Things I don’t miss from my youth

The soul songstress Gladys Knight once recorded a beautiful version of the song The Way We Were with a heartfelt spoken introduction about our nostalgia for “the good old days”, including the suggestion that there will come a time when the present (which we are to assume is frankly rubbish because it’s not “the good old days”) will be our children’s “good old days”.

I have no quarrel with Gladys.  She was a diva at a time when that meant something other than a demanding, self-regarding non-talent with an ego the size of Kim Kardashian’s bottom.  Indeed, one of my early ambitions was to be a Pip, shimmying around behind Gladys and chanting “Superstar but you didn’t get far” at the appropriate point in Midnight Train To Georgia (and any other time I thought I might get away with it).  But I have to take issue with her on the subject of “the good old days”.

Because if the frankly rubbish present is always destined to become the next generation’s “good old days” this implies that life on Earth is steadily getting worse.  That developments in art, science and medicine are gradually eroding our quality of life.  That improvements in human rights, hard fought for, won and defended over centuries, are essentially a bad thing.

During the earliest period of human existence, men would go out hunting and gathering, while the women stayed at home and made babies (and presumably kept the cave clean).  If the men failed in their hunting and gathering, or were killed and eaten by something faster and fiercer, everyone starved.  These were apparently “the good old days” to later, better organised, societies.

In 15th century France, Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake and everyone was totally fine with it.  They even cheered and took their children along for the entertainment of watching an innocent, if misguided, young woman die in agony.  There must have been a huge wave of nostalgia for the days of burning at the stake when the practice was abandoned centuries later.

In the early part of the 20th century, British women campaigned for the right to vote, ultimately resorting to illegal acts in support of their cause.  These women were arrested, imprisoned and often force-fed before finally achieving their aim.  I have never yet met a woman who would consider that period to be “the good old days”.

Following Gladys Knight’s logic, one day we will look back at this era of Donald Trump, endless argument about Brexit, and UKIP still being a thing and find ourselves longing for “the good old days”.  It doesn’t work for me.

So in an attempt to put an end, once and for all, to this ridiculous idea that things can only get worse, I offer to you my personal list of things that were around when Gladys recorded The Way We Were (which should now be “the good old days”) that I don’t miss.  Even a tiny bit.


Allowing 28 Days for Delivery

It’s so easy now, isn’t it?  You log into your Amazon account, order with a couple of clicks, pay by credit card and your shiny new gizmo arrives the next day.  If you live in a major city and order in the morning you might even get it that evening.

Compare this with what it was like in the 70s.  You spent hours looking through a catalogue (or several), filled in an order form, wrote a cheque, then walked down to the end of the street to post it.  Then you waited.  And waited.  And waited.  This was called “sending off for something”.  And it was slow and frustrating.

Okay, so it didn’t usual take the full 28 days but it certainly felt like it.  But those were “the good old days”.



Any millennials of a sensitive disposition should look away now.  A flexidisc, for those who genuinely don’t remember them or have successfully blotted their existence from memory, was a record made of thin, flexible vinyl.  It was usually given away free with a magazine – my sister occasionally used to get them with Jackie (a rather jolly magazine for teenage girls) and I remember one that came with a 1980s edition of Smash Hits (I will not hear a word of criticism of either of these august journals).

Flexidiscs usually contained a couple of otherwise unreleased tracks by a favourite band or artist of the time.  Trust me when I say there was a reason why these were unreleased.

And the sound quality was pants.  Even for “the good old days”.


Blue Peter

Yes, I know Blue Peter‘s been around forever and it’s an institution and the Christmas Appeal raises loads of money for worthy causes.  But seriously – did any child really like it?  Other than the ones who grew up to be contestants on University Challenge – the ones who look nothing like any student I have ever seen and can identify a Wagner opera from one chord.  Oh, and my brother and sister.

I have two abiding memories of Blue Peter.  One is of its scheduling clash with The Tomorrow People on Mondays.  The aforementioned brother and sister wanted to watch Blue Peter.  I wanted to watch The Tomorrow People.  They were older.  And there were two of them.  Blue Peter was thus allowed to blight my life and prevent me from joining in playground discussions, no doubt contributing to my lifelong feeling of not really belonging.  Thank you Valerie Singleton.

But if Blue Peter blighted my life, that is nothing compared to the effect it had on the poor individual who will always be remembered as Daniel the Blue Peter baby (DTBPB).  From late September 1968 (not a hit for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons) baby Daniel Scott made regular appearances on every child’s favourite TV show so we could learn about baby care and child development.  Mainly by watching John Noakes and Peter Purves trying not to drown him.  At least there was no Tomorrow People for it to clash with in those days.

After two years, DTBPB was quietly dropped, presumably because he’d grown into Daniel the Blue Peter toddler and if they didn’t get rid of him quickly they’d end up with Daniel the Blue Peter teenager on their hands and nobody wanted that.

But that was not the end of the story.  Daniel’s parents split up and he later went off the rails, getting involved in drugs and petty crime.  I can’t help suspecting that the pressure of having once been DTBPB was just too much for him and led to his fall from grace.  Maybe I’m being too imaginative, but I picture him now in a lonely old house, wearing dark glasses and a silk dressing gown, smoking a cigarette in a tortoiseshell holder and growling, “I AM big – it’s Blue Peter that got small.”

It’s official.  Blue Peter wrecks lives.  Biddy Baxter – I hope you’re proud of yourself.


Margaret Thatcher

I know we’re all supposed to have re-evaluated her and realised that she was a saint and saved the Universe and everything, and I’m only glad she’s dead because I can’t imagine she would have wanted the life she had at the end.  But she stole my school milk.

I loved my school milk.  Somehow it didn’t taste the same as a glass of milk at home.  Maybe it was those peculiar little bottles it came in.  Or the fact it was always slightly warm (but not as warm as actual warm milk).  Or it might have been the novelty of drinking it through a straw.  But school milk was the best and Margaret Thatcher took it away.



The Threat of Imminent Nuclear Annihilation

Okay, so this was a few years after Gladys Knight told us we were living in our children’s “good old days” but back in the Golden Age of the late 70s and early 80s global nuclear war seemed like a definite possibility.  The TV films Threads and The Day After attempted to depict the effects of a nuclear strike on the UK and USA respectively.  Kate Bush released Breathing, a terrifying song from the perspective of a baby about to be born into a post-holocaust world.  Duran Duran wanted to make the music people danced to when the bomb dropped.

For a long time, nuclear weapons filled the space in public consciousness later taken up by vampires or zombies – the big scary thing that popular culture embraced and used for inspiration.

But it was far more serious than that.  In late December 1979 (still not a hit for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons) the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.  Relations with the west became seriously strained, the second Cold War began, and the threat of nuclear war seemed very real.

Fortunately we made it through those particular “good old days”  and even with Donald Trump in the White House and Kim Jong Un playing with his toys in Pyongyang, at least for now, things don’t seem as frightening as they did back then.


So thank you Gladys but you can keep “the good old days”.  I’ll take the present.  And if I’m around for the future I’ll take that too.



My mother has Dreams.  I know we all dream, but hers come with a capital letter “D” and must be shared with anyone who will  listen (a dwindling band).   While her dreams vary in content, the format is always the same – bizarre and frankly highly unlikely things happen, involving long-dead relatives (or ill ones, or even ones she hasn’t seen for a while) who are usually desperate to tell her something.

To the rest of us, these dreams are simply the brain’s way of processing a load of accumulated rubbish while we are asleep.  To my mother, however, they are clearly prophetic.  After experiencing one, she gives herself a hard time worrying constantly about the inherent message.  Over the next couple of days she will phone everyone she cares about in order to check that they are all right/not dead.

My mother has been alive for nearly 88 years.  During that time no-one close to her – or even known to her – has died after one of these dreams.  But statistically, one day someone probably will.  And on that day, she will tell us all that she was right.  My mother does not understand confirmation bias.

Last night I had a bad dream involving a terrible row with a close family member.  Iain had to wake me up because I was shouting out in distress.  This morning I have had to fight off the urge to phone my loved ones to check that they are all right/not dead.

Sometimes the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Blogging about books – Love Nina by Nina Stibbe

Okay, I’m now giving up all pretence of trying to finish reading the books on my shelves before buying new ones.  I spotted this in Waterstones (apostrophe deliberately left out because I don’t know if it’s the name relates to one Waterstone or a group of them) in Aviemore and had to buy it, having loved the TV adaptation.

In 1982, the young Nina Stibbe escapes from Leicestershire and moves to London to work as a nanny for Mary-Kay Wilmers, editor of the London Review of Books.  Her duties include looking after Mary-Kay’s two sons, cooking and as little housework as she can get away with (spoiler : very little).  This is a far from ordinary household in a far from ordinary area – neighbours include the novelist Deborah Moggach, Ursula Vaughan Williams (widow of composer Ralph) and the playwright Alan Bennett, a regular – if not necessarily invited – dinner guest.

Nina’s exploits in the big City are conveyed through a series of letters to her sister, Vic.  Her relationships with Mary-Kay, the boys, Alan Bennett et al, along with her romance with Nunny, the student who works as a temporary carer for another neighbour, are beautifully drawn through little anecdotes and snippets of conversation.  By the end of the book I felt that I knew them personally.

Partway through the book Nina leaves Mary-Kay’s employment to study for a degree in English Literature.  Although she remains a regular visitor I felt the book lost some of its charm here.

There has been minor controversy surrounding the book; Mary-Kay had reservations about its publication but was reportedly happy once she read it, Alan Bennett has expressed the opinion that Nina Stibbe “misremembered” him, and some readers suspect the letters have been heavily edited to make them more amusing than the originals.  This may well be true, but “Love Nina” is still a little gem of a book, one that bears re-reading.

Blogging about books – The 8-Week Blood Sugar Diet by Michael Mosley

Okay, so I have a confession to make.  I said I wasn’t going to buy any new books until I’d read everything on my bookshelves.  However, most of my books are currently in storage waiting for our new house to be habitable so I had to buy new ones.

And I just can’t help myself.

So on to The 8-Week Blood Sugar Diet, helpfully subtitled “Lose weight fast and reprogramme your body”.  For most of my adult life, barring a few months after my cancer surgery, my weight has tended to be a few pounds higher than I’d like but not enough to be an issue.  But for some reason, diet books fascinate me.

This one, as is common in the genre, takes a very simple principle and spins it out over 272 pages.

Eat less.  Drastically reduce carbohydrate intake.   Move more.

That’s basically the entire book reduced to eight words.  Okay, it adds a bit of science, a few case histories and some recipes, but you could really save yourself £8.99 by being too busy to read the science, googling low-carb recipes, keeping to about 800 calories a day and going for a walk.

In fairness, there probably is a need for a book of this kind – the principles behind it are sound and, if followed, could greatly reduce the incidence of Type 2 diabetes.  It’s not the author’s fault that it’s so simple, and people are more likely to change their habits after paying £8.99 to be told to do so by an actual qualified (though non-practising) doctor than by getting the same information free (and considerably more concisely) by a pharmacist and hypnotherapist.

But what I’d really like to see is a book that would help Type 1 diabetics in the ongoing battle they fight with their weight as a result of their constant efforts to balance insulin with carbohydrate intake.

How about it Dr Mosley?

Mental health or mental illness?

It can’t have escaped anyone’s notice that mental health has become a big issue this year.  It’s practically impossible to turn on the TV, open a newspaper or even walk down the street without someone banging on about it.  The message put about by, amongst others,  members of the Royal family, sports personalities and rock stars is that mental health, and the problems associated with it, are subjects we should all be far more willing to discuss.

As a long-term sufferer from recurrent, but fortunately not incapacitating, depression I should welcome this focus on mental health.  So why does it leave me feeling slightly uneasy?

Because while so much attention is being given to mental health, the subject of mental illness seems to have been sidelined.  What were once referred to as mental illnesses have been rebranded as mental health problems.  But to the sufferer, a mental illness is so much more than a problem.

Given time, resources and relevant support a problem is something that can be solved.  Perhaps describing mental illnesses as mental health problems is intended to be empowering, telling sufferers that they can take control.  But there is an inherent difficulty here.

Inability to solve a problem is seen as failure, or not trying hard enough.  The stark truth, however, is that mental illness cannot be cured, the problem cannot be solved.  It can be controlled or relieved by medication and/or therapy.  It can remit.  But there is always, at the very least, the threat that it will return.

When I am in the throes of one of my recurring depressions, I do not have a problem.  I am ill.  I cannot solve this.  Does that make me a failure?

A survey of 5,000 UK adults conducted by the National Centre for Social Research found that 1 in 4 had been diagnosed with a mental illness.  Are all these people failing to solve their mental health problem?  Apparently so, as the same survey revealed that 1 in 5 people agreed that ‘one of the main causes of mental illness is a lack of self-discipline and willpower’.

In this, the second decade of the 21st century, there is still, appallingly, a stigma attached to mental illness.  While we may have moved on from talk of “nutters” who are “not right in the head” spending time in the “loony bin”, but the Mental Health Foundation reports that nearly nine out of ten people with a mental illness say that stigma and discrimination have a negative effect on their lives.  Fear of receiving a label which might have negative consequences in later life prevents many people from seeking help for their illness.

In this context, the increased publicity currently being given to mental health can only be welcomed.  But how can we tackle discrimination, shame and fear if we can’t even bring ourselves to refer to its cause by name?   Perhaps the first step in removing the stigma would be to openly and honestly go back to talking about mental illness as enthusiastically as we now talk about mental health.


Blogging about books – The Missing by C L Taylor

This is nobody’s favourite section of my blog (not even mine) but I said I was going to do it so here we are again.

I should start by saying that The Missing has nothing to do with the BBC TV series of the same name.  Instead, it is a psychological thriller about 15 year-old frankly unlikeable Billy, who goes missing one night, and his mother, Claire, who attempts to find out what happened to him.

This is stretched out (and I mean stretched) over 512 pages during which Claire suffers a number of dissociative fugue episodes, forgetting who she is, where she is and why she’s there.  This is far less interesting than it sounds.

The narrative is interspersed with WhatsApp conversations between two characters, one of whom we assume to be Billy, the other the person responsible for his disappearance.  These serve the dual purpose of showing us that the author is a thoroughly modern person with her finger on the technological pulse and revealing that, as is so often the case, naughty old sex is at the heart of things.

We eventually, and with some relief (remember the 512 pages) learn the truth about what happened to Billy, and I have to admit this is not what I was expecting.  Unfortunately it’s also not very believable.

This book has been very well reviewed by other authors in the genre, so maybe it’s actually a really good psychological thriller and I’m not the target audience.  But I had to force myself to read to the end because although I wanted to know what happened, I didn’t really care.

Never a good sign.

Can anyone tell me what Conservative voters want?

I am not a Conservative voter.  Never have been, probably never will be (by “probably” I mean “definitely” while considering the possibility that hell might, one day, freeze over).

However, I do feel that when Theresa May isn’t rubbing her hands in glee, Cruella de Ville-like, at the thought of bringing back fox-hunting, or barking out “Brexit means Brexit” (made-up word with no clear definition means exactly the same made-up word with no clear definition) she’s actually rather good fun.  I can almost convince myself that the knowledge that she stands to gain a landslide majority has sent her a tiny bit bonkers, to the extent that she’s now trolling her own supporters.

The latest evidence of this comes in her manifesto proposal to tackle the problem of funding for elderly social care by, essentially, making people who’ve got the money pay for it, even if that money is tied up in their homes.  And let’s make it clear, she’s not being a heartless, moustache-twirling Victorian villain here.  Elderly people aren’t going to be thrown out onto the streets, the cost of their care will be taken from the sale proceeds when the house is no longer needed.

This has caused considerable consternation among Conservative voters.  Apparently, people who’ve worked all their lives shouldn’t have to spend their savings on the care they need when they’re old.  Clearly I’m missing something here.  I thought the whole idea of saving for your old age was so you’d have the money to pay for the things you need in the aforementioned old age.  Like food, heating, lighting and … social care.  Let’s face it, if you need someone to help you wash and dress in the morning you’re unlikely to be spending your money on round the world cruises.

But this idea hasn’t gone down well with Conservative voters.  According to them, the state should pay for elderly care because they’ve “worked hard and paid our taxes”.  That would be the same state that can’t afford to properly fund the Health Service.  The same taxes that are insufficient to properly fund the Health Service.

As our lifespans increase so does the number of elderly people on the planet.  The elderly have expensive health and social care needs and they deserve to have those needs met.  I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting all elderly people to know that they will live out their lives in comfort and dignity without worrying about what will happen if they become unable to look after themselves.

So how do those complaining about this policy propose we pay for elderly care?  Higher taxes?  Fine by me.  Scrap Trident and put the money to better use?  Bring it on.  Close hospitals and schools, take money from the police and fire services?  Everything has a cost.  Improved government-funded services have to be paid for in higher taxes or reduced spending somewhere else.  Lower taxes have to be paid for in cuts to essential services.  What do Conservative voters want?

If I reach the stage of needing care then I’m happy to contribute towards that care if I have the money.  If I don’t then I hope the state will be able to pay for it. And if I’m a feckless workshy wastrel (which I’m not) well sadly that happens but a civilised society just accepts that some people are like that and looks after them because we moved away from the concept of deserving and undeserving poor long ago.

I’m not a Conservative voter but I’m not sure that I am a good fit with any political party, probably because I’m prepared to acknowledge the merit in Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat and sometimes even Conservative policies.  And on this particular issue I have a degree of sympathy with Theresa May.


Where to now?

Coincidentally, Where To Now was the title of the debut album by late 70s/early 80s pop goddess Charlie Dore, forever remembered (by me at least) for her radio hit Pilot of the Airwaves.  As I recall, the title track was about people being told what to think by a Hitler-type political leader to the extent that they were unable to think for themselves.  Still relevant today but not actually what I’m talking about.

I started this blog because I wanted to become a hypnotherapist and the plan was that I would document my journey along that particular road.  Of course I diverted and digressed along the way but I think I have, somewhere along the line, described the steps I took in order to achieve my goal.

But now here I am, a qualified hypnotherapist.  I am no longer “the would-be hypnotherapist”, I am the genuine article.  So, in the words of Charlie Dore, where to now?

In one respect I am still, regardless of my qualification, a would-be hypnotherapist.  I have the certificate, the (voluntary) registration, the insurance, but I don’t yet have paying clients.  I’ve just moved house (not blogging about that, not even if you beg) so the launch of my professional hypnotherapy career has been delayed.  I have been offered premises and am working on a flyer and a website but can’t advertise my services until my domestic situation is rather more stable than it is right now.

So if a hypnotherapist is someone who earns money from the practice of hypnotherapy I can still describe myself as would-be.  Besides, I still own the domain name and the hosting so I’m going to keep blogging here while also working on my website which I’ll direct you to when it’s up and running.  I’ll ultimately run the two in tandem with the website focussing on promoting my hypnotherapy business while this blog will be the home for stories of the highs and lows of life as a hypnotherapist, along with book reviews, random thoughts and the odd political rant.  The website will (probably) also feature a blog but that will be devoted to serious material relating to hypnotherapy.

So where to now?  Wherever the fancy takes me – do you want to come with me?

Blogging about books – The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

About once a year, a book comes round that becomes a huge bestseller largely on word of mouth recommendations – like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl or Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train.  I don’t tend to enjoy these books – Gone Girl was deeply unsatisfying with its collection of unpleasant characters, the most unpleasant of whom comes out on top, and The Girl on the Train was just dull.

I was hoping The Couple Next Door might buck that particular trend but I was to be sadly disappointed.  The plot seemed promising enough – having been let down by their babysitter, Anne and Marco go to dinner with their next-door neighbours leaving baby Cora alone in the house.  Lest you think they are totally neglectful parents, they do take the baby monitor with them and go back to check on her every half hour.  It’s probably obvious that I’m not a parent when I say that this does not seem entirely unreasonable – okay the house could catch fire but it’s not very likely and any other problem would be identifiable from the baby monitor.  And while I don’t think it’s an unreasonable solution to the problem I find it hard to believe that a new mother would be emotionally capable of leaving her baby alone like that – I don’t have children, that doesn’t make me an inhuman monster.

Anyway, to get back to the plot, when Anne and Marco get home they find Cora has been kidnapped and there then follows the interminably slow tale of the police investigation into her disappearance.  This is all told by an omniscient narrator so the reader is party to practically everything any character thinks, says or does.  I assume this is intended to generate tension as we know things the other characters don’t but it actually has the reverse effect, slowing things down and rendering large chunks of the plot irrelevant.

Yet again we have a book in which it’s hard to like any of the characters – I can summon up a small bit of sympathy for Anne and I suppose Cora would be likeable if her parents cared enough about her to convey any hint of her personality, but everyone  else is just vile.  I don’t understand why it is that writers of thrillers, in particular, fail to recognise that readers need someone they can root for.  It’s much easier to appreciate a book if you can identify with a character and that’s just not going to happen if they’re all horrible.  Unless the reader’s a sociopath.  Maybe this books aimed at sociopaths.

Without wanting to give too much away, I can say that after many (too many) trials and tribulations Anne and Marco appear to be in with a chance of rebuilding their lives.  Only the author just won’t let them go, ending with the most ridiculously melodramatic twist it has ever been my misfortune to read.

I gave this book away.  Quickly.

Hypnotherapy Diploma – Module Three

We did it!

Three months ago, a motley crew of seven strangers started training to become hypnotherapists.  We were excited, apprehensive, and unsure quite what to expect. On Wednesday April 5th, seven friends reluctantly went our separate ways, proudly clutching our Diploma certificates.

It’s been quite a journey.

I was quite late setting off for Aviemore this time, arriving just after 5.30pm but I wasn’t too surprised to find I was the first one there.  I’d bumped into Andy and Lisamarie buying up food stocks in case of a zombie apocalypse topping up their alcohol supplies in Tesco and I knew Marta was waiting for Matthew to pick her up from Inverness airport.

I didn’t have long to wait, however, before they all arrived and we sat down to our first evening meal of this module, washed down with copious amounts of rosé wine.  We sat up talking well into the night (and possibly also the next morning) excited to be nearing the end of our training.

Saturday was devoted to reviewing the case studies we had carried out since our last module.  Again there were some amazing stories of positive change that had been brought about by my fellow students.  This time, however, I felt able to take a pride in my own achievements, another sign that my depression was no longer in control of my mind.  Matthew also took the opportunity to make us aware of a recent article in New Scientist, the main message of which he summarised as “hypnosis isn’t bollocks”.  He may have been preaching to the converted somewhat on the subject of hypnosis and its non-bollocksness – I lean towards the view that people who have paid a not inconsiderable sum of money to learn about a subject are more likely than most to believe there might be something in it.  However, it was reassuring to have that belief confirmed by such an august journal.

Saturday was also my birthday.  I’d accidentally let this slip in a reply to a Facebook comment asking me how I was going to spend it and my fellow students had eagerly picked up on this as an excuse for a celebration.  I was surprised to receive cards and presents, and Jan even served cupcakes with candles in them at lunchtime.

We’d planned to go out in 70s fancy dress, and earlier in the week I’d ordered my Bjorn from ABBA costume.  Unfortunately I was too mean to pay £8.00 for a Bjorn wig so ended up paying £20.00 for in Claire’s Accessories for a  long blonde one which a neighbour kindly cut and styled for me.  On the plus side this allowed me to cross shopping at Claire’s Accessories off my bucket list.  (I don’t actually have a bucket list – if I did, I’m pretty sure shopping at Claire’s Accessories wouldn’t be on it).

We were a motley crew that night – I doubt the Italian restaurant in Aviemore had ever seen anything quite like it.  We had three quarters of ABBA – Marina as Agnetha, Andy as Benny, and me as Bjorn.  Frida clearly had a prior engagement.  Gillian and Marta were 70s hippy chicks with a bit of a Fleetwood Mac vibe, while Lisamarie in a huge Afro christened herself Gloryhole Gaynor.  I think Lisamarie may have been a drag queen in a previous life.  John contented himself with wearing a cowboy hat and striking a 70s pose.  I should perhaps clarify – the cowboy hat wasn’t all he was wearing.

A good time was had by all and there were some thick heads and heavy eyelids when we got back to work the following morning.  The difficulty inherent in studying hypnotherapy is that you get hypnotised a lot.  That may not sound like a huge problem but when you’ve experienced it few times it becomes very easy to slip into trance.  All it takes is a couple of words from the right person and away you go.  Add that to the effects of a late night and watching a hypnotherapy demonstration can only end one way.  I don’t think a single one of us experienced the whole of Sunday’s training sessions in quite the way Matthew intended.

Somehow we managed to learn something about Ericksonian approaches to hypnotherapy.  Milton Erickson was an American psychiatrist who used his own very personal style of hypnotherapy, involving storytelling and metaphor to great effect.  This had a certain resonance with me – I often use metaphors and similes in conversation which I strongly suspect make no sense outside my own head.

In the afternoon we were introduced to the RESOLVE model of therapy developed by a New Zealander called Richard Bolstad.  This is an approach to psychotherapy which uses NLP techniques to great effect in the treatment of mental health problems.  Although we could only skim the surface of the subject, this was something I found very interesting and intend to read up about.

That evening we had a real treat – Marina had invited us to her croft for a delicious meal of roast lamb.  I have no idea how she managed to cook this while simultaneously attending the course – I can only assume she has a team of elves who attend to her life while she is doing other things.  Either that or she is supremely organised.

We arrived to the sound of bagpipes being played beautifully by her 12 year-old son Kyle, who also plays four or five other instruments and can basically pick anything up and get a tune out of it.  Once inside the house we met Donald, Marina’s husband, who clearly has the patience of a saint, her beautiful little daughter Isla, and twin boys Jimmy and Murdo.  I think we all fell a little in love with the younger ones and were in awe of Kyle’s talent and ability to engage with a group of weird adults within minutes of meeting them.  Marina’s children were beautifully behaved and a real credit to her.  Donald was quite good too.

After dinner we sampled some of Marina’s gin collection and were introduced to the game Cards Against Humanity.  I’d heard of this but had no idea what it involved.  Sadly, although I know it was a lot of fun I have no clear memory of it so still don’t know what it involves.  Blame the gin.

By Monday morning we were becoming increasingly aware that our time together would soon be over.  We watched a video of Richard Bandler, one of the founders of NLP, working with a schizophrenic patient.  This was made some years ago, and the fashions of the time rendered it unintentionally hilarious, but Bandler showed an impressive ability to quickly produce beneficial changes to the patient’s response to difficult situations.

Later, Matthew did some work with Marta, who had a fear of learning to drive as a result of a car accident when she was a child.  It was fascinating to see her become upset as she relived the accident under hypnosis, then relax as Matthew helped her to let go of the distressing feelings.  He also showed us a video of him working with a mountaineer who was being held back by the trauma of accidents in which he had seen friends killed.  If we had any doubts about the power of hypnotherapy to produce positive change, they were quickly being swept away.

Tuesday was the last full day of the course and to describe it as packed would be an understatement.  After touching on the subjects of mindfulness and hypnosis in healing, Matthew spent some time talking about past life regression.

This is a subject the majority of, if not all, hypnotherapy schools teach, generally with the caveat that they are expressing no opinion on the reality of past lives.  This may sound like fudging the issue, but Matthew’s approach is that regression should be carried out in order to find the root cause of a present problem which can then be laid to rest, rather than simply to satisfy curiosity about past lives.  From this perspective it doesn’t matter if the past life experience is real or, as I tend to believe, a story created by the unconscious mind to explain the reason behind difficulties in “this life”.

We tried an exercise in regression, initially going back to our earliest memories, then going through a door to a past life.  This was where it got really interesting – I went back to 1896 at the end of my life.  I was blind, I was dying, and it was fine – there was nothing to fear.  Was this a genuine past life experience?  Did my unconscious mind create it?  Or did I consciously make it up in order to explain my difficulties with visualisation while also assuaging any fears I might have about death?  Maybe it doesn’t matter.

After a break, Matthew showed us a video of himself working to help Rogan, a student on one of his courses, overcome the psychological effects of a brain injury, with a follow-up video where the two of them discussed the results of this therapy.  Even without Rogan’s own description of the positive change he had experienced, it was clear from his demeanour that hypnotherapy had benefitted him immensely.

This was followed by a short session on Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT).  This is probably best described as a form of psychological acupressure which works by clearing blockages int he body’s energy system.  It may sound like the worst kind of New Age mumbo-jumbo (Wikipedia dismisses it as a “psuedoscience”) but it seems to work, to the extent that it has been adopted by many therapists in the field of PTSD.  I read about it several years ago and thought it might help with my depression but was put off by the perceived difficulty of learning the procedure.  It’s actually surprisingly easy when you’re shown how to do it – after a couple of sessions it just becomes second nature.  And I’m pleased to report that it does seem to have a beneficial effect on my mood.

Finally on Tuesday, Jan gave us some information on joining the General Hypnotherapy Register, getting insurance and business development.  It felt like a long day but a very worthwhile one.

This being the last night of the module, we of course went to the Cairn at Carrbridge for a celebration meal.  Unfortunately it was very busy so the only table available was in a back room away from the atmosphere of the bar.  This took away some of the fun we had previously had there.  To make matters worse, the only rosé wine they had was Zinfandel.  Lisamarie and I have standards – they may be low but Zinfandel is way beneath them.  Once Marina and Gillian went home the rest of us decided to head back to Motivation Manor, stopping off to replenish our wine stocks at Tesco.

We sat up talking until far too late then crawled up to our beds.

We were a subdued group on the Wednesday morning – tired, hung over, and aware that we would soon be saying goodbye.  Matthew added to the things Jan had said about business development, advised us on pricing and premises, then handed out our certificates.  We had a group hug,Jan took a photograph of us and that was it.  The end.

Those of us who didn’t have to rush off went into Aviemore for coffee and more chat before reluctantly, and with much hugging and promising to keep in touch, finally going our separate ways.

I used to watch programmes like The Great British Bake-off and be a little cynical when the contestants claimed to have made friends for life, suspecting that was said for the cameras and they would actually have forgotten each other’s names within a week.  Now I know differently – I understand the power of an intense life-enhancing experience to form bonds between people who have only known each other for a short time.  Motivation’s first class of 2017 has a WhatsApp group on which we are all in regular contact, sometimes sharing success stories or asking for advice, at others having stupid conversations about ducks that no-one else would understand and I have no intention of explaining.

I enrolled on the course to learn hypnotherapy.  I came away with new friends and a new outlook on life.  I think that represents pretty good value for money.


Musings on life, labradors and hypnotherapy training from the North Northumberland coast