Self-Hypnosis and Guided Visualization
Self-hypnosis is hypnosis without a hypnotist. In a way, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis since the subject is only guided by a hypnotist into the hypnotic state with consent and participation. The client must follow the guidance of the hypnotist for the effect to occur, thereby placing ultimate control in the hands of the patient, not the hypnotist. Self-hypnosis is a powerful adjunct to a professional hypnotist and most people can learn to hypnotize themselves with a little practice.
Self-hypnosis, also called auto-hypnosis, is a process of both hypnotizes and giving suggestions to oneself. Rather than working with a hypnotherapist, hypnotist or recorded session, this is a form of entirely self-guided hypnosis.
Self-hypnosis is an ancient practice, and was brought into the mainstream by the French pharmacist Emil Coue (1857-1926). Coue established the "neo-Nancy" approach, and used self-hypnosis and auto-suggestion to treat a variety of ills in his patients. Coue's most famous auto-suggestion was "Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better."
Self-hypnosis can be a valuable technique for many purposes, including creating positive habits, increasing confidence, finding motivation, awakening creativity, and the relief of stress and anxiety. Self-hypnosis was used by World War II prisoners to withstand long periods of cold, and is used by terminal cancer patients to bring peace and comfort to their final days.
For all these many advantages, while self-hypnosis is relatively easy to learn, it is more difficult to achieve a suitable and effective level of trance. With practice, most people can learn to enter and deepen trance and, eventually, to give effective suggestions to themselves.
A Basic Self-hypnosis Journey
There are many techniques of self-hypnosis, both to achieve the hypnotic state and to implant effective suggestions. Below is an example of a typical self-hypnosis induction, based on a progressive relaxation approach:
- Seat yourself comfortably with feet flat on the floor, and hands resting in your lap. Relax, but keep your back straight. Take a deep breath and let it out.
- Think of an image that you can attach to the idea "self-hypnosis brings me to me the goal I desire." You may use an image, such as a bird, or a word, such as "power." Some self-hypnotists use a number, such as 44, 55 or 99. Remember, the image, word or number is just shorthand for the longer phrase.
- Fix your eyes on a spot approximately 45 degrees above your line of vision. Pick a spot on a wall, ceiling or, if outdoors, on a distant object.
- Take a breath and focus your thoughts on your feet. On your out-breath, relax every muscle in both feet, from toes to heel and into the ankle. As you feel the tension drain from those muscles, visualize the image, word or number you selected earlier.
- In the next several breaths, use the same procedure to relax your lower legs, your thighs, your waist and buttocks, your stomach and low back, your chest and mid-back, your shoulders including your shoulder blades, your neck and all the many little muscles joining your head to your body. Finally use several breaths to relax every muscle in your head, including your scalp, ears, lips, nose and eyelids.
This procedure will reliable induce at least a light level of hypnosis, and with practice will induce deeper and deeper states. There are deepening techniques that may be applied at this stage, but these are beyond this article. Once in a state of hypnosis, use visualizations or words to give yourself suggestions of what you'd like to achieve. If you were using self-hypnosis to relieve chronic stress, for example, you might visualize a warm beach in great detail including all four senses, then visualize your body relaxing into the beach sand as you affirm "I am now a more relaxed and confident person."
When you complete this session, suggest to yourself that on the count of three you will awaken, feeling relaxed, healthy and positive. As you mentally count from one to three, let your visualizations fade, open your eyes and return to your normal state of awareness.
If you are performing this self-hypnosis at night before going to sleep, skip the awakening process and simply allow yourself to fall asleep.
Recorded Self-Hypnosis Sessions
Thousands of recorded self-hypnosis sessions are available on the Internet and at bookstores. These can be useful, though they are also rather generic. For generalized anxiety, habit control, and personal development, recorded self-hypnosis sessions are a good choice. For specific problems with adult or childhood trauma, more severe anxiety disorders, or pain, a professional hypnotist will be able to customize your session to your specific needs and goals.
Many recorded self-hypnosis sessions are similar to guided visualizations, with or without music, but are more focused on the repetition of suggestions or other use of language toward specific goals. Some recordings employ technical enhancements such as a binaural beat (sound heard differently in each ear), creating dissonance in the brain and increasing hypnotic depth.
Guided visualization is a type of hypnosis that relies on the visualization of metaphorical images that access the subconscious. In guided visualization, principles from meditation and hypnosis are combined, taking the listener on inner journeys. For example, a guided visualization recording may begin with a relaxation process, similar to a hypnosis induction, followed by the visualization of a journey to a magical place or castle, where people, animals and objects are described. During the journey, the listener may experience spontaneous visualizations, perhaps a person from the listener's past, and gain insights from the journey and it's interactions. Guided visualization, while popular, is far less focused than hypnosis, and is best for general explorations of the inner self rather than specific problem solving.