Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The problem with Nigel

The phone rang in the therapist’s office. The mother on the other end outlined the problem – Nigel, her son, now aged 44 had been in care for nearly 8 years in a state of catatonic schizophrenia. Various drugs and electroconvulsive therapy had been tried with only moderate and always a temporary success. Neurological assessments revealed nothing of significance. Nigel spent his days in a seemingly twilight world where there was minimal, if any, apparent interest in his surroundings. In short, Nigel appeared fully conscious yet totally unresponsive.

I think they have given up on him,” his mother told the therapist, and knowing his reputation asked, “Is there anything you can do?

Oh yes!” Replied the Good Looking Therapist.

The trickiest part was getting the psychiatric care home to allow the therapist in. There are all sorts of rules about these things and territorial considerations, but with persistence and some wiley charms, the therapist was able to get the relevant forms signed.

With minimal observation, Nigel’s care routine became obvious. In the morning, the care staff would wash him, drain off the catheter bag, dress him, place him on his chair, feed him and then park him in front of the window or television for the morning. Periodically, they’d lift him and move him to prevent pressure sores. On Wednesdays, the weekly enema was given to prevent constipation. At lunchtime, the catheter bag was emptied and Nigel was fed and watered and after lunch was parked either in front of the television or back in front of the window. The evening routine was similar and then he was put to bed.

This was pretty much Nigel’s life had been for the past 8 years. Now the care was mostly professional and was indeed very caring. He’d never developed a pressure sore, suffered unreasonable constipation or any other unreasonable physical health problem. Often, the staff would talk to him and read to him, but rarely was there even so much as a flicker of interest from Nigel.

I think he is lost to us,” one member of staff voiced to the Therapist, “what are you going to do?” she asked. “I’ll show you tomorrow,” the Therapist replied, “I’ll show you tomorrow.”

The following morning the Therapist was in early before the more dependent residents had been gotten out of bed. He brought freshly made doughnuts from the 24-hour supermarket and made all the staff tea and coffee and waited to be called. “Just let me know when you have Nigel out of bed,” he told them.

Forty minutes later, Nigel was out of bed and the Therapist waited patiently as the staff spoon fed Nigel who ate disinterestedly. When he had finished eating, the Therapist indicated to the nurses, “He’s mine, give him to me!” He demanded and as he took over control of the wheelchair leaned down and whispered into Nigel’s ear, “Just play along with me, I’m getting paid a fortune for this,” and wheeled him up along the corridor.

Reaching the small cleaners cupboard, the Therapist took out all the mops, brooms, dust pans – took out everything – and found to his delight that the cupboard was just about big enough to fit one man and a wheelchair into it. “Shhh! Just play along with me!” he said quietly as he shut the door, locking it after he did so.

It was at this juncture that the staff went nuts! What did this therapist think he was doing? Did he not know how unprofessional this was? What if something happened to him in there?

Look!” the Therapist explained. “That man is catatonic, he hasn’t moved in nearly 8 years and he is locked safely in a small empty cupboard. What on earth is going to happen to him? And besides, he’s safer in there than out here – haven’t you noticed, this place is full of crazy people?!

The staff were clearly uncomfortable with the whole situation and put up quite a protest. All this was occurring outside the cupboard where Nigel resided. This was part of the Therapist’s plan. Nigel might be unresponsive, but there certainly was nothing wrong with his ears.

He stays in the cupboard!” The therapist ordered, showing the staff the written authority that had been granted to him for the unconventional intervention. The staff went away unhappy. The Therapist did notice later that day that the doughnuts brought earlier remained uneaten.

At lunchtime, the therapist unlocked the cupboard and wheeled Nigel back to the care staff that ministered to him in the usual fashion.

After lunch, Nigel was wheeled back into the cupboard with the passing whisper, “Look, let’s see if we can string out this all week, it’s a really cushy number!” and the Therapist once again locked the door.

That evening Nigel was handed back to the care staff and the therapist went home. He was back in early again the next morning and when he took command of Nigel in his wheelchair, Nigel did something – he looked at the Therapist, and it was a look that communicated something. Precisely what that something was no one was sure, but the care staff saw it too. “He seems angry,” said one of the nurses.

At around 8am, with Nigel fed and watered, the Therapist wheeled him along the corridor to the cupboard. As he did so, he said in a jovial manner into one of Nigel’s ears, “Thanks ever so much for this – I really do appreciate it,” and placed him back into the cupboard and locked it.

By 1030am that very same morning, that cupboard door was off its hinges and a very angry looking Nigel was found standing in the corridor screaming, "cocksuckingmotherfuckingcuntingshitcuntbastard!” And as if to complete the image, he actually had spittle flying from his mouth and drool on his chin.

It certainly as if Nigel was awake and he was looking more responsive than yesterday. Yet, this behaviour appeared to unsettle the staff more than when he was locked in the cupboard.

So, the first thing that they did?

They sedated him.

Monday, 14 August 2017

How to make a promotional video

There appears to be a set formula for how one should produce a self-promotion video if you are a coach, NLPer, hypnotherapist or wotnot.  To make it easy for the new alphabet therapist (IEMT, EMDR, NLP, CBT, EFT, NAET, TFT, TAT etc) to fit in, I'll briefly outline what you need to do to make a video for your website.

1. Location.  Without a doubt, the location is the most important aspect.  As you know sitting in front of a bookshelf will make you appear intelligent, so take the time to select the right books to have on the shelves that will appear behind you. It doesn't matter if you have actually read them or not.  Alternatively, you may wish to use a plain background, in which case you should position yourself in front of an interior door for that plain-background-that-is-actually-the-bedroom-door appeal.

2.  Lighting.  There is no need to use proper lighting, the 11watt economy bulb that pretends to be the equivalent of an old style 100watt bulb will do just fine.

3. Microphone. The mic that is inbuilt into your video camera will do just fine.

4. A tripod is entirely optional, you might want simply to borrow a family member with a steady hand to hold the camera for you.

5. Remember to tell your story. Absolutely everyone wants to hear "how you got into" NLP, ABC, EFT or whatever it is. Everyone will be riveted to hear how you have always had an interest in people, words and so on and how you are so happy to have this gift of being the special one.

6.  Script/content.  Forget decent content because there is no need to offer your viewer anything that is actually useful, after all, you don't want to give away the shop. Instead, simply state your name, location and preferred alphabet therapy that you practice.  Then use a generic, "…and so if you have problems with <insert short list of conditions> then please contact me on my website." Use the simple logic that looks like, "because I am a hypnotherapist and you are a depressive, then you should call me for an appointment."  Yes, that'll work.

7. Where to put the video. Simply upload it to youtube, because this is the type of video that Youtube fans just love to watch. Badly embedding the video code onto your web-template web page will, of course, drive a torrent of traffic from eager customers to your video.

Once you have this video uploaded, your colleagues will recognise you as one of their own and you will fit right in. The only thing left to do will be to start posting onto public internet forums asking for advice from other experts as to what techniques you should use with your next client.

Good luck.

Or...do something different.  Here's Topher Morrison. I don't know him nor his work, but this is a great promo video.

Please give other examples, good and bad, below.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

How much to charge?

A very common theme in the hypnotherapy and complementary therapy world is that of "charging as much as you can" and "the higher you charge, the more you will be respected."

Something I have encountered a lot is, "if it is important to the client then they will pay anyway."

I'm not so sure about this, and I personally wonder if this reflects the elevated egos of so many private therapists.

The reality is that many people with problems simply do not have the money and so to insist that they pay a high fee will only add to their burdens and not necessarily help them in a positive way.
The other issue of a high fee is that it acts as a very good filter by excluding those people at the really shit-end of life and instead works to select in those who have a significant disposable income to spend on a luxury as hypnotherapy.

Therapists do like their YARVIS clients the most (Young, Attractive, Rich, Verbal, Intelligent and Sane) and the really screwed up ones who are without money, have poor articulation and poor personal hygiene are definitely the ones to be avoided. 

It's easy to claim a high success rate when one's clients don't really have many major problems in living and what they have are basically cosmetic problems.

But then we all want to earn a good living and have the dream life that they told us about on our training course. Or more importantly, the dream life they told us about in order to get us on their training course in the first place.

Well, what did you expect?

What do therapists do when they don't get enough clients…they run training courses in how to get clients of course!

So here's a simple guideline for knowing how much to charge:  do you feel bad, guilty or awkward with the amount of money you charge?  Are you scared of "being found out"? 

That is the clue - you are charging too much.

For years I have suffered the problem of ego maniacs and general dipshits in the NLP world telling me to put up my prices.  Well, where are those people now?  Most of them are either in enormous debt or have gone back to their day jobs.  Really.  But their websites are all still online displaying the ridiculous prices they pretended to be charging when in fact they never got any clients at all.

How do I know this? I do a credit check on these people.

The internet is a grave yard of websites that preach success but actually were never successful in the first place, and this gives the illusion that people are all earning loads of money and we are the ones who are not doing so well.  I have copies of the financial records of a good number of trainers and therapists and it doesn't make very good reading at all.

Despite it all, I still don't understand how it is possible to rack up a six figure debt by being a hypnotherapist, but it isn't uncommon.

Something I did several years back which was quite successful was to offer two prices - £25 (students, low wage) and £95 (waged) - I always let people decide for themselves which price they paid.  People coming via my websites hardly ever selected the cheaper option. The local social services such as community housing, probation office, crisis centres and so forth did provide me with a steady stream of £25 clients which kept me very busy indeed and helped me to build the extensive professional network that I have today.

Years back, I also did "Free Fridays" where I'd offer one or two sessions for free on Friday - anyone could book those sessions, regardless of income.  Again, people were good about that, the waged ones would mention that they deliberately weren't asking for a free session. 

And the ones who did book the free sessions?  Well, most of them were either late, didn't show up, or were moaners who always wanted more, more more and nothing was ever good enough.  So I stopped the free Fridays.

Anyway, just some random thought, hope this helps,


Monday, 31 July 2017

Bad business

THIS was originally posted in 2013, but it remains my consistent experience of trying to book hotels and venues:

I think I know why there is a recession on.  There's only one reason - people are completely crap when it comes to business.

Or maybe it is just me and I'm having one of those weeks.

A company I employ to handle my credit card processing sent me a snotty letter. "Your direct debit has failed and you owe us £23.40p."  But there is no reference as to why I owe them this money, or an invoice number or anything at all in fact.  But the letter continues, "Failure to pay within 7 days of this letter will incur a £30 penalty as outlined in our terms and conditions."  

Well, that's just charming.  So I check with the bank - all direct debits are working just fine.  
So I call the company's billing department.  Apparently my call is important to them, but no one answers.  I try umpteen times over several days.  Still no luck.

So I email them.  No reply.  This all began back in December.  On the 20th, to be precise. I email them repeatedly.

Still no one answers the phone, and no one has replied to my numerous emails.

Then customers started to complain to me that they couldn't make payments online.  I contact the company support desk.  Eventually I get a reply.  Apparently there is nothing wrong with the credit card processing, my customers simply aren't using it correctly.

But still those pesky customers keep complaining that they can't pay me money.

Several arguments later with the technical support monkeys and I cancel their service.  Still no word on that issue of the £23.40 pence though.

I'll wait for the legal letter, maybe their legal department will be more helpful.

Then on Monday a venue that I had booked for an event this year emailed me.  Sorry they said, but due to a computer glitch, they need to change my booking.  What this translates to is that someone there has double booked the venue and as the smaller player, I get dumped.

Now the thing is the room I booked was a very specific room. The requirements for the venue ware exact and this booking fulfilled those requirements. I'm offered an alternative room "at no extra charge" but this alternative doesn't fulfil the requirements.  It's a bit like paying for an iPad only to be told, "Sorry, we have had to cancel your iPad, but here's a mouldy banana and a free cup of tea instead at no extra charge."

So, I start shopping around for alternative venues.  I think I find one and i send off an email to the conference booking manager.  Yes, we have a room that is perfect for you," she tells me.  

"Can you send me a picture?" I ask

"No." she tells me.


Wait. So, let me just check.  I'm wanting to book a large training room for the better part of a week (about £3000-£4000) plus refreshments (probably about £150 a day) including hotel accommodation for about 35 people for either 3 or 4 nights at £147 per night. People who will also inevitably buy breakfast and an evening meal as well drinks at the bar.  And this person can't be bothered send me a photo.

"Perhaps you could use a camera phone and send it over to me?" I try suggesting.

"Sorry, we don't do that, but please don't hesitate to let me know if there is anything further I can do for you!" she says cheerfully ending the converstion.

And right there, right then in a little *poof!!* noise and a painful lack of initiative, £20,000 of guaranteed business for that hotel vanished in a little puff of smoke.

So, I move on.  I find a well known hotel chain with a good reputation.  I've stayed in some of their hotels before and always found them to be very good.  So, I go to their website to find the phone number of the exact hotel I require.

But there is no phone number for the hotel. 

I can only find a generic central phone number. The website suggests that I enter a web-enquiry and a customer service agent will call me back.

Now, remember, my requirements are very specific. A customer service agent in Calcutta is unlikely to be able to answer any of my questions.  "Fuck it," I think, "nothing to lose", so I click the link.

Except it doesn't take me to a phone number or a place where I leave my phone number.  No, what it does is it takes me to an account creation page and only when i have created a business account can I "submit my enquiry."  Fuckwits.

And right there, right then in one swift click, £20,000 of business just vanished for that hotel chain.

I call the next hotel.  The phone rings out in the conference booking department.  I wait half an hour and call again.  It rings solidly and rings out.  No answer phone to leave a message.  So I look at their website, there is a "submit enquiry" form. 

I fill it in.

I click send.

And I get a screen load of error messages.  Stack overflow runtime error 6000, or something (I don't care. Nerds, please don't bother trying to correct me or explain it to me, I'll probably just be rude to you).

And right there, right then, another hotel loses £20,000 of guaranteed business.

And then something magical happens.

Calming me from my mounting fury, I find something really special.  I mean, really, really special.  I can't tell you what it is, because it would reveal where it is, but trust me, it is the Piece de Resistance of training venues.  I know it will be expensive, but I think it is worth a punt.  I send off a speculative email enquiry outlining my exact requirements.

A reply comes really back quite quickly.  But there is something a bit strange about the reply. 
It has a bunch of attachments that are actually booking forms and confidential data that has been sent over to them by another potential customer.  

God only knows how they got attached to the reply email. Then there is the thing about the price. It seems far too cheap for what they are offering.  But, the email says, in bold red letters beneath the venue details, that this is the correct price and for this specific venue.

I go bounding into the other room where my wife is working.  I think she is pleased that I've finally stopped ranting.  I tell her the good news.  The dog wags his little tail, he too is happy.  But the look on my wife's face tells me what the voice in the back of my head is also telling me.

I send an email back querying that they have sent me the correct details.

"Oh no," they tell me, in complete contradiction to the big red letters in their earlier email, "The price we have quoted you is for the other main training room, not [the really special place]"

The main training room seats 20. It's another mouldy banana.

But did they think, "Oh, maybe we should give him the prices for the other rooms?"  

No they didn't. That would require some kind of initiative, so I have to send another email back to them to ask this.

And guess what.  No reply.

I'll watch the news later.  It will continue to tell me that we are in recession.
And I will smile a little knowing smile of exactly why this is.

Do please share your stories in the comments section below.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Fake Phds

On my Brass Bollocks training where I open the doors to the business end of my work and show exactly how and what I did and do now to run a successful business I repeatedly expound a simple principle:

"Humility will save you from humiliation."

It shouldn't be a difficult concept but in the world of personal development where everyone is chasing a high status in the industry, it is a very rare thing indeed.

This may sound familiar to some of you. Some trainers who bought the program now use this repeatedly themselves in their own versions of my product.

You can get the original here: http://www.brassbollocks.com (it's a bit old now, but still pretty good and is less than a tenner)

I believe that I can accurately predict how quick a new practitioner will fail and return to their day job.  The quickest failure will follow a single use of a single word. "Us"

On the practitioner's contact page they write, "Contact Us" instead of "Contact Me". This is an excellent predictor of failure where there is a just solo practitioner, rather than a group practitioners on the site.

Why do they write "Contact Us"?  Well, because he or she is trying to appear more than they actually are.

Their very first point of contact with their customer is built on a simple little deception, a lie.  Not exactly the best start, don't you think?

And the reason their business will fail?  Because they are deceiving themselves as to the true nature of their business and they will continue to build on this lie as they ever inflate their ego and bolster a false identity.

A fairly common extension of this lie is the use of false and fake qualifications and certifications. 

The fake PhD is just one example.

Another tragically common example is the endless creation of self-serving "Regulation Boards" "Associations", "Societies", Institutes" and so forth all in an attempt to afford status and prestige, when in fact they are just merely a brief invention to "endorse" their own practice and courses.

What this does is contaminate the marketplace so much that the public no longer knows what is a genuine society (i.e. it actually has members, a charter, etc) and what is just a webpage on the 'net purporting to be such. 

Actually, I think so many hypnotherapists are utterly ignorant and in their quest for status they don't ever bother checking these things out themselves.  They just send off a cheque, receive a certificate and that is that - they are a member, have a logo and so on, and so that they unknowingly perpetuate the lie and the falsehood.

Several years ago I managed to terminate the totally fake and illegal "British Board of NLP" operation by threatening to bring a criminal action against its "chairman" unless he removed all traces of the website and notified his "members" of such. 

Yet, if you google it today, you will still find people claiming to be members of "The British Board of NLP", displaying a logo and claiming status as a result.  It worries me when supposed experts in mental health display such crass stupidity. And I do think this is a stupidity rather than a deliberate fraud.

And here's the funny thing - they display these logos, memberships and false qualifications so that we...err...trust them.

It's worth mentioning here that a few years ago the original "chairman" of the "British Board of NLP" sent me a legal letter threatening me with litigation for libel unless I immediately ceased my public statements about their shenanigans.

I couldn't help but wonder how interesting it would be to see them actually try to prove in court that the 'British Board of NLP' actually existed.  It didn't and never did, so it was impossible for me to libel it. I never heard anything further from them until "it" (actually, this was just the domain name for the website and company name, which wasn't actually "The British Board of NLP") changed hands and the nonsense started up all over again.

I've recently challenged people about the use of fake PhDs on a hypnosis forum and interestingly received a collective outrage from forum members suggesting that to do so was somehow unsporting and that I was being aggressive.  Needless to say, the usual threats of litigation followed and expressions of outrage ensued.

A recent anonymous blog (http://fakedoctorate.blogspot.co.uk) has taken to "outing" the hypnotherapists who claim to have PhDs when they allegedly don't have any such thing. Whilst I cannot claim to know the validity of the claims that are made on this blog, I thoroughly applaud the sentiment. I'd just like to add that in some circles that this is believed to be one of my sites. It isn't, nor do I know whose it is. Yet, periodically I receive emails from outraged individuals who think I am the one posting the Fake PhD Blog and telling me to cease and desist.

The hypnotherapy community appears outraged because apparently such a blog is unprofessional and brings the profession into disrepute.  Well, I have news for them - so is lying about one's qualification in order to defraud clients out of their money.

Here's the link to the BBC program about such nonsense that was aired in 2009 to which I was a main contributor behind the scenes and make a fleeting appearance and accidentally ask to see a lady's breasts. https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=176394112754

I would love to read your comments in the section below...

Monday, 17 July 2017

Two Rupees

Every now and then a well-placed word or sentence can change everything for a person.  Sometimes this can happen more by chance than by design, but it doesn't have to be this way.  Here's an example from a trip to India about 14 years ago.

I was hopelessly lost.  I'd gotten off the bus unknowingly at the wrong place and headed across town in what I thought was the right direction, only to discover my error.  Being a Sunday, most things were shut and there weren't too many people around, and by the time I found the bus station, I was completely alone.  There was no one there at all.

I stood pondering the best course of action when movement from across the bus park caught my attention.  A small man was sprinting across the bus park and directly towards me. I thought this curious and thought it more so as he closed in and was clearly going to run straight into me.  What is this madness? I thought, and in the last moment, he swerved attempting to snatch my bag from my shoulder as he did so.

Now, with me being twice his size and having braced for impact, a comedy moment ensued whereby he was wrenched from his feet and fell flat on his ass right beside me as the bag remained securely around my shoulder.  I was dumbfounded and for a moment had no idea what to do or say.  I kind of stood there open mouthed staring at him whilst he lay there in a similar state staring back up at me.

I helped him to his feet.

"Give me two rupees." he said.  I told him no, I wouldn't give him two rupees and that maybe, just maybe, he might want to go away.

"Two rupees," he replied.


"Two rupees!"

Now, at this point, he started pulling at my shirt and made another attempt at snatching my bag.  I pushed him away, but he was quite insistent.

"Two rupees!" he kept demanding, holding out his fingers in a begging gesture.

Now, of course, I could have simply handed him two rupees, but there were a number of potential scenarios that could have occurred.  The most obvious was that he'd take the two rupees and then simply demand another two rupees.  The other possibility was that the moment I take my wallet out of my pocket, he'd try to snatch that too.

He looked impoverished, downtrodden and poor.  But he was also a problem to me, it was clear that he wasn't going to give in or go away too readily.

He kept pulling at my shirt, "two rupees!" he was saying over and over.

I was beginning to get quite irritated and now was stuck in a mind set commonly known as "The Principle Of The Thing"  - this man had tried to steal my bag, and now he was demanding money and wasn't going to go away. There was a principle at stake here.  Thinking outside the box was not going to be part of this.  Stupid mindset.

I started to walk away but he still kept tugging at my shirt, "two rupees, two rupees!"

Then he started walking in front of me, "two rupees!" and then at my side, "two rupees!" then blocking my path, "two rupees!"  This went on and on for what seemed like hours, but in reality was only about 30 minutes.  There were still no people around, "where is everyone?" I pondered.

I began to get very angry indeed.  

"Two rupees! Two rupees!

"NOO!!!  NOOO!!!  NO!!  I AM NOT GIVING YOU TWO RUPEES!!  NOW F*CK OFF!!"  I screamed, I bellowed, I waved my arms, I displayed as much hostility as I could muster.  All pointless of course, because…

"Two rupees!"


I crossed the threshold of sanity and did what is known in my part of the world as, "Completely Losing The Plot"  The words streaming from my mouth undoubtedly lacked too much coherence, but the message was unmistakable.  Copious bile was spat in his direction….

"Two Rupees?"

I hated him.

My anger and feeling of powerlessness over this infuriating little man continued to rise and I could see no end to this ridiculous charade ever happening.  It was like I was in some kind of hell that would last forever and I could see no way out of the torment.

And then I entered one of the least proud moments of my life.
I shoved him as hard as I possibly could away from me, shouting at him the whole time. He nearly fell to the floor.

"Two rupees!?"

I was now incandescent. I picked him up, twirled him around and dropped him on the floor and towered over him, shouting and threatening him.

And then something happened.  A voice.  A different voice that came from behind me.

I glance around and see a young man in spectacles holding a pile of books.

"Excuse me, Sir," he said, "I think I can see what the problem is."

"WHAT IS IT THEN!?!?!?!?" I shouted, realising as I did so that I really shouldn't be shouting at this young man.

"You see, Sir, that poor man on the floor doesn't speak English!"

The sheer ludicrousness of that statement broke the tension and I burst out laughing.  Doesn't speak English?  Which bit of any of my communication needed any translation? The young man just raised his eyebrows and looked at me with disappointment in his eyes. The man on the floor started laughing too, but I doubt that he any idea what he was laughing at, he was probably just trying to humour me and stay alive.

As I say, not exactly one of my proudest days, and that annoying man still kept following me.  For another full hour in fact.  I remained quite calm, and I gave him the two rupees.  Actually, I gave him more than that, and yes, he did those two things as I predicted.  He tried to snatch my wallet and when that failed, he continued to demand two rupees.  I eventually escaped in a taxi who initially drove slowly enough to permit the man to run alongside the taxi shouting, "two rupees!" whilst he held out his hand.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017


This is my reply on a LinkedIn group in response to a question about modelling criminals in order to find better solutions to imprisonment.  I thought it worth sharing here:

To add to this, I too often wonder about all this supposed modelling. I don't wish to dismiss the original question in this thread as I think it has worth, but I have to ask where are all the models and demonstrations of the excellence that is so frequently claimed in NLP?

For example:

- Did an NLPer ever win the target shooting at the Olympics?
- Do we have legions of NLPers making money on the stock exchange, in property investment?
- Do we have NLPers offering lessons in healing on hospital wards?
- Any NLPers competing and winning at Nascar?
- Any NLPers inventing new machines and technology?
- Any champion fighters, boxers or gamblers who got there from NLP modelling?
- Any medical breakthroughs from NLP modelling?

There may be one or two, but I doubt there are very many despite there being many, many thousands of people trained in NLP and claiming qualification.

I think in part it goes wrong because to do any of these things involves a great amount of work, and many NLPers don't want to do "work" - what they want to do is NLP!

There are undoubtedly a very great number of dedicated people who work in the criminal justice system who well understand the model of criminality from a multiple of aspects. I doubt such understanding comes through chatting to a few crims though. Hard work, dedication and being in it for the long haul will probably help a lot.

One of the problems in-built into the world of NLP is that so many people are attracted to NLP for selfish purposes i.e. personal development and recreation. It's fun, it fulfils, it's a good thing to do. However, many jobs such as medicine/nursing, criminal justice, military and so on require something else - the ability to deal with really shitty times and bad days at the office, physical and mental exhaustion, physical and mental threats and challenges and so on. These are usually the very things that the NLPer and coach seeks to avoid - it is one of the reasons that so many self-employed seek self employment - to avoid the pain of work.

It is just unfortunate that so many end up avoiding not just the pain, but they also avoid the work itself.

And then the follow up...

"I wonder why there is such an apparent lack of modelling evidence and it 
being put into practice; is it because NLP is still seen as a black art by 
mainstream medicine, business and society, or is it still a well-kept 
(deliberately perhaps?) secret?"

Not at all. It is not up to the medics, business people or society to find the application of NLP, it is the responsibility of the NLP practitioners who claim excellence to do so.

I think that it is the problem. Selfish and smug, see...

For years, working at Southampton General Hospital, before my cynicism to NLPers set in I regularly invited NLP practitioners to come and do modelling work and also to demonstrate their excellence on the departments on which I worked. No one ever took me up on this.

For NLPers wanting to get rich and famous for being "excellent" - what better way than modelling healing and then demonstrating it on a simple video posted onto youtube?

Same for those guys who claim to be able to teach you to read minds like Derren Brown - let's see a video then? Guys? Guys...? Oh, never mind.

How about seeing your submodality sets via SMEACS? A video demonstration, perhaps? Not too difficult for NLPers of apparent seniority, surely? Yet when asked publicly, said persons have what appears to be an emotional meltdown before one can utter the magic words, "State control! State control!"

Building a control panel in your mind, creating binocular telescopic vision? Enhance your hearing and sensory acuity? Fine, just be sure when writing to the guy that you use large print and double line spacing. But how about a video demonstrating the effect of said machines? Just a little video..something..anything?

Having a person sitting on your knee, regressed to being a small child and able to see the book that mother is reading with absolute clarity? Cute story, but how about a demo of such things?

Modelling sharp shooters for the army? Let's see the video. Shouldn't be too difficult to take an inexperienced person to the gun range and then film the installation and delivery of sharp shooting excellence. So, where's the video? I'm a member of a couple of gun clubs that are local to me. Come on over, I'll do the filming and am willing to be a demo subject (I'm a dreadful shot) just remember to bring some cake and wear Kevlar.

What about a mediocre video of some therapeutic excellence? Oh, that isn't too common either. Me and Nick Kemp are two of a very small number of people willing and able to demonstrate this and we continue to do so. Why isn't everyone else doing this? Perhaps because they are afraid of being "found out"?

But what we do get is yet more and more and more and more and more claims of marketing wizardry and brilliance (mostly from people heavily in debt), firewalking and yet more bored (sic) breaking. Same old, same old.

Yet, often I hear how "closed" the medical world is. Yet, this is completely contrary to my experience.

I often hear NLPers being highly negative of doctors ("Can you believe it, he actually said to the patient, 'this might hurt' - can you imagine!!") but yet I don't see too many NLPers popping off to gain their medical degree so they can apply their amazing skill base in the real world (as opposed to applying it in their imagination).

When people ask, "why don't doctors learn NLP?" I generally reply, "Why don't NLPers learn medicine?"

The complaint of "doctors are closed to the idea of NLP" is hardly grounded in reality, yet I hear it referenced often. It's a convenient excuse, of course. It means that their miracles of NLP are never actually tested, and so it keeps the dream alive.

Next time you hear an NLPer say this, ask them how many medical clinics they have actually asked to visit and demonstrate their excellence.

My best guess as to why so few people ever are wiling to find an application of their NLP skills is simply because reality has this habit of really ruining a good dream. An expensive dream at that.

You are a winner!

You are a winner!

There is one common marketing strategy that works really well that serves to make people fat and die young.  Make them a winner for being a glutton.

You undoubtedly seen that appalling TV show that has people competing against each other in races to eat the most of a particular thing, like burgers, pork pies or pickled goats brains or wotnot.

They even put a disclaimer on the show, "don't try this at home, these are professional eaters."  What on earth is a "professional eater" anyway?

One can only wonder if TV networks in countries like Eritrea and Ethiopia would ever show such an abomination to their viewing audience?

Here's the other thing.  Restaurants that serve things like a "belly buster" - a massive plate of meat or something that if you manage to eat it all, you will get a free T-shirt, ten dollars or you get to snog the waitress or something.  Regardless, successful gluttony in those establishments is greeted with prizes, fanfare, and of course, lots of free publicity in the local press for the eating establishment.

People will applaud greed. You will be a winner.

The weird thing about these winners?  They usually aren't all that fat.

They will still die young though if they keep that up.


A solution? http://www.slimminginmyattic.com

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

On Guilt

As emotions go, guilt is one of the most useless ones.  It serves a minimal positive function and can serve to really ruin a person's day and render them foolish.  Unlike some emotions, guilt is not time dependent - it doesn't fade over time.  It lurks.

Guilt can also jump time.  Things can happen during the course of life that are all quite normal, then something happens to change our perceptions and suddenly we can remember something that previously appeared innocuous to us, but with our newfound perspective, we can feel guilty about it.

And we can feel guilty about things we have done, we can feel guilty about things we didn't do, but wish we had, and of course, we can feel guilty for nothing at all.  We don't have to have done something or omitted to do something in order to feel guilty.  Others can make us feel guilty through their expectations of us.  Expectations can lead to disappointment, and their feeling of disappointment can lead to our feeling of guilt.  It's funny how some emotions link up to others in a  certain sequence and logical order.

It's like this:

   You expect something of me.
   I don't deliver.
   You are disappointed in me.
   I feel guilty about that.

But was the expectation fair in the first place?  I have long observed that high expectations of a person can seriously undermine them and erode their self-confidence.  After all, when the person does the action, are they doing for themselves, or doing it because it is what is expected of them?

Now, by "the action" this might be a behaviour, i.e. something they do, or an identity, i.e. something they are.

Here's an example I've witnessed recently.  An intelligent young woman from a privileged background is at that junction in life where study ends and either further education is undertaken, or a career is selected.  She is bright, she is articulate, she has potential.

The great weight of unspoken pressure is there for her to be an achiever.  The university brochures are scanned through, the careers advisor is attended, wise words from family elders are spoken.

But the truth is she doesn't want any of that.  She wants to get married, have children, be a housewife.

But that doesn't fit with the image of the potential that has been ascribed to her.  After all, she is so young, it would be a shame to throw it all away...

This is an identity conflict.  So in order to avoid the disappointment of others, this young woman is going through all the motions of university application.  Half-hearted efforts that repeatedly result in failure, late appointments, accidental absences and continual low-level illnesses and afflictions.

Everyone is asking, "What is wrong with Polly?"

The obvious is just too elusive.  There is nothing wrong with Polly.  The elephant in the room goes unnoticed though.

So we get:

   You expect something of me.
   I fail to deliver.
   You are disappointed in me.
   My maladies explain why I failed so that your erroneous perception of me never has to be corrected.
   No one has to feel guilty any more.

As a clinician who spends many hours a week working with complex social and family issues, I see so many relationship difficulties that arise from the attempts to avoid guilt.  People deceive, they lie, they convince themselves it is for the best.  White lies.  Deception in the other persons best interests.

Guilt doesn't make people good people, it makes them act like irrational fools and it makes them do stupid stuff.  As a professional change worker, I have long held the view that guilt does not facilitate change - in fact, it does the exact opposite, it inhibits it.  I shall explain my reasoning for this.

Guilty people are always apologising and trying to make amends, but they continue doing the same stuff.  If guilt was effective at creating change, why do they have to keep apologising?

Primarily it is because of time orientation.  Guilt is about the past - it is a retrospective emotion.  For example, we don't feel guilty about things that have not happened or are yet to happen.  That emotion is called anxiety and anxiety is a prospective emotion.

So, guilt is about what has been, anxiety is about what is to come.

You cannot change what has been.  Small point, I know, but worth knowing.

Now, it isn't entirely uncommon for individuals to punish others by making them feel guilty.  Last year I had a client whom I unceremoniously ejected from the session owing to his unsavoury behaviour.  He yelled, then he texted, then he emailed the threats of suicide telling me to think about how awful I'd feel if he killed himself.  The ultimate blackmail - do as I say, or I'll kill myself, then see how you feel.

This isn't a good strategy.  You see if we try to motivate a person with guilt, look at the situation the guilt-laden person is now in - the actions they now undertake are orientated in order to lessen their feeling of guilt, not necessarily to change any prospective behaviours.

Let me give you an easy example.  Imagine I have an unpleasant habit of repeatedly jabbing you in the face with my left thumb.  You tell me how much you dislike this behaviour and load me up with some guilt.  I may well now look to relieve myself of this guilt by making amends for what I have done.  But is this necessarily going to change what I am going to do in the future?  Possibly, but from experience, probably not.

I might "make amends" for what has been, but once I am free from the guilt, the chances are that I will carry on as before until I am loaded up with guilt again.  And so the process is repeated.

Thus to summarise the point: a guilty person usually seeks to free themselves from their guilt, not necessarily to change their behaviour, perception of you or their future conduct.  Once they are free from guilt, everything is reset to the way it was before the offence was raised.

It looks like this:

   I poke you in the face.
   You tell me how bad this is.
   I feel guilty and apologise.
   You accept the apology and we shake hands.
   I feel better and I poke you in the face again.

So, in order to get a person to change, we need to get them to drop their guilt as a strategy for making things better.  Their guilt is has nothing to do with behavioural change, and behavioural change is the better outcome.

It's worth mentioning here - if you are a person who feels a sense of satisfaction from making another person feel guilty, please stop doing this.  The people who do this are both professional victims and bullies.  As with my client example earlier, by using the threat of suicide he aims to turn me into his puppet, something completely under his control.  I have known many relationships between people that are controlled this way.  The threat is never actually made explicit, but rather it is implied and it becomes yet another elephant in an increasingly crowded room.  People start to feel suffocated but cannot leave for fear of what might happen if they do.

When guilt creeps into a relationship, silent and not so silent control games begin to emerge.  Rules get made, rules get broken.  Long silences - silent rows that can last for hours become commonplace, issues get skirted around and no one feels all that good any more.  If the relationship continues, homeostasis can be found when the maladies begin - insomnia, headaches, migraines, chronic fatigue, tired all the time syndrome, easy explanations, tempers and angers (often directed outside of the relationship - maybe towards politicians, maybe towards the neighbours or the spotty guy in the DIY store).  Blood pressure can rise, serotonin levels can fall and sooner or later diagnosable physical symptoms emerge.

A persistent low level of background guilt can be devastating the quality of life.  As trainees in Integral Eye Movement Therapy will be aware, there is an intimate relationship between guilt, worry and anger ( "The Three Pillars" model).

   Persistent guilt is a trigger for worry.
   Worry is a trigger for anger.
   Anger is a trigger for guilt.
   And around and around it goes.

If this pattern continues for any length of time, it can lead to a serious state of depression.  Of course, a state of depression is just perfect for feeling guilty, for feeling anxious and for getting angry.

People caught in this cycle are often a nightmare to be around, their behaviour affects other people, which of course, in turn, leads to yet more guilt.

In my book, The Rainbow Machine, I describe the behaviours common to Right Man Syndrome what was interesting was the effect this chapter would have.  I was inundated with emails and messages from people who thought either that

1. I was describing them or 2. describing someone they knew.

A number of clinicians contacted me to describe their relief at my response to dealing with Right Man Syndrome (get them out the door as quickly as possible and refer them to a therapist you don't like!).  This enabled me to gather a lot more data and has led me to two simple conclusions.

Right Man Syndrome sufferers feel guilt stronger than other people and are more negatively affected by it.

Right Man Syndrome is a strategy that develops primarily to avoid feeling guilt.

So, in summary...

When things go wrong and guilt arises, the behaviours that emerge will lean towards resolving this guilt, not at changing their future behaviours.

The result of this is a situational and relationship reset where everything gets put back to what it was before the upset.  Chances are high that the issue will re-emerge later on.  Repeatedly.

Absolution of guilt is not change.  What changes is the person's perception on what has been, not what will be.

Thus, resolution of guilt is only the first, and let's face it, the least important aspect of creating change.  Guilt is resolved only in order to permit the prospective change to begin.

What is frustrating for me, as a change worker, is knowing just how easy and quickly guilt can be resolved.  Usually, within a few minutes an entire lifetime of guilt can be resolved using the appropriate processes, but what is frustrating is that guilty people are usually quite defensive and are keen to enter into a state of denial when the subject is raised.  For so many people, guilt is equal to blame, and blame is bad and so is best avoided.  Cue:  the beginnings of Right Man Syndrome, where being right is more important than being happy.

The other frustration is then getting the guilt-laden person to actually do the process.  So many people seem content to simply get an intellectual understanding of the resolution processes but they never actually try them out.

A particular problem with guilt resolution can arise though.  The person who feels guilty requires the offended party to also change - "She must accept my apology!"

But why?

If I poke you in the face and then feel terrible about that, why should you accept my apology?  It is as though because I feel bad, then you have to accept me.  By feeling bad and offering an apology, I now make you responsible for my emotional welfare.

So not only have I jammed my thumb into your face, but I now hold you responsible for how bad I feel about it!

And, to top it off, if you don't accept my apology,  this will make you the bad person.

   I poke you in the face.  I apologise.
   Wounded, you don't accept the apology.
   Well, screw you.  Let me now tell you why you get poked in the face by people like me.

Power struggles get played out frequently around issues of guilt.

So, in resolution for guilt, it is important for the guilty party to give up the need for others to either understand or to change.  The guilt is theirs, and theirs alone.

But it isn't a cross to bear. No. So many guilty people like to romanticise their suffering this way.

As I like to say to these clients, "Who you think you are? Jesus?" and then remind them that they are just not that important.  They are not important enough to martyr themselves, but they do have a responsibility to change and change they shall.

It isn't a cross to bear.  It is something to be put down.  Given up.  Dropped.

Once they have done this, THEN they can begin to do the business of putting things right.

I remind clients that their guilt is about them and has nothing to do with the other person.  Here's a demonstration of how to do this.

Ask the client:  "How strong is this guilt that you experience, on a score out of 10, with 10 being as strong as it can be?"
Ask the client:  "And how familiar is this feeling of guilt?"
Ask the client:  "And when is the first time that you can remember feeling this guilt feeling…now it may not be the first time you ever felt it, but rather is the first time that you can remember now?"  (Ref:  Integral Eye Movement Therapy)

Nearly every time, the feeling pre-dates the situation that is reported to be the presenting problem.  If you felt this same feeling before the current situation, then this situation has little to do with how you feel.  It is the earlier situation that taught you to feel this way.

Guilt resolution processes feature in a number of areas of my work.  Integral Eye Movement Therapy has simple enough processes that virtually anyone can use, and I have a more comprehensive model developed within the Metaphors of Movement work. 

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Me, Myself and I

Until recently I lived at the back of the former home of J.M Barrie, author of Peter Pan, by the sea in Rustington, West Sussex. I now live about 150 meters down the road closer to the sea.

We have two pet seagulls that live with us, they were here before us and came with the house. Whenever I give them fresh fish (usually the leftovers after we've been out mackerel fishing) they bring us presents of bundles of twigs and hay.

As a teenager, my hobby was breeding tropical fish, primarily Mbuna cichlids from Lake Malawi and amongst other awards I once won a regional show with a guppy that I had selectively bred to have a blue sheen and an elongated upper tail fin.  Owing to space and overseas work commitments, my fish collection is currently reduced to a tropical brackish water aquaria and some goldfish.

I started studying the Qabalah and the Western esoteric system at age 18 and have been a small-time member of various lodges and orders ever since.

As a nurse, I worked in a number of clinical areas including casualty, cardiothoracic surgery, neurosurgery and neurology.  As an occupational health advisor, I worked in the automotive industry, aviation hydraulics, and education.  I once worked as a consultant to a bakery, which lasted a few days.  I raised a number of serious issues about health and safety which culminated in the employees staging a walk out and a senior manager threatening to "do" me in the car park. I had to hide in the office for a couple of hours before being able to sneak out unassaulted.

In my early 20's I briefly worked as a clinical researcher (I forget the exact title, but it was probably "assistant") It was the single most stressful time of my life and everything I touched either broke, fell over, spilled or went missing.  I learned years later that the entire clinical research team celebrated when I resigned in tears after six months.

Many times when travelling I have attended an accident or heart attack victim. Two of the most recent resuscitations were one on a transatlantic flight and another at London Victoria station.

Both survived.

I am usually disappointed at how unwilling people are to offer assistance but always impressed and relieved with how amazing and generous people are when they are actively directed to help. Two years ago I also assisted at the resuscitation of a drowning casualty near to where we live. Sadly he didn't make it.

I have been a motorcyclist since I was 16 and only learned to drive a car a few years ago.  My first motorbike was a Yamaha DT50 and my last motorcycle was a Suzuki Bandit 600.

I have never attended a football match, cricket match or any other form of sports event.  I have no intention of ever doing so. Apparently, I do not possess a sports gene or a dance gene.

My favourite authors of fiction are Iain Banks, James Herbert and Paulo Coalho.  My favourite ever book is, "Illusions" by Richard Bach but I didn't enjoy his others.

I often work with clients via Skype.

Despite a popular rumour to the contrary, I have never had the police turn up at a workshop nor have I ever hit an attendee with a chair (but I confess to having been tempted once or twice).

This story originates from two things - I once punched a freak of an assistant-therapist at an event where I was refused permission to leave the room because he felt that I was "running away from my feelings". I was attempting to assist a demo subject to leave the room who was being ordered to reveal details of a rape to the group, she declined and was coerced into continuing with the demonstration.

At the exit, the brainwashed assistant stood blocking my way whilst a bunch of other assistants moved in to "love-hug" me.  That part happened about 20 years ago.  I do not know where the origin of the police part of the story comes from, but I am aware of the person who likes to tell that story at his NLP practice group in the UK.  Curiously, this same person also likes to tell people that he reviewed and edited my book, "The Rainbow Machine."  He didn't.

The three films I least enjoyed were The Shawshank Redemption, Flightplan and Lord of the Rings.  Lord of the Rings is the only film I didn't bother staying 'til the end for.  Oh, and Star Wars.  Truly dreadful.

Whilst being a big fan of Robert Anton Wilson, I thought the Illuminatus Trilogy was dreadful. This small detail has seen me unfriended by some RAW obsessives.

For my birthday last year, I was given some baby Giant African Snails (they are now enormous) and for my 40th, an AK47.  Laura knows me well.

No matter what some people continue to claim, I have never taken an NLP training in Ireland and misbehaved whilst doing it. Why this story persists I do not understand.

I have been keeping and training rats for several years.  The last two I had, Minni and Mika, were very affectionate female dumbo rats whose favourite food was pasta and when they tired of following me about the apartment, they tend to nest down in the stationary cupboard.  I have lost count of how many times i have had people tell me that they don't like rats because of their tails.

My favourite book as a child was, "The Amateur Naturalist" by Gerald Durrell.

The strangest thing that ever happened to me occurred when I visited a monastery high up in the hills in north east India and without me realising was mistaken for  visiting dignitary.  Like a fool, I interpreted all the meets and greets merely as exceptional hospitality shown to an overseas visitor and went along with it.  The moment I was ushered onto a podium in very large and busy conference room the misunderstanding became apparent to all.

I make model aeroplanes.

I like to study all sorts of things and have taken courses and studies in philosophy, fungi, magic/illusions, stand up comedy, self-defence, car mechanics, herbalism, waterskiing, astronomy, and firearms.  If I am ever missing, look for me at the nearest rocky beach with tidal rock pools, I can spend days there and not notice the time passing.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Tea or Coffee?

The “tea or coffee” bind is a very useful predictor for how well a session may go.  Whilst I use an offer of a hot beverage, any bind of alternative choices will do.

Here is how it works.  When the client arrives I quickly show them in, point out where the toilet is (many have travelled far) and offer “Tea of coffee?”

This is a bind of comparable choice.  I have not asked, “Would you like a drink?” which is a simple “yes or no” question.  The bind is to accepting a drink, and the choice is either tea or coffee.

Here are the possible answers that a person might give.

  1. Tea
  2. Coffee
  3. Neither thanks
  4. No thanks
  5. Oh, I’ll just have a glass of water, please
  6. Do you have herbal tea?
  7. I’ll have whatever you are having

This might sound a bit daft, but the response that is given can be a remarkable predictor on how well the client session is going to go.  The person who accepts either tea or coffee will invariably be co-operative and engaging in the therapeutic process.  This doesn’t mean that they will be easy to “cure”, but certainly will be easy to work with towards that “cure”.

Not everyone drinks tea or coffee, and some, having travelled far and arrived early, may have just come from the café around the corner, but don’t want to reject what is offered.  These are the people who will say something along the lines of, “Oh, I’ll just have a glass of water, thanks.”

Independent thinkers will request an alternative such as “herbal tea.”  Nearly always, these are the clients who come to learn rather than be “therapised”, and will actively ask questions, discuss, argue and apply what they learn to themselves.

The people who say, “Oh, I’ll have whatever you are having” have usually come to be therapised and look to be led and directed in their responses.

The client who rejects the offer outright will nearly always be the “difficult” client.  Difficulties emerge in their response sets along the lines of:
  • Most answers to most questions begin with “I don’t know…”
  • When pressed, the client will just sit there silently, as though in deep inner contemplation, and then eventually look up and ask, “What was the question?”
  • Yes, but…” is a common expression for them
  • What if…” is their preferred style of questioning (“What if…” is a way of generating a counterexample to any generalisation that is created)
  • Any responses that are given tend to be tangential (basically, they don’t answer the question)
  • The client will tend to focus on the performance of their therapists, past and present and offer critical reviews on these performances.  They can be very good at not talking about themselves but preferring to discuss the behaviours of others.
  • The client will expect the therapist to “fix” them without their own active engagement in any process.  This is what my colleague Nick Kemp refers to as “The Magic Wand Mind Set.”

In younger and more naïve times, I would attempt to do “therapy” in the face of all these behaviours.

It rarely went well.  Now, I will actively address these behaviours – address what is happening in the here and now, what is right in front of you.

In my book, “The Rainbow Machine” I give the example of the man with “low self-esteem” who thought he was unlikeable (he was pretty much right about that).  What his previous counsellor had missed, or ignored, this man’s ongoing behaviours, his dress sense, his level of hygiene, his hair cut (all of which were appalling) and instead chose to focus on the therapeutic goal of raising this unfortunate man’s self-esteem.

Try this in your next client session.  Offer tea or coffee.  If the client rejects it, do this.  Say, “It’s not a choice.  Do you want tea or coffee?” and do this dead-pan, don’t be tempted to break the emerging tension.  This is difficult to do at first, as it goes against what so many of us do naturally.  I like to allow the tension to rise a little and watch how the client handles this.

Either the client will acquiesce, or a standoff will emerge.  The standoff takes as long as it takes.  Wherever possible, I like to get the stand off out of the way before the session begins proper.  It makes things much easier that way.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Problem clients

I’ve been thinking about problem clients recently, as it is something I get asked about quite often by fellow therapists, especially those just starting out.  “How do you deal with problem clients?” is a common question so I thought I’d write it up as a blog entry so I have something to refer people to in the future.

The first thing to consider is just what is a problem client.  “Problem to whom, specifically?” is an important consideration point.

We need to differentiate between those clients who, despite all the help they are offered, fail to change, and those clients who are a royal pain-in-the-ass for other reasons.

It is common, especially amongst brief therapists, to view clients who fail to change, or who reject our methods, or argue with us as being a “problem” – i.e. they do not fit into the models of understanding of the therapist and thus not only damage our own fragile ego states, but also bugger up our success rates (or at least the success rates that we claim!)

My advice in these situations is that maybe the therapist ought to change their view on things a little.

Maybe from the client’s point of view, the therapist is a problem therapist, i.e. inexperienced, uncertain, lacking the relevant skill base and so on.

Or maybe, the client simply isn’t going to change, because that is just how they are.  NLPers hate that – “Everyone can be changed!” is something they so often like to claim.  I disagree.  I have met many people that are unlikely, or indeed are unwilling, to change their behaviour despite all the therapy, training and change work in the world.

I don’t see these situations as a problem, it is mainly a function of time.  The majority of people do change over time, clients as well as therapists.  And of course, experience can only be gained with time.  I tend to be very wary of people who like to hold someone’s lack of age and lack of experience against them.  I think it is a way of maintaining a fragile status position over other people.  I know a number of trainers who do this, and it isn’t a nice thing to do.  

Now, I am not talking about the classic, “You are not what we are looking for, we really require someone with more experience, maybe come back in a year or two” type of thing.  But I am talking about the, “You weren’t there back in 1984, you young whipper-snapper, so don’t try and tell me that….” Where the speaker uses the person’s age and experience level as a direct criticism of the person.  Age and experience are a function of time (and effort) and to a large degree are outside of the control of the person, so isn’t something that they can do much about.

For some difficult clients, much of the difficulty may result from simply a lack of experience.  Young, recently affected schizophrenics can have a very hard time in understanding and dealing with their symptoms.  They can become very confused, frightened and helpless quite easily.  Older, more experienced schizophrenics handle things quite differently, primarily owing to their level of experience.  This is true for so many psychological problems and conditions.

Thus, for me, a problem client is not a person who fails to conform to the therapist’s wishes and intents.

Here is a little list of things I see as a problem:

  • Incessant midnight phone calls
  • Mad or abusive text messages/answer phone messages
  • Stalking
  • Turning up on the doorstep outside of appointment times
  • Unwarranted/inappropriate/nuisance complaints
  • Blaming the therapist for their own behaviours, alcohol/drug consumption etc.
  • Threats of violence, threats against property

Given the client group that I tend to work with, and the volume of clients I tend to see, I average one ‘serious’ problem a year and three lesser issues per year also.  These are rarely “serious” in a life-threatening kind of way but can prove very problematic.  Over the years I have developed a number of strategies which prove effective in both minimising the number of problems but also dealing with them when they arrive.

Without any shadow of a doubt, the clients that generate the most problems are the drinkers/alcoholics.

Some will arrive slightly edgy and act as if they are simply looking for a reason to take offence at something I do or say.  I wondered if this was just me – after all, I’m not exactly known for my love-and-light approach to change work – but I have seen exactly the same behaviours in support groups and other change work sessions I have observed.  The pattern though is consistent.  The drinker who behaves in this way is the drinker who is not interested in giving up alcohol, but rather wishes to “control their drinking” - abstinence is not an acceptable outcome for them.  Now, others may well disagree, but personally I think getting a problem drinker to a position of “controlled drinking” is not much different from trying getting a heroin addict to a position of “controlled heroin use.”

Now, at the first point of contact (usually email/’phone) I will put this proposition to the client with the drink problem, and the potential client who rejects this and demands that they get a service which enables them to have “controlled drinking” is not accepted as a client.  I wish them luck and move them on.  This reduced the number of problems significantly.  If I am not connected to the outcome that the client requests and the client is not willing to reconsider their outcome, then clearly it is foolish for me to try and work with them – I am the wrong therapist for them.

Another thing that reduces significantly the number of problems is demanding that the assessment form be filled in correctly.  The forms that get returned to me with only token information in the form of one-word-answers and no real information get rejected.  The client is sent the form back and asked to fill it in fully and correctly.  It interests me how one or two people will refuse to do this and simply either get angry or take an “Oh, I can’t be bothered, forget it” type of attitude.  It is good to know this early on. Those clients do not get an appointment.

And another much less common thing is how many people do not put their address or contact details on the form.  Everything else gets filled in well, but not these parts.  Small detail, but important.  OK, I already have their details because I have sent them the form in the first place, but still, I send the form back asking for the form to be completed.

Most people are happy to comply.  One client responded with, “Why didn’t you do this for me?”  Whilst I don’t wish to `thin slice` here, but when I hear this, I suspect this attitude might extend into other contexts.

Alarm bells also ring when people reject all available appointments that are offered and instead insist on a time or day that is unavailable.  And I must say, I am pretty flexible with my appointment times.  Without an exception, every single time I shifted my schedule to suit a client in this way, I regretted it.  These are the clients who are either late or simply don’t show up, and then expect another appointment.

In the last 18 months, only two clients have failed to show.  Both were people who wanted appointments on evenings where they were not offered and both were clients who I volunteered to see for free.  So, I booked out evenings for people who aren’t paying and then they don’t show up.  Not my preferred thing at all.

I am clear with my clients that if they are late, or fail to show up, I never offer a second appointment.

Both those clients complained about my lack of “caring.”

Two other indicators that I have found prove to be a 100% predictor of a “problem” client. (i.e. problem to me, not to themselves in terms of chronicity).

  1. They arrive bearing a present and I have never met them before.
  2. They reject the offer of tea/coffee/water.

People who arrive bearing presents or songs of praise for me on the first time we meet tend to make me nervous.  A pendulum will swing both ways and at the same speed.  People who buy favour will often withdraw it at the same speed.

Now whilst it isn’t common, some clients will arrive with a present and offer it at the end of the session.  Whilst they are paying a fee, some people will still feel a degree of debt.  So this isn’t the same as people who offer a gift at the beginning – it creates a mutual degree of appreciation and for many will help balance things out. At workshops, it isn’t uncommon for people to arrive with biscuits or cake to add to the refreshments table.  This is a good thing and, I’d just like to add, homemade fruitcake is my favourite.

Thus the client who arrives offering the gift puts me in a position of gratitude to them before we have even started.  It’s an interesting dynamic and from experience isn’t a good one.  It is difficult to maintain an attitude of gratitude and act in a therapeutic manner at the same time.  Gifts offered at the beginning of a session tend to act as a Trojan horse.  Be aware.

This has only happened once in the past two years, and the individual who did so went on to make numerous late night phone calls, abusive text messages, threats against property and unpleasant emails and Facebook messages.

My advice to anyone on the receiving end of such action is to respond only once asking what the problem is.  This gives the person an opportunity to properly record what their grievance is.  For some people there is no reason, they just enjoy being aggrieved – it’s their thing - and so are unable to tell you exactly why they behave in this way.  Cease all further communication and simply record in hard copy where possible all evidence of the abuse.  I keep impeccable records of such actions.

Therapists tell me that they worry about being sued by such individuals – maybe as a therapist they did or said something wrong during the session to provoke such a reaction.  Well, it would make for an interesting court case, don’t you think?

You see, it is like this your Honour, I didn’t like what the therapist said to me, so yes, I threatened him, send abusive messages, harangued and generally acted like an asshole for the past 6 months.  Now, I want you to award me some compensation.”

The other predictor is whether the person accepts the offer of “tea or coffee?” when they arrive.  I’ll save this for another blog entry, but basically, at the first offering the person receives, they reject it.  It tends to set the precedent for how the session will go subsequently.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017


I first came across the term “catastrophisation” many years ago in a conversation with a clinical psychologist at Southampton General Hospital. I understood that it is a concept often explored in CBT client work.

Basically, it is making mountains out of molehills. Not an entirely uncommon thing to happen, but it is something that can prove to be rather problematic. Of course, some of these molehills can themselves be rather problematic in the first place, but the process of catastrophisation is rarely helpful on top of this.

In “The Rainbow Machine…” I gave an example in the chapter on Right Man Syndrome of the father who told his son that he had “ruined his life” simply for getting a tattoo. 

The 19-year-son hadn’t really ruined his life; he’d simply got himself tattooed. 

Now, had he got a swastika tattooed on his forehead, shaved his head and joined the local Nazi cabal, then possibly his father may have had a point. But of course, the fellow Nazi’s may not agree with that at all. Some things are just a matter of perspective.

The level of catastrophisation is undoubtedly proportional to the intensity of the feeling the offended party. The stronger the offended party feels about the issue, the greater the level of catastrophe.
Catastrophisation is also a pattern that can be applied to self. 

A while ago I had a client say to me, “I might as well die if I do not pass this exam.” That's a pretty catastrophic reaction she had planned there – fail exam, then die (or apply its nearest equivalent).

She is not alone. I often hear similar phrases uttered by clients, such as:
  • “It’s the end of the world….”
  • “My world came to an end that day.”
  • “Everything collapsed around me.”
  • “My life is a complete shambles.”
  • “My sex life is a disaster.”
  • “It kills me to see her this way.”
  • “It’s destroying everything.”

    And so on.
Much of this phraseology is an expression of the level of emotional intensity the person feels, but I often wonder how much of this emotional intensity is in part due to the story the person is telling themselves about the relevant events.

Now personally, I’ve seen genuine catastrophes. I know what they look like. I am reminded of the horror that was a full laden bus falling off a road and down an incredibly steep and deep ravine in Nepal. Knowing that we were helpless to offer aid to any unlikely survivors and knowing that formal rescue would be several hours away the situation was as bad as it can get. 

Curiously, one of the distressed onlookers uttered out loud, “Why does this always happen to me?” I couldn’t help but think that nothing had actually happened to her, it had happened to those other poor souls lying broken, dead and dying at the bottom of the ravine.

But this wasn’t the story as she experienced it. She evidently was measuring the situation by her emotional reaction to it, and given her choice of word I’m guessing she was no stranger to such events. I did make a mental note not to get back onto the same mini-bus as her though. No point in tempting providence, I say.
I also remember the daily personal catastrophes that I saw when working in Accident and Emergency. 

Most of those people brought into us never expected their day to end the way it did. Fortunately, most people survive and recover, but some die and others live on, but in such a radically changed way that things are never the same for them again. 

I’m thinking here of some of the burns victims, people who lost large portions of their body, serious genital injury, serious facial disfigurement and of course irreversible brain damage. Some are the sole survivor of their family or friends; others survive knowing or believing that they were the cause of their deaths. 

Things change and not always for the better, and some, but not all, never recover any form of meaningful existence or happiness following the catastrophic event, despite all the hope and help and treatment on offer. Their remaining life is one of suffering and their death is one of merciful release. It can be grim, very grim indeed.

I’ve personally seen people living in the slums in India and Africa, foraging as best they can on the municipal rubbish dumps, or selling their bodies on the streets, or finding themselves owned and exploited by gangmasters and organised crime. For so many people, life is an unremitting daily horror.

Helpless to do anything about any of this, the best comfort I offer myself is that at least this is not happening to me; it is happening to someone else. Not an entirely Christian outlook, I must confess, but I do what I can. Which, admittedly, isn’t very much at all.

It is with all this in mind then that I receive the news from some clients that their life is some kind of personal catastrophe when in fact all that is really happening for so many of them is that they don’t feel all that great. The fact that the story they tell is one of catastrophe usually implies helplessness and the need for rescue.

One psychiatric client of mine, a middle-aged lady, had recently embarked on an all new anorexic adventure. Previously she has tried alcoholism, but that hadn't really agreed with her, she'd also tried out self-harm in the form of cutting, but found that much too painful. A subsequent skin infection leading to a dose of cellulitis put an end to that nonsense.

She sat down opposite me and appeared keen to impress me with how ill she was. Thus began the catastrophisation, “What you need to understand,” she told, “is that the anorexia is destroying everyone around me.” 

I nearly choked on my tea as I declared, “Everyone?! Holy shit! Do I need to be afraid?”

She laughed at this and told me that she didn't mean everyone. She meant her family. I started to break this down further.

Why exactly do I need to understand this?” I asked her, which was met with a rather blank look. “You see, you began this by saying, 'What you need to understand is that the anorexia is destroying everyone around you.' Why me?”

The blank look continued.

And you also refer to the anorexia like it is some kind of creature. And I must I say, I have just got to tell you this. The fact that you are not eating very much isn't likely to be destroying anyone at all. Well, you might be getting a bit thinner and saving money on food bills and stuff, but really, destroying people? Give me a break!”

And before she could protest I ushered her back out of the door.

In working with patterns of catastrophisation, a reality check may well be in order. But I have noticed that therapists often catastrophise too. I have lost count of how many inexperienced therapists ask me the classic question, “What if that client went and killed herself?”

I must get asked this question at least once a workshop and also once a month by email. I even had a psychiatrist email me once, who, having read my book emailed me to intimate that she thought that I probably left a trail of corpses everywhere I went.

I think I might have noticed if this was the case. It did leave me wondering what it must be like being a patient in her hospital ward. Tightly bound in cotton wool, “ward policies” and straitjacketed sufficiently with neuroleptics to remove all sense and reason? In some places, no-one flees the cuckoo's nest - too many rules preventing such an action.

When therapists catastrophise, there are two main patterns at play.

1. They significantly overestimate the level of influence they can exert upon people
2. They tend to view people as woefully fragile and rather dependent upon therapy for any form of mental functioning and future.

This leads to an interesting game: Delusions of grandeur. Delusions of grandeur are often thought of as being in the positive, i.e. the person may believe he is the king of the world, a grand duke, Jesus, or some God-like figure and so on. But delusions of grandeur can also be negative, i.e. the depressive who believes, “everything is my fault!”, “everyone hates me”, “they are all out to get me” and so on. It is rather grandiose to assume that people care all that much about them.

Victims often think this way too. It is quite understandable of course. The victim may well be quite preoccupied with morbid thoughts of their aggressor, and of course, assume that their aggressor is equally as pre-occupied with thoughts of the victim. But of course, this isn't always the case.

Many therapists think the same way about their clients and patients. Yet so many clients and patients don't give their therapist a second thought in between sessions. “But I never hear from them again,” is a lament I hear so often from therapists when discussing client follow up. 

I have a particular problem when clients call me up on the phone for follow up. I often have to frantically type in their details to pull up the summary to remind me who they are. I have often thought about asking clients to send me a recent photo of themselves along with the assessment form to make my life easier, but think this might be seen as a bit odd. I know I would if I were a potential client.

Here's the game of Delusions of Grandeur. Just do a google search to see it played out on the internet.

  • My whole life is ruined
  • I might as well be dead
  • I'd be better off dead
  • My whole world has collapsed
  • I've reached the end of the road
  • I've wasted my life
  • I have no future
...and so on.

  • Get the life you want
  • You can have unlimited freedom
  • Be the best you can be
  • Apply the law of attraction to change your world
  • Make a world of difference
  • Set yourself free and live the life you choose
  • Have unlimited power
...and so on.

And somewhere in the middle of no-man's land the place I so often find myself in my line of work, I hope there is some reality that I can actually work with.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Dial 419 NLP Nigerian

I’ve just spent a few minutes Googling on the words, “NLP career.”  It is interesting how many training companies are offering their services from the sales angle of `NLP as a new career.”  Nothing new of course, but the question I have is, just how many of these companies are themselves actually making any money?  I think not many.  Not many at all.  Of course, I use the word “company” loosely here as most are only company in name, in actual fact, they are either sole traders or like me, an incorporated limited company for tax and insurance reasons with a staff of one or two family members.

Still, at least once a week I get the email enquiry that takes the form of, “I want to be an NLP practitioner, who should I train with and how do I get clients?”  My heart sinks every time.  How do I explain to the person that they won’t be making themselves self-employed, but that they will most likely become unemployed.  

The difficulty is, that I am one of the few voices that suggests that there is not much of a market or profit in “being an NLP practitioner” as a profession, or as so many NLP companies seem to refer to it, “a career in NLP.”

With so many websites making similar claims, promising a “new and rewarding career” and creating the illusion of their own success (and believe me, for the majority it is an illusion) I can understand why to the naïve observer it may look rather convincing.

To me, all these claims are beginning to sound a lot like the 419 scams.  

Each day, I get up to several dozen emails from Nigerian barristers, lawyers, generals, former ministers and religious leaders who all want to make me rich.  All I need to do is send them my personal details and then later on send them loads of money.  

The themes are consistent and the never ending onslaught of grandiose claims is quite impressive. 

Some person, connected to someone important, has something very important that will change my life.  But what this [somewhat large] number of persistent individuals have managed to do to the long-term prospects of a large African nation is yet to be seen.  I doubt that it will be good.  Not at all. 
I mean, even if a legitimate opportunity arose, I would be very reluctant to be involved.  Wouldn’t you be?  If I were Nigerian or a resident of Nigeria I'd be very concerned indeed.

Now, along with the Nigerian mail, I receive a similar volume of crap from NLP companies. 

The theme is fairly consistent – some person, connected to someone important has something very important that will change my life; great wealth, or great health, or great happiness, or great dreams and so on.  

Basically the message is simple – I’m not aware of it, but actually my life sucks and only through the power of NLP will my life improve.  I can be rich, I can have the future that I could only have dreamed of, I can have better relationships, and I just be better.  And all I need to do is click here or there, and go to this or that webpage, enter my details, watch the free download, send some money and the process will begin.  The 419ers would be proud.  

As someone who used to consider himself an NLPer, I find this very concerning indeed.

Your new career in NLP can begin as long as you remind yourself, “When things get difficult, remember: there is never failure, only feedback.”  With this kind of logic, how can it possibly go wrong?

So here is a fairly random selection from that Google search (all spelling and grammar are as per original):

  •  "When you successfully complete this training you will be Certified as an NLP Practitioner and a Certified NLP Coach."
  • "Think about it -- you don't have 2 weeks or even 28 days to become a certified NLP Practitioner, so do it in just 7 days!!! Become an NLP Coach today!
  • “Make a Difference-Make a Name-Make Money.”
  • “This NLP Practitioner has the ability to transform your life. Once you have completed your NLP Diploma you are qualified to apply for a place on the NLP Practitioner.”
  • “Can I take an NLP Practitioner Training course in just 7 days?  Yes!... Of Course You Can!  NOW Get Four Certifications in ONE! Use these technologies to accelerate your career or begin a new one!”
  • “Discover Skills that will Transform your World Forever! Change Career, be an NLP Coach.”
  • “NLP Practitioner Training is recognised as pre-eminent in the Personal Development field. It can also be the beginning of a very rewarding journey of personal and professional development. Towards the end of the program we cover aspects on setting up an NLP / Coaching practice.”
  • “The course will provide practical experience of how you can use NLP in your personal life or career. You will be able to use the skills learnt to work with others assisting change in their lives be it in a new career as NLP Practitioner or enhancing your present career.”
  • “If you want to develop an NLP based career, or enhance your income by doing NLP work, this course is for you. Many past attendees are enjoying the commercial benefits of taking this training.”
  • “NLP gives you the tools to take on more of the world, and Life Coaching and Hypnotherapy enable you to be a self employed professional.”
  • “What can we do for you? A fantastic new career in hypnotherapy and NLP? How would you like to use hypnotherapy and NLP to help others change their lives in 2010? If you have ever helped someone else, either by giving advice or lending a sympathetic ear, then you know how incredibly rewarding that experience can be. Wouldn’t it be nice to get paid for helping others? With our hypnotherapy training – you can!”
  • “Here is a cost-effective way to launch your new or enhanced career in NLP, working as a Therapist, a Coach, a Life Coach, a Trainer, a Teacher, an NLP Practitioner.”
  • “With NLP Practitioner certification you can develop a new career assisting people to make changes and removing phobias and limiting beliefs) you can also achieve new levels of communication and excellence in your relationships, careers or any other area of your life.”
  • “Begin your new career in Life Coaching or Business Coaching and make a great living helping others succeed using the proven coaching technology of NLP…..”
  • “Coaching has been named one of the top home businesses of the century. You can enjoy the financial rewards and personal fulfillment of owning your own business while making the world a better place.
  • Do you want to learn and embody the skills to create a new life, new beginning and a new career!
  • We can help you develop a whole new career helping others through our comprehensive, prestigious and affordable courses in London
  • If you’re looking for a change in career, or a way to supplement your current income…Including:
    The BIGGEST secret to marketing yourself as an NLP Professional
    Why NLP is growing more quickly than ever, and demand for NLP Professionals is at an all-time high!
    How to turn your passion into your profession and start your own successful NLP business.
    How you can earn a fantastic living as a self-employed full or part-time NLP Professional
    The top five ways that new ‘NLPers’ build their business and the 'trade secrets' of the professionals
    ...And much more about how you can make a very good living from NLP!
  •  "A qualified and motivated NLP Practitioner can easily charge upwards of £200 per client and make in excess of £50,000 per year"
  • “Become a Practicing Professional NLP Coach.
  • You will be able to start a new career that you are passionate about. Discover the wonders of being your own boss. Enjoy and embrace the personal satisfaction in starting and running your own Practice. You will experience unlimited personal success and fulfillment from helping others whilst earning a comfortable living all at the same time.”
  • “At [….] school of NLP you get so much more than a professional qualification as an NLP Coach or Hypnotherapist, you get much needed support in starting your new business or advancing your current career.”
  • “Life Coaching, Hypnotherapy And NLP Careers
  • Are you interested in building a new career for yourself that gives a lot to others as well?”
  • “Become the Best You Can Be Become Qualifed and Build A Successful Business working from home Seriously change your current lifestyle and income level - Help others create a fabulous prosperous lifestyle while being paid abundantly - Are you ready and able? Begin now…”
  • “Looking for a new career as an NLP Trainer?”
  • “Whether you wish to pursue NLP as a new career, or simply integrate NLP into your work and home life, we will support your goals 100%.”

Now, at least one dimwit is going to complain about me.  I know it.  They often do.  “There he goes again, that Austin,” they will say, “he’s slagging off NLP again. Damn him!” 

Well, no.  I’m not actually.  My position has not changed – I still think NLP is one of the most useful skill sets around. 

It is the behaviour of so many of the practitioners and trainrs of NLP to which I refer.

And others will complain along the lines of, “But we run NLP courses and we never tell people to give up their day jobs.”  All I can say to this is great, thanks for that.  Really.  I only wish more did the same.