Tag: Worthing West Sussex

CBT Therapy Techniques Part 6 – Using Negations

Using Negations

The way we use our internal language can have a profound effect on how we are able to overcome a challenge, for example anxiety. Let’s do a quick experiment.

  • Don’t think of a tree

 

And…also…

  • Don’t think of a sunny beach

 

When you read the above statements, did you think of either a tree, a sunny beach, or both? Research shows that over 80% of people will have thought of at least one of them.

If you did think of one (or both) then it’s not a bad thing. In fact you have just revealed a mechanism that keeps anxiety, and many other mental health concerns lingering.

When you saw the instruction: Don’t think of a tree, your brain actually processed the message as: think of a blue tree, don’t.

There is a difference between how our brain processes the explicit order of writing and speech, and what how it interprets the meaning behind it, which in turn generates our behaviours. This is especially true when we are responding to instructions.

When following instructions our brain has a habit of deferring negation based words, such as don’t, to the end of the message or even ignoring it all together.

This is not something that is a 100% rule, there are a few exceptions, however this rather annoying function does occur consistently during times of high stress, tension and even excitement.

This is especially obvious when we see how children behave. You may have noticed that when you ask them the following

  • Don’t run up the stairs is processed as: run up the stairs, don’t – often followed by running up the stairs
  • Don’t slam the door is processed as: slam the door, don’t – often followed by the thud of a slammed door
  • Don’t spill your drink is processed as: spill your drink, don’t – often followed by a wet carpet

Have you ever seen a do not touch sign, or a do not enter sign and then feel a sense of curiosity to do the deed? Yep, me too!

And many athletes have successfully unsettled their rivals by uttering the phrase: don’t mess up within earshot of their rivals.

So we now know we need to clean up our language and make it more precise – the more precise your mindset, the easier it is to achieve your desired results.

Let’s start with the previous examples regarding children. How could we change the instructions to get a more desired result?

Easy – we remove any mention of don’t, can’t, shouldn’t, not and other negations, and tell them exactly what we do want them to do.

  • Don’t run up the stairs can be changed to: walk slowly up the stairs
  • Don’t slam the door can be changed to: close the door gently
  • Don’t spill your drink can be changed to: hold your drink carefully

See how that works? Simple changes can make a big difference to the meaning.

So let’s focus on you and your challenges. My suggestion to you is to spend a few days observing your self talk, that voice in your head which is narrating your experience of anxiety and write down how often you are instructing yourself not to do something.

Then once you have a list, write down a list of clear alternatives.

Some examples of shifting the self talk around could be:

  • I don’t want to feel anxious becomes: I can notice calmness around me
  • What if I mess up becomes: I’m able to do this properly
  • What if things go wrong becomes: I can notice things working well

 

Remember that change is a multi step process, not an instant shift from one way of being to another. Give yourself time, and accept that even the best of us have a bad day, experience failure and generally have challenges.

CBT Therapy Techniques Part 5 – Goal Setting

Goal Setting

Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of different clients, and one of the most profound changes to their mindset which can point them on the road to recovery is to help them focus their goals on what they want.

Most clients I meet for the first time are primarily focused on what they don’t want.


Perhaps this has also been your experience? For example if you struggle with anxiety, are you more often than not telling yourself not to be anxious? Are you entering certain situations hoping that you won’t feel anxious? At the beginning of the day are you hoping the anxiety won’t be too bad today?

The more attention we give a personal challenge and fight against it, the stronger and more worthy an opponent we make it.

When setting goals it’s normal practice to focus your mind on developing yourself from your present circumstances, to a different set of more beneficial circumstances.

For example many of us seek to increase our skills by becoming better at something, not less worse. Let’s say you are fond of playing tennis, and you attend classes once a week. Do you attend these classes primarily to become someone who is a better player, or less worse?

Would you attend spelling classes to become better at spelling, or less illiterate?

The answers are obvious, yet when we struggle with a stressful concern like anxiety, we often mess up our targeting.

If you’re stressed with life, you feel cornered and just want some relief from anxiety then it’s not unreasonable to want to experience less of the misery.

To progress beyond this vicious feedback loop, what you will need to do is counter your old goals of aiming for less anxiety with additional ones which address what you would like to experience instead. Focusing on solutions will naturally allow your mind to come up with ways to achieve it.

Obviously I’m not familiar with your circumstances and your life journey so far, so these recommendations are deliberately vague.

Using anxiety again as an example. In general terms though the opposite of anxiety is comfort and relaxation.

So rather than have a goal of experiencing less anxiety, you can shift towards the goal of experiencing more comfort and relaxation.

To begin with I would suggest you approach this exercise with a sense of curiosity.  This is an exercise in progression, not perfection. You do not need to banish the your old goals or old way of thinking straight away.

Think along the lines of blending these new goals into your life and allow them to become more dominant, whilst allowing the old way of thinking to naturally dissolve.

3 Reasons Why CBT & Brief Therapy Sometimes Does Not Work…

I expect some visitors to my site to be a little wary about CBT & therapy. Let’s be honest – you’ve visited this site because you want to make changes and you see real value from investing in yourself, and you feel really motivated to get on with it.

But… there is probably a nagging thought along the lines of what if it doesn’t work, and how that seeing a therapist could be an expensive mistake that will make you feel a bit silly.

I have many clients who come to see me who have seen a therapist before, with no success. I really empathise with people in that situation, and rather than deny that people sometimes don’t get a result, I will explain reasons why 90% of the time this happens, and how I address these issues.

This article is not to bad mouth individuals and other therapists, (there are some extremely good ones in Sussex) rather to explain what tends to go wrong and how I work to avoid this and what I think you need to be aware of, whoever you choose to see.

1. The Outcome Disregards Experience

This is the biggest stumbling block for my clients. I think the trend of “change everything overnight” thinking by therapists has come from the field of coaching and motivational speaking.

For example, let’s say I have a client who wants to become more confident and social around new people.

Now a traditional approach is to use therapy to let the client imagine feeling calm and confident around others and feel at ease – to remember and draw on calm and peaceful times and to remember themselves when they had previous experiences of being social and how they wish to be in future.

This might work for a few weeks, but there is something crucial missing from that – gaining experience. The outcome is based on a brief past experience and imagination, and no solid foundations. This isn’t really going to hold up if they go into a social situation and make a social blooper and feel bad about it afterwards. In this situation the change can unravel very fast after a big test.

A great deal of clients I work with who have social anxiety problems aren’t used to conversing and mixing around people outside of work, family and close friends.
Often they have felt uncomfortable and even avoided meeting new people so it will take experience to build up their social skills and work their way to greater social confidence and a larger social circle.

A more realistic approach could be to work on the fear that has been stopping them from taking the first steps and trying new things, and showing them how uncomfortable their present comfort zone really is.

This can pave the way to the client finding comfort when experiencing new social situations, expanding their comfort zone, building momentum and moving towards their bigger goals.

By working in smaller steps rather than taking a giant leap, then by it’s nature the work we do will be provable and self reinforcing. Remember – the first steps are important and they will get you to your goal. If you don’t learn to walk, you’ll never travel far.

2. Working Too Fast

Early in my training I noticed the “industry standard” of how therapy sessions should be run tended to be three sessions over three consecutive weeks before reaching a “guaranteed outcome”. We were told that CBT & brief therapy was supposed to be quick and this is what clients expected…

This then, and now seems absolutely nuts. Above all else clients expect a solution to their problem or steps taken towards resolving it and the underlying issues, not to fit conveniently to the therapists schedule. Could you imagine a surgeon or other health care professional behaving in such a manner?!

Working with a client effectively is not about dropping them into a new outcome, because as I mention above in point 1, that is going to deprive them of valuable experience they really need. You need a bit of time for your comfort zone to shift and for the changes to become your new, familiar reality.

This is why you may have heard people try therapy, say the changes worked well for two or three weeks and then it unravelled. They probably needed a session or two more over an extended period of time (i.e a month or two) in order to really cement the changes and ensure they stick.

Any therapy work should be about a therapist assisting their client and leading them into a new reality and new outcomes, and by doing this, giving the you the client something really valuable. It also means it might take a little time and I think most of you reading this would rather I work with you for as long as it takes, rather than abandon you and cut you loose too soon.

3. The Problem Not Being A CBT Or Brief Therapy Issue To Begin With

CBT can help deal with many personal problems, and when used effectively can produce profound changes. But for all it’s uses, sometimes it’s the wrong tool for the job.

In therapy there are two main ways of working with a client:
1. To offer help & support
2. To facilitate change

CBT practitioners & brief therapists fit in to point 2 – to facilitate clients and help them make changes. This is to change established behaviours, habits and thoughts which have been, and continue to be  obstructive and problematic. For example anxiety disorders, jealousy issues, addictions and guilt.

Help and support issues, point 1, are dealt with by counsellors and psychotherapists. These are issues which are at crisis point and developing in the here and now. For example a recent bereavement, the days after a accident or recent personal trauma.

Before working as a CBT practitioner I trained and worked as a psychotherapist, helping and supporting young people and to this day I still see clients who I work with from a help and support perspective, and if required, move to change work when the client is ready.

Sometimes people do visit CBT practitioners and brief therapists when they need help and support, not change. I can’t comment on why they aren’t referred on, but sometimes the therapist continues when it’s not appropriate.

This is damaging for the client as they go through the ordeal of seeking help (and I know it takes huge courage for some to pick up the phone or send the e-mail and get in touch) and then make no progress, feel no better and often end up very embarrassed.

Even worse, they often feel that they are beyond help and stuck with their problem which makes seeking further help harder, if not impossible.

A good therapist will be able to tell within minutes of the first session beginning whether they are in the right place.
My personal way of dealing with this situation is to tell the client ASAP if I notice this is not an issue that CBT can help, and that I’m willing to work with them from a help and support perspective, or refer them to other people who can also help. I would never consider charging for my time if this were to happen and they wished to go elsewhere.

And it does work both ways – many people have gone to see a counsellor or psychotherapist and not gotten a result because their problem actually requires change, not help and support.

You don’t tend to hear about it as much as fewer people talk about going to see a counsellor or psychotherapist than seeing a CBT practitioner, but it does happen. Examples of this mix up can include anxiety problems, eating disorders and low self-esteem / issues around self-confidence and OCD.

So as 2017 draws to a close, is there an aspect of your life you wish to change?

Do you feel stuck and tired of trying to cope on your own?

It’s never too late to get started. I understand that when you are struggling more than anything you want to feel better. I can help you.

Why not contact me today and find out how I can help you? I offer Skype sessions for those based outside of the UK.

Worried about cost? I offer both pay as you go and fixed fee Ongoing Support payment options which is more affordable that you may think.

Why not browse my site, find out a little more about me, read my client testimonials and get in touch today.

Regards,
Stephen

CBT Therapy Techniques Part 4 – Metaphors

Working With Metaphors

Related to my recent blog about working on your self talk, another way of helping yourself is to notice what metaphors you are using to think about and describe your concern.

Metaphors can give you an idea how to you relate to the problem, and noticing, then changing these metaphors can help.

For example I hear people describe metaphors such as:

  • I feel like there is a brick wall in front of me
  • I think that I’m stuck in a rut
  • It feels like this is too much of a steep hill to climb
  • Trying to progress feels like trying to wade through mud
  • I can’t see where I am going
  • It seems like I’m always living under a cloud

 

I have found most people have a way of translating their concerns into metaphors. This is very useful because we can use the metaphors to work out how bad the problem is by asking ourselves a few probing questions. For example working with my previous examples you could ask:

  • How big is the brick wall in front of you? How wide is it? How tall is it? How deep is it?
  • How deep is the rut that you are stuck in?
  • How steep is the hill you are trying to climb? How long is it? Where abouts on the hill are you – right at the bottom, halfway? Is there a way of going around the hill, rather than over it?
  • How thick is the mud? How deep is it? How close or far are you from getting out of the mud and back on to solid ground?
  • How sharp is the vision you have of your destination? What does it look like?
  • How big is the cloud? How tall and wide is it? What colour is it? How high above you is it? Can you see any blue sky?

 

As you may notice, a simple metaphor which at first can just seem like an off the cuff thought or comment, can yield some useful information. With this information we can start to change the metaphor. For example what happens to the way you relate to your problem if:

  • You take bricks out of the wall one at a time until you can see through to the other side?
  • You stepped out of the rut? Or climbed up the side and peeked your head above ground?
  • You halved the steepness of the hill? You halved the length of the imagined climb?
  • You halved the thickness, and the depth of the mud?
  • You instead use a map to get you to where you are going, rather than looking for something that is not in sight yet?
  • You halved the size of the cloud, and doubled the height it is above you?

 

Notice the metaphors you are using, and start probing them and changing their qualities. This is a way of thinking which can yield long lasting results and really doesn’t require a great deal of “hard work”.

As always, if you have any questions, you are more than welcome to get in touch.

CBT Therapy Techniques Part 3 – Self Talk

Self Talk

Well all have an internal voice which provides us with self dialogue, a running commentary of our experience of life and the world around us.
This little voice in your head is how we know we are thinking, and it also gives us a type of psychological mirror, which we use to reflect on our hour to hour, day to day experiences.

However this voice can be a troublesome little rogue, and lead us into thinking, feeling and believing things which although convincing, is simply not true.

Now I’m not for a moment going to suggest we start ignoring our self talk as that’s unnecessary.
However what I am going to suggest is that you begin to listen to the self talk a little differently.

Most people I meet who are struggling quietly with a problem, often report that there are particular comments and phrases they say to themselves which gets them down and reduces any sense of motivation.

What i would like you to consider doing is treating this kind of self talk as open questions, rather than a kind of truth or commands.
For example, if you were to experience some self talk and the following statement comes up:

“You will always struggle”

If you were to say this out loud in a neutral / natural voice, it would be easy to assume that you were challenging yourself or maybe giving yourself a telling off.

If you were to say this same statement out loud like it was actually a question, then it will give you more time to think about the answer to the question, and be able to dismiss it more easily. The resulting feelings you get from this type of self talk is created by how you interpreted it in the first place.

So my suggestion here is to begin to think of your self talk as being more like questions, not just orders or commands. The same words can give a dramatically different effect.

CBT Therapy Techniques Part 2 – Focusing

Shifting Your Focus

When trying to overcome a personal problem, such as anxiety, a useful way of helping yourself is to change where your focus lies.

Let me explain. In most cases, when you have a problem, a natural tendency is that you are overly fixated on what you do not want. Nearly every client I work with can give me a precise account of what is wrong, how things are bad and what they want to overcome. And that is an excellent starting point.

However this alone is not enough to create lasting change.

What is often missing is focusing on an outcome, what would you rather do instead?
The question, what would be different, what would you rather do instead, is usually answered by things like:
I won’t be doing this, I won’t be feeling that, my feelings about xyz will be gone etc.

As you may have noticed, these typical answers still focus on the absence of the problem. We need to change that.

So my recommendation is to focus on the solution. For example if you have anxiety, focus on being in a situation which at the moment may be challenging, and focus on what happens when you are free of anxiety.
Would you be calm? Confident? Neutral / content? What would be different? What would you be doing? What would you have?

This takes a bit of imagination and creativity. If you feel like you are kidding yourself to begin with, that is ok too. The key here is to persist, have a go and get stuck in.
Also note the imagined outcome doesn’t have to be bliss and utopia – in fact there is a lot of power in neutrality and coming up with an imagined outcome which is unspectacular, but is good enough to build upon.
Put in as much or little details as you want, some people are really motivated by specifics, others work better with things a little more vague and big picture.

So start to become an expert in what you want instead, instead of what you do not want. It’s a subtle change that makes a big difference.

CBT Therapy Techniques Part 1 – Measuring Problem

Measuring The Problem

In this post I will be using anxiety as the “problem” this technique can be used for. However if you are reading this and your concern is not about anxiety, for example depression, keep on reading as this technique will work on pretty much anything.

Many people who come to see me have struggled with their concerns and anxieties for such a long time, it feels normal. It can be difficult to notice if you have ever had good days and made progress.

However even in the worst cases, anxiety is not static. It changes hour to hour, day to day.

My first tip is to change your approach to how you measure the problem. You see if you are always asking yourself whether you are feeling anxious or not, that is a black and white question. Even if you are feeling a small amount of anxiety, it’s always there and the answer is inevitably yes.

So instead of looking for a yes or no answer, I want you to think of the in terms of a numerical scale. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being a very low, hardly noticeable level, 10 being the highest and most uncomfortable level of anxiety) how anxious do you feel?

What would need to change to bring it up a notch, for example from a 6 to a 7?

What would need to change to bring it down a notch, for example from a 6 to a 5?

Using the scale we can probe what will work to help you, and what may not. Using this technique can also help you track your progress and notice if there are any patterns that emerge throughout the day / week.

This also helps you set goals. My work is about helping people manage their problems and teach them how to overcome them, rather than try to banish the problem instantly (the magic wand mindset).

If I told someone with social anxiety to go out with the goal of trying not to think about feeling anxious, it wouldn’t work. However if I asked them to go out, notice how high the anxiety is on a scale of 1-10 and then use the other techniques we have discussed to bring it down a notch, for example from an 8/10 down to a 7 or 6, then that’s a goal to work on and one that is achievable.

If they are unable to bring the number down, it’s not in any way a failure as they will be able to give me precise feedback as to what happened, and what self talk and feelings got in the way. And with that feedback we can develop new strategies to try out.


And there is more! We can use this scale technique to measure, and boost good thoughts and feelings. So I would ask you to consider opposite thoughts and feelings.

The opposite of anxiety is generally a mix of comfort, calmness and relaxation (CCR). Let’s say you are measuring anxiety and you feel 8/10. Notice it’s not 10/10, there is a gap we can work with. Let’s say your CCR level is 2/10, what would need to change to bring it up to a 3 or 4?

Turning the anxiety (or any problem) down, and turning the comfort (or any solution), calmness and relaxation up is a method I have found works well. Give it it a try…

A Brief Explanation of CBT

Many people contact me to ask how Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is different from other therapies they may have tried before, and how it can be relevant in providing useful change when other approaches such as mainstream counselling or psychotherapy have failed.

The first point I would like to make is that CBT is unique amongst talking therapies because it doesn’t fixate on what label term is given to a problem, nor does it rely on using a pre-determined set techniques to overcome problems. CBTs strength is it’s flexibility and ability to improvise.

The mindset from traditional talking therapies generally goes along the lines of what problem does the person have, and how does it make them feel. The CBT mindset is different – It’s focus is not what problem the person has, it’s what they are experiencing and what is the process behind the problem, and how do you experience the problem?

Let’s take anxiety as an example. According to the CBT philosophy of change, anxiety is a process – a “produced” problem so it is something that you “do” and “experience” rather than you “have”.

Approaches using traditional medicine work by using medication to moderate and suppress your states of mind, which in turn would normally produce a slight reduction in the anxiety and short term relief. These medicines are not designed for long term use, but to give enough of a respite so a psychological therapy can be used to help overcome the problem.

Because anxiety is not a stand alone emotion, rather than one which is produced, there is a driving factor which is creating it in the first place. Only by identifying the likely root cause, and changing our perceptions of it, can the process be stopped anxiety truly be overcome.

The way I work with anxiety using CBT is to address three main areas:

  • Your beliefs & perceptions – what is the problem? what is the worst case scenario? what is the best case scenario? How would you know if you were OK?
  • Your state of mind – finding out how you go into the state of anxiety, and what state would be more resourceful? What is the opposite state of mind to anxiety?
  • Your behaviours – finding what specific behaviours are created by anxiety, and what would you rather do instead

The three areas are listed above are in the order of importance / leverage. Your beliefs & perceptions around a given situation or context will in turn produce a given state of mind, which in turn produces a given range of behaviours.

Providing you with more resourceful beliefs & perceptions around the root cause driving anxiety will ultimately help control and eliminate it.
Because of the underlying mind set of CBT, there is no endless analysing of how you feel about a problem, and no need for intrusive digging for hidden meanings and insight that may lie in the past. Whilst awareness and insight can be useful, they seldom offer enough leverage to produce lasting change.

CBT also differs because it focuses very much on pushing you away from the problem, and pulling you towards the solution. So not only will I be working with changing your thinking patterns to change the problem, I will also dedicate a good deal of time working with your expectations and perceptions of what the solution is. So in the case of anxiety, how will you focus on calmness and relaxation and positive states of mind.

As with all therapies, CBT is a formal and taught model and philosophy of what actions can be beneficial to a clients well being. However it’s important to realise that despite being a popular theoretical approach, it is not complete by any means – I do use other methodologies to cover some of the blind spots that CBT has.

To summarise, CBT is a well structured model of therapy which uses a very different approach to other talking therapies, by focusing principally on the here and now actions and how the problem “works”, rather than focusing mainly how you feel and how you “have” the problem and what it meant in the past.

Please contact me if you have any questions, or to book your appointment today.

Emotional Eating & Problematic Behaviours Around Food

For many of us, controlling how much we eat presents numerous challenges which are difficult to overcome. So why is it a challenge for many of us to lose weight, and what caused us to become overweight in the first place?

The answer often lies with emotional eating – using food comfort. Eating for comfort is common and many of us are not even aware of it happening, let alone why we are doing it.
The foundations for problems around food start very subtly during early childhood. Have you ever noticed how children are often rewarded with food for doing something good, or even just for behaving? It’s not uncommon for some parents to use food as a form of bribery.

Or how about the fast food chains children’s meals?  Junk food put in a funky looking box with a toy from the latest blockbuster kids movie. Is it any wonder kids are hooked on fast food from an early age? I must hand it to their marketing department – it’s genius marketing!

Many people over eat because they are feeling down, depressed and generally dissatisfied, and they address these negative feelings by eating food.

Of course we know logically if you’re eating based on emotional hunger, then your body will never be satisfied by real food, which is why depressive eating continues with such momentum.

The cycle works like this. The person starts off feeling “hungry”, and then has something to eat. Soon after they feel bad about eating and start to feel guilty about it.
This guilt leads to them having a “treat” in order to feel better, which sends them back at the beginning of the cycle.

This is why as a therapist when I’m working with a weight loss client I’m most interested in what my client perceives will be different once they have lost weight and hit their target weight. How will things be different, and what will they be doing differently.

Most importantly, what will they be able to do once they lose weight that they feel cannot do now? These things are usually the drivers of the emotional eating and will need to be dealt with immediately because they are obstacles to any lasting progress.

To overcome emotional eating, the person needs to begin to bridge the gap between something that they cannot do now, and what they expect to do once the weight is gone in future.

Let’s take loneliness as an example. Many clients I work with are very lonely and would rather be out and around other people.

For whatever reason, be it social anxiety, breaking up with a partner, an argument around family or friends, moving into a new and unfamiliar area or stress at work – they have entered a cycle where their initial comfort comes from food, and their weight increases.
Over time their self-image and social appetite plummets and they no longer feel motivated to go out.

In this example, my intervention would be based not only around behaviours around food, nutrition and recognising hunger, but also to directly address the issue of loneliness.

Why does this person feel they cannot go out now, but will be able to when they are thinner?
This is key to shifting the weight. By expanding their comfort zone and working with them so they are able to get out there and socialise as they are at their present weight, no matter what they look like, then a large part of their hunger will diminish.

This is challenging but it has some great secondary gains. If the overweight person gets to grip with the loneliness and starts to go out instead of staying in and eating food, then they will be physically more active and they will lose weight quicker than if they waited and carried around this emotional luggage, waiting for the final result.

Their weight loss journey will be much more enjoyable and fulfilling – remember weight loss can take a long time, often around 6 months to a year.

Interestingly, eating disorders follow a very similar pattern of thinking. In cases anorexia and bulimia, both are dealing with a multitude of emotions, predominantly guilt.

  • The anorexic will always feel intense guilt around food, so much so that they find it hard to eat even small amount because of how bad it makes them feel both during and after eating.
  • The bulimic will feel bad about eating, but for brief respite they will eat some food. However, soon after a meal or snack they will either exercise or make them self sick to eject the food and the thus feeling of guilt that comes with having eaten it.

So to recap. If the food is acting as a coping mechanism, then the only long-term way to change and lose weight is to deal with the trigger that activates the coping mechanism in the first place. Utilising CBT to change self perceptions and create new choices will do this.

As always I welcome questions and feedback.  Feel free to contact me to make an enquiry or book an appointment.

The Myth Of Boosting Self-Confidence

Confidence is great. It makes us feel relaxed and in the zone. We can feel unstoppable, things seem easy and we feel a great sense of control.

Many people want more and I don’t blame them. However, confidence can be a bit hit and miss. It varies from person to person, place to place and situation to situation.

A lack of confidence and an abundance of frustration can lead one to feel quite down and deflated. So, how do we change this. How can CBT help improve self-confidence and put you back in control?
I would define confidence as one of many states of mind we can experience, the same as happiness, sadness, excitement, confusion and curiosity.

Many celebrities and life coaches quite forcefully point out that confidence issues are easy to fix, and it can be built from imagination exercises and motivational affirmations. The lady on BBC Breakfast last week was a typical example – simply focus on feeling better and doing things that motivate you and it will all come together eventually.

I can see where they are coming from but it seems too simplistic and misses the point somewhat. I’m sure it sells their CDs, books and DVDs but I do wonder how often they work with real people with real problems.

From working with people from all walks of life who wish to improve their levels of confidence and self-esteem, improving confidence can’t be solved by imagination and motivation alone.

Those who have difficulties raising and maintaining their levels of self-confidence are experiencing another problem. Confidence has an evil twin which needs to be dealt with – fear.

Fear is one of those necessary emotions which really can be a nuisance. It’s a very primal and hard-wired state of mind, which is there to protect us at all costs and keep us safe and out of trouble.

Fear can be useful – for many people who are regular public speakers a small amount of fear is essential. Many performers and comedians would not be as good as they are without it.
Fear is what gives them the buzz and adrenaline rush to get on stage or in front of the camera and spur them on to perform.

And what would be the point of an extreme sport or even a roller coaster without a slight element of fear – it’s the whole point!

Usually we have healthy respect for our fears, and they keep us safe and out of danger. But sometimes fear doesn’t work for us, rather than helping us, it hinders. Nothing can paralyse us and hold us back like fear.

So, I would ask you to consider that confidence is a fluid state of mind, specifically where there is a near complete lack of fear and anxiety within a given context or situation.

To build up confidence, we need to not only work on building motivation and the positive aspects of feeling good, but also work to conquer the fears and anxieties and what makes us feel bad.

CBT has several proven ways of dealing with our fears. Not only to get a rational insight and understanding of why we fear a given situation, but the methods of changing those fears so they evolve into understanding and more useful states of mind.

Fear is a very intense and powerful state of mind, if you can take that intensity and channel it to a more useful state of mind such as curiosity or even excitement, then feeling confident is easily achievable.

As always I welcome questions and feedback. Feel free to contact me to make an enquiry or book an appointment.