Hypnosis and self-hypnosis can reduce your stress levels!
Deep relaxation is an effective treatment for stress, but to deal with problems such as depression, anxiety, lack of confidence and feelings of inferiority you need something more: self-hypnosis. This provides an easy and effective way of changing beliefs about yourself in your subconscious mind, which controls the way you think and feel. First, though, let’s look at what hypnosis is and how it works. Simply telling yourself that you do not feel depressed will not make you feel better because your conscious mind considers and tests the suggestion. It realizes ‘this isn’t true’ and the suggestion is rejected. In hypnosis, however, this critical factor of the conscious mind is switched off so that suggestions can pass straight into the subconscious. Here’s how.
To start with, hypnosis is not really a substitute for conventional methods of “talking therapy” such as counselling, psychotherapy, or shadow work. (You probably know what the first two are, but may be less sure about the third. If so, check it out here.)
When a hypnotherapist treats a client, he or she may ask the client to breathe slowly and deeply, or to keep eyes fixed on one spot. This lessens the critical faculty and helps suggestions pass straight into the client’s subconscious. The hypnotherapist suggests that the client is relaxing more and more, finding it more and more difficult to keep eyes open, that she or he is feeling more and more relaxed. These suggestions, and others designed to solve a problem, can pass unfiltered into the subconscious mind which accepts them to a degree depending on how relaxed the client is. The client must be willing to co-operate, because if he is resistant or unwilling to be hypnotized, the process is more difficult and change occurs more slowly. Although there are other methods of hypnosis, they are all based on this principle. You might well ask what exactly is happening during the ‘switching-off’ of the critical factor. The surprising answer is that no-one really knows. But what we do know is that, first and foremost, a person must be willing to co-operate.
Second, hypnosis is not sleep. Although conscious awareness is reduced, at another level the mind still knows exactly what is going on and no-one can be made to do anything against their will.
Thirdly, suggestions made during hypnosis are acted upon when a person has returned to normal consciousness – this is why it can help overcome emotional and personal problems. Fourthly, everyone can enter hypnosis, although a small number of people have difficulty at first, probably because they have a subconscious fear of not being in control of themselves. However, someone in hypnosis is not in any danger of ‘losing control’ and talking about his innermost secrets and desires. He will do this only if he wants to do so. Equally, whether or not you consciously forget what you have – said or heard during hypnosis depends entirely upon whether or not the therapist (or you) wants this to happen.
Having an idea of what hypnosis consists of, let us now turn to self-hypnosis. The principle is exactly the same as in hypnosis, except that you are your own therapist! But does self-hypnosis actually work, you may say?
Well, it does have its limitations. Some people who have a fear of losing control may need professional help to learn how to induce self-hypnosis, although we shall offer some possible solutions to this later on. And you’ve got to put a bit of effort in!
But on the whole, there is very good evidence that very nearly all emotional problems can be helped by self-hypnosis, and that even when repressed trauma are affecting adult life, self-hypnosis can still help you to change your behavior patterns.
All hypnosis is made up of four steps:
1. Induction of the hypnotic state
2. Therapeutic suggestions to influence the subconscious
3. Suggestions to come back to normal awareness or consciousness
4. Application of the hypnotic suggestions in everyday life
You may have realized already the biggest problem of self-hypnosis. As soon as you make any therapeutic suggestions to yourself, you must use your conscious mind. This alerts your “critical factor” which either brings you back to normal consciousness or rejects the suggestions. The easiest way to overcome this problem is to use a recording – it’s also a pretty effective method of inducing self-hypnosis. You can use any medium onto which you can record a script and then play it back to yourself – preferably through headphones, so you don’t get the background noise.
1: Recording a self-hypnosis script
You simply record the induction, hypnotic and ‘coming out’ suggestions, and then sit or lie down and play the recording to yourself. You’ll undoubtedly be able to go deep enough into hypnosis for any therapeutic suggestions you make on the recording to be highly effective.
The induction technique which suits most people is progressive relaxation. By the way, by far the most important factor in the effectiveness of self-hypnosis therapy is your determination to make it work. Here is the procedure.
You might like to listen to the recording lying full length on a bed, supported as we described for the deep relaxation procedure. Alternatively, you might sit in an easy chair with your back straight and well supported, in which case you have your head balanced upright and your arms resting on the arms of the chair with your fingers slightly apart. Your legs should also be slightly apart, feet flat on the floor in front of you. We’ve always found lying down to be more effective, though.
In either case, the room should be neither too hot nor too cold, too dim nor too bright, and certainly not noisy. You might want to take the phone off and not answer the door; and do pick a time when you’re unlikely to be disturbed. A pair of cushioned headphones which plug into your recorder will keep your recorded message private and shut out external noises.
1. Obtain a something on which you can record the script, and which will allow you to play it back while you relax on a bed or in a comfortable chair.
2. Leave a minute or two blank at the start of the recording so you can settle down, and then record your induction material as shown below. The entire induction procedure should initially take about 15 minutes but can gradually be shortened as you become more expert. (You may thus need to re-record from time to time.) At any stage, the important thing is that you are happy with what you have recorded. It’s good to speak slowly and clearly into the microphone in a tone of voice that suits you!
There’s a self-hypnosis induction script below. You can always add your own suggestions. You may find it helpful to repeat each of sections 4-7 several times, and to pause between each phrase in sections 10 and 11 so that you have time to feel each effect that is mentioned. This script is written as though a therapist was taking you through hypnosis.
Things in square brackets aren’t to be recorded, e.g., [pause].
Self-hypnosis INDUCTION SCRIPT – what you record:
Settle down comfortably and make sure that your head, neck, shoulders, arms and legs are all settled comfortably.
Close your eyes. Start breathing slowly and deeply, and each time that you breathe out, allow yourself to relax more and more.
You will now hear only my voice and feel only what I tell you to feel until after you wake up.
Concentrate on your breathing. Keep up that slow, steady, regular pattern of deep breathing.
And as you breathe out, allow yourself to relax more and more. Don’t concentrate on my words, simply allow yourself to relax. Relaxing peacefully, pleasantly, and comfortably, each time you breathe out.
Each time you breathe out, let yourself relax deeper and deeper. As I continue speaking to you, you will find that you are able to sink down deeper, deeper and deeper. Relax your mind, relax your body, relax your whole nervous system completely. Feel yourself relaxing more and more peacefully, pleasantly and comfortably.
As I continue speaking to you now, your eyelids will become very heavy and tired. And as they become heavier and heavier, and more and more tired, so your mind will become drowsier and more relaxed, letting yourself go utterly and completely, relaxing deeper and deeper, becoming loose and limp everywhere. As your eyelids continue to feel heavier and heavier, your mind continues to become drowsier and drowsier and more relaxed all the time.
[You can substitute the word ‘sleepier’ for ‘more relaxed’ if you prefer, so long as you understand that ‘sleep’ is only a convenient expression – you don’t actually want to go to sleep if you’re trying to use self-hypnosis. Mind you, if you have a sleep problem, maybe you do!]
As you feel your eyelids getting heavier and heavier, they are relaxing more and more, and you know that they are so relaxed they will not open.
Relax, relax, relax.
Concentrate on your right / left [use your dominant hand] hand. In a few seconds, one of the fingers is going to begin jerking a little all by itself or is going to tingle or pulse. Don’t be surprised when this happens, simply accept it and allow it to happen. Don’t try to make it happen, simply relax and let it happen. One of the fingers is now beginning to jerk or tingle. And as it does so, you are allowing your hand to become lighter and lighter, and as it becomes lighter and lighter you are allowing it to rise into the air. As it rises into the air, you accept what is happening and you find your body feels heavier and heavier. Your hand and arm are lighter and lighter, your legs and body heavier and heavier. All the time your hand and arm are rising higher and higher, as though your arm was tied to a balloon.
In a few seconds’ time, I am going to count from five to one, and when I reach one, your arm will suddenly flop and fall on to the bed or chair beside you. As it does so, all tension in your body will go away completely and you will be completely relaxed and calm. And now I am going to count: five – four – three – two – one – completely relaxed, all tension gone away completely.
Now your whole body is relaxing even more deeply than before. To help it relax, imagine that you can feel your muscles getting heavier and heavier, all the time now. Feel your head, neck and shoulders becoming more relaxed and heavy.
Feel this happen. Feel your arms becoming heavy and relaxed. As the feelings of heaviness spread, you know you are relaxing deeper and deeper.
Imagine the muscles of your chest and stomach relaxing. Feel these muscles becoming relaxed and heavy.
You can relax more and more all the time that you are listening to my words. They will act as a very powerful signal helping you to relax more and more all the time now.
You feel relaxation spreading down through your back and legs, making them relaxed and heavy and taking away all tension of every kind.
Relax, Relax, Relax.
Now the feeling of relaxation is spreading to your mind and body and you find it so pleasant and calm that you allow yourself to sink deeper and deeper asleep. In a moment I am going to ask you to take five deep breaths which will relax you and send you even deeper. As you take each deep breath and breathe out, let the feeling of relaxation pass through your whole body and release all tension. When you take the fifth deep breath and exhale, you will relax even more, and all tension in mind or body will go away completely.
[While recording what follows, spread out the words so that the words ‘this tension is all’ can extend over the in-breath and, and the words ‘going away’ over exhalation.]
Now, breathe in deeply and then exhale. As you do so, this tension is all [pause] going away [pause]. Now, breathe in deeply and then exhale. As you do so, this tension is all [pause] going away [pause]. Now, breathe in deeply and then exhale. As you do so, this tension is all [pause] going away [pause]. Now, breathe in deeply and then exhale. As you do so, this tension is all [pause] going away [pause]. Now, breathe in deeply and then exhale. As you do so, this tension has all [pause] gone away completely.
Now my words will act as a powerful signal which will allow you to feel safe, relaxed, comfortable and happy. All the time I am speaking to you, my words will act as a powerful signal making you relax more and more.
You can allow your mind to wander on to any subject which it wants to, but if it does not wander that’s fine as well. Simply continue relaxing mentally and physically until you hear my words bringing you back to the room here and now. If you need to awaken quickly in an emergency, you will always do so.
[That is the induction process. Here is a general treatment for relaxation, stress relief, increased feelings of confidence and well-being. It is recorded in the pleasing tone of voice as the induction process.]
[STAGE 2 – TREATMENT]
You are relaxing deeper and deeper all the time that I am speaking to you. You relax deeply and feel better and refreshed as we continue.
As you relax more and more each time you use this technique, you will find yourself becoming more and more relaxed in everyday life. You feel more calm, more relaxed both physically and mentally. Your mind is clear. People do not upset you as much. As you feel more relaxed, more able to cope, you also find feelings of tension and irritation are going away completely all the time now, and very soon they will have gone away completely.
As the feelings of relaxation spread through your daily life more and more, you will feel more and more self-confident each day.
You will find that you remain much calmer and much less tense, no matter what you are doing. You will find your body and mind are relaxing more and more all the time. Things do not upset you as much.
These improvements develop more and more powerfully with each day that goes by. And if you should happen to feel yourself becoming tense in your body or mind, you can quickly relax by taking five deep breaths, which will always act as a very powerful signal to take away all tension of any kind. As the days go by, you become more relaxed and confident.
You feel less and less tense all the time now. Soon all tension will have gone away completely. You feel more confident and able to cope with life. You can relax and cope quite easily in any situation. Soon you will find yourself feeling calm, relaxed and confident, in all kinds of situations and with all kinds of people, knowing that five deep breaths always takes away all tension of any kind.
Your sleep improves every night now, and every night it becomes more and more refreshing and relaxing. You sleep better and better each time you go to bed. You worry less and less about problems. You worry less and less about not sleeping. You wake up feeling more and more refreshed each morning.
Relax now until I tell you to wake up.
[STAGE 3 – WAKING up (continue the recording as below)]
And each time that you use self-hypnosis, or relaxation, you will relax deeper and deeper. Each time you find yourself going deeper than ever before.
You can do this because relaxation is working well for you, making you feel more confident, relaxed and happy all the time now.
And in a moment, I am going to bring you back to full awareness. You will want to wake up and be able to wake up as I count from one to ten. Starting now.
One, Two. You are gradually coming back into a lighter sleep.
Three, Four. Your body is beginning to regain feeling.
Five, Six. You are waking up more and more all the time now, coming back into a lighter, lighter sleep.
Seven, Eight. You are coming back into a lighter sleep, feeling fine, refreshed and happy.
Nine, Ten. Getting ready to wake up now. Coming back into a lighter sleep, getting ready to open your eyes, feeling refreshed and fine in every way – NOW… NOW … NOW. Open your eyes now, feeling fine in every way, completely relaxed and refreshed.
Video – self hypnosis
HINTS ON INDUCTION
A few people do not like an authoritarian tone of voice and need a ‘permissive’ induction technique which ‘asks for’ the co-operation of the subject. An example of this would be ‘and now I want you to become more relaxed’ instead of ‘and now you are becoming more relaxed’.
There is only one way you can find out – and that is to try it for yourself. People who have trouble going into hypnosis, or those who find it difficult to relax without the security of a therapist, might like to give the conscious mind another task besides concentrating on deep breathing, so that the suggestions on the tape are more readily accepted. You can do this by counting down from five hundred to one while playing your recording.
Don’t make any effort, or try to listen to the tape, but just count down. If you lose your place, just start again at the first number that comes into your mind. As you count down, you start to relax: and it is a wonderful feeling to be deeply relaxed, a very healthy state of being.
However, if you still have difficulty, try autosuggestion.
HINTS ON THE FIVE DEEP BREATHS TECHNIQUE
You can use the five deep breaths during the day as a signal to relieve mental and physical tension. This is because your mind will associate five deep breaths and the words “This tension is all going away” with mental and physical relaxation.
To use the technique:
Stop what you are doing.
Consciously relax as much as possible in mind or body.
Breathe in slowly and deeply while thinking (or, if you prefer, saying):
“This tension is all…” and exhale, allowing yourself to relax as you do so, while thinking “..going away.” REPEAT this four times, and on the fifth change the words to: “This tension has all gone away completely.”
The effectiveness of this procedure depends very much on your concentrating on using it effectively, and not repeating the words quickly and superficially. The more you use the five deep breaths, the more benefit they will be to you. Remember, therefore, to use them as often as possible.