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Have you ever had an experience of feeling stuck? Perhaps you went through an ordeal. Or else you got into a situation that was more than you could cope with. Either way, whether self-chosen or inflicted, these kinds of experiences can stretch us to the max. It is when we are pushed beyond our normal capabilities that we resort to coping mechanisms learned from long ago to help us through a difficult time. A coping mechanism might look like eating too much, or typical ‘bad habits’ such as smoking, drinking or even drugs. Other self-destructive habits include nail-biting, hair pulling or self-harm. Outbursts of anger, excessive sleeping, moodiness or withdrawal are coping mechanisms of personality, and can interfere with a person’s well-being if relied upon too heavily. All of these behaviours are evidently destructive, and yet nearly all of us can resort to them without much thought. We may not even recognise what we are doing, only aware of the benefit the behaviour. In the moment then, the behaviour is entirely justified.

And there are benefits to these behaviours, no matter how extreme the consequences of long-term indulgence can be. Smoking, for example, stimulates the nicotine receptors in the brain, mimicking a naturally occurring pleasure-creating hormone. The pain of hair-pulling stimulates a flood of endorphins that soothe the body and mind. Anger is for protection, withdrawal avoids potentially painful situations. There is always a good reason to behave in these ways. The positives are short-lived, however, and the awareness that what you are doing is not helping you only serves to increase the sense of stress or frustration. Self-criticism adds more pressure to the situation, and a sense of helplessness in the face of overwhelming cravings leads a person to doing the only thing they know how to do – use the already established coping mechanisms. A vicious cycle has a person’s negative behaviours reinforcing a negative self-view, which leads to more of the negative behaviour.

An interesting fact is that when a person is stressed or angry, they are much less capable of taking a wider perspective or learning something new. Calming the nerves, the stress response, is essential then if something different is to be done. Relaxation exercises, hypnotherapy, meditation and even exercise can shift a person into a more receptive state of awareness. Relaxing in this way also eliminates much of the self-inflicted pressure that comes from constant self-criticism. It is vital during any process of change to practise extreme self-care. The key elements are to replace negative self-talk with statements of acceptance and ecouragement, and to continually affirm the vision of what you want.

Getting support is crucial for most people, and hypnotherapy not only provides an accepting and non-judgemental environment, but it also enlists the support of the unconscious mind. In many instances of overwhelming craving, it is the unconscious mind that demands the instant gratification. With all the willpower in the world, even the strongest person is no match for the powerful drives that exist at this level. Hypnotherapy uses symbolic language to communicate directly with the unconscious mind in order to change those needs and desires that drive unhelpful behaviours. It also teaches the unconscious mind different methods of coping with the world, from self-soothing to positive visualisation, that are enjoyable and which this most powerful part of our mind chooses to use automatically. The unconscious mind working towards the same goals that you consciously choose is a powerful ally.

When you see yourself engaging in positive behaviours, this generates good feelings about yourself, reinforcing the awareness that the new behaviour is desirable. A virtuous cycle is created. What virtuous cycle would you like to establish in your life and how will you accomplish that? Call me to discover what is possible for you.