The Gift of Being Present

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In our world of fast-developing technology, and the need to stay connected with friends and colleagues through texts, emails and social media, the irony is that in our face-to-face relationships with others we are becoming increasingly disconnected.  The need to check messages and emails as they arrive, to scroll through social media just to “catch up with what’s going on” means that time spent together is often time spent on phones and tablets, and that means we are not “together” at all.  In that distraction, we are not being present with our partner or family.

In my therapy practice, I am seeing increasing numbers of clients who are experiencing “relationship issues” for one reason or another…

Relationships are not about “getting it right”, they are about connecting with another person.  The most important aspect of connection is the ability to listen… when was the last time you did that?  Really listened, with total presence and with no other distractions at all?

Listening is a skill we all possess; it is a natural, innate ability.  However, as we grow and develop, we learn different, adapted ways of listening, which require effort.

  • We learn to listen in order to respond – we are waiting for the other person to finish talking so we can speak.
  • We learn to listen merely in order to validate what the other person is saying.
  • We learn to listen in order to negate what the other person is saying – to make them wrong, so that we can be right.

What can happen when you just listen…?  Listen with no judgement, no effort, and without trying to offer solutions.  Even if the other person is in a negative place – what happens if you just be with them, and hold the space, with compassion and empathy…?

Put your phones down, people, and just be present with each other… talk to each other… and, more importantly, listen… it’s the biggest gift you can offer.

For any couples who feel they would like to spend some time together to reconnect, you may like to know that I offer a very special course… Because it’s only for one couple at a time, it’s tailored for the individuals concerned, and whatever you want to get out of the day.  (You may also like to know that there is absolutely no mobile signal in our training and consultation offices at ‘Planet Wykeham’!)

Self-Awareness and Relationships is an experiential workshop-style day, with some bits of NLP – understanding how we think, and how we each do that differently from one another; there are also some bits from other psychotherapeutic modalities too, because the day is all about having fun as well as learning about yourselves and each other within your relationship.  It’s designed to be very much a future-oriented day, rather than looking back at whatever has happened in the past – it’s all about developing connection and understanding, and creating your future together.

If you’d like to know more, just give me a call and we can have a chat to see if this is something you’d like to do together.




Moving with the Seasons…

We have exciting news… As the seasons change, so change is taking place for us, too…

At the beginning of November, we will be moving into our beautiful new training and consultancy offices in Langley House, at Wykeham Business Centre near Scarborough.  Whilst we have really enjoyed holding our courses at Wydale Hall, it will be lovely to have the flexibility of our very own space, where we can put down roots and grow.  Our new offices also have wheelchair access, which is wonderful for our less mobile clients and students.  We will be arranging an “Open Day” for everyone to pop in and visit us, and maybe share a coffee or a glass of Prosecco… and we’ll have more details of that in our November newsletter.

In the meantime, the first course in our new training room has been arranged for Monday 21st November – Mindfulness and Self-Hypnosis for Personal Change.  If you would like to join us for this relaxing day, then full details are on the website.  There are only six places, though, so if you would like one then please book quickly!  We also have a number of other courses arranged for the winter months; full details are on the SCNLH website.

In the coming months we are hoping to organise some weekly classes in relaxation, as well as Pilates and possibly T’ai Chi – watch this space for more details.

We are really looking forward to welcoming you to our new home!


Teachings of Dog: False Evidence Appearing Real

Last Thursday was haircut day… we have a wonderful, patient lady who, every four weeks, comes to the house for the morning and creates order out of chaos; leaving behind three tidy dogs and an enormous bag of fluff.  (The fluff is much appreciated by the local bird population in the spring, for nest-lining purposes… I would imagine that Lhasa fluff in particular must be very cosy – it certainly all disappears very rapidly.)

For Luna, who adores being brushed and loves meeting people, the arrival of Tracy is one of unrestrained joy and excitement.  Lily is slightly more circumspect, but happy to hang around as she knows there will be biscuits in the offing…  Theo, however, is horrified.  After joining Lily in a traditional (and noisy) Schnauzer greeting, he scurries off at high speed in order to find a hiding place where, he hopes, we will be unable to find him until after Tracy has left… under my office desk is his sanctuary of choice.  If he can’t see us, he reasons, there’s no way we’ll be able to see him.

Unfortunately for Theo, cowering behind the office chair, we somehow always manage to locate him and lift him, by now shivering piteously, onto the grooming table.  Half an hour or so later, when nothing very terrible has happened to him apart from the loss of some fluff amidst lots of cuddles, he’s ecstatic to receive his obligatory biscuit from Tracy and run off joyously into the garden, to forget his fears until the next time.

Our worries and stresses are subjective – it depends what we have going on inside our heads as to how we perceive, and therefore how we experience, any given situation.  When we are anticipating an event, we will have an internal representation of how we think the event will be.  If we are focusing on a positive outcome, then we might feel pleasure, or excitement.  But if we are focusing on what might go wrong, we are effectively playing out a scary movie inside our heads, which will result in us feeling stress and anxiety, even though our anticipated scenario may be far from real, or even likely.

Theo’s Teachings:

  • What we are focusing on has a direct effect on our state of mind.  If you are paying attention to negative things, try opening your mind to the possibility of the positive.  If you look for it, you will find it.
  • Our fears are often just False Evidence Appearing Real.  When you are worried or anxious, ask yourself what other possible outcomes might there be?
  • If you are facing something disagreeable, give yourself something to look forward to after the event, then imagine yourself out there in the future, looking back at the event.  From this perspective, there is no anxiety.
  • If you don’t want to be found, choosing the same place to hide each time is probably not the best strategy.




For our latest calendar of courses, visit our website at

Seeds of Happiness: Free Online Course for Stressed Dentists

We’ve just launched a brand new, online course especially designed to help ‪dentists‬ and their teams reduce ‪stress‬ and anxiety, and improve their levels of resilience and wellbeing.

The course starts on Friday 8 July for four weeks and is completely free of charge – there are just 20 places available.

As with all our online courses, it’s as interactive as you would like it to be, with e-mail support from Joanna and forum-style discussion if you wish to take part.

In this course we will:

  • Consider the causes of stress within the dental profession, and what it does to your health.
  • Explore how our perception of events relates to our state of mind.
  • Discover a variety of different techniques which can help to improve wellbeing, increase behavioural choice and create a greater sense of life balance.

Stress is a natural part of life. However, when we are regularly living and working in a stressed state, our ability to cope with day-to-day life becomes compromised.  We can end up reacting badly in our interactions with other people, which in turn intensifies our own stress, leading to further psychological distress and even physical illness or ‘burnout’.  Stress is easily transferred to others, too – if you are stressed, you are likely to pass it on to other members of your team or even your patients at work, or your family at home, which means an uncomfortable time for everyone.

This course has been developed as a result of the research undertaken for my Diploma in Psychotherapy, and aims to explain some of the causes of stress within the profession, as well as introducing a variety of simple techniques such as self-hypnosis, mindfulness and others in order to give you a wide choice and enable you to find the methods that work for you.  The techniques are taken from a number of different psychotherapeutic approaches including NLPt, Hypnosis, CBT, Gestalt and Transactional Analysis, all of which can help individuals reduce their stress levels, manage their state and create a calmer environment for themselves and those around them.

Each week’s topic should take you a total of around 40 minutes to an hour to complete; the topics are split up into sections so you can take as long as you like over each one.  You may also want to set aside a few minutes each day for some daily practice – the techniques will only be effective if you make this commitment to yourself from the outset.
Whilst this course has been designed with members of the dental profession in mind, of course the techniques will work for anyone; you are more than welcome, whatever your profession!

Please note that this is a personal development course and is not intended to be a substitute for medical care.  If you are dealing with any sort of mental or emotional disorder, are undergoing any mental health therapy, are experiencing epilepsy or seizures, or have any other neurological disorder, we suggest that you consult your medical practitioner or therapist before you undertake this programme, and proceed only under their supervision.

Pretend you are surrounded by eight hungry tigers… what would you do?

We each live in a world of our own creation… the “reality” that we perceive is in fact not reality – it is our own, personal subjective experience.  Our senses pick up information from the world around us and as we perceive things we give meaning to them – we filter our perceptions through our inner programming of beliefs, values, memories…

Much of what we perceive is deleted (are you noticing how your feet are feeling right now?  Probably not until I mentioned it!).  We also distort our perceptions, which is why one person may remember an event completely differently from someone else.  We generalise, too, so a previous experience will influence how we perceive another, similar experience.  We fill in the gaps in order to make our perceptions make sense.

So, we take our perceptions of an event and we make sense of those perceptions inside ourselves; and as we do that, we will then have a feeling about the experience.  It’s not the event itself that makes us feel the way we do; it’s our thoughts about the event.  Events in themselves are not stressful, or happy, or sad – it’s the way we process them that makes us feel the way we do.  We don’t experience reality – we experience life though the feelings created by our thoughts.

Of course, this doesn’t just apply to events that are happening on the outside of us… our thoughts are frequently on the future, “What if this happens?” or on the past, “I wish I had done that.”  As these thoughts run through our minds, so they create feelings, too – perhaps worry or anxiety about something that may or may not happen in the future.  The thought is just a thought, and even though it is probably not even true, it still produces the same response in our body as if it was a real event.  Our feelings are very real, even if the thought that created the feeling is not true.

People really do spend a lot of time worrying about things that will never happen.  when we do that, we are in effect pretending we are surrounded by those eight hungry tigers.

So, what should we do?  The answer is to stop pretending.


NLP: A Practical Philosophy of Being

Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or NLP, has been described as “the handbook of how to achieve what we want out of life”. The name is derived from: Neurology (the study of the mind and nervous system; how we think), Linguistics (the study of language and how we use it) and Programming (the sequence of our actions; how we motivate ourselves to achieve our goals). NLP is therefore the study of the structure of subjective experience or, in other words, how we use the language of the mind to consistently achieve our specific and desired outcomes. It is a practical philosophy of being.

Discover how to listen effectively and make yourself understood better

The meaning of communication is the response you get from the other person; people will respond to what they think you said – which is sometimes not what you intended! Because we all think differently, we will perceive others’ communications in different ways. The NLP Communication Model can help us appreciate how our unconscious mind filters our experiences through our personal internal values, beliefs and memories; so that effectively we all construct our own reality.

As we listen to others, we can gain insights into how they are processing their own experiences, which can help us discover how best to make ourselves understood. If a dental patient is nervous, for example, they will be filtering the conversation of the dentist through their belief that the dental practice is a scary place to be, so that any words they don’t understand may cause added anxiety (“I’ve never heard of it, therefore it’s something I need to be afraid of.”) The more choices and behavioural flexibility we can have in our communication style, the better our results will be.

Appreciate that everyone has the right to their own opinion

An underlying part of the philosophy of NLP is respect for another person’s “model of the world”. Our perception of reality is not necessarily reality, because we all construct our own view of it – however, it is our reality. Everybody has a different way of perceiving their world; their opinions, beliefs and values are individual to them and NLP teaches us that it is not our responsibility to change somebody else’s model. Accepting this idea can have an enormous positive impact on any relationship; as the author Wayne Dyer says, “Practice being kind, not right.”

Sometimes another person’s ideas might be radically different from yours because we all have our own opinion as to what is important to us. How useful would it be if you could discover a client’s values just through conversation? When you understand what is important to your client, it means that you know exactly how to satisfy their needs, and your client knows you are really listening to them. In the dental practice, for example, the dentist may consider that a patient with discoloured teeth would certainly be interested in a whitening treatment, but is that the patient’s value, or the dentist’s?

Access positive resources in yourself and your colleagues

NLP has been described as “a practical philosophy of being” – hence the title of this article. We operate most effectively when we are in a resourceful state; utilising the philosophy of NLP can help us access our inner positive resources and operate from a “physiology and psychology of excellence”.

As human beings, we have a tendency to believe what we see, and see what we believe; consider – how many times in the past have you “known” something would go wrong, and proved yourself right? What if, instead, you “know” you will have a good day, or that a challenging job will work well? When you start your day by believing that it will be good, then your unconscious mind will collect evidence for you to support that belief throughout the day. This isn’t a magic wand to ensure nothing bad ever happens again, but if we are changing the focus from why our day was so bad into what made the day good, despite the bad thing that might have happened, then we are creating for ourselves a different and more resourceful way of perceiving our world; what, in NLP, is called a “reframe”.

Understand rapport and how you can use body language to help others feel comfortable

We all instinctively “do” rapport with people we like, and NLP teaches us how these unconscious processes work. Through techniques such as matching and mirroring we can gain rapport with people very quickly in order to increase their feelings of comfort and security; this is particularly important in the dental surgery, for example. Using our sensory acuity, we can pay attention to our client’s unconscious responses in their body language and physiology so that if our communication is not working, we can change our approach.

As we listen, respect the client’s “model of the world”, pay attention to their what is important to them and how they are constructing their reality, we can make a real difference to the quality of our communication and develop a solid, long-term relationship which is based on respect and understanding.

Every behaviour has a positive intention

All our actions and behaviours have at least one purpose – to achieve something that we value and that benefits us in some way. Even a behaviour which others perceive to be manifestly antisocial, such as bullying another staff member, will have a positive intention of some sort for the person doing the behaviour. NLP separates the intention behind a behaviour from the behaviour itself, and asks for what purpose is the behaviour there? If we can understand how and for what purpose someone is behaving in a particular way, it is possible to work with them to assist them to change their behaviour into something more useful or desirable. We are not our behaviours; when we have a better choice of behaviour that also achieves that same overall positive intention, we will take it.

People are doing the best they can with the resources they have available

In any given situation, we will do the best we can at the time with what resources we have available to us. How often have you said to yourself, “If I’d known back then what I know now…”? The resource of that knowledge was not available to you at that time, so whatever you did back there then was done from a positive intention, with the expectation of a particular outcome, and with what resources you did have at the time. A nervous dental patient is doing the best they can – by their next visit, their resources may have increased because of the care and understanding they were shown on their first visit.

Reality is subjective

Our perception of reality is not necessarily reality; however, it is our reality – everybody has a different way of viewing the world. We pay attention to the aspects of the world which are of interest to us and ignore others or, in the words of Paul Simon, “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” In NLP terms, we would say, “the map is not the territory”. We carry a map in our minds of what we believe reality to be, but the real territory of our world is always far richer than our perception. Our map depends on our own internal “filters” of values, beliefs and memories, and is completely personal to us. An interior designer, a visiting colleague and a health and safety inspector visiting your office will all have a completely different internal map, or perception, of your office as they will notice, and pay attention to, very different things.

These ideas are some of the central principles and guiding philosophies of NLP, known as the operating beliefs, or ‘presuppositions’. They are called ‘presuppositions’ because, as practitioners of the art and science of NLP, we pre-suppose them to be true and then act as if they are; effectively they are ethical and ecological principles for life.

Would you like to learn more?

We are running an Introduction to NLP course in January/February 2016 if you would like to learn more about how NLP can help you make positive changes and transform the way you perceive your world.

All the details are on our website at:


Copyright 2015 Joanna Taylor


A Call to Action

“To change one’s life:

Start immediately, do it flamboyantly; no exceptions.”

                                                                             – William James

Many professions are described as “stressful”.  Many of you who are familiar with my work will know that I have a particular interest in the dental profession; I have undertaken much research in this field over the last few years, and wrote my psychotherapy diploma thesis on the subject of “Happiness vs Burnout in the Dental Profession”.  And believe me, dentists are a stressed bunch… not just my research, but lots of research has been done over the years to measure just how stressed they are – largely concluding that yes, indeed they are stressed, and something really should be done about it.  I’m guessing there is similar research out there that says exactly the same for doctors, vets, lawyers and many others, too.

But here’s the thing.  Events in themselves are not stressful, until we judge them to be so; things are just as they are.  When something happens in life, we perceive it through our senses, and then give it meaning by running it through the filters of our mind – all of our values, beliefs, attitudes and memories acting like a kind of stained glass window to give colour and meaning to the events that we encounter, that make up our life.  We are all completely unique – which means that our stained glass windows are unique, and constantly changing, too, as we “learn something new every day”…

The meanings we make from our experiences will make us feel a particular way about them.  Whether we perceive something as being fun, exciting or relaxing – or stressful, frightening or annoying, then our physiology will react accordingly, because our mind and body form one system – “50 trillion cells acting in collective amoebic consciousness” is how cell biologist and author Bruce Lipton puts it.  Or as Deepak Chopra would say, “Every cell in your body is eavesdropping on your internal dialogue.”

As individuals, we cannot feel exactly the same way about something as anybody else.  Even if we are in the same place, at the same time, experiencing the same event, we will still have a unique perspective on it.  What we are actually doing is creating our very own version of reality, and our thoughts about that then make us feel a particular way.  So actually, our reality really is all in our own head.

So what if we are constantly stressed or anxious about things, or we are a chronic worrier, or we get angry all the time…?  What if we are stuck in a particular way of thinking, which makes us feel bad, but it’s just the way we’ve always thought, so we think that’s just the way it is…?  This kind of rigidity of thought is in itself stressful – perfectionism being a good example; “If it’s not perfect, that means I am a failure.”  That’s a very limiting belief to have, and a very common one – but what if you didn’t have that belief?

What if, instead, you look at that through a different lens.  Consider the presupposition that “there is no failure, only feedback”.  If you had that belief instead, you would perceive things in a whole different way; as, for example, “I’m working towards excellence and doing the best I can, which is good enough, and I am constantly learning how to be even better.”  Does that sound like a more flexible and a less stressful way of perceiving things?

We’ve all had that experience of absolutely knowing that something was true.  Completely, beyond question, I left my keys there and the fact that they are not there now means that you must have moved them… now I’m really angry and it’s all your fault…  You know the sort of thing.  We blame other people, other things, the government, the traffic, whoever – for making us feel the way we do.  But what if that’s just our perception – we’re blaming others because it’s easier than taking responsibility ourselves – until we find our keys in the place where we suddenly remember putting them…! There’s a lovely little poem on this subject called “The Cookie Thief” by Valerie Cox.

But here’s the thing… If we are blaming something or someone else for our current state, then we are effectively giving away our own power to that other thing or person.  As a ‘victim’, we are stuck; unable to take action because we are not responsible.  But actually, the one thing over which you have more control than perhaps you might previously have realised is actually your state of mind.

The way we think is just our programming – it’s a habit; a strategy we’ve learned.  It’s perfectly possible to change it if it’s no longer serving us.  But the question is, do we want to – or are we happy being unhappy in our comfort zone, even when it’s uncomfortable?

So, who is creating our stress?  If we are looking outside ourselves, we are looking in the wrong place.  Our stress is caused by our own perceptions and reactions.  If we don’t like the way we perceive and react to things, then it’s possible to change that if we choose – but first we have to accept responsibility for our own feelings and our own state.  Nobody can make us feel anything without our unconscious permission; other people do what other people do, but what we do with that is all ours.

A wise dental business coach told me that there’s an old saying to the effect that “Dentists can’t see the writing on the wall because they have their backs to it.”  So – what if you decide to turn around?

I’ve entitled this post “A Call to Action” and my invitation to you is just that.  If you are stressed and you would like to do something about it, then just being aware of the possibility of change is hugely empowering.  People decide to change when the pain of staying the same is greater than the perceived pain of changing – and the only time we have available for change is Now – the present moment.  If that is where you are, and you would like some help discovering how you can turn things around and create positive change, then you’re welcome to contact me to arrange a chat.

As William James said, “Start immediately, do it flamboyantly; no exceptions.”