Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Over Thinking: 5 Tips For Decision Making

In an interview last year, I asked acclaimed graphic designer James Victore what made him so efficient. His simple reply: “I make decisions.” We make hundreds, if not millions, of micro-decisions every day – from what to focus our energy on, to how to respond to an email, to what to eat for lunch. You could easily argue that becoming a better (and swifter) decision-maker would be the fastest route to improving your daily productivity.

After digging into the research, I learned that there are no hard and fast rules for decision-making. (If only!) There are, however, a number of interesting tendencies that play into how we decide, which we should all be aware of. Here’s a quick stroll through some of the key findings on the art of decision-making:

1. Satisficers vs Maximizers.
Coined by the economist Herbert Simon in 1956, “satisficing” is an approach to decision-making that prioritizes an adequate solution over an optimal solution. Gretchen Rubin sums up the difference between the two types of decision-makers well in a post over at the Happiness Project:

Satisficers are those who make a decision or take action once their criteria are met. That doesn’t mean they’ll settle for mediocrity; their criteria can be very high; but as soon as they find the car, the hotel, or the pasta sauce that has the qualities they want, they’re satisfied. Maximizers want to make the optimal decision. So even if they see a bicycle or a photographer that would seem to meet their requirements, they can’t make a decision until after they’ve examined every option, so they know they’re making the best possible choice…

In a fascinating book, The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz argues that satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers. Maximizers must spend a lot more time and energy to reach a decision, and they’re often anxious about whether they are, in fact, making the best choice.

You’d think maximizers would at least feel content with their decision after all that work, but no! As anyone who’s ever researched a possible illness on the Internet knows, more information does not necessarily lead to peace of mind or better decision-making.

Takeaway: Gathering additional information always comes at a cost. We’re better off setting our criteria for making a decision in advance (as in, “I’ll make the call once I know X, Y, and Z”). Once you have that information, make the choice and move on.
2. How less can be more.
Psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer, whose work was cited in the Malcolm Gladwell bestseller Blink, argues that we’re designed to make smart snap decisions based on limited information. In fact, his research shows that we do it all the time. Here, Newsweek neatly sums up Gigerenzer’s findings on the “Take the Best” strategy that most people use to make decisions:

“Take the best” means that you reason and calculate only as much as you absolutely have to; then you stop and do something else. So, for example, if there are 10 pieces of information that you might weigh in a thorough decision, but one piece of information is clearly more important than the others, then that one piece of information is often enough to make a choice. You don’t need the rest; other details just complicate things and waste time.

Gigerenzer has demonstrated this in the laboratory. He asked a large number of parents to consider a scenario in which their child wakes up after midnight short of breath, wheezing and coughing. They are told that a doctor could make a home visit in 20 minutes; it’s a physician they know but don’t like all that much, because he never listens to their view. Alternatively, they could take their child to a clinic 60 minutes away; the doctors there are unknown, but good listeners by reputation. Which to choose?

In the end, almost all of the parents based their decision on just one key piece of information: Whether or not the doctor was a good listener. Considered in this light, the wait time and other factors were just not that important.

Takeaway: We are designed to process information so quickly that “rapid cognition” – decisions that spring from hard thinking based on sound experience – can feel more instinctive than scientific. Trust your gut.
3. The three kinds of intuition.
In the creative and business worlds, you hear a lot of talk about intuition, and (see above) “trusting your gut.” But what does that really mean? It’s less simple than you might think. Columbia Business School professor William Duggan believes that there are three different types of intuition:
Ordinary intuition is just a feeling, a gut instinct. Expert intuition is snap judgments, when you instantly recognize something familiar, the way a tennis pro knows where the ball will go from the arc and speed of the opponent’s racket… The third kind, strategic intuition, is not a vague feeling, like ordinary intuition. Strategic intuition is a clear thought… That flash of insight you had last night might solve a problem that’s been on your mind for a month.…Expert intuition is always fast, and it only works in familiar situations. Strategic intuition is always slow, and it works for new situations, which is when you need your best ideas.This difference is crucial, because expert intuition can be the enemy of strategic intuition. As you get better at your job, you recognize patterns that let you solve similar problems faster and faster. That’s expert intuition at work. In new situations your brain takes much longer to make enough new connections to find a good answer.

A flash of insight happens in only a moment, but it may take weeks for that moment to come. You can’t rush it. But your expert intuition might see something familiar and make a snap judgment too soon. The discipline of strategic intuition requires you recognize when a situation is new and turn off your expert intuition. You must disconnect the old dots, to let new ones connect on their own.

Takeaway: We should trust our expert intuition (based on experience) when making choices about familiar problems. But when we need a break-through solution, we shouldn’t be too quick to jump to conclusions.
4. Why we should trust experience. (Anyone’s experience.)
Psychologist Daniel Gilbert, author of the bestseller Stumbling on Happiness, studies the cognitive biases that we use to make decisions. According to Gilbert, we do not make very rational decisions in most cases, nor are we particularly good at predicting what will make us happy. (See his great TED talk for more on this.)Gilbert argues that if we don’t have the knowledge or experience to make a decision, the best course of action is to just ask someone else. Says Gilbert:

In many domains of life, the experience of one randomly selected other person can beat your own best guess by a factor of two… We all like a trip to Paris better than gallbladder surgery; everybody would rather have a compliment than have their thumb nailed to the floor. The differences between you and other people are so unimportant that you would do better predicting how you are going to like something simply by asking one randomly chosen person how they like it.

Takeaway: If you’re wrestling with a difficult decision, consult a friend or colleague who’s been in your situation before. Their insight will likely be significantly more valuable than almost any research.
5. Choosing your battles.
Some decisions, like how to handle a dicey client situation, are worth mulling over. Others, like deciding what brand of dental floss you buy, are not. Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide, points out that we are constantly bullied into feeling like trivial decisions are incredibly important:
The modern marketplace is a conspiracy to confuse, to trick the mind into believing that our most banal choices are actually extremely significant. Companies spend a fortune trying to convince us that only their toothpaste will clean our teeth, or that only their detergent will remove the stains from our clothes… Why does the average drug store contain 55 floss alternatives and more than 350 kinds of toothpaste? While all these products are designed to cater to particular consumer niches, they end up duping the brain into believing that picking a floss is a high-stakes game, since it’s so damn hard. And so we get mired in decision-making quicksand.

Takeaway: Ask yourself if this decision is really that meaningful. If it’s not, stop obsessing over it, and just make a call!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Devils, Demons, Exorcism, Possession and Psychotherapy

The Possession (2012), yet another in a recent deluge of films about demonic possession and exorcism supposedly based on real cases, opened this Labor Day weekend. (I have not seen the movie, so this is definitely not a review.) Directed by Orne Bornedal and co-produced by Sam Raimi, The Possession tells the terrifying tale this time of a mysterious wooden box containing an ancient Hebrew demonic spirit, the Dybbuk.

In medieval Jewish folklore, the dybbuk was a transmigrating spirit or soul capable of causing physical sickness and psychological suffering by possessing one's body or brain. Those perceived to be destructively possessed by the dybbuk would be forcibly brought for exorcism to the synagogue and supportively surrounded by a minyan of ten men traditionally required for Jewish religious services. The group, led by the exorcist, would then deliberately provoke the presumedly possessed person into a rage in an (evidently often successful) effort to forcefully evict the dybbuk from his or her body. However, unlike in Christian exorcism, which seeks solely to extirpate and expel the offending evil demon, the purpose of the Jewish exorcism is to heal both the person being possessed and the troubled spirit or disembodied soul (dybbuk) doing the possessing.

The rabbi performing the exorcism may, like Catholic priests, employ specific paraphernalia like a lit candle, shofar (ram's horn) and empty glass flask into which the dybbuk can visibly retreat once leaving the victim. Or perhaps, as in The Possession, a small wooden "Dybbuk box." (Here we are reminded of the myth of Pandora, who, overcome by curiosity, pries open the forbidden box or jar, releasing evil into the world.) This apparent need to physically contain the dybbuk (and of the dybbuk, not dissimilar to a serpent, to instinctively seek containment) can also be found in the proverbial notion of a "genie in the bottle" or Aladdin's lamp, the word genie or jinniy being probably derived from the Arabic djinn, indicating the devil or "demonic spirit." Note also that the dybbuk, like the genie, isn't necessarily negative or evil, and like the daimones of ancient Greece (or genii or jinni in Latin) could also bestow the benefits of good health, wealth and happiness. In the positive sense, the genii or genie was originally an incorporeal, immortal tutelar deity or spirit presiding over the destiny of a person, later becoming a particular talent or mental endowment (genius), and was commonly associated with generativity, vitality and creativity as much as destructiveness, negativity and evil.

As The Possession points out, belief in demonic possession--especially prominent in the Roman Catholic Church--and its exorcistic treatment can also be found in Judaism, as well as in numerous other major religious systems including Hinduism and Buddhism. The "possession syndrome" occurs across cultures and religions, and there are striking similarities in both its various manifestations and treatments. Anger, rage and even violence are almost universally involved, especially during the ritualistic process of exorcism. Consider, for instance, the ancient Hebrew dybbuk Asmodeus, so-called "king of demons," closely associated in early Judaism with anger, rage and lustful violence. His primary function was to provoke marital animosity, discord and domestic abuse. This crucial connection between anger, rage and the religious treatment of demonic possession is archetypal, and can be found in most if not all sorts of exorcism. Especially today. For example, there is typically a sudden intensification of anger when the exorcist displays the holy relics, such as holy water, the Bible or a crucifix in Christian exorcisms. This intense rage can become so severe as to require physically restraining the afflicted person for the duration of the exorcism, and is understood to be the "rage of the demon" who anticipates and violently resists expulsion. Psychologically, this repressed rage is chronically disowned and dissociated by the so-called victim of possession, which is what is making him or her ill (possessed) in the first place. Indeed, by dint of physical restraints, the person being exorcised is free to cathartically ventilate his or her heretofore repressed rage harmlessly with a vengeance, providing at least some temporary relief. (A similar phenomenon can be seen in the evangelical exorcisms performed regularly and publicly by the highly controversial Rev. Bob Larson, as I discuss in an upcoming episode of the TV show Taboo on the topic of demonic possession and exorcism.)

What does the popularity of movies like The Possession and, earlier this year, the wretchedly reviewed The Devil Inside (see my prior post) say about us and our culture psychologically? Why are high-tech, scientifically-minded, religiously secular twenty-first-century cynics so fascinated with films about exorcism and demons? While the level of filmmaking ranges wildly, there seems to be a trend toward this supernatural (i.e., religious) subject these days. Paranormal Activity (2007) and its sequels deal with the subject of evil demons. Last year, The Rite (2011), starring Sir Anthony Hopkins as a Jesuit priest and professional exorcist somewhat reminiscent of Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) in The Exorcist (an excellent film), was released to tepid if not terrible reviews. Nonetheless, the topic of exorcism and demonic possession evidently still touches a nerve in the movie-going audience, perhaps especially in horror fans, true believers and so-called recovering Catholics still not sure what to believe about such matters. Films about possession and exorcism, likeThe Last Exorcism (2010) and 2005's The Exorcism of Emily Rose, strive in part to convince their audience of the objective existence of the Devil, and, in turn, of God. But in dogmatically pursuing this fundamentalist agenda, the filmmakers are missing a golden opportunity to examine and explore the many important parallels between exorcism and modernpsychotherapy, and to possibly reach and educate a far wider secular,spiritual and psychologically sophisticated segment of the public about this intensive treatment for what I term the possession syndrome.

Some of these movies make reference to the apparent actual growing demand for exorcisms and the need to train more priests (or perhaps rabbis) to perform this archaic religious rite. This widespread explosion of interest in exorcism was confirmed by aWashington Post article (Feb. 10, 2008) titled "Exorcism makes a comeback in Europe: Citing modern ills, hundreds of priests have trained to expel the devil." In that legitimate news report, a Catholic priest in Poland routinely conducting twenty exorcisms per week explains, " ' there is a group of people who cannot get relief through any other practices and who need peace.' " Another priest who holds a doctorate in theology and serves as the resident exorcist at a psychological counseling center outside Warsaw, states that "the institute realized they needed an exorcist on staff after encountering an increase in people plagued by evil.' " The article notes that, in keeping with current Vatican policy, exorcists regularly consult with psychologists and psychiatrists in an effort to differentiate mental disorders from bona fide demonic possession. But according to one busy practitioner, " 'My remedy is based on spiritual means, which cannot be replaced by any pharmaceutical remedies. . . .I do not stop at the level of just treating symptoms. I'm very much interested in the soul of a person. As a priest, I keep asking questions a doctor will never ask.' "

Perhaps it's time psychologists start asking some of those same questions. What is exorcism? How does it heal? Can we learn something valuable about psychotherapy from exorcism? Are there certain techniques employed by exorcists that psychotherapists should consider when treating angry, psychotic or violent patients? Are there vital existential or spiritual questions addressed by exorcism--for example, the archetypal riddle of evil--that psychotherapy detrimentally avoids or neglects?Exorcism--the ritualistic expulsion of evil spirits inhabiting body, brain or place--has been practiced in some form throughout history, and is probably the first primitive type of psychotherapy. Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, was originally a trained exorcist. Jesus of Nazareth is reputed to have healed individuals suffering from mental and physical symptoms by casting out demons. Now, more than two millennia later, the Roman Catholic Church is reported to be secretly educating a new crop of exorcists to meet a rapidly rising demand for exorcisms in Italy, Australia, America and elsewhere around the globe. Here in the U.S., where there is evidently an acute shortage of formally trained exorcists, burgeoning numbers of suffering souls--some deeply disillusioned with or wary of what mainstream psychology and psychiatry have to offer today--are desperately turning to exorcism to deal with their debilitating "devils" and "demons."Exorcism can be said to be the prototype of modern psychotherapy. (See my prior post.) Despite the secular scientific persona of most mental health professionals today, simply scratching the surface of rationality and objectivity reveals a secret exorcist: Like exorcists, psychotherapists speak in the name of a "higher being," be it medical science, rationality or some psychological, metaphysical or spiritual belief system. They firmly (and, in the case of biological psychiatry in particular) literally believe in the physical reality of the pathological problem manifested in the patient's symptoms and suffering, and dispense drugs and/or encouragement while joining with the patient in a sacred "therapeutic alliance" against the wicked and debilitating forces bedeviling them. Notwithstanding today's economically-driven, superficial, simplistic trend toward brief psychotherapies such as CBT, DBT and myriad psychopharmacological treatments, sooner or later one inevitably is confronted in clinical practice with strikingly similar phenomena and principles to those educed by traditional exorcists.

Psychotherapy, like exorcism, commonly consists of a prolonged, pitched, demanding, soul-wrenching, sometimes tedious bitter battle royale with the patient's diabolically obdurate emotional "demons," at times waged over the course of years or even decades rather than weeks or months, and not necessarily always with consummate success. And there is now growing recognition--not only by psychoanalytic practitioners--of the very real risks and dangers of psychic infection inherent also in the practice of psychotherapy. (This psychic susceptibility is almost universally depicted in these films, starting withThe Exorcist and most recently by The Devil Inside.) Counter-transference is what we clinicians technically call this treacherous psychological phenomenon, which can cause the psychotherapist (or exorcist) to suffer disturbing, subjective symptoms during the treatment process--sometimes even as the patient progresses! Hence the ever-present importance for psychotherapists, like exorcists, to perform their sacred work within a formally ritualized structure, making full use of collegial support, cooperation and consultation, and to maintain inviolable personal boundaries. (Dr. Marsha Linehan's DBT, for instance, structures this support and consultation into the treatment program.) To paraphrase Sigmund Freud, no one wrestles with the emotional demons of others all day without themselves being affected. This is an unavoidable occupational hazard of both exorcism and psychotherapy.

Of course, the main difference between psychotherapy and exorcism is that modern psychotherapy is typically a secular treatment for figurative, metaphorical "demons"--mental, emotional or psychologicaltraumas, memories or "complexes,"-- whereas exorcism takes the existence of demons quite literally. Doing so can have certain advantages in treating patients who believe in the Devil, demons and exorcism, if for no other reason than the extremely impressive power of suggestion. (This is also the power behind the so-called placebo effect.) Someone in the midst of an acute psychotic episode, for example, is confused, disoriented and hypersuggestible. They desperately seek some meaning to hang on to. Unless we can seriously offer a more or at least equally satisfying explanation of the patient's disturbing experience, it is, as clinicians well know from working with delusional patients, exceedingly difficult if not impossible to rationally dissuade someone of the fervent conviction that they are victims of demonic possession. Sometimes the best approach can be to go with where they are and use the patient's belief system to the treatment's advantage.

Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, who believed in and sometimes practiced exorcism, drew a distinction (like the Catholic Church, but mistaken in my view) between demonic possession and mental illness. Peck (1983) correctly pointed out that, unlike individual psychotherapy, exorcism makes more use of power in waging war against the patient's sickness, and is usually conducted by a team of exorcists who attempt to overpower the patient's efforts to resist treatment. He further notes that, unlike time-limited psychotherapy sessions, exorcisms can extend far beyond forty-five minutes, and often involve forcible physical restraint of the patient during these intense and typically angry confrontations. In religious exorcism, as opposed to psychotherapy, the team invokes the healing power of God via prayer and ritual, and attributes any success directly to God rather than themselves or even the exorcism process itself. Whereas in psychotherapy, success is typically attributed primarily to some combination of the doctor-patient relationship and the treatment process itself. Exorcism is based on a theological, spiritual or metaphysical model, unlike psychotherapy, which is generally rooted in a psychiatrically-based biopsychosocial or medical paradigm. But both methods address similar symptoms or syndromes, especially as seen in the most severely disturbed patients. The Catholic Church is careful today to rule outmalingering or demonstrable mental illness when considering candidates for exorcism, using medical doctors and mental health professionals to help distinguish between so-called genuine possession and pseudo-possession. But can such a distinction truly be drawn? And, if so, on what basis?

The Roman Catholic Church's official diagnostic criteria for discerning genuine demonic possession (something mentioned in many of these movies) includes speaking in tongues or languages formerly unfamiliar to the possessed person, supernatural physical strength, and visibly negative reactions of the victim to prayers, holy water, priests, etc. But for the modern Church, physical and/or psychiatric disorders must first be excluded. From a psychiatric perspective, the problem with such criteria is that these phenomena can be found in many mental disorders, including dissociative and psychotic disorders of various sorts. (See my prior post on psychosis.) According to Dr. Peck, a born-again Christian, the distinction between "human evil" and "demonic evil" is crucial: He distinguishes "satanic possession" from mental illness, stating that though in such cases some emotional problem predisposes the patient to satanic or demonic possession, "the proper question to pose diagnostically would be: ‘Is the patient just mentally ill or is he or she mentally ill and possessed?' " This is a clearly religious conceptualization. But another way of looking at this same possession syndrome is that in such cases what we are seeing are the most extreme and treatment resistant states of mind manifested in patients who may truly believe themselves to be demonically possessed. The pertinent question then for psychologists and psychiatrists is how best to treat such severely disturbed and intensely suffering individuals? It seems that at least some familiarity with their religious beliefs and meaningful integration of these beliefs into their psychotherapy is essential. These patients have usually tried traditional psychiatric treatment, with its banal neurobiological bias, to no avail. Providing some way to help such frustrated patients make sense of their frightening and bewildering subjective experiences and integrate them meaningfully into a deeper psychological and spiritual understanding of themselves and the world is what real psychotherapy should, really must, strive toward. Without such a meaning-centered, spiritually sensitive secular psychotherapy (see my prior post), exorcism is seen by some bedeviled individuals as their only hope.

This question as to the true natureof what I call the "possession syndrome" is at the very crux of the matter regarding exorcism: Exorcism is the traditional treatment for possession. What is possession? Is so-called demonic possession a psychological phenomenon, a form of psychosis or another as yet ill-defined mental disorder? Or is it the work of the Devil, and irrefutable proof of Satan's powerful reality? In a previous post, I discussed the infamous Andrea Yates filicide case. By the time she deliberately drowned her five children in 2001, Yates was convinced she was possessed. Satan himself, claimed Yates, compelled her to carry out her evil deeds. In her second trial, Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to a mental institution. How can we make sense of her delusions and diabolically destructive behavior? Postpartum depression?Schizophrenia? Bipolar disorder? Or was Yates, as she fervently believed, a hapless victim of "possession"? And if so, what exactly is that? Do demons really exist? What is evil? Where does it come from? What is our relationship to it? Is it a proper subject of study for psychology and psychiatry? And how can we better deal with it?

The idea of demonic possession is a metaphysical, theological or spiritual explanation for human evil.The Exorcist (1973), a film based on William Peter Blattey's book about a supposedly "real" case, provides a highly dramatized depiction of evil, possession and exorcism, and stimulated renewed public fascination with what I call the "possession syndrome" (1996). The Exorcism of Emily Rose, also loosely based on an actual case, had a similar effect, raising legitimate ethical, legal and psychiatric questions regarding the practice of exorcism. As does The Devil Inside to some degree. Possession has been a well-documented phenomenon occurring across cultures in virtually every era. But the term possession is seldom mentioned in the psychiatric and psychological literature. Instead, we speak of obsession, which has similar intrusive, involuntary, egodystonic qualities. Or we refer to "multiple personality disorder" (Dissociative Identity Disorder), in which one or more sub-personalities temporarily take possession of the person against his or her will. Or we diagnose Bipolar Disorder in those possessed by mania, irritability or melancholy, and Intermittent Explosive Disorder to describe someone repeatedly possessed or overtaken by uncontrollable rage. It must be admitted that the archetypal phenomenon known historically as "possession" persists today in differing forms and varying degrees. The only difference is the way in which we now attempt to explain and treat it.

Phenomenologically, the subjective experience of possession--feeling influenced by some foreign, alien force beyond the ego's control-- is, to some extent, an experiential aspect of most mental disorders. Patients frequently speak of symptoms, unacceptable impulses, thoughts or emotions as ego-alien, and uncharacteristic moods or destructive behaviors as "not being myself," commonly exclaiming "I don't know what got into me," or wondering "What possessed me to do that?" Presently, such disturbing symptoms are hypothesized by psychiatry to be due primarily to some underlying neurological or biochemical aberration. Biochemistry, in the form of the tiny neurotransmitter, has become our postmodern demon du jour for which all manner of evils are blamed. Depth psychologists C.G. Jung (in his concept of the shadow) and Rollo May (1969) provide psychologically sophisticated, secular theories of human evil and daimonic (as opposed to demonic) possession which do not demand literal belief in the devil or demons. (See my prior post on the "shadow." I discuss these matters in much greater detail in my book Anger, Madness, and the Daimonic.) But, tragically, most psychotherapy today does not adequately comprehend or treat the possession syndrome. For some bedeviled individuals, the traditional ritual of exorcism or myth of "demonic possession" serve to make more sense of their suffering than the scientific, secular, biochemical explanations and cognitive-behavioral theories proffered these days by mainstream psychiatry and psychology. If psychotherapy as a healing of the soul (not just the mind) is to survive and thrive into the future, our current overemphasis on cognition, behavior, genetics, neurology and biochemistry must be counterbalanced by the inclusion of the spiritual and depth psychological dimension of human existence. It must become, as Freud intimated and C.G. Jung courageously recognized, psychotherapy for the soul. (See my prior post.)

The truth is, most psychotherapy patients need far more than what pharmaceutical intervention and/or cognitive therapy--the two most popular so-called "evidence-based" or empirically supported modalities today--can provide. They need and deserve support and accompaniment through their painful, frightening, disorienting, perilous spiritual or existential crises, their "dark night of the soul." They need a psychologically meaningful method to confront their metaphorical devils and demons, their repressed anger or rage, and the existential reality of evil. They need a secular spiritual psychotherapy willing to ask the right questions. In a time where so many have lost faith in God, rejected organized religion, yet still seek something transpersonal to believe in, something spiritual, something transcendental or supernatural, the notion of demonic possession has diabolically tempting appeal. For to believe that the Devil and his demons can take possession of one's body, mind and soul is to find evidence also of God's existence. And to make meaning from meaninglessness. This "will to meaning," as existential psychiatrist Viktor Frankl called it, is a fundamental human drive, one which abhors a meaningless "existential vacuum." For those who have lost faith, the myth of "demonic possession" can--in addition to providing a possibility of attributing responsibility for our darkest, most despicable or spiritually unacceptable emotions, impulses and evil deeds to something or someone other than ourselves-- paradoxically provide a path back to God, since God and the Devil are but two opposite sides of the same spiritual coin. Unless psychology can provide a better or at least equally satisfying, meaningful alternate explanation of the possession syndrome--and a more effective way to deal with it-- belief in demonic possession and the practice of exorcism are cetain to persist.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Fear of Flying Fix

Feeling jittery about getting on a plane? You're not alone. Around one in three of us suffers from fear of flying - but there are plenty of fast, fuss-free ways to conquer your nerves and have a safe, comfortable trip. Want to find out how? Ready, steady, fly...

Fear of flying can range from feeling slightly unsettled when the plane hits a spot of turbulence to being practically convulsed with terror at the mere thought of going to the airport (*and not just about the prices!). Some people just feel scared during take-off and/or landing, but are fine for the rest of the flight - while others suffer anxiety throughout. Symptoms can include panic attacks and vomiting.

Of course, being afraid to fly can totally ruin your holiday - and may stop you travelling abroad altogether. Abby Wells, 34, says: 'My fear of flying grew worse as I grew older. I'm a bit of a control freak, and I don't like the idea that I'm not in control when I'm on a plane. Anxiety about flying has ruined lots of holidays: when I went to New York in 2004, I almost didn't board the flight.'

Why be afraid?
But surely it's not that irrational to be scared of getting on a plane? After all, engine failure, accidents and terrorist attacks do happen, don't they? Well, yes - but unlike car crashes, for example, incidence of air disasters is very small.

In fact, flying is still considered to be one of the safest - if not, the safest - way to travel. According to Professor Robert Bor, author of 'Overcome Your Fear of Flying' (Sheldon Press, £7.99), you have a greater chance of being kicked to death by a donkey than of anything happening to you in an air crash!

Still feeling anxious? 'The kind of language airlines use doesn't help,' says hypnotherapist Bijan Daneshmand (www.essencehypnosislondon.com). 'Phrases like "terminal", "departure lounge" and "last and final call" make people feel unsettled before they've even boarded the plane.'

Conquer that fear!
Still, there are plenty of ways to overcome your fears and stop them from meddling with your holiday plans. These can range from buying an over-the-counter remedy to booking in for a one-day course or hypnotherapy session. Here are a few tried-and-tested fear-quashers...

Get informed. The more you know about flying, the less concerned you'll be. We're not suggesting you become an expert in aeronautics - but learning how a plane flies, how it stays up in the air and what causes turbulence (which is totally safe, by the way) will help you feel more in control and realise your fear is irrational. All these topics are covered in the hugely successful one-day courses offered by airlines. Two of the best are Virgin Atlantic's Flying Without Fear (www.flyingwithoutfear.info) and British Airways' Fly Without Fear (www.aviatours.co.uk). The day also includes a short flight and expert advice on relaxation techniques. Prices start from around £199 plus VAT.

Reprogramme your subconscious. Hypnotherapy is often used in the successful treatment of phobias - and fear of flying is no exception. 'Your subconscious mind is a sponge waiting to absorb whatever you give it,' says clinical hypnotherapist Monica Black (www.hampsteadhypnotherapy.com). 'If you can imagine yourself not being afraid of flying, your subconscious mind will accept that as reality. You'll normally need between one and three sessions.'

Try a quick-fix treatment. If your fear is fairly mild, there are plenty of good remedies available in chemists nationwide. Some examples? Tisserand Travel Ease (£4.50) is a roll-on blend of essential oils to help you relax. Les Fleurs de Bach Elixir de Bach Fear (£7.95) contains an exclusive mix of Bach flower essences to banish in-flight anxieties. And Viridian Rhodiola Rosea (£9.95), taken in capsule form, will also help calm nerves.

Learn to breathe! If your breathing is slow and controlled, you'll feel calmer and relaxed during the flight. Monica Black suggests this technique: 'Sit down and close your eyes. Place your right hand on your tummy and your left hand on your chest. Imagine a balloon, which just happens to be your favourite colour, in your tummy. Breathe slowly and deeply. Breathe in through your nostrils, and imagine the balloon inflating in your tummy. Exhale and allow all the air to flow out of your body - and as you exhale, see the balloon deflating and repeat the word "relax" to yourself silently.'

Teach yourself mind control. 'Self-talk is extremely powerful,' insists Bijan Daneshmand. 'When you predict you're going to be scared to get on a plane, you're actually telling yourself how you're going to feel. Try trading in negative thoughts for positive ones. Remember pleasant flights, beautiful views or happy feelings. Each thought can be better than the one before.'

Think about the destination, not the journey. Look up in the sky right now, and chances are you'll see at least one plane. People are flying to exotic destinations and seeing all that the world has to offer every second of every day. Why should you miss out because of a fear that - face it - you know is irrational? Or to put it another way: feel the fear and book that flight anyway...

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas!!

Connecting Hypnotherapy wants to wish everyone who comes across this blog a very Merry Christmas (or happy holidays... whichever is less offensive to you) and a happy new year.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Unwrapped: Psychology of Christmas

Given the religious and cultural significance of Christmas is it surprising that so little psychological research has been carried out into what it means for people in contemporary society and its effect on psychological wellbeing. In fact, most psychological research has examined the more negative effects such as whether psychiatric admissions and suicide rates increase over the festive period.

However, an interesting 2002 study entitled “What makes for a Merry Christmas?” was carried out in the USA by Tim Kasser and Kennon Sheldon of Knox University (Illinois) and published in the Journal of Happiness Studies. (No, I didn’t know such a journal existed either!). The study built on previous research by Kasser, who showed that people whose lives are focused on goals such as intimacy and community feeling report greater psychological wellbeing, whereas those people who are more concerned with money, possessions, and image were less happy.

In relation to Christmas more specifically, other previous research has indicated that there are seven main types of activities that occur during the Christmas holidays. These are (i) spending time with family; (ii) participating in religious activities; (iii) maintaining traditions (e.g., decorating a Christmas tree); (iv) spending money on others via the purchase of gifts; (v) receiving gifts from others; (vi) helping others less fortunate than ourselves; and (vii) enjoying the sensual aspects of the holiday (e.g., good food, drinking, etc.).

Through the use of a survey, Kasser and Sheldon examined these seven experiences and activities that are associated with Christmas wellbeing using the ‘Satisfaction With Life Scale’. All the participants in their study were presented with 25 “experiences and activities” and asked to rate “how much each experience actually occurred during the previous Christmas season” on a scale of 1 to 5 (where a score of ‘1’ indicated that it was “completely absent” and a score of 5’ indicated that it “occurred a great deal”).

The questions were given to adults aged from 18 to 80. Overall, the study found that around three-quarters of the respondents had a satisfactory Christmas holiday whereas only 10% had a very bad Christmas holiday. However, just under half of the sample (44%) said they had a stressful Christmas despite being satisfied. The average scores (out of five) for each of the seven activities was in order of occurrence: spending time with the family (4.05); enjoying food and drink, etc. (3.22); religious activities (2.88); traditional activities (2.87); spending money on other people (2.84); receiving gifts from other people (2.40); and helping others (2.44).

Their research also showed that more happiness was reported during the holiday period when family and religious experiences were particularly important, and lower wellbeing occurred when spending money and receiving gifts predominated. They also reported that, in general, males were much happier and less stressed than females during the Christmas holidays. Older individuals reported greater Christmas happiness, although this effect, Kasser and Sheldon argued, was largely explained by more frequent experiences of religion. There were no differences on any other demographic factors including income, education, or marital status (i.e., being rich, clever and in a relationship does not appear to have any influence on how good Christmas is).

Kasser and Sheldon concluded that the materialistic aspects of modern Christmas celebrations may in fact undermine psychological wellbeing, while family and spiritual activities may help people to feel more satisfied. So why is this the case? Kasser and Sheldon suggested that both family and religion provide satisfaction of needs for relatedness to others, which is a well-known determinant of positive functioning.

Professor Mark Griffiths is based in the Psychology Division in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Social Sciences

Sunday, 22 December 2013

9 Things You Did Not Know About Dreams...

Everyone dreams—every single night—and yet we tend to know so little about our dreams. Where do they come from? What do they mean? Can we control them and should we try to interpret them? We spoke to the dream experts to bring you nine surprising facts about dreams. Read before snoozing.
1. Dreaming can help you learn.
If you’re studying for a test or trying to learn a new task, you might consider taking a nap or heading to bed early rather than hovering over a textbook an hour longer. Here’s why: When the brain dreams, it helps you learn and solve problems, say researchers at Harvard Medical School. In a study that appeared in a recent issue of Current Biology, researchers report that dreams are the brain’s way of processing, integrating and understanding new information. To improve the quality of your sleep—and your brain’s ability to learn—avoid noise in the bedroom, such as the TV, which may negatively impact the length and quality of dreams.

2. Just like men, women can have orgasms during dreams.
Did you think only men experience this phenomenon? Not true, says Barbara Bartlik, MD, a psychiatrist and sex therapist in New York. Warning, further reading may produce blushing: “Women have orgasms during their sleep, just as men do,” she says. “These orgasms often accompany erotic dreams, but they also may occur during dreams of a nonerotic nature.” When women dream, she says, it’s not uncommon for their genitals to become engorged and lubricated. “This occurs during REM sleep, which happens several times during the night,” she says. A similar thing happens to men. “Men get erections during REM sleep, whether or not the man is having an erotic dream.”

3. The most common dream? Your spouse is cheating.
If you’ve ever woken up in a cold sweat after dreaming about your husband’s extramarital escapade with your best friend, you’re not alone, says Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, a dream expert, author and media personality. “The most commonly reported dream is the one where your mate is cheating,” she says. Loewenberg conducted a survey of more than 5,000 people, and found that the infidelity dream is the nightmare that haunts most people—sometimes on a recurring basis. It rarely has anything to do with an actual affair, she explains, but rather the common and universal fear of being wronged or left alone.

4. You can have several—even a dozen—dreams in one night.
It’s not just one dream per night, but rather dozens of them, say experts—you just may not remember them all. “We dream every 90 minutes throughout the night, with each cycle of dreaming being longer than the previous,” explains Loewenberg. “The first dream of the night is about 5 minutes long and the last dream you have before awakening can be 45 minutes to an hour long.” It is estimated that most people have more than 100,000 dreams in a lifetime.

5. You can linger in a dream after waking.
Have you ever woken up from such a beautiful, perfect dream that you wished you could go back to sleep to soak it all up (you know, the dream about George Clooney?)? You can! Just lie still—don’t move a muscle—and you can remain in a semi-dreamlike state for a few minutes. “The best way to remember your dreams is to simply stay put when you wake up,” says Loewenberg. “Remain in the position you woke up in, because that is the position you were dreaming in. When you move your body, you disconnect yourself from the dream you were just in seconds ago.”

6. Even bizarre dreams can be interpreted.
While it can be hard to believe that an oddball dream about your mother, a circus and a snowstorm can have any bearing on real life, there may be symbolism and potential meaning to be mined in every dream—you just have to look for it, says Harvard-trained psychotherapist Jeffrey Sumber. "The meaning of our dreams oftentimes relates to things we are needing to understand about ourselves and the world around us,” he says. Instead of shrugging off strange dreams, think about how they make you feel. “We tend to dismiss these dreams due to the strange components, yet it is the feeling we have in these dreams that matters most,” he explains. “Sometimes the circus and the snowstorm are just fillers that allow us to process the range of emotions we feel about our mother and give us the necessary distraction so we can actually experience that spectrum of emotion.”

7. Recurring dreams may be your mind’s way of telling you something.
Do you have the same nightmare over and over again? Loewenberg suggests looking for underlying messages in recurring dreams so that you can rid yourself of them. For example, a common recurring nightmare people have involves losing or cracking their teeth. For this dream, she recommends that people think about what your teeth and your mouth represent. “To the dreaming mind, your teeth, as well as any part of your mouth, are symbolic of your words,” she says. “Paying attention to your teeth dreams helps you to monitor and improve the way you communicate.”

8. You can control your dreams.
The premise of the new movie Inception is that people can take the reins of their dreams and make them what they want them to be. But it may not just be a Hollywood fantasy. According to the results of a new survey of 3,000 people, dream control, or “lucid dreaming” may be a real thing. In fact, 64.9 percent of participants reported being aware they were dreaming within a dream, and 34 percent said they can sometimes control what happens in their dreams. Taking charge of the content of your dreams isn’t a skill everyone has, but it can be developed, says Kelly Bulkeley, PhD, a dream researcher and visiting scholar at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkley, California. The technique is particularly useful for people who suffer from recurring nightmares, he says. Dr. Bulkeley suggests giving yourself a pep talk of sorts before you go to sleep by saying: “If I have that dream again, I’m going to try to remember that’s it’s only a dream, and be aware of that.” When you learn to be aware that you are dreaming—within a dream—you not only have the power to steer yourself away from the monster and into the arms of Brad Pitt, for instance, but you train your mind to avoid nightmares in the first place. “Lucid dreaming enhances your ability to learn from the dream state,” says Dr. Bulkeley.

9. You don’t have to be asleep to dream.
Turns out, you can dream at your desk at work, in the car, even at your kid’s soccer game. Wakeful dreaming—not to be confused with daydreaming—is real and somewhat easy to do, says Dr. Bulkeley; it just involves tapping into your active imagination. The first step is to think about a recent dream you had (preferably a good one!). “Find a quiet contemplative place and bring a dream that you remember back into your waking awareness and let it unfold,” he says. “Let the dream re-energize.” Wakeful dreaming can be used as a relaxation tool, but Dr. Bulkeley says it can also help your mind process a puzzling dream. “It creates a more fluid interaction between unconscious parts of the mind and wakeful parts of the mind,” he says.

Friday, 20 December 2013

VIDEO: Top 5 Funny Stage Hypnosis Acts

Warning: Explicit Language

Don't understand Stage Hypnosis? Read below.

Misconceptions about stage hypnosis

How does Stage Hypnosis work?

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

How To Control Pain

A new study, published in the November 2008 issue of the journal Current Biology* just blew my mind.

Researchers found that just by changing the way subjects looked at an achy limb, they could affect the degree of pain experienced AND the swelling of the limb.

This is pretty crazy stuff, but is just more evidence of the mind/body connection.

Here is the study in more detail:

Researchers found subjects who all experienced chronic pain in one of their arms. They then had them all do 10 hand movements that would trigger pain in the aggravated arm. The movements were such that the subject could watch their own hand movements.

They had the subjects do these movements under four different conditions:

1. With No visual Manipulation (control 1)
2. While looking through lenses that did not affect the size of their arm (control 2)
3. While looking through lenses that magnified the size of their arm
4. While looking through lenses that minimized the size of their arm

All of the subjects experienced some pain and swelling under all conditions, but the differences were significant under the different conditions, and truly amazing.

The lenses caused the subjects to see the arm as bigger experience more pain and swelling than the control groups, while the lenses that caused the subjects to see the arm as smaller causes less pain AND less swelling than the control groups.

Researchers still can't tell us why exactly this is happening but some guesses have to do with something called the, "top-down" effect of body image on body tissues. Meaning that the experience of pain is bi-directional (works both ways) between the actual cause of the pain and the perception of the pain causing stimulus.

Another related theory from one of the study's authors, Dr. Mosley, is that protective responses—including the experience of pain—are activated according to the brain's implicit perception of danger level. "If it looks bigger, it looks sorer and more swollen," Moseley said. "Therefore, the brain acts to protect it."

Either way, I find the whole experiment fascinating. It is just one more piece of evidence of the brain's role in how we experience pain.

Read full article


Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Sleeping Drugs Make Your Brain Stop Working

Drugs commonly taken for a variety of common medical conditions negatively affect your brain, causing long term cognitive impairment. These drugs, called anticholinergics, block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter. They include such common over-the-counter brands as Benadryl, Dramamine, Excedrin PM, Nytol, Sominex, Tylenol PM, and Unisom. Other anticholinergic drugs, such as Paxil, Detrol, Demerol and Elavil are available only by prescription.

Physorg reports:

“Researchers … conducted a six-year observational study, evaluating 1,652 Indianapolis area African-Americans over the age of 70 who had normal cognitive function when the study began … ‘[T]aking one anticholinergic significantly increased an individual’s risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and taking two of these drugs doubled this risk.’”

Many view over-the-counter (OTC) drugs as safe because they don’t require a prescription. Well nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, many OTC drugs were previously carefully monitored prescription drugs. Many people are not aware that while I was in college in the 1970s, I worked as a full time pharmacy apprentice and helped sell drugs to patients all day long.

Motrin was the first non-salicylate prescription NSAID. Now it is a popular OTC ibuprofen option. Similarly, anti-ulcer drugs like Tagamet, Zantec, and Prilosec used to be carefully controlled. Now they can all be easily purchased in a smaller “OTC strength” that nearly doubles the number of pills required to equal the prescription dose.

Just because a drug is available without a prescription does not make it any less dangerous. It is still a chemical, which in no way, shape, or form treats the cause of the problem and can lead to complications that can seriously injure, if not kill, you or someone you love.

So this is clearly important information that can help you or someone you love reduce your risk of dementia as you get older. Based on the findings of this study, I would strongly recommend that seniors in particular avoid all anticholinergic drugs, like Benadryl (generic is diphenhydramine) which is a pervasive and commonly used in virtually all of the OTC sleeping pills.

Researchers will continue studying the matter to see whether anticholinergic-induced cognitive impairment can be reversed, but don’t hold your breath. Avoidance is really the best solution.

What are Anticholinergic Drugs?
Anticholinergic drugs block a nervous system neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease typically have a marked shortage of acetylcholine. Anticholinergic drugs are available both over-the-counter and by prescription, as medications used for a variety of symptoms can have this effect. Examples include night-time pain relievers, antihistamines, and other sleep aids, such as:

Excedrin PM
Tylenol PM

Prescription drugs with anticholinergic effects include certain antidepressants, medications to control incontinence, and certain narcotic pain relievers.
Examples of prescription meds in these categories include:


A Special Note for Aspartame ‘Reactors’
Many of the drugs listed here, as well as a long list of additional ones, contain diphenhydramine. As an important side note, you need to beware that chewable tablets and rapidly disintegrating tablets that contain diphenhydramine may be sweetened with aspartame.

If you have the genetic disease phenylketonuria (PKU), you must be particularly careful to avoid these types of drugs and all other types of aspartame-sweetened foods and beverages in order to prevent mental retardation.

But many other people also suffer detrimental health effects from aspartame, so you should know that this is yet another potential source of this toxic sweetener.

Anticholinergic Drugs Increases Dementia in the Elderly
I’ve previously written about the health dangers of many of these individual drugs. Paxil, for example, is an addictive antidepressant that is well known to increase the risk of suicide in children and teens. It is also known to increase violent behavior. Benadryl and Sominex have previously been found to cause hallucinations in the elderly, and a number of the drugs on the list also promote dental decay.

The results of this study indicate that drugs with anticholinergic effects may be yet another piece of the puzzle that might explain the sharp rise in dementia and cognitive decline.

According to the University of Michigan, dementia strikes about 50 percent of people who reach the age of 85. Of those, about 60 percent go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

In this study, the researchers tracked the intake of anticholinergic drugs and monitored the cognitive abilities of 1,652 African-American seniors, aged 70 and older, for six years. All of the participants had normal cognitive function at the outset of the study.

Fifty-three percent of the participants used a ‘possible anticholinergic,’ and 11 percent used a ‘definitive anticholinergic’ drug. They found that those who took drugs classified as ‘definite anticholinergics’ had a four times higher incidence of cognitive impairment.

In those who were not carriers of the specific gene, APOE ε4 allele, the risk was over seven times higher. (The APOE ε4 gene is known to influence many neurological diseases, and is considered a high risk factor for Alzheimer’s.)

Taking two of these drugs further increased the risk of cognitive impairment.

PhysOrg reports:

“Simply put, we have confirmed that anticholinergics, something as seemingly benign as a medication for inability to get a good night’s sleep or for motion sickness, can cause or worsen cognitive impairment, specifically long-term mild cognitive impairment which involves gradual memory loss.
As a geriatrician I tell my Wishard Healthy Aging Brain Center patients not to take these drugs and I encourage all older adults to talk with their physicians about each and every one of the medications they take,” said Malaz Boustani, M.D., IU School of Medicine associate professor of medicine, Regenstrief Institute investigator and IU Center for Aging Research center scientist.”

Even More Reasons to Ditch the Sleep Meds

In 2008, Americans filled more than 56 million prescriptions for sleeping pills and spent more than $600 million on over-the-counter sleep aids. But anticholinergic sleep medications in particular may be causing far more harm than good, especially long term, without providing any benefit at all.

In a recent article, CBC News reported that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has had data for 15 years which shows that over-the-counter sleep aids like Tylenol PM and Excedrin PM do not offer any significant benefit to patients.

There’s no explanation for why the FDA took 15 years to evaluate the industry’s research, but upon final analysis “the data suggests the combination products are statistically better than a placebo but not by much,” CBC News reported.

I guess it can be chalked up as yet another vibrant example of how industry research frequently amounts to little more than corporate wishes and good PR fodder.

Another analysis of sleeping pill studies from 2007 (financed by the National Institutes of Health) found that sleeping pills like Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata reduced the average time to go to sleep by just under 13 minutes compared with fake pills — hardly a major improvement.

Yet, the participants believed they had slept longer, by up to one hour, when taking the pills.

This may actually be a sign of a condition called anterograde amnesia, which causes trouble with forming memories. When people wake up after taking sleeping pills, they may, in fact, simply forget that they had been unable to sleep!

You would be far better off putting your money toward authentic solutions to help you sleep than on sleeping pills, as it’s now clear that they do next to nothing to help you sleep – in fact, they may actually make it more difficult for you to get a good night’s rest naturally – and may significantly increase your risk of dementia.

Sleeping Pills are NOT a Safe Solution for Sleepless Nights
Please understand that resorting to sleep medications is risky business, and that these pills do not address the underlying reasons why you’re having trouble sleeping in the first place.

In addition to the long-term problems already discussed, there are other serious, not to mention bizarre, risks involved.

For starters, these pills are notorious for being addictive, which means that once you want to stop taking them, you’ll likely suffer withdrawal symptoms that could be worse than your initial insomnia. Some, such as Ambien, may also become less effective when taken for longer than two weeks, which means you may find yourself needing ever higher dosages.

Ambien may also make you want to eat while you’re asleep – and I don’t mean sneaking down to grab a piece of fruit. The sleep eating can include bizarre foods such as buttered cigarettes, salt sandwiches, and raw bacon.

Sleeping pills, and again Ambien in particular, are also known to increase your risk of getting into a traffic accident. Ambien actually ranks among the top 10 drugs found in the bloodstreams of impaired drivers, according to some state toxicology labs.

Among the elderly, using sleeping pills may increase the risk of nighttime falls and injuries, and anyone who takes them may find they wake up feeling drowsy if the effects of the drug have not worn off yet.

You’re far better of finding safe and natural solutions that will actually address the underlying causes of your sleepless nights instead of just cover up the resulting symptoms.

Full article:

Sunday, 15 December 2013

VIDEO The Secret Success Drug: Provigil

Friday, 13 December 2013

Understanding Child Development In Sports and Competition

Participation in childhood sports can be a rewarding experience and an introduction that leads to a lifetime of enjoyment. For parents and coaches, understanding child development can increase the child's overall involvement and enjoyment of sports. As the adults guiding children in sport, it is important for us to remember than no two people are completely alike. However, young people change in relatively predictable ways. Understanding your child's development helps adults avoid unnecessary frustration and inappropriate expectations. Understanding simultaneously creates an environment of learning, increased participation, and fun.

Young children (ages 7-10 years) face two major challenges in sport: #1 learning how to get along with friends and #2 learning how to interact with authority figures other than their parents, (USOC Sport Science Summit 2000). At this young age, learning to cooperate within a team as well as compromise for other's interests are major accomplishments. Children at this young stage of sport are just beginning to develop the ability to see the world from the perspective of others. Parents and coaches can take care to make clear distinctions between what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Since the child is learning, we need to provide them the opportunity to grow through guided trial and error. It is important to remember that fun, exploration, and developing a love of sports are key elements at this age. If competition and winning are becoming main themes, they are most likely fostered by adults, and the adults need to decrease their competitive nature.

Pre-adolescents (ages 10-13 years) face the social challenges of developing best friends and gaining acceptance from peers. Social relationships are one of the developmental milestones that this age group is navigating. They want to be part of a group and often fear being embarrassed. Developing a same sex best friend(s) is a major task of this social stage. Pre-teens tend to be loyal to their friends and make many decisions based upon maintaining their friendships. "Sport hopping" is an example of decisions based upon maintaining friendships. Sport hopping occurs when a pre-teen changes sports or quits participating in sports because of friendships. For example, Johnny (who has played soccer for the past five years) announces at dinner that he is quitting soccer to play junior football! Mom, Dad, and Johnny's coach are frustrated because Johnny is a good soccer player. Although not initially articulated by Johnny, this change is motivated by his desire to be with his best friend who is trying out for junior football. It is the job of parents and coaches to remember the social motivations of pre-teens. During the pre-teen phase of development, structure practices that allow for social interactions. Social interactions at practices are often viewed by coaches as "goof off" time. Contrary to many coaches' beliefs, practice which contains structured social interaction and which is part of a regular routine develops team relationships. We suggest using structured team building exercises and games, working in rotating pairs or small groups to practice skills.

Adolescents (ages 14-18 years) face the developmental challenge of defining who they are and how they fit into the world. Identity development is a complex process that involves applying the training and teaching we have given them, while the teen is trying on different identities. The teen is attempting to discover who they are and clarify their values through exploring different facets of their personality. This process occurs as parents and coaches wring their hands and watch their hair turn gray! Often, we see the teen's identity search in the clothes they wear, the music they listen to, and changes in peers. Being tolerant of the adolescent while they try out new ideas is an important behavior for parents and coaches. Tolerance for new behaviors is guided by the rules that the behaviors do not place the teen in danger or interfere with team rules and goals. The second major transition during the teenage phase is recognizing that sport is truly important in their life (Bloom 1985). The teen makes the transition in identity from "I play soccer" to "I am a soccer player". Participation in sport and being an athlete becomes a significant piece of their identity. Helping the teenage athlete enhance the technical mastery of their chosen sport, while supporting their growth as an individual is the challenge facing parents and coaches.

Regardless of an athlete's age, there are several common themes that relate to participation in sport. A study completed by USA Swimming (1998-99) asked swimmers from age 7 to young adulthood why they swam, and how they defined fun. The results of the study supply important information about athlete's motivation for participation in sport. The swimmers rated the following four reasons as their motivation for swimming: #1 To have fun. #2 For fitness. #3 Being with friends. #4 To compete.

The study went further and asked the young athletes what their highest ratings of fun were. They included: #1 Coach encouragement. #2 Being with friends. #3 Winning and accomplishments. #4 Team atmosphere. The social aspect of sport and fun is the appeal to the young athlete. Competition or winning are not the predominant motivators. Recognizing the young athlete's need for encouragement, socialization, and fun is paramount. If the young athlete develops a love of sports, then with support and healthy coaching, the drive for competition and mastery naturally develops.

No matter the age of your young athlete there are several simple keys that help sport participation and competition evolve naturally: #1 Be supportive. #2 Avoid TMTS - (too much too soon), children's natural drive for competition will evolve as they age. #3 Structure time to include social interaction and fun. #4 Help your teen incorporate athletics as part of their identity by being positive.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Addiction To Video Games

Picture if you will, flashing screens, loud noises, focused faces and a crowd gathered to watch high stakes games; games that end only when you run out of money.
This is not a casino. Those faces are staring at flashing computer screens in an arcade and the high stakes match is actually a video game. Scenes like this make it possible to view video gaming as an addiction. Like a gambler endlessly playing slots, the video gamer can spend hours on the vice of choice. Those who consider gaming as addictive highlight similarities between models of addiction and the behaviour of those who can’t seem to stop playing video games, despite the consequences.

What does it mean to be addicted to a video game? Addiction used to be a term reserved for drug use defined by physical dependency, uncontrollable craving, and increased consumption due to tolerance. Advances in neuroscience show that these drugs tap into the reward system of the brain resulting in a large release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This is a system normally activated when basic reinforcers are applied, like food or sex. Drugs just do it better.

Gaetano Di Chiara and Assunta Imperato, researchers at the Institute of Experimental Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Cagliani, Italy, found that drugs can cause a release of up to ten times the amount of dopamine normally found in the brain’s reward system. This has led to a shift in how addictions are viewed. Any physical substance or behaviour that can “hijack” this dopamine reward system may be viewed as addictive.

When can you be sure that the system has been hijacked? Steve Grant, chief clinical neuroscientist at the National Institute of Drug Abuse, says it happens when there “is continued engagement in self-destructive behaviour despite adverse consequences.”

Video games seem to hijack this reward system very efficiently. Certainly Nick Yee, author of the Daedelus Project, thinks so. He explains, “[Video Games] employ well-known behavioral conditioning principles from psychology that reinforce repetitive actions through an elaborate system of scheduled rewards. In effect, the game rewards players to perform increasingly tedious tasks and seduces the player to ‘play’ industriously.” Researchers in the UK found biological evidence that playing video games and achieving these rewards results in the release of dopamine.

This same release of the neurotransmitter occurs during activities considered healthy, such as exercise or work. Since dopamine release is not bad per se, it is not necessarily a problem that video games do the same thing.

In her book, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, Jane McGonigal writes, “A game is an opportunity to focus our energy, with relentless optimism, at something we’re good at (or getting better at) and enjoy. In other words, game-play is the direct emotional opposite of depression.” Playing games can be an easy way to relieve stress and get that satisfaction that comes with dopamine release.

But it is concerning when this search for the dopamine kick becomes preferable to real life, when playing video games replaces activities like socializing with friends and family, exercising, or sleep. Nutrition may begin to suffer as the gamer picks fast-food over proper meals. School-work and job performance suffer as gaming turns into an escape from life. It becomes troubling when video games are used as the main way of coping.
Psychologist Richard Wood says just that in his article Problems with the Concept of Video Game “Addiction”: Some Case Study Examples. “It seems that video games can be used as a means of escape… If people cannot deal with their problems, and choose instead to immerse themselves in a game, then surely their gaming behaviour is actually a symptom rather than the specific cause of their problem.”

Regardless, there are some unable to stop despite the consequences. In rare cases it has actually caused death, through neglect of a child or physical exhaustion. Excessive video game playing may represent a way of coping with underlying issues. But it becomes its own problem when the impulse to play just can’t be denied.

Psychiatrist Kimberly Young, Director of the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery argues that “[gaming addiction is] a clinical impulse control disorder, an addiction in the same sense as compulsive gambling.” Her centre is one of many that are now found in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and China.

These clinics treat those with gaming problems using an addiction model. They use detox, 12-step programs, abstinence training, and other methods common to addiction centres.

Notably, many people play well within healthy limits, and engage in the activity for diverse reasons. Stress relief, a way to spend time online with friends, or the enjoyment of an interactive storyline are all common reasons for playing. Whatever the reason for starting, when you can’t stop you have a problem.

We are often critical of labels in mental health, for good reason; they can be misused. On the other hand, a label can sometimes be helpful. If we call it an addiction, then we recognize it as a problem worth solving.

-Bradley Kushnier, Contributing Writer

If you think you or someone you care about is addicted to video games, check out Online-Gamers Anonymous and The Trauma and Mental Health Report resources to learn more about help that is available to you.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Sexual Problems And Hypnotherapy

Silently Suffering from Sexual Dysfunction
by Victoria Gallagher, C.M.Ht.

Sexual dysfunction is a quiet subject. It’s a problem that is common among numerous couples and individuals. However, most people believe that they are abnormal, weird, or different when they are faced with these situations. The calls I receive in my office tell me that people are uncomfortable with the idea of talking about for help. I often hear words like, “I have this little problem,” or “it’s hard to talk about” or as many would say “It’s kind of embarrassing” and others plead “Please don’t laugh.” However, what they have found is just by acknowledging their problem to another person, whether it’s me the professional, or just a trusted friend, there is some relief in just talking about it. It is also comforting to know that it’s actually a pretty common issue that is usually easily handled in only a few sessions.

The sad truth is however, for most, it rarely gets talked about. Those who suffer, do so quietly. Feeling tense, lonely, afraid and sometimes in denial, many people find it too embarrassing to talk about or to find solutions so they settle in silence for mediocre to no sex at all.

Feelings of despair hopelessness about ever having a good sex life perpetuates the problem even more. The fear of failure or performance anxiety can cause a persons sex life to come to a screeching halt. Sometimes sex can feel like such a difficult task for both men and women and once you’ve decided how difficult it is, your subconscious mind goes along with this belief and creates that scenario. You may just find yourself giving up on your partner or worse yet, giving up on yourself. However, the more a person avoids dealing with the issue, the bigger the problem becomes. It’s a vicious cycle.

It doesn’t have to be this way. If you’ve ever suffered from any of the following: Erectile Dysfunction, Premature Ejaculation, Inhibited Sexual Desire, Sexual Arousal Disorder, Vaginisumus, or either Orgasmic Disorders, you will be interested in reading on.

Your mind is a very powerful organ. It is much more powerful than your sexual organs; hence the reason for yoursexual dilemma’s in the first place. Once a belief about a thing gets stuck in that part of your mind that controls how your body operates, it must act in accordance with that belief. Your subconscious mind accounts for 90% of your mind. All of your beliefs, memories, emotions, and bodily controls are handled by that part of your mind. Your conscious mind has no direct contact with that part of your mind and therefore usually has n`o clue what limiting beliefs are keeping you from enjoying greater sexual satisfaction.

Most often the root of the problem is stored in your subconscious mind, not in your sex organs. Whether it’s lack of desire, inability to climax, sexual pain, inhibitions... it almost always starts with an emotional memory that you may not realize you have. Many times it’s something simple, like being caught masturbating. How a persons first experience with sex goes, can have a lifelong effect on the way the person performs. Religious upbringing can have leave old guilty feelings imprinted on the subconscious mind. Even a one-time experience with having someone say something insensitive to you about your sexuality during love-making can bring about feelings of insecurity. As simple as the most minute experience might seem, it can have a profoundly damaging and lasting effect on a persons sex life. Whatever the root cause, Hypnotherapy can help you release the emotional memory so you can enjoy sex once again.

Hypnotherapy for sexual dysfunction has been proven over and over. Hypnotherapy can uncover the underlying problem by tapping into your subconscious mind, where every experience you’ve ever had is stored. Once you have an understanding of this problem, you can release these anxieties, limiting beliefs or past trauma’s and give your subconscious mind new understandings that will get your mind working for you instead of against you.

Just to demonstrate the way your brain controls every function in your body let’s use your imagination for just a moment. I want you to think about a lemon for just a moment, and imagine cutting that lemon in quarters. That’s right just cut right threw that fresh tart, yellow lemon and notice all the juice that’s squirting out around the lemon. Now imagine taking one those lemon wedges, bringing it up to your nose and smelling it. Finally, imagine putting it in your mouth and sucking all the juice out if it. Do you notice what is happening? If you are like most people, your mouth would be watering right about now.

If you felt your mouth watering, you already know how hypnosis works and that it will work for you. Now imagine how good it will be to stop the anxiety and embarrassment and take back your sex life.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Take The Stress Test

Take a look at the following pictures for a moment one at a time. What do you see?

These pictures are used to measure how well people can handle levels of stress. The slower the pictures 'move' for you, the better you can handle stress. These images are completely still and have no animation.

So, how stressed are you?

Manage stress with hypnosis

Friday, 6 December 2013

VIDEO Why We Think It's OK To Cheat And Steal (Sometimes!)

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Forming Habits... And Sports Rituals

Legendary Dutch footballer Johan Cruyff used to slap his goalkeeper in the stomach before each match. Tennis ace Serena Williams always bounces her ball five times before her first serve. Jennifer Aniston, it is reported, touches the outside of any plane she flies in with her right foot before boarding.

From touching wood for good luck, to walking around ladders to avoid bad luck, we all have little routines or superstitions, which make little sense when you stop to think about them. And they are not always done to bring us luck. I wait until just after the kettle has boiled to pour the water for a cup of tea, rather than pouring just before it boils. I do not know why I feel the need to do this, I am sure it cannot make a difference to the drink.

So, why do I and others repeat these curious habits? Behind the seemingly irrational acts of kettle boiling, ball bouncing or stomach slapping lies something that tells us about what makes animals succeed in their continuing evolutionary struggles.

Repeat behaviour
We refer to something that we do without thinking as being a habit. This is precisely why habits are useful – they do not take up mental effort. Our brains have mechanisms for acquiring new routines, and part of what makes us, and other creatures successful is the ability to create these habits.

Even pigeons can develop superstitious habits, as psychologist B. F. Skinner famously showed in an experiment. Skinner would begin a lecture by placing a pigeon in a cage with an automatic feeder that delivered a food pellet every 15 seconds. At the start of the lecture Skinner would let the audience observe the ordinary, passive behaviour of the pigeon, before covering the box. After fifty minutes he would uncover the box and show that different pigeons developed different behaviours. One bird would be turning counter clockwise three times before looking in the food basket, another would be thrusting its head into the top left corner. In other words, all pigeons struck upon some particular ritual that they would do over and over again.

Skinner's explanation for this strange behaviour is as straightforward as it is ingenious. Although we know the food is delivered regardless of the pigeon's behaviour, the pigeon doesn't know this. So imagine yourself in the position of the pigeon; your brain knows very little about the world of men, or cages, or automatic food dispensers. You strut around your cage for a while, you decide to turn counter clockwise three times, and right at that moment some food appears. What should you do to make that happen again? The obvious answer is that you should repeat what you have just been doing. You repeat that action and – lo! – it works, food arrives.

From this seed, argued Skinner, superstition develops. Superstitions take over behaviour because our brains try and repeat whatever actions precede success, even if we cannot see how they have had their influence. Faced with the choice of figuring out how the world works and calculating the best outcome (which is the sensible rational thing to do), or repeating whatever you did last time before something good happened, we are far more likely to choose the latter. Or to put it another way: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, regardless of the cause.

Habit forming
University of Cambridge psychologist Tony Dickinson has taken the investigation of habits one step further. Dickinson trains rats to press a lever for food and perform another action (usually pulling a chain) for water. The animals can now decide which reward they would like most. If you give them water before the experiment they press the lever for food, if you give them food beforehand they pull the chain for water.

But something strange happens if the animals keep practising these actions beyond the point at which they have effectively learnt them - they seem to “forget” about the specific effects of each action. After this “overtraining”, you feed the animal food before the experiment and they keep on pressing the lever to produce food, regardless of the fact that they have just been fed. The rat has developed a habit, something it does just because it the opportunity is there, without thinking about the outcome.

Sound like anyone we know? To a psychologist, lots of human rituals look a lot like the automatic behaviours developed by Skinner's pigeons or Dickinson's rats. Chunks of behaviour that do not truly have an effect on the world, but which get stuck in our repertoire of actions.

And when the stakes are high – such as with sports – there is even more pressure on our brains to “capture” whatever behaviours might be important for success. Some rituals can help a sportsperson to relax and get “in the zone” as part of a well-established routine before and during a big game. But some of the habits you see put my kettle boiling routine to shame. Tiger Woods always wears red the last day of a golf tournament, because he says it is his “power colour”. In baseball, Wade Boggs claimed he hit better if he ate chicken the night before. Soccer’s Kolo Toure once missed the start of the second half because he refused to come out – superstition dictated he had to be the last player to re-emerge from the dressing room, but on that occasion he was stuck there waiting for a stricken teammate to finish treatment.

We cling to these habits because we – or ancient animal parts of our brains – do not want to risk finding out what happens if we change. The rituals survive despite seeming irrational because they are coded in parts of our brains, which are designed by evolution not to think about reasons. They just repeat what seemed to work last time. This explains why having personal rituals is a normal part of being human. It is part of our inheritance as intelligent animals, a strategy that works in the long-term, even though it clearly does not make sense for every individual act.

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