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We are talking about trauma

The transformational power of trauma

People are talking more about trauma. And that is a good thing. It’s a fantastic thing. Because by talking about it, we learn about it and understand it. And by understanding it we can educate ourselves on others not only on how to be there for people who are living with the effects of trauma, but also to reduce those effects, or resolve them completely.

Trauma is an unprocessed emotional experience that affects the mind and the body. It isn’t “all in the mind”, as brain scans show physical changes to the brain following trauma, as well as a change in the response of the nervous system.

Everybody experiences trauma differently, and it has a different effect on us individually. The traditional thought is that trauma can only be caused by extreme incidents. However we are learning that trauma can constitute anything that had a significantly emotional impact on a person, from neglect at a child, to sustained abuse, to one-off incidents such as attacks or accidents.

Trauma is a part of life

The truths is, many things have the potential to be traumatising. We can unintentionally cause trauma with unkind words or actions, especially towards children. Sometimes words or actions will have a significantly emotional impact on one person, while on another they are meaningless and forgotten.

Trauma is present in our life from the day we are born – which can cause long-term negative effects on a baby as well as the mother. It is present throughout our childhood, as parents use discipline to guide us, or respond with strong reactions when they are fearful for our safety. Think of the child who runs into the road to chase their ball, and is yelled at fiercely and fearfully by a terrified parent: “You stupid child!! What the hell are you thinking of!!”. A shocking and intensely emotional moment, in which the unintentional damage can already be done before the parent gets the chance to embrace the child tightly in love.

Trauma lays the path for transformation

There’s little we can do to avoid trauma, as it is most often caused by factors external to ourselves, over which we have little choice whether we are subjected to or not.

But what we can remember, is that trauma lays the path for transformation. From the experiences we can learn new ways of existing in the world and learn more about who we are underneath our conditioning and unconscious patterns of being.

I work with emotional trauma, helping individuals to resolve the effects of the past so that they can live more presently in their future. Get in touch to find out more.

I also work coaching entrepreneurs to live healthier and happier lives, leading to greater success in business.

Is it true? – Overcoming your conditioning

A new perspective - cognitive hypnotherapy colchester
A comment on my post on Facebook yesterday posed the question:
How do you overcome the conditioned influences that have been accepted by your brain?
The basic answer, is to programme in new positive thoughts and behaviours to overwrite the negative ones. This will weaken the power of the conditioned responses until the brain lets go of them.

Hypnotherapy is really about de-hypnotising your brain

This is why hypnotherapy is really de-hypnosis. We use the brain’s own functions of learning and association, to undo the learning that’s happened before, and learn something new.
It’s difficult to do this sort of thing alone. Not impossible, but much harder than to do it with a therapist as a guide. After all, if we could all easily alter our ‘flaws’ to become the people we want to be through positive thinking and willpower alone, then we’d all be walking around in a state of bliss and free from suffering. And I’d be out of a job.
So in therapy we look back to where the unhelpful thought/behaviour began. This will often be something that originated in childhood, when we only had the capacity of a child to understand what was going on. Rather than just talking about it though, as many ‘talking therapies’ will do, we actively work our way through the experience again with the added input of our now-adult brain. Through a neurological process known as reconsolidation we can effectively alter the memory to incorporate the adult input into the situation, so that the result of the experience is different.

Tapping into your inner resources

We then add in any more positive and helpful messages that can influence the brain to change and let go of its old associations, creating the possibility for growth in a positive direction.
Alongside this we do what is called ‘future pacing’, where we build a blueprint of the you that you want to become. What they think, feel, and believe. And we begin to discover the resources within ourselves that we already have, that will bring us closer to that future.
Where to start, if you’re going it alone, however, is to investigate what it is that you have learned about yourself/your capabilities/your worth that is unhelpful to you. Then ask yourself where you learned it/when you learned it/who you learned it from.

How to do ‘The Work’

Then there are four questions, posed by the brilliant author and therapist Byron Katie. Ask yourself:
1: Is it true?
2: Can you absolutely know that it is true?
3: How do you react/what happens when you believe that thought?
4: Who would you be without that thought?
Then turn the thought around and experience the opposite of what you believe. Afterwards, find three or more genuine examples of how that turned-around thought is true in your life.
Here’s a link to Byron Katie’s incredible book about doing this ‘work’:
Honestly, take a moment and pose Byron Katie’s four questions to yourself, in response to one of your limiting beliefs. When you shatter the foundation that held it true, it’ll start to collapse on its own.
Victoria Ward is a therapist and coach, using Cognitive Hypnotherapy, NLP and Positive Psychology to help people to live the lives they’d love to live. Contact her on 07813 251 152, or via info@victoriawardhypnotherapy.com.

You are the one and only

victoria ward life coach


We can get so caught up in the comparison game, can’t we? As you walk your path through life, judging yourself against others and finding yourself lacking. Thinking you’re not doing it right, not getting it right. Not doing enough, not having enough, not being enough.

You look at where you’re at and see where others are who appear to be further ahead, and then you beat yourself up for having failed.

What you forget, though, is that your story is uniquely yours. It isn’t a replica of someone else’s, it is yours and yours alone.

Of course, learning from those who have gone before you is wise, but if you try to copy them, to be them, to emulate them exactly, you can be nothing but a pale imitation of them. A second rate copy.

But when you are your one unique self, you can do it more perfectly, more exquisitely than anyone else ever could.

Who you are, your background, your history, your experiences are yours alone. Your accomplishments, milestones and accolades are yours. Your vision, your mission and your dreams are yours alone.

Go out there and be you, wonderful you!

Anxiety Specialist in Essex (Colchester)

Victoria Ward Anxiety Specialist

To Book an Appointment, call Victoria on 07813 251 152
or email info@victoriawardhypnotherapy.com

I help people to resolve life-limiting anxiety. Anxiety can be so overwhelming and uncomfortable, that it causes sufferers to live within an ever decreasing comfort zone.


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Believe it or not. How your beliefs affect your happiness.

Ripples of belief

*This article was first published on the Huffington Post

Believe it or not: How your beliefs affect your happiness.

a) An acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof
b) Something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion
c) A religious conviction
d) Trust, faith, or confidence in (someone or something)
Oxford English Dictionary

Do you ever stop to question what you believe? Do you ever ask yourself why you believe it, or where that belief came from in the first place? Have you ever considered that it may be your beliefs that are causing you to feel anxious, unwell or unsatisfied?

I’m not really talking about those big lifestyle beliefs such as religion or politics (although, you had to learn to believe in those somewhere too), but all those other things you believe about yourself that by believing them affect the way you experience your life. Such as:

“I’m no good at meeting new people.”
“I’m too fat for anyone to love.”
“This is as good as it gets.”
“I’m disgusting.”

If you’re reading this and thinking that you only believe good things about yourself, then that is excellent. However, you’re definitely in the minority. And, if you’re honest with yourself, there are times when that little voice in your head gets a teensie bit critical, right?

One of the main reasons driving my clients’ decisions to seek out coaching and cognitive hypnotherapy is because they believe something that’s causing them to suffer. Often, they don’t even realise that’s the case, or they may rationally know it’s not true, but still the unconscious sticks to it anyway.

And the problem is, people operate from what they believe to be true, not what is true.

We suffer when we believe something about ourselves that by believing it causes us to limit our experience of life.

Getting in your own way

Consider the beliefs I quoted above (all real things my clients have said to me):

The woman who believes she’s no good at meeting new people turns down opportunities to meet new people and instead stays at home, thinking ‘what’s the point I’ll only make a fool of myself’. She never gives herself the chance to prove herself wrong, for fear of proving herself right. Her world becomes very small.

The man who believes he’s too fat to be loved, never opens himself up to love because he’s afraid of proving himself right. But guess what, if you never open yourself up to love, you’re never going to let it into your life. Something that he believes to be true produces a behaviour that causes him to suffer. His world remains smaller than it could be.

The man who believes that this is as good as it gets, doesn’t bother to ask for a pay rise or apply for a new position. He doesn’t want to rock the boat in case he loses something – something that he’s not really passionate about anyway. Who is more likely to get the job, the man who applies or the man who doesn’t because he doesn’t think he’s good enough?

The lady who told me she believed she was disgusting, had suffered abuse as a child then later physical and psychological violence from the two fathers of her children. She believed, as they had told her many times, that she was disgusting. This belief fuelled an eating disorder that meant she frequently had to be hospitalised.

Soak it all up

Ok, so sometimes believing negative things about ourselves won’t have such extreme consequences, but it will prevent us from really being the happiest we can be.

So how did these beliefs that seem to run the show that is our experience of life come about?

The truth is that as children we have a sponge-like talent for absorbing the information that we receive through our senses. The things that we experience – within our family or the greater culture that surrounds us – are accepted as the norm. Just as we absorb the language we hear around us and it becomes an intrinsic part of our personality (notice how even little children’s unique personalities shine through in the way they speak and the things they say), so do we absorb the messages our parents, teachers and the media give us. The information we unconsciously consume. And you are what you eat, after all.

So really, a lot of what we believe is an accident of birth. An accident of who we grew up with, what teacher we had at school, who our peers were, what channel our parents had the TV tuned to, everything and anything that happened to us just because that it where we were at that point in time. That’s why I can see a client in my clinic who wears size 14 clothes and believes that she is ‘too fat’, when if I was seeing clients in a country where larger bodies are a sign of status, size wouldn’t be affecting their emotional state in the same way.

Our culture does a really good job of telling us from a young age that we are not ‘enough’.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

You see, we are imitators. We see other people doing things and then we copy them. You only have to consider fashion to see the truth in this. This is why in the 80s the glorious mullet happened and why now so many men are sporting hipster beards and man buns. It’s why Kate Middleton can wear a Breton stripe jumper in one photo, and suddenly stripy jumpers sell out everywhere.

We have a natural, evolutionary need to fit in. After all, if we didn’t fit in to our tribe back in caveman days, we risked being booted out to fend for ourselves – which meant an almost certain grisly death at the sharp end of a sabre-toothed tusk. This instinct for unity is hardcoded into us at birth, and then reinforced by our parents and schools. Conformity reaps rewards, disobedience plonks us on the naughty step without any tea. So to make life more comfortable for ourselves, we believe what others around us believe.

We are born into our families and our culture through no choice of our own. As babies, we have no choice about the lessons we are taught, the messages we are fed, the truths or lies we are given often in order to try to make us behave in a more compliant way that makes someone else’s life easier – or under someone else’s belief that it will make our lives easier if we learn to conform early on in life. If you are born into a certain family, then you are more likely – generally speaking – to have the same beliefs as that family.

So beliefs become important to us. It becomes important to confirm our beliefs, which is why challenging them is so difficult. We identify with our beliefs as if they are an intimate part of ourselves, and losing them would be as traumatic as losing a limb. We confuse belief with identity. We believe without questioning.

Until, that is, we learn to question. To overcome the suffering that the critical voice inflicts upon us, we must learn to think for ourselves.

How to Challenge your Unhelpful Beliefs

Write down those things you believe about yourself, that cause you pain or limit your life in some way. Usually this will be phrased as “I…”, or “I am…”

Take the top one. Ask yourself, “Is that true.”

Ask yourself, “Can I absolutely know that this is true?”

When you realise that you can’t absolutely know that it’s true, then you can ask yourself: “Whose belief is this anyway?” Where did that belief come from? Where did you learn it – we all have to learn our beliefs somewhere. Was it really someone else’s belief, perhaps a bully, a teacher, a parent?

Then you can ask yourself, “Who would I be, if I believed… [insert the opposite here].”

And just begin to imagine how your life would be different if you simply chose to believe something else. Imagine what you’d be doing, who you’d be doing it with, where you’d be, what you’d be achieving.

Then see if you can see any reason to keep believing that old belief, or whether the new one would be a lot more fun.

A belief is just that. A belief. A thought that you accept as true, without any real evidence. It’s not true! You just accepted that it was. So challenge those old, outdated beliefs. Hear them, note them down, and investigate whether you can prove them to be true, or if it might just be time to let them go.


The Calendar Shows September - Victoria Ward

There’s a back-to-school energy about September that feels full of possibility and excitement. Summer has refilled our tanks with sunshine and is slowly retreating, getting ready to allow autumn to scatter her beauty around us.

I love this time of year. It’s a time to set new goals and start to create intriguing opportunities to keep our spirits high through the colder months that are coming.

It’s a time to turn out attention to ourselves, to our physical bodies and inner worlds.

Let go. Create newness.

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fear of flying breathing technique

fear of flying phobia palm trees

Breathing Exercises for Flying Anxiety

When we panic or feel anxious, our breathing gets shallow and fast. The sensation of this alone can cause us to feel even more panicked. There are various different breathing exercises that you can try, to find which one helps to reduce your panic. Being familiar with one of these, so that you can use it if you begin to feel uncomfortable, is one of the easiest ways of calming yourself down as you wait for your flight, or become nervous in the air. Try them out, and pick one that fits well with you. Then take time to practice it for a few moments each day so that if you need to use the pattern, it will come naturally to you.

7-11 breathing

Here you exhale fully, then breathe in all the way down to the bottom of your tummy while counting up to 7. Now exhale long and slow, while counting at the same pace but this time to eleven. This forces your exhale to be extended longer than your inhale, mimicking the natural relaxed breathing rate that we do when we are calm and comfortable. Repeat.

Box Breathing

Exhale fully to the count of four as you imagine drawing a line up one side of a square. Inhale fully to the count of four as you imagine drawing the line across the top of the square. Exhale fully to the count of four as you imagine drawing the line down the other side of the square. Inhale fully to the count of four as you imagine drawing the fourth line to complete the bottom of the square. Repeat.

Candle Breathing

Inhale fully and deeply. Now imagine that you are gently breathing out over a candle flame. Not enough to make it go out, but just enough to make it dance around. Picturing the candle flame will help to distract you from the panic.

Alternatives to deep breathing for fear of flying anxiety

Take a read of the short article I have written on the use of peripheral vision to maintain a feeling of calm.

Learn a self-help technique such as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT or ‘tapping’), which I can teach you if you contact me on 07813 251 152, or info@victoriawardhypnotherapy.com, or use the contact form on my site here.

Help for Fear of Flying FAQ

Fear of Flying FAQ

I know logically that flying is safe, but why am I still so scared?

Estimates vary, but as many as one in six of us are afraid of the safest form of travel. Yet despite knowing that flying is the safest form of travel and that you have more chance of becoming Prime Minister than you do of dying in a plane crash, you still break out in a sweat at the thought of getting on a plane.

That’s because this isn’t about being ‘logical’. The part of your brain that makes you fear flying isn’t logical at all. It’s the part of your brain that is designed to make you act to avoid danger without thinking too much about it. The same part that brings your arms up to protect your face if something comes flying at it, or jumps you back to the curb as a car approaches. It’s there to save your life, even if it makes you look silly in the process.

So being told that you’re far more likely to die on the way to the airport isn’t going to help you, even if it’s true. Logic doesn’t conquer the fear and anxiety around being scared of flying. It is a completely separate part of your brain that is driving your illogical fear. And that’s the bit of your brain that I’m interested in working with.

I’m not going to lecture your on air travel safety. It won’t work. At an airline fear of flying course you’ll sit through several hours of explanation about the safety of flying, while your nerves grow and grow as the flight approaches, to the point that you’ll barely be able to take in the information any way.

Which is why I don’t use logic to overcome your flying phobia. The only thing that’s going to work is to directly re-programme your brain.


But don’t I have to face my fear?

Think you have to face your fear to beat it? It’s not true. But when you face what once was your greatest fear and realise you’ve already beaten it, you’re going to feel great. This is why many of my clients who have done the airline flying courses still feel terrified when they come to see me. One exposure alone isn’t going to work. This is about changing the brain’s fundamental structure, so that when it comes to your time to fly, you notice the change. You don’t have to face your fear to conquer it, when we have collapsed your fear at a neurological level already.

With the techniques that I use, you’ll know that your fear has greatly reduced (or vanished completely!) without even going close to an aeroplane. You might need that flight to convince you for sure, but those old uncomfortable feelings you get just thinking about flying will have been transformed.

Do I need to know why I’m afraid of flying?

I have worked with enough flying phobia clients to know that there are many different reasons why people are afraid to fly. For some it’s the take-off or landing, others it’s the fear of heights or loss of control. Some feel afraid because they don’t understand the technology or the perhaps the science of flying conditions such as turbulence. Then for others it might be a worry about terrorism, falling out of the sky, the wings falling off, being trapped, falling ill. There are many, many reasons that people fixate upon.

For some of my clients, they know exactly when the fear developed. But for others, there’s no one thing they can pin it on. That doesn’t matter. We work directly with the fear response in your body that comes from the simple thought of flying. Because while you may not know where you learned it from, your brain is referring some experience (or collection of experiences) every time it creates that fear response in you when you think about flying.


Can you guarantee a cure?

Having treated many different phobias, I know that we are all unique individuals. While I do get fantastic results and feel very confident in my approach, I cannot guarantee that it will cure you. It’s a little like being a teacher. I can stand at the front of the class and deliver the same lesson, but each student will respond to it in their own way. What I can guarantee is that I’ll do my best and use the techniques and approaches that I have used on hundreds of clients successfully. Because it is important to me that I am able to do my best for you, I always speak on the phone before taking clients on. This free consultation gives you a chance to ask any questions you might have, and for me to ensure that I am confident in providing you with the best and most relevant service.

What does the Flying Phobia therapy consist of?

First, we speak on the phone for me to take an in-depth history of your fear of flying. This enables me to find out all the unique things about your case that will allow me to prepare an individually tailored programme for you. We then meet on three separate occasions face-to-face. These sessions are about an hour long. In them, I will use a variety of psychological techniques to collapse your fear at an unconscious level. I will also prepare a bespoke hypnosis CD for you to listen to between sessions and in the run up to the flight. I will be available for you on email and the phone throughout the duration of your treatment.

CALL ME on 07813 251 152, email info@victoriawardhypnotherapy.com or send me message and I’ll get back to you with more information.


What is PTSD and Trauma

Man sitting trauma

Understanding PTSD and Trauma

What is PTSD?

PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a disorder that may arise after a person has experienced (directly or indirectly) a traumatic event. The term PTSD was first used in the 1980s. Before that, it was most commonly referred to as ‘shell shock’, as it was observed in veterans returning from war.

While many people will experience traumatic events throughout their lives and only have short-term distress that may not even require medical intervention, a small proportion of people will develop the disorder. Many of those (up to 70% is has been suggested) won’t receive any professional help.

What is a Traumatic Event?

A traumatic vvent is exposure to anything that causes a significant surge in negative emotion. This includes: Fear, helplessness, shame and horror. Traumatic events that lead to PTSD can occur both in childhood and adulthood. The events can be experienced directly, witnessed, or experienced second-hand e.g. hearing the details of the event. Examples include:

Childhood neglect and abuse
Bullying – in the playground or workplace
Abuse in a relationship
Road traffic accidents
Shock medical news
Violent physical assault
Traumatic medical interventions
Natural disasters
Military combat
Death and grief
Shock redundancy

A woman with PTSD

What are the effects of PTSD and Trauma?

PTSD manifests itself in different ways for different people. Symptoms can include (but are not limited to): Flashbacks, a sense of hyper-alertness, panic attacks, outbursts of anger and intense emotion, nightmares, fear, withdrawal, amnesia, insomnia and exhaustion.

Any, all or some of these symptoms can present themselves as part of the disorder, and can occur spontaneously and without warning, as well as being chronic.

PTSD and trauma: What happens in the brain?

The primary function of the human brain is to ensure our survival. ‘Modern’ humans have been around for 200,000 years, our brains evolving and developing into the form they take today. For most of our history, those things that would cause us to experience that significant surge of negative emotion (e.g. fear, helplessness, shame and horror) would also have been life threatening. This includes encountering dangerous animals while hunting or in the tribal home, and being kicked out of the tribe and having to fend for ourselves.

Survival mechanism

In order to assist our survival, the brain developed a mechanism whereby if we encounter something that it perceives has the chance to kill us, then it deems it important to remember the event forevermore in order to try to guide us away from encountering it again.

In that traumatic moment, the brain also suspends all but the most important physical and mental systems for survival, so that the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ mechanism can work at its best.

Once the trauma is over and you are deemed ‘safe’ again, the brain is challenged in making sense of what has happened as memory functions were compromised while the safety system was prioritised. Nightmares, flashbacks and outbursts of intense emotions are all the brain’s way of attempting to process those experiences.

illustration of human brain PTSD

An unprocessed memory

At the same time, the event is flagged up as ‘important’ to be remembered, and is therefore not filed away in the normal way that memories are. Usually, while we are asleep, the events of the day are taken from the emotional memory and filed into the episodic memory, also known as our autobiographical memory. Here our experiences become the story of what has happened to us, with a limited amount of emotion attached.

Without further processing, these memories will continue to prove troublesome, manifesting in PTSD and other trauma-related illnesses.

What treatment is there for PTSD?

The most effective forms of treatment for trauma involve working directly with the root cause of the PTSD. Therapies, including EMDR and Cognitive Hypnotherapy, reduce the level of emotional distress attached to the original event, so that it can be filed away more efficiently by the brain. Once the brain deems the event to no longer be a threat, the symptoms of PTSD will begin to resolve.

You can find out more about how my effective treatment for PTSD in Colchester, Essex here.

Live the life You'd Love to Live

Victoria Ward Cognitive Hypnotherapy in Colchester