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Self-hypnosis - a tool for personal transformation and its technique

Updated on June 9, 2014
Dr Pran Rangan profile image

I am a physician by profession. I like to write on topics related to health, psychology, psychiatry, and spirituality.

Self-hypnosis is a form of hypnosis which is self induced. The people can be trained in self-hypnosis, in which they learn to guide themselves to a hypnotic state.

Hypnosis is a psychological state resembling sleep but marked by awareness other than ordinary conscious state. A person under hypnosis has heightened focus and concentration on a specific thought or memory while blocking out sources of distraction. A person under hypnosis experiences heightened suggestibility and focus accompanied by a sense of tranquility. The number of suggestions that an individual responds to indicates the person’s level of suggestibility. It is a trait-like, individual difference variable i.e. people differ in terms of how high or low they fall on suggestibility. This cognitive effect on the person under hypnosis may be used to introduce changes in sensations, perceptions, thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

Important scientific theories – Many scientific theories have been propounded, which differ from each other to different extents. Some of them are mentioned below -

  • The neural mechanisms underlying hypnosis and responses to hypnotic suggestions remain unknown. But it has been found that hypnosis is accompanied by increases in both occipital regional cerebral blood flow and delta brainwave activity, which reflect alteration of consciousness associated with decreased arousal and possible facilitation of visual imagery. Frontal increases in regional cerebral blood flow associated with suggestions for altered perception might reflect the verbal mediation of the suggestions, working memory, and processes involved in the reinterpretation of the perceptual experiences.
  • Neuro-physiological theories of hypnosis propose that high hypnotisables have better executive function than low hypnotisables and can thus deploy their attention in different ways. Gruzelier (1998) presented a model of hypnosis characterized by changes in brain function. The different stages of the process of hypnosis have its own characteristic pattern of brain activity. Gruzelier's neuro-physiological account emphasizes that change in the way the attention control system operates in hypnosis renders the subject more suggestible.
  • In neo-dissociation concept, Ernest Hilgard (1994) suggested that under hypnosis a part of the mind enters an altered state of consciousness, which is very open to hypnotic suggestions. The other dissociated part of the mind, designated as hidden observer, remains aware of what is going on during a hypnosis session. The hidden observer is created by the subject in response to hypnotic suggestions given by the hypnotist. (Spanos & Burgess, 1994). The idea that the hidden observer demonstrates the presence of conscious and unconscious executive systems in hypnosis is a controversial notion.
  • State theories including non-dissociation concept argue that the hypnotic inductions produce an altered state of consciousness and hypnotic trance is associated with an altered state of brain function. The responses to hypnotic suggestions are a result of special processes such as dissociation or other altered state of consciousness. Hypnotisability is remarkably stable over long periods.
  • Social cognitive theories form the non-state theories, which argue that the participants respond to suggestion as well without hypnosis. The responses to suggestions are a product of normal psychological processes such as attitudes, expectancies and motivation. The suggestibility can be modified with drugs and psychological procedures. The non-state theories view subjects as active "doers" and observe the suggested effect as an enactment rather than a happening (Spanos et al, 1980).

Despite many differing conceptual theories, self-hypnosis can be effectively used to –

  • Stop smoking
  • Lose weight
  • Control anger
  • Reduce stress
  • Combat depression and anxiety
  • Change negative aspects of personality
  • Gain more confidence

Technique of self-hypnosis – It is not difficult to perform self-hypnosis, which can be mastered by a person with good efforts.

Relaxation – Before beginning a session of self-hypnosis, it is necessary to achieve a good level of relaxation.

  1. Sit in a comfortable chair in a peaceful place without any disturbance. Wear comfortable clothes and avoid eating large meals before starting a session of self-hypnosis. If you wear contact lenses, it is advisable to remove them before self-hypnosis session.
  2. Let your body relax. Slowly count from ten to zero telling yourself with each count that you are becoming more and more relaxed. After relaxation, focus on the breathing and notice the rise and fall of the diaphragm and chest. You will notice that, gradually, your body becomes completely relaxed.
  3. Now try to become aware of the surroundings and stretch your legs and arms to become lively and active.
  4. Again let your body relax by slowly counting from zero to ten. Then focus on the breathing and notice rise and fall of the diaphragm and chest. This will soon relax you completely. Repeat earlier and this step four to five times. You will notice how each time you reach a deeper level of relaxation.
  5. Initially, you will find that it takes time to relax fully but, with persistent practice, you will be able to relax quickly.

Suggestions - Hypnosis is a state of heightened suggestibility. So, giving you suggestions when in hypnosis will enable an action or other response to take place after the hypnotic experience has occurred. They are called post hypnotic suggestions. There are certain rules to introduce suggestions in order to achieve good results.

  1. Hypnotic suggestions are repeated silently. However, you need to repeat the suggestions as though you mean what you say. Be reassuring, positive and confident.
  2. The suggestions need to be phrased positively and in the present tense, as though they are happening at this moment in time. For example: “I am calm” is better than “I am not anxious”. 
“I stop smoking with ease” is better than “I will try to stop smoking” as the word try implies difficulty and struggle. Similarly, “I am relaxed on the aircraft” is better than “I will be relaxed when I am on the aircraft”. Or, “I am becoming more confident” is better than “I will try to be confident”.
  3. Make your suggestions specific and realistic. For example, if you wish to improve your swimming performance, it would be unrealistic to give yourself the suggestion “I am a world-class swimmer”, unless of course you are, or are about to become, a world champion. Instead, ask yourself what specifically it is about your swimming that you wish to improve. Structure your suggestions on changes you wish to see in yourself. Don’t structure them about things that are out of your control such as events and people. Structure suggestions to achieve one goal at a time. For example, the suggestion “I am confident that I can lose weight and stop smoking” is probably not effective. Instead, work on one goal at a time, repeating suggestions associated with that goal.
  4. One of the most important rules when practicing self-hypnosis is repetition of your suggestions. That way you drive the point home and are far more likely to effect positive change.

Visualization - While giving yourself hypnotic suggestions, visualize the situation, the action and the feeling that you desire. Picturing a desired outcome, you can utilize your sense of touch, hearing and even smell. Sometime people may see a crystal clear image of their goal as if watching a movie. But to have a positive attitude and a belief in you is more important than a crystal clear image of the goal. The following is an example how a swimmer can use visualization to improve his breaststroke that is his weaker area.

  1. The swimmer will sit in a comfortable chair wearing comfortable clothes.
  2. He will allow his body to become loose and limp in the chair like a rag doll. Then, he will slowly and with intention, count down silently from ten to zero. Telling him that with each and every count he is becoming more and more relaxed.
  3. He will create an image that represents him mastering the technique of breaststroke in swimming and see himself achieving the goal.
  4. He has to repeat a positive suggestion such as “I am confident to master the technique of breaststroke.” Say it with conviction while picturing the image for about 30 seconds.
  5. He has to repeat this ten times and between times has to stay in hypnosis and focus on visualization.
  6. He will come back by counting from zero to ten and opening his eyes.

If one fails to achieve a goal, one should not give oneself a hard time. Failing to achieve a goal doesn’t mean a failure. One will need to approach the goal in a different way.

A transformative tool – Under hypnosis an individual has an altered state of consciousness while maintaining full awareness and he or she has heightened suggestibility. Due to these characteristic changes, the suggestions introduced during a session of hypnosis directly impact the sub-conscious mind bypassing the conscious mind of the individual. The sub-conscious mind of an individual is a big storehouse of various impressions about persons, events, things, situations, cultural traditions, religious beliefs etc. that have been experienced throughout life, thereby forming different mind patterns. Over a period of time, these mind patterns become quite rigid and deep-rooted. Many of them are negative mind patterns that negatively impact our life, causing us many problems. Under hypnosis due to heightened suggestibility, an individual becomes susceptible to alterations in the mind patterns, which means that the individual can alter the old patterns and develop new ones. Therefore, an individual can get rid of old negative mind patterns and replace them with new positive ones.

The mindsets or patterns, when they become deep-rooted in the sub-conscious mind, constitute the yardsticks, with which an individual measures persons, things, events and circumstances. They become the criteria, on which an individual judges everything in life. But what is significant to know is that no two persons have the same criteria to judge things, persons and situations. And this is the most important reason that people have conflicts, and arguments that, on many occasions, become dirty, making the situations difficult to handle.

When an individual changes the negatives mind patterns and replaces them with positive ones with the help self-hypnosis, the individual can create transformative changes in the personality.

An individual who wants to bring about positive changes in the personality should prepare a list of negative traits that impact strongly his daily life and then begin to change them one by one during self-hypnosis sessions. One has to introduce positive and realistic suggestions in the present tense about the negative pattern one wants to change after one has achieved full relaxation during a session of self-hypnosis. One has to do many repetitions of the well structured suggestions in a session. Moreover, one has to perform patiently many sessions before one can notice appreciable changes in the negative pattern. The changes may occur slowly sometimes but persistence in the efforts will bring about the desirable changes. Slackness in our efforts will slow down the progress. Once we are able to achieve the desirable result, we will have to be on our guard to see that we do not lapse back in our old behavioral patterns. If we find any lapse, we will have to make vigorous efforts again to reinforce the desired changes in our personality.

Thus, the self-hypnosis can be a wonderful tool in our hands to bring about the positive transformation in our personality. But there is a caveat that self-hypnosis should be performed properly before we can materialize positive changes in us. Training from an expert hypnotist will make us perform it well.





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    • Dr Pran Rangan profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Pran Rangan 

      4 years ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      Thank for appreciating my hub. It will work provided you first achieve a good level of relaxation before putting in suggestions about quitting smoking. The suggestion should be positive and in the present tense like "I am free of the habit of smoking" and "I am a calm person." But use suggestions for one negative behavior at a time. Do many repetitions of the suggestions for 10 minutes daily in the morning and night before sleeping. Don't keep cigarettes at home and in office and try to avoid the company of the people when they are smoking. Above all have faith in yourself.

    • Dana Tate profile image

      Dana Tate 

      4 years ago from LOS ANGELES

      I would love to get rid of my smoking habit which I have tried for years to quit. And my anxiety level. This is a very interesting hub I will try this technique and see if it works for me...thank you for sharing.

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