One of the things that truly amaze me about how the minds work is the way thoughts affect the physical body. To illustrate this, sometimes during speaking engagements, I ask my audience to close their eyes and imagine a lemon in front of them. I explain when I use the word “imagine”, I do not strictly mean to visualize the lemon; some people can do that very well, but other people seem to naturally use auditory or kinesthetic representations and may initially find visualization difficult. I ask my audience to note how the lemon is presented to their mind by the imagination and I instruct them to enhance and amplify those senses which are active. I invite my audience to imagine the lemon, brilliantly yellow, beautifully ripe, and pungently aromatic. I then have them imagine slicing the lemon, first in half lengthwise, then into quarters, and as they do I tempt them to notice the fresh luscious lemony juice and the sharp citrus aroma arising in the air and to breathe the fragrance deeply into their nostrils. I then entice them to pick up one of the succulent wedges, place it in their mouth and bite down on it, releasing a rush of lemony zest into their mouth. By this time you can guess the looks on the faces before me, it is just as if they have bitten into an actual lemon. Some of you reading this may even notice your mouth salivating just reading the description of the lemon. This is truly wonderful and amazing.
The truth is that the mind does not care whether stimulus comes from the external world via the senses or from the internal world via the imagination. This is a good and bad thing. If we are unconscious of this phenomenon of mind we are in danger of ignorantly falling into the trap of negative self hypnosis. However, if we are conscious, we can notice when we fall and intervene as I explained in my last article. But we can also use this characteristic of mind to support positive healthy beneficial changes in our lives by mentally practicing and rehearsing new healthy positive constructive behaviors. Indeed, this is one of the most exciting things about hypnosis and self-hypnosis.
The first step to mental practice is to identify your new desired behavior; this could be anything from eating slowly and conscientiously, to improving your golf swing, to speaking comfortably in public, to driving calmly and confidently in traffic. Once you become familiar with the basic technique you will understand its virtually unlimited applications. The second step is to flesh out the details and specifics of the new behavior; breaking it down into smaller supporting steps or sub-behaviors. See if you can identify specific smaller supporting steps for one the behaviors I just described, for example, in the case of eating slowly, lifting the fork slowly and deliberately to your mouth and chewing your food at a snail’s pace. Or choose a situation from your own life and identify new behaviors and all the smaller detailed supporting behaviors you can think of. These will be unique to you and your situation and environment and at this point I recommend, especially if you are a novice to mental practice, to write down your new behaviors and supporting behaviors, remembering to write down what you want versus what you do not want. For example, “I am calmly …” versus “I am not freaking out while …”
The next step is to make your self comfortable by sitting down in a relaxing chair with your feet flat on the floor, or lying on a wonderful soothing bed. Take a few breaths, breathing in relaxing peaceful feeling and exhaling stress and tension. Then mentally rehearse your new behaviors including all the supporting behaviors and smaller steps that cause you to be successful. As you practice imagine, sense, and feel you are doing the behaviors perfectly. Remember this is more than a simple visualization, for you may not be a visual person, so engage the senses you naturally use, hear it in you head using descriptive supporting words to describe it or listen to an encouraging environment around you cheering you on, feel it in your bones, in your body, smell, and even taste it. Imagine, sense, and feel it, and as you practice see if you can start to adding visual representations.
If you are naturally visual, note the difference between an associated and disassociated representation. See if you can associate with the experience by imagining your self actually doing the behaviors as opposed to the disassociated experience of watching your self do the behaviors as if in a movie. And as you practice begin to hear the soundtrack, feel it in your body, smell, and even taste it by adding the auditory, kinesthetic, and other sensory representations. Most of you will notice, however, that multiple sensory representations are active within your imagination, so amplify and intensify the ones that arise naturally in your mind.
The trick to this technique is being able to identify new behaviors and break them down into smaller specific supporting behaviors. I work on the premise that some part of us already knows the changes needed for growth and happiness. I am glad to help you uncover your new behaviors either on the phone or in person. Please feel free to call me at (805) 637-4263 or email for a consultation.