by David Mason
If you sometimes wonder why you feel the way you do, then creating a daily journal is a good way to learn about yourself. Writing a journal diary will let you keep track of your emotional reactions to life's problems as they happen. Writing your thoughts down lets you deal with issues as they arise. But the main advantage is that it gives you a time to reflect. Self reflection is the key to changing how you feel and how you cope. Physically writing things out forces you to focus on what is important. The suggestions below will help you to get the most from your writing exercise.
Buy a hardbound lined-paper book. It doesn't really matter what size it is but most people like to have a large format to reflect its importance. Other people like to have a small intimate diary so that they can carry it with them and write in it in private moments. Habitual diarists buy a different color each year.
Some people like to write it online, a bit like private blog. This will work if you are a good typist, but if you are not your thoughts will outpace your typing speed and you will find that by the time you have typed the first thought, the second thought has gone. It might be better to stick to writing on paper.
When to Journal
Writing can be done every day or only when you feel you need to express yourself. They are both good. Most people like to set aside a fixed time of day, such as before getting ready for bed. Other people wait until they feel in the mood. Or you can just read over your journal from time to time and something will engage with your emotions and you can write your reaction to that. It really doesn't matter if there are gaps of days or even months between entries. There is no right or wrong way to do it.
What to Journal
You can write your journal as a series of daily observations for nobody in particular. Or you can write them as emails to yourself. Or you can write open questions without answers. Like 'why do I always feel inadequate when I visit my Dad?' Leave the question, and then some time in the future, when you re-read that question, you will be in a different frame of mind, and you might get an insight into it. Or some people think of a question to write down each night, and then use that as their starting point for writing the next entry. For example your question could be 'If I really thought about it, what could I accomplish tomorrow?' or 'What am I going to do different tomorrow?'.
Some people prefer to take a structured approach to their journal. They start with the same questions every day, for example 'What three good thing happened to me today?', 'How could I have handled some situation better today', 'What did I do really well today?' and so on. Looking back on your successes is a great antidote to depression.
Another method is to read something that you can reflect on, a religious or philosophical work perhaps, a poem or a biography, and find some sentence, some phrase that speaks to your heart. Allow that to guide what you write. Copy out the sentence, and then explain to yourself why it spoke to you.
Or you can choose not write anything at all. You can draw a picture that expresses how you feel right now. Or you can cut out articles from the newspaper that mean something special to you, or glue in a ticket or a bit or wool that that has a some special meaning that you can't express. Or you can use a mixture of all of these.
Some journallers like to turn their thoughts into affirmations, to use something from what they have written to plan how they will improve something tomorrow.
Getting into the mood
To use the journal effectively you need to be able to connect to your own emotional energy centers when you write. You need to find a quiet spot where you can be undisturbed for ten to twenty minutes. Then close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Just notice your breathing, and on each breath out allow your muscles to relax. Continue breathing quietly and then let your mind drift over the events of the day. Let your mind wander where it will, and get in touch with your feelings. When you get a feeling, any kind of feeling, just notice it and acknowledge it. then start describing to yourself what that feeling is like, what it reminds you of, how it affects you, what you want to have happen. This will only take a few minutes. Then you are ready to start writing your journal.
Writing it out
When you feel the need to express something about your thoughts and emotions, just start writing. Just start. Do not worry about grammar or spelling or correct sentences, just let your thoughts flow and focus on getting them down before they vanish. Tell yourself that you can always go back and rewrite it if you need to. It is private to you and not going to get graded so you can use whatever form suits you best. You can use words and pictures and abbreviations and shorthand and lists or leave gaps or anything else you want. No one is going to judge what you right, or criticize it, and you can down your most private thoughts without shame.
Each thought will lead to more thoughts and go off in the most unexpected directions. Don't worry about it. Just keep writing. If your thoughts are racing away from you, just make little notes and pictures and then use these to remind you of what you need to write about.
While you are writing, even though you are not aware of it, your mind is working, examining each word, thinking about each phrase, and finding other examples that are themselves reminders and set off another mental search.
When you think you are done, read over what you have written. That will likely spark off more thoughts and just follow that wherever it leads.
Journaling is simple but very effective.
The act of writing is therapeutic. By describing a situation you are forced to really notice all aspects of it. Journaling gives you a non-threatening way of identifying your feelings about the situation. Journalling gives you the space and time to reflect.
Reading back in your journal can help you put things into perspective. Keeping a journal will remind you that things always get better, and can help to identify patterns in how you feel. Going over an old journal will remind you how you have changed, how things that used to be an issue just don't figure in your life anymore. Reading over your journals will give you a unique sense of who you are.
Be honest with yourself. Make a pledge that your journal will only be read by you. That way your unconscious mind will feel free to let you express your deepest desires. Putting your thoughts down on paper can be liberating. Your journal doesn't talk back. If you want to you can scream and shout in your journal, get back at the person who humiliated you, vent your anger or your frustration. Externalizing how you feel helps to manage those feelings. Many therapists ask their client to keep a journal precisely because it does help 'get it off your chest'.
Although your journals are private, you never know, they could turn into treasured heirlooms for your grandchildren's children.
Using it to set goals
Your journal does not have to be about now, or just looking back. You can set aside the back of the journal for long term goals. And then check on them from time to time. For example write down the answers to :
What I want to achieve in the next twelve months?
What I want my life to be like in ten years time?
What things about myself am I most proud of?
What are my greatest strengths?
What weaknesses can I work on to eliminate?
What is holding me back right now?
It can be interesting to write the same list out every year and notice how they answers change year to year.
You set aside part of your journal to record all the good things that happen every day, all the ways that you are blessed, all the random kindnesses of strangers. This will build in to a life affirming collection.
As you write in your journal your unconscious mind is working hard, and you will find that you come up with ideas and insights and new ways of doing things. As they occur to you, jot them down in a special section. Don't worry about how good they are or if you have the resources to do them. Just note them down and go back to your journalling. Later on you can revisit the section. It will build up into a resource of ideas that might spark other ideas.
If you are working on some unique project, like changing your job, or getting a house, you can create a separate section that has to do with that project. Put down ideas, resources, name and addresses, web sites - anything and everything whenever something occurs to you about it. It will build up over time to a useful reference and resource.
These were very popular in Victorian times. A commonplace book is simply a book where you paste in printed texts you come across that you want to keep. These often include poems, obituaries, paragraphs from novels, pages from religious manuals - whatever interests you, or that you feel might be of some use to you in years to come. It is more than a scrap book, it is usually for things of more than fleeting interest.
by David Mason
However, the problem has been around for a long time. The client probably has many ways of triggering the behaviour associated with that problem. If you leave a remnant of the image, then that remnant can later be reinvigorated and the problem will come back. That is why you must get rid of the image.
There are many ways to get rid of the image. If the client doesn't want to get rid of the dragon, or feels some sympathy for it, then it is most likely that the problem actually contains something that is useful to the client. At some level the client is aware that if they clear away the dragon, they will also clear away some asset they have been relying upon in the past.
Therefore, what you should do is to ask the client if they would like to transform whatever remains into something that would be useful to them, and gently encourage them to let the thing change in whatever way it wants to. Keep changing it until it is some stable thing that they can store safely or carry around with them. That way they will always have the asset when they need it and they can let the rest of the dragon fade away.
The client didn't know what the original problem was and won't know what it is they want to hold on to either.
by David Mason
It is quite normal for clients to cry. In fact I regard it as a help to diagnosis and a sign that the emotions must be near the surface and gives a potential feeling to target for regression therapy.
However a recent academic article has looked into the issue of therapists crying. When I started out in this business I was as damaged as any of my clients and I frequently heard stuff that echoed my own upbringing. I could listen to it quite dispassionately, and I think the closeness to my own experience helped my understand more. Listening was no problem. Following a script of mostly direct suggestion was no problem either. But when it came to designing a metaphor to suit their situation, the closer it was to my own issues the more it resonated with me, and I found myself getting emotional along with the client.
I was quite startled by this at first, but I later realised that it was doing me good: and it if was doing me good then it was probably doing good for the client as well. Then I deliberately started designing metaphors that would cause me to cry, because that way I knew they were good powerful metaphors, and by listening to my own emotions I got better at designing them.
As I got more experienced I realized that in order to get into the client's mind, I first had to imagine what they were feeling in my mind, and the metaphors were what I thought might work for me. And then as I said the metphor I had to imagine the images in my mind, and of course my mind was being affected by them at the same time as the client's mind was being affected. This set up a feedback loop that I thought greatly increased the depth of empathy between us.
As I progressed, by fixing other people's problems in this way, I fixed more and more of own problems. I no longer feel that same raw emotion to the same extent. But I think that I do in fact come close to tears with more clients, rather than fewer. Healing myself has let me open up to more empathy with other people and I feel the sadness of an abusive childhood probably more keenly than I ever did years ago.
The article says that more than half of therapists reporting tearing up in the last four weeks, and I think that this about right. Only one percent of therapists thought that they had disadvantaged their clients by showing emotion. In my case I only get emotional while delivering the words, and so the client does not see me, since they have their eyes closed by that point. But I often remark to them that they were not the only ones crying during that session, and I think that the client appreciates sincere emotional contact.
by David Mason
The British Psychological Society has issued a statement saying that in their opinion it is time to re-assess the medical model of mental health. This model has been the leading way of thinking about how to deal with mental health issues for more than sixty years. What they are saying is that it is time to question the validity and usefulness of the idea that all mental problems can be treated by drugs, and that every mental or behavioural problem is now automatically assumed to need some pharmaceutical treatment.
It is very brave of BPS to come out with this statement. There will huge opposition to this idea. There is no coincidence in its timing: it comes shortly before the American Psychiatry Association is about to issue the latest update of the DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This has been accused of inventing illnesses so that they can then be treated. In the US, insurers will only pay for treatment if it is classified in the DSM. If it is not there, then it cannot be treated under health care plans. It is also accused of leading to uneccessary diagnoses: caregivers note symptoms, and then search the DSM until they find something that matches, and the patient is thereafter labelled with that disorder, whether they have it or not. It is also not incidental that the DSM is the major source of income for the APA, so they can be expected to respond robustly to any challenge to their model of treatment. The pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to be pleased either.
It will be interesting to watch what develops.
by David Mason
A lot of clients find it hard to say No. They end up overburdened with work, harassed and feeling resentful at others for asking, and at themselves for agreeing. Usually ten minutes after agreeing they find themselves boiling with anger at their own stupidity, or depressed about letting themselves be bullied again.
There are no good ways of learning to say No: but there are good ways of learning to not say Yes.
a) buy yourself time to think. Tell the person asking that you will need to consult your diary / your husband / your schedule - or something else first before you will be able to agree. Tell the person you agree that it is important, that it needs done, but you cannot commit to it right now without information from somewhere else.
b) Put off answering until you can reply in a different format. Many people are embarrassed by saying No face to face. It is much easier to Not-to-say-Yes by email or a written note. Or get someone else to tell them. It is much easier to give an excuse when you don't have to talk to them directly.
c) Invent a boss. Tell the person that you need to get agreement from someone else. It can be a purely fictitious person. Tell the door to door salesman that you need to consult your aged mother who has all the money. Tell a difficult customer that you need to talk to your supervisor first, and they are not in. Email back to a request by including a false email from your 'boss' quoting that you are not allowed to do what they are asking.
d) Make up a rule. Tell them 'I never make a decision without sleeping on it first. Your idea sounds really good. I will get back to you tomorrow'.
e) Put the onus back on them. Tell them that you will do it: but they have to do something first.
f) Give them alternatives. Saythat the best time to do what they want is this afternoon at three, but you have something planned for then. Could they find someone to take over that task first?
g) Promise to delegate it. Tell them that you will ask someone else to do it for them. But that you will get back to them later to say whether that other person agreed or not.
h) Suggest someone else. Deflect the person by saying that you think some other person would be a much better choice, and say why. And then make them ask the person first before coming back to you, and if they do, suggest someone different.
There is no limit in how creative you can be in Learning-to-not-say-Yes.
by David Mason
Every hypnotist has to deal with procrastination. It can be very hard to clear. Many procrastinators are really skilled at putting things off and come up with wonderfully inventive reasons for not getting on with it. But the underlying reason is fear.
One common fear is fear of being criticised for not doing well enough. The most common way out of this is to handicap yourself, usually by restricting the amount of time available to complete the task. A common strategy to get round this is put off and put off starting until five minutes past the last possible minute, and then slamming into the work and getting something out of the door by the deadline. The rationale is that you can't then be criticised for not living up what is expected because you didn't have enough time to do it properly. So in your mind, you are safe from the pain of being found not good enough.
Some people have taken this to extremes, making it a part of their life. The world chess master of the early nineteenth century from 1800 to 1820, Alexandre Deschapelles, used to take the pressure off his chess matches by giving away one or two pieces before each game. That way he handicapped himself: his opponent had eight pawns and he only had six. So if he lost it was not because of his lack of ability, it was because he had fewer pieces than his opponent. And if he won, well it just showed how good he was, but he avoided the pain of not measuring up, and therefore did not have to procrastinate about playing a match.
Eventually he became recognised as the best player in the world at the time. But then someone else came along, who beat him consistently. Deschapelles realised that he would always be beaten, so he gave up chess completely, never played another game, and took up the card game whist, later known as Bridge.
And once again he handicapped himself by wasting his highest card. He went on to be an outstanding card player but always only after imposing a handicap on himself.
This habit is remembered today in the Bridge technique known as Deschapelles Coup, beating your opponent by deliberately sacrificing a high card in order to spoil their planned strategy.
by David Mason
Here's a way to find out what your own internal critic is doing to you.
Get a bit of paper and write down four things you want to be, things that you are trying be, and not getting.
Then write out an affirmation that includes all the things you want to achieve. For example if you want to be making a living at hypnotherapy; and want to be a great hypnotist; and want to help people; and want to be famous at what you do; then write out an affirmation that goes something like this...
I am [your name].. I am a brilliant talented hypnotist, I am the best there is, I am going to become wealthy by helping other people.
Then write it out again, and again, over and over, about ten times.
And as you do, your mind will become bored by the repetitive task, and you will find a voice comes into your mind that starts sneering at you, or putting you down.... a great hypnotist... yeah... like you could ever become anything.... becoming wealthy..... yeah... this from someone who can't make it to the end of the week... Help others.... who are you to be helping anybody? ... and so on.
By doing this little exercise you can bring out your own inner critic so that you can examine it, what it is saying, what specific things it is focussing on...
And then you can use self hypnosis to meditate on one of the phrases. For example if you got 'like you could ever become anything' then you can focus on that one phrase, challenge it, ask for a memory, allow your mind to dredge up the original incident that is behind that self belief. And once you have identified it, you can make a start on changing it.