Category Archives: Counselling

Are You Going Wrong Right?

You might have heard many times that it’s okay to make mistakes.

If so, good.

But what sort of mistakes?

Has anyone ever told you what sort of mistakes to make?

As a small kid I used to enjoy watching on TV the enthralling game of darts.

I would marvel at big blokes standing back from a target with all these numbers on it, throwing small spiky things into a board.

The camera would pan onto the man as he walked up to the line to throw, and then as his first dart landed, it would give you a real close up of where he was aiming.

The dart would be hanging on the board and then the other two darts would follow, thudding solidly into the board nearby.

Most often the camera wouldn’t focus on the center where the obvious bulleye was, but would instead be focused up higher waiting for all three darts to go into the triple 20, so that the cry would ring out in an excited English drawl… “One hundred and eighty!”

As the game went on and it got more tense, suddenly they would be throwing darts into new areas of the board. I wasn’t able to do my maths fast enough to sort out how they jumped about, but I would hear the tension in the announcer’s voice as it turned into a whisper. Suddenly the scattered ease was no more. The darts would come slower and more deliberately.

The camera would watch the thrower shifting his position to throw. Darts would start to regularly miss.

Sometimes it would slow dramatically, and a bunch of darts would all miss, clustered together just past the outside edge of the scoring zone. I didn’t understand why it was happening but I could sense there was a fear of hitting inside. Better to err wide.

When you make a mistake you identify the mistake by comparing what happened to what you were aiming for in the first place.

In psychological mistakes, people tend to be the same each time. We err consistently.

What if you decided to still be wrong… just in a total different or even opposite way?

For example if you are told you are lacking confidence, you could find out what it takes for you to be told you have too much confidence.

If you are driving too fast, how much do you have to slow down before your back seat driver, even it it’s just the one in your head, says you are going too slow? Does the number you see then on the speedometer, have any correlation with what a police radar would call slow?

If you are depressed, have you also identified what it means to be unsuitably happy?

Since you’re going wrong anyway, is it really the end of the game where you have to err on the side of caution, or something else?

The highest priority is in fact usually about learning to do better next time, and this works best by being in and around the mark in all sorts of varied ways.

When something is important to you and you’re not succeeding, are you at least going wrong in the right, left, up, down, back, and front ways as well?

If not, here’s something to help you play better:

-Dr Martin Russell

Waving A Magic Wand

I don’t often tell people I do hypnotherapy anymore.

Very few people distinguish between hypnosis and hypnotherapy ie hypnosis for a therapeutic purpose.

The explanation my first mentor used was that one was given Catholic approval by Pope Pius XII in 1956, and the other was not.

In casual conversations I got tired of the discussions about “Is that stuff you see on stage/TV real?” and “Can you make me cluck like a chicken / quack like a duck?”

[My current answers: “Almost always. Yes.” and “I’ve never met anybody who wasn’t already able to do that for themselves so I’ve never tried.”]

People who came in to see me would have all these magical ideas about what hypnosis was about. I didn’t mind the twirling fob watch, or “what if I do something I didn’t want to do” questions. The ones that bothered me were those that expected me to snap my fingers, put them to sleep, and have them wake up cured. The “wave a magic wand” idea.

A friend of mine was a counselor for many years and found a similar problem.

Fortunately he did a training class back in the 70s where they got him to make a magical wand out of a TV antennae and a coin. The coin was cut into the shape of a star and fixed to the top of the TV antennae, which was conveniently extendable for easy storage.

Since then every time a person came in wanting someone to “wave a magic wand so I can be cured” he would bring out his wand from his drawer and wave it around mysteriously with a few strange words and a tap.

Then he would ask them if they were cured.

When they said no, he would put the wand back in the drawer and say “Oh well, I suppose we’ll have to try something else then.”

He hasn’t been assaulted by anyone so far.

-Dr Martin Russell

Self Help Martial Arts

Solving people’s problems day in and day out can seem like a hard thing to do.

I met with a very successful woman a few weeks back who runs her own multi-million dollar company with many employees. She also has her own coaching practice where she has done telephone and personal coaching for hundreds of people.

She very clearly distinguishes between coaching, which is what she offers, versus counseling / therapy, which people often seem to expect in coaching, but is what she doesn’t do.

She told me how she couldn’t imagine dealing with the type of people I meet. Just too hard, too draining, to be able to keep being positive and inspired about life when continually meeting people who are stuck and in such a bad way in their lives.

Yet I enjoy meeting almost all the people who come to me in my counseling practice.

Personally I look back to a decade ago when I was working as a family medical doctor and I think of that work as so much less inspiring for me. I was doing 10-minute in-out medicine, in an office with doctors who did 5-minute medicine, competing with a clinic down the road that seemed to be doing 2-minute medicine.

These days I luxuriate in 50 minute long sessions that allow me to explore more and offer more too.

But the best part is meeting people who are motivated.

Yes the motivation is mostly desperation, but for my purposes that’s far better than the apathy and disinterest that most of my medical patients had.

I use the metaphor of martial arts in my self help work.

If you want to get someone flat on the ground you can either use brute strength, or you can use leverage. Best of all you can wait until they are coming at you with force. Then you just need enough finesse to redirect their momentum to where you want them to go.

Personally it’s more frustrating for me to hear “ordinary” people talking about their problems and issues. I sit there with a whole toolkit of options knowing that the moment I bring one of them out and offer it, there will most often be a polite curiosity and then either a change of subject or a raft of excuses/explanations about why it won’t work in their particular case. No momentum.

Henry David Thoreau said that most people live lives of quiet desperation.

What kind of life do you lead?

In my one-on-one work I prefer to wait until someone is unable to keep quiet any longer. My job is much easier when I wait for them to come to me.

If you have desperation in your life, you don’t have to find a psychiatric label for it, you can just embrace it and go with it.

Look for self help martial arts classes.

You can think of this blog as being such classes, and each of my products is a set of moves for a particular situation.

Some people are only ready to learn when they are in danger. Others learn self defense as a life skill ahead of time.

A fundamental set of self help moves I recommend people learn is here:

-Dr Martin Russell

Tied Up In A Mess

Some people come to me with a very specific problem to solve.

Maybe you have something very specific and clear-cut in your life that you would like solved.

Often people who come to me know exactly what is wrong, and they know what needs to happen for it to be fixed. Sometimes they even tell me what not to do if I really want to help them.

If only they could try harder or have more willpower then the change would happen.

Then we start chatting.

About 10 minutes before the end of the session I usually find them reeling from all the other things that have come up in the discussion.

I mean, have you ever had a piece of string and found a knot in it?

Recently my 6-year-old daughter has been doing some craft work with long pieces of wool and every time she puts down the wool and picks it up, there seems to be another knot.

She does her best to pull the wool straight, and when this doesn’t work she brings it to me. She shows me this tiny knot, sometimes with a few extra loops coming out of it, and she tells me she has it straighter than it was, but it just doesn’t seem to do that last bit.

On these occasions I would look at it, and I would slowly start to unpick the tiny knot, sometimes with my fingers, but often needing a knife point to loosen the tightly pulled strands.

My daughter would stand by watching, interested at the start, and then more and more bored, wanting me to hurry up, as I tediously loosened up each strand bit by bit.

One time with a particularly intricate set of knots and loops I ended up with a huge mass of wool loops in this floppy ball, and she looked horrified and walked off, just as I started to take one of the ends and weave it in and out of the open loops, and back into a single straight strand.

As if like magic I would hand back to her a single line of wool that was very like the bit with the small knot that she gave me, and nothing at all like the big mass of wool that I had been grappling with just moments before.

We might go kite-flying this weekend if there is enough wind, and I’m thinking I should start to teach her about untangling her own knots very soon. She has smaller fingers than I do, and patience is a good skill to learn.

What are the knots in your life?

What would happen if you stopped pulling them tighter?

If you’re not sure what to do instead of continuing to keep pulling, then for single knots there is this…

For multiple knots you may need this…

-Dr Martin Russell

Online Solutions

I set up this website, and the products I offer, so people can access my counseling solutions without needing to see me in person.

However I’ve still been asked for advice that doesn’t fit the products I’ve produced so far.

So I’m pondering setting up some sort of email service to offer individual help.

At this stage I’m just looking for expressions of interest.

If you’d value such a program, or have suggestions for how it might work best, then either add a comment below, or stay private and email me direct.

If you don’t have my email then sign up for the blog announcement list in the box on the main page, confirm your subscription, and then send a reply to the address of the Welcome email you receive.

-Dr Martin Russell

Maths For Choosing A Therapist

A therapist can be a very personal choice, so it can seem a bit ridiculous to apply mathematics to such a situation.

But let me build up to it using a trivial choice: deciding where to fill up your car.

Let’s say that you will pass quite a few gas stations on your way going home, and you want to fill up your car for the cheapest price. You need to choose when to buy and when to drive on to the next one.

In this example we will assume that you don’t have a place that you already know is cheaper, and also that you can’t be bothered turning around and going back if you discover that the cheapest one was one you passed earlier.

When you drive by and see the price, how are you do choose what to do?

Do you just pick the first one you see and forget it? Do you wait for one that “seems” cheap? What if the later ones are all more expensive and you end up missing out on the better prices that came earlier?

What is the optimum strategy in such an uncertain situation?

It turns out that this has been tested mathematically, and the optimum strategy is fairly simple…

–> Drive past the first place and check the price, but don’t buy. Keep driving and turn in as soon as there is price cheaper than the first place.

This method works because it is very unlikely that the first place you go past will be the cheapest, but you also won’t wait too long and miss all the good prices.

So here’s a good use of this strategy…

Choosing A Therapist.

[This applies equally to professional help of any type from accountants and lawyers to naturopaths and dentists, and also to choosing self help books, videos, treatments, etc including the self help material you can purchase on this site.]

Most people who come to see me never really looked around before they settled on who they wanted to help them. They got a recommendation from their doctor or from a friend, or looked up on the internet. If you are happy to just accept their recommendation, or you will do a full treatment and move on to the next one if that one doesn’t work, then that’s fine, but to decide for yourself more quickly I suggest you do something different.

Assess the first person. Then search for someone better.

It’s not personal. It’s just playing the odds. Got back pain? Want to stop smoking? There are hundreds of choices available to you, and none of them work 100% of the time. The biggest risk is procrastinating and doing nothing.

Let me repeat: when you are in a new area and don’t yet have a comparison, then the first person you go to is mathematically UNlikely to be the best person for you.

Is this a lot of hunting? Yes it can be, and it’s certainly more than just taking the first option.

Is it worth the hunt? Well that depends on how important it is to you. Even if you hunt and find nothing better, then at least you know this when you go back.

Do you need to hunt forever? No. That’s the beauty of this strategy. You get started at the optimum time: when you know you are committing to the best decision you can make, as soon as possible.

Need help in any area and got too many choices?

Find a first option, sort out how to compare it to other options. Then keep searching and when you find better, get started on that one immediately.

-Dr Martin W. Russell

Funny Compliment

Compliments can be really interesting things.

Here’s one I got sent that made me stop and think…

“I enjoy your insights on your blog and have been inspired several times to keep striving for what I am capable of attaining.”

I think this sentence is incredibly funny. This type of comment happens to me so often in my counseling work. I love these compliments, and yet I still scratch my head about them.

Let me explain…

If anyone can find a more downbeat, irritated, question-all-right-answers, and sometimes just downright negative blog about self-help and success, then let me know. I haven’t found one yet, but if there is I’d love to visit it.

Self help seems to come in 2 main forms.

One is the positivity type. You know the stuff. Affirmations, Law of Attraction, Unlimited Success, and on and on. Life is wonderful, and you’ve just got to believe it enough and it will be so.

I don’t buy it. It doesn’t make sense to me. To me this approach reeks of Western, democratic,  human-centered arrogance, and it sets more people on a path of disappointment than success.

The other main form of self help seems to be the “get real” type.

Now this one makes more sense to me. In fact a few years back I spent about a month watching Dr Phil episodes until I was doing him in my sleep, and I get this. I also recognize that AA is a successful model for a proportion of people.

The problem is the lack of uniform results with this “get real” version. If all it took was to honestly face the problems and then get started on fixing them then more people would do it. The results would be obvious once someone got started and although they might ‘relapse’ on occasion, they would learn to get back to what worked soon enough. But they don’t.

Both approaches, “being positive” and “getting real”, do work for certain people at certain times. But success is not certain with either method.

And if you don’t succeed, well you didn’t believe enough, you didn’t trust enough, or you weren’t really being honest enough with yourself.

There is a third type of self help which seems to be much less common because it doesn’t really seem to be self help at all. How can it be helpful to be negative? How can it be sensible to believe in things that are irrational? How can believing that you are more often wrong than right actually create any success at all?

Well these paradoxes are what my work is about, and I think it taps into something important. Important enough that people give me back comments like the one above.

If you’ve not found the success you want in your life, you’ve probably been trying the 2 approaches I mentioned above.


You may have come to the right place.

Sign up to this blog on the boxes on the side of the home page to discover more.

-Dr Martin W. Russell

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The Quicksand Guide To Professional Help

In a jungle clearing, a person is struggling, up to their waist in quicksand.

They cry out for help, but unfortunately only professional help is available…

Psychiatrist – “What you are in is called quicksand.”

Medical Practitioner – “Quicksand is a physical condition.”

The Freudian – “How old were you when you first played in a sand pit?”

Psychologist – “Let’s find the moment when your foot first touched the quicksand.”

Counselor – “You need to get out of the quicksand.”

Cognitive Behavioral Therapist – “What evidence do you have that you will die?”

Self Help Groups – “Look around, you’re not the only one. We’re under here too.”

Former Sufferer/Victim – “I found when I struggled I sank quicker.”

Hypnotist – “Use the Force, Luke”

Post-modern therapist – “You must realize this is a jungle.”

Rebirthing – “Want a different life?”

Chiropractor – “You would be further out of the sand if you stood up straighter.”

Existentialist/Logotherapist – “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.”

Creative Visualization – “See a house brick transforming into a helium balloon.”

Iridologist – “I can help you as long as you keep your eyes out of the sand.”

Reflexologist – “Please invert yourself so I can get to your feet.”

Tarot Reader – “Hmm. Goddess of Sand – never seen that one before.”

Astrologer – “Keep your head up today. Don’t let things get on top of you.”

Social Worker – “How are your kids and your finances?”

Evangelist – “What do you mean my laying on of hands pushed you down?”

Past-Life Regressionist – “Many of your friends preserved in the tar-pit with you are now in museums.”

Allopathic Practitioner – “Take 2 anti-sand tablets and see me tomorrow.”

Homeopath – “Here is some watered down glue.”


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Got your own suggestions for helpful professions?

Great! You can add them by commenting below.

-Dr Martin W. Russell

Final Chance

This is the last post of the week.

On around Sunday or Monday, depending on your time zone, I will be sending out a 24-hour special offer.

This will only be sent to those of you who already have one of my products.

You have until midnight Sunday US Eastern Standard Time, to order and get sent this offer.

The final product this week is one that I’m not going to explain myself.

I’ll let others tell you about it…

“Your Self-Help Meeting gave me a new slant on some problems that so many of us grapple with. It’s not a rehash of the same old info we’ve heard before. I found your video both helpful and interesting. Right after listening to it, I recommended it to a friend.”

Gary Bridgemaster

“My wife and I are on our 7th play and plan to listen yet again.

We continue to discover new principals each time.

In a time when most medical professionals are happy to prescribe a “pill” and move on, your insight and skill at seeing to the root of a problem is no less than groundbreaking.

Thank you for your help.”

Denver Fields

” I have many interests, but self help — or personal development as I think of it — is one subject I’ve read the most about over the years.

I’ve devoured hundreds of books and audio programmes by the likes of Napoleon Hill, Steven Covey, Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer and many others.

‘Self Help Meeting’ … contains some quite provocative ideas (which have practical application) that I’ve never read or heard anywhere else.

Afterwards you may find yourself thinking and acting differently — and you may also stop ‘beating yourself up’ for things you’ve either done or think you shouldn’t do.”

Ed Rivis, UK

Here’s the page for you to check out Self Help ‘Meeting’ for yourself:

-Dr Martin W. Russell