Human Survival – Do We Need to Fight, Flight or Freeze?

Much has been written on the topic of Fight, Flight or Freeze (FFF) with regards to the necessity of each reaction, when appropriate, in order to preserve or protect ourselves in the face of a threat or imminent danger. Essentially, throughout our evolution these subconscious responses have helped ensure our survival by protecting us from life threatening situations, like an attack from a sabre toothed tiger, or being stomped on by a woolly mammoth. But, although incredibly useful way back then, the modern day human lives a slightly different lifestyle, with very different survival requirements to those of our early ancestors. One significant issue today, is we Homo sapiens haven’t developed any ‘evolutionary’ responses to deal with modern day ‘threats’. So instead we react and behave instinctively to perceived threats in a manner similar to that when we were walking around dressed in skins and carrying clubs. And too much FFF can have quite a deleterious effect on our health and wellbeing!

I was watching the news a few days ago and was horrified to see a 24 year old man punch a woman in the throat during a football match. He was a supporter of the Fremantle AFL football team and was obviously not happy about how the game was progressing against the opposition Hawthorn players. The woman, who was nearby in the stands, took it upon herself to protect her two children by standing up and asking the approaching thug to calm down and sit down because he was scaring her kids. His reaction was abominable to say the least, as he took it upon himself to handle the perceived threat (the woman), by using the first of the F’s (Fight) and proceeded to punch her in the throat, and threatening to do the same to her children. Here’s one of many articles written about it, if of interest:

Sitting in my living room over 4,000km away, just watching the incident at Subiaco Oval unfold, made my heart rate increase and my blood boil to say the least. I am a father of two young children and I completely understand how the mother found the courage to stand up and confront the thug in order to safeguard her children. Sadly, she was probably quite fortunate that other fans in the crowd were able to leap to her defense – and I say sadly, because the whole ugly scene should never have eventuated in the first place.

Our primal defense responses have got a lot to answer for. Nowadays more than ever before, we as a species are beginning to really experience the negative effects of our relatively rapid growth and development. Our brain design loci response to stress and anxiety, is something that evolved over time to help us deal with short term threats, dangers or crises. The activation of our stress responses helped to ensure our survival by optimising our physical and mental reactions. These responses include all kinds of things such as elevated heart rate, enhanced brain function, increased blood pressure, release of stress hormone (Cortisol), suppression of the immune system, release of glucose in muscles, release of adrenaline and so on and so on. The problem is of course when we are activating our stress responses on too regular a basis, the effect on our overall health and well-being begins to take its toll – not only on us as the individual, but also on those around us.

After watching that very ugly scene unfurl over the weekend, my mind began wandering back in time, recalling many other disgusting, horrific and completely unnecessary episodes involving the civilized human behaving in a totally abhorrent manner. I recalled news stories involving various sporting events where fans clashed, fights broke out and in some instances riots took place in the streets. I sat back on my lounge, closed my eyes and deliberately set about remembering all the personal experiences I have encountered over the years where my stress responses had been activated. It didn’t take me long before I decided enough was enough. It was becoming a bit too unpleasant to dwell on.

After regathering my composure I decided to do a test. I have a heart rate/blood pressure monitor which I regularly use to check my health state. I have a resting heart rate of somewhere between 55 and 60 beats per minute (bpm), and blood pressure around 130/80. I spent a few minutes with my eyes closed, breathing slowly and deeply and through a process of self-hypnosis (something I do a lot because of the wonderful therapeutic effect it has), I totally relaxed myself physically and mentally. I then hooked up my monitor and took a reading. I was close to my usual range with a heart rate of 59 bpm and blood pressure of 134/82. In this relaxed state I then closed my eyes and replayed a range of ugly and disturbing incidents over in my mind. When I reached a point of feeling quite unsettled I took another reading. Not surprisingly my heart rate was up to 76bpm and my blood pressure was up to 139/84. Although this was a very simple test it still demonstrated to me how just thinking about unpleasant events can have unhealthy stress responses. Over time this surely has to be bad for your health.

So, what to do about it? Well, if you experience stressful situations on a regular basis be it on the way to work, at work, school, when you are just out and about, or even in your own home, try and identify what your usual response type is. Do you respond ‘instinctively’ in an aggressive manner (Fight), or do you tend to deliberately remove yourself (Flight) or do you do nothing and just mentally absorb the punishment (freeze)? Whatever it is that you tend to do, you can counter this by undertaking regular mental relaxation exercises. If you are unfamiliar with hypnosis or meditation, it can be as simple as closing your eyes, regulating your breathing and with each breath out mentally suggesting to yourself that you are relaxing further. With each breath out focus on all the muscles and muscle groups in your body, from your head, shoulders and arms, right down through your back, legs, feet and toes. Visualise and imagine your muscles and whole body relaxing and after a few minutes you will actually begin to experience an improvement in your emotional and mental state.

Relaxation is obviously a very powerful method of dealing with stress and eradicating the negative effects of stress response. That said there are also other very effective means that you can apply, when closing your eyes is not appropriate (such as driving in peak hour traffic and being subjected to the behaviour of a road rage imbecile). If you find yourself in a similar situation you can try ‘re-framing’. I used this technique a few weeks ago when I was subjected to the violent gesticulations of an enraged driver who had zoomed up behind me, and after managing to get past me (I was doing the speed limit), he flicked up his finger and shook his fist and continued to weave dangerously through the traffic ahead of me. I was initially taken aback, but just as I was about to let myself react (Fight), I decided instead to re-frame the driver as Porky Pig and in my mind I suggested that he was very late for pre-school, where he urgently needed to be so that he could set about playing with his piglet friends in the sand pit. By re-framing him in this manner I actually felt myself smile and I laughed out loud as I watched his head and finger bobbing about as he angrily disappeared out of sight.

Whether you choose to re-frame or relax, or use any other method of dealing with stress and stress responses, just being mindful of how you react and how you respond to others, will go a long way to improving your overall well-being. Pope Francis addressed the US Congress a few days ago (usually quite a stressful place) and gently reminded everyone of the most golden of rules, namely “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. If we all lived by this simple philosophy can you imagine how much better our world would be?


Live for today, plan for tomorrow

As we continue to age, and as the months roll into years, along the way we saddle ourselves with a great many burdens. Burdens common to many of us include those associated with personal and professional relationships, finances, health, and a wide range of inner emotional turmoils. You may even find yourself taking on the worries and concerns associated with other people’s burdens, all of which have a negative compounding effect on our wellbeing.

Peculiarly it’s not easy for most of us to truly take the time to appreciate the immediate ‘here and now’, or to use the old cliché ‘to stop and smell the roses’. We tend to get caught up in the incredibly busy business of living our lives, without ever really embracing the wonderful gift we have all been blessed with, and that is life itself. As I near that magical mid-way mark in my life (fifty years old – yikes!), it seems to become more apparent to me that I tend to reflect on my past more than before. And with this past reflecting going on, I then tend to inevitably begin worrying about the future. I ask myself the questions ‘have I done enough to secure my family’s future?, What do I need to do?, If I had my youth over again what would I do different?, What do I want to still do before I die?’ and so on and so on. But what I’ve begun to realise is that although all this past and future reflection is ok, what is really important is to reflect, regularly, on the here and now.

We are all going to leave this earth at some point, and for the vast majority of us it will happen when we least expect it – bummer! The harsh reality is when we go it will happen at the present moment in time. It won’t have happened in the past, and it won’t happen in the future – it’s going to happen at that ‘here and now’ moment. So here’s a question I pose to you – If you were to find out that today is going to be the last day of your life, could you honestly say that you are truly happy within yourself right now? Are you able to say that you are not harbouring a bunch of regrets, or that you wouldn’t say ‘no no no, not now, I’ve still got so much I want to do’! Not many of us are prepared to die, and I’m not for a minute suggesting that this is what we should be doing. What I am suggesting is that we should be prepared to live! We should learn how to embrace the day. We need to let go of regrets and unwanted elements of our past. We need to be able to plan for the future, but all the while live our lives in the here and now. If we do this, we are more likely to be able to answer that question I posed earlier with the response, yes! – and although I would prefer not to be leaving just yet, I am happy within myself, happy with who I am, and am happy with my here and now.

As our world continuously becomes more connected with the progressive advancement in technologies, information distribution, social-media, and so on, it seems that as individuals we are becoming more disconnected, to the detriment of our wellbeing and the wellbeing of those in our lives. We do however have a trump card, or an ‘ace up our sleeve’ that we can play to help ensure we win the battle for our wellbeing. And that ace is our subconscious mind. Through hypnosis, be it guided hypnotherapy or self conducted, our subconscious minds have the power and capacity to make incredible and wonderful change occur. We can make things happen in our lives that we otherwise wouldn’t have thought possible. We can allow our subconscious minds to drive our thoughts and elicit our desired responses. And, most importantly, we are able to maintain a consciously happy and healthy here and now!

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Recognition – How much do we need?

Do you feel the need to be recognised? And if the immediate answer to this question is yes, then you’re not alone – but what level do you really need? Is recognition the driving force behind each and every one of us? Is it the motivating factor that gets us out of bed in the morning? Does it form the basis of our identity, as an individual and as a people? Is the requirement for recognition a good thing? These and many more are all questions that would, and should, provoke a plethora of thought provoking responses.

I could write a thesis on the cultural, ethnical, religious and political forces that embrace the recognition of their varying ideals. I could go on about the destructive nature of globalisation and the many consequential deleterious effects on society. Or I could venture down the risky path of discussing the tragedies surrounding the uprising of Islamic State, with its perverted and brutal struggle for recognition. But on a brighter note I won’t! Rather, I’m going to focus on recognition at the very individual level.

Seeking recognition and recognising the healthy limitations of this ego state requirement is important to everyone’s wellbeing, physically, emotionally and mentally. Recognition goes hand in hand with self-esteem, and the question therefore is how much is enough, before the consequences become negative?

There are those individuals that strive to have the best of everything, or more than anyone else. Would these same individuals continue to strive in this manner if they were the last person alive? I’m not so sure they would. It’s the recognition that others give them (or so they think) that drives them. ‘Keeping up with the Jones’ is all about recognition. Recognising what I have, recognising who I ‘rub shoulders’ with, recognising my job title, recognising how well travelled I am, recognising how important my opinions are etc etc.

With the perpetual quest for recognition, I believe comes the requirement to do regular self analysis assessments. Not many people take the time to ‘soul search’ and reflect on what really matters in their life, and as a consequence their health and wellbeing is placed at risk (not to mention those around them). Can you imagine how unhealthy it would be if you developed what is known as ‘narcissistic personality disorder’? Your whole life would be consumed by grandiose feelings of self importance fuelled by an irrational desire for recognition. Can you imagine how stressful that would be!

But, not only is a healthy level of receiving recognition important to our overall wellbeing, so also is our offering of recognition important to other’s wellbeing, which in turn impacts positively on those personal relationships. Think about how important it is for someone to feel acknowledged for their contributions in the home, at work, on the sporting field and within their social system in general. Without this recognition, which is completely justified, that individual will ultimately begin to experience a feeling of being undervalued or not valued at all, maybe even outcast. This in turn may lead to heightened levels of stress, or even worse to depression, and consequently a break-down in that person’s relationships.

Then there’s the issue regarding false recognition. This might be something such as a maladapted mindset, which may have evolved through the misguided perceptions of what is recognised to be right or wrong. This may have manifested through judging someone unfairly for their point of view, religious, cultural or ethnical beliefs, sexual orientation, and so on, and consequently have a seriously detrimental impact on their emotional and mental wellbeing.

As mentioned previously it would be easy to write at length on the subject of recognition, but from a more individual basis, and as a professional hypnotherapist I think many issues can be resolved through applying a simple change in mindset. Ultimately we all desire happiness, and often it’s the simple pleasures in life that provide the most gratifying form of happiness. Attaining happiness can be greatly improved by being a little more mindful of the things that truly matter in life. Do a recognition assessment and determine what, and how much, you really believe you need, and probably more importantly, offer the recognition to those within your sphere of influence and who’s happiness also matters.

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Weight Loss – The Never Ending Battle!

Let’s face it. We’re up against it from birth! Our parents and carers decide what we consume right up until we start making those decisions for ourselves, and by then we have already been brain-washed into wanting to eat what we think we want, which is usually the food that’s worst for our health! Then just to make it even more difficult for our future selves, our parents adopted the mindset from somewhere, that we have to eat everything on our plate – or even worse, if you don’t eat everything on your plate then you can’t have that treat afterwards…

To make things even more difficult for us, the variety of choice seems to just keep increasing. And, you can rest assured, the merchants of all these choices haven’t spent a large percentage of their marketing budget with your health and wellbeing in mind. No, far from it! All around us our subconscious mind is being targeted by subliminal marketing campaigns. There is advertising on every piece of packaging, on small and huge billboards, in shop windows, on the sides of vehicles, all over the internet, on television – and it permeates our minds, even when we are in the relative sanctuary of our own homes. Have you noticed when watching your favourite TV show how we are bombarded with repetitive advertising of the same product, over and over and over again? The advertising of that product usually incorporates a carefully scripted message and is accompanied by music or other sound effects, all designed to penetrate our subconscious mind and encourage us to go out and buy that product. This in actual fact is a form of hypnosis. When your conscious mind is busy dealing with what’s going on in the here and now, your subconscious mind is suddenly blasted with ads. This subliminal blasting is reinforced with a repeat of the exact same ad throughout your show, or even worse throughout the night’s viewing!

Repetitive advertising actually got the better of me the other day. I had been watching my favourite NRL team play a game (National Rugby League, or footy, for those unfamiliar with the abbreviation), and throughout the game I was smashed by a particularly annoying fast food advertising campaign, with the exact same ad being repeated as much as three or four times within one ad break! The ad incorporated a happy little guitar rift/tune (that became progressively more annoying the more I heard it) and showed a group of fit-looking, attractive young people, travelling about, all the while thoroughly enjoying a particular junk food item that’s new on the menu. It almost seemed that nothing else in the world mattered more to that group of beautiful people, than the delectable piece of junk food they were sharing and heartily consuming. Well wouldn’t you know it, a few days later I was driving home after picking my kids up from day care, and feeling a little tired from the day’s work, I decided to drive through a fast food joint and pick up something easy for dinner. I ordered the exact same annoying damned thing that had been repeatedly advertised during my favourite TV show, and that I had consciously got really annoyed at watching! Yes, I kicked myself afterwards, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt this way.

So, what to do about it? I think it’s fair to give yourself and your loved ones a little latitude, otherwise life just becomes too hard, and being too disciplined just isn’t going to work for most of us. What gives us the best chance of dealing with the food and beverage minefield we have to negotiate is being consciously aware of the preferred choices, and being subconsciously wise in driving those choices. Your subconscious can automatically guide you to make the best decision for your health and wellbeing every time you decide to select something to consume (for you and those you care about), and the effort on your part can be minimalised.

Hypnosis, be it self-hypnosis or by way of guided hypnotherapy, is a fantastic way to give yourself the leg-up you may need in taking control. Having your subconscious mind do all the heavy lifting by reconstructing and replacing your preconceived desires, emotions and needs, makes it all so much easier for you. There are a thousand weight loss scripts out there and quite obviously what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. But essentially, if you take the time to clearly identify the factors contributing to your weight problem, which is simple enough to do (you might be over weight or under weight), then through hypnosis you can relatively easily set about making the subconscious changes necessary. As you reinforce your subconscious ‘programming’ with further sessions, which might be just five minutes in the morning before you get out of bed, or the last thing at night before you fall asleep, you will begin to experience how easy it is to make the preferred and more desirable conscious decisions with regards to what, when, and how much, to eat and drink.

If you intend to win the war you don’t go into battle without the appropriate weapons. Hypnosis can provide you with the armoury necessary to win the war on weight!

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Prohibiting factors for achieving hypnosis

Prohibiting factors for achieving hypnosis


In a previous blog I commented on the statistic suggesting that a quarter of the population are unable to be effectively hypnotised. I expressed the view that for many within that twenty five percent quartile, the likelihood was they still harboured some level of fear.

It is usually during the pre-talk when a hypnotherapist will fully explain everything a client needs to know about hypnosis, and discuss everything that a client is likely to experience. A good hypnotherapist will be able to dispel the common myths and fears associated with hypnosis, and give their client the best chance of experiencing genuine trance.

Although fear is the number one reason preventing an individual from experiencing hypnosis (under the guidance of a hypnotist or hypnotherapist), there are other significant prohibiting factors.


Rapport is essential for any relationship to succeed. This is particularly important for the relationship that develops between a hypnotherapist and a client. Primarily as the relationship needs to develop very quickly!

It is crucial for a hypnotherapist to empathise and associate with their client in order to gain their confidence, and once again without rapport the client is unlikely to feel completely comfortable or relaxed about the hypnotherapist working with them.

As there is very little time spent before the session commences, without rapport there is unlikely to be trust, and trust is another crucial ingredient for obtaining successful guided hypnosis.


Would you close your eyes and fall backwards into the arms of someone you didn’t trust? Unless you just like the feeling of falling flat on your back, then the likelihood is that you would say no. The same goes with hypnosis. If someone doesn’t completely trust the hypnotherapist then there is a big chance that they would be unwilling to follow their guidance.


It is reasonably safe to assume that if someone makes the effort to make an appointment with a hypnotherapist, they are likely to be willing to give it a go (unless the appointment was made on their behalf, but that’s a different situation).

A hypnotist cannot put someone into trance if that person is not willing. All they may achieve is a certain level of relaxation, which may in itself be therapeutic, but they won’t have achieved hypnosis. Many inexperienced hypnotherapists make the mistake of not testing their client’s level of trance, to determine whether they have indeed reached a state of hypnosis, and preferably a somnambulistic state. So what they do is continue down the path of reciting a very relaxing script, and just hope like heck that the client is in hypnosis. These clients will often be the one’s that leave, believing they are unable to be hypnotised. It is crucial that the hypnotherapist establishes how willing a client is to be hypnotised, and how willing they are to explicitly follow the hypnotherapist’s guidance, before they embark on the session!


If someone wants to be hypnotised then they can be. All it takes is a genuine desire and willingness to follow the instructions or guidance of their hypnotherapist, who would have first dispelled the myths and fears surrounding hypnosis.

All hypnosis is essentially self-hypnosis, as you are the one experiencing it! So even for those who claim that they can’t be hypnotised, I would suggest that that they do in fact frequently experience trance (albeit on their own), such as that moment in time between wakefulness and falling asleep…..

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The Reality of Hypnosis

When the topic of hypnosis is raised in conversation it evokes an internal emotional response. For many people unfamiliar with it, the emotion is often that of fear and uncertainty. But in saying that, most of us secretly would love to be hypnotised (without anyone knowing of course), and suddenly become the person we have always wanted to be – strong, confident, popular, respected, loved by all, and so on. The truth is hypnosis and hypnotherapy is not scary. In fact it can provide tremendous health benefits, immediately through therapeutic relaxation of the mind and body, and ongoing by empowering an individual in taking control of their mindset.

It is impossible to be hypnotised if you are not willing and agreeable to follow the hypnotists instructions. Add to this, the hypnotist can not take control over you or make you do, or believe, anything that goes against your personal morals or ethics. To successfully hypnotise someone (for therapy purposes), a hypnotherapist will use hypnosis to relax the body and mind to the point where the conscious mind is in a sense ‘pushed to one side’ and the subconscious mind is allowed to receive suggestions, often delivered by way of a script, and usually with a specific purpose in mind, such as defeating anxiety.

There is no doubt now that hypnosis is a very real and effective tool in helping combat mental, emotional and physical issues. It is now widely accepted and utilised by the scientific and medical fields. In an article by Dr. Ross Walker, an eminent practising cardiologist with a passion for people and health, titled Explaining Hypnosis and the Brain here: (, Dr. Walker goes on to explain, Hypnosis is defined as a trance-like state during which a person has heightened concentration and focus. This helps with brain control, all-over sensation, and behaviour.

Hypnosis is used clinically to help people manage and control stress, anxiety or other phobias, and to combat addictive behaviour such as cigarette smoking. Interestingly, a quarter of the population cannot be hypnotised, and a recent study using brain MRIs showed that there is a strong distinction in the brain between people who have a high hypnotisability ranking and those who are difficult to hypnotise.

The three areas important to hypnotisability are: the default mode when the brain is idle; the executive control network, which is important in decision making; and the salience network, which basically determines priorities. People who have greater co-activation in their brain in the last two areas are the most hypnotisable. No-one really knows, however, what gives these greater changes in the brain. But we do know that hypnosis is an effective medical therapy that works in about three quarters of the population.

I personally believe that Dr. Walker’s statistic of three quarters of the population could be increased significantly if those who are ‘unable’ to be hypnotised are given the opportunity of better education. After all, the number one reason why hypnosis doesn’t work for some people, is fear!

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