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Saturday, 30 November 2013

Hypnosis - can it help?

Many of the stars in "I'm  A celebrity Get Me Out of Here " are thought to have consulted life coaches and hypnotists to help overcome their fears. Could hypnosis help you?  Steven Smith goes to see one of the UK's best, Ali Campbell 
by Steven Smith

Ali Campbell Life Coach

WHEN most people meet me, I imagine they feel that I am ultra-confident and at ease with myself, and in many ways that’s true. I also enjoy inspiring others to feel confident in themselves. But there is one thing that fills me with complete terror - public speaking.

In my line of business, public relations and event planning, I am often called on to speak at charity dinners, parties or on behalf of clients in front of large crowds.

Every time I was required to speak in public, I’d get increasingly anxious as the day drew near. By the time it came, I’d be in a complete state, arriving at the venue with sweating hands and a mouth so dry I could barely utter a word. I felt as though I were arriving at my own execution, such was the terror. Somehow I always got through it but I only made it by the skin of my teeth and I always knew I could do so much better.

But how? As I have always believed I could cure my own problems, I started to read books on stage fright and panic attacks, most of which suggested either imagining the audience naked, or blowing into a paper bag to relieve the panic. Neither of these techniques worked for me, either leaving me out of breath or red-faced.

Someone suggested therapy. I was wary because most people I know who had undergone traditional counselling seemed to get worse or became very self-indulgent. If a therapist could give you an exercise or something to help, then that would be great but I really did not want to sit there talking about my childhood. In my view, most intelligent adults can figure that some of their fears and problems stem from bullying or some other issue in their early lives, a bit like when an abused dog is frightened of a certain type of person who resembles the one who kicked it, but rather than dwell on it, we need to move on.

Billed as a “life coach to the stars” Ali Campbell includes Katie Price and Destiny’s Child singer Kelly Rowland among his clients and he had helped an actress friend of mine with her fear of flying. He handles weight loss, phobia, addiction – the list goes on.

“What is he, a wizard or something?” my sister joked when I told her about him.

Ali is one the worlds leading hypnotists and Neuro-Linguistic Programmers (NLP). Neuro-Linguistic Programming can be described as almost a manual for the brain; it can help you become fluent in the language of the brain, enabling you to make changes not only in the way you think but in your life.

Neuro refers to your neurology; Linguistic refers to language functions. In other words, NLP is learning the language of your own mind.

When I read about the hypnosis element of Ali’s work, I chuckled to myself and of course the phrase “look into my eyes” came to mind, followed by the thought that I am too strong-willed to be hypnotized or re-programmed. But I fired off an e-mail asking to see Scottish-born Ali. 

Despite his busy schedule, and a warning on his website that it might be a while before messages are returned, he got back to me very quickly. Ali was just on his way to Belfast to promote a show, but he read my e-mail and wanted to assure me that my problem was not uncommon and that he would see me as soon as he could.

His enthusiasm and reassurance was really refreshing, even to an old cynic like me, and I found myself getting excited at the prospect of seeing him.

Two weeks later I was in his Marylebone office in London. Ali looks more like a pop star or celebrity hairdresser than a life coach and was quite hyper. “I’m rushed off my feet” he said with a smile as he told me he was flying off to LA to begin filming a new show for Fox television in which he’ll be hypnotizing the nation as they watch tv.

My heart sank – my little problem and non-celebrity status couldn’t match up to that and I wondered if he would bother with me. But I needn’t have been concerned – as soon as he shut the door to his office, a new Ali appeared. It was as if I were his only client and he became totally fixed on me.

I told him about my panic attacks and explained that if only I could overcome my fear of public speaking I would be able to expand my business. He asked me to explain the first time I remembered a panic attack going on stage but, funnily enough, that was hard to do. I was praying that he would not follow up with a question my childhood. But suddenly I remembered when I was working in the US and was due to speak at the opening of a shop – I felt frozen as I was having trouble remembering the huge list of people to thank.

“Ah, great, we can sort this no problem,” he said, putting his pad down. Having expected to commit to an NLP course, I was surprised when said hypnosis would be best for me, and that just one or two sessions should fix it.

So I found myself lying down, listening to Ali’s voice asking me to count backwards from 300. After about 255, I remember nothing except hearing him counting down from ten about half an hour later. I just thought I’d had a nice nap, and that nothing had happened. So I asked if he thought it had worked, and how he had come to the decision that I only needed hypnosis. “Body language gives away more than you think,” was his only comment.

An hour later I felt exhausted and sick - maybe he was a Wizard after all! I just needed to have a lie-down. Later in conversation Ali told me these symptoms are not uncommon, as it’s the body fighting the changes. We get comfortable with the way we are and our phobias and the body does not want to let them go.

Thinking about it, that makes sense. As I child I once ate tomatoes on toast but was violently sick afterwards and to this day I cannot touch cold tomatoes. I guess the same could work in reverse.

Ali had warned me that I would still be left with some nervousness – even the best actors suffer some stage fright - and no way did I expect that I would suddenly be able to take to the stage and sing at the O2. But he did say was that I would feel more confident and less anxious than before about public speaking.

A fortnight went by and I had all but forgotten about the experience. I was appearing on a radio show when, halfway through it, I suddenly realized that I was actually having fun. There was no dry mouth, and only a small moment of panic before entering the studio, but there was none of the usual dread that I was going to make a fool of myself. In fact, the positive comment of a friend, that I was a good speaker, went through my mind instead.

Leaving the studio I decided that it might have been a fluke, or that I was just having as good day. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized my self-doubt had been replaced by a belief that I could do this, and the negative thoughts replaced with positive ones.

I was keen to see how Ali’s hypnosis would work on a bigger scale. Having signed up to appear in fashion show to support MIND and Macmillan nurses, the possibilities of failure and embarrassment were quite overwhelming – could Ali help?

On September 6th I was at the Waterlily in London, about to take to the stage. I had a few butterflies in my stomach but usually I would expect to be feeling physically sick at this stage. And, once I got on stage, I had fun!

I have no doubt that Ali’s hypnosis worked on me and I am so grateful. With my new confidence I will be able to take on more public speaking projects, which will benefit not only me but also my company.

Look at it this way – if something needs repairing in your home, then you get it fixed. The same is true of your body and your mind – if it’s not working properly, then get it fixed.

Ali felt one more visit would be good for me. Whatever you say, Ali, from a skeptic to a believer, I’ll be there.

 Copyright Steven Smith 

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