Don E. Gibbons, Ph.D., NJ Licensed Psychologist #03513
This Blog is published for information and educational purposes only. No warranty, expressed or implied, is furnished with respect to the material contained in this Blog. The reader is urged to consult with his/her physician or a duly licensed mental health professional with respect to the treatment of any medical or psychological condition.


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Friday, October 18, 2013

How to Overcome Flashbacks and Panic Attacks

Here is a list of grounding techniques which you can use immediately, to help when you have lost control of your surroundings in a panic attack. Grounding techniques work well not only with panic attacks, but also with flashbacks from PTSD.

First, look around you. Find five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

It is also good in a flashback to ask yourself how old you are now, to differentiate from how old you were when the trauma actually happened.

One of the worst things about having a panic attack is how frightened you are about having the next one.

The following video by Babette Rothschild (herself a victim of childhood trauma) illustrates how to overcome panic attacks by focusing awareness on the perception of here and now rather than on the internalized memories of previous trauma.

After this basic level of security and safety has been attained, client and therapist can then collaborate in the construction of a therapeutic relationship which will increase feelings of confidence and self-esteem, overcome anxiety, depression, and despair, and bring forth an optimistic outlook on life which enables them change the narrative of their life story. (Levine, 1997; Naparstek, 2004; Rothschild, 2000; Scaer, 2007).  These new methods of treatment by the world's leading trauma researchers and clinicians constitute  ". . .a paradigm for understanding trauma's far-reaching psychological and physical consequences, without which, psychotherapeutic interventions remain extremely limited, and at times harmful to our clients." (emphasis mine). 

Procedures such as these are rapidly dealing a death blow to outmoded, Twentieth-Century notions of "healing" based upon regression to cause, which is about as sophisticated and as useful as trying to housebreak a puppy by "rubbing his nose in it." The puppy will usually stop sooner or later, but is that because of our treatment or in spite of it? And if the "training" is vigorously pursued, could the frustration and anxiety thus engendered actually make new learning more difficult? 
The following video from PESI Seminars features some of the world's leading experts discussing how recent breakthroughts in the treatment of trauma, dissociation, and multiple personality are making it possible for clients who have gone years without improvement to finally begin to change.  

American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, DSM-V, 5th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Forward, S. (1997). Emotional blackmail: When the people in your life use fear, obligation, and guilt to manipulate you. New York: Harper-Collins.  
Forward, S. & Buck, C. (2002). Toxic parents: Overcoming their hurtful legacy and reclaiming your life. New York: Bantam.
Levine, P.A. (1997). Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Naparstek, B. (2004). Invisible heroes: Survivors of trauma and how they heal. New York: Bantam.
Rothschild, B. (2000), The body remembers: The psychophysiology of trauma and treatment. New York: Norton.  (Click on the link for a YouTube book review.)
Scaer, R. C. (2007) The body bears the burden: Trauma, dissociation, and disease. New York: Routledge.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Is Imprinting The Key to Understanding Sexual Fetishes?

In certain species of fowl, imprinting is the mechanism by which young chicks learn to follow their mother. There is a certain "critical period" shortly after birth, generally lasting from a few hours to a few days, during which time the newly-hatched chicks learn to follow whatever moving object they see -- which, of course, is generally their mother. When the process is allowed to operate as it should, the result is that the baby chicks become imprinted on the mother, and learn to follow her lead as they grow and mature. However, the biologist Konrad Lorenz demonstrated that when the chicks are allowed to follow a different moving object during the critical period for imprinting, such as a human being, they will follow the human as though it were their mother. Most importantly, however, when they become sexually mature, they will attempt to mate with the human, and ignore members of their own species!

Ducklings Imprinted on Konrad Lorenz
Can humans be imprinted during a critical period, by pairing various stimuli such as pain with early sexual stimulation, leading to the development of a fetish for pain when they become mature? And what about other types of fetishistic attachments?  Obviously, we cannot conduct research on questions of this type, and the infantile experiences of adults with a particular kind of fetish cannot be investigated retroactively.  The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association states, "Among the more common fetish objects are women's underpants, bras, shoes, stockings, boots, or other wearing apparel. . . . Usually the fetish is required or strongly preferred for sexual excitement, and in its absence there may be erectile dysfunction" (p. 569). But considering the variety of  fetishistic attachments which have been reported -- everything from the stumps of amputees to the softly blowing gases from an automobile exhaust pipe  -- and the difficulty in modifying such attachments once they have been acquired, it is at least possible to form the hypothesis that such attachments may have been acquired during a critical period in infancy by the accidental pairing of a stimulus with newly-awakened sexual responsiveness.

Do humans have a critical period for imprinting?

Therapy for fetishism usually involves corrective experiences to enhance the attractiveness of more appropriate stimuli, which may be incorporated into a program of experiential  hypnosis and reconditioning based upon a classical conditioning model.


American Psychiatric Association; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 2000.

Scroll down for a list of some of the most popular sites on this Blog. 
Below this list are the most recent Blog entries. 
For an easily accessible list of all Blog postings, see the list entitled, "Blog Archive" in the column at the right of this page.


Here are some of our most popular sites:
The Blog contains many other examples of experience as an art form, for the enhancement of human potential, the ennoblement of the human spirit, and the fulfillment of human existence.

See also the following print sources:

Gibbons, D. E. (2001). Experience as an art form. .New York, NY: Authors Choice Press.

Gibbons, D. E. (2000). Applied hypnosis and hyperempiria. Lincoln, NE: Authors Choice Press (originally published 1979 by Plenum Press).

Gibbons, D. E., & Cavallaro, L (2013).. Exploring alternate universes: And learning what they can teach us. Amazon Kindle E-Books. (Note: It is not necessary to own a Kindle reader to download this e-book, as the Kindle app may be downloaded free of charge to a standard desktop or laptop computer and to most cell phones.)

Gibbons, D. E., & Lynn, S. J. (2010). Hypnotic inductions: A primer. in S. J. Lynn, J. W. Rhue, & I. Kirsch (Eds.) Handbook of clinical hypnosis, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, pp. 267-291.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tough Love: Dealing with an Alcoholic or Addicted Friend or Family Member

Addicts seem to have a Ph.D. in emotional manipulation.

Many therapists have clients in their eighties who have turned themselves into paupers and are living our their retirement years in distress and torment because they are unable to resist the emotional blackmail of their alcoholic or addicted children. (It should also be noted that some people can become addicted to spending itself, for a variety of reasons.) At the other extreme, I have interviewed prison inmates whose families have decided to press charges because their children have stolen money and personal belongings from them in order to support their addictions. In the middle are the clients whom we see every week in our private practice, who have sought our support in order to learn the art of "toughlove" -- to say no to the demands of their addicted children or other family members, both for the sake of the addicts themselves and to preserve the clients' own financial and psychological well-being.

When the victims threaten to deny or withdraw emotional support, they are subject to a series of manipulative tactics from their addicted family members which may include anger, rage, threats of suicide or actual suicidal gestures, and promises that the abuser will never have anything to do with them again. These tactics frequently succeed because, as family members, the abusers often know their victims well enough to understand exactly what to say and which buttons to push in order to manipulate their victims into giving in. This only encourages further exploitation in the future. For this reason, you should never make a threat to an addict, i.e., "This is the last time you are getting one cent out of me!" that you are not prepared to carry out.

Victims of emotional manipulation need to recognize that addicts are not the loving, playful children, friends, or relatives they once were were before their addiction turned them into someone else. Victims need to see themselves as survivors of abuse, and to create healthy barriers between themselves and their abusers.  

Don't let an addict shame or guilt you into giving in!
While some people can come to these realizations on their own, in many instances they need the emotional support and encouragement of a therapist, and possibly the services of an attorney, in order to disentangle themselves.    


Here are just a few the practical applications of hyperempiria, or suggestion-enhanced experience, contained on this Blog,  You can learn how to:

Gibbons, D. E. (2001). Experience as an art form. .New York, NY: Authors Choice Press.

Gibbons, D. E. (2000). Applied hypnosis and hyperempiria. Lincoln, NE: Authors Choice Press (originally published 1979 by Plenum Press).

Gibbons, D. E., & Cavallaro, L (2013).. Exploring alternate universes: And learning what they can teach us. Amazon Kindle E-Books. (Note: It is not necessary to own a Kindle reader to download this e-book, as the Kindle app may be downloaded free of charge to a standard desktop or laptop computer and to most cell phones.)

Gibbons, D. E., & Lynn, S. J. (2010). Hypnotic inductions: A primer. in S. J. Lynn, J. W. Rhue, & I. Kirsch (Eds.) Handbook of clinical hypnosis, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, pp. 267-291.

Friday, February 8, 2013

How to Get Thin and STAY Thin


Being overweight can be caused by a number of factors. When it is simply due to the habit of making bad decisions concerning food, then an approach such as the one described here may be useful. However, you should not make any changes in your regular eating habits without first consulting with your physician.  

A married woman in her mid-forties sought my help in order to lose weight. She had obtained clearance from her physician to proceed with a weight loss program, along with a recommend diet; and she was not currently taking any medication. She described her relationship with her husband and children as warm and affectionate, and told me that her life was fundamentally happy, with no major stressors which might serve to distract her from her weight loss goal.    

Her anniversary was some eight months away. She was going to surprise her husband by arranging a getaway weekend for him at a hotel. Her plans included dinner at a stylish restaurant where she would like to be able to once more wear a treasured dress which she had saved from her honeymoon.

I taught her how to to hypnotize herself by using the Best Me Technique and to pre-experience the attainment of her weight loss goal, using the anniversary restaurant dinner as one of the settings in which she could enjoy the multi-modal dimensions of its fulfillment. 
Belief systems involving suggestions of a change in place and time at the completion of the induction prepared her to pre-experience the anniversary dinner as if it were already taking place. 
Suggestions of Emotion included responses to both her husband’s admiring glances and the increasing physical attraction they felt towards each other as the evening wore on. 
Suggestions of many different Sensations and physical perceptions heightened the reality of the experience still further: the lighted candles on the dinner table, the soft music, the sight and smell of a bouquet of flowers, the taste of the dinner wine, etc. 
Thoughts and images included suggestions of the couple sharing their mutual declarations of love as they looked deeply into each other’s eyes. 
Motives became stronger as the evening wore on and their warmth became desire. 
Their Expectations for the rest of the night increased apace as the couple hurriedly paid their check and made their way out the door and took an elevator to the hotel room in the same building which she had rented for the remainder of the evening. . . . 
The client had a rich imagination and that she responded well to suggestion. Once she had mastered the technique of multimodal suggestion using the Best Me Technique for preliminary scenarios such as the one just described. To increase her motivation still more, she was able to devise multimodal autosuggestions for much more intimate experiences during the remainder of their anniversary evening without additional coaching from me. She reported that these were also highly effective in maintaining her motivation to diet at a high level.

Follow-up sessions were scheduled at progressively greater intervals as her self-imposed deadline drew near, to ensure that her progress continued and that her goal was satisfactorily reached, which it was. 

The secret of her success was that she was not just "fantasizing in a vacuum." She was selecting visualizations which would increase the meaningfulness of her life story as it unfolded.  These were changes that she could not merely believe, but that she could also believe in

Whatever personal goal you have set for yourself, look for ways to incorporate it into your own life story in such a way that you can believe in it as well as merely believing it.  If you can believe in it with your entire being, using a systematic, comprehensive method such as the BEST ME Technique, you can make it happen!