Applications for Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy Generally

Dr James Braid


Hypnosis is a centuries old phenomena; having been subjected to rigorous study and clinical testing, is now a recognised therapy for specific issues or conditions. The term was coined in the 1840s by doctor and 'gentleman scientist' James Braid on the belief that it was a special kind of sleep, he later correctly deduced that it had nothing to do with sleep but the focus on attention on a single idea - monoideism.

However the original name and its reference to Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep, had stuck and is used to this day.

Alternative or Complimentary?

Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy has been extensively studied and subjected to clinical trials to assess its effectiveness for specific conditions and issues. It is regarded as complimentary to mainstream medicine and is recognised by major medical bodies. Most hypnotherapists are not medically trained and while they can help with the symptoms of some properly diagnosed medical conditions they are not qualified to diagnose or treat such conditions. A good example of this is pain - while hypnotherapy has been shown to help manage or even remove pain it is essential to understand the cause of this symptom which can be a warning or there to prevent movement and damage.

What is Hypnotherapy?

Hypnosis itself is not therapy - it is what you do with or in the hypnosis that is therapeutic. Generally the hypnosis enhances the efficacy and effectiveness of other therapeutic techniques. The most basic use of hypnosis increases suggestibility and allows us to mentally rehearse new behaviours or feeling and acting differently in currently problematic situations. Modern hypnotherapy often involves use of recognised therapeutic approaches such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) under hypnosis. CBT as the name suggests, looks at adjusting problematic Cognitions (thoughts, beliefs) and Behaviours (actions, sensations).

What is it good for?

Hypnotherapy can help with a range of issues where the is a feeling of loss of control over feelings, thoughts or behaviours. Hypnotherapy is probably best known for helping people with weight loss or smoking yet evidence suggests that can be helpful in overcoming anxiety, extinguishing phobias, breaking habits and my approach includes building self-esteem, confidence. There is a body of evidence for its use to alleviate some symptoms of medical issues, especially pain and more recently IBS. Hypnosis itself is about making unconscious changes - influencing things that feel is some way automatic whilst the cognitive work I do teaches you 'thinking skills', to understand and better manage your mind and not allow it to run on autopilot or irrationally.

My Approach

My opinion is that good therapy is about teaching clients about their problem and giving them the tools and unconsious changes they need to overcome them. It is not about fixing people but empowering them and building self-efficacy. This means the client bears equal responsiblity for their results and equal credit for their success. I am often asked if the therapy can 'wear off' which is why my approach of teaching skills is so effective as if there is any sign of relapse then the client is equipped to deal with it without needing to return.

My gentle and pragmatic approach to therapy is all about putting you back in control over your thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Hypnotherapy is it not some mystical ability but about learning to use your mind in different ways. My approach is collaborative with therapeutic goals and how we achieve them discussed and agreed with the client. My focus is on the issue in the here and now and whilst the original cause of your issue may lie in the past it is your current perception of it and the current effect it has on you that we work on. There is no need, little benefit and some risk going over old wounds in my opinion. So we don't go there.

Are there other approaches?

Yes of course, there are different approaches to hypnotherapy, many of which I have trained and at some time practised. Over the years I have focussed and favour more and more the ideas and techniques that have more robust clinical evidence supporting them.

Find out more!

Hypnotherapy does not suit all issues so before therapy begins there is a free 20 minute consultation so you can meet and discuss your issue; if and how therapy can help and what is involved. There is no obligation to book any sessions or even to decide there and then. I do not accept every client that approaches me, some I refer onto other disciplines better suited to their care.

Want to know more - Contact me!

Building Confidence, Assertiveness and Self-esteem

Confidence, Assertiveness and Self Esteem are three terms all to do with our self image and the way interact with our fellow humans. They are worth defining so we are clear what we are talking about here:

Confident Man


For me this is all about having a level of certainty about our ability to cope, to respond appropriately to some challenge.

For example, public speaking is often cited as something where someone's confidence is very important and very visible. The speaker will often fear mistakes, possibly ones prompted by the physiological or psychological effects of their anxiety. Or the unexpected happening, disrupting their performance.  Or some unforseen gap or mistake in their preparation.

In reality, the reasonable expectation is that a speaker is merely competent, not super human. That they have made an appropriate amount of effort in their preparation. The occasional mistake is taken merely as a sign of their humanity and the ability to deal with the unexpected occurence, especially when dealt with in a spontaneously humourous fashion, as a sign of a truely advanced speaker. Being confident does not mean being perfect.

My friend and magician, hypnotist, pickpocket, author; James Brown describes confidence differently - as mental calmness and physical relaxation.

So how do we build this level of certainty? I would suggest that the only true way to build confidence is by doing things we perceive as difficult for us. By developing that emotional muscle. By getting real, concrete evidence of our ability to have new experiences and go on to cope where our certainty was dented. By treating the things that don't go to plan as learning experiences and an opportunity for growth thus eliminating the concept of true failure.


Assertiveness is the ability to hold your ideas, perspective and important and communicating those as such without seeking to impose them on others (which is aggression)

Like confidence, assertiveness is something that can be learnt, practiced and developed. I have specific procedures that can achieve this using role playing in a safe and comfortable way. Problems with assertiveness can range from an inability to state a point of view to having difficulty stating that point of view in a manner that is going to get the best reception. Perhaps bottling up or surpressing it until, contained, it grows out of perspective and becomes an explosion.

What we seek in enhancing assertiveness are the skill to calmly, confidently (see above), clearly but firmly state our position or point of view with appropriate levels of forcefulness and intent. When asserting ourselves we are seeking to influence so it makes sense to do this in a manner that is most likely to get us the positive outcome we seek.


Self-esteem is the level of belief about our worth as a human being. It underpins out ability to be confident (we value our skills and ability) and assertiveness (if we believe we are worthwhile we also believe our perspective, point of view is worthwhile and needs to be communicated.

Sadly, many people lack self-esteem and need to be reminded of their uniqueness, their talents, skills and abilities and shown evidence for how they are values by those around them.

Working on you

I think that there are few areas that I work with that have the same potential for a radical positive improvement in a persons whole personality, outlook and relationship with their fellow human that the improvements can have for those who currently struggle in this area.

In this area it is common to find that we have been programming ourselves with unconscious lies about ourselves and how others perceive us. We have established firm ideas of how we can't cope or need to avoid certain situations, or unhelpful ways we have to behave. We'll get those out into the daylight and dispute them and perhaps replace them with something more truthful and helpful. We are not into self-delusion or BS, we are into taking a different and more considered view of what is real.

Where there are skills to be learnt, I will teach them, assertiveness skills, the ability to small-talk, how to complain and put your case, you point in a positive, progressive way. If there are specific situations you struggle with, we can work on these, we can roll play and rehearse to hone new skills.

'Hell is other people' is the famous quotation from a Jean-Paul Satre play where three characters are condemmed to spend their afterlife together as a punishment. It becomes apparent as the play that they have conflicting views, beliefs and personalities and are doomed to spend eternity irritiating and annoying each other and in perpetual conflict. The field of NLP teaches us a lot on the subject of other people and suggests why and how they annoy, irritate, frustrate, intimidate us. It suggests some useful beliefs and perhaps a philosopy that can be adopted on understanding, acceptance and the way we communicate that can ease troubled or conflict laden relationships.

As humans we have free will and it is inevitable that occasionally some of these free willed individuals are going to have conflicting views. You may even live or work with these people. There are beliefs, tools and philosophies that can be learnt and be useful in such situations to reach a positive outcome.

Overcoming Fears and Phobias

We all experience anxiety and fear; and these should be useful emotions. They are messages telling us we need to take care or avoid something. This is healthy and an essential part of our survival mechanism. The problem comes where this anxiety or fear or our response to it becomes excessive or irrational; we worry or fear where rationally there is no real danger or major consequences. We focus on the possible problems and play down our natural abilities to cope, learn and adapt.

Phobias are a examples of fears which are triggered by some external stimulus and appear to happen automatically and our of our control - for example on the appearance of a spider. This may have some limiting anxiety associated with it - not wanting to open a cupboard because of the possibility, vividly imagined, of a spider within. Phobias and many other fears are learnt; often from a childhood experience or the reaction of a parent during our early formative childhood years. For example a client with a fear of spiders will often tell me that their 'mother was just the same'.

Some fears have a rational basis but are exaggerated, for example someone with a fear of heights that prevents them from using an escalator in a shopping mall. The fear of heights itself is useful to remind us to take care on a cliff top walk, but not appropriate in the previous context.

Some sources say that number one fear is the anxiety associated with public speaking, rating this higher than the fear of death for some people. Yet what would actually happen if you make a mistake during a speech?

When should you seek help?

Not particularly liking spiders, heights or some other situation is not cause for therapy. Being normally concerned before a big event such as a wedding, important meeting or doing something new and outside your comfort zone is not cause for therapy. These are normal messages to keep yourself safe, to be appropriately prepared.

For me the critical measures is when an irrational or exaggerated fear stops you doing something that you would otherwise do or enjoy doing, or makes the participation in such a thing problematic.

For example - if there are certain situations you will do anything to avoid purely because of irrational fear, or certain acitivities where you are robbed of enjoyment or ability to fully participate because of the effects of the anxiety.

If the anxiety is generalised or a regular occurence - remind yourself that whilst anxiety is often a sensible and useful response to an imminent situation - in itself it is not a solution to that thing that is making you anxious. I'd suggest that anxiety and fear are an occasional call to action and not something to be lived with as an unwanted companion.

Why can it be tricky to overcome by yourself?

By the very act of deciding you have an issue that needs treating you are accepting that you are currently doing something that doesn't make rational sense to you.  Thus attempting to overcome the issue by rationalising will often serve only to dent the sufferer's self-esteem. Someone who has a phobia of butterflies already knows that butterflies don't have teeth so simply reminding them of this is not likely to have a beneficial effect. The person about to make a speech knows that they are allowed to make mistakes but will assume they have an audience of sociopathic perfectionists.

There are aspects of overcoming a phobia or irrational fear that are counter-intuitive and don't badly can actually make the problem worse. This is where the guidance of a professional therapist can steer you on the path to success.

How is this dealt with in therapy?

In addition to my separate articles covering my general approach to therapy - specifically to anxiety, fear and phobias , my approach is as follows:

  1. Learning cognitive (Thinking) skills to dispute and deal with fear re-enforcing self-talk
  2. Desensitisation to reduce the 'volume' of the emotional signal and thus the scale of response
  3. Safe, comfortable mental rehearsal to practice a more appropriate response based on physical relaxation and mental calmness

Often we are seeking not to turn off or ignore the emotion but to retrain it to work in a more helpful and less limiting way. If you met the spider in the picture above you would want to remain calm and treat it with great respect (and distance - it is a Black Widow spider)

Many people naturally avoid the cause of their fear - but still to some degree feel the anxiety of 'what if'. They feel the mental anxiety but avoid the real world experience of the problem situation thus loosing the opportunity to develop coping skills or have the fear naturally dissolve as the imagined fear is proved groundless. Overcoming such a fear requires exposure to that fear - but in a therapeutically positive manner, gradual exposure, in full control whilst maintaining confidence and relaxation. It is not possible to be both deeply relaxed and anxious simultaneously thus a new response can be learnt.

What to do now?

Book a free consultation with me to talk about your goals and how I can help you to achieve them. I can outline in much more detail, and with specific reference to your particular issue, how I would approach helping you, what is involved, how long it might take and answer any questions or concerns you may have. As with all my consultations - there is no obligation or pressure to book any therapy and you don't have to decide there and then.

Healthy Lifestyle and Weight

The modern day challenge

Here are some of the things that people tell us about their problem with weight or lifestyle:

  • They have tried diets and either gave up or succeeded in losing the weight only to put it back on, and perhaps end up heavier
  • They find the media coverage of what we should and shouldn't eat can be very confusing. Fad diets seem to come and go
  • They used to be able to eat what they like but at some point in their life found that the weight started to pile on
  • They find it difficult to incorporate the different messages on diet and exercise into everyday life
  • They find it difficult to sustain dietary and lifestyle over time - even when they are working
  • They had some significant life event which they regard as the initial cause of their weight gain
  • They are concerned about their current levels of energy, their long term health and mobility
  • They have problem foods, problem eating and other lifestyle habits that they know are contributing to their problem.

The Solution

The solution to all of this is:

  • Knowledge: Knowing what are the right food and lifestyle choices for you
  • Psychology: Being able to consistently make the those choices

If only it was that simple, you may say ! Most people understand what they should be doing but seem to lack willpower or be unable to sustain their attempts to follow a healthier lifestyle.

This is where hypnotherapy can help - a therapist can't offer diet or excercise advice but can help you to get clear and focussed on your goals then implement long term healthy habits to achieve them.

The program

My 4 session program covers:

  • Setting positive goals for lifelong weight management.
  • Understanding the keys to making changes
  • Looking at your current eating and lifestyle 'bad' habits and
  • Changing unwanted emotional attachment and associations with problems foods.
  • Looking for unconscious beliefs that are holding you back and removing them.
  • Making it easy by using the power of habit and avoiding the Error of Effort.
  • Short term willpower based on disappointment replaced with long term positive motivation based on vision.
  • Changing your sense of self, your identity to someone who has mastered this aread of their life

Healthy Diet

Most of us are aware of the impact diet can have on our health and the contribution our weight can have in predisposing us to certain chronic diseases such as Diabetes Type 2, yet despite this why do people struggle to make the right choices?

We have emotional associations with food and exercise, are we using food for nutrition and sustenance or for emotional benefit, warding off stress, boredom or other such feelings? Are we always actually paying attention to what and how we eat or are we habitually making poor choices then overeating well past the point of comfortable satisfaction? How much of our 'bad' decision makeing actually due to not making a decision at all and blindly following a comfortable habit?

The keys

The program is based on the following key principles:

  • We teach, you do. The ultimate success is all yours
  • We are not here to ‘fix’ you but to empower you
  • If you know and do the right things, you will get the result you desire
  • You don't need willpower to do what you really want to.

I have developed a program which will guide clients through changing eating habits and behaviors. I equipped with the clarity of purpose and motivation to empower them to make better food choices and sustain healthy behavior's.

You in control

The big question is – will it work for you? This program is not something that is done to you but training – retraining habits, chaging attitudes and beliefs even at an unconscious level. Yet ultimately your success depends on you – your responsibilities are:

  • Start the program with an expectation of gradual, positive change
  • Don't expect lightning bolts or unhealthy crash weight loss
  • Be prepared to fully participate, contribute, experiment and learn
  • I am committed to your success and expect the same of you – even if you currently have doubts
  • Be honest with me - especially if something doesn't work for you

Your next step

Get in touch and book your free consultation to meet me in person and discussion your goals and challenges. Find out the details of my approach with no obligation or pressure to book any sessions.

Confident Performance: Exam, Stage, Concert

When you are required to step up in front of an audience it is entirely normal to have some anxiety or desire to create a good impression, effectively communicate and engage your audience. You could argue that a little anxiety is helpful, it is a message telling you that you need to prepare and be ready.

Yet if the anxiety is such that it degrades your performance or simply removes any enjoyment or desire to perform then therapeutic help can be beneficial.

Yet somehow the mind has learnt this response - to become irrationaly anxious in the face of the the need to perform or even in anticipation of a such a situation. The question is - how did this happen and how can we retrain the mind to respond differently? It is also apparent that when in an anxious state that we loose some essential thinking skills, we loose persepective, mentally exaggerate the anticipated issues and likelihood of failure. We fail to consider our own coping skills, experience and more realistic consequences of minor errors or incidents.

Whilst my approach is tailored to suit each indivdual client - there are some common elements:

  • Understanding the purpose of anxiety, what triggers and fuels it
  • Desensitising your response to problematic performance situations
  • Dealing with unhelpful self-talk generated by the anxiety

The key is to learn to control your exposure to problem situations and actively manage your response - to stop practicing the problem and start practicing the way you want to be.

I have worked with a wide range of clients from students unable to cope with exam hall nerves, business managers dreading an important presentation though to professional classical musicians and other performers suffering from anxiety produced loss of fine muscle control, bow shakes, corpsing, choking and mid performance memory lapses. I have an insight into what it means to step up and make a performance. Not just when you are fully prepared and have a enthusiastic, attentive and engaged audience and where everything goes to plan; but also coping when the unexpected happens. The last minute summons to perform, the not being fully prepared, problematic material, overly judgemental peers or audience or something going awry.

Breaking Habits

Habits are a useful, and I suggest, an essential part of being human - checking your house keys are in your pocket before closing the front door, checking your car is not it gear before starting the engine - there are literally thousands of habitual routines you do every day that keep you safe or help you in some other positive way.

Having established that habits are usually useful - let's now focus on the exceptions where they are not. Unwanted habits are generally where you start do something you don't want to do without noticing. So you are watching TV and become aware that you are biting your fingernails; in an important meeting and notice you are drumming the table with your fingers; in a state of anxiety or boredom and twisting, pulling out hair from your head. You are in the cafe and have said 'yes' to that extra slice of cake before you were really aware of the question.

You didn't decide or even notice when you started doing that thing - and this is a key to resolving the habit. Of becoming mindful and aware when the unwanted habititual behaviour starts or is happening and learning startegies to defeat it, including perhaps overriding the unwanted habit with a chosen, better one.

Whereas habits are behaviours that seem to be outside your control because they start without your conscious awareness, or are seemingly outside your control because you feel a compulsion to do it, to achieve some feeling or change in mood.

Dealing with Depression

Depression was once described to me as having to view the world through dark glasses, dark glasses that were cracked, dirty. The world appears grey, distorted.

Depression itself is characterised by depressed mood, seeming loss of the ability to enjoy life, lack of motivation, apathy, disturbed sleep, disturbed appetite and other symptoms.

People around those who are depressed generally understand that the sufferer has a depressed mood but possibly don't appreciate the self re-enforcing nature of the condition.

My approach to this is simple in concept - break this re-enforcing nature by teaching the client about the true nature of depression and the mental tools and techniques they can use to overcome it. The additional benefit of this is that this same level of awareness and tools can be used to prevent or overcome any subsequent episode.

The first thing I teach is that depression is a recognised and common medical condition. It is not due to some kind of mental or emotional weakness or some character defect, though the condition may in itself lead to or utilise this kind of thinking. If the depression is having a negative impact on your life then I'd strongly recommend consulting your GP who can properly assess and diagnose the condition and offer treatment options. This does not stop you also seeking help from a hypnotherapist who can work with the approval and support of your GP.

The second thing I teach is to make the distinction between having depression and being a depressed person. This is a subtle but important point to separate the issue from the person's sense of self, their identity. Depression is something they have, or perhaps even they might adopt the idea that in some way it is something they are doing.

I also look for other issues that can be closely intermingled with depression as a cause, a symptom or both. The main one is Anxiety or General Anxiety Disorder, which when combined with Depression represents the number one common medical disorder (CMD) according to research in England.  I also assess self-esteem and self-confidence.

This is one area where I lean away from actual hypnotherapy and towards more thinking skill techniques from, for example, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

My final word on depression here is an important one - faith. I'm not referring to religious faith here - but the faith that there are tools, techniques that the sufferer can apply to overcome depression. That perhaps early on this can be a struggle to find the energy or motivation to use these tools and that the results may not be immediately apparent. I think it is kind of like getting fit, hauling yourself off the couch and into your running shoes. Initially you may not notice any improvement beyond the initial struggle round your chosen running route, but you have faith that you are building muscle, endurance and if you just keep doing it you will prevail.

Calming Pain

There is much evidence to support hypnosis as a method of reducing or eliminating unwanted pain, termed hypno-analgesia; analgesia meaning pain relief. For example, this research by the American Psychological Association states 'Hypnosis is likely to be effective for most people suffering from diverse forms of pain, with the possible exception of a minority of patients who are resistant to hypnotic interventions.'

This is closely associated with hypno-anaesthesia and anaesthesia meaning the removal of sensation (including pain).

In the 1840s when the surgeon Dr James Braid was inspired by a display of 'Mesmerism' and went on to research and demonstrate its effectiveness for analgesia during surgery there have been many thorough trials conducted by medical and hypnosis researchers proving its usefulness. This predated the discovery and development of analgesic drugs, chloroform's effects not being discovered until late in the 1840s. Incidentally Dr Braid is also credited with discounting the term Mesmerism and using the new term 'Hypnosis'.

Hypnotic pain relief is one of the most profound and effective uses of hypnosis and it can easily be taught - meaning that pain relief can be achieved both under the guidance of a therapist or the process can be taught and used using self-hypnosis by the sufferer as and when needed. The article referred to above does suggest quite rightly that there are some individuals who are resistant to hypnosis; there is also evidence to suggest that hypnotisability itself can be enhanced by training (such as the Carleton Skills Training Program referred to by this research paper).

Before we go any further - a word of caution. What we are aiming to deal with here is unwanted pain. I want to emphasise that pain is an important messenger and should not simply be turned off, be aware that we work with the effect, the sensation of pain, but not the cause. It has also been used, as mentioned above, for surgical or post-surgical pain (indeed some recent research suggests that hypnosis can enhance post-surgical healing as well).

I have a particularly memorable example of the use of hypnosis, specifically self-hypnosis, to calm pain and numb sensations. Gareth Lee Morgan, one of my colleagues at the Adam Eason School of Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy, learnt this technique while he was a student of the school and decided to apply it to himself.

With the consent and approval of his dentist he had three wisdom teeth removed with no anaesthetic or drugs, using self-hypnosis alone to induce hypno-analgesia. (Full article by Adam Eason)

Soothing IBS

IBS is a common functional disorder often described as an over-sensitivity of the digestive system leading to symptoms of abdominal pain and cramps, diarrhoea and/or constipation. It can result in a sudden need to empty the bowels,  flatulence and misleading sensations of needing to open the bowels or incomplete evacuation. The cause is unknown but a link to previous food related illness has been suggested and sufferers often offer anecdotal views linking the onset to emotional trauma, chronic (ongoing) stress or depression.

The unpleasant and unpredictable symptoms can have an negative effect of the suffers lifestyle, quality of life and their enjoyment of social events. IBS can contribute to feelings of anxiety, loss of self esteem of confidence and depression.

There have been positive results from studies on the use of hypnotherapy pointing to the use of positive visualisation to lessen the symptoms and hypnotherapy is suggested by NICE where pharmacological treatment has not helped. For example, this review article, by noted gastroenterologist Professor Whorwell of Manchester University, concluded 'There is now good evidence that hypnotherapy benefits a substantial proportion of patients with irritable bowel syndrome and that improvement is maintained for many years'.

Steve's IBS program uses this positive visualisation approach and teaches the suffered self-hypnosis and other cognitive skills to empower them as well as considering and addressing any associated anxiety, loss of confidence or self-esteem. 

The program is structured with an initial orientation and therapy session followed by a further six shorter hypnotherapy sessions. The client will also need to set aside some 10-20 minutes per day to practice the techniques taught each week.

IBS is a medical condition and before hypnotherapy is considered, formal diagnosis and ongoing primary care by a medical professional is required. Hypnotherapy is offered as a complimentary therapy to this primary care with the knowledge and approval of you medical practitioner.

Dental Hypnosis

Dental Hypnosis covers the use of hypnotherapy for dental patients.

As I mentioned above in the section on Calming Pain I have a colleague who had his wisdom teeth extracted using self-hypnosis instead of the usual numbing injection, but hypnotherapy also has a number of other less headline grabbing applications in dentistry. The most common application is to deal with is dental anxiety, ranging from a generalised fear of dental treatment to something specific such as needle phobia, the constraining dentist chair or issues with the proximity of the dental staff and work around the face.

As with all anxieties the main approach is to desensitise the client to the trauma by using a careful approach based of imagined exposure. All under the complete control of the sufferer and the guidance of the therapist, they use their imagination to confront the problem situation whilst in a hypnotic state of deep relaxation. This allows an number of desensitising phenomena to come into play -  it is difficult to impossible to feel both deeply relaxed and anxious at the same time, by facing the fear they find the anxiety naturally diminishes and learn that the can cope.  Anxiety needs to be fed by focus on the fear experience and resulting body sensations and negative thoughts - in the absence of such focus the anxiety fades.  This can be rehearsed under hypnosis thus retraining the mind in a way that translates into the real world situation.

Other applications in dentistry include chronic pain, such as TMJ related pain, gagging, bleeding and salivation. Hypnotherapy offers possible solution for Bruxism or nocturnal teeth grinding where it can deal with the underlying stress and/or install a cued relaxation response. It should be noted that whilst there is strong empirical support and evidence for the use of hypnotherapy for anxiety and pain relief, the use in more specialist areas of dentistry currently is less well researched and clinically tested.

Check out my blog as I have a number of entries on dental issues

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