R Clifford Cognitive Hypnotherapy https://www.rclifford-cognitivehypnotherapy.com Hypnotherapy in East London Tue, 21 Apr 2020 10:04:12 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.1 162135462 Complex Trauma and Vulnerability https://www.rclifford-cognitivehypnotherapy.com/vulnerability/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=vulnerability https://www.rclifford-cognitivehypnotherapy.com/vulnerability/#respond Sun, 11 Aug 2019 18:03:02 +0000 https://www.rclifford-cognitivehypnotherapy.com/?p=1043 Embracing vulnerability: how being vulnerable can develop strength and deepen connections One of the things I love about being a therapist is that I am constantly learning about myself and what I still need to work on. Many therapists, including myself, come into the profession following their own experiences of suffering, mental and/or physical challenges,…
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Embracing vulnerability: how being vulnerable can develop strength and deepen connections

One of the things I love about being a therapist is that I am constantly learning about myself and what I still need to work on. Many therapists, including myself, come into the profession following their own experiences of suffering, mental and/or physical challenges, and recovery in whatever form it takes. It’s a journey of self-discovery and deep healing which leads us to a place of acknowledgement and acceptance and equips us with the ability to recognise and understand the suffering of others, as well as the tools to help them use it to transform their own lives.

Change through cognitive hypnotherapy

But it’s not an easy journey. Facing your own insecurities and deep shame can be extremely challenging and difficult at times, as it forces us to expose our deepest and darkest fears. Learning to accept yourself for all your parts, including the bits we try our best to hide and shy away from, no matter how messy, broken, shameful and downtrodden, can be a painful process which takes huge amounts of courage to explore. Exposing those weaknesses to someone for the first time is one of the most vulnerable things you can do, especially if you’ve spent your life trying to mask and avoid them at all costs.

In these moments of complete vulnerability lie the keys to everything you want your life to be. It gives us the power to truly accept ourselves and be accepted by others. Brené Brown, the world’s leading researcher on shame and vulnerability, points out that “you cannot selectively numb emotions”, she says that “you can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing other affects and emotions. When we numb those, we numb joy, gratitude and happiness too”. She also points to the “three things that allow shame to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence and judgement”, and suggests that “if we can share our story with someone who has empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive”.

Woman feeling vulnerable

My struggles with vulnerability

For me, vulnerability has always been one of the most difficult things to deal with. Growing up with parents who were addicted to drugs and alcohol created an unstable and sometimes dangerous home life. Our house was often buzzing with hedonistic characters and we were subjected to all sorts of things a young child probably shouldn’t see. When my dad finally got sent to prison for dealing heroin and my mum was featured on the evening news, it was inevitable that my friends parents found out and I suddenly found myself abandoned by my friends and subjected to bullying at school, which at 6 years old was confusing and of course pretty distressing.

But other than this and all the other difficulties that are wrapped up in a lifestyle fulled by drugs and alcohol; social services involvement, continued bullying and financial, emotional and mental struggles etc., the fundamental lesson that I had been taught by both of my parents was that feelings were not something to be embraced, they were something to be escaped and numbed at any opportunity. I don’t blame my parents for any of this of course, I recognise that they were suffering and that they were only doing the best they could with the tools they had. But these were the lessons I was taught, and so it’s understandable that I struggled with dealing with my own feelings and later went off the rails myself.

When I reached 15 I dropped out of school and had already started experimenting with drugs and alcohol myself, it was a normal part of life for me and I appreciated the moments of relief they gave me from feelings of being different or unworthy. I had found a new family in the underground party scene where I finally felt I belonged and society’s opinions of me didn’t matter. I had made a new identity for myself, where people knew and liked me and accepted me for who I was. We were free and it was fun, for a long time, but as they say what goes up must come down, and the come downs hit us all hard in the end.

Change is possible

Change is possible

At the age of 23 I realised I was depressed. The drugs and alcohol could only cover up so much of it anymore and I felt a deep sense of unhappiness and dissatisfaction with my life. I wanted more, from myself and my future, and I knew it would be a hard road to get there but I also knew that if I carried on the way I was going, I could quite possibly end up (as many of my friends had already) either in prison or completely losing myself, my mind or, sadly like some I had already lost (including my own father), potentially my life.

I secured myself a place on an art foundation course and studied photography, art and jewellery design and although I loved the feeling of having a purpose again, it was by no means easy. On my way to the induction day I had my first real panic attack, I had no idea what was happening to me, all I knew was that I was crippled with fear and feelings of dread about being judged and rejected by fellow classmates and teachers.

I didn’t know much about anxiety at the time and hadn’t connected it to my earlier experiences of being outcast at school. All I knew was that I felt different, stupid, unwanted and a failure, and that the swirling feelings in my chest and head and redness of my face were so strong I couldn’t possibly hide how uncomfortable I felt about being there. I felt I would stand out like a sore thumb and everyone would know I wasn’t meant to be there. I was strange, weird and defective in my eyes and I had no doubt others would see that too.

Trust your struggle

But I pushed on regardless and completed my first ever qualification, and it was about 2 years later while studying at university that I finally realised I was suffering from an anxiety disorder. This was both freeing and unsettling at the same time: at least I understood why I felt the way I did, but what was I to do about it? Would I ever be able to live a normal life or would I only ever be able to manage these awful feelings I felt inside? These were different times too of course, when mental health issues were much lesser understood and help was harder to come by. And having been conditioned to believe that all figures of authority were out to get you, including mental health practitioners who would just lock you up if you told them how you really thought and felt, it was hard to know where to turn.

I struggled intensely with interactions and feelings of not being good enough, and eventually I quit Uni' as I couldn’t cope with the hot flushes and freezing up whenever someone spoke to me. I felt completely alien in that environment and I just gave in to the fears, feeling that I would never be normal so I should just stop pretending.

Ripples of change through hypnotherapy

Rewriting your story

Despite all of this I was determined to make something of myself, and after setting up my own jewellery business I somehow found myself in teaching - which was a huge trigger for my fears of being judged in all sorts of ways as you can imagine. But although I had become better at managing it, my anxieties continued to dictate my life and I’d developed unhealthy coping mechanisms for dealing with it. I was drinking heavily and became dependent on sleeping tablets in a bid to control my frequent panic attacks and intermittent insomnia. It was in a moment of deep despair that I realised I couldn’t go on like this and I finally decided to get the help I needed and seek out some form of therapy.

After going through the official route of psychotherapy through my doctor in earlier years I realised the analytical route wasn’t for me. I couldn’t see the point in dwelling on my depressed feelings any further and I wanted tools to help me in the now. I was lucky to find an NLP therapist who helped me truly understand for the first time about why I was experiencing these emotions, and transform them with hypnosis and mental reprocessing. It was a few years later when I found a Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist, who helped me solidify this change and turn my life around completely. She helped me to see my story as just that, a story, and to start to see myself as a valued member of society and the world, and encouraged my desire to get into therapy myself.

Rewrite your own story with cognitive hypnotherapy

I was finally able to see my challenges as opportunities – after all they had given me the courage and resilience that I had needed to get through some difficult moments in my life, and had made me the person I am today. I was finally able to be truly grateful for these challenges and see them as an opportunity to help others struggling with their own difficulties in life. I had found my true calling and I had my past to thank for it.

Why vulnerability is important

In the past I would never have had the courage to tell this story in public, I would have hidden it at all costs for fear of being judged. But now that I no longer judge myself for these things, I no longer hold on to the fear of judgement from others. Our stories are the fires in which our identities are forged and I am lucky to have experienced such a rich and complex life filled with brilliant and enriching characters, including my parents who, despite their faults, were also extremely loving and inspiring people. But I tell this story now in the hope that it inspires others to believe that change is not only possible, it is completely achievable. No matter what your story is you can choose to rewrite it however you want, you are the author and the actors of your own script so why not rewrite it in a way which serves you? Your own self-judgement and fear is all that stands in the way of you doing this.

In our deepest fears lies our greatest courage

It is in our most feared moments of vulnerability that we find our courage, and it is in these moments of courage and vulnerability that we allow other people a glimpse of our true selves. More importantly though, by allowing ourselves to be vulnerable we give others permission to be vulnerable too. Have you ever seen someone struggle with a speech on stage, tripping over their words and reddened in the face, and ever felt anything other than deep empathy and respect for their courage to continue? It’s in these moments of exposure that we see we are all the same, we all share the same human qualities, fables and sufferings, the same fear of rejection, longing for acceptance and desire to be seen.

Deepen relationships by embracing vulnerability

Vulnerability creates opportunities for connection

When we build a wall of defence between ourselves and the world around us we cut ourselves off from others and lose out on opportunities to create the meaningful connections we desire in our lives. By offering others a glimpse of your own vulnerabilities you are saying, “I’m not perfect, and it’s ok for you to not be perfect too”. It can tear down barriers and build bridges over the most troubled waters and most importantly, it could be the one thing which leads you to making some of the deepest connections in your life.

What to do if you are struggling...

If you'd like to discuss how I can help you overcome anxiety, depression or any other life limiting belief please get in touch for a free no obligation telephone consultation. Just follow the link or email below or go to my Connect page to get in touch.

You can email me directly at:



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RisingMindfully Instagram https://www.rclifford-cognitivehypnotherapy.com/risingmindfully-instagram/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=risingmindfully-instagram https://www.rclifford-cognitivehypnotherapy.com/risingmindfully-instagram/#respond Fri, 19 Jul 2019 14:21:20 +0000 https://www.rclifford-cognitivehypnotherapy.com/?p=1014 risingmindfully I use Cognitive Hypnotherapy and Mindfulness Coaching to help you transform life limiting issues and create a more fulfilled life with true meaning Exciting times recording our new pod cast, Talking Supporting the Questie crew on the 5/10K park run Hackney Downs Studios, open house event, 6-10pm... Why accept fear as a limitation? Fear…
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Anxiety in Education https://www.rclifford-cognitivehypnotherapy.com/mental-health-in-education/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mental-health-in-education https://www.rclifford-cognitivehypnotherapy.com/mental-health-in-education/#respond Sun, 21 Apr 2019 22:22:41 +0000 https://www.rclifford-cognitivehypnotherapy.com/?p=897 Anxiety in the education system: Are schools becoming a breeding ground for mental health issues?   Teacher's union report shows sharp increases in mental health issues and alcohol abuse among teachers, as more than 50% report anxiety issues over workload Teachers struggling with anxiety over workloads As the end of the Easter holidays approaches, teachers…
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Anxiety in the education system: Are schools becoming a breeding ground for mental health issues?


Woman stressed with head in hands - cognitive hypnotherapy for anxiety and work stress

Teacher's union report shows sharp increases in mental health issues and alcohol abuse among teachers, as more than 50% report anxiety issues over workload

Teachers struggling with anxiety over workloads

As the end of the Easter holidays approaches, teachers and young people all over the country are preparing themselves for the final push of the school year, and having spent the last 2 weeks trying to forget about the rollercoaster of deadlines, marking, homework, exams, planning, achieving, failing etc, this can be a challenging time as the reminder of what is yet to come creeps ever closer.

As someone who survived 10 years in the education system (and only just), I am reminded of how turbulent my thoughts and emotions were as the holidays drew to a close. The anxiety which had followed me around until the final few days of the holiday, trying to avoid the thoughts of all the marking and planning that was still yet to be done and that I hadn’t found the mental or physical energy to tackle yet, knowing that things were only about to get worse with the final demands of exam season approaching, data deadlines and parental meetings yet to come; the merry-go-round of emotions... adrenaline, cortisol, 12 hour plus days, sleepless nights... exhaustion!

It's no wonder there is an epidemic of teachers leaving the profession, with recruitment and retention at an all-time low. But is there a bigger concern to be aware of here? As timetables increase each year and teachers struggle to cope, more and more teaching staff are walking out mid-term or taking prolonged sick leave, forcing schools to rely on supply or non-specialist teachers and placing further burden on teacher workload as they soak up timetables and work round the clock to drag students through exams - it's a vicious circle as schools try to fill the gaps in timetabling by reallocating responsibilities to other staff, rather than re-hire new teachers part way into the school year. But how is this emotional rollercoaster affecting the lives of our teachers, and what impact is their stress having on our young people?

Studies show sharp increase in mental health issues among young people

A study into mental health problems by the Nuffield Trust showed a six-fold increase in mental health disorders among young people across the UK, with a sharp rise between 2011 and 2014. Another study by the Mental Health Foundation found that 10% of children aged 5-16 have a diagnosable mental health disorder. This begs the questions: what is causing this steep incline of mental health concerns, and are we part of the solution or the problem? During my years in the education system I became increasingly aware of the rise in presenting issues of depression and anxiety among students each year, with more and more young people needing support and being prescribed medication for their disorders. Of course, there are many factors that can affect people’s health, and where a school is based can also impact the number of children who are at risk of potential mental health related issues, but with the numbers of diagnoses steadily increasing across the country, we need to take a wider view of what is causing this, and what we are doing about it.

Depressed man sits with head in hands in therapy session - cognitive hypnotherapy for depression

One in 50 teacher's are self harming while 1 in five reports turning to alcohol due to work related stress

Ongoing funding cuts force schools to become financially focussed

School funding has, like all other public services over the past decade, been subjected to further cuts year on year, and of course we would expect this to have an impact on staffing numbers, money for trips and equipment, pay rises and so on and so forth. But every year schools are facing difficult decisions over where to make further savings, and of course teaching and support staff have no immunity. But what is the real cost of these cuts? They may be saving money, but at what price to people’s minds and lives?

And it’s not just the students who are suffering, in fact it is my firm belief that the rise in mental health issues in young people is partly (and maybe a large part) due to a trickle-down effect from the growing stress on teacher’s workloads causing a major increase in anxiety and depression related illnesses, hindering them from being able to act as the positive role models and pastoral figures required to make a positive impact on children’s social and emotional development and wellbeing – which is surely the real reason why most teachers join the profession in the first place? The pressure on teachers to plug the holes created by staffing cuts and the growing emphasis on target based outcomes is having a landslide effect on the mental health of those in the profession. With the NASUWT teachers union’s annual survey of 5000 teachers discovering that 64% of teacher’s stated that their work had adversely affected their mental health in 2018, and 76% saying they have experienced work related anxiety, this is a real concern. A further 12% disclosed that they were taking antidepressant medication as a result of work based stress.

And even more worryingly, 3% of teachers said they have self harmed as a result of work pressures, up from 2% in the 2017 survey, where one in 5 teachers said that they were drinking more as they struggle to cope. Teachers also reported that workload stress was affecting the quality of their work and home lives, with 53% stating that they were too worn down to apply themselves to their jobs fully, and 81% (which is a staggering figure) said they are too tired to do the things they enjoy outside work.

Stress in the workplace is contagious

There is little doubt there that something is drastically wrong when we see these statistics. How can we expect our teachers to support and nurture our young people when they are at breaking point and struggling to support their own needs in healthy ways themselves? And how can we not expect these levels of stress to affect our children?? Modern research in neuroscience shows that our mirror neurons fire to mimic the state of those around us, causing us to adopt the behavioural, language and mood patterns of others, in an instinctive bid to fit in to our social settings.

If we are constantly surrounded by people who are stressed, anxious or depressed, it is scientifically proven that we can pick up this stress or become depressed ourselves. And let’s face it, school is no walk in the park for young people as it is, with pressures building on accessing higher grades to compete with an ever increasing population, prices of education at its highest, challenging home and social lives and an unstable economy to look forward to... our children have a lot on their plate too!

But who can they turn to if teachers themselves are under so much pressure that they have to decide whether to use the toilet or get a drink (and this is not an exaggeration of the truth!), between lessons/duties/detentions/catch up sessions, phone calls, meetings... etc etc etc.

Hand reaches out of water while sinking, cognitive hypnotherapy can help relieve stress

Teacher's drowning under their workloads struggle to find time for refreshment or toilet breaks during break times

We need to raise awareness and create healthier approaches to work stress in schools

For me it seems obvious that something desperately needs to change in this system, as school’s are becoming a place of great suffering as they focus on maximising financial returns rather than creating a place to develop healthy mind-sets and improve the lives of our communities. While there are many success stories and triumphs within these establishments, these are all despite these major obstacles, where only the most hardened teachers can survive long enough to make a real difference.

But this change will take radical thinking and a willingness to embrace new ideologies, which I don’t see as a priority for the key players in what seems to have become a business-minded industry. For now, I feel the best we can do is to raise awareness to the challenges our teachers and young people are facing. School leaders and Heads must support teachers in their bids for fair working conditions and hours, and get savvy on how to manage stress within the workplace, integrating healthcare programmes, in school counsellors, and integrating mindfulness approaches if our learning environments are to be able to function as such. As Maya Angelou said:

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, compassion and humour”.

Let’s make our schools a place where our teachers and children can thrive rather than merely survive!!

Happy students and teacher working together

Studies in neuroscience have proven that we "pick-up" moods and behavioural patterns from those around us

Get help if you are suffering from stress

Stress is one of the biggest contributors to mental and physical health issues known today. If you or anyone you know are struggling with the effects of any form of stress, please feel free to contact me to discuss how cognitive hypnotherapy or mindfulness coaching can help you in overcoming this, and help you find healthy ways to create balance in your life.

If you are a teacher or school leader and are interested in bringing mindfulness to your school, please get in touch if you'd like to discuss how I can develop a workshop or programme suitable for your staff and/or students.

You can reach me at:



More ways to get in touch...

Click here to go to my connect page where you can find more ways to reach me

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Labels We Live https://www.rclifford-cognitivehypnotherapy.com/816-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=816-2 https://www.rclifford-cognitivehypnotherapy.com/816-2/#respond Wed, 27 Feb 2019 20:56:21 +0000 https://www.rclifford-cognitivehypnotherapy.com/?p=816 Photo by @Matthew_T_Rader on Unsplash After an inspiring workshop on addiction and trauma delivered by two experts in the field, Chula Goonewardene and Cheda Mikic, and hosted by Melanie Cox at the HQ Therapy Rooms in Hagerston, I was left pondering how in modern society we are so quick to define ourselves, our actions, thoughts…
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Hypnotherapy for Addiction in London, image of container of needles and drugs
Photo by @Matthew_T_Rader on Unsplash

After an inspiring workshop on addiction and trauma delivered by two experts in the field, Chula Goonewardene and Cheda Mikic, and hosted by Melanie Cox at the HQ Therapy Rooms in Hagerston, I was left pondering how in modern society we are so quick to define ourselves, our actions, thoughts and behaviours, and even feel uncomfortable with the idea of not putting a label on a person or a problem.

Addiction is a word loaded with negative connotations and one which conjuers up feelings of fear, disgust, hatred and anger. And there are reasons why of course, people with addictions often do bad things, and no one is excusing them here, but it forced me to ask myself, is it the person we are labelling here, or their behaviour? And at what point did the person become the label, or did the label become the person? 

Addiction is a complex illness which can be completely devastating to our mind, body and relationships and strip our lives bare. It is a camouflage under which trauma can hide and try to heal itself. When we operate from a place of fear or hurt, we can fall into patterns of seeking fulfilment from external sources.

Think about the last time something upset you, what was your reaction? Once the initial pain had subsided what did you reach for… a glass of wine? Chocolate? Shopping? A sexual partner? Now imagine if this trauma was amplified by 100, and applied to you before the age of 6 or 10. Would these vices still be enough to sooth the pain or would you reach for something more? Many of us will never understand the desperate desire to numb ourselves from the world in this way, and I hope you never do, and the lengths that this can drive a person to can almost show no bounds. But we can all understand the intrinsic desire to reach for a quick fix in a time of suffering.

An addict is a person just like us, fighting the same (and usually much worse) battles, but without the same tools that most people have. Many people with addiction problems have experienced deep and severe trauma, the kind that thankfully most people could not even imagine. So how can we imagine what it is like to live with the effects of these events, and how can a person be expected to act “normally”, after them.

A label is created when we separate ourselves from others, and assume ourselves a higher sense of worth. It is to say, “they’re bad and I know this because I am good”. But by labelling another person based on a set of behaviours is to negate all that makes us who we are too: the complex, challenging, complicated soup of desires, fears and emotions that is the human condition, and that drives our every behaviour moment to moment. Yes, they may have stolen, yes they may well have hurt, and yes in some cases they may have done unspeakable and unimaginably horrible things (and I’m not suggesting we let them off the hook when they do). But as human beings do we too not have the capacity to do these things? So does this not mean we are those labels too? At what point do WE become this label? And don’t these addicts also share all our other traits and capacities for love, sadness, happiness, fear, compassion, suffering, kindness, generosity?

So maybe before we are quick to label another human being based on their actions or appearance, the questions we should ask ourselves are, “What else is this person other than the behaviour I see right now?”, and “How low do I have to go and how bad do things have to get before these behaviours become me?". Ask yourself these questions and see what comes up, you might just find that you are not so different after all.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, or anything else you'd like to leave behind, please feel free to contact me for a chat or visit my website to find out more.

Get in touch

Please contact me if you would like to know more about how I can help you or someone you know with an addiction problem.

If you'd like to know more about Chula and Chada's work with trauma and addiction, or the HQ Therapy Rooms please follow the links below.


Cheda Mikic:

Naturopath, Cranio Sacral Therapist, TRE trainer & Fascia specialist

Chula Goonewardene (BACP):

Operations Manager & Senior Counsellor

HQ Therapy Rooms 

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