The problem with the word ‘hypnosis’ is thatit’s often used to point to both the way in which the process is induced and its results and methods.
To make matters complicated there’s the fact that all hypnosis is ultimately self-hypnosis. This is becauseit is the individual who is making hypnosis happen, whether a hypnotist is actually guiding the process or not.
Let’s start by explaining what a typical hypnotherapy session consists of. Here follows the main stages of a session:
The Induction is the way hypnosis is created. These can vary greatly. Some hypnotherapists think of the induction as the very beginning of a session when a client is induced into a very light hypnotic state followed by the deepening.
The deepening is often seen as the time when a deeper state of hypnosis is reached.
Other hypnotherapists think of the induction as the part of the session during which a medium state of hypnosis is facilitated in the client and the deepening is either seen as simply part of it or as an optional element that allows the client to enter a deeper state of hypnotic ‘trance’.
I don’t think it is particularly important which way we interpret it, as both understandings produce the same effect.
VARIOUS TECHNIQUES TO ACHIEVE PRE-DECIDED GOALS
After the induction / deepening phase comes the interesting part. This is when various techniques are used to achieve the goals that are pre-determined by the client.
The general public may assume that suggestions are all that is used in this part of the session but this would be a gross oversimplification.
There are a plethora of techniques skilled hypnotherapists use to create change in clients which are more or less interactive.
Hypnotherapy is less a science and more of an art, because each client is different and a good therapist will use specific techniques for specific clients at specific times even if the general procedure might be very similar for similar ailments.
This is to ensure the therapy is well timed and fits the client’s specific personality and needs.
After this part is over the client is guided back to ‘normal conscious awareness’ and helped to transition smoothly to everyday external reality.
This structure is always used in any type of hypnosis although the length of each phase may differ.e that suggestions are all that is used in this part of the session but this would be a gross oversimplification.
The next most useful way I can categorise hypnosis is to divide it into ‘guided’ and ‘unguided’ . Let us look at ‘guided’ hypnosis first.
What is most commonly referred as meditation is unguided meditation, which is what I will explore in this article.
However, there’s a plethora of books and audios out there that offer ‘guided meditations’ or ‘guided visualisations’. Most of these actually fall into the category of informal self hypnosis sessions created by non hypnotists.
Although those authors would never call such material hypnosis, they are for all intents and purposes just that. The only reasons they are often termed "meditations" is because that term is more widely accepted by the general public and has less negative connotations than hypnosis.
The difference between 'guided meditations' and proper self hypnosis is that most of the time the induction is shortened to a few minutes of deep breaths and only a few suggestions are included to induce relaxation. The actual content of the visualisation is usually a multi sensory journey that may or may not follow important rules that only good hypnotherapists know.
If you are serious about working on yourself I would recommend you stay away from these type of ‘meditations’ as they are neither written by professional hypnotherapistsnor by experienced meditators. What I would call a proper guided meditation is simply a meditation that is guided by either a teacher in person or pre recorded on an audio recording or even an app.
These meditations instruct you on how to practice in a similar way a guided self hypnosis recordings would, except the content of the meditation greatly differs from a hypnotic audio. Now let’s now have a look at the different types of unguided meditation techniques that exist.
If you want to succeed in anything in life you need to know how to influence your mind. You need to know how to make your mind do what you want it to do, not what you don’t.
Have you ever noticed how we are surrounded by messages like 'Don't drink and drive' 'Don't forget your passport' 'Don't touch the button! 'Don't eat junk!'And how many times have you have ended up doing the very thing you were told not to? Why is that? The answer lies in understanding how the mind processes information.
For many years I have tried to explain to my clients how to successfully influence their mind but only recently I have come across an explanation that is both simple and accurate. I will borrow and adapt Marisa Peer's framework to make it very clear how to effectively communicate with your own mind.
If you are depressed chances are you have been told at least one of the following:
Depression is a disease
Depression is a just a chemical imbalance
Depression is genetic
The best cure for depression is antidepressants
It takes years of therapy to treat depression
Your mother or father might have been depressed, your antidepressants may not be working, you may have been told you just have a chemical imbalance and there is nothing you can do to help yourself. I have encountered many people with depression in both my practice and in my personal life and having suffered from it myself and having been close to suicide at one point, I know what it is like to feel trapped in a nightmare with no end in sight.
The good new is it is possible to overcome depression, no matter how long you've had it or what anybody else has said to you about it. Although depression causes a chemical imbalance, that is the consequence and not the cause of it. Although it is more likely that you will suffer from it if someone close to you has had it that is not because it is a genetic disease but because you have learnt how to think in a depressive way from those who are close to you.
The truth about depression is that you can beat it. It may not be an easy peasy process but it is most certainly possible and the first step is to choose to believe that you can.
Do you want to have fulfilling relationships with friends?
Do you want to get along more easily with work colleagues?
Do you want to connect with more people?
You care. And yet sometimes it doesn't seem like people know that. You don't want to feel alone and isolated but that's how you end up feeling a little too often. You don't understand how it seems to easy for some to make friends and have great relationships and so hard for you. Do they know something you don't or are they simply born that way?
It may be easier for some to forge new relationships than for others. Perhaps they are less shy and more extroverted. However this does not predict whether those relationships will last long term or whether they would be truly satisfying to those involved. The quality of your relationships in the long run is more important than their quantity. And the quality of a relationship is measured by the quality of the connection you have together.
A true connection with someone is a vital experience that you feel in your whole being. Cultivating connection takes skill, and skills take time effort and commitment to develop. Let's have a look at what gets in the way of true connection and what enhances it.
Do you feel like there is more to life but struggle to find out what that is?
Do you feel like you are underachieving and you are not living up to your potential?
Do you feel confused, unclear, almost as if life is a puzzle and you just can't seem to find the missing piece?
Perhaps you have a habit of going in one direction only to give up halfway and try something else or maybe you stay put and don't venture into the new because you're not sure if it'd be the right thing for you. You wish you were like those people that knew what they wanted to do in life since childhood. You wonder if perhaps you are just different from everyone else and there is no point in even trying but you don't want to give up just yet.
You are aware that it's important to set goals but the idea of doing that makes you feel anxious or perhaps even angry. How do you set a goal if you haven't got a clue what you want? Goals may seem arbitrary or superficial or you worry you would get it wrong and then find yourself hating the direction you've chosen. Maybe you want to have no doubts before you start so you risk failure less. If only there was something you could do to clear the brain fog and actually be sure of yourself...
You may think you are alone in this but the truth is a lot of people go through this before finding clarity. So how did they find the answer that allowed them to move on? They stopped trying to find their direction in a rational way and instead connected to their heart's desire. Here's how.
Do you set goals but give up as soon as the going gets tough? Do you find it difficult to stay motivated and give up on yourself as soon as you hit an obstacle?
Perhaps you have decided to learn a language or maybe you want to lose weight or you want to save money for a trip. Maybe you want to write a book or kick a bad habit or have a better social life. No matter what your goal is though, as soon as you encounter a difficulty you feel deflated and find it hard to stay the course.
Maybe you are excited about finally writing that book but when you look at the blank page nothing seems to come out and you feel deflated. Or maybe you want to get fit but you haven't been to the gym for so long that the exercises seem way too hard so you never go back. Or maybe you decide to learn to play guitar but after the first few lessons you realise there is so much more to learn than you expected and it feels just too overwhelming to continue.
It doesn't matter what the goal is. Sometimes you take a few steps forward but end up stalling. Other times you don't start at all. You say to yourself: "maybe I just don't have what it takes... I am too lazy, old, unfit, stupid etc. Other people seem to have it so much easier than you and you don't know why. You wish there was an easy way to just skip ahead and get it done but you don't know how.
After a few times of going through this pattern you start to feel nervous about trying something new, worrying that you might fail again. If you soon don't stick to your goals you will never achieve anything of value - you say to yourself. You will never be able to learn French, run that marathon, start your own business, ask a woman out. You are afraid you might never make that dream come true and that just feels depressing.
You know what? You aren't alone. Believe me, I have been there, plenty of times. The good news is there is a way to get past your struggle. Your goal may at times feel like an unattainable dream but they may be closer than you think. Let me show you how to stick to your decisions and overcome challenges even when it feels like an impossible feat.
Have you ever thought: "if I stop comparing myself to others then I'll never improve?" Me too. It makes sense right? The problem with this line of reasoning is that when you try to better yourself by comparing yourself to others, you will always end up finding an area in which you fall short. We tend to see what we are looking for and even if you didn't fall in the trap of assuming others are better than you without checking there's bound to be something another is better than you at.
As a result, you can feel deflated, demotivated and even give up before trying. Even in the best case scenario, youwill spend the energy you could have put to good use by improving your skills feeling sorry for yourself instead. It sounds like a losing game doesn't it?
So do yourself a favor: only compare yourself to yourself yesterday, a week ago, last year. And here's the trick: focus on where you have improved, not where you fall short.
It seems that is the true quest of every human being on earth. Sometimes success is defined in terms of happiness. The American Declaration of Independence even states that happiness is man's inalienable right.
But why is it so important to be 'happy'?
Well, first of all, it goes without saying that life is already complicated enough without the added burden of moodiness and sadness. Also, it is scientifically proven that elation triggers hormones that are essential when it comes down to proper metabolic function and well-being. Also, when someone is happy their positive side is brought to the fore and problems become easier to solve.
On the other hand issues such as poverty, oppression and stress do exist. There are still many places where abuse is a commonplace occurrence and where people still die victims of hunger and violence. Are we advocating we just close our eyes to these and pretend they do not exist? Certainly not. On the other hand, dwelling on problems and becoming depressed by them has never helped anyone.
The American Psychological Association states that teenagers as young as fourteen begin experiencing depression at least once a year until they are thirty. Human beings have a tendency towards negativity because often negative events and feelings carry more weight than contentedness and joy. As a result, a lot of us experience sadness that continues to influence us long after the triggering episode has gone. This, in turn, increases our risk of developing illnesses such as chronic heart failure, cerebrovascular accidents, apnea, and migraine.
So perhaps we can all agree that it would be better to be happy than not. But then, a question springs to mind:
What does it mean to be happy?
Happiness is sometimes defined as a state of mental well-being characterised by positive emotions which can vary between contentment and joy. Another way to understand happiness is in terms of a way of life, rather than an emotion. It is hard to pin the concept down because happiness means different things to different people. Sometimes we are happy because we are confronted with unexpected positive events. Other times we are happy because we feel accepted and loved by others.
Some psychologists have attempted to explain happiness: Seligman, for example, though humans are most happy when they experience Pleasure (such as good food, warm baths etc) , Engagement (also called 'flow' which is feeling absorbed in an enjoyable yet challenging activity) Relationships, Meaning ( a sense of belonging to or a quest for something bigger than themselves) and Accomplishments (having realised tangible goals)
Maslow, the founder of humanistic psychology, understood happiness in terms of a hierarchy of needs shaped in the form of a pyramid.
At the bottom of the pyramid, we have our basic needs that must be fulfilled at all costs. When we fulfill them we attain a basic level of happiness.
After that we ascend to 'higher' needs and a higher, more fulfilling sense of happiness is found. We proceed this way until we reach the last level where 'peak experiences' of profound love and understanding are felt.
When we reach the self-actualisation levelwe feel more whole, more alive, self-sufficient and yet part of the bigger world around us. This is the highest state of 'happiness' that we can experience.
Can we be happy all the time?
According to this model, we can't be happy all of the time and we shouldn't expect to be. Happiness depends on needs being fulfilled, therefore until they are fulfilled we can expect unhappiness. Surely, this model is useful to understand ourselves better and to aspire to have our needs met at different levels as we proceed in life.
However, there is something to be said about how a positive attitude of mind can help us fulfill our needs quicker because if we feel good about where we're at in the present, we cope more effectively with the circumstances we find ourselves in while aspiring to better them.
If we see happiness as an attitude of mindwe might find that our needs get fulfilled quicker and that we can feel reasonably happy despite all the negativity that surrounds us and despite not having attained just yet the highest levels of self-actualisation.
How do we foster a happy attitude?
A good attitude is half talent half habit. Like some people are born with a talent for music so some people struggle with it. However, anyone can become a reasonably good musician if they put enough effort and practice into it. In the same way, a good attitude is the product of a positive habitual way of thinking, which might be partly inherited from good parents and partly learned and acquired.
So if your parents were negative and you were brought up, like most of us, in a society that thrives on fostering insecurity for economic reasons there is still hope for you. Luckily for all of us, our mind is extremely pliable and versatile and can learn new habits throughout our lives. It is never too late to change unless of course, you tell yourself it is.
I have found that the first step towards change is gratitude. We could spend all of our time focusing on what is missing but if we do that we will only attract more of the same. This is not because of magic. It simply is a psychological reality: whatever we tell ourselves we create in our minds. And whatever we think produces an effect in feelings and actions. These, in turn, are reflected back to us by others and create more of the same. The tricky thing is to think about what we want, not about what we don't want, because our 'irrational' mind does not understand negatives. To illustrate: if I said to you "don't think of pink elephants!" what are you thinking about?
When we focus on what we have and not on what we don't have and we are grateful for it (we feel positive about it) we are more likely to attract more of it. This is because not only we subtly inform our subconscious of what we want more of, but also we project a positive attitude to others and the world is more likely to respond positively to people who are positive rather than to people who complain. This doesn't mean that we should just accept our lot and be content with it. But if we accept where we are, trying to see the opportunity rather than the flaw, we are more likely to have the energy to progress beyond it.
Therapy, Coaching or Self Help?
So what if you want to get some support to learn how to change the way you think so your mind can be your best friend rather than your worst enemy?
The first step towards wholeness is the hardest and if you have read this far you are already well on the way to overcoming the tallest hurdle in your way. At the end of the day, the best help we can get is the one we give to ourselves. Even when we ask others to help us, we need to want to help ourselves first.
So with this attitude in mind, taking responsibility for our own well-being, we can read a whole array of books on the subject but If this proves not to be enough or we want some extra support we have a few options.
Holistic hypnotherapy, combined with NLP and Coaching could be the way for you to go. Or you could go on a self-development course or a self-hypnosis class. Alternatively, you may want to find a humanist psychotherapist or perhaps a CBT counselor. Or perhaps you could combine these to suit your needs. What is important is to listen to yourself, and to go with what feels right.
So begin your journey now by expressing gratitude to yourself for being the sort of person to even read this article! Give yourself a pat on the shoulders: well done for caring enough about yourself to be interested in self-development! You are already close to finding your way to live a happier more fulfilling life!
Brene is a researcher professor at the University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work, where she has spent the past ten years studying a concept that she calls Wholeheartedness, posing the questions: How do we engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to embrace our imperfections and to recognize that we are enough — that we are worthy of love, belonging and joy? Brené is the author of I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power (2007) and the forthcoming books, The Gifts of Imperfection (2010) and Wholehearted: Spiritual Adventures in Falling Apart, Growing Up, and Finding Joy ( 2011).