Many years ago, I visited a hypnotist and paid a lot of money I could not really afford. I wanted to lose weight,had become desperately self-conscious and unhappy; so unhappy that I rarely went out socially. In retrospect, I realize that I had allowed myself to be influenced by societal norms regarding the ideals of female 'beauty'. But at the time, I sought any means, apart from taking control myself, to help me attain the unattainable - a perfect shape.
The hypnotist sat me in a chair, facing towards a window from which I could see the sunset. He positioned himself behind me and talked. I was totally aware of every sound, texture and colour in that room, but for the life of me, I cannot remember a single word he said - until the session ended. He told me I was a very good 'subject', gave me a video tape full of subliminal messages, the gist of which indicated that I had the will power to avoid and refuse 'bad' foods. He gave me an audio tape, more useful as a relaxation tool, I must admit.
Of course I did not lose weight, simply because I had given over power to this total stranger and imbued those tapes with magical properties. I had no understanding of my own resources, my personal abilities. Because that is what self-hypnosis is, a tool to harness the power of one's own mind and use it to improve many aspects of life. Like a bolt of lightning, I discovered that truth while attending a training consultants' course. There, I was introduced to the wonder of creative visualization and how to use it in self-hypnosis. Two strategies for the price of one, and both easy to learn and practice effectively.
STRATEGIES: The most important first step is relaxation. To bring this about, you need to give yourself time and a private space. Lie or sit down in a cool, well ventilated room, wearing loose, comfortable clothing; I find lying on my bed works best. Next, find something to focus on; the handle on a cupboard, the topmost right-hand corner, anything that helps to erase intrusive thoughts and clear the mind. Or focus by using a mantra, as in meditation, a soft repetitive sound on which to concentrate.
Beginning at your toes, tense then relax your muscles, working up the body to the head and neck. Be aware of the reduction in tension as you relax all the muscles in turn. Breathe in through your mouth, then out through your nose, then reverse this every other breath for about 10 breathing sequences. Now call to mind an image of peace and calm. It may be a riverbank on a summer evening, a cosy room with a wood fire and a mug of hot chocolate, a beach at sunrise - whatever brings you pleasure to imagine.
Picture yourself in that place, fill in all the details, the colours, scents, sounds and good feelings. Now you are relaxed, and all stressful thoughts or everyday worries are of no importance. By visualization, you have created the ideal situation for self-hypnosis - for whatever reason you want. In fact, with your mind and body, you have actually hypnotized yourself to a relaxed trance. At the same time, be aware of how your breathing is calm and controlled, your limbs relaxed and fluid, your heart beating rhythmically.
Already the physical signs and effects of stress are diminished and you are ready to hypnotize yourself with either thought or spoken affirmations. In this state, your brain function is optimized, your subconscious is receptive to whatever ideas to want to implant so as to make positive changes in your life. Anything is possible, from raising low self-esteem, to managing the behaviour of a 'difficult' colleague. Repetition and self-belief will help implant your desired purpose and outcomes. I know this works, I have changed many things over the years, including that weight, self-image and a relationship with an aggressive boss. And all by spending 20 minutes a day, alone and entranced.
BENEFITS: The outstanding benefit is stress reduction, so positively affecting mental and physical well being. After only a few weeks of practice, you can call up the special image or place you created, the relaxation response. This, with a few deep breaths to oxygenate the blood and feed the brain, will enable you to handle stressful situations, which as we know, are detrimental to health.
Next, I believe confidence grows with the knowledge that you can harness the power of your mind in order to affect positive changes. For example, you might have implanted the idea that walking is good, and you find yourself taking more exercise. Or, that person at work who has undermined you for years no longer has any power over you, because you now believe that you are a worthwhile person, deserving consideration and respect.
Taking time out for self-hypnosis has the other great benefit of putting things into perspective. Through the practice, you can consciously decide what is important, put your thoughts and life in order, using the power of the subconscious mind.
Self-hypnosis is also a great way to manage pain. I use it at the dentist, when a dreaded filling looms. I do the "tense-relax" muscle work out, then concentrate on my big toes. I visualize their shape, how the nails grow, what colour polish to put on, I wriggle them. I breathe and am aware of my breathing. I put my focus on how those toes are so comfortable and painless, sticking out at the bottom of my legs in that dentist's chair. I tell myself silently that soon I will use those toes when I am walking away from here. This definitely diffuses the pain or discomfort of the injections, drill and general poking around in my mouth.
Finally, it has to be said that self-hypnosis has no adverse side effects, in the way that some drugs or herbal medications might have. It has many positive benefits that not only help you, the practitioner, but spill over into your everyday relationships. A relaxed and confident mother or father, an assertive, competent worker, a thoughtful, self-aware partner, a healthier, happier person. All these characters will emerge when you develop the skill of self-hypnosis. Go on, give yourself a talking-to, you will be pleased with the results.
References for Further Reading:
Chaitow, Leon (2002) Conquer Pain the Natural Way Pages 36-72. Published by Duncan Baird Publishers, London.
Headache Pain Control Facilitated Through Self-Hypnosis apes (2008) Available from:
Scott, E, (2005) Using Self-Hypnosis for Stress Management