Dog-fights, hypnotherapy and MP3s

Why is it that every time I sit down to record a carefully designed and well-thought out therapy MP3, the good-old Royal Air Force decide that it is also exactly the right time for their Typhoons to practice dog-fights above my house? And just in case you haven’t been fortunate enough to be subjected to this display of technological military might, those buggers are really loud when they get going; I mean proper loud. I understand that practice makes perfect and all that but why is it every time I sit down and switch on my digital recorder the air becomes a pilot’s playground?

The more astute ones amongst you may have noticed a certain use of language in that little rant of mine because obviously it’s not every  time I try, otherwise I’d never get anything recorded at all, would I? And I have, obviously. There’s four of them sat in my shop, not to mention all those bespoke ones I’ve sent off to clients following their therapy sessions. Although, now I mention it, on those rare occasions when combat isn’t the order of the day, children play outside the house or the neighbour’s decide to start the car and leave it running whilst discussing whatever it is loudly enough to be picked up on the recording. Strangely though, the birds go quiet. The one noise that actually works quite well, birdsong, becomes mysteriously absent.

It’s strange just how much something turns up when you get tuned into it. Once something is on life’s sonar, it keeps on pinging its presence no matter how much you try to ignore it. This only becomes a big issue if your personal sonar keeps alerting you to the fact that everything around you is negative and out to disrupt your plans. Therein lies stress and anxiety, phobia and pain, throwing your life into protection mode. After all if everything around you is negative, priority needs to be given to staying safe.

Once that switch gets flipped, the spiral twirls its way firmly downwards. Being on high-alert is more effective. It means you get to know about dangers sooner. So you go ahead and get your alarms set on extra-sensitive and guess what? All of a sudden, you notice even more of those negative whatsits which in an odd way is strangely reassuring because it would be quite unsettling to feel as though everything were going wrong but when you looked you couldn’t see anything bad at all.

If you look at life through alarm filters designed to spot bad things, that my friend, is exactly what you’re going to see. It makes perfect sense. Alarm filters are absolutely not going to alert you to life’s little wonders now are they? It would be crazy to want to need to know when something bad was about to happen if all your alarm system wanted to tell you was that the wild-flowers are looking particularly lovely today. It’d be like something out the HitchHiker’s Guide, good book(s) though it (they) may have been in its (their) day. Douglas was definitely odd in his outlook on writing which was after all his appeal. It’s a real shame he didn’t stay around to do even more. I particularly liked the free-fall whale and the petunias. Not to mention cricket.

We could, of course, now choose to spin off into all sorts of geopolitical equivalence and how the powers that be may not actually be the powers that we elect, for those of us with the apparent ability to actually vote for those we are told hold the power. But conspiracy theory and purple lizards aside, I think we’ll stay in the realm of the individual.

One of the keys to successful therapy is to retune those high-alert alarms so they return to their correct role of letting you know when something actually harmful is on its way, whether this be the physical modern-day equivalent of the toothéd beastie or indeed that all-consuming issue of any creature living amongst its kin, the social faux pas. What alarms ought to do is to protect you when there really could be some harm coming your way, not spook you with every single negatively nuanced interpretation of anything at all that could possibly be construed as not quite as good as you might have wanted and then clothe it as truly villainous.

As well as retuning the alarm system, the other delightful focus of therapy is to show you how, without even really being aware of how you do it, to start to notice all those things which really do begin to show you that the world which has been scaring you to death, almost literally, really does hold increasing volumes of worthwhile stuff (sorry for the highly technical terminology) and despite your best efforts, once you start to notice it, worthwhile stuff turns up all over the place.

Pretty soon, without knowing quite how, you aren’t under such constant threat any more. Without knowing quite how, you begin to realise that you’ve been noticing things that keep hinting to you that you’re actually feeling little bit better. Without knowing quite how, you went for that interview and something tells you did well. Without knowing quite how, the pain well, isn’t. And without knowing quite how, you revised successfully for that exam in half the time and with none of the stress.

And the truly weird thing is, you do it all by yourself. All the therapy does is show you what you’re already capable of doing. And once you’ve seen it, or to be exact, once your unconscious mind has seen, heard, felt, understood or other mode of representational filter, it, a sentence which does work, re-read it if you don’t believe me, you just can’t help but go right ahead and do it, like those mythical sisters of old, for yourself.

And if you’re still not convinced, it’s just possible that quite soon, looking back and thinking about it, you’ll realise that you noticed a few things which let you know you felt a little better. And later on, you might find that without really meaning to look, there were even more that you could have noticed but didn’t at the time…

I just thought of one. It made me smile.

art therapy hypnosis

Art or eyesore?
© Tony Burkinshaw 2013

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Typhoon: A demonstration of extreme manoeuverability

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Tipping? Where’s the point?

A lot of time and effort has gone into getting us to where we are, most of it unintended and unasked for but then that’s part of being alive, I guess. Life has a tendency to throw up situations you’d much rather not be in and leaving you no way of avoiding them. You just have to knuckle down and deal with them, eventually; after a lot of procrastination, unhappiness and sending up messages to the superior being of your choice asking them to make-it-not-be-happening, please. They rarely listen.

At some stage, it dawns on you that the only way to deal with it is to do something about it. Sometimes that is all it takes and off you go and duly deal with it. Move on.

Often, though, the situations have worn you down so much during your uphill struggle that you just can’t see how on earth you’ll make it, even if you do try. Enter stage left family, friends and neighbours if you have the sort of family friends and neighbours who are of the ilk, (we’ve done that pun before so I’ll leave it this time), that are in the habit of entering on cue. And if they’re not, you may find that the best approach is seeking professional help of one sort or another.

On our journey we’ve tried many and various versions, some more successful than others. For some reason, the one that sticks in my mind is a nutritionist, (I use the term extremely loosely), whose cure-all of preference turned out to be none other than essence-of-cat, although quite how you go about getting essence of cat in a bottle doesn’t really bear thinking about. Oh, and I was also supposed to be a shaman of the bird people, re-incarnated after multiple thousands of years in order to reconnect with my murdered victim of a bird-spouse and lead the world to safety. For some reason, this particular alternative-healer never came back. Shame. I fancied doing a bit of leading the world.

Anyway, this is the point where we start to, well get to the point. Here goes;

It’s physically impossible for something to go uphill for ever. I mean actual physics, like you learn in the classroom, lecture room or real life, depending on how well you get along with physics, of course. As long as you don’t get into quantum or calculus. Once you hit those, you can do pretty much anything, so for the purposes of this post, I’m referring to Newtonian physics. Of course I am.

This is about as far as the sciency references go for today, so if you have science phobia, for which there is apparently no name and unless you count the extremely unimaginative Scienceophobia, the nearest you get to it is Epistemophobia, the fear of knowledge but that’s too generalist for our purposes, then you have nothing to fear except perhaps regret that I didn’t delve deeper into the physics of the universe for this week’s diatribe.

So, unless you get into infinitely-small-hairpin-bends, (calculus), or we-don’t-actually-know-where-anything-is-at-any-point-in-either-time-or-space because they’re probably the same thing anyway, (quantum), then at some point, uphill absolutely must level out and go back down again. Unless of course, you know different in which case please leave me a comment showing me the error of my metaphor. I don’t have Epistemophobia. I like to learn.

Gravity is the key. What goes up must come down. Unless it has escape velocity which could be enough to ruin a writer’s metaphor so I’ll ring-fence that aspect of gravitational pull on the grounds that humans in everyday life don’t, unless being shot from a circus cannon has become much more technologically advanced since my childhood.

Think more of a see-saw. If you walk up a see-saw it’s uphill all the way, right from the bottom to the far off top way up in the air. The further you go, the higher off the ground you get with nothing but yet more up to go. But if you edge your way far enough up, you reach the fulcrum. The point of balance. After all that effort, suddenly the next few steps work magic. The hill disappears and you reach an unstable stability. If you walk forwards, up becomes down.Steps become easier and closer to the ground. Less and less scary. More and more back down to earth.

Here’s the interesting point to this metaphor. If you bottle out at the fulcrum and decide you can’t carry on up, what do you do? You turn around and guess what? The see-saw is still going downwards. So once you hit the tipping point, whichever way you go the going is getting easier.

Somewhere out there is a tipping point waiting to be reached and duly tipped. It’s looking more and more as though my particular point has been passed and is living up to its name by tipping more stuff into the positive rather than consistently thumping great chunks of nastiness in the negative receptacle of your choice. In essence, just when it looked as though this journey of mine was starting to go well…

It went and got better. Let me explain.

Latterly the path to where we are now has involved, amongst other things, my being made redundant, which turned out to be quite a liberating experience, (I’d heartily recommend it if it lands at the right time, although to be fair you can never be sure it’s the right time until some while later). As Shia was wont to say at the opportune moment, ‘Fifty years from now don’t you want to be able to say you had the guts to get in the car?’ I got in the car. I started that walk towards the tipping point.

It also turned out to have the spin-off effect that I needed to find an alternative to earning a living in that universally respected world of financial services. The right time turned up the right opportunity and yet another vehicular metaphor that I eagerly jumped into, wondering where the hell it would take me. Cognitive Hypnotherapy is looking more and more like that rare and beautiful manifestation; the thing you were really meant to be doing with your life.

Here’s how it went. The soft launch launched softly. Volunteer clients gave way to real ones. Cheques began to find their way into business bank accounts. Not many but then we are intentionally in small acorn territory here. Clients, both real and volunteer began to refer others. Family skills are being utilised to address advertising, marketing, and websites. I’ve even broken the habit of a lifetime and properly kept in touch with my new-found colleagues which provides a brilliant source of brains to bounce ideas off. Social media is enabling me to mediate socially with ever-increasing circles, not least of which is this very blog and its ever-increasing following, for which I am eternally grateful by the way. As I indicated earlier, it is starting to go well.

So how did it get better? As it turns out, technology has just made our therapy world much smaller and easier to navigate.

I’ve been toying with the idea of giving potential clients a bite-sized chunk of therapy, for those that want to do something but aren’t yet ready to work to the full degree of potential that is Cognitive Hypnotherapy. As it happens, several of my colleagues and I were discussing the possibility of using Skype to conduct a focussed therapy consultation and then write a highly tailored hypnotherapy download specifically for that individual client, targeted to provide as much relief for their issues as is possible in one download. Basically, it’s a one-hit virtual therapy session. The client can come back as much or as little as they wish.

This also removes the downside of face to face therapy: geography. If you happen to live within travelling distance of Peterborough UK, then all’s well and good. But if you don’t and let’s face it, most readers of WordPress blogs don’t live in Peterborough, then it’s pretty difficult to get to see me, private jets and all-expenses-paid business trips notwithstanding.

Then we had a weekend at Quest. Well, to be specific a post training course seminar where sharing of ideas between like-minded Cognitive Hypnotherapists is the key. I chanced to speak to Russell about this blog and how it had generated a couple of client enquiries only to find that their potential lay out there in impractical geography land. Russell neatly pulled all the threads together and simply suggested that I provide Cognitive Hypnotherapy via Skype. Anywhere. Everywhere. The only proviso is that my insurers are comfortable that my Professional Indemnity Insurance applies for Skype overseas. Guess what? It does! Hooray.

This puts me in the happy situation of being able to offer my therapeutic skills and services to anyone, anywhere who has Skype. Oh yes, and speaks English. Unfortunately my multilingual talents leave a lot to be desired.

This is the real point of my post. Not that I can offer therapy world-wide from the UK but that I have fought for a long time to get where I am and it really does appear that I’ve just reached that all important tipping point. Whichever way I turn from here, it will work in my favour and not against me.

Therapy is the same. You’ll find that there comes a point in your progress when you can’t help but improve. Where the therapy becomes self-sustaining, self-improving. You have become your own master or mistress, in charge, in control. No matter what your original issue, whether it be pain, stress, fertility, anything, you have regained control and whatever happens your original issue no longer defines your life. You do.

Things, as they say, can only get better.

So here’s my message; If you’re struggling uphill and it feels as though it’ll go on for ever, maybe it’s time to search out your own tipping point.

And if you’d like some help…

…there’s always Skype.

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it's even higher © Tony Burkinshaw 2013

it’s even higher
© Tony Burkinshaw 2013

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Dissolving Ceilings and the six Balloons of Pooh

Sometimes you surprise yourself. Faced with difficult situations and seemingly nowhere to go, somehow you make that intuitive leap and it all works out.

Of course if you’re dedicated follower of fashion, (yes I know another music reference but it’s too obvious to warrant comment), then you’ll be well aware that successful intuition is simply a bespoke combination of trance phenomena and skilful priming, (thanks Trevor), that creates the illusion of a successful leap of faith.

In reality it is fruit born of hard work, preparation and a willingness to put yourself in the firing line, hazarding a guess at a potential solution. Oh yes, and when you get it right you instantly delete or ignore the times when it didn’t quite work out, or indeed failed quite spectacularly in accordance with the philosophy of creativity.

Aside from that, I passed my NLP practitioner exam yesterday. I’m pleased because I dislike failing, (maybe I should see a therapist), but all in all this was a co-incidental byproduct of the Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy course. It had initial appeal, a b.o.g.o.f. deal and such like but it didn’t set my world alight. Apologies to those for whom this is important and I do get it but for me, the NLP movement is too rooted in the Eighties.

Now, don’t get me wrong here, NLP is derived from detailed analysis of some extremely highly skilled therapists and so it delivers some great results for clients. I’ve experienced some of this first hand and I’m not at all dismissive of the techniques NLP has devised. It’s just that, typical of the times, it’s findings were wrapped up and packaged in pseudo science-speak, avoiding peer scrutiny, which was most likely a calculated gesture to seriously annoy any potential scientific approval. Science is all about peer scrutiny, (until it gets into the hands of multi-large conglomerates but then that’s a whole other debate). On top of that, the prime business motivation of the NLP industry seemed to be to generate income, (and in some cases substantial wealth), through training other people to train other people to become NLP trainers. Coming from a highly regulated industry as I do, this looks too much like a tiered selling scheme for my taste, hiding from external scrutiny and become a money-making machine for those who survived into its higher ranks.

It really is a crying shame that this is how the NLP ‘industry’ made, (and still makes), its money because at its core, NLP is about codifying the deep level skills of acknowledged experts in the field of therapy and distilling them down to provide simple, easy access techniques to both understand and help individuals in their quest for self-betterment. I aim to use a core premise of Cognitive Hypnotherapy in that whilst a technique delivers benefit then it forms a legitimate part of the therapeutic process. Until I find that a particular NLP technique doesn’t work, I’ll use it and so far all the techniques have worked a treat.

My mini-rant boils down to this. Any school that elects to call a question a ‘Conversational Postulate’ is setting itself up to be shot down in flurry of fuliguline feathers.

I’m happy to use the techniques because they work and of course I’ll accept the NLP Practitioner Certificate. I did sit the exam after all. It’s not like I’m religious about this or anything, it’s just a gripe and if that philosophy was good enough for Gil Boyne, it’s surely good enough for me.

Mini-rant over. Thanks for listening. Feel free to re-rant at me in the comment box below.

Today was a very good day. I am several steps closer to gaining my Hypnotherapy Practitioner Diploma. I handed in the diploma as predicted, two days before the deadline and with 16754 words carefully scripted into hopefully meaningful answers and essays. I satiated my hunger for learning and feasted upon that metaphoric pachyderm delivering a substantial electronic tome ready to be assessed and if necessary, criticised. To be fair, I’m expecting a certain degree of feedback. I like to think I’m getting the hang of all this after eight months but I’m not delusional. I remain a relative novice.

As with any highly practical skill, especially if it involves other people, it’s always a good idea to build an element of realism to the training. Today that realism rose up and thwacked me right between the eyes. Gone were those nice gentle follow-the-outline-and-it’ll-work role plays of previous weekends. Today was: “you know all those clients who don’t know the script, the ones who’ll inadvertently lob spanners at your best laid plans? Well today is all about them”.

Why? So that when I meet them for real, I know that I’ve already dealt with them right here, right now (and yes I know young Norm, ex of the Housemartins, has made an appearance before but talent will keep on barging its way in).

All this brings me to awkward spiders and their role-playing counterparts. The counterpart was really good. She played her spanner-lobbing role pretty damn convincingly. As It turned out, she played her role as convincingly as someone who really had experienced the spider as the embodiment of other angst.

So how do you help someone who is playing a phobic role that sits uncomfortably close to their own, whereby they find themselves trapped in the scripted bedroom of their youth whilst fighting off echoes of the shed they couldn’t escape in the reality of their past?

Well, start simple and follow the rules, although to be fair they’re more like guidelines (answers on a postcard or in the comment box below as to from whence that reference derives).

So I started simple and followed the rules. It didn’t work. My semi-skilful probes and re-frames were rebuffed. My co-pilots on my adventure into the unknown were partially flummoxed and they’d read the script! I was entirely unsure where to go. As my client appeared to have broken the rules and associated into the metaphor, finding herself actually being in the room with the spider rather than remaining detached, above looking down, I asked her to ‘float back up to a comfortable distance and look down at the imaginary scene from above’. She just bumped gently on the ceiling. (Of the imaginary room, not the training room that is. That would involve inventing an anti-gravity trance and I don’t think Quest have worked that one out yet).

As she couldn’t get out of the room I wondered whether she could move through the ceiling. As it turned out, all you need is a working knowledge of Inception to solve the conundrum and as it was her dream but with me in control, I got her to dissolve the ceiling.  It worked a treat and up she came. Game over. Or so I thought.

Equally Inception inspired, she found that her dream within a dream, (alright, trance within a trance, but the metaphor still works), weighted her down and dragged her across into the nightmare of her real life arachnophobia. Down she came, sinking firmly back towards that trauma-shed of the past duly filled, as narrative causality demands, with the spider guarding the shed-door and preventing her exit. Always one to accept a challenge, I proposed that we work through this one too. Most important was to keep her dissociated and away from the first hand emotion of that initial fear-generating arachnid. From somewhere in my past, a fair while away as I now sit in my fifties, I dragged up inspiration from Pooh, that master of oddball problem solving.

It seems that all you need to escape a spider filled shed trap is half a dozen Pooh balloons, those ones used by that bear of little brain whilst disguised as a cloud and hunting for hunny in the hunny tree. Safely elevated, my role-playing colleague was able to work through her first encounter and, touch wood, (albeit that that can be the beginning of superstition and a potential OCD), she reported feeling more relaxed about our eight legged friends. Time will tell.

I suppose the upshot of all this is that what seems to matter is finding a path where it’s possible to work the problem, utilising whatever resources you and your client may have to hand, wherever they may come from. And when you’re backed into a corner, trust in those sparks of inspiration , those leaps of imagination which let you slide a metaphoric solution into view. In trance or in dreams, reality and memory are plastic.

And if I live by this, I can’t help but wonder whether my future will contain blockbuster science fiction films or more clients holding Pooh balloons. What do you think?


Obvious Really
© Tony Burkinshaw 2012

Déjà Vu? Never heard of it…

Gill and I spent a day at Anglesey Abbey last week which, as you’ll know if you’ve found me on Facebook, isn’t in Anglesey and is no longer an Abbey. (That’s not the Déjà Vu bit by the way, it’s coming along later). It was a nice day out.

I now find myself mentally apologising to my deceased English teacher who held the view that use of the word nice constituted such a pinnacle of linguistic laziness that all prose containing the word was automatically red-lined in full, no matter what other redeeming qualities it may have had. I still try to avoid nice to this day out of schoolboy respect to the man. He had bona-fide credentials for a 15-year-old O-level student. Not for his English teaching ability, I hasten to add but because he played Franz, the Witch-finder General, in the Hammer House of Horror film Twins of Evil. It doesn’t get much better than that for an adolescent lad: vampires, sleaze and semi-naked twin sisters.

But I digress.

In this instance however, nice was probably the right adjective. A good day out? Good enough. A glad-we-went-but-probably-not-going-back-in-a-hurry sort of a day. You know, nice.

So we sat in the cafe after we’d wandered around the gardens and debated whether the suspended willow-woven anemones in the woods were better, though less permanent, sculptures than the graffiti adorned lions guarding the entrance to the yew hedge enclosing a copy of one of  Bernini’s many David’s. Is it just me, or does this particular David have a look of grim determination that closely resembles a man about break wind in the defence of his nation? If you visit, let me know.

There was plenty of chatter in the cafe in a variety of languages, confirming Anglesey Abbey’s status as a National Trust multicultural attraction. People of all ages were having a good old natter over their cups of tea and clotted cream scones. Suddenly, as clearly as if the background hubbub had been sliced apart with a razor, someone said ‘Sheffield’.

Not a particularly eventful thing to say you might think and I’m sure you’d be right. I only noticed it because I was born and bred in Sheffield and my mother and brother still live there. It’s one of those words that I’m be tuned into. Like when you hear someone say your name in a pub and you know your immediate future holds yet another conversation with that bloke who insist on believing you love talking about websites and networking coffee meetings. I need to be less polite.

I don’t want you thinking that I’m particularly obsessed with the word Sheffield or even the place itself, as I haven’t lived there for many years. There are indeed several other words which could have set me off down this apparently blind and time-distorted alley. It just happens that this was the time, the place and the word which that fired my blogging imagination.

What got me really thinking though, is that I’m convinced I heard the whole word. From start to finish. In its entirety. Yet how could I possibly have known that that person was going to say Sheffield until after it had been said? She could have been going to say anything at all and there are several words I can think of that begin with Sh… But I was apparently tuned in and listening from the moment the word began.

The point is, I suppose, that the word can’t have existed as a recognisable entity until after it had been uttered. So I must have heard it first, then recognised it and then tuned into it. Nothing else makes sense. Nevertheless, I am absolutely positive that I heard the word as it was in the act of being spoken. Or did I?

Is this the source of that elusive Déjà Vu?

Philosophically speaking, I think this is where one of Benjamin Libet’s famous half-seconds might be kicking in. The more I think about this, the more I reckon Mr Libet has a lot to answer for with his time-delay theory of cognition.

Do you recall those late night radio talk shows in the 70’s and 80’s when they encouraged people to phone up and have a rant about nothing in particular? When the anti-swearing bleep machine came into its own? They even brought in a time delay so that a man (or woman) with a good knowledge of blaspheming and swift digital responses had their finger poised over the bleep machine button to edit out inappropriate language. It became a matter of pride to see who could outsmart the time delay and the bleep machine operator and slide a profanity into the show.

Well, according to Ben, this is how your conscious mind works. Not the bleep machine, the time delay. Although, now that I’ve written it, I think the bleep machine has a part to play as well. What you perceive as everyday reality actually happened half a second ago. Now, despite appearances to the contrary, is not ‘Now’. It is, in fact, ‘Then’. Every single thing you recognise, see, hear, smell, taste or touch actually happened before you notice it. Your whole world is half a second out of date.

Sounds bonkers? I know. Until you think it through. It just isn’t possible to know what a word is going to be until it is said. I mean words heard at random, out of context, from a conversation you weren’t listening to. Hearing something where anticipation cannot be part of the mix. Obviously some words can be easily predicted. You know. Like “Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him….well”.

Actually, it isn’t ‘well’, it’s ‘Horatio’. Look it up, if you don’t believe me. But you get my drift. With Libet’s delay, this all makes sense, (other than misquoting Shakespeare, that is). Effectively, you have the mental equivalent of global CIA surveillance going on, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Your brain is a fully functioning, highly complex pattern recognition machine, running multiple algorithms that computer science can only dream of, at speeds that are unimaginable. All day, every day, your unconscious takes in everything that goes on around you and runs simulations based on patterns of events that have already happened to you and extrapolates them into multiple futures and makes pre-programmed decisions to guide to the most beneficial version those futures that it can identify. Most of your decisions are made without the you that you think of as you even knowing.

Depending on what is going on around you, your conscious mind, the part of you that you recognise as you, is allowed to be aware of some 7 or so pieces of information at a time. Which of these items are the ones which arrive at the forefront of your mind will depend on a combination of your current surroundings and the most likely multiple futures that your unconscious comes up with. The less threatening the environment, the more you can consciously direct your own thoughts.

However, faced with real or perceived threats, your unconscious takes over and runs programmes which are designed to keep you safe, based on previously run simulations and patterns of experience. They are so important that they don’t allow for your conscious mind to intervene. Thinks about it on an evolutionary level. By the time you’ve consciously considered the current threat level of the sabre tooth tiger, you’re already lunch. Your unconscious had you legging it in the nearest available non-leo direction one critical moment earlier. People who were good at this survived. Those who listened to their conscious thoughts to work out the most appropriate solution may have been intellectually superior but still ended up as prehistoric Kit-e-Kat.

But what has this got to do with Déjà Vu, you’ve already asked. (See, I am prescient). If the  Libet Delay is designed to keep you safe whilst your conscious mind deliberates on higher matters then maybe, on occasion, by the time you have become consciously aware of an event, word or sight that you’re especially tuned into, (like my word Sheffield), your unconscious mind auto-recognises it’s importance and has already begun to store the event in your short-term memory. As you concentrate, you become vaguely aware of echoes of that same event from your memory. Voilà. Déjà Vu.

This concentration could create a loop like your own internal Sky+ box. You’re no longer watching life live, as it were. You’re watching a re-run that your unconscious is storing only moments before you experience it. And because you’re concentrating so hard on the Déjà vu experience, your unconscious keeps storing it. However, your unconscious isn’t stupid. It soon spots what’s going on, realises that someone saying Sheffield isn’t life threatening unless you’re in Chesterfield on a Saturday night and it breaks the magic. Déjà Vu over.

So, when you get Déjà Vu it really is something that has happened before. It’s just that it happened only half a second ago. Good old Benjamin.

Or actually bad old Benjamin. If he hadn’t invented the Libet half-second Delay, then we wouldn’t run all those out of date auto-programmes to keep us safe. We’d have the opportunity to update our Spider Phobia, Anxiety Attacks and Fear of Public Speaking before the unconscious took over with an auto-programme that throws you into a reality tunnel and flatly refuses to let any outside information interfere until you’re safe again. Remember the bleep machine? Unfortunately, ‘safe’ for your unconscious equals ‘still alive’. It bleeps out anything that doesn’t fit because changing something that has kept you safe and alive so far would be daft. It doesn’t really care what degree of social suicide you commit on the way.

Then again, good old Benjamin. Reality tunnels can be broken into. You can update your auto-algorithms. All you need is someone to guide you.

I know just the person.

Lindisfarne. In reality, a tunnel.