My conversation with the world...

2020 Vision...

26 May 20

Where are you on your path?  Probably exactly where you need to be!

If you ever thought that weird things have happened in your life, think again.  2020 has brought about some of the weirdest, most awful, complicated, frightening moments.  Yet it has also brought with it some new ways of thinking, new ways of working, new ways of communicating... new ways of being.  

I started writing this on Monday of the second week of 'lockdown' and I wrote that I felt sure that for most of us, we are part way through the weirdest time of our lives, with no real idea of when normality would resume, or what normality would look like when it did resume. That was probably the end of March.  

I've tried writing it again, several times, and it's taken me a whole load of ups, downs, round and arounds to properly come back to it, and we are now headed for the end of May!

For many, if not most of us, normality is still a distant memory, and we are still very much in the thick of what the new normal looks like to us.  

We live in the digital world, where information is freely and quickly availale via the internet, but this can be both really helpful and potentially really dangerous to our mental health.

The Government released its new guidelines a couple of weeks ago, about beginning to ease the lockdown, and of course that threw the entire country into a state of disarray, because the guidelines meant different things to different people.  This is when our mental health can be challenged.  Our minds are comfortable with familiarity - even if that familiarity is bad for us (think about people who smoke, for example, they know it's bad for them, yet they still do it, because it's a habit; it's familiar).  That same part of our mind that clings to familiarity (because it gives us security) fears change.  It fears the unknown, as that often leads to a feeling of insecurity.  

Because we cling to familiarity, and because we live in a digital world, when things start to worry us, we start Googling, and we find a whole load of information on the internet that fuels those worries, which in turn can lead to anxiety, so we start Googling the symptoms of that, and soon realise that we have some, if not all of them, and so we Google some other symptoms we're noticing, and before long, we've self-diagnosed an illness we don't have and the tiny spark of worry has turned into a raging inferno of anxiety.  That is how unhelpful the internet can be.  The internet gives self-proclaimed experts a much louder voice than they've ever had before, and it becomes difficult to separate the truth from the ramblings of the keyboard warrior.

Now, if you know me, or read my last blog post or follow me on Twitter, you'll know that I'm pretty heavily into the sun, moon and stars, but little did I expect, when Saturn, Mercury and Pluto aligned in Capricorn on 12th January 2020 that the changes that were on the cards would be so massive!  I knew that it meant there would likely be big changes across the world, and that it was all about authority and power, but I certainly didn't expect a global pandemic.  

It's also interesting (to me, anyway) that the first five times I sat down to write this, it was like pushing water uphill, which is never any fun, yet the sun is now in Gemini, which is the planet of communication, and I've felt the urge to start writing it again.  I've allowed it to flow, and here we are!  Also interestingly, when I wrote my last blog post, the Full Moon was in Gemini, also all about communicating. 

Over the course of the last few New Moons, I've been manifesting greater communication with the world.  Essentially, bringing help and healing to more people that need it, and during lockdown, I've opened up my therapy practice online (it's always been online, but this forced me to really push it, as I couldn't see clients face to face in clinic) and I'm now practicing Hypnotherapy, Psychotherapy and Counselling with clients via Zoom, Skype and telephone all over the world.

The other thing I've done is created a weekly online guided meditation session, via Zoom, which is open to everyone.  Presenting to groups has been something I've wanted to do for a long time, and it hasn't happened, but lockdown has enabled that for me.  It means that (providing your time zone allows it) you can join the guided meditation from the comfort of your own space, which means you can stay in your pyjamas if you wish, and enjoy some inner focus and some stillness.

I've now taken these guided meditation sessions into the studio, and I teach from StayWell Health in Derby.  We use the sessions to follow the phases of the Moon to bring clarity, focus and healing.  You can join in person or via Zoom, and book directly with StayWell Health where you'll find me on a Friday at 7pm.  I'll look forward to guiding you Moonwards...

Goodbye 2019!

11 December 19

Christmas is nearly here and I, for one, will be very happy to see the back of 2019.  It's been an incredible year for many different reasons.  I won't bore you with the mundane detail, but I started the year expecting to make progress in a certain direction, full of the excitement that a new year brings.  I'd started in my new Hypnotherapy clinic in London, business was building and life was generally good, but then very early on in the year, the Universe pulled the rug from under my feet and my life went off in a totally different direction.  A disc herniated into my spine, meaning that I didn't go to work for 4 months as I gradually recovered, and that's where I am now, in December, still recovering.

In the summer, I went back to work, and things returned to some variation of normal, but I noticed that my perspective had changed.  Things that once seemed so urgent to me suddenly didn't seem so important.  I noticed that I felt much more grateful for the very simple things, like being able to nip out in my car if I wanted to, or dash up the stairs for something, or even turn over in bed at night.  I felt that I was gradually getting back some control of my life, but that I no longer wanted it to go in the direction I believed it had been travelling in at the beginning of the year.

Now for those that know, I've always been pretty heavily into the moon and the stars, but later on in the year, I became even more interested in the cycles of the moon, and how it governs energy and affects people's mood.  I noticed that in my Hypnotherapy and Counselling clinic, the clients I was seeing around very energetic moon cycle times were presenting with similar types of issues, surrounding hanging onto things; feelings, memories, anxieties, and many of them were feeling frustrated or lost or angry, and I began to notice that these things often correlated with the cycle of the moon.

As such, I've been able to use my knowledge to their advantage, not only through educating and informing my clients, but targetting sessions around specific things like letting go of what you no longer need, or noticing the feeling that hanging onto this stuff is creating within you.  Those feelings can be toxic, and the only person they are harming is you, so imagine how liberating it can feel to actually let some of this stuff go! 

My Hypnotherapy, Counselling and Mind Coaching clients are seeing such benefits from it that some of them are now arranging their sessions around the cycles of the moon, depending on whether they want to let go of something in their life, or manifest something new in their life.  And it's powerful stuff, so do be careful what you wish for!

As part of my new learning, I discovered more about the planets and how they orbit.  I also discovered that sometimes they appear to go backwards, or to use the astrological term, how the planets are in retrograde.  Specifically, I learned about Mercury in retrograde, which was taking place as I was learning about it, and I learned that not only can this lead to feelings of chaos, but it can also involve revisiting things that you've done before and perhaps hadn't fully dealt with.  Or perhaps you had, but you get the chance to do it again a different way!  Interestingly, part of my own learning was that I was getting a little bit too busy again. 

I was losing some of that focus on myself and running around trying to solve everything for everyone else, and right enough, the recovery with my back seemed to go a little bit backwards, forcing me to stop, take stock, have some more treatment and find the balance that was right for me and my life, and I don't feel selfish about saying that, because being the best that I can be enables me to do my best for the people I support.  It literally is a win-win!

And here we are, 12 or so hours before the next full moon.  This full moon is in Gemini, which is apparently all about communicating, speaking your truth and listening, so good luck with that!

My truth is that I'm going to look at two new clinics in London tomorrow, in Harley Street.  Now it might be that it's exactly the right thing for me, and if it feels right, I'll embrace it, but it might be that it isn't, and as such, I'll let it go, and send it on its way with love and gratitude.

I wish you a liberating full moon, a very merry Christmas and a wonderful 2020!

Love Island is Back!

04 June 19

I had never heard of Love Island, but two series ago, I caught part of one episode, and felt compelled to watch the rest of the series.  I then got a hold of myself, and haven't watched it since, but I found it happening again recently with something on YouTube.

I've got no idea how I came to see this thing, but there was some unpleasantness between a couple of people in the Beauty Community which involved some mud-slinging, some exaggerated stories being told, various people jumping on various bandwagons, and a make-up artist YouTuber losing a couple of million of the subscribers to his channel within 24 hours.  Each person involved made a video based on their perception of the situation, and then the others responded.

Or something.  

Now, it wasn't the make-up that compelled me to start to follow this story, but it was people's behaviour.  Their behaviour towards each other, their behaviour when they felt threatened, their behaviour when they felt attacked... and the fact that this whole thing was being documented on video, and aired to millions and millions of people, all of whom had an opinion, and that created another wave of behaviour for me to observe.

People get upset with other people every single day of the week, but to see this thing unfolding in such a public way made me feel physically sick, yet my interest in people's behaviour compelled me to observe the story, the behaviours and the outcomes for a little longer.

I quickly got over my compulsion to watch the YouTube shenanigans, which is a good thing, because within about a week, a new argument had taken over, between two brothers, which was just awful to see and hear.  I honestly pity their poor mother, seeing her boys publicly shame and humiliate each other, but it seems to be the way of the world at the moment - people will do anything for a few more subscribers to their channel.  

Human beings are complex creatures, and the human brain is a very complex piece of equipment.  It requires huge amounts of energy to function, and in order to conserve some of this energy, it takes as many short cuts as it can.  Your brain is continually pattern matching, so when you are faced with a situation, your brain tries to match the pattern to a previous experience, and then delivers an outcome, or a behaviour.  It does this for two reasons.  The first, as I've already said, is to conserve energy, rather than use huge amounts of energy re-learning, and the second is because part of our brain thrives on familiarity, and searches for a situation it is familiar with - even if that familiarity is negative or bad, rather than face the discomfort of the unknown, new situation.  

Bizarre?  I know!

The way that this fits into my point about Love Island and YouTubers falling out is because the behaviour each person exhibits is based on their brain receiving information and passing it through the amygdala before creating a physical or emotional response.  This response is automatic, and based on your life experiences.  It is based in your perception of a variety of situations, and it is unique to you.  It compares the new situation to a previously experienced situation and gives you the physical or emotional reaction that it believes you require.  Your brain does this really efficiently, as a way to cut corners and conserve energy, but... it's not always a reaction you want!

So the way you react to a threat, or some unpleasant behaviour from another person, is based on your previous experiences, some of which were learned when you were very young, and some of which are no longer useful to you.

This is why, when faced with confrontation, some people react aggressively and want to fight, some people react emotionally and burst into tears, and some people react calmly and deal with the situation for what it is - a unique situation, based on the here and now.

The question some people ask is whether or not you can change what is deemed to be an automatic reaction?  Yes, absolutely.  You can change it by first of all recognising what it is about your own behaviour that you don't like.  Initially, this is likely to be after the event.  Once you have been upset, reacted in a certain way, and then calmed down, you might feel embarrassed about the way you reacted.  Once you've done that, you can begin to notice what sort of situations trigger this unwanted response.  The next time you are in the situation, take a moment, even if it's a split second, to think.  The moment that the situation moves from the subconscious, automatic part of the brain into the conscious, logical, rational part, then you have a choice in how you react.  It can take time and effort, but ultimately, you can replace that old, automatic behaviour with a new behaviour which is one you want, and which fits with the mature adult you now are!

A great tool to help you make this change quickly and permanently is hypnosis.  Hypnosis works with the part of the mind that is automatic - the subconscious mind. By making the positive changes in this area of your mind, you can change those behaviours that you don't want.  Those behaviours and reactions that are no longer serving you and are preventing you from reaching your full potential.

My belief is that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis, and you can try some self-hypnosis by downloading my free Deep Relaxation mp3 and allowing yourself to simply relax and enjoy a few moments of peace and quiet.

So for now, I'm avoiding Love Island and YouTube, and getting on with the business of being a Hypnotherapist!

Stop The World, I Need To Get Off!

02 May 19

I try and write a little blog about once a month.  I'm normally super busy, so it's not always possible...

That is, I was super busy.  Until 7th February, when the Universe, and my back, had other ideas for me!

I've been struggling on and off for years and years with a bad back.  I put it down to a couple of things... childbirth being one, and a failed epidural and two spinal blocks (all during or after the birthing process) being the other.  There's no proof to say it's down to any of those things, but I've suffered.  Lower back, left hand side.  Always the same.  It would 'go' in the most obscure and often bizarre situations, normally through just twisting or reaching, and I'd walk around like an S-bend for a few days until it settled.

18 years ago, I discovered a brilliant Chiropractor, and then a couple of years ago, discovered a brilliant Physiotherapist, and with their support,  I've been managing the symptoms of my back.  Historically, I'd go and see the Chiro when my back would 'go' and fortunately, through working with the Physio more recently, found it 'going' less and less.  

I also did research and I noticed patterns.  I noticed that it would 'go' at a particular time in the month, and when I did my reserach, I found that this was the time that my levels of oestrogen were naturally dropping, and the levels of relaxin in my body were naturally increasing.  For most ladies, this happens when the body is getting ready to shed its womb lining, just before her period arrives.  It also happens during pregnancy, allowing the ligaments to become more loose and lax, in order to accommodate a growing baby.  The thing with relaxin is that it loosens the ligaments in other parts of the body too, but mostly the pelvis, the lower back and the knees.

In early February this year, when my back started feeling sore, I went to see the Physio, thinking nothing more of it.  I had a treatment and he told me to see how it went, and to go back if it didn't settle down by the end of the week.  I woke up 2 days later and found it to be really sore.  Knowing what I needed to do, I went downstairs, took a bag of peas from the freezer, and just before I lay on my front and popped the bag of peas on my back, I thought "I'll just empty the washing machine" and as I crouched down...BANG, my back went.  The excruciating pain flung me across the floor and I was unable to do anything other than holler.  No position was comfortable, and I can only liken it to the feelings of an electric shock.  This was at 6.30am, and to cut a very long story short, I ended up spending the day in the A&E Department of our local hospital, dressed in grey, brushed cotton, leopard print pyjamas, a grey, fleece, Tinkerbell dressing gown, odd socks and Adidas trainers.  I didn't care how I looked.  I didn't care about anything.  I was in severe, unrelenting pain.

It transpired that a disc had herniated into my spine and the pain I was experiencing down my left leg and into my foot was from severe cord compression, which was irritating the sciatic nerve.  I'd 'slipped a disc' as they used to say.  It's also known as a prolapsed disc, apparently.  Whatever you want to call it, it was the most severe, unrelenting, uncontrollable pain I've ever experienced, and I've delivered two massive babies!

So what was the prognosis at the hospital?

Well apparently, in 80% of cases, the body cleverly absorbs the disc matter that has herniated, and no further treatment is necessary, although this can take up to 6 weeks (or as I found out later, up to 12 weeks).  Imagine my joy at the hospital, when they told me to expect this level of pain for up to 6 weeks!!!  They prescribed me with some pretty powerful drugs and I went home, in some level of shock, and still in debilitating, unrelenting pain.  

For the other 20% of people, treatment might involve an injection, or ultimately, surgery to remove the disc matter from the spine.

For the first time in my life, I couldn't do anything, except lie in bed, or on the floor.  Every movement I made had to be calculated.  I couldn't cough or sneeze without crying out in pain and my life became split into chunks of time between medications.  I was taking so much medication that I had to document it and set alarms so I knew what to take and when.  To be fair, this probably kept me sane, because I had seemingly lost control of everything else, and for someone as controlled and controlling as me, that was pretty tough to accept, so micro-managing medication was probably good for me!

There were times, mostly at night, when I was desperately tired, but couldn't sleep, because I couldn't get comfortable, or the painkillers had worn off and I was waiting for the next lot to kick in, that I wondered if I would ever have any sort of life again.  I would say that the nights were probably the most difficult.  In fact, I stopped trying to have a daytime or night-time routine.  I just slept when I needed to, as I knew that I'd be awake every hour or so with pain.

I turned all of my energy inwards as the only way to get through what was happening to me.  I cut almost all communication with everyone; I virtually turned off my mobile phone, and I just went into myself to begin my recovery.  At times, the silence was deafening, but as I got used to it, I began to enjoy the stillness in my head and in my world.

Hence, no blog was written, because everything stopped.  All of my clients were brilliant, which is just lovely when you only know people professionally, but they have all been very loyal and said they would wait until I had recovered and then come back to me.  I also have a wonderful support network of people offering to help me - if only I would let them!

I'm a great believer in the Universal Law of Attraction and how the Universe gives you exactly what you need.  Often, this isn't necessarily what you want.  My life had become too busy.  I've always been busy, but I was literally running about from clinic to clinic, dashing between Derby and London, and not getting home on a Friday night until midnight or 1am.  Trying to have a life in between all of that was becoming increasingly difficult.  I was neglecting those that I care for deeply, but mostly, I was neglecting myself, and my own physical and mental wellbeing.

I'm also a great believer in the Mind-Body connection.  We carry the weight of our responsibilities in the bottom of our backs, and more specifically, a herniated disc is about feeling pressured.  

The Universe obviously decided that enough was enough and literally pulled the rug out from under my feet.  I needed to stop, which I did, because I had no choice.  I also had to accept help, which I did, and which was a challenge for me, but above all, I had to take care of myself before caring for anyone else.  I had to put myself first, which I don't know if I have ever done before.  I have had to take a serious look at my life, and make some changes.  Changes which are still evolving, but changes that I feel sure will be good for me.

And that's where I'm at!  Today, 12 weeks in, and I can sit at my desk and write, for the first time in 3 months, which is really quite an achievement.  I can't sit here for long, because I get back ache quickly, and the nerve down my leg and into my foot is still severely compressed, but I can do small things, which I am eternally grateful for.  I have a set of exercises that the Physio has given me, to start to strengthen my foot and my calf, which have weakened considerably, but I seem to be heading in the right direction.  Hopefully, I'm going to be in the 80% that recover on their own, without the need for surgical intervention, but I'm not out of the woods yet.

My advice, if you're reading this and you regularly put yourself at the bottom of the pile, is please begin to put yourself first, even if it's just in small ways.  Care for yourself and nurture yourself in the way that you would care for the most precious thing in your entire world, because as I've found, you can't take your body, your health or your wellbeing for granted, as the rug could be pulled from under your feet at any moment!

Sex Sells...

05 February 19

Valentine's Day is literally just around the corner, and you can't walk past a shop without it being sold to you in some way, shape or form.  This is because sex sells, at least from a marketing viewpoint, and the retailers do everything they can to ram it down your throat, as it were.

I noticed, when passing a high street retailer the other day, that the window display was somewhat risqué.  It caught my attention, so I guess that it had achieved its purpose there, and my mind started to wander and wonder about the wide variety of different things that pique our interest, and I began to ponder on when a keen interest in something becomes a fetish?

What is the definition of a fetish?  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it is "A form of sexual desire in which gratification is linked to an abnormal degree to a particular object, item of clothing, part of the body, etc."

Abnormal in whose mind?  Not the person who has the sexual desire, that's for sure!

Now, I have a thing for shoes.  Usually high heeled, but not always.  Is that a fetish?  I don't think it is, because I don't get sexual gratification from it, I just like shoes, but an experience I had with eBay a while ago told me that many people do get sexual gratification from shoes.  And feet.  And feet in shoes.

I was selling a few pairs of shoes, and received a couple of questions about the shoes, followed by a request for some photographs of them being worn.  "No worries" I thought. "That will perhaps encourage the purchaser to make their decision..." and so I popped them on, took a couple of snaps and sent them over, to be helpful, I thought!  Then came the confession, that this person had a foot fetish, and actually desired photographs of feet in stiletto heeled shoes, and probably had no intention of purchasing the shoes!

Part of me felt mildly irritated, but being the Therapist that I am, I explained that I absolutely understood, and asked him to kindly delete the photographs.  He said he would, and then went on to tell me that his wife didn't understand him.  Once more, being the Therapist that I am, I explained that I understood... and I basically ended up Counselling him, via the eBay messaging service, about his fetish.  I thought it was really interesting that he was so open about why he wanted the photographs.  He basically wanted to talk to someone.

This has happened to me a couple of times since, and whilst I don't mind people asking for photographs of my feet, they could simply look at Twitter, where I'm always posting pictures of them, rather than clogging up my eBay messages!  In fact, the photograph I've used as my Twitter profile pic for years is a photograph of my feet, wearing a pair of my very favourite shoes.  That is easy for me, because I don't find them sexual.  I just like shoes!

So when does a fetish become a problem?  As a Phychosexual Therapist, I see people in my clinic all the time for Sex Therapy, whether that is related to a problem they have in the bedroom, or something similar to the person from eBay - that their partner doesn't understand them and therefore it becomes a problem because they are becoming sexually frustrated or isolated. Often, their partner doesn't even know about the fetish, as it's something they've not felt able to divulge, very often for fear of being judged, or even dumped, in the case of new relationships.  And it isn't always new relationships where people keep their sexual fetishes a secret.  Sometimes, people have kept these secrets for years, and people find that hiding it from their partner is a cause of guilt and shame, even leading to anxiety, because they don't like telling fibs!  They'd rather be accepted for who they are, because being authentic gives us a sense of freedom, and being accepted for that gives us a sense of security.

This is where, as a Counsellor and Hypnotherapist, it's really important that I find out what people want from me.  I never say to clients "What's the problem?" because they might not have a problem! I say "Tell me how I can help you."  This is because not everyone wants to be free from their fetish.  Some people simply want to talk about it in a safe, non-judgemental environment, because they either expect or have previously experienced hostility, embarrassment or judgement.  Quite often, people have never spoken to another person about their deepest, darkest desires, and that alone can be very therapeutic.

When two (or more, depending on your fetish) people consent, then sexual experimentation can be liberating, fulfilling and exhilarating, but when that isn't the case, it can lead to immense isolation, guilt and shame, which can lead to performance issues, such as erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, early ejaculation (the two are different) penetration anxiety or pain during intercourse. It can lead to the person becoming sexually withdrawn, possibly creating more problems within the relationship.

Once these things start, the spiral can become negative and spread to anxiety in other areas of life, which can in turn lead to depression. 

So as a Counsellor and Hypnotherapist, my aim is to support your journey forwards.  As such, I'm not always helping people to navigate their way through problems.  I also spend time listening to people's inner most thoughts and desires, because what one person thinks is acceptable is often very different to what the next person thinks is acceptable, and so on.  Very often, people simply want to be heard and their thoughts or beliefs to be acknowledged in a non-judgemental environment.  

Of course, it is important that clients are fully aware that Sex Therapy is a talking therapy, and not a physical therapy, and also that they are aware that my areas of expertise as a Sex Therapist relate to consenting adults acting within the law.  

So I did sell the shoes, not to the person who contacted me for the photographs, but to someone else, and I have sold many more pairs since, but now, each time I advertise, I know that not every question is going to be from a prospective purchaser!