.
For more information on how to treat your Addiction Relapse Triggers with hypnotherapy, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff
Affirmations – Unveiling the power of words
What are affirmations? Words have extreme power. When you communicate, your words can not only influence others, but can also transform your internal state on a deep and profound level.
Affirmations are powerful, positive statements that aim to direct your conscious and subconscious mind, challenging previously held unhealthy and negative thinking patterns. When they are spoken with conviction, they can alter your thoughts, emotions, beliefs and behaviour. When used intentionally to create change, they can help project you into your achievements.
What are the benefits of using affirmations?
Affirmations have helped thousands of people make important changes in their lives. They work because they have the ability to program your mind into accessing and believing the repeated statements and concepts. There’s more on why and how they work (or don’t work) later.
There are several benefits of using positive affirmations, which include their ability to:
- Motivate you to act. And when you action your goals, it further boosts your desire to continue your actions.
- Concentrate on your goals. Goal achievement is helped by persistently keeping your mind focused in the “goal zone”.
- Change your negative thought patterns into positive ones.
- Influence your subconscious mind to access new beliefs.
- Help you feel positive about yourself and boost your self confidence.
How do you create affirmations?
The most common practise of creating affirmations consists of using these five stages.
Stage one: List your negative features
Make a list of what you consider to be the negative features or qualities about
- You as a person, or
- How you cope with life, or
- The situation you are in (home life, work life, relationships).
Your list could be made from your own conclusions or from external criticism (past or present). You may have held onto some of these past comments especially if they were made from authority figures when you were young. At this stage of the process, you don’t have to judge the accuracy of what people have said to you; just formulate a list.
As you make the list, note any general traits such as “I tend to dwell on or be sensitive to what people have said about me” (relating to possible low self esteem and social anxiety issues).
Then, as you identify any common themes, focus your attention on any part of the body that feels tense. For example, it could be a feeling of tension in your diaphragm or in your shoulders. This connection between your negative feature and location in your body is discussed below in stage four.
Stage two: Rephrase your negative features as a positive affirmation
This stage involves identifying and expressing the (positive) opposite, or antonym of your negative feature. You can use a thesaurus to assist you in this stage of the process. Using the example above, a tendency to hold on to criticism could be rephrased as the following affirmation: “I am feeling empowered and more confident as I release external criticism”.
When identifying the new positive words, note the words that resonate with you as suitable and believable replacements to the negative feature. Some words will be moderately positive and some extremely positive. Ranking them can help decide if you are ready for a small or profound change of beliefs.
There is more information on how to write effective affirmations (also known as suggestions in self hypnosis) in the following article, in the section entitled “Creating suggestions”.
Stage three: Repeat your affirmation regularly
Speak your affirmation (silently or verbally) for five minutes, at least three times a day. You can say your affirmation whilst doing something repetitive like putting on make-up or shaving. This has the visual benefit of seeing your facial expression and adding emphasis in front of a mirror.
You could also repeat your affirmation whilst in a relaxed state as a “suggestion” when you practise self hypnosis. Even writing or typing your affirmation can help engage your mind and body (as kinaesthetic learning) into your affirmation.
Make the process of repeating affirmations a regular habit to integrate the desirable state that you seek.
Stage four: Anchor the affirmation into your body
Place your hand onto the area that caused your discomfort when you made your negative features list. As you say your positive affirmation, breathe with your hand on the area of discomfort, as if your combined exhalation and hand placement is soothing or releasing the physical tension in that part of your body.
Stage five: Receive your affirmation from an external source
If you feel uncomfortable about asking someone else to repeat the affirmation to you, make a recording of your own voice saying the affirmation. Then play the audio recording back to yourself. There is nothing wrong in being your own coach at times!
Examples of affirmations
Affirmations are positive statements that many people use to boost their confidence or feel in control of a situation. They may be used for achievements, general happiness, health, motivation in work, or even improving relationships. Here are some example suggestions to help get you started:
- In order to feel more confident about achieving success in your life, you can phrase your affirmation as follows: “Achieving success is a simple process, and I am committed and empowered to be successful in my life.”
- Affirmations like, “I am passionate about my job and committed to fulfilling my ambitions” can be used for inspiration towards your job.
- To motivate yourself to adopt a new habit or stay away from a negative one, you can use affirmations like: “I am focused on achieving my ideal weight of X kg by following a healthier lifestyle.” Or “Each day I am finding it easier to quit smoking as I find new healthier habits to replace my old unhealthy ones.”
- Affirmations to improve relationships with partners can be phrased as follows: “I love who I am, and I am openly attracting positive relationships into my life.” Or to improve your relationship with your children, you could use: “I am guiding my children to be the best version of themselves.”
Affirmations: common question and answers
Are affirmations best said every day?
You do not have to follow a hard and fast rule about frequency and timing of self-affirmations. However, psychotherapist Dr. Ronald Alexander of Open Mind Training Institute believes that repeating affirmations 3 to 5 times daily can significantly help reinforce positive beliefs.
Can they help someone with anxiety or depression?
Whilst affirmations are not designed as cures for anxiety and depression, they do help to engrave feelings of calm and hope as part of a total self care programme.
Can sleep be improved with affirmations?
Are affirmations just another name for positive Mantras?
Affirmations are “belief phrases” that instil feelings of positivity and happiness, while helping to change thoughts and attitudes. Mantras are spiritual or religious sounds or phrases that apparently have no verbal meaning. Mantras act as vehicles to help you access heightened states of awareness.
Why don’t affirmations work for some people?
Some people often state that affirmations do not work for them. There are two fundamental reasons for this. Firstly, positive affirmations are coming into deep conflict with your own internal negative feelings.
A study by the University of Waterloo addressed this issue by stating that whilst positive affirmations may benefit people with high self-esteem, they may actually be harmful and backfire in “negative” individuals who probably need them the most. This group included those with severe low self esteem, anxiety, self doubt or depression.
In the study, when the negative individuals used affirmations, they felt that the positive statements were in deep conflict with their prior negative belief system. In the short term, the affirmations actually made them feel worse about themselves. Ironically, these negative individuals felt better when they were allowed to “speak” badly about themselves, because the statements were compatible with their already-negative belief system.
In order to gain the benefits of affirmations without harming your mental health, it is suggested that you start by going neutral instead of starting with “very positive” affirmations. By introducing reality-based neutral statements, your brain will not trigger bad feelings or reject the status quo. Adopting neutral statements like “I am learning to accept myself as I am” or “Today I am feeling OK about myself” will give you a fighting chance to generate real change and appreciate the benefits of affirmations in progressive stages.
The second reason that affirmations don’t work for you is because your affirmation practise and structure is wrong.
Making use of positive affirmations at times when you are not feeling good about yourself or about something will again make your brain come into conflict with what it feels and what you’re saying in your affirmation. The solution is to repeat affirmations in your Alpha State (a state of mind that is more open to accepting suggestions). By accessing your Alpha State, it will help you to embrace a belief with greater power and efficiency. The best ways to attain an Alpha State are by using breathing techniques, meditation and self hypnosis prior to repeating your affirmations. You can also use recorded or self-recorded audios containing your affirmations to enhance their internalisation.
Finally, it is important to make sure that you format your affirmations correctly. For example, aim to focus on what you want to achieve rather than what you are trying to move away from (or don’t want). There is more helpful information on writing effective affirmations (also known as suggestions in self hypnosis) in the section of this article entitled “Creating suggestions”.
Affirmations are powerful self-help tools to influence changes in your moods, feelings, thoughts and habits. They require practise to be effective. If you are struggling to make affirmations work for you however, consider consulting with a professional hypnotherapist who can help you to create and structure your affirmations. They can also use hypnosis to help internalise your affirmations as believable suggestions. You can then continue your self-help programme independently, developing your affirmations/suggestions to transform different aspects of your life.
For further information on how to benefit by using affirmations, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff.
How To Practise Self Hypnosis
Practise self hypnosis: Are you ready to help yourself?
Modern living generally prescribes that if you have a health issue then you should visit a doctor. Similarly, if you are going through a period of stress or anxiety, then you need to see a therapist. These professionals will suggest the best medication and therapeutic solution to your problems.
There is a general misconception however that in order to get well and tackle your problems properly, you have to receive help from someone else, someone who is professionally qualified to deal with your issues. Seeking assistance from a professional gives you the feeling that you getting something that is more beneficial than if you took some remedial steps yourself.
In certain circumstances seeking professional help is a sensible solution, but for most of the population, it is simply unnecessary to spend huge amounts on therapy sessions or on prescribed medication. In many cases you can heal your own symptoms without receiving help from anyone else. All you need is determination, and a bit of self discipline (yes, you already have that!) The rest will follow naturally as you experience the benefits from your input.
This article will offer you some of the ways that you can become your own therapist. All you have to do is to learn to practise self-hypnosis.
What is self hypnosis?
Self hypnosis can be defined as a self-initiated process to deliberately induce a state of concentrated, heightened suggestibility. The process can initially involve changes in your breathing and postural tension to enable a deeper feeling of relaxation. You can then employ suggestions (affirmations), your imagination and visualisation techniques to access a future desirable state (your goal). You may also practise self hypnosis to alter the meaning of past experiences.
Practise self hypnosis: Common misconceptions
Some of the common misconceptions about your ability to practise self hypnosis usually relate to the general misconceptions about externally guided hypnosis (i.e. when the hypnotic induction is being externally guided by another person such as a hypnotist or hypnotherapist).
These misconceptions of hypnosis tend to be portrayed in the media and convince the audience that:
- You will not wake up from a hypnotic trance: Everyone “wakes up” from a hypnotic trance. Self hypnosis is a natural, relaxed state; if you do fall asleep, you will wake up when you are ready.
- You will lose control of your mind and reality: The “power” of hypnosis is in the subject not the person doing the hypnosis. In the case of self hypnosis you are guiding your own thoughts. You are controlling the whole experience.
- You will weaken your mind and become more suggestible to adverts after hypnosis: There is no evidence that hypnosis makes you more susceptible to general advertising. With self hypnosis, you decide which suggestions that you want to follow.
In the practise of self hypnosis, you are inducing your own hypnotic state and can decide when to exit your hypnosis. During your hypnosis you will be aware of and in control of your actions. You are choosing your suggestions and thus choose the direction of your goal.
Practise self hypnosis: What can it treat?
Self hypnosis can be used to change your thinking patterns, emotions and behaviour in a variety of issues. You can practise self hypnosis to deal with everyday problems such as the inability to relax, releasing stress, poor concentration, prioritising, general problem-solving, confidence rehearsal to master skills, and reducing emotions like anger.
You can also practise self hypnosis to achieve medium to long-term goals. These can include dealing with low self esteem, anxiety, depression, breaking bad habits, addictions such as managing craving when stopping smoking, chronic pain, performance anxiety, sports performance, sleep problems and changing negative eating patterns.
Approaching self hypnosis
A common ambition when you first practise self hypnosis is to try and fix deeper long term problems in one session. The bigger problems take dedication and persistence to resolve and a thorough understanding of your core values. Self hypnosis is not a wand waving exercise! Instead, aim to be realistic about your goal. Practise in small steps, achieving small goals rather than miracle cures. First focus your practises on altering day to day issues where you can observe a measurable change. This could be rehearsing some points that you want to present at a meeting, visualising confidence in an upcoming awkward social interaction or problem-solving a hectic schedule to ensure it runs smoothly the following day.
By setting small goals in the early stages, you can learn to appreciate your heightened state of awareness that accompanies self hypnosis. This will involve just developing breathing techniques and lowering levels of physical tension. When you can achieve this state, you can then use it for rehearsing something that might be causing you a low level of anxiety or stress e.g. planning what to take on an important trip. It’s incredible what the subconscious mind will present to you in self hypnosis when you have taken a step back from a taxing situation ahead. You can then add these ideas gained from your self hypnosis into your active note list.
The next stage involves using hypnotic suggestions to direct your mind towards your goal. Suggestions can be similar to affirmations, but when used is a hypnotic state, the affirmation can bypass the conscious mind without interference. The affirmation then becomes a suggestion that can be more readily accepted by the unconscious mind.
Previously, if you have tried consciously repeating affirmations and found little benefit from the process, the hypnotic state can be what gives the affirmation the “power” to transform it into a “believable” belief.
You can use hypnotic suggestions for a whole variety of short-term and long-term goals. You may want to conquer public speaking, build confidence in certain situations like driving or sports performance, build your self esteem, or break a habit like smoking, nail biting or overeating.
When creating suggestions, there are certain “mind” rules that your unconscious mind will accept. These are commonly taught in hypnosis and hypnotherapy courses. These “mind” rules will help focus you towards your goal (rather than away from it). When you create suggestions incorrectly, your unconscious mind will simply reject them.
Here are some suggestions for your suggestions (!)
- The subconscious mind processes positive thoughts; negative statements will direct your mind further towards the negative state. Try not thinking of an orange! Exactly! Don’t tell your mind what you don’t want; instead tell it what you do want. Saying that “I am not stressed. I was never anxious. I will never feel tense again” will be interpreted as “…stressed…tense…anxious”. Instead, make the suggestion positive e.g. “I am relaxing and feel peaceful. My body is calm and still. I feel empowered and strong”.
- Start the suggestion with “I am…” to give it power and affirm what follows on from it. Statements stating with “I want…” will affirm the “wanting” without always having what follows it.
- Phrase your suggestion in the present tense rather than in the future tense. Instead of saying, “I will be more confident”, say, “I am feeling more confident each day”. In response to a future tense structured suggestion, the subconscious mind will reply with “When will it happen? Tomorrow? Next month?”
- Include at least one action word or verb (ending with “ing” e.g. “I am striving…”) in your suggestion to affirm that you are the one taking action towards this positive change. After you take action, it will inspire you to continue your journey and adapt your suggestions.
- Include at least one feeling word or dynamic emotion e.g. calm, secure, liberated, inspired etc. E.g. “I am achieving calmness as I practise self hypnosis”. Select the most relevant emotion that resonates with you. Emotions add energy into your affirmation and can act as a catalyst to change beliefs.
- Create realistic suggestions that complement your existing beliefs. If for example you currently believe that you are at the negative end of the continuum of beauty, then your unconscious mind is likely to reject suggestions that attempt to place you immediately on the positive end of the beauty continuum e.g. “I am the best looking person in the world!” When you start to practise self hypnosis, pitch the suggestions a few steps ahead of you so that you can warm to them. Suggestions can be modified as your belief grows.
- Focus on one goal at a time. Decide your priority and persist with it. Adjust the content of your suggestion as you make progress with your goal. If your goal seems to be hitting a block, use a problem-solving self hypnosis session to understand what may be causing it. Do this by visualising taking a step out of your problem/goal situation and calmly observing the issue objectively from a short distance. Look into the problem noticing a variety of possible solutions. It’s amazing what can be solved in your self hypnotic state.
Ready to practise self hypnosis
Now let’s consider the specific technique of how to practice self hypnosis. You are ready when you have identified a realistic hypnotic suggestion. Here is the self hypnosis procedure:
- Find a relaxing and comfortable location
Find a place without noise or any other disturbance, especially during your initial sessions. Once you get into your practice routine, you can perform it anywhere. Allow extra time e.g. 15-30 minutes so that your mind is not thinking about what you have to do next. Be seated in a relaxed posture, preferably with a head support like when sitting in a recliner chair. Lying down may influence you to fall asleep. This is not the main purpose of your self hypnosis, even though you might benefit from a power nap!
- Change your style of breathing
The breathing technique involves movement of the abdomen when you inhale. This encourages the release of tension in your diaphragm. Follow this link for more information on how to breathe to relax.
- Eye focus or eye closure
The choice is yours whether you keep your eyes open or closed. With eyes open, you can focus on a specific spot, either on the wall in front of you or on a distant object. Staring at an object can cause your eyes to become naturally heavy so that they will close with little effort, but closing your eyes is not essential.
I personally prefer to have the eyes closed to be more observant of how your imagination can interact with your own thoughts. Without any visual distraction, it can also help you appreciate the subtle changes in physical tension throughout your body too (stage 4). Close your eyes at any time that it feels natural to you.
- Relax your body
The release of muscle tension can be combined with each exhale as if breathing out any internal tension that you can feel. When inhaling, breathe in a pleasant feeling of heaviness. Progressively move through the muscles in your body, first starting with the release of tension in your shoulders, gradually moving down to your fingers. Then continue this release from the top of your head, moving down through your body to your toes. If you prefer working up the body from toes upwards, then use that technique. Not that the neck and jaw are common areas that can accumulate tension.
Progressive muscles relaxation (PMR) is an alternative way to release muscle tension. It involves gently tensing groups of muscles (with or without movement) in a specific area before actively relaxing these tense muscles. Move through the whole body using this “tense and release” method to appreciate where you feel tension from top to toe.
By tensing the muscles first when using PMR, it helps you to become more aware of your muscular system, particularly with tension felt in postural muscles. But if you exercise regularly by toning muscles in your body at a gym or anywhere else however, you will probably have this kinaesthetic awareness already. When you can relate to your body in this way then use the simple tension-release method (without first tensing the muscles first) as described above.
- Keep the focus on your suggestions
When you decide to practice self hypnosis, it is the use of suggestions to direct your mind to a specific goal that distinguishes self hypnosis from meditation and mindfulness.
Suggestions can be repeated out loud or silently. Repeating them coldly will have little effect on your goal attainment. So, as you repeat them, vary the emphasis that you give to certain words, engaging your emotions and imagination into each repetition. Alter the speed at which you repeat your suggestions, sometimes dwelling on a certain word to extract a different meaning. Visualise being inside the affirmation, acting out the positivity contained in the suggestion as if it is happening right now!
It can also be useful anchoring the affirmation in the part of your body that felt discomfort when you first began working on the negative situation that you want to change. The diaphragm is a common area of tension with almost any negative emotion. Lightly place your hand at the top of your abdomen (or anywhere else) to comfort the area. As you inhale, “breathe into this area”. Relax the area with each repetition of your suggestion. Release the tension with the next exhale. This process can help move you away from just going through the motions of repeating a “simple cold statement” into a deeper emotional and physical experience where you positively embody the goal that you seek.
- Exit point
When you feel satisfied with the self hypnosis session, you can gently exit your hypnotic state. Gradually count up from one to ten, feeling progressively more alert and activated with each number until you reach ten. You can open your eyes if they were closed, or move your eyes away from the point that you were focusing on. Your self hypnosis session is now complete.
Practise self hypnosis: common questions
Is self hypnosis a skill?
Yes, I consider self hypnosis to be a skill that you develop and make permanent. As with most skills, you need to practise them to master them. Some people have better visualisation abilities than others and may be more reflective in their learning style. Having these traits can mean that self hypnosis can seem like a “natural” activity for you.
But for others who don’t have these traits, it doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from self hypnosis; it may just take a little bit longer for you to benefit. Your belief and persistence will certainly help you achieve your goals when you are ready to practise self hypnosis.
How often and for how long should you practise self hypnosis?
You could start to practise self hypnosis once per day, maybe after work to create a mental partition between your work stress and relaxation at home. Initially, focus on the breathing and physical relaxation stages of self hypnosis for about 5 minutes.
As you progress with this stage, integrate suggestions that help you to lower levels of work-related tension. “I am learning to access a deeper state of calmness using breathing techniques to separate my work and my home life” could be your starting suggestion.
As a guide, the duration of your self hypnosis practise session (with suggestions) should be about 10-20 minutes, with the suggestion stage forming about half of the self hypnosis time.
Make good use of quieter periods in your day, like during work breaks or lunchtime to practise your breathing and help keep some of these techniques accessible for your use later in your day. The part of your day when you don’t have time for these techniques is probably the time that you need it most!
Remember that the quality of your practise is more important than the time that you spend in your practise. Mastering the breathing technique stage is fundamental to your progress and your ability to then integrate your suggestions. With effective breathing, your competence will increase, meaning that less time will be needed in your practise session to be benefit.
Is recording suggestions more effective than repeating them to yourself?
When you are guiding your own (self) hypnosis, a part of your mind still needs to be conscious to direct the experience. This can reduce your ability to readily accept the suggestions during the early stages. It takes a lot of practise to master your self hypnosis with minimal conscious interference.
An alternative method of self hypnosis is to write a script of the various stages above, and then make an audio recording of your script. You can then listen and follow your own voice without “consciously” having to direct it. This has the benefit of first being “the driver” by writing your own suggestions, and then switching seats to become the passenger without having to concentrate on “steering” your mind through your self hypnosis session.
How effective is self hypnosis compared to hypnotherapy?
Self hypnosis is a skill that you develop to help you achieve your goals. As already stated, it is not a quick fix for your problems; it takes time and commitment to master it and benefit from it.
There are various processes that are involved in the success of a hypnotherapy course of treatment. This can include your expectation of hypnotherapy, the skills and training of the hypnotherapist, your goals, your commitment to the treatment process, the interaction of all of these factors etc. Hypnotherapy can achieve rapid results, but for the majority of clients, it is not a quick fix; effective change can take time.
You would certainly expect a course of hypnotherapy to have more impact than a similar time spent in a course of self hypnosis. This is because you are hiring a professional to guide you to achieve your goal. By hiring a professional, you are also making a statement about your commitment to a process that you may not give when it just involves you and your own free time. The hypnotherapist is also objective in the process to establish any of your self-limiting beliefs and how these beliefs might sabotage your ability to achieve your goal. This is an important point within goal achievement because you function through the “lens” of your own beliefs. You can potentially limit how far you go in your journey because you may not fully know yourself or know what you don’t know!
If you are someone who is keen to take charge of your wellbeing by learning self hypnosis and you are struggling to get the process moving by yourself however, you may want to consider a short course of hypnotherapy to kick-start your self hypnosis practise. You can then use this insightful experience to continue your own journey of self learning. In my view, the better hypnotherapists aim to promote this approach in your treatment. Don’t be afraid to ask your hypnotherapist to teach you how to practise self hypnosis.
Practise self hypnosis: Conclusion
In order to practice self-hypnosis successfully, persistence and conviction are key requisites. Without these, your practise may not create a deep enough change in your unconscious mind. Use, develop and experiment with the processes and techniques described above to help immerse you into a calmer lifestyle and one in which you can access your own positive change.
For further information on how to practise self hypnosis, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff.
What are the differences between Self Hypnosis, Meditation and Mindfulness?
Self hypnosis, meditation and mindfulness are growing in popularity. It’s not surprising when these self-help disciplines can be used to reduce stress and anxiety, and even help you achieve your goals. When you have mastered one or all of them, you can be in charge of easing the symptoms of some serious underlying health issues.
When teaching self hypnosis to my hypnotherapy clients, I have often been asked if there is a difference between self hypnosis, meditation and mindfulness. Purists may not agree, but I believe that each discipline can take similar paths but they do have some distinct differences too.
If you want to take “de-stressing” matters into your own hands, which one should you develop? Let’s compare and contrast each discipline so that you can decide which one to take on your self-help journey.
Let’s discuss hypnosis first
It is a fairly common misconception that “hypnosis” is something that can only occur with the help of some external or professional guidance using a hypnotic induction. It may be hard to believe, but you cannot be hypnotised unless you want to be hypnotised, even though it might look like mind control in those hypnosis films. You ultimately choose which suggestions to accept or reject; the “power” exists within you and not the person hypnotising you. Externally guided hypnosis happens then, because you allow someone else to guide your “self hypnosis”. And during a state of hypnosis you are more receptive to a hypnotherapist’s suggestions that you have agreed are part of your treatment goals.
Hypnosis, in its broadest definition (no, not the one used by authoritarian styles), is a state of altered awareness and you are constantly drifting in and out of hypnosis throughout your day. It happens nearly always by accident, when a person is doing some routine and repetitive task, such as doing the dishes or walking the dog. One moment you’ll be at the park with your dog, and next you’ll be at front of your house door without having any conscious recollection of how you got there. Your mind decided to take a stroll down memory lane while your legs carried you home.
This is an example of hypnosis when your mind is “zoning out”; it goes into subspace and retreats into some peaceful place within itself. This state of awareness is similar to daydreaming. Everyone has done this as some time in their lives. Can you remember doing this in school?
Depending on your priorities, your subconscious mind may want to put aside a calming daydream and solve a problem or anxiety, something that is open-ended and needs to be closed for you to then feel relaxed again. You might do this on the commuting to work, preparing and prioritising your working day ahead of you.
The process of altered awareness can also happen when you “zone in” and concentrate on something so intensely that you shut out external distractions. An example is when reading a good book; you block out those house noises that you may otherwise hear and disturb you (the ones that irritate you when you are struggling to get to sleep). You can also “zone in” when you attend a live performance of your favourite artist and are so taken by the show that you lose track of time and forget about your worries. In this situation your subconscious mind is prioritising the external situation over other “internal” issues, allowing you to be fully absorbed in the show.
What is self hypnosis?
The situations above describe how hypnotic and self hypnotic states can happen incidentally. In a formal context, self hypnosis can be defined as using a process, usually involving relaxation techniques, to intentionally induce yourself into a state of concentrated, heightened suggestibility. Affirmations, your imagination and visualisation may then be used to access a present or future desirable state. It may also be used to reframe the meaning and the emotions of a past event.
How do you perform Self Hypnosis?
First identify some affirmations that are the positive form of your negative state that you wish to change. For example, if you are anxious about giving a presentation, your affirmation could be “I am feeling more relaxed and confident with my presentation as I rehearse my content”.
- Find a comfortable location away from irritating noises (it takes a well-practised self-hypnotist to work with these!) Find a supportive posture such as sitting down in a comfortable chair or lying down on a bed in a slightly inclined position (so you don’t fall asleep too easily).
- Relax by using breathing techniques and then focus on parts of your body feeling heavy in sequence e.g. from head to toe. You can keep your eyes open or closed. Focus on a few words that assists your mind to drift down into a pleasant state of heaviness e.g. with each out breath let your inner voice say “relax deeper”.
- State and repeat your affirmations (internally/silently or externally out loud). Visualise the positive situation and the positive feelings more intensely with each repeat of the suggestion for a period of time e.g. ten minutes.
- Exit your hypnotic state by counting upwards, feeling more alert with each count until you feel alert. Gradually open your eyes if you closed them. Your session of self hypnosis is complete.
In the simplest terms, meditation can be explained as a participative activity in which you silence your thoughts, tune in to your inner self and find peace and tranquillity. Meditation itself is a wholesome activity in which you induce a mode of consciousness; it is not meant to lead to anything else.
How is meditation done?
There are certain steps that you can follow in order to meditate successfully. In its most basic form, these steps include:
- Finding a nice, quiet place in which to settle down in and feel comfortable.
- Then, you close your eyes and begin a basic breathing exercise that involves slow, full and deep diaphragmatic breathing.
- After this, you focus on nothing but the sound and pattern of your own steady breathing. Cleanse your thoughts and empty your mind of any other thought. You can continue for as long as you like staying focused on your breath.
- When you have achieved this for a period of time, you can open your eyes. Stand and stretch your limbs and then carry on your day as planned.
How is self hypnosis different from meditation?
By following these stages in self hypnosis and meditation, it can be easy to mistake one for the other since the first few steps in each discipline are very similar. You will notice that in order to be able to focus into your affirmation more intensely the first three stages of meditation can be used. Both self hypnosis and meditation also involve an end process or awakening.
Self hypnosis and meditation are clearly not the same disciplines however. There is no phase of ‘directed positive change’ in meditation, unless you consider the shift from an active state to a passive quietened state sufficiently directed. Meditation is an activity with no ulterior purpose other than to find inner peace and tranquillity. Some styles of meditation achieve this by visualisation, contemplation, chanting a mantra or focusing on something external or on an energy point (chakra) during the third stage. Some styles of meditation also incorporate movement such as walking meditation or during the practice of martial arts.
Self hypnosis is different in this regard. During self hypnosis there is a goal in mind; an end purpose of transformation. Hypnosis and self hypnosis is nearly always induced in order to make some sort of change so that the person being hypnotised can achieve something*. The goal can be relaxation, but most self hypnosis usually goes beyond this. For example, one might want to use self hypnosis to break a bad habit, quit smoking, dig up an old half forgotten memory to reframe it, boost self confidence, control pain, lift depression, overcome insomnia, reduce anxiety, and so on.
*I say ”nearly always” because on rare occasions, I have had some clients who just wanted to experience what “directed hypnosis” felt like. I asked them if they wanted to change any aspect of their lives and they said no. The hypnosis session ended up being a relaxation session (sometimes called “relaxatherapy”). Instinctively, I integrated suggestions of confidence and ego boosting into their consultation. At the end of the session they were relaxed and appreciative of the experience. They were able to tell the world that they had been “hypnotised” today! So was this relaxation session a “directed meditation” or “guided visualisation” sometimes used in Yoga? I think that this type of session was common to all of these processes.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be described as a state of non-judgemental, heightened awareness in which you consciously and deliberately pay attention to something in the present. What you pay close attention to can be internal processes like your current thoughts, emotions or sensations in your body. You can also pay close attention to external processes that are occurring in your surrounding environment.
Through the practice of mindfulness and focusing on the present experience, you can access an enhanced state of calmness, concentration and clarity. Mindfulness helps to temporarily create distance from the default functioning of the mind that can be overwhelming. The mind is constantly connecting with the past in order to anticipate the future, but it may not always connect with it in a way that benefits you. It can easily exaggerate the emotional learning of past events, predicting catastrophes that rarely happen. Mindfulness sidelines these distractions, capturing the essence of just being, feeling, thinking, sensing and existing in the present.
As a perceptual style of processing then, mindfulness can be therapeutic. The (physical) past is put to rest from a perspective that it cannot be changed, so why ruminate over it? Whilst anxiety about the future can be threatening and remains uncertain, so why try to control it? The only time to exist is “in the now”. Mindfulness enables you to take heed from this philosophy and channel your attention, your energy and your desires on to what is happening to you “right there and then”.
How is mindfulness done?
Mindfulness can be practised in many situations and during various activities. You can be mindful when walking, gardening, painting, eating, travelling on a bus, whilst sitting in the park observing nature around you etc. You can also practise mindfulness during more passive activities. Here’s one mindfulness activity, focusing on breathing:
- Choose a peaceful place in your house away from any distractions. Get comfortable in a chair with your body supported and your eyes closed.
- Imagine your breath being visible. As you inhale with your abdomen, follow the flow of your breath as it gets inhaled through your nose, past your windpipe and down into your lungs. Notice the changing sensations in your abdomen, diaphragm and ribcage.
- As you pause before exhaling, observe the air resting at the bottom of your lungs, circulating for a few moments. Then as you exhale follow the air being breathed up through your chest and out through your nose. Notice the air circulating just outside of your face as you pause, before inhaling the air again.
- Repeat this process with several breaths.
- Then allow your mind to roam, observing your thoughts at a distance. Accept these thoughts as they fade in and then fade out, being replaced with the flow of your breath once again.
- Your mindfulness session is complete. You can open your eyes to return to your day.
How does mindfulness compare to self hypnosis?
Whilst relaxation may be experienced at some point during or after having practised mindfulness, it is far from being a technique in which you “relax” the mind. Instead, during mindfulness, you are aiming to arouse your senses, being more aware of those subtle processes that mostly tend to happen in the background. In other words, you are “zoning in” to whatever is happening in this moment, such as your tuning in to emotions or feelings. This might involve examining the tension within a part of your body right now and having felt it, you can now readily release it. This is a different approach to pushing something aside, even suppressing it, for it to come knocking at your door at a later time.
So how does mindfulness compare to self hypnosis? In many ways, they complement each other and by developing one technique, you may find that it helps the other one.
They both help you to “zone in”: Mindfulness’s perceptual style of focusing your attention is very similar to the “zoning in” state of altered awareness used in self hypnosis (mentioned above in the description of hypnosis). Zoning in would benefit you in areas if your life such as increasing your concentration levels at work and helping your listening abilities during conversations.
They both improve your mind-body connection: Thoughts and emotions create physical changes in your body and you may not always appreciate at the time of which thought is causing which sensation. Generally speaking, positive thoughts can create relaxed sensations, whilst negative thoughts can create sensations of tension. By zoning into these negative thoughts and emotions, mindfulness can be used as a diagnostic tool to establish which unconscious thought is triggering this physical tension. The tension in your shoulders might relate to you being anxious about giving a presentation next week and is the source of keeping you tense, irritable and awake at night. Having established this, you now have a goal for the self hypnosis. Using self hypnosis you can then create affirmations to help you visualise confidence in your presentation, reducing your anxiety-related tension in your shoulders and helping you to sleep better at night.
How does mindfulness compare to meditation?
When you consider the mindfulness breathing practice above, parts of it could be used as a lead into meditation (and self hypnosis). In this specific context, it has many similarities. Some people advocate that “breathing mindfulness” is a type of meditation activity.
This is perhaps one of the main general differences. Mindfulness is a state of mind or quality of awareness that can be applied anywhere. However, meditation is an activity or action; something that you do whilst sitting, focusing, chanting or walking etc.
Now consider a mindfulness practice when you drink a cup of tea. How you are holding the cup, the weight of the cup, the movement of your arm and hand as you bring the cup closer to your lips, the look of the tea, the steam rising from the tea, the initial smell of the tea as you bring it closer, the increased salivation, the slight inhalation of breath to sip some tea, the feeling of the tea (liquid) in your mouth, sensing the temperature in your mouth, the taste of the tea, where you taste it, the changing smell, the feelings as you swallow the tea, the changing taste and aroma in your mouth after you have swallowed it.
There are lots of sensory experiences to be aware of in this mindfulness activity of tea drinking!
Mindfulness tea drinking would not be considered a formal meditation for the purists however. But some informal styles of meditation state that you can meditate during absolutely anything – if you insist that you are meditating when knitting for example; then you are meditating!
Self hypnosis, Meditation and Mindfulness
In this attempt to explore differences between self hypnosis, meditation and mindfulness, it can be recognised that each discipline has features that overlap with another discipline. The practice of one discipline is likely to benefit the practice of another, if only from the awareness and practise of breathing techniques and postural changes.
The individual experience or benefit derived from each discipline however can be varied. Your definition of each discipline will ultimately determine how you approach and participate in each activity. Societies (whether Eastern or Western, secular or religious) have different cultural and philosophical values that can emphasise how to approach each discipline and the potential gains to be achieved from it.
From the discussion, I would summarise the following benefits:
Self Hypnosis: helps you to achieve a change or personal goal through the internalisation of suggestions.
Meditation: helps you to still your mind to bring you inner peace.
Mindfulness: helps you to heighten your senses and makes you more aware of everything inside of you and around you.
For more information on self hypnosis, meditation, and mindfulness techniques contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff.
Tips To Help You Cope With Anticipatory Anxiety
Are looking for help to cope with anticipatory anxiety? Anticipatory anxiety is better known as the “fear of fear.” It’s a very appropriate term because unlike normal anxiety, anticipatory anxiety causes you to fear your own anxiety symptoms; you end up chasing your own panic attacks and as a result, you create more panic attacks. In its chronic form, anticipatory anxiety is also known as panic disorder.
For those who are asking whether it’s normal to have this kind of anticipation, the answer is both yes and no. It’s normal to feel anxious about a huge event, such as your first date, a driving test, a job interview, or a speech. It only becomes a problem if it seems to be occurring on a regular basis and on events that you generally wouldn’t consider to be that overwhelming.
So what can you do to help you cope with anticipatory anxiety? There’s no specific formula that works for everybody, since different people will have varying degrees of symptoms. Nevertheless, there are general ways that can help you minimise the impact of worry and fear when they come. Sometimes working with just one anticipatory anxiety tip that resonates with you can be more effective than attacking it with several, particularly since some tips may appear to contradict others! What will help you as an individual can depend on how your fear is progressing and your core beliefs.
Tip 1: Establish the basis of your fear
A common first step to help you cope with anticipatory anxiety is to start by asking yourself on what are you basing your fear. You may have experienced a trauma in your past that justifies you anticipating that trauma again, but put the trauma into the context of the bigger picture. How many similar events (not involving you) have ended successfully without trauma? It’s important to reach out and expand all of the other experiences (the factual evidence) that you are ignoring at the emotional level. So if you have a fear of flying, visualise yourself in the many millions of flights taking off and landing successfully to reassure your anticipation. Your panic attack will have no connection with the success of your next flight, but it will ruin the enjoyment of your journey should you decide to fly. Take control of your anticipatory anxiety and you can trust your pilot will take care of your flight for you.
Tip 2: Interrupt your fearful thoughts
Another tip to help you cope with anticipatory anxiety is to interrupt your fearful thoughts. Fearful thoughts can spiral out of control and keep you trapped in your anxiety. Your imagination can just keep expanding each anxious thought until your symptoms are distressing you.
Once you notice that you are beginning to feel overwhelmed because of a particular thought, interrupt that thought with a positive one. Let’s say you’re worrying about losing your job. In such a scenario, you will be anticipating feeling worthless and dwelling on the follow-on catastrophes such as losing your house or your partner abandoning you. Your positive thought may relate to identifying why you are good at your job or what skills you can develop (with training) to maintain your employability. More often than not, this change of thought can interrupt your fearful thoughts and help you to cope with anticipatory anxiety. Italso keeps the negative thoughts from taking over your mind and emotions whenever they come back.
Tip 3: Imagine the best-case scenario
It’s interesting that the human brain is designed for protection. When the nervous system is aroused, it gets ready to prepare for the worst. That’s the downside though. Since its priority is safety, the brain automatically surveys for the worst-case scenarios so that it can prepare the body just in case. This is not a problem for the average person. For individuals with anticipatory anxiety, however, this can be a huge predicament. You’ve probably heard and used the phrase “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” It’s a common technique used in cognitive therapy to restructure your catastrophe and can be very useful for certain people in different situations. Do you find that when you imagine the worst case scenario though, your imagination draws you towards the worst-case scenario, as if you are doomed? If it does, then you will probably benefit by imagining the best-case scenario. Yes, be bold with the power of your mind and change your emotional journey! It won’t always give you control over the external situation, but it can give you an immediate feeling of calm by imagining the best outcome. This can be a huge step towards learning to cope with anticipatory anxiety.
Tip 4: Learn to relax
In a busy world like ours, it’s very easy to overlook the fact that our mind and body need relaxation. You are more susceptible to worry and anxiety when your mind is not rested. To cope with anticipatory anxiety, you need to make it a habit of taking a “Time-out” at least once in your day. That doesn’t necessarily mean not doing anything. There are many activities that you can engage in that can help your mind and body rest. Identify what you enjoy most. Gardening, reading, writing, hanging out with friends, yoga, exercising, and yes, even playing a sport! – All of these activities will help keep your mind relaxed and rested, if not during but after the activity. If you are curious about doing “mind work”, then “passive” relaxation can be just as effective. Consider meditation, mindfulness and breathing techniques to lower stress and anxiety.
Tip 5: Take a step out of your thoughts
It can be so easy to be convinced by your thoughts when you live inside of them. The potential to be pulled into believing those worst case scenarios (explained in tip 3) can leave you feeling helpless, despite those situations rarely ever materialising. Several authors emphasise the ability to be the observer of your thoughts rather than being your thoughts. This is a way to effectively “hack” the natural anxious thinking process and create distance from its influence. To help you cope with anticipatory anxiety using this tip, you’ll benefit by getting into your mind zone (suggested in tip 4) where you can calm your mind and slow down the pace of your thoughts. You can then use your imagination to visualise stepping out of your anxious thoughts, leaving them behind and appreciating the freedom it gives you to choose where you want to take them. Feel empowered when you access a deeper relaxation, confidence or self-belief. All of these can be your liberation from anticipatory anxiety.
Tip 6: Get enough sleep
Just as anxiety can keep you up all night, aiming to get enough sleep can help you to cope with anticipatory anxietymore effectively. The two simply have such a strong relationship, and that relationship is bi-directional. This means that if you want to treat one, you also need to treat the other. When it comes to sleep, however, the key is to get 7 to 8 hours a night and establish good sleep hygiene practices. This will help improve your morning mood and levels of irritability. To improve the quality of your sleep, you need to slowly eliminate activities that stimulate your mind before bedtime. This may include reducing caffeine intake, limiting your screen time, and tailoring your environment to make it more conducive for sleeping. Learning how to guide your mind to sleep can also be helpful.
Tip 7: Face the problem head on
The motivational phrase “face your fear” may be a bit of a cliché, but it’s actually an excellent way to cope with anticipatory anxiety. For the pragmatist, it’s the antidote to being left “in-waiting” for the situation to arrive with nothing to do, which typifies anticipatory anxiety. You may be ready to “flood” your experience and jump into the deep end by tackling the situation head on. Many would prefer a graduated or controlled exposure dealing with smaller parts of the situation to build confidence. If you have a fear of public speaking for example, then consider how you can start in “safe mode” developing public speaking skills whilst gradually increasing the size of your audience, the authority of your audience and the importance of the presentation task. These are common issues that when controlled, can help you develop your public speaking confidence.
Tip 8: Seek support
Whether from family or friends, it’s crucial that you have someone to support you in order for you to cope with anticipatory anxiety. When you think that you’re the only one who has anticipatory anxiety, it makes you feel more embarrassed and self-critical. It helps to have someone close whom you can share your thoughts with, and someone who can offer his or her support when you’re overwhelmed.
Finally, it’s critical that you seek professional help from a therapist or hypnotherapist. This is especially true when you are suffering from chronic anticipatory anxiety or panic disorder. With hypnotherapy, so many of the tips offered in this article can be suggested to your mind without conscious interference. You will also benefit from a huge reduction of anxiety when you are in hypnosis.
For further information on how hypnotherapy can help you cope with anticipatory anxiety, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff.
Access The Zone in Cardiff
What is The Zone?
The Zone (sometimes called the “flow” mental state and the peak performance zone) is considered to be a state of optimal functioning. It is a heightened state of focused awareness and inner clarity in which your acquired knowledge, creativity, emotions, skills, motivation, passion and practised skills are synchronised, automated and “flowing”. You are not “consciously” trying to perform; you have immersed yourself “in” the state of performing The zone is a state of optimal focused awareness and every part of you is harmoniously operating within the essence of your peak performance. You are very much inspired “in” this moment; with no ego or fear of outcomes.
When you are in the “zone”, your brainwave activity level is reduced down from the Beta level (which dominates when you are focused on the outside world) to the “Alpha” level. In the Alpha state, you are conscious but you are relaxed. Alpha brain waves dominate when you are being creative, emotionally connected and decisive.
The informal zone
You will have experienced the zone in informal situations. Have you been immersed in any of the following activities?
- Having a conversation and being “connected” with your partner.
- Writing effortless flowing content for your essay or thesis.
- Feeling drawn into the suspense of a thriller movie.
- Playing a video game.
- Reading a good book in a public place and not noticing people walking by.
- Playing a game of chess and losing track of time.
- Feeling emotional when hearing someone talk about their journey of achievement.
- As an audience member being fascinated by the presenter (lecturer, teacher, speaker or entertainer etc.) and the content of their presentation.
The informal zone is a natural state of relaxed focused awareness. Your behaviour may not be goal-directed as might be in a skilled performance, but you are still fully absorbed in your activity.
Getting into the zone to enhance your performance
The “performance zone” or “peak performance mind state” is a term that has been synonymous with elite sports performers. Consider the level of concentration and skill demonstrated by professional sports people when participating in golf, shooting or archery, or of elite athletes immediately before and during a sprint track and field event.
The performance zone is not exclusive to sports people however, you can sometimes see professional musicians completely absorbed into the emotion of their performance; their eyes are closed and they are barely conscious of their surrounds. Similarly, actors can be seen in the stage sides, deep in concentration and rehearsing their script, just prior to their stage entrance. They then appear on stage seamlessly recalling extensive, emotion-filled dialogue as is reading from an autocue.
The performance zone can be considered as a highly productive state of awareness particularly when you can access it to achieve work tasks. Employers value employees who can maintain long periods of concentration.
Getting into the performance zone at work is easier if:
- You are passionate about the task.
- You believe in the need to complete it.
- You can develop your creative abilities.
- You can use/transfer a few previously learned skills.
- You can visualise (at some level) the potential solution.
- You have an incentive but it is more intrinsic.
- The work situation (physical structure, resources, personnel, reasonable timescale etc.) meets your needs to fulfil the task.
- Life outside work is stable.
Strategies to enhance your performance zone
Do you find that in your practise sessions, you are “nailing it” but when it comes to the big occasion, your performance is below standard? If this happens on a regular basis, then it’s time to review your performance strategies. Consider introducing some the following performance zone strategies to boost the performance of your skills:
- Focus on the requirements of this moment – as close to the present as possible.
- Remove any judgment about your performance – that includes your own (internal) or from the audience, coach, peers or opposition (external)
- Centre on the quality of the next one objective and let it go when it’s completed – the result will take care of itself.
- Cut through perfectionism by focusing on the function of your performance.
- Distance any external problems or distractions – unload them well before you get on the performance stage or the arena.
- Identify and focus on the relevant performance cues that are specific to enhancing your performance in your activity e.g. when defending your opponent with the ball in basketball, by watching their midsection, you are less likely to be faked. Discuss this with your coach/teacher.
- Simplify your approach when you are on the performance stage. Analyse the complexity in the practise session/tutorial, when you are away from the performance stage.
- Keep your mood playful – that doesn’t mean that your performance is not important; a playful state lowers the stress you place on your performance.
How can you practise staying in the performance zone?
In the early stages of your new skill acquisition, you are unlikely to access the zone. This is because you are conscious of what you are doing and what is required of you. You are also unpractised and unrehearsed. It’s a bit like experiencing your first day at work or learning to play a piece of music for the first time; you feel overloaded with information due your own high expectation of wanting to appear capable.
With focused practise sessions (e.g. when being coached), the formation of individual practise skills combine to create a network of coordinated schemes. Gradually, the schemes become familiar and fluent. With continued practise the schemes can then become automated and operate at an unconscious level. Repetition is an essential physical part of accessing your performance zone.
Is accessing the zone just down to practise? Accessing the zone in performance situations requires the use and development of your imagination, emotions and beliefs. These can then combine with your practised physical skills.
Breathing techniques, meditation, mental rehearsal, mindfulness and visualisation are useful tools to help cultivate your performance zone; these mind tools require you to imagine how you want to be during your performance (not what you are dreading happening i.e. the negative “what if’s”). Find a suitable situation in which you can regularly practise the mental rehearsal of your peak performance.
Here are some visualisation techniques to practise when you are away from the performance stage, as it gets closer to your performance and during the interval breaks. Find a relaxing situation, close your eyes and use relaxed breathing techniques to lower the level of your brain activity i.e. get into your “alpha” state:
- Imagine that you are performing at the highest level for your activity, with all the features of your performance present. By doing this, you can train your mind to get used to performing under pressure.
- Identify your most emotionally confident and resourceful state. Visualise how you would be demonstrating this confidence when performing at your peak level.
- Recall the feeling of confidence from past experiences of your achievements. Or visualise confidence demonstrated from a role model in your area of expertise. “Paste” this feeling into your next performance.
- To maximise body (or any part of you, including your voice) functionality, imagine your body part being the perfect “fit” in your performance situation.
- Practise focusing your mind on empowering affirmations (positive statements), images/symbols, emotions, and words that will inspire, energise and motivate you e.g. passion, power, rhythm, intensity, determination, invincibility, flow, belief etc.
- Identify and narrow down the key qualitative processes/techniques of your peak performance e.g. fluency and rhythm. Practise imprinting them into your mental scheme.
- Visualise removing the feeling of “trying”. Instead, access the feeling of “being”.
What disrupts the performance zone?
Excessive stress and anxiety can shatter your peak performance zone. When you are worried about something or you are getting frustrated with your performance, your level of brain activity increases. You are taken up, out of the automated “alpha” state and placed back into the “beta” state where you are conscious of your surrounds and trying to force your skills. Stress and anxiety management is thus an important part of staying in the zone.
What is your stress? Stress can be different for everyone. What destroys one performer can motivate another. Your beliefs about yourself and your ability are essential components for keeping you mentally focused and in the zone. Negative traits can be learned from early parent conditioning, peer criticism, and your own interpretation of failed performances. Negative traits act as the source of your future insecurities and worries. They pull you away from the present, away from your performance zone. When you can identify the nature of your negative beliefs, you can work on centring this negativity. Using visualisation, you can realign your distortions to remove fear and judgement. With practise you can access positive thinking states.
Here are some common negative beliefs (stressors) that can take you out of your performance Zone and ways to correct them:
● You doubt yourself and your ability – You don’t believe that you or your skills are good enough to succeed. How you think and communicate also reflects this. In your mind, you believe that you can’t do it!
Zone Tip – Visualise displaying your skills with complete confidence. Picture the peak of your playing abilities to acquire your performance zone.
● You are a perfectionist – Your refusal to accept anything short of perfection means that you apply yourself rigidly to your performance. This can work when you are in control, but when something takes you off your path, it can strain other parts of your life.
Zone Tip – Visualise having a wider, balanced perspective to access your performance zone.
● You are easily intimidated – Opponents will stare at you, mock you and physically attack you (when the referee is not there) in the hope to rattle you and knock your concentration. They want to undermine your self-worth.
Zone Tip – Visualise keeping your “cool” and boosting your own self esteem to acquire your performance zone.
● You want results now! – You are impatient and that exposes your inability to be disciplined with your effort. When things go wrong you get angry.
Zone Tip – To access your performance zone, visualise having a calmed patience. Imagine reaping your rewards in the long term by staying on your mission.
● You fear (another) injury – Having been injured or seen your peers sit on the sidelines for extensive periods, your fear of injury is holding back your progress. You are restrained and shy in attack.
Zone Tip – Visualise having a mental toughness when you compete. This is a necessary part of acquiring your performance zone.
● You fear failure – Linked to perfectionism, your sensitivity to making mistakes builds your fear of failure. You are so preoccupied with avoiding mistakes that it impedes your ability to do what is right.
Zone Tip – Visualise your ability to bounce back from errors or blips; learning from your mistakes will keep you resilient in your performance zone.
● You try too hard – Your aggressive style overwhelms your skills set. You force your playing style, wrongly equating over-exertion with successful performance. You risk injury and fatigue.
Zone Tip – Visualise balancing your effort with other important skills e.g. agility, rhythm. Appreciate what is “smarter” (not harder) to achieve your performance zone.
● You are sensitive to criticism – Your sensitivity to people’s comments eats away at your soul because you may believe that you need to be right. You become preoccupied with their criticism; it gnaws at your self-esteem and your performance. You are unable to distinguish if it was said as an attack or as feedback to help you improve your abilities.
Zone Tip – Meditate with the comment to identify if there is anything that you can learn from it. Then consider if it can be discussed to clarify its meaning. If not, let it go. Visualise that you are worth more than the attack made on you to keep you in your performance zone.
● You have high expectations – It’s good that you have ambitions, but your high expectations create an inner feeling of constant emptiness. You create unrealistic and unachievable goals that ultimately cause you to doubt your abilities.
Zone Tip – Reorganise your goals so that your interim objectives are realistically achievable. This will lift your confidence in your abilities. Visualise the combination of your long term goals and short term objectives to ultimately achieve what you want.
● You stay in your comfort zone – You underplay your potential and lack the “grit” to go up a few gears when the situation demands it. Low pain threshold, tiredness and apathy prevent you from achieving a higher ranking.
Zone Tip – Visualise your power, resilience and determination to develop your physical and mental stamina. This will keep you in your performance zone.
Can the zone be addictive?
The performance zone is a desirable mind state; you develop it to improve your ability in a performance situation. The informal zone however has a more recreational purpose e.g. when being connected in conversation. In the informal zone, you are using the zone to relax or distance yourself from a different situation in your life. Participating in an activity for some “flow” therapy can be a way of switching off and escaping from your external worries. But anything that can be beneficial can be overused when the external stress is persistent.
Overdosing in potentially compulsive activities like playing video games, shopping, sex and gambling can become addictive. They possess a “meditative” yet adrenaline-filled zone of escapism. As the addiction grows, the insatiable need for the “flow” state can be to the neglect of your other responsibilities e.g. family relationships, your health, finances etc. When addictions take over your life, the previous solution to your problem becomes the new problem.
Hypnotherapy and the zone
What does accessing the performance zone mean to you? Are you looking to improve your sports performance or have the edge over other elite professionals? Maybe your performance anxiety is inhibiting your stage performance in some way. Or perhaps you are looking to improve your creativity in your art or concentration levels for your exams. Hypnotherapy can be the treatment that will accelerate your success.
● Hypnotherapy can help you access your performance zone
Essentially, the zone or the “flow” mental state is similar to a hypnotic state of awareness. You lose your self-consciousness; your attention is focused and absorbed into the activity, and time has become irrelevant. These are all phenomena commonly experienced in hypnosis. The hypnotherapy treatment will help you reach deeper levels of concentration when you want to connect with your performance zone.
● Hypnotherapy can help you identify your emotional blocks
Negative beliefs can weigh down your peak performance zone. If you don’t know what they are, the treatment will be instrumental in helping you identify them. You may already know what they are, but feel overwhelmed by their presence. With your unconscious mind open to suggestion, you can access new positive beliefs, replacing the emotional blocks that are holding you back.
● Hypnotherapy can improve your confidence and self-belief
Confidence and self-belief are essential personal characteristics of the performance zone. Your positive thoughts, emotions and behaviour can help you push through your own restrictive barriers. Visualising confidence and self-belief in hypnosis will boost your feeling of superiority over your skilled performance.
● Hypnotherapy can help you reframe your past “traumas”
The unresolved handling of injuries, criticism, failures, errors, mistakes etc. can remain stored in your mind keeping you safe from having yet another set-back. Traumas that have not been resolved generate your self-doubt, indecision and hesitancy. Once these traumas have been reframed, you can freely access the confidence in your performance zone.
● Hypnotherapy can intensify your visualisation
Conscious interference and anxiety can blur your visualisation abilities. You can be wrestling with what you want to achieve and what you are trying to avoid. In hypnosis, your visualisation can be guided without conscious interference, picturing your skills and goals as “real” events. This enhanced mental rehearsal can integrate your mind and body functioning so that it can actualise into your performance.
● Hypnotherapy can help you overcome performance anxiety
The cognitive and behavioural symptoms of performance anxiety can devastate your performance zone. To overcome your performance anxiety, your practises need to gradually incorporate “live” situation stress, where you can adjust to your perceived threat e.g. members of your audience. Hypnotherapy can be used to identify the nature of your threat and help you to visualise confidence with your audience. This will help you to lower the anxiety symptoms on the performance day.
● Hypnotherapy can change your negative internal self-talk
Self talk is natural to all of us. The various parts of your mind can make themselves known when your emotions are compromised; one part will say “do it!” and the other will say “run away!” Hypnotherapy can help your confident voice dominate your experience in your performance.
● Hypnotherapy can help you re-align your goals
How you are structuring your long-term and short-term goals can make a difference to your experience in your performance zone. Unrealistic goals can leave you doubting your ability. Hypnotherapy will help you make changes that will work with you and your performance aspirations.
● Hypnotherapy can help your motivation
Your motivation can be deflated when your performance is suffering (and vice versa). Your motives can be re-established to fuel the drive in your area of expertise. Accessing feelings of desire to perform successfully is a fundamental ingredient in accessing your performance zone.
Are you ready to access your performance zone?
The Zone Cardiff: for further information on accessing the performance zone, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff
Jealousy in Relationships
What is jealousy in relationships?
Jealousy in relationships can essentially be defined as the insecurity you feel when a rival threatens your relationship in some way. But within your feeling of jealousy, there are a number of different features that can typify what you are experiencing:
• In addition to your jealousy, you may also be feeling helpless, anxious, angry, resentful, vengeful, betrayed, distrustful, lonely, depressed and disgusted.
• The way that you perceive your rival leaves you feeling (physically and emotionally) inadequate and worthless: “They must have something that is better than what I have got.”
• As your jealousy persists, you lose your sense of what is real and what is imagined. Thoughts, feelings and behaviours are affected and can become obsessive. You put yourself into negative situations that reinforce your negative beliefs.
• Your jealousy can be sexual in nature: you know or believe that your partner has been or they want to be promiscuous. Sexual jealousy can also be provoked where there is no case for actual promiscuity, but an intention for external sexual desire e.g. your partner idolising a celebrity or watching pornography.
• Your jealousy can also be emotional in nature: you know or believe that your partner shares a special bond with your imagined rival. Perhaps your partner and imagined rival share the same opinions about an issue or enjoy the same hobby. This bond could develop intimately and threaten your relationship with your partner. Emotional jealousy can also be triggered where your partner’s attention or affection is shared with another person even though there is no sexual connection e.g. giving more attention to a child or parent whilst believing that your partner is neglecting you.
• Your jealousy can be projected. This is when you are having thoughts of betraying your partner, but you fail to act on these thoughts because of guilt. Your suppression of these feelings leads you to project these feelings onto your partner, only you believe that your partner is acting out their intentions. You falsely imagine the existence of rivals, even though none exist.
• What you have (or believe you have) and value in your relationship is about to be (or has been) lost. So, an agreed (or assumed) boundary with your partner has been wrongly broken by your partner’s supposed involvement with another person i.e. you believe that someone else is gaining what you own or deserve.
Examples of jealousy in relationships
It is a commonly held view that a small amount of jealousy in relationships can be healthy. Jealousy can remind you how important your partner is to you and it can motivate you to be a better companion. Jealousy can also create the spark to protect your relationship from external threats, particularly when you can discuss the nature of these threats with your partner.
In jealousy’s healthier form, consider a typical situation when your partner glances over at an attractive person. You are left with only a mild feeling of unease. You might question your partner by asking them “is something taking your fancy?” With an innocent, yet embarrassed expression they reassuringly squeeze your hand and then reply “just admiring the view!” In this situation, the sensitive communication between you helps any elevating jealousy to be vented. Your open reactions build trust into the relationship because you express your feelings, rather than suppress them.
But jealousy has a more destructive side. The reactions can be spiteful, causing you both to feel imprisoned in your own relationship. So, in the above scenario, the reactions would take a different course. The glance is interpreted as a threat to your relationship. There can be an immediate, aggressive attempt to punish your partner as a way of redeeming the worthlessness that you have just felt. If the guilty act has taken place in public, you disguise your anger, giving a fake laugh to ward off any hint of social embarrassment. But it’s just a temporary let-off for the loss of control that you have suffered. The damage has been done and the “fuse” has been lit, steadily burning towards its fatal blow of destruction when you are both home alone. Your partner will think twice next time!
Some forms of jealousy can be more insidious. You are helplessly ashamed of your own reactions, so you disguise your direct aggression and retaliate in a way that is disconnected to the offending act; you wreck something that they value and claim ignorance over the damage that has been done.
Or maybe your jealous reaction is delayed (but never forgotten). When they next go out with their friends, you find a way to spoil the evening by plaguing them with text messages and phone calls. How else can you divert your brooding anxiety that they might see someone more attractive than you? You seek pity from them for a feigned illness, demanding an early finish to their night. Ultimately, guilt overwhelms them and their return home is the trophy for your strengthening possessiveness.
Some of the situations above are typical ways of expressing jealousy in relationships. Your jealousy will have a cause.
Jealousy in relationships: What causes jealousy?
Some psychologists consider jealousy to be an innate and instinctive response needed for genetic survival; as a species you are genetically pre-disposed to protect what could be taken away from you. But this theory ignores that not everybody suffers with the same level of jealousy. Indeed, there are some individual learned factors that can cause your jealousy in relationships.
Your childhood situation and experiences can contribute to your feelings of jealousy. This can include your position in the family (e.g. being the oldest child), your parent’s handling of sibling rivalry and the way in which you perceived their distribution of time, attention and praise to you and your siblings. Family values of competitiveness can also create an acceptable culture of jealousy at home.
Typically, being an only child is considered a situation where feelings of jealousy can be high because as a child you lacked the experience of sharing attention. But this can again vary on the type of attention that you have received from your parents and the way in which you interpreted their attention. Destructive jealousy experienced in adult relationships can originate from the child having too much parental attention (being spoiled) or contrastingly from parental neglect.
These background influences of jealousy can lay dormant. They may not always affect your loss of friendships at a young age (unless you believe that you ‘own’ your friends). But as you start having close relationships and establish a trusting bond with your partner, you become aware of how much there is to lose and how painful a break up can be.
When your parents have displayed jealous beliefs or have been involved in affairs, it is easy to form early patterns of repressed insecurity and distrust. At that young age, you would not have known if your parent’s affairs would have caused a divorce. Neither would you have known what its implications would have then meant for you. Fear of abandonment is a common insecurity from early traumas like these and can surface later in your life as jealousy in relationships.
This distrust can also be learned from other significant people in your life e.g. siblings or friends who have similarly been betrayed by their partners. The effect of learning this trauma may not be as deep as the effect of your own parents, but it can act to reinforce an already-frail jealous disposition.
The effect of a personal betrayal from a past relationship is one of the most powerful contributors to learning destructive jealousy in relationships. If it hasn’t been acquired from the above situations, the effect of this sole past betrayal can overwhelm your handling of a new relationship. Your new partner might be a Saint, but the emotional distrust learned from the previous betrayal influences you to keep your ‘guard up’. Inevitably, you believe that your new partner is destined to cheat on you in the same way as your previous partner did before.
Sometimes there has been more than one betrayal in the background which accumulates your jealous feelings. Or maybe you’ve endured a lengthy relationship with a persistent liar who has deceived you for years, despite your friends warning you of what has been happening. You didn’t want to believe it at the time or were not ready to accept that it could be happening to you. When reality hits you, it shocks you and can generate a vengeful attack on your deceitful partner. It can shatter your concept of trust influencing you to believe that all future relationships will go the same way.
Insecurity in relationships is the belief that in some way (consciously or unconsciously), you aren’t good enough for your partner. Given time, your partner will realise this, come to their senses and find somebody else that is a better match for them. Insecurity can relate to one or several issues e.g. you can feel insecure about your attractiveness, an aspect of your personality or your perception of your success. But whatever the nature of your insecure attribute, you are totally convinced about your worthless feature and reject that anyone else could love you for it. When your partner socialises, your fear and possessiveness escalates. You hopelessly compare yourself to your imagined perfect rival, only causing you to feel more insecure and jealous.
Your insecurity can also be associated with feeling undeserving of a happy relationship. This can be due to a deeper fear of abandonment. You can cope with poor or mediocre relationships because there is less pain to fear if it goes wrong. But as soon as the relationship is thriving, you panic. You fear that the pain of abandonment will return as you make a commitment with your partner. So you engage in self-sabotaging tactics to push your partner away (a form of “secondary gain”). One method is to make false accusations of their infidelity to down grade the relationship. You play the jealous partner to ease this deeper fear that lives inside of you. It then justifies your break up with them because, you claim, “they were being unfaithful”.
You view your partner as a commodity
Believing that your partner is really “yours” is a term that is deeply ingrained in the common use of our language. But beliefs about “ownership” can be a cause of your jealousy in relationships. Even by saying “your partner” or “your other half” assumes that they belong to you. For the majority of the population these terms are harmless references to someone you share a relationship with. For others, it indicates the existence of a contract e.g. by marriage. But with jealous values dominating in the background, the objectification of your partner heightens that fear of you losing your “property”. Consider that you can only really lose that which you believe you own in the first place.
You want feelings to stay the same
Fixed beliefs about your feelings can be a cause of your jealousy in relationships. In your unrealistic relationship ideals, you believe that the feeling of being in love should never change. You hope that the honeymoon period of your relationship will last forever. But when it does end, your feelings of insecurity increase. You continue to make commitments with your partner e.g. by getting married, buying a house and having children (not always in that order!) But you hopelessly believe that these commitments will bring the old feelings back. The emotional void is filled with resentment as you envy those around you having the excitement of new relationships as you once did during your honeymoon period. You may even develop feelings of attraction towards other people as a way of coping with this void. But rather than accept these common fluctuations of feeling, you begin to become suspicious of your partner also craving these feelings and finding others attractive too. Jealousy starts to filter into your relationship as a projection of what you crave in your own life and believe about feelings staying the same.
You demand guarantees
Your expectation of relationships is unrealistic. As a response to your past betrayals, you now seek certainties from your partner that holds them to unreasonable commitments. The time at which they say that they will return home must be fulfilled or it justifies your aggression. You are eagerly clock-watching as the time ticks up to the agreed arrival time ready to pounce if the “contact has been broken”. This drives your anticipatory anxiety so that even when they make the deadline, you are already wound up and suspicious of minor signs of betrayal evidence. But this insecure handling is not just on a day-to-day level. Your long-term view of the relationship also demands knowledge of the future, as if you can fortune-tell what will happen as “facts”. You have to know that the relationship will last forever. Can that ever be guaranteed? And this unrealistic expectation causes your anger when anything threatens to destroy your dream.
You have a general fear of loss (being replaced)
A fear of losing your partner (or some aspect of them) to a rival defines your jealousy in relationships. But due to your past experiences, your fear of loss is a much deeper fear that causes your jealousy. For example, you may have feared being replaced as a child when siblings were born or when your parents divorced, and this fear is now transferring into your adult relationships. Your fear of loss is also in evidence at work, where you constantly fear losing your job to another colleague despite constant praise from your bosses. Regardless of the situations where this fear of loss presents itself, it has a debilitating effect on your sense of responsibility and confidence. You end up being victim to circumstance; hopelessly clinging to what you have, and fearing that it will be snatched away from you by perceived rivals. With this fear, your partner, your job, your friends etc. are all vulnerable. You may also consider that your favourable outcomes are due to you “being lucky”. It’s as if you have not played an active part in any of your achievements.
Personal psychological factors
In addition to your childhood background and past betrayals, your individual personality traits can cause your jealousy in relationships. Low self-esteem is a core issue closely linked with insecurity (see above). With low self-esteem, you put yourself down and struggle to accept yourself as you are. You rely heavily on acceptance and reinforcement from others. You believe that you don’t deserve good things in life and that you are ‘lucky’ when happiness does come your way. Since you don’t believe that you can contribute to your own success, you live in fear of losing it to someone else. This includes the handling of your relationships, a situation that serves only as a temporary release from your feelings of worthlessness. At the start of your relationship, being desired by your partner boosts your esteem, lifting you into a state of romantic euphoria. But external sources of esteem are more difficult to safeguard. As the relationship settles, your low self-esteem is gradually exposed again. You crave this feeling of importance as before, but lack the internal resources to lift your esteem yourself. So when a rival then threatens your relationship, jealousy can be your defensive reaction to protect this feeling of importance and your relationship.
There are other psychological issues that can also cause your jealousy in relationships. Obsessions can be triggered by having general anxiety and numerous traumas related to the same issue e.g. having a number of betrayals in relationships can cause you to obsess over the fear of future betrayals. In an obsessive state of mind, you have difficulty recognising the rationality of your jealous thoughts because your traumatic history prejudices your perspective. Extensive and numerous episodes of betrayal can influence states of paranoia, another cause of jealousy in relationships. With this condition, you can have the exaggerated suspicious belief that numerous people are involved in the betrayal and are constantly scheming to deceive you. In extreme cases that can accompany a mental illness, you can suffer delusions with your jealousy in relationships. With this condition, you are firmly convinced of your betrayed reality despite very strong evidence of the contrary.
Quality of your relationship
There are many factors that can affect the quality of your relationship and the likelihood of developing jealousy. In addition to those listed above, they can also include:
• The mismatch between you and your partner’s values e.g. when there has been a row, your partner might use attention from others to lift their own feeling of insecurity and divert the tension in your relationship. Contrastingly, you seek a quick internal resolution between you, causing you to feel jealous and frustrated in your partner’s actions.
• The level of each other’s dependency is sometimes called your ‘attachment’ style. When you have an insecure attachment style, you may seek more reassurance and attention from your partner. You can be prone to feelings of jealousy when your partner prefers their own personal space in preference to being ‘glued’ to you.
• Your partner is extrovert and you are introvert. You struggle to cope with your partner’s sociability (extroversion) because you prefer to have evenings in together. You may feel jealous when your partner wants the freedom to socialise in larger groups, whilst you feel anxious in larger groups, preferring to socialise in smaller numbers.
Many couples can manage these relationship issues above. Your communication styles will play an essential part in how you cope with each other’s differences and feelings of jealousy.
Jealousy in relationships: How do you know that your jealousy is destroying your relationship?
In a trusting relationship, mild forms of jealousy can be quite endearing to your partner. Due to your naivety, your partner “protects” your insecurity with constant reassurance. Essentially, you recognise that your allegations of jealousy are false and you can readily dismiss your suspicions as pure foolishness.
But when you have a fixed, fatalistic belief that your imagined partner’s behaviour is reality, your responses can change from charming to near-abusive. Here some signs that your jealousy is destructive:
• You are controlling
The relationship may have started with amorous signs that you are head-over-heels in love with each other, but as time goes by, the interest in your partner’s life becomes a fixation. You are inquisitive about every detail of what they are doing, where they have been and what they are going to do later. Your constant questioning is aimed at exposing a hidden lie, so your suspicion interrogates your partner with infinite details. If their answers don’t satisfy your suspicions, you will plague their friends or even strangers until each story corresponds with what you want to believe. If there is still no joy, then you can secretly plough through their physical evidence like a private investigator. There are endless sources to test their honesty including checking their phone history and usage history, emails, website search history, car mileage, credit card statements etc.
• You are distrustful
You live in fear that the past wounds of distrust will surface again, but have probably forgotten the events that have caused your original pain. These past events confuse your interpretation of what is happening around you. You see evidence of deception in the most innocent comments, twisting their meaning to signal a threat. A compliment paid to a colleague by your partner is enough to register danger that this colleague could jeopardise your relationship. You may even begin to doubt the integrity of family and close friends; those whom you would otherwise normally trust. Your distrust is so severe that you consider that anyone has the potential to deceive you. But it is not just comments that rattle you; any subtle changes in behaviour can also be viewed with suspicion. Your partner’s desire to get fit or “better” themselves in some way is seen as a sinister attempt to attract a new partner.
• You are possessive
You spin a spidery web of possession and seek to dominate your partner. You want to eliminate their friendship circle by subtly criticising their friends as if they are a bad influence on them. If your partner praises any of your friend’s qualities e.g. hairstyle, you hastily upgrade your hairstyle to shift the attention onto you. You then aim to gradually suffocate your partner’s individuality. You want to be attached to them wherever they go and participate in whatever they do. You won’t allow them the freedom to spend time on their own, nor allow them time with their friends; you are ever-present. If they want to start a new hobby, then you will suddenly be enthusiastic about that activity too, just so that you can be their partner in the class. In the extreme form of possessiveness, you stalk them! You win your trophy when they live a possessed existence and can only turn to you for just about…everything.
• You are aggressive
You seek to control your partner by intimidation. In the early stages of your relationship, your aggression is subtle. You question their whereabouts, wanting to know who they were talking to or why they took so long. But as the relationship develops, you retaliate when you haven’t had the answer that can satisfy your suspicions. So if they were not available at work to give you reassurance when you wanted to speak to them, you will become mysteriously unavailable when they need you; that way, they can get a taste for how it feels! But when that moment of painful jealousy is so overwhelming and they are not available to speak to you, you will seek to destroy those things that they value. You “accidentally” break one item from their collection or destroy something that will take them time to repair. If your perceived rival is available, you may even focus your aggression on them, punishing them for attempting to take away what belongs to you.
• You are convinced that there is a conspiracy
Your alertness to betrayal maintains your suspicions that it’s not just your partner who could deceive you. Gradually, your circle of distrust has extended to your friends and work colleagues. But it continues to grow with the prospect that the whole world is going to desert you. When people talk quietly, it must be about you. You are paranoid that they are making plans to set your partner up with someone who has everything that you lack. Each event is becoming a threat to your security. You struggle with any secret celebrations because you are convinced that the occasion will showcase your biggest fears.
• Your partner is anxious, depressed and isolated
Since you aim to dominate your partner, you may not acknowledge your partner’s deteriorating health and well-being. They have become a model of how you want them to be; controlled and possessed. They used to have their individuality, but in order to placate you, they have stopped having friends and hobbies. Very few courageous people have tried to enlighten you with what is happening, but your jealousy doesn’t hear their cries. You think their depression is related to something else.
How can hypnotherapy help jealousy in relationships?
Hypnotherapy can break the obsessive thinking patterns
Once you get immersed in repetitive jealous thinking patterns, your anxiety increases. This has the effect of intensifying your controlling behaviour, your distrust, possessiveness and aggression. In a relaxed state, your unconscious mind is more responsive to new hypnotic suggestions that can ‘switch off’ your anxious thoughts and help you learn how to replace them with more confident ones.
Hypnotherapy can help you build your self esteem
The change in your jealous thinking patterns is also enhanced by building your self-esteem. This is an essential part of your treatment for jealousy. When you dismiss your positive attributes, you are more likely to feel threatened by what your perceived rivals have over you. Suggestions are used to help you appreciate what is positive in you and your relationship; it’s so easy to take what is positive for granted!
Hypnotherapy can identify and treat your associated fears and beliefs
Fixed views about how a relationship ‘should be’ can create an inflexible communication style with your partner. Jealousy can be your defensive reaction that masks other associated fears and beliefs e.g. because of your insecurity, unconsciously you want to ‘own’ your partner. Recently you may have completed some relationship therapy with a mention that you have some issues to resolve, or you have come to your own conclusions from your constant relationship break ups. Either way, you are now ready to recognise that you have some unconscious negative beliefs (‘issues’) that could be treated by a skilled hypnotherapist.
Hypnotherapy can release the emotion from past betrayals
The emotion from past betrayals can still be affecting how you are coping with your current relationship. You may be thinking that you are “over it” or have “moved on”, but if your jealousy is destructive, the beliefs and emotions will still be influencing you. Or maybe you are the type of person “who knows what to do but just can’t seem to help yourself”. By treating your self-esteem and releasing the emotion from these past traumas, it can liberate your mind from the negative emotions that are still overwhelming your jealousy. Learning to trust your partner (and your own thoughts) is part of your jealousy treatment.
Encourage effective communication in your relationship
Throughout the course of treatment, your reactions will disclose your communication style and how you are interacting with your partner. Combined with your appraisal of jealous situations in your relationship (and past relationships), you can be guided towards more effective way of communicating. The treatment process will also encourage assertiveness by helping you identify what values your partner brings into your relationship. Your partner’s interest in this process can help you both appreciate the intended resolution of your jealousy. It can make way for a more trusting and rewarding relationship.
Jealousy in relationships Cardiff: for further information on your jealousy treatment, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff
Treat Erectile Dysfunction Cardiff
Occasional Erectile dysfunction is not an uncommon situation. The impact of stress, anxiety, fatigue and excessive alcohol can temporarily affect your ability to get an erection. More persistent erectile dysfunction however could be a sign of underlying health problems and requires a medical diagnosis. Recurring erectile dysfunction can affect about 10% of the male population in any age group. Its frequency increases with age, even though age is not considered a cause of the condition. In the 50-59 age group the frequency is more than double that of the 18-29 age group.
Erectile Dysfunction Cardiff:
Definition of erectile dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction, sometimes referred to as impotence, is defined as the inability to achieve and maintain a firm erection for the duration of the chosen sexual activity. It is commonly associated with problems initiating (or continuing) sexual (or anal) intercourse. Erectile dysfunction can also affect oral sex and masturbation.
Erectile Dysfunction Cardiff:
Implications of erectile dysfunction
Sex is an important part of a fulfilling relationship. But when something is hindering your capacity to enjoy your sex life, it can be challenging for both you and your partner. How can it affect you?
Erectile dysfunction is a sexual condition that can undermine your self-esteem and self-confidence. How you define your masculinity can be deeply rooted in the ability to sexually satisfy your partner. This expectation can create feelings of failure and embarrassment when you are unable to achieve an erection. It is common to avoid sexual relationships rather than confront your embarrassment during an intimate encounter. You may also feel isolated from your peers because if this issue was to become known, you could then be the focus of social humiliation.
In your relationship, how you communicate with your partner can also affect your erectile dysfunction. A lack of open discussion of your condition can cause a misinterpretation of events. When you continuously refuse your partner’s sexual advances, they can easily think that you have rejected them because you no longer find them attractive. The real reason for your refusal however may be based on your own fear of “failure” that you will not be able to satisfy them sexually. This misunderstanding begins to damage their self-esteem, even though attractiveness is not at the heart of the situation. In reality, you are avoiding the potential embarrassment of yet another “let down” and it can cause you to become quite reserved and isolated in your condition.
Erectile Dysfunction Cardiff:
What happens during an erection?
Before identifying what is causing your erectile dysfunction, it is important to understand what happens when a normal erection takes place. It’s very easy for this physiological process to breakdown.
An erection involves a complex series of functions involving a psychological state of arousal, the nervous system, hormonal and circulatory functions to create localised changes in the penis. Relaxation of the smooth muscle is essential for controlling the flow of blood into the penis.
When aroused, the brain sends signals to the nerves of the penis. Blood flow is increased to the erectile tissues. Sexual stimulation (and continued arousal) encourages the release of chemicals that relax this smooth muscle. Sexual stimulation also dramatically increases and maintains blood flow to the erectile tissues of the penis.
Erectile Dysfunction Cardiff:
What causes erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction can happen at any stage of the erection process. There can be various physical and psychological conditions that contribute to your erectile dysfunction.
Other than by injury or previous surgery, physical conditions include those which affect:
• The flow of blood to your penis -This is the most common physical cause of erectile dysfunction in men over 40 years old. Arteries carrying blood to the penis can become narrowed which means that there is insufficient blood going into the penis to achieve an erection. Several conditions can increase this circulatory risk of erectile dysfunction. They include hypertension (high blood pressure), smoking, heart conditions, diabetes, obesity, lack of exercise and high cholesterol.
• The interference of nerve signals – The sending and receiving of nerve impulses can be interrupted by strokes, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Without the essential “message” to open “the blood flood gates” from the brain to the nerves of the penis, they will remain closed.
• The presence (or lack) of hormones/chemicals in drugs – Low levels of testosterone, an overactive or underactive thyroid or excessive levels of cortisol (Cushing’s syndrome) can cause your Erectile dysfunction. Drugs contained in prescribed medication can also contribute to your erectile dysfunction and should be discussed with your doctor before you stop taking any medication. Medication for high blood pressure, diuresis (increased urine production) and certain heart conditions are just a few listed medical conditions that could affect you. Recreational drugs including alcohol can also contribute to your erectile dysfunction.
• The structure (anatomy) of your penis – Certain medical conditions that affect the structural tissue of the penis such as Peyronie’s disease can cause your erectile dysfunction. With this condition, erections can be painful and can be a source of stress and anxiety. Very rarely there can be a “venous leak” which prevents blood from being retained in the erectile tissues once it has been pumped there.
Psychological causes of your erectile dysfunction can develop as a reaction to any of the physical causes listed above.
Psychological causes generally inhibit your erection at the stage of arousal. Without arousal the subsequent stages become affected; the nerve signals to the penis, hormonal changes and blood flow.
A psychological cause of your erectile dysfunction is more probable if you can achieve an erection in some situations, but have problems achieving it in other situations e.g. when masturbating but not during intercourse.
Psychological causes include:
• Stress – Stress related to non-sexual issues e.g. coping with work demands, can contribute to your erectile dysfunction. Stress causes the release of adrenaline which narrows the blood vessels, restricting blood flow to the penis. Stress also inhibits nitric oxide from relaxing (expanding) the blood vessels that are associated with the smooth muscle of the penis.
Once sex is “perceived” as problematic because of your erectile dysfunction, further stress is created by negative emotions connected with your condition e.g. frustration or disappointment. A negative cycle of anticipatory anxiety, negative experiences and emotions exacerbates the condition, creating more tension and a fear of failure.
• Anxiety – As with stress, anxiety about non-sexual issues can also contribute to your erectile dysfunction because the same (stress) chemicals are released with negative emotions.
Anxiety specific to sex can be classified as performance anxiety. If you are young, lack any sexual experience or you are starting a new relationship, the pressure of trying to impress your partner can inhibit your ability to relax. When you then add some negative beliefs like perfectionism, fear of embarrassment, fear of failure or social anxiety, it can overwhelm your sexual confidence. With anxiety, you then worry about your erectile dysfunction happening again. You accumulate the “errors” of the previous experiences and transfer the worry into the next situation. Unfortunately, anxiety can direct your mind to the negative symptom (erectile dysfunction) you are trying so hard to avoid!
You can also be anxious about a part of your body and this anxiety preoccupies your sexual performance. Low self (body) esteem may have been created by “put downs” from other people. Or it has been perpetuated by your own limiting self-beliefs based on internal insecurities and low self-confidence. Essentially, you believe that what you have or what you do is not good enough. You desperately seek trust, acceptance and confidence from your partner in the initial stages of the relationship because you have been scarred from previous (self or other people’s) criticism.
• Depression – Psychological arousal sets up the necessary communication between the brain and your sex organs. Being generally depressed however can negatively alter the brain chemistry necessary to stimulate this pathway. As a result, your depression can cause your erectile dysfunction and ultimately you can have less desire for sex (loss of libido).
Any long term condition (such as erectile dysfunction) that is suppressed or that overwhelms an already-stressed disposition can create a reactive depression. It’s yet another problem that exacerbates a feeling of helplessness where too many negative situations further distresses your state of arousal.
• Relationship problems – A new relationship brings a mixture of excitement and anxiety. You feel under pressure to please your partner sexually (performance anxiety), but haven’t established the level of trust required to communicate any of your insecurities. Your inhibitions and worries can also be exaggerated if you have suffered with erectile dysfunction in past relationships or there has been a lack of sexual relationships more recently. Your self-confidence can diminish without having the opportunity to correct the situation “in practise”.
Unresolved arguments and disputes in established relationships can also be a cause for impotence. Conflicts from issues away from the bedroom can create tension and resentment inside the bedroom. And when sex can sometimes be a spontaneous tension-release from a partner’s sulking, the timing of your erectile dysfunction may add yet another layer of frustration in your relationship. You are trying to break the hostile atmosphere between you, but struggle to find a solution to create peace.
Some erectile dysfunction issues persist because there is poor communication generally or about sex in your relationship. Without discussing these issues, there can be an increased feeling of responsibility if your partner’s sexual needs are high and you are unable to satisfy them. Or the demands may be increased because you are trying to start a family and you are feeling the added pressure of not being able to fulfil your part in conception.
In situations where your partner has low self-esteem issues, you may not want to start any intimacy because if you do not achieve an erection, your erectile dysfunction might suggest that they are not attractive enough to arouse you.
When relationships are recovering from traumas like known infidelity, the betrayal can be very damaging. A lack of trust (when your partner has been unfaithful) or guilt (when you have had the affair) can be another cause for intimacy problems. Indeed, even when your affair is not known by your partner, your own guilt and distracted commitment can still cause your impotence.
• Sexual boredom – Arousal is helped by a feeling of excitement but when sex has become a routine, apathy can take over. Since erectile dysfunction increases with age, it may also coincide with those in long-term relationships where it requires more effort to keep sex exciting with a long-term partner. Inhibited communication can be behind the sexual indifference because you feel embarrassed or ashamed to openly discuss your sexual desires with your partner. Or having communicated your desires, your partner is too embarrassed to participate.
• Other issues – Deeper dysfunctional attitudes towards sex can be rooted in traumatic experiences from childhood. They can include sexual abuse or any sexual traumas that cause a stress/anxiety response when you are being intimate. In certain cases, a sexual phobia can develop where any sexual activity can trigger panic attacks.
Other negative attitudes towards sex may come from inhibited religious beliefs or sexual orientation problems. Even porn addiction has some suggested connections with erectile dysfunction depending on how it is used. It is not clear if sexual boredom, an absence of sex or a method of stress relief drives the porn addiction. The connection with porn may be different for each person, dependent on their background, their personalities and their relationships.
There are some claims that excessive masturbation causes erectile dysfunction, but these claims tend to be anecdotal without an understanding of the nature of sex. They can also be prone to gender bias where the sexually-deprived partner wants to point blame on ‘something’ because their sexual relationship has ‘dried up’.
Erectile Dysfunction Treatment Cardiff:
Treating your erectile dysfunction
Medical intervention – A consultation with your doctor or specialist will establish any physiological reason behind your erectile dysfunction e.g. high blood pressure, diabetes or cardio-vascular conditions. Options for treatment relevant to your medical condition will then be identified. In some cases, if your problem is hormonal, your endocrinologist will discuss hormone therapy. If anatomical issues are causing your erectile dysfunction, then surgery could help you. Penile implants (semi-rigid and inflatable) can be inserted, but these are not usually available on the NHS.
Medication – Various medication in the form of phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) inhibitors are prescribed to increase blood flow to the penis. Each type is taken within a period of anticipated sexual activity and requires a dosage that fits your sexual lifestyle. Your doctor will establish if there are any contra-indications e.g. angina or previous heart attacks. As with all medication, there can be side effects e.g. headaches or indigestion, but the prescription can be altered to ensure these are minimised.
There is usually a cost for this prescription but there are some conditions that are exempt e.g. diabetes. You may be given a free prescription if you have had any relevant medical treatment that could directly cause your erectile dysfunction e.g. kidney transplant.
Approaching your doctor is safer than buying on the internet unless you are buying from a reputable supplier. Speak to your doctor about the effective use of natural remedies e.g. vitamins or herbal remedies. There may be a placebo effect with some remedies, but if you believe the product will help you, then (for psychological erectile dysfunction) it can have the desired effect.
Reduce risk factors – There are certain lifestyle conditions that increase the risk of developing erectile dysfunction. These include:
• Being overweight,
• Drinking alcohol before sex or drinking in excess,
• Smoking or taking recreational drugs,
• Being physically inactive,
• Feeling constantly tired, fatigued and sleep-deprived,
• Suffering with stress.
These issues are discussed below.
Vacuum pumps – A vacuum pump is a plastic tube that is attached to a hand or battery operated pump. The penis is inserted into the tube and the air is then drawn out of the tube by the pump. As the suction continues, the vacuum then causes blood to fill the erectile tissues of your penis. Once erect, a rubber ring can then be placed around the base of the penis. This acts to reduce the venous outflow, helping you to maintain an erection.
Like any new device, it takes practise to develop confidence using it. There are contra-indications (anti-coagulant medication) and side effects (possible pain and bruising).
Psychological treatments for erectile dysfunction
If your doctor has dismissed any underlying physiological causes of your ED, then exploring your lifestyle issues and psychological causes can help you treat the underlying reasons for your impotence.
Lifestyle issues and erectile dysfunction –
As already mentioned above, there are numerous lifestyle issues that can contribute to your erectile dysfunction.
• By stopping smoking, you reduce the risk of damage to arteries throughout the body. Nicotine encourages blood vessels to constrict and as you are aware, blood flow is essential for erections.
• By avoiding alcohol, you reduce the short-term impact that it can have on your arousal levels. In excess, alcohol can lower testosterone levels (essential for dilation of blood vessels in the penis). The general advice is to drink in moderation, but get to know your limits and its effect on your arousal levels.
• Recreational drugs such as narcotics, stimulants and hallucinogens can also have an impact on sexual functioning. Prescribed drugs can cause your erectile dysfunction but should be continued unless you have consulted with your doctor. Alternative medication may be available.
• Reduce your weight if are obese by eating healthily. Obesity can increase your likelihood of atherosclerosis which can reduce blood flow to organs including your penis. Being obese also lowers your levels of testosterone which is essential for sexual function. Testosterone increases the availability of nitric oxide which dilates the blood vessels of the penis.
• Take regular moderate exercise. Exercise can help with a number of different health issues. Cardio-vascular exercise can help with more efficient heart and blood vessel functioning to vital organs. It can help to reduce blood pressure (ask your doctor if you have any contraindications to exercise). Muscle tone, general stamina, self-esteem and self-confidence can also be improved. Exercise can help you to lose weight, release your physical tension caused by stress and may help to boost testosterone levels.
Anything in excess can be detrimental to your health, so it is important to establish a moderate exercise routine. Long distance cycling can compress the nerves in the pelvic area which can affect arterial blood flow. Moderate your cycle-training if it affects you in this way.
• Ensure you have enough relaxation, rest and sleep to counter tiredness and fatigue. Depleted energy levels can be a mood-dampener for your arousal levels. When you are over-tired from a long day at work, the nerve signals from your brain to your sex organs are temporarily interrupted. After a rest period or by the following morning, the situation can be very different! Persistent tiredness and fatigue may indicate another underlying medical condition worthy of investigation by your doctor.
• Manage your stress (see below).
Managing stress and erectile dysfunction
Finding ways to manage your stress can help reduce your erectile dysfunction. You might expect your stress levels to be high during the big life changes that include moving house, being made redundant, changing jobs or being promoted, a change in your relationship (for example a new relationship, separation, divorce, or you are about to become a father). When dealing with these major life events, erectile dysfunction can be fairly common, but your erectile dysfunction should resolve itself as you settle into your life change. You can be more accepting of a temporary situation when you know what is causing your impotence.
When you are under continuous stress, the warning signs might not be obvious. They include emotional reactions like irritability or anger. They can also include physical responses like excessive sweating, changes in your bowel movements and disrupted sleeping patterns. Behaviourally, you may find that habits become excessive or that you procrastinate doing trivial tasks. Erectile dysfunction is one indicator that your stress level is high.
Managing stress can be achieved in several ways. By implementing some of the lifestyle issues above, you may find that this is sufficient to help you cope with the situation (even though the negative situation still exists). It may also reduce the frequency of your erectile dysfunction.
Without pro-actively dealing with your stress, you continue to produce adrenaline and experience the mental and physical effects of this hormone (erectile dysfunction being one of them). Common strategies to manage stress include:
• Talking to others about your problem (off-loading),
• Delegating some of the tasks,
• Problem-solving the situation to eliminate any perceived obstacles,
• Altering your own beliefs and expectations about the situation,
• Finding way to vent your emotions e.g. exercise,
• And learning to relax.
Treating depression and erectile dysfunction
When going through big lifestyle changes, depression can be a common reaction. Sexual arousal is normally lowered by depression. This is because you are not generating enough of the chemicals necessary to stimulate the essential nerve pathways between your brain and your sex organs. Your arousal levels can be low or non-existent depending on the severity of your depression. Those with erectile dysfunction can then develop a further reactive depression (and anxiety) because of the helplessness of your condition
Depression is commonly treated with medication and can be helped with therapy. But there are many strategies that can help you lift your mood and sense of optimism. Some of these strategies are listed above (Lifestyle issues and Managing stress) and involve you:
• Challenging your negative thoughts to elevate you out of your depression
• Setting small achievable goals can give you a feeling of success and help you focus away from your “dark cloud”.
• Scheduling goals can help you to re-connect with a moderate level of responsibility where you are in charge. Often depression can be caused by a sense of over-responsibility.
• Setting daily goals can also help you to establish a routine. Rumination is common with depression but spending time dwelling on the negatives can pull you down further. Even if you are aiming for a daily 15 minute walk, the exercise can boost your endorphins and help lift your frame of mind.
Treating anxiety and erectile dysfunction
As already mentioned, any negative emotion such as anxiety produces the same stress chemicals that can inhibit your arousal and interfere with nerve signals from the brain to the sexual organs. Your anxiety can be related to non-sexual issues; external events that are dulling your arousal levels e.g. worrying about redundancy. The anxiety can affect many aspects of your life with your erectile dysfunction is one symptom. Medication or therapy is commonly used to treat anxiety, but there are many techniques that can help you cope with your anxiety.
Some of these strategies are listed above (Lifestyle issues, Managing stress and Treating depression). Other techniques include:
• Learning relaxation techniques that involve slow, deep abdominal breathing that can help you to ease your physical tension.
• Relaxation techniques can be used with visualisation, where you imagine yourself confidently coping with the situations that are causing you to feel anxious.
• Using this process will help you recognise your anxious negative “self talk”. You can then learn to transform it into believable positive self talk e.g. change “I won’t get this job” into “I have the skills to succeed in this interview”.
Your anxiety can be specific to sexual issues creating a form of sexual performance anxiety. High expectations about your sexual performance can come from a variety of sources. Media portrayal of masculinity can filter down into male youth culture setting up an unrealistic sexual role that you are expected to fulfil. These expectations can be brought into your first sexual encounter as a goal-driven, highly-charged experience (even though you may not really know the ropes yet!) And when it doesn’t go to plan, your perfectionism stores the negative event only to throw up the negative emotion (anxiety) in your future sexual experiences.
If your sexual performance isn’t working for you, consider changing the nature of your performance. Some the strategies above (Lifestyle issues, Managing stress and Treating depression) can help you learn how to relax and approach sex in a different way. The breathing techniques and visualisation of arousal are essential to access a more relaxed state so that your arousal can encourage communication between your brain and sexual organs. In your mind anything that you want to imagine yourself doing will help you.
It can also help to review your underlying beliefs which are making your sexual performance such a pressured experience. Fear of failure, fear of embarrassment and distrust only serve to exaggerate your performance anxiety. Consider what will help you adjust your perspective:
• Does sex have to be perfect every time?
• Is it such a failing if it doesn’t happen this time?
• With erectile dysfunction being so common, is it that embarrassing if it happens today?
• Can I talk to my partner about my worries?
• Can you build up your intimacy in stages?
By considering some of these questions, you begin to challenge your negative habitual thinking. They can help you apply more confident solutions to your anxiety.
Other Self help techniques for erectile dysfunction
Kegel exercises – These exercises are used to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles (also known as the PC muscle). These muscles are activated when you stop urinating mid flow. You can practise tensing these muscles anywhere (but don’t actually practise whilst urinating) e.g. whilst sitting in a chair or standing in a queue, tense three times for ten seconds each; rest for ten seconds in between each one. Practise these exercises up to three times per day. It is believed that by having strong pelvic floor muscles, it can increase the blood supply to the sex organs and create a stronger orgasm.
Masturbation is a natural function that can be used to practise your “peak” aroused state. When used in combination with relaxed breathing techniques and visualisation, it can treat your erectile dysfunction.
When masturbating, visualise what epitomises arousal for you – in whatever situation, with whom and doing whatever arouses you – remember that this is a practise of exciting what is in your mind, even if it doesn’t happen in reality. If an image is a turn-off for you, reject it until you have found your personal peak aroused state. Renew the image often. Whether you tell your partner about this image is completely your choice.
The principle is to individually re-programme arousal in your mind so that the nerve pathways between your brain and sex organs can communicate. It is a form of self-hypnosis. When you have mastered your visualisation on your own, you can then consider introducing your visualisation with your partner (see below).
Practical methods with your partner
When erectile dysfunction has clouded the intimacy with your partner, it’s time to get back to the basics and progressively build it up from there. After discussing this issue, agree that this is the way forward. With you having practised relaxed breathing and visualisation with masturbation, you can take your self-hypnosis into this next transitional stage of recovery.
Sensate focus is the term used to emphasise exploratory pleasurable touch with your partner. In the early stages, it is often (but not always) without touching the sexual organs. It helps to take the pressure off the erection and intercourse thereby removing any performance anxiety. It also helps to re-build the arousal response from the brain to the sexual organs over a period of time; a form of re-sensitisation into enjoyable sexual intercourse.
Both partners can benefit when they can admit that the previous system needs to be rejuvenated. The process requires both partners to be open and communicative about what you enjoyed when “exploring” each other and would like to be repeated in the next session. Explore different areas of the body by varying touch (massage can be a useful way of appreciating therapeutic touch), “mouth work” or using any physical aids e.g. vibrators.
You move through each stage say every two weeks, but this can vary. Both of you being ready to progress is more important. In the first stage concentrate on the whole body but not the sexual organs. Then, in the second stage add some sexual organ stimulation in addition to what you want to keep from the first stage. Orgasm is not the emphasis but may happen incidentally.
If the programme is moving successfully, begin some form of penetration in the third stage but without orgasm being the emphasis. Consider different styles of motion, varying of pace, intensity and style of movement. Be prepared to be open about trying positions, using any research material to build your knowledge. Be sensitive to what the other partner is enjoying, without being overly critical if something is not pleasurable.
Stress and anxiety from unresolved tensions in your relationship can seep into your intimacy. When you are preoccupied with the issues of a major row, your partner may be ready to let go, but until you are ready, these conflicts can block the arousal centre in your mind. Your erectile dysfunction then becomes a new symptom that blocks your sex life.
When your erectile dysfunction has become a worry for you, it’s important to admit this to your partner. You may want to hide the issue because of the embarrassment and fear of failure. But the relationship will not be able to focus on repairing the problem until it’s out in the open. When the hidden issue persists for too long, it can become be too sensitive to discuss openly. And men generally tend to run away from sensitive issues until the issues have reached catastrophic levels. This is where outside help in the form of relationship therapy can objectively deal with “what is not being communicated” and find practical steps to deal with suppressed issues. Often with erectile dysfunction caused by sexual performance anxiety, the hidden issue is that you are trying so hard to please your partner, that it stops you from being able to relax and enjoy sex.
When erectile dysfunction is generally misunderstood by your partner, it can cause a series of new problems. If your partner has low self-esteem issues, then they may misinterpret erectile dysfunction as a loss of attractiveness; they think that you cannot achieve an erection because you no longer find them desirable. They can become angry and resentful. They can even become suspicious that you are having an affair. In reality, what they believe is so far away from what is happening on your side, that these sensitivities create crossed lines of communication. It adds more pressure on you to “do your part” in bed just so that they can feel desired and “good enough”. Ultimately, when they are suspicious and have jealousy issues, it can help them to believe that you are remaining faithful.
Helping your partner with erectile dysfunction
Supporting your partner with erectile dysfunction is essential for his recovery. Talk to him about the condition, his feelings and concerns. He is likely to feel embarrassed about the condition and he will hope that it will right itself. Often it does once it is out in the open. If the erectile dysfunction does not change, encourage him to have the condition diagnosed by a doctor and explore treatment options. Erectile dysfunction is common and by making healthy changes in his lifestyle as a start, it may cure it. If there is a psychological cause then there are still many treatment options available.
As a partner, his erectile dysfunction will be affecting you too. If your attempt to discuss the issue causes further conflicts, it may be better being handled externally by a therapist. Sometimes a condition like this exposes many suppressed issues in both partners of the relationship.
Erectile Dysfunction Treatment Cardiff:
Treating your erectile dysfunction with Hypnotherapy
When your erectile dysfunction is stress or anxiety-related, hypnotherapy can be an efficient way to treat your condition. Different hypnotherapy techniques can be employed to improve your practise methods and treat underlying psychological causes. What can hypnotherapy do for you?
Identify and treat the cause of your erectile dysfunction – The arrival of negative situations like erectile dysfunction can produce feelings of inadequacy; you get trapped in your erectile dysfunction symptoms and you are unable to separate the emotion from your condition. The negative emotion is stored in your mind from past traumatic events. They act as the cause of your erectile dysfunction. The emotion surges up into your consciousness to warn you about the danger of another “distressing” performance when you are next being intimate. Hypnotherapy can identify your past causes and release the emotion from these traumatic events so that you can freely embrace new positive learning states.
Help to reduce stress and anxiety – Whether your stress and anxiety is external or is now part of your erectile dysfunction, hypnotherapy can lower your stress and anxiety responses. By introducing deep relaxation and breathing techniques into your coping skills, you can break the cycle of worry and ease the pressure that is affecting your sexual performance.
Lift your depression – You can feel helpless when a condition like erectile dysfunction interrupts your intimacy. A reactive depression is only natural when you are fearful of starting a new relationship or struggle to maintain the current relationship. Hypnotherapy can stimulate your “sexual arousal” in your mind helping you to re-connect the necessary communication between your brain and sexual organs.
Motivate you to change your lifestyle – Hypnotherapy is renowned for treating habits. If your erectile dysfunction is a symptom of poor lifestyle habits, then hypnotherapy can help you to improve your sleep habits, lose weight, stop smoking, reduce your alcohol, and start exercising.
Treat negative beliefs that are intensifying your erectile dysfunction – Your sexual confidence can be overwhelmed by obsessive negative beliefs. A one-off loss of erection can turn into persistent erectile dysfunction when you interpret the event with perfectionism, fear of failure, fear of embarrassment or social anxiety. Hypnotherapy can help you dissociate these negative beliefs that have merged into your sexual performance.
Visualisation of your arousal – The images and emotions of your arousal can become contaminated with persistent erectile dysfunction; what used to be a natural experience gets blocked by a concrete wall. With fewer positive experiences, it’s natural to avoid the pressure of yet another let down. As you acquire the essential visualisation techniques to practise with, you can boost the confidence back into your sexual relationship.
Build low self-esteem and low self confidence – Any long term condition such as erectile dysfunction can damage your self-esteem and your self-confidence. Avoidance of your intimacy would be an understandable method of coping but this would severely limit the enjoyment of your relationship. In a deeply relaxed state, hypnotherapy can help your unconscious mind accept suggestions that will raise your self-esteem and self-confidence. Hypnotherapy techniques can be employed to anchor your past confident triggers with your intimacy so that you have a stronger belief in you and your abilities.
Stimulate effective communication with your partner – You and your partner are the best people to resolve your erectile dysfunction. But your communication can become strained when you are playing into each other’s sensitivities and you are trying so hard to please the other partner. In your relationship, you are learning about the values that you both bring into the bedroom; it’s easy to misinterpret your responses and make the situation worse with feelings of responsibility. When these issues are dealt with objectively by a professional therapist, it can help you focus on more open and decisive communication that will resolve some of the underlying obstacles.
Erectile Dysfunction Cardiff: For further information on treatment, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff
Premature Ejaculation Treatment in Cardiff
Premature ejaculation is a common sexual problem amongst men under 40, with 30% – 70% of males being affected. The actual figures may be higher because premature ejaculation is viewed as a taboo subject in male youth culture. Men with premature ejaculation may not admit that they have the condition until it is acute.
Premature Ejaculation Cardiff:
Definition of premature ejaculation
Premature ejaculation is can be simply defined as ejaculating earlier than you (or your partner) would like. Premature ejaculation usually happens before or shortly after penetration with minimal stimulation. It is an unsatisfying experience for both partners.
Premature ejaculation is very subjective in nature. What can be “normal” for one male (and their partner) may be premature (or delayed) compared to the expectations of another relationship. The average time for male ejaculation during intercourse is somewhere between 4 – 8 minutes.
Premature ejaculation can be a “lifelong” condition that has existed during puberty or “acquired”, which develops later in life. Both can have biological and psychological causes.
Premature Ejaculation Cardiff:
Implications of premature ejaculation
Sex is an important part of a healthy relationship. When something is inhibiting your ability to enjoy a satisfying sex life, it can be distressing for you and your partner. Premature ejaculation is one of several sexual conditions that can inhibit the enjoyment of your intimacy, putting a strain on your relationship.
As a short-term problem, premature ejaculation can be an annoyance for both partners. Quite often, the condition can just disappear naturally. But as a long term condition, it can impact on your self-esteem and self-confidence. Some men will avoid new relationships rather than face the frustration and embarrassment of their premature ejaculation.
Partners of those with premature ejaculation can also suffer distress. If there are communication problems, saying that there they are dissatisfied might put too much pressure on the man with premature ejaculation, making the condition worse. If your premature ejaculation happens before penetration, there could also be problems with conception.
Premature Ejaculation Cardiff:
What causes premature ejaculation?
Your premature ejaculation may have a biological background and thus it is important to have any biological issues diagnosed by your doctor before exploring a psychological connection. For example hyper-sensitivity of the penis can cause premature ejaculation and this would be identified in your pubescent years during masturbation.
Or a medical change could have contributed to your premature ejaculation. Your doctor would test for medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, hormone levels or prostate problems before considering other possibilities. In some cases, drug use or alcohol can cause your premature ejaculation, so your doctor will want to discuss any relevant lifestyle issues.
Early background experiences can form negative “hurried” and anxious attitudes towards sex. Fear of being caught masturbating can condition the pubescent child to ejaculate quickly. Traumatic experiences can also be a cause for ejaculatory dysfunction. For example, being caught masturbating (and then being punished for it) or being sexually abused can similarly influence your anxious, guilty or shameful attitude to sex. The effects of these experiences may not become conscious until you enter into a sexual and emotional relationship.
In addition to early sexual conditioning being the psychological cause of premature ejaculation, there are other psychological and emotional issues that can cause your ejaculatory dysfunction. Physical tension (held in the pelvic and abdominal muscles) can provoke the ejaculatory reflex and low moods from stress and depression are two major influences. The emotions themselves can act as triggers for your premature ejaculation, so that when you feel stressed or depressed, your premature ejaculation is worse. Other common negative emotions include anxiety, embarrassment, frustration, shame, despair, disappointment, guilt and anger.
Other personality traits such as perfectionism can increase anxiety about your sexual performance. You place excessive pressure on yourself to please your partner causing a state of tense hyper-arousal. Being self-critical can also cause you to focus on what has “gone wrong” and project the worry of this “mistake” into the next sexual experience. The negative response to your “mistake” can also be intensified if you have social anxiety. You are more prone to feeling embarrassed about your premature ejaculation, escalating your anxious expectations into the next situation.
Sexual performance anxiety is common with sexual inexperience and lack of self-confidence, with the tendency to be over-excited. It can also be evident in new relationships where you may want to impress your partner with your sexual prowess. Any situation in which you place a high level of importance will increase your stress levels and likelihood of premature ejaculation.
In new relationships, it may feel like it is too early to communicate and discuss your control and intimacy issues. As the anxious male, you are then unable to establish a level of trust. This can be magnified if you have had premature ejaculation in previous new relationships. The likelihood of premature ejaculation is also increased where there has been absence of intimate relationships for long periods. Your anxiety and hyper-sensitivity can increase without having the opportunity to practise acquired control techniques.
But even unresolved problems in established relationships can create ejaculatory dysfunction. Emotional conflicts “outside of the bedroom” can leak into the bedroom, causing tension during your intimacy. This can then create a negative cycle of stress, particularly if the partner is unsupportive of your condition, creating even more performance anxiety.
Some premature ejaculation issues are specific to the bedroom and become established because of a lack of communication. For example, there can be increases in your partner’s sexual needs leading to hidden anxiety about pleasing your partner. This high expectation on your performance exacerbates your premature ejaculation, overwhelming your ability to satisfy your partner’s needs.
Premature Ejaculation Cardiff:
Treating your Premature Ejaculation
Medical intervention – After a thorough examination by your doctor, they will diagnose what is causing your premature ejaculation and then explore options for treatment. Oral medication in the form of anti-depressants is commonly prescribed. You may not be depressed, but SSRI’s have the useful side effect of delaying ejaculation. As with any medication there can be negative side effects too. For some people, the stigma of taking an anti-depressant influences them to pursue other treatment methods.
Topical applications/condoms – The use of anaesthetic sprays and creams can reduce sensitivity, helping to delay ejaculation. Side effects include reactions to the chemicals used and a reported temporary loss of sensation for the partner. Condoms containing these chemicals can be used to reduce sensitivity. Even without the chemicals, a standard condom can be used to reduce sensitivity during sex and help delay ejaculation. Additional lubrication can have the same benefit.
When things are persistently going wrong on the “playing field”, it’s time to identify what is causing this and apply the solutions into the training sessions. If you don’t have a partner right now or communication isn’t at its best, this means masturbating on your own and (re) learning to control your arousal as a practise for your next intimate opportunity. Without your partner present, you remove any pressure to perform (performance anxiety) and remove the fear of failure. This helps you develop self-confidence in stages and explore various levels of controlled arousal, rather than “all or nothing” responses.
Practical methods include “stop-start” techniques that help you learn to control your ejaculatory response. When masturbating, vary the level of stimulation up to the pre-orgasm stage and then reduce the stimulation so that your arousal fades back down to a moderate level. Continue staying in this “zone” over a number of times during the session until you are ready to climax.
The “squeeze” method – This method (by Masters and Johnson) involves first stimulating to erection and then squeezing behind the head of the penis (frenulum) for about 10 seconds to slightly reduce arousal. Continue stimulation to the pre-orgasm stage and then squeeze again until the arousal has reduced. Continue this process of “stimulation and squeeze” until you are ready to climax.
Kegel exercises – These exercises involve contracting the PC muscle to control ejaculation. The PC muscle can be identified by stopping the flow if urine when you next go to the toilet. If you can stop urinating and start again, you have engaged the correct muscle. It is this specific pelvic floor muscle that also controls ejaculation. Tension in the abdominals, gluteals or thighs can provoke the ejaculatory response, so these muscles need to be kept relaxed. This is also a useful exercise in muscle tension awareness. Practise tightening the PC muscle three times for ten second intervals; rest for ten seconds in between each one. Then, during masturbation, practise tensing the PC muscle prior to orgasm. This helps to delay ejaculation whilst maintaining a level of stimulation.
Relaxed breathing – Learning how to take deeper breaths can diminish the ejaculatory reflex. Breathing techniques are commonly used in self-hypnosis, meditation and yoga to relieve stress and muscular tension. By practising slow, deep abdominal breaths when not involved in any sexual activity, you can become aware of which muscles are tense and which ones are relaxed. When you have this internal awareness, you can control and release tension using breathing techniques. As mentioned above, tension in the abdomen, thighs and buttocks can trigger the ejaculatory reflex. Controlled tension in the PC muscle can lower the ejaculatory reflex. Master deep breathing techniques and then integrate this muscular tension/relaxation control into your masturbation.
Visualisation – What you visualise in your mind is another way of controlling unconscious bodily functions including your premature ejaculation. These images aren’t just on autopilot. Top professional athletes use positive visualisation to get in “the zone” to enhance their peak performance in sport. They also use it to release the affect of traumatic experiences. What you visualise can also affect what happens during sex. Think of something stressful and your heart will beat faster, your breathing will become shallow and your body will create muscular tension. These conditions are more likely to trigger you premature ejaculation. But if you visualise a calmer state of arousal, then it can help lower your ejaculatory reflex. To begin with, practise visualising “control”, confidence, calmness and deep breathing during sex. Then integrate these images into your masturbation. Avoid visualising “negatives”, because your imagination will take you to the place you don’t want to go! For example, “don’t think of an orange” and you know what happens! “Don’t think of ejaculating quickly…” and you’ll create the tension in your body that does just what you don’t want to happen. With practise, your visualisation can create a range of arousal levels to match the stage of your intimacy e.g. “low” during foreplay and “high” during climax. At advanced levels, this mind control can help you become a master of sexual arousal.
Refractory period – The refractory period is the period of “down” time (or recovery) between each ejaculation. It varies greatly between men, ranging from minutes to hours and even days. After the first ejaculation, some men experience less sensitivity during the second erection. This reduced arousal can be used to your advantage by learning about the average time of your refractory period. If the period is quick, you can then masturbate before sex (or early in your foreplay) to release your first hyper-aroused premature ejaculation. This ensures that your second erection will have longer intercourse. Learn about the length of your refractory period during your masturbation.
Practical methods involving partners
Having practised these techniques on your own with masturbation, you can then apply these self-help methods during sex with your partner. When you introduce a new technique into an activity, expect some level of distraction as the new technique falls into place. The important thing is to be patient.
There are numerous other methods that can help your premature ejaculation. Vary the length of your foreplay by trying longer (or shorter) periods of time. Change the focus of your foreplay with less (or more) time stimulating the penis. Massage can be a good way of facilitating relaxation in overly tense muscles and naturally reduce the stress levels in the recipient.
Having trained yourself to be more aware of your arousal levels, you can also aim to penetrate with lower levels of arousal at the start of intercourse. Maintaining this moderate arousal during sex can be achieved using the following techniques:
• Practise slower motions at the start of intercourse and increase speed of rhythm when you want to ejaculate.
• Withdraw at intervals to ease the sensation, re-penetrating to increase arousal.
• Use circular motions to reduce stimulation rather than deep thrusting motions.
• Vary your position. The missionary position (man on top) requires the most muscular tension particularly around the core muscles (abdomen) because you are supporting your whole body weight. This can increase your premature ejaculation. Positions with less postural tension include ‘side-to-side’ and ‘doggy-style’.
• You can also have sex with your partner on top of you to reduce your muscular tension. Plus, if you are unable to embrace any of these techniques and your partner is sensitive to your arousal levels, they can also vary the pace and rhythm to help control your premature ejaculation.
Stress and anxiety from unresolved conflicts in your relationship can leak into activities in the bedroom. It can affect both partners in different ways, but your premature ejaculation could be a symptom of problems in your relationship. How well are you communicating in general? Can you talk about your sexual needs in a non-judgemental way? It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that when there are problems with your intimacy, it is reflected in the relationship (and vice versa). When left open-ended for too long, the subject-matter can become too delicate to discuss. Men are generally less talkative about these issues, not wanting to admit that there is a problem until it is at catastrophic levels. This is where outside help in the form of relationship therapy can resolve “what isn’t being communicated” and find resolutions that can put you both back on track. The relationship therapy can deal with issues both inside and outside of your intimacy.
Sometimes, because of the lack of communication between partners, your premature ejaculation can be attributed to assumptions about the needs of your partner. For example, you may be trying so hard to please your partner in bed, that your “pressure to please” is creating your stress. But maybe your partner is already content and would prefer you to relax more during sex, but his hasn’t been communicated effectively. Or maybe your partner’s slight disappointment with the premature ejaculation is being viewed as a complete failure on your part, making the situation more anxious for you. Actually, in their disappointment, they are reflecting what you are feeling. They are genuinely very keen to help you and are willing to try any methods to put it right.
Premature Ejaculation Cardiff:
Treating your premature ejaculation with hypnotherapy
When your premature ejaculation is anxiety or stress-related, hypnotherapy can be an effective way to treat your condition. Various hypnotherapy techniques can be used to enhance your practise methods and treat the underlying causes. This can ensure a more rapid change than if you were dealing with these techniques on your own. How can hypnotherapy help you?
Identify and treat the cause of your premature ejaculation – When negative habits are ruling your life, it can seem like there is no alternative but to continue on your negative path. Your mind stores the emotion from negative past events to warn you about the “danger” of it happening again. But the stress of that past trauma is creating excessive tension and self-limiting beliefs. These past traumas are destroying your confidence. Hypnotherapy can help you identify the causal event and release the emotion, allowing you to access new positive learning states.
Break the cycle of expectation – Expectation has a habit of creating your reality. You fear having premature ejaculation and the anticipation builds the anxiety into the condition. Hypnotherapy can serve as a useful method to break these disruptive negative thoughts and replace them with more positive constructive thinking patterns.
Relax your ejaculatory response – When you have premature ejaculation, the communication between your unconscious mind and your sexual organs has become “over-excited” with the slightest arousal. In hypnosis, suggestions can be used to calm the ejaculatory response, diminishing the rapid nerve impulses that are provoking your premature ejaculation.
Reduce physical tension – Physical tension is a key feature of our premature ejaculation. If you are having problems benefitting from the breathing techniques, hypnotherapy can boost your relaxation response. Relaxation training can then be given in hypnosis to enhance your learning experience.
Visualise a controlled arousal – Having an intense visualisation of the experience you want during your intimacy will focus your mind and body towards this reality. In a relaxed hypnotic state, conscious interference will be minimised so that you can embrace the imagery as a “real” experience of controlled arousal. Using self-hypnosis, you can then integrate this template into your intimacy.
Build your self-confidence and self-esteem – Long term premature ejaculation can damage your self-confidence and your self-esteem. It can cause you to avoid intimate relationships for fear of the issue happening again. In a deeply relaxed state, your unconscious mind will readily accept suggestions to boost your self-confidence and self-esteem. Your past confident triggers can also be anchored with your intimacy helping you to develop a stronger belief in your ability.
Encourage effective communication in your relationship – The best people to deal with your premature ejaculation is you and your partner. But there can be many reasons that your communication is inhibited. When these inhibitions are identified and treated, it can help you (and your partner) deals with the relevant issues more confidently.