A lot has been written and said about the Facebook phenomenon. Love it or hate it, it’s here for a while yet, and the concept that it has created in society will last even longer.
Whether you are a fan, a casual user or one of the many who reject Facebook for various reasons it is still unavoidable. Every website has a ‘like’ button (test mine out!) Every company has a page, or an ad or a marketing strategy that takes advantage of the power of the social network.
Personally, I think Facebook is like any other tool. It will be what you make it. It can be a power for good or a power for ill. It can be fun and frivolous or it can be disturbing and depressing.
The main thing is to use it right, or not use it at all. So with that in mind I thought I would deliver my own personal top 7 tips for making the most of Facebook. These are ideas that are more or less built on my model of the world, and I know that yours may be distinctly different, but bear with me and maybe some of what I suggest may ring true.

7 Facebook tips

  1. Understand the tool.
    The biggest problem with Facebook is that most people forget how huge and powerful it really is. It’s a network, and because of that the reach of a single comment or statement on your own page can ripple across hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people.
    If you have just 10 friends on Facebook and they each have 10 friends, then if just each one of your friends shares your comment to their friends, 100 people will potentially have seen it. If those share it, it could reach 1,000, then 10,000 and 100,0000, and so on. Few people just have 10 friends on Facebook. So when you post, imagine you are on the stage at Wembley stadium – possibly being televised! Then you will see how essential it is to…
  2. Have a policy
    With this much impact from everything that you do – every comment, every like, every move in a game, every photo – you need to have it clear in your mind what you will and won’t do. You need to have a policy – just like a company might do – that says what you are prepared to share and with whom. Facebook has lots of controls for limiting what others see, but you may do well to imagine that everybody who could see it, can and will. Your enemies will use it. Past lovers will track you down and gloat or envy. Your children will laugh at you. Your employer will sack you. Equally if your friend runs a business and asks you to share it, just by doing that you may be getting him a thousand customers!
    You don’t have to write your policy down, though it may help, but you do need to be absolutely clear what it is. Stick to it. And review it from time to time. But don’t forget to…
  3. Enjoy life
    Take in the beauty of everything you see on Facebook. I think that is the richness of it. The humanity and the humour, the pain and the pity, the love and the laughter. Recognise the richness of it and contribute to that. Ultimately take from it and look at the real world with new eyes. But remember that it’s the real world that counts! The people posting on there are real people so you should always try to…
  4. Dissociate
    When you see a post on Facebook from a friend or a stranger, you are getting a window into their world, but it is a very small window. Like text messages, the short statements on a Facebook page can be packed with meaning for the reader that the sender never intended. It’s not about you. It’s about them! So if someone says something like “I’ve just had enough!” Don’t allow yourself to assume that they have had enough of you! They have 300 friends – maybe they’ve had enough of one of them. Maybe they’ve had enough of life in general and are looking for loving support and sympathy from you and those 300 friends. Or maybe they just don’t want any more pasta. So imagine that you are them. With this in mind, before you post anything yourself…
  5. Associate
    Before you post a status, make a comment or share a link, try it on from the point of view of some of your ‘friends’. If you share a picture from one of those joke pages remember to think about whether your mum would laugh as well as your best friend. Would your employer see the joke (a sense of humour is something I have found particularly lacking in the business world). Remember, as I said before, the number of people seeing this can be astronomical – literally – you cant associate into every reader, but you can select some types and just imagine what their reaction may be. A good rule of thumb then would be…
  6. Do as you would be done by
    • remember birthdays
    • praise and celebrate others
    • laugh with people, not at them
    • don’t bad-mouth (it makes you look bad)
    • post with kindness
    • parade your gratitude and love
    • if in doubt, don’t
    • and from time to time…
  7. Manage your friend list
    Think carefully about adding someone to your list. Whoever you add, they are likely to remain in your online life for a very long time. I think it causes less pain to ‘forget’ to add someone, than to have to delete them later. There are lots of reasons you can give if they persist – ‘I don’t want too many on my list’, ‘I don’t want people seeing the kinds of things we talk about’,’our friendship is more “real world” don’t you think?’
    By the same token we all need to do a cull from time to time. But don’t think of it as a punishment for those who have hurt you. Don’t think of it as redundant friendships. Remember, anybody you remove can still potentially see what you say and do – through their own friends or family. There’s always a link. So cull for your mental and emotional well-being only. Personally the only people I remove from my list, once I have elected to put them on there, are the energy drainers. If you find that a person is posting a lot of negative comments, whether about themselves, about others or about life in general. You may want to gently remove them from your list. These are the kinds of posts that can shadow your view of the world, drain your energy and distort your life. But even for these people, try to be kind with it. They are going through pain in or life, because that is what they are expressing. Try not to add to it. Try adding comments first that uplift them or challenge them to think better thoughts. Or ignore them if you think deleting them would hurt them too much.

So there it is. This is my policy. Does it hold water? Does it ring true? Am I being too simplistic or too confusing? What’s your policy? Why not add a comment below.

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With just a few weeks at best before the final exams for GCSEs, A levels and University Degrees, there are quite a number of us who are feeling rather stressed. The exam season is stressful for everyone and anxiety can really making the whole process more painful.
Some of us can take heart that a small amount of exam anxiety may actually contribute to better results. In a recent session I did with a group of 15-16 year-olds some were incredibly blasé about their upcoming exams. Would these pupils really give their best on the day with that attitude? During the run-up to the exam day it helps to have that little bit of fear, telling you to make the best of the remaining time. If you were completely laid back about your results you would be inclined to work less hard, revise less and therefore perform poorly and get lower marks.
Stress and worry are there for a reason, they are among the body’s natural warning systems and they can help us perform better.
But at the other end of the scale, for some, the stress of exams can be debilitating. Sufferers talk of their mind going ‘blank’ as they turn the page to start the test. Others suffer sleepless nights, sweating, nausea and headaches. None of these symptoms are going to help that person get the best from themselves on the day.
For these people it is really important to learn and practice some of the well tried techniques for reducing stress that are available online and elsewhere. There are lots of simple, straightforward things you can do to help reduce the anxiety. For example:

  • Eat regularly and sensibly.
  • Take breaks.
  • Exercise or go for walks.
  • Practice breathing deeply and regularly.
  • Don’t compete with friends on how nervous you are!
  • Make plans of things you will do after the exams are over.
  • Avoid smoking, alcohol and other chemical methods of calming yourself down.

Above all, being organised and clear about what you need to know will help in the early days.
When time is short and if exam stress is a real problem for you, then you may want to seek some help from experts. Your doctor may be able to advise you on some calming techniques or refer you to a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and the NHS do a fact-file on this issue that is easy to find on the internet.
You can also get help from a hypnotherapist, or NLP practitioner who can help you access a more effective state during the exam session itself and at any time when the nerves are kicking in and making it difficult to function. Many of the pupils I have worked with have really taken on-board the simple techniques I taught them to feel better on the day.
With NLP you can instantly overcome your fears by allowing your unconscious mind to switch into a positive, relaxed and empowered state. These techniques can often be done incredibly quickly so that even a few weeks before your exam, or during the exam season itself, you can feel better in just one or two sessions.
At the very least it may be worth purchasing a hypnotherapy CD or downloading a recording to listen to at night or earlier on the day of the exam. There are lots of these on the market and they are often quite effective, although nothing beats a one-to-one hypnotherapy session tailored to you.
Just remember, it’s not too late to change. In the mean time I wish you the one thing a therapist can’t promise to provide – Good Luck!
Oh, and May the 4th go with you!

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One of the things I love about working as a life coach and therapist is the wonderful variety of people I meet. A key presupposition in my work is that ‘everybody is doing the best they can with the resources they have available’.

From this perspective it becomes so much easier to relate and sympathise with clients whatever their problem.

Take a case I dealt with a few years ago. Naturally I have given the client a fictitious name to protect his identity:

Case Study: Stephen Nicklaus – Father

When Stephen came to me, he was in a rut.

My first thought was that he might have a dietary problem. He was grossly overweight for his height, with cellulite that was frankly like a bowlful of jelly and although he would not admit it, I suspected, by his red nose that he had a bit of a drink problem.

He seemed to have a poor self-image and had become accustomed to wearing the same red overalls day-in day-out, black wellingtons, and I seriously doubt he ever trimmed his beard.

It is not my place to make judgements, but to listen to my clients and ask questions until I have a clear picture of their ‘map’ or model of the world. So I asked Stephen to park his sleigh outside, tether his reindeer, and tell me about his problem

Well, it turns out that Mr Nicklaus is very comfortable about his size, drinks only during the festive season, and is rather proud of his dress sense.

Stephen’s real problem is that he appears to suffer from a rare psychological condition – he is a manio-kleptic.

Closely related to a more well-known affliction, kleptomania, meaning to compulsively walk into places and steal things, manio kleptic means one who walks backwards into places and leaves things. And Mr Nicklaus had it bad.

As I questioned him a frightening story developed of a long life of nocturnal raids on poor unsuspecting families, sneaking into their homes and depositing piles of technology, toys and footwear in their living rooms and bedrooms. These poor people must have felt violated, tarnished, dirty.

I had to help him.

We established a pattern to his behaviour – it seemed to occur on only one day each year, so there was ample opportunity to reframe his actions in the context of when he didn’t have the problem.

We also had a first event of sorts, though it was a bit puzzling, a past-life experience involving some gold, frankincense and myrrh. But I always use what the client gives me – Timeline Therapy(TM) sounded like a good place to start – though I would need to deal with anger, sadness, fear and guilt first and there seemed to be all sorts of hangups about being able to see in the dark, sealed chimney flues and on one occasion the overindulgence of some mince pies and misplacing of a carrot.

I was all set to start the therapy, but then it all went belly up as they say.

Ecology, dammit!

“Is it alright with your unconscious mind to make these changes now?” I asked him, as I ask every client.

He looked at me, and his cheeks flamed an even deeper rosy red.

“Erm, no. Now I come to think of it mate. I do’t think it is. Something tells me it just wouldn’t be right for me. I think on some level I sort of need to do it. It makes the rest of me year seem worthwhile. Without my maniokleptia I would just be some bloke who keeps reindeer and dresses funny. It’s a part of me. I could just as soon shave off me beard.”

I looked at him and saw that he was right. We shook hands and he left.

Looking back. I think it went quite well – don’t you?

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There is a wardrobe in my bedroom that is full to bursting with more than just clothes.

The day I moved in to my current home I found that, after carefully putting away all the practical stuff in sensible, accessible places, I had several boxes that contained, well, ‘memorabilia’. These were the things that I had accumulated over the years and held dear, without really knowing what to do with them. There were a few things, such as pictures and photos, that I was able to put up on display around the house.

A few things I disposed of because the associations they held had become painful to me (I had recently had a break-up). The rest of the stuff I had put carefully away on the top shelf of my wardrobe…and at the bottom.

And with a very small number of exceptions they have remained there ever since, and been added to, so that the older memories and the less used have crept backwards and become a bit compressed and screwed up, while the new memories are at the front and tend to tumble out every time I open the door and try to find a clean shirt.

Anybody feel a metaphor coming on?

In my wardrobe some of the things I have are:

* thick wads of family and holiday photos, still in their original packaging
* chess sets, which I once had a notion of collecting, now mostly slightly damaged
* china ornaments that I received as presents
* a sand picture (and some sand)
* old birthday cards (very old, some would say)
* letters I can’t bring myself to read any more
* wires (yes I know)

My wardrobe is suffering from depression.

In a depressed state (and I have been there myself), our minds have often become so full of memories and experiences that they prevent us from moving forward. These memories seem to reinforce the messages we are giving ourselves, that nothing can change and there is no way out. All the bad thoughts get compressed and muddled and distorted over time and it is quite hard to find the better memories and the happier times. In that situation it can be incredibly difficult to feel that life is worth living and that you have possibilities.

Timeline therapy can be an excellent way to spring clean your mental wardrobe. The therapy works on the basis that the memories we hold, both remembered and buried are held in a ‘timeline’ and by finding the root cause of a particular mental state such as anger, fear or guilt, it is possible to let go of that and all similar experiences, through time.

I am reminded of the fairies in the Disney Cinderella, waving their wands and magicking away the dirt and grime.

It is a painless and powerful experience that can make change easy and life affirming. I have personally overcome the pain and sadness of some deeply unhappy experiences. The memories are still there, but they are in the past and I no longer feel the need to re-experience them.

The irony is – getting back to my wardrobe – that every six months I systematically go through the clothing that I keep in there and dispose of any that I haven’t worn in a year, or that are becoming shabby, or that I simply don’t ‘love’ to wear. Yet it has never occurred to me to do this with my memorabilia.

What about you. Do you have drawers full of stuff you never look at? Do you have memories that drag you down and hold you back. If you do, it may be time for a spring-clean.

Imagine how good life would be if you didn’t know anything was stopping you from enjoying it!

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As part of the process of performing NLP, Hypnotherapy, and indeed any kind of treatment, there is one very important check that always takes place. It’s the ecology check.

Clients can come to a therapist for an incredible range of issues. In fact I would say that every client has a unique situation, that is supported by his or her own personal history. So a good therapist will always seek some further information before performing an ‘intervention’, rather than assume that one technique will always work.

For example a client may come to a therapist with a fear of dogs, and there are several excellent and powerful techniques for dealing with such phobias which are fairly general. However the therapist will want to be sure that the phobia is not in fact an ‘example’ of something else. Removing a phobia without some deeper understanding of the issues may result in a less successful outcome, or it may be successful but leave the client with the bigger issue unresolved, which may mean he or she will develop new ‘symptoms’.

Even more important than understanding the problem is ensuring that it is ‘right’ to get rid of it. This is what is meant by ecology.

This rightness, is something that can be judged on different levels, from whether it is right for the client, at that particular point in time, to whether solving the problem for the client has an impact on others around the client, and even to whether there is a global or moral impact.

Consider a fear of snakes for instance. A phobic response in this case might be if the client has panic symptoms even as a result of looking at a picture of a snake, or watching a snake in a sealed tank. And for some people, this might be a reaction they would rather not have because it embarrasses them, or because they feel it may be passed on to their children.

But is it really sensible to get rid of all fear of snakes in a client. Will being totally unafraid of snakes serve the client? What if they were to go on a safari and meet up with boa constrictor or a python? Without a reasonable amount of fear the client could put themselves in real danger. You don’t want your client wandering up to an anaconda offering it treats! It simply would not be ecological.

Hypnotherapy can be very effective in managing pain, such as childbirth pain, but pain is also an important part of the body’s warning system so a therapist would ensure that there were situations in which the sensations associated with giving birth can still be experienced by the client, perhaps as ‘waves’ or as discomfort.

An example of ecological considerations that might affect others could be a parent who has become separated from their children through marital breakdown. Such a situation can be agonising for that person and they may feel that they would like to stop feeling that deep love and bond with their child so that they can also suffer less pain and grief.

How would that impact the client in the future? How would it affect their children too? As time goes by perhaps the children would begin to wish to see the absent parent, and be deeply hurt that he or she had not made more effort to retain contact.

A therapist would probably not see this solution as ‘ecological’, though there may well be more appropriate forms of support that they could give, such as helping to channel the love an absent parent has into actions that support the children from afar, or motivating the absent parent to be more proactive in repairing the damage caused by the breakup.

One way that therapists may use to establish ecology for the client is the ‘pendulum’ test. The therapist will use the swing of a pendulum to give them contact with the unconscious mind of the client. Often the client’s conscious mind can find it difficult to analyse and assess the impact of dealing with what it sees as a major issue. Your unconscious mind knows what is right for you.

A pendulum test is a way of bypassing the conscious mind through ‘ideomotor’ reactions. I won’t go into exactly how this works now, but essentially the pendulum is able to indicate ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses directly, without the client’s conscious control. It’s a fascinating process that works without any hypnotic intervention.

Another more direct way to establish ecology is for the therapist to simply ask – ‘is it okay for your unconscious mind to make these changes today’? For many clients the answer is straightforward and the question seems almost unnecessary, but it is an essential part of the therapy.

So when you go to a therapist, expect to be tested. It may seem strange to be asked if you actually want the treatment that you have clearly signed up for, at some expense and having taken a very courageous step in seeking help in the first place. But however unnecessary it may seem, it is vital that you are comfortable with making that change.

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For most of us, success in life is elusive.
In the busy day-to-day battle between chaos and the mundane, it is difficult to spend more than a few moments sometimes dreaming of what success would look like.
But that’s exactly what we need to do.
Every day.
Our dreams are where we start from in life, and if we continue to dream, they are also where we end up. As the song goes, ‘don’t dream it, be it’.
Different people have very different ideas about what they want to be, to have and to do. For some, success is about big money, fast cars and a beautiful home. For others it may be less concrete – a contented life, happiness, peace. We are our own judges on such things.
There are books and books written on how to get there: telling you how to reach your goals; how to break things down into manageable chunks; how to have long-term and short term goals; being ‘SMART’. The advice is sound and practical and it helps people turn what seem impossible dreams into reality.
But for some having a plan, a strategy is a long way down the road from day-dreaming about your perfect home while washing up or taking a shower.
First you have to believe it can happen. You need to develope the beliefs and attitudes that make it seem possible, you need to begin to know that you can and you need to let go of the old beliefs that have held you back.
This is where therapies such as NLP and Hypnotherapy can really help.
As you read this blog now, imagine how it would be if you could wake up in the morning knowing that you can enjoy your day because it will bring you a step closer to where you want to be.
Imagine being able to shake off, simply and easily, the negative thoughts that hold you back. Thoughts that you know were put there by your parents, or by society, or because of single one-off events in your life.
Throughout my school life and university my granny and my parents and many of the people I knew, told me I was very shy. They were right. Because I listened to them and looked at people around me and was shy of them.
I first learned an NLP technique long before I had heard of NLP, when, as a trainee teacher, I was given some very sound advice – ‘act as if you are a teacher, and the children will believe you’. I did exactly that and found that I could teach confidently, manage behaviour and motivate my pupils in a way I would never have thought possible.
It was only later, though, through learning NLP that I realised that I could choose to do this all the time. I learned techniques such as ‘acting as if’ and ‘circles of excellence’ that led me to have more confidence, stop thinking of myself as shy, and actually enjoy talking to people I have never met.
It took me a long time to find out that this was possible. It took me a very short time to apply it to my life and turn things around.
Making those changes in my life have made more difference to me than all the ‘goal-setting’ in the world. Now that I have the tools that NLP provides I can create the attitudes and beliefs in myself that make anything possible. The doors often open by themselves, and when they don’t, I find that I don’t need to push at them so hard.
So to achieve your goals, first change your self. Change your attitude, change your belief and get rid of the things that you allow to hold you back. Keep though, the precious core of yourself. Keep the things that you believe makes you who you are and allow them to grow.
When you think about your dream, relax and allow yourself to reach it, instead of shrugging it off, or creating conflict for yourself by feeling pressured to achieve it. And ask yourself – when you achieve your dream – what will you dream then?

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I have a passion for NLP, hypnotherapy and timeline therapy. I do not have a passion for cats.
They know this.
Cats have an ability to calm, to give perspective, to make a sometimes spiritual relationship with their owners – when they’re not vomiting over the bed or dragging a half-dead and bloody rodent around the kitchen.
I have two cats – (Yes… I know… why?) and when there is a need to use my home with clients, I am always careful to remove them to a place where they can’t bring their influence to bear on the proceedings. They seem to strongly disapprove of hypnotherapy. I suspect that this is because they know something far more effective than that – some sort of distant mind-control, and don’t want me stealing their thunder. In the early days my innocence assumed that the cats would merely give character and personality to the sessions. Maybe even, a cat-loving client might feel happier to share with little ‘Damian’ the ginger tom, purring in his or her lap.
But I soon learned the disruptive power of a ‘meow’. It’s great as a one-off break in state, but I can’t think of another use for it.
Even out of the immediate vicinity isn’t enough. Just as a client is reaching the early stages of trance there would be that insidious scritching at the door as little ‘mephistopheles’ decides purely coincidentally that he wants ‘in’. 
So on those home sessions, I’m sorry little ‘ripper’, but you need to be found a soft, safe environment, somewhere out of earshot, out of sight, and possibly with lead-lined 6 metre thick concrete walls.
But perhaps someone reading this has a different point of view?

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