What You Should Know About Self Hypnosis
Hypnosis is a state of heightened focus and suggestibility. Ideas for self-improvement (suggestion) may be presented while under hypnosis that can be acted upon. A hypnotist can perform hypnosis or an individual can create the state themselves (self -hypnosis).
In both cases, it is the individual being hypnotized that decides whether or not to act upon any suggestions. So, all hypnosis is really self hypnosis. You can enter into the hypnotic state only when you are completely ready to do so. It may require one or several attempts to achieve. Some people outwardly express the desire to be hypnotized, but resist hypnosis unconsciously.
You might find that even though you’re anxious to achieve self hypnosis, somehow the state eludes you. Why would that be? Most commonly, some people achieve the hypnotic state without realizing that they have. That may be surprising, but we will discuss it in detail a little later on.
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It is rare to find somebody that can’t be hypnotized. Only about one percentage of the population will fall into that category. Who among us is not influenced by suggestion? Aren’t we all, as we have seen, influenced by the suggestions of advertising and popular culture? Don’t we all have a tendency to believe what we hear on the radio or see on television or the internet? Aren’t we all convinced that a name-brand product is usually better than the generic version?
Suggestion plays a tremendously important role in our daily lives. It begins from naming the baby with an appropriate name to securing a suitable place to be buried. I would like to call your attention to a fascinating book dealing with the unconscious reasons why we do many of the things that we do. You will be intrigued with every page of this classic book. It is called The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard.
We are all suggestible and, therefore, being hypnotized or hypnotizing ourselves is just a matter of increasing the suggestibility that we already possess. Doesn’t the hypnotist begin by suggesting relaxation? Doesn’t he usually begin by requesting the subject to fix his attention on a particular object? Next, he suggests to the subject that his eyes are becoming heavy and tired. As soon as the subject closes his eyes, he suggests that he will be in a deep hypnotic state. I’m sure that you are familiar with this procedure. With each step, the hypnotist is guiding the subject along directed lines to get him to accept further suggestions without question or doubt. When the subject achieves the ultimate state in this procedure, he has been hypnotized. He then accepts suggestions without equivocation.
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Let us continue with this same thought. Suppose I say to you, “I’m going to stick you with this pin. It won’t hurt.” Would you let me stick you with the pin? Obviously not. Let us suppose that you have been hypnotized and I repeat the same suggestion. What happens then? You readily accept the suggestion as being factual. Should I proceed to stick you with the pin, you do not even flinch. In fact, you do not even feel the pain. Does this sound incredible? Isn’t this exactly the same procedure that the dentist uses with his patient when he has hypnotized him for the purpose of painless dentistry?
Achieving hypnosis, therefore, is a matter of directing this suggestibility that we all possess into the channels that will finally produce the hypnotic state. It can be much more complicated than this explanation in many cases, but let us use this as a working premise.
Everyone can be hypnotized. The time required for achieving hypnosis will vary from subject to subject. We will discuss some of the reasons for this in a subsequent chapter, but for our discussion at this time we need to understand this point. I have encountered numerous individuals who were extremely disappointed because they did not respond to hypnosis immediately or after several attempts. They wanted to know “what was wrong.” An explanation that nothing was wrong somehow did not satisfy these individuals. “After all,” they argued, “didn’t I go to a hypnotist especially to be hypnotized?” Some insinuated that perhaps the hypnotist wasn’t too good.
Let me explain that most subjects need to be conditioned for hypnosis, and this conditioning is helped when the subject practices certain conditioning exercises that I shall discuss in detail in chapter six, titled “How To Attain Self-Hypnosis.” In my teaching, I have found that about one out of ten subjects responds to the first attempt at hypnosis. One cannot make a definite statement as to the length of time necessary to learn self-hypnosis, but it is my experience that this usually takes about one month. I have had subjects learn self-hypnosis in about 30 minutes, but I must also relate that I have worked with subjects for one year before they achieved it.
For the most part, the laws of learning apply to self-hypnosis as with anything else that one would want to learn. It can be a relatively simple procedure, or it can be very perplexing. The answer lies not so much with the hypnotist as with the subject.
One question that arises is: “If I’m under hypnosis, how can I give myself suggestions?” During the hypnotic state, it must be remembered, the subject is always aware of what is going on. He hears what is said, follows directions and terminates the state when told to do so. In the self-hypnotic state, the subject is in full control. Therefore, he can think, reason, act, criticize, suggest or do whatever he desires. He can audibly give himself suggestions, or he can mentally give himself suggestions. In either case, he does not rouse from the hypnotic state until he gives himself specific suggestions to do so. Many feel if they audibly give themselves suggestions, they will “awaken.” In hypno-analysis, the subject answers questions during the hypnotic state. Having the subject talk does not terminate the state. You can keep the talkative subject under hypnosis as long as you want. Furthermore, the subject can be sitting erect with his eyes open and still be under hypnosis. Carrying this further, the subject may not even be aware that he is under hypnosis. He can be given a cue not to remember when the therapist makes a certain motion or says a certain word that he will go back into the hypnotic state but still keep his eyes open. Only an experienced hypnotist could detect the change.
Another frequent question is: “How do I arouse myself from the self-hypnotic state?” You merely say to yourself that upon counting to five you will open your eyes and wake up feeling fine. Many times the subject falls asleep while giving himself posthypnotic suggestions. This is not undesirable since the suggestions will spill over into the subconscious mind as he goes from consciousness to unconsciousness.
A popular opinion about hypnosis is that the subject surrenders his will to the hypnotist in the process of being hypnotized. Furthermore, many believe that once the subject is hypnotized, the hypnotist has complete control of the subject and the subject is powerless to resist suggestion. Both beliefs are erroneous. I believe the first misconception comes from seeing techniques where the hypnotist requests the subject to look into his eyes. The hypnotist suggests to the subject that as he continues to look into his eyes he will fall into a deep hypnotic state. This, then, becomes a matter of who can outstare whom. The subject usually begins to blink his eyes and the hypnotist follows this up with rapid suggestions that the subject’s eyes are becoming watery and heavy and that the subject will fall into a deep hypnotic sleep just as soon as he (the subject) closes his eyes. This procedure gives the impression to the observer that the subject is “willed” to go under hypnosis. It appears that once the hypnotist concentrates or wills sufficiently, the subject succumbs. Actually, the hypnotist in this technique is not looking into the eyes of the subject. He fixes his attention on the bridge of the nose of the subject.
The concept that the subject is a helpless automaton stems from the weird movies where the “mad scientist” has hypnotized subjects into behaving like zombies. Naturally, there is usually a beautiful girl in the movie and she, too, has been hypnotized. Even though the audience is sophisticated enough to realize that this science-fiction drama is purely entertainment, the theme is repeated sufficiently in novels, comics, and television to make an indelible impression on the subconscious mind. It’s the technique of telling the “big lie” so many times that it becomes believable. We are all influenced by this procedure. There is an excellent book explaining this very premise. It is called Battle For The Mind by William Sargent. It describes in detail the technique by which evangelists, psychiatrists, politicians and advertising men can change your beliefs and behavior.
Following the reasoning that the subconscious mind can be affected, you can see that a problem could present itself even though the subject consciously wishes to be hypnotized. Unconsciously, there may be a poor interrelationship with the hypnotist which can create an unfavorable climate for hypnosis. When this is the case, the subject doesn’t respond until such time that he relates well to the hypnotist. Even the most calculated procedures will fail until a positive transference relationship is established. I am sure that you sometimes have said, “For some reason I don’t like that person.” If pressed for an answer, you’ll usually reply, “I can’t explain it, but I just have a feeling about him.” Actually, your subconscious reactions are influencing your thinking and you “feel” a certain way. The same thing takes place in business transactions. You either like or dislike the proposition presented to you. You may say, “I have a certain feeling about this deal.” You may not be conscious of the reasons, but your subconscious has reacted automatically because of previous experience along similar lines.
In giving you some insight into the hypnotic procedure, I am trying to point out certain problems in regard to acquiring self-hypnosis. For the most part, it is not a simple procedure that is accomplished immediately. You can’t just will it. It requires working toward a specific goal and following definite procedures which eventually lead to success.
The hypnotist is usually endowed by the subject with an omniscience and infallibility which logically is unjustified. The subject is naturally extremely disappointed if he doesn’t respond immediately. If he loses confidence in the hypnotist, he may never achieve hypnosis with this particular hypnotist. I have hypnotized subjects who have been to several other hypnotists without success, and I have had some of my unsuccessful subjects hypnotized by other hypnotists. How and why does it happen? I believe that some of the reasons are so intangible that it would be impossible to explain all of them with any degree of exactitude.
I once saw an individual about 12 times who wanted to learn self-hypnosis and had been unsuccessful in every approach. I asked him if he would volunteer as a subject for a class in techniques of hypnosis that I was teaching for nurses. He readily volunteered and showed up at the designated time. Much to my amazement as well as his own, he responded within a relatively short time as one of the nurses hypnotized him before the group. She had used a standard eye closure technique, requesting him to look at a spinning hypnodisc that I had previously used with him every time he was in the office. Her manner was extremely affable, she had used the identical technique I had used unsuccessfully, and the subject responded excellently to cap the climax. He was the first subject the nurse had ever hypnotized, since this was only her third lesson.
How would you account for it? Here was one of my students with two weeks’ experience hypnotizing a subject where I had failed while using every procedure that I felt would work. Was it because she was a better hypnotist? Perhaps! However, I’d like to recall at this time our discussion about subconscious responses. I’m inclined to feel that being hypnotized by a middle-aged female nurse created certain favorable unconscious responses which accounted for his going under hypnosis at that time. It created the initial break-through which was needed. I was able to hypnotize him easily at his next appointment, and he acquired self-hypnosis readily from that time on.
I have tried the same approach with other subjects who did not respond favorably and have failed to attain the success that I did in the above case. Why the impasse? It is one of the difficulties that we encounter in hypnosis, and as yet it has not been resolved.
We know that the easiest way to achieve self-hypnosis is to be hypnotized and given a posthypnotic suggestion that you will respond to hypnosis by a key word, phrase or gesture. I have tried to point out some problems that can arise. Needless to say, these problems do not always arise, and the attainment of self-hypnosis can be a relatively simple procedure. There is usually some way of reaching a subject who does not respond in a reasonable length of time.
Now we come to the point where the subject wishes to hypnotize himself. What happens in this situation? It would appear that the subject would go under hypnosis immediately. After all, isn’t he controlling the hypnotic session? Of course, this does happen time and time again, and the results seem miraculous. I receive mail constantly from readers of several of my other books on hypnosis telling me how they were able to achieve certain goals that they never dreamed possible. They write that they have achieved self-confidence and complete self-mastery and have been able to overcome problems that have plagued them for many years. These problems not only include strictly psychological troubles but many psychosomatic symptoms as well. Many have remarked at the ease in which they were able to achieve self-hypnosis and the results they wanted. For them it was as simple as following a do-it-yourself book.
Others write about the difficulty they encounter and ask what to do about it. It is my hope that this book will shed some light for those who have experienced difficulty in learning self-hypnosis. We shall discuss many phases of hypnosis with the emphasis on self-hypnosis. We’ll discuss its many ramifications and try not to leave out anything helpful in our discussion.
If you follow the instructions and exercises that discussed here persistently, you should be able to achieve a depth of self-hypnosis suitable for solving many of your personal problems.