Wednesday, 31 March 2021

In Search of the Other

It feels as though we’re in the middle of a witch hunt. Or witch hunts to be precise. Against anyone and everyone, whoever they are.

The most recent cause is the allegations against public schoolboys. I imagine it’s particularly about boys at those schools because they’re single sex and often boarding schools so you have rampant emotions (I’m saying that rather than hormones because we humans are more than the sum of our parts) in a confined space. A bit like lockdown really.

First, I need to do the disclaimer. Of course sexual harassment and abuse is unacceptable at any time. There is never any excuse for it.

And now we come to the “but” and it is a very big “but”.

Is it right that schoolboys who, if under the age of 18, are still regarded in law as children, should now be facing the same sort of stigma that the adult men from the #MeToo movement have, when convicted, rightly faced?

Head teachers, afraid of offending the strident social media brigade, are threatening to name and shame, suspend and do whatever it takes to keep their school’s reputation intact. And so we instantly lose the presumption of innocence principle, one of the key tenets of our law. And then what?

Well, that’s where the comparison with the witch hunts come into it. At that horrific, unjust time, women and girls were the victims, as they have been so often in history. Some might argue that it’s time the boys/men learned what it’s like to be a victim but surely it’s not okay to revert to a primitive and unlearned style of law just because we presently seem to be led by the witchfinder-generals of social media.

I’m wondering if the problem is connected with the “other”. That which we do not recognise - or wish to recognise - within ourselves, we put onto others. 

The “other” carries the can for the qualities we disapprove of - we would never act inappropriately with a man/woman/girl/boy but the “other” would. It is a convenient way of forgetting that we all have a dark side and sometimes do things we would not like our loved ones to know about. 

By joining in the baying of the crowd, we can disavow unwanted feelings within ourselves and push them into the “other”, distancing ourselves from our own darkness within.

This is not new; it is only human to want people to think the best of us.

What is new is the speed at which rumours and accusations circulate and quickly become accepted facts. Less than a month ago I had no idea such things were happening. In a month, unless I remember I’m a logical and rational adult, I will be taking these stories as fact.

I am concerned that we are so busy living in the parallel universe world that social media has become that we will begin to believe it is the real world. It is not.

Meanwhile, the young men and boys targeted will be at risk of being stigmatised as they go through life while the witch finders have moved on to another cause. How will that help us in our future society? I remember some years ago, a famous person was rightly chastised for saying: “All men are rapists”. Now, it seems to me at least, some groups in society are almost ready to accept this as true. Again, it is not. 

For society to work as well as it can, men and women need to find a way of getting on together. At a very basic level, we need each other in order to have children and bring up the next generation. Humans work best in a group and the first group we all know of is the family one. Fortunately, in our western world, many of us manage that but my fear is the virtual world is encroaching too much on our reality.   

Before this blog turns into despondency, I’d like to offer some positive thoughts. Perhaps parents could stop trying to be their children’s best friends and remember they are the responsible adults. They need to teach their boys to respect and like girls and women, acknowledging their differences and not seeing them solely as objects of desire or fantasy. I know that’s a big ask when it comes to teenagers but, hopefully, the inner cautions and considerations will remain in place.  

As for the parents of girls, our society is very keen on women being compliant and feminine - think of the tough adjectives used to describe successful and uncompromising women and you’ll get my drift.

If we really want women to be strong and assertive, we need to respect and accept them as they are, not try to return them to the girlie mode with which we may feel more comfortable.

We need to allow and encourage our daughters to say “no” and to respect the girls when they do. We are sending out mixed messages all the time. We tell our girls they can be anything they like, they are equal to men. Great. That’s fine. But the problem is that we don’t like assertive women who we may be inclined to describe as “bossy” when it suits us. How can we expect them to say no with confidence and certainty that they will be respected if we don't show them that same level of approval from a very early age?

Our children - both girls and boys - need to be taught to respect and appreciate the “other” from a very early age. And they need to know we have their backs.

By Lulu Sinclair

Photo 1: Hannah Troupe on Unsplash

Photo 2: Bilal Bozdemir on Unsplash

Photo 3: Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

The Power of Hypnosis

The subject of hypnosis is a source of endless fascination. Some people consider it almost on a par with sorcery or magic tricks while others see it as a useful and important resource to be widely recognised and used within the medical profession.   

Many people are familiar with seeing stage hypnotists performing the art of “putting people to sleep” and making them do things that they wouldn’t do in their ordinary everyday lives. 

In reality, hypnosis is a phenomenon of the human mind. It is a natural state - a form of intense concentration or focus in which the state of mind is relaxed and open to suggestion. It is a state which most of us experience every day.

You don’t have to be “put to sleep” to be hypnotised. In fact, we have all experienced different levels of hypnotism. 

For example, you could be described as being in a hypnotic state when you are absorbed in one activity - watching TV for example - while hearing someone talking to you but not taking in what they are saying. 

Or you might be driving somewhere in your car with no conscious awareness of the tasks you were performing to get there - you just arrive at your destination.

Hypnosis has been around for many centuries and is considered to be one of the foremost psychological interventions, mainly in the form of self-hypnosis. People who meditate, chant, perform repeating rituals are all undertaking a form of hypnosis.

It is used in hospitals, clinics, and GP surgeries as a psychological tool to improve the health and well-being of individuals and, increasingly, psychologists are using it as an additional tool to change behaviours, habits and managing pain.

Hypnosis is often used successfully for breaking bad habits - such as smoking - as well as changing certain behaviours, for example overcoming insomnia. It has also been used as an anaesthetic for pain relief and operations. 

In the medical field, dentists are increasingly using hypnosis to help patients control their fears of visits to the dentist or, once fears are calmed, as a way of treating teeth grinding and other mouth conditions.

Surgeons, too, are beginning to use hypnosis as part of their toolkit to help patients deal with pain and fears of surgery. Hypnosis is even being deployed as a sedation technique for a specific type of brain tumour where the surgery requires the patient to stay awake because the tumour is close to the areas that control vision, language and body movements and the surgeon needs to ensure these vital abilities remain intact.   

Studies into how hypnosis works have found the brain of those people who were hypnotised underwent significant change. They also found that hypnosis is not about being unconscious or asleep but rather that the process involves a distinct form of consciousness. 

Scientists found there were three significant changes when a person was under hypnosis.

1.    There was a decrease in activity in the part of the brain associated with emotion and the processing of thoughts. That meant the person under hypnosis was so absorbed in the process they could not worry about anything else. 

That allowed for a reduction of stress levels and the production of cortisol, a substance that is produced when the body is under stress but excessive production is not good for our general well-being. 

 2.    There was an increase in the brain-body connection. This allowed for a change to occur between thoughts and behaviours.  It is a powerful way to change the way we use our mind to control our view of things and our bodies.

3.      Finally, they found that there was a disconnection between someone’s actions and their awareness of performing these actions. So, in reality, when we are engaged in doing something, we don’t think about it, we just get on with it. Hypnosis allows a person to engage in activities that are self-suggested or suggested by a clinician without being self-conscious. This enables them to practice new ways of behaving, thinking and feeling that they can incorporate into their daily lives.

The wonder of hypnosis is that it can be used across a range of disciplines and not just for mental well-being. It has also been used to improve sports performances - many athletes have used it to overcome physical and psychological barriers to progress in their field. Tiger Woods began using hypnotism at the age of 13 to help focus and block out distraction on the golf course.

Hypnosis is even used by the police, with the Crown Prosecution Service in England and Wales producing specific guidelines on the use of hypnosis for the police service. While evidence given under hypnosis may not be admissible in court, it has been used to pursue leads or open other lines of enquiry.

Finally, an important discovery by scientists is the essential link between the desire to be hypnotised and successful outcomes. In other words, hypnosis works best when a client is highly motivated and is working with a highly trained therapist who recognises and understands their client’s particular problem. 

As a professional with some 30 years of experience in this field, I am passionate about using hypnosis to help people change their lives and I am proud to have the opportunity to showcase the many benefits that hypnosis can bring. Please get in touch if you'd like to learn more.

By Meera Mehat

A fuller version of this blog can be found here on my personal website.  

Photo 1: MK Hamilton on Unsplash

Photo 2: Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

Photo 3: Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash