Cognitive Hypnotherapist and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner in Kingston Surrey
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Author Archives: Jill Tonks

The Tricks of the Mind

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The rubber hand illusion

An out-of-body experience with a rubber glove described by Tsakiris and Haggard (2005):

“Watching a rubber hand being stroked, while one’s own unseen hand is synchronously stroked, may cause the rubber hand to be attributed to one’s own body, to “feel like it’s my hand.”

These sorts of illusions are fascinating and have a corollary in the phenomenon of phantom limbs. There are people who’ve had limbs amputated find that they still have sensations from it. This is very irritating if they get an itch which they’ll never be able to scratch! It sounds crazy doesn’t it that we can be tricked so easily. I’ve seen this carried out and it really is unbelievable, but true!

We think our reality is true and yet the mind makes mistakes all the time. If you think about someone with a spider phobia, they enter into any space looking for spiderzilla and their brain sends them into a panic if they see one! Anyone else would not even notice that small black speck in the corner. Flying is by far the safest way to travel and that’s a fact. Yet I’ve worked with people who suffer extreme distress about the fear of dying in a plane crash who wouldn’t think twice about driving fast in the outside lane on a motorway!

It makes you think about how easily the mind is tricked into a whole range of things like:

  • I can’t change
  • I’m not good enough
  • I’m frightened of failure so I can’t…
  • I’ll always be like this
  • It’s just the way I am

All of these statements I  hear on a daily basis from my clients and none of them are true. They are just constructs that the mind uses to keep us as we are. In evolutionary terms, similarity meant safety which is why we can struggle with change. Yet, if you think about it, we are changing all the time. Are you the same person you were a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago? I doubt it. So change is inevitable and more importantly we are masters at accommodating it.

So if you treat your negative thoughts and  beliefs like the illusions they are, in the same way the rubber hand trick creates something that isn’t there, you can control and change negative thoughts more easier than you think. You’ll be amazed what possibilities that can open up for you. Are you ready for that? Or are you happy to stick with the illusion of your limiting thoughts and beliefs? It’s your choice.

This refreshing article explains how Jack Dee uses hypnotherapy regularly:

‘I always think of it as being a bit like a brain massage. It just  sort of resets you. Sometimes you have to switch the computer on and turn it  back off again. I try and do it once a month and no more, because you can  end up depending on things. ‘

Often the public get confused between stage hypnosis and hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy is a very powerful tool to enable you to manage your mind and emotions more effectively. Jack Dee suffered from depression and has used hypnotherapy to manage this.

When I discovered the power of hypnotherapy, I realised that any limiting beliefs I had about me were just things I told myself that weren’t true. So even now if I find myself doubting that I can do something, its easy, I just phone a friend clear it out-of-the-way and move on. When you begin to understand how the brain works, you can see how we limit ourselves more than we realise.

If you would like to move on from your limitating beliefs whatever they might be and uncover your potential get in touch………..and discover what you can really achieve!

“Nearly two decades of research on memory distortion leaves no doubt that memory can be altered via suggestion. People can be led to remember their past in different ways, and they even can be led to remember entire events that never actually happened to them.” (Loftus, 1995)

It’s official the human memory is plastic. How does that work?

You know when you are talking to a family member about something that happened in the past, how come they remember it differently to you? How come witnesses or victims making statements about the same crime recall different aspects of the same event?

Well it’s simple really, the conscious mind has to delete a certain amount of information otherwise it would overwhelmed with data and wouldn’t be able to function. How each of us does this varies hugely. It can depend on your sensory preferences, visual, auditory or kinesthetic. It can depend on what you believe to be true, your prejudgments based on experience.

When you see a teenager walking around or hanging outside of a supermarket looking uncomfortable, what do you make of it? Most people will be concerned maybe even threatened, maybe even believe there is a danger. That was me before I had teenage children myself who used to hang out in front of our local shops with his pals with his hood up. There was no threat at all then!! I was filtering out different information on different occasions and not seeing the full picture.

This is very useful when working with clients who are wanting to boost self-confidence or overcome anxiety or even obsessive compulsive behaviour and thoughts. You weren’t born with these issues so what you’ve learnt you can unlearn. You can’t change the past; it’s over but your can change your relationship to it.

Cognitive hypnotherapy enables you to make the past whatever it needs to be for it to be helpful to you in the present and future. In doing this we work using the fact that memory is plastic. When you begin to see and experience the past differently, you can let go of unwanted thoughts, feelings and beliefs and enjoy the differences this can make in your life.

All of us have a part of us inside our head that gives us a hard time sometimes. For a lot of the people I work with, it bullies them, criticises them, judges them and tells them how useless they are. This part of us can be a very powerful force and for some people it can lead to chronic anxiety or even depression. I’m working with someone at the moment who has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder whose thoughts are so negative and loud and overwhelming that he has already had one breakdown.

We all have this inner critic and for some people it can be very destructive. What’s its purpose?

This part of us served us well during our evolution. It enabled us to continue to strive to do better. If we were always contented we would probably be extinct now!

So how do we get the best out of this part to enable us to continue to improve and overcome its more extreme forms.

This is one of a few powerful yet simple techniques that you can use to take back control of your inner self talk.

Hold up your thumb and forefinger on one hand. Grab and turn your tongue one way. Notice the difference that makes to that inner babble. It usually either stops or quietens it.

Now walking round holding your tongue like this isn’t a good look! So imagine either the tip of your tongue is stuck to the roof of your mouth just behind the front teeth or is superglued down onto your palate. With a good visualisation this is very effective in the same way. Why does this work? Well when we talk to ourselves, the tongue makes micro muscle movements we are not aware of. Stop the tongue from moving and it quietens the talk.

If you want to transform your inner critic so it becomes useful, get in contact and we can discuss how I can help you.

If Dawn can, you can..

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Dawn is a colleague of mine who I met about 9 months ago. When I met her, she seemed a dead ‘steady eddy’, normal kinda girl and she still is. Over the course of knowing her she has shared how, despite of a pretty grim past and some personal tragedy, she has got her life back on track. Her journey is inspirational and I know that sounds a bit naff, but I don’t say that about many people.

She was so impressed at the effect Cognitive Hypnotherapy had on her, her weight, her sense of self that she decided to train in it and is shortly due to qualify as a practitioner. She’ll be excellent!

Oh and by the way to top it all she ran the last London Marathon! Now that’s an achievement.

You can read all about Dawn’s journey in her blog and she has an ebook ‘Nothing needs to be the way it’s always been’ which is a collation of her blogs which tracks her journey. I particularly like how she writes to her 16-year-old self about what the future holds. She forgives her old self, she was doing the best she could in difficult circumstances. Some simple, lovely ideas to let go of what’s not helpful in the past. What a great title as well.

You can get a copy here:

I asked Dawn, what was it that made the difference to her turning her life around?

She replied:

‘Hmm now that’s an interesting one Jill. It’s something I often wondered. If I hated myself and my life so much, why on earth would I want to make it better? The crux came for me when my daughter, Amy, was around 3. She started asking me “are you happy mummy”
I answered “Yes” because I knew that was the right answer, but I was lying and I really hated lying to her. It also didn’t stop her asking. More and more she asked me, and more and more I lied through gritted teeth. It worried me a lot because I didn’t want my screw ups to affect her. All I wanted for her was a happy life where she had the freedom to choose her own path.
So when I was told about this Cognitive Hypnotherapy that could help me, I had to give it a try. I was terrified. But my whole life I have lived by ignoring what my head was telling me, because if I listened to it I would either be dead or I would be curled up in the corner of a dark room. “Close your eyes and jump” was my motto.
I booked an appointment before I had time to think about it.By far that hardest part of this whole journey was the day I had to walk into that therapy room. It also happens to be the best day of my life and the best thing I have ever done.
So my advice to others would be to do what I did which is just make contact via email with one of us. Because anything is possible and that email will probably be the best decision you will make in your life – no matter how scary it feels at the time’.

You think you are in control?

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This clip from You Tube is from a recent Horizon programme on the unconscious mind. Experts in the field of neuroscience were asked to show the balance between the conscious and unconscious mind. We convince ourselves that we are completely in control and yet so many of the people I work with can’t seem to get back in control of their weight loss, their anxiety, their depression, their obsessive compulsive disorder etc.

At an evolutionary, fundamental level, the brain exists to protect us and for all the sophistication of the modern brain, if the older part of the brain believes you to be under threat, it will protect you and override the conscious mind.

Let me give you some examples:

Anxiety – this is a common experience for a lot of people. Change, i.e. the unfamiliar, generates a fear response in all of us. In evolutionary terms, the familiar was safe, and the unfamiliar dangerous. We still have this response wired powerfully in the older part of the brain, the limbic system. This part of the brain sets off a flight/ flight response when it believes there is danger ahead or around you. It’s an overactive response which can create severe panic attacks, emotional  and catastrophic thinking which plays havoc with the mind and body. If you wait around 4000 years, the modern brain and the old brain will be wired differently to avoid this response! Alternatively, you can alter the oversensitivity in the brain very easily with Cognitive Hypnotherapy.

Depression is an extreme response to continuous anxiety. Over time the limbic system becomes so over sensitised to so many things and becomes exhausted. This results in very powerful, overwhelming thinking and powerful emotions than can lead to feelings of desperation and no hope at the extreme. Insomnia is one of the effects of depression. The mind is so concerned about safety, it won’t let you sleep.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is often a fear of death, contamination and the unconscious devises a set of behavioural rituals or excessive catastrophising which the unconscious believes will protect you and keep you from harm. These can be very distressing for you and people around you. Medication and cognitive behaviour therapy can help. Cognitive hypnotherapy can help you to get to the bottom of why these habitual patterns started , interrupt these habits so the thinking and behavioural response becomes more normal.

The good news is that you weren’t born with any of these issues. Babies are happy, in the moment and unburdened by our adult experience. So what is learned, can be unlearned. Cognitive Hypnotherapy harnesses the power of the unconscious mind which is part of the problem and also part of the solution. The brain can rewire itself which means change is always possible. It isn’t always easy but it’s always possible.

If you would like a free, half hour, confidential chat about any issue you are having that you would like to change, just give me a call.

“The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

I live in a row of terraced houses. On my left is Norman, his glass is what I would call half empty. In the summer as we meet over the garden fence, I’ll say to him ‘what a lovely day Norman!’ His response is, ‘Nah it’s too hot for me’. In the winter when the frost and the snow is like a Christmas scene, I’ll ask, ‘Are you enjoying the weather?’ He replies, ‘I hate it it’s too cold!’. Every interaction with Norman seems to go the same way, he tends to focus on all the negatives, the limitations, and he lives his life with what I call his ‘sunglasses of doom’ on.

Peter lives on the right side and he is the opposite. He always has a cheery word or a positive comment. He is full of energy and life and even when it’s tipping with rain and miserable outside, he tells me how good it is for the slugs! He has the spectacles of ever lasting optimism!

So how do you see the world around you? Norman and Peter are extremes on a spectrum and I wonder where do you sit on this? It can be easy to focus on the negatives. In some ways it’s easier to keep your focus on the outside – on everything that is wrong around you – rather than take responsibility for where you are and what to do about it. I wonder what difference this makes on the inside though?

Bruce Lipton, in ‘The Biology of Belief’ explains how cells in a petri dish will literally move towards a nurturing substance present and move away from a poisonous substance. He describes this as moving towards growth or protection. Given that our bodies are made up of billions of cells, the same applies. We have an instinctive ‘towards or away’ response from people, places and things that are good for us or bad for us.

Imagine if we applied this principle to every decision we ever made what a difference that could make. Are you in the job you are in because it offers you opportunities to grow and develop your potential or because it pays the mortgage? What about the quality of relationships you have with people around you? Do they nurture you and allow you to grow or do they make you feel defensive?

What about Norman and Peter? Who is in growth and who is in protection?

I find this a really useful yardstick for any decision I make. Is it a decision that takes me into growth or protection?

Most of the clients who come to see me have a behaviour or habit or pattern that isn’t working for them. So often it comes to the fore that whatever the issue is, was once a solution to a previous problem – and it usually was an unconscious decision based on protection. Hypnotherapy helps to put you back in touch with your potential by tapping into this internal guiding system. We all have it, sometimes we can’t sense or connect with it though.

The more you use this simple guide , the more you’ll be able to track and monitor your responses to things. Even if you have to make a decision that is for reasons of protection and there really is no choice in this, you can still consider how do I turn this into growth?

The simple truth is you know what’s best for you and yet so often we can say and do things so out of kilter with our own internal compass. I was in a job for a long time that I wasn’t happy with. This simple yardstick helped me to decode and make a career change. Try it out, you might be surprised by what you find and notice what a difference it makes to how you make sense of what you see and feel around you at the moment.

What is your reality like?

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Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based on our perception. What we perceive depends on what we look for. What we look for depends on what we think. What we think depends on what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we perceive determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.” Zukav The dancing Wu Li Masters 1979

This quote frazzled my brain a bit when I first read it! To put it simply, it means that our reality is based on our perception. Now before you go into some existential crisis, can you just begin to imagine what that means? It means that how we perceive ourselves and the world around us is based on our own beliefs and values. Most of the time these work well for us but when we have a negative belief for example ‘I am worthless’, or I am a failure’, the two most common beliefs I come across, you can see how these could affect your perception of success, of your self belief and in relationships with others.

So what do we do when we come across a negative belief?

Think of a belief that is limiting you and follow these steps to transform it.

1. See it for what it is: a perception that developed based on a past experience.

2. Ask yourself for evidence of how accurate this is, what is the real picture? Is your belief absolutely true? What are the exceptions? When is the opposite true?

3. Ask yourself, if I continue to believe that, what are the consequences for me and others? Do I want that to happen?

4. Ask yourself, what would my life be like without that belief? Who could I become, what could I achieve, how would my relationships with others be like?

5. Now, what do you want to replace that belief with that would serve you better? The choice is yours.

As you find yourself trying out a new belief, it can feel a bit different a bit of a strange fit at first because you aren’t used to believing this yet. So build a picture of that belief if it were true. What would it look like or imagine yourself saying it to yourself or maybe even find the place in the body where that new belief can live. Just try it out and notice the difference it makes to the quality of your thoughts, feelings and experiences. So when you realise you can shape your own reality because it’s based on your experience from the inside out , that’s a really useful thing to know and practice.

Emotional Resilience

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I’ve recently been running training for the Samaritans in resilience and wellbeing. It really struck me just how capable we are but how strong emotions get in the way of logic and lead to poor decision-making driven by emotional reasoning which can create problems for individuals at work and at home.

One senior manager was ranting about a domestic problem with an ex partner. The more she talked about it, the angrier she got. Her colleagues, over sympathising with her, made it even worse. I asked her three questions which completely shifted her focus from problem to solution.

First question- what would be the best case scenario? She painted a completely unrealistic picture of what she wanted.

Second question- is that realistic? No, was the response

Third question -so what is possible? She calmed down instantly and found a whole range of options for the things she could control. She also accepted that she couldn’t control everything. For the first time she saw the ex partner’s perspective and let go of all that anger and started to smile.

So very quickly she took the emotion out of the situation, and was able to problem solve again.

So what’s going on here? Well I think the answer is how we manage our relationship with ourselves and the world around us and in particular how we manage our emotions. We like to think we are always in control and, most of the time we are. However we can only control ourselves and not other people. We can seek to influence but we can’t control someone else. Focussing on the problem usually makes it worse. When you focus on a solution and calm down there are usually more options than you think.

In a nutshell resilience and wellbeing is something we already have. It is an inside out process rather than an outside in. Nothing was different for this woman in he outside world but her approach to it was different and that made all the difference.

What does this mean?

Have you ever noticed how children have a natural ability to be happy? They live in the moment, enjoy being in the moment and are at one with themselves? The truth is that as human beings this is our natural resting state so we all have this ability. If you’re not sure, remember how relaxed you feel when you are on holiday, when all that clutter of life seems to clear itself and you rediscover what’s important to you. I describe this ability as having an inbuilt, innate compass that knows exactly what’s right for you in any given moment. Using this you can understand and navigate emotions effectively, activate the amazing problem solving skills we all have and find a solution or a way forward for most things.

My primary goal in all my work with clients and workshops on resilience and wellbeing,  is to put people back in touch with this ability. It’s always been there but it gets lost in the turbulence of negative thoughts and feelings which is a factor for every client I see, every individual that attends one of my day programmes.

When you begin to realise that you can experience and manage your reality in a very different way, that can open up a wealth of possibilities, new horizons, new ways of making sense of the world and a way to use and manage your feelings constructively. Could you just begin to imagine how powerful that could be?


“Life is not the way it’s supposed to be, it’s the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.”

Virgina Satir

Great book I read recently. The Enlightened Gardener by Sydney Banks.

This book outlines ‘The 3 Principles’ which I find very helpful. Essentially it’s a model of our thinking process




If you imagine the mind as a massive paint box of many colours, consciousness is the picture we create and the thought is the paintbrush we use. So if we experience negative thoughts, it creates an internal reality which in turn drives our beliefs about ourselves and our model of the world.

So if I have a thought that going to the dentist’s is a horrible, painful experience, that affects how I experience going there even before it happens. So by the time I get there, I am really apprehensive. All the se negative feelings will exacerbate the pain.

If I change that thought to ‘ going to the dentists is uncomfortable but important’, my whole expectations and experience of the visit changes.It’s still not my favorite outing, but it’s manageable!

If you don’t like the thought, change it and notice the difference in your experience.