Hazel Gale has won multiple World and European titles in kickboxing, as well as the National and European titles in ABA boxing.
After experiencing the power of Cognitive Hypnotherapy first hand in order to overcome chronic fatigue, her first book Fight: Win Freedom from Self-Sabotage, is released this month in which she shares the skills she learned to help others achieve their goals in the same way.
We interview Hazel to get the low-down on Cog Hyp, writing a book and looking inside to build self-awareness and acceptance.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’ve done a random mix of jobs over the course of my life: I was a jazz singer for a brief period; I went to art school and had couple of exhibitions; I’ve worked in bars and restaurants; I started a graphic design company with a friend; for a long time, I worked full-time as a boxing and kickboxing coach (I still do that a couple of nights a week); I have been running my private therapy practice since 2011; and recently I’ve written my first book: Fight: Win Freedom From Self-sabotage.
Varied as they are, my previous jobs have all played their part in who I am and what I do today. Most excitingly, I’ve been able to tap back into my art and design roots with a creative project that I’ve been running in parallel to the book launch. #mindmonsters is a mental health awareness campaign that explores the psychology of self-sabotage through artistic expression.
People from all over the world have been sending in drawings, paintings and even animated gifs to represent the parts of their personalities that make them do destructive things. The results have been really quite wonderful. I’m gradually uploading them to social media and the mindmonsters website over Feb and March: https://mindmonsters.online.
I competed as a fighter for almost a decade, claiming two two world titles in kickboxing and two national titles in ABA boxing. The importance of that period of my life, however, has nothing to do with medals or belts. The greatest battle, by far, was the one I had with myself.
Over the years, the gruelling training programmes, competition stress and the struggle to stay at my fighting weight took their toll both physically and emotionally. But instead of listening to my body and taking care of myself, I just pushed myself harder and harder, relentlessly training through injuries and illness. I was chasing a sense of achievement that never fully made itself available.
As many aspiring athletes do, after a few years of competition, I overtrained and burned out. Retrospectively, I can feel thankful for that experience, but at the time it was a living hell. I thought I needed my training, competition and winning just to feel OK about myself, so I ignored all the warning signs. As my health continued to deteriorate, I felt like my life was slipping away.
How did you discover Cognitive Hypnotherapy?
When I got ill, the first thing I did was search for external solutions. I was certain that somebody, somewhere would be able to fix me. So, I worked my way through numerous doctors and health practitioners, both mainstream and alternative, and I tried every diet, supplement and “body hack” that I could lay my hands on, but I found minimal relief.
In the end — even though it went against every denial-fuelled instinct that I had — I braved a look inside for the cause of my problems.
This meant that I could finally see what was getting in my way: shame, self-loathing and a crippling fear of failure. I had been all but completely dissociated from these things, so the work wasn’t easy-going. However, cognitive hypnotherapy helped me to gradually build my self-awareness and move towards a state of self-acceptance.
As I progressed, my anxiety faded and my health started to return. I got back into competition and back to winning. But most importantly, I learned how to enjoy the sport that I had chosen, and how to feel better about myself within that context (win or lose).
How did the book Fight come about?
I’ve always wanted to write a book. When an acquaintance (now a good friend — Ed Trippier) who worked in publishing called me to speak about women in sport, I found myself describing my own plans for a manuscript. He pitched the idea to his editor immediately, and the next thing I knew I was putting a proposal together.
Thankfully, Ed helped me with the project. His tutelage was invaluable, so I’d love to recommend him to anyone who needs help from a freelance editor.
How did you find the right agent?
I was extremely lucky to find my agent, Rachel Mills. She happened to be a friend of an old art school buddy and an ex student of mine from the gym. Serendipity!
Rachel has also been an incredible help with my writing. When people ask me for my tips for aspiring authors, my number one piece of advice has been to find a solid team. I had help from Ed, Rachel, everyone at Yellow Kite (they’ve also been incredible) and a good few friends along the way. If I’d tried to do this all on my own, Fight wouldn’t be half the book it is today.
What was the most challenging aspect about writing a book?
As with any creative project, my book-writing process has been full of ups and downs. There were moments when I was convinced that the book will be a complete failure, then moments when I’ve known that it’ll change lives all over the world. I’ve learned to disregard both of those future fantasies; they’re not helpful and certainly not enjoyable.
The process continues to test me now. The promotional work is pretty full on, and the audiobook recording has proven to be very challenging indeed! Top tip: don’t quote people like Tor Nørretranders and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi if you’re going to be reading your book in the studio
What is the thing you wished you knew when you started?
If I could go back and talk to myself at the beginning of the process, I’d sit myself down and explain that it’s going to take longer than I think. I steamed through my proposal and lulled myself into a false sense of security. I thought I could complete the thing in eight months and set the deadline accordingly. Wrong.
What would you tell someone thinking about writing their own book?
Do it. And start right away because the spark will dwindle if you leave it too long. A project like this takes on its own direction once you get going, so over-planning doesn’t help.
Also, don’t be afraid to share your rough drafts with anyone who’s willing to take a look. Some of my best ideas and insights have come out of conversations with friends and colleagues who read the early material. Now, I can see my buddies in the content as I read through, and that’s wonderful.
Join Hazel’s Facebook group for the book Fight here.
Featured image of Hazel Gale by Peter Drinkell.
Profile picture of Hazel Gale by Aino Väänänen.