- Mental Health
Self-Hypnosis - Anyone Can Do It
Scared that We Might Succeed
Well, folks, let me tell you right from the start that hypnotizing yourself is easy; you have been there many times not even realizing it. However, what you may not find so easy is overcoming the fear of success. That's right, fear of success. There are two reasons for this fear.
The first one is stemming from your possible negative image of the state of hypnosis, where "trance" may sound to you like losing control, like opening a door to some unconscious ugly material to surface, which you wouldn't know how to handle. Pondering over these and alike scary thoughts you would still like to master this promising skill, but at the same time you may be scared that you might succeed,
The other reason for fear is that universal fear of change: "What if I suddenly turn so different that I won't know who I am anymore, if my intimate reality changes so much that I lose this sense of identity? And what if I make a bad mistake and I go crazy while I am messing with my mind?
Our ego, that negatively programmed boss consisting of our social self-image and survival strategies doesn't like to lose its power. It likes the status quo, and all our comfort zone, no matter how uncomfortable it may be and crying for a change - is still a comfort of the familiar. People are scared of the unknown, even if it's highly promising to be beneficial.
Are any of those Concerns Justified?
Along all these and other possible concerns, some of you may be wondering if self-hypnosis is suitable for your issues, or your level of mental fitness. Well, let's use some common sense here. If you have a little cut on your hand that a bandage will take care of, you don't go to the doctor for that. But if your cut is so big that you need some stitches, of course that you won't try to fix it yourself.
Likewise, if you want to get rid of a habit, whether physical or emotional, or instill some positive suggestions into your psycho-physical make-up, you can use self-hypnosis without thinking twice about it. But if you have a deep depression, visual or audial hallucinations, urges to hurt yourself or others, or any other strange and extreme deviations from "normal" experiencing - then you won't play with self-hypnosis, just like you wouldn't self-medicate for a serious physical problem.
Other than such extremes, there is nothing that you should worry about. After all, like I said at the beginning, all chances are that you have already been in hypnosis countless times without knowing it - so if it didn't "hurt" you then, it won't hurt you now, with the only difference being that you will be doing it consciously.
The Censor at the Door to Subconscious
Now, assuming that you are one in that great majority of the folks to whom self-hypnosis will be like a cup of tea, you might as well junk all those concerns about "losing control", because you will be in control at all times. To be more specific, the only exception may occur in the beginning, while you are deeply relaxing yourself - that you may drift into natural sleep, which may escape your "control". But as long as you are awake, there is nothing to be worried about regarding losing control.
The main reason for it is our censor, a mental function which operates between our conscious and subconscious fields. Its job is to prevent anything unwanted to slip from conscious field into subconscious, and the other way - it's protecting our precious ego from that gamut of unconscious thoughts, impressions, emotions, that inner chatter that's constantly going on below the surface of our consciousness.
So, even if you would, by accident, give yourself a negative suggestion, that censor would intercept it and make it ineffective. As you may be guessing by now, it is not really our partner in self-hypnosis procedure, since it will block anything at all that sounds "strange" to the status quo, while seeing it as a threat to survival.
That's why we don't succeed to affect our executive subconscious at normal waking state. If you happen to smoke, you can keep telling yourself that you are a non-smoker until you turn blue, but that censor only sees that as an "assault on the status quo", and won't let your suggestion reach your subconscious.
So, as you can see, that's the whole difference between a normal wakeful state and self-hypnosis. By the way, every hypnosis is self-hypnosis, with the only difference that someone else, usually a hypnotist may replace your own suggestions. In either case, the objective of induction is to bypass that censor, to lull it into sleep, or trick it into belief that "status quo is not being compromised". You see, in the eyes of your censor your smoking is treated as a "strategy of survival", just like the rest of the played-in status quo.
The most Important Tip: Keep It Simple
One of the most crucial preconditions of self-hypnosis is your attitude of approaching to it. It has to be so nonchalant as an intent to have a glass of water, so it doesn't disturb your censor. It has to feel ordinary, a routine thing, not anything bombastic like "the beginning of a big change in life", and even the word "hypnosis" and "suggestion" should be avoided.
You are not likely to find this particular tip in books on self-hypnosis, because they are filled with "preparations" which make a big deal out of it and keep your censor at alert. All that deep breathing, and relaxing the body part by part, and some other "techniques" may work for some folks, but I found my own approach to be the most effective for its simplicity.
No mental straining, no concentration, no progressive relaxation, just an attitude of simple acceptance of those suggestions which have to sound the way that I am about to describe next. Forget about anything like a "trance", you don't need it in order to be hypnotized.
Being hypnotized means to be "absorbed", to focus or fixate your attention, and nothing else. You have been there many times, especially as a kid. When we say about kids that they are "impressionable", it really means "highly suggestible", or gullible, or trusting, if you like - meaning that they don't have a very functional censor. Their brain is almost constantly producing theta waves, which are "trance-like", whereas grownups are mostly in busy beta waves, which have to be slowed down to allow self-hypnosis.
When you are all absorbed watching your favorite TV show, to the point that sometimes you don't hear your name being called - you are in hypnosis. Now you know why I insist that you don't make a big deal out of it - just "allow" yourself to be nonchalant and accepting, like a kid, make it simple like drinking a glass of water, not like a "mysterious and unfamiliar trance".
Get Emotionally Engaged
To further help you in creating the right approach to self-hypnosis, let me remind you of that kid's game of make believe. You see, you are about to give yourself some suggestions which are bound to feel unnatural and as such intercepted by your censor as a lie.
So I am telling you - don't try to make it true, don't "convince yourself", but play make believe game, knowing that it's pretending, and by all means - do your best to have fun. Emotional investment is very important. Did you ever see a kid pretending to be a Superman and not enjoying it? He instinctively knew that his fantasy had to be supported by feelings.
The big truism about our subconscious is that it has no discriminating power, and it can't tell the difference between a real and imagined experience. And for as long as we keep our censor convinced that "it is only a make believe game", we can bypass its intervention.
Of course, relaxing in your easy chair with your eyes closed and not being disturbed for a while will help you in your make-believe, or day-dreaming game of self-hypnosis. Then, as you are saying your self-suggestions, mobilize as much enthusiasm as you can around them. Those impressions - whether positive or negative, that carry an emotional charge are most hypnotic.
How to Form Your Self-Suggestions
Please, be realistic with your suggestions. Don't ask your subconscious to turn you into a George Clooney or Natalie Portman, or to lose 20 pounds in a week. Other than that, remember to keep them as short and as simple as possible, said in the present tense, and above all - keep them positive.
Subconscious mind doesn't know about negation, so it won't hear your "not", "never", "without", and alike. For example, if you want to quit smoking, don't say to yourself: "I will never smoke again". Negative may also be a form that sounds unpleasant, like: "Cigarette smoke tastes like a burnt rubber". That may alert your censor.
Instead, say something like: "Since I am free from smoking, it feels so good to inhale fresh, clean air." Then enthuse yourself over that idea by feeling great about it, with some more statements like: "Boy, look at this new energy I got from breathing in clean air! It's like my whole body is celebrating life and new vitality! It's fantastic! I just love this free and flexible breathing!
In a next example, don't say to yourself: "I am never tense in the company of many people around". Say something like: "Suppose I am surrounded by a lot of people, and how would it feel if I just felt relaxed and carefree...very relaxed and carefree. What if I would actually look forward to see all those folks again. Hardly wait to see them again, because it feels so good to have people around. Just suppose it is true, how would it feel?"
Put that gentle Mona Lisa smile on your face, and as much as you can - pretend like a kid, and if you need, remind yourself that "you are not saying all this is true, but you can imagine anything you want". Remember, your subconscious won't see a difference between a detailed and enthusiastic experience in your imagination and a true experience.
Repetition is the key. Someone said that a biggest lie being repeated is bound to become true. Personally I am using a little MP3 player/recorder, and I first carefully write down all my self-suggestions, before reading them into the mike with a diction similar to the one used when we read a lullaby story to a kid.
Half whispering, with lazy ups and downs with a bit of mystery added in the voice. And with every statement I enjoy the imagined reality of already achieved objective. It's fun. It's being a kid all over again, creating my inner world.
For the Last Word
Many books have been written on the subject of self-hypnosis, and now when I think of all that material I find it so unnecessary and complicating the whole matter. While nobody knows why hypnosis works, that doesn't make it mysterious or potentially harmful. Nobody knows why yawning is contagious, but we will pick it up from the next person waiting in a lineup without being concerned "what it may do to us".
Let's keep it simple, folks, because that's how it works the best. Use your imagination, improvise with your voice, with your enthusiastic breathing while you say to yourself how you are imagining yourself to be, not to become. And don't clamp too many different objectives into one session, work on each for about 3 weeks, before switching to the next.
Above all, have fun! Happy sessions to all of you, new self-hypnotists!