SELF-HYPNOSIS AND MENTAL IMAGERY

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STEP TWO: Prepare a specific method for inducing self-hypnosis.

 You may want to be hypnotized by a trained person first, he/she can then teach you how to do self-hypnosis (Soskis, 1986). Or, you can memorize the general induction process and give self-instructions. Or, you can put the entire induction procedure on an audiotape. I'll show you how to do the latter two:

 If you wanted to simply record the whole thing, you might use a script like this: (read in a clear but slow drraaawwnn-out voice, a hypnotic voice)

 Be quiet for a minute, then continue recording:

STEP THREE: Develop self-improvement instructions to give yourself during hypnosis or while using mental imagery.

 The self-instructions may reflect a new attitude towards others or yourself, a different way of thinking, a post-hypnotic suggestion for a change in behavior and so on. Hadley and Staudacher (1985) say that hypnotic suggestions should (a) be worded simply (focus on one change at a time) but repeated several times, (b) be believable, obtainable (gradual steps may be needed) and desirable, (c) be stated positively ("I am relaxed" rather than "I won't get uptight") and for a specific time (I will study effectively from 6:30 to 10:00 tonight), (d) use cue words or a key phrase to trigger the suggested reaction (saying "relax" while approaching an attractive person or "good memory" while studying), and (e) provide detailed images of the suggested outcome ("I am taking a test...relaxed and doing well...").

 Here are some specific suggestions (mostly from Le Cron, 1964, and Hadley & Staudacher, 1985), modify them to fit your situation:

 Lazarus (1977) reports using unpleasant fantasies to reduce unwanted feelings and behaviors (much like covert sensitization in chapter 11). He asks the compulsive person or cigarette smoker to imagine the awful consequences and stress of continuing the behavior. Similarly, he had a physician, who often gave women unnecessary vaginal exams, imagine getting arrested, losing his practice, and people in the community thinking he was a "sick pervert" or "dangerous man." The doctor quickly gained more self-control or will power. Note, however, that it is not a good idea to tell yourself that chocolate will taste awful if you are a chocolate addict, because you won't believe it. Hypnotic suggestions must be believable, e.g. chocolate will make you fat.

 Fanning (1988) and Alman & Lambrou (1991) give much longer and more detailed visualizations in each of these problem areas. That may help you. Also, keep in mind that there are many specialized self-hypnosis tapes available for $20.00 to $40.00 (Simpkins & Simpkins, 1991). In most cases, though, your own personalized tape will be better.

STEP FOUR: Get prepared and have the experience daily.

 Find a quiet, private place. Don't schedule anything for 20 minutes. If you are interrupted, you can answer the phone or the door, but it may be better to turn off the phone and ignore a knock. Have your self-instructions prepared. Go through the entire routine, just as you planned it, even though you don't believe you are truly hypnotized or deeply into the visualization. Try to develop a routine so you will have the experience at the same time each day. Be patient, it takes time to learn any new skill. Measure your progress.

Time involved

 A couple of hours will be needed to plan and prepare the procedure you want to use. Since the effects of hypnosis and visualization are frequently short-lived, you need to schedule a 20-minute session every day. To give self-hypnosis a fair trial, expect to use it daily for at least a month.

Common problems

 As with meditation, some people expect too much too fast from hypnosis or mental imagery. So, guard against premature disappointment or excessive expectations. Likewise, some people wanting instant "magic" resist having to write a script and make a tape. Such people should seek a hypnotist.

 Occasionally, you may become so relaxed that you fall asleep. No problem. In fact, if you feel you have lost control for any reason in self-hypnosis, simply relax and wake up using the counting procedure or just go to sleep and wake up naturally.

Effectiveness, advantages and dangers

 The evidence for the effectiveness of hypnosis is mostly in clinical reports. Clinical cases make it clear that some people are helped, but it is hard to know what percentage of the general population would respond satisfactorily to hypnosis. Soskis (1986) estimates that only about 10% of us are able to use hypnosis to avoid intense pain, as in surgery or childbirth. The fact is that the effectiveness of self-hypnosis suggestions, such as those given above, has not been objectively evaluated and compared to other methods. You will just have to try it and find out how well it works for you. Be objective.

 An additional problem is that scientists have not yet separated the effects of hypnosis from the accompanying suggestion or placebo effects. If we think a method will work, it probably will. For example, Theodore Barber (1969) has found that a simple request without any hypnosis can produce remarkable changes, e.g. making one hand warmer and the other colder or changing heart rate. It isn't clear how the body does these things but it can be done without hypnosis. Perhaps it doesn't matter what the real cause is; we just shouldn't be in awe of hypnosis or a hypnotist.

 My main criticism of one person hypnotizing another person is that the hypnotist tends to become a superior-feeling, controlling "master" while the subject becomes a helpless, unthinking, submissive "slave." That doesn't seem healthy. Many people are intrigued with hypnosis; they want to use it with friends and at parties. I suspect they want to be seen as a comedian, a great healer, or a powerful controller. If you are not a trained professional (and qualified to treat the problem with other methods), you should not be using hypnotism for helping another person. You shouldn't remove a symptom that still serves a psychological purpose. And, you should certainly avoid using age-regression and probing for traumatic experiences; that could possibly cause panic and lead to a serious situation (MacHovec, 1988). Likewise, hypnosis should never be used as a form of party entertainment. You are dealing with a human life; don't demean a person by making him/her look foolish or by arrogantly playing publicly with his/her private, intimate concerns.

 Self-hypnosis is easy to learn, it lets you be your own master, and it can be used whenever you need it with many self-improvement projects. It is interesting to most people; that helps us maintain our motivation to make difficult changes. Most experienced practitioners say self-hypnosis is not dangerous as long as it is used for these simple purposes and with the cautions mentioned above.

Bibliography

 References cited in this chapter are listed in the Bibliography (see link on the book title page). Please note that references are on pages according to the first letter of the senior author's last name (see alphabetical links at the bottom of the main Bibliography page).


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