Hope is the belief that people and circumstances can improve; it’s the idea that life can get better. Although I believe hope is necessary, helpful, and beneficial, it’s not always not enough to help you achieve your therapeutic goals.
Imagine a volume control knob. When the knob is turned to the right, the volume increases. I view hypnosis and self-hypnosis as a form of hope enhancement. Hypnosis may be able to help “turn up” the intensity of the hope you feel, strengthening the belief that you and your circumstances can improve.
If you hope to feel different or improve your health, you must also do something different. Whether you hope things will go your way, go away, or come your way, that hope must be grounded in real effort to propel you toward your goals. Between hoping and having, some doing is required. The formula I use to express this model is:
Hoping + Hypnosis + Doing = Increased Odds of Having
Mental Imagery, Visualization, and Hypnosis
When conducting therapy, psychologists, counselors, social workers, and hypnotherapists often use imagery-based techniques. This technique is used to help people reduce, manage, or eliminate symptoms of anxiety, depression, grief, fear, and phobias. It can help with smoking cessation and weight loss, stress management and relaxation training, as well as improving relationships.
Brain scans and other instruments show that mental imaging activates many of the same parts of the brain as those that would be active if what you were imagining was occurring physically. The processes of hypnosis, trance, suggestion, self-talk, and mental imagery mobilize many of the same areas of the brain that would be used if you were physically engaged in these activities. For example, imagining you are playing the piano can help create or reinforce certain pathways in the brain associated with that activity.
Studies demonstrate that mental imagery can affect nearly every major system in the body. Imagery has been used to help with immunity, stroke rehabilitation, and with preparation and post-recovery processes associated with various medical and dental procedures. In the field of sports psychology, the use of mental imagery is widely accepted as an effective method for improving athletic performance.
Suggestibility is a feature of trance and a natural human characteristic. Widely used in education, worship, politics, advertisements, persuasion, and human relations, suggestibility is necessary for learning and change.There is no single, universally accepted definition of hypnosis. My view of hypnosis is practical. I see clinical hypnosis as an effective means for helping achieve a therapeutic end. It is a process for entering an altered state of awareness and enhanced suggestibility where learning, change, and personal growth may happen more easily, quickly, deeply, and permanently.
Hypnosis is based on the concept that when your eyes are closed, the brain slows down a little and begins to slightly shift electrical activity. When the brain slows down, a trance-like state can occur. Trance refers to the state of mind commonly experienced while listening to certain music, meditating, watching a boring lecture, daydreaming, driving long distances on the freeway, or undergoing formal hypnotic induction.
This state often makes it easier to learn and experience things differently. Hypnosis, trance, and altered states of awareness are very common. We move in and out of these experiences many times daily.
What Hypnosis Is and Is Not
Many people have concerns about hypnosis. These reservations are often based on commonly held misconceptions, which frequently originate from events portrayed in media or watching the performance of a stage hypnotist. Professional use of clinical hypnosis is conducted differently than how it appears in these contexts.
Hypnosis is not about going to sleep, losing control, doing something against your will, or acting gullibly. There is no barking like a dog or clucking like a chicken; behaviors like these are strictly for entertainment and bear little resemblance to therapeutic clinical hypnosis.
Hypnosis, or trance, is a natural state of mind that you already know how to evoke. You don’t go to sleep, nor do you lose control. You can often recall everything that was said. Suggestibility is a feature of trance and a natural human characteristic. Widely used in education, worship, politics, advertisements, persuasion, and human relations, suggestibility is necessary for learning and change.
Here is a simple technique I often recommend for practice at home:
Sit down in a quiet spot. Close your eyes, relax, and imagine being in a safe, comfortable place. For 5 to 10 minutes, use your thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and imagination to contemplate and daydream about what you hope to achieve.
The more you practice, the more you can expect to improve your ability to use the hope-enhancing power of hypnosis to facilitate your therapeutic goals.
The Fortune Cookie
A fortune cookie reads, “The first step to better times is to imagine them.” To this advice, I would add: your first step to better times—to better health and to feeling better about yourself—is to use your ability to close your eyes. Imagine being in a place where you feel safe, calm, and relaxed, and enter an altered state of awareness where you are more suggestible. Then use select memories, self-talk, emotions, and imagination to envision what you desire.
Are you interested in learning more about how to practice self-hypnosis? Connect with a licensed therapist or counselor who can help you maximize the hope-enhancing benefits of hypnosis.
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