When we are led by our unconscious thoughts we tend to repeat our usual patterns, but you can change habitual patterns of thinking and set your mind to support your goals with self hypnosis.
Self hypnosis, also known as autohypnosis, is a state during which you enter a trance on your own. You can use self hypnosis simply to reduce stress and anxiety, or you can direct it toward breaking habits and accomplishing goals.
Self hypnosis usually combines Relaxation, Auto-suggestion, and Imagery. Deep relaxation and trance alone can break patterns of stress and worry, but self hypnosis often also involves transmitting verbal suggestions to the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind hears words literally, so the repetition of verbal suggestions with the proper content and form can influence your life profoundly. Everything we say and do stems from what we think unconsciously. You become what you think about. Self hypnosis can also make use of guided imagery. Most people think about imagery as visual, but imagery can involve hearing, tasting, smelling, feeling physically, and feeling emotionally.
Self hypnosis is not exactly the same as working with a hypnotherapist, and does not employ all of the hypnotic techniques, but it makes good use of those that you can use on yourself. How can you give yourself suggestions if you are under hypnosis? Most of the time a person in hypnosis is aware of what is taking place, and is in full control of themselves, so with practice you can learn to enter the trance state and give yourself suggestions, aloud or mentally. You can also bring yourself out of the hypnotic state at your own will, so there’s no reason to worry about getting “stuck” in hypnosis!
I think of self hypnosis as a way of daily life. Like exercise, meditation, yoga, prayer, etc., it just becomes something that you do as a habit. Self-hypnosis is a learned conditioned response, so one must try to practice as much as possible every day. A dozen two-minute sessions throughout the day are more effective than lengthier sessions once or twice a day. If you don’t think of it as an exercise that you sit down to accomplish in a finite period, but something that you do frequently and automatically throughout your day to break yourself out of automatic patterns, you can be amazed at how self hypnosis can harness the power of directed thoughts to change your life.
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When you close your eyes or use eye fixation, make the room quiet, and sit or lie still, your brain receives less sensory input, and you go from a Beta brain wave (characteristic of waking consciousness) to an Alpha wave (characteristic of the pre-sleep/post-sleep, daydreaming, and trance states). When this occurs, your center of awareness shifts from the brain's cortex to the sub-cortex, which is where long-term memory is stored and where emotions and survival functions are mediated.
Self-hypnosis is more than deep relaxation. Simple relaxation becomes self-hypnosis when you add intention (sometimes using suggestion and/or imagery) to direct the purpose of the trance toward a particular goal.
Here are some Relaxation Resources focused on Conscious breathing, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, and the Relaxation Response.
Simple relaxation becomes self-hypnosis when you add intention (sometimes using suggestion and/or imagery) to direct the purpose of the trance toward a particular goal.
The subconscious mind does not possess the critical faculty of the conscious mind. It will just as readily accept harmful suggestions as beneficial ones, so always watch that your own self-talk (i.e. your natural suggestions to and assumptions about yourself) is not negative. One of the best reasons to adopt a regular self-hypnosis practice is to train your self-talk to constantly emphasize the positive.
Auto-suggestion without trance is not as effective. Countless self-help books plug the same theme of positive thinking (autosuggestion). They tell how to present positive self-affirmations to the conscious level of the mind, where it is virtually impossible to prevent the critical faculty from countering positive suggestions. The key is to combine suggestion with trance and imagery.
Suggestibility is related to, but does not depend on depth of trance, so you can remain in a light state of trance and deliver auto-suggestions.
When phrasing your own hypnotic suggestions or positive affirmations, they should be:
Positive. Suggestions should not contain negative words, words mentioning undesirable behaviors, or words that may be misconstrued.
Self-Referenced. Suggestions should be stated from the perspective of the individual, e.g., “I”, “my,” etc.
Present-Tense. Suggestions should be stated in the present tense.
Simple. Suggestions should be stated singly instead of compound sentences.
Brief. Suggestions should be as brief as possible, with no excess verbiage.
Imagery can be receptive or volitional. In receptive visualization you listen to your subconscious, while in the volitional mode your subconscious listens to you. With receptive imagery, you allow the images to simply flow, without any effort on your part, seeking and having asked for guidance on a question. With volitional imagery, you purposefully program the imagery on which you are going to focus.
Imagery can be visual, auditory, olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste), or tactile (physical sensation). To practice imagery you can use of each of your five senses. For example, with your eyes closed, visualize various geometric shapes, such as triangles, circles, squares until it seems like you can actually see them. Then practice hearing sounds that you create in your mind, voices of people you know, cats mewing and dogs barking, music on various instruments, wind and rain and waterfalls, and so on; until you actually hear them. Visualize touching objects that are not physically there—such as chair slats, balls, toys, etc., developing your ability to feel them and recognize wood, leather, paper, and other materials that are only the constructs of your mind. Taste and smell are perhaps senses more easily visualized than the others.
You should make the imagery as real as your imagination can. Don’t make hard work of it! Let your thoughts rest on the details, colors, shapes, faces, attire, landscape, sounds, feelings (both physical and emotional) of the situation as you wish it to be.
The Flowers Induction (adapted)
Look at the wall in front of you as though you are looking through it at a very pleasant scene.
Look at the scene in a dreamy way.
Soon you will find that all of the muscle groups in your body will relax.
Your facial muscles will relax.
Your arms will relax.
Your legs will relax.
Your whole body will let go.
Count from one to twenty. On each number close your eyes. In between counts open your eyes. Each time you open then close your eyes again, pay close attention to that feeling of how your eyes can become so tired and want to remain closed.
Some time before you reach the count of twenty (maybe at fifteen, maybe at ten, maybe at five) will close your eyes and go into a restful and peaceful hypnotic state.
Betty Erickson's External-Internal Self-Hypnosis Technique
Get Comfortable - Look forward, breathe slowly and easily, relax.
State Your Goal - Tell yourself your purpose in going into self hypnosis. "I am going into a trance for the purpose of ____________.”
(Fill in the blank with what you want to achieve.)
“During this self-hypnosis session my unconscious mind will make the adjustments so that _____________”
(Fill in the blank with what you want to achieve) occurs naturally and easily.
How To Feel Afterward - Tell yourself how you want to feel when you complete the process and how long you wish to be in a trance, "In twenty minutes, I'm going to feel __________".
Induction - Notice three things (one at a time) that you see. Go slowly, look at each one for a moment.
Now pay attention to your auditory channel and notice, one by one, three things that you hear.
Next, become aware of your feelings - notice three sensations. Go slowly from one to the next. You can use sensations that normally are outside of your awareness, such as the temperature of your ankle, the feeling of the bottom of your feet, the weight of some piece of clothing, etc.
Continue the process using two things you see, then two sounds and then two feelings.
Now one visual, one auditory and one kinesthetic.
Close your eyes.
Picture something. You can make an image up or just let one happen.
Pause and "imagine" a sound.
Next, imagine a feeling.
Repeat the process with two images, then two sounds, then two feelings.
Repeat using three images, sounds and feelings.
If you don't get all the way through, relax. In fact, it's a sign that you've gone deep enough if you lose track of where you are in the process. Just let your mind wander where it will and trust that your unconscious is carrying out the suggestions you gave it.
Allow yourself to come out of trance whenever it feels appropriate. You'll often find that you come out very near the time you suggested.