Mynd.Works - Anxiety Treatment Canberra

Visualisation trumps Anxiety!

Exposure Therapy, aaaargh…

The most dreaded part of any phobic’s treatment and the technique I most often hear being used by traditional psychology. It’s the time when you have to actually face whatever has been scaring you, which initially causes even more anxiety, and panic attacks.

But, wait… just for a moment. Are you doing everything you can to make exposure therapy quick, easy and relatively painless?

Could visualization help?

My answer, and the answer from thousands of my own clients worldwide is a resounding “YES”.

Some people aren’t afraid of anything and go through life little-to-no anxiety. They shrug off bad news and appear to thrive in stressful situations. As the saying goes, they are ‘as tough as old boots’.

Over the last few decades experts have devoted many hours to understanding why some people are more optimistic, fearless, and hardy than others.

There are a few obvious reasons like upbringing, possibly some genetics, diet, and brain structure which play a role, but none of those things condemn you to a life of uncontrollable anxiety, fear and hopelessness. So what do the successful people do differently?

They imagine things differently – they visualise.

For years people have done visualization exercises for the purpose of relaxation, the standard one being to visualize yourself on a beach feeling the warmth on your skin. As relaxation techniques they are very effective for most people, resulting in a lowering of blood pressure and pulse rate, and helping relieve muscle tension. Most people report feeling calmer.

This is great for general anxiety, stress and worry but only of limited help when it comes to tackling specific anxiety or phobias. Relaxation is good and obviously it’s better to tackle a specific issue with a relaxed body than with a tense one, but state of mind is very important and the trigger of the phobic situation, be it entering an airport, seeing the elevator doors close, nearing the front of a queue or hearing the subway train approaching, can bring all of that relaxation crashing down.

So what can be done to make a different kind of visualization work for you?

Let’s examine one of my favourite options.

When it comes to tackling a specific issue, sun-kissed beaches are probably irrelevant on their own. Instead of leading your mind into relaxing in an imaginary situation why not combine that relaxation with imagining the real issue.

After getting yourself into the most relaxed, calm and comfortable physical state possible, you can then lock-in that great relaxed feeling by using an anchor technique – nipping a finger and thumb together or taking 3 deep breaths.

Then, while physically relaxed, actually shift your thoughts into having yourself doing whatever it is you have a phobia of, or whatever situation makes you feel anxious… but this time you’re having yourself do it in a calm, physically relaxed and perhaps even a happy fashion as if it were a “normal” occurence.

Let’s say your anxiety is triggered by travelling in an elevator, why not visualize yourself leaving your house, arriving at a tall building, calmly walking over to the elevator, pressing the button to summon it.

Waiting for the doors to open, stepping in and watching the doors close, all the time activating your good feelings by taking those deep breaths or nipping that finger and thumb together. Then imagine stepping out at your destination floor.

The following steps can make the visualization work more powerfully.

1, Visualising in the “first person”, seeing the situation from your own eyes, don’t see yourself doing it as if you were an actor on a movie screen. Your mind will see it as someone else, not as you.

2, Use all of your senses. Think about everything that you might see, hear, feel and smell and recreate them in your mind. Think also of things that are not important to the situation but which you might hear anyway, people talking in the background, mobile phones ringing etc. Also do this with sights, smells and textures.

3, If you find visualization hard persevere, it takes time and patience to undo what your mind has constructed, but rest assured, results will come.

4, If you find it impossible to visualize being calm and happy in the phobic situation then break down the visualization into parts. Spend some days becoming calm looking at the elevator from the outside, take as long as you need. Build up to riding in the elevator as slowly as you want. Eventually you will get to be calm and happy in the situation you used to fear.

5, When it feels right, and you’ve practiced visualising for a week or so, go for it in real life!

In fact, here’s what I’m going to do…

Seeing as though it’s NEW YEAR…

I’ll guide you through the actual ‘anxiety reduction technique’ for free if you visit here.

And if you like it, there’s an option to purchase it to listen while offline for some minimal amount (I think it’s about $6).

What are you waiting for?

Let me know how it goes.

meditation, hypnosis, hypnotherapy, self hypnosis, guided, visualisation, imagination, therapy

Meditation vs Hypnosis

Meditation vs Hypnosis  *cue the ‘Rocky’ theme tune, trumpet fanfare… No, Stop it. There will be no unscheduled bout happening today.

“What’s the difference between meditation and hypnosis?”

Oh if I had a dollar for every time I have been asked this question. I lost count centuries ago. But it’s a fair question – none-the-less.

Meditation and hypnosis both require a focus of the mind – often (but not always) purposefully directed. I am skilled in using and administering hypnosis but less so with meditation, so the differences and explanations I mention here are my personal opinions. I welcome and encourage any meditative types to please comment if you feel I’ve missed anything.

Okay, I’m going to offer up two explanations. One very concise (for those with short attention spans – ps. I can help with that) and one a little more in-depth.

EXPLANATION ONE – the short version.

In hypnosis the focus is generally on the subconscious mind, and in understanding and reprogramming past negative learned thoughts, reactions and behaviours as well as teaching the subconscious how to ascertain a certain level of physiological control of the body.

In hypnosis you enter into very deep concentrative states, sometimes very rapidly, where you are able to replace bad habits and negative thought patterns from the past with positive, inspiring thought models for the future.

In hypnosis, the process is often administered (hopefully) by a skilled operator, especially in therapeutic interventions. This has led to the notion of being ‘mind controlled’ and has meant that hypnosis has attracted bad press which has placed a huge obstacle in the path of those trying to bring hypnosis and it’s therapeutic efficacy to the mainstream. However, ‘guided visualisation’ seem to be perfectly acceptable – as long as the word ‘hypnosis’ isn’t used.

In meditation the focus is on the present moment, your heart and your soul. The main focus of attention is on ‘here and now’. In the ‘now’ in meditation you are supposed to feel expanded and connected with one another and everything, in a state of calm peace. It is the flow of love, the giving and receiving of love that lies at the heart of meditation.

In meditation I have often heard of a more spiritual base of development, quite aside from religious prayer – where you decide what you need and you do all the talking to some higher entity. Meditation in a way detaches oneself from the heart and soul and allows them both to do all the talking while you listen quietly.

I hope that cleared things up… I’ll await those comments from the meditative bunch.


EXPLANATION TWO – the extended version

What is hypnosis?

Is hypnosis a ‘state of deep relaxation’? Perhaps – but not always so. Hypnosis can be relaxed (therapeutically speaking), but really it’s any state of mind that makes us more: dissociated, focussed and suggestible.

When people are experiencing a horribly traumatic experience, they become immediately and infinitely more suggestible. I’ve worked with people who were so traumatized that, even years later, they still respond to environmental ‘post-hypnotic suggestions’ (from less than a minute of traumatic experience) which take them right back to the original trauma.

For instance, a war-weary veteran whose heart pounds every time he hears a car backfiring, or a driver who feels anxious whenever she passes the corner where she had that accident. This is pure hypnotic phenomenon, but it’s not relaxation at all.

And what’s more, all emotions are, to a greater or lesser extent, hypnotic.

Emotional hypnosis

That’s right – emotion is hypnotic. Ever been in lust? Love? A rage? Think about how focussed and suggestible (and disassociated) you become in these states.

Anger is very hypnotic – it focusses our attention and makes us suggestible. And, of course, depression is a trance-like focus. All these states are hypnotic, which is why they are so amenable to hypnotic treatment.

Anyone who can make you more emotional will also be making you more suggestible. When cults (or politicians) want to influence people’s belief systems, they will try to raise the emotional pitch. And such charismatic people are naturally more hypnotic.

Really, all therapists use hypnosis to some degree (even if they are ignorant of this). If a counsellor asks you to direct your attention to a recent break-up or the pain of your childhood, they are encouraging disassociation from the here and now (which can be a feature of hypnotic trance). And the state of flow, or being ‘in the zone’, is also very focussing and therefore shares similarities with relaxed therapeutic hypnosis.

So my point is, hypnosis isn’t ‘just a state of relaxation’ as you might read on a million hypnotherapists’ advertising blurbs. It’s actually much more interesting than that.

Meditation v. hypnosis

Just like hypnosis, I can see how meditation may have great benefits, but similarly it could also have drawbacks if used unwisely. I’m thinking here of the case of the woman who meditated up to 12 hours a day and began to find she could no longer cope with some of life’s practicalities.

It’s not always a question of ‘more is better’; sometimes more is just more and may even be harmful. Taking a hundred painkillers is most certainly not better than taking one, some would argue that taking none is even better.

Hypnosis, used purposefully, will generally have a very specific psychological (and therefore behavioural) aim. We hypnotize people to help them engage in the kinds of thoughts, feelings, and actions that will stop them being depressed or drinking heavily or being traumatized or phobic. We use hypnosis to help them switch off pain or maximize their motivation in sports.

Meditation may have the effect of making us much calmer day-to-day, but may not be intentionally directed to stop someone smoking or to treat a specific phobia.

Likewise, clinical hypnosis isn’t generally used with the sole intention of helping someone achieve an ’empty’ mind or objective ‘mindfulness’.

So one difference between hypnosis and meditation is for what purpose they are used.

Ultimately, asking what the difference is between hypnosis and meditation is a little like asking what the difference is between alcohol and wine.

Meditation’ and ‘hypnosis’ are just words and could sometimes mean exactly the same thing. Some hypnotic states could be more like quiet meditative states, and I’m sure some people who meditate experience profoundly hypnotic imagery sometimes.

Hypnosis and meditation can both make you happier

I have seen the judicious use of hypnosis change lives by helping people rid themselves of unwanted patterns of thought and emotional chaos. And there is also some research that regular meditation or self-hypnosis can make us happier.

I use hypnosis to help people detach from destructive emotions and calmly begin to see wider and happier possibilities (for example – feeling calmer around spiders). One meditation technique, that of ‘mindfulness’, seeks the same result as the person meditating seeks to name his or her feelings whilst not disentangling themselves from them. In this way, meditation can help people.

Hypnosis used therapeutically will often focus on helping someone relax around memories of the past or prepare to feel better and act differently in the future. Meditation, as I understand it, is often an attempt to be absolutely in the present. But again, people in hypnosis will often report feeling totally focussed in the now.

So the question, “What is the difference between hypnosis and meditation?” is simple, but the answer is a little more in-depth.

I see great benefits from both modalities. If you have any views – please ‘enlighten’ me.

Richard Scott
Mindset Coach, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Psychotherapist

Negative thoughts – negative sleep


Bedtime is supposed to be the time to give yourself a break from all the stresses of the day.

It is the time to finally let your body rest without hesitation, let it recover, and refuel the lost energy.

But for most of us, it is also the time to ruminate about negative experiences, especially those that happened within the day.

The time to think about the things we said and did.

Did they make sense?

Was I able to raise my point?

Did I look stupid in front of those people? 

Some of us even lose hours going over negative thoughts, thinking about all thewhat-ifs and only-ifs, including those events that happened many, many years ago.

Negative thinking, especially during bedtime, is one of the major factors affecting a person’s risk of insomnia and even mood disorders like depression.

Not only does it make falling asleep difficult, but getting preoccupied with negative thoughts does affect the quality of our sleep, so we wake up feeling restless the next day, as if we didn’t get enough sleep.

If you’re always struggling about negative thoughts before bedtime – and no matter how you try to push them away, they keep bugging you, you can greatly benefit from the following tips and advices.

Go to bed earlier.

Do you notice it that when you stay awake past your usual bedtime schedule, you become grumpy and irritable?

In a study by Binghamton University, it was found that people who preferred to go to sleep late (evening types) had higher levels of negative thoughts compared to early sleepers (morning types).

The same was true for people who slept for shorter periods of time overall.

If you’re used to sleeping late, like 11 pm onwards, try adjusting your bedtime schedule by 15 to 30-minute increments until your desired schedule that allows you to get enough slumber of at least 7-8 hours.

Practice breathing techniques.

Deep breathing is a scientifically proven way to ward off stress and shut negative thoughts.

It allows you to focus on your body, rather than on the worries and all the bad thoughts.

Also, deep breathing induces the flow of blood throughout your body, which leads to calmness and relaxation.

Turn on the music.

Remember how lullabies make you sleep faster when you were little?

Music has the ability to relax our mind and body, and shift our attention from negative thoughts and emotions.

And its sleep-promoting abilities are backed by scientific research too.

In 2013, a study review by University of Chinese People’s Armed Police Forces in China, found that music therapy helped people with sleep disorders when used consistently.

But of course, the type of music you play has a huge impact.

Try a calming music with no lyrics, such as new age instrumentals, nature-inspired music or classical music.

Nonetheless, it is still important to experiment and find out what specific types of music works best for you.

Try Guided Relaxation or Visualisation

There are different types of guided relaxation, and they often work best with the help of a trained therapist.

There’s progressive relaxation which involves tensing and relaxing different groups of muscle in sequence.

There’s also the traditional guided relaxation which involves focusing on your breathing and relaxing your whole body.

You can use visualisation too, wherein you think about a relaxing place or situation.

Ask your therapist what specific techniques you can try at home to alleviate negative thoughts and ruminations especially before bedtime.

Ditch the Facebook night-time habit.

If you make Facebook a bedtime ritual, chances are, you can get into bad mood once you saw a post that you don’t want to see.

Looking at other people’s photos and statuses about how happy they are, what places they’ve been, how great their salaries are, etc., often fuels comparison, which greatly boosts negative thinking.

Another thing, using your mobile phone or computer, even watching TV before bedtime has been found to affect sleep quality by interfering with the body’s circadian rhythm.

And that’s due to the blue light these electronics emit.

If you have a helpful negative-thinking tip or strategy that works for you? Please share in the comment section below.

Happy dreaming

Richard Scott
Clinical hypnotherapist