Author Archives: Richard Evans-Lacey

About Richard Evans-Lacey

Richard Evans-Lacey offers Energetic NLP Psychotherapy in Bethnal Green, East London, E1. Call 020 7377 1918 for a free chat.

Vanishing twin syndrome (VTS)

I found this article on  It gives a great overview of what I believe could well be a very pervasive issue:

In recent years. enhanced use of ultrasound early in pregnancy has increased the frequency of diagnosis of twin pregnancy. and unfortunately. has produced a heightened awareness of the phenomenon of Vanishing Twin Syndrome (VTS).

Here are the answers to some questions that about this condition.

What is Vanishing Twin Syndrome?

Vanishing Twin Syndrome occurs when one of a set of twin fetuses apparently disappears from the womb during pregnancy. usually resulting in a normal singleton pregnancy.

What really happens?

One of the fetuses in a twin pregnancy spontaneously aborts. usually during the first trimester; the fetal tissue is absorbed by the other twin. the placenta. or the mother. thus giving the appearance that the twin “vanished.”

How is it diagnosed?

Here’s a typical scenario: A mother undergoes a routine ultrasound early in her pregnancy. for example at six or seven weeks gestation. Two fetuses are detected. The mother is told she is having twins. When the mother returns to the doctor six weeks later. only one heartbeat can be heard with a Doppler scan (This is a scan designed to measure blood flow; it can be done to see if your placenta is working normally.) Another ultrasound is performed. Only one fetus is identified.

In other cases. a pregnant mother experiences symptoms that would seem to mimic miscarriage; however the single baby in her womb remains unaffected.

How often does it happen?

Scientists have confirmed that the number of twin conceptions greatly outnumbers the number of actual twin births. Some estimates offer that 1 in 8 people started life as a twin. while in reality only 1 in 70 actually are a twin. In “Having Twins.” author Elizabeth Noble claims that 80% of twin pregnancies result in the loss of one or both babies. Other studies predict that Vanishing Twin Syndrome occurs in 21 – 30% of all multiple pregnancies in the United States and a recent study in the UK estimated that 1 in 20 of us were once a pair of twins . It is estimated that Vanishing Twin Syndrome will play a role in 50% of assisted ovulation pregnancies. It is estimated that of the 133 million people born in the world in the year 2000. at least 7 million should have had a twin.

Why is it happening more frequently?

Although it would seem that incidences of Vanishing Twin Syndrome are increasing with alarming frequency. it is simply that the detection of the phenomenon has increased. Advancements in ultrasound technology allow modern doctors (and parents) the exciting opportunity to peek into the womb. As more doctors routinely use ultrasound in the first trimester. more multiple pregnancies are identified. And a certain percentage of those will be affected by Vanishing Twin Syndrome. In the past. many women experienced VTS without ever knowing it.

What causes it?

Just as there is no clear attributable cause for most miscarriages. there aren’t always reasons or explanations for the loss of a fetus in a multiple pregnancy. In some cases. the fetus is unviable due to chromosomal or placental abnormalities. Some studies suggest that because these abnormalities are more common in older women. Vanishing Twin Syndrome occurs more often in mothers of advanced age. Vanishing Twin Syndrome occurs with equal frequency in monozygotic and dizygotic twins. although the complications of sharing a placenta between monochorionic monozygotic twins may contribute to the condition.

What are the symptoms?

There might not be any symptoms. However. some mothers experience some mild cramping. bleeding or pelvic discomfort. similar to miscarriage. Decreasing hormone levels may also indicate that one fetus has been reabsorbed.

What is the treatment?

Generally. neither the mother nor the remaining fetus will require any kind of medical treatment. When VTS occurs in the first trimester. the mother usually goes on to experience a normal pregnancy and delivers a healthy singleton. However. in situations where a fetus dies in the second or third trimester. the mother may experience pre-term labour. infection or haemoragging. In those cases. doctors will prescribe treatment appropriate for those conditions.

What are the ramifications for the mother?

Physically. none. But emotionally. the mother may be feeling an awkward combination of grief over the loss of one baby and relief for the viability of the surviving baby. It is important for the parents to grieve in a way that feels appropriate. acknowledging the loss of a child as well as the loss of their identity as parents of multiples.

What are the ramifications for the surviving twin?

In most cases of first trimester Vanishing Twin Syndrome. there is no physical impact on the surviving twin. A healthy womb experience followed by a normal delivery should be expected. A late pregnancy occurrence of VTS does have some implications for the surviving fetus. just as for the mother. Occasionally. remnants of the re-absorbed fetus are found in the survivor. in the form of a tertoma tumor containing bone. hair. teeth or tissue fragments. Researchers have found that after 20 weeks. the surviving fetus has an increased risk of cerebral palsy. And asynchronous death may also be a risk if the twins are monozygous and sharing a vascular connection.

There is a great deal of speculation about the psychological and emotional impact of Vanishing Twin Syndrome. Some survivors report feelings of longing. guilt. or grief or problems with relationships or sexuality.

What happens when the twin doesn’t really vanish?

Sometimes. remnants of the unviable fetus are found in the mother. placenta or surviving twin. This is most likely to occur during the second or third trimester. Although usually the fetus will be partially re-sorbed and retained. the death of one twin at around 15 – 20 weeks may result in a fetus papyraceous. a tiny paper-like. flattened fetal remnant. A tertoma tumor containing bone. hair. teeth or tissue fragments is also an indication of a Vanishing Twin.

The New Macho – by Boysen Hodgson, The Mankind Project

He cleans up after himself.

He cleans up the planet.

He is a role model for young men.

He is rigorously honest and fiercely optimistic.

He holds himself accountable.

He knows what he feels.

He knows how to cry and he lets it go.

He knows how to rage without hurting others.

He knows how to fear and how to keep moving.

He seeks self-mastery.

He’s let go of childish shame.

He feels guilty when he’s done something wrong.

He is kind to men, kind to women, kind to children.

He teaches others how to be kind.

He says he’s sorry.

He stopped blaming women or his parents or men for his pain years ago.

He stopped letting his defenses ruin his relationships.

He stopped letting his penis run his life.

He has enough self respect to tell the truth.

He creates intimacy and trust with his actions.

He has men that he trusts and that he turns to for support.

He knows how to roll with it.

He knows how to make it happen.

He is disciplined when he needs to be.

He is flexible when he needs to be.

He knows how to listen from the core of his being.

He’s not afraid to get dirty.

He’s ready to confront his own limitations.

He has high expectations for himself and for those he connects with.

He looks for ways to serve others.

He knows he is an individual.

He knows that we are all one.

He knows he is an animal and a part of nature.

He knows his spirit and his connection to something greater.

He knows that the future generations are watching his actions.

He builds communities where people are respected and valued.

He takes responsibility for himself and is also willing to be his brother’s keeper.

He knows his higher purpose.

He loves with fierceness.

He laughs with abandon, because he gets the joke.

via Welcome to the ManKind Project | Changing the world, one man at a time. | Men’s Issues | Men’s Support | Men’s Community.

Hypnotic Ayahuasca? Purging parasitic energies from the body

Is it possible that puking into a bucket could be a cutting edge therapeutic technique?  I believe the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.  In this article I’ll describe my experience of purging, explore some theories and give some pointers for therapists keen on including it as part of their tool bag.

My experience

In Autumn 2010 my girlfriend Max and I arrived back from a course on Shamanic Sexual Healing run by Baba Dez of the Sedona Temple. As you can imagine the week had been pretty intense and had involved working with many of the participants’ deeply held traumas. We were together in the lounge and I was commenting on an icky feeling of revulsion that I notice in my gut from time to time when we are together. Max then asked me what I immediately recognized as a brilliant question: ‘What does it smell like?’

As I turned my imaginary nose towards the feeling in my belly I realized that, even though I had no conception of what it would smell like, I was, nevertheless, afraid of smelling it. I allowed myself to become fully aware of this fear, faced it, felt it, and chose to smell the thing I could feel. As I made this decision my body jerked into a cough. The cough became more and deeper coughs. I noticed that I was afraid that I would be sick; and turned towards this fear too. The coughs continued. Some liquid was ejected, projectile like, from my mouth and my thoughts pinged briefly to a scene from the film ‘The Exorcist’.

Thankfully the vomiting didn’t last long but the coughs became spasms moving through my whole body and making me utter groaning sounds that I’ve never heard before. The first wave lasted over an hour. Max sat with me, calmly, through these and for all the waves to come; a comforting witnessing presence. The next wave of contractions lasted for less than an hour and subsequent waves for less and less time and with longer periods of lucidity in between. The experience was reminiscent of contractions during a birth. All in all it lasted for about four and a half hours.

The next day I was somewhat wide eyed – did I dream all that? It was as if something very special had happened and I felt like I had been partly cleansed but that there was more yet to go. Though it was certainly intense it was not scary. It felt natural – like my body had been waiting for an opportunity to do it.

A natural process

When we are out in the jungle hunting and gathering and we eat the wrong kind of berry the body’s natural action is to eject the toxins the quickest way possible – usually the way they came in. From that moment on the body remembers the experience and reminds us not to eat those berries again by associating them with feelings of disgust. In addition to the personal experience it is noticed that vomiting in one person tends to induce feelings of nausea and vomiting in others. This makes sense in the food gathering example as if your friend has just eaten something toxic there is a good chance that you have too.

The disgust association can also be socially conditioned. When mothers see their child exploring ‘dirty’ things with their mouths and teach their offspring to find it disgusting by making ‘eaugh’ noises, pulling a face and removing the offending item from their mouths (often causing their children to start crying in the process). Later, as we learn language, we learn to be sickened by the events described in other people’s stories. All this has a massive benefit in terms of learning from other people’s mistakes.

In addition to the vomit response after imbibing I have noticed that people can tend to feel nauseous or vomit during intense exercise, before an anxiously anticipated event or after an intensely traumatic experience such as a fight.

I wonder if it is part of the body’s ‘fight or flight’ parasympathetic nervous response? This response aims to free up energy in the body by stopping immediately non-essential actions in the body and prioritizing body functions that are necessary for intense physical activity. Faced with the stressful situation the body releases feces and urine and slows or stops digestion. The heart rate rises, focus narrows and energy is released into the muscles ready for action. After the action the body begins to shake … believed by many to be a way of the muscles releasing toxins in order to recover.

Could it be that vomiting before a stressful situation means that there is less weight to carry and less food to digest? Could it be that vomiting after a stressful situation is another way of the body releasing physical toxins?

The problem

The problem comes when the feelings of disgust are felt with respect to things that are not actually dangerous to our body. And because the feeling of nausea is so unpleasant we may well have learned to avoid these things without even knowing that we are avoiding them. Often it takes a serious amount of awareness and honesty to realize what we are actually disgusted by. When we avoid facing these things we get to avoid feeling sick. But we also get to avoid a part of life; part of ourselves.

What do you turn away from? Sex? Intimacy? Blood? Violence? Death? Anything else?


It makes sense to me that the body should vomit when it becomes aware of some kind of foreign body inside that doesn’t belong. On the physical level this foreign body could be some bad food; on the subtle level it could be some kind of toxic energy.

What do I mean by ‘toxic energy’? If someone said ‘I’ve got this black, noxious, sticky tar-like substance at the pit of my stomach’ then (unless they’ve literally been eating tar) you would not see this if you cut them open. It is in their imagination and made out of subtle energy. They experience it as if it was real. If you asked them if that energy belonged to them I’m pretty sure that they would say no.

How did this energy get inside in the first place? I’m not exactly sure. But have you ever experienced someone making you feel disgusted? Could it be that they are pushing the disgust they feel into your subtle body? Have you ever been made to feel so ashamed that you wanted the ground to swallow you up? Could it be that when the ground does swallow you up then you swallow a subtle entity that was living in the ground?

When we get in the way of our body’s natural process of vomiting the toxic matter stays in the body and the unwanted feelings of revulsion persist in our lives. When we control our body, the parasitic entity is really controlling us.

The quickest and most complete way of changing a pattern of avoidance is to face the thing that is feared. To vomit even though it is unpleasant to do so.

Purging in shamanic ritual

Ayahuasca is a well known shamanic ally substance used in the Peruvian Amazon. It is known to have permanent positive effects on mind-body illnesses including depression, addiction and schizophrenia.

Meghan Shannon is an American living in Peru.  Here are some extracts from her article ‘What is Ayahuasca…Really…?’

‘Most of us walk around every day, thinking we are the ones running our lives. But like the anger entity, there are tons and tons of energy patterns, crossed energies and spirits literally along for the ride, hidden inside like internal luggage …

‘The purge is what makes the Ayahuasca unique. That’s why it works so fast. Because it is physically pulling this stuff out of your body. You can do all the energy and spiritual work you want, but until these dark entities physically leave the body, you are still walking around struggling against them. You may have gotten a pretty good handle on them, but it’s so normal you don’t know how much energy would be freed up if they weren’t there …

‘The purges can be challenging, make no mistake. Often (but not always) the person feels the energy or emotion as it is leaving the body. Purging fear = extremely scary. Purging doubt = thinking all these shamans are out of their minds and this is some kind of cult. Purging ego = getting triggered by the guy with the bigger ego during the day of the ceremony. Purging overactive mind chatter = exhausting thought spirals. Physical purges (vomit, diarrhea, gas, hot/cold temperatures, yawning, sweating, vibrating/shaking, crying, abnormal breathing, fidgeting) are all catalysts that the dark energy attaches to (either the physical liquid, gas or breath) to get out. It is the much more efficient than energy work alone (though most people feel extreme energies as well). Not only do challenging purges move out darkness fast, they train the body and mind to be able to endure the physical world …’

Methodology for ‘Hypno-purging’ (for want of a better name)

This process is an advanced therapeutic technique that takes a lot of commitment from the client and a lot of confidence from the therapist in order to see it through. Awareness of disgust can arise spontaneously in the course of a session or could be a client’s presenting problem.

Go hunting together

Notice what your client is avoiding. What do they NOT talk about, what do they NOT do, what do they do their best NOT to be. You’ll need to be eagle eyed as the client will be a master of staying away from this stuff.

A good thing to watch out for is micro expressions. Notice when, for a split second, your client’s face turns into a disgusted grimace when they are talking. For that moment they accessed the disgusting thing … but it was so quick they probably didn’t even notice. Stop them immediately and direct them back to what they were saying, where they were looking, any body language. Slow everything down and have them notice if they can sense what it was that you noticed.

Become aware of the avoidance

If you think you have noticed what they are avoiding before they do go ahead and let them know. Anything less is beating about the bush and colluding with them that this (whatever it is) cannot be faced head on. Tell them what you are noticing and ask them if they are avoiding something. For example: ‘A moment ago I was asking you about sex and now you are talking about relationships again. Are you avoiding talking about sex?’ If they get defensive at this point then that is brilliant information that there is something here that needs defending. Remember – it is the parasitic energy that is defending itself, not the client so don’t get distracted by it.

At this stage you can give your client a brief overview of the benefits of the natural process of purging sadness by crying (which they will understand), anger by shouting (which they will understand) and disgust by puking (which they will now understand). Check out if there are any medical reasons for not going down this route. Then give them a bucket. That will show them that you are serious and probably start to get them a bit apprehensive. This is good. It shows that they are taking this seriously and that the toxic energy inside is getting nervous.

Build motivation

Re-cap on the negative effect that this avoidance has on their lives. They need to re-member (get back into the body) how important this is to them. Otherwise why would they actually face what they have been avoiding? A simple question like ‘And while you are avoiding (blah), what effect is that having on your life?’ Accept no bullshit. Make them spell it out. Make them feel the pain of their avoidance.

Confront the parasite

Coach your client to confront the avoided thing. Develop any spontaneously occurring metaphors. ‘Where is it?’, ‘What’s it like over there?’, ‘How many of them are there?’, ‘What are they doing?’, that kind of thing. As more of their awareness is directed towards what they have been avoiding they will almost certainly start feeling their internal response to it. In the case of disgust they will probably start to feel sensations in the stomach, chest or throat. Again, build awareness of these feelings with questions like ‘And now what are you noticing?’, ‘And whereabouts in your stomach is that?’, ‘And what’s that like?’, ‘And how much black sludge is there?’, and, of course, ‘What does it smell like?’  Remember: you are not making them feel sick, you are revealing what is already there.

Facilitate the purge by confronting and removing all barriers that are preventing the body from doing what it wants to do. If the client is afraid of loosing control and being sick then get them to feel that fear deeply. Coach them to choose to accept the fear and surrender to their body. As the sensations increase get the client to notice any ways that they are trying to control them or avoid them and to STOP. And really notice the feelings and allow them to do whatever they want to do. If they cough then reinforce it with a ‘Good, let it happen.’ Similarly if they wretch or puke. Let them know everything is fine and it will pass. The only way out is through.


After the purge has happened your client will probably come back to themselves (literally … squatter out, owner in) quite quickly. They may feel somewhat battered but will likely feel cleansed and well. They will probably look much more alive and glowing. This is the perfect time to get them to notice what is different now. Invite them to think about things that used to bother them. Invite them to imagine situations that would have caused them problems (‘future pacing’ in NLP speak).

Spiral reading

I was musing today on the idea that the reason that some ‘dyslexics’ have trouble with distinguishing letters like ‘b’ and ‘d’ is that they are conceiving of them as three dimensional symbols … and that ‘b’ and ‘d’ are actually the same letter viewed from different sides.  (From the side it would look something like an ‘I’ and from top or bottom they would look like a ‘-‘.  I’m not sure if anyone ever confuses b and d with I and -.)

Then I got to thinking about how, when we write, we only write in a single direction – from left to right – and that the reader is forced to flick their attention from the end of one line to the beginning of the next.  I’m very curious about discontinuities like this and hypothesise that a steady tracking of text – especially if it balances right to left as well as left to right – would result in some kind of smoother comprehension.

My experiment looks like this:

The presuppositions of NLP

Here are some of the presuppositions (things we come into a situation assuming) often associated with NLP.  They are not ‘true’ as such … more of a handrail when developing the attitude of curiosity and wanton experimentation.

The map is not the territory

A map is a practical resource which helps us to find our way around.  For a map to be useful it needs to change the size and reduce the complexity to a level which helps the user.  Maps for different purposes can look very different: a road map, ordinance survey map and tube map for example.  We get used to the maps that we use and it is sometimes a surprise and frustration when reality seems to be different from what we expected: roadworks, unexpected boggy bits, or stations that look far apart but are only a few minutes walk above ground.

In life we go around making mental maps (or models) to help us make sense of our experiences.  Beliefs about how people and systems work help us to choose what to do next.  These generalisations may come from our own experiences or have been accepted from those around us.  Just as a tourist map can point us to areas of interest our mental map draws our attention to certain information from our experience of the world – distorting it.  Because we experience the world in that way it can seem like that is the way it is, the only way it can be – our reality.

When we realise that the map is not the territory it gives us the option of changing the map.  And when the map changes, so does the reality of our experience.

People are doing the best they can given the choices available to them

If someone is behaving in a way which you perceive as ‘bad’ does that make them a bad person?  According to you, perhaps.  Would their mum agree?  The values that drive their behaviour may well be different to yours.  They may or may not be aware of what these values are … perhaps thinking they can’t help their reactions.  Perhaps even judging themselves (or part of themselves) as ‘bad’ for doing what they do.

Is this kind of judging of behaviour useful?  In some contexts such as in court it is essential in order to protect others from the consequences of future actions.  In a therapy or coaching context it is more useful to assume that people are always doing their best … given the choices that they perceive are available to them.  The mindset becomes exploratory rather than categoric, collaborative rather than judgemental.

Accept the person, help them gain more choices, change the behaviour.

Underlying every behavior is a positive intention

Every behaviour?  Always?  Maybe, maybe not.  But is this a useful belief to start out with?

Let’s consider the extreme case of someone who says that a part of them wants to commit suicide.  What could be the positive intent of such a seemingly destructive thing?  Well perhaps it shows that, at least in this area of life, the person can choose, that they have power over themselves and their life?  Perhaps it is to stop them being a burden to others and help the people around them have more freedom in their life?  Perhaps it is to end some suffering, gain relief and feel better?  Perhaps it is to punish the person and give them what they deserve so they can feel that justice has been done?

Rather than arguing against the behaviour this approach helps build understanding and rapport.  From here it is much easier to explore other ways of gaining the positive benefits without the negative consequences.

There is no failure – only feedback

OK, so it is possible to fail your driving test.  But does that mean you have failed?  Or could you have just succeeded in finding some areas for further improvement?

There is a saying in NLP, “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got”.  If you are attempting to get a certain outcome and it just isn’t happening then you can always work longer or harder.  If, however, these don’t work either (or if they are just a bit boring!) then it might be time for a re-think.  And if you don’t know what else there is to do then anything is probably as good as anything else – perhaps you can get some more information that way?  This is the attitude of wanton experimentation … what’s the worst that could happen anyway?

The meaning of our communication is the response we get

Have you ever innocently said something to someone and had them blow up in anger or run off in tears?  If we communicate a message to another person and they react in an unexpected way then we can always blame them for not understanding what we meant … but how useful is that map going forwards?  Alternatively we can take their response as feedback and design our next question to gather more information about, say, their reaction.

People are always communicating, verbally and non-verbally.  Research (that hardly anyone who trots this statistic out has actually read) suggests that only 7% of the meaning of our communication is through words.  The rest of the communication process takes place through body language, tone of voice and the various signals words cannot convey.  That’s means that 93% of what we communicate is not from our words!  Excellent communication is about your whole self. B y working on your stuff and developing your ability to be authentic – even when under pressure – you are increasing your power of communication and influence.

What is the difference between outcome oriented coaching and systemic psychotherapy?

More and more people seem to be offering different types of coaching these days: ‘life coaching’, ‘relationship coaching’, ‘wealth coaching’, and ‘executive coaching’ are all available. The websites are often slick with young, glamorous looking coaches promising the outstanding success, achievement, wealth and happiness you deserve. Compare this with many people’s image of the grey cardigan clad counselor listening earnestly as you talk to her about your problems or the pipe smoking psychoanalyst in his wing back chair talking about your ‘id’ and asking about your toilet training and it is no surprise that many people are attracted to this seemingly new approach. But what are the real differences between therapy and coaching? In this post I’ll look at some of the distinctions that are commonly made and offer you some of my opinions.

Coaching and therapy mean different things

Oxford-Tube_1705197cFirstly lets look at the roots of the words. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary the use of the word ‘coach’ to mean ‘instructor or trainer’ dates back to around 1830 when it was Oxford University slang for a tutor who carries (like a carriage) a student through an exam. The word ‘therapist’ goes back much further and comes from the Greek ‘therapeia’ meaning ‘curing, healing’.

Looking at these roots gives us a clue to a key difference between coaching and therapy: the coach acts as an external assistant to help the client move from A to B in life; the therapist supports the client’s natural healing processes in order to liberate energy that is currently being used to cope with illness and trauma.

Coaching tends to be more outward looking and outcome oriented, psychotherapy is more inward looking and process oriented

Coaches will generally ask you what your goals are and work with you to enable you to get them. These goals are generally in the real world and in the future. Most coaches will work with you to define goals that are SMART, that is to say that they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bounded (different people use different words for the letters but you get the idea). For a sports coach it could be to win a certain event or to set a new personal best; for a relationship coach it could be that you get a new partner; for an executive coach it could be to successfully complete a project or boost sales. Sometimes a coach will base their fees around some kind of guarantee that you will achieve the goals that you have set. Coaching aims to get you more of what you want.

Psychotherapists are often more interested in how it is to be you right now. Rather than focusing on specific external goals they will work with you to explore how you are creating the life that you have and where those patterns and motivations are coming from. Rather than aiming to change your life, therapy generally changes your relationship with life. On the outside not much may be changing but your experience of it could transform. In sports you may enjoy playing the game more; in relationships you may see more in your current partner or be more comfortable in your own company; in work you could find that the compulsive drive to succeed is replaced by a more balanced and relaxed attitude. Psychotherapy often results in you wanting different things.

Coaches are motivational, psychotherapists are exploratory

full+metal+jacketMany successful people are where they are today because they are good at kicking their own backsides and pulling themselves through life. While this strategy can work very well for a while, eventually the self that keeps getting kicked and pulled can get fed up and stops doing what she’s told. When this internal motivation strategy that worked so well starts to falter the person may be tempted to seek out a coach with a bigger boot or a stronger arm. The coach holds the coachee to account for his actions, checking that he has done what he said he would do, providing encouragement and chastisement accordingly (especially if the payment of the coaches fees are dependent on success). One way or another the coach helps the client to work hard and overcome or get around the blocks to success.

In comparison, the psychotherapist works with the client to explore those blocks to success, and to reveal how the client is blocking his own success. Why and how would a client block his own success? Psychotherapists look for hidden ‘secondary gains’ … the benefits of not getting what, on the surface, you want. Perhaps the client believes that the value of something is measured by how hard it was to get it? Perhaps struggling is familiar and comforting or supports a client’s belief around their own victimhood? Or perhaps success in this area of life would mean that another area would be neglected?

A psychotherapist may even get the client to explore the consequences of failing … a thought that may be a bit of a no go zone for many successful individuals.

Coaching works towards a desired future, psychotherapy discovers the influence of the past

homer-on-failureA compulsion is a motivation that is driven by fear. One of the biggest problems experienced by successful and high achieving people is that they become dependent on that success for their sense of self. They are so motivated to succeed because they are terrified of failing.

Many of us have experienced trauma following what we (or others) have deemed failure. Some people were punished physically for their mistakes, some were publically humiliated for getting things wrong, others were simply terrified that failing would lead to the withdrawal of approval from parents, partners, or friends. All of that hurts; and is the kind of thing we would prefer to forget. But we don’t forget it – we often just cover it up with what these other people would judge as success. We may even internalize their punishments and ‘beat ourselves up’ when we fail. A psychotherapist will often work with you to reveal the pain of failure and to resolve things with the memories of the people who caused it in the first place.

The healing of wounds from the past can involve intense emotions. For a client to allow themselves to experience and work through these emotions they need to feel safe. To create safety the facilitator needs to be confident in their ability to stay present when the client is experiencing intense feelings and not to be distracted by their own unresolved issues resonating into awareness. Psychotherapy training is long and rigorous and designed to train therapists to handle strong emotions.

While coaches may have a lot of experience in their given field their coaching training may amount to just a few weeks. At best a coach can hope to recognize trauma when it is there and refer the client on to a therapist who can handle it; at worst they will unwittingly take their client into emotional areas that the coach is not equipped to handle.

Consequently it is prudent for most coaches to avoid the dark stuff from the past and focus on the client’s desired future. Creating strongly motivational goals and working back from them to deduce the actions that must be taken to achieve them does not require any delving into the past. However, if this desired goal is a reaction to a feared alternative future (including the fear of the unknown) today’s achievement simply procrastinates the facing of that fear. A coach may be giving the client exactly what he thinks he wants, but not what he would really benefit from – including the experience of failing and handling that failure.

Coaches encourage positivity, psychotherapists encourage acceptance

I was on a course with a life coach a few weeks ago and something started to push her buttons … tears welled up in her eyes and she quickly shook them off and composed herself. When the facilitator asked her why she was doing that she explained that she didn’t like being negative and tried to stay happy.

This is a perfect illustration of one of the biggest misunderstandings within the field, the idea that emotions like anger, sadness, fear, guilt, and pain in general are negative. They are not. They are positive. They are positive expressions of what is there.

‘Not bad’, ‘uncomfortable’, ‘not sure’, ‘can’t’, ‘not good enough’, and ‘nothing’ are all negative. They literally refer to something that is not there. It is a way of us not acknowledging what is there or, put another way, avoidance (literally putting into a void). Psychotherapists are indeed very interested in these negative places as this is where we don’t allow ourselves to go and where the healing is usually most needed. When I ask a client ‘How are you’ and they say ‘Uncomfortable’, I’ll say ‘And when you’re not comfortable, how are you?’ This recovers the positive. Quite often clients will describe sensations as being like an emotional black hole. This is the perfect description of a usually terrifying nothingness. The obvious (but short term) solution to a black hole is to try to avoid it or fill it in from the outside. Rather than coaching them to do this a psychotherapist will direct the client towards the unknown, into it, and out the other side. The client faces the thing that they were unconsciously avoiding, healing takes place, and the hole fills in from the inside.


achievementThough coaches can often have a good degree of background in a particular field their training and experience of psychological change is often limited to a few weeks of training. This training often emphasizes the importance of orienting the client towards the future they want rather than dwelling on a past that didn’t work for them. If a coach is only comfortable or competent working with ‘positive’ goals in the future and avoids darker places within the client then this can cause their work to be superficial and short term. Their clients may well achieve that particular goal and get what they thought they wanted but they may not realize why they wanted it in the first place or why they are still not satisfied with the way things are.

Most psychotherapists have the training and experience to go into and transform the dark places they are less likely to take their client’s desires on face value. They know that desires often hide a fear (and vice versa). By working with clients to heal and transform from the inside out old compulsions fall away and clients realize what they really want out of life. Before long they are finding a new kind of inspired motivation that results in them doing and achieving because they are fulfilled rather than in order to become that way.

Relationships: Becoming aligned

This article was first published in humanHi magazine in January 2009.

An hour or so ago I was hard at work … in bed, with my eyes shut, awake but dreaming. Dreaming that my job for the day was over; that this article was already written; and that I was pleased with it. As I imagined reviewing the completed pages I noticed the warm glow of achievement in my belly and allowed a smile to move over my lips. An idea for some content landed with me. As if on their own, my eyes opened, and I had the urge to get up and start doing.

The benefit of alignment

Is it possible for you to be with the partner of your dreams? If you live all alone and never meet anyone else then the answer to this question will certainly be a ‘no’. If you live around people but never interact with the people you fancy then the answer will also be a ‘no’. If you interact but in a way that seems to scare other people away; if you are always rejected, can’t have what you want or plane don’t deserve it; if you are ugly, stupid or bad; if you being with that person does not serve society / please god or happen with love; if any of these things are true then you probably and quite rightly can’t be with the partner of your dreams. And you will probably continue to prove yourself right … just as you have been so far in your life.

In order for something to happen easily and effortlessly we need to have a sense of it being right at all levels … a sense of alignment. Just as you line the 2 sights of a rifle up with the target before you shoot it is important to align our sense of purpose, who we are, what we believe, what we are capable of, what we are doing and where we are doing it in order to set a compelling goal. In the context of meeting the partner of your dreams it can be useful to consider this outcome from a number of different perspectives or ‘logical levels’. After we have considered what these levels are I will walk you through an exercise which is designed to align them and increase the chances of you achieving the outcome you desire.

Environment Where do you live, work and go out? What kind
of people do you meet there? Where do the kind
of people you would like to be with hang out?
Behaviour What are you doing to meet the partner of your
dreams? Anything you would like to be doing more
of less of?
Capability In the context of relationships what are you
really good at? What skills, abilities and capacities
do you have already and what areas could you develop
Beliefs / Values What do you believe about the world, the opposite
sex and relationships in general? Brainstorm endings
to statements such as: “The world is …”;
“men / women are …”; “relationships
are …”; “I always …”;
“I never …”; “It’s
wrong to …”, “It’s bad
to …”, “I must …”;

In the context of a relationship / partner what
is important to you? (This is the list we worked
on a couple of months ago.)

Identity What kind of person are you? Who were you in
the past and who would you like to be in the future? 

Complete the statement “I am” with
as many answers as you can think of. For example:
‘shy’, ‘desperate’, ‘afraid’,
‘loved’, ‘beautiful’,
‘arrogant’, ‘independent’,
‘unworthy’, ‘unlovable’,
‘submissive’, ‘dominant’,
‘a rescuer’, ‘a victim’,
‘a persecutor’, etc.

Purpose When you have the relationship of your dreams
what does that do for you or get for you that
you don’t already have? What would being
in that kind of relationship with you do for your
partner? What differences would that sense of
togetherness make? How would it affect your lives
and those of the people around you?

Increasing your sense of alignment

The following technique will help you to become more aligned.

1 – Find a space where you have room to take 5 paces forwards. If possible work with someone else who can ask you questions and hear your responses. Stand up and ready yourself to consider the ‘logical levels’ of your desire for a relationship.

2 – Starting where you are begin thinking about all the ‘Environmental’ considerations as described in the previous table. Where do you go and who else is there when you arrive? Spend about a minute doing this. If you have a friend there with you they could ask you questions that help you think about the space around you and you could tell them what comes to mind.

3 – Take another step forwards and consider your ‘Behaviour’ – the things that you actually do to initiate or maintain a relationship. Continue stepping and considering all the way up to ‘Purpose’.

4 – When you are at ‘Purpose’ ensure that you get a real felt sense of the benefits of being in the relationship you desire. Perhaps you will feel a shifting in your heart or a sense of lightness come over you.

5 – Keeping that felt sense with you now step backwards back into the ‘Identity’ space. Now that you have that sense of purpose what do you know about who you are in that relationship? Consider this for about 30 seconds – notice what has changed now.

6 – Keeping the sense of purpose and the learnings from each previous level step back through all the previous logical levels spending 30 seconds or so in each as you notice what has changed. All the way back to ‘Environment’.

7 – Notice how you are feeling about the possibility of having the relationship of your dreams now. Is it possible? If your answer to this question is ‘yes’ you are ready to begin meditating on this possibility.

Meditating on success

Almost every writer on success that I have read stresses the importance of visualisation. The principle we are hooking into here is the law of attraction – that you get what you focus on, that like attracts like. The idea is to visualise the moment that you know that you have got the relationship that is perfect for you and to make this so realistic that you get the feeling of having what you want. You are meditating on having rather than wanting. (If you meditate on wanting then this is what you will get: wanting!) It is worth adding here that you should not include any specific people in the meditation – if you do this then you are assuming that you know what is best for them and you are trying to manipulate them. Simply imagine someone with all the characteristics that you value in a lover and leave the detail of exactly who this is to the universe. It could be the person you wanted it to be … or maybe someone even better!

So, the important question is ‘How will you know that you have the relationship that you want?’ Is it when you see the person across the room and your heart skips a beat? Probably not – too early … what if you kept on skipping beats like this but it never got further than that? What about when you are repeating your wedding vows to each other? Again, probably not – presumably you ‘knew’ that this was the person you wanted to be with way before this point. What we are after is that first moment of really knowing.
The one that I use is to imagine that I am going out with my partner to a night club. Under ‘normal’ circumstances I would have gone to this place alone with the hope of meeting someone there. In my visualisation I am entering the club with my partner and I am really happy that they are there to enjoy it with me. I feel a sense of trust, connectedness, excitement and freedom. We are an attractive couple and we find that other people come over and talk to us. We are going to have fun tonight!
Simply visualise your version of how you will know 5 minutes every day focussing on the pleasant feelings of having what you want. I’m beginning to use this technique more and more in all areas of life (including article writing!). It seems to work surprisingly well. Why don’t you have a go for a month and see what difference it makes for you?

Relationships: Making space for someone new

This article was first published in humanHi magazine in November 2008.

Being connected

To me being connected with someone means that you have feelings associated with them. Those feelings can either be positive such as love, compassion, trust and pride; or negative such as hate, resentment, blame, loss, fear and guilt. When we are connected to people in a positive way their presence in our lives is enriching and supportive; negative connections drain our energy and distract us from what we really want in life. They are bad for our health, wealth and happiness.

Take a moment now and cast your mind back through your past relationships. Are there any ex-partners who bring up negative feelings when you think about them now? Anyone who you have kind of split up from but are still in your life? Anyone who you no longer see and would like to forget but are reminded of often and for all the wrong reasons? How much of your energy and attention is taken up by these unhealthy connections? What other uses could you find for that energy?

In any relationship there is give and take. To illustrate this I like the metaphor of two people living in separate houses who start having a relationship with each other. To begin with all of their possessions are in their own house and they take it in turns to visit each other. As the relationship develops a certain amount of lending and borrowing begins to happen. He wants to borrow a CD from his partner and she is happy to lend it to him. She plans to do some DIY but needs a specific tool that he has and is happy to lend it to her. He has a small house full of junk and needs some extra space so she offers to store some boxes of junk in her loft. If this process continues then the partners possessions can become quite mixed up and they may even forget who owns what. (In the real world people move in with each other and own things jointly which can make splitting up even more difficult but for the sake of the metaphor lets assume that they keep their separate houses.)

On an emotional level there is also give and take. There are certain things that I want to do which I do not do because I believe that they will hurt my partner, for example, not sleeping someone else who you meet on a night out. There are other things that I don’t really want to do but I do anyway because I believe they will please my partner, for example, going with them to see their favourite band. I behave in the way that I do because I believe I know how my actions will emotionally affect my partner and I take responsibility for those effects. I hold an impression of them as a person in my imagination and use this internal model to guess at their reaction and choose my behaviour accordingly. Some of the information I use to build my internal model of them will have been based on their past reactions; others will be assumptions I am bringing into the relationship based on my experience of how other people have reacted in the past (transference) or how I would feel if someone did it to me (projection). Me having this model of them in my imagination is a bit like some of their stuff being in my house. Me guessing at their reactions based on how I would feel is a bit like me putting some of my stuff into their house.

Splitting up

Being in a relationship is sometimes likened to walking hand in hand down a shared path. We keep each other company and support each other along the way. But as we grow and experience life our priorities can shift and our paths can change direction. A good example of this is when one partner decides they want children and the other does not feel ready for this commitment. We find ourselves at a fork in the road and compromises begin to look like neither partner is getting what they want. Rather than trying to hang on sometimes it is better for both partners to let go and move on.

An ideal separation happens with love and compassion. Both partners are honest with each other, decide on the split together and stop taking each other into account when making decisions. In our house metaphor they give back the things that do not belong to them. In emotional terms they stop consulting the model of their ex-partner when deciding what to do and this image gradually fades and recedes into the distance.

Other separations are less ideal. Sudden cutting of ties such as walking out during an argument, leaving home without warning or even an unexpected death give no opportunity for both partners to be open and honest with each other, understand and forgive each other and move on. Emotions such as pride, fear of violence or emotional overwhelm may hold them apart. In the house metaphor he holds onto the CD to piss her off and she is sad and angry because she misses it; she doesn’t want to give the tool back because she is using it and he feels too guilty to demand that she gives back; he doesn’t have room for his boxes of junk and she doesn’t feel able to throw them away. The internal models of the other may be pushed away or blocked out but they are big and powerful, amplified by negative emotions, sapping energy, still exerting control.

The problem perpetuates

If you have not properly disconnected from your previous partners then you are not in a good position to welcome another partner in.

Every time you see something that belongs to them or remember something they have of yours you are reminded of them. Every time you are reminded of them you feel those unresolved negative emotions. When you feel negative you focus on the negative; and then you get what you focus on: a new partner with the same characteristics as your exes.

If a new partner does come along your internal model of them has to live with the internal models of you exes. The models of your exes influence what you expect of your new partner and you transfer these expectations into the model of your new partner rather than building a clean model from scratch based on your experience. You behave according to your flawed model of them and they simply respond to your behaviour … probably in a way that fulfils your negative expectations.

Making imaginary space

In last months article I introduced a way of disconnecting and freeing your energy by talking to the models of people you hold in your imagination. This technique gets the same result but by using energy rather than words.

– Find yourself a comfortable place to sit. Take a few deep breaths to relax and allow your eyes to close.

– Get a sense of the ground beneath you and encourage your awareness down into it. Continue down through the layers of earth until you reach the centre. As you connect with the centre of the earth notice how this sense of groundedness affects the way you feel at the centre of your body – in the area of your navel.

– Remaining connected to this centre now sense up above your head and out into the vastness of the universe. Imagine a source of light and infinite wisdom – a sun or higher form of self – to be there above you, happy and ready to help you when asked.

– Allow the image of your ex-partner to come to you – this is your model of them. Notice what it is like between you … is there anything preventing them from being right there in front of you were you can see them easily? Allow the source of light to heal anything which is preventing you from facing them until you are able to sense them clearly.

– With the support of the light above you accept back anything that they were holding for you. If you are holding anything that belongs to them then give it back.

– Notice how you feel as you face them. Allow the source of light to shine on you and heal any negative feelings in you – filling you up with acceptance and compassion.

– When you are healed share this energy with the model of your ex-partner. Allowing the energy to flow where it is welcome and heal what wishes to be healed.

– When you are both healed notice the sense of understanding and forgiveness between you and allow the other person to drift away. When they have gone bring your attention back to your sense of connection with the earth and the light above you. Notice how this strong connection with yourself gives you the freedom and ability to make new and empowering connections with others.

After you have completed this exercise allow yourself some time for reflection. How do you feel about that person now? What has changed? Who are you now and what is important to you? Complete the process with all of your significant exes and then with the less significant ones all together.

Making real space

Now you have cleared space in your imagination it is time to put that freedom into action. My challenge to you now is to go through your possessions and to make a pile of all of those things that belong to ex-partners. Dig out your address book and return them to their rightful owners with a polite note requesting that they do the same for you. While you are at it notice how many other objects such as photos and gifts there are on display. Do these bring back good memories or bad? Is it time to clear them away now and make room for some new memories to begin?

Relationships: Knowing what you want

Originally published in September 2008 by humanHi magasine.

Know what you want and why

If you ask some people what they are looking for in a partner they will often say something like “I don’t have a type, I’m not fussy, I’ll just know him when I meet him.”  For some people this may well be true … they are relaxed with being single and either find someone or they don’t; no problem.  But other people are waiting.  Waiting for Mr or Mrs right to come out of the blue. Waiting for their life to be complete; but not actually being that aware of what it is that they are actually waiting for.  Just that they will know it when they find it and hoping that God, the universe or chance will bring it to them.

The “I’ll know him when I meet him” signal is probably a thrilling and often overwhelming love / lust feeling which puts the pink coloured spectacles on and makes us act in impulsive and sometimes irrational ways.  It feels good but how reliable is it really?  Have you ever felt this feeling and, later on, realised that the person was really not all that?  Or have you found yourself being attracted to partners who, at some level, you know are not good for you; repeating the same patterns again and again.  But what can you do?  It’s just chemistry, right?

While the attraction process is an unconscious one then there is little you can do … except, perhaps, loose confidence in your emotions altogether.  What I am proposing here is that you bring the attraction process into awareness.  When you know what your are attracted to you will know what to look out for and when you have actually found it.  And if you are attracted to ‘the wrong kind’ of partner, perhaps you can make a few changes before the pink spectacles get put on again?

Become aware of the qualities you are looking for in a partner

The first thing I would suggest is to make a list of the qualities you value in a partner.  We are going for a high level view here so keep them abstract.  If there are certain specific things you normally look for then ask yourself what they are an example or indicator of.  “Blonde hair and blue eyes” may be an example of “Good looks”; “Masters degree” may be an indicator of “Intelligence or Education”.  Get the idea?

When you have a good long list of qualities choose your top 8 – 10 and put them into a rough order of importance (most important first).  For example: Kindness, Beauty, Sexiness, Intelligence, Depth, Positivity, Fun, Passion.  To check the order of the list perform a series of thought experiments by asking yourself: “Would I rather have a Kind partner who wasn’t very Beautiful; or a Beautiful partner who wasn’t very kind?” You may find that your list changes somewhat.

When you have completed this process you should be able to describe what it is like as you meet your ‘Ideal Partner’ and find that it pushes all the right buttons!  For example, “I am meeting a sexy, beautiful man.  He is kind and intelligent and I can tell that he has great depth.  He is positive about life, with a great sense of fun and is financially stable.”  There should be no surprises here … more a sense of recognition – you are describing what, at some level, you already knew.

Uncover any lurking negativity

Now comes the really interesting bit.  For each of the qualities you have chosen find a word which describes the opposite … try to get a separate word rather than just putting “un” or “not” in front of what you already have.  When you have the opposites you are going to consider the proportion of yourself which is attracted to the positive aspect, compared to the proportion which is repulsed by the negative aspect.

Quality & proportion of me attracted to

Opposite quality & proportion of me repulsed
by this

Sexiness 80%

Beauty 90%

Kindness 60%

Intelligence 80%

Passion 30%

Positivity 50%

Fun 40%

Financial stability 20%

Coldness 20%

Ugliness 10%

Nastiness 40%

Stupidity 20%

Boredom 70%

Negativity 50%

Boredom 60%

Brokeness 80%

You get what you focus on

Have you ever ridden a bicycle around a sharp bend in the road?  When you look around the corner towards where you want to be then you tend to get around easily; when you are distracted by the gravel in the gutter that you don’t want to hit, skid on and end up in a horrible nasty mess on the side of the road … yep, you tend to create what you are trying to avoid.

As you can probably guess, the qualities we are interested in are the negatives with more than 50% of your energy going into avoiding them.  Though the person in the example is saying she wants someone Passionate, Fun and Financially stable she means that she is trying to avoid being with someone Boring and Broke.

Given that ‘the energy flows where the focus goes’ the chances are that she will have a pattern of attracting Boring and Broke partners.  Or, perhaps more likely, she attracts partners who appear to be Passionate, Fun and Financially stable but then reveal their ‘true’ nature later in the relationship!

Change the pattern

If you find that there are certain qualities you are avoiding I suggest the following meditation:

1 – Remember all the people who you have known in your life who have the quality you are now trying to avoid.  How did they behave with you? How did that make you feel?

2 – In your imagination invite each of these people in turn to be there with you in the room.  Are they standing or sitting?  What direction are they looking in?  What are they wearing?  Politely explain the impact that their behaviour had on you.  For example, “David, when you sat on the sofa watching TV when I was trying to talk to you I felt ignored and hurt.”; “Jane, when you never offered to pay for dinner I felt exploited and that made me angry.”

3 – When you have said your piece invite them to say anything that they need to say to you.  Really listen to what you imagine they would say.  (Repeat as necessary until you have cleared the air between you.)

4 – Forgive the other person and ask for their forgiveness in return. Then allow them to drift off on their way.

5 – Repeat the process for each other person.

When you have completed the meditation consider how you feel about that quality now.  Do you still find it repulsive or is it different now?  Less emotional charge?  Less important to avoid it?  Revisit your List of values … does it need to change now?  Are other things more important?  What difference does that make?

A temporal conception of higher self

Published by humanHi magasine in 2008.

Isolation and loneliness

When I was about 8 years old I was the only one not to bow my head in assembly when we were told ‘let us pray’.  I felt embarrassed at being the odd one out and yet I forced myself to go against the tide do what I thought was right.  At the time I just couldn’t work out how the stories I had lapped up like everyone else at Sunday School related to the other things I was learning: Where were the dinosaurs in the garden of Eden?  If God is all powerful and all loving then why is there suffering in the world?  If we all ask God to help us come first in the race why do most of us still lose?  I just couldn’t reconcile these things in my head and yet, all around me, were people who seemed quite happy to pray to and praise the Lord.  They had God, Jesus and each other to keep them company; I was alone.

My feelings of loneliness were compounded by many others over the years.  Shame was the one I was best at.  Growing up there was a certain event that happened when I was 13 that I couldn’t even think about – let alone talk about with my friends or parents.  But I coped.  I used my intelligence to build a personality for myself.  I was right about most things and it was important for me to prove that.  I argued my corner passionately; others would loose patience and call me arrogant.  Inside I was collapsing and the feelings of isolation were perpetuated.

Time Line Therapy for shame

My first experience of therapy came when I was 27 years old. Things were really getting on top of me at work and it was finally bad enough for me to ask for help.  I went to see an NLP therapist and he explained that we were going to do ‘Time Line Therapy’ together.  ‘Imagine that your whole life could be represented as a line of experiences, one after another’, he explained.  ‘And that you can float up above that line all the way back to the first time that you ever experienced the emotion of shame.’  As he said the words it was as if I was being dragged back above my Time Line and down into the event at 13 that I had tried to block out for so long.  It was intense and I started sobbing uncontrollably.  ‘Float higher; float way up above’ came the instructions from my therapist and, with some difficulty, I did as I was told and the feelings became more distant.  ‘And as you look down on the event you can learn whatever you need to learn that will allow you to let go of the shame easily and effortlessly’ he continued.  I don’t remember exactly what I learned at this point but something seemed to be shifting deep inside.  The next instruction was to float back further, to a point above and before the event had ever happened – and then to turn around and look back to now.  As I did this and looked down on the memory of the event that had dominated my life the strangest thing happened: the shame that had been there disappeared.  Completely gone.  Even when I went back into the memory and looked through my own 13 year old eyes the feeling had evaporated and all that was left was a feeling of calmness and a new level of understanding.  Somehow when I was up there I had done something that affected the 13 year old me down here.  As I came back along my Time Line, back to now, things seemed to continue to clear and I was left with a profound sense of lightness and relief.  I reacted in a different way to situations. I was a new person.

Connecting with my ‘Higher Self’

Much learning and therapy later it is me who is the therapist helping others to discover themselves.  In the course of this study I have grappled with a number of spiritual philosophies which talk of the existence of a ‘Higher Self’.  The Higher Self has been described as a ‘guardian spirit’ which is the source of insight and inspiration; a non-judgemental all-forgiving and absolute love that does not make mistakes and does not interfere with free will.  This is an idea I have had a lot of trouble connecting with.  Perhaps because it seemed like just a different name for the God that I had rejected as irrational so many years ago?  Perhaps because my ego is still too arrogant to accept the existence of something higher?

But as I reflect on my experience of Time Line Therapy some new ideas are coming to me.  The process was completed in my imagination and yet had a permanent real world effect. As I floated above the line and allowed learnings to come to me I was, in some sense, accessing a wisdom that I wasn’t able to when I was 13.  It’s as if that 13 year old was able to accept the help of the me who was floating above the Time Line and was, in turn, able to access the wisdom that originally he could not.  By accepting the help of this ‘Higher Self’ the 13 year old was able to resolve and let go of his feelings of shame in the moment and, in a parallel universe (!), the events of the rest of his life played out differently.  Big ideas I know but this is how it helps me: I can now conceive of my Higher Self as an ‘older and wiser me’ who has come back in time to help my ‘younger self’ out.  I can be grateful without being subservient.  I can accept help without being indebted.  By accepting his help, I, in turn help that higher me to resolve things in his reality.  My Higher Self can be here with me always and I can turn to him and greet him with a humanHi!


What’s your name and where do you come from?

To the tune of Eminem:

Hi! My name is … my name is … my name is … R – R – Richard Evans-Lacey!

I was christened (Not my choice – I was too young to decide to live my life by the rules of a religion) Richard Eric Evans (without the Lacey) shortly after my birth in June 1974 and I kept that name until November 2002.  This was the year that I decided to change my life. I left my safe, well paid consulting job in order to study Integral Philosophy and Neuro-Linguistic Psychotherapy.  To mark my decision to change myself I decided that I also wanted to change the way I symbolise myself – my name.

I considered a number of options and particularly liked the sound of ‘David England’ (my Grandad used to mistakenly call me ‘David’; the ‘England’ came from the idea that if I ever became famous then my name should look good on a poster).  But in the end I felt that abandoning the surname of my father was disloyal and, therefore, wrong.  Mum’s maiden name was ‘Lacey’ and it struck me that ‘Richard Lacey’ had a very nice actorish ring to it. So instead of changing my name I added to it.

Changing my name was surprisingly (and almost scarily) simple: I simply walked into my local solicitors’ with some ID and £15 and they asked me what I would like to be called.  It was at that moment that I realised that I could call myself anything I wanted.  For a second I was tempted to add ‘Danger’ as a middle name but the gag had just been done by Austin Powers so I thought better of it.  I stuck to my plan and after getting the certificate witnessed by the solicitor down the road I officially became ‘Richard Eric Evans-Lacey Esq.’

The ripples from this change were relatively plain sailing.  As I had added to, rather than changed my name outright, it was easy to keep using the same signature, bank accounts and even passport (I simply inserted the certificate as proof).  My friends thought it typically eccentric but were not interested in making a big deal of it.  And new people who I meet occasionally assume that my ‘double barrelled’ name means that I am more ‘posh’ than I actually am.  (When asked I favour Michael Cain’s response in Get Carter: ‘Only relatively…’)

An important evolution

The idea that hyphenated surnames are posh comes from the 18th and 19th centuries.  When 2 ‘important’ families were joined through marriage it was common for the couple to take both family names rather than simply drop the wife’s in favour of the husband’s.  While this sounds egalitarian enough it is worth remembering that the wife’s family name is most probably her father’s family name and so, in my view, this hyphenating is basically saying that this man and this woman both come from important lines of men.  Chances are that you don’t have a double-barrelled surname.  If you are male or an unmarried female you probably have the surname of your father’s ancestors.  If you are female and married you probably dropped your surname to take on the surname of your husband’s ancestors.  This is not a bad thing … it is just tradition.

The tradition of passing the male name from generation to generation has it’s roots in a society in which the man is the hunter, the head of the family, the achiever; men make the rules, police the rules and everyone is eventually judged by a male God.  I am reminded of Harry Enfield’s spoof 1930s ‘public improvement film’ in which a woman at a 1930s dinner party attempts to join the conversation with ‘a wild and dangerous opinion of her own’ causing the men to look at her with contempt, the party to break up and the earnest strap line ‘Women: know your limits!’

Happily, thanks to evolution, times have been a-changin’ at quite a pace.  Most of us have outgrown the fear of personal judgement by a supernatural God and no longer feel the need to religiously follow the literal truth in whatever holy book our parents happened to have on their shelves.  We are free to enjoy and achieve in the real world that rewards talent and hard work with celebrity and material wealth.  Fewer businesses can afford to stock their boardrooms with fat, lazy old school ties; glass ceilings have been smashed by ambitious women who are motivated to prove their abilities and get what they want.  And many of us have begun to wonder if this selfish, consumerist society is what life is all about.  We are concerned with the environment, equality, diversity, disarmament.  We are guilty for what we have done to ‘mother’ earth in the name of God and capitalism and we are motivated to care for it and nurse it back to health.

Given where we are at I wouldn’t be surprised if a reasonable number of people (including some apologetic men) could be convinced that it should be the woman’s rather than the man’s name that should be passed on from generation to generation.  After all, it is her body and her who decided to have the child and sperm is just a commodity nowadays anyway, isn’t it?  And it goes without saying that the world would be a better place if it was run by women, right?  Wrong.  We do not need weak men and strong women to make the world better: we need balanced and well developed men AND women.  We need a society that values the virtues which used to be embodied in the metaphorical Gods and Goddesses that were lost to us so many centuries ago; where the strengths of masculinity and femininity are recognised and celebrated.  This is a society in which the contributions of mothers and fathers are different and important.

It works like this:

If you are single and decide you want to honour your masculine and feminine lines take your father’s surname and your mother’s maiden name and simply put them together.  (Your mother’s maiden name is probably her father’s name … it would be nice to have your mother’s, mother’s, mother’s … maiden name but where do you stop?  Start with your mother.)  If you are male your father’s name goes first, if female then your mother’s.

Nice in theory but why should I bother?

Just pause for a moment and consider how close you feel to your parents. Are they together or apart?  Are they in your way, holding you back, kept at arms length or at a distance?  How different would things be if they were completely on your side?  And what if your parents had their parents on side too?  And so on, back through the generations.  How would life be if you knew that your entire lineage is stable, solid, supportive and open to the love and wisdom that flows through it to you like the blood that is so much thicker than water?

For many of us this sense of belonging in our family is a fantasy.  Fault lines permeate the structure and are held together by fear.  Open wounds spill blood and may have been there for generations.  How many of the issues and problems that you experience now can be traced back to your pre-teenage years?  Perhaps you have memories of times when your parents were unreasonable or uncaring and you learned the meaning of anger, sadness, fear or guilt?  Do you still feel those emotions now when you remember what your parents did?  Do you start acting like a child again when you go home to visit?  Do you swear to yourself that you will not be like them?

According to NLP originator Richard Bandler ‘It’s never too late to have a happy childhood’.  The first step to healing the self is to become aware of the possibility that things could be different.  The next is to understand and forgive the people (including yourself) who made it that way in the first place.  And finally to either re-connect with those people (if you want to maintain a relationship with them) or to let their memory go (you can always re-establish a relationship if they come back into your life).  For the problems that go back through the generations then you can heal back through those generations.  Easier said than done?  On your own, yes.  But with your commitment and the support and guidance of a talented therapist or coach these deep transformations are probable rather than possible.

The first step to transforming your life is to decide to.  And whatever route you choose I am confident that at some time, in some way, you will end up proactively forgiving and asking forgiveness of your parents.  Taking responsibility for unilaterally healing the relationships within your family is an important turning point that deserves to be marked and celebrated.

“Hey, I know! Let’s do a ritual!”*

(*This is a quote from the Charles Band movie “Ghoulies”. In the movie this is definitely NOT a good idea. But don’t let that put you off!)

The time we really decide we will do whatever it takes to forgive and love our parents for doing the best that they could is a turning point which I believe marks the start of true adulthood.  An ideal time to gather your friends about you and perform a re-naming ritual.

What happens when I get married?

Some people gripe that many of the fun things in life stopped happening when they got married.  But I am not talking here about the kind of marriage that constrains people, but rather the kind where 2 people come together and decide that they will be together as one for as long as this is in their best interests.  Whether or not you decide to have a legal contract, a re-naming can symbolise the sharing of identity you are undertaking.

Traditionally, of course, it is the woman who takes the man’s surname when they get married.  As we enter the integral age the idea of a man ‘loving and protecting’ and the woman ‘serving and obeying’ are amusing (in an ironic kind of way) but inappropriate.  I believe the equality of the partnership is better shown by a giving and receiving of names – much as there is a giving and receiving of rings.  The man gives his father’s surname to replace her father’s surname.  The woman gives her mother’s surname to replace his mother’s surname.  Both partners then share the same names.

The only issue with this convention is how to refer to the couple as a whole. It would have been Mr & Mrs Evans but this is no longer accurate and both partners carry mirror images of the surname.  If we are going to use the Mr & Ms (or, of course, Mrs or Miss) pre-fix then I suggest that the surnames are in the order masculine then feminine: Mr & Ms Evans-Cowper.  If addressing the couple as Ms & Mr then the it would be Ms & Mr Cowper-Evans.  Sorted.

And when we have children?

When kids come along it is simple: sons take the father’s married surname and daughters their mothers.  If these children marry and have children of their own the boy carries on the masculine line and the girl carries on the feminine line.

And if relationships change?

I believe that one of the most damaging things a couple can do is to stay together ‘for the children’.  Even if a couple try not to argue overtly the children will still pick up on the atmosphere.  It is easy for a kid to pick up beliefs that may inhibit them for life, for example, commitment is painful, women (or men) are weaker than men (or women) or that the unhappiness of their parents is their fault for being born.  At its worst the confusion can lead to a child becoming ‘difficult’ or physically or mentally unwell.

If the partners decide to move apart and become single or re-marry then it is natural that they will want to revert to their original parents names or take on a new married name. But what of the children?  Their parents have not changed and so neither should their names.

Some interesting questions

The following questions push the boundaries of my ideas on naming. The answers are my musings and are not intended to be prescriptive.  If you have other ideas please let me know.

What if it is a same sex marriage?

If a same sex couple want to have the same surname then I would suggest that they take the same sex component of the other partner.  If a man is marrying another man then he would swap the feminine component of his surname for the masculine component of his partner’s surname.

What if the names simply sound terrible together?

Whether something sounds terrible or not is subjective.  If you and your partner love each other then perhaps you could learn to love an unusual sounding combination of names?  At the end of the day it is your choice: when you are filling out the deed poll form you can choose to be called whatever you like.

What if the woman becomes pregnant by accident or against her will?

Irrespective of the circumstances of the conception it is the father’s genes which are being passed on.  It is the father who is connected by blood to the child.  I would argue that as a general principle the child should always take the biological father’s surname.  Even if the mother and father are not in a loving relationship they have come together and are producing a new life.  If the mother chooses to have the child then she is choosing to have his child.  In making this decision it will greatly help the child if the mother has fully forgiven the father for any actions she judges as bad.  Acknowledging the truth of where we have come from helps us to fully appreciate the situation we are in right now.

What if the father’s name is not known?

If the pregnancy is as a result of a sperm donation or one night stand then the mother may simply have no way of knowing the father’s name.  In this case I would suggest that the child takes both elements of their mother’s surname (in reverse order if the child is a boy).  If, at some time in the future, the name of the father is found then the masculine component of his surname can be inserted into its rightful place.

What if the child is adopted?

It would be nice if a name could honour both genetic and adoptive parents and if I had to choose one set to suggest over the other I would go with the genetic parents’ names.  This may take some coming to terms with for the adopting parents but if they are cool about this then the chances are that the child will be too.  Acknowledging the biological parents in the child’s name in no way undermines the love that develops between a child and their adoptive parents and may well help the child to keep a loving connection with their biological parents – however far apart they are in reality.


I am writing this some time after the rest of the article.  On reflection I have come to the conclusion that I have miss ordered the names.  I now believe that, for a man, the male name should come second and last in the joint surname (and similarly for a woman).  This way the name starts and ends with the most important names.  Much better than having the penultimate name staying the same and the last one changing upon marriage.

So, I’ll become Mr Richard Eric Lacey-Evans.

Writing ‘Sex in Mind’

In 2003 I had the bright idea of combining a hypnotic induction with an erotic story to put the listener in the role of the hero / heroine.  I called this a ‘hypnofantasy’ and with the help of some friends I put together some demo CDs.  I sent these out to publishers and to my delight one of them was interested … on the proviso that there was a book to go with the CD (some rule about VAT being put on CDs but not books).  Writing a book was not in my plan but this sounded like a great opportunity.  One meeting later a female friend and I had a book deal!  (All we needed to do now was to write the book.)

Writing the book was a challenge for me in many ways.  I had limiting beliefs about my ability to write as I had always considered myself to be poor at English (probably due to my terrible spelling and possible undiagnosed dyslexia).  A second challenge was how difficult I found co-writing the book.  I wanted everything to be very structured and planned and felt like I was getting more work done; my friend had a much more relaxed style of writing and many more commitments in her life.  The upshot was that I ended up buying my friend out of her side of the contract and writing the book on my own.

It was a lot of work.  But I did it.  On reflection it was fairly solid (I was strongly motivated away from exposing myself to criticism) but didn’t really contain a lot of me (almost certainly for the same reason).  More of an application of other people’s ideas than a communication of my own.  Nevertheless it was a great experience to go through and one that opens my mind to the possibility of writing more books in future.

Sex in Mind was published by New Holland and is available from well stocked bookshops or online at Amazon (click the picture above).  If you have trouble finding the book contact the publisher directly on:

Forum Magasine said:

‘I loved this book and will be recommending it to all my clients. It’s both intelligent and erotic.’ Denise Collins (Professional hypnotherapist and NLP Master Practitioner)

The Independent on Sunday said:

‘The most explosive (s*xual scene) I have ever experienced without actually moving a muscle.’ Emma Gold

Gaydar Nation said:

‘At first glance, Sex in Mind: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Discovery looks like one of the many sex books that have been published in the wake of Sex and the City. You know the kind of thing: it comes with a bold cover design with nice, smart, modern graphics that looks as though it was written by a nice, smart, modern woman. These books are designed to appeal to a readership that wishes they were nice, smart and modern women too, especially where sex is concerned.

‘But then something caught my eye. The author is credited as R.E. Lacey on the cover, but inside on the back flyleaf all becomes clear. The R stands for Richard.

‘Now I don’t know if this is just me, but I think it’s a little bit sketchy to alter the truth of a name like Richard on the front of a book. On a novel or a textbook it would be no big deal, but on a “Woman’s Guide to Sexual Discovery” it feels a bit sneaky on the part of the publishers because the author is not a woman and probably has no idea how it feels to be a woman either.

‘And there’s more: Sex in Mind is the victim of a publicity department that hasn’t done it’s homework. They send out books willy-nilly to anyone they think will review their book and give it publicity, but my spider sense tells me that lesbians in general aren’t going to go a bundle on this one. Why? Perhaps it’s the opposing male and female symbols printed on every page, emphasising the book’s assumption that sex is a man/woman thing. And then there are the passages that talk about holding your guy’s dick in your vag (my language, not Richard’s). This will probably do it for you if you like that kind of thing but, strangely enough, a lot of lesbians do not.

‘But look, I’m an open-minded kind of gal and I’ll review anything that comes my way (I’ll probably regret saying that) so I’ve given Sex in Mind a go.

‘Basically it’s a vaguely new age-y book introducing the principles of tantric sex. These include chapters on relaxation, finding out what it is that you want from sex, connecting with partners, and learning communication skills. It’s written in a clear, no-nonsense way that’s accessible and lacking in the hippy excess often associated with eastern philosophies. Despite the awful male/female graphics, Sex in Mind is fairly gender neutral when referring to partnered sex, which makes it (mostly) relevant to lesbians. Even though he’s – eek! – a man, Lacey is a sympathetic guide, no thanks to the mess his publishers have made of his work, and his book is open, informative and never tacky. I ended up liking it a lot and I think it would be a useful addition to any sex library.

‘What’s more, Sex in Mind comes with a “HypnoFantasy” CD that includes a guided relaxation and a fantasy thingummybob session. The talk of chakras and flowers blossoming in “the space between your sex and your anus” might be a little off-putting for those more cynical than I, but it’s heart is in the right place. Who knows, at the right moment it could be exactly what you fancy.

‘Don’t worry, this book is not going to turn you into Sting but give it a chance, you never know, you might like it.’  Charlotte Cooper

Clean Language

Published in ANLP’s Conference Special 4 April 2004

For the first 3 sessions of the day Penny Tompkins and James Lawley presented a ‘clean language’ approach to outcome oriented therapy / coaching. I had seen them for their ‘clean space’ taster at the autumn conference and was keen to learn more about the ‘clean’ approach.

When thinking of outcomes many NLP practitioners may be inclined to guide a client through a list of questions to ascertain a goal’s ‘well formedness’. While doing this we may also be holding in our minds the question ‘How is it that this person is not achieving this already? ‘in order to identify limiting beliefs, conflicts, etc to ‘zap’ with an NLP technique.

There is no doubt that this approach can yield great insights and results but isn’t always the smoothest of processes: ‘What do you mean “is it initiated and maintained by me?”‘ Perhaps these types of ‘lists’ are best kept in a therapist’s unconscious mind while they put their full conscious attention on the issue as the client is experiencing it.

Penny and James advocate a different approach – one that is not client centred (therapist is flexible with their approach to work with the client’s ego or sense of self) or solution centred (client fits in around the therapist’s chosen approach / metaphor for change) – but rather information centred.

Asking questions of the issue as it is perceived by the client it is genuinely honouring their model of the world.

The ‘clean language’ element is about the therapist using the simplest questions possible to draw out the client’s model without guiding them with presuppositions (which all come from the therapist’s model of the world). By continuing to ask questions of the outcome which is desired it is assumed that the client will gain sufficient understanding such that the boundary of the ‘problem’ will collapse – often without the need for a specific intervention. Entirely consistent with the principles of focusing on what you want and everyone having the resources within them to achieve the outcome they desire.

The session started with some distinctions. In response to the question ‘And what would you like to have happen’ the client will reply with an answer which may be classified as either a ‘Problem’, a ‘Proposed solution’ or a ‘Desired outcome’.

A problem is something which exists now and which the client does not like – e.g. ‘I’m annoyed I have a deck with only 51 cards’. A solution references the problem and what they think needs to

happen in the future – it also includes all ‘away froms’ – e.g. ‘I want to find the missing card’ or ‘I don’t want an incomplete pack of cards’. The desired outcome is what they want in the future instead – e.g. ‘I want to play a game of cards’.

When a client comes to see you with an issue their natural tendency is often to talk about ‘their’ problem. In traditional ‘therapy’ and counselling they may be encouraged to come back week after week to do this. This approach allows them to do this – once – and then gently guides them towards thinking about the solution (this is something that many clients may not have given much thought to before).

When the client talks about the problem the therapist asks ‘And when [repeat clients description of the problem], what would you like to have happen?’ If the client talks about a desired solution the therapist asks ‘And when [repeat client’s description of desired solution], then what happens?’

After one or 2 questions the client has shifted away from the problem and is thinking about what they want instead.

Once the client is thinking about their outcome it is ‘developed’ by asking questions like: ‘And is there anything else about …?’, ‘And what kind of …?’, ‘And whereabouts is …?’, ‘And that’s … like what?’

The therapist’s job is to ask the question which naturally flows from the client’s previous answer – opening up more understanding for them and making the outcome more and more alive in their neurology. The whole process is, as you can imagine, pretty free form at this point- sometimes looping back into a problem or solution.

The therapist keeps it on course and may reach a point when they can ask a question like ‘And when [outcome], what happens to [problem]?’

If the positive, resourceful state of the outcome is alive in the neurology this seems to me to act like a collapse anchors and, hey presto, the person experiences a change in their perception of the problem – right there and then.

If this all sounds complicated then the demo really brought it to life.

Our volunteer came to the stage with the outcome of wanting to sell some property. After a few questions it became clear that this was about much more than a house sale with some relationship issues coming up as a problem which prevented the outcome from happening. The emotion which went with these issues were clear in the client’s physiology – she was running the problem right there in the room.

In addition to the content it was interesting to note that certain directions of life, blocks, issues, etc had positions and directions in relation to the client as indicated by unconscious looks and gestures. These were noted and referred to by the therapist – further honouring of the client’s model of the world.

The session was short and interrupted by explanations (which allowed time for the client to come out of state) but it became clear how powerful the technique was to allow the underlying issues to surface and, therefore, facilitate change at a deep level.

Having a go ourselves we soon found that the identification of problem / solution / outcome was actually quite intuitive and that the questions started to flow quite easily. Though tempting to fall back on standard meta-model type questions like ‘what prevents you?’ sticking to the clean language provided surprisingly good results.

As James explained: he is constantly surprised by the answer to the next question. The trick, of course, is having an idea about the most effective question to ask next- something that James and Penny do very well and one which I think all NLPers in general should make a priority to develop.

Can you hypnotise me to change?

People often hope that they can come and be ‘put under’ for an hour while a hypnotist changes them and walk out a different person.  This is created by the ‘Stop smoking in an hour’, ‘I can make you slim’ style messages put across by ambitious and egoic ‘hypnotherapists’.  It is re-enforced by watching hypnotists on the TV and the stage demonstrating the power of hypnosis to make people believe weird and wonderful things and act in odd ways. Hypnosis does, indeed, have the power to do seemingly magical things – particularly with very suggestible people in front of a crowd willing them to be entertaining.  But the stranger the change introduced, the less likely it is to stick.  The reality in the world around them wears the suggestion off until the person has come back to normal.

While I understand the attraction of a no-effort quick fix I am concerned that well intentioned but insensitive hypnotherapists reading from a standard script can force further tensions into the client’s unconscious rather than unwinding them.  Papering over cracks can provide a superficial fix but if it leaves the deepest tensions unresolved (and now, perhaps, hidden) they are likely to pop up in new and, perhaps, less obvious ways.  On a number of occasions I have had needed to pick apart previous ‘healing’ work that has actually obscured the deep structure of someone’s problems.

Rather than trying to slide post-hypnotic suggestions ‘under the radar’ my preferred approach is to use trance in a collaborative way that increases the client’s awareness of how they are creating their problem.  As the client’s awareness increases so does their ability to choose new ways of being.  This new awareness and empowerment usually means that the symptoms they came with fall away.  As, or perhaps even more importantly, it engenders an attitude of curiosity and self-reliance.  The next time an issue comes up in life they are not dependent on going back to a hypnotherapist for a ‘top-up’ (topping up with what exactly?); but rather they can bring their own awareness to bare and release the tensions themselves.