According to numerous research reports, many people have been able to use self-hypnosis to relieve anxiety, overcome fears, control overeating, stop smoking and conquer insomnia Research studies also show self- hypnosis can be an effective treatment for many ailments in which tension and anxiety are factors: asthma, colitis, frigidity and impotence, migraine and high blood pressure, for instance. But authorities warn that it should not be relied on to take the place of medical treatment for serious physical illnesses, and it should not be used to explore deep emotional disturbances unless it is under professional supervision.
To many people, self-hypnosis sounds impossible - but only because their view of hypnosis is incorrect. They think of hypnosis as a process in which a hypnotist, using special skills and powers, forces his subject to fall into a sleep - like trance and to become obedient to his commands. Actually, you have to be willing to enter the trance - it can’t be forced on you. Hypnosis isn’t something a hypnotist does to you. You do it to yourself.
By using such techniques as having the subject stare at one point and telling him to relax one group of muscles after another, the hypnotist helps the subject slip into a “trance,” in which he becomes open to certain kinds of suggestions. The trance is achieved by focusing one’s attention to the point where all distracting thoughts and physical sensations are excluded. It is not unconsciousness and not sleep, but much like the condition you fall into when you are so absorbed in what you are reading or working on that you fail to hear someone when they speak to you.
Once in the trance state, you’re able to ignore most of the messages of your body and mind, and thereby become receptive to certain ideas. Suggestions aimed at enabling you to achieve specific goals enter into your preconscious or unconscious mind and remain active there, influencing your behaviour and feelings.
But in every case you must want to carry out the suggestion. If you don’t really want to kick the smoking habit, for example, hypnosis won’t help. Self-hypnosis is very different from telling yourself in a normal (non - trance) state of mind, “Don’t be afraid” or “Stop feeling hungry.” Such self-given commands rarely succeed. Self-hypnosis puts far more powerful mental forces - those of the unconscious - to work. The suggestions you make to yourself in self-hypnosis have much the same power as skills or habits - like riding a bicycle or driving a car - which you’ve learnt thoroughly. You perform such acts automatically without having to think or exercise willpower.
The chances are good that you can learn self-hypnosis. According to experts, a minority of people is gifted at it - they tend to be imaginative and good at daydreaming. A minority can’t do it at all. But most people are somewhere in between and should be able to achieve a degree of self-hypnosis.
(While hypnosis is basically benign, some experts believe that a therapist should be consulted before self-hypnosis is attempted.)
1. Induction. There are many techniques for getting into or “inducing” a trance. Here’s one made up of elements common to many time-tested systems. You can use it either by sound recording instructions and playing it, or by inwardly telling yourself what to do:
In a quiet, softly lit room, sit comfortably in a chair with your hands on your lap. Tell yourself that at any time, if you need to come out of your trance, you will be able to do so by counting from one to five.
Pick some point at eye level or a little above it; stare steadily at that spot. Take a deep breath; hold it and tense your whole body, especially your hands; then slowly let the breath out and relax your muscles. Do it all a second time.
Begin to count backwards very slowly from 300; if you lose your place, start anywhere or go back. While counting, tell yourself to relax your feet - concentrate on them, feel them becoming limp. Slowly continue upwards, relaxing your ankles, calves, thighs, buttocks, abdomen, chest, hands, arms, shoulders, neck, face (your eyelids should grow heavier and heavier, and close; your head should fall gently forward).
Stop counting and tell yourself that now you are totally relaxed, in a trance, ready to proceed.
2. Deepening. Most hypnotists teach students to deepen the trance by a shift in the technique. Some advocate repeating a single word or number to yourself while seeing it in your mind’s eye. Others recommend imagining a scene that will give you a sense of peace and detachment. For example:
Imagine yourself in the open centre of a modern building, surrounded by shops and people. You get on an escalator moving down and feel yourself slowly sinking to the next floor, where it is quieter, the lights are softer and no-one else is around. You drift; you sink, and down you go deeper, until finally you are as deep as you wish to be.
3. Suggestion. In this stage, you make suggestions to yourself. You may repeat your goal in words, or tell yourself things you know are true but which you have been unable to live by or face. Or you may visualize yourself, as vividly as possible, looking and acting as you want to look and act. Here’s how self-suggestion might work for someone trying to lose weight:
Imagine looking in a mirror, seeing and admiring a new, trim you. Tell yourself. “I will feel more energetic as I come closer to my ideal weight. I will feel no hunger after I have had enough for my body’s real needs. I will be pleased with the way I look and proud to be in control of my life.”
4. Coming out. Although it is unlikely that you’ll have trouble coming out of the trance, most experts advise you to tell yourself, in advance, how you will come out. If you’re not using a sound recording, you may want to set a clock or timer to remind you to come out in case you fall asleep. Here’s one method:
“As I count slowly from one to five, I’m going to come out of my trance refreshed, alert and able to do what I set out to do. One, I feel my body beginning to regain muscle tone. Two, I’m becoming aware of sounds around me. Three, my head is coming up. Four, I’m feeling more and more alert. Five, I’m opening my eyes, feeling fine.”
The first few times you go through this procedure, with or without a recording prompt, you may feel that it didn’t work very well. But inducing trance in yourself is a skill that takes patience and a lot of regular practice. If it didn’t, I’d be a whole new self by now…
I've got a list of things I want to achieve, acquire and improve upon. By next year, I hope the people who know me will be saying about me - about the way I look, converse, dance, run, romance, or whatever – ‘Amazing! - However did you do it?’ - Prayer, Faith and Love of God - with a healthy dollop of self-hypnosis…