A fresh start

How the human givens approach cured my addictions, anxiety and depression.

Sally Nilsson

Human Givens has helped me immensely – it’s helped me beat my unhealthy habits: drinking too much when stressed and smoking; it’s helped me realise what makes me stressed and to find ways to combat it; and it’s helped me put to bed some old demons by overcoming childhood trauma, anxiety attacks and depression.

More recently, HG also gave me all the tools I needed when I went through breast cancer.

I can’t speak highly enough of its benefits and am so happy to be able to spread the word. There are no HG Practitioners local to my area so I am keen to build awareness of the approach (I recently gained my Practitioner Level Diploma).

Sally’s story:

In 2015 I was studying to become a hypnotherapist and went on a course about habits where I met a very pleasant Human Givens Practitioner in the break. We chatted about how effective he found the Human Givens approach in helping clients with addiction and he recommended I read the book Human Givens: The New Approach to Emotional health and Clear Thinking.

I read it – and it literally changed my life.

This approach to therapy spoke to me. I loved the fact it came from a bio-socio-psycho framework. It was scientific, evidence based and plain speaking – no psychobabble.

My interest in Human Givens blossomed and I started the online courses and then the attended ones. The flexibility was brilliant and fitted in with my busy life (I was caring for my elderly parents – such a tough job – and supporting my teenage sons through their GCSEs, as well as having a part time job in advertising sales). The more I studied the more I realised that I wanted to be a Human Givens Practitioner.

Another addiction and an epiphany on my Part 2 course cemented my determination to help myself and others. Here is how HG helped me.

I started smoking when I was 15 at a pretty rough comprehensive school in the late 70s. It seemed everyone was smoking and certainly all of my peer group were. I threw up a few times but worked hard at my habit and was puffing away with the rest of them pretty quickly. Although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, of course, it definitely fulfilled my emotional needs for status, intimacy and being part of the community (my peer group). I loved sharing cigs with my mates, listening to music, consoling friends going through split ups and smoking at discos. It was just part of who we all were.

I tried to give up in 1988 with Alan Carr’s ‘The Only Way to Stop Smoking’ and managed 9 months, but a Greek holiday put paid to that attempt. I stopped when I was pregnant with both of my sons but started again on the sneak soon after their births. I always seemed to be in the contemplating/determination stage and definitely in the relapse stage. I kept trying to quit and did so a further three times for a year, but each time I would begin again.

Returning to the late 70s, my parents were really cool. My father was a successful businessman and my mother was the traditional stay at home wife. It was all Godspell, white leather, shag pile carpets, onyx and parties. Drinking and smoking were positively encouraged. Mum and Dad smoked a lot, especially on long car journeys, and the booze flowed. I loved being a part of the whole 70s scene: dressing up and joining in with the grown ups – the sophistication of it all. Alcohol, however, didn’t like me.

It was Human Givens that came to my rescue

I believe now that my physiology isn’t made for alcohol. I am slimish, only five foot two and coeliac, with a tiny bit of bipolar traits – all of which are a ‘no no’ for booze. It is as if I have an allergy to it. I would always get more drunk than anyone else and had no ‘off’ switch. When the smoking ban came into effect in 2007 lots of middle-aged women like me took their habits back home. But in isolation, they only increased and became more negative. I was having marital problems too, which the drinking certainly didn’t help, but something more sinister had also developed: I had started to have anxiety problems and flashbacks.

This continued and I became depressed. I had several different types of therapy. The last one was six weeks worth of psychodynamic therapy. Although it was revealing, I struggled with it and it made me feel terrible; I am not an advocate of that type of therapy. There were no goals to strive for or positive reinforcements. It wasn’t until later that Human Givens that came to my rescue.

Looking back, I think it had been a build up of pressures: caring for my parents, managing my own symptoms, the end of my marriage, the ongoing breakdown of my relationship with my brother, mother and father and so on, which brought my mental health problems on.

When my brother and I were quite young, my father was becoming more and more successful and there were many times when our parents were absent from home, often out to dinner in London. My brother and I were somewhat neglected and, with our emotional needs not being met, my brother developed inappropriate and coercive behaviours which were wrong and which I believe sowed the seed for many of the difficulties I was to go on to experience.

I was a thumb sucker, had awful night terrors and sleep walked and I became promiscuous, which always left me feeling rejected. My brother started a sexual rumour around school about me and I was bullied. After a good deal of research, I now believe I have been the victim (and survivor) of a narcissistic family. I loved them but I never felt worthy and was always trying to please them. They treated me badly and I felt very stressed by it all emotionally. I would explode with rage and get very anxious sometimes for no apparent reason that I could fathom.

A great weight was lifted from my shoulders and to this day I feel free and mentally healthy

It was while I was attending Part 2 of the Human Givens Diploma that I was finally able to put my demons to bed and overcome my addictions – almost overnight. During therapy sessions on the course, I had two lots of the rewind technique for my childhood traumas and also worked through a molar memory. A great weight was lifted from my shoulders and to this day I feel free and mentally healthy.

What has happened to me is part of my history, which I understand and accept. I went through breast cancer surgery recently with no difficulty at all and even though my brother is still unkind I now keep him firmly at arm’s length, set boundaries, and keep a healthy distance with my parents – and there is peace.

During my HG training I learned many things, including the importance of having spare capacity and ‘naming your animals’, both of which have been so helpful. Even with the most challenging of clients’ subject material I am able to step back into my observing self and help them in an empathetic and professional way with no emotional arousal from me.

I was delighted to be the first student in my group to pass Part 3 with a merit and now I have my own thriving Human Givens Practice in Brockham, Surrey.

As a published author and public speaker I have also been able to use my experience to spread the word about how helpful and effective the Human Givens approach is in my local community by doing talks, writing articles and on social media. At 53, I am committed and excited by everything my new career has to offer – and I know it will be fascinating and rewarding for many years to come.

Further information

Further information

My first year as a human givens therapist

For information about Sally Nilsson’s therapy practice visit: www.freshstart.me.uk

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