Relationship breakups, losing your job, bereavement, abuse, redundancy, making a rather large mistake… even simply saying something awful that you really didn’t mean.

Hurt and trauma come in all shapes and sizes, often in forms that we don’t expect. But if we can’t find the strength and will to move forward, it can truly affect our long-term mental and physical health. It’s all very well reading a self-help book or two, or telling yourself that ‘you are responsible for your own happiness!’ But with the memory of your past nipping at your heels constantly it can be tough to take even a single step towards a more positive future.

You might find yourself unable to sleep well, feeling tired all the time. You might suffer from sudden headaches, anxiety, even panic attacks. Depression can set in, further tarnishing the bright future you once imagined for yourself. Now you seem surrounded by walls and no matter how hard you try, you simply can’t get past, through or over them.

So is all hope lost? Thankfully no! With a little support and a lot of work it really is possible to break the cycle, heal your mind, recover from your past and move forward into a happier, brighter more positive future. We sat down with solution focussed hypnotherapist Brett Rennolds to find out more…

Hello Brett, so, tell us a little about what you do.

So, as solution focused therapists I support my clients in working through and hopefully, moving on from issues they have experienced in the past. Unlike many therapists I don’t look for a problem in my clients, I accept there is one and I use research backed tools and techniques to help people move forward. My goal is to prevent them from dwelling and living in the past and help them to find a path to the future.

What sort of issues do your clients present with?

I work with a real mix of people, all different ages and at different stages of their lives.

One day I might be treating a teen who has become so overwhelmed with exams and study that they’ve become angry and resentful. They’re frustrated that all the work they are doing seems to be getting them no-where, they feel they’re not meeting expectations and so they stop, they hide away and hope that their exams will just go away. The problem is that life doesn’t stop and the longer they avoid the issue, the worse the pressure gets.

Other clients might have suffered a bereavement and be lost in a haze of sadness and depression. Without their loved one they might feel like they’ve lost their way and need help to find a new path.

Redundancy, losing your job and even retirement are also very common. Our work is tied so closely to who we are that when you lose that it can cause a sudden identity crisis, leading to a loss of confidence and potential anxiety.

That’s the thing about trauma, it can be so many different things and affect people in so many different ways. The only connection is that we mostly react in the same way.

Ok, so why do people get stuck in the past? Why can’t we just shrug it off and move on?

When they come to me, most clients will have been suffering for some time. They might have even sought help already, from their GP. But nothing seems to be working and they don’t want to be reliant on a pill for the rest of their lives.

On the surface, most clients will present with recognisable symptoms like anger, anxiousness or depression. What’s happening under the surface is a bit more complicated. You see when we get stuck in a pattern of negative thinking the brain switches to survival mode. Our primitive mind starts to dominate our thoughts and we try to hide, run away or hit out. Stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisone rule, creating the perfect chemical environment for stress to thrive!

Sounds like a bit of a nightmare!

You know it really can be. It’s almost like carrying around this huge bucket of stress which just gets heavier and heavier. You know you need to change, but you are so encased in your behavior and thought pattern that even a simple step is too hard. You start to exist rather than thrive.

To break the cycle is really scary, which is where my sessions come in. I create time and a non-judgmental space where my clients can be the person they want to be, empty that stress bucket and start building a strong foundation from which they can move forwards.

So how does the healing process you use work?

The first step is to reassure my clients that they are in a totally safe space, without scorn or judgement. As we move forward I use techniques and exercises to help my clients release their victim mentality and start tapping into their energy and self-belief. I help them to focus on what they can do rather than what they can’t. It might be just a small thing, but it’s about taking one small step at a time and building up.

The past is regrettable, yes. But with the right support and work it is possible to learn how to manage our thoughts and eventually, turn them in to actions.

Scientifically it’s about engaging the part in our brain called the anterior singlet, doing the work, identifying the emotion, and implanting a different behavioural response. Once we’ve nailed this, the hypothalamus slows down the production of stress hormones and starts to produces serotonin instead – the happiness hormone! This ‘shock absorber for life’ enables people to start focusing on a more positive solution.

Once you’ve taken one small step, it becomes ever so slightly easier to take another, and then easier again, and again and again until suddenly you realise, “I can do this, I deserve happiness.”

And how long does it take for this sort of therapy to have an effect?

It’s different for every person. It depends on the cause of their trauma, how long they’ve been dealing with it and how they move through the process. There’s no right or wrong way, no perfect speed. Each case is unique and each client has as much or a little time as they need.

What I will say though is my technique isn’t about therapy for life. It’s about getting clients to the point where they feel confident and capable enough to cope.  I’m invested in giving people the tools, confidence, resilience and ability to understand they can do this.

By changing the way we think, we can change the way we feel. It’s pretty powerful stuff!

So how would I know if I needed help?

If you’re waking up every morning with a feeling of dread, if you’re running the same thoughts and scenarios in your head over and over, if you’ve got that jetlag feeling in your tummy all the time and your negative inner voice is constantly berating you then you might benefit from support.

I often ask people: “Are you being as kind to yourself as you would be to your best friend?” If the answer is no then you need to start being a little more compassionate to yourself.

Look, we’re only human. We all make mistakes, that’s ok. What’s no ok is letting those mistakes define your life from that moment forward.

Thanks Brett, so do you have any top tips for helping us to thrive and live life in balance on a daily basis?

My first tip would be to try and take responsibility for your own thoughts and remember, your brain is supposed to work for you, not the other way round!

A lot of my clients will journal, taking time to step back and think about what’s been good today – it’s about just stopping for a moment with no distractions and saying to yourself, “What’s good about today?”

It doesn’t need to be big, just identify one thing, it could be that you I heard bird song in the garden, it could be you actually managed to sit down for 20 minutes today a drink a whole cup of tea! What it is isn’t important, the fact that you’ve noticed it, really is.

>> Want to know more? Click here to visit Brett Rennolds’ therapist profile and find out more