I recently finished a series of blogs on self-hypnosis, if you need, you can go back and review those blogs. The reason I consider self-hypnosis so important is because of the tendency of the mind to lean towards negative self-hypnosis.
When I speak in public, sometimes members of the audience raise their hands and state they can not be hypnotized. It is true; some people can not be put into a trance, for example, if they are actively resistant, in a coma, or suffering from some type of brain injury. But, by the definition of hypnosis I use, almost everyone is hypnotizable because hypnosis is similar to a day dream. How many people reading this, do you imagine, have ever experienced a day dream? The difference is that normally a daydream lacks direction while hypnosis is goal oriented.
People confuse entering a trance, which can be learned, with accepting hypnotic suggestions. A hypnotic suggestion has three qualities: it is received by the inner mind without critical evaluation, it activates the imagination and, and in the manner of a post-hypnotic suggestion, it affects moods, motivations, and behaviors. This occurs consensually during a hypnotherapy session but in negative self-hypnosis it occurs without a trance and without conscious awareness. We are particularly susceptible to accept suggestions non-critically from those perceived to be authorities: parents, teachers, police, etc. This is a familiar experience in childhood and at times when we find ourselves limited or blocked as adults, we can go back and uncover these limiting negative suggestions, accepted non-critically, and bring them into consciousness. But as adults we often accept negative suggestions non-critically, especially those of our own making and creation.
All of us seem to experience a type of inner dialog which provides us with a running commentary on life and helps us to think through and solve problems. But at times this inner dialog, or self talk, speaks negative comments which if repeated and unchallenged over an extended period of time acts as self-hypnosis; the mind non-critically accepts the comment or suggestion as if it were true. Subsequently the imagination is activated and we imagine ourselves failing in our endeavors without even trying, this in turn affects our mood, motivation, and behavior. The mechanism of applying suggestions differ from hypnotherapy to negative self-hypnosis yet the effects of the later is insidious, damaging, and causes unnecessary suffering and harm.
The first step in countering the damaging effects of negative self-hypnosis is awareness, become aware of what you are doing through a process of observation and self-reflection. I remember when, in my late thirties, I realized that everything I thought was not necessarily true. This was an eye opening realization I wish had occurred earlier in my life, but at least it occurred for sadly some people go through their entire lives and never critically examine their thoughts or mental processes. If you find yourself the victim of your own negative limiting thoughts, practice self-awareness for a week; notice when, where, or with whom you start giving yourself negative suggestions; do not try to change your thoughts at this point, simply take note of them. As you engage in self-awareness maintain your courage because it can be discouraging to notice all the times and situations in your life which you fall victim to negative thinking; but remain optimistic because there is something you can do about it, awareness is only the first, but critical step.
After you realize just how much you engage in negative self-hypnosis the next step is to do something about it by applying the power of substitution. The power of substitution is simple and effective but requires consistency in its application. When you find yourself engaging in negative thinking, especially if it is in relation to an area of your life you are trying to change, stop it by invoking substitution. Intentionally substitute the negative thought with a positive suggestion. If you find your mind habitually wandering back to the negative thought, do not be alarmed, discouraged, or become self critical, just gently return your mind to the positive suggestion, do this as often as it takes, eventually you create a new positive mental habit.
It is important you construct your positive suggestion using the guidelines I previously gave; to review those guidelines click here. Let’s take a simple example to illustrate my point. At one time in my life I was terrified of public speaking. When I imagined speaking in front of a group of people I would visualize my palms sweaty, knees shaking, butterflies in the stomach, and voice jittery and lacking confidence because I was being judged by others. As it became increasingly important in my career to speak in front of groups I knew I needed to turn this around. I started by generating positive suggestions such as “When I speak in public, my voice is clear and strong. I enjoy people and that means I am at ease when speaking to others. In fact I am a natural speaker and my comfort at being in front of the room puts my audience at ease and that makes them receptive to my important message.” Whenever a negative thought about public speaking came to mind I would substitute it with this line of positive reasoning. If I was just about to go in front of an audience and I felt the symptoms of fear such as my heart pounding, I would substitute my thoughts as to what that meant. Instead of telling myself my heart pounding meant fear I told myself things like “This pounding heart means I am anticipating doing a wonderful presentation for my audience.” I even substituted my thoughts concerning feedback on my presentation. I was in the habit of dismissing positive feedback and taking negative feedback personally. Perhaps you can think of some ways you would substitute these negative thoughts for positive ones.
I also used the process of mentally practicing my presentation to increase my confidence of speaking in public. This is an important process about which I speak in greater detail in my next blog. Please feel free to call me at (805) 637-4263 or email for a consultation.