Could this be your experience as a solution focused hypnotherapy client?

This blog builds on what I talk about in the above video (please do feel free to count the “actually”s if you watch it – please also feel free to ignore the fingers at the end!!).

Can’t see the woods from the trees?

Oftentimes in life we feel overwhelmed by everything that we need to do and all the plates we need to keep spinning.  It can become all consuming.  It seems that all we can see is the difficulty and challenge that surrounds us.  It can feel like all there is around us are trip hazards.

Taking a sidestep

In seeking help from a solution focused hypnotherapist, the process immediately enables us to see things just a little bit differently.  Gaining the understanding of how the stressed and/or anxious mind can cause us to see the world in generally negative terms creates an immediate shift in focus which gets built upon over a series of sessions.

As I suggest in the video, this shift in focus and/or mindset can help us see a pathway through the trees.  We can find an easier way which may even have a choice of directions.

Finding the right path

We are by no means out of the woods yet, but now the change in perspective gives us choices and helps us to see the beginnings of a way forward.  At this early stage it might be tempting for that stressed out mind to want to quit.  Where the path leads is not immediately obvious. There is an awful lot we still cannot see down this route.

The solution focused hypnotherapy process

However, as we continue through the solution focused process we continue to take small steps forward.  Perhaps we make different decisions.  The brain responds in fundamentally different ways as it seeks to find answers to the powerful questions that form an integral part of solution focused hypnotherapy.  The use of hypnosis consolidates and accelerates this learning.

As we continue to take steps along our newfound path, the view becomes brighter, more open.  We begin to realise that not every step has a trip hazard, or at least not one that we haven’t shrugged off with aplomb a thousand times before. So many of the things that used to worry us now no longer feature in our thinking much.  Now we are building some momentum.  We are moving up the control matrix (more on that here).

The view opens up

Maybe then it is just possible that the world feels like a different place.  The woods are still there. There is no guarantee that every step along this route has the beautiful view that has just appeared.  But we know we can handle the more difficult parts of the path.  Equipped with a stronger skillset, greater resilience, and a newfound energy we can continue with confidence.  We can continue the focus on those things that give us the greatest joy, not the greatest worry.

Do you want to change your view?:

If you would like to change your view, please do get in touch here.

I am available for clinical hypnotherapy appointments in Stroud and Cirencester, Gloucestershire.  Please contact me here:

Why can’t I get myself to the gym? How to Take Back Control

… and Start Doing the Things that are Important to You.

Have you ever struggled to do the things you know you must do to achieve a goal?  Or maybe there were good habits you once had, but are struggling to get back into them? It should be easy, but it seems hard and you can’t understand why?

Control is a Constant

A concept I sometimes discuss with my clients is the idea that control is a constant.  Put simply it is the idea that once we take control over one thing in our life we immediately (often without conscious recognition) take control over other things in our lives too.  And these things are frequently completely unrelated to each other.

For Example:

One evening I find myself able to go out for a twenty-minute walk.  Because I can do this, I also have the self-control to peel potatoes for dinner rather than doing the easier, but perhaps less healthy option, of sticking oven chips in the fryer.  I now recognise that peeling potatoes isn’t the chore my primitive brain thinks it is.  I can now make sure that I book a hair appointment without fuss.  (Those of you that have met me will know I never need to book hair appointments – but as examples go it will do here).  I know I can book the hair appointment, which reinforces the knowledge that I can go for the 20-minute evening walk.

The Matrix:

No not that matrix! Let’s imagine that these groups of things that we have control over, or can make happen, sit in a matrix.  As our confidence grows (and our anxiety falls) we move up the matrix. The number of things we have control over (or find easier to make happen) increases.  Each step up through the matrix, as evidenced by the achievement of one task, enables us to carry out many others, on the same level, more easily.

Each level may also contain things that we only have sub-conscious control over.  For example, as we move up the matrix because we can now peel potatoes, make hair appointments without fuss and walk for twenty minutes the sub conscious mind also realises we do not need to experience IBS or have a panic attack in the situation we currently face.

When we get to the very top level (let’s call it ten) nothing we would like, or need, to do phases us much.  Life feels easy, things we used to find difficult take less energy now.

When Things get Difficult:

The problems tend to arise though when we are not at level ten, but we are at levels below that and we are shooting too high.  Maybe we’re at level four or five.  There are plenty of things we can do and make happen.  There are also plenty of things that we would like to, or need, to do which do phase us … and sometimes phase us quite a lot!

An Imaginary Client:

Imagine a 30 something year old man comes to see me asking for help managing his weight.  It’s crept up over the last 2 to 3 years.  It’s now a problem because his health is beginning to suffer.  More worrying: the solution he has used in the past to control his weight he now feels he can’t do.   He might say: “Alex, I used to go to the gym every lunch time at work.  All I need to do is to restart that habit and all these problems go away! But I can’t seem to make myself do it, and worse, all I want to do is sit and eat the doughnuts someone has brought into the office because it’s their birthday … it always seems to be someone’s ruddy birthday!”

The solution seems so easy.  I need to get to the gym, I need to get to the gym, I need to get to the gym.  And every time he sets himself the goal to do exactly that, he fails.  The constant failure leads to increased stress and decreased confidence.

Life Changes:

Here’s the thing, the last time he went to the gym at work was three years ago.  Back then he was more junior.  He lived ten minutes away from work, he had just met his now wife and he didn’t have any children.  Two big promotions in as many years means he is now a head of department; his oldest child is having trouble settling at the local nursery.  His wife is about to go on maternity leave in anticipation of the arrival of their second child. He now lives in a bigger house 30 minutes from the office.  The plan to continue working from home two or three days a week post pandemic has not worked out.

This gentleman’s problem could be that he is at level five or six in his control matrix.  Three years ago, this may have been enough control to ensure he still got to the gym.  Now he is not as fit, he has more responsibility.  Getting to the gym is now at least on level eight, probably nine, in his control matrix.  All his spare energy (of which there is only a very limited amount) is used trying to get him to do that “easy” thing of going to the gym.

Does this mean that getting to the gym at lunchtime is never again going to be part of the solution?  No not at all, but I might encourage such a client to focus on some of those things that can be achieved first and more simply.  If we are at level five in the matrix, going for an activity which is at eight or higher is too big a stretch.  It will only ever lead to constant failure and disappointment, making the situation worse.

Looking Somewhere Else:

Setting our sights a bit lower and in a different area, to find something more achievable might be a good way to go to begin. Maybe he can get up ten minutes earlier during the week so that he can help with the family’s morning routine.  Now that he can do this, he knows (maybe only subconsciously) he can give a cheerier hello to the receptionists at the front desk when he arrives at work.  Having done that he can be more aware whilst at work of saying “yes” to a task he should be saying “no” to.

Comfortable at this level six he can be ready to work on getting to the next level.  At level seven he finds he can have that difficult conversation, he has been meaning to have, with his boss about making sure he’s home by 6.30pm more often.  Having broached that subject with his boss he recognises that he can be more patient with his son when he does get home.  He now has a fraction more energy and he can do a ten-minute walk before he has his dinner.  Another level of control has been achieved.

Now He’s Getting Somewhere:

Since he stopped beating himself up for not going to the gym at lunch time he feels more relaxed.  Life is a bit different, easier maybe.  He’s maybe not yet losing weight but at least he has stopped putting weight on.  He also notices that he has said no more times than yes to the seemingly constant birthday doughnuts.  What is more this appears to have happened without a conscious decision to do so.

In time he moves to level eight in his control matrix.  Maybe, just maybe, getting to the gym at lunch time is now a more realistic proposition.

Change of Focus to Make Better Gains in the Short Term:

The primary point is this:  Focusing on one or two things we feel obliged to make happen is often not the best way of achieving our goals.  In fact, that can often make it more difficult, making us feel more miserable.

I might make this all sound a bit simple.  I know full well it is not always that easy.  But maybe you get the idea.  There’s very rarely just one answer, and even if there, is sometimes we need to think creatively in order to make that happen.  The important thing is that we keep moving forward, finding the next simple step which moves us on and up the control matrix.  Gain a little confidence here, lose a little stress there.  Then our world changes and we may just be able to get to the gym at lunchtime.

If you’re struggling to keep moving forwards and upwards, Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can help.  Please contact me for further details.

What Has My Water Flosser Got to do With It?

I have a water flosser. I’ve used one for many years and I think I’m on my third unit!  They’re wonderful contraptions that basically blast water wherever you point the pointy bit.  If you want it to do the job for which it was designed, you point it at your teeth. Even better, at the gaps between them.  I’ll not dwell on it too much because it’s actually a bit yucky!

Why on earth do I tell you this?  Well, bear with me:  All of them have had three different power settings: low, medium and high.  And here’s the thing: every single one of them I have only ever used on high.  It made me wonder, why do they make them with low and medium speeds if I only ever use high?

Be like the water flosser

We, like the water flosser, have been designed to go about life at various different speeds.  Whether it be different times of the day, different days of the week, different times of the month or different months of the year.  There are times when we should be operating at a slower speed.  These days so many of us try to operate the same way I operate a water flosser.  Its either off or its on full!

A Sensible Book

Cal Newport discusses, among other good ideas, how working at different speeds is important to the human psyche in his new book “Slow Productivity”.*  Unlike my water flosser, “working with unceasing intensity is artificial and unsustainable” (p.124).* Sometimes it is more necessary to return to “the more varied effort levels for which humans are wired” (p.124)*.


Of particular interest to me just recently has been how energy levels change over the period of a year.  During the short days and long nights of Winter, our ancestral friends would have inevitably done things very differently to what they did in the longer days and shorter nights of Summer.  Maybe we would do well to try and replicate some of that change of pace in our modern lives? Even if it only means that we cut ourselves some slack when we do not have the same energy in the middle of Winter that we may have in the middle of Spring.

In the meantime I will continue to use my water flosser on full!

If you’re struggling to vary the pace and want greater confidence to be able to put yourself first contact me to find out how Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can help

Newport, Cal (2024) Slow Productivity: The Lost Art of Accomplishment Without Burnout

Performing well at work? 4 Questions to Improve Performance

I see a lot of clients whose primary concern, or stressor, is how they are performing at work.  We spend a lot of time at work.  Even for those of us who can compartmentalise well, it inevitably impacts how we feel outside of work too.

Over the last ten plus years I seem to have seen more than my fair share of ambitious, work-oriented individuals who are keen to succeed in their chosen fields.  A business owner, who is aware that if they don’t “turn up” then a significant number of employees’ lives may be negatively affected.  The business executive who knows that keeping the focus on the right areas is key to ensure promotion rather than being overlooked.  A newly promoted Sales Director who needs to get the team working rather than doing the work themselves. All whilst keeping stress levels within manageable levels, and making sure the sacrifice is balanced rather than all consuming.

Whether we live to work or go to work only because we have to, you will find below the keys to performing well at it. I also list some questions we can ask ourselves to help us perform better. The blog ends with how Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can make a powerful difference to our performance in the workplace.

Key to Performing Well at Work:

Making Proper Assessments:

Seeing things as they are, not how the emotional mind might be telling us they are.

A growth mindset:

In which mistakes are seen as learning opportunities rather than career ruining.

Good decision making:

Using all available information, not just avoiding worst case scenarios.

Correct Focus:

Making sure we concentrate on those areas that help drive success, not those areas which feel comfortable or easy

Good communication:

With work colleagues up and down the hierarchy and customers outside of the organisation.

What can we do to improve our performance at work:

I like asking questions.  The brain is good at answering them.  Questions focus the mind, changes our thinking and encourages hope and confidence.  Here are some good questions to ask ourselves to help us improve our performance at work:

What are your strengths?

As the stress levels rise it is easy to catastrophise, seeing things from the worst possible perspective.  In this situation the perceived size of the task increases and our perceived ability to achieve it shrinks, creating a widening gap between the two.  Listing (go ahead write them down!) our strengths can remind us that, the challenge may be a big one, but we do have the skills to meet it.

What is going well at work already?

Even in the midst of the greatest challenges at work there will be areas that that have gone well.  What part of your business/job is working well?  What have you been pleased with over the last week or two with your workplace performance?  Often there is more to celebrate than we think.  This increases motivation and gives us energy.

Who can help you?

Spend more than just a few moments on this.  Brainstorm the names on paper.  Who can help you overcome this challenge, who has done it (or something similar) before?  When and how could you contact them? Its important to remember that most people like to be asked to help.

What one skill which if you improved would help you most at work?

I believe life is about growth and continual improvement.  Each challenge seen as an opportunity as an opportunity to learn new things.  Identifying which one skill, which if we improved it, would help us the most can be an eye opener.  Furthermore we can then take steps to improve that skill.  Simply being aware that a regular action is a skill, that can be improved, can lead to being more mindful of how we operate in particular situations.

A series of Solution Focused Hypnotherapy sessions will:

  • Make you more aware of your strengths (and even uncover strengths you’d forgotten/never knew you had), to build confidence.
  • Help overcome procrastination.
  • Enable you to think and problem solve more creatively.
  • Help you separate what is important from what simply appears to be important.
  • Give you an understanding of how the brain works, so that you can understand yourself, and perhaps more importantly, your work colleagues/customers better.
  • Help make better decisions based on a proper assessment of your work
  • Improve your focus and help you to avoid distractions.
  • Help you visualise what good performance looks like…

To name just a few!

Want to know more?  Just contact Alex and make the next twelve months your best performing year yet!

Understanding How the Brain Works

I talk to my clients a lot about how the brain works.  It’s important for a few reasons, not least it helps people understand why it is that we suffer from anxiety, depression, anger issues or a myriad of related conditions.  More importantly, understanding how the brain works provides ideas on ways to fix whatever it is that is going wrong that is making us feel miserable.

Our Brain is not a Machine

I drive a car.  I know how to make it go, I know how to change gear, I know how to make it stop.  If everything is working properly that is all I need to know.  Unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong.  When that happens, I hand it over to a garage who fix it for me.  They may identify, from the state of the car, that I am driving it in such a way as to cause parts to wear prematurely.  They may advise me to change my habits and explain the consequences of not doing so. Ultimately though, I can surrender my car for a day (or, more worryingly, a few days) and it comes back fixed (although my wallet may be somewhat lighter).


It would be useful if I had the skills to fix it myself.  To do so I would have to learn how all the various parts work, how they relate to each other and what a broken part looks like.  Ultimately being a hunk of metal, plastic, glass and rubber which does one job, get me (my dog and/or my family) from A to B.  The worst that could happen if I could not get it fixed is that I could not get from a to b as quickly and conveniently as I might like.  Fortunately, there are plenty of people who understand all of that stuff really well that can take it away for me and fix it in less than half the time.

The Brain is More Complex.

The central control unit of everything that we are, everything that we do and everything that we think.  If we continually drive it in such a way that causes damage or premature wearing of parts, we don’t just lose our ability to get from A to B quickly and conveniently.  We potentially lose a whole heap more.  We can’t just surrender our brain for a day or two to someone else to have a poke about and return it to us like new.

An Investment

It therefore makes sense to invest a little time into understanding what is going on under the hood of our minds.  Learning about what makes it work well (and what doesn’t). We can then make the very best use of it, without causing unnecessary wear and tear.

Jaak Panksepp is credited as saying that we have an inner urge to seek, to know, to understand.  And this urge is no stronger than when we think about ourselves.  Freud might have tried to explain it through our relationship with our parents.  Our upbringing is clearly important. I prefer to explain to my clients why they feel or behave the way they do through the lens of neuroscience.  That lens shares the theory of neuroplasticity, which suggests our brain can learn, change and grow out of the traps we may have created in our past.

Are you ready?

If you are ready to invest time into understanding how your mind works, what makes it work well and what hinders it, then please contact me to book an Initial Consultation.

What do you Want? – The Question we Often Answer Badly

I ask my clients a lot of questions!  Some of them I repeat across sessions.  The brain is actually very good at answering questions, just as soon as we get past the feeling of despair (often created in our school days) when we realise we do not immediately know the answer to it.  But there is one question which seems to leave many of us floundering: What do you want?

The Easy Answer:

It is very easy to answer this question with what it is we don’t want!  I often hear: “well I won’t be anxious anymore” or “I wouldn’t feel so tired all the time”.  As goals go they seem lovely.  The difficulty is, that now we have said (and thought) the words anxious and/or tired.  The subconscious will focus on these words and try to find evidence that these goals are coming true.  We have effectively primed the brain to look for negative feelings.  This type of thinking is typical of that part of the brain which is good at running away from things.  This part of the brain is great when we have to run away from a polar bear.  But is not good at dealing with the levels of complexity involved with moving forwards towards a positive goal that will give our life meaning and beyond the need to survive the next five minutes.

A Silly Example:

Let’s imagine for a moment that a tired and anxious tourist lands at an airport.  As well as thinking “I do not want to be tired and anxious anymore” they are also thinking “I do not want to be at the airport any more”.  In trying to stop being at the airport they ask the taxi driver to simply drive them away from the airport.  They are unlikely to get very far before the taxi driver wants to know exactly where it is they do want to go.  Driving round aimlessly trying not to be someplace and hoping to get somewhere is expensive, tiresome and possibly even unsafe.  Hardly a recipe for getting to where you want and certainly not one for making the tourist feel less tired and less anxious.  It creates uncertainty.  A directionless existence.

The tired and anxious tourist can no more get away from being tired and anxious than the taxi driver can take them to the nice hotel that’s been booked without the address.  When trying to escape being tired and anxious we need to know the detail of where we are headed to.  The more detailed the picture the better.  Which town is the Hotel in, what road is it on and what number on that road?  Now we are heading in a positive direction, the tourist knows it, the taxi driver knows what is required of them.

A Better Way:

The brain works best when we show it what we do want.  Let’s imagine we answer the same question with “I would like to feel calm and relaxed more often” or “I would have more energy”!  Now we have primed the brain to find evidence of more positive feelings and emotions. We have primed the brain to look our for evidence that says “I am feeling calm and relaxed” or maybe I do have that fractionally more energy today that tells me I can go out for that walk.  It is immediately a more hopeful outlook which can in itself move us towards better feelings.

Of course there is a little more to it than that, not least because we need more detail.  And, of course, some questions are easier to answer in the positive terms than others.  However, aiming to shift the balance towards what we do want rather than  what we don’t want is a very good start to get us heading in a more positive direction.

Poor/Lack of Sleep Making Life Impossible? Six Tips That WILL Help!

Many of my clients come to see me not being able to get a good night’s sleep. Many more come to see me with a different problem and in addition to that problem also have trouble with their sleep. When the sleep starts to improve the more prevalent problem disappears. We know that people who do not sleep enough, have broken sleep or can’t get to sleep are more likely to struggle with their weight and increase their risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke. Poor sleep also leads to an increase of inflammatory markers associated with a range of other chronic diseases. Which is worrying enough to stop us from sleeping… and so a negative spiral begins.

So what can you do to improve your sleep:

  1. Control your exposure to light – Light is probably the biggest factor in driving our circadian rhythms (the cycle the body and mind goes through on a daily basis). For this reason we have to treat light with respect. Try to make your bedroom as dark as possible at night. In the build up to bed time, soften the lights. All light is made up of the colours of the rainbow and it is the blue light in particular which drives wakefulness.
  2. Restrict your screen time – Use of screens at night can fool the brain in to thinking that we must stay awake. The red light has the least impact on our daily body rhythms and many devices come with  a screen filter which filters out the blue leaving more red light. However, this does not stop us seeing a Facebook post which annoys, frustrates or saddens us. It does not stop us from seeing the video which has been designed to grab our attention using more than just flashing light and quickly changing imagery. Ultimately the best option is to stop using all screens (including that pesky mobile phone!) in the last hour before bed.
  3. Sleep hygiene – This is all about having a good routine in the last hour or two before going to bed. Making sure we follow a similar one each night and making sure it involves some time to relax. When I am away lecturing I know that I am unlikely to arrive home at 1 am, after the drive from the airport, and be able to fall asleep straight away. It is better that I allow myself 20 minutes or more to relax (not looking at a screen!), before following my normal bed time routine before getting in to bed. The brain often likes routine and matches patterns of behaviour to bodily responses.
  4. Build in some me time during the day – Part of falling to sleep is relaxing. If we spend our whole day running from one place/task/appointment to the next we are not practising our ability to relax. It is no coincidence that people who meditate regularly are much better sleepers than those that don’t. Never tried meditation? I love this two minute myth busting instructional video from Happify.
  5. Include some physical exercise in your daily routine – this can often feel impossible if we are exhausted from not sleeping for weeks or months or years. A walk round the block is, in my opinion, the most under rated activity. For better sleep aim to do it first thing in the morning when the sun has come up. This maximises the amount of natural light early in the day helping to reset that body clock and bring things back in to line.
  6. Get up at the same time each morning – I know this can be difficult. Particularly for those that struggle to get to sleep in the first place, and then once asleep the thought of waking when the alarm goes off can be painful. However, one of the biggest factors that dictate when we will fall asleep is how long it has been since we woke up. And if we have overslept by an hour or two then we immediately push back the body’s/brain’s desire to fall asleep by a similar amount, leading to the same frustration that night. Overcoming this short term pin (doing at the weekend may be the best time) can reap many benefits.

If you have tried the above and it is making no difference, or it feels like something is stopping you from doing the above, it may be time to seek some additional help. There are many professionals out there who can help. You GP should of course be your first port of call. Solution focused hypnotherapy can be enormously powerful in helping people to create good positive habits that lead to better sleep. Studies have shown hypnotherapy helps in reducing the time taken for people to fall asleep in the first place, improve the ability to stay asleep throughout the night, and reduce the amount of time spent in wakefulness if they do wake in the night. And the effects last long after treatment finishes. It is no magic wand but with some commitment and a desire to make changes you could be sleeping like a baby again and enjoying the myriad of benefits that come with consistently good sleep.

Alex Brounger is a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist, Hypnotherapy Supervisor and Lecturer. He runs busy practices in Stroud and Cirencester in Gloucestershire. He also does Hypnotherapy Sessions online. You can find out more about him here:

Are you asking too much from yourself? – Four Burner Theory

In my practice I often see people who may simply be doing just that!  But how do you know if you are asking too much of yourself?  This article may help!

The Four Burners Theory:

James Clear’s emails have survived many an unsubscribe cull over the years. One of my favourites is his explanation of the Four Burners Theory. His full article can be found here and I would highly recommend you read it:

In brief he describes the theory that we can look at our lives as a four burner stove. One burner is our family; one our work; one our friends and one our health. Essentially there is only a limited supply of gas. If we are to become true experts in any one of these four quadrants we have to  turn off one or even two of the others to allow a greater flow to the one we have prioritised.

We are all constantly looking for the right balance and are, of course, having to make trade offs or compromises between quadrants in order to remain sane and meet our responsibilities. If we are lucky we have a lot of control over which ones we have burning most brightly at any one time. Even the most casual observer might recognise that the first burner to be turned down when others (often work) need more heat is our health.

The Stress Bucket:

I think there is an extra element to this which is important we take in to account. I often talk to my customers about a stress bucket.  The bucket fills with things that need to be processed by the brain (very often negatives such as set backs, losses, painful experiences etc).  We know the subconscious will process these things during downtime, when accessing a positive trance state and, most importantly, during REM sleep. All these things will lighten the load in the bucket.

However, when the bucket gets too full the brain will work less effectively.  We will be more likely to suffer mood swings, anger, anxiety, low mood and a whole host of other negative side affects. There may be less focus and our performance may suffer at work.  We may feel less connected to our friends and family.  Looking after our health becomes an even greater chore.

In short the weight of the bucket restricts the supply of gas to all the burners meaning none of them will burn as brightly as we would like. Frustratingly this can create a negative thought loop (“I am not doing enough/performing as well as I know I can” etc) which continues to pile more things in to the bucket cutting the gas supply further.

171116 Four Burner Stress Bucket Picture

What to do about it?

There are of course ways to reduce the amount that goes in to the bucket. Skills we can practice, things we can do or perceive differently. Ultimately though it is often crucial that we find a way to redirect some additional gas to the health burner. This will have a direct impact on the weight of the bucket too. The temptation to cut the gas supply to this burner is a very short term way of thinking.

Do you need help getting your stress bucket under control? Perhaps you need help redirecting the gas supply to a different burner?

I am a Clinical Hypnotherapist, Hypnotherapy Lecturer and Supervisor with clinics in Stroud and Cirencester, Gloucestershire. I also see people for online hypnotherapy and telephone appointments.

Contact me Here 

This blog is an adaptation of this article I wrote in 2017.