Memories and photos

These are just a few of the photos I have taken over the years. There were very few with me in. Fewer with me and my friends. What you can’t see from these photos is who I was with. Paris, Niagara Falls, San Francisco, the Grand Canyon – all places that are amazing. But they weren’t amazing just as pictures. They were amazing because of the *experience*
All of these places I was with someone.
One of those friends who travelled everywhere with me is now dead. Another one is battling cancer and has been for a good while.
I want to look back and remember the moments but I can’t because I haven’t got photos of the moments. I’ve got photos of the things.
I wasn’t really noticing the things either. In each of those photos I can remember how self absorbed I was with my own struggles. While stood on a balcony in Starbucks, surrounded by the red rocks of Sedona, I was torn up inside as the US mothers day kept reminding me of my challenges with my mother. My friend Laurie is out of shot. We had been talking about these things. That memory is only in my head.
Now, I would take a selfie. It would be about both of us. These things are meaningless without the people who create the experiences.
I really wish I could go back and re-experience all those moments – staying present and truly enjoying the company and the shared joy. But of course I can’t. Time travel is not possible.
So my advice to you, and myself, is to be present. Enjoy every moment. When you take photos, take the ones that capture the experience, not just the place.
Because one day the people you love and care about may be gone, and all you’ll have is your memories and those photos

The Samaritans are listeners not therapists

I’ve often thought of volunteering for a line like the Samaritans of Childline. One of the biggest frustrations I have as a private therapist is that I can only help people who can afford to see me. This is why, once a year, I give away free therapy.

The other day I had the opportunity to attend a talk from the head of the Scottish Samaritans about the work they do. I was keen to go along and learn if there was a way I could help.

I learnt an awful lot and am truly in awe of the service.

But I also learnt that I could not man the lines at the Samaritans.

This is because the Samaritans listen. They listen actively. They listen without judgement. They listen to understand, and to be there.

I listen too. But I listen to help. I listen to guide and steer and make your life better. I listen to help sort your problems out.

The Samaritans listen unconditionally. Whatever you want to do or plan on doing, they don’t intervene. They hope to save lives by listening, not by acting or intervening. And that is amazing.

As I have seen from my Masters dissertation questionnaire, this is particularly important for men. Men don’t talk. And creating a place they can go to doesn’t seem to work. We know, from internet trolling, that people will say more if it’s anonymous than they would otherwise. The Samaritans provide a safe, anonymous place that you can go and talk, and by doing so they save countless lives. They are making it so they can be there for you before it’s too late – before you’ve gone too far. There is a text number and I’ve see lots of people sharing it. But that’s really not making the most of what they do. They even say that themselves. They want you to call them, even if, at first, you can’t talk much.

It is a brilliant and life-saving service. But it’s not for me. I am about solving problems, not just listening to them. It would kill me to hear about people in pain and to be helpless to change things for them. It breaks my heart every time I hear about another person that has taken their life because they were in too much pain to live. I want to help everyone. I know I can’t, but I will focus on those who give me the chance to help.

So I won’t be manning the Samaritans line, or other lines. It would be too hard for me to cope with. I am full of admiration for those that do.

If you need to talk, about anything, to someone who will listen without judgement, just call 116 123 (UK only)

Men don’t talk

So here is an interesting observation for you. I am doing a study on the fear of public speaking for my Masters. So far my questionnaire is going well, but only 4% of the completed surveys are from men.

Now I know for a fact that a fear of public speaking is not about whether you are male of female.

But maybe talking about it is?

Suicide kills three times as many men as it does women. If you are a man between 20 and 49, you’re more likely to die from suicide than cancer, road accidents or heart disease.

This is just a little survey on fear of public speaking. But the completion rates are confirming a far bigger problem.

Men don’t talk about what’s in their heads.

How can we change this?

If you could spare a bit of time to complete my survey, I’d really appreciate it.

You can only learn by messing up – and I messed up

First paper result

I didn’t fail my first assignment. But I didn’t do very well in it either.I was one grade away from a fail.

Let’s have a bit of context here.

  • This was a paper that required me to pick a topic, do research, gather alternate views and write a discussion/analysis using references to explain my position.
  • I have never had to write anything like this before. I have never had to consider other people’s opinions when write my own. I have never had to cite other people.
  • I have always had to make my writing readable and understandable by all. In a scientific paper you don’t have to do that. The writing is very technical and non-personal.

This was everything that I was scared about with Uni. It was daunting.

At first, I was ok with it. I thought I did really well to pass my first ever assignment. I read through the comments and totally understood what the lecturer was looking for. I could see why my paper didn’t cut it.

I’ve got to say it was fascinating.

I learnt so much by messing up.

And that’s the thing you see, you can only learn by messing up. Messing up and having another go at it.

Second paper result

Then the next paper marks came in. A little better but not very good. This was easier for me to write. It didn’t require referencing. This one, I couldn’t understand what I needed to do differently to get a better mark. I began to feel useless

Maybe my brain doesn’t work the way it needs to for academia

Falling into a hole

Then I got a new assignment – and I didn’t even understand the question. I had no idea where to start because it looked like I would need to write about something I didn’t even understand.

My confidence took a massive knock. I did a group presentation. The presentation was fine (we bribed the audience with doughnuts) but I was really light on content compared to the other 3 presenters.

I started panicking and thinking that I wasn’t cut out for any of this. The deadline for both the new papers began to loom.

I went onto the Masters Facebook group and asked if anyone could explain the assignment to me. No one could. Phew! It wasn’t just me. I mailed the lecturer and he explained a bit more. I started working on the paper, but I was still having a massive confidence crisis.

Get by with a little help from your friends

Then an old school friend offered to help. She has experience writing scientific papers. She read through the second assignment and pointed out what I could have done. So I had a stab and the next one and she asked questions and pointed me in the right direction. It was really helpful. So that paper is written, even though the deadline isn’t until next week.

Then it was a matter of the other one. Two 1000 word referenced essays, both due in at the same time. Both from the same person who nearly failed me. Both on a topic I didn’t understand.

Then I was chatting to another friend (have you noticed what awesome friends I have?) and she asked me a load of questions about exactly what I didn’t know how to do. And I understood that it wasn’t that I was rubbish, it was that I was trying to work in a way that is not natural to me.

Finding my flow

I realised something about the way I work. This is how it goes:

  1. I read around to understand a subject. I speed read and skim through content. When something is interesting I zoom in and spend a bit of time on it.
  2. I match what I have learnt to what I already know and work out how it can apply
  3. I write something to explain it to others – simplifying it and putting it in my own words. Once I can explain it to someone else, I know I understand it.

This is how I have been writing papers:

  1. I get the topic and I go to Google Scholar and find connected papers
  2. I try and understand the intro, methods, results and conclusions in the paper (and often fail)
  3. I find another connected paper. Each paper leads to countless others. I open that and repeat the exercise
  4. I have millions of tabs open in Adobe Acrobat and still no idea where to start.

You can see why I’ve been struggling. So I’ve realised that I need to make it work for me. This is not about me being rubbish. This is about my way of working not fitting with the academic way – YET! I can find my flow.

So this is my new approach:

  1. I read around to understand a subject. I speed read and skim through content. When something is interesting I zoom in and spend a bit of time on it. I do this on regular Google.
  2. I match what I have learnt to what I already know and work out how it can apply.
  3. I write the paper in my own words.
  4. I go back through and every statement I make I either say “Prove it” or ask “who says?”
  5. I find papers to match what I am saying and add references.

Getting there

Yesterday I sat down with this approach and wrote one of the two papers for the assignment. The lecturer also explained it in his class and I came back and tweaked it a bit. But I now have one of the two ready to submit, and it’s not due until the 28th. I should be able to get the other one done by the end of the week. I’m feeling better that I will at least get the same marks, if not better.

I’m not going to get top marks. I never have in my life. I’m good enough and I’m ok with that.


The case of mistaken identity

Image result for does not compute images

As a result of a sequence of personal events, I recently came to the realisation that I have always felt insignificant. In the story of my childhood, I believe no one cared enough about me to protect me, love me and care for me, I was insignificant in the choices they made in their lives. When I had my daughter, this story of nobody caring became even harder to comprehend. How can anyone not love and care for a child? It must have meant that there was something very wrong with me.

As a result, I have lived my life feeling that whatever I do doesn’t matter. I am too insignificant to listen to and pay attention to.

Luckily, I learnt many years ago to ignore the inner voice and those limiting beliefs, so I have continued to act in my life as if what I do matters. But there has always been a core part of my identity that carried this belief. In fact, I now realise that my struggles with my weight have been about a subconscious attempt to appear outwardly very significant, to compensate for that inner feeling/belief.

In 2011 I came across Cognitive Hypnotherapy and many things in my life changed. I was able to be happy and present for the first time ever. I was able to appreciate my friends and family. I was able to plan for the future. And of course, I became a Cognitive Hypnotherapist myself and, to-date, have changed the lives of over 600 people – and that’s not thinking about the people I’ve impacted with my talks and books. Many things changed, include the belief that there was something wrong with me. I mostly let go of the belief that I was evil and unlovable. And then, when I took my abuser to court, I let go of the belief that no one would believe me and that it was all my fault.

Lots changed. Pretty significant. Well, you’d think so.

But still I have had a limiting belief about being listened to or being heeded. It holds me back from speaking out in meetings, or now, from asking questions in lectures. The thought of speaking out in a room full of people makes me physically shake. And yet I can stand in front of a room full of hundreds of people and talk about anything and comfortably answer any questions.

I recently posted about this on Facebook. I use Facebook as my personal, safe place, to talk to a trusted few friends. The responses had me in tears again and again.

The way my friends see me is totally incongruent with the way I see myself

I don’t recognise this person they talk about. Here are some of the things my friends said in response to my post where I said I felt I was insignificant:

  • You give to others selflessly
  • You are kind, generous and hold a place in the hearts of all those who have met you
  • Smart and articulate, always ‘straight up’, and impressive
  •  Wise, generous and courageous, and a woman I admire.
  • You have this way of hearing and seeing people Dawn, it’s surely a gift. You give other people around you, strength encouragement and support without realising it at times. You listened, you understood and if you didn’t you never belittled, never wanted to look the better person, always supported
  • I think you’re a powerhouse.
  • insignificant is simply not a word I’d ever associate with you
  • look at what you have achieved, look at your lovely family, look at your well adjusted daughter, look at the people like me that you help, look at the lives you turn around on a daily basis and will continue to.

I sat and read comment after comment with my head in my hands.


Who is this person that they are talking about? Can it really be me?

The way I see myself in no way matches the way others see me.

This morning, a friend I worked with many many years ago described me as one of the most likeable people she knows. Me? Really?

I see this day in, day out with my clients. Particularly my weight management clients (over and under-weight). The way they see themselves bears no resemblance to the rest of the world. The things they think define them are irrelevant to everyone else. But that’s the only thing they focus on.

I know enough from this journey I am on to know this current mindset is not true. It’s just an illusion created by my subconscious. I already know I don’t have to listen to it. I also know that one day it will change. Right now, I’m not sure when and how. But I know a lot of other things in the way I see myself have changed.

So for now I have a new strategy. When I look in the mirror or see my reflection, and the critical voice appears, I call “Bullsh*t” on that thought and send it away. I am not going to focus on that belief. I am not going to feed it. I am going to distract myself from it at every opportunity by calling “Bullsh*t” on it.

So far I’m feeling happier in myself and a lot lighter. One day I hope to create a permanent shift in the way I have with so many other things. But for now, awareness is the first step.

So give some thought to the way other people see you versus how you see yourself. Pay attention to the things they say, rather than dismissing them. And for that negative dialogue, what would happen if you were able to stop believing those thoughts?

Give it a bash and let me know how you get on.

The Black Box

black box

As a child I discovered a little black box in my head.

I was trying to find somewhere to escape – a place I could go to hide that was away from everything. A place that was safe for me and where no one could find me, touch me, hurt me. A place where I didn’t have to feel anything, physical or emotional.

I found a little black box.

When I needed to I would go into my head and climb into the little black box. I would stay there until it was safe to come out again. As time went on I spent more and more time in the little black box.

Anything could happen to me physically, but it couldn’t reach me in the black box.

Eventually the real me hid there most of the time.

I liked my little black box. It was safe and no one knew about it.

One day, when I was at University, when I had just got together with my hubby he decided he would try a sort of hypnotic relaxation on me (what a charmer!)

I lay on the floor and he talked me through relaxing.

Within a minute or so tears were streaming down my face. Not the result he was expecting. Needless to say we didn’t do it again.

Many years later I began training as a Cognitive Hypnotherapist – something that often requires going into a trance state. On weekend 2 of my training, we were doing an exercise to go back to a positive memory. I was working with a partner. I found myself freaking out as my partner tried to take me into a trance state. I left the room confused, upset and shaken.

Eventually, after working with Trevor Silvester (founder of Cognitive Hypnotherapy) for a few sessions, I reached a point where I was happy and was able to feel those emotions I had kept locked away for my whole life. I was able to be myself.

I visited the box less and less. In fact, I almost forgot it was there.

Then, one day, once I had qualified, I attended a course on how to use Cognitive Hypnotherapy to help with childbirth. One of the things we learnt was how to teach a client to get themselves into a relaxed state. We always practice these techniques on ourselves. As the exercise began, I found myself scared to close my eyes. As everyone else relaxed, I once more found myself crying.

I was incredibly frustrated. I thought I should be sorted by now. I shouldn’t have this sort of reaction.

But in my therapy sessions, we had never been near the little black box.

One evening I was chatting to a friend and fellow Cognitive Hypnotherapist. She made a statement that maybe for me going into a trance state had a different meaning/purpose. And whoosh! just like that I returned to the time I first went looking for and found my little black box. And I realised that every time I had tried to go into a trance state it had reminded me of going looking for my little black box. For needing to escape.

I have done work on that black box since then, and it’s been profound. Actually it’s been life-changing. There is a calmness without the need for that. Although that black box felt like a safe place, I was only going there because everything else didn’t feel safe. The work I’ve done has been to see the rest of the world, the world outside the box, as safe.

That makes for a much calmer life.

I still have the box. When I took my abuser to court I went there a lot. I’m not sure that I will ever lose that space. I just hope, eventually, to never need to go there again.

Often I work with my clients on their version of a black box. Those who have had bad childhood experiences, or traumatic events later in life, usually get by through some sort of black box strategy. It might be a wall, or a black hole, but what it does is create a numb part in their head that feels safe. Unfortunately, this means that everything outside of it is unsafe. It can lead to a permanent state that might be described as hyper-vigilance.

I help them blur the boundaries between safe and unsafe so that everything becomes safe. As a result, my clients get to be present and to live their lives without the fear.

If you feel you have your own version of a black box, I can help. Nothing needs to be the way it’s always been.


Turning Treacle into Water

You are amazing.

I know you don’t believe me.

You have probably battled your whole life.

You probably feel rubbish because you don’t seem to be able to achieve what those around you can.

Maybe you feel that you are the only person in the office who doesn’t have confidence.

Maybe you feel like others at college or Uni find the work so much easier than you.

Maybe you hate the way you look and feel that you have no self-control to change it.

And yet…despite feeling that way, here you are, reading this.

You are a fighter. You just don’t realise it because the of the way you measure success.

But the thing about fighting and working hard, is that it is training. It develops good muscles. All that training counts. It builds up your strength.

You are superhuman. You just don’t realise it yet.

If all that resistance is moved out of the way, that strength that you have developed effectively makes you superhuman.

Think of it like wading through treacle. It’s hard work. You develop muscles. All that effort leads to very little progress.

Then you come and see me.

I turn the water into treacle.

Now, not only is progress easier, but you also have the benefit of all those muscles that you have trained.

And you fly.

Come to me and I will help you fly.

Email to find out how.

Taking responsibility for how you feel

Yesterday it was my birthday. I have always struggled a bit with birthdays and Christmas. I love them. I love celebrating. I love presents. But once you grow up, birthdays become less of an event. It is not something that is automatically celebrated unless you are with someone who loves to celebrate. My husband has never been much into birthdays.

I have never lost my love of birthdays, but I had increasingly become disillusioned with them. My expectations rarely matched the actual day and so I was left feeling like nobody cared.

This came to a head on my 40th Birthday. I wanted a party. I wanted all my friends to come. I wanted someone else to organise it for me, but realised early on that it would just be impossible. No one had access to my friends list. So I went about organising it myself. I thought I could book out a local hall, but as I started looking at numbers, it was clear not enough people would come. I felt like nobody cared about me. Who was I to think anyone would want to celebrate my birthday with me? I realised that most of my friends lived all over the world. So I downgraded and rented out a lodge so people could travel. Last minute, a number of people had to pull out. For very good reasons. But it reinforced my belief. Nobody cared. In the end my birthday was lovely. Loads of people turned up. My friend did all the food. But still I struggled. I wasn’t worthy of anyone caring.

Each year after I have battled to lower my expectations, despite really wanting surprises and fun.

In being so heavily focused on my expectations, I have missed what has been right in front of me. I have amazing friends and an amazing family. For example, this was in a card from a friend I only knew on Social Media and email. Sadly this friend died suddenly from cancer and I never had a chance to meet her in person:

Forty things about, or for, Dawn

  1. Life is a marathon, there to be run
  2. Angels come in the shape of dinner ladies (blog readers won’t understand this – it’s a childhood reference)
  3. The little one loves her mummy unconditionally
  4. Heaven is the belief you have done your best
  5. Starved child, Nourished adult
  6. Forgiving others, hard on self
  7. Championed by the hubby
  8. Lovable
  9. Change expert
  10. Starbucks rules OK
  11. Nice butt
  12. Persistence personified
  13. Two miles a day is enough
  14. Inspired and Inspiring
  15. Climber of roofs
  16. Shit happens
  17. Lighter of candles
  18. Endorphin generator
  19. Bringer of new days
  20. Growing in faith
  21. Giving makes Dawn whole
  22. Leaper of chasms
  23. Seeker of forgiveness
  24. Blessed by hubby
  25. Failure is allowed, indeed necessary at times
  26. Happiness is elusive, wholeness isn’t
  27. Trevors are generally very special people
  28. Giver and receiver of love
  29. Not being miserable is a choice
  30. Free to laugh, free to cry
  31. An expanding circle of hugs
  32. A slap in the face with dew drizzled cobwebs can be very healing (who knew?)
  33. Excellence award winner
  34. The past is another country
  35. Sisterhood is generally worth the effort
  36. There’s only one way to eat a satsuma (another childhood reference that blog readers won’t get)
  37. Imbued with Adam and the love he brought
  38. Lighter of eyes and lives
  39. Speaker of healing words
  40. If there were a God he would look down at Dawn and be pleased with his hand work

I still have no idea how she knew so much about me. She was such a special person and I miss her terribly.

Anyway, I have worked hard over the last couple of years on taking ownership of my feelings.

The only person that knows what I want is me. The only person that can make me happy is me

This year I arranged my own dinner with friends. It was lovely to go out and celebrate. My daughter told everyone in the restaurant it was my birthday so they brought me this spectacular dessert at the end of the meal. Shame I was too stuffed to have it. My daughter had a good stab at it though!

My daughter worked hard for days to make my birthday special. She worked with my hubby on choosing great presents. So much thought went into my birthday. It was probably one of the best years ever. And yet, in previous years, I would have focused on what didn’t happen rather than what did. I would have felt miffed that no one organised dinner. I would have begrudged having to plan my own day out.

This year I took ownership of my own birthday experience, and everything everyone else did just enhanced it. As a result I had a brilliant day. I am so lucky to have so many amazing people around me. And it’s an important lesson for this and many things:

We get what we focus on. Create your own reality and take the power away from anyone else to make you feel anything.

What if I go back to how I was?

Bemused curiosity.

That’s what I tell people to hold on to when they leave their first session with me.

After all, that’s the most common look on their face. They are thinking:

How did that, change everything I’ve been struggling with my whole life?

It’s a weird process where we physically change the brain.

I think of it like the story of Hansel and Gretel, where they left a trail of breadcrumbs so they can find their way home. But the birds eat the breadcrumbs so the path back is gone.

When we work together we are using Neuroplasticity to physically change your brain. The neural pathways are rewired. The original path no longer exists.

When you leave that first session with me, as far as you are concerned the breadcrumbs will still lead you back to the original path. But you learn, with your sense of bemused curiosity, that the path is no longer there.

You notice different things on the new path, of course. Especially when you stop looking for the old path.

It can be scary at first. It’s unfamiliar. You don’t know where it will lead. You try and choose the turns that are familiar. You keep looking for the breadcrumbs. But they are gone. I swept them away.

There is no going back. The old path has gone.


Why you shouldn’t leave your comfort zone

Lots of people say that you should step outside your comfort zone.

The problem is, that by definition, outside of your comfort zone is uncomfortable.

So you can maybe force yourself to do it occasionally, but you can’t really do it on an ongoing basis. It’s simply too exhausting.

When the British Empire was expanding, every time they colonised somewhere, they stuck a flag in the ground and declared it theirs. In no time at all, a very small island had expanded to include land all over the world.

What if you could do the same with your comfort zone?

What if you could take your comfort zone with you?

How to take your comfort zone with you

Imagine there is a circle on the floor. This is your comfort zone. Add to that circle everything that makes you feel comfortable and ok. As you add things to your circle, imagine it changing. Maybe it gains a colour, a texture, or maybe it even turns into a bubble. Add everything to it that makes you comfortable.

Now imagine picking that circle up from the floor and storing it safely in your head.

You now have your comfort zone with you.

When you are doing something that it unfamiliar – something that you might define as outside of your comfort zone – imagine taking that circle out of your head and throwing it to the ground.

Voila! problem solved. You are now back in your comfort zone!

Practice at first with small things. Eventually you might learn that you can take your comfort zone with you wherever you go.