I’ve been a hypnotherapist for 14 years. During that time, I’ve seen hundreds of clients for a variety of issues. One of the first things I tell them is that hypnosis is NOT mind control. Myself, or any hypnotist or hypnotherapist, can’t make you do something against your will.
In fact, hypnosis is far less exciting than it may initially seem. Entering into a state of hypnosis simply means that your brain waves are altering. You are moving from a regular, alert and fast (beta) pattern to a calmer, more relaxed and slower (alpha) pattern. Sometimes, you can even slip into a pattern akin to sleep (Theta).
This is the first thing to remember about hypnosis. It’s not mind control, just a simple change of brain waves.
While this is happening, something else occurs. Your consciousness moves from the neocortex (thinking part of the brain), to the midbrain (home to the autonomic nervous system). The neocortex is analytical. When it is no longer engaged, you become more susceptible to suggestion. In other words, it’s easier for you to accept what you’re seeing, or being told, as real and true.
This can have both negative and positive consequences. One the one hand, you might be conditioned into believing in a lesser version of yourself and the world you live in (more on this in the next section). On the other, you have the means to program yourself into believing in the greatest version of yourself and a new, positive reality.
Either way, the importance of your subconscious mind (which is what you’re accessing when in a state of hypnosis) should not be underestimated. Research indicates (Szegedy-Maszak 2005) that 95% of your daily decisions and behaviour are governed by your subconscious. This means that you are only consciously in control of what you do 5% of the time.
This makes sense. How many people say to themselves, ‘I’m going to the gym after work tonight’ or ‘I won’t eat any chocolate/deserts today’ but end up staying at home watching Netflix while feasting on Ben and Jerry’s?
Despite their good intentions, they’re victim to programming that tells them, ‘I’ve repeated this pattern of behaviour so many times, therefore, it must be good and I will continue to do it today.’
This is the second thing to remember about hypnosis. Your willpower (your conscious mind), is weaker than your programming (your subconscious mind).
Therefore, if you want to use hypnosis for positive change, then you must alter your programming. Techniques for doing this will soon be explored.
Maxwell Maltz, in his book Psycho-Cybernetics, theorises that there are three factors influencing the programming of our minds – Authority/Intensity/Repetition. In his own words,
“What we hear from a source we accept as authoritative – such as the father we see as omnipotent, from whom we desperately seek acceptance as a child – is given far more weight than the same statements if heard from what is to us at the time a less credible source. What we see, hear and experience with intensity – such as a father yelling at us, in front of others, making us humiliated – has added weight. And what we hear repetitively from authoritative sources has even more weight. Years after this programming has ceased, it may still be governing all sorts of behaviour.”
With this explanation, we can see how easy it was for us to become programmed as children.
At this age, virtually everyone is an authority figure. It could be our parents, our school teachers, our religious leaders, the TV we’re hypnotised by every day, our older siblings and even children older than us in school. All of them, at various stages in our childhoods and adolescence, will be telling us how the world works and what our role within in it should, and will, be. This can lead us to accept statements like,
After years of hearing the same thing from people we revere, we unconsciously adopt this outlook. Without realising it, we accept an incredibly limiting world view which sets our operational boundaries. As a result, we won’t even bother trying to create a fulfilling life where we’re happy. Why would we, when we’ve been taught to believe that such a reality couldn’t exist?
Your aim is to reverse this conditioning and use hypnosis for positive change. To do so, there’s something you need to know.
The third thing to remember about hypnosis is that it’s much harder to consciously program your mind for success, than it is to be unconsciously programmed by The System for failure.
This is because there’s one piece of the programming equation (Authority/Intensity/Repetition) missing when you attempt to do it by yourself. Research indicates (Dr. William Swann, University of Texas) that we don’t tend to believe ourselves when we affirm our greatness. Our own opinion lacks authority when attempting to influence our subconscious mind (this is especially so if you have low self-esteem).
So, what can you do?
The ‘repetition’ part of the programming equation is easy enough to fulfil. Sure, it takes discipline, but each day you can set aside 10 minutes (or longer), to flood your mind with positive thoughts and images about the person you wish to be and the life you wish to live.
The ‘intensity’ part of the programming equation is a little harder. You must practise long enough, and become sufficiently skilled, to ensure the thoughts and images you generate, are triggering some form of emotional reaction in your body. You must feel what you’re seeing. When you can do this, you can be sure your subconscious is accepting these thoughts and images as the truth. It then will act on them.
Back to the ‘authority’ part of the programming. As I’ve mentioned, research suggests that affirmation alone might not be the best strategy. Even my two instructions above are going to take a long time as they still position you as the authority figure. Therefore, to supercharge your programming, you must do one, or both, of two things.
1. Find an authority figure you respect to mentor, coach or support you. I spent five years trying to program myself with the belief I could be a best-selling author. This didn’t have half the impact as one sentence spoken to me by best-selling author Tom Butler-Bowdon. After reviewing my manuscript for How to Live your Dreams (which then became Escape The System), he pointed to one of the chapters and said, ‘this is excellent.’ This conformation, from an authority figure, instilled a belief in me that I could go on to write an excellent book.
2. Record your results. Since July 2003, I’ve noted down every significant positive result I’ve achieved in a journal. There are records of tennis and hypnotherapy clients gained, book sales, a publishing deal, coaching clients helped, tennis tournaments won and love found. These positive results are proof that I’ve become the person I set out to be. Whereas I may doubt my own voice telling me I’m great, my subconscious can’t deny books upon books of evidence that I have what it takes to continually move my life forwards. I strongly suggest you adopt a similar practise.
Before I finish, you may want some quick, easy to follow steps on how else you can positively program your mind. While I’ve previously mentioned that the repeating of affirmations is not the most effective method of achieving this, I still find it important to take some form of auto-suggestive action. Here’s what I recommend you do.
Step 1: Block out 10 minutes of your day
Step 2: Go to comfortable room where you won’t be disturbed by either a phone or people.
Step 3: Sit in a comfortable position (If you lie down and you’re already tired, there’s a chance you might fall asleep).
Step 4: Fix your eyes on an particular point or object (I use a candle) and, ideally, position this slightly above your line of sight.
Step 5: While you stare at the object, notice your breathing begin to slow and your eyes getting heavier. When it’s comfortable to do so, let your eyes shut.
Step 6: Think about who you want to be and the life you want to live. Imagine it is happening now.
Step 7: Attempt to trigger an emotional reaction while doing this, so you can feel what it will be like to be that person and live that life.
Step 8: Open your eyes when roughly 10 minutes have lapsed.
Step 9: Repeat this every day, without fail.
Finally, before starting to program yourself in this way, there’s one more thing you need to know.
The fourth thing to remember about hypnosis is that, “ideas are changed not by ‘will,’ but by other ideas,” (Maxwell Maltz).
Don’t fight your issue. In fact, don’t even engage with it at all. If you’re struggling to get a girlfriend, and you believe it’s because of your looks, the worst thing you could say is, ‘I’m not ugly’ and try to will yourself into believing you’re good looking. Instead, focus on the new idea of you being a charismatic, fun person. Forget your looks entirely and become lost in this idea that you have a magnetic personality.
Likewise, if you’re overweight, the worst thing you could say to yourself is, ‘I’m not going to eat chocolate anymore.’ Instead, get obsessed with the new idea of being a healthy person and how fantastic this will feel.
What will your new idea be?
Make sure it’s compelling and appealing and then use it in the nine steps listed above.
Remember, your mind is powerful. In the words of Napoleon Hill, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
(image taken from Dex’s photostream flickr.com)