SELF-HYPNOSIS FOR STRESS
A few weeks ago, I was feeling particularly overwhelmed with stress and anxiety. It seemed like anything that could go wrong, did go wrong. I felt like I was spinning out of control.
I happened to be writing a book on yoga and meditation at the time and came across a website that offered a downloadable mp3 hypnotic relaxation session. It cost me about $20 and it was the best $20 I have ever spent!
There are plenty of places on the internet where you can get these downloadable sessions for a small fee. However, you can also practice self-hypnosis on your own.
You first need to find a quiet place where you can fully relax and listen to your inner voice. You shouldn’t TRY to make something happen. Let your mind listen and relax. A large part of achieving that hypnotic state is to allow it to happen naturally.
Also, don’t watch for certain signs or signals that you might be in a hypnotic state. We can guarantee that if you look for these signs, you won’t be able to fully relax and gain the benefits of self-hypnosis.
There are lots of different ways to experience hypnosis. No two people will have exactly the same experience. In one respect, though, everyone has the same experience: the hypnotic state is always pleasant! There are no “bad trips” in hypnosis. Keep in mind that self-hypnosis is a skill, and that you will continue to get better at it and, as you do, it becomes ever more powerful.
It’s a good idea to set up a schedule of practice, allowing yourself anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes, depending on how busy you are and how much time you have to spend at it. Practice during the best part of your day if you can and at a time when you are least likely to be disturbed by others.
Most people find it best to practice lying down, in a comfortable position, with as few distractions as possible. If you are bothered by noise while you practice you can try to mask out the noise with some other source of sound.
You can try stereo music in the background, or white noise if you like. If like most people you don’t have a white noise generator, try tuning a radio receiver between stations. The static you get when you do that is similar to white noise. However this takes an older or cheaper FM receiver without a noise suppressor. Sometimes AM tuners can be used for this. This should just be in the background and not too loud to be distracting.
The basic divisions of a hypnotic induction are relaxation, deepening, suggestion application, and termination.
Your first job in the hypnotic induction is to slow the juices down and get yourself relaxed. But don’t try to force your mind to relax (whatever that means)! If you get yourself physically relaxed, your mind will follow.
Relaxation – really deep relaxation – is an ability that most people have either lost or never developed. Some people can do it quite easily, though. They just let go of their tensions and let every part of their body become limp and relaxed. If you are one of these people, begin your self-hypnosis practice by getting nicely relaxed. Take your time. This is not something you want to rush.
The time involved for the relaxation phase of your self-hypnosis induction can vary from half an hour to just a few seconds. It is an important part of the induction and should not be slighted. As you get better and your skill increases you will recognize deeply relaxed states, and you will be able to achieve them in a surprisingly short time. But as a beginner, take your time. It will be time well spent.
A very popular method of deep relaxation is the Jacobson Progressive Relaxation procedure. This involves tensing each of the major muscle groups of your body (foot and lower leg on each side, upper leg and hip, abdomen, etc.). Tense the muscle group for a few seconds, then let go.
2. Deepening Procedures
Once you have completed the relaxation phase of your self-hypnosis induction procedure, you can begin to deepen the relaxed state. At some time between the deep relaxation and the deepening procedures you will move into a hypnotic state. You probably won’t know it, especially as a beginner, but it will happen sooner or later.
One of the first hurdles a beginner must get over is the compulsion to “watch for it.” That is, you will keep waiting for hypnosis to happen, for some change in your awareness or the way you feel that will say to you, “You’re hypnotized.”
Watching for hypnosis will definitely get in your way if you don’t get it out of your mind. Going into a hypnotic state is, in this respect, similar to going to sleep. If you try to catch yourself going to sleep – if you try to be aware of the precise instant in which you actually go to sleep – you are much less likely to go to sleep. “Watching” keeps you awake.
In this same way you will not know when you go into a hypnotic state (but that won’t be because you lost consciousness – you won’t). Later, after you have been practicing regularly for a few weeks or a month or two, you’ll be much more familiar with yourself and how it feels to be hypnotized.
Does it take everyone weeks or even months to get into a good hypnotic state? Definitely not. Some people have an amazing experience the very first time they try it. Others might practice for several days, noticing nothing, then out of the blue they have one of those great induction sessions in which they know something stupendously good happened. But if you happen not to be one of these people, don’t worry about it. Just keep practicing and you will eventually get there.
One of the most popular deepening procedures is the count-down technique. Hollywood also likes this one. That is why you see it in so many movies. That and the swinging watch.
To use the count-down technique you simply start counting downward from, say, 20 (or 100, or whatever). Adjust the countdown number to whatever feels right to you after you have practiced a few times. Imagine that you are drifting deeper with each count. Other images and thoughts will probably intrude themselves as you count. That is natural. Just gently brush them aside, continuing with your counting.
The speed with which you count down should be natural; not too fast, not too slow. For most people this means counting at a rate of about one count for each two or three seconds. Do it at a rate that feels comfortable and relaxed to you. Some people like to tie the count with their breathing. As they drift deeper their breathing slows down, so their counting also slows down.
Don’t count out loud, just think your way down the count. You want to avoid as much physical involvement and movement as possible.
3. Suggestion Application in self-hypnosis
Once you have reached the end of your deepening procedure you are ready to apply suggestions. What you have done during the relaxation and deepening procedures is increase your suggestibility. That is, you have opened up your subconscious mind at least a little bit to receive your suggestions. This works because of the particular, and peculiar, characteristics of the subconscious part of your mind.
The most common and easiest way to apply suggestions is to have them worked out ahead of time, properly prepared and worded, and memorized. It should not be too difficult to remember them because they should be rather short and you are the one who composed them. If you have them ready and remembered, you can simply think your way through them at this point.
Dialogue, or more properly monologue, is also okay. You just talk (“think” to keep your effort to a minimum) to yourself about what it is you want to do, be, become, whatever.
Don’t say “you.” You are thinking to yourself, so use the first person personal pronoun “I.” Some suggestions can be succinctly stated in a somewhat more formal sort of way, like, “I am eating less and becoming more slender every day.”
Elaborated suggestions are generally wordier and more of an ad lib: “Food is becoming less important to me every day and I am filling my time with more important and meaningful pursuits than eating. It is getting easier and easier to pass up desserts and other fattening foods . . .” and so on.
Generally speaking, the most effective kind of suggestion is image suggestion. Image suggestions usually do not use language at all. You can liken this to seeing yourself in a calm, relaxed state while in the middle of a chaotic situation. Actually see yourself in your mind’s eye.
Although people sometimes see immediate results from their suggestions, it is more likely to take a little time for them to kick in. So don’t be impatient. On the other hand, if you have not begun to see some results within, say, a couple of weeks, you need to change your suggestions.
Once you have finished applying suggestions you are through with your induction and you can terminate your session. You could just open your eyes, get up and go about your business, but that is not a good idea.
You should formally identify the end of every session. By doing this you provide a clear boundary between the hypnotic state and your ordinary conscious awareness. A clear termination also prevents your self-hypnosis practice session from turning into a nap. If you want to take a nap, take a nap. But don’t do it in a way that sleeping becomes associated with self-hypnosis practice.
If you are practicing at bedtime and don’t care if you go on to sleep, that is okay. But still draw the line in your mind to indicate the end of your self-hypnosis session.
To terminate the session, think to yourself that you are going to be fully awake and alert after you count up to, say, three.
“One, I’m beginning to come out of it, moving toward a waking state. Two, I’m becoming more alert, getting ready to wake up. Three, I’m completely awake.” Something like that.
Self-hypnosis can work wonders when it is practiced on a regular basis. You’d be amazingly surprised at the level of relaxation you can get to. It’s one of the best things I ever did for myself!
Now we should move on to stress management techniques in general. This could be a long chapter, but a very, very helpful one!