Self-Hypnosis for Personal Development
by Zainal Abidin Rahman

What is Hypnosis?
Here we are in the 21st Century, and the word “hypnosis” still evokes a sense of intrigue and fear in people’s mind. When I tell people that I use hypnosis to help clients improve their performance whether in academic studies, daily work or in sports, I invariably receive a cold stare. Even a medical doctor asked me whether I can make a person bark like a dog or twaddle like a duck. My answer has always been a firm “No, not UNLESS the person really WANTS to do it”. So let us first address the question what is hypnosis and what it is not?

Milton Erickson, the father of modern hypnotherapy, said that hypnosis is a state of mind in which a person pays attention to what is really, immediately important, and disregards information that is not immediately important. In that state, the person can access memories and resources that have long since been forgotten. In that state too, the person enjoys deep mental and physical relaxation.

Hypnosis is a bridge
Hypnosis is actually the bridge between our conscious and subconscious minds. Our conscious mind works in a logical, linear, sequential way and can only hold a very limited amount of information (5 to 9 pieces of information according to George Miller). On the other hand, the subconscious mind is intuitive, expansive and is the storehouse of all our knowledge, beliefs and abilities and controls the autonomous bodily functions.
John Overdurf and Julie Silverthorn, both master hypnotherapists, liken the conscious mind to a ship captain and the unconscious mind to both the ship and the crew. The captain sets the direction while the ship and crew take care of the details in order to stay afloat and reach the destination. When the ship captain does not understand the ship nor communicate well with the crew, problems will arise. This is essentially what happens when people get stuck in life or engages in self-sabotaging activities (like smoking, overeating, etc). Their conscious minds are not in alignment with their subconscious minds. When engaged, the task of the skilled hypnotist’s is to “convene a meeting and talk” to both the conscious and the subconscious minds to bring about the alignment. When there is alignment, the person’s life and work begin to flow, what Csikzentmihalyi calls the state of optimal experience. This flow state is best illustrated by a master aikidoist in action. He is alert yet relaxed, flexing just the right amount of effort to overcome his opponents and get his goals.

Hypnosis is naturally occurring
All of us go through the hypnotic (or trance) state daily, for example, when we are about to wake up from sleep or about to go to sleep, while driving, being absorbed talking to our loved ones. Awareness of these hypnotic states helps us to consciously amplify these experiences. To those who claim that they are un-hypnotizable, the truth is we are all great hypnotic subjects. Overdurf and Silverthorn state that it is not a question of whether we can go into hypnosis. It is more a question of how easily will we recognize that we are in a hypnotic state when we are in it.

Hypnosis increase our control within ourselves
Contrary to common misconception, we do not lose control of our faculties when we are under hypnosis. The subconscious protects our physical and emotional integrity. It rejects suggestions that are not in line with our protective values and beliefs. The subconscious will reject the hypnotist’s suggestion, say, to swallow burning coals or to commit murder. Instead our subconscious allows us to increase control, for example, to consciously slow down our heartbeat, or control blood pressure or alleviate bodily pain or many other bodily functions. Even when guided by a trained hypnotist, all hypnosis is essentially self-hypnosis. Our subconscious will choose what is ultimately good for us from a menu of suggestions offered by the guide. Having said that, if a hypnotherapist is engaged, there should be an obvious preference for a skilled guide over an unskilled one.

What are the benefits of self-hypnosis?
People who use hypnosis have reported various benefits. They include:

Ø Improve memory and concentration for academic studies

Ø Relieve exam anxiety

Ø Relieve insomnia

Ø Stop smoking

Ø Relieve insomnia

Ø Reduce weight

Ø Improve athletic and sports performance (such as golf)

Ø Improve sex life

Ø Relieve anxiety and panic

Ø Overcome fear of public speaking and other fears

Ø Improve self-esteem

Ø Relieve pain

Ø Speed up body healing

Ø Reduce stress

Ø End writer’s block

How do I do Self-Hypnosis?
All of us can do hypnosis on ourselves to make effective changes. Below I describe one way called the Ericksonian Protocol.

Ø Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed for about 30 minutes. Place yourself in a comfortable position, uncrossing your legs and arms. Take 2 or 3 deep breaths with slow and gradual exhalation.

Ø State your pre-hypnotic instruction/suggestion. This should be positively stated, simple, with one main outcome. (E.g. “I’ve an excellent memory. I can recall all relevant details of my coming business presentation”.). Imagine (see, hear, feel) yourself giving that flawless presentation without using notes.

Ø Next induce trance by engaging in soft inner dialogue. Ask “Unconscious mind, in what ways would you assist me in (say) delivering my coming business presentation with full presence, in a way that would allow me to be pleasantly surprised?” Fixate attention to a spot high on the wall. Say again: “Unconscious mind, allow my eyes to close when you’re ready to begin to work through this and allow my eyes to re-open after you’ve completed your work for this session.”

Ø Once you feel the session is done, re-orient. Get up comfortably and quickly do something else.

How Do I Know I am in Hypnosis?
During hypnosis, you are aware of what is going on around you.
You are not unconscious. These are the usual feelings associated with a hypnotic state.

Ø Feeling so relaxed that you don’t want to move any muscle at all.

Ø Feeling of heaviness, or lightness, especially along the whole arms or legs.

Ø A sensation of numbness or tingling in your feet or hands.

Ø Feeling as if you are floating.

Ø Feeling as a “ball of consciousness” on the issue that is being attended to.

Are there any dangers or precautions I need to be aware of?
Hypnosis is by no means a panacea for all ailments. If you have physical symptoms for an ailments take the precaution to seek medical advice before you undertake treatment with hypnosis. If you have, say, a toothache, you may alleviate the pain through hypnosis. But if the ache is due to an abscess, you may end up losing the tooth, if you do not seek timely and proper dental treatment

Use formal self-hypnosis only if you are able to relax at home; do not use it while driving or operating any type of machinery. See a professional therapist for issues that are beyond self-hypnosis or for issues, which you are not able to resolve on your own.

Zainal is a business trainer and coach specializing in personal and organizational change. He has worked with thousands of clients, individuals and corporate, and brings with him expertise in OD, HR, NLP, ericksonian hypnosis, Solutions Focus, Appreciative Inquiry, The Enneagram, energy psychology and various other effective modalities that create change at the personal and corporate levels. Contact:

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